22nd Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. C. “F. Adermann) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Mi-. POLLARD presented a petition from 1,409 members and friends of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union of Victoria, praying that, as an expression of Christian principle, immediate steps be taken in the United Nations towards the abolition of war, and that the British Government be requested to cease work on further atom bomb or nuclear weapon testing in Australia.
Petition received and read.
– I desire to ask the Acting Prime Minister whether the Government has decided upon an arrangement by which the property of the Commonwealth, namely, the ships belonging to the Australian Shipping Board, will be brought under the administration of a new body, the average age of those ships being ten years, for the purpose of pooling the trade of Australia and bringing into the field not only the Commonwealth ships but also the ships of the Australian shipping combine, the average age of which is 23 or 24 years. As such an arrangement must increase the profits of the private’ shipowners and completely end the com petition which was the object of the establishment of the Australian Shipping Board, will the Acting Prime Minister, having no mandate for that action, bring the matter up for debate before legislation is brought down in this session?
– Order ! Will the right honorable gentleman come to his question ?
– I have finished it, Mr. Deputy Speaker.
– The subject dealt with by the Leader of the Opposition will be considered as the opportunity presents itself during the course of this session.
– I ask the Minister for the Interior whether the map which faces page 1538 of the Commonwealth of Australia Gazette of the 24th May, 1956, is intended to be a true map of the City of Canberra. Does the absence from this map of any indication of the lakes scheme or the ribbon of water indicate that these features are to be removed from the Burley Griffin plan?
– I am afraid that I have with me no specific references to the map in question. As I recall it, the map was published for the purpose of illustrating certain newly constructed Canberra streets to which names had been given, and I do not think that the map should be accepted as accurate for any other purpose. So far as the lakes scheme is concerned, the modifications or substantial changes of the original Burley Griffin plan were made in 1950, when the Eastlake scheme was eliminated. The Westlake scheme was eliminated in 1953. For further information I might refer the honorable gentleman to that splendid work, the report of the Senate Select Committee on Canberra Development.
– I wish to make a personal explanation. When addressing you yesterday, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I said that three weeks had elapsed since you had given me the call to ask a question. Having checked with the Ilansard record, I find that it was only one week. I take this opportunity of apologizing to you, and, at the same time, of congratulating you on your excellent tally system. While I am on my feet you may permit me to ask a question.
– I call the honorable member for Reid.
– Has the Minister for Labour and National Service considered the proposal that I put to him some time ago, that in this country, as is the case in Great Britain, employers should be compelled to give employment to a proportion of disabled persons, so that the full results may be obtained from the work of the Department of Social Services and other organizations on the rehabilitation of such persons?
– Yes, I have given some consideration to this matter. Indeed, a good deal of thought and research on it have been undertaken by the Department of Labour and National Service. However, for reasons which I shall be able to explain to the honorable member in more detail, preferably by letter, we have come to the conclusion that there are disadvantages associated with the course that he has proposed. One of the disadvantages is that such a practice tends to instil a disability psychology into the minds of the persons concerned. The honorable member can be assured that the Commonwealth Employment Service maintains a close liaison with the Department of Social Services and the Repatriation Department, and the great majority of organizations established for the care, treatment or welfare of handicapped persons, in order to ensure that its facilities for assisting these people to obtain employment are known widely and are fully availed of. The staff of the Commonwealth Employment Service is in close personal contact with employers, and they take every opportunity to promote the employment of handicapped persons. That their efforts have met with considerable success is demonstrated by the fact that during the twelve months ended March, 1956, over 7,500 physically handicapped persons were placed in suitable employment, in a wide range of occupations.
– Will the Minister for the Army inform the House what measures are taken by the Army to ensure that recruits to the Australian Regular Army, and, indeed, national service trainees, are assigned to the corps that is most suitable to their talents?
– -In the case of national service trainees, prior to their allocation to a corps, and when they are first registered, information is conveyed to the Department of the Army from the Department of Labour and .National Service, indicating what particular part of the Army a trainee would be suitable for. An allocation is made when the men are taken into camp, and they are allotted to the corps which seems most suitable for them. In the city that is not so difficult, but honorable members will appreciate the difficulties that arise in country centres, where the choice of units is not so great. Trained personnel who enlist in the Australian Regular Army for a specialist calling are allocated, without delay, to vacancies in their own corps. Other recruits receive a period of basic training, during which their aptitude is observed. A special allocation officer is responsible for seeing that the soldier is allocated to the corps for which he is most suitable. This, also, depends upon current vacancies in the units of that corps which are most suitably situated. Great attention is paid to these details. The allocation officer takes into consideration all the relevant factors, including the recruit’s own preference, the results of progressive aptitude tests, and the reports on his work during training. I assure the honorable member that a great deal of attention is paid to this matter because it is realized that only in this way will the greatest benefit accrue to the trainee or recruit on the one hand, and the defence forces on the other.
– My question is directed to the Acting Prime Minister. I have been informed that in South Australia certain makes of cars, if bought through city dealers, in Adelaide, carry a much smaller sales tax than do those purchased through a country dealer. Will the right honorable gentleman say whether there is a difference between the sales tax paid on city and country sales, and if so, why? I wish him to understand that I am speaking not of charges that the country dealer may make for delivery to the selling point, but of sales tax only.
– It is well known in both this House and the trade that sales tax is assessed at a flat rate.
Therefore, any differentiation between the quantum of the tax in the city and the country is attributable to the difference in basic prices. However, T will look into the question and will advise the honorable member of the result.
– Will the Minister for Social Services confer with the Repatriation Department in order to obtain the names of war widows who, though entitled to social service benefits, have failed to apply for them ? Will he arrange for all such benefits to be automatically passed on to this section of our community regardless of any formal application ? ‘
– I am deeply conscious of the sustained interest of the honorable member for Boothby in this question and I am grateful to him for the assistance that he has given me concerning it from time to time. The receipt of a war pension does not, except where the war pension and, or, income exceeds £7 10s. a week, necessarily exclude a war widow from social service benefits. Where the war pension and/or income is less than £7 10s. a week and where the war widow qualifies for a social services benefit, the amount is made up to £7 10s. a week. Precisely the same calculation applies in the application of the property means test. Out of respect for the honorable member for Boothby, I shall confer with the Minister for Repatriation to see whether his suggestion can be adopted. But from my personal observation of the matter, I should say that it would be much easier for the war widows, and certainly for the department, if they were to make formal application in the usual way.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Air. Is there any truth in reports that it is the intention of the Department of Civil Aviation to shut down its branch in Darwin, where operations affecting the control of civil aviation in the Northern Territory are centred at present, and transfer its activities to the South Australian branch of the department in Adelaide? If these reports are correct, will the Minister take steps to intervene, in view of the importance of civil aviation in the north - which is illustrated by the fact that, in respect of the volume of international air traffic, Darwin airport is second only to Kingsford-Smith airport - and also because the substantial increase of internal air traffic in the north of Australia makes it essential that the authority in Darwin remain where it is ?
– The honorable member is aware of what has occurred in the north of Australia during the last twelve months in relation to air services. We have been able to introduce DC4 aircraft on the services to Darwin from Adelaide and also from Brisbane, through Mount Isa. In a variety of ways we have been able to improve all the air services in the north. But the use of different aircraft involves all sorts of changes. It is always the object of the department to bring about economy together with efficiency. This is not a matter of Darwin versus Adelaide. We have to deal with the whole of a large area. At present, we are carrying out a departmental study of the desirability and practicability of regrouping some of the services in the South Australia and Northern Territory regions. The matter is by no means finalized, but, whatever may be done, it will be done for the purpose of improving the safety, efficiency and regularity of the services.
– I preface my question, which is directed to the Minister for Health, with the remark that although, in my experience, the hospital benefits scheme is working satisfactorily in that settlement of claims is made quickly and reasonably, there is. apparently, a considerable amount of hardship being caused by the operation of the medical benefits scheme. If a patient becomes liable to pay a particularly large sum for a doctor’s fees, he has to pay the bill, submit the receipt to the society and then wait for settlement of his claim, sometimes for a considerable period. I ask the Minister :
Would it be possible to provide for an interim certificate to be accepted from the doctor and the .hospital concerned, certifying that a portion of the amounts due had been paid, so that the person insured could receive the wherewithal to pay the balance of the accounts?
– There are arrangements in existence now under which a patient, in circumstances similar to those outlined by the honorable gentleman, can authorize the society to make payment direct to the doctor of the sum for which the society is responsible. I think that those arrangements are satisfactory in almost every instance to patients in this category.
– Does the Minister for Civil Aviation expect that additional aeroplanes to those on the normal overseas service will be bringing overseas visitors to the Olympic Games, in Melbourne, in November of this year? If so, will these additional aeroplanes have to return empty to their country of origin and then come back to Australia empty to pick up the overseas vistors at the conclusion of the Olympic Games? Rather than that these aeroplanes should make this return flight without passengers, can the Minister arrange for Australian tourists to travel to and from the country of origin of these aeroplanes at concessional fares ?
– I am afraid that I cannot be very precise in my answer. I know that we are expecting, and providing for, some 300 extra aircraft during the period of the Olympic Games, and I cannot for a moment think that they would remain in Australia for ten or fourteen days. After all, it takes only a few hours to reach England now. For instance, one flight of Qantas Empire Airways Limited, which leaves Australia on Friday night, reaches London on Sunday morning. I should think that the extra traffic would be met, not so much by additional aircraft, as by greater frequency of flights. The matter raised by the honorable member is one for decision by the airline companies, and obviously not for me, because the aircraft will come from every country on earth. Whether or not the companies will be able to permit concessional fares, I do not know, though I do understand that Qantas Empire Airways Limited, which is, of course, interested, intends to raise this matter at a conference of the International Air Transport Association, which is to be held at Venezuela in the next couple of weeks. The honorable member will probably be aware that we work under two well-known authorities, the International Civil Aviation Organization, a body established by the United Nations, and the International Air Transport Association, in which representatives of the airlines of the world, by mutual agreement, arrange fares, freight rates, and so on. I think that after the conclusion of the conference of the International Air Transport Association, to which I have referred, I may be able to give the honorable member the information that he seeks. I shall bear the matter in mind and let him know immediately I am able to do so.
– I bring to the attention of the Minister for Territories, a statement attributed to the Indian delegate .to the Trusteeship Council of the United Nations to the effect that the Malayan language should be adopted as the official language for our trust Territory of New Guinea. Will the Minister make a forthright statement, making the position of Australia clear regarding the adoption of any change in Government policy ? Will he make clear, first, that it is the intention of the Government to extend the use of English as the official language; secondly, that there will be a preservation of certain native languages and dialects; and thirdly, that vigorous steps will be taken to eliminate Melanesian pidgin?
– The statement attributed to the Indian delegate, if correctly reported, would seem to me - and I say it with all respect to him - a singularly silly statement, because the Malayan language is, so far as the people of Papua and New Guinea are concerned, a foreign language. I do not think that any one in the Territory speaks it, and I can see no valid reason of any kind why we should set ourselves out to teach it to them. For over 70 years English has been taught as the chief foreign language, and it will continue to be our policy to try to bring literacy to all the people, and that means literacy in English. It is quite true, as the honorable member suggests, that some of the vernaculars will remain, and that the people, of their own wish, will probably continue to speak some of their own languages. The problem is an exceptionally difficult one, because there are in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea over 200 languages. They cannot be replaced hurriedly, and in the period of transition we have to find a means of communication and a means of instruction, and during that transition period the Melanesian pidgin, which is already in existence in part of the Territory may be used as a means of communication, but it is certainly no permanent substitute for English, and the end of our policy is to make the people literate in English. I think that we, as English-speaking people, may glory in the fact that the English language brings with it a heritage in law and culture and civilization of which we need not be ashamed and of which we may he very proud.
– I direct to the Minister for Immigration a question in relation to the detection of the illegal entry of an Italian immigrant into Australia, and his being charged, preparatory to deportation, with being a prohibited immigrant. Can the Minister tell the House to what degree this practice might be prevalent and what action is being taken to prevent other illegal entries?
– The question raised by the honorable member for Corio relates to proceedings that were taken in Melbourne recently following a dictation test of an Italian who had been found to have entered Australia illegally on forged documents. The Department of Immigration has always realized that attempts might be made to gain entry to this country on false documents. Indeed, it is not an uncommon experience in immigrantreceiving countries. It has happened in the United States of America, Canada, and other countries that admit considerable numbers of immigrants, some of them under restriction. Such attempts are not so remarkable .when we realize just how attractive Australia is to many persons, particularly in the southern European countries. We insist upon certain standards which not all prospective migrants are able to measure up to. Documents can be forged, and no amount of administrative action can prevent the forgery, but, by administrative process, we can detect the forgery and so ensure that our own interests do not suffer. Investigations made by my department have revealed that certain forgeries have occurred, and the man who has just been charged in Melbourne is the first of eighteen cases that have been detected. The remainder will be dealt with in due course, and it seems that other cases remain to be uncovered. Those investigations also show that all the illegal entrants had previously been rejected by Australian selection officers overseas because they were unable to satisfy our selection requirements. It will be remembered that recently, as part of our investigation into this matter, we conducted an intensified vise check at Fremantle on the arrival of the vessel Sydney. I am able to say that all the 800 passengers on board the vessel were found to be properly documented for Australia. Honorable members may be assured that the administrative machinery of the department operates sufficiently effectively to detect any attempted evasion of the Immigration Act.
– The Minister for Primary Industry will recall that last night, during the debate on the motion for the adjournment, I raised the question of the shortage of ships to move between 20,000 and 30,000 tons of potatoes from Tasmania to Victoria and New South Wales, where they are urgently required. As I regard the matter as being very urgent, I now ask him whether he has been able to do anything about it since I raised it last night.
– Subsequent to the debate on the motion for the adjournment last night, I discussed this problem with my colleague, the Minister for Shipping and Transport. He informed me that the interstate traffic committee would be meeting this morning, and that he would submit the problem to it for consideration. Just prior to my coming into the House this afternoon, he was able to inform me that arrangements had been made for two shiploads of potatoes, amounting to between 25,000 and 30,000 bags, to be moved to New South Wales and Victoria this week, and that within another three to four weeks four other shiploads will be moved from Tasmanian ports. I think the Minister for Shipping and Transport should be complimented for the rapidity with which he was able to arrange for a solution of the problem mentioned by the honorable gentleman.
– I ask the Minister for Civil Aviation whether, when TransAustralia Airlines decided to purchase Fokker Friendship aircaft to replace DC3 aircraft, similar British aircraft such as the Handley Page Herald were inspected. Can the Minister tell me what length of runway these new aircraft will require, so that local government bodies building aerodromes will know what length to construct? Is it less than the 5,700 feet required at sea level for a DC3 ?
– The honorable member’s question stems, I suppose, from two reasons : First, that he is a pilot himself and second, that he is most interested in country aerodromes. It is true that the experts from Trans-Australia Airlines had a look at almost every aircraft in this category in the world. I know that they inspected and examined very closely the Handley Page Herald, but for a variety of reasons - that it had turbo props and so on - they favoured the Fokker 27. As the honorable member will know, that aircraft’ has a very high aspect ratio wing and, therefore, can get in and out of ordinary fields better than the DC3. With its all-up weight of 34,000 lb., its take-off run is 3,800 feet, but, for safety reasons, the Department of Civil Aviation requires it to clear a 50- ft. obstacle in conditions of no wind or of a 5 miles an hour head wind component. The statutory take-off run for the Fokker 27 will, therefore, be 4,500 feet. That is roughly 500 feet less than the take-off run required for a DC3. The Fokker 27 will work out of practically any country aerodrome; certainly out of any country aerodrome licensed for a DC 3. Because of the high wing, the turbo prop is well clear of the ground and the problem of stones and gravel and so on does not arise, as it would1 with a type like the Viscount, which cannot land m a grass strip or gravel aerodrome. We believe that the Fokker 27 will be a very desirable aircraft and a very popular aircraft, particularly in the country areas of New South Wales.
– by leave– On the 22nd May, I conveyed to the House some developments following the move that had been made from Australia in an endeavour to re-unite with their families here relatives in Soviet and other iron curtain countries. I referred then particularly to the replies that had been received from some of the satellite countries and intimated that I was awaiting more detailed advice, which was to come in a later cable. It has not yet been received; it is in a savinggram form, I understand, sent by our High Commissioner’s office in London. I expect to receive that early next week. However, a cable reached me to-day, which deals with the situation of people inside Russia itself.
The Government has been advised by the United Kingdom Foreign Office that Sir William Hayter, the United Kingdom Ambassador to Moscow, on the 8th May called on Marshal Bulganin, who told him that he would consider favorably lists to be presented to the Soviet authorities and that if the persons concerned in the Soviet Union wished to join their relatives, they would be allowed to do so. Equally, relatives could come to the
Soviet Union to visit families there if they so wished. On the 15th May, Sir William Hayter called on Mr. Kuznetsov, who, I am advised, is a very senior official in the Russian Foreign Office. Sir William Hayter handed him some of the details which we had supplied, comprising the names sent in our cable, together with certain additional cases that we had asked the United Kingdom authorities to take up. Mr. Kuznetsov has pointed out that some addresses are missing and that we have not yet supplied the names of the sponsors. They wish to be given the names of the sponsors in Australia, and it seems quite clear that information about the sponsors will need to be furnished before the required authority is given. What we propose to do, therefore, is to contact each of those sponsors individually and point this out to them; but we shall certainly not disclose their names unless they give us authority to do so. I think that honorable members will agree that this is an encouraging reply to the request we put forward on behalf of those who have come to settle with us here, and who have a very natural desire to be reunited with their close relatives now overseas.
– by leave- I should like to express the satisfaction of everybody with the news given to us by the Minister. Can the Minister now tell us how many individuals, approximately, are covered by the requests from Australia in respect of the Soviet Union?
– by leaveOur first list contained, I think, fifteen names. We have added four names since, but we expect that once it becomes known that these requests may be favorably considered a considerable additional number will be received. Indeed, some of the State offices of the Department of Immigration have already received communications that have resulted from the earlier publicity given to this matter. Those are now being examined, and, should we be able to make satisfactory arrangements regarding them, I have no doubt that a very much larger number of people will make such requests. I may say that we also hope that what has already happened in this matter will not be without influence on the thinking of the governments of some of the satellite countries which, so far, have not indicated a willingness to meet us in this direction.
– by leave-We find the Minister’s answer very satisfactory, and we hope that the present procedure will be fully pursued.
Motion (by Sir Eric Harbison) proposed -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until Tuesday next, at 2.30 p.m.
Mr. HAMILTON (Canning) [3.81.- I do not intend to oppose the motion - not yet anyhow - but* I am reminded that on the 10th of this month we agreed to a motion in this House that, unless otherwise ordered, from Friday, the 18th May, the House would sit on Fridays with a view to getting rid of the business before it. Three Fridays have passed since we agreed to that motion, but we have sat on only one of them. It is becoming more and more obvious to me, as one of the members of this House who comes from some distance to attend its sittings in this capital city, that the sittings of this Parliament are being arranged to suit the convenience of those honorable gentlemen who live in Melbourne or Sydney. One of these days the tide may turn - I hope. Undoubtedly, Mr. Deputy Speaker, before this sitting concludes we shall once again have a mad rush to get through our business, sitting all night in an endeavour to get rid of it - again to suit the convenience of honorable members who live in Sydney or Melbourne, so that they will be able to board their aircraft first thing in the morning, or late at night on the last sitting day, and be home with their families within a few hours. I am not opposed to the proposal that the House should not sit to-morrow, but I should like an assurance from the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Sir Eric Harrison), because of the uncertainty under which honorable members from distant parts of the Commonwealth have been placed during the last few weeds, being unable to accept engagements or being forced to cancel them, that such discomforts will not continue, and that we shall not have all-night sittings at the conclusion of the period. Let us get the work done in the day-time, instead of sitting like a lot of lunatics into the early hours of the morning.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I have received from the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) an intimation that he desires to submit a definite matter of urgent public importance to the House for discussion, namely -
The urgent and vital necessity of additional homes and housing accommodation in Australia, mid the serious social dangers threatening the nation as a result of the failure of the Commonwealth Government to deal effectively with the problem.
Is the proposal supported?
Eight honorable members having risen in support of the proposal,
.- I submit this matter for discussion because of the serious position which, in the opinion of Opposition members, exists in relation to housing throughout Australia. Every member of the Parliament, whether he supports the Government or belongs to the Opposition, should be fully aware of the serious housing shortage, which is rapidly becoming a serious social problem, and which has certainly reached a stage at which the Opposition feels that the hardships, the frustrations, and the hopelessness which confront a by no means small section of our population in this respect can no longer be ignored. I believe every city member who is fully conscious of his duty as an elected representative in this Parliament must realize that the number of homeless people, the number of evictions, and the number of sub-standard dwellings in his electorate are increasing out of all proportion to the number of new homes being constructed. I do not intend to labour the point that this Government was elected to office on a pledge to house the people adequately. In any event, in my opinion, it had no need to make such a pledge, because I believe we are sufficiently advanced in our social thinking to acknowledge it as an accepted principle that all governments should direct their attention to this problem. Our quarrel with the present Government is that it has failed to recognize that principle, or, if it has recognized it, has certainly refused to uphold it. I do not overlook what has been achieved in the various States under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement of 1945. I give this Government and the various State instrumentalities full credit for what they have done under that agreement. But I feel bound to point out that, in the light of the figures I shall cite in a few moments, it will be apparent that the housing programme is completely inadequate, is making little inroad on the housing lag, and has not proved a successful solution of the serious housing shortage. What is needed now is more money for the construction of homes, whether for rental or for direct sale. In no State are man-power and materials the problem. Man-power and materials problems have been overcome. This Government’s fundamental error is to be found in its cold-blooded, cold-hearted, and completely illogical approach to this problem.
Let us examine for a moment the causes of the problem, because I believe them to be extremely important. When World War II. began in 1939, there was a shortage of more than 200,000 homes, after almost 25 years of uninterrupted administration by governments composed in one way or another of members of the Liberal party and the Australian Country party. Now, after nearly seven years of administration by a similar government, the shortage is far in excess of 200,000 homes, and it is steadily increasing.
– The honorable member is quite wrong.
– The honorable member knows what I have stated to be a fact. During the 1930’s, there was an abundance of man-power and materials, but the governments of those days did not make use of it. During that period, housing was considered to be a matter solely for private enterprise. A family man who was unable to provide the margin of security required by financial institutions was forced to rent accommodation within his means, and very few people were given the opportunity to own homes. During the last war, of course, home construction was practically at a standstill. However, the principle that the responsibility for housing the homeless people of Australia rested with the government of the day in the Commonwealth sphere was accepted, a fact which was later acknowledged by the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement of 1945. No one, least of all the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton), who is now at the table, would suggest that the present programme under the agreement is, by itself, sufficient to provide all the homes required in Australia. The housing of the homeless families of Australia is rapidly developing into a serious and continuing social problem. I can see no physical or, for that matter, financial reason why adequate housing facilities cannot be provided in the Commonwealth. Practically every problem dealing with the construction of homes in Australia has been solved by scientific investigation. The pages of If Hansard are filled with reports of speeches on housing and allied subjects. It has been the subject of investigation by a social security committee of this Parliament. All that is required in this country is a government courageous enough to put into practice the lessons and the knowledge gained from that research. To date, because of the restrictive credit policy, it is practically impossible for people in the lower-income groups to acquire finance with which “to build or purchase a home, the initial deposit and incidental expenses being the main factors as well as high instalment payments in comparison with the basic wage.
Time and time again, I and other honorable members on this side of the House have stressed the subject of initial deposits so I shall not cover that ground at this moment except to reiterate that a deposit of at least 60 per cent, is required by the Commonwealth Bank for the construction of a home, the value of which would be £4,000. Every honorable member of this Parliament knows of the difficulties which face the people in his electorate who are endeavouring to secure finance with which to purchase a home. I reiterate that the deposit to-day required by the Commonwealth Bank makes it practically impossible for young men on limited incomes to secure a home for themselves and their families.
The Opposition now charges this Government with having made insufficient money available to the States from loan funds with which to carry out their housing plans on the basis of providing adequate housing facilities for all those people who are urgently in need of accommodation. It further charges the Government with having adopted a banking policy which makes it virtually impossible for a private individual to build or purchase a home. Each week, when I return to my electorate, I am faced with this hopeless social problem - compulsory eviction of young and old, young couples with families being .forced into the streets, and age pensioners finding themselves in the same position. This social problem exists in a State in which it is not unusual to find as many as two and three families living together in the most primitive circumstances. I seriously suggest that similar circumstances apply in all other States. I also suggest that such conditions present a danger to the well-being of this country because they breed discontent which comes from the frustrated efforts of good-living, decent citizens to acquire reasonable living conditions.
Let me refer to the Quarterly Bulletin of Building Statistics. I suggest that all honorable members should carefully study this comprehensive document. On the first page are some very interesting graphs, and their chief interest lies in the fact that they present a very accurate picture of the housing programme in Australia from 1939 to the present year. I have always, in mathematical terms at least, interpreted a graph as a picture, and I say at once that I can gain no comfort from this one. I refer to the graph which shows the number of homes under construction in each of these years. In 1949, 60,000 homes were under construction. By June of 1951, the number had increased to 80,000. By the end of 1951 it had reached approximately 83,000. An improvement had been effected, and I give the Government full credit for it. It is true, of course, that the supply of manpower and materials had increased in the same ratio during that period, but, nevertheless,, more homes were being constructed.
Thereafter, unfortunately, the whole position drastically changed and, by .lune of 1953, the number of new homes under construction had fallen to 70,000. By the end of 1953 it had fallen to 68,000. By the end of December, 1955, the downward trend having continued, only 65,000 new homes were under construction. With the graph continuing its downward curve, it is certain that we cannot expect the number of new homes under construction by the end of December this year to exceed 60,000. The position indicated in this graph is reflected in every State of the Commonwealth, aggravated by evictions, with more and more people being forced into squalid surroundings and slum areas. Inadequate and bad housing in a degrading environment means dirty streets and slums and will ultimately set a standard for those whose misfortune it is to suffer them.
I return again to the Statistician’s graph, this time to deal with the subject of flat construction in Australia. The report shows that in 1949-50 the number of new flats constructed in Australia reached a total of 2,500 and that in 1953-54 construction had fallen to 1,500. But in more recent times, there has been a marked upward trend and by December of 1955 the graph had again risen to indicate that 3,000 new flats were constructed in Australia. They were, of course, mainly the luxury type of flat. But what concerns me most of all is the tendency of young couples, entering into the marital state, to be flat-dwellers because of the shortage of cottage homes. This, in lue final analysis, produces a tendency against the raising of families which normally could be expected where a home and its surroundings are suitable for family life.
If the honorable member for Braddon (Mr. Luck), who is interjecting, want3 to engage in this debate he will have an opportunity to do so when I have completed my remarks. I say, too, that if we continue to ignore the provision for family life in this direction, forcing young couples to occupy rooms and doing little to encourage family life, we can only expect in the future a decline in our population as well as slums far greater than we have to-day.
To summarize the position, a minimum of 85,000 homes is needed each year. By the end of 1956 the number of homos under construction in any one year Wl have fallen to 60,000. In twelve months from December, 1954, to December, 1955, fewer than 60,000 homes were constructed. But during the corresponding period, immigration increased our population by almost 220,000 people and 72,000 marriages took place. These figures are factual; they are based on the Commonwealth Statistician’s report. Clearly, then, it will be seen that we are not building sufficient homes to overtake the backlog in Australia, even if we choose to ignore the figures that I have just quoted in regard to increases in population by immigration and marriage.
I come now to bulletin No. 3 dealing with the last census of the Commonwealth. I suggested, only a few moments ago, that far too many people were being forced into bad and inadequate housing. This fact is strikingly detailed in the census report. In New South Wales, 24,000 sheds and huts are being used as homes for parents and children. In Victoria, the corresponding figure ia about 6,000 and in Queensland the number is approximately 9,000. In the whole of the Commonwealth there .are about 49,000 sheds and huts occupied by families.
-Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– Quite obviously, the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard), in addressing himself to this subject which he has submitted as a matter of urgency, is speaking at the wrong time and in the wrong place. All of his criticisms have been levelled against the legislatures of the six States. He has had nothing to say in criticism of the
Australian Government. But if he had had anything to say in terms of criticism, the time for him to have said it was during the recent debate on the Supply Bill. He might even have waited until the second-reading stage of a bill that will be introduced in connexion with the new Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement.
There is a simple answer to the honorable member for Bass. More houses have been built during the last six years than in any other period of our history. Bui [ do not suppose that the honorable member is interested in simple answers, since he has posed a party political question for party political purposes. Therefore, I am required, as the Minister representing the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner), to answer him by citing the long and creditable record of a government that has been supremely conscious of the very serious housing shortage, caused very largely by nearly nine years of socialist government prior to 1949, and by the wanton destruction by that socialist government of the illimitable forces of free enterprise that found no great difficulty in meeting the housing needs and demands of our people during the first 150 years of our history. There was a time when we had no great difficulty in housing our people, or in building the schools, hospitals, and churches, and, indeed, the cathedrals, and the railways, or in providing the services made necessary by our increasing standard of living, during what might be called our formative years. But all that is behind us - and now again the opportunities are in front of us under this Government. It was the socialist government that destroyed our physical capacity to do the jobs that need to be done so urgently. It is this Menzies-Fadden Administration that is restoring that capacity year by year, and has been restoring it, step by step, during the last six years.
The honorable member’s proposal contains this phrase -
The urgent and vital necessity of- “ For “ might have been a better chosen word - additional homes and housing accommodation in Australia.
That could easily be deduced from the Government’s great record, and from its legislative programme and purposes it could easily be deduced that everything the Government has done and attempted to do has been designed to meet that very necessity, within our constitutional competence. We also find in the honorable member’s proposal the phrase -
The serious social dangers threatening the nation.
Those are his precise words. The greatest social danger that has ever threatened or is ever likely to threaten this country, and., in my opinion, can ever threaten any country is the canker of socialism that went close to destroying our democratic systems and institutions, which were designed by free and resolute men to serve a free and resolute people. Had the socialist government not acted in the way that it did, we would be in a position to perform the tasks that each succeeding generation demands should be performed.
The Australian Government has a fourfold responsibility with regard to housing, which is primarily an exclusive State responsibility, as every intelligent member of this House knows. If the honorable member for Bass does not know it, then quite obviously that is a reflection on his intelligence. Housing is primarily an exclusive State responsibility, but the Commonwealth has a fourfold duty in regard to it. which it is discharging. First, it is required to make provision for housing within the Australian Capital Territory. The Commonwealth is doing that at a faster rate and on a grander scale than has ever been attempted before in the history of this country. Secondly, the Australian Government is required to discharge its duties under the War Service Homes Act. The Government is discharging those duties year by year on a grander scale and with more spectacular results ..ban were ever dreamed to be physically possible previously. Thirdly, the Government has accepted responsibility under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, which is about to be renewed, and which can, presumably, bc debated at the appropriate time in this chamber. The fourth responsibility of the Commonwealth concerns an entirely new scheme that it has introduced to assist voluntary organizations to provide homes for the aged. Already, in the short period of sixteen months since that scheme was introduced, no less than £1,500,000 has been used for this magnificent purpose.
All these responsibilities are being discharged to the limit of our physical resources, in a set of industrial circumstances that confines our operations within the strict limits of a few hours a day and a few days a week - unless, of course, penalty rates are paid, which inevitably make building costs both punitive and prohibitive. Within these strict limits, the building industry, which is a greater building industry than we have ever had before, is fully engaged in all States of the Commonwealth, and, because of that, any substantial increase in funds made available for building purposes can only serve to increase building costs, which are already high, and to prejudice those who, in the final analysis, have to pay for any new accommodation that is constructed from time to time.
In the short time that is left to me 1 wish to make reference to the Government’s record in regard to two of these four responsibilities. It is most unfortunate that the honorable member for Bass should have introduced this redundant proposal at a time when a survey on housing -has just been completed by the Department of National Development. The survey revealed that, during the year, home building was maintained at the very high levels that obtained during the previous two years, and that a considerable increase in non-residential building set a new record for this type of construction. Houses and flats completed in 1955 numbered 80,355.
Mr. J. R. Fraser interjecting,
– Order ! The honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory may not interrupt in this fashion.
– He does not know any better, Mr. Deputy Speaker. That figure of 80,355 was 3.8 per cent, higher than the 77,421 that were completed in 1954, and 2.2 per cent, higher than the number of 78,596 that were completed in 1953. The number of houses and flats commenced in 1955 was 76,908, which was 3.5 per cent, less than the number commenced in 1954, but higher than the figure of 68,821 commenced in 1952, and the figure of 72,323 commenced in 1953. These are the cold facts of the case. At the end of 1955 there were under construction 67,462 houses and flats compared with 71,858 at the end of the previous year.
During 1955 house building costs generally rose by about 10 per cent, above the level at the end of 1954, although keen, competitive conditions towards the end of the year had begun to offset such rises. The main factors affecting housing co3t rises during the year were, marginal pay increases to building workers, restoration of quarterly basic wage adjustments in several States, and higher prices for most building materials, especially timber, bricks, plumbing materials and fittings. All these additional charges have, of course, to be met by the lowly men and women who are to occupy these new dwellings.
Compared with 1954, the value of nonresidential building projects commenced during 1955 increased by 38 per cent, to the record total of £149,393,000. This was nearly three times the 1952 figure. The value of projects completed during 1955 rose by 28.6 per cent, to a record figure of £108,534,000.
How does the honorable member for Bass justify his urgency submission in the face of those figures? At the end of 1955, projects valued at £186,683,000 were under construction. Schools and hospitals accounted for 28 per cent, of this total. Is it suggested that we should abandon that kind of building ? Factories accounted for 24 per cent. Is it suggested that our secondary industries do not require additional space? Offices accounted for 18 per cent., shops 5 per cent., and hotels and guest houses only 4 per cent. The remaining 21 per cent, comprised such buildings as warehouses, showrooms, churches, halls and clubs. The total value of all new buildings completed in 1955 was £333,300,000, an increase of 16 per cent, upon the figure of £288,200,000 recorded in 1954.
Labour employed by builders of new buildings at the end of 1955 totalled 121,806, or 9,500 more than at the end of 1954. As I have said, the building industry has been fully engaged in all States, and it is likely to continue to be fully engaged. There was an overall increase in employment in all States except Western Australia and Tasmania - the State whence comes the honorablemember for Bass. Production of most major building materials and fittings was greater in 1955 than in 1954. The only falls were very slight declines in the production of bricks and asbestos cement sheets. That is our record, and we have cause to be proud of it.
– Order !
The Minister’s time has expired.
Motion (by Sir Euro Harrison) put -
That the business of the day be called on.
The House divided. (MR. Deputy Speaker - Mr. C. F.’
Majority .. ..’26
In committee (Consideration of Senate’s amendment) :
Clause 9 -
The office of the Commissioner shall be deemed to be vacated -
if he engaged in paid employment
and the Governor-General declares, by notice in theGazette, that the office has become vacant.
Senate’s amendment. - That the word “ declares “ be left out with a view to insert in place thereof the words “ shall declare “.
– I move -
That the Senate amendment be disagreed to, but that, in place thereof, clause 9 of the bill be omitted and the following clause be inserted in its stead: - “ 9. If the Commissioner -
engages in paid employment outside the duties of his office without the approval of the Minister;
becomes bankrupt, applies to take the benefit of a law for the relief of bankrupt or insolvent debtors, compounds with his creditors or makes an assignment of his salary for their benefit; (c) resigns his office by writing under his hand addressed to the GovernorGeneral ;
is absent from duty, except on leave granted by the Minister, for fourteen consecutive days or for twentyeight days in any twelve months : or (e)in any way, otherwise than as a member, and in common with the other members, of an incorporated company consisting of not less than twenty-five persons -
becomes concerned orin terested in a contract entered into by or on behalf of the Corporation; or
participates or claims to par ticipate in the profit of any such contract or in any benefit or emolument arising from any such contract, the Governor-General shall declare, by notice in the Gazette, that the office of the Commissioner is vacant, and thereupon the office shall he deemed to be vacant.”.
The Government is not prepared to accept the amendment in the form in which it was made by the Senate, but it is prepared to alter the clause in a manner which will go a long way towards meeting the objections raised to the clause in its original form. In its original form, the clause provides that the office of the commissioner shall be deemed to be vacated if two things happen; first, that certain disqualifying facts arise; and second, that the Governor-General declares, by notice in the Gazette, that the office has become vacant. Under the clause in that form, the GovernorGeneral could exercise a discretion to refrain from declaring the office vacant and, in that event, the office would not become vacant. The existence of this discretion was the main objection taken to the clause in another place. The amendment that I have moved will remove this discretion. A statutory duty will be imposed on the Governor-General to declare the office vacant if any of the disqualifying events occur.
The other objection taken in another place was that the disqualification should occur automatically as soon as the disqualifying event took place, and should not await the making of a declaration by the Governor-General. The Government is not prepared to meet that contention. In the first place, the objection is unrealistic because, even if the disqualification were made automatic, there would be nothing to prevent the commissioner from continuing to exercise the office until such time as the Executive Government became aware that the disqualifica tion had occurred. In the second place, it is the view of the Government that the office should not be deemed to be vacated until formal action has been taken by the Governor-General, so that the exactdate of the vacation of the office can be made certain. If the disqualification were made automatic, it is possible that the commissioner would continue to perform the duties of the office for a considerable time after he had become disqualified, for the simple reason that no one but himself might be aware that he had become disqualified, and it is even possible that he would not be aware of the fact himself. In those circumstances, great inconvenience might result from the fact that the commissioner had performed a number of acts which he was not legally entitled to perform.
The amendment that I have moved is, in the view of the Government, a very reasonable compromise which meets the main objection raised in another place. In the clause that I have moved to insert, the words “ without the approval of the Minister “ have been added at the end of paragraph (a). The effect of these words is that the commissioner may engage in paid employment outside the duties of his office, if he does so with the approval of the Minister. The Government considers that the Minister should have a discretion to approve paid employment outside the duties of the commissioner’s office. The employment might be of such a minor nature as to be quite consistent with the performance of his duties as commissioner. For example, if the words proposed were not included, it might be doubtful whether the commissioner could accept an honorarium as an office-holder in a club.
.- The Opposition does not feel inclined to agree to the amendment proposed by the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon).I do not think that the honorable gentleman has made clear to us the exact meaning of the amendment that was made by the Senate. It is quite obvious that the Senate not only paid particular attention to the denial to the commissioner of the right to accept outside employment, but also was concerned about the position of the commissioner if he were to become involved in any of the circumstances set out in paragraphs (&)> (c)> and (e). It appears that the Senate desired that the act of declaring the office to be vacant should not be left to chance or to discretion. For that reason, the Senate carried an amendment that would have the effect of forcing a declaration by the Executive Council or the Governor-General if there arose any of the circumstances specified in paragraphs (a), (if;), (c), (d) and (e). The purpose of the amendment was that there should be no option but to declare the office vacant.
But what has the Minister done? He has had a look at the Senate’s amendment, and he has become very concerned about paragraph (a) of the clause. Under the amendment suggested by the Senate, if the commissioner engages in paid employment outside the duties of his office, the Governor-General must, by notice in the Gazette, declare the office vacant. The amendment that has been moved by the Minister indicates that the Government agrees that there shall be a declaration by the Governor-General and that the declaration shall be inserted in the Gazelle, but if the amendment is carried the Minister will have a discretion to permit the commissioner to engage in outside employment.
If the Government wants to” give a discretionary power to the Minister in relation to the commissioner engaging in outside employment, why does not it want also to give a discretion to the Minister under paragraph (d) ? That paragraph deals with the position that would arise if the commissioner were absent from duty, without leave granted by the Minister, for fourteen consecutive days. Under the clause as amended, in those circumstances the Governor-General must declare the office to be vacant. Apparently the Government does not want to give a discretion to the Ministerthat would extend his powers under that paragraph. It may be arguable that there is discretion in that paragraph. There is no discretion in regard to paragraph (e). If any of the matters set forth in that paragraph become the subject of disputation, or if the commis sioner becomes interested in incorporated - companies, or companies of any sort, no discretionary power is vested in the Minister. I think that it is the desire of the Government or the Minister that the Minister should have a discretionary power to allow the new commissioner, whoever he may be, to engage in outside employment if he so wishes. I suggest that, in the very nature of things, the position of a commissioner who, in effect, controls the whole of the business of the Export Payments Insurance Corporation, is such that he should devote himself entirely to the work and responsibilities thrust upon his shoulders. It would appear to be suggested that this new Export Payments Insurance Corporation is to be of such minor importance that the Government may appoint a commissioner at such a low rate of salary, despite all his responsibilities, that it will become almost essential for the Minister to allow him to supplement his income from some outside source of employment. Surely that is not the position. Or has the Government already in mind the appointment of a person who has, perhaps, a lucrative position as adviser to a private insurance company or some other business? Is it the case that the Government wants this particular individual and that it cannot get him unless it makes special provision that he may, with the consent of the Minister, engage in outside employment ? Is that the idea ? If it is the idea, it clearly indicates that the Government expects the Export Payments Insurance Corporation to be a fizzer, to have virtually no business to transact, and. to be of minor importance, so that the Government may appoint a commissioner at a very low salary,- perhaps with the option, at the Minister’s discretion, of drawing a salary from an outside source.
It is true, as the Minister said, that the position could conceivably arise of the commissioner being debarred from accepting an honorarium from some club with which he is associated. Has the Government in mind a man who has already an association with some club, exclusive or otherwise, from which he derives an honorarium of £400, £500, or £1,000 per annum? If so, that is an intention which the Government should no longer pursue. I do not think that in the circumstances we should accept this amendment, if all the statements made in the House about the need for the corporation are true. If the corporation is to be as valuable to Australian exporters as the Government suggests, the commissioner should, without a shadow of doubt, be a man of first-class rank and standing, who does not need, either with or without the permission of the Minister, to obtain income from another source, in the form of an honorarium, salary, or otherwise. That is a condition which applies to the Public Service Commissioner, and, without a shadow of doubt, to the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank. Would the Minister say that, even with his consent, the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank should engage in outside employment? Would he say that the director of the Commonwealth shipping line should engage in outside employment? I am sure that he would not, yet when he meets with a rebuff from the Senate, in the form of an amendment to provide that the GovernorGeneral shall declare the office vacant in certain circumstances, one circumstance being engagement in outside employment, the Minister rejects the Senate’s amendment and wheels up another amendment to this committee, to provide that authority be given for the Minister to approve of the commissioner’s engaging in outside employment. This is beyond my comprehension. This corporation has been represented as being most important, and it could be important. It could become an important instrumentality in the business life of this community, yet the Minister goes to all the pains in the world to permit the commissioner, with the Minister’s approval, to engage in outside employment. We reject the amendment.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- One admires the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) and the rhetoric in which he can engage on what is, after all, a very simple matter. If one examines the proposed amendment, one finds that paragraph (a) contains a provision which applies if the commissioner engages in paid employment. That is a very wide provision. Suppose a man became an executor under a will, and the testator died. The executor would then take up his executorial functions, for which he would receive some small commission. Being a personal friend of the testator and being well acquainted with his estate, he is eager to carry out these simple functions.
– Is an executorship employment ?
– I am not so sure of that.
– I think the honorable member may take it that it is employment. Let us turn to paragraph (d), which relates to the commissioner’s absence from duty for fourteen consecutive days. If he is late, coming back from fourteen consecutive days’ leave, for which he has approval - if something happens to his train or aeroplane which results in his being away for fifteen days - his office would become vacant. I quite agree with some of the points made by the honorable member for Lalor, but if there is no discretion, the Governor-General must, in certain circumstances, declare the office vacant. Suppose the commissioner “does one of these things which enable the Governor-General to declare his office vacant, but that it does not become known for six months, twelve months, or some other period of time, and that in the meantime the commissioner has been entering into all sorts of contracts, no doubt very important contracts; those contracts would become invalidated under the clause as amended by the Senate. This amendment provides that the contracts would not become invalid, because the commissioner will cease to be commissioner only upon the actual making of the declaration. For those reasons, as I understand it, the Government proposes to do what we believe was intended to be done by another place, but which is not achieved by the amendment it has made. However, that object will be achieved by the amendment which the Minister has submitted.
Mr. CREAN (Melbourne Ports) [4.5 1 . - Mr. Temporary Chairman-
Motion (by Sir Eric Harbison) put -
That the question he now put.
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. J. McLeay.)
Majority . . 20
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the motion (vide page 2675) be agreed to.
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Me. J. McLeay.;
Majority . . . . 22
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
Consideration resumed from the 29th May (vide page 2575).
Message recommending appropriation reported.
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) agreed to-
That it is expedient that an appropriation ot revenue he made for the purposes of a bill for an act to amend the Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1004-1955, and for other purposes. ^Resolution reported and adopted.
In committed: Consideration resumed.
Clause 1 (Short title and citation).
– Before we start the committee discussion it may be convenient for honorable members if I indicate the course that the Government proposes to follow in relation to the list of amendments which I shall be moving at appropriate times during the committee stage. The amendments have been circulated. They certainly appear to make a rather formidable list, but I think it will be found as we proceed that they are not quite so formidable. They fall into three categories. First there are those foreshadowed in my speech on the second reading of the Stevedoring Industry Bill 1956. These are amendments numbered (14) and (18). Secondly, there are amendments which are purely of a drafting nature. Some of them arise out of errors in drafting this bill and in one case out of an error of drafting In the 1947 legislation, which has just now been discovered. Examples are amendments numbered (13) and (19). Thirdly, there are amendments which have arisen from further discussions with employers’ organizations and representatives of the Australian Council of Trades Unions following their consideration of the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill.
Certain other of the proposals made by representatives of the Australian Council of Trades Unions correspond substantially to some of the amendments that are included in the list of amendments circulated by Opposition members. To adopt these proposals would be to destroy the whole conception of the bill, as I see it, but that will be discussed in more detail later. Naturally, the Government felt unable to accept suggestions of that character. Some of the amendments that
I propose to move - for example, numbers (3), (4), (5), (9) and (11)- correspond to or generally cover amendments on the same subjects which are included in the schedule circulated by some honorable members of the Opposition.
At this stage I need say only two more things. First, I propose to circulate as soon as possible a small amendment to section 16a& to deal with some problems facing persons who have a conscientious objection to being a member of a trade union. I think many honorable members from all parts pf the chamber will have had discussions on this point since this bill was mooted, and I shall explain what I have in mind in more detail when the appropriate part of the bill is reached.
– Will the Minister say where that amendment is to be inserted?
– The draftsman is still working on it. It has proved’ a little more difficult than was at first imagined, and I have not yet received the draft back from the draftsman.
– Will the Minister circulate the amendment as soon as possible?
– I will see that it is conveyed to honorable members in all parts of the chamber as soon as it reaches me. Secondly, it is not proposed to proceed with the debate on the amendments that I have circulated to-day. which relate to arrangements in the stevedoring industry, until the debate on the Stevedoring Industry Bill 1956 has proceeded a further stage. I hope that this information will be helpful.
– That will mean that when the amendments dealing with the Stevedoring Industry Bill are reached, progress will be reported and the debate resumed at a later stage?
– We will report progress, and go ahead. I do not say that we will necessarily conclude the second-reading stage of the Stevedoring Industry Bill. It may be that the timetable of Parliament will make that inconvenient for honorable members opposite as well as for us.
– You are not going on?
– Order! I ask honorable members to address the Chair.
– We certainly intend to refrain from proceeding with it until the Leader of the Opposition, and, if practicable, other members of the Opposition, have had a chance of offering the views of the Opposition on the Stevedoring Industry Bill generally.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 2 to 6 agreed to.
Clause 7 -
Part II. of the Principal Act is repealed and the following Parts are inserted in its stead: -
Part II. - The Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. “6. - (1.) There shall be a Commonwealth
Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, which shall consist of the following members : - (a) a President;
not less than two Deputy Presidents;
– I move -
That in proposed section C (1.) paragraphs (c) and (d) be omitted.
Paragraphs (c) and (d) of proposed section 6 (1.) are the last two subparagraphs dealing with the creation of what is called a Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. It is the’ desire of the Opposition that paragraph (c), which reads, “ a Senior Commissioner “ and paragraph (d), which reads, “not less than five Commissioners” be deleted. In order to explain exactly why the Opposition desires this amendment to be adopted, it is necessary at this stage for me to make clear to the committee the nature of the proposals that are embodied in the amendments circulated on behalf of the Opposition. As members of the committee will recollect, a certain amendment was moved by the Opposition at the second-reading stage. Amongst other things, it indicated that we desire the bill to be amended in such a manner as to restore to arbitration proceedings the type of conciliation and arbitration that was provided for in the 1947 legislation. With that objective in view it is necessary for us, therefore, to seek to amend the bill at this stage - as we are doing - so as to restore to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act provisions which the Opposition claims, justifiably, were exceedingly satisfactory and efficient in respect of the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes. It will be recollected that, under the 1947 legislation, the court consisted of persons who had certain specific duties assigned to them; in addition, persons were appointed as conciliation commissioners to carry out arbitral and conciliation functions that were not in the hands of the court proper. The object of the amendment that we are discussing now is to commence the alteration of the measure so as to provide for the kind of conciliation and arbitration which this side of the chamber deems will be much more satisfactory and much more efficient than the kind provided for under the existing legislation, and also under the present measure.
If our first amendment is agreed to we shall have to take the necessary steps, through our second amendment, to create the division of authority in respect of conciliation and arbitration that we consider to be essential. Now, having outlined our views in respect of that, I wish to put to the committee the necessity for this particular alteration. On more than one occasion in this chamber I have stated that the essential thing, if we are to secure industrial harmony, improve industrial relations and have the goodwill which is supposed to be one of the objects of the bill, is to have a type of conciliation and arbitration that has three factors - it must be speedy, it must be simple, it must be inexpensive. By the deletion of the provision for a senior conciliation commissioner and no fewer than five commissioners, and by providing for the appointment of conciliation commissioners whose number will not be stated, we will take the first steps to bring about the divisionof authority and responsibility in arbitration that we believe to be the only way to secure some alleviation of the present tense industrial conditions pervading industry. The effect will be that, instead of procedures of a sometimes tedious and prolonged nature having to he carried out, the placing in the hands of conciliation commissioners of the functions of conciliation and arbitration which, under the proposed legislation, are spread among a number of people, will enable the commissioners to concentrate on the prevention of disputes and on stopping disputes that have already arisen from assuming larger proportions and, in the end, to bring about settlements of matters in dispute between employers and employees. Until such time as we bring that simplicity into the regulation of our industrial affairs we cannot hope to overcome the impediments to industrial peace so eloquently described by the Minister for Labour and National Service in his second-reading speech.
I have said on more than one occasion, and I now reiterate, that if it were possible for us in our legislation to establish in the Commonwealth sphere the same kind of industrial legislation as exists in Victoria, we should have entirely different industrial relations from those that we now have in Australia. In Victoria, there is a simple wages board system under which the parties to a dispute can readily contact the person whose function it is to deal with disputes in their particular industry, the board can meet and very quickly, without fuss or trouble, determine the existing difference. It is because neither the bill nor the act provides for that simplicity and that speed, and because the procedures necessary to be taken by the disputing parties under this legislation are so expensive, that we find all sorts of difficulties arising in regard to industrial disputes in the big industries covered by Commonwealth industrial legislation.
I suggest to the committee that the operations of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act since 1950 have not achieved the results that were achieved under the legislation which operated from 1947 to 1951; because, under the former legislation, the commissioners dealt with certain matters, they had power and responsibility - which they exercised - and the results were good for industry generally. Since 1951, however, as a consequence of the division of the greater powers then reposed in the court, and because of a number of other things, the commissioners have not had the freedom so necessary in dealing with disputes. Where persons who have been appointed to undertake conciliation and arbitration are frustrated in every direction because of the possibility of references here, or appeals somewhere else, the parties themselves cannot be brought together and do not have an opportunity to discuss calmly, and reach agreement on, matters in dispute. It only needs one person to say, “We can always appeal to this or that authority” and the result will bn delay. Instead of reason and common sense prevailing we find that some parties are prepared at all times to take advantage of legal technicalities in order to prolong the settlement of disputes. That is bad for industrial relations and industrial goodwill.
It is essential, therefore, for US, if we want to get down to the root causes of the difficulties between employers and employees, to try to simplify the system - in fact, to get back to the system under which people were given the task of trying to bring about better industrial relations, and could act in that direction without having to overcome the impediments that result from restrictive legislative provisions which leave the way open for people to delay settlement of disputes.
So I suggest to the committee that the Opposition’s amendment is a good amendment. It is based on experience of the relations between employer and employee over a very long time - experience that has shown that where people have the opportunity to take hold of a matter, to control a matter and try to bring it to a successful conclusion, the system works efficiently and effectively.
– I do not propose to speak at length on the amendment; but it is, as I think all honorable members who have followed the argument of the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) will agree, an important proposal from the Opposition, and goes to one of the fundamental aspects of the measure. I think I am correct in saying that amendments 1, 2, 5, 6 and 14 proposed by honorable gentlemen opposite all relate to this particular aspect. What is put to us, in effect, is that we should revert to the 3947 legislation introduced by the then Labour Government. Now, we could, no doubt, have a long and quite interesting debate on this matter, but, I suggest, it is one which this Parliament has resolved a long time ago, and which certainly the Government does not intend to return to.
– What is the Minister’s argument against it?
– If the honorable member asks what is my objection, I invite him to read the speech I made when I introduced the 1952 measure, which departed quite radically from the situation created by the 1947 enactment, and gave us substantially the sort of arbitration system that was operating prior to the decision of the High Court of Australia in the Boilermakers case. It is said that this Government’s legislation did not operate completely satisfactorily. That may be so, and we are seeking to improve it by means of this bill. But, on our part, we are equally firm in our view that the 1947 measure did not operate satisfactorily, and that it required of this Government, first, the amendments made in 1952 and, now, the scheme which we have presented to the Parliament for approval in this bill. We have in this measure something very much more than a mere machinery amendment of the principal act. The Opposition seeks to eliminate one of the main provisions of this bill in order to give effect to the policy espoused by Labour and the principles introduced by it in the 1947 act. The Government is not disposed to accept either this amendment or the later ones which embody the same conception.
– I am indeed sorry to hear the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) make an announcement such as he has just made. In point of fact, this bill seeks to return us to a central form of arbitral control, and to take us right back to the principles that operated from 1926 to 1934. I am surprised that the Minister should ignore the need to bring management and workers closer together in Australia. This measure will only divide them still further than they have been divided since the depression years. The reason why it will have this effect is very clear to those who have practised before the
Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration and who understand how it works. We can forget about the conciliator, in the first place, because, if he cannot get the parties to agree on a settlement, he will be able to report to a conciliation commissioner only those matters which the parties agree should be reported. The conciliation commissioner will work in the same field as the presidential members of the proposed Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission ; so that we shall have in one group all the people who, in dealing with these matters, will have at the back of their minds all the time the question, “ What is possible within the capacity of the national economy ? “
I put it to the committee that the surest way to destroy good relations between employers and employees is to divorce the field of award-making from the recognition of skill and responsibility. That is just what this measure will do. It will take out of the field of awardmaking all recognition of value for services rendered. It will take away from employers and employees the freedom to write, in their own way, agreements on incentive payments, for example, and then have them registered with the necessary authority. We come back to the central authority that will be saddled with ihe responsibility, first, of fixing standard hours and determining the basic wage. As we saw the other day, this authority will discharge that responsibility, rightly or wrongly, within the limits of what it considers competent and possible within the capacity of the national economy. That will be the effect of this bill on award-making, and it is the reason why the Opposition has proposed the amendment.
We do not propose it merely because we want to run headlong against a proposal made by the Government. We propose it because we believe the 1947 act was a move towards developing close relations between management and workers in Australia. If we had continued along the lines laid down in that measure instead of departing from them, Australia would now have been in a position to encourage and develop the trend of thought that is so essential if we are to get maximum production. We must promote a gradual recognition on the part of the worker that his work not only swells the profits made by management for the outlay of its capital, but also as has been realized, in Great Britain and the United States of America, contributes a little more 10 the nation. Unless the Government instils into the minds of management and workers a recognition of the need for both to contribute to the national welfare, it will fail in the discharge of its responsibility to the nation. With this in mind, the Opposition suggests that the functions of the authority that will deal with standard hours and the basic wage, in accordance with the capacity of the national economy, should be divorced entirely from the functions of the authority that will award wages based on skill and responsibility. We do not believe that there should be appeals from one authority to another, because they would destroy completely any possibility of getting the worker to understand that he will receive something extra for producing more, and it would not be possible to get him to believe that increased skill and efficiency would put more money in his pay envelope. As has been done with the basic wage and margins for skill, under the provisions of this measure, the workers’ claims will be dealt with at the top level. It matters little to those in authority at that level what the semi-skilled tradesman does today, or has done since 1947. I am thinking of the machinists of the second, third, and lower grades, who have not received one penny increase of their margins since 1947, as a result of the amending measure introduced by this Government to provide for appeals against the decisions of conciliation commissioners, to which the Minister has referred. That measure waa t.he first step in the destruction of the principles introduced by Labour in 1947.
The present bill will centralize control and will do very serious injury to Australia by retarding future development, because it will widen the gap between workers and management. We have only to consider the basic-wage decision given the other day to realize where this measure will lead us. Surely no honorable member, not even the Minister, will suggest that it was equitable and satisfactory to the workers to peg the basic wage for three years, and then, after wages under State awards had been increased in accordance with cost-of-living increases, to give workers under federal awards an inadequate increase. Compulsory arbitration has failed in Australia. The Opposition is trying to get back to a system that will afford prospects of at least some degree of conciliation between parties. This bill will serve merely to destroy the prospects of conciliation and to drive the. workers with a whip, as it were, in the mistaken belief that they, will thereby be made to produce more. I believe that the Australian worker, if allowed to come closer to management and if allowed to know where he is going in relation to the productivity of Australia, is the equal of any worker in the world. It is because 1 believe that to be so that, even at this late hour, I urge the Government and the Minister to jettison the line of thought that they have been following. The Minister said that compulsory arbitration has been with us for 50 years and is here to stay. Is there anybody in this committee who will suggest that we are very happy about our production after 50 years of compulsory arbitration? Is there anybody who will suggest that the time has not arrived when we should bring management and the producer closer together ? _ If honorable members believe that the time has arrived to do so. they should agree with .the amendment that this party has proposed to this legislation.
I invite honorable members to consider the steel and shipbuilding industries in Great Britain. Compulsory arbitration was jettisoned in those industries in 1922. They threw it away and the Board of Trade has never had occasion to put an arbitrator into either of those industries since that year. As the result of throwing away compulsory arbitration - the type of system that we have here - improved relations have developed in these industries in Great Britain.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! ^ The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I think, in a debate of this sort, when one hears it asked, “ What is the position in Australia in regard to compulsory arbitration over a period of 50 years?” the best thing that should be remembered is the statement made by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) in introducing his legislation in 1947 when he pointed out that the Australian workers and the Australian community had done much better through an arbitration court than they would ever have done without the court.
– I do not care whether Opposition members say it is rubbish or not. If they like to belie the words of their own leader, I am delighted to hear that, because I am no friend politically of their leader. If they like to say that publicly about their leader, let them have it out between themselves. But I say that the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), when speaking as a responsible Minister of the Crown in 1947, was echoing a sentiment which will be agreed to by the majority of Australians. Indeed, I believe that it will be agreed to by the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey). I am happy to say that the honorable member for Bendigo was not one of those who interjected against his own leader. Of course, I am not surprised at the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) having interjected against hi3 own leader because he has been known, on other occasions, to be somewhat irresponsible.
– That is unkind. That is not like the honorable member for Balaclava.
– Notwithstanding the interjection, I confirm what the Leader of the Opposition said on that occasion.’
– On what occasion ? When was it?
– Apparently, the Leader of the Opposition does not recollect the speech that he made when he put his arbitration bill before the House in 1947.
– Of course I do.
– We could not hear what the honorable member was saying.
– What is the honorable member’s criticism of the statement by the Leader of the Opposition?
– I make no criticism of it. I said that he said that the Australian worker and the Australian community had done much better through the court than they would ever have done without it.
– This is not a question of the court.
– I have known the Leader of the Opposition to try to get out of things before, often very unskilfully, but never more unskilfully than on this occasion. The honorable member for Bendigo very properly pointed out that conciliation was very important and that it brought about better understanding in industry. I thought that he spoke with great sincerity. He pointed out the reasons why it brought about better understanding in industry. He pointed out that through conciliation, sitting around a common table, people can come to a better understanding of each other’s ideas and can understand each other’s problems. He pointed out that conciliation can be quite simple and quite inexpensive and is easily accessible. In other words, it has the same advantages as the wages boards which the honorable member for Bendigo so much admired.
– Is the honorable member supporting the proposed amendment?
– I am referring to the advantages of conciliation. If the Leader of the Opposition had had the courtesy to be present while the honorable member for Bendigo was speaking, he would know that I am answering the remarks of the honorable member for Bendigo.
– 1 was here for every moment of hi3 speech.
– Of course, it is well known that the Leader of the Opposition is an uncontrollable person. I am speaking on the importance of conciliation. This bill will make conciliation extremely important because it will bring about the sort of thing that the honorable member for Bendigo so nui eli admires. It will bring about round-table conferences which will take place before a conciliator who will have no power whatsoever to arbitrate. He will have no power to intervene and say, “ You must do this.
You shall do that. You are going to have this. You are not going to have that “. His whole desire will be simply to bring about a common understanding between the parties. That will be the only objective for which he will strive. That fact increases the strength of this bill. For the first time in many years we shall have a conciliator whose one job is to conciliate and nothing else.
– I rise to order. I do not want to thwart the honorable member for Balaclava, but when he talks of conciliators he is dealing with an entirely different clause from the one before the committee. If he would stick to the proposed amendment, we would get on much better. The Opposition has 30 amendments it wants to move.
– Speaking to the point of order, I have no desire to continue on this subject. However, I did not take a point of order when the honorable member for Bendigo was speaking and I am only commenting on what he said. I shall have my opportunity to speak on conciliation presently, and I shall take it.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order ! The honorable member for Balaclava is quite in order. Clause 7, at the beginning, carries the words, “ Part LT. - Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission “ and the whole clause deals with conciliation. I rule that the honorable member is in order.
– All that I desire to say further on this matter is that the honorable member for Bendigo said, in effect, that the 1947 legislation was perfect. At this stage I part company with him. I point out to him that, instead of that being so, it was frustrating to industry and it was frustrating to the parties. It brought about a state of affairs in which there was no uniformity. The absence of appeals was greatly felt and it was necessary to remedy that position. Indeed, it was necessary also to provide, as this bill has provided, that a conciliator should not be an arbitrator.
The honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison) said that management and workers would not he brought together by this bill. My answer to him is that the honorable member for
Bendigo pointed out how this could be brought about by conciliation and that conciliation was in the forefront of this act.
– I support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey), which has been supported by the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison). In view of the nature of the speech which has just been delivered by the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Joske), I think that it would be as well for me to direct attention again to the clause with which we are dealing. It is clause 7 of the bill. The purpose of the amendment is to alter the composition of the proposed Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, so that instead of it consisting of a president, not less than two deputy presidents, a senior commissioner and not less than five commissioners, it shall consist of a president and not less than two deputy presidents. There would be no other body or people attached to the commission than those.
– What we want is a judicial separation.
– As the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) says, what we want is a judicial separation. The bill provides that the commission shall consist of a president, not less than two deputy presidents, a senior commissioner and not less than five commissioners. The Opposition asserts that the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission is just another name, in effect, for the present Commonwealth Arbitration Court, because it will consist of judges and not of laymen. That being so, because it is, in effect, the same as the present Arbitration Court, its functions should be confined to matters concerning standard hours, long-service leave and the basic wage, as the 1947 legislation provided in respect of the Arbitration Court. We have very good reasons for suggesting that the president and the two deputy presidents of the commission should be confined to the matters that I have mentioned. The bill proposes that these gentlemen shall be either present judges of the Arbitration Court, or they shall be men with legal training, like the honorable member for Balaclava. A characteristic of lawyers, with one or two notable exceptions, is that if they know nothing else they know how to confuse simple issues. The honorable member for Balaclava, in delivering his speech a few minutes ago, provided a classic example of the lawyer at work. We do not want the ordinary processes of arbitration to be settled by the sort of people who seem to be more concerned with raising fine technical points than with getting on with the job.
– Who took a technical objection when I was speaking? It was a non-lawyer.
– I was not able to hear the honorable member’s interjection. However, at must have been a good one, because he laughed at it himself. The great strength of the 1947 legislation was that the determination of margins and ordinary industrial disputes, other than those affecting the basic wage, standard hours and long-service leave, was left to conciliation commissioners, who used simple procedures and methods that lent themselves to speedy settlement. There was no provision for appeal from decisions of the commissioners, and we believe that there should he no such provision in the proposed legislation. The trouble with the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) is that he gets all his advice from the secretary of the department, Mr. Bland, who is, goodness knows, legal and technical enough himself, for a layman - at least, I think he is a layman - but who, if he cannot be technical enough by himself, consults the nearest Queen’s Counsel for advice on further technicalities. The Minister is, admittedly, a busy man. He has obviously been too busy to give this legislation his own personal attention, and he has, in effect, become the puppet of Mr. Bland, the secretary of the department. Mr. Bland, a typical public servant, is prepared to dance to the tune of whatever party is in office. If the representatives of the employers are in office to-day, as we know they are, he will dance to the tune of the employers. If the representatives of the working people, the Labour party, happen to be in office to-morrow, Mr. Bland will, I have no doubt, do just as good a job in the other direction. At least, I hope that he will, because very shortly his future may depend on his ability to change from considerations of the employers’ interests to consideration of the interests of the employees.
The proposed legislation is a hotchpotch of a bill that cannot possibly be amended to make it as good and as effective as the 1947 legislation, no matter what is done to it, because its very basis and structure is wrong. However, the amendments that we propose will at least do something towards making it more effective than it would otherwise be. Unfortunately, the Government has decided that, irrespective of what we say in this matter, it will stick to the bill as proposed to be amended by the Government. It has no intention whatever of accepting any amendments that the Opposition proposes, irrespective of what we say in support of them.
– Of course, that is not true. As I indicated at the outset, there are a number of amendments that the Government will propose which are in substantially the same form as amendments that the Opposition intends to put forward.
– Future events will show whether that is true or not. I am prepared to wager that Mr. Bland will not allow the Minister to accept any amendments other than those already intended to be proposed by the Government. No matter how logical the proposals that we shall put forward may be, the Government has decided in advance that it will not accept them. There is a Ministry of Labour Advisory Council that the Government claims is advising it on these matters, but every one knows that the only persons on that council of whom the Government takes notice are the employers’ representatives. We know that the Government has disregarded the views of the representatives of the Australian Council of Trades Unions on tha*, council, in so far as they concern the amendments that the Opposition proposes to move. The Minister may be interested to know that the Australian
Council of Trades Unions has informed us that it agrees entirely with all the amendments that we shall propose.
– In that case, it will agree with some that the Government will move.
– It will agree with some, perhaps, that the Government puts forward, provided that they are in exactly the same form as those that we propose to move.
– Let us get on with it. What is the honorable member stonewalling for? This argument was fought out in 1952.
Opposition members interjecting,
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! The committee must come to order.
– It is not a question of stone-walling. What we are trying to drive into the Minister’s head is that the present bill will not work if it provides that the commission shall consist of a president, two deputy presidents, a senior commissioner and five commissioners. That body will be a shandygaff affair - part judges, part commissioners, part laymen, part lawyers, with the president determining which matters shall be determined by the judges.
– The shandygaff arrangement works in Queensland, does it not?
– The shandygaff arrangement works better there than it would in the federal sphere, I admit, but in Queensland there is a president, and two deputy presidents, in effect. There are no commissioners attached to the Queensland Industrial Court, and the two deputies are laymen.
– But there is a mixture of laymen and lawyers on that body.
– But there is not a mixture of people with laymen’s powers and people with presidential powers, as is provided in the bill before ns. As the honorable member for Ben.digo has said, the proper and most effective way of dealing with industrial disputes is by means of the wages board system that operates in Victoria and South Australia, and, I think, to some extent, in Tasmania.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- 1 have been very interested in the proposals put forward by the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) and the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison). I do not think any honorable member on this side of the committee doubted their sincerity. Obviously, the honorable member for Blaxland is doing his best to bring about a closer relationship between employer and employee. His aim is the same as ours, and if we can get together and achieve it, well and good. Both honorable gentlemen have a sincere desire to attain that aim, but I cannot say that of any other member of the trade union movement.
Opposition members interjecting,
– Are we to judge by words, or deeds? Let us consider the attitude of trade union leaders who are responsible for the publication of trade union journals. The last three issues of the Australian Workers Union publication, the Worker, have been enough to make one wonder whether it will ever be possible to bring workers and employers together in conciliation. On the other hand, honorable members will not see in any publication of the employers an attempt to castigate, vilify, or in any way insult the worker. I invite honorable members opposite to produce one document proving the contrary.
Opposition members interjecting,
– The last four issues of the Worker contain nothing but slander, class hate and vilification of the worst type. How- can employer-employee conciliation be achieved under those conditions? I have great sympathy for the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison), because I know that he is sincere and has aims that parallel our own. Do honorable members suppose that trade union leaders can, after writing in this way, attend a conference of this kind in tho right frame nf mind? Can we expect them to say, “We are now all nice fellows and should be able to reach a solution”? One cannot successfully approach the conciliation table in a spirit of hate.
The amendment seeks to destroy a principle that the Government is trying to achieve. Honorable members opposite want a return to the bad old days. The honorable member for Blaxland and the honorable member for Bendigo are sincere, but I have no confidence that any other trade union leader speaks with equal sincerity. Of course, I do not know them all, but the Worker is supposed to express trade union opinion, and I can judge them from my reading of it. One could transfer columns and columns of the Worker to the Tribune, and the only difference would be that the Tribune would be the less hostile. The honorable member for Blaxland and the honorable member for Bendigo are trying sincerely to bring about the state of affairs that we would like to achieve, but it will bp impossible of attainment until the attitude of Australian trade union leaders compares more favorably with that of trade union leaders overseas.
– Tell us about the employers. How good are they ?
– I have no particular brief for the employers.
– - Order! The honorable member for Hume has the floor.
– I would like honorable members opposite to provide a single example of a publication in which an employer has vilified his employees. If necessary, I shall be at the House to-morrow to receive it.
– -The honorable member
– Order ! The honorable member for Lalor, who is interjecting, is not in his seat.
– One side of the industry is prepared to conciliate and arbitrate, but the other side is anxious to indulge in Blander, libel and vilification. The future of the whole nation depends upon the success of this legislation which will, we hope, provide homes and work for our children and our children’s children. Unless it is approached sen sibly we shall get nowhere with it. Apparently the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) does not like judges, but they are no more inhuman, than is a conciliation commissioner. If they are, how do honorable members opposite regard their own leader ?
– He has–
– Order ! Unless interruptions cease I shall have to take action.
– We sincerely believe . that some good will come of this legislation, but the Opposition does not. It is merely a question of trying, but nothing will succeed unless we approach it in the right mood. If the honorable member for Blaxland could inject some of his ideas into his colleagues, and produce a new attitude on the part of the trade union leaders,’ we might get somewhere.
.- Referring first to the burden of the speech of the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson), and his reference to the Worker - which, of course, we would not be allowed to show to the House - it is sufficient to say that in recent weeks that journal has quoted the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Malcolm Fraser), a Liberal member of this House, more often than it has quoted all other honorable members put together. So far as the speeches of honorable members of this Parliament are concerned, I think that that gentleman has in recent weeks had a monopoly of the pages of the Worker.
The other point made by the honorable member for Hume concerns our supposed attitude towards judges. He misses the entire point of this legislation, which is being brought in because we now find that the members of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, who were formerly called judges, are not judges at all. The honorable member for Hume and the honorable and learned member for Balaclava (Mr. Joske) still do not seem to be able to rid themselves of that idea. They seek to quell any criticism of the arbitration system by saying, “You are criticizing judges “. Some Government supporters, of course, go further and say, “ You ave criticizing lawyers “. I am not doing that. There have, of course, been lawyers among conciliation commissioners hitherto.
By this first amendment, the Opposition seeks only to effect the necessary preliminaries to having a prompt and uniform set of conditions in Australia for those who work under Commonwealth, as distinct from State, awards. That is, we want to go back to the system which was instituted in 1947, and which worked very well. Under it, one body, the Conciliation and Arbitration Court, consisting of three or more judges, decided uniform conditions as regards hours, long service leave and the basic wage for men and for women. “We want to do away with the subsequent amendment brought in by this Government in 1952, under which appeals have been allowed from the decisions of commissioners who dealt with all the variable and incidental matters in Commonwealth awards. Quite frankly, the court, as it was, or the commission, as it will now be, will be too busy to deal with the multitude of appeals in relation to margins and other working conditions. Its time will be sufficiently taken up in dealing with the basic wage, and standard hours. We have already seen that the court took a long time to make up its mind on the question of hours in 1947, the basic wage in 1950 and margins in 1954. I have not the time-table before me, but in each case the period from the initiation of the hearing to the decision was well over a year. In some cases, and I refer particularly to the basic wage case, it was several years. If this commission is to perform the functions previously performed by the court - I suppose we concede that new president is but old judge writ large - we can see that the time of the president and the deputy presidents, in presidential session, will be fully taken up in deciding common features for all people who work under Commonwealth awards. We can see that there would be greater expedition and, therefore, greater justice, with more conciliation and less arbitrariness in Australian, arbitration, if the determination of margins and other conditions in individual industries and individual locations were left to commissioners, whether they were lawyers, like the former Mr. Commissioner Blackburn and the present Mr. Commissioner Portus, or whether they were laymen. What is important is not whether the people are lawyers or judges, or whatever their titles may be, but the functions that they perform.
Our first amendment falls into line with all our subsequent amendments. We say that we should be better off if we went back to the 1947 system, which enabled one body to devote the whole of its attention to deciding common features for everybody working under Commonwealth awards and also enabled the commissioners to become experts in different industries and different localities. That system worked well. In fact, it is only the Government’s stubbornness which has induced it to incorporate the 1952 amendments in this legislation. Under this legislation, everybody will perform the same functions, although under a different name, as he performed under the 1952 act. I think I showed conclusively a few days ago by the figures I quoted from Commonwealth Statistician’s Employment Bulletin that fewer people went on strike between 1945 and 1949, when the Chifley Government was in power, than have gone on strike in any year since 1949, while this Government has been in office. When Labour was in office, the figure averaged 300,000 a year, but now it averages 400,000 a year.
– What about man-hours lost?
– I cited the numbers of people who went on strike. If it will comfort the honorable member, let me remind him that I referred to the fact that there had been an increased population since 1949. But, of course, the increase of population since then has not been as great as the increase in the number of people going on. strike. If honorable members opposite are sincere in saying that they want industrial peace and industrial justice in this country, they will do away with the amendments which were made in 1952 and which arc being persisted in now. All that is being done in this bill is to rename people in order to make them fit within the
Constitution, in accordance with the decision of the High Court in the Boilermakers case.
I have referred before, and I think it would not be inappropriate to refer again, to an invidious and anomalous position that will arise from the only new feature that I can discover in the bill. The commission, when it is hearing references from commissioners, will consist of at least one presidential member and two lay members, or commissioners. Then again, the commission, when it is hearing an appeal from a commissioner’s decision, will consist of at least two presidential members and one lay member. So when the commission is hearing appeals or references from commissioners there will be differences in regard to tenure of office and other matters between the persons who constitute the commission. They will hold office for different periods. They will receive different travelling allowances. They will receive different pensions, the lay members contributing to a superannuation fund and presidents not so contributing. The presidents will receive a retiring allowance as great as the salary paid to the lay members while they are working. Lastly, the procedure for removing them from office will be different.
I have not been able to detect any reason why the commission should be constituted of such obviously different elements, other than the necessity to place in employment people who will be forced out of employment on the Commonwealth Arbitration Court by the decision of the High Court. My leader referred to the case of Mr. Justice Lukin. There have been cases where judges have been appointed to other Commonwealth positions. There are other jurisdictions, such as bankruptcy and divorce, in which we could readily place the displaced judges. However, the necessity to find places for the displaced judges is surely no excuse for providing that, not only the displaced judges, but also succeeding presidents and deputy presidents shall be subject to completely different conditions in relation to appointment, tenure of office, removal from office, salaries, travelling allowances and pensions. I suggest that, if the committee were to agree to our first amendment, it would prevent an anomalous position from arising when the members of the commission were sitting together - the only new feature of the bill - and, at the same time, restore the more expeditious and just system which brought increasing harmony to industrial relations from 1947 to’ 1952.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I have already sat down.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN As this is a very long clause, is it the pleasure of the committee that the clause be considered proposed section by proposed section?
– That would enable us to divide on proposed sections, without dividing on the whole of the clause.
– I think it would be quicker if we divided on those matters which called for a division. I shall try to explain my view in the remarks that I wish to make.
– What is the suggestion?
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.I must put the question to the committee.
– -There is no question.
– I must seek the pleasure of the committee. As this is a very long clause, is it the pleasure of the committee that the clause be considered by proposed sections? Is leave granted?
Leave not granted.
– I suggest that we deal with the amendments to the clause one by one, and then, having dealt with the amendments, that we deal with the clause as a whole.
– If we adopted the procedure proposed by the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey), that would make it almost impracticable, so far as I can see, to cover both the Government’s amendments and the Opposition’3 amendments with one vote. The Government has a number of amendments to the clause, and so has the Opposition. If we agreed to consider the clause proposed section by proposed section, we could take a vote on each as it arose. Otherwise, we may be put into the position of deciding a whole range of issues with one vote.
– I do not think that the difficulty that the Minister has referred to will arise. May I explain the Opposition’s attitude to this matter? I think our other amendments will fall into place easily. Those amendments may appear to present some difficulties, but, while they are not consequential to this amendment, they are related to it. It is not our object to repeat votes after a test vote has been taken. As has already been explained, the vote on this amendment will be, to some extent, a test vote. If I have the call from the Chair, I should like to commence my observations on the clause.
– I have fourteen amendments to move to the clause. Wa cannot dispose of all of them by one vote on the clause.
– We are entitled to a vote on proposed section 6.
– As the committee has expressed its pleasure, I call the Leader of the Opposition.
– I repeat what I said in opening my observations, that our desire is to have a test vote. The purpose of the first amendment, moved by the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey), is to eliminate from clause “6 (J.) provision for the appointment of the senior commissioner and the five commissioners, and to restrict membership of the commission to the president and two deputy presidents, to correspond to the three judges of the present Arbitration Court. We propose this variation, as part of an attempt, which has been explained, to restore the basic principle of the 1947 amending act. Although we look to conciliation to play a very important part in this legislation, and are making proposals to strengthen it, this particular clause does not bear directly on that matter. It has some indirect bearing, however. I think that the Minister understands our object, although, I say with great respect, other supporters of the Government who spoke do not seem to understand it at present. The purpose at this stage is to do no more than clear the way for the 1947 system to be applied to the changed conditions. This would involve the existence of an industrial commission of three persons who have been judges, one of whom will be president, and the other two deputy presidents.
The next amendment provides for the appointment of a chief conciliation commissioner and conciliation commissioners to decide that part of a dispute which does not concern the basic wage, standard hours, or long service leave. That proposal was criticized by the Government and the Minister, and the blessed word “dichotomy” was used about it, as though the separation of jurisdictions was new in 1947. It was not new; it characterized the arbitration system for many years, and the case for it is simply put. There are important matters, such as the basic wage and standard hours, which were thought to be suitable for determination by the full court of judges. That system would continue under our proposals, except that the persons concerned would be called the president and deputy presidents. Under the previous system, the main decision in each dispute was a matter for the conciliation commissioner. He did not merely conciliate - he decided, if he could not obtain agreement. That is the system which we say worked effectively in 1947.
The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson), speaking to this clause, referred to matter published in The Worker, I presume about the shearers’ dispute. That has no more to do with this clause than has the man in the moon. It has nothing whatever to do with it. The honorable member for Hume introduced into the debate the matter of the actual merits of the dispute in the shearing industry, but after the speech of the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron), in which he was answered so effectively/ T think the honorable member for Hume bitterly regrets that ho ever intervened in the debate. What the honorable member for Hume did was to prevent the settlement of that dispute, because so many graziers were prepared to settle the matter on the union’s terms.
– That is absolute nonsense.
– That was the effect of what he did, although I do not say that that was his intention. It was quite obvious that the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Joske) had not studied the clause at all when he spoke, as I think he would be the first to admit. He did not say to what he was addressing his remarks, apart from making some general observations, and offering a criticism of myself.
– I did not criticize the right honorable member. I upheld what he said.
– The honorable member, when purporting to state dogmatically what the amendment meant, showed no knowledge of it at all. The purpose of the amendment is simply to take the first step towards re-establishing the 1947 system under the altered conditions. Of course, we desire to alter, when considering a separate part of the bill, the system of appeal from the conciliation commissioner, who will become a commissioner in terms of this measure. The third part of the plan - and we accept this part but think it should be strengthened - relates to the position of conciliator. It is very important to have conciliators, and we think that in that provision lies a hope of improvement in the industrial system, and probably the only hope. We desire to see collective bargaining and conciliation within the framework of the industrial system, with the courts, or the commission, accepting the decisions reached hy conciliation.
That being so, what is the case against the present system? It has simply been dressed up so that the Government may say, “Here is a new system”. It is not a new system. ~No change whatever is made in substance, except for the addition of individual conciliators, who will perform a duty which was previously discharged by conciliation commissioners before they proceeded to make awards. Has the present system succeeded, or limit failed? Because of the results, we say that it has failed. Under the present system, the decision of conciliation commissioners should relate to margins, but it has been worked in such a way, through appeals to the judges, that in substance the margin for skill under federal award.remained stationary for nearly seven years while prices were rising. That was a really shocking injustice. There are other difficulties about the present system, but that in itself is surely sufficient to justify our getting back to the system which existed before the 1952 amendments made by this Government, and making that system work more effectively, as w>believe it can.
The next amendment relates to conciliation commissioners and so forth. Hat the Government made out a case for continuing the present system, except foi the altered nomenclatures of the person? occupying the positions? We say that there is no case for continuing that, system. There must be some change. The 1952 change in relation to appeals has been completely unsuccessful. Not only has there been a freezing of margins, which has created considerable discontent in industry, but for nearly three years the basic wage was frozen. That system if regarded as intolerable.
– There has been a steady rise in average weekly earnings.
– The Minister always makes that statement, and he is quite entitled to do so, but average earnings include salaries, which are not governed by awards at all. In striking an average, the earnings of the managing directors of great companies, who may receive from £5,000 to £10,000 a year, are included. The figures on which the Minister relies do not represent the average earnings of persons who work under awards. The Minister continually makes that statement in the House, but the figures include the earnings of everybody on a salary.
– «Is the Leader of the Opposition saying that salary movements have been proportionately greater than movements of wages?
– The Minister gives the impression, knowingly or otherwise, that the figure relating to average weekly earnings is related to persons working under federal awards.
– Of course it is.
– It is not. The Minister ought to oh tain the average weekly earnings of those persons who work under awards. Then we would see something.
– That would show a higher percentage.
– The figures which the Minister cites merely prove that persons are working longer than standard hours, that they are working overtime at penalty rates, and that they have to earn more money in order to maintain their existing standard of living. That is the answer to the right honorable gentleman, as I think he knows.
– What has that to do with the amendment?
– This amendment has for its purpose a return to the system under which there was industrial and wage justice. That is the answer to the honorable member for Hume. There are three parts of the system which should be restored; first,_ the three persons, ex-judges, who will be commissioners; secondly, the commissioners who will try to conciliate, as it is their duty to do, and make an award on all matters outside standard hours and the basic wage ; and thirdly, and equally important - perhaps most important - conciliators who will try to reach agreement between the parties and who, if they reach agreement, will be entitled to have the agreement endorsed by the court as one binding on all parties. If a vote is taken on this amendment and it is defeated, there are other amendments that may automatically be defeated, so I think that may relieve the concern of the Minister about a repetition of voting.
– Order ! The right honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
, - I again rise to speak because I have heard the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Joske) refer to this matter on two or three occasions, and because I want to tell him quite frankly that he has acted unjustly in accusing conciliation commissioners of getting away from uniformity in the decisions that they have made since 1947.
– The honorable member is the only one who believes that.
– 1 want to prove to the House just how little you know about the matter. If you practised in the legal sphere in the same way that you practise in this chamber, you would not get a fee.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order ! The honorable member will address the Chair.
– I wish to call to my aid the reports of the respective Chief Judges of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration in relation to conciliation commissioners. The commissioners were appointed in 1947, and in 1948 - after just one year - Chief Judge DrakeBrockman said -
The chief objects of the Act first recited in the objects clause aim at expedition, promotion of goodwill in industry and encouragement of the continued and amicable operation of _ orders and awards. I am specifically enjoined to report in particular the extent to which these objects (amongst others) have been achieved. The Conciliation Commissioners appear generally to have brought to their task a desire to expedite the bringing on of matters properly within their assignments, to hear the parties promptly and be as prompt in issuing directions and giving their decisions after the hearing.
Mr. Joske interjecting,
– Wait a minute. The present Chief Judge, in his report on conciliation commissioners for 1949, which was before there was a change of government, said -
I have had the advantage of presiding at all the conferences of Conciliation Commissioners summoned in pursuance of Section 107 during the year.
I remind the committee that this was the second year of their administration -
I desire to record my appreciation of the courtesy and consideration extended to me by all the Conciliation Commissioners both at these conferences and on all occasions during the period covered by this report. I can say-
This is not the honorable member for Balaclava speaking, but the Chief Judge - without any reservation that the Conciliation Commissioners have shown themselves to be an earnest and industrious body of men, alive to their great responsibilities and appreciative of the difficulties of industrial conciliation and arbitration.
– And arbitration!
– The reports of the Chief Judges of the court since the introduction of the 1947 legislation contain not one word that gives any credence to the statements in this chamber of the honorable member for Balaclava. I. tell him now through you, sir, that the attacks that he is making upon the conciliation commissioners are unbecoming of the standing that he should have in the Parliament’ and in the ordinary walk of life.
I shall now quote the report of the Chief Conciliation Commissioner, Mr. 0 al vin, whom this Government saw fit to appoint as Public Service Arbitrator, not because he did not know his job, but because he proved to be a man of outstanding quality. I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service why, in the face of the following statement by Mr. Galvin, he now seeks to alter the existing legislation : -
Subject to such constitutional restrictions as exist upon the work of conciliation commissioners in relation to the settlement of “ disputes “ and. “ situations “ of doubtful technical substance, I have pleasure in reporting that the year’s work by the Commissioners has been most effective in upholding not only the expression of the Act hut also its spirit. Whilst one would not he justified in asserting that the objects of the Act have been wholly attained, or that the extent to which they have been attained is duo entirely to the work of the Conciliation Commissioners, nevertheless it is a fact that at the time of compiling this report and for the major part of the year under review there have not been any outstanding disputes of substance concerning any of the matters within the purview of Commissioners.
That is the last report that was presented to the Government before its decision to destroy the machinery that was set up in 1947. Government supporters may search the reports of the Chief Judges and the Chief Conciliation Commissioners since 1948, but they will not find one line to give credence to what the honorable mem ber for Balaclava has said. I suggest to the honorable member, and to the Government, that, before they destroy the existing industrial authority, they should be big enough to come into the chamber and say why. The last report of the Chief Conciliation Commissioner shows that over the years the commissioners have dealt with the following number of cases:- In 1948, 1,118; in 1949, 772; in 1950, 683; in 1951, 817; in 1952, 318; in 1953, 224; in 1954, 638; and in 1955, 745. In not one instance has the Chief Judge had reason to complain of the work of the conciliation commissioners, who were appointed by a Labour government. For the Government now to destroy that machinery without telling the Parliament why–
– It is all very well to talk about it being nonsense. The honorable member has never read the reports. The destruction of what has been operating for almost nine years, without any adverse report against the conciliation commissioners having been submitted, is an attack upon the workers of this country, and the workers will reply to it in their own way.
– Is that a threat?
– The Government’s legislation is a threat.
– Do not try to twist things.
– It is a threat, because the Government is destroying
– Grow up.
– I have grown up. The Government is destroying the machinery that was set up in 1947, and which has worked without failure for nine years.
– What about the legislation of 1952?
– It is all right about your legislation of 1952. I shall deal with that when we are dealing with the question of appeals, and the Minister can then answer the Opposition’s case.
– The honorable member has been branded by the misstatements that he has made in the . chamber. If a government meddles with industrial arbitration, destroys something that has been in operation for nine years, and seeks to replace it by machinery similar to that which, from 1926 to 1934, drove the workers back, the Labour party will come out and state its case on behalf of the workers. The amendment that the Opposition has moved asks the Government, in effect, to retain an authority that has not been faulted by the Chief Judge over a period of nine years.
– What about the employees? They have not been satisfied with it.
– There has been no request from the employees for this legislation. We are speaking for the employees, and do not forget it. I say to the honorable member for Balaclava and the honorable member for Petrie (Mr. Hulme) that we are not fighting for the retention of something that we know has not proved to be a success. Before this bill is finally disposed of in another place, I invite every member of the Government to read the reports of the chief judges and of the chief conciliation commissioners over the years. If they do that, they will come back to this chamber in the same frame of mind as I have entered it and will agree that, for some reason unknown, the Government is setting back the clock of arbitration 30 years and is deliberately destroying the machinery that was set up by the Labour party and which has proved to be very successful. I have worked under it, and I know. If honorable members opposite looked at the reports they would see that repeatedly, particularly in the early stages before the passing of the 1952 legislation, the capacity of the conciliation commissioners to conciliate and settle disputes was commented upon favorably. The destruction of that machinery will finally bring about the downfall of this Government.
.- I shall be very brief, and I shall be very clear indeed. No criticism has been directed against the conciliation commis sioners. The criticism was directed against the system under which the commissioner has to conciliate and arbitrate, and under which he has exercised his arbitral functions far more readily than his conciliatory functions in order to speed up the work that has been assigned to him. All that appears in those reports of the Chief Judge shows that he exercised the powers of conciliation and arbitration, and in terms it is stated that he had a hearing and made a decision - terms that are only appropriate to arbitration. Of course, he arbitrated, because that is what he was there for. That is all that I was saying, that it was the system that was wrong. The honorable member merely made himself incoherent over nothing.
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) put -
That the question be now put. The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman- Mr. T. F. Timson.)
Majority . . . . 28
Question so resolved in the affirmative. Question put -
That the paragraphs proposed to be omitted (Mr. CLARey’S amendment) stand part of the clause.
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. T. F. Timson.)
Majority . . 28
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Sitting suspended from 5.57 to 8 p.m.
– Is it the pleasure of the committee that the clause be taken by proposed sections?
Honorable Members. - Yes.
That the clause be considered by proposed sections.
Question put -
That proposed section 6 be agreed to.
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mb. W. R. Lawrence.)
Majority . . 25
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Proposed section agreed to.
Proposed sections 7 to 9 agreed to.
Proposed section 10 -
During any absence from duty of the President, unless an Acting President of the Commissionhas been appointed, or during any absence from duty of an Acting President, the senior Deputy President not absent from duty shall have and may exercise all the powers and functions of the President.
– I move -
That, in proposed section 10, the words “not absent from duty “ be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: - “who is not absent from duty and is willing to act”.
This is a simple amendment which, I think, cannot be regarded as controversial. The proposal is that the next senior deputy president may be unwilling to act as president in certain circumstances, and we are merely giving a little flexibility to the position. The situation has arisen in the past when a member of the court, as it then was, who was the next senior in line, for reasons which seemed good to him at the time, did not wish to carry out the duties of acting chief judge. This merely brings a little flexibility into the procedure.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment agreed to.
Proposed section, as amended, agreed to.
Proposed sections 11 to 14 agreed to.
Proposed section 15 (Vacation of office of Commissioners ) .
– I move -
That proposed section 15 be omitted with a view to inserting in place thereof the following section: -
If a Commissioner -
becomes bankrupt or insolvent, applied to take the benefit of any law for the relief of bankrupt or insolvent debtors, compounds with his creditors or makes an assignment of his remuneration for their benefit;
What the Government has set out to do here is to meet the views expressedin another place recently when a comparable provision in another measure was before it. This is a provision to enable the removal from office, on certain grounds, of a commissioner, and it will beseen that as the proposed section stands the office shall be vacated if the commissioner shows himself to come within the provisions of paragraphs (a), (b), (c), (d) and (e) of section 15, and the GovernorGeneral declares, by notice in the Gazette that the post has become vacant.in another place it was felt that this did not throw a sufficiently strong responsibility on the person concerned for the acts of omission or misfeasancewhich might have been committed, and so the amendment was proposed there. What we have set out to do is to meet the point taken in another place, but at the same time to preserve some reasonable flexibility for dealing with an abnormal situation if such should arise in the manner specified.
– “Will the commissioner’s job not be a full-time one ?
– It will be, but, as the honorable member may appreciate, a power might be delegated to one of these persons to do certain work, and a payment might be received for that work. For example, a member of the authority proposed under the Stevedoring Industry Bill 1956 might be delegated to do certain work, and might be regarded as ineligible under the same principle which applies here.
– No. This is different, because it applies to a conciliation commissioner.
– It does apply to a commissioner in this instance, but the sort of situation that was referred to in an earlier debate in which the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) participated, might occur. The honorable member knows, since he was a Minister in a former government, that he has been concerned with measures in which this standard provision was contained. It is a standard provision which has gone into many acts of the Parliament in the past. We propose to go beyond the provision that has existed in statutes in the past, but not to go as far as was proposed in a rather rigid and inflexible amendment made by the Senate in another measure.
– A different kind of occupation was concerned.
– Is the right honorable gentleman suggesting to the committee that the conditions under which he operated happily for many years as a Minister are no longer satisfactory to him, or is he merely trying to take a point for political advantage because he thinks Government supporters have taken a certain line in another place?
– Not at all. A commissioner will receive a salary of £3,000 a year, and he will have to decide important questions affecting the wages of perhaps 100,000 people.
– Mr. Temporary Chairman, honorable members in this quarter of the cb amber cannot hear anything that is being said.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! I ask honorable members to address their remarks to the Chair so that members generally may hear what is going on.
– Under the Colombo plan, for example, we might make a commissioner available for certain work.
– He should not be taken away from his usual job, which is much too important for him to be absent. He ought to be available to make any decision that might be required of him.
– It is all very well for the honorable gentleman to say that.
– The point is unanswerable.
– Order ! There are too many interjections.
– The amendment will merely make the position rather more rigid. If the amendment is rejected, the provision at present contained in the bill will stand. It does not go so far as I understand Opposition members want to go. They cannot have it both ways.
– Why is the provision made in paragraph (c) of the proposed section in the bill as drafted omitted from the section proposed to be substituted by the amendment?
– That provision, which relates to incapacity, is made in another place. I mentioned at the outset of the consideration of this measure in committee that, in the course of our examination of the principal act, we detected a drafting error in the 1947 act, which the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), as Attorney-General in the Labour Government, had failed to notice. The result was that the provision relating to incapacity had been made in two places. We now propose to remove it in this place, but I can assure the honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson) that it is included elsewhere I think the House decided, a little earlier to-day, to accept in other legislation an amendment substantially in the form of this one.
– Only because the Opposition had not the numbers to prevent it.
– From the
Opposition’s stand-point, the amendment comes closer to doing what the Opposition tried to do this afternoon than does the proposed section as drafted in the hill. [ commend the amendment to the committee.
– I think I understand the argument of the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) in relation to the measure that was discussed elsewhere this afternoon. He stated that Labour had adopted this principle in the 1947 act to widen the field in which a person might engage outside the duties of his office with the approval of the Minister, but that is not so. The commissioners provided for in this measure will deal exclusively with the wages and conditions of workers, and they should be excluded from any other office. Their salary is to be fixed by statute, and they will have particular duties to perform in relation to the determination of wages. Honorable members can imagine what the situation would be if a commissioner or a presidential member of the commission were allowed to take some other position temporarily and later to return to his original office. This would create, within the field of industrial arbitration, a feature which, I tell the Minister quite frankly, would not be in the best interests of the persons saddled with the responsibility of making decisions upon applications in respect of wages and conditions. As I have already said, Labour did not include in the 1947 act a provision similar to that now proposed in the amendment. Lf the Minister takes the view that the field of activity within which the conciliation commissioners may engage should be narrowed, he should agree that, although the provision he proposes may be desirable in other matters, it is not desirable in the arbitration field, having regard to the duties that will fall upon the shoulders of commissioners, whether they be in the presidential group or in what might be regarded as the secondary group. I suggest to the Minister that the provision he seeks to make should be omitted from the bill, because it will be a departure from accepted practice. It is the Opposition’s firm opinion that this provision should not be made.
– I think honorable members do not fully appreciate the difference between the provision embodied in the bill as drafted and that contained in the amendment. As proposed section 15 appears in the bill, the office of a commissioner is to be vacated under certain conditions, but only if the Governor-General declares by notice in the Gazette that the office has become vacant. In other words, not only must the holder of the office have disqualified himself by his own act, but also curtain action must be taken, in effect by the Executive. Is that clear to honorable members?
– The amendment would give less, not more, flexibility to the Executive, because it provides that, in certain circumstances, the Governor-General: - in effect, the Executive - “ shall “ declare the office vacant, not that he “ may “ declare it vacant. The amendment would be more severe on the person concerned than the proposed section in the bill as drafted would be.
– What about section 9 of the principal act? The amendment would not be more severe than that section is.
– How does the honorable member come to that conclusion ?
– Section 9 of the principal act provides for the vacation of the office of a conciliation comissioner.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! I ask honorable members again to address their remarks to the Chair.
– I shall need to look at the section in the principal act, but my understanding’ is that the amendment would be even more stringent than the bill as drafted would be in providing for the removal from office of a commissioner if he disqualifies himself in the manner prescribed.
– Not in respect of the provision in paragraph (a).
– It would be.
– Would it be more stringent if the commissioner engages in paid employment outside the duties of his office with the approval of the Minister?
– Yes. In the concluding lines of the amendment the honorable member will see the words “ the Governor-General shall declare “. As the proposed section appears in the bill, the Executive will have discretion whether to declare the office vacant. The amendment would limit the discretion to several cases in which the Minister had given prior approval to the act which had been done.
– That is where we differ.
– I put it to the committee that the amendment would limit the discretion that the Executive will otherwise have. A very real practical problem is created by the fact that if a person had disqualified himself by coming in conflict with one or other of these provisions, and that matter had not been discovered for twelve months or some other period after he had made himself liable for disqualification, then any of the awards or orders that he had made in the meantime would subsequently be declared invalid because it would be held that he had disqualified himself at a given point of time and that from that point of time he would not validly be occupying the position that he held. As the Parliament rejected this sort of restriction earlier to-day on a matter which did not have anything like the same consequence^ I suggest that it cannot, at this time, logically adopt the provision which might lead to that consequence.
.- 1 have listened with a great deal of interest to the statement which has been made by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) in respect of this provision. The proposed amendment differs substantially both from the act as it stands and from the proposal contained in the bill which was circulated a couple of weeks ago. It is true that there has been some small drafting altera tion to which there is no objection by the Opposition. There are three points, however, that may well be raised in regard to this amendment.
The first point concerns the engagement by the commissioner in paid employment, outside the duties of his office, without the approval of the Minister. The same wording is used in the 1947 act with the exception that the words “without the approval of the Minister “ are not inserted.
– But that act contained an even wider description.
– I disagree with the Minister. Here is the position: Under the act, and under the amending bill as it was introduced to the House, a person vacated his position if he engaged in paid employment outside the duties of his office with the addition, of course, concerning the Governor-General declaring the position vacant. So if a person appointed as a conciliation commissioner accepted employment outside his office as a conciliation commissioner and received payment for it, that act, in itself, automatically terminated his tenure as a commissioner. It is proposed in the amendment that has been submitted to extend that provision so that a commissioner will be able to engage in paid employment outside his duties as a commissioner provided he has the approval of the Minister.
I know that the Minister will say, “Yes, but his position shall be declared vacant by the Governor-General “. That applies to the four reasons that cause the vacating of the position. But if a commissioner is appointed and charged with the responsibility of carrying out certain functions prescribed in this bill, then he should not be permitted, even with the approval of the Minister, to engage in outside employment for which payment is made. I think that approval given by the Minister for a commissioner to engage in other work would not be in the best interests of the commission itself. Certainly, if one commissioner were able to get the approval of the Minister, other commissioners would want approval and there would not be, on the part of commissioners, that concentration upon the duties imposed upon them by the bill which I think all honorable members would like to see.
I suggest to the Minister that it would be advisable, in the interests of the commission and in order to show to the community at large that a commissioner’s functions will be solely concentrated on the tasks laid down in this measure, that these words be left out. I appreciate that, in regard to bankruptcy, absence without leave and resignation, the vacancy will not occur until such time as the Governor-General has acted. It is true that in this amendment there is a mandate upon the Governor-General that he shall declare the position vacant. I would say that in the original act, and in the current act, whilst the wording used is - “ and the Governor-General declares, by notice in the Gazette, that the office has become vacant “ and the word “ shall “ is not used, it certainly indicates a direction to the GovernorGeneral.
– May I put a question to the honorable gentleman? I think that it may save some discussion here and in another place. Can the honorable gentleman give me an assurance that, if we adopt the form of provision inserted in the legislation by his own leader when he was in office in 1947, the honorable gentleman’s party will support that provision in this chamber and in another place ?
– Is the Minister referring to proposed section 16 (a), which states that the office of a commissioner shall be vacated if he engages in paid employment outside the duties of his office?
– Yes, and to the rest of the provision, which concludes with these words - and the Governor-General declares, by notice in the Gazette, that the office has become vacant.
Those were the words used in the act as amended by honorable members opposite when they were in office in 1947.
– Who is the Minister trying to protect?
– I am trying to protect the honorable member’s leader.
– The act of 1947 in section 9 laid down the conditions under which the office of a conciliation commissioner became vacant.
– That is right.
– What I am saying is that in the proposed amendment the words “without the approval of the Minister “ should be deleted.
I have heard the Minister’s explanation of proposed section 15 (c), and I do not think it is quite satisfactory. Under the bill, the position of commissioner shall become vacant if the commissioner becomes permanently incapable of performing his duty. I know that the Minister has stated that somewhere else in the bill there is a provision to that effect. I suggest to the committee that, in placing in a measure the terms upon which a position shall become vacant, it is far better to have the whole of the conditions put. in one section than to have a section making a certain provision and another section also imposing a penalty on the commissioner because of some condition. I think it would be better, in the interests of the commissioners themselves and those who desire to study the measure, for all the reasons why the position of commissioner may become vacant to be stated in one section. That was so in the 1947 measure : it is so in the act as it stands to-day; and it is so in the amending bill which the Minister circulated. I therefore suggest that it would be wise to omit from the proposed amendment the words “ without the approval of the Minister “, and insert as a reason for vacating the office of commissioner the words “ he becomes permanently incapable of performing his duties “. Then the person appointed and everybody else will know the position. They will look at the section which will give the reasons that require the GovernorGeneral to declare a position vacant. I make that suggestion to the Minister.
– This position can be quite simply resolved. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), by way of interjection a little while ago, asked a question about the act as it stood before we proposed to amend it in this way. He could not have studied the act as it existed before we amended it in this way, because if he looks at section 9 of that act he will find that it provides -
The office of a Conciliation Commissioner shall be vacated if - (a1) he engages in any paid employment outside the duties of his office;
he becomes bankrupt or in solvent . . .
he becomes permanently incapable of performing his duties;
except on leave granted by the Chief
Judge, he absents himself from duty for fourteen consecutive days or for twenty-eight days in any twelve months; or
he resigns his office by writing under his hand addressed to the GovernorGeneral and his resignation has been accepted ; and the Governor-General declares, by notice in the Gazette, that the office has become vacant.
The last portion of that provision is significant. Under the existing legislation the position is that before the commissioner’s office could be declared vacant he would have had to disqualify himself in any one of those five ways, and, in addition, the Governor-General, who, in effect, as I said earlier, is the Executive, would have had to declare the office vacant. In other words, the commissioner having made himself potentially liable to lose his office, it was open to the executive of the day to consider whether the circumstances were such that he should lose his office.
– But, under this bill, the matter does not go as far as the Executive, if the Minister approves.
– But wait a minute. It was only when the Executive also declared his office vacant that the position actually became vacant. This was a sort of standard provision, and I may say that the Leader of the Opposition is very well aware of these matters, because my information is that he himself inserted this particular provision in the legislation of 1947. I think it was a very sensible provision, because circumstances may arise which are extenuating, or which, from the point of view of the Government, make it desirable that the commissioner should continue in office. In other words, there was a useful flexi bility in the legislation, which could have been of assistance to the executive of the day.
A somewhat similar provision came before the Senate for consideration within the last week or so, and an amendment was proposed to the effect that it would be mandatory instead of optional for the Executive to make the declaration, and because that proposal emanated from the Government side of the chamber, honorable senators on the other side found it a convenient opportunity to cause some embarrassment to the Government representatives.
– It came from Senator Wright, one of the Government’s own supporters.
– That is right. It was proposed from the Government side, and although it was quite inconsistent with what the Opposition had done when in office, Opposition supporters were able to take a cheap political point - and that was all good fun. What we have set out to do with this amendment is to try to meet the point of view expressed in the Senate, while not making the situation completely inflexible. I put it to honorable gentlemen opposite that if there is any sincerity in the point of view they are expressing, we can leave the existing section of the act as it stands, and I assume that we shall be able to rely upon the support of Opposition members, because of the attitude they have now taken and the provision that they inserted in the legislation in 1947, when this matter comes before the Senate again. If they do not give their support, they will merely reveal themselves as a lot of political tricksters trying to score a political point.
The honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson) asked why we have removed the reference to permanent incapacity. If the honorable member will study the existing legislation he will see that there is a special section in the act providing for the removal or suspension from office of a conciliation commissioner on grounds of misbehaviour or incapacity. As I pointed out earlier, there was a duplication of that provision in the 1947 legislation.
– But under one provision the commissioner can be removed from office because of his own action, whereas under the other provision there must be a petition of both Houses of the Parliament. That makes a big difference.
– Which way does the Opposition want it?
– Is the Minister willing to grant us all we want?
– Order !
– If I can get some assurance from honorable members opposite that their colleagues in the Senate will adopt the same attitude, I am willing to leave the proposed section as it stands in the bill that I presented to the Parliament. That is a reasonable test of their sincerity. Will they indicate where they stand?
– Sit down, and we will let you know.
– We have a lot of sections to discuss to-night, and this is a relatively minor one. I do not think we want to drag on the debate on it indefinitely.
– It is quite true, as the Minister said, that under the 1947 legislation a commissioner could render himself liable to be disqualified, and that the Minister could consider his action excusable. I shall give an example. One of the grounds of disqualification is being absent from duty, except on leave, for fourteen consecutive days. Absence, beyond the stipulated period might have happened through sheer inadvertence. The matter of obtaining leave from thu Minister may have been overlooked, but disqualification was then automatic. For that reason the provision was inserted to make it necessary for the GovernorGeneral to declare the office vacant. That provision covered a case where there may have been extenuating circumstances. I do not think that is the type of disqualification to which the Minister’s amendment is addressed. The contemplated disqualification here is of a different kind. It is concerned with the case of a commissioner who, while doing this highly important work of an almost judicial character, engages in paid employment outside the duties of his office. That is a most important and serious matter. All that we ask the Minister to do is to omit from his amendment the words, “with the approval of the Minister “, because we do not think that a Minister should have authority to give a commissioner, doing such important work, leave to engage in employment outside his duties. Under the amended provision all that the commissioner would have to do would be to obtain the approval of the Minister to perform outside employment. The circumstances are not the same as those in which a Commissioner is absent for fourteen days.
The second point is that concerning a commissioner being disqualified because of permanent incapacity to perform his duties. As pointed out by the honorable member for Port Adelaide, the disqualification in such circumstances is automatic ; it depends upon that stated event ; but in regard to the other ground for removal, there must be a petition by both Houses of the Parliament, acting in a semi-judicial capacity.
I quite agree with the Minister that these are matters of detail, but I think there, is a principle involved. The Government is saying in effect that the Minister can give leave to a commissioner to engage in paid employment outside his duties, for which he is paid by the Commonwealth £3,000 a year.
– The right honorable gentleman would prefer the provision that he arranged to have inserted in the 1947 legislation?
– I think it is better in respect of both these matters. When the Minister asked what we can guarantee, all I can say is that we want to ensure that the right thing is done in this legislation.
– I should prefer the original provision.
– So should I. Perhaps we are agreed on that.
– In view of what has been said by the Leader of the Opposition, I ask leave of the committee to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment - by leave - withdrawn.
Minister has agreed to the withdrawal of the amendment. I point out that earlier in the day an identical amendment was inserted in a previous measure. Will the Government retrace its steps and do in respect of that measure what it has wisely done in respect of this?
Proposed section agreed to.
Proposed sections 16, 16a and 16b agreed to.
Proposed section 16(3 - (I.) The Governor-General may appoint Conciliators for the purposes of this Act.
– I move -
That, in proposed section 10c (1.), the word “ may “ be omitted with a view to inserting in place thereof the word “ shall [ think I can claim that on this matter we are as one on both sides of the chamber. My amendment alters the word “may” to “ shall “. As those of us who, in our day, had to court our wives, will realize there is a great difference between “ may “ and “ shall “ when it comes to a proposal of marriage. Representatives of the Australian Council of Trades Unions have suggested to the Government, and obviously to members of the Opposition also, that it should be mandatory upon the Government to appoint conciliators, and that it should not merely have a discretionary power to do so.
I made it quite clear, I thought, in my second-reading speech, that we considered, as a most important feature of this legislation, that there should be an opportunity to use conciliators in order to resolve industrial issues that were either in dispute or likely to become in dispute. We indicated our intention of appointing conciliators but the bill, as drafted, makes it discretionary. The word “ may “ is employed and we have been asked to change that word to “ shall “ in order to make it quite clear that the conciliators will most definitely be appointed. We are happy to show our willingness to accept a reasonable and cogent argument on a matter which accords with our own beliefs and, consequently, we have moved this amendment. A similar amendment has been proposed by honorable members opposite, so we should be able to agree upon this matter at least.
– The Minister has accepted the view put by my colleagues at the second-reading stage and there will now be an obligation to appoint conciliators. Can he tell the committee of his plans for the appointment of these conciliators? The bill uses the plural so at least two must be appointed. Has the Minister formed any plan as to the number of persons to be appointed to undertake this very big task which is, I think, the most important practical aspect of the bill ? Has a decision yet been reached on that matter? There should be no distinction between the status of the conciliator and that of the conciliation commissioner. I am not,- of course, referring to differences in their functions.
– This relates to the honorable member’s amendment on section 16e.
– I realize that.
– I am not able at this stage to indicate any precise plan to the right honorable gentleman, but I can assure him that we are not putting this proposal in the bill merely as a collection of empty words. We do want to make the conciliation process work along the lines indicated in my second-reading speech. The actual number of conciliators to be appointed has yet to be determined. I think that that matter will call for consultation with various people, for instance, the president, when he is appointed, and representatives of the trade union movement and employer organizations. When that is done we may know how many conciliators should be appointed to ensure that the job is done thoroughly.
Insofar as the appointment of an officer involves a further charge upon revenue, we cannot be completely irresponsible in these matters, but we are not going to stint and spoil the system simply to’ save one or two thousand pounds in salary. I assure the right honorable gentleman that we shall appoint as many as may be necessary to give effect to the purposes that we have in mind.
Proposed section, as amended, agreed to.
Proposed section 16d agreed to.
Proposed section 16e - (1.) The salary of a Conciliator shall be at the rate of Two thousand seven hundred and fifty pounds a year, and the Consolidated Revenue Fund is appropriated accordingly.
.- I move -
That, in proposed section ICE (1.), the words “ Two thousand seven hundred and fifty “ be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: - “Three thousand.”
Already, in a previous clause, we have provided that the salary for the senior commissioner shall be £3,500 a year, and that for each other commissioner £3,000. We think it wrong that there should be any difference in the status of those who will perform the functions of the commission. Three types of person are to be appointed. .First, there will be the presidential members, who will all be qualified legal men. Their salaries have been fixed at £5,500, and £6,500 in the case of the president. Another group will be the commissioners, whose- salary is to be £3,000. The rate fixed for the third group, the conciliators, is £2,750. We consider it wrong to divide the conciliators and commissioners into a superior and inferior class on the score of salary. I do not, for a moment, wish to under-rate the work that must be done by a commissioner. I realize that he has a responsible job and must determine, on the facts placed before him, the best course of action for the settlement of the dispute. However, as I said at the second-reading stage, a good conciliator is precious beyond price. The men appointed as conciliators should possess all the qualities of the men appointed as arbitrators, or commissioners, as well as some qualities not necessarily needed in commissioners. I agree with the Leader of the Opposition that one good thing about this legislation is the proposal that conciliators shall be appointed. That shows that an attempt is being made to bring into the field of industrial arbitration persons whose responsibility will be to endeavour to bridge differences between the parties to a dispute, to reconcile opposing views and, as far as possible, to break down the hostility and antagonism that exists between the parties. Such work requires men of personality, patience and understanding - men able to make suggestions that will be considered by the parties to a dispute and able also to use their personality and influence to break down antagonism between opposing sides so that they will try to reach an understanding.
I think that a person of the type we require will be fully entitled to a salary of £3,000 a year, the salary proposed for the arbitrators. But although an arbitrator makes decisions, his work does not involve attempts to reconcile opposing views. His task is merely to determine, on the evidence, the right award that should be made to settle a dispute. But when we are trying to bring people together, very often in a hostile and antagonistic atmosphere, it is essential to have the right type of man for that work. I do not think that we shall attract the right type of man by offering a salary of only £2,750 a year.
– I have not interrupted the honorable gentleman-
– Order ! Why has the Minister risen ?
– I have risen to a point of order. I did not interrupt the honorable gentleman earlier, because I wanted him to make his point, but now I put it to the committee that the amendment is out of order because, if carried, it will necessitate an increased appropriation.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.I rule that the amendment is out of order because it seeks to increase the appropriation. The question now is that proposed section 16e-
– The proposed section is still before the committee. I want to speak to it.
– I had not finished my submission.
– I assume that the honorable member will speak to the proposed section, not to the amendment.
– I had not quite finished my submission when, in a very courteous manner, I was rudely interrupted. Now that the amendment has been ruled out of order, I want to say that I think the proposed section ought to be rejected, because it does not specify a satisfactory rate of remuneration. If the Minister is prepared to indicate that, in another place, he will have the necessary amendment made and take steps to seek . an increase of the appropriation, I shall be quite prepared to support the proposed section, as will other members of the Opposition. But I think it is very foolish, when the Government is proposing something that could be of value in the industrial field, to kill the proposition by not proposing an adequate and proper salary.
I have pointed out already, that unless a proper salary is fixed for these positions, we shall not get men of the type we want. I suppose the Minister will agree with me when I say that, in the end, the success of all industrial arbitration legislation depends upon the people who administer it. “We had in the past judges who were men of repute, high standing and strong character, but they did not fit into the industrial arbitration field. Because they did not fit into that field, they were not successes. Instead of promoting good industrial relations, quite often, unfortunately, they destroyed them. Therefore, I suggest that when we are considering the appointment of conciliators who will have a very difficult task to perform, it is essential that the remuneration offered shall be such as to attract the best type of men. Unless some assurance is given by the Minister that an adequate salary will be offered, I, for one, will not support the proposed section.
– Under the present legislation, a. conciliation commissioner is paid £2,750 a year. The bill proposes that the new commissioners shall be paid, £3,000 a year. Doubtless, as the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr.
Harold Holt) said in his second-reading speech, the new commissioners will be chosen from the ranks of the conciliation commissioners. So, in substance the salaries of the present conciliation commissioners will be increased from £2,750 to £3,000 a year.
– They will have rather more responsibility.
– I think the responsibility will be rather less. Certainly their duties will be somewhat less onerous, although it is true that, occasionally, the commissioners will sit with the presidential members. However, there is to be this increase of salary. Why, in fixing the salary of the conciliators, has the Government taken the figure of £2,750, rather than £3,000, which is to be the salary of the commissioners? I agree with the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) that there is no reason why the conciliators should be paid a lower salary than the commmissioners. It is very difficult to find good conciliators. I do not agree with those who believe that, of necessity, the persons who make awards are bad conciliators. Some of the conciliation commissioners have been great successes as conciliators. Conciliation is a part of their duties, of course. Some of the judges have been outstanding conciliators. One of the ablest conciliators in this country was the late Chief Judge Drake-Brockman. A successful conciliator is worth at least the salary suggested by the honorable member for Bendigo, because if he can prevent a dispute or make a timely settlement of a dispute, that is of enormous value to the country and the industry concerned. So I support the proposal that this matter be reconsidered by the Minister, with a view to fixing for the conciliators the salary fixed for the commissioners. At present, there is a difference between the two salaries. If we can attract good conciliators by giving them the same status as the commissioners, it will be worth while to do so.
. - I am not unsympathetic to the views that have been expressed by the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) and the
Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt). I agree “with them that the office of conciliator calls for qualities of character, judgment and good sense. Those are rare qualities, and it is not easy to put a i-ash value on them. I have often thought, and I have said so more than once, that it is harder to find a man who can discharge satisfactorily the duties and functions of a judge of an arbitration court than it is to find a man who can discharge satisfactorily the duties of a judge of a supreme court. In the latter case, knowledge of the law is the paramount consideration, but in the former case it is important that the judge shall possess personal, human qualities which are not found in every person with a legal training and a legal background.
However, the consideration that we have given to this matter has led us to the conclusion that a conciliator, although he must be a man of good sense, strong character and good judgment, should not in the first instance be paid as much as a commissioner. We think it is wrong to assume that the commissioners will not be required to possess those qualities. In fact, the more of those qualities that a commissioner possesses and the greater the degree to which he possesses them, the more likely is he to be a successful commissioner. There will be plenty of scope for the exercise of conciliation by the presidential members and the lay members of the commission. The fact that they have been entrusted also with the duty of arbitration does not mean, by any means, that they are not to exercise the process of conciliation when they think that that will nave some useful effect. We have viewed the office of conciliator as being, to some degree at any rate, a training ground for the more responsible function, as we see it, of combining the roles of conciliator and arbitrator a little later on. In other words, we envisage that over the years we shall be recruiting our commissioners very largely from the best of the conciliators as they have proved themselves to be in the job.
– By seniority?
– Not necessarily through seniority. A man may Have greater capacity and the required qualities developed to a higher degree than another, even if he is junior in point of years and experience. We shall be looking for the best men, and not necessarily the most senior men. We felt thai it was proper, first, to make some increase in the pay of the present conciliation commissioners who would be selected to go on to the commission, because, despite what the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) has said, they will be asked te fill a more responsible role by sitting on the commission, and, on occasion, dealing with appeals and references. We have felt that this relatively small increase in their salary was justified. But having fixed that figure we believed that it would not be desirable to fix a salary for a conciliator, who later on may be promoted to the rank of the commissioner, at the same level as that of a commissioner. In determining the figure, we had to think of what salary would need to be offered to attract men of. the type and quality we require. If it is put to me that th«salary we have fixed might be inadequate for that purpose, I will agree that there is force in that criticism, but if we were to accept that proposition and, at th<same time, carry in our minds the other views which I have just expressed, the logical consequence would be a further increase in the remuneration of the commissioners, and as in recent times there have been adjustments to the pay of members of the Public Service generally - and the commissioners fit into the general Public Service pattern - we felt that ii was undesirable to have any sharp fluctuations which might create anomalies in other directions. That was the view we took of the matter, and that is why we have put these provisions in their present form into the bill; but if experience reveals to us that we are not setting men of the type we want for the remuneration that we are offering, or that the job of the conciliator is more onerous and more responsible than it is seen by us to be at present, we shall be triad to look at what is now suggested in the light of the experience we have gained.
Question put -
That proposed section 16b be agreed to.
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - MR. W. R. Lawbence.)
Majority . . 27
Question so resolved in the affirmative. Proposed section 16F agreed to.
Proposed section 16G - (2.) The Commission shall make all such suggestions and do all such things as appear to it to be right and proper -
.- I move-
That proposed section ]6g (2.), paragraph (a) be omitted, with a view to inserting the following paragraph in place thereof: - “ (a) for effecting a reconciliation between the parties to industrial disputes: “
As a student of the English language, I think that the meaning of that amendment is quite obvious. As the draft bill stands, proposed section 16G (2.) reads -
The Commission shall make all such suggestions and do all such things as appear to it to be right and proper -
for reconciling the parties to industrial disputes:
I suggest that, if there is one thing that this bill is intended to prevent it is the public becoming inured or case-hardened towards industrial disputes. To reduce my remarks to the smallest possible compass, I suggest that the amendment be accepted.
– The honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Mackinnon), as usual, has spoken good sense, and the Government is very happy to be guided to a more appropriate use of the English language.
Amendment agreed to.
Proposed section, as amended, agreed to.
Proposed section 16.H -
Subject to this Act, the Commission may exercise any of its powers or functions under this Act of its own motion or on the application of a party to an industrial dispute or of an organization or person bound by an award.
.- I move-
That, in proposed section 16h, after the word “ motion “ the following words be inserted: - “ (except the powers referred to in sub-section (1.) of section sixteen S) “.
There is a very good reason for moving this amendment. Surely the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) will recall that, when the judgment on the basic wage was delivered approximately three years ago, there was a good deal of concern on the part of the employers and the trade unions about the advisability of what was being done by the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration.For the first time in the history of arbitration in Australia, we had the spectacle of conciliation between employee and employer being thrown overboard. The court, of its own volition, altered no fewer than 62 awards, in most instances without the approval of either party. The court’s action on that occasion led to a good deal of discontent in the trade union movement and caused many employers to wonder just where arbitration was going.
If the Government believes in conciliation, surely it must recognize that, if an employer and an employees’ organization is of the opinion that they should continue to operate under a certain award provision, no authority in the country should be able to take away from them the right to do so. Let me refer to what happened in relation to employees of the Victorian railways. I cite this case, because it is a classic example. “When the Commonwealth Arbitration Court set aside the cost-of-living adjustments to the basic wage the union concerned and the employer - the Victorian railways - agreed that the award should remain unaltered. However, the Arbitration Court, of its own motion, brought on a hearing and rejected the viewpoint of both the union and the employer. Later, the State government, which had opposed the suspension of the basic wage adjustments, legislated to give effect to the very provision that had been cancelled by the court. Some one might say that it was a Labour government that took that action. My reply is that Labour governments have the habit of doing the right thing by their employees. On this occasion, the Cain Labour Government of Victoria did the right thing and, by legislative action, restored the benefit of the provision that had been cancelled by the court. Later, the Cain Government was defeated. A government of the same kidney as the present Federal Government assumed office, and retained the provision that had been restored by the previous government. Surely there could be no more glaring illustration of the need to accept this amendment.
I want to take the matter a stage further. If the Government has not yet considered the aspect of the matter to which I am about to refer, it should do so now. Section 16s. deals with the power of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission to deal with standard hours and the basic wage. If we are to achieve some of the agreements on a worker-management level that I have mentioned, it is necessary that we should give serious consideration to this question. If an attempt were made to produce a set of agreements, the commission, on its own motion, could prevent their being implemented on the ground that they contravened the principle that it follows in relation to the fixing of standard hours. The Opposition has moved this amendment to provide that the commission should not be entitled, of its own motion, to do what the Arbitration Court did in relation to the basic wage decision three years ago, namely, prevent agreements between management and employee organizations. We agree that the commission is entitled to have some power - indeed, it must have - but we suggest that that power should be limited to the four matters set out in section 16s. We submit that, if it is agreed that it is desirable to avoid a repetition of what happened in Victoria - and I could cite other similar cases - the Government should accept our proposal. We had hoped, indeed, we understood, that the Government would come part of the way towards limiting the power of the commission to deal with matters on its own motion. If conciliation is to function effectively in the future, and if we are to get anywhere with the kind of control that is envisaged in section 16s. it will be necessary to make a different approach to the question than has been the case in the past.
I submit, as strongly as I can, that the amendment, if accepted, would not destroy the commission’s power to deal, on its own motion, with certain matters and to lay down certain principles, but would provide that, if there were a movement away from those principles on the part of an employer or employee organization, the commission should not have the power of its own motion to destroy an agreement reached between the parties. I put it to the Minister that, in the light of what I have said, the Government should at least accept this amendment which, as I have indicated, seeks to limit the power of the commission, acting on its own motion, to the matters that are dealt with in section 16s.
Mr. CLYDE CAMERON (Hindmarsh t [9.20]. - As my colleague, the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James
Harrison), has pointed out so clearly, the Opposition is opposed to this clause because it permits the court on its own motion to force employers and employees to accept decisions of the court which neither party wants to accept. That, indeed, happened in the case of the decision of the court to. peg the basic wage by cutting out cost of living adjustments. Quite a number of employers’ and employees’ organizations on that account agreed that the decision of the court to peg the basic wage should not apply to their industry, and they asked the court not to apply its decision to that industry. Yet, despite the plea from both the union and the employer concerned, the court literally rammed its decision down the throats of both parties - the people who were most concerned with it. That was on the occasion when the basic wage was being frozen. My friend, the honorable member for Blaxland, reminds me that 62 separate applications were similarly dealt with by the court. It literally forced employers’ and employees’ organizations in 62 different industries to accept a decision that neither of them wanted.
Let me contrast the attitude of the court on that occasion when it was pegging the basic wage with its attitude on the more recent occasion when it increased the basic wage by 10s. No longer does the court believe in acting on its own motion and applying the increase of 10s. a week to everybody, irrespective of whether the employers or employees want it. On this occasion, because it is an increase, the court said that no one would get it unless he made a special application to have his award varied accordingly. I plead with Mr. Bland to allow the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) to accept the amendment that we are putting forward. I ask Mr. Bland, who is in the chamber, I am pleased to say, to give consideration to this point and to permit the Government to accept the reasonable proposition that we are putting forward. The Minister has no authority over the matter; it is being dealt with by Mr. Bland. The Minister goes backwards and forwards seeking instructions from him or permission to accept, an Opposition amendment.
– That is about the cheapest form of public performance, to ridicule a member of the Public Service who is in no position to speak for himself.
– Mr. Bland does speak for himself quite a bit ; a little bit too often, as a matter of fact. If the Department of Labour and National Service had allowed the Minister, who is quite a capable person when he is able to get around to decisions, to look at things himself instead of allowing Mr. Bland to make decisions, there would be a lot more peace in industry than there is now.
– The honorable member is bringing in personalities.
– The honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Freeth) should be the last person to talk about personalities. I can recall an instance in this House when he referred to a person who is no longer with us. He should feel that he is the last person to interject on a matter of personalities. So much for that. If the Minister really wants this bill to operate smoothly, then it is important that he should lay it down in the bill, and in the proposed section with which we are now dealing, that the court shall no longer ha.ve the right to force upon employers and upon unions decisions that neither party wants.
.- I cannot agree at all with the last two speakers. Is there no reason on earth why the employer and employee should gang up on the rest of the community! Is it the fact that arbitration should consider only two sides and not consider the effect of its decision on the economy? That is nonsense! If two people came together, why should they not gang up? Why should not an employer and employee in an industry where there is an enormous demand for its goods - the building industry, for instance - get together and say, “ There is a big market for us. We will pay you so much and our profit will be so much “. That is a case where they gang up. The history of arbitration proves that this provision is all that it should be. I, personally, oppose the amendment.
.- It surprises me somewhat that the Opposition is proposing this amendment. Having regard to the fact that the Opposition believes, as I Lave always understood it, in a common rule in industry, I should have thought that it would have beer very happy about this proposed section. What happens now with regard to awards and agreements, particularly awards that are the product of a case that has been drawn out for a very long period, sometimes running over 100 days? Having given its decision, the court can immediately translate that decision into all other awards and agreements and as a result, uniformity is achieved in awards and agreements throughout the whole of Australia.
The operation of that principle was seen in the 40-hour case. Overnight 40 hours a week became the common standard throughout the whole of Australia. Et is similarly seen with the rise in the basic wage. It is happening overnight throughout the whole of Australia. The one rule is common to all awards, instead of there being, as there is in other countries, collective bargaining between individual unions and individual employers, with each case being dealt with on a separate application. That system takes very much longer to bring about uniformity than the way in which it occurs under this act. Practically by a stroke of the pen, the court can provide for the whole of Australia.
I should have thought that both unions and employers would have appreciated that simple way of dealing with these matters. Indeed, it is one of the prides of the arbitration system of this country that it can achieve uniformity and achieve it so quickly. It seems to me that the mere fact that at the moment members of the Opposition are not very happy with some of the decisions of the court makes them propose this amendment. I should think that if they take a longer view and think more deeply on the matter, they will see that the amendment will do them more harm than good.
– I listened with a good deal of interest to the comments that were made by the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson) and by the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Joske). Frankly, I disagree with the statements made by both honorable mem bers. The honorable member for Hume claimed that under the amendment it would be possible for employer and employee to gang up against the com- munity generally. While it is easy to make a statement of that description, it is very hard to find an instance where it has occurred. It is true that from time to time employers and employees make agreements. Those agreements bring about better relations in industry and as a consequence industry is carried on with smoothness that might otherwise not have existed.
– But only where they agree on an amount above the award rate.
– They cannot go below the award rate. Obviously it would not be in the interests of the community at all for agreements to be made which would provide for a wage below that fixed by an authority. Even in the State legislation, provision has had to be made to prevent employers and employees contracting out of obligations and observing conditions inferior to those provided by the States. That is essential, particularly in depressed times, to prevent employers from being able to exploit and sweat members of the community who have lost independence because they have lost their employment.
– We do not challenge that point of view.
– I am glad to know that the Minister does not challenge that point of view. I simply give an illustration of how an agreement’ can be made and, instead of the community suffering as a consequence, it benefits. Not very long ago the Utah Construction Company engaged in building a big refinery in Altona, in Victoria, and made an agreement with the trade union concerned for fixed conditions of employment and wages above those operating generally in Victoria. The company did that because, being an American company, it believed in following American methods. It believed that if it made an agreement with its employees which would produce contentment on the job there would be no industrial trouble and the work required to be done would be done more quickly.
The result was that the company, the employees and the interests for whom the refinery was being built all benefited.
I simply point out again that, whilst it is easy to say those things, in the actual realm of industrial affairs, where employer and employee are constantly meeting, one does not find that employers and employees gang up against the community.
The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Joske) stressed the great importance of uniformity. Uniformity is achieved in respect of some matters. Standard hours, whether they be 40 a week or otherwise, the basic wage, terms of annual leave, and so on are fixed. But these are basic matters in industry, where a standard is necessary. But in other instances because a standard is determined, that determination should not be regarded as an instruction to employers, or anybody else in the community, that they must not depart from that standard. If they can improve the standard, then it is to the benefit of the employer and the worker, and will increase goodwill in industry. It is not always desirable that uniformity should be achieved. What may be good in one industry is not necessarily good in any other industry. Every industry has its own problems, every industry has circumstances surrounding it that do not apply in every other industry. Therefore, it is undesirable that, when a decision is made in regard to standards, people must be held down, or pulled down, to that standard if they desire either to remain or to rise above it. As was pointed out by my good friends, the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison) and the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron), when the power to determine a standard has been exercised by the court on its own motion, it has generally been exercised to the detriment of the employees. With other people, I went through the whole of the cases that went before the Commonwealth Arbitration Court in the 1930’s, when the 10 per cent, wages cut was imposed. The decision to impose the cut having been made, employers who desired to have the cut applied to the wages and salaries of their employees had to make application to the court for it to be so applied. Similarly, when in 1937 the prosperity loading was awarded, the trade unions which desired the loading to be granted to their members had to make application for it to apply to those members; and, generally speaking, because every award is the result of an application by a party, the court in the past, has determined that, in order for an. award to be varied, even when a decision has been made in respect of standard, basic matters, one or other of the parties to it must make an application to the court.
A departure from this principle which has caused a great deal of trouble was the departure in respect of automatic wage adjustments. On that occasion the court, on its own motion, decided, without consulting the parties in industry, and without any application from any party for a variation of the system, to freeze wages. The same circumstances could well apply now, as applied in the depression period,, when there were industries in such a healthy state that there was no necessity for the 10 per cent, cut of wages and salaries to be imposed on their employees. If I recollect correctly, the Arbitration Court at that stage did refuse to make the 10 per cent, cut apply to a very big monopoly operating in Australia. If there are employers who say that their industry can absorb the increase of costs occasioned by automatic wage adjustments, without any affect on the community in the way of higher prices, they should be entitled to so absorb such increases. If they state that there is no necessity for their employees to be subject to wage freezing, then those employees should not be so subject.
So when we realize that the only occasion on which the court moved, on its own motion was when it discontinued the automatic adjustment of wages, it is obvious that it would be desirable, in the interests of everybody, that the court should follow, in future, the system that has operated in the past except on that one occasion.
I point out further, in order that the honorable member for Balaclava will have an opportunity to appreciate a point of view that is very, very important, that the system in Victoria is much more simple and speedy than is the system in the federal sphere. Under the wages board system which operates in Victoria any variation of wages is made by a wages board consisting of a chairman and equal numbers of representatives of the employers and the employees. The members of that board are able to discuss matters and to come to a conclusion in regard to any particular industry, but the decisions in respect of one’ industry are not binding on another industry. For instance, principles and conditions which may be of benefit to employers and employees in the millet broom trade might not be of benefit if applied to employers and employees engaged in the horse-hair trade. There is an individual wages board covering each of those industries. Determinations of these boards vary. Uniformity is not a good thing merely for the sake of uniformity. There are occasions when it is good, but there are other occasions when it cannot, and does not, appeal, because of the peculiar conditions that apply in individual industries.
I suggest to the Minister, and to the committee, that the system of making it necessary for parties to an award or an agreement to apply to have an alteration made of the wages and conditions of employment covering their industry, is a sound one. It has operated well in the past, and has given satisfaction to both sides, so far as I know. I suggest that that should not be disturbed, and that the amendment should be agreed to.
.- Let me say at the outset that I am in entire sympathy with the point of view expressed by the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) in his desire to avoid the lowering of the standards that apply to one set of workers because of the application to other workers of what might be considered to be a rule that should apply uniformly throughout industry. I should not have risen to participate in this debate in the ordinary way, because, in comparison with other States, we in Western Australia are not heavily affected by federal awards. Of some 250 federal awards which apply in Australia, only about 34 actually operate in Western Australia. However, although Western Australia is not affected greatly, it is affected in one sense. Automatically, a federal award covers the whole of the Commonwealth. It might well be that, when a case is submitted to a conciliator, he looks at it in the light of the circumstances in one State, although in other States the circumstances in that industry may be entirely different. Whilst the industry in one State may be able to bear the provisions of a certain award, the same industry in another State may not be in a position to do so. So an award made by a federal arbitration authority in one State may have a serious impact in some other State. That is to say, a principle applied in one State may have adverse and wider effects in another State. A federal arbitration award goes beyond the boundaries of any one State, and applies to all workers who come under that award. I consider that some reservation of power is necessary in order to avoid the possibility of an undesirable effect because of decisions which may have been reached by a conciliator who, in making an award, has taken into consideration only limited or local circumstances.
– What point is the honorable gentleman trying to make?
– I thought that I was making it fairly clear. Although I would agree to an award applying within a State, I would not be happy about an award based on the circumstances of one State applying in other States. I should be more inclined to resist that. Because the amendment would give awards not purely local but Commonwealth-wide application, I cannot agree to it. Because of its very wide consequences and the possible injurious effects of uniformity throughout Australia, it is undesirable. The argument of the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) really defeats itself, because the amendment would bring about wider uniformity than would be desirable. I think the argument of Opposition members falls down, because they do not view the matter in this broad sense of a nation-wide award which may have all kinds of effects in various parts of Australia. Much as I am in sympathy with the intentions of the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison), I cannot support the amendment.
Mr. HAROLD HOLT (Higgins- Minister for Labour and National Service and must say that, having heard the submissions in relation to this matter made by representatives of the trade union movement, my disposition was to accede to their request. But, after going into the matter more thoroughly, I came to the conclusion that it would be unwise to tie the hands of the proposed commission in the way suggested, and I thought we could safely leave it to the good sense of the tribunal to use the powers in proposed section 16h as a reserve, and to exercise them only in exceptional circumstances. Exceptional circumstances arise only rarely, but they do occur from time to time, and it may well be that, in exceptional circumstances, it would be more convenient for all parties throughout Australia if the commission could act as it is empowered by the proposed section to act. It may well happen that, in exceptional circumstances, if the matter were left as Opposition members propose, some central industrial principle or decision which was intended to be applied throughout the economy might be subject to individual application by organizations or persons hound by awards. Instead of removing grounds for dispute, that would encourage a whole host of disputes throughout Australia, perhaps at a time when the economy was in special difficulty. As the Minister conducting this bill through this chamber on behalf of the Government, I should prefer to say it is our intention that this power should be used only in exceptional circumstances, and that I hope those members of fire commission who will be entrusted with it will have regard to the views on this matter expressed by me on this occasion as the representative of the Government. Since we hold that view, we do not intend to accept the amendment.
Mr. E. JAMES HARRISON (Blaxland) T9.45]. - Once more I cannot understand the attitude of the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt). He says on behalf of the Government that it expects the commission in presidential session to take notice of the Government’s views and to use the powers in proposed section 16h only in exceptional circumstances. As my friend the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) has pointed out, similar power has a!re-,15- been used in an exceptional circumstance. We can agree with thu Minister on that. What has necessitated this amendment? I was surprised that the honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie) did not understand more clearly the reason why the amendment has been proposed. I was equally surprised to hear my friend the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Joske) talking about uniformity. What has happened because the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, which, in the exercise of this power, will be replaced by the new Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission in presidential session, acted of its own motion in what it regarded as exceptional circumstances? Let us see what flowed from the freezing of the basic wage. If the Minister had analysed this matter thoroughly he would appreciate, as we do, the need for preventing this sort of thing from happening even in exceptional circumstances. Let it be clearly understood that many of the 63 awards affected were altered by the court without either party being present.
What has been the result of the freezing of the basic wage towards the end of 1953 by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court on its own motion? Because there was no price control in Western Australia, and because some people who lead a sheltered existence in the upper house of the Western Australian Parliament decided that rent controls should be abolished, the cost of living in Western Australia has risen considerably. If the court had not acted in what it considered to be exceptional circumstances, and had continued to adjust the basic wage according to changes in the cost of living as shown by the C series index, the federal basic wage in Perth would now have been 268s. a week. When Government supporters talk about unity, they should remember that only the other day the court took another step and, instead of bringing about uniformity in the pay envelopes of people throughout Australia by adjusting wages according to the increase of thi cost of living, it increased the federal basic wage by a mere 10s. a week. Even allowing for this increase, which is to be applied throughout Australia, thi federal basic wage in Perth is now 22s.
– Does the honorable member suggest that the Commonwealth court should accept responsibility for the irresponsible policies of State governments ?
– I ask the Minister to hold hard for a moment. How does he reconcile his interjection with the discrepancy of 8s. in the basicwage for Commonwealth employees generally, and with the 5s. discrepancy in South Australia, where another nonLabour government is in office? The present court’s action in special circumstances has destroyed the uniformity of workers’ pay envelopes throughout Australia. The Opposition considers that one such mistake is enough.
I shall deal now with the observations of the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson).
– The honorable member could leave me out of it.
– I cannot leave the honorable member out of it. He said that the workers had. ganged up. If they do not come to an understanding with the employers on incentive systems and do not agree that the better they work the bigger their pay envelopes will be, production cannot be increased. That is the very kind of thing that Opposition members wish to foster, because we believe in it.
The Minister came nearly all the way when he said that it should be used only in exceptional circumstances. “We say that it has been tried in exceptional circumstances and because it has been tried and. has failed it should not be allowed to continue one clay longer. Because of the freezing of the basic wage and the increase of only 10s. a week which was ultimately granted after three years, the uniformity of wage levels in Australia has been broken. We should not again allow that position to occur. We hope that the Minister, having that in mind, if he considers fully the result of what happened in that exceptional circumstance, will understand clearly why the trade union movement and members of the Opposition believe that one more instance of that kind should not occur. We should attempt some degree of tightening up of this issue so as to leave to workers and management complete control of their own conditions.
.- Mr. Temporary Chairman-
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) proposed -
That the question he now put.
The Temporary/ Chairman (Mr. Lucoch), having put the question, and Opposition members calling “No!”,
Will honorable members who desire a division please stand?
– Mr. Temporary Chairman, under what standing order are you obliged to ask honorable members to stand when they call for a division?
– I rise to order. Is the honorable member for East Sydney in order in speaking from a seat other than his own?
The point of order is upheld. The honorable member for East Sydney is not in order in addressing the Chair from a seat other than his own.
Question put. The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. P. E. Lucock.)
Majority . . . . 30
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That proposed section 16th be agreed to.
The committee divided. (Tile Temporary Chairman - Mr. P. E. LUcock.)
Majority . . 29
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Proposed sections 16j to 16l agreed to.
Proposed section 16m - (1.) Subject to this Act, if it appears to a Commissioner that an industrial dispute haS occurred or is likely to occur, he shall take such steps as he thinks fit for the prompt prevention or settlement of that dispute by conciliation or arbitration.
. - I move -
That, in proposed section 16m (1.), the words “ or arbitration “ be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: - “or, if in his opinion conciliation is unlikely to succeed orhas failed,by arbitration.”.
This is another instance, of the Government having taken cognizance of what has been put to it by representatives of the Australian Council of Trades Unions. The Government has laid emphasis, in this proposed legislation, on the desirability of the exercise of the process of conciliation. Honorable members will remember that a little earlier in this debate I moved an amendment to make the appointment of conciliators mandatory. This proposed section is designed to make it clear to the conciliator that he is not to proceed to the process of arbitration until the process of conciliation has been exhausted, or until he has come to the conclusion, having made an assessment of the situation, that conciliation would be unlikely to succeed. In point of fact, this provision is substantially in line with what was proposed in the Opposition’s amendment No. 8. Although honorable members opposite may make some comments on the amendment, I think they will agree that we have, in substantial measure, met the request that was put to us in relation to this proposed section.
– The matter with which this amendment is concerned is most important. Once again we have to consider methods of conciliation. Much improvement can be made in the legislation concerning conciliation. I shall first refer to the provision in the bill itself. It provides that if the commissioner thinks that an industrial dispute has occurred or is likely to occur, even before there has been a demand and a refusal, he has to go to the point of the dispute, ascertain the parties, and then, in the words of the proposed section - shall take such steps as he thinks fit for the prompt prevention or settlement of that dispute by conciliation or arbitration.
The fair meaning of that is that he is under a duty to conciliate if he can, and should arbitrate only if conciliation fails. The Minister will correct me if I am wrong, but I think that is substantially a reproduction of the provision in the 1947 legislation, under which the conciliation commissioner had to try to conciliate, and could arbitrate only in the event of conciliation failing. The amendment moved by the Minister seeks to change that provision by deleting the final words “ or arbitration “ and inserting the words “ or, if in his opinion conciliation is unlikely to succeed or has failed, by arbitration “. That means that a commissioner may say, “I do not think it is much use trying to conciliate these parties, and I am not going to try to do so “. That is a completely wrong principle. It is impossible for a commissioner to be sure, simply by forming an opinion, at any stage of proceedings that conciliation will fail. The Minister’s amendment is not, therefore, in accordance with the principle for which we are contending. In other words, it is the commissioner’s duty to try to conciliate. What seems impossible to settle by conciliation to-day may be settled in that way in a week’s time or in a few days’ time. There should be a continuing duty on the commissioner to conciliate, and only in the event of his actual failure should he go on to make an award and hear evidence.
– How does one determine actual failure?
– He may be considered as having failed only after he has made attempts. He should attempt to have the parties exchange views on certain points, to reduce the area of disagreement and increase the area of agreement. The Government suggests that he should arbitrate if, in his opinion, conciliation is unlikely to succeed. Such a provision does not emphasize the necessity for him to try to conciliate. He might arrive at such an opinion at a very early stage, without having made any real attempt at all to conciliate. I do not want to become involved in an argument on the technicalities of language, but I suggest that the conciliator, be he called a commissioner or a conciliator, must not decide too early that conciliation will fail. This is the key point in the act. The history of industrial disputes shows over and over again that persistent efforts by conciliators may break down a barrier between parties. It would not matter, twopence if this were just a question of the meaning of words, but what is generally forgotten is that the only power that this Parliament has in this field is the power to make laws in respect of conciliation and arbitration for the prevention and settlement of certain types of industrial disputes. The Constitution provides that the conciliation method must be used if it can be successful.
That brings me to a matter that is related to this question, although it has no direct connexion -with the amendment. It has been referred to during the debate, particularly by the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson) . I refer to agreements that are reached by conciliation. I suppose that the essential difference between the point of view of the Government and that of the Opposition is that we insist that if, by the machinery provided, successful conciliation does take place, it should not be subject to veto by any authority within the system. I admit that there may be cases where the absence of a veto may result in an addition to the price of a commodity, but the answer to that is surely some system of dealing with prices, profits and the like. An agreement could be reached between, say, the graziers and the Australian Workers Union, on shearing rates, and the authority with the power of veto could say, “We cannot agree with that. It will leave the graziers with too high a percentage of profit.” In reply, the graziers might very well say, “ What has that to do with conciliation between employe] and employee ? “
For many years it was thought that the court must always have the right of veto. I believe that that was a profound error, and that in the long run the true remedy for agreements which tend to place an additional burden upon the public must be found in some method other than preventing, the price of labour - wages and salaries - from increasing, although the employer is ready to pay higher rates. Here. I am facing the position that has been raised by the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson). It is fundamental that the agreement, when made, should, be binding. I regard this as ancillary to the processes of conciliation.
I hope that the Minister will not think that our proposal is not clear. The clause, without amendment, says what the commissioner is to do - prevent a dispute or settle it by conciliation or arbitration.
The words, “ or arbitration “ mean merely that if conciliation has failed he may proceed to hear evidence and make an award. We tried to underline the principle of conciliation which, I think, accords with the constitutional power, by including the warning words, “ and shall take such steps as he thinks fit “ for the prompt prevention or settlement of that dispute by conciliation . . . “. In other words, he may arbitrate only if there has been a genuine attempt at conciliation. The Government’s wording is, “ . . . if, in his opinion, conciliation is unlikely to succeed.” That is a negative way of putting it. A commissioner might reach that decision before making any real effort to proceed to the objective of ‘attaining agreement.
I apologize to the committee for elaborating the point a little. I submit that it is a matter of substance. By the 1947 amendment we told the conciliation commissioners clearly enough, “If there is a threatened dispute over at the workshop you must go there, ascertain from the parties what it is all about, and make every effort to settle the matter by conciliation. Only when you fail in that may you proceed to sit, hear evidence and make an award.” I remind honorable members that one cannot conciliate in an hour, or an afternoon. It may take ten days or a week. This is one of the key provisions of the bill, and I think the Minister will agree that there is a difference in meaning between the proposed amendment and the section as drafted. Some better formula may be found, but I submit that the present wording gives effect to the intention of the Constitution. It will mean that, no matter how difficult the issues involved may be, all avenues of conciliation will have to be exhausted. There is always a chance that it will succeed.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I would like to offer a brief comment on what the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) has said. It is quite plain, at the outset, that both sides of the House are one in the view that, where practicable, conciliation should be given first priority.
The only difference that I can see between the wording of the clause forwarded by the Opposition, and that to which the Government wishes to give effect, is that in the view of the Opposition there must always be two stages of settlement. Even if, at the outset, it is quite obvious that conciliation will fail because of the course that a particular dispute has taken, the Commissioner must go through the motions of trying to achieve conciliation. It seems to me that that idea is quite at odds with the Opposition’s other idea that we must try to streamline, and speed up, the hearing and settlement of industrial disputes.
When it is all boiled down, one sees that the only contingency against which honorable members opposite are trying to provide is the possibility of a commissioner making a mistake in assessing the position. They suggest that at some stage in a dispute a commissioner may mistakenly feel that conciliation has failed, or is unlikely to succeed, and order arbitration. The Labour party therefore wants it to become mandatory ir>. nil cases to order conciliation in the first place. As against that, we must weigh the certain delay that must be caused even though, from the start, it is obvious that conciliation must fail. It jo better to take a chance that the commissioner’s judgment may be astray than always to have to face certain delay. As honorable members opposite who are experienced in these matters know, delay is one of the really evil factors in industrial disputes. As time goes by without a settlement, both parties dig in their toes and refuse to give way. I believe that the Government’s amendment is the sensible approach to this matter, and that as the commissioners may be trusted it is best to avoid delay and try to speed up the process of settling disputes. Therefore, I support the amendment.
.- I have listened with interest to the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Freeth). We on this side, are anxious to avoid delays in the settlement of disputes, but the honorable member seems to have regarded this clause as dealing only with disputes that are active and have come to a head. The clause is very wide in effect. It provides that if it appears to a commissioner that an industrial dispute has occurred, or is likely to occur, he shall, whether he has been notified under the section or not, immediately ascertain the parties to the dispute and the matters which form the subject of that dispute, and take such steps as he thinks fit for the prompt prevention of the dispute.
– Surely the honorable member will concede that he has got to give priority to conciliation and that, under this amendment, it is likely thai he will do so.
– That is exactly why we prefer our amendment. We desire the prompt settlement of disputes by conciliation or, in the event of the failure of conciliation, by arbitration. If a dispute is brewing, the commissioner immediately takes steps to ascertain who are the parties to it. The first thing that he should do after that is to bring the parties together, so that he can talk the matter over with them. Even if the dispute reaches the stage when there are stop-work meetings and threats of a strike, that is still a stage at which conciliation should be attempted.
I think the experience of those of us with experience of industrial disputes is that, if the parties can be brought together before a stoppage of work actually occurs, conciliation very often finds a way to bridge the gulf between the parties and a settlement is reached. There will be occasions when a commissioner will be asked to arbitrate in a dispute. If the parties reach the stage of requesting arbitration, nothing in the. amendment that we propose would prevent that from being done. But we believe that in all cases the power of conciliation should be used to the utmost degree. In view of the broad nature of this proposed section, we think it would be far better to provide that, before arbitration is attempted, steps must be taken to prevent or settle a dispute by conciliation. I know that the Minister, in his amendment, is trying to get near to what the trade union movement and we on this side of the chamber ask. My objection to his amendment i.= that it contains the words, “if in his opinion conciliation is unlikely to succeed “. If conciliation is not used, no one can tell whether it would have succeeded. We say that conciliation should be tried before a decision is made to arbitrate.
– Even when conciliation is certain to fail?
– Conciliation can be said to have failed only when it has been tried. No one can reasonably make a snap judgment and say that, in a certain dispute, conciliation will fail. In my industrial experience, I have known many cases in which one would have thought it impossible to bridge the gulf between the parties. In some cases, strikes had been in progress for weeks, but, in the end, the parties met round a conference table and reached a settlement. In those cases, the settlements were achieved through conciliation, not arbitration. I do not think that any dispute will occur in which we can say that conciliation is unlikely to succeed. If we do not get anywhere with conciliation, we must go to arbitration, but conciliation should be tried first. I do not think the phrasing of the Minister’s amendment is the happiest phrasing for this purpose. Because of that, I shall support the Opposition’s amendment.
.- I can see no reason for the fears that have been expressed by the Opposition that conciliation will not be used on every possible occasion as a means to settle disputes. If a commissioner were appointed who did not know that the legislation stressed the importance of conciliation, he would not be fit to be a commissioner. So I feel that we have wasted a certain amount of time in dealing with this matter.
I wish to refer now to the provision for overruling a commissioner’s findings, which I regard as a safeguard. The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) referred to the Utah Construction Company, which, he said, had made an agreement with its employees in Victoria to pay more than the award wages, but the agreement was not registered because it was held to be against the public interest. That proves my case that we require a safeguard in the form of a pro- vision that the commission may overrule a conciliator if an agreement reached by conciliation is opposed to the public welfare. There is no reason to fear such a safeguard.
The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) has mentioned the shearers’ case on several occasions. To my mind, that does not involve an industrial grievance. I have never queried in this Parliament the merits or demerits of the rate paid. What I have said all the time is that in a free country there is no room for intimidation. I do not regret having raised that matter. There is intimidation in the shearing industry. No industrial grievance is involved. The only reason why the graziers are acting as they are now is that the shearers’ award is not being observed.
– The reference by the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson) to the shearing industry has reminded rae that repeatedly employers in the pastoral industry enter into separate agreements with their employees to settle disputes by giving something in addition to the award conditions. As a matter of fact, I know that the honorable member for Hume has frequently entered into agreements with shearers under which he has given them concessions not prescribed in the award.
– Never one concession ! I abide by the award.
– I have been informed by a shearer whom I have every reason to believe that on one occasion the honorable member did not charge for meat.
– Never. I always stick to the award.
– I have been informed that, on another occasion, extra money was paid because of ‘he number of dag on the sheep.
– I never put sheep with dag in the sheds.
– That is a concession, because the award gives the employer the right to put sheep that are daggy into the sheds.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! I ask the honorable member for Hindmarsh to confine his remarks to the proposed section under consideration.
– The union has asked the court repeatedly to insert in the award a provision that would compel the employers to do exactly what the honorable member for Hume now admits that he does. I am sure the honorable member will not disagree with me whenI say that in the shearing industry there are thousands of employers who, for some reason - goodness knows what the reason is, other than the threats that are levelled against them each week in Muster and the Stock and Station Journal - have abandoned their former practice of paying more than the minimum rates fixed by the award. The honorable member knows perfectly well that, until the graziers’ associations issued those threats to the squatters, the squatters had always given some concessions in addition to the minimum conditions prescribed by the court. It is strange that, even now, when a strike is in progress and some men are supposed to be shearing at the reduced rate, shearers are getting concessions not provided for by any order of the court. For instance, squatters are offering to pay for return air passages for shearers who are willing to work in Queensland. In fact, squatters are now paying for air travel to Queensland and back by shearers. Those air fares translated into terms of the rate for shearing 100 sheep, would represent a sum greatly in excess of that for which the shearers are striking. At a station some way out from Iron Knob in South Australia, a squatter is offering to provide the shearers with all the beer that they can drink after shearing.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! I again ask the honorable member for Hindmarsh to confine his remarks to the proposed section under consideration.
– Having replied to what the honorable member for Hume said about shearing, I shall confine myself to that matter. The honorable member for Hume, and other speakers before him, dwelt at length on the fact that the Utah Construction Company, as a result of conciliation, had entered into separate agreements with its employees in Victoria, quite outside the award. I can cite another case, which shows that the case formerly cited is not an isolated example, as. the honorable member tried to indicate.
– That supportsmy case. ‘
– If that supports the honorable member’s case, I shall not say any more, because that is what supports our case too.
.- At this stage we should bring the argument back to the point it had reached after the speeches made by the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Freeth) and the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey). We were considering the essential difference between arbitration and conciliation and the difference between the attitudes of our side and the other side. I think that the point put by the honorable member for Forrest was the important one. If conciliation is pressed to too great a degree, or is encouraged to go on for too long, the danger is that the parties will start to dig their toes in and the delay before final arbitration will be too great. In my view, the amendment proposed by the Government is likely to prove better than the amendment proposed by the Opposition, bearing in mind the various arguments advanced by both sides. I therefore support the Government amendment.
– Mr. Temporary Chairman-
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) put -
That the question be now put. The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. j. McLeay.)
Ma jority . . . . 25
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment agreed to.
Proposed section, as amended, agreed to.
Proposed section 16n - “ (I.) A Commissioner may, whenever in his opinion it is desirable for the purpose of preventing or settling an industrial dispute, or upon application made by a party to an industrial dispute, direct a person to attend, at a time and place specified in the direction, at a conference presided over by a Commissioner, by a Conciliator, or by such other person as the Commissioner determines. “ (6.) The conference may be held wholly or partly in public or in private, at the disoretion of the person presiding over the conference.”
.- On behalf of the OppositionI move -
That proposed suction16N (1.) be omitted with a view to inserting the following subsection in place thereof: - “ (1.) A Commissioner, for the purpose of preventing or settling an industrial dispute, upon application made by a party to the industrial dispute shall directa person Co attend at a time and place specified in the direction at a conference presided over by a Conciliator.”.
In presenting this amendment, we have in mind that most of the disputes to which the conciliators will be required to attend will be disputes of the type that have been arising since 1947 and are known as section 14 disputes, wherein notification is received by the conciliation commissioner -in future it will be by the presidential head of the commission - and at that point conciliation must be effected quickly. There is a tendency, when cases under section 14 arise, for one party or the other, usually the offending party, not to appear before the conciliator. We believe that if conciliators are to function as they should function upon receipt of notice under section 14, and the party serving the notice requires the other party to appear before the conciliator, it should be mandatory upon the conciliation commissioner to direct that party to appear before him. We believe that unless that is done the whole framework of section 14 will fall to pieces so far as it relates to conciliators. We have had wide experience in this matter. It must be borne in mind that, if conciliators arc to do their job, they will have to deal with this kind of case. I direct the attention of the committee to the following statement by the Chief Conciliation Commissioner, Mr. Mooney. in his report dated the 14!th November. 1953 : -
A considerable number of the notices under section 14 are of disputes as to demarcation of work and disputes arising out of dismissals. An arbitrator,be he Judge or Commissioner, must, under the Act, be always acting in or about or in connexion with an industrial dispute extending beyond the limits of one State. It is rare indeed for a demarcation dispute to have any interstate element about it. I have yet to hear of any such element in relation to a dismissal dispute. I have had to deal with a number of thelatter myself,but have been always careful to inform the parties that I was merely acting as a Conciliator and was not empowered to order the employer to reinstate the person dismissed.
The wide powers given to a conciliation commissioner in the past enabled him to do as he liked in relation to section 14 disputes. Under the proposed legislation, if the work of a conciliator is to be effective, we submit that it is necessary that, when a notice is served under section 14, it should be mandatory for the commissioner to summon the opposing party to appear. Disputes dealt with under section 14 might be regarded as being minor disputes, but if they are not settled quickly they can become large disputes. If the element of compulsion is not present, notices under section 14 will become farcical. I feel that the Minister believes in compulsory arbitration, in the final analysis, and. I submit that he should likewise believe in compulsion in relation to bringing before the conciliator the party opposing the party which serves a notice under section 14.
– The Government is not prepared to accept the amendment. To speak about compulsory conciliation seems to me to be almost a contradiction in terms. Indeed, the very element of compulsion might well defeat the prospect of conciliation. It is true that provision is made for compulsory arbitration when the dispute cannot be resolved in any other way. I do not propose to debate the matter at length at this late hour, but I have already made it clear that, by the introduction of this measure, the Government has encouraged a greater use of the process of conciliation than has been the case in the past. We feel that the provisions contained in the bill provide ample opportunity for the use of the processes of conciliation and at the same time leave a reasonable discretion in the commission in relation to the course that it should follow. We do not think that the Opposition’s proposal would improve the legislation, and accordingly we reject it.
.- I am rather astonished at the statement that has just been made by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) to the effect that he objects to the inclusion of the element of compulsion in relation to conciliation. The very section with which we are dealing, and in relation to which the Opposition has proposed a sure method of bringing the parties together, is entitled “ Compulsory conferences “. Provision for the holding of compulsory conferences has been in existence since the passing of the 1904 legislation. In addition, provision is made in the budget for an appropriation of money for the holding of compulsory conferences in order to further the process of conciliation. To my mind, the Minister’s statement that he is not prepared to have the question of such conferences clearly defined in the measure, because implicit in such provision would be the element of compulsion, is extraordinary and astonishing.
I stress to the committee that the action usually taken when a dispute occurs is for the authority concerned immediately to convene a conference of the parties. Sometimes that is done by word of mouth. In the days of President Higgins,. President Powers, Chief Judge Dethridge, Chief Judge Beeby, Chief Judge Piper, and Chief Judge Drake-Brockman, the parties from each of the States affected were brought to the court so that the matter might be discussed under the presidency of a judge or some one else. That was a common feature of the system of conciliation and arbitration. It is essential that such powers be conferred and used, because, not only should the active disputants be summoned to the court, but also the employers on the fringe of the industry who are not members of the employers’ association involved but who nevertheless have an interest in that industry. In those days, not only were the organized employers brought into conference, but also employers who were not members of an organization. That process enabled the views of the whole industry to be established.
Proposed section 16n (1.) provides that a commissioner may direct many persons to attend. The proposal submitted by the Opposition clearly states the functions that are envisaged in the term “conciliation and arbitration”. The Opposition proposes that proposed section 16n (1.) be omitted and that the following simple provision be inserted in its place: -
A Commissioner, lor the purpose of preventing or settling an industrial dispute, upon an application made by a party to the industrial dispute shall direct a person to attend at a time and place specified in the direction at a conference presided over by a Conciliator.
That provision would enable a commissioner to overcome one of the difficulties that is frequently experienced, namely, that one party to a dispute may simply say, “We are not going to go to the court “.
Provision for. compelling the parties to attend a conference would enable rh commission to get them there. If such a provision is not inserted in the legislation, it will be possible for a union to refuse to attend a conference sought by an employer or for an employer to refuse to attend a conference sought by a union. If a commissioner cannot direct the parties to attend, how can he get the parties together in order to discuss their grievances and give the process of conciliation a chance? The amendment submitted by the Opposition provides that power shall be given to the authority in question to direct people to meet at a certain time and place in order to discuss a pending or an actual dispute. That is the reason why I was astonished when the Minister said that he was not prepared to seek conciliation by compulsory means. How on earth can any one get the parties together unless there is power to say to them, “ Come to this meeting place”?
– There must be power to enforce that, then.
– Then there must be penalties.
– That has nothing to do with penalties. The power of enforcement is there. It has been used against unions and against employers, and the unions have never objected to that type of legislation. It is no good bringing the question of penalties into this matter. If arbitration and conciliation are to succeed, for heaven’s sake give the power to the commission and to those who are exercising the authority of the commission to bring the parties together! If” that power is not given to them, then from the practical standpoint of dealing with industrial disputes, this legislation might just as well be torn up.
.- The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) has expressed astonishment. The astonishment I feel is that he has not referred to the history of the proposed section that we are now debating. The proposed section is couched in language similar to the existing section, and the section that exists already was inserted in 1947 by the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt) as AttorneyGeneral. All the things that the honorable member for Bendigo has said tonight were available to his party to say in 1947. But in spite of those points being put in 1947, the section was adopted in the terms that we are now asking the House to adopt it.
– I was not here in .1947.
– The honorable member may not have been here in 1947, but his leader was here and his party was in power in 1947. It is apparent now that the Labour party wants to go back on what took place in 1947, although we have been told time and time again that the 1947 act was a streamlined act, under which arbitration just flowed in a streamline. Now,’ according to the -Opposition, its 1947 act was extremely imperfect. When members of the Opposition are telling the chamber these things about their 1947 act, it should be pointed out that the criticism that they have made to-night shows that the 1947 act was the poor sort of thing that my party has said it is.
– The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Joske) has shown once again that he knows very little of the administration of this act. He always rushes in where angels fear to tread. As a matter of fact, there is nothing wrong with the provision in the 1947 act; and I am speaking about the first provision. That was a power given “10 the conciliation commissioner to compel the attendance of persons at coniferences. But what has this Government done about compulsory conferences? For the last financial year, the only amount provided in respect of the whole of Australia for expenditure on compulsory conferences was a miserable £100. I say that this Government does not believe in conciliation and in getting people together around a table. It never armed itself with the money to enable such conferences to take place.
– I rise to order. I submit that the Leader of the Opposition is not addressing himself to the proposed section; he is talking about something the Government has or has not done during the last 12 months.
– Order! A point of order is not established. The right honorable gentleman is quite in order.
– I was pointing out that in the 1947 act, power was vested in the commission to summon the parties to a conference. But this Government has not made it possible for conferences to be held. The expenses of people coming to, such conferences must be paid and, with representatives of parties travelling any distance, the expenses would amount to at least a few hundred pounds. I do not think the Government believes in conciliation.
We have just dealt with an amendment to proposed section 16m, in which we wanted to emphasize that the commissioner must conciliate, and that only if his efforts failed should he proceed to arbitration. The Minister would not accept that amendment. Does he really believe in conciliation? He said a moment ago that he does not believe in compulsory conciliation. Compulsory conciliation has been of the very essence of arbitration since 1904, in the sense that power must be given to bring together at a conference people who can speak for the rival disputants. That has not been possible because of the Government’s failure to provide the money required for conferences under section 16n in order to reinforce the conciliation provision. The amendment contains a specific provision imposing on a commissioner in connexion with conciliation, a duty to bring the parties together. That is conciliation. The compulsion is only in the sense of bringing the parties to a round table, lt has no other purpose.
– Does the right honorable gentleman believe in compulsory collective bargaining?
– I believe in bringing people, by the process of compulsion, around a table, if they will not come voluntarily. That has been the principle of the act since 1904. The Minister is more tired than we are at this late hour ; it has been a long and troublesome day for him. It is he who is tired. If he would only think of it, that is of the very essence of a compulsory conference.
The honorable member for Bendigo will remember the procedure, and recall many conferences. Mr. Justice Higgins would get the log of claims and would summon a compulsory conference. There might be a dozen or twenty people at it. The conference would always be held in camera so that no party would be saying in public something that might be embarrassing. From time to time, if some portion of the dispute could be settled, the judge would adjourn into court. The only compulsion was in bringing the parties together. If that compulsion had not existed, one of the parties might say. “Why should I go to Sydney to discuss the dispute ? It will cost me £20 or £30 “. Therefore, the finance was provided by the Government. That is the sense in which I believe in compulsory conciliation. It is not a matter of forcing people to agree to what they’ would not voluntarily accept, but of forcing them at least to face the people with whom they are in dispute. Is there any answer to that proposition? I submit that there is not. This amendment has been proposed for that purpose.
I regret that the Minister, notwithstanding the emphasis on conciliation in his second-reading speech, is not implementing the principles that he has laid down. That is the point of view that we put. What the honorable member for Balaclava said is quite absurd. There is no departure from the principle of section 16m, except that we want to strengthen it to see that the commissioner does not. refrain from exercising the power. He has to do this, and if he has to do it, the Government must provide the finance for it to be done.
– I do not claim to have an intimate knowledge of industrial law, such as some of the honorable members who have just spoken possess. But it appears to me that there is one aspect of this question that the Minister might consider very seriously. There is a dispute taking place at the present time that is threatening one of the greatest industries of Australia. One of the parties to it has simply declined to come before the commissioner, and the members of the union have said, “ Well, since there has been no agreement made by us, we are not on strike ; we are simply declining to work for the wages provided in an interim award “. To-day it may work out that way for the employees; but to-morrow it may work out, on the other side, for the employers - and any law that does not work both ways is no law at all in a democratic country.
I do not intend to enter into the merits of this particular dispute, or any other industrial dispute. We are simply arguing a principle here. Apparently one side or the other in a dispute can tie up a process and we might find ourselves engaged in a struggle which would involve, on the one hand, the national economy, and, on the other hand, the homes, the happiness and the well-being of thousands of employees. The legal evidence that the Minister has given shows that the Opposition’s proposed amendment is intended only to compel the parties to a dispute to attend a conference. If the parties turn up they can at least discuss matters round a table, but if one or the other of the parties does not turn up I fail to see how there can possibly be conciliation. Admittedly, if the parties come of their own free will, that is so much the better. But what happens if the situation arises which has been put forward very eloquently and capably by those who led the Opposition in this debate, particularly the honorable member for Bendigo and the honorable member for Blaxland? So, without committing myself to support of the amendment, I say that, on everything I have heard so far, it appears to me to be one worthy of very serious consideration by the Minister.
Question put -
That the sub-section proposed to be omitted (Mr. E. James Harbison’s amendment) stand part of the proposed section.
The committee divided. (The Temporart Chairman - Mr. G. Freeth.)
Majority . . 20
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
.- I move-
That proposed section16N (6.) be omitted with a view to inserting the following subsection in place thereof: - “ (6.) Except to such extent as the person presiding over the conference directs that it he held in public, the conference shall be held in private.”
The proposal from the Opposition side is that compulsory conferences should always be conducted in private. As the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) expresses it, that has been the general practice. He has said that he is not aware of any case in which that has not taken place. Therefore, I am somewhat at a loss to know why he wants to make the provision as rigid as he proposes to us because the provision in the measure is precisely in line with the provision which appears to have been inserted by his own colleagues in the 1947 act. Sub-section (6.) of section 15 of the principal act reads -
The conference may be held wholly or partly in public or in private, at the discretion of the Conciliation Commissioner or other person presiding over the conference.
It will be seen that, in the bill we adopted that form as closely as the circumstances would permit. Now, in order to go some distance towards meeting the submission made to us, and to make it clear that the intention of the Parliament is that, only in exceptional circumstances which commend themselves to the commissioner, shall a conference be held in public, . I have moved this amendment. I do not think it calls for any great elaboration. In practice, these conferences are held in private. I have no doubt that this will continue to be the general practice. There may be rare cases which, in the opinion of a commissioner, the whole or part of a conference should be held in public, and we do not intend to tie the hands of commissioners in that respect. That is the essence of the amendment.
.- I wish only to say that the Opposition will agree to the amendment, and to suggest to the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) that perhaps this might bo an appropriate time to report progress.
.-I think the committee should congratulate the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) because he has been able to show once again that he has better ideas about this bill than his leader, the present Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), had about the 1947 act. I know his leader would accuse me once again of not reading the bill, but, fortunately, the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) has already read the relevant provisions of it.
– The Leader of the Opposition has already said that the honorable member does not understand the bill.
– No doubt, the Leader of the Opposition would accuse me also of not understanding the bill, and, ‘no doubt, the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) would do likewise, but I. do not think it could be said with any truth, and I do not believe that, if the honorable member for East Sydney said it, he would believe he was telling the truth.
– The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Joske) has mentioned the decision of the Opposition to accept this amendment. Let me remind him that it was suggested to the Government by the trade union movement. Let him remember, also, that the people who have to work subject to the conciliation and arbitration system are entitled to a voice in this chamber to put their views. The trade union movement offers no apology for suggesting this amendment, and it ill becomes the honorable member for Balaclava to say that, merely because the Opposition accepts at this stage a proposal it regarded as being good enough in 1947, it is regarded as good enough now by the Australian Council of Trades Unions and the trade union movement. He should keep it clearly in mind that our acceptance of the amendment does not indicate a weakening of our attitude. The honorable member obviously did not know that we had from the Minister an understanding that, almost without exception, these conferences will be held in private. I say quite frankly that we consider they should always be held in private if they are to be successful.
Amendment agreed to.
Proposed section, as amended, agreed to.
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I wish to bring to the attention of the House a departure from all previously established constitutional procedure in this country in respect of recommendations which Australian governments make to the monarch for the conferment of honours. I refer to the announcement made to-day that the Chief Justice of a State was created a Knight Commander of the Most Distinguished Order of St. Michael and St. George on the recommendation of this Government. This has never previously occurred in the case of a. State judge, except where, and because, that judge has exercised a royal commission issued by the Governor-General. I refer to the matter merely to point out the anomalies and the embarrassments which can arise from the course which this Government has now followed for the first time in Australia.
– To whom does the honorable member refer?
– The Minister is a member of the same order in the same grade as that to which the appointment was made. I hope to enlighten even him.. The Chief Justice referred to in the present case has held office for nearly six years. If this Government was to make the recommendation, it should have made it right at the beginning of his appointment. Recently, there occured the death of the Chief Justice of Queensland, who was the only other State Chief Justice who was not a Knight Commander of the Order of St. Michael and St. George. He had held office as Chief Justice of Queensland for ten years. Therefore, one sees an anomaly and an invidious distinction between the government’s making a recommendation in respect of the Chief Justice of one State who has held office for six years and its failure to make a similar recommendation in respect of the Chief Justice of another State, who had held office for ten years. The new Chief Justice of Queensland is now the only Chief Justice of a State Supreme Court who is not a Knight Commander of the Order of St. Michael and St. George. If the Government is to be consistent, it will have to take the next opportunity, in the New Year honours, to recommend to Her Majesty that the Queensland Chief Justice be elevated to the same order in the same grade.
– Does the honorable member not believe in the conferring of these honours?
– It is true that Opposition members do not believe in the conferment of these honours. We are in good company in that view. Her Majesty and her two predecessors were never asked to confer knighthoods on a Chief Justice of Canada or a Chief Justice of any of the Canadian provinces. I do not think it can be said that the mere fact that & Chief Justice or a judge is made a knight increases his prestige in the community or his efficiency as a jurist. The only point I rose to make is that the Commonwealth, having usurped a function which previously had been exercised by State governments, and State governments alone, where they saw fit, has opened up a whole series of anomalies. If this action is to be taken in respect of one Chief Justice, it should be taken in respect of all Chief Justices, and, if it is to be taken in respect of any Chief Justice at any time, it should be taken as soon as he is appointed. I have previously had occasion to suggest in this House that, if this Government is to recommend that knighthoods be conferred on. judges, the only proper practice is to make the recommendation as soon as the judge is appointed. That is the practice
Government supporters interjecting,
– Order ! Not all at once, please.
– It is all right for the private members on the Government side to make such unmannerly interjections when our junior K.C.M.G., the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride), himself led the pack. I have pointed out that in the United Kingdom, where all judges of the divisional and higher courts are knights, they are dubbed knights at the same time as they are created judges. In that case there can never be a suggestion, as suggestions have been made from time to time in this country, that judges are knighted if they please a government and are not knighted unless they please a government.
Motion (by Sir Eric Harrison) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Deputy Speaker - Mr. C. F. Adermann.)
Majority . . 26
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.26 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - l to 4-
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 31 May 1956, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1956/19560531_reps_22_hor11/>.