22nd Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. C. F. Adermann) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– Are there any questions without notice?
– I ask that all questions be placed on the noticepaper.
Reports on Items.
– I lay on the table reports of the Tariff Board on the following subjects : -
Cellulose acetate flake. Tractors.
Ordered to be printed.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Osborne) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill tor an act to provide for the payment of a bounty on the production of certain cellulose acetate flake.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Osborne and Mr. McMahon do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Osborne, and read a first time.
Mr.OSBORNE (Evans - Minister for Customs and Excise) [10.34]. - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to provide for the payment of a bounty of10d. per lb. in respect of cellulose acetate flake sold for use in the manufacture in Australia of cellulose acetate rayon yarn.
The bill is based on a recommendation of the Tariff Board made on the 7th October last in which the board recommended that a bounty be paid in respect of flake produced for that use. This report has been tabled in the House to-day by one and circulated to honorable members.
Cellulose acetate flake is produced in Australia by only one company - C.S.R. Chemicals Proprietary Limited of Sydney. The rayon grade of this flake is purchased by Courtaulds (Australia) Proprietary Limited for the production of cellulose acetate rayon yarn. Assistance to this project forms the subject of another bill. Of the fixed and working capital employed in the cellulose acetate flake project of C.S.R. Chemicals Proprietary Limited, more than £3,000,000 is attributed to flake of the grade suitable for the production of rayon yarn.
Honorable members will recall that, in an earlier report of the Tariff Board in connexion with the local production of cellulose acetate flake, the board recommended that no assistance be given. This earlier recommendation was based on the high level of assistance claimed to be necessary due to high costs of establishment and production. The Tariff Board considered that the industry was not at the time assured of sound opportunities of success.
The Tariff Board has now found that the producing company has made substantial reductions in its costs.It has been able to obtain a lower price in respect of its main raw material - wood pulp. It has reduced very substantially its labour, maintenance and factory overhead costs. In addition, its royalty cost has been eliminated by the effluxion of time. However, despite these substantial costs reductions, the local manufacturer is still at a considerable disadvantage in relation to overseas competition. No criticism has been levelled at the quality of locally produced flake.
The Tariff Board came to the conclusion that in view of the strenuous and rewarding efforts to reduce the cost of production of cellulose acetate flake, the stage had been reached where assistance to this industry was justified. The efficiency and rapacity of the local plant meets all required standards. The quality of the locally produced flake is completely satisfactory.
It is evident, however, that the appropriate method of assistance in this case is not by means of import duties. It is essential for the local industry to be able to make available flake at a price of about 35d. per lb. in order to be able to make sales to the local producer of rayon textile yarns in competition with imports.
The application for assistance is supported by the yarn producer. This producer has stated that if, through the imposition of duty, it were forced to use high-cost Australian flake, the market for acetate yarn would be taken over by overseas companies. In this event, both projects, namely flake production and the spinning of yarn from it, would be in serious difficulty.
The assistance requested is not outside the usual limits required to tide an industry over its initial developmental stages. Obviously, if assistance is to be given, it is preferable that it be by way of bounty and not through the tariff.
In deciding that this industry should be assisted by way of bounty, the Government has been influenced in no small measure by the substantial saving which such an industry can make in oversea* exchange. This applies not only to cellulose acetate flake, but also to the essential chemicals produced in the process of manufacture, some of which have had to be imported from hard currency areas in the past.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Pollard) adjourned.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of Governor-General’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Osborne) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to amend the Rayon Yam Bounty Act .1954.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Osborne and Mr. Townley do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Osborne, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill is designed to give effect to the decision of the Government to extend until the 30th June, 1959, the operation of the Rayon Yarn Bounty Act, which is due to expire on the 31st October, 1957. Honorable members will recall that this bill was foreshadowed by me yesterday when introducing the Customs Tariff Proposals dealing with the imposition of duties on imports of continuous filament acetate rayon yarn. Both measures are consequent upon recommendations made by the Tariff Board in its recent report, which has been tabled in the Parliament, and circulated to honorable members. The existing act has provided for the payment since the 1st November, 1954, of a bounty of 6d. per lb. on continuous filament acetate rayon yarn produced in Australia. This bounty was based on a recommendation of the Tariff Board made in a report of the 30th July, 1954. When the board’s report was published, the sole Australian manufacture!*. Courtaulds (Australia) Proprietary Limited, claimed that the assistance given by the bounty did not provide conditions which would permit it to trade satisfactorily. The Tariff Board found, after re-examining this matter, that the whole prospect of success of the local manufacturer rests on ability to achieve the maximum attainable productivity and that any appreciable inroad by imports must increase local unit costs and ultimately render local manufacture uneconomic.
The Tariff Board has recommended therefore, and the Government accepts the recommendation, that a duty be imposed on imports of continuous filament acetate rayon yarn to discourage imports of that product. As the local manufacturer is forced by the competition of duty-free imported viscose yarn to maintain price relativity with that product, the operation of the import duty will not permit an increase in the price of the locally produced yarn. For this reason, it is necessary to continue the existing rate of bounty which would permit only a low rate of profit and then only if a desired volume of production is achieved. In order to give the local manufacturer an opportunity of consolidating and to avoid the necessity of a further review in a relatively short period, it is desirable to extend the operation of theRayon Yarn Bounty Act, which is due to expire on the 31st October, 1957, until the 30th June, 1959. It is intended, of course, to have the Tariff Board review this matter before that date. Honorable members supported the bill for the original act to give assistance to this industry and I am sure that they will have no objection to the extension of its provisions for a period of a further twenty months, particularly as, if the local industry is able to attain its maximum productivity rate under the new conditions of duty and bounty, a very substantial net saving of overseas funds should result.
Apart from the extension of the period of operation of the bounty, this bill also provides for amendments to various sections of the principal act for administrative reasons, primarily to shift the emphasis for the payment of bounty from production to sales. Honorable members will know that the existing act provides for the payment of bounty on yarn produced and sold within a bountiable period. However, it was found in the application of the existing act that it was impossible to identify the yarn sold with that produced on any one particular day. The only administrative solution of this problem was to pay bounty on sales. The amendments proposed will give retrospective legal authority to this action. The amendments will mean that, while bounty will be legally payable on production on hand at the commencement of the bounty period, if it has been sold for use in Australia, bounty will not be payable on stocks on hand at the close of the bounty period. I commend the bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Pollard) adjourned.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of Governor-General’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Osborne) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to amend the Tractor Bounty Act 1939-1953.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Osborne and Mr. McMahon do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Osborne, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill is designed to extend the Tractor Bounty Act 1939-1953, which expired on the 23rd October last, for a further period of three years, that is, until the 23rd October, 1958. The bill also provides for the payment of bounty in respect of tractors sold for use in a territory of the Commonwealth for this period. In the past, bounty has only been payable in respect of tractors sold for use in the Commonwealth. No alteration is proposed in the existing scale of bounty, but actionhas been taken to exclude crawler tractors from eligibility for bounty. The manufacture of crawler tractors in Australia has only just been commenced. It has not yet progressed to a stage where details of costs of production are available to establish a scale or method of assistance. When such a stage is reached, the question of assistance to the production of crawler tractors can be examined again.
The Tractor Bounty Act provided, until its expiry, for the payment of bounty on tractors exceeding 10 belt pulley horse-power, but not exceeding 55 belt pulley horse-power produced in accordance with certain prescribed conditions, for sale for use in the Commonwealth. The amount of bounty payable per tractor varied from £80 each on the smallest group to £240 each on the largest group. Payment of bounty was subject to a profit limitation of 5 per cent, on capital actually used in the manufacture and sale of the tractors. The industry has not been assisted by protective duties. The amendments proposed result from the adoption by the Government of certain recommendations made by the Tariff Board in its report of the 14th October, 1955, tabled in the House this morning by me and circulated to honorable members.
The Government has decided not to adopt certain other recommendations of the Tariff Board, namely: Payment of a bounty of £200 per tractor on tractors exceeding 55 horse-power when fitted with an imported engine; an increase in profit limitation from 5 per cent, to 10 per cent, and a duty of 5 per cent, ad valorem under the British Preferential Tariff, with other rates fixed in accordance with international commitments, on tractors exceeding 30 horse-power.
There are two major manufacturers of tractors which come within the bountiable range - Chamberlain Industries Proprietary Limited and International Harvester Company Proprietary Limited. The latter manufacturer - by far the larger - has never been assisted by means of bounty. At the level of manufacture at the time of the inquiry, Australian production of tractors was approximately 3,500 per annum. Capacity exists to increase this production to almost 6,000 per annum, which would substantially satisfy demand in the medium and heavy type classes - that is, above 30 horsepower - in which manufacture is concentrated.
The Tariff Board came to the conclusion that bounty assistance alone had proved ineffective to induce any development in the industry, but considered that the imposition of the protective duty needed would be unreasonable. It came to the conclusion that a combination of bounty and duty was needed. It has, therefore, recommended a small duty on tractors over 30 horse-power, to provide a stimulus to the industry, with the bounty retained at its existing level on tractors from 10 to 55 horse-power.
It is apparent that some assistance is needed to keep Chamberlain Industries Proprietary Limited in operation. That manufacturer had, at the time of the Tariff Board report, reached the stage where it was earning a slight profit, and now it has a reasonable chance of success. It is desirable, therefore, to continue assistance by means of bounty for a further period of three years from October last. The matter will, of course, be reviewed by the Tariff Board before that time expires. Also, as the charge on public funds is not likely to be great, there is no objection to extending the payment of bounty to tractors for use in Australian territories.
The question of imposition of duty on imported tractors raises serious problems. Only one enterprise appears to be in dire need of assistance, and this can be given effectively by bounty for the next three years. The Government cannot agree to grant assistance by means of the Customs Tariff, particularly at the present time, mainly because increased costs in key export industries would follow. Furthermore, the Government cannot consider raising the profit limitation from 5 per cent, to 10 per cent, at this juncture. The Government agrees that 10 per cent, is not, under normal circumstances, an unreasonable level, but a return of 5 per cent, is quite reasonable for Chamberlain Industries Proprietary Limited in its present stage of development. Having in mind its unusual capital structure, achievement of such a level would, indeed, be very encouraging.
Extension of the bounty scale to apply to all types of wheel tractors of 55 horsepower and upwards raises further problems. Although Chamberlain Industries Proprietary Limited may require some assistance to enable it to continue in production of its 80 horse-power tractor, which is used in agricultural pursuits, it is obvious that the market for tractors of this type is restricted and their manufacture on an economic basis may not be possible. Furthermore, the Government considers that no convincing argument was presented to the Tariff Board for an extension of the bounty to the entirely different types of tractors sold and used only as power units for earthmoving equipment, of which they form a part. These matters could, if warranted, be Again examined by the board as a separate issue, provided a prima facie case can be established. In all the circumstances, the over-all assistance which is being given should, I feel, be adequate to meet the present needs of the industry.
Debate (on motion by Mr. POLLARD adjourned.
STEVEDORING INDUSTRY BILL 1956.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of Governor-General’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. HAROLD Holt) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act relating to the Stevedoring Industry.
Resolution reported and adopted.
In committee: Consideration resumed from, the 7th June (vide page 29S4).
Clauses 1 to 5 - by leave - considered together and agreed to.
Clause 6 - (4.) Where - te) an award or order of the Court made under that Act, or that Act as amended from time to time, was in force immediately before the date of commencement of this Act, the award or order shall not cease to be in force by reason of the enactment of this Act.
– I move -
That, at the end of paragraph (o), the following words be inserted : - “ other than an order to which a provision of section fortynine of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1050 extends/’.
This is purely a drafting amendment. It will be noticed that clause 6 covers the transitional provisions. This drafting change inserts provisions complementary to those contained in the Conciliation :and Arbitration Bill 1956. Since special provisions are being made to incorporate the transitional provisions in the Stevedoring Industry Bill, it has been necessary to make an adjustment to clause 4’9 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, and the amendment now before the committee is the complement of that.
– I do not wish to refer to the details that the Minister has mentioned, but I want to put this to the committee: The general effect of the transitional provisions is to continue in force under sub-clause (4.) all awards or orders under the existing legislation and, in addition, awards or orders of the court which affect this industry. What the committee is asked to do, is to give a blanket approval or endorsement to the law, whatever is . involved in it. In other words, it is intended that the orders and awards, whether legislative or administrative - if the board’s awards could be called administrative - shall be given the force of law.
Under the 1949 legislation, as amended by the 1954 act, an order in relation to industrial matters is binding on everybody concerned. In addition, the arbitral orders or directions of the court in settlement of disputes - all of them jumbled together, thrown together - are to be continued in force by this provision.
The Tait committee stated, at page 18 of its report, that no basic award had been made in the industry since 1936. Nobody knows what orders are in force and, in addition, the report indicates that many disputes in the industry continue for too long without a binding order or award being made. The interim report adds -
We are asked to agree to a continuance of these variations, not quite knowing what they are, and not having the benefit of a final report from this committee. The interim report has this to say on the subject -
The result has been that the award and these orders are in a state of utmost confusion …
We are asked to say, “ Do not worry about the confusion. Continue these orders in force.” When disputes take place it is impossible to tell who is to blame because the waterside workers may claim the existence of a custom in a particular port such as Brisbane or Hobart, though that custom may not be recognized by the award. These uncertainties are the cause of disputes everywhere. Regard has to be paid also to the directions of the Stevedoring Industry Board. They may cover the same ground. No one can say for certain what is involved. The interim report continues - . . and indeed we found, upon entering into the Inquiry, that no one was in a position to tell us with any certainty what was the lucrative provision of the award plus the orders as to numerous matters.
Despite this, we are asked to adopt everything contained in the award or the orders, though much of it may be completely out of date and may be the source of disputes. Then the committee makes this very telling point -
In course of our inquiry the Board caused to be prepared a consolidation of the award find the orders, which entailed a great deal of research and has been most valuable, but which is acknowledged to be not necessarily authoritative nor complete.
The committee then refers to His Honour Mr. Justice Kirby’s having said that the most urgent need in the industry was the preparation and promulgation of a new code or award. The report adds - . . and the Committee agrees with this view and finds that the fact that nothing tangible has resulted up to the present time is a very serious source of trouble and inefficiency in the industry, and in particular of disputes and stoppages.
Does not the interim report clearly indicate that we must first decide what is to be the law and the rules governing employers and employees in the industry? At present no one knows. The committee adds -
In the absence of such a code setting out the conditions for the use of registered labour on the waterfront, the Federation and its members have found a measure of justification for all sorts of demands and refusals which have led to stoppages and disputes. One example of this is that at many ports practices and customs have grown up and have either been accepted or alleged to have been accepted, and if they are departed from, although notauthorized by the award or even contrary to its terms, the men have insisted that they are entitled to continue. It has been alleged in justification of this that His Honour Mr. Justice Kirby stated that port practices and customs should continue until a new code in an award could be laid down.
Unfortunately, when a dispute arises no one knows exactly what the custom is. How can either side be blamed if it insists that its version of the custom is correct?
The interim report continues -
In many cases it has been impossible to ascertain with any certainty whether an alleged practice or custom is based upon agreement and the position has led to much difficulty and many disputes.
As long ago as the middle of 1950, both the employers’ organizations and the Federation filed logs of claims with the Arbitration Court. In both cases the log was most comprehensive and claimed the laying down of conditions of employment and of work on the waterfront which covered a very wide area The Arbitration Court has not yet, six years later, really come to the actual hearing of these logs, although it has heard numerous applications with regard to them, and as to particular matters which it has treated as urgent has entered upon a hearing, and in some cases made orders. We do not propose to attempt to allocate the blame for this sorry state of affairs. No doubt the parties are both to blame to some extent. We do not propose to attempt to allocate the blame for this sorry state of affaire. No doubt the parties are both to blame to some extent, and indeed an inference should be drawn that, for its own purpose, one or other of them has not been always willing to expedite the hearing of the logs and the making of a new award. The Government and the Arbitration Court cannot be regarded as free from responsibility for this long delay in the hearing of the logs and the laying down of a new award and a comprehensive code for the industry. This delay accounts, we find, in no small measure for the chaotic conditions we find existing in the industry.
Chaos does exist in the industry; the special committee has said so. It is a Chinese puzzle to find the answers in the case of a particular dispute. First, it is necessary to ascertain what the custom is. Then, is the custom binding? Is it inconsistent with an award of the court or with a direction of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board? Is the award consistent with the board itself ? Complete anarchy exists because of the inability to determine what the binding rule is. The special committee says that a delay has occurred in the hearing. It says -
The Arbitration Court has, no doubt, been handicapped in that judges who have accepted the task of hearing matters in respect of this industry have found themselves, by reason of urgent matters and other duties claiming their attention, unable to complete this very necessary work.
I u ink I have made the point clear so far as this clause is concerned. In forcing this bill through Parliament without waiting to receive the final conclusions of the special committee’s report the Minister is perpetuating a state of affairs which must be cleaned up in accordance with the obvious intention of the special committee. As I have pointed out to the committee, it, is impossible to have obedience to rules in any industry if nobody knows what the rules are. The rules should be declared. What is to be done? We will still have the court, unless a judge is made chairman of the commission; and, so, the probability is that there will be two law-making authorities, the court and the board. Therefore, I submit that the clause is not acceptable in its present form.
– Order! The right honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
.- I am grateful to the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) for bringing to our notice and that of the country the section of the Tait report he has just read. It is utterly scandalous that an industry so important to the economy of Australia should have had to wait for several years, and in vain, to have its claims heard by the court. The Tait report is couched in moderate language, but if the members of the committee had really let their hair down, as we might say, they could have used stronger language in their condemnation of the court and the Government because of this sorry state of affairs.
– And the Chifley Government.
– The delay does not go back that far. The last log of claims was filed in 1953 or 1954. I agree with the Minister for Labour and Industry (Mr. Harold Holt) that this is a turbulent, industry, but why should one industry be more turbulent than another?
– lt is Communistdominated.
– There is the old catch cry again. There are other Communistcontrolled unions in Australia which may have a Communist in the position of president or secretary, but the industries in which they operate are not turbulent. This industry, above all others, is declared by all and sundry to be a turbulent industry, but the position is that it has every reason to be turbulent in view of the way it has been dealt with by the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. It is a scandalous state of affairs when an industry that is absolutely vital to the export trade of Australia is left without having its claims heard for all these years. Whether it is Communist-led by Mr. Healy and Mr. Roach, or is not Communistled, it deserves better treatment than it has received, and I should like the Minister this morning to tell the committee whether the Government has done anything during the last three or four years to have the claims of this union before the court expedited. That is the crux of the situation. If the Government has not done anything in this matter “ it is an accessory to the crime “, if I may put it that way. They are partly responsible for the turbulence in this industry in the last two or three years. Talk of Communist domination of the Waterside Workers Federation is a good old cover for a multitude of- sins. Anybody can commit murder in this country to-day provided it is done in the name of anti-communism. In this country we have reached a stage of hysteria and panic on the part of the people. How many Communists are there on the central council of the Waterside Workers Federation? Three in a central committee of sixteen. About that proportion applies also to the coal-mining industry.
Honorable members interjecting,
– Order ! Only one honorable member is supposed to be speaking, and I wish the others to remain silent.
– That is a very courageous statement by you, sir, since the principal interjector belongs to your own party. We have to be practical. Why are we not dealing with the causes of turbulence in the waterfront industry?
This bill sets out to deal with, effects, not causes. The Minister is not alone in any desire to work towards a satisfactory state of affairs in this industry. We are just as concerned as he is to achieve industrial peace on the waterfront, but when claims lodged by the Waterside Workers Federation can remain unheard for years that is an indictment on the court and the Government. Is there any other industry in Australia that has had to wait as long as this one has waited to have its claims dealt with? There is not! I feel that, just because the Waterside Workers Federation has a Communist leader, the authorities are actually causing this industry to suffer. Let us look at the leadership of the federation. The waterside workers elect their leaders by secret ballot. They continue to elect Mr. Healy to the position of general secretary of the union because he is a good all-round reliable leader, irrespective of his politics. If he were an Australian Country party politician-
– Order ! I think the honorable gentleman should get back to the clause.
– All right, sir, but that was a very interesting point that I was using in developing my argument. The leaders of the Waterside Workers Federation are supported by the rank and file of that union, not because of their politics, but because of what they are battling for in the industry.
The clause, as the Leader of the Opposition rightly said, is a blank cheque, and acceptance of it by the Parliament will be a confirmation of chaos. The position will not he improved by this clause. We might easily go on for more years without the claims of the waterside workers being dealt with. That is why J say that acceptance of the clause will constitute confirmation of chaos and anarchy.
In conclusion, I should like the Minis.ter to let this chamber know definitely whether the Government has done anything to influence the court to hear the claims of the union and have the matter settled. If that is not done soon, the court and the Government will stand indicted for perpetuating turbulence in this industry.
– I have listened with some interest to the defence of communism, made by the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie), the representative of the Labour party who has just sat down.
– On a point of order. The honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) has accused me of defending communism in my speech. 1 take serious objection to that charge, and ask for a withdrawal.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN Order! The honorable member will withdraw the statement objected to.
– The honorable member for Wilmot-
Or position Members. - Withdraw !
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order ! I remind members of the Opposition that there is only one chairman. I ask the honorable member for Mackellar to withdraw his reference to the honorable member for Wilmot, because it is offensive.
– Mr. Temporary Chairman, I am unable to withdraw the reference to the honorable member’s supporting the objectives of the Communist party.
Opposition Members. - Oh !
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! The honorable member made a statement which is considered to be offensive by the honorable member for Wilmot, and I ask him to withdraw that statement. If he finds himself unable to do that, I will have to take the only action left to me.
– I am sorry, Mr. Temporary Chairman, but I can.no? feel that your ruling is correct, and I will have to move dissent from it if you take that action.
– Order! There is no possibility of the honorable member’s moving dissent. J ask for a withdrawal, and he must do one thing or the other.
– I am unable to withdraw my statement regarding the way in which the Labour party in this Parliament is serving the real interests of the Communist party.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order ! The honorable member refuses to withdraw, and 1 invite him to leave the chamber, under the terms of Standing Order 303.
– Speaking to your ruling, Mr. Temporary Chairman-
Opposition Members. - Sit down ! Is this a point of order?
– The honorable member for Mackellar used terms in a political significance.
– Order ! The honorable member’s statement was objected to, and it is the custom of this Parliament, if any honorable member’s feelings are hurt by a statement, for the honorable member who made it to withdraw the statement.
– I am seeking some clarification on behalf of the committee, which I think it is entitled to have.
– The honorable member for Mackellar has not left the chamber.
– I rise to a point of order. The Minister is arguing with the Chair.
– I am not arguing with the Chair.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! The Chairman’s ruling must be complied with, and the honorable member for Mackellar must either withdraw his statement or leave the chamber.
The honorable member for Mackellar thereupon left the chamber.
– Mr. Temporary Chairman, I seek some clarification, because this is a matter of great importance to future debates in this chamber. If, for example, an honorable member on this side of the chamber were to describe honorable members opposite as prosocialists, could they object to that term, irrespective of its accuracy or signifies) nee ?
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN Order! The Chair will determine that issue when it arises. It is not competent for any honorable member to debate a question which has been resolved,
.- My concern about this clause arises from the question of what is to bp the fat-e of the members of the Waterside Workers Federation. I appreciate that the whole of this measure will determine their industrial welfare, but I am referring particularly to the attitude adopted by members of Parliament towards the leadership of the Waterside Workers Federation, and its effect -on the minds of Arbitration Court judges who will hear and determine matters which come before thom. I wish to express myself as clearly as possible concerning my attitude to the leadership of the Waterside Workers Federation. As far as Jim Healy, the Communist, is concerned, I despise him and have nothing but the utmost contempt for him; but as Healy, the leader of the Waterside Workers Federation, he is an entirely different proposition.
I remind the right honorable Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) of an incident that occurred in this chamber some years ago in which he played a leading part. At that time, the late Ben Chifley was Prime Minister and Mr. Holloway was Minister for Labour. One night, during a debate, a great tirade of abuse was levelled at that grand man, Ben Chifley, because he said, in this chamber, that together with the then Minister for Labour (Mr. Holloway) and the then Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt), who is the present Lead p.r of the Opposition, He had received in his office Jim Healy, who is a Communist. The Minister now at the table might not recall the incident, but it was used as the basis of attack on the Labour party and its attitude towards communism. The right honorable gentleman who is now the Minister for Labour was not then a “right honorable gentleman”, but a humble member of the Opposition of the day, and his attack on the then Prime Minister was disgraceful. I challenged him by saying, “You know that Mr. Chifley did not receive Healy, t.hp Communist; ho received Healy, the democratically elected representative of members of the Waterside Workers Federation. If you were in his position, and Mr. Healy came here to discuss matters affecting the Waterside Workers Federation, what would you do?” The right honorable gentleman replied, “I would not have him in my office “. I remind the Minister that; chickens can come home to roost, because after he was appointed to his present position of Minister for Labour and National Service, one of the first deputations from the trade unions to wait upon him in his office was led by Mr. Jim Healy. Did he receive Mr. Healy, the Communist, or did he accept him, as the Labour party accepts him, as Jim Healy, the elected representative of the Waterside Workers Federation ?
– Suppose, at a later hour to-day, the honorable member produces the passage of the Hansard report of my remarks to which he is making reference.
– The right honorable gentleman has more facilities at his disposal than I have to search for the passage, and perhaps he might have it looked up for him. What will be the ultimate fate of the Waterside Workers Federation members as a result of this bill? Last night, I sat and listened, with far more patience than I thought I possessed, to members on the Government side accusing Healy of being a traitor. What will be the attitude of judges, or of those presiding over industrial tribunals, who hear and determine claims affecting the industrial welfare of waterside workers, whose leader is accused of being a traitor? Will the judges hear a case presented by a traitor to this country?
A period of ten minutes is insufficient for a detailed discussion of this matter, but as I have said on many occasions in this cham ber, as far as Healy, the Communist, is concerned, I would not care if he were tipped in the ocean, but as far as Healy, the federal secretary of the Waterside Workers Federation is concerned, whether anybody likes my saying so or not, he is one of the best union officials in this country. I have heard the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) speak about incidents involving Communists at pick-up centres on the wharfs. I have only two pick-up centres in my electorate, but I have been at those places and other wharfs on many occasions. I have people in my electorate as violently anti-Communist as is any one in this Parliament. Suggest to them that they should not vote for Jim Healy and hear what they say!
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! Let me remind the honorable member that Jim Healy is not in this clause.
– He is, indirectly, because he is the leader of the Waterside Workers Federation. He is directly involved in this clause. But I am not concerned about Jim Healy; I am concerned about the general secretary of the Waterside Workers Federation. It almost makes me vomit to hear honorable members who are supposed to be tolerant, democratic people attacking the Waterside Workers Federation. This man did not put himself in the position he holds; he was elected and he keeps on being re-elected. What honorable members on the opposite side of the chamber have to do is what the Minister for Labour and National Service has had to do, and that is accept this man because he represents a great, powerful and important union.
Last night, reference was made to Mr. Justice Ashburner’s hearing of the claim by the Waterside Workers Federation. What happened then? The Waterside Workers Federation made a claim based on five grounds. It was opposed with everything that the shipowners, the stevedoring companies and all the tories in this country had, and the claim was rejected by Mr. Justice Ashburner. The moment the waterside workers went on strike, the employers said, “We will not give you an increase of 9d., but we will agree to 6d. an hour “. They were also prepared to increase the attendance money. If it was right then, why did they oppose it in toto in the court ? Why did they not go to the court and say, “ We oppose an increase of 9d. an hour, but agree to fid “? They did not do that, but they forced the waterside workers to strike. The action of the employers proved conclusively that the waterside workers were right in the first place.
The expression “ A lost cause “ has been used. When is a cause lost? So far as the trade union movement is concerned, the cause is never lost. The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) said that the waterside workers should not have gone on strike because, according to Mr. Justice Ashburner’s decision, it was a lost cause. Members on the Government side should get it into their noodles that a cause is never lost and when any section of the trades union movement is prepared to say that the cause is lost because the Arbitration Court decides against it, it is time for that section t< close its doors. Maybe the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson) would say that Mr. Dougherty and Mr. Davis ure Communists.
– I have not said so.
– He has not said so !
– Why does not the honorable member stick to facts?
M!r. EDMONDS. - - The honorable member’s party said that the shearers’ cause was lost.
– It is, too.
– Just the opposite took place. The shearers’ cause has just been won, and that is what nauseates the honorable member for Hume. My concern is that the remarks of honorable members opposite might have an influence on the minds of those who will determine the fate of the members of the Waterside Workers Federation.
.- We have just heard the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Edmonds) say that a Communist is the finest union leader he has known.
– I did not. I said he was a mighty union official.
– The honorable member said that he is the finest union leader that he has known, and Hansard will prove that that is what he said. Can any good Australian say that a man who owes allegiance to a foreign country can be the best union leader in this country? The honorable member for Herbert said that he had only ten minutes in which to speak.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! That has nothing whatever to do with this debate.
- Mr. Temporary Chairman, when you have allowed the honorable member for Herbert to speak for ten minutes on this very subject, surely you will allow me to speak for five minutes.
– Order ! I will allow the honorable member five minutes. As long as he relates his remarks to the clause now before the committee, 1 will allow him to speak.
– I will relate my remarks to what the honorable member for Herbert said on the clause. He said the things that I have mentioned.
– That is not true.
– They will be proved by Hansard when it comes out, in spite of the fact that he says I am not telling the truth. I do not want to spend a long time on this subject. If we want to find out just what the honorable member for Herbert believes, we have only to consider the statement he has just made. He accused the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) of making a certain statement, but when the Minister said, “ Prove it “, the honorable member for Herbert said, “You prove that you did not say it “. Yet all the time the honorable member for Herbert talks about the onus of proof. In an ordinary speech on a clause in this bill, he proves by what he says about the onus of proof that he does not live in a practical manner. I do not want to say much about this, because the honorable member for Herbert stands condemned by his own words.
– 1 think it would be useful if the committee were to return to the clause under discussion and in particular to the amendment that I have moved.
– It is a wide clause.
– It may be a wide clause, but I doubt whether it is as wide as some of the comments made by the honorable member for Herbert. I remind the committee of what we propose in the clause.
– I rise to order.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! What is the point of order?
– My point of order is that I have been accused bv the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr. Curtin) that I-
– That is not a point of order; it is a personal explanation that should be made at the end of the Minister’s speech.
Air. Turnbull. - I am asking for a withdrawal.
– That is not a point, of order; that is a personal explanation.
– Order ! Are you speaking to the point of order ?
– Yes. I ask for a withdrawal of a statement by the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith that 1 attended the Russian Embassy and I refer also to his action in holding up his hand to indicate that I was drinking there.
– I rise to order.
– Order ! The honorable member will sit down until I deal with this matter. There is no point of order. The honorable member for Mallee can, if he wishes, make a personal explanation after the Minister has concluded his remarks.
– I am asking for a withdrawal of a statement, as did the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie).
– Order ! The honorable member has not established his point, of order.
-I was about to say that if we want to discuss this measure sensibly and seriously, it would be as well to direct our attention to the issue immediately before us. The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) set out to do that, but he undoubtedly created a misleading impression in the mind cf anybody who has not been following closely what is intended by this measure. He would certainly have created that impression in the mind of anybody outside this chamber who was listening to him. He referred to the operation of this clause as preserving, in effect, a situation of anarchy in the industry, in that nobody knew what the awards and orders were and that all this provision did was to maintain that situation.
– That is what the committee of inquiry said.
– The committee undoubtedly referred to the uncertainty existing because of a lack of detail or certitude as to orders and awards in this industry. But the speech of the Leader of the Opposition was the nearest he has come so far in this debate to a justification of the legislation that this Government has introduced. Indeed, it is one of the few occasions on which he has faced the issue created by the legislation. The very establishment of a committee of inquiry in this industry and the adoption in legislative form of the substantial findings of the committee have as their objective the creation of a greater certainty and greater authority as to the orders and awards that should apply in this industry. The legislation does not worsen the current situation because the right honorable gentleman admits that the current situation is such as has been described in the report of the committee of inquiry. If nothing at all is done then that uncertainty continues.
– The report says that this position should not be continued without some action.
– We are providing action, but the right honorable gentleman and his colleagues are defeating our attempts to provide that action and are continuing the state of anarchy that he maintains exists in the industry at the present time. If we are not to set about this business of codification, and of stating with greater precision the situation in the industry, are we to allow the matter to remain where it is, that is, where it is after the operation of the legislation that the Leader of the Opposition himself introduced into this Parliament? We, on the other hand, have grappled with this problem. It is true that the committee of inquiry attaches some measure of responsibility to the parties, to the court and to the Government, if you like, for the delay-
Dr. Evatt interjecting,
– Then I will say governments if the right honorable gentleman brings that in. because it is the Labour party’s legislation which has been operating to this time. It was the Labour party’s legislation of 1049 which tried to cure the mess that the Labour
Government had got industry into after the legislation brought in by the present Leader of the Opposition in 1947. We, throughout our period of office, have been trying to introduce some improvement into this industry, and it is merely humbug which has been spoken by honorable (members opposite, who wring their hands and say, “ Why is not more done to improve the position in this industry? “ Every time we have made an attempt to improve the industry, that attempt has been resisted by the Opposition. Every time we have tried to take the line of law and order in relation to the lawlessness which has been displayed on occasion in this industry, the attempt has been resented and resisted by the Labour party.
Honorable members opposite have given encouragement to breaches of the awards of this industry, and to the union in the course of lawlessness which it has pursued. Now they come along in mock indignation about the disorderly state of the industry which they say we have allowed to develop. The test of their sincerity is the measure before them. If they want to do something to improve this industry, they will support the measure and encourage the union to give a fair trial to provisions that have been found impartial by the committee of inquiry which they supported when it was appointed. We could devote a lot of time to this clause, but there are other clauses no less important to be considered by the committee.
All that we are doing in this provision, and the amendment which relates to it, is to maintain some orderliness in the transition stage when we move from the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board to the authority to be established under this legislation. If we did not have a provision of this sort and there was a break in continuity, then quite obviously no law or order could be applied to the industry. It is no help to us to know that this industry is already in a mess, and that the Opposition is perpetuating that mess, because failure to adopt this clause would mean that there would be no law or order to carry on until we could improve the general situation. I believe that the committee might usefully proceed to consider clauses which, from what was said in the second-reading debate, are of greater consequence to honorable members opposite. Therefore, I move -
That the question be now put.
Question put. The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. j. McLeay.)
Majority . . . . 14
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment agreed to.
Mr.E. JAMES HARRISON (Blaxland) [11.45]. - I suggest that the remarks made by the Minister for Labour and
National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) in bis last speech were quite uncalled for insofar as they applied to the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt). The Minister said that the actions and words of the Leader of the Opposition got very close to justifying the legislation. The Minister also said that honorable members on this side of the chamber have advocated industrial lawlessness and encouraged breaches of awards. I put it to the committee quite strongly that it has never been the practice of honorable members of the Opposition to do such things.
Throughout the consideration of the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill 1956 members of the Australian Labour party asserted their belief in the observance of awards and in the prevention of breaches nf awards. Statements such as those made by the Minister indicate quite clearly that he .is running right away from the real issue raised by this clause. l t is not a clause that we can take lightly. Sub-clause (6.) provides that, where an order of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board made under the Stevedoring Industry Act 1949, or under that act as amended from time to time, not being an order referred to in paragraph (b) of sub-clause (4.), was enforced immediately before the date of commencement of this measure, the order shall be deemed to be an order of the proposed Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority. Sub-clause (7.) goes further and provides that an order or award made under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act shall be deemed to be an award of the authority. That brings us to the concrete point of disagreement between the Opposition and the Government on this question. The observations made by the Leader of the Opposition were very pertinent. Clause- 6 will merely retain conditions and a code that are not understood by any one. How can we remove the lawlessness in an industry? The first thing to do is to establish a proper code for its conduct. I put it to the Minister directly that this bill puts the cart before the horse. Once the Tait committee had condemned the Government for its lack of attention to award-making in the stevedoring industry, the Government’s first action should have been to insist upon the finalization of awards and claims covering the industry before attempting to introduce a measure such as this. That was the first step needed to obtain order in this industry. Order cannot be obtained merely by a hotch-potch arrangement such as this. It is our firm view that the Minister has destroyed any possibility of the proposed authority succeeding, because he intends to saddle it and the new Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, first, with the responsibility of attempting to unravel something that a committee appointed by the Government could not unravel.
What is the position in respect of award-making? Has any honorable member really studied the findings of the Tait committee in relation to award-making? Because the present award has been in operation since 1936, it is not possible for any one to say at this stage what the award conditions really are. The committee complimented some one, whose name I shall not mention, upon trying to combine all the pieces in order to make up a proper picture of the award covering this industry. What is the first step? If we wish to build a house or any other structure that will stand for a long time, what do we do in the first instance? We make sure that our foundations are firm. The Government has failed to ensure that either the court or the waterside workers did the right thing in awardmaking, and it is trying to cover up now by giving the job to some other authority that it hopes will succeed as a consequence of this bill. The Government should have insisted on the court replacing the 1936 award by one made in 1956 based on present conditions, in accordance with the Tait committee’s report. Because that has not been done, this bill is illtimed. It is drafted in such a fashion that neither the court nor the authority can hope to succeed. The Government says to the court and the authority, in effect, that the first thing it must do is to prepare a code for something upon which even a committee of inquiry could not throw any light. Where will a start be made? Who will be the first to move in the matter - the court or the authority? When we have a set of conditions and a code that could not be unravelled even by a committee appointed by the Government, how can two separate authorities restore even the semblance of order in the industry?
The Minister said that other provisions in the bill are more important than this one. That statement shows that he does not understand, and has not studied, the effect of award conditions in an industry, and that he does not appreciate the need for a code under which the employees must work in order to preserve order in this industry or any other. The Government should first have faced up to the responsibilities placed upon it by tha committee’s report. The committee roundly condemned the Government. This must be the first time in Australia that a committee of inquiry appointed by a government has condemned that government for its lack of attention to awardmaking in the industry inquired into. The Government having been condemned by the committee, what action should it have taken first? Instead of appointing an authority to try to patch up the hotchpotch already in existence, it should have insisted that the court go into the job of determining the claims of employees and employers in order to ascertain to what degree the award was inappropriate to conditions on the waterfront generally. If that had been done, we should have obtained some semblance of order on the waterfront. The waterside workers would have been obliged to observe the award, and the Government would have had the support of the Australian Labour party if it had to deal with any breach of the award by either the employees or the employers, because Labour members believe in section 39 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, as we have consistently stated. We believe that awards must be observed.
Instead of introducing a measure with all the great ramifications of this bill and wielding the lash through the agency of the proposed Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission under an award the conditions of which are not understood, the Government’s first step should have been to make the award clear so that it might be understood. That would have been in accordance with the principles of British justice, and it would have done justice to the workers on the waterfront. Fancy putting into a measure all the obnoxious penal provisions that are contained in the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill 1956, under which workers and union officials will be subject, to fines and gaol penalties, without making clear to the workers the code under which they must work ! The present award is not understood by the Tait committee, the employers, the union leaders, or the waterside workers. In such a situation, how can we hope at any stage to get. any degree of co-operation between workers and management? Neither side knows its rights.
Let me put one thing to the Minister in conclusion. The Tait committee’s report, which was so ably dealt with by the Leader of the Opposition this morning, mentioned a lot of conditions that have grown up in the industry. The Minister knows that, in award-making, conditions that existed when an award was made are always regarded in conjunction with the award. If any party wishes to have the award varied, it must show that conditions have changed. That is the first point to be remembered when we are discussing award-making. On the waterfront, we have a. situation in which, first of all, no one understands the conditions to which the award applies. The Government proposes to ask a body of men - I think three in number - who will comprise the proposed Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority, to do something worth while with the present hotch-potch in the fashion provided for in the transitional provisions of this clause. I tell the Minister with all the sincerity at my command that he will be asking whomever he selects for appointment to the authority to move into a new field without any foundation of knowledge on which to base a judgment in the first instance. They will be concerned with an industry in which neither the workers nor the employers know the conditions on which the award is based.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- One never doubts the sincerity of the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison), but one may doubt his reasoning. He said the trouble in the stevedoring industry is that there is no award, and he criticized this Government for alleged faults. Was there an award in the industry in 1947 and in 1949 ? If one side on, the waterfront does not want peace, we shall not get it. I have had cause to tell Opposition members that before.
I cannot read the mind of the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Edmonds), and I do not know whether he understands the subject that we are debating. However, he raised the matter of an application that was made to the Arbitration Court by the Waterside Workers Federation in July last year, which dealt with five different claims. The court dealt with two of those claims and disallowed them, but the important thing is that the way was still open for the federation to approach the court again in ‘respect of the other matters, and it could have done so if it wanted peace in industry, or if it wanted to get together with the employers to discuss the merits of its application. At the time of giving his decision on the application, Mr. Justice Ashburner said this -
I emphasize that this decision-
He was referring to the decision to dismiss some of the claims - does not mean that the federation’s claim for an interim increase in the margin is dismissed. The federation may now, if it sees fit, proceed with its claims on the other grounds.
– What is the honorable member’s authority for this?
– If the honorable member wants to know, I can tell him that this is reported in a publication entitled, Bed Hand across the Waterfront. Mr. Justice Ashburner said that it was still open to the federation to approach the court. Honorable members on this side have consistently said that they agree that there is a need to improve conditions on the waterfront, but. if one side or the other is not prepared to negotiate, we must have trouble. I understand that a lot of claims have been made to the court, by both management and labour, during the last five or six years, and that delays have always taken place. But whose fault is that? The lawlessness that we have seen on the waterfront in recent years is part of a deliberate plan by the Communist leaders of the federation.
– Anybody can say “ Ah but one has only to read the report of the Royal Commission on Communism in Victoria to understand how the Communists have infiltrated the tradeunion movement.
This bill is an attempt to rectify the unsatisfactory position on the waterfront. It is based on the report of the Tait committee, and I feel that the Minister has made out a good case for it. As he said, let us start now, with thislegislation as a basis, to improve conditions on the waterfront. The debate in. this chamber this morning is itself sufficient reason for the introduction of a bill of this kind. I support the clause.
Mr. CLAREY (Bendigo) [11.57”.- 1 desire at the outset to correct a statement made by the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson). I point out to him that the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison) did not say that there was no award covering theindustry. What he did say was that the award in this industry was made in 1936,. that since then many amendments have been made to it, and that the great problem confronting the industry is that there is no consolidated award to which employer and employee can refer to ascertain the facts regarding wages and working conditions. That criticism is justified. It is a criticism that has often been made regarding awards of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. In some industrial spheres, particularly in South Australia, Victoria, Tasmania and Queensland, when an award or a determination is varied, a new document is printed immediately, giving the existing conditions of employment and the altered conditions. An employer may readily consult that document to ascertain the conditions governing employment in his establishment, and the employee may consult the document to find out, what hia lights are as an employee. The Tait committee justifiably criticized the very involved state of industrial awards governing the waterfront.
One can understand that when the conditions in an industry are being altered, and the industry is passing from one set of conditions to another, we must make provision to ensure that in the transitional period a vacuum is not created in regard to wages and working conditions, and I assume that clause 6 is an attempt to prevent such a vacuum forming during that .transitional period. Before I go on to deal with particular aspects of clause 6 which we find difficult to understand, and which are, in our opinion, inimical to peace on the waterfront, I want to say that we regard this Stevedoring Industry Bill as a bad bill. We suggest that it would have been more appropriate to describe it as a bill to promote unrest on the waterfront, rather than to describe it in the language that has been used. The Opposition will vote against the clause in order to demonstrate its hostility to the bill as a whole and to what is implied by its various clauses.
I desire to deal now with sub-clauses (6.), (7.) and (8.), which appear to me to make the bill more confusing than ever, and, I believe, will make conditions on the waterfront more unsatisfactory than they are at present. Sub-clause (6.) seems to imply that the present conditions on the waterfront will be continued. But then when one considers sub-clause (7.), it is seen that even during the transitional period power is given to the authority to amend, vary or revoke any order that is in existence at present. As the sub-clause is worded, it is by no means clear whether this can be done without consultation with employer or employee. If it can be done in that way, the position becomes more confusing than ever, because an order could be revoked or varied and a new set of conditions introduced, and if conditions are constantly changing in that fashion greater confusion is created, and those involved must find it even more difficult to appreciate the position at any particular time. Then, sub-clause (8.) indicates that certain powers may be exercised by the authority without reference to the commission. Certainly, the commission cannot interfere with an order that has bosen made by the authorities.
I want, once again, to stress to the committee the dangers and difficulties that will be faced by everybody as a consequence of two authorities operating in this particular field. There is the authority with power to make orders. There is the commission with power to make orders. From time to time, thu authority and the commission are bound to clash and, as a consequence of that clash, deadlocks could take place. This bill, particularly proposed new section 6, does not overcome that difficulty. It will just bring it into high relief once again and even during the transition period it will probably he found that conflicts will arise between the authority and the commission.
The Minister, in addressing the committee a few minutes ago, referred to lawlessness in the industry. To assume that difficulties, industrial unrest, or trouble on the waterfront are peculiar to Australia is to disregard totally a worldwide phenomenon. When I attended the United Nations in 1954 there was a waterfront strike - or a longshoremen’^ strike as they called it - in the City of New York. The same thing was taking place in San Francisco. There was a dockers’ strike in England. Disputes on the waterfront are inevitable in practically every port of any importance or consequence in the world. They arise from the casual nature of the employment of the persons in the industry. Because they work under conditions that vary from the general conditions of employment, and because their employment is only for a day or two, when a grievance arises, they must have that grievance rectified straight away. To believe that the passing of legislation of this description providing for the imposition of penalties will make the waterside workers of Australia or anywhere else docile, tame workers, is simply to fly in the face of facts. The same philosophy and psychology will operate, no matter what penalties and restrictions are imposed, with just this particular difference : That the more the use of the big stick is proposed, the more resentment will be aroused, the more those engaged on the waterfront will rebel; and there will be a greater tendency for industrial disputes to become wider, and perhaps more bitter and violent in nature than has been the case previously.
One puts these things before the committee because one has had experience of the conditions on the waterfront. 1 know the conditions which operated after the 192S strike. There is resentment on the part of individuals. There is hostility between people. The consequence is that industrial unrest on the waterfront is inflamed rather than being subdued. So I want to stress this again. No matter what is done in respect of this bill j no matter what penalties are imposed; and no matter what other steps may be taken to make the waterfront free of industrial unrest the state of industrial harmony which ought to be produced will not be produced.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Opposition has decided to vote against this clause as an indication of its attitude to the bill as a whole. We choose to regard this clause as the foundation of the bill, as it were, and in regarding it in that way, we choose to bring out our attitude to the attempt of the Government to solve the problems of the waterfront industry in the method attempted in this bill. This clause may be called a transitional clause which will integrate or splice together the old form of authority and the old machinery with the new. As was pointed out by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) and by the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) the splicing will be done in an extremely complex way which will further complicate the type of machinery which may be set up and the awards and determinations which may be made under this legislation. The point made by the honorable member for Bendigo just now, which I, too, would like to emphasize, is a clear indication of this fact.
Under proposed section 7, as the honorable member for Bendigo chose to call it, which is contained in clause 6, the commission may vary or revoke an order made by the authority, and there is nothing in this clause which indicates that it may not be done in the absence of the parties and without their consent or even without their participation in the discussion. This kind of complication will worsen conditions, as was so well pointed out a few minutes ago. This kind of legislation, this departmental method, this superficial method of trying to control and direct an industrial operation which the Government chooses toadopt and of which clause 7 is the foundation, has been chosen by the Government because the industry is a turbulent indus try. I should like to raise the question of why the industry is a turbulent industry, because it seems to me that this question is fundamental to the whole measure. One answer which has been given, in some cases in quite unqualified terms by such members as the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson), but in other cases with more moderation and understanding, is that this is a Communist-controlled industry.
Let us assume, for a moment, that it is a Communist-controlled industry, although it is an assumption which I do not accept. Then let us ask the question, “ Why is it a Communist-controlled industry ? “. We very well know that Communists can come into control of. an industry just by rigging ballots, just as other people can come to control an industry by rigging ballots, or even control the Parliament. But has there been any rigging of ballots in this case? Mr. Healy has been elected unopposed to the secretaryship of the Waterside Workers Federation or by ballots which are generally accepted as fair ballots and which represent a clear expression of the intention of the people in the industry. If Mr. Healy is so elected, why is he elected ? I suggest that it is not because he is a Communist. In fact, I suggest that it is despite the fact that he is a Communist. I submit that the fact that he is known as a Communist loses him votes which he would otherwise get if he were not, and did the same job. Why is it that men like Mr. Healy believe in a theory that if by agitation, provocation and awakening people to conditions they can produce industrial struggles, an industrial struggle is in itself a good thing ? According to the theory, and they very often choose this because of the dictates of the theory, they would prefer to have a month or two of industrial struggle rather than improvement in wages or working conditions. Let us concede this. But we have also to take into account that there are conditions, social and economic, which are in themselves turbulent, not only on the wharfs but in the coal mines, and these conditions in themselves produce the very results with which this legislation is endeavouring to deal. Whether or not there are Communists in the industry, these conditions exist. There is a parallel - and I think it is a relevant parallel - in conditions in colonial countries, where there are turbulence and disturbances of which the Communists take advantage. The attitude of this Government in relation to these colonial problems is to endeavour to impose authority on that condition without going to the root of the condition and changing it.
The Opposition makes clear its opposition to this measure in concentrating attention upon the technical conditions of operation in the stevedoring industry. 1 should like to stress, in relation to this matter, that clause 31 (1.) and related sub-clauses and clause 7 (1.), (m) and («), provide that when technical changes occur in the industry, members of the Waterside Workers Federation can be excluded from operation under those technical changes. The Opposition says that if the Government were properly accepting its responsibility in relation to this industry, it would go to the root of the cause of those turbulent conditions and change the technical conditions of operation in this industry. Why, only last. Tuesday in Melbourne, 1,140 men were stood off all day. A loss of probably 4.000 or 5,000 hours ‘ occurred because of bad organization and wet conditions. One ship that was in port, Inchdouglas, is -o badly equipped with hatch-covers - it has the old style of hatch-covers which take so long to put on - that, the authorities on board would not have the ship operated for fear of water getting into the hold. On Wednesday, three gangs that worked on that ship lost three hours because nf this condition.
The Opposition says that the alternative is clear. There are two main approaches to this problem of the waterside industry as there are to the problems of the coal-mining industry. I think the Government could refer to things that have been done by other governments to justify its stand, but the part the Government plays is to apply laws to create machinery to control, to impose authority and administration, to apply penalties and to use departmental methods - and it is no wonder that sometimes these methods appeal to departmental people - in an attempt to heal every social and economic abscess without getting to the causes of the trouble and making the necessary technical changes in industry. The Opposition suggests that communism is the outcome of these social and economic abscesses in the system and that we can remove communism only by remedying those conditions. Honorable members opposite may call this a defence of communism if they will, but, far from being a defence of communism, it is an explanation of the conditions which produce communism. Yet the Government consistently refuses to recognize that this is true not only in Australia, where the situation is not too bad and where communism is no serious problem, but also in Cyprus, Malaya and everywhere else. This latter reference is relevant because I am sure that it pinpoints and highlights the true position. We say that until the technical conditions of operating on the waterfront are changed and mechanical methods are applied, so that regular and well-paid employment can be given, there will be in the. waterfront industry, as in the coal-mining industry, opportunities for communism to grow. Until those conditions are removed, the Government is not providing any answer to communism.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- There are one or two matters to which I desire to direct attention during the discussion of this provision. I think it will be readily agreed that there is chaos in this industry at the moment. But that chaos is not due to the Waterside Workers Federation or its leadership. Many speakers have referred to the fact, that certain leaders of the waterside workers are members of the Communist. party, but I point out that if those leaders were removed immediately, there would still be chaos in the industry. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) endeavoured to suggest that this chaos was due largely to the provisions of what he called the 1949 Labour act. I prefer to say that it is due to the maladministration of the Minister himself and of this Government.
Let us examine exactly what the position is. This is hurried legislation and [ submit, that on an important matter such as this the Government would have been well advised to await the outcome of the investigation being made by its own committee of inquiry into the stevedoring industry. It has not done that. I have a copy of the letter which the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) quoted the’ other evening, and it is worth repeating. Strangely enough, the Minister has not attempted to give any explanation of the Government’s extraordinary attitude towards a committee which this Parliament appointed on the Government’s recommendation. What was this committee to investigate? I have a copy of the Minister’s letter to the chairman of that committee. In it, he says -
It is fi matter of public knowledge that your committee was established to report on the facts of the stevedoring industry.
Has the committee reported on the facts of the stevedoring industry ? It certainly has not. All we have is an interim report which was demanded of the committee, no doubt at the instigation of the shipowners at one of the frequent conferences they have had with the Minister at which they no doubt demanded that the Government take some action to put power into their hands while it still has the opportunity to do so. An interim report is produced, and the Government bases this type of legislation upon it. Conditions are chaotic in the industry and I suggest that the most sensible and essential thing for the Government to do is not to endeavour by coercion to bring some order into the industry but to give the industry a decent award based on a realistic approach to existing conditions. Actually, the industry is operating now under an award that was made in 1936. J admit that, there are innumerable orders which have been made by various authorities from time to time to govern working conditions on the waterfront of Australia, but there is no doubt in the world that there is complete chaos in the industry in respect to working conditionsnow and that the Minister wants that state of affairs to continue. Further, he wants the Parliament to endorse that situation.
In my view, the Government ought towithdraw this legislation entirely and set about moving the Arbitration Court to deal with the long overdue log of claimssubmitted by both employers and employees. No doubt, the Minister does not appreciate the part of the report of thecommittee of inquiry from which I quote the following: -
The result has been that the award andthese orders are in a state of utmost confusion,, and indeed we found, upon entering upon the inquiry, that no one was in a position to tei!’ us with any certainty what was the operative provision of the award plus the orders as tonumerous matters.
Finally the committee says -
The Government and the Arbitration Court cannot be regarded as free from responsibility for this long delay in the hearing of logs an* the laying down of a new award and a comprehensive code for the industry.
According to the committee, the Government is responsible for the chaos that exists in the industry to-day. If the Government is responsible, or partly responsible - the Arbitration Court is alsopartly responsible - for the long delay, why does not the Government accept itsresponsibility and move the court to seethat the industry gets the award which it has been seeking based on an examination of conditions now existing in the industry? The Government has not done that. Instead, by the orders of the shipowners,, it brings down legislation which can only continue this chao3 and which seeks to> coerce the workers on the waterfront of Australia to accept conditions which no decent trade unionist ought to be asked to accept.
I ask the Minister to tell us, when he has the opportunity, why, after havingappointed this committee of inquiry, theGovernment itself did not permit thecommittee to proceed with its investigations so that both the Government and the Parliament might be advised on the facts- obtaining in the industry. This is obviously hurried legislation, and it is hurried for a particular reason. It is hurried because the shipowners want to use it as a bludgeon against the waterside workers of this country. As we deal with other provisions in the bill, honorable members will discover that it is not proposed to take any action to counteract what the committee says in its interim report ought to be corrected - the enormous waste of time on the waterfront which leads to excessive costs. That waste is not due to any action on the part of the waterside workers but to the fact that the stevedoring companies and the shipowners propose to leave the industry in the condition in which it is at the moment and are not prepared to take the steps necessary to eliminate this waste of labour power.
One would imagine from some of the speeches that have been made that the major factor leading to loss of labour power on the waterfront is industrial upheaval. I have heard some honorable members refer to it as a turbulent industry. The fact is - and the Minister cannot deny it - that there are other factors operating on the waterfront to-day which are responsible for a greater loss of manpower and man-hours than are industrial upheavals. For instance, there is the time lost on the waterfront as the result of rain. No action has been taken in connexion with the frequent interruptions of work due to this cause, nor is it proposed to take such action. All that the committee of inquiry recommends and all that this legislation provides is that these matters can be investigated and the attention of the employers, the stevedoring companies and the shipowners can be drawn to them. So it will be seen that there are many factors other than the loss of time due to strikes and industrial upheavals on the waterfront that have led to what honorable members have described as the slow turn-round of ships. There is no proper regulation of shipping services. It is a well-known fact that shipowners like to have their ships a.t sea over the week-end period. As a result, there is an accumulation of shipping in the various ports on certain days. No attempt has been made by the Government to regulate the flow of ship ping into and out of Australian ports so that there will not be an overabundance of work on certain days and. a lack of it on other days. The Australian Labour party believes that thosematters ought to be attended to by the Government immediately. But this i» obviously a shipowners’ bill - one that is desired by the shipowners. The Government has gone to great pains to indicatein certain sections of the measure that it does not want to interfere in any way with the power of the employer over his employee, or with the part that the stevedoring companies or the shipowners playin the conduct of the industry.
The only persons who are to be controlled and coerced into doing certain, things are the waterside workers. Therefore, as I stated during my speech at the second-reading stage, this measure ought to be called a shipowners’ bill. It has been designed for the benefit of tinshipowners but not for the benefit of theworkers. We have heard during the debate a lot of rubbish to the effect that because one or two officials of the Waterside Workers Federation happen to bemembers of the Communist party, the waterside workers are not entitled toany consideration. What a ridiculous attitude to adopt! From the way members of the Liberal party and the Australian Country party have been arguing, one would think that, because one or two Communists have been elected to official positions in the federation, itsmembers are not entitled to decent industrial conditions, to a decent award, or toany consideration by the court or theParliament. If that is to be the attitude of the Government towards this organization, what a sorry state of affair* we are reaching in this country ! Even the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) has admitted that on this occasion there can be noquestion of “ cooked “ ballots. He stated that he was quite satisfied that the present officials of the federation had been elected in a fair ballot. If I recollect the facts correctly, on the last occasion on which the waterside workers elected Mr. Healy, against whom a great deal of criticism has been levelled during this debate, he was unopposed. That indicates. apparently, that not only do supporters of the Labour party in the Waterside Workers Federation–
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Mr. Temporary Chairman–
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) put -
That the question be now put.
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. j. McLeay.)
Question put -
That the clause, as amended, be agreed to.
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. j. McLeay.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause 7 - (1.) In this Act, unless the contrary intention appears - “ stevedoring operations “ means -
– I have a number of amendments to clause 7 which have been circulated. I move -
That, in sub-clause (1.) interpretation of “ stevedoring operations “, after the word member “, the following words be inserted : - “. or has applied for membership,”.
The amendment covers the position of a person who has not become a member, but who has applied for membership. He will not be excluded because he does not, for the moment, possess the qualifications set out.
.- The Opposition will not oppose this amendment. We have an objection to the clause as a whole, and it will be stated in detail later.
Amendment agreed to.
– I move -
That, in sub-clause (1.), interpretation of “ Union “, the word “ association “ be omitted with a view to inserting the word “ organization “ in place thereof.
In the discussion I had with members of the interstate executive of the Australian Council of Trades Unions, and at which the general secretary of the Waterside Workers Federation, Mr. Healy, and Mr. Roach of that organization were present, the point was raised that the definition of the word “ union “ required qualification. An explanation was also sought from the Government as to precisely what it intended by the definition. I thought that I had made it clear in my secondreading speech that we were recognizing the particular position of the Waterside Workers Federation in relation to the industry, and that, as a matter of general practice, the work on the waterfront would be conducted by that union.
However, there are situations in some parts of Australia where that position would not necessarily obtain. For example, in the port of Darwin the work is performed by members of the North Australian Workers Union, and ports might be opened up in some remote parts of the Commonwealth where the union taking on this work would be one other than the Waterside Workers Federation. The work might be done by the Australian Workers Union, for example.
So far as the existing situation is concerned, we have no intention of altering it, subject to what appears in subparagraphs (m) and (n) of clause 7. In order to give a little more emphasis to the point, we pro pose to remove the word “ association “ and insert the word “ organization “. That makes it clear that an industrial organization is intended to be declared as the appropriate union in a particular port.
I know that there has been a disposition to read some covert significance into this definition, and to suggest that the Government has in mind that it might be able to use this provision to replace the existing union for the purposes of the act in the event of some emergency. I say quite frankly to the committee that [ gave a good deal of thought as to whether or not we should include some provision to that effect, so as to have that degree of flexibility in the legislation: but I decided against it, first, because I thought, as we were seeking to make a fresh start in this industry, we would not assume that the union directly concerned would not be prepared to play its part in helping to make this new system work. Secondly, if we had an emergency situation in which all the shipping of the Commonwealth was tied up, and it was quite clear that the union as defined in this measure was not going to carry out the work required of it, it would then be desirable for the Parliament to meet and deal with the position. If any amendment to the definition of the word “ union “ were considered expedient under those circumstances, that would be a matter for the Parliament to determine when it met. As it stands, the definition, in our opinion, continues to protect the position of the Waterside Workers Federation, but in order to improve the wording of the legislation in the opinion of the trade union representatives who discussed this matter with us, we propose this amendment.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
Bill received from the Senate and (on motion by Mr. Townley) read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to set up a commission to take over the operation of the Commonwealth-owned ships. Until now, these ships have been operated under the authority of the National Security (Shipping Co-ordination) Regulations. This is obviously undesirable, and it is necessary that their mode of operation be placed on a more satisfactory and permanent basis.
The Government has given long and careful consideration to the future of the Commonwealth-owned vessels. In these considerations, the Government has always had in mind the primary consideration that whoever operates them, the ships should be so used that they would be of the greatest assistance possible in providing adequate and efficient shipping services on the Australian coast. It must be admitted that since the end of the war, shipping services on the coast have not been all that might have been desired.
I do not propose to embark on a detailed discussion of why this has been so, but as I see it one of the principal factors has been the high capital cost of replacing the tonnage lost during the war and tonnage which has become obsolete since. Coupled with the problem of finding the heavy capital demands for replacement tonnage is the very steep increase in the cost of operating ships brought about by higher wages, higher fuel costs and increased repair and maintenance costs. It is also regrettably true that ship operators have not been assisted by the many disputes which over all the post-war years have characterized this industry.
The Government’s ultimate aim is to ensure that Australia is served with an Australian-owned fleet of modern merchant vessels of suitable types and in sufficient numbers to meet all the needs of the various trades around the Australian coast. It intends, also, that as many as possible of these ships will be built in Australian shipyards. It is with these objectives in mind, and having regard also to the problems of the shipping industry to which I have briefly referred, that the Government has approached the question of the future of the Commonwealth-owned ships.
Having found it was not possible to sell the ships on terms satisfactory to it, it decided that they would be continued in. operation under government ownership. At the same time, the Government recognizes the valuable part which the private shipping companies have played, and will continue to play, in providing shipping services on the coast and has, therefore, taken steps to ensure that these companies are placed in a position which will enable them to continue to play their ‘rightful part in providing shipping services in our coastal trades. To this end, the Commonwealth has entered into an agreement with a number of shipping and stevedoring companies. The approval of Parliament to this agreement will be sought in a separate bill, and I do not, therefore, propose to do more than mention it at this juncture.
As I indicated earlier, the purpose of the present bill is to set up a commission to operate the Commonwealth ships. The commission will consist of five members, one of whom will be chairman and another vice-chairman. The normal term of appointment of commissioners will be five years, but the initial appointments are for varying periods so that one commissioner will retire each year.
– Will they have any qualifications ?
– Yes. That matter is mentioned later.
– Will they have any convictions ?
– We all have not had the same experience as the honorable member. In this way, continuity of administration will be preserved. Commissioners will bc eligible for re-appointment. They will be appointed by the GovernorGeneral, and the usual provisions are made for vacation of office of commissioners. However, I would invite the attention of the House to the provision for the vacation of office of a commissioner who becomes interested in a contract entered into by the commission.
The Government has followed the recommendations of the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Public Accounts in its report on the affairs of the Aluminium Production Commission. The committee recommended that a provision on the lines of that contained in the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority Act 1954 should be included in Commonwealth acts establishing statutory corporations. Under this provision, a commissioner who has an interest in a contract with the commission is not thereby disqualified from membership, but is placed under an obligation to disclose his interest at a meeting of the commission, and to refrain from voting in connexion with the contract. There is one departure from the United Kingdom precedent in that a commissioner whose only interest in a contract arises from the fact that he is the holder of shares in common with other members in an incorporated company of not less than 25 members, is not obliged to disclose his interest
– That means that even if he is in the shipping industry, he need not disclose it? ; Mr. TOWNLEY. - This is the explanation: It was felt to be desirable to make this exception, because commissioners may hold shares in a number of public companies and, as ordinary shareholders, would not always be aware of the fact that the company was interested in a contract with the commission.
The commission is given broad powers to operate vessels in the coastal and overseas trades and in trades incidental thereto, but not in intra-state trade, as the terms of the Constitution do not permit it to be given this power. I pause here to emphasize the word “ intra-state “. A most unfortunate misunderstanding was caused in Tasmania recently because apparently the meaning of this word was not appreciated and it was confused with the word “ interstate “. It is the Government’s intention, of course, to operate these vessels interstate, as it has done for a number of years, but not intrastate because of constitutional limitations.
It is not intended that the vessels of the commission will engage in oversea? voyaging, except as special circumstances demand. However, in the past, Commonwealth ships have on occasions engaged in overseas voyages for special reasons, and as it is possible that they may be required to do so in future, the power to engage in overseas trades has been included. In addition to its broad function of operating shipping services, the commission is given power to do all those things which are necessary in connexion with the carrying out of its functions. A number of specific powers are also enumerated, including the power to buy, sell or charter ships, to buy or lease land or equipment, to arrange for the training of apprentices.
It has been the objective of the Government in drafting this bill to place the commission as far as possible in the same position as a private operator of ships. The commission, therefore, has been given a very considerable degree of autonomy and the powers of the Minister are, generally speaking, limited to a power of approval on a relatively few matters of policy. The Minister also, has power to approve of freight rates charged by the commission; but it should be noted that the power is one of approval or disapproval only, and he has no power to initiate changes in the freights charged by the commission.
The Minister has. one direct power, to which I should like to refer. Where he considers it is necessary to meet the needs of a particular area and is in the public interest, the Minister may direct the commission to establish a shipping service to meet those particular needs. Where a service is established at the direction of the Minister and results in a. loss and the commission’s operations for the year also result in a loss, then the commission is entitled to be reimbursed for the loss on the service or the loss on the year’s operations, whichever is the lesser. This power will enable the Minister to ensure that where they are necessary, developmental trades will be undertaken by the commission to areas where the commission would not normally provide services because they would not be payable from a commercial point of view. If the commission is operating on a profitable basis overall, it will be expected to absorb any losses on such trades, but if its operations should not be profitable, then it may be reimbursed and the maintenance of developmental services will thus not be an unduly onerous burden on the finances of the commission.
The Government expects the commission to operate on a proper commercial basis and it has, therefore, included a provision in the bill which obliges the commission to pursue a policy directed towards securing revenue sufficient to meet all its expenditure and to pay a reasonable return on its capital. So far as is consistent with this obligation the commission is obliged to make its services available at the lowest possible rates.
The Minister is required to have regard to these obligations of the commission when the freights and fares of the commission are before him for approval. These provisions will ensure on the one hand that the commission conducts its affairs in a business-like way, and while providing services as cheaply as possible will endeavour to show a reasonabe return on the very substantial capital which the people of Australia have invested in this enterprise. On the otherhand it will ensure that neither the commission, nor any Minister, can reduce freights to an uneconomically low level to the detriment of the private shipping companies and of the finances of the Commonwealth.
The usual provisions are included in the measure providing for the appointment of staff including the appointment of a general manager who will be the chief executive officer of the commission. Again, in pursuance of the Government’spolicy of placing the commission in the same position as its competitors, it hasbeen provided that the Public Service Arbitration Act shall not be applied to the commission and employees of the commission will be subject to the normal awards and determinations under the Arbitration Act or other appropriate wage-fixing authority. On the matter, of employees’ compensation, the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act applies to office and administrative staff; seamen will come under the Seamen’sCompensation Act in the same way as all other seamen; and masters, officers and radio officers will receive compensation in terms of their awards. Other employees will be subject to the normal’ workers’ compensation provisions.
Turning to the finances of the commission, the bill provides that the commission shall have a definite capital, itsinitial capital consisting of the value of the ships and other assets it will take over from the Australian Shipping Board andthe amounts which may be paid to it from the surplus funds remaining after thewinding up of the affairs of the Australian Shipping Board.
– Is that figure stated in the bill?
– Not in this bill. The commission will also take over, on< completion, vessels at present under construction to the order of the Commonwealth and intended for operation by theAustralian Shipping Board. The amounts which have already been paid> by the Commonwealth for these ships by way of progress payments to shipbuilders will also form part of the commission’s initial capital. Provision is also made for the capital of the commission to be added to out of moneys appropriated by Parliament for this purpose should further additions to its capital be necessary. The commission will not be obligated to pay interest on its capital but will be required to make payments to the Commonwealth out of its profits each year, these payments being in effect in the nature of a dividend. Repayments of capital may be made as determined by the Minister and the Treasurer if, at any time in the future, the finances of the commission permit this to be done.
The usual provisions are made regarding the banking of moneys, the application of profits and the audit of the accounts of the commission by the Auditor-General. The commission will be liable to pay tax under the laws of the Commonwealth, including income tax and sales tax, this provision being a further measure in line with the policy of placing the commission in the position of a competitive business undertaking. The bill contains the usual provisions for the submission of annual reports and accounts to the Minister, and the Minister is required to lay these before the Parliament within fifteen sitting days of their receipt by him.
Part 3 of the bill provides for the winding np of the affairs of the Australian Shipping Board under whose authority Commonwealth ships have been operated to date. The proposal is that the vessels at present in operation, as set out in the first schedule to the act, will be transferred to the commission as soon as practicable. It is not possible to transfer all the ships on a given date because when the act comes into force most of them will be engaged on voyages between ports. The intention is that on the completion of the voyage current when the act comes into force, the vessels will be transferred to the commission and, thereafter, will run to the commission’s account. Vessels under construction will be taken over by the commission on completion.
As soon as it becomes practicable to do so, the affairs of the shipping board will then be wound up and the National Security (Shipping Co-ordination) Regulations will be repealed. When the affairs of the board have been wound up, the Treasurer may direct that such portion as he deems necessary of the moneys of the board then remaining will be transferred to the commission and these moneys will form part of the commission’s capital. The Australian Shipping Board has a number of outstanding transactions, in some cases extending back to the war years, which are now in the process of adjustment but which may take some time to complete. It is possible also that after the affairs of the board have been wound up, some claim may be made against it or a claim may need to be made on behalf of the board. To meet such cases, it is provided that after the date of the repeal of the National Security Regulations, the Commonwealth will be substituted for the board for such purposes. This procedure is considered to be preferable to keeping the board in existence for an indefinite and perhaps lengthy period pending the completion of these transactions.
The bill also contains a number of miscellaneous provisions most of which are of a machinery nature and are normal in measures of this kind. I may, perhaps, refer to two of them. The bill provides that the Minister may, with the concurrence of the Treasurer and on behalf of the Commonwealth, purchase ships and dispose of ships so purchased to the commission or to any other person. The purpose of this clause is to enable financial assistance to be given to the Australian shipbuilding industry. Owing to limitations imposed by the Constitution, this method of assistance to the industry has been in existence for a number of years both by the present and previous governments. It has proved a very satisfactory system and it is proposed that it shall be continued.
In brief, the Commonwealth, in pursuance of its policy of supporting the shipbuilding industry, places orders - through the Australian Shipbuilding Board - for the building of vessels in
Australian yards. On completion,; the Vessels are sold to the ultimate purchaser ata price less than the cost to the Govenment, the difference representing the amount of subsidy payable. Honorable senators will be aware of the report of the Tariff Board on the shipbuilding industry, which was tabled in Parliament not long ago, and of the Government’s decision to increase the subsidy on ships built in Australian yards to a maximum of 331/3 per cent. The Government hopes that, as a result of its policy in support of the shipbuilding industry, the Australian yards will be assured of adequate and regular orders. It hopes also that as a result the shipbuilders will be encouraged to improve the efficiency of the industry so that output will be increased, costs reduced, and delivery dates improved.
The bill also contains a provision restricting the transfer or mortgage of Australian ships which are under the age of 25 years. This clause has two purposes. First, it is designed to ensure that the Minister has some power to prevent the Australian coast being denuded of vessels which are still capable of performing a useful service ; and secondly, to ensure that ships built in Australian yards on which a subsidy has been paid are retained on the coast until the end of their useful life. I may add that shipowners raise no objection to this provision.
Finally, I invite the attention of honorable members to the fact that the bill repeals the Shipping Act 1949. This measure was introduced by the Labour Government in March, 1949, but for reasons best known to that Government, was never proclaimed, and has therefore remained inoperative. It is now being removed from the statute-book.
The Government believes that the measures contained in this bill provide the means of placing the affairs of the Commonwealth line on a sound and permanent basis. The commission, which will be charged with the duty of operating the Commonwealth ships, will be given a considerable degree of autonomy subject only to the approval of the Minister ona relatively few matters of major policy, . . It will, to all intents and pur poses, be in the same position as a normal business organization, and the Government trusts that under its administration the vessels of the Commonwealth line will be operated on an efficient and profitable basis and will continue to assist in providing an economical and efficient shipping service in the Australian coastal trade. I commend the bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Dr. Evatt) adjourned.
Bill received from the Senate and (on motion by Mr. Townley) read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill is complementary to the bill which has just been introduced and which provided for the setting up of a commission to operate the Commonwealth-owned ships. In my second-reading speech introducing that particular measure, I referred to the fact that one of the objectives of the Government was to protect the position of the private shipping companies and to place them in a position whereby they would be able to’ continue to play their due part in the provision of efficient shipping services in the Australian coastal trade.
The Government believes that both the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission and the private shipping companies have a part to play in providing shipping services and that there is ample opportunity on the coast for both interests to operate. It is determined, however, to avoid the position arising under which the Commonwealth-owned vessels will expand unnecessarily into trades which are being efficiently served by the private shipping interests. The Government has no intention of unduly restricting the activities of the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission; on the contrary, it has given the commission very wide and general powers to operate its vessels with a minimum of ministerial control over its activities. At the same time, it is not prepared to confer any undue advantages on the private shipping companies. Still less is it prepared to place any of those companies in anything approaching a monopolistic position. Its objective has been, while retaining the operation of the Commonwealth line, to give the private shipping companies every opportunity to play their part in providing shipping services and to leave it to the shipping companies themselves to determine to what extent they will participate in these services.
To achieve these objectives, the Government, after long and detailed negotiations, has reached an agreement with various shipping and stevedoring companies and it is this agreement to which the approval of the Parliament is now sought. The agreement is annexed as a schedule to this bill. Under it, undertakings are given both by the Commonwealth and by shipping and stevedoring companies in regard to the operation of shipping services on the Australian coast. The shipowners for their part undertake that they will provide sufficient vessels of suitable types as will, with the vessels of other companies and of the commission, provide adequate efficient and economical coastal shipping services. They further undertake that they will conduct these services in an efficient and economical manner and under competitive conditions. The stevedoring companies have likewise undertaken to carry out stevedoring operations in an efficient and economical manner and to give fair and equitable treatment to the vessels of the commission handled by them.
The Commonwealth for its part has undertaken that it will not, except through the agency of the commission, operate merchant vessels in the coastal trades and that the commission will not engage in stevedoring operations, nor undertake itself the booking or handling of cargo carried on its vessels in coastal and territorial shipping trades. These services will continue to be performed, as they have been for many years past, by established private companies, except in conditions that are described later. The Commonwealth also undertakes that, except in circumstances to which I shall refer shortly, the tonnage of vessels operated by the commission will not exceed in the aggregate 325,000 gross tons. This tonnage is sufficient to cover all of the Commonwealth vessels now in operation, together with those under construction, with a margin to provide for foreseeable demands for additional tonnage in certain trades and with a further margin for any contingencies which may arise in the future. This tonnage is sufficient to cover the present and immediately prospective needs of the commission, and to give it, in addition, a reasonable margin for the expansion of its tonnage.
The agreement goes on to make adequate provision for the expansion of the commission’s authorized tonnage should it prove that the shipping companies arc not in fact meeting in full their obligation to provide adequate and efficient services. If the Minister considers that further tonnage is necessary in the coastal trades because existing tonnage is insufficient or because tonnage is required for expansion in any established trade or for the purpose of servicing new routes or because any route is not adequately served because the tonnage is obsolete, he may notify the companies specifying the tonnage which he thinks should be acquired to meet these demands.
To digress for a moment, I should explain that the agreement provides that should there be any difference of opinion between the Minister or the commission and the companies signatory to the agreement, these differences may be resolved by reference to an independent authority, who will determine matters in dispute. Except for the purpose of determining matters related to shipbuilding, to which I shall refer in more detail later, the independent authority will be a person agreed upon between the parties. In default of agreement he will, at the option of the Minister, be a barrister or solicitor nominated by the president of the Law Council of Australia, or a chartered accountant nominated by the president of the Institute of Chartered Accountants. This ensures that a person may be chosen to act as independent authority having the qualifications necessary to enable him to determine the particular point at issue. The companies then may inform the Minister whether or not they agree with his contention regarding the additional tonnage required. If they do not, the matter is referred to the independent authority for determination. Upon determination being made, if the companies do not within a time specified take steps to provide the tonnage which the independent authority has determined is necessary, the Minister may authorize the commission to acquire the tonnage and the tonnage which the ° commission is empowered to operate is increased by the amount of tonnage so acquired.
The private shipping companies therefore are given every opportunity to build the new tonnage which may be required for the Australian coastal trade, but if they do not do so the commission may build tonnage to the extent to which the private companies fail to do so. Thus it is entirely in the hands of the shipping companies as to whether or not they take advantage of any opportunities offering from time to time to expand their operations. On the other hand, the position of the commission and of the Australian public is fully protected because if the shipowners fail to play their part then it is open to the commission to step in and meet any deficiencies.
The commission is likewise protected in relation to the stevedoring and the booking and handling of cargo carried in its vessels. In the first place, the rates, fees, &c, which are payable for these services are to be as agreed between the commission and the company concerned or if they cannot agree, at rates to be determined by the independent authority. The independent authority having determined a reasonable rate and the commission being unable to find any company signatory to the agreement prepared to do the work for them in any port or in any service at those rates, the commission may then either get the work done by a company outside the agreement or it may be authorized bv the Minister to do the work itself.
Furthermore, the commission is protected if it should prove that the stevedoring of the commission’s vessels or the “booking or handling of cargo is being carried out in a’ manner detrimental to the commission’s interests by reason of inefficiency or because the commission’s vessels are not given fair and equitable treatment or if the efficiency of operation of the vessels is in any way adversely affected by arrangements made for their handling by any inadequacy on the part of the company concerned. If the commission cannot arrange with any company to perform these services to its satisfaction, the matter may be referred to the independent authority. If the Minister’s contention that the vessels are not being efficiently handled is upheld by the authority, the commission again may arrange with a firm outside the agreement to do the work for it or may be authorized by the Minister to do it itself. Thus, so long as the companies continue to provide efficient services in stevedoring and booking or handling of cargo on the commission’s vessels, the arrangements which have operated satisfactorily in this regard for many years will be continued.
There are obvious advantages in continuing this arrangement. The companies have been doing this work for the Australian Shipping Board in a satisfactory manner and at reasonable rates. The commission, so long as the arrangement continues, will avoid the considerable expense and administrative difficulties which would be involved in acquiring premises and setting up the staff which would be necessary at the various ports if it had to perform these services for itself. However, it is fully protected, because if it should prove that the services are not being performed in an efficient manner, the commission may be authorized - after a determination by the independent authority - to carry out the services for itself. The agreement also provides for the protection of the Australian shipbuilding industry. The Government has pursued an active policy in support of this industry and has only recently, following a report on the industry by the Tariff Board, increased the amount of financial assistance payable in respect to vessels built in Australian yards to a maximum of 33^ per cent. It is recognized that this support, generous as it is, is not the only thing required to maintain the shipbuilding industry at an adequate and efficient level of production. The industry in this country is still comparatively new, and to enable it to develop along satisfactory lines, it is necessary that the yards receive adequate and regular orders to an extent which will enable them to continue operating without interruptions and indeed to expand their rate of production.
It is obvious that if a yard does not receive orders regularly so that it is unable to plan its production well ahead and ensure that all the many trades which take part in the building of a ship are occupied in due progression, there will be occasions when all of their skilled employees will not be fully employed and it may be necessary for men to be laid off. If this occurs, not only is the rate of production affected, but it may prove difficult for the yards to get the men back when work is resumed, and their efficiency and ability to build ships economically is thus adversely affected.
With these factors in mind, the agreement provides that where the Minister, after receiving advice from the Australian Shipbuilding Board, is satisfied that the orders held by the Australian shipyards for the construction of new tonnage are less than is necessary to enable the industry to continue in operation at a reasonably adequate level of production, he may give notice to the shipping companies accordingly, specifying the amount of tonnage which he considers should be ordered from Australian yards. In arriving at an opinion on this matter, the Minister is quite rightly required to have regard to the cost and period of construction for ships in Australian yards. If the shipping companies do not agree, the matter may, as in the cases mentioned previously, be referred to the independent authority for determination.
For purposes of determining matters connected with shipbuilding, it is provided that the independent authority shall be the Australian Tariff Board. It is felt that this board, which has only recently completed a thorough investigation into the Australian shipbuilding industry and which will be making further investigations from time to time, is the most appropriate body to deal with matters of this nature. The Tariff Board having made a determination, the shipping companies have up to six months to take such steps as may be practicable to place orders, for the amount of tonnage determined, with Australian shipyards. If they do not do so, or order less than the tonnage determined, the Minister may authorize the commission to order tonnage to make up the deficiency. Once again, the tonnage which the commission is authorized to operate will be increased by the amount of tonnage so ordered. The Minister will thus be able to ensure at all times that Australian yards have sufficient and regular orders.
There are two further important provisions in the agreement to which I shall direct the attention of the House. It is provided that the commission shall pursue a policy directed towards securing revenue sufficient to meet all expenses and to permit it to pay to the Commonwealth a reasonable return on its capital, and the Minister administering the affairs of the commission is required, in exercising his powers under the act, to have regard to the policy which the commission is required to pursue. This provision has two effects. It requires the commission to manage its affairs in a business-like manner, and to endeavour to show reasonable profits, in the same way as any other trading organization is expected to do. On the other hand, it prevents the commission, or the Minister, from charging rates of freight which are uneconomical and which would not only re-act to the serious detriment of the private shipping companies, but would also impose a burden on the Australian taxpayers, in that any losses which the commission might thereby suffer would ultimately fall on their shoulders.
I stated earlier in my remarks that one of the objectives of the Government in subscribing to this agreement was to ensure that no companies were placed in a monopolistic position. To give further point to this objective, the agreement provides that it is open to any company engaged in shipping or stevedoring operations to apply to the Minister to become a party to the agreement, and the Minister is empowered to accept such applicants. It should be noted particularly that the consent of the original signatories is not necessary before the Minister accepts a firm which wishes to be joined as a party.
Thus, it is open to any shipping or stevedoringcompany which now or in the future may wish to do so to be joined as a party andto undertake the obligations and secure the benefits resulting there from. It should be further noted that the commission is under no obligation to use any particular one or more of the signatory companies to carry out stevedoring, or the booking or handling of cargo on its vessels. It may use any companies signatory to the agreement, and, in certain circumstances, companies outside the agreement. It may be expected that there will be some competition among the companies concerned to perform these services for the commission, and thus it may be anticipated that the commission will have the services done for it at reasonable rates and in an efficient manner.
Honorable members will observe that the agreement has been signed by fifteen companies. These include two companies engaged in stevedoring exclusively, and all of the more important Australian shipping companies, some of which are alsoengaged in stevedoring operations. It has not been possible for the matter to be discussed with all of thecompanies likely to be interested, but no doubt all ofthose companies who have been engaged in thestevedoring and booking of cargo in Commonwealth ships, and possibly other companies who maybe interested in doingso, will in due course make application to be joined as parties to the agreement. They have all been invited to become parties to the agreement and a number of them have already made application.
The bill itself is simple and mercifully brief . It seeks the approval of the Parlia ment to the agreement, which has a currencyof twenty years from the proclamation of the act, and provides that the commission shall do those things which it isrequired under the agreement to do, and will refrain from doinganything contraryto the terms of the agreement. It also empowers theTariff Board to performthe functions ofthe independent authorityin relation toshipbuilding matters.This is necessary because, under the Tariff Board Act, theboard does not have the power toperform sucha function.
The Government believes that this bill and the agreement, in conjunction with the bill setting up the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission, provide the opportunity of improved shipping services on the Australian coast. The Commonwealth ships will be continued in operation, and they will continue to play their due part in providing shipping services on the coast. The position of the private companies is also protected. They are afforded the opportunity, if they so wish, to expand their services as the demand for shipping services grows with the general expansion of Australia. The interests of the community are fully safeguarded in that, if the shipping companies fail to respond in any way it will be open to the commission to meet any deficiencies. The Government is confident that the commission and the private companies will each play their due part to the benefit of the Australian coastal trade, the shipbuilding industry and the people of Australia. Icommend the bill to the House.
– Before I formally move for the adjournment of the debate, I should like to suggest to the Minister for Air and Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr. Townley) that this bill and the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission Bill 1956 be debated together as, I understand, was done elsewhere.Will the Minister consider this suggestion?
– Yes, certainly.
– I also wish to mention two other matters. As has been done in connexion with other bills of such importance as this measure, will the Minister make available to all honorable members copies of the second-reading speech that he has just delivered? That wouldbe of considerable assistance to all.
Mr.Townley. - I understood that copies of the speech were being prepared for that purpose. I shall ascertain whether they are now available.
– Allthat has beendone so far is that several copies of thespeech that was delivered by a Minister in another placehave been handed out. Someof the words used in it refer, not tothe Minister inthis House, but to his colleague in theother place.
The preparation of the agreement that is set out in the schedule to the bill has involved negotiations between the Commonwealth and fifteen or more shipping and stevedoring companies. Is the Minister prepared to make available, prior to the resumption of the debate, any written submissions that passed between the Commonwealth and those companies ?
– I shall consider the right honorable gentleman’s request and, if it is possible to accede to it, the documents will be made available before the resumption of the debate.
Debate (on motion by Dr. Evatt) adjourned.
In committee: Consideration resumed (vide page 3020).
– Just before lunch I was dealing with the -second of the Government’s amendments to clause 7 and explaining that during a meeting with the representatives of the interstate executive of the Australian Council of Trades Unions and the Waterside Workers Federation there had been some discussion about the proposed de’finition of “ Union “. I found, at the outset, some misapprehension as to the real meaning of this provision. There was a feeling that the Government might, under some circumstances, be able to declare a union other than the Waterside Workers Federation as the “ Union “ for the purposes of this act. Before lunch I explained that in all the ports where the federation is currently recognized as a union that position could not, and would not, bc altered as a result of this legislation, but that it had been necessary to bring into the definition some flexibility to meet the position at Darwin, where the recognized union is the North Australian Workers Union, and also the position which might arise in ports where, at the moment, stevedoring operations are not conducted in any organized way, and no union is yet active. In some of these the “ Union “ might be the Waterside “Workers Federation, whereas in some of the ports of north-western Australia it might be the Australian Workers Union. I gave the committee, just as I did the meeting last Friday, an assurance that the definition was not drafted in its present form for any sinister or undercover purpose. It was drafted to meet the practical realities of the situation that exists at present. The assured position of the federation in the scheme of things outlined in the bill is protected, and all that we are doing is making it possible to meet future contingencies, not in ports where the federation is already recognized, but in those which may develop in the future.
– This clause is, in form, merely an interpretation clause, but from the interpretation one can see the possible general operation of the bill. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) has repeated the assurance, which he gave before lunch, that the Government has no sinister intention in relation to the recognition of unions. He also said before lunch that he would be frank with the House and admit that he had had in mind the inclusion of a provision which would, in certain circumstances - circumstances which he mentioned in a very general way - debar the union which carries out most of the stevedoring operations - the Waterside Workers Federation - from recognition under this legislation. When the Minister confesses that he did have that in mind he cannot be surprised-
– Let us get it clear. When I said that I had had it in mind, I meant that it was a matter which had been under discussion at different points of time in the past when difficulties had arisen. When we came to the drafting of this legislation I did consider whether we should provide greater flexibility to enable the Parliament to deal with an emergency situation.
– That puts a slightly different complexion on what the Minister said this morning, but it is still apparent that he wants flexibility; in other words, an act of Parliament that is sufficiently adaptable to a situation to allow the Government to deprive the recognized union of the position that it occupies, and of the recognition that it has under this legislation. That is putting in other terms what the Minister has said. He now says that he has no intention of doing these things, but that is not enough. It is a question not of his intention, but of the effect of this bill. His private intention may not correspond with that of the Government of which he is a member.
– It is not only not my intention; the provisions of the bill are specifically directed to preventing such a thing from happening.
– We shall look at the provisions in a moment. The intention, which the Minister now says he has, of not interfering with the established position, could be made clear in a few words. The bill need only provide that the unions at present undertaking stevedoring throughout Australia shall continue to do so.
– I am agreeable to an amendment having that effect. In what form does the right honorable gentleman propose it should be?
– If the Minister will agree to an amendment, it will be very helpful. I, or one of my colleagues, will move an amendment that will be substantially in the terms that I have mentioned - “ Notwithstanding any other provision of the bill, the existing unions engaged in stevedoring shall, wherever operations of this kind take place, continue to be the recognized unions for the purposes of this bill “. If that were done, no change could bp made without a reference to the Parliament.
– That is the Government’s intention.
– The present wording of the bill is not at all clear. One of the Minister’s proposed amendments seeks to alter the words “ association “ of employees to “organization” of employees. What difference does that make? If it means that the Government will have the power to recognize an organization, as distinct from an association, that would probably be - and I think this is covered in some other provision - an organization registered under State or Federal law. The attacks that have been made on the established and bona fide unions in all
Australian industries have usually taken place after the registration of an organization, under either Federal or State law. A notorious example was the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union, which, for many years after 1928, existed as a rival to the Waterside Workers Federation. I do not know whether the registration was Victorian or federal. That is merely a matter for decision by some registrar. But we are dealing with this as a parliament. If, as the Minister says, no such possibility as we envisage is contemplated, that should be made clear in the statute. Tt should be plain that the position of the federation and the various other bodies that undertake stevedoring work will be protected. There are some exceptions. The bill refers to the North Australian Workers Union in respect of Darwin. Then it adds -
If we turn to clause 9 we find that where the authority establishes a register of waterside workers at a port, it must declare that the association specified in the declaration shall be, for the purposes of the act, the “ Union “ in relation to that port. That is a very general power, under which the authority, at its discretion, could declare the recognition of any organization. Those general words are capable of being applied generally. It is important that the existing position be maintained, and I think it is fair to say that the Minister feels now that that ought to be done.
– May I interrupt the right honorable gentleman? If he can suggest a form of words that will be acceptable to the draftsman and express more clearly what we have in mind, I shall accept it gladly. I want the right honorable gentleman to know that, while he has been speaking, I have discussed the matter with the draftsman. Apparently, it is not quite so simple as the right honorable gentleman appears to believe.
– I agree that there is a drafting difficulty, but the intention should be made clear. I understand that the Minister intends, so that the legislation will have some chance of surviving or becoming effective, that a union which does stevedoring at present shall not—
– That it shall not be supplanted in the port by another union.
– It shall not be supplanted in doing the stevedoring work it now does, and for which it is the recognized union, and the other unions, respectively, are recognized. I understand that the Minister intends that the existing state of affairs shall continue.
– - Subject to paragraphs (m) and (n).
– I shall come to paragraphs (m) and (n) in a minute. They propose a very big change.
– It is not a very big change, but it is an important point.
– An accurate expression of intention would clear the ground in relation to the recognition of unions engaged in general waterside work or stevedoring work in Australia. The Minister must be aware that - perhaps necessarily - there is vagueness and ambiguity in these provision. Sometimes the draftsman is not directly in touch with the Minister and the persons acting as intermediaries have views slightly different from the Minister’s views. All that we want to ensure is that the organization doing the job now - the Waterside Workers Federation, the North Australian Workers Union and the other unions concerned - shall be the recognized organizations.
– Will the right honorable gentleman consider a practical problem which exists at present? In one or two relatively small ports there is an argument between unions about which of several unions shall be the recognized union. If we were to define “ the union “ as meaning the existing union, that might cause difficulty in ports where the problem that I have mentioned is still unresolved. I mention that, not to cause difficulties, but to illustrate the sort of thing that the draftsman has to watch.
– Order ! The right honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
– With the consent of the committee, I shall take my second period now. My colleagues will consider this point. I want to deal very shortly with paragraphs (m) and («), in which 1 believe all honorable members are interested. They alter the present position. Paragraph (m) states that the term “ waterside worker “ shall not. include -
Persons employed, directly or indirectly, at a port in or in connexion with stevedoring operations which consist nf the loading or unloading, into or from ships, of loose bulk cargo by means of equipment based on the shore, not being persons employed in operations of a kind which, before the commencement of this Act, were ordinarily performed in connexion with the use of such equipment by members of a Union.
The Government intends to move an amendment proposing that all words from “ not being persons “ to the end of the paragraph shall be omitted, and that a slightly different form of words shall be inserted. I need not read them to the committee. I should like the Minister to make clear what is intended by that paragraph. From what ports and from what type of persons is the cover of the legislation to be withdrawn? To what extent will the cover he withdrawn? To what extent will persons covered by the existing legislation be excluded from cover by this legislation? I turn to paragraph (n), which provides that the term “ waterside worker “ shall not include-
Persons in the regular employment of a person engaged in an industrial undertaking, being persons whose duties include the performance of stevedoring operations in connexion with that undertaking.
That is a very wide provision. It will exclude from recognition as a waterside worker for the purposes of this legislation all persons regularly employed by any industrial undertaking, even though their duties include the performance of stevedoring operations. Under that paragraph, any industrial undertaking in Australia which required stevedoring work to be performed in the course of its operations would be able to say to the Waterside Workers Federation, “ You have nothing to do with us. We have regular employees to do our stevedoring work, and they do not come within the terms of the stevedoring industry legislation.” I do not know whether it is the intention of the Government that an industrial undertaking shall be able to do that.
This is an enormously wide power. There may be cases where the position that I have referred to exists by agreement with the Waterside Workers Federation. If that is so, no doubt those agreements will be permitted to continue. But this paragraph goes beyond such cases. It excludes from recognition as a waterside worker all persons regularly employed by an industrial organization doing stevedoring operations. As the servants of such an undertaking, they will not be protected by this legislation. No protection will be given either to the stevedore or to his employees.
To whom does the Minister intend that this exemption shall apply? It is inaccurate to refer to it as an exemption. It really is an arbitrary act by the Government, which has said, in effect, “ Although in this legislation we are dealing with stevedoring in Australia, we shall not extend the protection of the legislation to certain kinds of stevedoring work performed by regular employees of the companies for which the work is done “. If the power conferred by paragraph (n) were exercised arbitrarily, bad companies would be able to get rid of members of a waterside workers’ union.
I urge the Minister not to extend these definitions beyond the point needed to cover the cases he intends to cover. The trouble with acts of parliament is that sometimes they go too far. The Minister says that he does not want to go too far in defining “ the union “. That difficulty can be solved by an amendment to which we all agree. It may be difficult to draft, but my colleagues and I will assist in drafting it. We should make it clear that this is not a direct attack on the unions, and should provide that a union doing stevedoring work to-day shall continue to do so. Why does the Minister want paragraphs (m) and (n) in the bill? Why go further than is required? Why not give the legislation a chance to operate without the bitterness and anxiety that will be caused by provisionswhich will tempt some companies to say, “ We shall do our own stevedoring because, if we do so, our employees will not have the protection of the stevedoringindustry legislation “.
These provisions have created - I think rightly - the gravest suspicion. We know what happened in New Zealand in relation to the recognition of unions. I donot think that that will happen here,, because I believe the people of this country would not tolerate the kind of interference with established unions that could be attempted under this clause inits present form. It is by no means themost important clause of the bill, but it does indicate the way in which the legislation could operate. I ask the Minister again to frame the bill so that it will operate only in the way that he desires. Do not allow to succeed an attempt in which certain people can say, “We can get out of the provisions of the law by applying this further than the Government intends “. If there is to be any change let the change be made by one authority - not the Government, not the stevedoring authority, not the courts dealing with the industry, but the authority responsible for establishing the system, this Parliament itself.
– I think I have already said all that needs to be said as to the definition aspect. I can only repeat that if there is a form of words which meets the practical problems, and sets out for us even more clearly than the Parliamentary Draftsman has so far contrived the definition of “ union “, we will look at it in an endeavour to prescribe legislatively what we have already said’ to be our intention.
Honorable members know that I have a further amendment which I propose to move to paragraph (m) which is merely for the purpose of bringing out a little more clearly what was intended originally in relation to this matter in any event. It must be very difficult for the general run of waterside worker to understand the significance of these matters, particularly as every proposal that we present is given, by the Opposition, some sinister interpretation. I suggest that if the committee looks at the amendment quite objectively it will1 see it as an attempt to meet a practical situation in an eminently practical way. First of all, under this bill we intend to give, as has been confirmed, virtually a monopoly of work on the waterfront to members of the “Waterside Workers Federation. Now, over the whole range of waterfront operations in Australia, and in all the establishments at which waterfront work is carried out, there are conditions which exist and situations which arise which may make it desirable for work in a particular area or an individual establishment to be carried out by persons other than members of the federation. When the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) says this: is an important change I agree with him that these are important provisions; but if he is using the term to signify that something is proposed here that has not been attempted before, then I remind the right honorable gentleman of the practice under the provision in the current act which, is to be amended. In the 1949. act there was a. general provision which corresponds to clause 39 of this bill which gave a general power, in effect, to the authority to exempt people from the requirement of the law that certain work should be carried out by waterside workers. The right honorable gentleman might well have said, “ Well, you had a general power, and it was exercised in suitable instances by the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board. Why do you need to go into rather more detail in this bill?” The reason why we have gone into rather more detail is that we believe that it is not sufficient, having regard to circumstances that I shall mention to the committee, to leave that decision entirely to the discretion of the authority, without giving at least some indication to. the authority of the will of the Parliament in the matter. It is for the Parliament to decide whether these are useful contributions or not. We believe that they are for two reasons: first, as to paragraph (m), we deal with a situation where bulk handling equipment is being installed at various ports in the Commonwealth. I can illustrate this best by mentioning the sugar ports of north Queensland, to which the honorable member for Blax land (Mr. E. James- Harrison)- has just referred in an interjection. There are very important developments going on inthese ports in relation to the- installation of equipment foi- the bulk handling of. sugar. I believe that nothing: will domore to improve both the efficiency and the economy of sugar production than the introduction of bulk handling equipment in the sugar ports. An expenditure of some millions of pounds is involved’ in. the installation of this equipment. It. may be that in a particular port only a handful of men’ - four; five, six or ten men - may be required to load1 the- sugar from these, bulk installations into ships, where in the past the number of men, necessarymight have been very much greater.. L say to honorable gentlemen opposite quite frankly that I am certain that the Australian people, and certainly the. people of Queensland, will have the good sense, to support our determination not to< subject equipment costing millions of pound’s to instal, and meaning sd much to- the industry, to the hazards- of the: sort of frequent interruption of operations which comes- from the- policy of the Waterside Workers Federation. Perhaps we shall be told that we are hoping to get’ a new era on the waterfront, and’ perhaps we may be optimistic enough to’ hope for that; but we certainly shall not) take- the risk of equipment of this sort being left lying idle as a result of some decision in the port of Sydney, more than 1,000 miles to the south, which involved stoppages along the lines that have obtained in this industry, which has been described’ so frequently in the course of this debate as a turbulent industry.
We believe we are still retaining, for the members of the Waterside Workers Federation the great bulk of the work to be done in this section of industry, whilst at the same time providing more freedom in the operation of bulk installations in ports at which it may be installed in the future. My amendment will make it clear that where those installations exist at present in ports, and are being, worked by waterside workers, that section of the work will not be taken, away from the waterside workers in those ports.
– In -what ports is such bulk handling equipment already working ?
– To mention one, there are the grain elevators ar, Geelong for the loading of wheat.
– To which trade union does the Minister think men employed on that work should belong?
– In Geelong the work on the grain elevators is being done by members of the Waterside Workers Federation. That is the existing position, and will not be affected by the bill.
– How are they excluded? Where is that provided?
– The amendment itself ensures that. The relevant words are “ at that port “.
– In other words, you go so far, but no further. That is what this amendment means.
– What the amendment will provide is that where waterside workers have been operating particular equipment in a particular port they will go on doing so and, say, if another grain elevator were established at Geelong the operation of that would be carried out by members of the Waterside Workers Federation. But where, in north Queensland, we are introducing bulk handling of sugar in the sugar ports, the operation of bulk handling equipment will not be the exclusive preserve of members of the Waterside Workers Federation. That does not necessarily mean that members of that federation cannot be engaged, but it does mean that, for the purposes of the legislation, that field of activity is not their exclusive preserve. It would have been within the scope of the authority to decide that from time to time, but we want to make the will of Parliament clear on this particular matter. I should be very surprised if Parliament is not willing to support this provision, because the importance of continuous operation, once that bulk equipment gets going, is evident to everybody. Industry should not be subjected to the kind of sporadic interruption which has been such a marked feature of the history of this federation in past years.
As to paragraph (n) rather different circumstances are encountered. It deals with a situation which occurs at some of the big industrial establishments where the the wharf virtually forms part of the establishment. This will not necessarily be a general feature, by any means, any more than it has been in the past, but there ma.y be reasons why, at a particular place, it is desirable that persons in the employ of an industrial concern should be able to carry out the waterside operations necessary for the conduct of its business. As I have mentioned, that is already the case, for example, with the Electrolytic Zinc show at Risdon, in Tasmania. 1 understand that it is true, also, of certain establishments of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited.
A classical illustration is provided at the works of the Australian Aluminium Production Commission at Bell Bay. Even if the record of the federation were a good one, the practical requirements of this establishment are such that it is clearly a place where this work ought to be done, preferably, by the employees of the commission. If waterside workers do it they have to come by launch across several miles of water, from Beauty Point. The shipping is not regular into the commission’s wharf, and if waterside workers were employed they would have to be taken back to Beauty Point after the job has been done. It is obviously more preferable from a practical point of view, to have working with the company people who, as occasion requires, can be assigned to its stevedoring operations, rather than go through the complicated manoeuvre of bringing men miles across water by launch to do a job, and then returning them. If one wanted a convincing reason why that is desirable, the history of Bell Bay provides it a thousand-fold.
Since arrangements were made to commence production of aluminium at Bell Bay, ten vessels have called at the commission’s wharf, and there has been trouble on all of them. According to a report provided by the Stevedoring Industry Board, the first vessel to take bauxite to Bell Bay was Eiroku Maru,. which was idle from the 16th December, 1954, to the 5th January, 1955, because waterside workers stated they would not work on the vessel unless the work of driving the commission’s shore cranes was conceded to them. The second vessel was Kenkoko Maru, which arrived on the 14th June, 1955. Waterside workers again refused to work, after unsuccessfully demanding that they be conceded the work of crane driving. In the meantime, Mr. Justice Ashburner had ruled against them on this particular point. The vessel was idle on the 14th, 15th and 16th June. The third vessel was Lorinna, which arrived in port on the 8th September, 1955. Throughout the working of this ship, waterside workers refused to work overtime until 10 p.m. each night, although they had agreed to do so earlier, at a conference.
Apart from this sad industrial story which I am unfolding, I remind the committee that there is no regularity of shipping into the commission’s wharf. There was a vessel there in January, another in June and another in September. These facts emphasize the impracticability of transporting waterside workers backwards and forwards from the Beauty Point pickup. On the fourth vessel, Kini, on the 26th .September, 1955, waterside workers refused to start work at all, and would not start until 1.30 p.m. on the 27th September. They also persisted in their earlier repudiation of the agreement to work overtime until 10 p.m. The fifth vessel was Timbarra, which arrived on the 16th October, 1955. “So actual stoppages of work occurred, but the work was punctuated by constant arguments and attempts by the waterside workers to force the commission to employ extra men. On Timbarra again, on the the 9th November, watersiders refused to work, and although they started work on the 10th November, they refused to provide labour for three ships, notwithstanding the fact that they had previously agreed to do so. On the seventh vessel, Lorinna, on the 18th November, and the eighth vessel, Kakapo, on the 24th November, the waterside workers again refused to comply with their agreement to work overtime until 10 p.m. On the ninth vessel, Talinga, on the 31st December, 1955, watersiders made a number of demands and, when these were rejected, they refused to start work. They did not begin to work until the 11th January, 1956. The tenth vessel was Yanderra. On the 24th May, 1956, water side workers refused to start work when one of their demands was rejected. This vessel was discharged by the commission’s employees.
– Whose report is that?
– It is from the Stevedoring Industry Board.
– It might be ex parte.
– The board subsequently ruled to exclude federation members from this particular establishment. It was on the basis of the incidents I have just outlined that that decision was taken.
– The board has not done that. It has given permission to move waterside workers from one ship to the other, but it cannot make an exclusive decision on the matter.
– I have noi had information to that effect, but it did rule to exclude members of the federation from work at Bell Bay. Parliament is asked to give a general indication, and n wider power of exemption is left with the authority. Parliament is saying, in effect. that in circumstances such as I have just outlined, there shall not be reserved to members of the federation the waterside task which relates to operations of this sort, nor at installations similar to thai of the Australian Aluminium Production Commission at Bell Bay. There is a practical value in the provision, because it preserves the public interest by guarding against unwarranted and frequent interruption of the work carried on at these very important establishments by these most valuable and useful bull? installations.
.- Before dealing with the amendment to clause 7 which is now under discussion. I wish to say, in respect of the industrial trouble at Bell Bay, that the statement, made by the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) is correct: The waterside workers have not been totally excluded from work there. It is true that there have been some difficulties at Bell Bay, and the report just given by the Minister is simply a statement on disputes which have occurred, but it has given no information as to their relevant importance or of other circumstances associated with them. It has been simply a statement of facts.
– It discloses the remarkable fact that each ship which has gone to Bell Bay has been held up because of industrial trouble.
– I am not querying the facts contained in the report. I am simply pointing out that the full details of any of the disputes mentioned are not given. But although honorable members are not made aware of those details, they will be interested to know that to-day - on this very afternoon - representatives of the Australian Council of Trades Unions and of other organizations are meeting representatives of the Australian Aluminium Production. Commission to discuss the question of handling cargo at Bell Bay. Apparently the trade union movement itself is getting this matter settled in its own best interests. Therefore, in regard to the Bell Bay matter, too much importance should not have been placed upon the facts given, in view of the action that is now being taken.
I now desire to correct the statement made in quite good faith by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt), that the elevators at Geelong are being handled by waterside workers. The grain elevators at Geelong are being worked, and grain is being put into the gantries, by members of the well-known and important union, the Federated Storemen and Packers Union of Australia. But after the wheat has been put into the gantries, the work from that point on becomes the work of waterside workers. They do any other actual handling involved, and also the trimming of the cargo in the ships. In respect of bulk-handling, somebody has to do the trimming of cargoes, and it may be that at certain ports waterside workers are doing trimming and members of other organizations are discharging by means of gantries or other means into the holds of ships. However, that matter can be further discussed at a later stage.
My principal objection to this clause is in relation to the definition of “ union “. I appreciate that the Minister for Labour and National Service has stated, with perfect sincerity and good faith, his intentions with regard to this clause. However, I would ask the Minister to bear in mind that it is not the intention of the Parliament, or of any Minister, that decides the interpretation of legislation; it is the actual words that are used in the legislation itself. Even if the Minister himself were administering this legislation, he would find that’ decisions made by the courts in respect of words used in the legislation will give a completely different meaning to the clause from that which he himself intended Also, the Minister will not always administer the Department of Labour and National Service, and whatever his intentions may be in respect of administration, after he ceases to he the Minister his intentions may not be given effect.
I have said that, in order to make clear that I am not by any means suggesting that the Minister is misleading us,because I believe what he has said and I know his views on this matter. However, I desire to put the position before this committee as the trade union movement sees this legislation, and with its future actions in view. Behind this definition we must consider the general pattern of industrial legislation, particularly legislation covering the stevedoring industry and the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. The very wording of the definition of “ union “, together with what is being put into clause 9 by way of amendment, and that clause as it stands at present, plus section 135 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, could bring about a state of affairs somewhat similar to that which took place in New Zealand not long aso. That is the sort of thing that the trade union movement has to safeguard itself against, and for that reason we must ensure as far as we can that the legislation passed will prevent anything of that nature happening. I ask the committee to look carefully at the definition of “ union “. The definition is - “ union “ means the Waterside Workers Federation of Australia, the North Australian Workers Union or any association of employees specified in a declaration in force under section nine of this Act. . . .
I suggest that the last part of that definition is very important. In the definition we first have “ union “ referring to the Waterside Workers Federation of Australia, then to the North Australian Workers Union, and then the definition is left open for the recognition of any organization in any other port. Now, the position is that the Government has at present clause 9, which it proposes to amend later by adding certain words. Clause 9 reads -
Where, after the commencement of this Act, the Authority establishes a register of waterside workers at a port, the Authority shall declare, by notice published in the Gazelle, that an association of employees specified in the declaration is, for the purposes of this Act, the Union in relation to that port.
The association of employers is an organization of employers registered as such under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, or under the law of a State or of a territory of the Commonwealth. Now let us consider this position : A dispute takes place on the waterfront. As a consequence of that dispute, the same action is taken here in Australia as was taken in New Zealand in the New Zealand waterside workers’ strike some time ago. Somebody then takes action to have the Waterside Workers Federation deregistered, and thereupon the union is deregistered. Then, steps are taken for the formation of another organization in place of the federation. As we know, in New Zealand the registration of the new organization was rushed through, was recognized by the New Zealand Government, and what the trade union movement calls a “ scab “ union came into operation. The result of all that was industrial turmoil of the worst type in New Zealand. We do not want that sort of thing to happen here, but the whole pattern of our industrial legislation, if this measure is passed, will permit that to happen.
The Waterside Workers Federation may call a strike. Somebody may take action to have it deregistered, and it is deregistered. Immediately somebody commences another organization, it is registered, accepted by the authority and takes the place of the Waterside Workers Federation. That can happen, even as the legislation stands at present before this committee, and that is some fi ing that we must safeguard ourselves against.. We do not desire to see that happen in Australia because we, as trade unionists,, have seen that sort of thing happen before with disastrous consequences toAustralia.
The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) mentioned the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union which caused constant friction on the waterfront, but which was registered under theConciliation and Arbitration Act. That union arose out of the 1928 dispute, and was a festering sore on the waterfront,, the cause of the loss of thousands of hoursof work, and the cause of constant friction and strikes between the industrial organizations on the waterfront. Themembers of the Waterside Workers Federation would not work alongside the members of the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt), in his explanation of the amendment, stated that it would not affect workers such as employees at grain elevators. It is plain, from his remarks, that the purpose of the amendment is purely and simply to deal with the bulk loading of sugar at the northern ports in Queensland. In the past, raw sugar has always been handled by members of the Waterside Workers Federation of Australia. The Minister suggests that this definition does not necessarily mean that waterside workers will be prevented from operating the new equipment for the bulk loading of sugar. But it is quite obvious from our experience that those who operate this new equipment will be persons other than members of the Waterside Workers Federation. They may be members of another union. We all favour mechanization, because we want to reduce’ the physical burdens imposed on workers in all classes of industries, including the waterside workers. This amendment will undoubtedly deprive them of work, and.
I know from my experience that there will be an unfavorable reaction on the part of the waterside workers. The sugar loading season is about to begin in Queensland. Bulk-loading facilities are being installed at various ports. The definition “ waterside worker “ reads - waterside worker” . . . does not include -
I emphasize the words “ by means of equipment based on the shore “. This definition will create grave fears in the minds of waterside workers that they will be excluded from work in the operation of the new mechanical equipment for the bulk loading of sugar, because the definition could possibly be extended to work at ports where new kinds of cranes or similar equipment are installed.
We do not know exactly what the reaction of the men will be, because, until the bill was introduced in this House, we did not know what it contained and we have not since had an opportunity to visit the ports and ascertain the men’s reactions. But, from experience, we know full well that this bill will receive a hostile reception from them if it will exclude them from employment. If other unionists are allowed to operate the new equipment, there will be a recurrence of demarcation disputes, which have not occurred for many a long day in this industry. This amendment will result in not only possible hostility by waterside workers who will be excluded from work which they normally perform, but also a probable recurrence of demarcation disputes if members of other unions are employed on the work. Therefore, I should like the Minister to indicate whether this was one of the matters he discussed at the conference between himself and representatives of the Australian Council of Trades Unions and of the Waterside Workers Federation. It is possible that members of the federation will give this provision a hostile reception because they will be afraid of losing employment and of a recurrence of demarcation disputes, which they .have long since left behind them.
.- I wish to offer a few observations about the definitions “ Union “ and “ waterside worker “ in this clause. The honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) has just pointed out some of the consequences which may follow from the definition waterside worker “, because the apparent intention of both the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) and the secretary of the Department of Labour and National Service may not be given effect in the interpretation of these definitions. It is quite clear that, in this clause, and, for instance, in clauses 29, 31, and 43, there are provisions which could be applied in a manner not in accord with the intentions of either the Minister or the secretary of the department. 1 suggest, for a start, that the intentions of the Minister and the head of the department may not be very relevant if the matters go before a court. In this connexion, I should like to read part of a report of a conference held with the Minister on the 1st June to discuss this bill. The report states -
Mr. Kenny, Assistant Secretary of the Sydney Labour Council reminded the Minister that it was not the practice of Courts to read secondreading speeches when interpreting clauses ot the Act . . .
The Minister may very well have intentions which the courts cannot give effect to. The report states also -
The Minister for Labour, Mr. Holt and thiAttorneyGeneral, Senator Spicer, expressed surprise at this interpretation of clause 0 and they turned and asked Mr. Bland was that so. Mr. Bland admitted that it was so, but he said the draftsmen had experienced considerable difficulty in dealing with this question and this was the only way in which he could deal with the complicated position that existed in regard to the existing award and orders. He thought the authority would act reasonably and would be glad to consult with the Federation in relation to the alterations . . .
I suggest that we should not be left in a position such as this, and that it should not be necessary for the Minister and the head of his department to say, in effect, “ We hope every one will behave reasonably”. Legislation should be drafted so as to express, as clearly as possible, the intentions of the Parliament, and so as not to leave a wide scope for interpretation by the courts.
– Or by the proposed authority.
– Or, particularly, by the proposed authority. The Minister pointed out, in relation to the definition of “ Union “, that, in respect of Darwin, it was necessary to specify the North Australian Workers Union. He said that paragraph (c) of that definition was included for the purpose of providing that work at new ports where stevedoring operations are not now conducted and therefore where members of the Waterside Workers Federation are not now employed may be performed by some new union which may perhaps be recognized. If that is the intention of the Minister, as, I think, he agreed with the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) it was, why not re-draft paragraph (c) ? I suggest it could be in the following terms: -
In relation to any other port in respect of which a declaration under section nine of this Act is in force and in which port stevedoring operations are not now carried out by the Waterside Workers Federation - the organiza tion of employees specified in the declaration:
That would make the position clear. If that is the intention of the Government, let us make it clear in paragraph (c) and not leave it for the courts, the authority, or some one else to give effect to a much wider definition at some time.
I turn now to paragraph (f) of the definition “ waterside worker “. This is a very simple provision, according to the Minister. Its purpose is to provide that, in Queensland, where sugar is loaded in bulk, the bulk loading shall not, entail the employment of members of the Waterside Workers Federation. In explaining the amendment, he said that it is not intended to apply this provision to work at ports such as Geelong where bulk handling existed before the commencement of this measure. If it is possible to employ members of the federation on bulk handling work at Geelong, why is it not possible to employ them on bulk loading in Queensland? This seems to me to be a weakness which the Minister has not adequately explained.
This also is the position in regard to paragraph (n) in the definition of “ waterside worker “. Paragraph (n) has very wide implications. It says that “ waterside worker “ does not include -
Persons in the regular employment ofa person engaged in an industrial undertaking, being persons whose duties include the per formance of stevedoring operations in connexion with that undertaking;
Those people are waterside workers. The Minister spent a considerable amount of time in explaining that the need for the definition contained in paragraph (n) arose out of the conditions obtaining at Bell Bay in connexion with the Australian Aluminium Production Commission. If that is the intention, why not specify Bell Bay? Why provide a paragraph which could be applied to every port in Australia? Why provide a paragraph of this sort? If the Minister wants to meet that situation, he needs legislation which will permit this Government to do what the New Zealand Government did.So if the Minister has that intention, let him admit it. If he has not that intention, let him provide a definition of “ waterside worker” in paragraph (n) so that it will exclude the application of this definition in ports other than in ports to which he wants it to apply, that is, ports such as Bell Bay.
These are matters which the Minister must take into account if he is genuine in his submissions to this Parliament that he wants to make his intention clear and does not want to apply a punitive, arbitrary measure which would destroy the Waterside Workers Federation and replace it by another union. Let him make his intention clear now. That can be done by his acceptance of the amendment that the Opposition has suggested.
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) put -
That the question be now put.
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. T. F. Timson.)
Majority .. ..14
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment agreed to.
– I move -
That, in sub-clause (1.), interpretation of “Union”, paragraph (c), the word “Association “ be omitted with a view to inserting the word “ organization “ in place thereof.
This proposed amendment raises exactly the same point as the amendment on which the committee has just voted.
– I merely want to be clear whether the acceptance of this amendment will still leave clause 7 before the committee for general discussion.
Amendment agreed to.
Interjection in Debate.
Motion (by Sir Eric Harrison) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I rise to object to a statement that was made to-day by the honorablemember for Kingsford-Smith (Mr. Curtin). Those honorable members who were in the chamber at the time and who know the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith will not have taken his statement very seriously, but those outside who do not know him may have taken it very seriously. I have endeavoured to find the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith so that he could be in the House when I raised this matter, but I understand that he has left for Sydney by an early plane. However, I found the Whip of the Australian Labour party and told him. that if any of the associates of the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith desired to protect him they should be present when the adjournment of the House was moved in order to answer what I have to say. As I resumed my seat this morning after having made certain remarks that were not complimentary to the Communist party, the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith said, “ The honorable member “ - indicating me - “has been a visitor at the Russian Embassy”, and he bent his elbow in the way one does when wishing to convey that one has been drinking. The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) said, at a later stage, “He was drinking vodka”. I might say here that I look upon this matter more insorrow than in anger and I know I should not take the remark very seriously because every one knows that I do not drink vodka or any other alcoholic liquor. I do wish to point out, however, that I have never been at the Russian Embassy.
– The honorable member does not know what he missed.
– I do not even know where it is.
– It is not.
– I have not been drinking alcoholic liquor there or anywhere else either at Canberra or anywhere outside Canberra. I am sorry that the honorable member for KingsfordSmith is not here, but if I waited until next week to refute his assertion, I might not have an opportunity to raise the matter. For that reason I put my denial on record in Hansard now so that he may read it and so that his colleagues may tell him about it. If he is a man at all, he will take the first opportunity available to him to admit in this House that his remark was absolutely incorrect.
.- I wish to raise with the Government the method it is now adopting, as we are approaching the close of the session, of refusing to answer inquiries made by honorable members–
Motion (by Sir Eric Harrison) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Deputy Speaker - Mr. C. F. Adermann.)
Majority . . 15
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 4.12 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 8 June 1956, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1956/19560608_reps_22_hor11/>.