22nd Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Deputy SPEAKER (Mr. C. F. Adermann) took the r,hair at 2.30 p.m.. and read prayers. death of ex-sen ator the honorable alexander john Mclachlan.
Sir ARTHUR FADDEN (McPhersonActing Prime Minister and Treasurer). - It is with deep regret that I have to announce the death of ex-Senator the Honorable Alexander John McLachlan. The late ex-senator was born at Naracoorte, South Australia, in November, 1872. He died on the 27th May, 1956, after a brief illness, at the age of 83. He was educated at the Hamilton Academy, Victoria, Mount Gambier High School, and the University of Adelaide, and was called to the South Australian bar in 1895 at the age of 23. Elected to the Senate for South Australia in 1925, he was an Honorary Minister from 1926 to 1929, and acting Attorney-General from, August, 1926, to September, 1927. He was the representative for Australia at the signing of the Kellogg Pact in 1928. As Vice-President of the Executive Council and Minister-in-charge of Development and of Scientific and Industrial Research from 1932 to 1934, he displayed political ability above the average. He was Postmaster-General from 1934 until 1938 and Leader of the Senate from 1937 to 1938. I move-
That this House expresses its deep regret at the death of ex-Senator the Honorable Alexander John McLachlan. a former senator for South Australia, places on record its appreciation of his meritorious public service, and tenders ita profound sympathy to his family in their bereavement.
Dr. EVATT (Barton - Leader of the Opposition). - On behalf of the Opposition I second the motion of sympathy with the relatives of the late ex-Senator McLachlan. Senator McLachlan, as the record shows, was a very close student of, ind actively interested to a substantial degree in, the great subjects of international affairs and constitutional affairs, at a time when interest in those subjects was not so pronounced as it is at present. I am referring to the pre-war days. Even during the war, I remember, he was very actively interested in a very important measure, for the adoption of the Statute of Westminster, which made a formal basis for our constitutional and legislative powers in relation to the Parliament ar. Westminster. He was a striking figure, and all of us on this side of the House join in the expression of sympathy by the Acting Prime Minister (Sir Arthur Fadden).
Sir EARLE PAGE (Cowper). - I should like very much to associate myself with this motion, because 1 served as a colleague with the deceased senator both in the Bruce-Page Government and in thu Lyons Government of the ‘“thirties. He had a remarkable knowledge of constitutional and political matters, as the Leader of the Opposition has mentioned. In fact, he was a partner of Kingston. who was one of the founders of thu federal union and who was a very distinguished Minister in this place. Tn the Cabinet room and in the Parliament. Senator McLachlan was able to give to the people of Australia the advantages of the great knowledge and experience that he had gained during his long political career. He was a very able Minister, and did some extraordinary work. I should very much like to associate myself with the motion.
Question resolved in the affirmative, honorable members standing in their places.
– Recently, 1 asked the Prime Minister a question which 1 now re-address to the Acting Prime Minister. I asked the right honorable gentleman to consider whether the Australian Government should not take some initiative towards mediating in the tragic situation that has developed in Cyprus. I directed attention to Australia’s intimate relationships, not only with the United Kingdom, but also with the people of Greece as a result of the alliance of World War IL, and also to the effect of the present state of affairs on many people from Greece and Cyprus who are now resident, in this country. The Prime Minister said that he would look at the matter. I suggested to him that sooner or later the dispute would be settled by mediation, and that it would never be too early to make such an attempt. Will the Acting Prime Minister ascertain the position and endeavour to support the suggestion or, in his good time, allow it to be considered by the Government as a matter of policy and inform the House accordingly? I directed the question to the Prime Minister because it obviously concerned the whole .Government rather than a particular Minister.
– The Minister for External Affairs will answer the question.
– The Leader of the Opposition raised this matter about a week ago when the Prime Minister was in the House. As the Prime Minister, [ think, showed when making his reply, he is fully seised of the gravity of the situation. However, I do not think it is a matter that can prosper as a result of public discussion. Clearly what is behind the proposal of the Leader of the Opposition is that some mediating influence should be brought to bear on the position. If mediation is to have any chance of success whatever, it must not be conducted from the housetop. The Prime Minister has. left Australia, having been fully briefed on the matter, but I cannot say what particular opportunity he will seek to try to exert his influence, which is very considerable, in the interests of peace and, as he said, security. As T have stated, he has gone overseas fully briefed on the matter and with a greater appreciation possibly than most of us of the potentialities of the present situation in Cyprus. I do not think that mediation can be conducted successfully in the open or by means of public discussion. I am quite sure that the Prime Minister will do all he can in the interests of peace and security, but I cannot inform the House of the methods or the procedures that he will adopt.
– I ask the Minister for External Affairs whether his attention has been drawn to a statement by the Indonesian Ambassador to Australia in which that gentleman suggested that the Australian attitude to the Indonesian claim to Dutch New Guinea would in time weaken. Can the Minister, at the present time, see any weakening of Australia’s attitude regarding the position?
– I think that the comment to which the honorable gentleman has referred was made, not by the Indonesian Ambassador in Australia, but by the Minister for Information in the Indonesian Government in Djakarta. I did see that statement and, if I may say so, I welcome the moderate tone of the Indonesian Minister’s reply. I can only hope that on both sides of this discussion - that is in Indonesia and Australia - an equally moderate tone can be sustained because I believe that the Dutch, the Indonesians and ourselves need a period of calm in respect of this West New Guinea problem. The more frequently that it gets dragged into the public gaze, the more frequently do representatives of one side or the other feel themselves compelled to state their government’s case and stand, possibly in an everfirmer voice. That, I think, does not conduce to the eventual solution of this matter. I have no comment on the remark that has fallen from the Indonesian Minister’s lips in Djakarta. It is a calming statement and I do not want to detract in any way from the obviously moderate attitude that the Minister has shown.
– Can the Treasurer advance any justifiable reason why Commonwealth compensation authorities should keep injured citizen militia force members waiting almost three months for compensation? Does the Treasurer know that although I made representations concerning a case more than three weeks ago to the second secretary at Canberra, there is still no sign of compensation being paid in the case that I mention, although the militiaman, his wife and children are practically starving? Will the Treasurer take action to see that the red-tape which so firmly binds members of the military administration as well as that of the Commonwealth compensation section is cut once and for all so that those persons who are injured while serving the nation will be able to receive what they are entitled to receive without embarrassment to themselves or their families?
– First and foremost, I should like to be assured that the blame which the honorable member attaches to the Treasury rightly belongs to the Treasury-
– It does, too.
– I make that statement because the Treasury seems to be a terminal point of all the buck-passing. However, I shall have a good look into the case that he has brought up. If the honorable member will inform me of the specific persons concerned in this case I shall take a personal interest in the matter and have it thoroughly investigated with the hope of having any fault that might lie in my department expeditiously and satisfactorily remedied.
– I should like to ask the Minister for Social Services p question concerning assistance giver by the Commonwealth for the constru;tion of homes for aged people. Has the Minister yet been able to reach finality wit. regard to the Dunreath cottages at Manjimup, in “Western Australia, and the claims for payment?
– My recollection is that the organization known 1 3 the Dunreath Cottages for the Aged made application to the Department of Social Services for an original grant. That grant was made and payment was made by the honorable member for Forrest himself. Subsequently, an additional proposition for the extension of the Dunreath cottages was made to the department. The department agreed to this extension, and a second grant will be made. Speaking from memory, I think that I made arrangements last week with the department to ask the honorable member for Forrest to make the presentation of another cheque to the Dunreath Cottages for the Aged at his convenience.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Territories. In view of the fact that the Government has agreed to send an allparty parliamentary delegation to visit the Northern Territory, will the Minister see that, at the conclusion of the inspection of the Northern Territory, the delegation is provided with facilities to inspect the potentialities that exist on the Ord and Fitzroy rivers in the Kimberleys region of Western Australia? I point out to the Minister that this area is adjacent to the Northern Territory, and that the possibilities that exist there are very great. The great potentialities of the area have been discussed on many occasions both inside and outside this Parliament, and have been the subject of articles in the press. I suggest that the extension of the delegation’s tour to include the country that I have mentioned would be of very great benefit, not only to the Parliament itself, but also to the nation. So I ask, in » all sincerity, that the tour will not be concluded when the delegation has finished inspecting the Northern Territory, but will be extended so that members of the delegation may see the potentialities of the Kimberleys region of Western Australia.
– 1 am sure that C« honorable member realizes that ray administrative responsibility in respect of such visits by parliamentary delegations is limited- to Commonwealth territories and, in this specific instance, to the Northern Territory, and that on this occasion it is not within my function to arrange tours outside the Northern Territory. However, the suggestion that he has made appeals to me as the representative in this Parliament of an electorate in Western Australia, and I can say that, so far as my administration is concerned, if the Western Australian Government wishes to make some proposal to co-operate with us so that the tour may be extended, I am sure that that proposal will receive very sympathetic consideration.
– In view of the acute shortage in the supply of potatoes in the eastern States, and the fact that it is expected that that shortage will continue throughout the current year, has the Minister for Primary Industry considered obtaining supplies of potatoes from elsewhere, particularly Tasmania, as the ruling high price for potatoes must cause a. further upward spiral in the costofliving index?
– By a strange combination of circumstances the production of potatoes in the eastern States has fallen substantially in the last few months. Normally, we would expect that potatoes could be imported from Tasmania to make up the deficiency and, in the event of there still being a shortage, from New Zealand. Unfortunately, New
Zeil land is going through much the same set of conditions as we are, and has recently sent an S.O.S. to us for potatoes from the mainland States of Australia. So, unfortunately, New Zealand at the moment is not an alternative source of supply for Australia. Frankly, I have some hopes that I might be able to find some potatoes for our very good friends in New Zealand in the future. In Tasmania there is an available supply of about 40,000 tons of potatoes but, due to shipping difficulties, it is not practicable to get them here as quickly as we should like. The Department of Trade, the Potato Marketing Board and the Department of Primary Industry are actively working on this problem, and if we can get a better turnround of ships and, therefore, a better supply of potatoes, we shall he the happiest people in the world to be able to comply with the honorable member’s request.
– Is the Treasurer aware that primary producers cannot secure credit from banking institutions for the purchase of essential equipment, and that they are forced to pay interest of IS per cent, to hire-purchase companies in order to secure credit to huy implements which are essential to the maintenance of the level of primary production for ex port, without an increase of which our overseas funds must deteriorate further? If the Treasurer is aware of this position, will he take action through the Commonwealth Bank to see that advances are made to primary producers? If he is not aware of it, will he have an investigation made, in order to find out whether the statements made by reputable organizations of primary producers are correct - that is, whether primary producers must pay interest of 18 per cent, to hire-purchase organizations in order to secure advances?
– I am not aware of the truth of the sweeping observations and criticisms of the honorably member, but I am aware of the fact that, every specific complaint that has been brought under my notice has proved, on investigation, to he ill-founded. If the honorable member will give me the details of a specific case I shall be very pleased to have the matter investigated.
– I ask the Minister for Primary Industry whether the Government has received an invitation to send an Australian representative to the meeting of the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization Interim Committee on fish handling and processing to be held at Rotterdam next month.
– Where is that?
– It is in Holland, if the honorable member really wants to know. If such an invitation has been received, does the Government, in view of its expressed intention to stimulate the development of the fishing industry, and of the great need for this stimulation, intend to have Australia represented at this important meeting, and if not, why not ?
– The Government has received an invitation to send a delegation to the International Whaling Commission meetings to be held shortly, and, I think with the approval of the Prime Minister or of the Acting Prime Minister, the Director of the Fisheries Division is to attend the meeting. So far as theFood and Agricultural Organisation meeting at Rotterdam is concerned, I am not aware whether the Government has received an invitation to send a representative, but I shall make inquiries from both the Department of Primary Industry and the Prime Minister’s Department, and, if such an invitation has been received, I shall try to make certain that someone of sufficiently high status is sent to represent Australia.
– Will the Minister for the Interior inform the House what progress has been made by the departmental committee he appointed to advise him on the report on milk supplies in the Australian Capital Territory which was presented last January, and which is commonly known as the Webb report? When can the community expect action to implement the recommendations of the Webb report, particularly those favouring a reduction in the retail price of milk in Canberra and the extension of the areas available for dairying within the Australian Capital Territory?
– The committee is still considering the report. We are, at the present time, negotiating with the Dairy Farmers Co-operative Milk Company Limited regarding the price of milk in the Australian Capital Territory. Unfortunately, in times past, a Labour government allowed a virtual monopoly in the milk trade in the Territory, and, as there isno control over prices in the Territory, the question to which the honorable gentleman refers is purely one for negotiation rather than one for control.
Honorable members interjecting,
– Order! Too many honorable members seem to be trying to answer the question for the Minister.
– The question of extending the areas for dairyfarming, of course, is a rather difficult one. A fairly extensive survey of land use would be required, because, contrary to some supposition, there is not a lot of dairying country available within or adjacent to the Australian Capital Territory.
– I direct a question to the Acting Prime Minister. I refer to a statement by the Queensland Premier that the Australian Government had refused financial assistance for flood relief following recent floods in south-western Queensland. Is this statement correct, and, if it is not, will the right honorable gentleman tell the House the facts?
– I was waiting for the opportunity to make a statement on this matter.
– What a coincidence!
– I also read, listen, and hear, and I am subjected to a lot of undue criticism. I should be very neglectful of my duty if I did not. anticipate some of these things. The matter comes back again to the division of responsibilities between the States and the Commonwealth. The States, of course, continue to place the responsibility on the shoulders of the Commonwealth as much as they can. I desire to state that, following a request from the Premier of Queensland, the Commonwealth agreed, on the 8th March, to share with the State Government, on a £lfor£1 basis, the cost of a scheme for the relief of personal distress as a result of cyclones and floods in central, northern and southern Queensland. An estimate has been received recently. To date, the Premier has estimated the cost of such relief at £11,000. Although the matter is of such urgency, apparently the Queensland Government cannot find the money necessary to provide immediate relief. The matter to which the honorable member for Petrie has referred is a request for assistance to be given to local authorities to restore roads, bridges and other installations damaged by floods. Such works are, of course, a State responsibility, and finance for them should be provided from the ordinary resources of the State concerned, which include Commonwealth aid road grants. It is only in very exceptional circumstances that the Commonwealth has agreed to join with a State government in assisting local authorities in relation to such works. That has been done only whenthe damage has been of such magnitude as to warrant the provision of assistance. The Common-wealth did not consider that the circumstances of this case warranted special assistance or any departure from our constitutional responsibilities. 1 might say that a similar request was received from the New South Wales Government and was refused at about the same time. It all comes down to the division of responsibilities. The responsibility in relation to roads, bridges and other such installation is obviously a State responsibility. It is for the State governments - especially the Queensland Government, which has plenty of funds available for these works - to accept that responsibility.
– I desire to address a question to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Will you consider the position of the two back rows of seats in the Speaker’s gallery? I have received complaints about them from visitors, who have told me that any one sitting in those two rows of seats cannot see who is speaking on the floor of the House. Doubtless you can see the visitors from your position and they can see you from their seats. When the first row of seats in the Speaker’s gallery is occupied, people in the second row can see what is happening on the floor of the House by looking over the shoulders of the people in the first row, but people in the third row are, so to speak, shut out altogether. I understand that there is a rule that any one who is enjoying the privilege of a seat in the Speaker’s gallery must not stand up. If you cannot do anything to overcome the difficulty that I have spoken about, I hope that you will be lenient if you see, as I have seen, visitors in the Speaker’s gallery stand up to try to see who is speaking on the floor of the House. Proper provision has been made in the Senate to prevent inconvenience of this kind. But visitors to thi? House complain that they are so near, yet so far, because they leave the chamber without having seen the Leader of th.-> Opposition or other prominent members seated at the table.
– In view of the limited space available in this chamber, obviously there is not much that the Speaker can do to overcome this difficulty. I point out that I have received complaints from honorable members who occupy the back row of members’ seats on that side of the chamber that visitors can hear every word that they say to one another and can even see their notes. They have complained that the front row of seats in the Speaker’s gallery is too close to their seats.
– You cannot see me sometimes, Mr. Deputy Speaker.
– Order ! I shall see the honorable member for East Sydney walking out if he continues to defy the Chair in the way that he does. Because of the limited space available, there is certainly not much that we can do to improve the position.
– Will the Minister for External Affairs explain to the House why he has decided that Australia should not be represented at the United Nations conference, to be held in a few days’ time, on the enforcement of maintenance orders on an international basis?
– I am grateful to the honorable member for raising this question, not only because of his own very considerable personal knowledge and experience of the matter, but also because I believe that misapprehension regarding the Government’s decision may become widespread, In fact, I have already had indications that the Government’s decision not to be represented at this convention is being interpreted as lack of interest, concern or sympathy with the subject-matter. The simple fact is that the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations set up a committee of experts to report on the enforcement of maintenance orders on an international basis. As the honorable gentleman has mentioned, a conference will take place in New York, under the auspices of the United Nations organization, in a few days’ time, and it is also true that I, on behalf of the Government, decided that Australia would not be represented at that conference. The point is that this is a matter almost entirely for the State governments. As soon as we received the invitation to attend this international conference, the Attorney-General’s Department circularized all the State governments on this question. Only four of them replied, and those four all said that they did not wish to be represented, because they believed that the enforcement of maintenance orders could very much better be carried out by bi-lateral arrangements between countries than on the suggested international basis. That was the simple reason for this Government’s belief that we could not, with advantage, be represented at the conference. It was not, I repeat, because of any indifference on the part of this Government to such an important subject, f am grateful to the honorable member for bringing this matter up, because I hope that my explanation may stifle signs of indignation that are apparent in some quarters at the Government’s decision not, to be represented.
– I direct a question to the Minister for the Army. I preface it by saying that the Army appears to be going through one of its recurring phases of departing as far as possible from the traditional uniform of the 1st and 2nd Australian Imperial Forces on public occasions. Photographs show that at the celebrations held in Sydney recently to mark the centenary of responsible government in New South “Wales, the Army uniform was apparently blues with peaked cap. “Will the Minister consider issuing an instruction to ensure that traditional features of the uniform of the 1st and 2nd Australian Imperial Forces, for example the slouch hat for infantry and the beret for armoured troops, and a well-made khaki uniform, shall be retained in the dress of troops when they turn out to represent the Australian Army in public ceremonies?
– A similar question was directed to me last week, immediately after the ceremonial parade in Sydney on the occasion of the opening of the New South Wales Parliament, during the celebrations in connexion with the centenary of responsible government. It seems to me extraordinary that this matter has not been raised before, because it is well known that the No. 1 ceremonial uniform of the Army is a blue uniform, as worn on that occasion, and as has been used by the Army since before World War II. There have been certain recent additions to that uniform, which were decided upon on the occasion of the visit to Australia of Her Majesty the Queen. However, this is not a new question. 1 am having a complete investigation made of the matter of ceremonial dress. I cannot promise that any violent changes will be made. I repeat that this is not a new question, as some people seem to believe. The ceremonial uniform at present worn has been in use for a number of years.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Defence and arises from the fact that, fairly recently, increases were made in the salaries of officers of the Defence Forces. Will he say whether the intention is to increase, in the near future, the remuneration of other ranks in the services ?
– The alterations of the salaries of members of the defence services were complete in themselves. Though the recent decision of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court will be taken into consideration, I cannot tell the honorable member, at the moment, just what the result will be.
– I ask the Minister for Health whether the national health scheme provides for payment to patients in respect .of treatment by a physiotherapist. If not, in view of the everincreasing use of physiotherapy in the cure of certain complaints, will the Minister consider making such payments under the scheme?
– The basic principle of payment under the national health scheme is that the service shall be rendered by a medical practitioner or, at any rate, by some one acting in immediate conjunction with him. It would not be possible to extend the range of approved services to include physiotherapy without also including all sorts of services ancillary to medicine. Therefore, there is no immediate prospect of covering services other than those basically connected with services rendered by a medical practitioner.
– I wish to preface *ay question, which is directed to the Postmaster-General, by referring to the trading loss of £149,166 reported in the commercial accounts of the Postal Department. I have carefully read the Minister’s recent press statement giving reasons for this deficit. It is pleasing to note his reference to improved efficiency and savings due to mechanization and modernization of procedures. However, bearing in mind that some two years ago the Public Accounts Committee called attention to the need for a closer application of business principles to the management and accounting sections of the Postal Department, I ask the Minister whether he considers that sound progress has been registered in lifting the efficiency of the department, and whether (he targets set by the Public Accounts Committee are covered by a current review.
– Although, on the face of it, there was a loss in the departmental accounts for the last period, it mUst he considered in relation to the substantial increase in the expenses of administering the department that has resulted from higher margins and other factors that are quite beyond our control. The actual figures which the increases represent are set out in the report. In view of these higher costs and of the fact that postal rates have not been increased since 1951, I think it will -be conceded that such a small loss is evidence of considerable efficiency in the running of the department. I assure the honorable member that we are constantly looking for ways of improving efficiency. The department has its own administrative methods section, which is similar to that found in other branches of the Public Service. Its officers move through the various branches of the department to ensure that everything is being done to take advantage of the latest and most efficient methods. The department is constantly watching for new technical developments in the handling of mail and other such matters, so we are moving along with the times and instituting handling methods which considerably reduce costs. I believe that I am justified in saying that the department is doing everything possible to ensure a continuous improvement in its efficiency.
– I wish to ask the Minister for Supply a question about the Australian Aluminium Production Commission’s report, which he tabled last week. Why did it. take the honorable gentleman so long to present a report which is nearly two years out of date, being for the year ended’ the 30th June, 1954? Why is there no copy of the report available for members of this House or for the public other than the one copy that he has tabled ? I remind the honorable gentleman, that, by contrast, the other report which we required him to table concerning the Australian Atomic Energy Commission was tabled last February in respect of the year ended the 30th June, 1955, and that many wellprinted copies were made instantly available to honorable members.
– I welcome this question because it enables mc to clear up in the minds of honorable members a matter which, as the honorable member for Werriwa says, prima facie, calls for an answer. The simple reason is this: Tt will be recalled that during the years 1951 and 1952, the accounts of the commission got into some disorder following the great rush of activity that occurred during the construction period of those years. When that was discovered at the end of 1952, drastic action was taken. Inquiries were instituted and remedial action was taken. That action meant that some time elapsed before the accounts of the commission were brought into order, as they ultimately were. In the meantime, there was an inquiry by the Public Accounts Committee, which had some publicity and which, of course, took a long time. While that was going on, it would have been wrong to present to the House a report that referred to some of the matters that were the subject of an inquiry by the Public Accounts Committee. However, the report was brought in, and honorable members had an opportunity to read ‘it. Then the position arose that the then AuditorGeneral would not certify to the accounts, notwithstanding the contention of the new members of the aluminium commission that their accounts were now in perfect order, which was supported by an independent and very celebrated firm of auditors, Messrs. Edwin V. Nixon and Partners. There was a change in <he occupant of the position of AuditorGeneral, and the whole matter was examined ‘ again. The present AuditorGeneral has had no difficulty in certifying that the whole of the commission’s accounts, including those for the years under discussion - 3952 and 1953 - are now in perfect order. Once again, while that process was going on, we did not feel it was proper to bring in the report. Then the report was brought in. I have had it ready - I will not say for many weeks, but for several weeks now - and I was hoping to be able to have it printed so that copies could be distributed at that rime. The Government Printer was not able to do the printing, so in desperation I had a typewritten copy tabled in this House. I hope in a day or two to have printed copies available for all members.
The following bills were returned from the Senate: -
Without requests -
Appropriation Bil] (No. 2) 1955-56.
Without amendment -
Appropriation (Works and Services) Bill (No. 2) 1055-50.
Message received from the Senate intimating that it had agreed to the following motion : -
1 ) That the Senate concurs in the resolution transmitted to the Senate by message No. :I0 of the House of Representatives, relating to the appointment of a Joint Committee to examine problems of Constitutional Change.
That Senators Kennelly, McKenna, Spicer and Wright be members of the Joint Committee.
That Senator Spicer be the chairman of the Joint Committee.
That the resolution, so far as it is inconsistent with the Standing Orders, have effect notwithstanding anything contained in the Standing Orders.
Assent to the following bills reported : -
Appropriation Bill (No. 2) 1055-56. Appropriation (Works and Services) Bill (No. 2) 1055-56.
– I desire to inform the House that I have received the following letter from the Honorable the Premier of New South Wales in acknowledgment, of the message of congratulation forwarded from this House recently in connexion with the centenary of responsible government in New South Wales : -
I have received your letter of the 22nd May, 1050, conveying a message of congratulation from the House of Representatives to the Government and Parliament of this State on the Centenary of Responsible Government.
I should be glad if you would express to the Members of the House of Representatives the thanks of my colleagues and myself for the message and assure them that it is greatly appreciated.
I might mention that action has been taken to submit the terms of your letter to both Houses of the New South Wales Parliament.
I would add that, in connexion with the same matter, I have also received a letter of appreciation from the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales.
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) agreed to -
That leave he given to bring in a bill for an act relating to the stevedoring industry.
Motion (by Mr. HAROLD Holt) agreed to -
That len vp lie given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the States Grants (Coalmining Industry Long Service Leave) Act 1949-1950.
Bill presented by Mr. Harold Holt, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This is a bill to amend the States Grants (Coalmining Industry Long Service Leave) Act 1949-1950. The amendment relates to matters of procedure and is, I think honorable members will agree when they examine it, not of a contentious character.It will be recalled that in October, 1949, the Coal Industry Tribunal and the Central Reference Board made awards by which longservice leave benefits were granted to the miners’ federation and certain other unions with members in the black coal mining industry. It was recognized by the Labour government of the day, and later accepted by this Government, that the substantial financial burden of these awards should be spread on an industry-wide basis so that particular employers would not have to bear differing burdens. It was decided, therefore, that if the States would undertake to reimburse to employers the cost of longservice leave, the Commonwealth would assist the States financially, not only in relation to such reimbursements, but also the expenses of the administrative machinery which would have to be set up by the States. To meet the cost of all this to the Commonwealth, an excise was imposed on black coal produced in Australia after the 1st March, 1949, the rate at present being8d. a ton. To give effect to these decisions, Parliament passed the States Grants (Coalmining Industry Long Service Leave) Act 1949 and the Coal Excise Act 1949. The former act established the Coalmining Industry Long Service. Leave Fund, into which arepaid the amounts collected under the latter act as excise on coal or contributed by the States in lieu of excise on coal produced in State mines. The former act, as amended in 1950, authorizes the payment, by way of grant, of amounts determined by the Treasurer to the States concerned in this scheme.
The purpose of this bill is twofold. It provides that income derived from investment of moneys held in the fund shall form part of the fund and not. as at present, part of the Consolidated Revenue Fund. The second purpose is to keep alive the longservice leave entitlements of those mine workers who cross over from private mines under the joint CommonwealthState scheme to State owned and operated coal mines which are not under that scheme. If the State concerned is prepared to recognize the entitlements for the purpose of its own longservice leave scheme, this amendment will make it possible for the necessary payments to be made from the fund. I commend the bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Calwell) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 24th May (vide page 2507), on motion by Mr. Harold Holt -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Upon which Dr. Evatt had moved by way of amendment -
That all words after ‘-‘That” be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: - “(a) In’ the opinion of the House . . . (vide page 2388).
.- The bill which is before the House, and the amendment thereto, which has been moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), are matters which, I think, challenge the serious concern of every member in this House. While I do not agree with the general purpose and intention of the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition, particularly the proposal to withdraw the bill, and while I generally support the Government,I hope to develop,in the brief time at my disposal, certain ideas which, I trust, may be of some assistance to the House, and possiblyto the Government and the country. First. I would say that the measure is one of that long series of attempts made, since the earliest days of federation, to bring about something in the nature of industrial harmony and good industrial working relations in the community. On thu whole, whatever may be said to the contrary, there has been a very large measure of success, and Australia has no reason to be ashamed of its activities in this respect. I was rather struck by the fact that during the debate the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron), I think, spoke in rather glowing terms about the system in operation in the United States of America. This country has much to learn from America that would be greatly to our advantage; but that is not true of industrial relations. We have never seen in this country, nor would I like to see, the kind of civil war that was waged in America in days gone by when people were fighting for the minimum requirements for their existence. In Australia, there has been one major clash - on the occasion of the Eureka stockade. Any one who thoughtfully reads the history of industrial relations in the United States realizes the advances that have been made in that country, but I still think that the industrial structure of Australia is much sounder.
In my opinion, there is no dispute oi difference that cannot be settled amicably or fairly if good intentions and good will are present on both sides. Without those essentials, no industrial, national or international question is ever settled. If such questions are approached on either side in a spirit of avarice, or of personal or political ambition, lasting settlement is impossible. No only is our financial and economic welfare bound up in the success of industrial relations, but also there is the infinitely more important matter of the happiness of the women and children in many thousands of homes. It is of prime importance that our efforts should be directed towards that end.
Having made those preliminary remarks, I now wish to offer some criticism of the bill and to speak to the amendment that has been moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt). I propose to add to some of the constructive suggestions that have been made both before and during the debate. It has been suggested more than once that until this Government disturbed the 1947 conciliation and arbitration legislation, everything went like love’s sweet song. I think that is a fair summing up of some of the points that have been advanced by Opposition speakers. But 1 hold in my hand the fourth annual report of the Chief Judge of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, dated the 24th October, 1951. Time will not permit me to traverse the whole report, but I direct attention to the following statement of the Chief Judge, Sir Raymond Kelly, at page 7, which, to my mind, although it is applicable to a particular point, carries forward the general thought of the report: -
I have, nevertheless, thought it my duty to point out that the system of arbitration set up by the 1947 amendment does necessitate an artificial splitting of a composite dispute, even of claims advanced upon a basis of inseverability, into two compartments - that of issues determinable by the Court and that of issues determinable by the Commissioners . . .
In another section of the report, hireferred to the almost impossible position that occurs when a question arises about whether a matter is one for the higher section or the lower section of the court. He said, in relation to similar difficulties that have been . encountered with the question of the basic wage - . . both the Conciliation Commissioner and the Court, but each of them separately and independently, are called upon to inquire whether the wage in question, current or claimed, (it may on its face, but not conclusively, include a “war loading” or an “ industry loading “ ) . . .
I refer to the report because it was made after a period that would enable some assessment to be made of the working of the act. Indeed, early in the report, the Chief Judge said -
The general provisions of the amending Act of 1!)47, which altered the system of conciliation and arbitration for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes, have now been given a sufficient trial to enable one to form conclusions upon the “working” o* the Act.
I do not suggest for one moment that the Chief Judge was condemning the act, root and branch. That is not the point I wish to bring out, except, to a certain degree, in rebuttal of the assertion of honorable members opposite that the 1947 legislation was an almost perfect measure.
However, that is only a side issue. What the report emphasizes is the complexity and difficulty of dividing industrial arbitration into watertight compartments.
In March, the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey), in another of his very excellent speeches, to which the
House always listens with respect even though certain honorable members may disagree with him in detail, suggested three remedies for our industrial ills. One if his suggestions was that steps should &e taken to increase the powers of the Commonwealth in respect of employment mid industrial matters. I note that the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition is couched in the following terms : -
The present bill contributes nothing’ to the solution of the problem of industrial unrest and chaos arising from decisions under the present system and the manner in which it has been operated. 1 do not agree with that statement beyond stating that I believe that no legislation that is introduced under the existing provisions of the Constitution is capable of giving more than a limited application of the principles that make for the attainment of harmony. The honorable member for Bendigo pointed ‘out that between 1930 and 1946, three Labour governments and one Liberal government had tried to obtain an amendment of the powers entrusted to the Commonwealth Parliament. He added -
I want the House to note the three points that he made in that statement, because they are worthy of emphasis. He said that the Parliament should have the power to deal with national matters, national standards, and national interests. Those three points, as stated by the honorable member for Bendigo, constitute the criteria for the proper sphere of federal industial jurisdiction. I do not think there can be any serious complaint, about that statement. Provided that one can determine what is included under that proposal, I think that one could get a great deal more agreement on satisfactory machinery than obtains at the present time.
At the same time, whilst I do not wish to tread in advance on the ground that will be covered by the constitution committee, it is necessary to point out that the’ evolution of satisfactory industrial machinery will be still far from simple. If the aim is to produce something that will give justice to the employee and a fair deal to the employer and the community, it is not impossible that a satisfactory conclusion can be arrived at. Assuming that the supreme industrial power is handed by the people to this Parliament, then the logical steps are, firstly, the conferring by the Parliament on the federal court of the power to interpret legislation ; secondly, the testing of the proper sphere of jurisdiction of the courts in accordance with the three points laid down by the honorable member for Bendigo; thirdly, the devolution of detailed work, where practicable, on State courts;’ and, fourthly, the encouragement of round-table consultations between employer and employee, to prevent disputes.
I mention these steps because I think they are very germane to the principle of the measure before the House. But the real problem associated with this apparently simple formula is, first of all, to obtain uniformity of basic standards of wages and hours : then, to eliminate the present vexations and irritations of different State and Federal awards operating in the same industries; to provide more effective machinery and roundtable discussions between employer and employee; and to ensure that the overall rights of citizens and the national economy are not ignored in industrial agreements.
If the power to pass industrial legislation is handed to the Commonwealth, the question that we might reasonably ask ourselves is this: “Will it remedy one proper and outstanding grievance of the working community - and that is undue delay in obtaining what is deemed to be industrial justice - or will it, in the words of the late Sir Jot,n Quick, uttered some 35 years ;igo. “merely lead to a multitude of inconsistent regulations and laws, operating through the different parts of Australia”? 1 think that we rome to the crux of the problem there. I think that the formula laid down by the honorable member for Bendigo is a perfectly good formula. I think that if it could be applied, it would result in a tremendous step forward in industrial conditions, even though it would involve an amendment of the Constitution. But Unless a system can be evolved whereby the Commonwealth courts merely deal with basic standards and leave the working out of the details in the hands of State authorities and ‘Other machinery associated with the State as well as the Commonwealth, I think that there may be a more severe congestion and a greater irritation than have arisen in the past.
Having said that, I wish to pass on to a few facts in support of the points that T have made. The complexity of conflicting industrial jurisdictions is revealed in the publication, Australia In Facts and Figures, No. 48. This booklet states that, of the industrial task force, 44.3 per cent, of males and 37.2 per cent, of females are employed under federal awards and 44.3 per cent, of males and 54.9 per cent, of females are employed under state awards. “Without going into any analysis of those figures, honorable members can take it from me that there is plenty of room for overlapping and friction. It would not matter very much if people working under State awards were operating in entirely different industries, but that simply does not happen to any great extent because of the complexity of our industrial set-up. There will be an interminable state of industrial unrest while a large body of people work under State awards alongside au equally large body of people who work under federal awards. As a matter of fact, some years ago, when I happened to have an association with the Government of New South Wales, at a favorable moment when State award rates were below the federal rates, we deliberately brought the railways of New South Wales under federal jurisdiction in order tq bring about an end of this particular trouble. I think that the rash has broken out again since then, and it is likely to remain for some time to come.
I should now like to comment on the suggestion that, somehow, in some way, the Government which I support, anc! its legislation, have been less successful than the legislation which was introduced by the previous Government. I point out that 2,200,000 working days were lost in 1945 j 1,900,000 working ‘ days in 1946 and 1,340,000 workings days in 1949. In the last of those years, the Labour Government’s administration ended. In 1950, under the present Government, the figure was 2,060,000 working days; in 1951, it was 872,000; in 1952, it was 1,163,000; and in 1954 it was 901,000. The plain fact of the matter is that these figures, when analysed, are favourable to the side of the House on which I find myself. Quite plainly too, even under a Labour government in respect of which the figures were undoubtedly less favorable, the industrial machinery creaked so badly that the government was nol. able to handle it successfully, even t.o the extent that the present Government has handled it. The conclusion that we draw from those facts is that we must look elsewhere for the reasons which bring about the industrial disputes in this country.
My time has nearly expired, and I just want to say this in conclusion : The honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison) and the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns), in the heat of their arguments, developed two points which I think need a little, examination. The honorable member for Blaxland stated that the employers did smash the awards between 1929 and 1934.,’ The honorable member for Yarra, speak-‘ ing in the same strain, stated that the , tendency of awards was to protect the employer, not the employee. He quoted Mr. Justice Higgins as laying. down theprinciple that if the profit is nil, the wages must still be paid. I think that., in the discussion of this particular mat;ter, it would be far better if we confined ourselves to the application of, dispassionate common sense to something that so vitally affects the people. lt was not the employers who smashed the awards between 1929 and 1934. It was the complete industrial and economic collapse,, of. the .whole’ world at .that, time that smashed awards. It was a complete breakdown. I, myself, was appointed to ministerial office in New South Wales at a critical time when there were 150,000 people on the dole in New South Wales, when there were more than 200,000 unemployed in that State, and when we had only 600 people on relief work. I was one of those who were handed the task of trying to bring some order out of that chaos. It is futile, even in the heat of debate, to say that the employers smashed the awards. The employers themselves were at that time smashed in all directions. Before that period ended, at least 50 per cent, of men on the land were completely bankrupt, and the other 50 per cent, were hovering on the edge of bankruptcy. Had it not been for the rural reconstruction policy that operated, that position would have been aggravated to a point beyond redemption.
I mention this matter simply because I feel that we shall get nowhere by approaching a measure of this kind with the sort of argument that the Opposition has been using. I do not agree, for instance, with the argument based by the honorable member for Yarra, on the statement by Mr. Justice Higgins that “ if the profit is nil, wages must still be paid “. Of course, wages must be paid whether or not there is a profit, because they are a first call, not only on the profit, but on the assets of employers. That is the position to-day. Whoever else may go short, the employees must be paid before anybody else. And quite rightly so ! But to argue that an employer can go on paying wages irrespective of whether or not a business “ makes a profit, is simply too futile. It cannot possibly he done. It is quite obvious that an employer whose business is verging on bankruptcy cannot go on paying wages any more than a person can get water out of an’ empty pot. Just as the water is not in the pot, and so cannot be taken from, it, the money to pay wages does not exist in a business verging on bankruptcy. Consequently, there comes a time, if the community is to function soundly, when the various sections of industry must get together and agree to what is the reasonable thing. There has emerged, during recent years, a perfectly sound tendency in business - that is, that when a business is profitable, the employees should obtain a share of that profit ; when it ceases to be profitable to the point where it cannot pay bonuses, the employees should recognize that fact and show a willingness to help the business through its troubles.
I should like to refer at this point to two industries, one of them private, the other a State enterprise. At present, the transport system of New South Wales is losing about £10,000,000 a year. I think that one of the major factors in the difficulty of maintaining high efficiency in a State service such as the New South Wales railways is that it is not run on a basis which enables the employees to see whether or not they are getting results for the initiative, drive and enterprise they put into it. It. is not run on the same basis as is a private business, the employees of which are able to judge, from the balance-sheet, whether they have had results from the work, the loyalty and the co-operation that they have given to the business. Consequently, I think that until such government enterprises are put on the same basis as private enterprises, so that the employees can see the results of their work, we shall not obtain from them anything that is in the national interest. The private industry which I mentioned is the wool industry. To-day, we are faced with a very serious dispute in that industry, upon which depend, to a greater degree than they depend on any other industry, the stability and financial strength of this country. At present, we have an appalling state of affairs in that industry with, hanging in the balance, the question of whether or not wc shall go forward strongly in our development or whether we shall have to slow it down. The one industry, more than any other, which will make it possible for us to keep our overseas balances sound is being hampered. I am assured that hundreds of thousands of sheep in Queensland are now dying as a result of the. dispute in the industry. This could easily happen in New South Wales also. The most interesting thing about the dispute is a statement’ by one official of the Australian Workers Union that, until such time as an agreement with the wool-growers is made, shearers are not employed, and, therefore, cannot possibly be on strike. He argues that shearers, instead of being on strike, are declining to work at a certain wage rate. That is something they are entitled to do; but they are not entitled to ask other trade unions to help them in what some of them say is a strike, but which the officials of their union say is not a strike, but simply a refusal to work at a certain wage rate. The men who are working in the shearing industry at an award rate are working according to trade union rules, and according to the arbitration system. The men who are not working are exercising their right not to work; but I suggest that there comes a time when we must have, right through the whole of industrial relationships, either common sense or chaos. I believe that those who engage in industrial agreements, and those who use the arbitration machinery, or any machinery, must be prepared to accept the umpire’s decision, with the right to try to have it altered later. The only alternative is a complete breakdown, which is something that we cannot contemplate with any degree of satisfaction. So, I support the measure, and put forward the plea that the system of conciliation and arbitration be placed on a more permanent basis than can be done under the existing provisions of the Constitution.
.- I rise to support strongly the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition. I should like to take this opportunity to congratulate the honorable member for Cunningham (Mr. Kearney) on his maiden speech, and particularly for the history that- he gave us of the trials and tribulations that attended the development of trade unionism in this country. He told us not only of the development of our trade unions, but also of the parallel attempts by trade unionism to develop a system of arbitration. The strikes and industrial strife of the 1890’s> showed very forcibly to the infant trade union movement in Australia that some steps would have to be taken, either in the State or the Federal arena, to get away from the law of the industrial jungle. So there was then formulated in the minds of some of the trade union leaders of those days something we have come to know as the first stage of industrial arbitration. The founders of the Constitution endeavoured to reach some agreement with regard to the question of the industrial powers to be wielded by the Commonwealth Parliament. As a result, there was embodied in the Australian Constitution a provision which gives to this Parliament a restricted industrial power. Then, in 1904, the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration was established with Mr.” Justice Higgins as president. At some date in the not-far-distant future, that court is to be superseded by what the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) called a new system of arbitration.
It is obvious that this 45-page measurehas not been introduced by the Government with any desire to effect the improvements in industrial relations referred to by the honorable member for Nen England (Mr. Drummond). He stated thai we must have either common sense oi chaos. But this bill will not do anything to prevent industrial chaos. If the High Court of Australia had not decided in the Boilermakers case that the Commonwealth Arbitration Court could not exercise judicial as well as arbitral powers, and could not enforce penalties, this measure would never have seen the light of day, and we should not be discussing it now. Therefore, it is just too silly for words for Government supporters to congratulate the Minister upon what he is doing, by means of this bill, to preserve industrial peace. It is true that Government members in this chamber, and those who support them outside the Parliament, have stated that industrial unrest exists. This bill is supposed to be the panacea that will eliminate this industrial unrest. It will do nothing of the sort, and, for that reason, the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) has moved the amendment, which is acceptable to trade unionists because it proposes measures to remove the unrest that exists in industry to-day.
The Minister for Labour and National Service, in his second-reading speech, stated that the Government proposes to establish a Commonwealth conciliation and arbitration commission, which will have some presidential members, and some lay commissioners, and a Commonwealth industrial court. He then proceeded to make much of the streamlining effects that he alleged this measure would have on the administration of the’ industrial law of this country. Although it will replace two instrumentalities by about four, as it were, according to the Minister this will have a streamlining effect on the industrial law ! The sort of streamlining we should like to see is the expediting of hearings and of the making of decisions, because the principal cause of industrial unrest is the delays, not only in having applications heard, but also in obtaining decisions once the hearings have taken place.
The 1947 amending measure introduced by the Chifley Labour Government has already been mentioned by Opposition members. Its purpose was purely and simply to remove industrial unrest by streamlining arbitration - to use the Minister’s own phrase - to minimize delays, and to establish the system of conciliation commissioners who could go onto a job where a dispute threatened or existed, deal with it forthwith, and give :i decision immediately. This would do much to remove the industrial unrest that is so manifest when men feel that they suffer from some injustice. They want decisions immediately, not twelve months hence. The Chifley Government streamlined the Commonwealth Arbitration Court in the interests of industrial peace. But this Government sabotaged the 1947 measure by introducing appeals, thereby breaking down the system of straight-out decisions by conciliation commissioners, and accentuating delays in hearings and in the making of decisions. This is the principal cause of the industrial unrest that exists to-day. When the bill now under consideration was proposed, the workers hoped that, since delays are the principal cause of industrial unrest, the Government would introduce a measure that would minimize delays and do industrial justice immediately it was demanded. But they have been grievously disappointed in their hopes of advantage. Instead, the consequences will be only disadvantageous to them.
The 1947 amending measure was introduced by the Chifley Government because it realized that delays in hearings and in the obtaining of decisions contributed largely to industrial unrest. It realized that the court was bogged down by legal formalities and technicalities, and it was deeply conscious of the heavy cost of proceedings, particularly to trade unions. With these factors in mind, it constituted the system of conciliation commissioners who could go onto a job where a dispute threatened and make immediate awards. This minimized delays and contributed to the preservation of industrial peace through the system of arbitration, as J have already stated. I have already pointed out, also, that this streamlined system was destroyed by the present Government. Yet the Minister for Labour and National Service now has the audacity to say that this measure, which will constitute three tribunals, as it were, will have the effect of stream’ lining arbitration ! He and the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson) have stated that many industrial disputes are caused by Communists. Every time the honorable member for Hume opens his mouth, he mentions Communists and communism. I could almost believe that before he turns in for the night, he looks under the bed to see whether a Communist is there. The honorable member for New England referred to the Queensland shearers’ strike. The Queensland shearers have refused to offer their labour at less than a certain price. If a producer, whether he be a primary or a secondary producer, is permitted to withhold his product, why should a man be prevented from withholding his labour?
The honorable member for Hume stated that the Communists have now taken control of the Australian Workers Union. I know something of the history of that union and its traditions. I know something, also, of those who have_ been responsible for formulating its policy in the past.
Let us have a look at the men who are controlling the destiny of the Australian Workers Union now. Let us look at the Queensland branch, to which the honorable member for New England referred. Will he say that Joe Bukowski, the president of the Queensland branch of the Australian Workers Union, is a “Com.”? Will he say that Harold Boland, the secretary of the Queensland branch, is a “ Corn.” ? I have known Harold Boland since I was a small boy. He has been an official of the Australian Workers Union for a considerable period. He was an organizer, then a district secretary in various places, and to-day he is the secretary of the Queensland branch. He has been a Labour man and antiCommunist all his life. That goes for Bukowski, too. He first became an official of the union in, I think, 1936. Take the federal secretary of the Australian Workers Union. He was a sugar worker in Queensland. Then he became an official of the Queensland branch of the union, and now he is the federal secretary. He, too, has been a Labour man and anti-Communist all his life. Those are some of the men who are responsible for formulating the policy of this union. What has happened is that the members of the Australian Workers Union, like the members of many other unions, have become fed up to the back teeth with the way in which our arbitration system has developed, especially in the federal arena.
Industrial arbitration and trade unionism in this country developed alongside the national economy. But, unfortunately, since 1949, due to the retrogressive legislation of this Government, the developments that have taken place in the field of industrial arbitration have been somewhat akin to what this Government wanted to foist upon the people of Queensland. It wanted to put the hospital clock in Queensland back 30 years. I mean that it tried to force, the Queensland Government to make a charge to patients occupying beds in public wards of public hospitals. Although for 30 years people had been entitled to occupy such beds free of charge, and were not subjected to any form of means test, this Government wanted the Queensland Government to turn the clock back and make a charge for those beds. What would have been, the position if the Queensland Government had decided to do that? How could it have faced the public of Queensland in those circumstances? So it is with regard to arbitration also. This Government wants to put back the arbitration clock. It wants to wine out the advantages that were derived from thu gradual speeding-up of arbitration processes that occurred, under the Chifley Government, after the end of the war. This measure - this thing! - has been introduced allegedly for the purpose of developing the system of industrial arbitration in this country.
It is interesting to note that although the industrial commission which will be established under the legislation will have power to fix penalties, but not to enforce them, the proposed industrial court will be given power to enforce penalties which the commission imposes. If that is not a clumsy attempt to get round a High Court decision, I want to know what it is. The title of this measure ought to be changed. It should not be referred to as a conciliation and arbitration bill; it should be called a lawyers’ harvest bill. There is no doubt that, if any action is taken in connexion with penalties, there will be immediately an appeal to the High Court. I have my own ideas about what will happen then. Do honorable gentlemen opposite believe for one moment that the High Court would uphold this legislation, when it is obvious to blind Harry that it was introduced purely and simply to circumvent a decision of the court?
I turn now to the question of the appearance of counsel before arbitration courts. Provision is made in the bill for the appearance of counsel. The Minister, in his second-reading speech, lias referred to the fact that there will be occasions on which it will not be necessary for the judges to wear their wigs and gowns. It is quite obvious that, in 1904, the Commonwealth Parliament of that day wanted to establish a Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration which had both judicial and arbitral powers. Being inexperienced in the field of arbitration, that Parliament provided that, because the court would have judicial powers, the members of the bench should be judges, drawn from the legal field. So both the judges and the advocates who appeared before it wore wigs.
There are in Queeusland and other States arbitration courts which consist of laymen, who have knowledge of the industries in respect of which they arbitrate. Those who apnea r before those courts are laymen also. Every man is a specialist in his own industry. The heavy expense involved in a continuation of a system which calls for judges, with their wigs and gowns, and the retention of counsel - a system which creates employment, as it were, for men who charge high fees to appear before the judges - can lead only to the impoverishment of the trade unions of this country or to an increase of the contributions made by trade unionists to the funds of their organizations.
We know that honorable members opposite wish to keep the trade unions hard-up. We know that they want to keep the unions’ bank balances pretty low. They do not want the trade unions to develop in the way they should develop as our economy expands. They want to impoverish the unions by compelling them to employ highly paid lawyers. A layman who appears before an” industrial court does not present a case in a less efficient manner than would a lawyer, but. the proceedings are stripped of all the trappings of legal formalities and legal technicalities. I know something of the practical work done by the Queensland industrial court. The president is a lawyer - a judge of the Supreme Court of Queensland. He makes decisions on legal matters. But he and the laymen deal with questions of fact. Practically every case of an industrial kind - or practically every case coining within the industrial jurisdiction, if we want to use that term - involves only questions of fact. Only on rare occasions do technical legal questions arise. If this Government really wanted to strip arbitration of all technicalities and legalism and to lower the cost of industrial arbitration, this bill presented it with an admirable opportunity to do so by wiping out the necessity for the appearance’ of counsel.
As I have already said, the questions that arise in this jurisdiction are almost entirely questions of fact, [f the members of the bench of the new industrial court, were the members of the bench of the present court, they, as lawyers, would ensure that any evidence produced before them conformed to legal rules, especially the laws of evidence. The
Government had an excellent opportunity to indicate to the worker that it was prepared to lessen the cost to his trade union of appearances before the Arbitration Court. The Government has missed that opportunity, and it will be left for another government in the future to establish a court before which only laymen may appear, or before which counsel may appear only by consent of the parties. lt will be left for another government to establish a court of first appearance, which will deal firstly with matters that are brought to its attention, and from whose decisions there shall be no appeal. Such provisions would expedite the processes of arbitration, and would remove some of the present causes of industrial unrest.
T now wish to make a few remarks about wage fixation, and the tribunal whose duty it will be to fix wages. After the Arbitration Court makes an award and fixes a basic wage, the exploiters, profiteers and racketeers have a real party. Reference has been made to th<? freezing of the basic wage from September, 1953, until Friday last. During thai period Ave saw the cost of living rising steeply. We saw companies making fabulous profits, while tens of thousandsof workers had their wages pegged, and had the mortifying experience of seeing their standard of living declining in proportion, to the increase in the cost of living brought about by the inflationary trend in the country’s economy. Workers had the experience of seeing the standard of living of their families declining, while large shareholders in wealthy companies were making enormous profits. When the Chifley Government endeavoured to . secure additional powers to control prices, the parties which now form the present Government were in opposition, and their supporters argued that such matters were best left to the States, and that the States were competent to handle them. That indicates that honorable members opposite were not concerned then about the preservation of the standard of living, but that they were con”cerned to keep up the level of prices. To-day the Government is not very much concerned about inflation, for although it proclaimed in September of last year that the country was facing a serious economic crisis because of inflation, Government supporters during the election campaign in December were at pains to point out the great degree of prosperity that the country was enjoying. This Government refused to use the weapon of an excess profits tax in order to keepa check on exploiters and on inflation, although it had promised in 1949 to institute such a tax. An excess profits tax has an important bearing on wage fixation by the Arbitration Court, because it is a sheer waste of time to fix a wage and then watch its value being reduced because of increases in prices and it) the cost of living, such increases in prices being imposed by those who support the Government that now occupies the treasury bench. No wonder the Government is opposed to price fixation ! No wonder it has not introduced an excess profits tax in order to curtail the exploitation that is now taking place !
I submit, in conclusion, that the amendment brought forward by the Leader of the Opposition meets with the approval of trade unionists, and is designed to remove a lot of the causes of injustices that exist at present. In that connexion I refer particularly to the suggestion that there should be no appeal from decisions of conciliation commissioners. There is no doubt that a system which allows for appeals from those decisions is a major cause of industrial unrest, about which the Government professes to be so concerned. If the Government would accept this amendment, it would produce a far better industrial arbitration act, and it would do a lot towards the restoration of industrial peace in this’ country.
– I shall not guarantee to introduce as much heat into my speech as was shown by the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan), who has just resumed his seat. However, I hope to introduce a bit more light on the subject than he did. I shall, first, refer to the honorable member’s observations about lawyers. He said a great deal about lawyers, one of his criticisms being that lawyers’ opportunities to appear before the proposed courts were not being curtailed as they should he.
– That is true, too!
– If the honorable member thinks that it is true, then he, as well as the honorable member for Kennedy, has not studied the bill, because the matter is specifically dealt with in proposed new section 16ay. It is true that provision is made for the appearance of lawyers before the Industrial Court that it is proposed to establish. Quite obviously there must be such a provision, because that court will be dealing with legal matters. At. the other end of the scale is the third body, consisting of conciliators, who, of course, will not be lawyers. But between those two bodies there will be an industrial commission, which will be composed of lawyers and laymen. It cannot be said, therefore, that that body will be composed only of lawyers. On the question of appearances before the industrial commission I refer the honorable member and the House to proposed new section 16ay of the bill, which provides that in proceedings before the commission, a party or intervener may be represented by various people. It then provides - but, subject to the next succeeding subsection, a party or intervener shall not he represented by counsel, solicitor or paid agent except - (c)by leave of the Commission and with the consent of all parties; or
So that there must be consent of all parties as well as leave of the commission -
So far from the lawyers having a Roman holiday, as the honorable member complained, it can he seen that the lawyers will have a very limited sphere and scope. Although I have spent some 27 years of my working life as a lawyer, I am bound to say that I agree with that provision, because I have felt for a long time that there is too much legalism about industrial arbitration.
Having, as I hope, disposed of that point of the honorable member for Kennedy, it is my purpose to deal with some specific points made by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) in the speech that he made in the House exactly a week ago. He spoke, he said, as leader of the Australian Labour party and on behalf of all the trade unionists of Australia. Therefore, he was entitled to be listened to with close attention. I gave him that attention and even went so far - and this, after all, is straining human endurance somewhat- -as to read his speech very carefully in Hansard the following day. I shall pass over the attacks that he made upon the Chief Judge of the Arbitration Court because that gentleman had dared to criticize some aspects of the 1947 bill which had been brought down by himself when Attorney-General. The Chief Judge was, by the way, entitled and obliged, by statute, to do so. The Leader of the Opposition made some further attacks upon the methods of wage-fixation, upon the suspending of quarterly adjustments, and upon other action of judges of the court, some of whom, I remind honorable members, he, himself, selected and appointed.
Leaving all that aside, the right honorable gentleman made five points, which should become cardinal points in this debate. Most of them are to be found in the amendment which has been foreshadowed, and which will be discussed in detail when we get into committee. The first of the five points was that we should not have brought down this legislation pending the appeal which we have instituted to the Privy Council. In Heaven’s name, why not? After all, the High Court - in a most surprising decision, especially after the lapse of so many years during which this legislation has been in force - held that it was not valid for a court to exercise both arbitral and judicial functions, the judicial functions being those of imposing fines and penalties if necessary. That was the decision, by a narrow majority, of the High Court and if that decision was right, it is true, as the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) pointed out, that many other acts of Parliament, including the Bankruptcy Act, and a great deal of government administration, is involved.
As a result of that very significant decision, therefore, we have to take prompt legislative action. We have appealed to the Privy Council because we have been advised that there is a great deal of doubt about the correctness of the High Court’s decision. If the High Court is right - and in due course the Privy Council will tell us - it will be necessary to have separate tribunals to deal with these two respective functions. One tribunal will deal not only with appellate matters of a purely legal kind, but also with this matter of fines and penalties, exercising a purely judicial function. We propose to set up such a court. Then we shall need another tribunal which will exercise a purely arbitral function and, whether or not the High Court is right, we have taken the view that it will be a good thing for peace in industry, and for arbitration, to separate these functions. We have appealed to the Privy Council, but, as I say, whether we appealed or not and irrespective of the result of such an appeal, legislation would have been necessary. That is the legislation that we are now bringing down. I refer especially to that part of it which deals with the separation of its arbitral and judicial functions.
The second point made by the Leader of the Opposition was that there should be what he was pleased to describe as “drastic amendment” of the penalty provisions in the present legislation. If the decision of the Australian Council of Trades Unions is correctly reported in the press, it wants all penalties, so far as they affect employees, removed. It is quite silent on the question whether employers should he subjected to penalties.
– When have they ever been subjected to penalties?
– The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) always tips his hand and discloses what he, and presumably the Labour . party, thinks. They want the employers to be subjected to all penalties, but they want the workers to be subjected to none. Any contention that we should remove, all fines and penalties or, indeed - taking the lesser step- emasculate legislation to the extent of making fines and penalties innocuous in respect of employees, while retaining them against employers, is of course, a hollow and hypocritical contention, because we have had those very things in the Conciliation and Arbitration Act since 1904, when it was first brought down. I remind this House that in that legislation there were provisions for enforcement - penalties for non-compliance with award s and the power to restrain unions, as well as employers, from wrongful acts or breaches of awards. Een the 1930 act, which was brought down by the Scullin Labour Government, and removed the prohibition against strikes, had in it a specific section under which it was an offence for a trade union or person to incite another not to offer for employment. That provision became section 7S of the 1947 act. which, as I have stated, was the work of the present Leader of the Opposition. Therefore, so far from there being no penalty clauses in industrial arbitration until this wicked Menzies Government brought them in recently, I have demonstrated, I hope, that they have always been in industrial arbitration. Indeed, when clause 7S was put into the 1947 act by the present Leader of the Opposition he said this -
Equally we have rejected suggestions that all existing disciplinary powers of the court itself should be eliminated. The existing provisions relating to the deregistration of organizations, the secret ballot under court orders, the cancellation and suspension of awards and the enforcement of sanctions inserted in awards are therefore retained.
Then there was an interjection -
That’s me, or perhaps I should say, “ That is I “-
– Who is to attend to these duties, the court or the commissioners?
– The whole jurisdiction in relation to them is given to the court.
– On reference by whom?
Ky “ whom “ good grammar again, you see -
– On application by direct motion, or by the court itself.
– Here we find the present Leader of the Opposition saying specifically in 1947 that all this machinery has been built into section 78 in order to enforce awards - for the disciplining of trade unionists as well as employers.
– He says one thing when he is in government and another thing when he is in opposition.
– -That is so. It is all right when he is in government, but it is a wicked thing when he is in opposition. We are merely retaining what he has put in the act. He even went further. By section 33 of the celebrated - if that is not too respectable a name to give it - 1947 act, which was brought in by the present Leader of the Opposition when he was Attorney-General in a Labour government-
– And the honorable member for East Sydney was a Minister.
– That is so. My amiable friend from East Sydney was a Minister. They inserted in the act in 1947 the famous section 33, which created the Arbitration Court - a “superior Court of Record” as the lawyers call it. There is only one reason for creating a court as a superior court of record, and that is to give it power to punish for contempt, because unless itis a superior court of record it. has no such disciplinary power.
So, in 1947, not this Government but the Labour Government created the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration as a superior court of record with power to commit, discipline and punish for contempt. Now the Leader of the Opposition says he wants drastic amendment of the penalty clauses, including the complete elimination of the contempt power. Yet it was his own government that brought these things into force. The only question in my mind, and iri the mind of the Government, is: Which court should exercise these powers? We agree that it is a good thing to have one body imposing penalties, if they have to be imposed, and another doing the arbitrating. Therefore, this Government is breaking the arbitration system into a commission which has an arbitral function, and an industrial court which has a disciplinary function: That is really the only matter between us. Of course, even that one did not occur to the Leader if the Opposition, because he had it all lumped together into the one court - an arbitration court exercising, amongst other things, these very contempt powers to which he now objects.
The third point made by the Leader of the Opposition is that, as provided in the 1 947 act, there should be no appeal from the decisions of conciliation commissioners to the court. Can any honest man say that the 1947 arrangements were satisfactory? Fifteen or sixteen conciliation commissioners were appointed. A great many of them had a very strong trade union bias, because they were nearly all drawn from that field. Nobody is saying that they were not honest men trying to do their best within limitations. They went on their merry way. Some of them, violently prounionist, were incapable of taking an impartial and balanced view of disputes. That statement is not intended to criticize their morality. They proceeded, very often, on different principles, so that in a year or two the arbitration system was approaching chaos. So it was that in 1952 this Government introduced the appeal provisions, which gave a right of appeal from the decisions of conciliation commissioners to the Arbitration Court itself, to try to get some sort of co-ordination and common principles running through the decisions. That is why that provision is retained in thu present bill.
The fourth thing that is said is that there is not enough conciliation in this bill. Conciliation has become a sort of blanket term - a magic word. Nobody knows quite what it means. But what we do know is that we are all in favour of nipping disputes in the bud before they reach the litigation stage. Every one is agreed that there should be people moving throughout industry who will prevent a dispute from becoming so exacerbated that the parties are completely at arm’s length and start _ to litigate in the court. But Opposition members say that there must be more conciliation.
As the Minister himself showed in his second-reading speech, the fact is_ that there has been a decline of conciliation since the 1947 act was introduced. The reason for that is obvious. If the same man is to be both conciliator and arbitrator, when the conciliation fails and there is a full-dress dispute, what is the result? The result was shown by experience to occur again and again. If, in a bona fide spirit of conciliation, one of the parties made an offer and that was rejected by the other party, the conciliator, who then became the arbitrator, did not start de novo and consider the original merits of the dispute, but naturally made the offer a sort of a springboard or a starting point for further concessions in order to get a settlement. Before very long, nobody was keen to conciliate. After all, parties were appealing from Caesar to Caesar, and that was no good to anybody. So, there was a decline in conciliation. It is exactly that defect in the legislation that we are trying to cure by having one group of persons as conciliators and an entirely separate group as arbitrators in the arbitration commission.
It has been said, also, that conciliation should be compulsory. I have always heard that you can take a horse to water but you cannot make him drink. It is equally true that there is no magic in words in an act of Parliament. Merely saying, “ Thou shalt do something”, does not mean that the parties will do it. Legislation can never go too far ahead of public opinion. Unless a Government proposes to introduce some Draconian laws of some sort, it has to make sure that its laws are reasonably acceptable to reasonable people. Merely saying, “ Thou shalt conciliate “, will not make people conciliate under an unsatisfactory system of conciliation. Therefore, confidence has to be built up and the system made more flexible in order to create trust not only between the parties, but also between the people appearing before the conciliator and the conciliator himself.
I come to the fifth point raised by the Leader of the Opposition, and I read from the amendment that he has moved -
In all cases where agreement is reached between parties in dispute, whether under the act or otherwise, the making of provisions whereby the agreement between the disputants shall be certified by the appropriate authority and shall be conclusive and binding on all parties . . .
– Hear, hear!
– The honorable member says, “ Hear hear ! “ Let us see where this would lead us. There is no longer to be any such thing as public interest. This is straight-out collective bargaining. For the rest of my speech, 1 want to have a look at this very vexed and extremely important question of collective bargaining on th« one hand, and industrial arbitration on the other. There is not enough clear thinking about it, and it is time that we all had a look at it to see what are the merits of the two systems and where one system will lead if the other is abandoned.
The original act of 1904, as everybody knows, was born of the industrial strife of the late nineteenth century. It was so bitter that it Jed to a sort of a social cry for peace in. industry and for independent tribunals to arbitrate between capital and labour. After one or two State acts were passed, the fathers of the Constitution put in placitum (xxxv.) to section 5.1 of the Constitution, the. words of which are well known to us all. That was the foundation of the arbitration system, which, under placitum (xxxv.), provided for the conciliation and settlement of industrial disputes extending beyond the limits of any one State. It was under that provision that the 1904 act was passed.
Since then, there has been a welter of decisions and struggles, many of which have been milestones marking the develop* ment, growth and expansion of # the Australian arbitration system. The Harvester award, in 1907, laid the foundations for the basic wage fixation system. The system has been vastly expanded, but that decision was nevertheless the origin of it all. The Whybrow case, in 1.910, decided that there could not be a common rule in the federal arbitration system. That. I have always felt, waa a grievous short-coming which lias been partly overcome by subsequent decisions, but never completely, as we all know. In 1918, Alexander s case decided that the court did not have a judicial power. There was some scuttling around and that position was patched up in one way or another. In respect of standard hours, there was a gradual movement, first of all to 48 hours, then to 44 hours and, ultimately, after a long hearing, in 1947, to 40 hours. Nothing illustrates better the difficulties under which we work in Australia with our federal arbitration system than the action of the New South Wales Government in passing legislation to provide for a 40-hour week right slap bang in the middle of the Arbitration Court’s deliberations on an application for a 40-hour week in federal awards which cover half of Australian industry.
– It led the way.
– It had the effect of almost completely stultifying the proceedings in the Arbitration . Court. That was one of the tragedies associated with the system. One may say, if he is a Labour man, that it was all right, but from any long-range point of view of principle, or from any constitutional point of view, it was an utterly wrong thing to do. It illustrates the sort of difficulty which we are up against in the field of arbitration. We have had hundreds and hundreds of cases in the High Court about placitum (xxxv.) of section 51 of the Constitution. We have had 31 or 32 amendments passed by this House at. various times and there have been six attempts to amend the Constitution. This builds up to a picture of our industrial arbitration system as a peculiarly Australian institution, which, whether we like it or not, is woven right into the national fabric of our life. It has become part of our tradition and an article of political faith with all parties. Undoubtedly, Australian arbitration has given very great benefits to Australians in the 50 years of its operation, and particularly to the workers of Australia. We hear only about cases that go to the court. We hear only about the struggles, bitterness, discontent, and strikes, but millions of Australian workers in thousands of industries have had their industrial -affairs satisfactorily regulated under that system over the last 50 years. Do not let us assume that because the system has weaknesses, which I shall deal with in a minute, it has not also given great advantages to this country. Thai it has great weaknesses, everybody must admit.
For a start, the constitutional position is unsatisfactory. The limitations of the words in the Constitution promote litigiousness and artificiality, and altogether create the wrong atmosphere in which industrial relations between management and labour ought to be conducted and cleared up. The absence of the ability to create a common rule is another difficulty. “We have attempted to make six amendments to the Constitution, and all attempts have failed. I am inclined to think that the seventh attempt may fail, but the gentlemen whom we have recently appointed to our all-party constitutional committee will no doubt be examining that matter. But there it is. Undoubtedly the constitutional position creates a weakness in our arbitration system. Legalism and technicality constitute another difficulty. There is a sapping of responsibility on the part of both management and workers because of the compulsory system and the temptation to throw everything into the lap of the court. These are all major matters - and there are others - and governments have been trying for 50 years to overcome them
To-day, from many people the cry is going out, “Let us scrap it all. Let us have collective bargaining “. I entertained those ideas at one time. I made a trip to England in 1948 - at my own expense, honorable members will be glad to hear - to have a look at the working of the English collective bargaining system and to see how it compared with our system. Undoubtedly, collective bargaining works well in England, and undoubtedly England would not have our compulsory arbitration system. That was made pretty plain to me. There are many reasons why the collective bargaining system works in England and why it would not work in Australia. There is a. long historical tradition there going back to the days of the medieval guilds. There is a strong streak of reasonableness on both sides. There is a greater sense of responsibility on the part of representatives of both management and labour, which enables the system to work better in England than perhaps it would work here. For all of those reasons I have come to the conclusion that collective bargaining, as practised in England or the United States of America, is not by any means the same sort of collective bargaining as we would have here. The system would not necessarily work here, and I do not believe that it would. We have a very heavily sheltered economic system in Australia. It is sheltered by high tariffs, which tend to minimize competition. Therefore, we can and do have a situation in which bargains made between management and labour, pressed upon management by labour, and agreed to by management, can be readily passed on to the community.
If the amendment moved in this debate were accepted, and it became mandatory upon the court to register such agreements without consideration for the public interest at all, there would be a new spate of inflation, a new pushing up of the cost structure of Australia, and less and less ability in this country to compete in the world’s markets.
I should like to have more time to develop much further this argument of the difference between collective bargaining and compulsory arbitration. “Wherever one looks, this point emerges: In this country what we need is not some doctrinaire system, but flexibility, reasonableness and more good faith. We dare not say, “ We will scrap all this and grasp at something new “, merely because at this time, as the Australian Labour party thinks, over-full employment and high demand gives the workers a great advantage. That can only result in inflation and injury to the workers themselve’s.
– Order! The Minis;ter’s time has expired.
.- The Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale) commenced his speech by condemning the criticisms of the arbitration law which have been made on this side of the House as criticisms of the judges, as they have hitherto been called, of the Arbitration Court. One would have thought that his legalistic horror at such criticisms would have been allayed by the decisions which are the ostensible reason for the legislation, because it is now found that the judged of the Arbitration Court are not judges in the sense that our Constitution requires judges to he appointed or to fulfil their functions. This bill does not propose that they be called judges either, although it proposes to give them most of the privileges and emoluments of judges. There is nothing new in regarding as different from other judges the persons who have been called judges on arbitration courts. I quote from some eloquent words used over twenty years ago on this subject -
These words– “conciliation and arbitration” in the Constitution - ure, I believe, responsible foi much industrial mischief in Australia. They have popularized the idea that the settlement of an industrial dispute is a judicial matter and that it ought to be attended to by judges possessing the ordinary legal qualifications. Such a notion is, of course, absurd.
Those words were used by the honorable R. G. Menzies, K.C., at that time Attorney-General and Minister for Railways in the State of Victoria, at a school of the Australian Institute of Political Science in January, 1933, and are recorded in a text-book in the Prime Minister’s alma mater, the University of Melbourne. Even he at that time, in his more enlightened and idealistic days, did not eschew criticism of men who were believed at that time to be judges. I quote further from the same work his comments on the first judges of the Arbitration Court -
In reviewing its past work, candour demands that one should recognize that Mr. Justice Higgins, though a clear-headed and honest and courageous man, was too apt to consider industrial and economic problems in a sort of vacuum to make a good practical director of workaday affairs; and that Mr. Justice Powers was possibly too much affected by well-judged threats of industrial disturbance.
The Minister for Supply may well have thrown up his arms and raised his eyes to the roof at such references if we bad used them. If it was good enough for his leader to make that statement 23 years ago in a school of political science, surely it is sufficient for us to refer dispassionately and factually to the record of a much greater number of gentlemen over recent years who are now found not to be judges at all.
If we are to consider the working of the Australian arbitration system, which has now been in operation for over half a century, surely we should” remove from our minds the idea that one cannot criticize the system for fear of criticizing the judiciary. As the law, interpreted by the High Court of Australia, now stands, nothing could be further from the truth, and if one is to deal intelligently with these matters, surely one should deal with them unfettered by such considerations. When Mr. Menzies, as he then was, referred to the Arbitration Court, he pointed out that it was carrying out a legislative and. not a judicial function. The persons who carry out that function are as much open to criticism as are the members of this legislature. The only difference is that we can be removed at regular intervals - or, as in recent years, at frequent intervals - whereas the men who are judges of the Arbitration Court hold office for life. Unless they break the cruder forms of the criminal law, they cannot be removed.
The Minister for Supply, in one of his more eloquent flights, referred to the necessity to make the arbitration system more flexible and to create trust between the parties in industrial relations. The bill does not touch either of those things ; it is merely a re-hash of amendments made by this Government to the 1947 act - mischievous amendments, which have not achieved any increase of industrial harmony or production. The bill seeks to alter the names of the various parts of the court, but it does not alter the functions in any respect. The Commonwealth Industrial Court, which will comprise three of the present judges of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, will carey out the court’s powers to interpret awards and to inflict penalties for breaches of awards. The remaining judges, or other lawyers who may be appointed, will become presidential members of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. The present conciliation commissioners will become the lay members of that commission. Every other feature of the arbitration system as established by this Government during its six and a half years of office will remain undisturbed.
There will still be the same system of appeals from a commissioner to a commission composed wholly or principally of presidential members. Those men who are now judges of the court will alone sit as the commission in presidential session to determine standard hours, the basic wage for males and females and long-service leave. There will not be the slightest alteration in substance. The personnel and the functions will remain the same, but the names will be altered. Some of the present judges will be judges of an industrial court in the true constitutional sense of the term, while the others will be presidential members of a commission, but will have the emoluments of judges. The conciliation commissioners will become the lay members of the commission, but they will be given a slight increase of pay.
The honorable member for Bruce (Mr. Snedden) set out the anomalies which will occur in relation to the commission. Although it has not been manifest to the public, hitherto there has been a dichotomy, to employ a phrase used by Mr. Justice Foster in presenting the report of the court in 1950 in the absence of Chief Judge Kelly, between the judges and the conciliation commissioners. They sat apart from each other, they gave separate decisions, and they had their respective spheres which did not overlap, although there were demarcation disputes between the judges and the commissioners just as there are in industry itself. That dichotomy will now be apparent every time the new commission sits to hear references or appeals from a commissioner, because there will be presidential members and lay members sitting side by side. The honorable member for Bruce well showed the difference between the two parts of the commission. A lay member will draw half the salary of a presidential member. Their emoluments will be different, their term of office will be different, and, although the honorable member did not say so. their retiring allowances also will be different. Whether they are sitting, whether they are travelling, or whether they are in retirement, there will be a continuing difference, this same dichotomy, between the presidential and lay members of the commission. That, surely, will not make for improved industrial relations or for the expeditious handling of affairs.
One can see a trend, throughout this Government’s term of office, towards three things in its handling of arbitration: first, towards introducing legalism; secondly, towards using the court for industrial discipline; and, thirdly, towards using the court to bring about economic restrictions. The trend towards legalism was advocated, once there was a change of government, by the Acting Chief Judge, Mr. Justice Foster, and by the Chief J udge, Mr. Justice Kelly. There were no criticisms by the Chief Judge in 1947, 1948 or 1949, but in November, 1950, Acting Chief Judge Foster used the word “ dichotomy “ for the first time. He said -
The present Arbitration system involves a complete dichotomy, the Court and Conciliation Commissioners occupying areas completely isolated arid independent.
He pointed out that problems of jurisdiction frequently arose and were insoluble either by the court or the conciliation commissioner and, secondly, that an award was of uncertain validity because it might be challenged in the High Court by prohibition. His Honour’s report was dated the Sth November, 1950. On the 4th December, 1950, the Chief Conciliation Commissioner, Mr. Mooney, cracked back at His Honour in these terms - . . The division of power presents no practical difficulties and should and will present none if the Judges and Commissioners accept the present position so long as it exists, each conceding that the other has and is performing an important assigned task.
The Chief Conciliation Commissioner also pointed out that in any year subsequent to the passing of the 1947 legislation there had been fewer appeals to the High Court from the Arbitration Court or the commissioners than there had been in every year preceding the passing of that legislation.
On the 24th October, 1951, Chief Judge Kelly again presented a report and returned to the attack. He said -
Appreciating the many difficulties of the jurisdictional dichotomy, it can be said that excess of its jurisdiction by either authority is a matter of constant concern to each.
The Chief Conciliation Commissioner, in his report of the 5th November, 1951, quickly repudiated that statement by saying-
It may be more difficult for Commissioners, generally, than for Judges to determine the limits of their respective powers; Commissioners are in the main laymen, whereas judges ave in the main lawyers-
And I interpolate that I thought the act required that they should all be lawyers - but the difficulty is really not a great one to either and has not in fact, to any appreciable extent, delayed the completion of awards, certainly not to any greater extent than if a single Judge was invested with the powers now exercised by a Commissioner and three Judges with the reserve powers of Section 25.
Pursuant to the claims by the judges and the repudiation by the commissioners, the Government yielded to the judges’ wishes and, in 1952, amended the act to provide for appeals from the commissioners to the court.
The Leader of the Opposition, the other night, cited some cases of delay and expense which were brought about by that process. He quoted the delay of five months in the storemen and packers’ general stores award ; of four and a half months in an award covering casual storemen on the waterfront; of six months in regard to the Brisbane meat markets award. He mentioned that a later award for tramway employees in South Australia had not yet been finalized after a lapse of twelve months. He also cited some of the costs which had been incurred by the unions alone in appeal cases. He mentioned that the tramways union, in this last appeal, had already incurred costs amounting to £6,000. I am not suggesting that the counsel engaged were not worth every penny of that amount but the point remains, nevertheless, that the fact that there has been an appeal from the commissioners to a court, ever since 1952, has meant, first, delay and, accordingly, a denial of just claims and, secondly, a vast increase in expenses to the unions and the employers, and also to the Commonwealth, which frequently intervenes in these matters. The fact that, under this bill, there will still be an appeal from single commissioners to the commission will mean that that delay and expense will be perpetuated. There is nothing new- there - to use the Minister’s term - which would make the system more flexible or which would promote trust on both sides in industrial disputes.
So one notices, first of all, the trend to legalism under this Government, in its amendments to the 1947 act, and one sees that that trend will be perpetuated in the new act. That trend has not promoted industrial peace in the country at all. One only has to look at the figures for industrial disturbances to see that is so. The number of men who have gone out on strike in every year in which thi; Government has been in office has been greater than it was in any year under the Chifley Government. I do not wish to weary the House with details, but it is useful to read these figures into the record, in view of the constant claims which are made of the successful term of office of the present Minister for Labour and National Service. I do not want anything that I say to spoil his chances of preferment in his party, or in this Parliament. I’ concede that his record in industrial relations is just as good as his rival’s record in international relations. I return to the figures. The following number of people went on strike in Australia in the years indicated: -
The highest number, it will be noticed, occurred in 1946, when 331,000 people went on strike. Every year, under this Government, that figure has been exceeded. I shall read the relevant figures -
One can see, therefore, that the number of people who have gone on strike under this Government has increased to a greater extent than the population. In fact, the various amendments which have been made to increase the technicalities, to increase the discipline, and to increase the restrictions of the arbitration system, have not promoted industrial peace in the country as a whole.
Concerning the trend to industrial discipline, I point out that it was as a result of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court’s use of its power to punish for contempt increasingly in recent years that, finally, a union appealed on this very point to the High Court and successfully asked the High Court - to use the words of the Minister for Supply, surprisingly - to hold that the Arbitration Court was not a court, and did not exercise judicial powers under the Constitution, and that, therefore, one did not commit contempt of the Arbitration Court when one disobeyed its decisions, awards and orders. The particular matter was probably the most trivial for which a court had ever held its honour and its dignity to be injured. It will’ bp remembered that some of the members of the Boilermakers’ Society of Australia had sent round a hat at Mort’s Dock for contributions for the dependants of other persons who were on strike. On the 2Sth Tune. 1955, the Commonwealth Arbitration Court stated -
We are not impressed by the description ot the contributions as being to dependants of the strikers although, even if they were intended for dependants rather than the strikers themselves, they would still amount to a subsidy of the strike. Such support of the strike by the defendant Society must constitute a serious, if not the main reason for the strike’s continuance.
The Arbitration Court, in the passage that I quoted, said, in effect, Let the dependants starve. If you send around the hat to support the dependants of persons on strike, the court will deal with you “. It was known to the court itself that the amount of the contributions to each striker’s family varied according to the size of the family. There is no doubt that the contributions made from that collection in the hat went to strikers- according to the number of dependants that they had. It was, in that sense, sustenance for their dependants, not for the strikers. The Arbitration Court, in those . circumstances, found its dignity injured, and said, “ A contempt is being committed “, and it proceeded to fine the Boilermakers’ Society £500.
– In respect of the action of a handful of its members.
– Yes, in respect of a voluntary action by a handful of members. This contribution was not obtained by means of a deduction from pay envelopes. The union did not take up the collection. It was a spontaneous action on the part of a handful of the union’s members and because those members were not expelled from the union, the union was held responsible. It is an example of the extent to which the present judges have held that the arbitration system must be used to discipline people who are subject to its awards. That was the last and, even if not the most notorious, the most trivial case in which the court had awarded the maximum penalty. Never was punishment in contempt, I venture to say, so contemptible and never was arbitration so arbitrary.
Having come to the end of its tether, the boilermakers’ society appealed to the High Court. This was the second fine that the union had incurred over this matter. The High Court - four of the judges at all events - held, last March, that the punishment was unconstitutional because the court had not been exercising judicial power. Therefore, no contempt was committed if its orders were defied or disregarded.
– The Commonwealth still has the money, too.
– That is very true. One of the shabbiest features of the Government’s conduct in regard to industrial matters is that this fine, and the many other fines imposed by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court in the last few years, have gone into Consolidated Revenue and are still there. Although the High Court ruled that the Commonwealth Arbitration Court had no power to inflict those fines, that money is still in the Consolidated Revenue Fund and, apparently, will remain there pending a decision by the Privy Council. Even then, there is no guarantee that, if the Privy Council supports the High Court’s ruling that the fines were improperly imposed, the Government will refund the money. It is surely an extraordinarily cheap action on the part of the Government to retain money that was paid as a result of fines which the court, as the interpretation of the law at present stands, had no power to impose. 1 turn now to the trend towards economic restriction. In Australia, very few powers repose in this Parliament, and still fewer in the State parliaments, to deal with economic matters. We have seen that in peace-time there is no power to regulate private investment - that is, no control of capital issues. There is no power, except in regard to banking transactions, to regulate interest rates. Whilst we have unlimited powers in regard to currency, or taxation or imports, wide sections of the economy, particularly those in private hands covering matters such as investments and dividends and prices, are completely beyond the power of this Parliament, or any other parliament in Australia, to control. While that is so, the arbitration power vested in the Commonwealth has been used by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court for the imposition of most extensive discipline, and most extensive economic restriction. At a time when profits, prices and incomes were completely uncontrolled, the Commonwealth Arbitration Court imposed, in respect of persons working under Commonwealth awards, a complete wage freeze. Employees under Commonwealth awards have been the first and most numerous casualties of the fight against inflation. The other night, my leader showed quite clearly that the conciliation commissioners, whose job it was under the 1947 legislation to adjust margins, did not, in fact, adjust margins from 1947 to 1954. They were first dissuaded by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court from dealing with margins, on the ground that the court itself was dealing with the basic wage. When the court did belatedly decide, in December, 1950, that there should be an increase of fi in the basic wage, the conciliation commissioners were still deterred from dealing with margins because of the fact that, at the quarterly conferences between conciliation commissioners, the Chief Judge, who presides over these conferences, made it quite plain to the commissioners that they should defer dealing with margins to counter inflation. That is notorious. The results appeared in the Galvin award and all other awards by conciliation commissioners, except those of Mr. Conciliation Commissioner Findlay. When the court was given power to hear appeals from the awards of conciliation commissioners all questions of margins were further deferred. They were deferred until 1954, when the court itself held that there should be an increase in margins for those whose margins were 28s. a week or more, but that smaller margins should not be affected. That meant an increase of wages for 40 per cent, of the employees under Commonwealth awards, and nothing for the other 60 per cent.
At the same time there existed, from 1953 until last Friday, a complete freeze of the basic wage. Even last Friday5.* decision mitigates that to the extent of 10s. only. From now on persons under Commonwealth awards in every State except South Australia will still receive lower wages than persons under parallel State awards. Let me give the detailed figures: In New South Wales, whereequal numbers of persons are employed under Commonwealth awards and State awards, those under Commonwealth awards will receive 3s. a week less than those under State awards. In Victoria, where there are two persons employed under Commonwealth awards for every one employed under State awards, the persons employed under Commonwealth awards will receive lis. a week less than those under State awards. In Queensland, where only 20 per cent, of employees are covered by Commonwealth awards, those employees will receive 5s. a week less than those employed under State awards. In South Australia, where persons employed under Commonwealth awards are double the number of those employed under State awards, those employed under Commonwealth awards will receive 10s. a week more than those under State awards. In Western Australia, where a mere 12 per cent, of employees work under Commonwealth awards, they will receive lis. Id., a week less than those employed under State awards. In Tasmania, where 52 per cent, of employees work under Commonwealth awards, such employees will receive 16s. a week less than those employed under State awards.
At the same time, profits and incomes other than wages and salaries have continued to rise. I quote from the White Paper on National Income and Expenditure, which was supplied to us during the consideration of last year’s budget. It shows that between 1952-53 and 1954-55 wages and salaries increased from £2,039,000,000 to £2,321,000,000 - an increase . of one-seventh. In the same period company income increased from £378,000.000 to an estimated amount of £505,000,000 - an increase of one-third. That is, company incomes increased at more than double the rate of the increase of wages and salaries. Company profits are not generally included in government publications, so one has to go to such a journal as the Financial Review an authoritative and well-informed journal, to find those figures. On the 26th of last month, reviewing the results of thu operations of 1,070 companies, it stated that between 1953-54 and 1954-55 the ratio of net profit to capital increased from 17.6 per cent, to 18.6 per cent., and the percentage of total dividends to paid capital increased from 9.5 per cent, to 10.5 per cent. Therefore, during the last three years, the wages and salaries of the greater number of employees in Australia - those under Commonwealth awards - have been frozen and have remained level, but the rewards for other persons, derived from company profits, have increased very greatly. That well shows the lopsided nature of the economy, and the provocations and injustices for which the Government provides no solution in the present measure.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
.- The Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale) pointed out in his speech that a system of conciliation and arbitration had become an article of faith to all Australians, and that we had endeavoured to make that article of faith part of our Constitution. This has been done in a most imperfect manner. The series of attempts that have been made over the years to improve an imperfect structure shows that, to some extent, Australians have now come to hold the belief that the root cause of all industrial trouble lies somewhere in the arbitration system. But it is perfectly obvious that, no matter what system is devised, there will still be industrial disputes and strikes, and that people will continue to try to make scapegoats of whatever system exists for the mitigation of such disputes and strikes. If proof were needed of that fact we have only to look at countries where there is no system of conciliation and arbitration, such as the United Kingdom and the United States. We find that the record of industrial disputes in those countries is not significantly different from ours, and the only conclusion we can draw from that fact is that industrial peace, by and large, depends not alone on the system which is provided by the Government for the mitigation or the solving of industrial disputes and deadlocks, but on other factors, either in themselves or in conjunction with that system. I think we have to keep that in mind. We have to look at this matter in- a dispassionate way.
I give full marks to Opposition members who are versed in the technicalities of the system of arbitration as it has evolved over the years in this country. The only criticism I would offer is that all Labour’s amendments are designed to build up a system which will favour one party, or one side, in a dispute. If my thesis that industrial peace depends upon factors other than the machinery of industrial arbitration is correct, the system proposed by Labour will not promote industrial peace, and will not develop that essential goodwill that men in industry should have. I suggest that industrial peace depends first, on the general economic situation and on the strains and stresses that are being felt, and secondly, on the attitude of the parties to disputes so far as their goodwill helps towards a settlement. In those circumstances, we arrive at a state of affairs in which any system of arbitration can of itself create an atmosphere in which trained advocates seek office in trade unions and determine to take the utmost advantage of the system to press their views, and, on the other hand, employers determined to take the utmost advantage of the system to press their views. This is a state of affairs in which the perfection of the system itself can actually lead to increased disputation and argument. Therefore, we have to look at this system of conciliation and arbitration which we are now trying to introduce from two points of view. We must look at it first, 1 suggest, from the standpoint of the overall economic situation in Australia, because, as the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) rightly pointed out, the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration has become an instrument of economic policy, lt creates an economic situation. That cannot be avoided when we have a body with such power to make awards.
– It is an instrument of the employers.
– The honorable member is perfectly entitled to his opinion, but 1 suggest that he does not advance his case one iota by trying to introduce an atmosphere of class hatred into a debate on a measure by means of which we are trying to establish a system that will be perfectly impartial. If the honorable member thinks that the system is wrong just because a court does not give everything that he wants in an award, bis view is a reflection not upon the court but upon himself. The Government is trying to introduce a system that will take cognizance of the fact that the federal arbitration system entails a responsibility to the country as a whole, because, as 1 have pointed out, industrial peace in general depends on the condition of the economy. If the position becomes difficult, industrial unrest will increase. If the overall condition of the economy is such that unemployment exists, industrial unrest will increase. It will increase also if there is over-full employment.
The court itself must have regard to its responsibilities to the nation as a whole. If I understood the honorable member for Werriwa correctly, he deplored the fact that the court tended to exercise some economic discipline over Australia. Does he want the court to adopt an attitude of complete economic irresponsibility? Does he want it to fix wages and determine hours of work without regard to their effect on the community? I should be surprised if that were his view, but he at least stated that the Commonwealth Arbitration Court to-day has regard to the effect of its decisions on the nation as a whole. I suggest that the first and most important way to promote industrial peace is for the court to take that attitude. As evidence of that, I refer to the court’s judgment in the recent Basic Wage case, in which it made it very plain that it regarded as fundamentally unsound the attitude of State governments and State industrial tribunals which had persisted with methods of adjusting wages on the basis of the cost of living. The Commonwealth court made it quite plain that it would have been able to award a larger increase of the basic wage if the State tribunals had not already gone beyond what the Commonwealth court regarded as the bounds of reason with the system they have adopted. The Commonwealth court considered that it would have been safe for it to award a greater increase and to assess the capacity of industry to pay at a higher figure if it were not for the continued danger that State tribunals would have no regard whatever to the principles adopted by it, because there is not a uniform basis of determining wages throughout Australia.
We have heard a lot of peculiar nonsense from Opposition members about the cost of living. They have argued that workers should receive higher wages immediately when prices increase.
– Why should they not ?
– With the permission of the honorable member, I propose to give the House some very good reasons why this principle should not be adopted. In the first place, the proposition can be shown to be completely absurd, because the prices of goods have no relation to the capacity of industry to pay wages.
– What is the honorable member’s attitude to profits?
– If the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) will just allow me time to elaborate my argument, he will be able to follow it.
– I am sure the honorable member will not mention profits.
– Order! I ask the honorable member for East Sydney to remain silent.
– A series of disputes and strikes, and go-slow tactics will surely reduce the productivity of labour and increase costs, and thereby increase prices. If we adopted the principle that wages should be raised immediately prices increased, the workers would then be entitled immediately to claim higher wages. This would result in the ridiculous proposition that people should be entitled to be paid more and more for working less and less. It is clear that no economy could stand the strain of such a process.. Employment would break down and inflation and chaos would result. The Commonwealth Arbitration Court has directed attention time and again to the danger of such a situation. That is why it now says - quite soundly, I suggest - that the capacity of industry to pay should be the determining factor in the fixing of the basic wage. In support of my contention that that is a sound principle, I quote an economist of no less note than the late Lord Keynes, who, in The General Theory of Employment Interest and Money, specifically referred, in scathing terms, to Australian attempts to preserve the real value of wages rather than the money value of wages by these periodic costofliving adjustments. He said that Australia was saved only by the inevitable inefficacy of legislation designed to achieve that object. Legislation cannot achieve it except in a closed economy. Australia’s economy is not a closed one. We have to trade and live with the rest of the world.
We now have in Australia a system of wage adjustment which tries to relate the Australian economy not only to the productivity of the workers, which affects the capacity of industry to pay, but also, very sensibly, to our position relative to other countries. If we are enjoying prosperity, with good markets overseas, that is a reason for increasing our level of wages. But if things are tightening up and our level of costs is not keeping pace with levels of costs in other parts of the world, that is a very good reason for refusing to increase our wage level further. So the criticism df the honorable member for Werriwa that the court is tending towards econo mic restriction seems to indicate that honorable members opposite advocate some sort of arbitration system which has no economic responsibility to the community as a whole. I think it is quite clear that, if we do have such a system, with complete irresponsibility to the community, we shall have au atmosphere conducive” to industrial unrest.
The second leg of the complaint by the honorable member for Werriwa was that this legislation would tend to promote discipline in arbitration. What would arbitration be if there were no power to enforce decisions? It would be only a means for either employers or employees to try to gain a point. If the decision were not favorable to them, it would be disregarded entirely. Under those circumstances, would the arbitration system do anything but promote further disputes and arguments? There would not be even a system of conciliation. There would be two parties at odds, sitting on opposite sides of the court, and fighting the case as hard as they could. When a decision had been reached, nothing would happen. No result would be achieved, because the party who was not suited by the decision could, if he chose, ignore it completely. There might be a certain moral effect, but history has shown that, for any system of arbitration to be successful, the decisions of the arbitrator must be observed by the parties. Unless some kind of sanction is available, the decisions will not be observed by the parties.
– We could haug the guilty parties.
– The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) chooses to be facetious about a serious subject. I have not heard him make a serious suggestion about what would happen if there were no powers of enforcement in an arbitration system. Does he want a system of arbitration or does he not? It is about time that some honorable members opposite stopped playing politics in relation to this matter and made a serious effort to suggest a structure that will work in the interests of all parties, not only in the interests of the party they happen to represent.
Another aspect of the argument of the honorable member for Werriwa was that the system tended to promote too much legalism. 1 concede that there is a difficulty here. He made reference to the dichotomy which existed previously. That is a matter to which the judges of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court have referred constantly. As men with practical experience of these matters, they saw the grave difficulties that were arising. With their responsibilities to the Australian economy - responsibilities which are, I suggest, now the major function of the court - they could see that the position was becoming chaotic, because there was no relation between the decisions of the various conciliation commissioners.
– The commissioners repudiated that view.
– The commissioners did repudiate it, but one can understand that. After all, they are only human, and possibly they resented a curb being placed on their powers. We are faced with the difficulty of reconciling the delay that must occur under a system of appeals and the desirability of uniformity. I think the honorable member for Werriwa will be fair enough to concede that in any system of law or pseudo-law it is desirable to have some uniformity, so that the parties can make a guess about where they are likely to stand. It would be undesirable if they could say, “ If we had brought our case up before Mr. Commissioner so-and-so, we should have got a different decision. Let us have another go when there is a chance of getting a different commissioner “. Unless there is a system of appeal, it is impossible to establish any uniformity - and uniformity is desirable, particularly if we agree that the Arbitration Court or the arbitration system has some overall responsibility to the community for the economic consequences of decisions given in arbitration or conciliation proceedings.
Honorable members opposite have stressed the fact that the Commonwealth Arbitration Court has frozen the basic wage since 1953. I do not think they Are quite fair in drawing the conclusion that wages have been pegged. The basic wage is pegged, but if honorable members will study the relevant statistics- they will see that, since 1953, the general wage level of the community has risen considerably. Average earnings throughout Australia have increased. Since 1953, there has been an increase of margins. Honorable members opposite tend to overlook the fact that wages are fixed, not only by the court, but also by economic conditions. If there is general prosperity, there is a state of full employment. Then employers are eager to secure the services of good employees and are prepared to bid for them by offering attractive wages.
– The lower-paid men received no increase as the result of the margins decision.
– That is true, but if the honorable member will study the figures, he will see that, in fact, average earnings throughout the community have increased. The only point I am trying to make is that honorable members opposite, in arguing this point, are not correct in saying that wages have been frozen. The basic wage has been pegged, but wages have not been frozen. It is not correct to say that wages have been pegged. Wages have increased.
– More overtime is being worked.
– Wages have increased over the years.
– Because more overtime ‘ has been worked.
– The honorable member for Werriwa can say what he likes, but the fact is that average earnings have increased. The system that we propose to introduce should meet with the approval of honorable members opposite in many respects. They have failed, in their amendment, to give full credit to the Government for trying to do some of the things that they have long advocated. In the first place, they have failed to give credit to the Government for endeavouring to cut down the legal technicalities and legal formalities in the present system about which they have complained frequently. Apparently they have not read proposed section 16ay, which will be section 63 of the consolidated act. That provision cuts down and restricts quite seriously the right of parties to have legal representation before the commission. I should like honorable members opposite to say whether they approve of that. Or did they draft their amendment in complete ignorance of the fact that that provision existed? I warn honorable members opposite against trying to carry too far the process of removing legalisms, because those honorable members who have had some experience in industrial courts know what a complete farce can result when the union representative and the employer are deprived of the assistance of counsel. They go into the court with their legal advisers behind them, and when they rise to speak they have to be prompted at every second word by their legal advisers, or by some expert on the subject whom they have engaged to assist them. It is a farcical performance when these people try to conduct a case, and have to be continually prompted. I see that the honorable member for Hindmarsh is nodding his head. He will be aware that this practice can become widespread if legislation restricts too closely the rights of parties to be represented by counsel. After all, it is only human, when one is engaging in argument, to try to employ some one who is expert in argument.
– Would it not be better to prevent legal advisers from being in the court room at all? Would it not be better to conduct the proceedings in private, and to prohibit such people from entering?
– In those circumstances, there might be frequent adjournments to enable parties to go outside and be instructed.
– What the honorable member describes has happened.
– That is true, and I suggest that if parties wish to be advised by experts, they should be entitled to have the benefit of that advice, and should be entitled to present the best case that they can. If, in their judgment, their case can best be presented by counsel, chen they should have the right to be represented by counsel. This bill is merely an endeavour to improve good will between the parties, so that, looking at the matter from a commonsense point of view, they will agree on occasions not to be represented by counsel, and to argue a matter on its merits without resort to technicalities. If we can establish an atmosphere before the proposed commission in which those considerations prevail, the proposed legislation will be most helpful. I do not think it would be wise to go any further at present than is contemplated in the bill. Indeed, 1 have some doubts as to whether even the provisions contemplated will prove satisfactory in actual practice, but 1 suggest that it would be very difficult to go any further in the way of removing technicalities.
– But under the legislation of which the honorable member speaks the commissioner may override an objection.
– Yes, he may, if the subject-matter is sufficiently important. That provision has regard only to the importance or otherwise of the subjectmatter, and I think that there will probably be considerable diffidence on the part of the commissioner to grant leave for counsel to appear in a tuppennyha’penny dispute.
Another aspect of this amending legislation which honorable members opposite appear to have disregarded is our attempt to provide some system of conciliation and mediation in industry, which is in accordance with the frequently expressed wishes of honorable members of the Opposition. I believe that the Government’s attempt to remove all processes of arbitration from the functions of the conciliators, while still retaining them as members of a cohesive commission, is a step in the right direction, and I should be very surprised to hear honorable members opposite suggest that it is not one of the best features of the bill. The Opposition’s amendment suggests, in effect, that provisions should be made for strengthening the, processes of conciliation, including the appointment of additional conciliators. As I understand that amendment, there is no limit to the number of conciliators who may he appointed, and the number may vary according to the needs of the occasion.
– There is no guarantee that there will be any.
– That is true, but some conciliators will be appointed. However, if the provision is in the act, and the Government does not take advantage of it to strengthen the processes of conciliation, that is the time to criticize the Government. I do not think that any good purpose will be served at this stage by insisting that a certain number of conciliators be appointed.
I believe that this bill goes a long way towards meeting most of the objections that have been voiced by honorable members opposite over the years. There is no foundation whatsoever for the main objection of the Opposition, which concerns the penal provisions of the bill, because, having been in government, the Opposition must realize that legislation to provide for industrial arbitration cannot function unless there is power to enforce the decisions of the court. I support th° legislation, and I believe that it is a major step forward in the development nf our conciliation and arbitration machinery.
.- Before I proceed to comment on the proposed legislation, I should like to offer my congratulations to the honorable member for Cunningham (Mr. Kearney) on the excellent speech that he delivered in this House last week. “We feel greatly encouraged by the quality of that speech, and by the knowledge that the honorable member displayed of his subject. “We feel that the Parliament is greatly helped in its deliberations by the presence of a man of the quality of the honorable member, and we welcome his presence in this chamber.
I now turn my attention to the bill before the House. The Parliament has again come face to face with a problem that has been the subject of considerable contention, and that has required review bv the Parliament on other occasions. Governments have even been defeated because of their policies on this allimportant matter. I can remember the situation that developed in 1929, when a government ‘ of the same political complexion as the present one attempted to introduce legislation which would have meant the end of industrial arbitration. Even certain of that Government’s own supporters were unwilling to accept the Government’s policy on that occasion. Among them were the honorable member for North Sydney, Mr. W. M. Hughes, the honorable member for Darling Downs, Sir Littleton Groom, the honorable member for Wentworth, Mr. Marks, anil the honorable member for Fawkner, Air. Maxwell. Those gentlemen voted with the Labour party at that time, and the Government was defeated because of its threat to Australia’s arbitration system. We are now facing the problem again. I feel that this Government will find it very difficult to justify this legislation to the people of Australia. Australians are most averse to the imposition of penalties in connexion with industrial matters, especially arbitration, which should call forth every effort towards finding agreement, considering the other man’s point of view, and appreciating the values that should be embodied in the determinations made. This is particularly so where the life, the health and the well-being of our community are concerned. Surely these things should be beyond determination by punitive measures. The principle of* arbitration calls for a different spirit, and it must be undertaken with a different outlook from that evidently employed by Government supporters. One can trace that attitude back almost to the beginning of arbitration in Australia. It was featured in the speech of Mr. Deakin, the Prime Minister of the day, in introducing the first arbitration bill. To show the spirit behind that legislation, I shall quote from that speech. In it we see the idea of subjecting the working classes to some form of restraint because of the opposition that they presented to certain of the employing interests. In 1904, Mr. Deakin said -
There is to be no antagonism between the new order of things and the old. . . . The central purpose of the hill is to prevent strikes and lockouts . . .
To protect employers and investors from the growing power of organized labour. That, no doubt, has been the spirit that has been manifest in the thinking of anti-Labour governments towards arbitration over the years. ‘ It has become almost an industrial code that restraint should be exercised upon the efforts and aspirations of working people to improve their conditions. Therefore, we must recognize that any legislation which has relation to the principle of arbitration should be reviewed in a new spirit. Only in that way shall we have a more just and more favorable acceptance of that principle. I ask for leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted ; debate adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
Bill presented by Mr. Haroldholt, and read a first time.
Suspension of Standing Orders.
Motion (by Sir Eric Harrison) - by leave - agreed to -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Minister for Labour and National Service from making his speech on the second reading of the bill without limitation of time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Recently, when presenting to the House a bill to amend the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, I offered the view that industrial questions in Australia are, in my judgment, more difficult and complex than possibly in any other country. Some of the factors that produce this result bear on the measure currently before the House. As I said then, there is a record degree of trade unionism in Australia. That is, of course, not a bad thing in itself. We, as a government, have encouraged trade unionism and have encouraged the newcomers to this country to join the union appropriate to their calling. We have maintained close and, I believe, co-operative relations with the organized trade union movement, but it is one of the cardinal facts in the Australian community life that, more so than in any other industrialized country, we have this very high degree of unionism amongst wage and salary earners. Then, we have a very much more active trade union participation in party politics than is to be found in most other countries even more than in the United Kingdom where there is a longestablished tradition of collaboration by the trade union movement with one of the major political parties. That activity in Australia takes place both at the organizational and the policy level.
Over recent years we have had a sustained situation of full employment, greatly strengthening the bargaining power of the trade union and the individual unionist. To a regrettable degree,. Communists have infiltrated key sectors of our economy. The coalmining and waterfront unions are conspicuous examples of the way in which power has come into the hands of Communist officials, to be exercised by them for the purpose that they serve. In Australia tremendous power is in the hands of the trade unions, but, with some very commendable exceptions, I do not think it could be said that the degree of discipline and responsibility has been developed’ by the individual trade union or the trade union movement as a whole which measures up to the tremendous power which resides in the hands of the organized trade union movement of this country.
We have, in addition, a wellestablished tradition of solidarity on the part of the men at work which tends to produce a somewhatnondiscriminating support for strike action, wherever it occurs. Some of these factors are good in themselves; some of them are bad in themselves. But, taken altogether, they create for this country a problem of great complexity and great difficulty. I have repeated those elements in our situation again tonight because I believe it becomes increasingly important for Australia that all of us have a realization of the significance of these developments which are going on around us.
Viewing the stevedoring industry against this background, we recognize that it occupies a particularly significant place in the Australian economy. We live in an island continent of vast distances between capital cities of the various States and between one principal centre and another. The island State of Tasmania is vitally concerned with the efficiency of maritime transport. Having a small population, we have not yet developed as fully as other older and more closely settled countries the transport systems which they have been able to produce. Our circumstances demand of us that we develop the most efficient system of shipping services and waterfront operation that we can contrive. But nobody would suggest for one moment that we have achieved this. It is a matter of unhappy notoriety that our waterfront performance is” chronically bad. Performance is poor. Industrial relations are bad and have been bad for generations. The stevedoring industry has been rightly described more than once as a turbulent industry. If we examine the incidence of industrial disputes in this industry, we find that over recent years they have caused an average loss of about 5 per cent, of working time. This is around 80 times the rate of loss experienced over industry generally.
– How much have the owners contributed to that loss?
– I am not at this stage seeking to apportion blame in one quarter or another. I am merely trying to state quite factually what I believe the position to be. But if we are looking at it in an objective spirit, I throw in as an illustration what this means in terms of cost to the Australian community. For example, I am advised by the Stevedoring Industry Board that, on an average day with the average amount, of shipping in port, a one-day hold-up in the port of Sydney would cause a. loss to the shipping companies on that day of about £30,000.
The economic losses and dislocation on the waterfront are very much more serious than in the case of most other industries, even the coal industry. In the coal industry, if there is a stoppage of work for a day at a time when stocks in the hands of consumers are satisfactory, nobody suffers very much except the coal-miners and the coal-owners. The coal-miners have lost that day out of their working lives, but the coal is still there to be mined, and in a national sense the loss is not so sorely felt. When the shipping of a port is held up for a day a direct loss of wages is suffered by the waterside workers, and heavy losses are sustained by the shipping and stevedoring companies, and that process starts a chain reaction of dislocation which tends to run right through the economic structure. So, Australia has paid dearly over recent years, and indeed for many years, for this unsatisfactory waterfront performance.
The industry is hampered by restrictive practices, some of which developed over the war years. If honorable members study the judgment of Mr. Justice Ashburner in the .sling loads case, they will find comments made there on the way in which, during the course of the war years, by using the bargaining strength that had then developed, the Waterside Workers Federation of Australia introduced at various ports restrictive practices which still hamper the efficient operation of industry in those ports. The judge has declared that in some ports the sling loads are disgracefully low and that in others these restrictive practices have resulted in an unsatisfactory level. I mention that merely as an illustration. If time permitted, one could give scores of illustrations of this very character, and one of the purposes of the bill is to enable the authority set up by the bill, in conjunction with the commission which is being established under another measure before the Parliament, to examine and regulate these practices which exist in the various ports and to see whether some reasonable level of performance can be established which is equitable in the interests of all concerned and certainly measures up to the requirements of the public interest.
– Will the Minister deal with the other side of the picture, the shipping combine and its extortion of profits ?
– If the right honorable gentleman will allow me to proceed with my discussion of this very complex problem, I hope to be able to deal with most of the matters which are exercising his mind. The relations between the representatives of management and men are unhappy and at times become bitter. Many Australians, accustomed - almost resigned - to waterfront trouble for so many years, tend to think of these things as inevitable. Many trade unionists view waterfront developments as elements in a continuing struggle between the shipowner and the wharfie, but any talk of a psychology on the part of the waterside worker which impels him to strike, or on the part of the shipowner which makes him utterly unco-operative, seems to be answered by the experience of New Zealand where, over the last two years, there has been virtually no loss of working time from industrial disputes on the waterfront. Each of the groups directly concerned may sustain direct losses in the struggle, hut the wharfie tends to take the view that the ships will still be there to be loaded when the trouble ends, and the facts reveal that the shipowners, not unnaturally perhaps, have sought to recover their losses by increasing their freight charges. In order to show what this means to us all, one has only to take the example which I give to-night, one of the scores which may be mentioned, of the rise in freight costs which have occurred in the carriage of general cargo between the ports of Melbourne and Sydney since the beginning of the war. In 1939, the rate for the carriage of general cargo between Melbourne and Sydney was £1 a ton. It rose to £6 14s. a ton as from the 1st June, 1956. I think that most honorable members will agree that we have experienced rises in the cost of most commodities and services in the period since 1939, but I would invite any of them to point to one commodity or service which has experienced the abnormal rise which this instance illustrates.
It is clear that a big price is being paid by the public for waterfront inefficiency. It is being paid by the Australian householder, the wage-earner, and trade unionists, whatever their occupation may be. Transport costs are clearly basic costs, and to them are added other cost percentages before the goods reach the purchaser, and the bigger the base cost is, the more the percentage cost added to it tends to swell the total charge made finally to the purchaser. Reduced freight costs, whether resulting from greater effort, better equipment, or better supervision-
Opposition members interjecting,
– In answer to some of the interjectors opposite, I say very frankly that there is plenty of scope for better supervision in this industry. These things can all mean better living standards for us all.
– What about profits?
– An honorable member opposite interjects, “ What about profits ? “ I expect to have, at a not very distant point of time, some very much more precise information on this subject of profits, but we are in a position to form a not badly based judgment on this particular issue, because it so happens that the Australian Government, through the Australian Shipping Board, is the biggest employer on the Australian coast, where it operates more ships than any other shipping organization.
Mr. Ward interjecting,
– Order ! If the honorable member for East Sydney wishes to leave the chamber, he is going the right way about it. He is making continuous interjections. The Parliament will preserve the right of a Minister or private member to state his views without interruption.
– Why do you not rebuke the Vice-President of the Executive Council ?
– Order ! The honorable member for East Sydney will obey the Chair.
– I was pointing out that we do have an opportunity to form some judgment of the reasonableness of freight charges on the Australian coast by virtue of our own experience with the Australian Shipping Board. Of course, it may be suggested by honorable members opposite that the board’s business is inefficiently conducted in comparison with that of privately operated shipping companies. Is that the case? Does anybody opposite suggest that the Australian Shipping Board is inefficiently conducted?
– Does the Minister want us to make a speech at this stage?
– No. I put a fairly simple question in view of what was thrown across the chamber about profits. I think that, for the purpose of our discussion, we can take it that the ships under the control of the Australian Shipping Board are no less efficiently conducted than those of other shipping companies operating round the coast. Certainly the contrary has never been suggested, so far as I am aware, by honorable members opposite. If one examines the accounts of the Australian Shipping Board, which, incidentally, include the figures in regard to a number of chartered ships that usually give a more favorable trading picture, one finds that the percentage of profit earned by the board in relation to capital invested, for the accounting period ended the 31st March, 1955, was 7.04.
– How much was ii in pounds?
– It was £799,000. In the calculation of that 7.04 per cent, no provision was made for payment of interest on the money loaned. So, if we take an average value of the money advanced to the Australian Shipping Board - I do not suppose honorable gentlemen opposite would suggest that we are not entitled to assume the bond rate of interest on the capital invested - -we see that there would have been a very small net return on the trading operations of the board in that year, which was a relatively favorable year. If operations over the last 12 months are taken into account, a much less satisfactory picture is obtained. I shall give another illustration, which 1 think is not without interest to honorable members. My colleague, the Minister for Shipping and Transport, (Senator Paltridge), has made available to me a typical voyage experience of a typical D class ship conducted by the Australian Shipping Board. The period covered is from the 1st April, 1954, to the 25th March, J 955 - $54 days. He assures me that this can be taken as a typical experience of D class ships carrying general cargo round the Australian coast. During that period, the ship earned £297,000, but its management costs were £343,000. In other words, the net loss on the voyages was of the order of £46,000. When we examine the operational costs, we find this interesting picture: Stevedoring costs amounted to £151,000, more than half the maintain our present of the freights earned. I shall not ente, into any controversy at this stage about where the responsibility for those results lies, but merely point out that, if there were an improvement of the efficiency of waterfront operations, the whole situation in relation to Australian coastal shipping could be transformed, and the possibility of lower freight rates with a consequent reduction of costs would become a reality for the Australian consumer. At the present time, Australia is faced with the major national problem of maintaining exports at a level that is adequate to permit imports on a scale necessary to maintain our present living standards Waterfront performance, quite obviously, has a significant bearing on export costs. In my judgment, no other section of the Australian economy could provide such speedy and substantial cost savings for the nation as could a worth-while and, I emphasize, attainable improvement of waterfront achievement.
We now have before us again as a Parliament the problem of waterfront organization. Attempts have been made to provide a permanently employed work force, but so far the union has frowned upon the proposals that have been advanced. Perhaps at some future point of time proposals will emerge that will prove acceptable, but, for our current purposes, the industry is based on the use of casual labour. In a time of full employment, when casual labour is not a3 readily available as it was in the nro-war years, a stable labour force is needed, and there is required of the waterside worker a willingness to work all types of cargo and to be available as required. When a shortage of man-power developed during the war years, an organization was set up under war-time controls. It was followed in the subsequent period of peace by the Stevedoring Industry Commission, which was established by the legislation of 1947. However, that organization was not a success. We need not go into the reasons at this stage, but honorable gentlemen opposite, who were in government at that time and repealed that legislation, will be fully aware of the factors that made its repeal, in their judgment, desirable. The 1947 legislation was replaced by legislation of 1949, which set up the Stevedoring Industry Board. Some of us, as members of the then Opposition, strongly criticized the legislation which set up the Stevedoring Industry Commission, and we were very conscious of the need to produce some worth-while improvement of the arrangements then introduced if there was a continuing need for some sort of organization or administrative body to regulate the work force to ensure that men were available for the needs of the various ports, and for that purpose to maintain a system of registration so that men would be available as required.
There have been strong differences of Opinion about how an improvement of the position established by the 1949 legislation might best be brought about. Some persons have argued with conviction that, as far as practicable, we should restore a more normal employer-employee relationship in the industry. On the other hand, there have been those who have had misgivings about whether, having regard both to the industrial strength of the union and the differing interests of the very considerable body of employers in the industry, such a restoration would not produce even worse results. It may not be generally known that there are approximately 1S3 stevedoring companies on the Australian coast. Some are registered in more than one port, so, actually there are 327 registrations of stevedoring Companies. There are approximately 40 shipping companies operating around the coast, most of which are registered in more than one port, so that there are 160 registrations of shipping companies. It will be observed that, where you have the same work force in each of the ports but different employers from time to time, it is not easy to find a scheme that will produce what might be termed the normal employer-employee relationship. It will also be observed that, even if it were desired that the Government should step out of this field entirely and should leave the organization of the waterfront work force to the stevedoring companies and the shipowners - possibly, in suitable circumstances, in conjunction with the representatives of the union - there would need to be a body run by the employers separately or in conjunction with the union with administrative functions, comparable to that which the Government proposes to establish under this bill.
This Government did not rush into an immediate overhaul of .the existing legislation following its assumption of office. Indeed, there are some persons who feel that it has been too tardy in its approach to a comprehensive overhaul. I point out, however, that there were disagreements between the various elements in the industry. I do .not confine that remark to the more obvious disagreements between the representatives of the union and those of management. I include the differing interests in the ranks of the employers themselves. The overseas shipowners had certain interests that they thought should be protected, and they did not always run hand in hand with the interstate steamship owners. Inside the interstate group itself were independent shipowners and others amongst whom there were differences of opinion. However, the Government took two important steps in its legislation of 1954. It will be remembered that at that time the Government presented to the Parliament a bill that sought to vary the method of recruitment. It did this because the “Waterside Workers Federation was not, as it had demonstrated in earlier periods, willing to supply labour up to the stipulated level in the various ports. So an opportunity was given to the shipowners to build up the work force. Moreover, because of the conflicting views and allegations that were coming to me and other members of the Government, it was thought highly desirable to constitute a committee of inquiry that would furnish to the Government some uptodate advice which would guide the Government in the course that should be followed. That was the view, not only of the Government, but certainly also of the Australian Council of Trades Unions and, I believe, of the Waterside Workers
Federation. There was a general feeling that, if such an inquiry could produce an objectively found body of information, it would be of great help to the Parliament in deciding what policy should be adopted in the future. So the Government set up the Tait committee, consisting of a chairman in the person of Mr. Tait, a barrister at the Victorian bar, Mr. Gibson, a senior and respected representative of the employers, and Mr. Shortell, a senior and respected member of the trade union movement.
– Why did the Government not include a representative of the waterside workers?
– That is for the honorable member to say. There may be some who disagree with the composition of the committee, but I believe that those three gentlemen set about the very heavy task that we imposed upon them with an earnest desire to produce findings that would be of value to the Parliament and which would assist all sections of the industry to work out a more acceptable scheme of waterfront organization.
It was our hope when we set up the committee, at the end of 1954, that we would have a report quite early. At that time, I asked the committee to make its findings as soon as possible and, if practicable, by the 31st March, 1955. In the result, the committee was not able to produce the report. It took much longer than anticipated. The waterfront troubles continued. There was a general stoppage following the legislation of 1954, and a general stoppage of three weeks arising out of the wage claims in January of this year. Under more placid circumstances, the Government would have regarded it as preferable to have delayed legislation until the final report of the committee had been received.
– Does the Minister know when that will be received?
– It will be received some time later this year. I am unable to say, as yet, exactly when the final report will be presented, but T certainly hope it will not be long delayed, and T believe that that hope is shared by members of the committee. Because
Australia, as a result of the absence of some form of authoritative policy relating to the waterfront, had found itself involved in these two major stoppages in the years that I have mentioned, I came to the conclusion, which my colleagues in the Government supported, that we should ask the committee, at that point, to give us an interim report on the conclusions it had reached on the matters already investigated, together with such additional material as it believed necessary to explain those findings. The committee provided that interim report quite speedily. It has reported on the organization of the labour force; some specific factors affecting the efficiency of stevedoring operations; the maintenance of discipline; disputes and stoppages; and the very important problem of regulation and control.
It will, perhaps, be convenient if I indicate, very shortly, the principal findings of the Tait committee. In the first place, it came to the clear and firm conclusion that there should be a statutory authority in this industry possessed, in the broad, of the powers of the present board. Its conclusions pointed to the need, in many instances, to clarify existing powers, generally, in the direction of defining the area and manner of their exercise. The committee also proposed the transference to the statutory authority of .some of the functions now exercised by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. It found that there should be a bureau system, working substantially as at present; that recruitment should be left primarily with the Waterside Workers Federation, but that the statutory authority should have power to recruit if the federation failed to provide the labour. It found in favour of an extension of the system of transfers which operates in the port of Adelaide and, I believe, in one or more other ports; a more extensive operation of the press and radio system of pick-up which it is believed has advantages both for the men and for the employer in that it get? the men, at less expense and inconvenience to themselves, to the point of working operations at an earlier time than if they came from the pick-up centre. It found in favour of the use of short gangs to handle hatches and beams in preparation for the day’s work by the larger gangs. It also found in favour of the use, under controlled conditions, of supplementary labour to meet emergencies, and the use of such a force, under conditions and in a manner specified and at the direction of the statutory authority. I shall say a little more on that subject at a later stage.
The committee thought that the statutory authority should have definite responsibilities to try to improve the efficiency of the industry, and it instanced, as an example, the problem of rain. About 5 per cent, of paid working time is lost because of rain. I think that most people, in this day and age of scientific discovery, will find it hard to credit that management has not found a satisfactory manner of transferring cargo from ships to sheds under rainy conditions. It may be that a solution lies in the use of adequate protective clothing, or of a protective covering device or of some conveyor belt system operating from a hole in the side of the ship, such as is provided in the case of some ships, into the sheds. There could be a variety of possibilities, but the Government refuses, and the committee refuses, to believe that a practical answer is not to he found to this problem. The Australian economy simply cannot afford to go on losing 5 per cent, of the paid working time on the waterfront as a result of rain. Taking the two aspects that I have mentioned together - the 5 per cent, loss of working time from industrial stoppages, a loss 30 times as great as that which occurs in the rest of Australian industry, and a loss of 5 per cent, of working time through rain - it will be seen that, even if these were the only two directions in which we were able to effect some improvement, there would be a dramatically advantageous impact upon the Australian economy as a whole.
The committee considered the present procedures for handling disputes were quite inadequate, partly because of overlapping of functions between the arbitration tribunals and the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board. It referred in critical terms to the delays in determining disputes. It reported quite strongly in favour of the board’s inspector system. It will be remembered that, for a time, under a decision of Mr. Justice Wright, the activities of the port inspectors were curtailed. As a result of the unsatisfactory consequences of that decision, Mr. Justice Ashburner, who came into the stevedoring industry jurisdiction later, reversed the order of Mr. Justice Wright, which resulted in a restoration of a fair measure of supervisory control to the port inspectors. The committee devoted a» whole section of its report to the board’s power to regulate and control the performance of stevedoring operations. It thought that the statutory authority should have power to regulate the performance of work on the job, but without interfering more than might be essential with the authority of, and control by, the individual stevedoring employer. Again, I shall say a little more in detail on this very important aspect of the whole problem later on.
The committee was particularly critical of the overlapping functions of the court and of the Stevedoring Industry Board. It found that this had contributed to the present unsatisfactory state of the industry. In its concluding paragraph, the committee raised the question of the advisability of vesting in the statutory authority the whole of the court’s arbitral functions. As will be seen as T go along, the Government decided not to vest in the statutory authority the court’s arbitral functions but, instead, to maintain a division of functions as between the statutory authority and the arbitration tribunal, but under conditions which would avoid the difficulties and problems on which the committee had reported so adversely.
The broad plan provided in this bill, it will be seen, follows very closely the findings of the committee of inquiry. It is along these lines. First, we are providing for a statutory authority to be known as the Australian Stevedoring Authority, composed of a chairman and two members - one from the management side of industry and one from the trade union side. The Tait committee. and before it Mr. Basten, who. it will be recalled investigated the problem of the waterfront at an earlier stage, agreed that those members should not come from the waterfront or shipping interests or from the unions directly involved. The Government believes that this is the proper course, at least at this stage of the history of this industry. It may be argued that, under more favorable circumstances, it could be desirable to have representatives of the employers and the trade unions directly concerned in the industry sitting with the authority which is to regulate the conduct of stevedoring operations. There may be arguments which run both ways as to the desirability of that; but I think it will be agreed almost universally that at this stage, and with the known unsatisfactory relationship existing between management and the union, it would be fatal for the successful working of any authority to have such direct representation on it at this time.
Secondly, the bill proposes to give the authority clear, but rather more limited, functions than the present board has. In certain directions the functions of the authority are being stated more explicitly. The main differences from the present functions of the board are that the power to control the performance of stevedoring operations, except during emergencies declared by the Minister - and I should hope that they would be rare to the point of non-existence - is to be eliminated, and the present power to regulate is being limited so that its. exercise will avoid, as far as possible, impingement on the control by employers of their labour and their methods of working. The employers have strongly represented that the authority should have no power to regulate at all. Mr. Basten expressed concern about the power to “ control “, and his final suggestion was that the power of the board to “ regulate and control “ should be re-expressed. His dislike of “ control “ stemmed from his belief that it involved a direction of labour and management. The Tait committee, on the other hand, argued that the authority should have extensive powers of regulation, but added that these “ should be exercised without interfering more than is essential with the authority of and control by, the individual stevedore employer”. In order to make the posi tion as clear as possible specific provisions to that end are included in the bill.
Subject to some re-arrangement, it is proposed to retain the other functions expressed in the present act, except the power to develop port facilities, which the Government regards as the affair of the State Governments. Not that we abandon interest in that aspect; but the States have certain constitutional responsibilities in that regard. The power to provide medical facilities, and certain amenities, is being qualified to apply only where employers and other authorities do not provide such facilities and amenities. This has not been done with any intention to limit the standard of the amenities or the facilities to be provided. On the contrary, the authority will, I hope, be vigilant to ensure that that is not the case. But some of the port authorities felt that they should be given the opportunity to link up with their own port development the provision of desired facilities. On the other hand, the employers see, in the provision of certain medical facilities, an opportunity for them to extend what is being done at present, in an atmosphere removed from the bitterness of the ordinary industrial dispute, and to demonstrate their willingness to be of assistance in this aspect of the industry. I believe that their good faith should be tested at least to the extent of providing this opportunity. But the safeguard is there, and will continue to exist at all times, that, where standards fall below what is believed to be desirable, the authority will have the power to remedy the position.
In accordance with the findings of the Tait committee certain of the present functions are being spelt out more precisely. For example, specific provision is being made to cover the organization of transfers of waterside workers from one job to another, and from one employer to another; the extension of the press and radio system ; the application of the principle of intermediate starts; the regulation of the conduct of waterside workers on the wharfs, and so on. Some of those matters are currently before the judge, and it may be that, as a result of his determination, much of the answer to these problems will be found in a short space of time. There have been arguments in the past as .to whether the board could do certain of these things, so the matter is being put as far beyond doubt as we can contrive. In addition, in line with the Tait committee’s findings, the authority is being given the functions of investigating means of increasing efficiency generally which, in particular, will allow it to study means of overcoming such problems as working in the rain, which causes so much loss of working hours, and other matters of importance. It is to have the function of investigating the causes of delays on the waterfront. Those frequently occur through faulty organization of movement of cargo by rail and other transport to the port, inadequate wharf accommodation, insufficient storage house accommodation, and so forth. Lastly, it is to have the function of encouraging safe working and,, where necessary, providing industrial clothing such ns gloves. I believe that this is a useful extension of the activities of the authority. Honorable members know that, in relation to the handling of some cargoes, the employer is required to provide certain protective clothing to the wharf labourers; but, as I have already pointed out, there are many employers in this industry and if each, in turn, issued protective clothing for a particular type of operation it might well happen that, in the course of a year or so, an employee would get many sets of gloves or some other item of protective clothing. We think there would be more satisfaction, and that much greater economy would be effected, if the authority were to maintain stocks of protective clothing and issue such clothing as occasion required.
The bill provides that, as at present, orders will be made in exercise of the functions of the statutory authority. However, qualifications are proposed, first, as already mentioned, about avoiding any unnecessary encroachment on management functions ; secondly - and this is an important aspect - by requiring consultation with both sides before orders of the authority are made; and, thirdly, by providing that orders cannot be given to particular employers or in respect of particular stevedoring operations. The authority will not be able to step in and take such a hand in the day-to-day conduct of stevedoring operations as to be able to say to this or that company, “ This is what you will do “. But it will have a general and broad regulatory power.
It is proposed to vest in the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, which is being set up under the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, which is also before the House, the present powers of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court to settle industrial disputes affecting the waterfront. But we are making certain provisions designed to overcome the difficulties to which the Tait committee referred. We are providing that the commission, where it has a matter before it dealing with the physical conduct of stevedoring operations, with which the authority is better fitted to deal, may ask the authority to deal with that matter. We are also providing that, where a matter before the commission is of only local concern, the commission may, by arrangement with the authority, ask the local representative of the authority, for example, to deal with the matter. In addition, the bill proposes other means of overcoming the present overlap of functions between the arbitration tribunal and the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board. In brief, the bill proposes that when the authority wants to make an order within the area of its functions which is inconsistent with an award of the commission, including an award of the old Arbitration Court, it must first obtain the approval of the commission. Conversely, we are providing that when the commission, in dealing with an industrial dispute, wants to make an award inconsistent with an order of the authority, it will first obtain the agreement of the authority.
At first sight, and at first sound, this may appear to be a complicated arrangement. It is true that it could be avoided by giving all the power to the commission or to the authority; but the Government feels that there will be fairly widespread agreement that we should not remove from the Conciliation and Arbitration
Commission the power to deal with wages, tours and other conditions of employment and, indeed, the whole range of matters now set out in the current act. On the other hand, there will be widespread agreement that the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission will not be equipped to deal with the day-to-day administration of the bureaux system, recruitment of labour, and matters of that character. Indeed, judging by some of his recent decisions, that is clearly the view that Mr. Justice Ashburner, the judge who deals with this particular industry, himself takes of the problems of the industry. In his decision in the sling loads case the other day, he threw the responsibility for deciding what was a reasonable sling load on the employers, but added that, if they did not deal with the matter satisfactorily, it should be dealt with by the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board. I think that decision indicates the judge’s attitude as to the relative range of his own function as a tribunal and that of the administrative authority. We believe these arrangements will work, because, by and large, the areas of overlapping between the functions of the authority and those of the commission will be reduced to a minimum. They are arrangements which will remove the grounds of objection that the Tait committee raised. They will fix responsibility for the discharge of functions, and they will obviate the possibility that either the authority or the commission may be able to avoid dealing with a matter on the ground that it is the affair of the other body. In short, what we believe is needed in this industry is a working partnership or, at least, an operative link between the statutory authority and the commission.
I said something earlier about the port inspectors. The Tait committee found in favour of the system, and Mr. Justice Ashburner has commented favorably on the use of inspectors in averting stoppages by giving rulings on the spot. But their position has been somewhat undefined. This will be remedied by defining their functions so as to make it clear that they act as conciliators and advisers. They will not be authorized to dictate how work should be done, or to give authoritative rulings. The bill sets out their functions precisely and, I believe, conforms with the findings of the committee.
I come now to an important matter - labour recruitment. Before I proceed to describe the provisions relating to it. perhaps I should state shortly why tb’ Parliament is called upon to make special provision for this industry. The importance of it has already been emphasized. Shipping movements cannot all be co-ordinated to ensure that ships arrive and leave ports in a regular stream. There are many ships. They follow many different routes, and they are owned by different owners. Heavy rain at a port may add to difficulties. If it continues over a period of days, it may cause a bank-up of shipping at that port or some other port. If there were a regular stream of ships, the provision of labour to service them would be relatively simple. It would be possible to fix a labour force capable of keeping the ships constantly moving, one after the other, in circumstances which would avoid any idleness on the part of the workers. However, the fact is that there are peaks and’ flushes of shipping movements through our ports. If any of these ships are delayed because labour is not available, there is necessarily an economic loss, because the cost of keeping ships idle in ports is great. Obviously, that ha* its influence on freight rates. On tho other hand, we cannot afford, especially in a full-employment economy, to have men sitting on the waterfront, ready and available to meet any call, just in order to keep the ships moving, but in circumstances which would mean that many waterside workers would be idle for long periods. In short, the problem is to reconcile the interests of the community, which is directly affected by freight rates, which in turn, are affected by losses resulting from idle ships, with a need to have proper regard to the interests of the waterside workers. What we as a community cannot afford to do is to place the interests of the waterside workers above the interests of the community as a whole. We have to provide a labour force which will be sufficient to cope with the normal run of shipping, even .though that means that, on some occasions, some ships will be delayed for a short while, and we have to take other steps to cope with the usual and unavoidable peaks and flushes. The Tait committee saw that problem very clearly, and it proposed certain measures to deal with it. We have adopted its proposals in the bill.
But there is yet another problem - that of the seasonal ports. There we have unusually heavy run of ships over several months. The port of Hobart, in the fruit season, and the north Queensland ports, at the peak of the sugar season, are illustrations. It must be evident to all that it would be quite ridiculous to build up a labour force to meet these conditions, only to have men idle for the rest of the year. Certainly, we cannot afford to hold up the ships. If we did, the Tasmanian fruit would not hit the market at the right time, and Queensland’s sugar and meat would not get away at the most favorable periods. We propose to meet these problems by the means provided in the bill. I want to emphasize that furthest from the minds of myself and of my colleagues in the Government is any desire to return to the pre-war practice of having casual labour - men known as “ seagulls “, “ snipers “. or whatever they were called - sitting by the wharfs in the hope of getting a job, but not part of the work force normally engaged. To think in those terms would be to throw away all the advances made in the last fifteen years in the direction of decasualizing work on the Australian waterfront. Accordingly, the bill adopts the present system of registering waterside workers and employers in the industry, with the statutory authority fixing quotas at each port. This provision, which was an important feature of the Stevedoring Industry Board’s operations, has been retained, although there has been an extensive re-writing of the whole of the present provisions in order to cope with some constitutional problems which have manifested themselves.
The Government proposes to lear, primary responsibility for recruitment where it is at the present time and has been for many years past - with the Waterside Workers Federation of Australia. In other words, once a quota has been fixed, it will be for the tin ion to provide the labour. However, if the union fails to provide it, the statutory authority will, after giving the union a further opportunity, proceed to recruit the labour itself. But even in this event, the union and the employers will be given the opportunity to object to the registration of any recruit. Provision is made to enable men so recruited to become members of the union. As to short-term recruitment, to date, the. union has not been prepared to consider short-term registrations. By that I mean registrations limited to a period not in excess of, say, six months. The union maintains that it has no power to admit such persons to membership. In the Government’s view, provision should be made to deal with the problems of places like Hobart, in the fruit season, and the north Queensland ports, in the sugar season. With short-term registrations, problems of redundancy caused by surplus waterfront labour existing after the need has passed, either temporarily or for an indefinite period, would almost disappear, and, logically, the objections of the union to the building up of the labour force, with the risk of underemployment when the season has passed, a ho should disappear. .So the bill will permit short-term registrations, and will empower the union to alter its rules to admit to membership the waterside workers concerned. It proposes that the statutory authority will fix the number of temporary registrants needed at a port and then ask the union to provide the men. If the union fails to do so, the authority will be able to recruit the labour required.
Let me now turn to supplementary labour. The problem, of coping with unpredictable labour shortages after bad weather, and so on, or because of shipping flushes, has constantly faced us. The union has always opposed the use of occasional labour to relieve emergencies. Apparently, it has not been very much concerned about ships standing idle because labour is not available. But I ha vial ready said that the Government will not countenance the pre-war idea of casual labour; and its assurance on that score ip given publicly to the union and other interested organizations. Tt is our belief that men could be found who would respond to a call to assist occasionally in the evenings and at week-ends if the arrangements were properly organized by the statutory authority. This has been done before. It is a regular thing in
New Zealand at present. Far from causing industrial trouble in New Zealand, the record of industrial peace there in recent years is something that we in Australia might well envy. It is done elsewhere, I believe.
The Tait committee reported that if supplementary labour was available when required, if it could be organized, trained and subjected to discipline, and. if the circumstances aud conditions for its use could be so precisely prescribed that it would be clear that it would not be used to the detriment of the legitimate interests of the regular federation labour, its use would contribute to a solution of the problem of peaks and flushes of shipping, particularly those of the abnormal type.
It is proposed to do just those things. The bill provides that the authority may organize for the use of supplementary labour in the evenings and at week-ends to meet emergencies - only emergencies - of the type mentioned, which seem likely to cause the performance of stevedoring to be prejudicially affected for at- least five days. This labour will not be used if union labour can be made available. No one will be permitted to work under these conditions unless his name has been recorded with the authority and his engagement for the day has been approved by the authority. To meet the Tait Committee’s point about not defeating the legitimate interests of the union member, it is proposed that registered waterside workers shall be guaranteed a minimum wage for the four weeks succeeding the last use of supplementary labour. The guarantee proposed is that if, in any period of seven days in a total period of 28 days after supplementary labour ceases to be used, the ordinary waterside worker’s total earnings, including attendance money, are less than ten times the attendance money rate - that is. £12 - the difference between the earnings and 12 will be paid by the authority, provided that the waterside worker observes all the terms and conditions of employment applicable to him.
I think it necessary to add that, in my view, the need for making use of supplementary labour will be rare. In some ports, it may never be needed. The occasion for its use could disappear if systems of transfer such as those that operate in Brisbane and Adelaide were applied to other ports, and if other reforms of existing methods and practices were made. The point I am making i» that these provisions for supplementary labour are in the nature of a reserve power in the statutory authority, to be used only when the occasion really warrants, and when it seems to be the only way to avoid cargo congestion and shipping hold-ups. I should say here that the bill enables the union to admit to membership men who put their names down with the authority to work a.supplementary labour.
In short, nothing in the bill is designed to provide for the constitution of a second labour force on the waterfront, outside the union.
I have already said something about redundancy. The bill contains proposalswhich, I believe, will improve the position so far as the union is concerned. The Tait committee proposed that the circumstances in which redundancy should be applied should be clarified. There is an agreement between the owner.and the union that the owners will noi ask for the application of the redundancy provisions for twelve months after a quota has been determined. It i? pro posed to provide that the authority shall apply the provisions only if requested bv the owners or the union and the authority is satisfied that the members registered will not waste to the new quota inside a year. I am hopeful that, in view of the other provisions that T have described we can think of redundancy as something unlikely to occur except in most unusual circumstances.
Now a word about discipline. Th, Tait committee dealt at length with the problem of discipline. It urged th, introduction of a system of fines as an alternative to cancellation or suspension of registration. It argued that such a course would be preferable to the present system of suspension, which mean? frequently that a port is deprived of 101,n 711 when it is most needed. But, unfortunately, our law advisors have told up that no practicable, system of fines can be evolved, and I gather that others who have studied the problem share, that view.
The Tait Committee also found .that the present disciplinary provisions should be clarified. It is proposed, in the circumstances, to adhere to the present arrangements but to restate the circumstances in which cancellation or suspension should occur.
It is provided that appeals against cancellation or suspension of registration of waterside workers shall lie to the Commonwealth industrial court. In the case of employers, it seems to the Government that pecuniary penalties are more appropriate, at least in respect of some defaults. The bill provides, therefore, that in certain specified cases the authority may charge an employer before the Commonwealth industrial court for failing to carry out obligations to be expected of employers in this industry. A minimum fine of £100, with a maximum of £1,000, is provided for. In additioin - I stress this - the industrial court is given power rn direct the statutory authority to cancel or suspend the registration of an employer.
While I am on the subject of discipline, it is desirable, I think, that I should say that the Government has been much concerned that the waterside workers should be entitled, irrespective of their behaviour, to receive attendance money - which is now 24s. a day, as well as a payment additional to the loading in the general wage rate, awarded because nf the casual nature of the work. We think it quite inconsistent with the public interest that on occasions when there has been misconduct or default of a group of waterside workers in a particular port, that those waterside workers should be eligible immediately for the payment of attendance money. We propose, therefore, that the statutory authority may, under certain circumstances, suspend the operation of the attendance money order. I do not expect that that is a power that the authority will feel it necessary to use with any frequency, but if, in the opinion of the authority,’ there has been a concerted failure bv all or any of the. wat.er- side workers registered nt a port to comply with the provisions of the act. order* nf the authority or ««’ards of the commission. +h» authority mav suspend the operation of the attendance money order insofar as it relates to the waterside workers at the port. We go on to provide that the restoration of the attendance money order can be brought by the union applying to the commission- that is, the arbitral tribunal. We have provided that the commission may restore attendance money, if it thinks fit, back to the date of the application.
– Does “ the commission ‘” in that context mean the statutory body?
– It means the arbitral body. While I am on the subject of attendance money I should mention that the Tait committee observed that one ground of objection by the federation to the present radio pick-up system was its fear that the introduction of the system on a wider scale would result in the loss of attendance money. Some people may think it rather odd that a man should receive attendance money if, having been notified through the newspapers or by radio that he was not required for work, he could spend the day at home or otherwise, if he so desired. In the judgment of the Government, there are good and sufficient reasons why the payment of attendance money should continue, even under those circumstances. The waterside worker is required to hold himself available for work. Frequently it may be impracticable for him, if he is notified that he is not required on the waterfront, to arrange for other casual work or to organize his day in the way that would have been most convenient for him. For that reason and for other reasons, we believe that attendance money should be paid.
The committee expressed the opinion that it should be made clear that the use of press and radio would not lead to the loss of attendance money, and the Government proposes to provide for this quite specifically in the legislation.
Certain stevedoring work is to be excluded from the operation of the act. Although this work will not be on a considerable scale, I think the desirability and importance of the Government’s decision in this regard will quickly become evident to honorable members. At the present time, certain employers have exemption from provisions of the act. Some of these exemptions date back many years, and are provided for in awards of the Arbitration Court. The exemption granted to the Electrolytic Zinc Company of Australia Limited, at Risdon, in Tasmania, is a case in point. The circumstances are, usually, that the employer unloads or loads cargoes directly from or into ships at wharfs associated with the employer’s works. Tasmanian members will be aware of the problems that have emerged in relation to the Bell Bay aluminium works. The performance of waterside workers there has been one series of acts which, put at their best, can only be described as calculated to force up the price of Australian-produced aluminium.
– There are faults on the other side, too.
– That may well be so, but I think that the honorable gentleman, who represents the constituency in which Bell Bay is situated, will find that most people, whatever their general views may be, would be strongly in favour of the proposals that I am outlining here. Other industrial developments are afoot in this country, not the least of which are the plans now being implemented to handle sugar through bulk loading equipment which is being installed at a number of Queensland ports. Specific provision is made in the bill which has the effect of excluding from its provisions persons employed in relation to the handling of loose bulk cargo in certain circumstances. These are, in fact, where the work is not now being handled by waterside workers. The bill also excludes persons employed in stevedoring operations where they are directly concerned with a particular industrial undertaking, as is at present the case at Risdon, as I have already mentioned. On the other hand, the work performed by waterside workers at, for example, wheat elevators will continue to be carried out by them. I believe that honorable members will see the force of this provision. People will not be induced to invest millions of pounds in equipment for bulk handling, as will be the case in our north Queensland sugar ports, if there is any real fear that a relative handful of operatives will be able to hold up the bulk loading operations, perhaps because of some dispute in which they have had no part, and in respect of which decisions have been taken hundreds of miles away. At least I believe that the good sense of this Parliament would dictate this course, and the matter is being presented to the Parliament for its determination.
One of the matters commented on by the Tait committee was the difficulty of ascertaining what are in fact the terms and conditions applicable at any port. I have already explained that there are certain practices that have been built up over the years. There are orders that were made by the old Stevedoring Industry Commission, there are orders, made by the Arbitration Court, and in some instances there are the customs of a particular port. It is the Government’s view that early action should be taken to codify for each port all awards and orders applicable to it, and it is intended, as soon as members of the new authority are appointed, to advise them that this is a task to which the authority should devote itself. As the Arbitration Court’s awards are involved, the cooperation of the commission in this work will be sought.
While the Tait committee saw no practicable plan in sight for permanent employment in the industry, the Government has not given up hope that some plan can be developed. The bill, therefore, provides that the statutory authority will, in exercising its functions, have in mind the desirability of encouraging schemes of permanent employment.
I should, perhaps, have pointed out earlier that in order to give full effect to the scheme I have described, it will be necessary to make certain amendments to the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill 11OW before the House. Honorable members will realize that the constitution of the commission will also have a bearing on the arbitral functions in respect of this stevedoring industry, and so, if this bill is adopted, consequential amendments will be required in the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill. The amendments will be by way of adding a new division. Division 4 of Part IIa of the bill. T have also in mind, and I feel it convenient to mention it to honorable members at this stage, certain amendments to the
Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, resulting from discussions that have taken place with the Australian Council of Trades Unions and the employers’ representatives, following their examination of the legislation. I thought it would be best if all the amendments, together with the amendments that are necessary to give effect, to the stevedoring industry legislation, were circulated in the one document. lt would, of course, be highly desirable if these amendments could be available before the committee stage of the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill is reached, and 1 shall do my utmost to have all these amendments available then.
– The Minister means that they will all be Government amendments?
– They will be presented by the Government, yes. I am not suggesting that they will go as far as the representatives of the trade unions or the employers would desire them to go, but they will represent, from the point of view of those representatives, some improvements in certain provisions of the bill. ] now wish to make a few remarks by way of conclusion. I appreciate the patience that the House has shown while I have somewhat laboriously gone through the involved provisions of this legislation, but it will be realized, I believe, from what I have put to the House, that, it is an important and comprehensive piece of legislation. In fact, it represents the first major overhaul, us I said a little earlier, by this Government of legislation introduced by honorable members opposite when they were in office, and which at that time we on this side of the House criticized very trenchantly. Therefore, a significant point has been reached for all the various interested parties. They now have the view of the Government authoritatively expressed to them as to the machinery that should operate in the industry in future. lt is my belief that one of the substantial gains from this legislation, in which each of the three principal elements, the statutory authority, the Waterside Workers Federation, and the employers, will share, is the bringing to an end of a lone period of uncertainty as to what the Government intends the future organization of the industry to be. This has, undoubtedly, been an unsettling and disturbing aspect of the matter. There has been much argument as to what the form and content of the arrangements should be. These questions are now about to be resolved very largely by this Parliament according to the way in which it treats the measure that is before it.
– I hope they will be resolved by the Parliament, and not merely by the Government.
– I can assure the right honorable gentleman that we will examine quite carefully, and with the proper consideration, views and proposals that come from the other side of the House, just as I have been prepared to do in regard to the views of various organizations in relation to the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill. The Australian Stevedoring Industry Board has been under fire from many quarters for a long time. In these circumstances, effective administration and the firm exercise of powers have been hampered by the feeling of the board that it lacked general support and that its powers overlapped those of the arbitral tribunal. The employees, members of the Water.side Workers Federation, were given their assured position as the one union holding a monopoly of engagement in the industry, by hotly debated legislation passed by our predecessors. For them a realistic view will have been openly declared by the Parliament as to their place in the scheme of things. As I have already mentioned, certain other improvement* have come their way. I refer, in particular, to the provision? dealing with attendance money and redundancy. The employer1? will have more precisely defined, and in a manner calculated to remove much of their earlier fear, the powers of “ regulation and control “ of their operations that formerly existed. They will now know much more definitely how and where, their right? and responsibilities will be determined. The passage of this legislation could usher in a brighter era on the Australian waterfront.
– Tr could, but it won’t.
– I stress the word “ could “. The public, certainly hope for that and expect it as their due. There is undoubtedly a more general realization by theAustralian wageearning unionist that what happens on the waterfront is not merely a sporadic, or frequent, brawl between the shipowner and the wharfie, but a steady erosion of the standard of living in the household of every trade unionist. Therefore, both the unionist and the general public look for an improvement. We believe that this legislation provides a framework in which that improvement can take place.
There is and I do not think that I am mistaken in this view a readier disposition on the part of employers to find amicable solutions of the problems of the industry. I say quite frankly that in my own judgment, the employers made a great mistake in not negotiating an agreement during the last dispute, when the opportunity offered. There was then an opportunity for the negotiation of a satisfactory agreement which might have been the beginning of an improved relationship. I believe that some employers now realize that they missed an opportunity then, and are more ready to demonstrate goodwill. I trust that that is not an overoptimistic expectation.If it is not, I believe that we are also entitled to look to the federation to play its part.
This bill is, of course, unlikely to be the final chapter of legislation affecting th is industry, but it will be a test of the good sense and goodwill of all those con- cerned in it. It makes a useful contribution to the prosperity of the Australian people. If the parties do not approach it in a spirit of resentment towards one provision or another it will enhance the prospect of industrial peace and improve efficiency on the waterfront. Certainly, it will not wholly please any one. Any bill that pleased one particular group would almost certainlv displease another. That is trueofmost industrial legislation that is presented to this Parliament. An attempt must be made to provide abalance between views, and this is an earnestand honest, attempt to provide a framework within which these improvements can take place. If all the parties come to the legislation in that spirit the Australian people may get longoverdue relief from a waterfront performance which has, in the past, been a burden to us all.
Debate (on motion by Dr. Evatt) adjourned.
-by leave - On a matter of procedure, may I mention, very briefly, the Minister’s reference, in the speech he has just delivered, to amendments of the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill submitted to him by the employers and the Australian Council of Trades Unions. The Opposition proposes to move certain amendments and although, in many respects, they will parallel those of the Australian Council of Trades Unions and the Australian Workers Union, with which we have also been in contact, I ask the Minister not to exclude consideration of them, or commit himself to any selection of amendments until ours are put forward and properly debated. If he does not do this, the committee stage will not be as satisfactory as it should be.
– The Government certainly has not excluded from consideration anything that might be put forward either by the Opposition or members of the Government parties. They, too, may have some views on details of the legislation now before us.
Debate resumed from the 24th May (vide page 2483), on motion by Mr. Menzies -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– It is my duty to state the view of the Opposition on this legislation, and I will take, if I may, the same course as the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and regard my remarks on this bill as covering sufficiently the taxation assessment bill also. It is the unanimous view of the Opposition, after considering the report, that the bill ought to be accepted. This is an unusual matter, in that the recommendations proceeded in the first place not from the
House itself, but from a committee with very special qualifications. The chairman of the committee was Sir Frank Richardson, whose record in public service and industry is well known. He has occupied very important positions, has a great knowledge of commerce and industry, and knows the relative salaries paid an commerce, industry and government. He was, therefore, specially qualified to be chairman. Assisting him was, first, Mr. G. E. Fitzgerald, the general president of the Australian Society of Accountants, who is a university lecturer an accountancy. He is very experienced in auditing and accountancy, and is familiar with the salaries and emoluments of those engaged in industry and public service of various kinds. The third member, Mr. C. G. Brown, has given distinguished public service in the realm of finance and accountancy, and is known especially for his work with the Treasury in relation to defence. He is an outstanding and independent judge of these matters and has now, I think, become a member of the Overseas Telecommunications Commission. Three paragraphs of the report should, I think, be read by every one who wishes to make fair judgment of this legislation. This is what is said -
One point was felt by the Committee to warrant emphasis, namely - the extent to which the general public without full information and often in complete ignorance of the true facts of the situation, tends to offer unreasonable opposition to any alteration in Parliamentary allowances. It has become apparent that little attempt is made properly to inform the public or for members of the public to ?eek accurate information. Much of the publicity given to the matter is deliberately distorted and, in the long run, unjustly lowers the prestige of elected representatives.
The committee also emphasizes this cardinal point - . . the Commonwealth Parliament is the supreme governing body of the country. Election to it as the chosen representative nf the people is a high honour, one that is not lightly assumed, nor one that can.be disregarded. There is no justification for a body nf men and women in this position to be at a disadvantage or to be embarrassed financially in the performance of their public duty.
Then the committee, in the next paragraph, says this -
The Committee believes that the average Australian does not want Government under conditions which may not attract the highest standard of representative. A periodic review of parliamentary salaries is necessary irrespective of the way in which changes are made and, in fact, whether any changes are made. Such review should not be automatic. There anfew bodies or individuals in Australia whose salaries or payments have not undergone some adjustment since the last review of parliamentary allowances in 1052.
That review was made at the beginning of 1952, and, when these increased allowances come into operation, the period that will have elapsed will be four and a half years. In paragraph 16 of the report, the committee said -
The business of government is the biggesbusiness in Australia.
One might add that it is the most important business in Australia, though perhaps it is not accurate to call it a business in the ordinary sense of business. The power of Parliament is far-reaching, especially since the amendments to the Constitution dealing with the vast realm of social services were agreed to. There is now no feature of the economic and social life of Australia and of the relationship of this nation to the rest of the world that is outside our province. External relations and defence are outside the province of the legislatures of the States, important though those legislatures undoubtedly are. The committee’s report continues -
It is generally recognized that rewards com parable to those of the professions and industry cannot be matched by parliamentary salaries But that does not mean that the present wide differences should remain. To be a Member of the Commonwealth Parliament calls for sacrifice of’ income, security and home lifevarying according to the age and circumstance* of the Member, and there is ever present the capricious insecurity of tenure.
All those facts are perfectly well known to honorable members and perfectly well known to the public when they consider them, and I am sure that the judgment of the public on this matter will take them all into account. The report continues -
Against that should bc set the privilege of public service, the joys of office and thisatisfaction of living within national experience.
Those are principles. I do not think there is one of them that could be disputed by any patriotic Australian. Even the criticism that always comes when parliamentary allowances are increased has been rather to the effect, “Why not wait for a little while longer? This is not the time.” The report was received hy the Government last September, and the Government then decided that that was not the time. That means that by the time these increases are put into operation, they will have been delayed by that decision for a period of eight or nine months. That in itself is an important actor.
As I said a moment ago, these increases will be the first in four and a half years. Taking comparable positions in the Public Service, in the educational institutions
And in the State legislatures, there is hardly any group that has not had substantial increases during that period, while the salaries of honorable members of this House and of the Senate have remained stationary. During that period, the cost of living and the burdens cast upon honorable members have greatly increased.
The examination by this committee has brought all those facts to light. Honorable members have given the facts of their incomes and outgoings to the committee, and that is pointed out in the report. I -do not think that there has ever been an inquiry of so searching a character as that conducted by this distinguished committee in the case of honorable members of this House and of the Senate. Though it is not exactly the same, it is like the decision «of a special tribunal acting in the nature of arbitrators between the people on the <one hand and honorable members on the -other, which has given its decision or -award. That is the proper way to
Approach this matter.
As this National Parliament is situated so very far distant from certain parts of the continent, honorable members spend practically half of each year away from home. An extra burden is cast upon them, not only financially, but by the strain that every person must undergo when separated from his loved ones for such long periods. Those are circumstances that we all know. No one ever calls attention to them but, while the position is one of great honour and responsibility, those factors make it also one that at times can be very arduous indeed.
I mention a few other facts, merely as incidental illustrations, and I take the position of the legislatures of the States simply to make the point that in three States the ordinary members of Parliament, covering both metropolitan aud country electorates, receive salaries that are greater than those at present payable to members of the National Parliament. Action has been taken by the appropriate authority in those legislatures to increase salaries. Many other illustrations are available. In one federal electorate there ae no fewer than 21 State electorates and each one of those State members receives a salary that is greater than that received under the existing law by the average federal member. The members of those State electorates are very fortunate; each does not represent the large numbers of electors that are included in federal constituencies. The number of voters in some State electorates is in the neighbourhood of 1,500, 1,200, and 900. One must mention that matter, in fairness, if a proper judgment is to be made. Broadly speaking, for every federal electorate represented by an honorable member of this House, there are at least two State electorates and in some States, there are three or four or five. In the State of Tasmania, there are six.
– It averages six in Queensland.
– I thank the Acting Prime Minister for reminding me that in Queensland it is six. What has happened in this period? The salaries of executive officers and judicial officers of the Commonwealth have been increased. We passed legislation to increase 1;he salaries of judges to a very substantial figure ; and the salaries of judges of the Arbitration Court are referred to in a hill that has been introduced. Such increases have been granted without any preliminary examination by a committee, because it is thought to be just. A committee did not examine the salaries of heads of Commonwealth departments to see what they should get, and for a long time some of them received salaries greater than those paid to the respective Ministers to whom they are responsible.
– They all do.
– If they all do, it is wrong. It is wrong that the Minister should have the political responsibility for everything that is done in the department while the permanent head receives a higher salary. That is completely contrary to proper practice. The three committee men, the accountants and auditors, would know what salaries are paid in private industry. Details of those salaries are not published and are not available in the ordinary sense, but there have been very substantial increases in the salaries <>f persons in industry who four and a half years ago received the same amount as members of this Parliament then received and still receive to-day. It is notorious that there have been very substantial salary increases, indeed, in all industries without exception, and it is thought proper that the cost of living should be taken into account. The great newspaper industry of this country is no exception to the rule. I indicated, in relation to another aspect, that the responsibilities of members of the Federal Parliament have increased enormously, even during the last ten or fifteen years. For instance, amendments ro the social services legislation have imposed obligations upon every member df the Parliament. He must be availn bie and ready to assist members of the public who are interested in these matters. That legislation took from members of other legislatures an enormous portion of the burden imposed upon them under the previous practice. The situation is broader than that, and it affects the whole business of Parliament. Parliament is a hard-working institution. All that the public sees of it are the criticisms - praise or blame - which are all part of the democratic process, but members of the Parliament are hard-working. I believe that to-day they are harder-working than ever before in the history of the Commonwealth. In addition, they do not discharge their duties in the Parliament by mere attendance at debates. They work also in the committees of the Parliament. So I cannot see any objection to the recommendation of the committee. The report is clear, it is concise, and it states the principles, and the committee has made a just decision. The decision is not altogether in every respect in favour of honorable members. Certain privileges have been cut down, and that has to be considered, too, but as the Prime Mini*tel’ said, “ There is the report and it has to be accepted “. I want this to be clearly understood : when persons say that an increase in salary to any body of men cannot be justified because, in certain cases, there have not been satisfactory increases to others in the community - I refer, amongst others, to great bodies of wage and salary earners - that is irrelevant and is no answer. Those matters must be dealt with in their proper sphere. A wrong, or partial wrong, in one area of the economy, cannot be righted by committing further wrongs in another area. I submit that that is unanswerable. This is a constructive, carefully prepared report. It should be accepted. As I said at the outset, I express these views on behalf of Her Majesty’s Opposition.
– I rise to speak on this matter with some diffidence, because I hold, as it were, two separate views on this bill. First, I agree completely with the report and the way it expresses the need for parliamentary salaries of members to be increased. Secondly, for reasons which I shall endeavour to explain, I do not believe that it is appropriate that it should be implemented at the present time. I desire to direct my attention to that contention immediately. When I say, “ at the present time “, I do not mean, as the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) has just said, that certain wages and salaries might be dealt with outside in another sphere. I mean that last year, at almost the same time, there was conveyed to the public knowledge of the fact that economic measures were to be introduced into this Parliament which meant a tightening of the belts of the people, plus a knowledge that this report was in the course of procreation, shall we say. At that time, in answer to questions from members of my electorate committee and from people at public meetings in ray own electorate and at other places, T gave it as my considered view, then as a substantial word of mine, that it would not be proper for members of this Parliament to increase their salaries at a time when the Government; - I am talking about the Government now - said that it proposed to - and did, as it eventuated - introduce restrictive measures to apply to the people as a whole. The members of the Opposition may probably exonerate themselves from this; they would be entitled to do so. I want to make perfectly clear what I shall say in but a few minutes, that I am not endeavouring for one moment to score a point off any member of the Opposition, nor any member on my side. Because I gave my word to these people, and because,, as I see it, the situation has not changed - in fact, if anything, the economic measures have imposed greater hardship on the people - then I cannot in honesty retreat from the position which I took and in respect of which I gave my word to the members of my electorate. I have no tolerance whatever for those persons outside this Parliament who say that members of the Parliament are receiving too high a salary at the present time, they are overpaid, and who raise all those foolish arguments that one hears. I do not suggest for one moment, either that the implementations of the recommendations of the report would mean that we as members of the Parliament were overpaid. That is not what I am rising in my place to contest. As I say, the matter is in my view in two parts, but last year I gave my word that I would not support a similar proposal, and the position seems to me to be no different now from what it was then. Having given my word, I will not retract it. Therefore, I will not support the bill.
.- I would not have spoken in this debate had the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder) not spoken, because I have very definite ideas on the subject. It is my opinion that it is well known by honorable members that this bill will be carried and will become law. I do not want to go into details, but some honorable members know the action which I took when the Chifley Government, raised the salaries of members of Parliament from £1,000 to £1.500. On that occasion T spoke against the proposal and voted against it.
– Did the honorable member ta kp the salary?
– I did the only thing that a sincere man would do : I did not take the salary. That course cost me over £1,300. I am supporting this bill. If I spoke against it and voted against it, I would not accept the increase. I have told constituents at Kerang, Nyah, Mildura and Swan Hill, and anywhere else I have met them, that I am supporting the bill. The recommendations were made by an independent tribunal. The bill which I did not support before was merely introduced by the Chifley Government on its own initiative. I say to the honorable member for Franklin, that in his sincerity - if we can take it as such - he knows that this bill will be carried, and I ask him to state in this House, even by way of interjection, whether he intends, if he votes against the measure, to take the increase.
– I propose to speak very briefly to this measure. I have always felt that when measures of this kind come before the Parliament we should assist if we spoke quite frankly to the public about the problems which arise, as we see them. After all, we have been selected by the public to come here and represent it. We were presumably the best choices offering in the electorates for the majority of voters at the particular time. We may not always take that view one of the other, according to where we sit in the House, but when the people elected us they felt that we, amongst those who were offering, were the persons who could most faithfully express that which the majority of the people desired to be expressed. In addition, the Constitution has thrown upon the members of this Parliament the responsibility of determining a fair rate of salary and allowances in respect of their parliamentary duties. Over the years, members of the Parliament have discharged that responsibility. The appointment, on. the last two occasions, of a. committee, which we believed would be an objective body, to examine the problem and to make recommendations was not for the purpose of avoiding our responsibility but was part of the search that the Parliament had been making over the years for a method of dealing with this difficult problem that would commend itself more favorably to the public. The public gives us, under the Constitution, the responsibility of deciding these things, and either we must decide them out of hand according to our best judgment or - and I believe this to be the preferable course - we must seek advice from people who themselves will not be directly affected by their judgment about what is a fair thing in the circumstances.
I should like ‘to answer some of the criticisms that have been offered from time to time. First, there is the very regular criticism to which the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) has referred, namely, that the time is not ripe. I do not detract from my respect for the sincere approach of my colleague, the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder), when I say that, in the judgment of the public, never in the history of the Parliament has the time been ripe for an increase of parliamentary salaries. I am speaking now about the vocal elements of the public. I am quite certain that there are many sensible persons who realize that a sensible, practical and realistic view of these things must be taken by members of the Parliament, hut the vocal members of the public - and this goes for the press, too - have never, in my experience, found the time that was ripe for such an operation. Apparently their reasoning proceeds along this line : If prices are stable, why should members of the Parliament want to increase their salaries? If prices are falling, instead of increasing their salaries they should be reducing them. Indeed, it stands to the credit of members of the Parliament that, during the depression years, they voluntarily reduced their salaries, and it was many years before they were restored to their former level. Furthermore, according to the public, a period of rising prices is just the time when the Parliament should be setting an example to everybody else by not grafting an increase of the remuneration of its members. Such an argument won1** Vie all right if the circumstances in which the member of Parliament lived remained static, lint his constituency expects certain standards and certain activities 0f him. Tn a period when national prosperity in real terms, and not merely in money terms, has beat steadily rising, and- when, as the committee has pointed out, since the finding of 1952 there has been an upward movement of average weekly earnings of the order of 33.5 per cent., is it reasonable and realistic to propose that the salaries of members of the Parliament,’ who are themselves members of the community in which these things are happening, should stand still? The fact of the matter is that they have stood still throughout such a period and, as we know, many members have experienced great difficulty in maintaining the standards and carrying out the activities expected of them in their electorates.
I shall not canvass the adequacy or otherwise of the provision that has been made. It is true, as the Leader of the Opposition has pointed out, that some anomalies have crept into the system. Tn the early days of federation, the heads of departments received a salary that was equal to approximately one-half of the salary of their ministerial head, but to-day in many cases their remuneration is greater than that of their ministerial head. That is one of the things that have developed, not because of the venality of the politician, but because - and I say this conscientiously and advisedly - of his timidity in approaching the question of salaries and allowances. I emphasize the word “timidity” because the facts bear out my statement. If we trace the history of parliamentary allowances in Australia, we find that at the time of federation a sum of £400 was prescribed. That remained unaltered until 1907, when it was raised to £600. If my recollection is correct, the basic wage in 1907 was about £2 a week. In other words, the salary of a member of the Parliament was about six times as great as the then basic wage. From 1907 to 1920 there was no upward alteration, but in 1920 the allowance was fixed at £1,000 a year.
From 1920 to 1947- a period of 27 years - there was not even an increase of ls. in the salaries of members. Is that evidence of venality on the part of hungry politicians itching to get at the public till? T suggest that it is a remarkable tribute to the restraint that was exercised by parliamentarians for a generation during which there had been considerable fluctuations. It was during that period, as I stated earlier, that voluntary reductions of salary were accepted by members of the Parliament. In 1947, the allowance was increased to £1,500. Later, in order to obtain a basis that members thought would provoke less criticism and create better understanding on the part of the public, the Nicholas committee was appointed. Then we come to the legislation of 1952 which flowed from the recommendations of the Nicholas committee. As the Leader of the Opposition has reminded us again to-night, approximately four and a half years will have elapsed from the date of the last increase to the implementation of the. present proposals. I have already referred to the movement of 33.5 per cent, in. average weekly earnings. If we are to get a fair view of the situation, we must bear in mind that average weekly earnings have risen steadily. The wage or salary earner has not found himself suddenly placed in that position. His income has steadily kept pace with rising costs, whereas that of the parliamentarian has not.
From time to time, we hear the stupid statement that there is never any shortage of people standing for election on polling day, and that therefore the salary paid to a member of the Parliament must be quite adequate. If persons who make that statement adopt the view that anybody will do to represent them and their interests in the Parliament, the argument has validity; but if such persons had the sense to reflect on the fact that the Parliament is charged with the responsibility, not only of the defence and development of the nation, but also of approving a budget of the order of 1,000,000,000 a year, would they seriously propose that such matters be left to incompetents who came along and grabbed the salary currently paid to members of the Parliament? What we should be doing if, as a people, we want to have this job done effectively, is seeking to attract, whether by way of salary and allowances or a combination of other incentives, the ablest men and women that this country can produce into the service of the nation in the Parliament. I do not suppose that we will claim that we have reached that result in this Parliament at this point, but it is hardly our fault if that has not been the result. The critics in the public cannot have it both ways. Either the conditions are such as to attract the best political talent available in this country, or they are not such as to attract that talent. If they are such as to attract it, then we here represent the best that can be provided. If not, then, at least, we represent the best that is offering for the conditions which the public are prepared to endorse.
I just want to add this in conclusion - it is a considered judgment, made after many years of membership of this Parliament. I would say unhesitatingly thai most of the men and women with whom I have come in contact who have gained the suppjort of an electorate, have come here with a conscientious urge to serve their country and to serve the electorate. They have not come here to better their personal circumstances. They have certainly been prepared to accept a lot of deprivations - the loss of family life and the other things on which I do not need to elaborate because they are set out clearly enough in these two reports and they are known to every member of this chamber. I think that, when some of the most savage criticisms are being directed against us, it should be appreciated that there is an overwhelming majority of people in this place who have come here to do a job without being vitally concerned as to the remuneration for the job. But they want to carry on that job in accordance with the standards expected of them by their constituency, without having a haunting fear, all the time, that they will not be able to live up to what is required of them.
I do not believe that the measure before us will do anything more than fulfil that condition. I would accept it as a criticism that the measure is untimely if those who make that criticism go further and say that it is long overdue. I, for one, unhesitatingly am prepared to support what the committee has recommended. 1 would regret it myself if the Parliament missed the opportunity to have some quite useful discussion on this matter because it is only by our presenting our view? frankly to the public that we can ever expect to hope that, in the fullness of time, there will be an informed and understanding public opinion on this very vexed question.
– I wish to make a personal explanation. The honorable member for Calare (Mr. Howse) has drawn my attention to the fact that a few words I have used may have been misconstrued. He states that I said, regarding the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder), that he was “ apparently sincere “. I watched the honorable member for Franklin before he rose. I knew that he was going to rise. I spoke to a friend of mine and said that the honorable member was going to rise. When he rose, it was apparent that he was sincere.
– It was apparent or obvious that he was sincere. If I used the words “ apparently sincere “, that does not mean that I was doubting his sincerity. I meant that it was apparent that he was sincere.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 24th May (vide page 2483), on motion by Mr. Menzies -
That thebill he now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed (vide page 2548).
Mr. MAKIN (Bonython [10.7] . -Prior to the suspension of the sitting, I was seeking to develop the view that this amending arbitration legislation could not be said to contain essential provisions and would not do justice to those who would come within its scope. I hope, now, to present to the House in support of my views a case that certainly cannot be controverted. In the present circumstances, unfortunately, the principles of arbitration seem to be one-sided. They operate with pains and penalties against those who have only their labour to sell. The court sits in judgment on their labour when it is assessing their rates of pay. Those who are on the other side, namely, the employing interests, are not required to submit to the court any evidence relating to their business such as the material that is used, the machinery that is required, and the efficiency or otherwise of the managerial conditions. We find that the wages of the workers are to be subject, not only to the consideration of industry’s ability to pay them, but also to the consideration of their effect on the national economy. In that respect the operation of the arbitration system is very one-sided. Although the basic wage was frozen from 1953 until only last Friday, prices of commodities, and the profits made by industry in Australia, rose to such heights that they had a serious effect on the economy. Despite the fact that wages generally remained static during that period, living costs kept rising. So the court’s freezing of the basic wage, unjust action as it was, has proved that the wages of the workers do not constitute the element in costs which is primarily responsible for high prices and inflation. There are many people who have attempted to justify the freezing of wages and margins by claiming that high wages add to production costs and, therefore, to living costs. The freezing of the basic wage for more than two years has proved conclusively that the level of wages is not the vital element in the inflation of costs and prices. It is not responsible, for instance, for the increased cost of erecting the houses that are so vital in this country to-day. Inordinately high profits and prices, which the Government has made absolutely no attempt to arrest, now stand clearly shown to be the elements which produce inflation, and which have been largely responsible for our present unbalanced economy. That being so, I feel that something more than the Government now proposes requires to be done if there is to be equity in arbitration when the claims of the workers are being dealt with.
Unless it can be shown that there is equity and justice in the judgments given by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court and its agencies, the Government will not get the confidence of the overwhelming majority of the people. To-day, the workers feel a sense of frustration because of prevailing conditions which deny to them their industrial rights. Employees of Adelaide’s tramway system have been subjected to a state of affairs which proves how unscientific is the method of arbitration now employed, and how grossly unfair the system of determination of wage standards is. Those employees have been waiting for more than twelve months for a decision to be given on their wage claims. About 1,400 men are affected by this effort to secure im proved wages. Legal and other costs of the case, which the trade union concerned has to meet, already total more than £6,000. Nobody could possibly justify a state of affairs which, in addition to denying to workers a proper wage standard, forces the trade union of which they are members to find such high legal costs. I consider, therefore, that there is every justification for the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition to the effect that the bill should be withdrawn and be re-drafted, so as to provide for a greater emphasis on the things that will enable conciliation to be the means of bringing parties to industrial disputes together and reach a basis of agreement which will give greater justice to the employees, and give the employees confidence that their claims will be dealt with in the quickest possible time. Today, the Government is imposing upon the section of the community least able to afford to bear them, burdens which are not justified, and which cause unwarranted distress and hardship. So I say to the House that, if we are to have a system appropriate to the needs of these times, we must have arbitration which will do justice to both employer and employee and which will be the means of bringing a new spirit, not only into arbitration, but also into all the systems that are a part of our national life and which affect industry. If we achieve such a system we shall have done something that will lead to a tremendous advance in this country’s economic position, and will provide a basis of protection against the present anomalous position of taking money from those who can least- afford its loss in order to give additional profits to already wealthy concerns and individuals.
There is a failure on the other. side of the House to appreciate the importance to the national economy of justice in relation to the claims of the community for a fair deal. I know, of course, that there are certain constitutional limitations that, may deny to this Parliament the full power to deal with some aspects of the situation. But let us face up to that position. If we are without the essential constitutional power to deal effectively with certain of those matters, then the quicker we bring this to the notice of the Australian nation and ask it to give us the added powers to enable us to deal fairly and justly with all sections of the community, the better it will be for the nation. That being so, I suggest that further consideration is required before the Government proceeds with this punitive measure. It is true that the provisions are hidden in quite an elaborate bill which will make many amendments to the principal act. but that does not justify the Government’s seeking to alter the principle of our arbitration system by failing to amend the provisions of the existing act that most urgently require amendment and by emphasizing the judicial aspects of arbitration and the heavy penalties that the court may inflict, particularly upon the workers and the trade unions, for breaches of certain provisions of this bill.
I think it would be desirable to return to the principles enunciated in the 1947 amending measure in which the Chifley Labour Government placed a proper emphasis upon the principles of conciliation and kept the judicial aspects of the court properly in the background. Tn that respect, the Labour Government made a very valuable contribution to the conception of the supervision or determinations that should govern the industrial relationships of the community and the wage-earners. If we returned to those principles we could promote stability of the economy and we could have greater confidence and trust in the ability of the court to do justice to the claims of the workers more speedily and more effectively. If the Government’s intention is to streamline the conciliation and arbitration law, let it do so by at least rectifying the anomalies that I have brought to the notice of the House this evening, and by providing for the workers and the com.munity generally a much better conception of what the principle of conciliation should mean to the people of Australia. Much could be done by means of satisfactory arbitration laws, to assure Australians of better conditions of life than I have seen in other parts of the world. I have always felt that, unless we are willing to provide the machinery essential for equitable and fair dealing by the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, we shall fail to win the confidence and the good will of those whose support we should have if the Parliament is to succeed as an instrument for the welfare of the community.
.- The House has discussed this bill for som« days now. As the present stage of the consideration of it is drawing to its close, I do not intend to traverse once more the various provisions of the measure, which have been discussed by honorable members from both sides of the House. Indeed, if I were to do so, I should mainly be repeating what has been already said. However, I do want to say something about the importance of the bill as a whole. First, I believe that one should remember, when listening to the speeches of Opposition members, that the Australian Labour party, which is one of the two main political parties in Australia, is the political wing of the trade union movement. Indeed, I think it would be right to say that a majority of Opposition members have graduated to this House through the positions that they held in that movement. Unlike the United States of America, for example, where the trade union movement has kept itself apart from the great political parties, we in Australia find that one of our main parties is closely allied to part of the trade union movement. In passing, it is interesting to note that the United States has a higher rate of pro ductivity and greater co-operation between management and employees than we have. I think we should be wise to keep those facts in mind when we listen to the speeches of Opposition members.
The second reason why I rise to support the bill is its emphasis, first, upon conciliation, and, secondly, upon arbitration. I think it is useless for Opposition members to condemn this measure out of hand and to propose an amendment containing a set of most extraordinary provisions, just because certain provisions of the bill do not agree with their own thinking, and because they consider that, in some respects, they do not go sufficiently far. It is unwise for them tocondemn the bill out of hand, and I think that, in their own minds, they will agree that the provisions of this measure will be of great advantage and will proveanother step forward in this essentially Australian process of conciliation and arbitration. We have great need for thi* progress, because Australia has now reached a stage in the development of its national economy at which all sections of the community depend upon one another.. No longer can some short-term advantagebe given to one section of the community. No longer can one section of the community take certain action which it thinks may be to its advantage in the shortterm without the result being felt by all sections of the community and in every home. When there is a hold-up of steel production in Newcastle or Port Kembla, the housewife in South Australia soon feels the effect of it. So greater cooperation is necessary between those who work in and those who manage our primary and secondary industries and our commercial undertakings. Therefore, it is essential that we have an effective systemof conciliation and arbitration for the achievement of that co-operation.
Honorable members opposite, instead of confining themselves to destructive criticism, should offer constructive suggestions in relation to a matter so important to the nation as this. I have always believed that the members of the Government parties and the members of the main Australian Labour party have together been supporters of the principle of conciliation and arbitration, but now, having listened to some of the speeches made by honorable gentlemen opposite and having read the amendment proposed by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), I wonder whether the Labour party does support conciliation and arbitration. In passing, I say that the set of proposals contained in the Opposition’s amendment is unique, coming from an ex-justice of the High Court.
What have the members of the Opposition to say about the fact that at present the pay of workers under State awards is different from the pay of workers under federal awards? What do the members of the Opposition suggest should be done to prevent, in the future, acts such as that of the New South Wales Government when it introduced the 40-hour week, mainly for political purposes? I hasten to say that neither I nor any of my colleagues on this side of the House disagrees with the principle of the 40-hour week, but we believe that the timing and the method of its introduction were bad. Did the New South Wales Government give any consideration, for instance, to the effects that a 40-hour week would have eventually? Did the New South Wales Government give any consideration to the effect that a 40-hour week would have on the workers and on costs, first in New South Wales and eventually throughout Australia? I say that the New South Wales Government introduced the 40-hour week at a bad time and in an irresponsible way, purely for political purposes, We realize, of course, that the main objective of the New South Wales Government is to bring down this Government, and that it does not care whether it brings down the State of New South Wales at the same time.
I think it is generally realized that we in Australia do not work a full 40-hour week. One authority has put the figure as low as 32.7 hours. I do not agree with that estimate, but I believe that throughout industry in Australia we are working, in round figures, for about 37 hours a week. That being so. how can we hope to compete in the markets of the world with other nations whose people work for 44 hours, 48 hours and. in some cases, over 50 hours a week? I realize that the 40-hour week in Australia is now a fact. Therefore, through greater co-operation, achieved through conciliation and arbitration in the widest sense, it is necessary for both managements and employees to work with greater efficiency.
At the beginning of my remarks, I referred to the increased interdependence of the various sections of the Australian community. In statements from this Parliament, as well as from platforms and forums throughout Australia, it is necessary to try to make the Australian peopleaware of the need for greater cooperation in industry so that we can have more efficiency and, consequently, greater productivity. In that way, we shall be able to produce our goods more cheaply and sell them on the competitive world market. It is well known that our costsof production are still rising. Governments, managements and trade union, leaders must co-operate in planning longterm production schemes.
The coal-mining industry is an excellent example of an industry in which there has been a lack of co-operation. What has happened in that industry illustrates the disaster that occurs when various interests in an industry endeavour to obtain shortterm advantages, to the detriment of the ultimate welfare of the industry. “First, there was the short-sighted policy of managements ignoring the just claims of employees. All of those who have had any association with the coal-mining industry or have lived in coal-raining districts know how true that statement is. But subsequently, when managements were more enlightened and progressive, the industry was unfortunate in that a number of irresponsible trade union leaders, having obtained redress of legitimate grievances, promoted a series of unwarranted strikes. They believed that by fomenting trouble between the workers and the managements they could show that it was necessary for them to remain in office as the leaders of their sections of the miners’ federation.
The result of their actions is well known throughout Australia now. Because of the irresponsible leadership of a few - but it was an important few - members of the miners’ federation, the production of coal was intermittent, contracts were broken and costs rose. Markets for coat were lost and alternative fuels were used. The industry lost markets for coal, not only in Australia, but also overseas. This Government, in conjunction with the Joint Coal Board, is now exploring all avenues in its endeavours to win back some of our overseas markets for coal.
We must have co-operation between the various interests in all industries. Further development of our conciliation and arbitration system is necessary, not only for the reasons that 1 have given already, but also because, unfortunately, Communists are returning to power in some trade unions. I believe that the members of the main Australian Labour party believe truly in the principle of conciliation and arbitration, but we know that Communists do not. So I say to honorable gentlemen opposite, as well as to my colleagues on this side, that the bill must be supported because it will help to bring about greater co-operation between employers and employees in our industries.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker-
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Deputy Speaker - Mr. C. F. Adermann.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be omitted (Dr. Evatt’s amendment) stand part of the question.
The House divided. (Mr. Deputy Speaker - Mr. C. F. Adermann.)
Majority . . 17
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The House divided. (Mr. Deputy Speaker - Mr. C. F. Adermann.)
Majority . . . . 16
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and committed pro forma; progress reported.
House adjourned at 10.56 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
d asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice: -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1 and 2. The Government appreciates that any increase in the cost of a basic commodity such as steel must have widespread effects. However, it recognizes, too, that there are occasions on which such increases cannot be avoided. The honorable member should be aware that world steel prices have risen, and are still rising, but that Australian industry still receives the world’s cheapest steel from local producers.It is about £20 a ton cheaper than imported steel.
Payment of Public Servants OVERSEAS
d asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice: -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
d asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Naval Base in Western Australia.
b asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– The Minister for the Navy has furnished the following replies to the honorable member’s questions : -
y asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The following information is given in reply to the honorable member’s questions: -
ROYAL Australian Navy.
y asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– The Minister for the Navy has furnished the following replies to the honorable member’s questions: -
No. Ships for the Royal Australian Navy have been built to Australian design when required and Royal Navy designs have been altered as indicated in answer to 4.
Diving foe Gold.
D asked the Minister representing the Attorney-General -
– The Attorney-General has supplied the following answers to the honorable member’s questions: -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 29 May 1956, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1956/19560529_reps_22_hor11/>.