23rd Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr. J. R. FRASER presented a petition from certain citizens of the Australian Capital Territory praying that the Government will take immediate action to defer the implementation of rental increases of government-owned dwellings in Canberra and conduct an inquiry into Canberra rentals at which evidence may be taken both from individuals and from community organizations.
– In explanation of this question addressed to the Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, I point out that for many years there has been a poultry research station at Werribee, Victoria. There is also at Werribee the largest poultry farm in the world. Is the Government proposing to transfer the research station from Werribee to Sydney? If so, how many local residents of Werribee will lose their employment in Werribee? If the change is contemplated, what is the reason actuating the Government?
– I am not familiar with the details about which the honorable gentleman asks me, but I will investigate the matter and let him have an answer.
– My question is also addressed to the Minister for Health. I ask him whether he remembers the recent statement by the Leader of the Opposition in which that honorable gentleman accused the Government of intending to sell the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories. Is there any substance in this accusation?
– The Government made it quite plain some time ago, when offers were made by several drug companies to purchase the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories, that it had no intention of selling them. It refused those offers then, and it has no intention of selling the laboratories now. 1 can assure the honorable gentleman quite categorically that the Government is not going to sell the laboratories.
– Is the Treasurer aware of the substantial and ever-growing number of displaced steel workers in Newcastle and Wollongong? Does he know that shortage of orders is the reason advanced by the steel companies for dismissals? Did the Treasurer, in November, 1960, when announcing the Government’s new economic policy, say that there was a serious shortage of steel? How does he therefore explain the present apparent over-supply of steel which is resulting in substantial unemployment in the steel industry? Did the Government announce early this year that steel exports were to be one of our major overseas income earners? Would the Treasurer care to comment–
– Order! The honorable member is out of order in asking the Treasurer to comment.
– I ask the Treasurer: What is the reason for the fall in steel exports and the substantial increase in steel imports? Finally, will he come to Newcastle next week, or as early as possible, and meet those trade union officials whose members are affected by the dismissals?
– The honorable gentleman has asked a rather long question. I will answer it as best I can. To the best of my knowledge, the quotations he has given the House from earlier statements made by me are correct. It is a fact that last year there was a very big increase in the import of steel into Australia because of the scarcity of steel supplies here during the boom period through which we were passing at that time. Figures supplied to me by the Treasury show that the imports of steel in 1959 were valued at £18,000.000; in 1960, they were valued at £48,000,000. It is a fact that Australia, which is able to sell one of the cheapest steels in the world, thanks to the efficiency of our steel industry, has in other years enjoyed a useful export market in steel. I certainly hope that we can recapture a market which, apparently, during a period in which local demand was very strong, we did not seek to pursue. If there is excess capacity in the steel industry, I have no doubt that those concerned will turn their energies to ensuring that markets formerly enjoyed are now recaptured and, indeed, that additional markets are found.
From the information I have on developments which have occurred in Newcastle, it would appear that it is particular types of steel production that have led to the retrenchment to which the honorable gentleman has referred. It is, as he knows, the objective of this Government to sustain employment at the highest practicable level consistent with the stability of our economy. Whether I receive a deputation or, perhaps more appropriately, whether my colleague the Minister for Labour and National Service receives a deputation, is a matter which we can discuss together. But I hope that honorable gentlemen opposite will help the Government to secure full and continuing employment for the Australian people by making known to them the real facts of our economic situation and not try to mislead them by a scare campaign for purely political purposes.
– I ask the Minister for Supply whether he can clear up some confusion which exists at present concerning Australia’s right to export the FN 7.62-mm. rifle which is made under licence from Belgium. Has the Minister’s attention been directed to a recent overseas statement that Australia has a licence to manufacture the FN rifle only for her own needs and not for export? Is that statement correct? Is it not a fact that FN rifles have been exported from the Small Arms Factory at Lithgow?
– The agreement between the Commonwealth and Fabrique Nationale of Belgium was for the manufacture of the FN rifle in Australia for our own use and for export to New Zealand. A further provision in the agreement, however, gave to the Commonwealth the right to make application to the company for special licences to export to other countries. Such permission has been obtained and we are exporting to other countries.
– My question is addressed to the Treasurer. Has the right honorable gentleman seen a list of unclaimed deposits with the Commonwealth Savings Bank, published in the “ Commonwealth Gazette “, No. 36 of 4th May, 1961? Will the Treasurer inform the House whether any effort is made by savings banks to locate depositors or their trustees before listing their deposits as unclaimed? I ask this question because some of the persons named in the New South Wales schedule are still in business or on the electoral roll in my electorate and could be contacted without difficulty by telephone or through the post. Will the Treasurer also inform the House whether unclaimed deposits in banks are ultimately claimed by the banks concerned and, if they are, under what conditions, or are such funds claimed by the Commonwealth Government?
– I shall obtain a detailed reply for the honorable gentleman. I am sure that he is as glad as I am to learn that in a period of alleged credit restrictions there are apparently a good many people who are sufficiently flush with funds not to need to claim on these deposits.
– I direct a question to the Treasurer. In view of the financial problems confronting local government bodies, and the apparent confusion in the public mind concerning responsibility for providing funds for these bodies, will the Treasurer state the constitutional responsibility of the Commonwealth, if any, in this regard, and also the method by which capital funds for local government are provided?
– The constitutional position is that the local government bodies function inside the States in which they are situated and the State Governments themselves guard quite jealously their constitutional duties and rights in these matters. Each year at the meeting of the Australian Loan Council, there is a discussion between representatives of the States and the Commonwealth Government at which we seek to reach what is known as the gentlemen’s agreement on the level of lo:al government borrowings approved for that particular year. The Commonwealth Government - as I think it will be found on recent experience - has been willing to agree to a figure sometimes in excess of that which the States have felt able to agree to, but agreement is rested there.
The local government bodies have certain taxing rights of their own in respect of the imposition of rates and charges for services, and in that way, together with the loan raisings, and perhaps in other ways to which I have not referred, they are able to sustain a level of activity which, again, raises the perennial problem of whether the ratepayer or the taxpayer, to put it in terms we can understand more clearly, is willing to pay more for rather better services than are currently enjoyed.
– I preface a question to the Treasurer by saying that on 15th November, 1960, the Government foreshadowed certain proposals in regard to taxation on debentures and registered notes raised by companies. Has the Government decided what action it intends to take? If it has, when will it bring down the legislation?
– The Government has given a good deal of attention to this matter, as I indicated earlier to this House. I am now able to tell the honorable gentleman that as recently as yesterday, Cabinet made another thorough examination of this matter and of a detailed memorandum which I, as the Treasurer, presented to it. Arising from our consideration of the matter, we have this picture: The interim measure formally presented to the House - I take it that is what the honorable gentleman is referring to - was directed to certain conditions obtaining at that time. Speculation was rife. The rate of turnover of money was excessive. Money was being raised at interest rates which were not regarded as satisfactory, and the availability of these high rates of interest was having a serious effect upon loans floated for government purposes. These conditions existed because of the boom situation of that time, and temporary action was taken, by means of the interim legislation, to check these processes. We now find ourselves in a very different atmosphere. The boom conditions have subsided. Borrowings of hire-purchase companies and finance houses have been reduced. Indeed, there has been some lessening of hire-purchase activity and activity by the finance bodies. Speculation of the unhealthy character I have referred to has been virtually eliminated. In these circumstances the Government proposes to allow the interim measure to expire as provided for in the legislation, and does not intend to proceed with subsequent legislation. The matter of convertible notes was quite a separate one, and legislation relating to it will, of course, continue to operate.
– My question is also directed to the Treasurer. Has there been any marked increased in the amount of fixed deposits lodged with trading banks since the recent increase in the rate of interest? If so, has this had a consequent effect upon deposits with savings banks?
– The decision to increase the interest rate payable on fixed deposits lodged with trading banks was one of the series of measures which the Government adopted towards the end of last year to bring the boom situation under restraint. This decision has had very valuable results during the months that have intervened since it was made. I am glad that the honorable member has raised this question, because he has given me an opportunity to present the picture in rather better balance than that in which it has previously been viewed by most people during recent months. It is the practice of the press to publish periodically figures showing movements in savings bank deposits, and since our measures were introduced there has been a decline, month by month, in the level of savings bank deposits. On the other hand, there has been a very substantial increase in the amount of fixed deposits with the trading banks. The figures showing this increase are rarely published, and certainly they are very rarely published alongside the figures showing the decline in savings bank deposits. From the end of October last until the end of March there was a decline of £29,000,000 in the total of saving bank deposits, but a rise of £81,600,000 in the level of fixed deposits with trading banks. Undoubtedly portion of the increase in fixed deposits with trading banks represented former savings bank deposits which were withdrawn and paid into the trading banks in order to take advantage of the higher rates of interest available from those institutions.
– I desire to ask a question of the forgotten Minister, the Minister for Labour and National Service. In view of the fact that several thousands of employees engaged in steel-making in the Port Kembla and Wollongong area of New South Wales have been, or are shortly to be, dismissed, what plans are being prepared by the Department of Labour and National Service for placing these men and the other 100,000 unemployed persons throughout Australia in full-time employment, so that these citizens can make their contributions to the productive capacity of the Commonwealth, and so that such contributions can be beneficially used in this prosperous age in Australian history?
– The Leader of the Opposition has been guilty again of exaggeration. His question involves two exaggerations. The latest figures showing numbers of unemployed would certainly not be anywhere near the 100,000 mentioned by the honorable gentleman. This exaggeration is just as wild as the one he made when he forecast that the number of unemployed would be between 100,000 and 150,000. Secondly, the figures for retrenchments at Port Kembla and Newcastle are also vastly exaggerated. At present, the figures that I have are something of the nature–
– See the guilty look on his face.
– Order! The honorable member for Kingsford-Smith will remain silent.
– The figures are much less than those mentioned by the Leader of the Opposition. The difficulties both in Port Kembla and Newcastle are due to a temporary falling off in the commencement of house construction. I believe that they are also due to a temporary falling off in the number of motor cars purchased. It is hoped that these are temporary problems.
In addition, there are some difficulties due to the fact that the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited can now supply all steel on demand. Therefore, merchants and manufacturers are working off some of their steel stocks prior to coming into the market and buying steel again. It is not expected that there will be any falling off in primary steel production by theBroken Hill Proprietary Company Limited. I believe, from information in my own department, that full schedules for some months to come can be foreseen. I think that that puts the matter in perspective. As to the question of what is being done, naturally I was not aware, up to the moment of the actual retrenchments, just how many retrenchments there would be, but the Commonwealth Employment Service is always active in seeing that people are placed in employment as quickly as possible. It will continue its efforts in this case.
– By way of preface to a question which I address to the Minister for Health, I wish to say that I am grateful to the House for its tolerance in permitting me to speak at 2 o’clock this morning on the subject of an outbreak of suspected swine fever in New South Wales. As it is generally conceded that one of the avenues through which this disease may be brought into Australia is infected meats, will the Minister for Health consider, as an urgent matter, recommending that a ban be placed on further imports of canned meats, including ham and chicken, to Australia? In considering this matter, will the Minister bear in mind that, according to the latest findings in Britain, 70 per cent. of the primary outbreak of the dreaded animal foot and mouth disease in that country has been traced to swill containing infected meats?
– In the first place, it should be clearly understood that no importations of meat of any kind, other than cooked canned meats, are at any time permitted other than from New Zealand, where this disease is not present. Canned meat is subject to the most rigorous quarantine precautions. I outlined them in the House the other day. A certificate has to be given by a veterinary surgeon in the country of origin that the meat has been inspected and declared free of disease, both ante-mortem and post-mortem; that it has been canned in an hermetically sealed can, and that every portion of the contents of the can has been heated to at least 100 degrees centigrade. This, again, has to be certified by a veterinary surgeon after the canner’s certificate has been given that the sterilizing process has been properly carried out. There can be no doubt at all that whatever source of infection may reach Australia it cannot be in canned meat. There would be no purpose in adding a ban to our quarantine precautions on the importation of canned meat. We believe that quarantine regulations are, in themselves, completely effective. It is only the evasion of them, either wilfully or by negligence, which can permit the entry of this disease or other diseases. The quarantine procedures do not need to be improved; if anything, they need to be administered with more vigilance. I know of no instance in which they have not been followed with proper vigilance, but, just as opium can be smuggled into the country, there is always the possibility that food of animal origin can find its way past the animal quarantine regulations and enter Australia.
– I address my question to the Minister for Trade. The Minister will remember that yesterday, in replying to my question about tariff protection for the poultry industry against the importation of canned chicken, he said that he would reveal to-day the result of the Government’s deliberations on the matter. Is the right honorable gentleman now in a position to do so?
– Yesterday, I was not able to recall the date on which this matter was referred to the Deputy Chairman of the Tariff Board. I am now able to inform the honorable member that the statutory period of 30 days within which the deputy chairman must make his report expires on 11th May. So I expect to be in possession of a report by to-morrow. I assure the honorable member and the House that there will be a minimum of delay in dealing with the report so soon as it is received.
– My question is addressed to the Treasurer. I ask whether he is aware that some young farmers are being restricted in the development of their properties, after some years of hard work, by a shortage of a few thousand pounds for development work. Is it a fact that the Commonwealth Development Bank is short of necessary capital and thereby finds difficulty in assisting these people and also other applicants? Finally, has the Government stressed firmly to the officers of the bank the principle that the character and integrity of the applicant and his chance of success are of the greatest importance in determining whether or not an application for a loan shall be approved?
– I was not aware of the cases to which the honorable gentleman has referred, and I do not recall his having brought them to my notice previously. He will remember that, after inquiries on this matter had been made some time ago, I took up with the Governor of the Reserve Bank of Australia the question of the strict application of the directive, which had been issued after consultation with the Government, that preference in advances was to be given to rural producers. I was assured at that time, after consultation between the governor and the general managers of the tradings banks, that full effect was being given to the directive and that the managements held themselves ready to consider at the head offices of the banks any complaints which were considered to indicate that the directive had not been reasonably applied as required by the Government. Since that time, very few cases of the kind mentioned by the honorable gentleman have come to my notice.
I do know that the Commonwealth Development Bank has been lending extensively for rural export purposes. The question of the adequacy of the capital of the bank is, as I have said in this House previously, a matter of policy which is being considered. If the honorable member for Indi cares to give me now the names of the persons concerned and the details of their cases, I shall see that they are brought directly to the notice of the general manager of the Commonwealth Development Bank.
– My question is directed to you, Mr. Speaker. I should like to preface it by advising the House that on making a request for an admission ticket for the Speaker’s Gallery this morning, I was questioned by a member of your staff, no doubt acting on your instructions, about the identity of the friend for whom I requested the ticket and was asked whether he was a member of the deputation from the Waterside Workers Federation of Australia which is now visiting Canberra. I resented that.
– Order! The honorable member had better ask his question.
– I want to emphasize that my question in no way reflects on any member of your staff, Sir. I ask, did you give such a direction-
– Order! If the honorable member wishes to ask a question he had better ask it, or else resume his seat.
– Did you give a direction that no member of the waterside workers’ deputation visiting Canberra-
– Order! The honorable member will now resume his seat. If he were familiar with the Standing Orders he would know how to ask a question.
– What is this - discrimination? Is it more discrimination? That is an insult to my constituents.
– I ask the Minister for Primary Industry whether he is aware that many farmers are concerned at the present method of receiving and storing wheat. Does he believe that having separate State authorities receiving and storing wheat and the Australian Wheat Board selling it constitutes an efficient division of powers? Would it not be better to make the Australian Wheat Board responsible for the whole operation so that it might be responsible for the quality as well as the price of the wheat it sells?
– What the honorable member refers to as the division of powers between the Australian Wheat Board and the State bulk handling authorities exists under a system that has operated for about twenty years now. If we are to judge the efficacy of the system upon our experience in connexion with the last crop, which was a record crop, we must admit that the handling was done very capably and that there was general satisfaction with the way in which that wheat was received.
The honorable member mentioned quality. That is a matter about which there might be some division of opinion. The State bulk handling authorities have a monopoly over the storage of wheat and are paid for the service they render in storing it and maintaining its quality. I do not know that these authorities have, if I might use a common phrase, delivered the goods in every instance, but I am quite sure that the Australian Wheat Board has done its best to discharge its responsibility to ensure that quality is maintained, especially in all deliveries for export
– In addressing a question to the Minister for Shipping and Transport, I refer the honorable gentleman to a proposal by Captain Bob Houfe to construct a roll-on, roll-off type of cargo vessel for the King Island trade. I ask the Minister whether the Government has yet reached a decision on the application for a subsidy in connexion with the construction of this vessel. If it has not, can he give any information relating to the negotiations that are proceeding at present, especially any that may have relation to arrangements for finance or any other matter pertaining to this type of vessel?
– As the honorable member for Braddon knows, the Government has always given the utmost consideration to Tasmanian shipping, and, I believe, with eminent success. The King Island proposal is in a somewhat different category. Captain Houfe has given excellent service with two small vessels over a period of time, and I think the King Island people appreciate that.
At the present time there is under consideration a proposal for the construction of a vessel 140 feet long, with a 25-ft. beam and having a draught of 8 feet and a speed of10½ knots. Such a vessel would be suitable for the King Island trade, but there is the problem of financing its construction. As to subsidies, I remind the honorable member that the Tariff Board has recommended that subsidy be not payable on vessels of less than 500 tons. The matter of financing the project is being investigated at the moment. Captain Houfe is in constant contact with the departmental officers, who are giving him every consideration and every assistance. I understand that the Commonwealth Development Bank had the matter under consideration as recently as last week.
– I address my ques tion to the Minister for Repatriation. Is a service pension really the same as the social service age pension except that it is granted to ex-servicemen and ex-servicewomen five years before they would be eligible for an age pension, or earlier if they are permanently unemployable? Is it a fact that service pensioners are entitled to special benefits for non war-caused disabilities, including treatment in repatriation general hospitals, but that ex-servicemen and exservicewomen age pensioners are not? If this is so, will the Minister advise what procedure should be adopted to correct this anomaly?
– The honorable member has asked me whether the service pension and the old age pension are in fact the same. The answer clearly is that they are not. Though they have some things in common, they are granted to different groups of people under different acts of parliament, and they have a different incidence. The rate of pension is the same in both cases and they both are subject to the same means test, but the service pension is restricted to ex-servicemen and ex-servicewomen who served in a theatre of war. Since the last Budget the benefit of free medical treatment in repatriation institutions for disabilities suffered by service pensioners, whether due to war service or not, has been extended to service pensioners. This applies with only certain minor exceptions. Although they are not entitled to treatment in repatriation hospitals for chronic conditions, a temporary exacerbation of a chronic condition can be treated in hospital.
I do not agree with the honorable member’s suggestion that there is an anomaly in the fact that repatriation medical treatment is provided for service pensioners and not for others. This extension of medical benefits to service pensioners was granted by the Government in the last Budget in clear recognition of the inevitable rigours of war service in theatres of war.
– My question is directed to the Postmaster-General. Does he know of any device which would prevent interference with television reception–
– I cannot hear the question.
– Order! I ask the honorable member for St. George to resume his seat. I must request the House to come to order. There is far too much audible conversation and far too many interjections. If question-time is to be worth while honorable members must respect the Standing Orders. I again call the honorable member for St. George.
– Does the PostmasterGeneral know of any device which would prevent interference with television reception if fitted to the engines of aircraft which flylow over the homes of residents close to airports? If he does, will he seek the cooperation of his colleague in another place, the Minister for Civil Aviation, to have such a device fitted to all large aircraft using the airports at Australian cities? If no such device exists, will the PostmasterGeneral consider reducing the licence-fee of television viewers who live near airports?
– I have not had any complaints of interference with television reception by low-flying aircraft. However, I shall be glad to discuss the matter with my colleague in another place to see whether he has received any such complaints. I should think that any interference would be of very short duration and not a major factor in general television reception.
– I ask the Treasurer: In view of the fact that figures which have just been released indicate that in Victoria retail sales for the March quarter of 1961 were 2.8 per cent, higher than those for the same quarter in the boom year I960, I ask the Treasurer whether he has any similar figures for the other States and for Australia as a whole.
– I am glad to have the honorable gentleman direct my attention to the fact that apparently the allegedly depressed conditions in industry, to which some people make such pointed reference, have not affected a reasonable level of activity in retail trading in the State to which he refers. I think that position is typical of the position in the other States, but I do not have the details with me at the moment. I shall obtain them and make them available to him.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Health. It concerns the agreement which the Treasurer and he made on behalf of the Commonwealth early last year with the Pharmaceutical Service Guild of Australia on behalf of all the pharmacists registered under the National Health Act and which provided that, in March this year, a review would be made of the payments by the Commonwealth to pharmacists under that act. I ask the Minister: Has an increase yet been made in the payments to pharmacists, as has already been made in the payments to doctors? Did he or his officers confer with representatives of the pharmacists to-day? When will he be in a position to tell the Parliament how much any new arrangement will mean to the pharmacists and to the taxpayers?
– The fees paid to pharmacists are fixed by determination after discussion with the Pharmaceutical Service Guild of Australia. There have been several discussions between the guild and officers of the Department of Health and recently between me and the president of the guild. I propose to convey the Government’s decisions to the president by letter and I shall then be able to make it plain to every one what the Government’s proposals are.
– My question is addressed to the Treasurer. Is it a fact that the trend in the total holding of overseas funds is higher than expected, when compared with the trend in overseas funds held by the central bank? If there is such an unexpected difference in the respective trends, can the Treasurer state the significance of such a difference and provide the explanation?
– The answer to that question is of a rather technical character, because the figures in respect of overseas funds held by the Reserve Bank are published weekly. The total of Australia’s overseas reserves includes other items and is a bigger figure. We have now made arrangements with the Reserve Bank that the total of Australia’s overseas reserves shall be published on a monthly basis and not on a half-yearly basis as was formerly the case. I think that arrangement will give a more complete picture to those who study these things.
I did release the latest figure within the last week or so, but I do not carry it in my head. Since then, the amount has been augmented by the drawing on the International Monetary Fund - a drawing which included, of course, Australia’s own contribution to the resources of that fund. I will get an answer which will be more comprehensive for the honorable gentleman.
– I ask the Minister for Social Services a question regarding the 82,000 persons unemployed in Australia, the number stated by the Minister for Labour and National Service recently. Is it a fact that the relief payment to these unfortunate people, which is a mere pittance, is costing the Australian taxpayer £10,000,000 per annum? Would it not be more sensible to spend this money on some national development that would absorb these people in gainful employment and spare them the embarrassment of receiving an inadequate hand-out? If the Minister is unable to do this, will he use his good offices to convince the Government that it should cease its present credit-squeeze policy which is keeping 82,000 people out of employment and is increasing the number daily?
– I am quite certain that the information available to the honorable member for Banks is wrong. I am equally certain that all his predictions are false and that it would not serve any useful purpose for me to carry out the investigation for which he asks.
– by leave - It has been urged from time to time in this House that before Australia becomes a party to a treaty the Parliament should be given an opportunity to express its views on the matter.
The making of treaties is, under the law of Australia and other parts of the Queen’s Dominions, a prerogative of the Crown. The negotiation, signature and ratification of treaties are therefore all executive acts. Admittedly parliamentary action is required if legislation is needed inorder to give effect locally to the provisions of a treaty, or if a treaty involves the provision of funds. But the process of treaty-making, be it signature, ratification or accession, is a matter for the Government and not for Parliament.
Notwithstanding this, it can safely be said that the Government has, before becoming a party to any treaty of major significance for Australia, been at pains to ensure that the Parliament has been given the opportunity to discuss the matter. The Government in such cases has either introduced a billorinitiated a debate on a formal motion.
I have been considering whether further measures might be taken to keep the Parliament more fully informed about treaty matters. By way of explanation I mention that obligations under treaties may be assumed in one of three ways. In some cases a treaty may come into effect upon signature, but such cases normally occur only where the treaty is of a routine nature or is of minor or comparatively minor significance. More commonly, at least in the case of treaties involving substantial commitments, ratification is required after signature, before binding obligations are assumed. In yet other cases obligations may be assumed by accession to a treaty on the part of a State which has not signed it. There is, therefore, an opportunity in the case of important treaties to study their terms before a government commits itself formally to them.
Except in cases where a treaty will otherwise be brought to the attention of the Parliament, for example, where a bill or motion relating to the treaty is to be introduced, the Government as from the next parliamentary session proposes as a general rule to lay on the tables of both Houses, for the information of honorable members and senators, the text of treaties signed for Australia, whether or not ratification is required, as well as the texts of treaties to which the Government is contemplating accession. Unless there be particular circumstances which in the Government’s opinion require that urgent attention be given to the matter - for example, at a time when Parliament is not in session - the Government will moreover as a general rule not proceed to ratify or accede to a treaty until it has lain on the table of both Houses for at least twelve sitting days.
By this means honorable members and senators will be kept informed of treaties which have been signed for Australia and, in cases where ratification or accession is contemplated, it will be possible for them, if they so desire, to draw attention to any relevant considerations prior to ratification or accession.
For the information of honorable members, I now lay on the table the texts of -
The Government, Sir, cannot undertake that it will not wish to proceed during the forthcoming parliamentary recess with the ratification of, or accession to, at least some of the treaties which I have just tabled. In future cases, however, the Government will follow the practice which I have outlined.
– by leave - The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has outlined a very wholesome procedure for the future in regard to Australia’s treaty obligations. There will no longer occur the position that has occurred regrettably in the past - and for which the Prime Minister has expressed regret - where a treaty obligation has been entered into and the first that the Parliament has known of it, although it has been sitting at the time, has been a press release. That happened in August last year, for instance, in respect of the Mutual Weapons Development Programme Agreement with the United States, which is presumably a matter cognate to the sixth text which the Prime Minister has tabled to-day.
Some honorable members have occasionally wished that this federation had to follow the practice of the greatest federation - the United States of America - where the President negotiates treaties, but where treaties enter into force and become the law of the land only by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, provided two-thirds of the Senate present concur. But we follow a parliamentary system which differs from the United States congressional system.
We shall henceforth know promptly the subjects of the increasing number of important matters upon which governments contract with each other. Hitherto our procedure has varied. For instance we have, in the last decade, made a number of treaties or arrangements overseas concerning the raising of loans. In some cases we are told the arrangements because they are the subject of legislation as, for instance, the loans which were raised in Switzerland and Canada and from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development. There have been, on the other hand, at least a dozen other loans raised overseas and we have been informed only incidentally of the terms of those loans. These are arrangements between our government on the one hand and foreign corporations on the other. There are a great number of treaties which we can ratify or to which we can accede and which are not necessarily covered by the Prime Minister’s statement. The most numerous class comprises the conventions drawn up at the annual conference of the International Labour Organization. Australia has ratified only 25 of 120 conventions drawn up by this organization. The Prime Minister, as I understand his statement, proposes to table the text of International Labour Organization conventions which the Government contemplates ratifying. However, it is not clear whether the House will have brought to its notice the text of conventions which, under the rules of the organization, the Government is obliged to consider ratifying, but which in fact it may decide not to ratify.
– I will be very happy,I may say, to table the lot.
– Thank you. Then there are instances in which Australia shares in the framing of a treaty in international organizations such as the World Health Organization, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization and the International Maritime Committee. I hope that the Prime Minister will agree to table the text of any convention drawn up at a gathering where Australia is represented; that is, I hope that the House will learn the text of those conventions which the
Government has not signed and to which it is not yet contemplating accession.
Quite apart from these international conferences where Australia regularly attends and participates in the formulation of treaties, there are a number of ad hoc international gatherings, diplomatic and governmental, at which conventions are drawn up. Some of these conventions are of the greatest moment to a trading country such as Australia. I will give two instances. One is the International Convention for the Prevention of the Pollution of the Sea by Oil, which was drawn up at an international conference in 1954, which Australia attended. The convention was not brought to the notice of this Parliament or any of the other parliaments in Australia until a bill was introduced to ratify it in 1960. Another such convention outstanding is the International Convention relating to the Limitation of the Liability of Owners of Seagoing Ships, which was drawn up at a conference in 1957, attended by Australia. I do not think that Australia signed the convention or has yet decided how and when it can accede to it, either after action by this Parliament or after action by this Parliament and complementary action by the six State parliaments.
Then again there are many matters which are of increasing concern to Australia as, unhappily, international disputes approach our shores, or the parts of Asia closest to us. There are also treaties concerning an increasing number of citizens or residents in Australia in these days of large-scale migration from Europe to Australia. Some relate to industrial property, some to property in the event of warfare, and some to human liberties in general. Here again there are some conventions which have been outstanding for ten or eleven years. I feel that all these conventions come within the general classification of conventions drawn up at conferences at which Australia is represented. I hope that the Prime Minister will extend his proposed practice to cover any document which flows from a conference at which Australia has been represented.
I might also suggest, Sir, that at some appropriate time the Prime Minister should consider informing the House of agreements which are made with one or more States from time to time. There is an increasing number of matters in relation to which governments in Australia must consult with each other. This need does not arise only in financial circumstances; it also arises in a very great number of administrative circumstances where no finance is concerned but where the laws of the Commonwealth, the States and the Territories can be effective only if they are dovetailed.
The Prime Minister’s proposal is, as I commenced by saying, a most wholesome procedure. Members of Parliament will be able to do their jobs better in the future because of this procedure and members of the public will be able to see that we do our jobs better because they too will be more promptly and fully informed on the increasing number of subjects where countries deal with each other and where the Commonwealth Government is the only Australian government that has international standing and right of audience.
– I ask for leave to make a statement on behalf of the Minister for the Navy concerning naval shipbuilding.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– On 26th April, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) asked a question in the House concerning naval shipbuilding. The question referred to various other questions which had been previously asked by other members and can be summarized as follows: -
The answers to the questions so propounded are -
Williamstown Dockyard employs in all categories, including maintenance of the dockyard, repair and refit of ships, and new construction, some 950 men. Employment for at least 800 of these men is assured until the beginning of 1963. Natural wastage from resignations, retirements and so on would account for a large proportion of the reduction in numbers between now and December, 1962. Assuming no new naval programme, the level of employment in 1963 would fall provided the refit programme was not increased, and no other work was available for the yard.
At Cockatoo Island the total work-force in all categories is 2,000. Here there is sufficient work in sight to employ the men engaged on new construction until mid-1962 even if no new commercial work is obtained by that yard in the next year. This yard, however, has always done a proportion of commercial work, employment for 282 men has been provided by the decision to refit submarines in Australia at Cockatoo, and there seems no reason why the yard should not obtain more commercial work in the next year or so. I may say that there is no truth in the irresponsible suggestions which have been made that the Government intends to sell Cockatoo Island Dockyard.
The Navy ordered, in England, engines required for the minesweepers being bought in England for the following reasons: -
I lay on the table the following paper: -
Naval Shipbuilding - Ministerial Statement - and move -
That the paper be printed.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Crean) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt, through Mr. Adermann) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Audit Act 1901-1960.
Motion (by Mr. Davidson) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act relating to licences in respect of broadcast receivers and television receivers let out on hire.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The bill which I introduce relates to licences in respect of broadcast receivers and television receivers let out on hire. The bill seeks to introduce a variation in the provisions governing the issue of hirer’s licences and, in particular the method by which hiring organizations and persons may make payment therefor. The existing provisions have not yet been proclaimed.
There has been a rapid growth of business in the hiring or renting of television receivers as an alternative to their purchase. Long-term rental is a relatively new development in Australia, but its increasing popularity is such that it is estimated that the number of television receivers on hire is rising by over 1,000 each month. There is also a considerable volume of short-term renting business. It has been represented by some organizations engaged in this class of business that considerable hardship would be imposed on them if the existing provisions relating to the payment in advance annually of the whole of the licence-fee for each receiverlet out on hire, were applied. The bill contemplates modifying the existing provisions in order to meet these representations.
In addition, the bill seeks to simplify the licensing arrangements for the receiver renting industry and also for my department in respect of receivers installed on a rental or hire, but not hire-purchase, basis by providing for the issue of an alternative form of licence covering a number of receivers. Under the bill, those engaged in this business will have two methods of obtaining licences for receivers. There will be either a licence for one receiver, which licence must be attached to the receiver in a manner to be prescribed, or alternatively a licence to be held by the hiring organization or person for a number of receivers let out on hire, each receiver covered by that licence to be suitably marked in a manner to be prescribed.
The bill makes provision for the granting of such hirer’s licences for any period not exceeding twelve months. The regulations will prescribe that the fee payable shall be assessed, having regard to the circumstances of each case, namely, the duration of the actual period involved and the number of receivers being licensed, and to the fact that the Commonwealth must recover, in advance, an amount for each period based on the annual licence-fees presently applicable. Consequently, where a licence is issued for a lesser period than twelve months, the fee for each licensed receiver will be assessed on a proportionate amount of the annual fee. Licensing fees will still be payable in advance.
Under the arrangements proposed, Mr. Speaker, the actual form of a licence will continue to be authorized by the PostmasterGeneral. It is proposed to prescribe by regulation the manner in which persons and organizations engaged in the hiring of receivers should suitably notify the department of the number of receivers hired out during each month. Suitable provision is being retained for the identification of licensed receivers for licensing inspection purposes. T commend the bill for consideration by the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Clyde Cameron) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr. McMahon, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
With the permission of the House, I would like to deal with the Stevedoring Industry Bill 1961 and the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill 1961 together. My remarks will be concerned almost entirely with the Stevedoring Industry Bill, for the other bill is concerned only with minor and consequential matters.
– Is it the wish of the House that the two bills be taken together?
– The suggestion is that the two bills be debated together, and voted on separately.
– There being no objection, that course will be followed.
– The stevedoring industry is a key one. It is vital to both our commerce and defence. What happens on the waterfront affects not only our trade, in the sense of the movement of cargoes to and from overseas and around our shores, but also every other aspect of our lives. What happens in this industry bears on the returns we get from our exports and on the prices we pay for goods in Australia. What happens on the waterfront, in short, materially affects each and every one of us.
This industry has had an unhappy history of industrial turbulence. I am not one of those who believes it must necessarily be so. In an effort to get to root causes, the Menzies Government in 1951 commissioned a distinguished investigator, Mr. Basten, to examine the organization and working of the industry. Later it established what has come to be known as the Tait Committee to make a more detailed investigation for much the same reasons.
Following the report of the Tait committee, the Parliament in 1956 legislated for a new charter for the working of the industry. Time has shown that that legislation is basically sound.
On the industrial side, the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission made an interim award in July, 1956, and a comprehensive award following a decision of the commission in October, 1959. These gave substantial advantages to the Waterside Workers Federation. There was, then, good reason to hope that this new legislative charter and this new code of conditions of employment would begin a new era of peace on the waterfront. These expectations have not been realized. In 1958-59, we had a loss of 345,000 man-hours. This was a good result in comparison with earlier years and gave promise of better things, to come. Our hopes were short-lived. In 1959-60 man-hours lost rose to 806,000. In the first half of 1960-61, man-hours lost were nearly as much as in the previous year.
Now, why? Working conditions had not worsened; they were better! So, I ask why? Perhaps it was that in 1958-59, the low year, there was less work available and the leaders of the Waterside Workers Federation were not willing to take the risk of stopping their men. Perhaps it was that since the major claims of the federation were still being prosecuted before the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, the leaders decided they did not want to prejudice their claims by too many stoppages. Whatever the reasons for this period of industrial peace in 1958-59, there is one thing of which we can be sure - what occurs on the waterfront occurs because the leaders of the Waterside Workers Federation want it to happen.
From my observations and letters 1 have seen from waterside workers, I have no doubt that large numbers of men on the waterfront are just as keen to get on with the job and earn a steady income as any other Australian worker. They do not want meaningless port stoppages. 1 can understand problems arising on particular ships. Safety issues may arise; tempers may flare; and a ship or a gang might stop. I understand this. What I cannot understand and what trade union officials in other industries cannot understand, is why the whole port or large numbers of waterside workers are pulled out when something of the sort I have mentioned occurs. This sort of thing does not go on in other sections of industry. If there is a dispute in one section of a factory, the whole industry, of which that factory is a part, does not stop working. In most cases not even the whole factory stops work; the dispute is confined to the place where it occurs.
It will, I believe, shock the House to know that in 1959-60, 47 per cent, of the total man-hours lost were lost in some 107 24-hour port stoppages - and this despite the very ample machinery available for the resolving of industrial disputes and the commission’s decision of October, 1959, that each branch could hold eight half-day stop-work meetings in a year. As to this, I should mention that the federation gave an assurance to the commission that if its claim, which was for twelve such stop-work meetings, was granted in substance, the federation would - and here I quote the words of the federation - “ discourage to the utmost of its ability any tendency on the part of branches to conduct unauthorized stopwork meetings”. What value can be placed on the assurances of the federation I leave the House to judge. All I say now is that this state of affairs - mass stoppages at ports - just cannot be allowed to go on.
It may very well be asked why in these circumstances the Government has decided to grant long service leave to waterside workers. In the first place, other regular full-time employees now receive longservice leave, and the Government thought that it should extend such leave to what I might describe as “ permanent “ waterside workers. The Government acted on its own initiative; it was not urged to do this by the federation. Indeed, Mr. Healy, the general secretary of the federation, struck me as being most disturbed about it.
There is no doubt that the Government’s decision will be warmly welcomed by the big majority of the men themselves. They want this concession on a nationwide basis and they knew their chances of getting it by pressure on State governments and by industrial action - despite all the boastings of their leaders - were pretty remote. I have no doubt, too, that the Government’s decision to grant long service leave to waterside workers was received with pleasure by the trade union movement.
While the provisions Of the bill are complicated - and I am afraid that this is inescapable in such a complex industry - broadly what is proposed is that men registered at continuous ports and required to attend on a daily basis will get three months’ long service leave after twenty years’ qualifying service, and six and onehalf weeks for each subsequent ten years. By continuous ports, I mean ports where men have to attend daily throughout the year. Service in seasonal ports during the season where daily attendance is a requirement will also be counted.
Service back to the 1942 war-time scheme will count. Service after the age of 70 will not count. As a result of representations by the Australian Council of Trade Unions, to which I will refer again later, in some circumstances service by what are known as irregulars will be counted. In brief, if men at continuous or seasonal ports have eight years’ qualifying service as regulars, and become irregulars because of ill health or age, they will be credited with the days they actually work as irregulars.
Generally speaking, no leave will be granted before 1964. This is the general rule. Some waterside workers will, however, be eligible for payments in lieu of leave immediately and others between now and 1964. Pro rata leave will be granted under certain conditions after ten years’ service.
Put broadly, what we are proposing is pretty much in line, in general principle, with the ordinary State long service leave laws. It is, as a matter of fact, more advantageous than the Tasmanian legislation dealing with the waterside workers. In line with other long service leave legislation, long service leave benefits will, generally, not be granted to those who are not required to attend daily. These people are casuals and mostly have other jobs. The idea behind long service leave is that it is a reward for long and continuous service.
While service at what are casual ports and service at seasonal ports outside the season does not count towards qualifying service, the qualifying service a man at such a port may have accrued in ports where service does qualify is preserved. This provision has been made because we recognized that transfers from port to port are extensive, and some ports have been convert.(1 from continuous to casual ports, and we have no wish to deprive men of eligibility for leave already earned simply because they might be in a casual port where service does not count.
I emphasize at this point that the bill includes several provisions designed to discourage waterside workers from engaging in irresponsible and avoidable port stoppages of the kind 1 mentioned earlier. These provisions are directed to the suspension of attendance money benefits and deferment of long service leave. I will describe these in detail later.
When I discussed the Government’s general proposals with the president of the A.C.T.U. and his senior colleagues and the federal president and general secretary of the Waterside Workers Federation, I was reminded of the trade union movement’s objections to the attaching of conditions to the granting of long service leave. I was also told that some of the proposals were less than generous. Now, as I say, these were the views put by the A.C.T.U. I need not recount Mr. Healy’s attitude. You will probably guess that he expressed opposition to most of the Government’s proposals, no matter what benefits they were intended to confer on the waterside workers.
Some of the arguments put to me involved matters of opinion; others, matters of policy. I respect the views put to me by the A.C.T.U. even if 1 did not always agree with them, and I informed the president I would discuss with my colleagues what had been submitted. This was done. The provisions of the bill will, I believe, go a long way to meeting the points put by the A.C.T.U., while at the same time retaining what the Government considers to be vital to the objectives of the bill.
Sir, the bill before the House proposes that if there is a port stoppage, that is, a port stoppage involving more than 250 or one-third of the men at a port, the men involved will lose the benefits I will mention unless the union can satisfy the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission that the stoppage was justified. For every day of a port stoppage that is not covered by these exceptions, the men involved will lose attendance money on four occasions when they would otherwise receive it and their qualifying period foi long service leave will be deferred by the day, and such further period not exceeding one month in all as the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission determines.
The first proposal is not new. Under section 83 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, which is now to be repealed, the authority can suspend attendance money where there is concerted mass action. The existing provision strikes at those not involved as well as at those involved. In addition, it operates unfairly as between individuals involved. The proposed provision affects only those involved in a stoppage and affects them all to the same degree.
Neither is the proposal regarding long service new. The same concept is contained in the coal-mining industry long service leave awards. As a matter of fact under all existing long service leave legislation days lost in a stoppage are deducted from qualifying service. The Government is building on this idea because it feels that, in the circumstances that we are dealing with, a single day’s loss is not adequate.
The provisions I have mentioned will not apply when the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority exercises its disciplinary powers in relation to all the men involved. In small ports, where small numbers of men are involved, even if they should exceed one-third of those at the port, it may be more appropriate for the authority to deal with the men under its disciplinary powers. It would be wrong to subject the same men to A.S.I. A. discipline and these new provisions as well.
I repeat that what now appears in the bill is the Government’s attempt to reconcile the views of the A.C.T.U. with the vital principles behind the bill. I do not want to convey the impression to the House that it goes as far as the A.C.T.U. suggested, but I believe it covers the main objection and it goes a fair part of the way in other respects.
I do say categorically that this kind of law would never have become necessary were it not for the tactics - the deliberate tactics and objectives - of some of the leaders of the Waterside Workers Federation to continually disrupt and disorganize working on the waterfront. It is they who must carry the responsibility for what is proposed.
The Government has a clear duty to protect the community and that, unhappily, means that the individual waterside worker must understand that if he permits himself to be used for political purposes by his leaders he cannot expect to receive the full benefits he otherwise would be entitled to. If the objectives of the leaders were industrial it would be one thing. They are not. One only has to look at the resolutions wheeled up at stop-work meetings to see the motives. They are political, purely and simply, designed to achieve political objectives distasteful to the great majority of the Australian people.
In truth, the leaders of the Waterside Workers Federation have been engaged in a prostitution of the very purposes of trade unionism. All too frequently, at unauthorized stop-work meetings, allegedly called to discuss some major industrial issue, discussions are centred on and resolutions are put about matters that are not industrial. Even at the authorized stopwork meetings allowed by the award to discuss union business, we find similar things happening. The peace council, ban the A bomb moves, the attitude of the press to unity tickets, the Crimes Act, actions by some State governments, Cuba, and other subjects that are the stock in trade of the Communists - these are the things discussed. Indeed, during the period authorized for a recent stop-work meeting in Sydney, waterside workers demonstrated in support of Fidel Castro, and one of their leaders, the Sydney branch treasurer, was arrested. Honorable members should have no illusions about this.
Before I pass to other provisions of the bill, I want to re-emphasize that its provisions are based on the assumption that trouble can arise in a particular gang and with particular ships. These sorts of problems are, with one exception, to which I will refer later, effectively covered by the existing legislation. This bill before the House is designed to protect the community from the incalculable damage which unjustified mass stoppages cause.
I turn now to another problem - a problem that all engaged in the industry have been aware of for many years - the elderly worker. Stevedoring is not an easy job. Much of the work is not the kind of work that many of us would like elderly men to perform. Where practicable, they do the lighter work. In many cases, this is not practicable, and younger men have to carry the older men along and sometimes do two men’s jobs. This, of necessity, reduces output and lowers efficiency. Many of the older men have already faced up to this problem and have elected to go on what is known as the irregular roster, under which they are entitled to go on working on the waterfront on an irregular basis, that is, attending when they feel like it, and sometimes on the basis that they will handle only specified types of work. I will come back later to this custom of men going on the irregular roster, because the relevant part of the bill now before the House is built on this concept.
When thinking about the problem of the elderly worker, we have have not overlooked the provision in the 1949 legislation which provides, in effect, that if there is redundancy at a port, that is, if ever it should be necessary to reduce the number of men at a particular port - and I emphasize “ at a particular port “ - because there is not enough work to give them an adequate wage, men who were in the industry in 1 947 should not be discharged. Other men must go, no matter what their age.
This bill involves no breach of the 1949 provision, though, of course, honorable members can take it for granted that the contrary will be said. The bill has nothing to do with redundancy at a port. It is concerned with the re-organization of the industry at large.
Even though the proposed legislation involves no breach of any so-called statutory guarantee, the Government thought that, in justice to the elderly worker, something special should be done for those who have served in the industry continuously back beyond 1947.
All told there are 1,844 men in this industry over 65, of whom 902 are over 70 and of these 55 are over 80. Some of these men are on what is known as the irregulars roster. Sometimes it is called the pensioners or veterans register. That is to say, they make themselves available whenever it suits them - sometimes reasonably regularly, sometimes occasionally. It is not denied that many of these men have stayed on because Mr. Healy has said he would get them long service leave and pensions. The Government is granting them long service leave without being asked to do so and the Commonwealth social ser vices scheme provides pensions to all over the age of 65 who are otherwise qualified.
What justification could there be for the creation of a privileged position and a special scheme of pensions for waterside workers? The coal-mining scheme has been suggested as a precedent. That is unique. Coal-miners are compulsorily retired at 60 years of age. Few other workers are retired at 60, and in any case the working conditions in the stevedoring and coalmining industries are totally different. It is said that schemes for pensions or things resembling them exist for waterside workers overseas. In the countries that have been mentioned to me circumstances are different! If comparisons are to be made we must assure ourselves that conditions over the whole waterfront are the same there as here. They are not. In Australia we have a national pensions scheme and we do not propose to introduce special schemes for certain classes of workers over and above what the national scheme provides.
I now turn to the other provisions of the bill. First, may I say, Mr. Speaker, the bill does not provide for the compulsory retirement of men from the industry at any age. There are no provisions for compulsory retirement. What the Government has done is to build on the existing practice of some elderly men of transferring, if they wish, to the irregulars roster. The bill provides that where a man who is not on the irregulars roster - and what I have to say applies principally to the continuous ports - is over the age of 70 or reaches the age of 70 he will be transferred to what the bill calls Part B of the register - in other words, the equivalent of the present irregulars roster. From that time he will be able, if he wishes, to work on in the industry whenever he pleases and whenever work is available for him. If the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority requests him to attend for work on any day because there is a shortage of labour, and if he does attend, he will be entitled to a new benefit - the right to attendance money if he attends and no work is available for him.
In addition, the men aged 70 will immediately become eligible for long service leave or payment in lieu. If a man has twenty years’ qualifying service he will receive payment for the whole three months. If he has less than twenty years’ qualifying service but more than ten he will be eligible for pro rata leave. If he was in the industry before 1947 he is eligible for the equivalent of three months’ leave even if he has not had the full twenty years’ qualifying service, provided always that he has ten years’ qualifying service.
So far I have been speaking about the over 70’s. As to those over 65, put broadly, they will be eligible for the same benefits I have described for the over 70’s, if they elect to leave the industry or transfer to Part B of the register. In other words, they have a choice. If they do not exercise the choice and work on to 70 they will become entitled, on reaching that age, to the benefits I have described for the over 70’s. The Government believes these provisions are fair. It has sought to do justice and equity to the elderly workers. They not only will be eligible to receive the monetary equivalent of leave but also will be entitled to go on working whenever they please, and to supplement the normal age pension payable under the Commonwealth Social Services Act, within the scope of the pensions scheme.
There is one other major matter to which I want to refer. There are under the law that has operated since the war-time National Security Regulations provisions relating to discipline. Successive statutory authorities have had power to suspend a man’s registration. This power is frequently used although it has long been recognized that the power is useless in relation to mass stoppages and that the exercise of the power in other cases can actually be against the interests of the community. Where, for example, a port is short of labour, suspending a man only deprives the port of his services when most needed. The consequence can well be that a ship is held up, and this may cost somewhere about £1,000 per day. The shipowner does not pay this amount - the community does - and the ship still has to be loaded or unloaded, frequently at penalty rates. This means that often a man who has been suspended gains from his suspension because he may be paid overtime for the work he subsequently does. This problem was considered by the Tait committee, which recommended that fines should be imposed instead of suspensions. That course is not available for legal reasons.
The conclusion the Government has come to is that, as a supplement to the power to suspend a man, the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority should have power instead to suspend the man’s attendance money. With this in mind the bill provides that where there is a labour shortage the authority may, instead of suspending a man for a day, suspend his entitlement to attendance money for four occasions on which he would otherwise receive it. This is, in reality, a penalty no greater than, and no different from, the existing one. If a man loses a day’s pay he would lose eight hours at lis. 2id. an hour, or £4 9s. 8d. If suspended on a night or week-end shift he would lose more. Four days’ attendance money is equal to £4 16s.
As well, the act is being amended to remove what could well be an injustice. If a man is suspended, and he appeals against the suspension and the appeal is upheld, the man receives no compensation in relation to the time of his suspension. That has been the rule since 1942. The bill proposes that, in future, if an appeal is upheld at the discretion of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission the man may be granted compensation for lost wages.
I think what I have said covers the main provisions of the bill. As well there are provisions designed to clarify or confirm some of the authority’s powers, for example, in relation to the stevedoring of ships trading to the Commonwealth’s Territories; the leasing of land; arranging inter-port movements of waterside workers; security for payment of wages; and arranging for medical examination of waterside workers.
This bill reflects the Government’s view of what is necessary to correct abuses on the waterfront. It reflects, too, I am sure, public opinion of what has been happening on the waterfront and what should be done about it. It is nothing short of appalling to think that over the last five years 29 per cent, of the total days lost for industrial disputes in Australia - 29 per cent., I repeat - have been lost by 20,000 waterside workers out of roughly 3,000,000 wage and salary earners, that is, by fewer than 1 per cent. of the wage and salary earners. Is it any wonder that in the last four years nearly 4,500 waterside workers have lost their jobs? Cargoes that should have gone by sea have been moved by other forms of transport, because consignors and consignees have not been prepared to put up with waterfront delays and stoppages and the additional costs. Nearly 4,500 men have lost their jobs. More will do so unless there is a change of heart and the men themselves realize that the action of some of their leaders is in fact continually reducing the number of jobs available. This bill gives to the men the opportunity to put a stop to what has been happening and to what is being forced on them. For the good and solid reason that it means much to Australia as well as to the men themselves that unjustified port stoppages should cease, the Government hopes the men will not let slip the chance to correct the position.
I commend the bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr.E. James Harrison) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr. McMahon, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
As I have already outlined the provisions of this bill when moving the second reading of the bill with which the House has just dealt, I do not propose to say any more at this stage. I commend the bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr. £. James Harrison) adjourned.
– I move -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1913-1960, it is expedient to carry out the following proposed work which was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works and on which the committee has duly reported to this House: - Construction of new Commonwealth offices at Toowoomba, Queensland.
The proposal, which has been recommended by the committee, provides for the erection of a two-story concrete frame office building at an estimated cost of £98,000. The building will provide accommodation for the Postmaster-General’s Department, the Department of Labour and National Service, the Department of Social Services, the Commonwealth Electoral Office and the federal member who, I might say, has taken a very keen interest in the establishment of this building. A small branch post office is also included, and provision will be made for an additional floor to be added when necessary.
As will be seen from its report, the committee, in endorsing the proposal in general, has recommended an alternative design at a slightly increased initial cost. This alternative was prepared by the Department of Works to meet the committee’s views, and is acceptable to the departments concerned. If the House accepts the motion, the detailed planning will proceed along the lines of the committee’s recommendations.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1913-1960, it is expedient to carry out the following proposed work which was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works and on which the Committee has duly reported to this House: - Construction of a new chemical physics laboratory at Clayton, Victoria, for the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization.
This proposal, which has been recommended by the committee, provides for the erection of a two-story brick building with full air-conditioning at an estimated cost of £449,000. The building will be located adjacent to the new Monash University at Clayton, Victoria, and it will provide accommodation, facilities and services for research by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization in the fields of chemical physics.
The proposal originally submitted to the committee did not provide for full airconditioning throughout as it had not been determined that all laboratories needed this treatment. However, for technical reasons, it has been found desirable to extend the air-conditioning, and the committee has recommended accordingly. Should the House agree to this motion, the detailed planning will proceed in accordance with the committee’s recommendation.
– I offer no objection to the proposal. I hope that when the motion is carried the Government will proceed with the preparation of plans for the erection of the building which the Public Works Committee has recommended. It is very important to Australia’s future, and to her security, that we should help scientific education in every way possible. It is important to the economy and to the health of the community that all the experiments which the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization is undertaking should be encouraged and assisted in every way possible.
I only mention in passing that I have read in recent times that some people are thinking that the C.S.I.R.O. should be abolished and all the scientists, all the technologists, all the great research scholars and other brilliant men engaged in the work which the organization undertakes should be employed in the State universities. It is suggested that the C.S.I.R.O. should be dissolved and that the Commonwealth should pay the State universities the amount which is now expended on the organization. It is suggested that if this were done the work of the universities would go ahead and that the work would be done better than it is done by this Commonwealth instrumentality to-day. I do not agree with that, nor do I believe that any member of this Parliament agrees with it. The C.S.I.R.O. is doing very great work for Australia and I suppose every honorable member of this Parliament regrets that we have not done more to assist it, that we have not built more buildings wherever they are required around Australia for its work. I do not know how long the provision of this new chemical physics laboratory has been delayed, but I have the feeling that perhaps it should have been built a few years ago. Now that we have reached the stage at which Parliament can give approval for the work, I hope the Government will not dally and that it will include this proposal which the Minister has sponsored in next year’s Estimates. The sooner this work is undertaken, the better it will be for all the people of Australia. I commend the proposal.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
, - I move -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1913-1960, it is expedient to carry out the following proposed work which was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Commitee on Public Works and on which the committee has duly reported to this House: - Construction of a new general laboratory building at Parkville, Victoria, for the Department of Health.
The proposal provides for the erection, at an estimated cost of £470,000, of a steelframed laboratory building consisting of five stories and a basement. It will provide general purpose laboratory accommodation at the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories, Parkville, Victoria, which will be used in the development and manufacture of all types of bacterial products. The committee has reported favorably on the proposal and, upon the concurrence of ths House in this motion, the detailed planning in accordance with the committee’s recommendations can proceed.
– I know something of the work that is done by the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories. The undertaking is in my electorate, and my home is not far distant from it. I hope that this work will be undertaken because the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories do a great job for Australia, and we must give them all the attention that we possibly can. I hope that the proposed work will be on the Estimates for next year.
Having regard to the degree of unemployment in the building industry, I should like to see work being done on the Toowoomba scheme and on the second stage of the Commonwealth buildings in Spring-street, Melbourne.
I am glad that the Public Works Committee is doing this very fine work, and I commend this proposal as I did the others.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 4th May (vide page 1557), on motion by Mr. Harold Holt-
That the bill be now read a second time.
– There being no objection, this course will be followed.
.- The Government has indicated that the measures before the House are designed to promote our exports. The Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt), in his second-reading speech, said that we must look to export earnings not only to pay for our imports but also to meet other commitments abroad. It is an economic truism that what we import is conditioned to a great degree by what we export, although that has not been quite the case with the Australian economy. There has been an increasing deficit in trade on current account but the difference has been made up by imports of capital of one kind or another. However, I do not want to traverse that subject on this occasion.
We are treating these two measures conjointly although they are of two kinds. The amendments to the principal act provide that certain expenditures, which are called export market development expenditures, shall be allowed as deductible expenses for those companies which incur them. Not only will there be a tax abatement at the normal rate of 8s. in the £1 which applies to companies - although there is provision for individuals who come within the scope of the act - but the companies will receive also an additional concession of 8s. in the £1. In other words, for every £1 that they expend on this cause of export promotion the Commonwealth exchequer really will be the loser by 16s. Therefore, a fair part of the risk, at it were, is being socialized by being assumed by the Government. That is broadly the income tax side of the measure. The bill is an endeavour rather than an achievement because, even though the expenditure is incurred and no results flow from it, the expenditure still will be deductible.
The second form of concession is a kind of payment by results. It is an abatement of pay-roll tax paid by firms engaged in export activity as part of their means of earning income. The other evening we had another measure in relation to which a certain amount of play was made about an algebraic formula. At least on this occasion the formula is a little simpler. The variables are not quite as complex, but nevertheless, as with the previous measure, the Government is seeking to do indirectly what probably would be better done directly. It is because these measures are taken indirectly that one gets this complication in the amendments that are before the House.
It was pointed out in an earlier debate that the Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Assessment Act already has become a very ponderous document of some 346 pages and 265 sections. Some of those sections cover several pages. This proposed amendment to the act, together with the measure which the House disposed of last week, will further complicate the legislation. The Government is endeavouring to use the provisions of the Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Assessment Act, and the Pay-roll Tax Assessment Act, to achieve indirectly some objective. It would have been far simpler to attack the matter directly because in essence, as far as the pay-roll tax aspect is concerned, the Government is paying a subsidy or a bounty to those firms which increase their exports. I have no doubt that the Government has adopted this rather devious procedure because Australia has certain commitments overseas under such undertakings as the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade and customs tariff arrangements whereby one is supposed not to give assistance to traders in this way. The Government has not indicated that to be the reason why it has chosen to deal with the problem in this way, but there is very little logic in increasing exports by a certain percentage and, because of that increase, granting an abatement of pay-roll tax. Pay-roll tax as such has very little to do with the export aspect of the economic activity of the concern which is exporting.
As with the other measure, one gets some rather peculiar results when one adopts this kind of formulary to achieve these ends. Broadly, the pay-roll tax measure provides that if an undertaking increases its export trade above an average level that has been struck on the basis of the three years ended June, 1960, an abatement of one-eighth or 12i per cent, of the tax payable will be granted for every 1 per cent, of the increase in export trade. Again, there does not seem to be a logical connexion between the 1 per cent, increase in exports and the 12i per cent, abatement in pay-roll tax. At first it does not appear to be much of a concession. Take the larger sort of firm like General MotorsHolden’s Limited, whose wages bill - 1 have not been able to get the precise figure - may be in the region of £15,000,000. Its pay-roll tax assessment computed at the rate of 6d. in the £1, with minor allowances which in this case we do not have to worry about, is approximately £375,000. I suppose General Motors-Holden’s Limited is one of the biggest firms in Australia, but its wages bill is possibly less than one-half of its total expenditures. It seems that the formula under consideration will give an advantage to a firm whose wages bill is a fairly high component of its total costs, whereas the tendency these days to achieve lower costs is to have greater mechanization and less direct labour. I am citing that as being the rather peculiar way in which this formula has been devised.
Taking General Motors-Holden’s Limited as an example, I compute that firm’s pay-roll tax as £375,000. in round figures. If the firm were to increase its export sales by 8 per cent, in the current year, under this formula it would receive a discount or refund of the amount of the pay-roll tax paid. The tendency is for the biggest concerns to be the biggest beneficiaries under a scheme of this kind. I am not suggesting that General MotorsHolden’s Limited will necessarily achieve that result, but assuming that it does, is there any reason why the incentive is given in this way rather than by direct bonus according to the export results which it achieves, because ultimately that is the effect? The other night, the Government endeavoured to convince us that it was not compelling insurance companies to invest a certain percentage of their funds in loans. But so generous were the tax concessions offered, or so restricted would those companies be if they did not do what the Government wanted, that they virtually had no alternative but to follow the pattern which had been ordered. Freedom in that form, as against compulsion, is a matter of haggling rather than a matter of fact.
Looking at this proposal objectively, I think that it is little better than a bounty scheme to encourage firms which increase their exports by giving them a bonus. The pay-roll tax which otherwise is legally payable by that firm will be reduced. 1 doubt whether this is a logical way to achieve the objective. The greatest advantage would tend to lie with the concern which did its operations almost entirely by hand rather than mechanization. But I doubt whether it is that kind of activity to which the Government is looking to increase our export trade. Rather is it looking to heavy industry and the like, to be the sources from which the new exports will flow. To begin with, there will be a limit to the benefit that can be achieved from this sort of incentive. Once the 8 per cent, improvement is reached, no further bonus will be available. The firm concerned may increase its export trade by 16 per cent, but it will not get any additional bonus under this kind of procedure.
The second question - it is a pity that the Government did not give us a few examples of how it thought this scheme would work out - is whether it is just the marginal amount represented by pay-roll tax that prohibits a firm in Australia from selling products in some other part of the world.
What is the cost difference between a firm’s ability to sell a product here and its inability to sell it overseas? Will the gap really be bridged by the kind of concession to be applied here - pay-roll tax at the rate of 2i per cent.? If wages are 50 per cent, of the total costs of a firm, then the payroll tax is only about li per cent, of the cost. What will happen? If the export trade is only a small proportion of a firm’s total trade, the firm will shift the whole abatement of the pay-roll tax on to the part of the product of the undertaking which is exported, and probably the margin in respect of the export part will be considerably greater than H per cent.
Let me take another example. If a firm had no export trade before the introduction of this incentive and afterwards established an export trade sufficient to enable it to avail itself of the 8 per cent., the whole advantage of the pay-roll tax abatement would attach to that part of the product sold overseas. It is, again, a problem of internal costing. I was interested to receive, recently, a publication from one of the accounting institutes, which explains at great length how firms fix their prices. Apparently, the prices are not fixed quite as simply as we sometimes imagine. The article in this publication results from an inquiry into the basis of prices decisions, and is the report of the research committee appointed by the Queensland Division of the Australian Society of Accountants.
People are apt to make rather broad assumptions about how certain firms determine their prices, and, in fact, they are not often determined quite as accurately and scientifically as is sometimes imagined. The tendency is to cost the product at what it is thought it could be sold for and to wait until the accountant makes up the tax returns at the end of the year in order to know what the profit is. I have no doubt that a fair measure of that practice will be followed in preparing accounts in respect of goods for the export trade. At least, these firms will be able to say, “ Well, if we do expand our export trade by a sufficient proportion to enable us to avail ourselves of the whole or part of this payroll tax concession, it could mean a reduction of 5 per cent, to 10 per cent, in the cost at which we can sell abroad, and we shall still be as well off as if we had sold our product at home.”
That is the result which I suppose the Government hopes to achieve, but I do not think the scheme gets to the root of the problem. In fact, I think there are two aspects of this problem. One is that because of cost our goods may not be able to compete with goods of other countries in the markets of the world. However, there are a couple of other trends. One of them relates to the sales of heavy equipment. The cost is not involved. The problem is the provision of credit for the prospective purchaser. A firm has a customer who cannot pay the firm as promptly as it would like. At the moment, there is no adequate machinery to bridge that gap. We on this side of the House have suggested that the Government ought to do something about providing an agency here that could finance the Australian producer during the time he must wait for payment by the overseas purchaser. Other countries do it, but it has not been done here to date.
Of course, the really great problem so far as our nearest markets - the Asian countries - are concerned is that there are millions of people there who have not much money in their pockets. Until we do something about raising the standard of living in those parts of the world it is not very likely that measures of this kind will have a very substantial beneficial effect. But the Opposition is at least at one with the Government in averring that we need more exports. However, we are somewhat sceptical as to the likely effect of the measures. When one examines them closely they show up as not nearly so extensive as they appear to be on the surface. This Government has, of course, a great habit of making every little thing that it does sound very big whilst endeavouring on the other hand to make every big mistake that it makes look little. I suggest that the measures are not likely to be very momentous in their impact upon the sale of Australian goods in overseas markets. I hope that a little later the Minister will go into some more detail about this aspect of the legislation.
This measure is before us, I understand, on the recommendation of the Minister for Trade, and the Treasurer suggested in his speech that the Government had had the advantage of consultation with a body known, I believe, as the Australian Export Council or something of the kind, and that that body had recommended this kind of scheme. I would have been very interested had that body submitted a few examples of its expected impact on the problem of increasing our overseas earnings.
One great disadvantage that this House faces in regard to bills coming before it is that we get a great spate of legislation in the last week or two of the session that most honorable members do not have very much time to digest. The amending bills that are before us - the Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Assessment Bill (No. 2) 1961 and the Pay-roll Tax Assessment Bill 1961 cover some six or seven pages and a dozen or so pages respectively, and are supplemented by explanatory memorandums of 40 closely printed pages. Mostly the memorandums explain that certain complicated amendments are necessary to the two acts rather than explain the virtues of the reasons for the changes. I am not complaining about the way in which the memorandums are presented. The officers who prepare them are told to explain why what is being done has to be done in this particular way, but I think that the House is more concerned to know the likely practical effects that will flow from the measures. We are singularly ill-informed, or shortsupplied, with information of this kind, and I think that it is time that this sort of measure was treated a little more seriously by the Government.
If the measure before us is as significant as the Government implies, we ought at least to be given considerably more time to consider it. I cannot see any reason why this measure had to go through before the next Budget session. It is not to operate before the next financial year, and there is no reason why it could not have been introduced and left to lie for a month or two in order that affected bodies like the Australian Export Council could consider it. The Government’s haste in this matter provides a strange contrast with the manner in which it treats the waterside workers. The waterside workers send a deputation here when a bill affecting them is to be introduced, but they may not have a chance to study it before it is rushed through. In the present case legislation is introduced on the recommendation of people outside the Parliament, and the people inside the Parliament are expected to accept it at its face value.
I do not think that this is a good way of passing legislation. The Parliament should have more time in which to study such measures. Both the Pay-roll Tax Assessment Bill 1961 and the Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Assessment Bill (No. 2) 1961 are very complicated documents in themselves. They are not the sort of things that most honorable members can examine minutely with ease. They are the sort of measures which, although making minor amendments, cover several pages each and involve a number of pages of explanatory memorandums. Sometimes it is just not physically possible for an honorable member to devote to this sort of thing the time and attention that he would like to give it. That is especially so when several measures like this come before us in quick succession and are on the notice-paper together. The result is that they do not receive the attention they deserve. Only the other evening one honorable member on this side of the House was twitted, when making a speech, with the question, “ Did you read the explanatory memorandum? “ I should not like to take a ballot of the membership of this House in order to find out how many members had read the explanatory memorandum concerned, nor would I like honorable members to have to say honestly whether they really understood what they had read. I am sure that the experts in the corner would agree with that statement. These documents are not easy to read. One could make much play on reading a lot of the clauses and the explanations given of them, but I do not want to do that because I do not think that on this occasion, at any rate, it would serve any useful purpose to do so.
As I have said, I regard this measure as a rather trifling approach to a very important problem. We are not trying to write down in any way the problem that faces Australia, because we do need to export more, and we do need also to save on the import side. Sometimes the two problems are connected. It is doubtful, however, whether either of the measures I have referred to goes very far in the direction of solving these problems. Neither of them seems to be based on any very logical foundation. In regard to pay-roll tax there is to be an abatement of a certain part of payroll tax liability according to a certain level of liability. Why the pay-roll tax? Why could not the abatement have been in relation to some other tax? I do not think there is any very logical reason for its being the pay-roll tax. My second point is that the legislation amending the Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Assessment Act provides for a variety of deductions, but many of them are purely matters of argumentation as to their allowability between the person claiming the deductions and the Commissioner of Taxation. However, if allowed, they differ from other expenses in that if a taxpayer spends £1 the real cost to him is that £1 minus the amount ot tax he saves. In the other sort of deduction the saving is £1 minus twice the tax the taxpayer would otherwise have incurred. This has the effect that the revenue bears some 80 per cent, of the total expenditure involved. It is not necessary for the taxpayer to prove any result from this sort of expenditure, but he has to do so in relation to the second kind. That is, broadly, the only difference between the two. One is a payment by result and the other is a kind of hopeful endeavour. Perhaps we hope that the endeavours will be fruitful, but I think that they would be rather small instead of very big fruit.
With these remarks, Mr. Speaker, I express the hope that at the committee stage, or even during the course of the secondreading debate, the Minister for Trade - the Deputy Prime Minister, who has been the architect of those proposals - will give us a little more information as to what good fruit he thinks will be borne by the measures. We do not oppose the measure before us, but we regard it as really trifling with a very great problem.
– I have listened with interest to the address to the House by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean), who is leading for the Opposition on this measure. Quite understandably he throws some cold water and some doubts on it. That is the function of the Opposition and it is one I do not challenge or complain about. But the worst he can do is to express some doubt as to its efficacy.
On that I would hope to give some reassurance.
The first point raised by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports was why we should do this now. He asked, in effect, “ Why not do it when the Budget is presented? “ The answer to that is simple. There is an urgency to step up the Australian export income. The approach to doing this is many-sided, and I could recount to the House action that has been taken deliberately, with the first intensity in 1952. Not a year has passed since then that policies have not been introduced to the House to stimulate production tor export and to export to the best advantage. Export, of course, does not occur the moment after we decide that we will engage in export. That is why, as soon as an active policy has been decided upon, as soon as a notion has been translated into law, it is better for the country and for those who can benefit from it to be informed so that they can quickly get to work on the task.
The honorable member for Melbourne Ports asked why pay-roll tax was chosen and why some other tax incentive could nor be given, if the Government were going to work in the field of tax incentives. The answer to that is equally simple. Actually, those who proposed the approach of a tax incentive or reward - I think “ inducement “ is the correct word - did not propose what is now before the House. They proposed an inducement in the form of an abatement of income tax. However, it is clear to be seen that that is a reward which occurs after the event. It occurs only after a profit has been made. In some circumstances, the pressure to export is a pressure that derives from the fact that profits are not being made. So this is assessed and now accepted by those who made the original proposal as being a better and more effective inducement to get into the business of pursuing exports.
The measures which are before the House and which my colleague, the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt), introduced and explained in their technical sense, I now take up to explain more from the point of view of policy motive than of technical intricacies, although I will be willing later, if I am asked, to deal with any problems that may be raised. To lend a new urgency and a greater effectiveness to the efforts of manufacturers and processors to export, the Government has decided to introduce for a trial period the taxation incentives that are incorporated in the two bills we are debating concurrently. This legislation in total must be viewed against the background of the present economic situation, in which we face two basic problems. The first is the problem of abating internal inflationary pressures and the second is the balance-of-payments problem. Both problems are interrelated and are inescapable in any country engaged in a programme of rapid expansion.
Recent events have demonstrated that corrective action must be taken from time to time when inflationary pressures build up. These events have also clearly demonstrated the magnitude of our continuing balance-of-payments problem. Reaction to recent events has tended to obscure somewhat the Government’s high policy of absolute determination to sustain a steady and continuing growth with internal and external stability in the economy. Those are the objectives, and notwithstanding movements of policy which we have always said we are willing to contemplate, the objectives stand and are unaltered. This is the well-recognized overriding policy for Australia of this Government. It is the policy which encourages the confidence of local and overseas investors to expand the economy in a way which provides for full employment at rising standards of living for our people.
Our critics of recent events have found it conveniently easy to ignore the remarkable growth of the economy under these policies over the past eleven years. Let me shortly give these reminders. Primary production has doubled in that period. The value of manufacturing output has increased two and a half times. The number of factories is up by 40 per cent. Steel production has trebled. Mining production is up two and a half times in value. Great new industries have sprung up. Employment in manufacturing industries has increased by almost one-third in the past eleven years. With this expansion, living standards have improved beyond the boldest hopes of a generation ago. But despite all this - or, more accurately, because of these achievements - we have the phenomenon of strong inflationary pressures occurring within the economy and of the balance-of-payments problem being aggravated by a serious decline in export prices of many of our major export items and by the progressive limitation of market opportunities in our historic markets in the United Kingdom and Western Europe.
An economy like ours, which is committed to a policy of rapid and continuous growth, and which is subject to many influences outside our own control, requires the government of the day to adapt its policies to the prevailing situation. It has been the constant policy of the Government to attack inflationary pressures. These pressures have been perceived for some years. However, last year they reached a critical point and threatened to impair the stability of the export industries. Action by th; Government was clearly called for and that action was taken. That these policies were unpopular was completely inevitable. That they were necessary was also very evident. Despite the difficulties now being experienced, the Government is confident that the economy will emerge greatly strengthened.
However, the balance-of-payments problem remains with us and is still the most intractable problem. The fact that it has been manageable so far might be taken to establish that after all it is only a marginal problem. But that is not so. The balanceofpayments problem is not marginal; it is a major problem for Australia. The programmes and standards of this country necessitate a high level of imports as well as quite sizeable so-called invisible commitments for freights and so on. The only source that is within our own decision and from which we are entitled to feel assured that we can make balancing payments for our imports is from our own actual earnings through exports. In truth, a very wide gap has been bridged by inflow of capital which itself expresses the confidence of overseas industrialists in the opportunities and in the stability of Australia. Any serious curtailment of this capital inflow would widen the gap between our present level of export earnings and our appetite for imports to a point where we could not confidently expect to bridge it by borrowings. Any such development would inevitably be reflected in a curtailment of our overall plans of expansion.
The two measures that are being debated represent a complex of policy actions designed to minimize this risk and to enable us to have more confidence that we will be able to earn the kind of money we want to spend on imports. This is the very foundation stone of real stability for Australian policies of expansion with minimum inflationary pressures. Within this policy, there has been and will be no change in the constant objective to ensure that manufacturing industry grows rapidly and strongly.
Despite recent events - and I am one whose fate it is to know better than most the continuous complaints of those who say they have not been helped sufficiently by the Government - there is no denying the massive expansion of industry which has taken place under the policies of this Government. With this expansion comes an increasing demand for imports, as manufacturing industry, together with essential transport and developmental materials, today continues to absorb something like 80 per cent, of our total imports. This places a heavy dependence on our export industries. Therefore, this Government has continually adopted a vigorous and positive policy of export development.
Our first policy in export development is to have a strong and growing home market. A firm grip on the profitable home market is essential for most primary and secondary producers before they can reach out into exports. I make this point very emphatically, as a corner point of policy of the Government, to those who doubt the earnestness of the Government in saying that Australian industry has a sound grip on the home market. I say, as the spokesman on this occasion for the Government, that we know that throughout the world a firm grip on the home market is the best basis on which to operate in reaching out to the rest of the competitive world for export earnings. Having ensured this grip on the home market - and the facts show that this has been achieved - the Government has adopted a vigorous policy abroad. This has involved a series of treaties with our trading partners, a large expansion of the Trade Commissioner Service, a largescale and continuing trade promotion drive, a series of international commodity agreements, and so on.
However, despite these intense efforts, the facts show how difficult export development has become. We have, in fact, experienced a marked decline in the export prices of our major exports, and also many serious instances of obstruction in many markets. It is a fact that, at 1953 prices, our present exports would have earned us about £1,300,000,000, instead of the £880,000,000 which we calculate we will earn this year by the same volume of exports. That is an indication of the fall in the terms of trade to our disadvantage in the great items we export. This is an aspect of the problem - a major one - that should not be overlooked. It represents a loss of income, on that basis of expectation, of more than £400,000,000 in a year. That is something that this Parliament, with all the will and unanimity in the world, cannot legislate to correct. Here we are dealing with a situation that is under the control of people outside of Australia.
We do not accept that present export prices are reasonable or justified, but this involves a separate fight which will be carried on unceasingly by this Government. In any case, the Government is not prepared to accept that our rate of growth must be geared to fluctuating export earnings at around present levels. Our exports must be increased until they more closely match our real needs. Therefore, the Government has decided to intensify the export drive.
Many quite far-reaching decisions have been announced in recent months. The more important of these are: The development of major works to assist export industries such as the beef roads; our offer to finance coal ports; and the projects involving the standardization of railway gauges. All these are related to prospective export earnings. I remind honorable members also of the legislation that was recently passed by the Parliament relating to the Export Payments Insurance Corporation. Other decisions by the Government in this connexion were seen in the easing of the iron ore export embargo, the lifting of excise charges on coal exports and the proposed greater assistance for tourist promotion, details of which will be submitted later.
The Government has also decided on farreaching trade promotion drives in new markets. There is to be a great and continuous expansion of the Trade Commissioner Service. Important negotiations are being conducted to develop to the full our potential to export steel produced by our efficient steel industry.
These are some of the things that have already been announced. Also under examination is the question of expanding exports by warehousing our products in important markets overseas and selling on the spot. A great deal of thought has been given to ways by which broad export policies can become export sales in the shortest possible time. In this work, valuable assistance has been given by the Export Development Council and the Manufacturing Industries Advisory Council whose members have given very generously of their time and their experience to this problem. Manufacturing industry now absorbs the great proportion of imported products, and the Government and the country now look to the manufacturing and processing industries to play an increasingly important role in exports.
As I said earlier, to lend a new urgency and a greater effectiveness to the export efforts of manufacturers and processors, the Government has decided to introduce taxation incentives for a trial period. The advisory councils have recommended such a policy, and this recommendation has been widely supported by commerce and industry organizations.
The Government has developed the legislation for taxation incentives, having in mind two basic considerations. The first is that all Australian products, without exception, need more vigorous promotion overseas. This applies not only to the new export products but also to the traditional ones. Methodical and vigorous commercial promotion has proved it can get results and is essential in the present situation where world trade is constantly shifting and changing. Old markets are narrowing and new markets opening up. Secondly, Australian manufacturing industry does have great export potential but has no long tradition or experience of export. While export business is risky and uncertain, domestic business has been good. There is thus a need to overcome inertia and the doubts which go with entering the export field.
These considerations led to the adoption of the twin incentives: Income tax concessions to encourage and assist trade promotion overseas, and a pay-roll tax rebate to compel manufacturers to enter actively the battle for exports.
The incentives are designed to help consolidate our trade in existing markets and to help with new markets for products that we have not previously exported. Our principal efforts until now have been directed towards the promotion of exports of our primary products, on which we have relied, and still rely, for the great bulk of our export earnings. Great organizational effort and enormous sums of money have been directed by the Government towards this end.
These new incentives represent devices which, while benefiting primary industries, are mainly designed to assist in expanding our exports of processed primary products and manufactured goods. To-day, our exports of these products earn more than £330,000,000 a year, and the volume of these exports must be increased substantially in the future.
I will give the House an outline of the way in which the incentives will work. The pay-roll tax rebate will assist exporting firms to increase their competitive position in the domestic market. The prospect of gaining this advantage will be a compelling incentive to “ get into exports “, because only by increasing their exports will firms be able to better their competitive position in the domestic market.
The market development allowance will mean that if an exporter is already spending money on overseas promotion, he will be able to treble his expenditure in this direction and remain in the same profit position, after tax, as he is at present. This will vitally assist in the intensification of Australia’s trade promotion and advertising abroad.
I will give the House an indication of some of the kinds of promotion expenditure which will be eligible for the double deduction. They will include advertising and promotion costs overseas, costs of fares for sales representatives, costs of maintaining salesmen and sales representatives in foreign countries for the purpose of increasing export sales, costs of participating in trade fairs and trade missions, costs of sending free samples of products to overseas buyers, and costs of market research. The cost of submitting tenders for overseas contracts will also be allowed. This concession will be of great value to the increasing number of Australian firms that are bidding nowadays for business in the capital equipment and construction fields overseas. These concessions will be of great importance in helping to achieve any kind of real success in developing export consortiums in various industries. They will also provide important assistance in the promotion of sales of primary products.
The levies exacted by statutory marketing bodies will not be eligible for double deduction, because aid to these bodies has already been granted by the Government by way of grants, assistance for research, stabilization schemes and the like. However, important assistance will be given by way of incentives to organizations engaged in sales overseas of processed wool, meats, fruits and the like, and also to undertakings such as meatworks and canneries, sugar mills and so on, which are subject to pay-roll tax.
The incentives to be provided represent an important new move in the export drive. They will be a valuable tool in the hands of management. However, quality, price, salesmanship and service will decide the sales that will be made.
From surveys made by my department in recent weeks, it is already apparent that the incentives have caught the attention of top management in industry. Real and early results are actually in prospect. Encouraging decisions have been made in various industries since the incentives policy was recently announced. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) will be interested in these decisions. Firms that are now engaged in sales promotion overseas have decided to increase their efforts. Some exporters who have never previously endeavoured to promote overseas are now beginning to do so. Existing exporters have already begun searching for new markets and reviewing their marketing policies. Some of them are establishing offices abroad. Exports of products never previously exported will shortly begin. The support for trade promotion projects has strengthened. As a result of this activity, exports of many lines of industrial goods will increase.
I repeat, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that all these things have come about as a result of decisions that have already been made and of which my department has been informed. It is not that the Government simply hopes that these things will take place. The concessions that are to be granted represent an indication of the vital importance which the Government attaches to the expansion of exports and to the role which the processing and manufacturing industries must play in this drive. The Government is certain that we have the natural, the financial and the human resources to increase exports to a substantial degree.
Australian industry will, of course, continue to supply the great bulk of the domestic market. At present it supplies the major proportion of all goods purchased in Australia. From this base the Government is confident that it can successfully reach out into export markets. Industry has sought these incentives to make its venture into exports more attractive and more successful. lt now remains for management to exploit the opportunities opened up by this new policy and to demonstrate by results the value of the incentives.
All the provisions I have spoken of are part of legislation which will operate for a trial period. While quite real problems confront sectors of Australian industry and commerce, I have no doubt whatever that these problems will be successfully surmounted, and that this passing phase will be replaced by one in which we will see even more vigorous growth, on a sounder economic base. It is to this high objective of the Government that I believe these two bills will make a sound and well-considered contribution.
– The Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) has endeavoured to give us an explanation of the Government’s economic policy, and particularly those aspects of it concerned with export trade. He stated that wide surveys had been conducted. Of course, the Minister dealt hardly at all with the bill with which the House is now dealing. He sought to explain the reasons for the export drive which the Government is conducting, and the methods by which it proposes to achieve its aims. I asked him by way of interjection why the Government did not introduce this measure before it withdrew import restrictions in February of 1960, but he did not answer me. I made my interjection in the early part of his speech, and he had ample time to give some explanation. Of course, we know that the Government has brought these proposals forward simply as an afterthought, being forced to do something because of the disastrous effect of the removal of import restrictions last year.
The Minister told us that primary production has doubled in the last few years. Let me cite some figures from the White Paper on National Income and Expenditure 1959-60. Farmers’ incomes in 1953-54 totalled £526,000,000. In 1956-57 this figure had fallen to £515,000,000, and by 1959-60 it was down to £453,000,000. Honorable members of the Country Party are all seeking to interject, because they do not like to see the arguments of their leader destroyed. As I have said, farmers’ incomes in 1953-54 were £526,000,000, while in the last financial year they were only £453,000,000. Does that indicate that primary production has doubled? Of course it does not.
We on this side of the House do not oppose this bill. We support it, although we are critical of many aspects of it. In one respect I agree with the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) and the Minister for Trade. I agree that pay-roll tax is a burden on industry. It is, of course, an indirect tax. It is a burden on industry, and an overhead in the cost structure. Therefore it hinders export earnings. I agree that action is necessary in this respect. But I believe that if we are to act on this principle the pay-roll tax should be progressively abolished. A more direct tax should be substituted which could not be passed on by companies.
I think that the Government has overlooked the restrictions that are imposed by foreign companies which invest in this country and have great control over industry. Whilst it is true that if our manufacturing industries are to export increased quantities of goods, they will have to be fostered, the problem is not as simple as that. A statement by Sir Norman Kipping, Director-General of the Federation of
British Industries, has been reported in the Australian “ Financial Review “ as follows: -
That statement indicates one of the difficulties with which we have to deal. Subsidiaries of overseas companies manufacture goods in this country largely for the local market. When we want certain secondary industries to increase their production for export we find that the local organization does not determine where it will export goods. The decision is made by the parent company overseas which may direct that the Australian firm is not to export goods even to places near Australia. The right to export goods to those places may already have been allocated to the company’s branch in Japan, the United States of America, the United Kingdom or elsewhere.
Although many wealthy exporting firms are, in some respects, certainly doing good for Australia, I do not believe that tax concessions which will make their balance sheets even healthier will help our export drive. These concessions will simply enable the companies to gain perks at the expense of the Taxation Branch. Instead of closing up a great gap, this bill may open a new door in that respect. This Government, or a future government, will have to look closely at this angle, otherwise some companies may be able to evade taxation. The effect of the bill is that some people who take overseas business trips will be subsidized at the rate of 16s. in the £1 by the Australian taxpayer. We should ensure that such persons are genuinely trying to do something for this country. I feel that this concession will not solve the problem. It is only an afterthought of the hasty economic policy of the Government.
The Treasurer made a great recital of what the Government intended to do, but I believe that the balance of payments position of this country can be saved only by the reimposition of import restrictions. In the course of his second-reading speech, the Treasurer said -
The items listed under “ textiles “ include piece-goods, velvets, velveteens, wool or textiles chiefly of wool, felt, towels and towelling. Can it honestly be said that these goods are necessary to maintain Australia’s manufacturing industries? That does not seem to me to be so. Under the heading of “ Apparel “ are listed buttons, including snap fasteners, footwear and knitted garments. The imports of items under the heading of “ Apparel “ increased between the two periods that I have mentioned from £79,155,000 to £106,054,000, an increase of about £27,000,000. It seems to me that these goods could be manufactured’ in Australia.
Yesterday the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Jones) mentioned the iron and steel industry. Imports of metals and machinery increased from £119,387,000 to £178,983,000 between the two periods I have mentioned, an increase of about £59,000,000. I should like to draw this fact in particular to the Treasurer’s attention: The imports of motor bodies, chassis and parts for motor cars increased from £53,645,000 to £67,468,000, an increase of about £14,000,000. The Minister knows that many of the motor car bodies and parts now being imported could be made in this country, using Australian steel from John Lysaght (Australia) Proprietary Limited and’ other steel firms which are retrenching staff. The Government is- permitting the importation of these products, and this will mean disaster for our overseas balances. Item after item of imports which are not basically necessary to maintain Australian industry appear in the list from which I have quoted. The Government is not concerned that they can be manufactured economically in Australia.
The Government has allowed the grand total of imports for the nine months ended March, 1961, to increase to £846,519,000 compared to £672,584,000 for the nine months ended March, 1960. That represents an increase of almost £.174,000,000. During the same period, it is interesting to note, exports dropped from £712,000,000 to £698,000,000. This trend is indicative of the Government’s policy, which: is. quite pigheaded on this matter-
Government supporters say that the only way to solve the problem of inflation is to remove import restrictions. Yet they say,, on the other hand, that they want Australian manufacturing industries to export. Inmy electorate, I have one of the biggest industrial areas in Australia. Recently, I was talking to a very influential man in the manufacturing industry, and he said: “ What we have to be assured of, first of all, if we are to put ourselves on a sound economic basis, is that at least we have at home a market for a certain number of units of output. We have to be able toproduce to a certain level of output before we can compete economically in the export markets. Unless we are assured of an adequate home market, we have little chance of competing in the export markets.” These tax concessions which are being offered will not solve the problem. What is needed is the re-imposition of import restrictions.
The Minister for Trade talked about overseas investment in this country and said how necessary it was. An examination of the trend in Australia’s balance of payments in the last twelve years shows just how disastrous a policy this Government has on the balance of payments. It has built up a total balance-of-payments deficit of £1,800,000,000 during its term of office-
And it is doing nothing to solve the problem, which is getting worse. The Government says that it intends to solve the problem of inflation, but unemployment increases day by day. Already, according to the Government’s own publiclyannounced figures, 80,000 people are listed as unemployed. As the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) said, the real number of those unemployed is nearer to 100,000. And the figure increases day by day.
This Government has not the slightest idea of how it ought to try to solve our problems. Months after the horse has got out, it tries to close the door of the stable by introducing this measure which is designed to provide an incentive for the building up of exports. Yet, in February.. 1960, it removed import restrictions almost completely. Why did it not take action sooner to promote exports? I challenge the Minister for Trade and Government supporters generally to tell us why, only now, after twelve years in office, during which there has been a heavy drain on our overseas reserves, and fifteen months after import restrictions were removed, the Government has decided to bring in a bill to encourage exporters. Why has the Government delayed for so long the introduction of this measure in order to provide an incentive for exports? That is a question thatI should like to hear answered by Government supporters. The Minister for Trade himself had an opportunity to answer it when I interjected, but he declined to do so. Why has the Government delayed the taking of this action for fifteen months after it removed import restrictions? Why has it taken so long to act, although, over the twelve years during which it has been in office, it has built up a total deficit in the balance of payments of about £1,800,000,000? This is a question that the Government must answer.
I know that after the next federal general election, the Australian Labour Party will form a government. There is no doubt about that. But the thing that worries me very greatly is the thought of the legacy that we shall inherit. This Government begs, borrows and steals wherever it can get money. It has now had to fall back on its last resort - the International Monetary Fund.
– Order! The honorable gentleman may not accuse the Government of stealing from anywhere. He ought to be careful of his choice of words.
– That is a matter of opinion, but I bow to the ruling of the Chair and say that the Government gets money from wherever it can get it in any circumstances. We know the latest source to which it has turned in its present circumstances. It has borrowed 175,000,000 United States dollars, or £78,125,000 Australian, from the International Monetary Fund. And it has gone even further and arranged a stand-by credit. The question is: Why does the Government need this money? It argues that its overseas balances are in a healthy state, but the big question mark hangs over the invisibles, which are as yet undetermined. What is their total? What have we to pay for freight and insurance on exports? These are some of the problems with which the Government should be dealing.
As I have said, we on this side of the Parliament support the bill, although we certainly have great criticism to direct at the Government’s economic policies, which have been disastrous. The only sensible way in which to face up to the problem at this stage is to reintroduce import restrictions immediately. Last evening, the Leader of the Opposition made a pledge by Labour. He said that we pledge that when we are returned to office after the next federal general election, we will reintroduce import restrictions. There are many other issues that ought to be considered and there are many other ways in which certain inflationary spending could be controlled, but this Government is not prepared to adopt those ways. We on this side of the House will continue to criticize the Government. I only hope for Australia’s sake that the Government at least provides a stimulus to export earnings, but I have little hope that its present proposals for the promotion of export earnings will be of any benefit at all to Australia. It will still give hand-outs to businessmen, who will be able to have their expenditure on so-called business tours subsidized by 16s. in the £1 by the Australian taxpayers.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt), in his second-reading speech, stated that the purpose of this bill is to introduce tax concessions as financial incentives to export. I congratulate the Government on this positive approach to our export problems. My purpose in discussing this bill is to make a plea on behalf of the mining industry for the complete deductibility for income tax purposes of all share moneys in respect of new capital raised in the industry.
– How many mines are there in the honorable member’s electorate?
– I do not know whether that interjection indicates that the philosophy of Opposition members is: What is in this for me? That certainly is not the philosophy of honorable members on this side of the House, and I put forward my proposition with respect to the mining industry believing that the proposal is in the interests of Australia generally.
In asking for this concession which I have mentioned, I am very conscious of the fact that one does not need brains to ask for additional tax concessions. I am sure that at this time of the year the Treasurer is inundated with requests for concessions from almost all sections of the community, and that all those who make these requests believe that they have perfectly good reasons for asking for assistance. With these considerations in mind, I put forward my proposal only after having given it a great deal of thought and consideration, and, I hope, with due regard for all that may be involved.
I believe that if full deductibility is allowed in respect of all share moneys, the mining industry will be given a boost which will materially assist our drive for exports. And assistance to that drive is the stated purpose of this bill. In many instances, no doubt, this concession would tend to reduce our need for imports by fostering import replacement. When I say that, I am thinking in particular of tin. We import a considerable proportion of our requirements of this metal.
I am well aware that with respect to mining, Australia’s tax laws already are generous. But so are the tax laws of quite a number of other countries. I believe that if we are to open up new mining fields, we have to offer additional incentives to investors. I believe, further, that the suggestion that 100 per cent, deductibility be accorded to share moneys is valid, because under our present laws a shareholder could possibly pay income tax on the return of some of his own capital. At present, persons who invest in mining companies are entitled to deduct from their income an amount equal to one-third of what they pay in calls on shares. This deduction does not apply to application and allotment moneys. They are further entitled to a deduction of 20 per cent, in respect of dividends received from mining companies, but even under those circumstances it is possible for a person to lose money in a venture and still to be required to pay income tax. For example, take a shareholder who has invested £1,000 in a mining company. Let us assume that he has received a dividend amounting to £600 or £700. He would be required to pay income tax on fourfifths of the total amount of the dividend he has received. Let us assume also that, for some reason or other the mine closed down after he had received the dividend. Perhaps the cost of extraction became too high or the price of metal on the world market had fallen and it was no longer profitable for the mine to continue operating. In the event of liquidation, mining assets rarely realize the amount at which they stand on the books of the company and in a number of cases the shareholders are out of pocket upon liquidation, but, despite the fact that they have lost on the investment, they are required to pay income tax on whatever dividends they might have received.
– That is the risk he has to run. He stands to gain a lot, too.
– I do not quite accept that. Mining is recognized as a risky business. A mine is a wasting asset.
– Order! The honorable member might relate his remarks to the terms of the bill.
– I am relating them to the terms of the bill. I have stated already that I believe this incentive will assist our drive for exports. The whole purpose of the bill is to introduce taxation concessions as financial incentives to increase exports. If 100 per cent, of the amount invested were allowed as a deduction for income tax purposes, there could be no quarrel with the present method of taxing dividends received from mining companies. It could be argued that, because concessions are given to the companies, there is no reason for further concessions to be given to individual shareholders, but as the Government taxes both the companies and the shareholders on the same income, I believe that my proposal is valid. I do not think that if it were accepted there would be any great danger of putting further money into the profits of already rich companies, as it is suggested that this proposal shall apply only to new capital. The established companies already have ample money available for exploration, they are already allowed a 100 per cent. concession for income tax purposes for money spent on exploration, and there is no need for them to call up new capital. It it is conceded that the mining industry is vital to the Australian economy - and I have never heard an opinion to the contrary - and if my proposal will result, as I believe it will, in injecting more money into the search for minerals, I believe it is in line with the sentiments expressed in this bill and should be worthy of the Government’s consideration.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2- by leave - taken together, and agreed to.
After section fifty-one ab of the Principal Act the following section is inserted: - “51 ac. - (1.) In this section, unless the contrary intention appears - export market development expenditure * means prescribed outgoings incurred primarily and principally for the purpose of seeking opportunities, or creating or increasing demand, for - (a)….. but does not include - (d)…..
– I move-
In the definition of ‘ export market development expenditure’ proposed section 51ac. - (1.), omit paragraph (e), insert the following paragraph: - “ (e) so much of any outgoings incurred by a person as -
has been, or is to be, paid or reimbursed to him by another person; or
is incurred in or in connexion with services or doing any thing for which he has been, or is to be, paid by another person;”.
This amendment will not involve any change of substance in the proposed section51ac. The sole purpose of the amendment is to make clear the basic intention of the paragraph concerned.
As explained in the printed memorandum which has been circulated, the purpose of paragraph (e) of the definition of “ export market development expenditure “ is to ensure that the special deduction is not available to a taxpayer who, though incurring export market development expenditure, is paid or reimbursed for that expenditure. In other words, the provision is intended to avoid the allowance of the special deduction more than once in respect of the same expenditure - firstly, in the hands of the enterprise for which the export promotion is undertaken and, secondly, in the hands of the person or company engaged to carry out the actual promotion work as a paid service.
As paragraph (e) is at present expressed, there may be doubt as to whether it would be effective in circumstances where a taxpayer engages an agent to carry out a project on his behalf but does not specify the particular manner in which the payment for the project is to be applied - for example, the payment of an inclusive fee for carrying out a programme of market research. The substituted wording is designed to ensure that the exclusion under paragraph (e) will be effective in all circumstances.
.- I have not had an opportunity to peruse the proposed amendment, but what the Minister for Supply (Mr. Hulme) has said only serves to strengthen the claims made by the Opposition that if the Parliamentary Draftsman does not always comprehend what he is doing it is only understandable that some honorable members would not be clear as to what the Government is seeking to do. In the circumstances, I am prepared to accept the amendment as proposed because, as I said on another occasion, its sole purpose seems to make clear what is intended. As worded, the clause is very obscure and 1 hope that the Government will take lessons such as this a little to heart and at least grant a decent adjournment between the time when the bill is introduced and the time when it is to be considered.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Remainder of bill - by leave - taken as a whole, and agreed to.
Bill reported with an amendment; report - by leave - adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 4th May (vide page 1558), on motion by Mr. Harold Holt-
That the bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and committed pro forma; progress reported.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of Administrator’s message):
Motion (by Mr. Hulme) 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 Pay-roll Tax Assessment Act 1941-1957.
Resolution reported and adopted.
In committee: Consideration resumed.
Bill - by leave - taken as a whole, and agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Sitting suspended from 5.57 to 8 p.m.
Debate resumed (vide page 1703).
– In the first place,. Mr. Speaker, I want to register the strongest possible protest on behalf of the Opposition at the action of the Government in introducing a bill of this nature and importance this afternoon and then expecting the Opposition to debate it four hours later. It is a bill that vitally affects the lives and interests of many people on the waterfront and many people dependent upon the trade that flows through our seaports. But the Government decided to bring the bill down, because it wants to get it through in the very last moments of the sittings of the Parliament. Had the Government not decided late this afternoon that the Parliament should meet next week, we would have been expected to pass this legislation after an all-night sitting of this House, and it would have then been forced through another place some time tomorrow, with as much consideration given to it as honorable members can afford to devote to it in this chamber.
This Government is processing its legislation in the same way as butchers put their meat through a sausage machine and, like a lot of the meat which passes through a sausage machine, the legislation is equally indigestible. Let us look at the origin of the bill - I am not looking at the origin of the sausage meat - as it, too, is wrapped up in mystery. Both Houses of this Parliament adjourned on the night of Thursday, 27th April, without any member having the slightest idea that legislation of this sort was even contemplated by the Government. On the next morning we discovered that the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) had issued a statement saying that the Government intended to bring down legislation to give waterside workers long service leave.
– It was not a fortnight ago.
– It was less than a fortnight ago, as the honorable member for Port Adelaide reminds me. No one believes that the Minister has any great affection for the waterside workers and he certainly showed none during his speech this afternoon. I think his sentiments towards the waterside workers are reciprocated by them towards him, in turn.
– It was not the waterside workers I mentioned, but some of their leaders.
– The Minister said the industry was a very turbulent one. I shall make some comment later on what the Minister said about the nature of the employment with which we are dealing. Honorable members wondered what all this was about, because in the Speech of His Excellency the Administrator at the opening of the Parliament there was no mention of this legislation, no hint of it at all. It was not mentioned by the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) when he gave notice of the suspension of the 11 o’clock rule, after which hour, without such suspension, no new business can ordinarily be introduced. He hinted darkly that the Government did have other legislation to bring forward, but at that time it did not look as if there was any necessity for the Parliament to meet this week, or last week, either.
After we had read what the Minister for Labour and National Service had said, we of the Opposition asked the leaders of the Australian Council of Trade Unions and the Waterside Workers Federation whether they knew anything about the legislation. My colleague, the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison), who acts as our liaison with the Australian Council of Trade Unions was in conference with representatives of these organizations immediately the Minister’s announcement was made. We found that the people with whom we made contact knew as little about the legislation as we did and so we had to form our own conclusions as to why the Government proposed to bring down the legislation. We were not long in coming to the conclusion that the Government did not bring down these bills because of any feeling of sympathy for the watersiders, any desire to do justice to them, or any regard for the question of whether long-service leave should be granted to casual workers generally throughout the Commonwealth.
It did not take us long to discover that the Government had realized that both Houses of the Parliament of Tasmania had passed a waterside workers bill, but with no pains and penalties included in it. The Government knew that the Premier of New South Wales had indicated that, when the referendum campaign was over in that State, it was the intention of his Government to bring down legislation to provide for longservice leave for all casual workers, which of course would include waterside workers.
– The Minister denies what I am saying, but I know that the resolution of the New South Wales executive of the Labour Party was to that effect. I know that the New South Wales Trades and Labour Council had a similar resolution on its books and I know that that was the intention of the New South Wales Government. Legislation having been passed in one State and likely to be passed in another - it might be passed in others also - made this Government introduce its own legislation which will supersede all State legislation. The legislation contains pains and penalties clauses so that waterside workers can have long-service leave, but only on a good behaviour bond.
Under this measure waterside workers, provided they do the things which the Government requires them to do, can have their long service leave but, if they do not do those things, they will wait years for their entitlements. On 1st May - it was a good day for a conference of representatives of the Australian Council of Trade Unions and the Minister - the president, the vicepresident and the secretary of the Australian Council of Trade Unions - Mr. Monk, Mr. Kenny and Mr. Souter, respectively - came to Canberra and conferred all day with the Minister.
– Two days.
– All that day, and the president and secretary of the Waterside Workers Federation were also in attendance. The conference continued next day and late that afternoon the president of the Australian Council of Trade Unions came to see me, as did also the president of the Waterside Workers Federation, Mr. Beitz. I learned from them something of their discussions with the Minister. They told me that as the result of those discussions some of the original provisions of the legislation were modified and suggestions were made by them for further modifications. I understand that the Government gave some consideration to these matters. Indeed, the Minister admits that consideration was given to what the Australian Council of Trade Unions put forward, and certain other modifications were made later. The bill was then drafted, as we have received it, in its present form.
Now, Sir, Mr. Monk made it quite clear in the discussions I had with him, and also in the discussions that he had with the honorable member for Blaxland both in Melbourne and in Adelaide on Monday and Wednesday of this week, that under no consideration would the bill be acceptable to the trade union movement while heavy penalties could be imposed which could delay the time at which long service leave would fall due. As the Leader of the Opposition, I received draft copies of the bill only last night. Until then I knew nothing of its contents. I received these copies on a confidential basis, and I maintained that confidence. I handed one copy, as agreed upon, to the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, and another copy to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in this House, because otherwise we would not have been in any position to debate the legislation at all. We took the matter to our caucus this morning and considered it.
The indecent haste on the part of the Government to introduce this legislation is, I repeat, to be condemned. We have suggested that in order that the fullest consideration might be given to its contents the bill should be stood over, and further discussion of it should not be resumed until the next session. I even told the Treasurer that as far as this party is concerned - we are backed by the trade union movement of the nation - we do not care whether or not the Government goes on with the bill in its present form. As far as we are concerned, the Government can forget all about it. We believe in the principle of long service leave, and we will vote for those clauses of the bill which will bring long service leave into operation; but we will vote against those clauses of the bill that propose the infliction of penalties and disabilities on people. If the bill is dropped altogether, then, after the next elections, we ourselves will introduce legislation in the form in which we draft it. If the legislation passes in its present form, we will amend it in the way we wish to amend it later on.
– You will introduce it as a private member’s bill?
– We will introduce it as a government bill. The honorable membe, who in his spare time is a doctor of philosophy, could then philosophize outside of the Parliament, instead of inside. It is hard to understand why the Government is rushing this legislation through at this particular time, because its benefits will not become operative until three years after the act is proclaimed. It is not as though somebody were going to get a benefit immediately the bill is passed. This is a bill which, so far as the generality of waterside workers is concerned, will operate some time in 1964. We do not object to some forward date being named, because that has been customary in legislation of this sort wherever it has been introduced anywhere in the Commonwealth. There always has to be a certain period before the legislation can operate.
– The penalties start straight away.
– Yes. Whilst the benefits are not due to operate until three years hence, the penalties will operate immediately. If a waterside worker goes on strike, he can be penalized in various ways. He can be dealt with by the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority and he can be deprived of certain leave.
– He can be declared by the authority.
– Yes. There are other ways by which he can be dealt with. Of course, if one-third of the waterside workers in any port go on strike or hold unauthorized meetings, the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission can impose a penalty. The amount of penalty is stated in the legislation. There is provision for a maximum penalty, which, I believe, is better than the original provision contained in the first draft of the legislation, under which it was possible for a waterside worker to suffer a double penalty.
– He still does.
– Yes, I know that he may, in certain circumstances. The
A.C.T.U. has been placed in ‘much the same position as we have been placed concerning consideration of the contents of this legislation. Its officers did not receive copies of this bill until some time this afternoon. I understand that they were promised that they would have copies of the bill early this morning.
– Yesterday morning.
– Yesterday morning originally. Of course, we had expected to have the bill before us in this House yesterday evening, but there were drafting delays. Everybody suffered because of those delays, which were due to the unfortunate breakdown of one draftsman. But copies of the bill as we have it before us now were not in the hands of the officers of the A.C.T.U. until 2.30 this afternoon.
– I gave them outlines of it before that.
– At that time all they had to advise them of the Minister’s general views were outlines of the bill’s contents, but copies of the Minister’s second-reading speech had not reached them. The A.C.T.U. officers take their stand - and we agree with them - on the principle that waterside workers are entitled to long service leave just the same as are other sections, and should not be penalized, as the Minister proposes to penalize them. Most legislation of this sort contains no penal provisions. The Tasmanian act contains no penal provisions. The New South Wales act would have contained no penal provisions.
– It would have.
– No, it would not. It would not have contained any penal provisions, and even the members of the upper house in New South Wales would not have put in provisions of that sort.
– That is your supposition.
– I am sure of my position in that respect, because I know their feelings on the matter. The A.C.T.U. has unanimously decided its view on this question. This is its view as expressed in the resolution that it passed -
The aim of the trade union movement is that long service leave is a right accruable to a worker for service rendered to an employer or an industry.
Because the legislation of the Federal Government relating to waterside workers does not recognize such a right without disabilities and penalties, the A.C.T.U. Executive expresses its complete opposition to objectionable principles in the Long Service Leave Bill which imposes penalties on entitlement because of industrial action of waterside workers.
This provision is diametrically opposed to prevailing State legislation and would deprive some waterside workers of pleasant long service leave entitlements.
We also register an emphatic protest at the manner and procedure adopted by the Government for introducing the Bill which denies the Labour movement reasonable opportunity to examine and analyse the full implications of the provisions.
We request the Parliamentary Labour Party to oppose the Bill in both Houses of Parliament on the basis of the Trade Union opposition to these provisions.
Having considered the position and having our own views - most of us are financial members of trade unions - we have equally unanimously decided to vote against the second reading of the bill and to vote against those clauses containing provisions for the imposition of disabilities and penalties. If the Government will not remove those clauses, we will vote against the third reading. That is our decision on the matter, and I have no doubt that the Government expected that that would be our attitude.
In his speech this afternoon the Minister said that in general principle the long service leave provision in this bill was comparable with the ordinary State long service leave laws. The Australian Labour Party supports the policy of extending long-service leave wherever possible to the Australian workers, emphasizing most strongly the desirability of such leave being approved in this period of mechanization and automation, but the long service leave policy of the Australian Labour Party is that the provision must be not less in value than that operating under State and Federal long service leave laws, and that long service leave is a right accruable to all workers for service rendered. In simple language, long service leave is a right to a return for service, on the levels of periods served, and should not be contingent upon any other industrial condition, and should not be related to any other circumstances of employment. There is nothing in the Commonwealth Public Service Act provisions granting long service leave to Commonwealth public servants which says that they will be deprived of their leave if they go on strike. I never remember any such provision having been inserted in that act.
– It is quite unnecessary.
– The honorable member for Corangamite says it is quite unnecessary. Strangely enough, the honorable gentleman .has stumbled upon a truth. The reason why Commonwealth public servants do not go on strike and why waterside workers often do is because of the different natures of their respective employments. Commonwealth public servants are permanently employed. They have a regular income. They know what they will receive each week. In short, they know what their take-home money will be. They know what annual leave and sick leave they are entitled to receive and they know the various other conditions that attach to their employment generally. They have a retiring age and they have superannuation rights. But the waterside workers have a turbulent occupation because it is a casual occupation.
– Are they not threatening to go on strike against the Government now?
– I hope they do not go on strike against the Government. I know of a better way to beat the Government. You cannot beat the Government by industrial action. I wish the waterside workers, and all others who contemplate strikes, would save the money they would lose by going on strike and put it into the campaign funds of the Australian Labour Party. We would then defeat the Government at the ballot-box and the waterside workers would then get what they really want, which is the de-casualization of their industry. For many years now, ever since 1945, attempts have been made to decasualize this industry. We of the Australian Labour Party established the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority. We imposed the first levy on the ship-owners to provide amenities for the waterside workers. We did many things for the waterside workers which had never been done before. I remember the 1928 strikes on the waterfront, when men hawked their labour from ship to ship. They came down in the early morning; they came back after the lunch break, often without having had any lunch at all, and then they came down again for .the night shift. But they often had no work for days on end. We tried to humanize <the industry. It is true, as the Minister said, that amending legislation has been passed in the life of this Government and that certain alterations were made in the 1956 legislation.
But we will never have peace on .the waterfront until we have a permanent body of employees there, just as we have in all other transport industries. If we can have permanent employees on the railways, we can surely have them on the waterfront. In these days of fast-moving transport, it ought to be possible for the big shipping companies to .regularize the arrival and departure times of their ships so that the men in the work force on the waterfront will know to within £1 what their incomes will be .each week. Once we can establish conditions of that sort on .the waterfront, waterside workers will be less disposed to show their resentment against society, as they often do now.
We of the Australian Labour Party certainly do not support the haphazard strikes that occur to-day. J agree with Mr. Monk, the president of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, who is reported in to-day’s press as having said that wharf stoppages held in several States over the Commonwealth Government’s proposed legislation on long service leave were unauthorized and were harming the cause of the waterside workers, not helping it. I think that anarchy anywhere, in the trade union movement or elsewhere, is not to be tolerated and it is for the trade union movement itself to assert its authority and ensure that unauthorized strikes do not take place. I do not want unauthorized strikes anywhere. But, above all else, I want to see justice done to the waterside workers in this legislation and in any other legislation that is brought down. I am sure that if the waterside workers had, to use an Australian term, a “ fair go “ in the matter of long service leave, the situation on .the waterfront would be better than it has been or is .likely to be.
– They have had a fair go.
– The honorable .member for Hume, who has an incurable hatred of the trade union movement, who is allergic to waterside workers, who is allergic to seamen, who is allergic to any one who can be called a militant and who is, above all, allergic to shearers, would like to see a return to the bad old days when there was no trade union movement. We live under a capitalist system. The employers are well organized, the banking institutions are well organized and the manufacturers, who are suffering a little to-day, are fairly well organized. But they try to secure only what they think is justice for themselves. All other sections of the community are entitled to organize so long as they do it within the law; they are entitled, surely, to seek an improvement of the conditions under which they must work. I am sure that those who work on the waterfront are average Australians.
– They are not!
– I think they are. As a matter of fact, most of the recent entrants to the Waterside Workers Federation are returned servicemen. Returned servicemen have a very great respect for the very gallant gentleman who is the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson) and he should have respect for them because of the services they, too, have rendered to Australia. Then why should he want to discriminate against them because of the occupation they follow?
– It is not an occupation.
– It is an occupation and it is a very good occupation. I heard what the Minister had to say to-day. Of course, I did not have much time between the hour at which he finished speaking and the hour at which I commenced to speak to give the matter all the thought I would have liked to have given it, but I take this extract from what he said -
In truth, the leaders of the Waterside Workers Federation have been engaged in a prostitution of the very purposes of trade unionism.
Is that the sort of sentiment that will bring peace to the industry? Will that invite co-operation between the leaders of the union and the Minister or the leaders of the trade union movement and the Minister? I recommend that the Minister take Dale. , Carnegie’s course on how to win friends and influence people. The Minister said further -
All too frequently at unauthorized stop work meetings, allegedly called to discuss some major industrial issue, discussions are centred on and resolutions are put about matters that are not industrial.
That may be deplorable. I think that stopwork meetings ought to be called for industrial purposes only. The honorable gentleman then spoke about the number of hours that were lost on the waterfront. He said there were 107 24-hour port stoppages. What happened was that waterside workers were expressing some discontent about some circumstances over which they probably had little or no control. Men felt they were being unjustly penalized in their view. They may not have been unjustly penalized, but that was how they felt and they were sticking to the principle of solidarity with one another. The Government ought to provide better machinery than now exists if it wants to avoid these stoppages. Then again he said that in 1959-60, 40 per cent, of the total man-hours lost were lost in that particular period of so many stoppages. That is the story he told us to-day, but at other times, and particularly at election times, he boasts about the industrial peace there is in Australia. He tells the Australian people that this Government is governing so well and has the confidence of the trade unions to such an extent that there are fewer man-hours lost by strikes in Australia than in any other country.
– That is true; they are all lost on the waterfront.
– Honorable members on the Government side cannot have it both ways. They try to blame the waterside workers in order to justify the penal clauses of the bill. That is the whole purpose of this particular piece of propaganda, and it is nothing but propaganda. When the Minister talks about the waterside workers prostituting the principles of trade unionism, he should remember that it will be time enough for him to make charges when the trade union movement has told the waterside workers that that is the effect of their actions. I have made my position clear on the matter. I do not believe in unauthorized stoppages by the waterside workers, the seamen or anybody else because they are the losers in the long run. It is their wives and families who suffer. I do not think that men would willingly inflict sufferings on their wives and families unless they felt strongly about some of the things that happen during their employment.
The Minister said that other regular fulltime employees receive long-service leave. These people are not regular full-time employees in the ordinarily accepted meaning of the term. The waterside workers go to work when they are rostered to do so. If there is no work for them, they get attendance money. If there are no ships bringing goods to Australia, there can be a surplus of waterside workers and there can thus be more people receiving attendance money. If the Government’s credit squeeze policy had succeeded as it hoped, there would have been very few ships arriving in Australia now bringing goods from abroad, and very few waterside workers in employment. There are many people employed on the waterfront at present because the Government cannot control the flood of imports even with the credit squeeze.
– Government members get attendance money to-day.
– Some of them are not worth it. The Government thought it should extend the benefits of long-service leave to what it calls permanent waterside workers. It makes a distinction between those who are what the Minister calls permanent waterside workers and those who are irregularly employed on the waterfront. The distinction is made on the basis of age and capacity to work. If a person is too old to work or reaches a certain age, he becomes an irregular worker. If he is healthy and has the strength to handle the cargoes and so can give value for the money he receives, he is a permanent worker and he will get the benefit of the legislation. We think the old waterside workers are not being properly or adequately treated. But when the Minister says that the legislation and the Government’s decision will be welcomed by the big majority of the men themselves, I think he is romancing, or indulging in wishful thinking or engaging in a vain hope.
– Have you discussed this with the A.C.T.U.?
– I have discussed it with the president of the A.C.T.U. I think that the overwhelming majority of waterside workers want long service leave, but it is wrong for the Minister to say that the great majority of the men welcome this legislation. At all the stop-work meetings and other union meetings that have been held, the men have indicated that they want long service leave, but they want it without tags. I repeat that they are entitled to it without tags.
The Minister has said that the men want this provision - he calls it a concession, which I dispute - on a nation-wide basis, and that they know their chances of getting it by pressure on State governments and by industrial action, despite all the boasting of their leaders, are pretty remote. The Minister knew better than that. He knew that State government after State government would legislate in this way because State government after State government has brought down long service leave bills for workers in so many industries until to-day in every State everybody employed on a fulltime basis - that is, except all casual workers - is covered by long service leave.
– Why should there be a difference between the provisions on the mainland and those in Tasmania?
– That is one of the sweet mysteries of life. If I knew that, I would know why the Government brought down the bill. The Minister said -
Some waterside workers will, however, be eligible for payments in lieu of leave immediately and others between now and 1964. Pro rata leave will be granted under certain conditions after ten years’ service.
The bill is made retrospective to 1942. That is the same as the Tasmanian legislation, and I am not complaining about that nor is any other honorable member on this side of the House. We think the Minister could be more liberal to the older men and less discriminating against them. Putting the position broadly, we believe that what we are proposing is much in line, in general principles, with ordinary State long service leave laws. It is, as a matter of fact, more advantageous than the Tasmanian legislation dealing with the waterside workers. Whatever the Tasmanian Parliament has passed, we want to improve upon, and we think the country is prosperous enough to pay for it.
I have not the slightest doubt thai me Government, in this age of automation ana mechanization will not have to- levy very much more on the shipowners to provide the funds to pay long service leave benefits. It will’ not cost industry that much more in these days when fewer and fewer waterside workers are required while profits are going to greater and greater heights. The people who are suffering from these developments are the waterside workers and trade unionists generally. Those who are benefiting, are the people engaged in industries that use ships, and the shipowners. I invite honorable members from Queensland to tell the story of mechanization in that State. You can. go along the coast of Queensland and visit the ports of Rockhampton, Townsville, Mackay, Cairns or Mourilyan and see the effects of mechanization. At Townsville, ships are bulk loading sugar and bagged sugar is out. The labour force on the waterfront has been cut probably by two-thirds.
– It was brought about by industrial lawlessness.
– It was brought about by progress. In the port of Townsville you will see zinc concentrates from Mount Isa being loaded in bulk into the ships. We do not try to stand in the way of progress. If increased mechanization is going to make industry more profitable, and make it easier for men to work, then let us have progress; but at least the benefits of improvements in the field of mechanization and the advantages of automation should be shared by the whole community, and should not be appropriated by a few. The waterside workers have suffered more from mechanization and automation than have most other people so far, and there will be more suffering on their part as time goes on.
– The members of the Australian Workers Union gained in the Queensland sugar ports.
– Yes, they gained, but the waterside workers lost.
– Are you against the A.W.U.7
– No, and I am not entering into union rivalry in this matter. The waterside workers and the A.W.U. members in Queensland get along quite amicably together. But every one knows that nobody can stay the march of progress.
Nobody on this side of the House is a twentieth century Luddite, but we can understand why the Luddites smashed the machines more than a century ago, when there was no provision made for their employment after their displacement by the machines.
We say that much of the legislation is wrong. We object particularly to the provision that if there is a port stoppage involving more than 250 men or one-third of the men at the port, the men involved will lose benefits that would otherwise have been available to them, unless the union can satisfy the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission that the stoppage was justified. There is no charge laid against the union calling for an answer from it. The union, however, must go along and discharge the onus of proof. The men will be suspended under this law, and then they must prove to the commission that they were justified in stopping. For every day of a port stoppage that is not covered by this exception in the provision, the men involved will lose attendance money on four occasions when they would, otherwise have received it, and their qualifying period of service for long service leave will be reduced by a number of days, not exceeding 30, as the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission determines. It seems that the Government is framing the legislation so that if a man is due to lose attendance money he will not be penalized until there is a slack period on the waterfront. Then he will lose the money. But while ships are in port and the employers want labour, he will be required to work. He will get delayed justice. His punishment will be deferred because it will be more profitable for the Government and for other interests concerned if it is deferred.
This legislation reflects no credit on the Government. That is why the Minister made his midnight announcement. This is not the kind of measure that the Government could boast about. If there was any merit in it, the Government would have made its announcement to the Parliament in the open. It would have invited representatives of the A.C.T.U. to come here and confer with it beforehand. It would also have had representatives of the waterside workers here in order to confer with them, and we of the Opposition would have been told more about what was in contemplation. The Government would have been glorying in its achievement. Instead, it is trying to push the legislation through as quickly as it can, trying to get it on the statute-book in the hope that people will soon forget about it. After that it hopes for industrial peace on the waterfront, and if this hope is not fulfilled the blame will be -placed on this turbulent industry for what happens and not upon the Government for having acted foolishly or stupidly.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, we have seen this evening a remarkable abdication of responsibility by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell). One would have thought the honorable gentleman had a responsibility, as the spokesman for the Opposition, to examine the bill critically. One would have thought that, having examined it, he would have said, “ There is this wrong with it or that wrong with it “. Indeed, one might have expected at least some suggestion of an amendment. The Leader of the Opposition has completely ignored this responsibility, because of his steadfast conviction that what the Australian Council of Trade Unions says is right.
Droves of members of the Waterside Workers ‘Federation have been around the King’s Hall yesterday and to-day. We have seen them in groups all over this building. We have seen them giving information to honorable members of the Opposition, and we would have been justified in hoping that the Leader of the Opposition would have given us some constructive criticism of the bill. He has given us no such thing. It was not until only three minutes of his time were left that he mentioned any part of the bill at all. It was at that point that he said the Opposition objects to the provision relating to a port stoppage by 250 men or one-third of the men at the port.
The Leader of the Opposition has said he does not agree with unauthorized strikes. He made that point quite plain on three occasions. He has also said that the Opposition believes in the principle of long service leave. What a remarkable synthesis of these two principles is contained in the bill! The legislation is directed towards giving long service leave, and it is also directed against unauthorized strikes.
The Leader of the Opposition says, “ I am against unauthorized strikes “. I would like him at some convenient time to tell us what an authorized stoppage is. Of course, there is a provision in the waterside workers’ award for eight authorized stop-work meetings each year, four in each sue months. As far as I can see, those are the only authorized stoppages in which waterside workers may take part. I repeat that the Leader of the Opposition has asserted that he is opposed to unauthorized stoppages. It may surprise the House to know that in the last six months of 1960 waterside workers lost 40 hours of work each, on the average, by reason of industrial stoppages. An entire week’s work was lost by every waterside worker in that six months. When the Leader of the Opposition says he is against unauthorized stoppages, I remind him that every one of the stoppages that went to make up the 40 hours lost by every waterside worker was an unauthorized stoppage.
Why is not the honorable gentleman saying to us to-night, “ I support this bill in its entirely because I am against unauthorized strikes and I am in favour of the principle of long service leave? “ He did not say that. He did not even examine the bill. All he did was to tell us that the waterside workers were getting a rough deal. One would have expected him to set out his reasons for objecting to the bill. He might even have been presumed to have read yesterday’s “ Sydney Morning Herald “, and in particular the letter to the editor by Jim Healy, the secretary of the Waterside Workers Federation, who pointed out what he found ‘objectionable in the legislation. If the honorable member had been in the King’s Hall, as I was yesterday, talking to a -group of waterside workers, he would have learned from them their reasons for objecting to the bill. But we have not had .from him a single reason for objecting to it, except for an airy-fairy objection which was given three minutes before he sat down, criticizing one provision of -the measure, which I am quite sure the honorable member does not really comprehend.
The Leader of the Opposition went on to say that he felt die promises of Jim Healy to the union were ‘capable of achievement. He .-said that State after State has legislated on long service leave. That ls true, but let us bear in mind that State after State legislated on long service leave seven years ago, and if you like to study the long service leave legislation of the States you will find that eligibility in every case is determined according to whether or not there was continued employment with a single employer. To suggest that because some years ago all the States legislated on long service leave, the benefits of similar legislation were within the grasp of the union is complete nonsense. It was because of an enlightened industrial policy, which required that long service leave be granted, that the Government decided to legislate.
The Government’s sense of industrial responsibility also required that as well as the provision for long service leave there should be some tightening of industrial discipline on the waterfront. We must remember that the 20,000 workers in this industry have been responsible for 30 per cent. of all lost time from industrial disputes in Australia - 20,000 men in a total work force of 4,200,000. If anybody can stand up in this House or anywhere else and honestly suggest that discipline on the waterfront is adequate, or that the interests of the public are being properly safeguarded, then I will be greatly surprised. Nobody could conscientiously believe that this is so.
This bill is designed to do two things in addition to providing for long service leave - first, to tighten discipline; and secondly, to serve the public interest. The principal way in which it will serve the public interest is by ensuring that economic losses suffered by the community through industrial disputes will be greatly reduced, or even, it is hoped, completely eradicated. That may be too much to hope for at this point of time, but perhaps the time will come when it will be achieved.
The Leader of the Opposition said that he recognized the difference between Commonwealth public servants and the waterside workers. I am glad that he recognized the difference. One might have thought it would be clear to all, but unfortunately, too often, it is obscure. The difference is this: The Commonwealth Public Service, as the Leader of the Opposition said, has a permanent status. Public servants have a permanent, single employer. The waterside worker has not. He has no permanent em ployer. He works for a different employer every day. But perhaps the most important difference which was highlighted by the Leader of the Opposition was the turbulent nature of the waterfront industry. Of course, nobody could find a less apt word to describe the activities of this union, but I will deal with that later on. The Leader of the Opposition suggested that there should be no strikes on the waterfront at all and that the money so saved should go into the funds of the Australian Labour Party.
– A good idea!
– A wonderful idea! The Labour Party would not have one credit entry for the simple reason that strikes do not cost the waterside worker a single penny. It has been suggested that the waterside worker has to foot the bill for the “ monstrous “ fines imposed by the Commonwealth Industrial Court. The maximum fine that the Commonwealth Industrial Court can impose is £500. If that is divided among the 20,000 members of the Waterside Workers Federation it comes to 6d. a man. That is no great penalty.
As was pointed out by the Minister for Labour and National Service in his secondreading speech, too often, after a stoppage on the waterfront, when the men return to clear the ships, penalty rates are incurred. Consequently, the amount of money taken home by the waterside worker is increased by the fact that there has been a stoppage. So, expect nothing from the suggestion that there be no strikes and that the money saved go into Australian Labour Party funds. That procedure would not result in a single credit. The Leader of the Opposition also said that this bill makes a distinction between the permanents on the register and the irregulars on the register on the basis of their age and health.
– I rise to order. I have just discovered that the honorable member has appeared in court as a paid agent of the shipowners. I want to know whether it is in accordance with Standing Orders for him now to represent them in the Parliament.
– The point of order is not upheld.
– Not only is there no substance in the point of order, but there is not a shred of truth in the honorable member’s allegation. In future, when the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) proudly proclaims that he is making a statement based on great research we will know what sort of research he undertakes before making statements which he believes to be true.
The Waterside Workers Federation, as is well known, has a long history. Indeed, there are members of that union in the precincts of Parliament House to-day who have been in the union since before the turn of this century. It may surprise members of this chamber to learn that men who were members of that union before the turn of the century are still on one of the registers of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority. Many men in the industry are over 80 years of age. A far greater number are over 70 and a still greater number are over 65 years of age. About 1,850 of a total work force of 20,000 are over 65.
I am aware that a very important social issue arises when we talk about the age for retirement. Personally, I subscribe to the view that there should be no arbitrary determination of a retirement age, because the appropriate age for retirement varies greatly between individuals. Of course, I am aware that there are many occupations in which retirement is necessary for efficiency. With those two compacted views, I found this bill a very good compromise because it provides this: A man over 70 years of age, of necessity, will go on to the irregular roster and will be able to take work when there is work for him to do and there are no members on the regular roster without work. In other words, the aged man who is fit for work, if not every day, at least on some days, will be able to make a contribution to the work force. Not only will he be able to make a contribution to the work force, but he will be able to earn money. Having earned money, he will be able to add it to the social service pension to which he will be entitled.
I have been referring to men over 70 years of age. For men between 65 and 70 years of age, the matter is left to the discretion of the person himself. The way in which this is achieved, Mr. Deputy Speaker, is very sound. The bill will give to many of the men who have been working in the industry for a great number of years their long service leave immediately if they are over 65. Having taken their long service leave, they can then elect to go on to the irregular roster. By doing this, I believe, efficiency on the waterfront will be greatly strengthened. It must be strengthened. I do not point the finger of scorn at men simply because they are aged. Indeed, I have often had the finger pointed at me because I am younger. I feel it is true that age matters not. It is a question of whether the job can be done. For all those reasons, I think the compromise found in this bill is a very wise one. It will contribute to efficiency.
If there is any doubt about the attitude of the union in this matter it may be due to the fact that the average age of members of the Waterside Workers Federation is rather high. Mr. Healy, the secretary of the federation, in his letter to the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ made a prime point of the fact that it was because of mechanization on the waterfront and the consequent decline in the number of employees that the average age of members of his union had risen so sharply. I think the Minister told us in his second-reading speech that the number of employees on the waterfront had declined by 4,500. At a time when the average age of the work force of this nation has declined, the average age of the work force in this particular industry is rising at an alarming high rate. The result is a conflict which has to be resolved with humanity. The solution to the problem must be acceptable to both sides. But in reaching the solution the interest of the public is the outstanding consideration.
The history of the waterfront in Australia has led us to an inescapable conclusion. First, let us remember that Australia is one of the first ten trading nations of the world. We have a great inflow and a great outflow of goods. All the goods that go out of or come into the country, with the very minor exception of those that are transported by air, are moved through the ports. Furthermore, Australia, as we know, has an enormous seaboard. This is the sort of country which ought to be able to have cheap transportation, not only because of its seaboard but also because of the concentration of its population in the capital cities.
– We do not own one ship.
– But we have not had cheap transportation.. As a nation, we have been the victims of very high distribution costs both internally and externally. When these costs are increased by industrial di’sr turbances on the waterfront, those who suffer are not. just union members, or any other people who are identifiable as a group or a type. The people who suffer are the community as a whole. And because the. community as a. whole suffers, the responsibility for taking action in the matter is a. governmental responsibility. There have teen disciplinary powers in the hands of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority, but, unfortunately, those powers have been such as could not be exercised in a manner which would reduce the number of stoppages on the waterfront.
This union which finds itself in a position so strategically important in relation to the nation’s economy is led by a general secretary who has in his hands all the elements of tyrannical control of the union. There can be no doubt about the iron-fisted control exercised by Mr. Healy, the general secretary of the Waterside Workers Federation of Australia. Equally, of course, nobody can doubt his very great capacity of mind. But, unfortunately, the capacity of his mind is directed against the public interest, and we, as members of a political party, supporters of the Government and members of this Parliament, have a responsibility to intervene in such a way as to take away from Mr. Healy the control exercise by him in directing this union against the public interest. Any one who may have any doubt of the way in which he has exercised this control needs only to look at the records.
The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) told us that there were 107 24-hour stoppages on the waterfront in Australia last year. References to stoppages on the waterfront are seen with alarming frequency in the newspapers. The most extraordinary reasons are given for these stoppages. Perhaps the most extraordinary of all was that given for a stopwork meeting held the other day. One of the four opportunities to hold authorized stop-work meetings in Sydney in the current half-year was used by the Waterside Workers Federation the other day in order to express publicly its confidence in the regime of Fidel Castro in Cuba. What an extraordinary use of an authorized stopwork meeting! There are other reasons for strikes. There are on the waterfront imaginary ills and there are some real ills. I do not suggest that there are not real ills. The arbitration system exists to correct them. That system is something which we believe in. It will be utilized by this measure.
– Take out the objectionable provision.
– If there is a feeling of danger on the part of a gang working on a particular ship, the members of the gang are entitled to bring their state of mind to the attention of somebody. And, indeed, if they are convinced that thereis danger, they are entitled to take some action about it. But nobody ought to try to convince anybody else that a situation in which one gang is in some danger on one ship is an excuse for a general walkout throughout the whole port.
Strikes of other kinds are common. They are held, for example, to stage public demonstrations outside the law courts in Law Courts-place, in Melbourne - demonstrations at which judges of the Commonwealth Industrial Court are burned in effigy and at which groups of men are assembled and addressed at large by members of the union, such as vigilance officers and branch secretaries, about the dreadful arbitration system and the shocking penal clauses in the act. The lack of respect which these people show for the court and for the act outside the court, however, is as bad as is their contempt before the court. Mr. Docker, the union’s advocate, only two months ago stood before the court and said, in effect: “ We will take no notice of the orders of the court. In fact, we reserve to ourselves the right to strike whenever we see fit to do so.” This was said at the hearing of a contempt charge to which the union pleaded guilty.
These are the sorts of things which have brought public regard for the Waterside Workers Federation to its lowest ebb. We all know that 90 per cent. of the members of this union are fine, decent men. They are decent Australians who are seeking to earn their living in their chosen calling, and the responsibility of giving them the unfettered opportunity to do this is a governmental responsibility. You and I know, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that the Australian worker does not want to go on strike. This is proved by the fact that Australia has an extremely good industrial record. If we put on one side the two most troublesome groups - the waterside workers and the seamen - we in this country have a very good industrial record. Is there a fundamental difference between the man who works in a factory and the man who works on the waterfront? What is it that makes a man who works in a factory want to go on working in order that his and the country’s economic lot may be improved? What is there about the waterside worker that makes him want to go on strike in the fashion that is so common? The answer, of course, is that there is no difference between the two except leadership. The difference is to be found in the leadership to which the waterside worker is on many occasions subjected, and therefore this Government has to do something about the problem.
– That is an absolute insult to these men.
– If the honorable member for Barton thinks that it is an insult for me to say that the Waterside Workers Federation isled against the public interest by its Communist leader, I should like him to make perfectly clear where he stands. If he says that he supports the Communist leader of the federation, we shall know precisely what his position is. There will be an opportunity to reflect on these things.
– It is time the Government checked on the profiteering activities of the shipowners. Their sins go unseen.
– The honorable member for Lalor has been in this place and in a house of the Victorian Parliament for a total period almost as long as that for which many members of the Waterside Workers Federation have belonged to their union - just about since the turn of the century. The honorable member, like some of them, has given no thought to the fundamental principles of the economic advance of this country. He cares not for that. All he is concerned about is responding to pressure from a Communist-led union. Why?
This is true, for goodness sake. The Australian Council of Trade Unions does not share the views of the Waterside Workers Federation. Mr. Monk, the leader of the council, is a respected man. His views were reported in the press to-day. I admit that one cannot always accept a press report with complete confidence, because the press can sometimes report only parts of statements, and often there is a qualification which is not printed. But I am certain, from Mr. Monk’s activities in the past that, insofar as he is reported in this morning’s press, he does not approve unauthorized stoppages. He warned the union against them, and I am sure that he was accurately reported. Yesterday, the interstate executive of the council met in Adelaide. Four or five Communists were at that meeting.
– That is a lie!
– How many were there?
– There were only two there yesterday.
– Only two? Name them!
– I shall tell the honorable member about it.
– There are no fewer than four Communists on the interstate executive, and the honorable member for Blaxland knows it well. One of the Communists is Healy himself. Notwithstanding that, the interstate executive of the Council–
– Name them!
– The honorable member for Reid will come to order.
– Name them!
– Well, he should name them
– I name the honorable member for Reid.
Motion (by Mr. McMahon) put -
That the honorable member for Reid be suspended from the service of the House.
The House divided. (Mr. Deputy Speaker- Mr. P. E. Lucock.)
Majority . . . . 26
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– If there was any sane reasoning in the speech we have just heard from the honorable member for Bruce (Mr. Snedden), the effect of it was destroyed completely when he attempted to write down the leadership of the trade union movement of this country by referring to the decision taken by the interstate executive of the Australian Council of Trade Unions yesterday as a Communist-inspired decision. That remark brought the honorable member for Bruce down to the lowest level ever to be reached by any honorable member in this chamber. The recommendation considered by the interstate executive yesterday came from the leaders of the A.C.T.U., and it was adopted unanimously. By throwing in that type of stuff - I use the term advisedly - the honorable member for Bruce is seeking to join the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) in casting a smokescreen over what this Government is really doing by this legislation.
The honorable member spoke about our responsibility to propose amendments if we believe that the bill is defective. I emphasize that yesterday the interstate executive of the A.C.T.U. unanimously decided that any bill which attached to long service leave entitlement tags such as those proposed here would be opposed by the Australian trade union movement from one end of Australia to the other so long as those tags continued to be attached. I repeat that this was the unanimous decision of the interstate executive. On behalf of the Opposition, I have pleasure in supporting that point of view.
– You took the opposite point of view last Thursday night.
– I did not. Again the Minister tries to drag in what I said last Thursday night. I stand by what I said then. I said that we on this side would never lend our support to any measure that sought to attach tags of this kind to long service leave entitlement. What I said was as clear as crystal. The Minister cannot twist what I said last Thursday night. I repeat that I stand by what I said then. This is the first time in the history of this Parliament that an attempt has been made by a government to attach penal provisions to an entitlement. It will go down in history as a disgrace to the Government that made it.
Let me put the record straight. We of the Opposition oppose this measure in its present form because we believe that long service leave is an entitlement - a payment for service. We adopt firmly the declared policy of the trade union movement in Australia that long service leave is a right accruable to all Australian workers in return for services rendered to any employer or organization. That policy has been advocated throughout the history of the trade union movement and of the political wing of it that we have the pleasure to represent. We oppose this measure because it does not recognize the principle that I have outlined. I join with the A.C.T.U. interstate executive in expressing complete opposition to the objectionable provisions in this bill which impose a penalty on long service leave entitlement because of industrial action by waterside workers. I would oppose similar legislation if it affected the Australian Federated Union of Locomotive Enginemen or any other trade union in Australia because as soon as any penal provisions are infused into legislation such as this the principle of granting long service leave is destroyed completely.
The provisions of this bill are diametrically opposed to those in the Tasmanian legislation. The Minister said that it was a better bill than the Tasmanian one. I ask him to listen to the comparison of the two bills that I shall make later. When this legislation becomes law - I am assuming that the Government will use its greater numbers to pass the bill, irrespective of the justice of our opposition - it will deprive waterside workers in Tasmania of their long service leave entitlement under the State act. At this moment the Tasmanian legislation is the subject of an appeal to the High Court of Australia. Without attempting to canvass any decision that may be given as the result of that litigation, I say that the Government has introduced this measure now because it believes that should the High Court favour the Tasmanian Labour Government, the principle of the Tasmanian act will have been firmly established. This Government would then be in the position of having to legislate to defeat a provision that had been found valid by the High Court of Australia, and so to deprive waterside workers in Tasmania of an entitlement that had been secured to them by the court.
There are no penal provisions in the Tasmanian act. It does not carry a tag that any unauthorized stoppage can or will affect the leave entitlement of waterside workers, except that in determining the length of qualifying service any day or other period during which they fail to comply with the requirements of the industry, as prescribed in the act, shall not be counted. In simple terms, if a man becomes caught up with a stoppage, the days on which he is not available for work will not be counted when calculating his length of service for long service leave purposes. That is a simple principle which is contained in every worthwhile long service leave act in this country.
Let me now compare the provisions of the Tasmanian act with the provisions of the bill that we are now discussing. I invite the honorable member for Bruce to say whether he would be a party to the kind of proposition that I shall mention. To illustrate my point, let us consider what would have happened as a result of the recent stoppage at Fremantle had this bill been in operation. When I speak I shall not speak Healy’s words; I shall speak the words that were used at the highest level of the trade union movement in Australia. During the recent dispute at Fremantle fourteen working days were lost. Under the Tasmanian act those fourteen days would not be counted in assessing the long service leave entitlement of the waterside workers in that State. Under this bill the penalty would have been, first, the automatic loss for the next succeeding 56 days of the attendance money of 24s. a day that the waterside workers would otherwise have received if they had been on call but no work had been available for them. In addition, their long service leave would have been deferred by one <lay for each day of the stoppage plus such further period, not exceeding one month, as the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission determined. I do not think there is any doubt that the stoppage would have been regarded as unauthorized. So, in addition to losing the 56 days’ attendance money the waterside workers could have lost fourteen months’ service in the calculation of their long service leave, that is, 30 days for every day off work. This is the kind of legislation that the honorable member for Bruce supports! He should know better. In addition, the union itself might well have been heavily fined. The Commonwealth Industrial Court has power to impose a fine of £500.
Let me illustrate how this bill would have affected waterside workers who were involved in the 24-hour stoppage in Melbourne on 15th March last - a little over one month ago. During March, 4,132 waterside workers were registered in the port of Melbourne. No formal notification was given of this stoppage and subsequently the Waterside Workers Federation was fined £100. Under this bil! the waterside workers could each have lost 30 days’ service in the calculation of long service leave entitlement. That is the maximum long service leave deferment that the act provides. In addition, ‘the Melbourne waterside workers would have lost their attendance money for the next four days on which no work was available for them. Thus this Government will be able to mete out to the individual the same medicine as the Industrial Court gives to the union. 1 never thought that I would ever see legislation which would contemplate the imposition of three separate penalties for one offence. But that is what can happen.
The Minister and the honorable member for -Bruce let the cat out of the bag when they said that this bill was designed first to award long service leave, and secondly, to reduce disputation on the waterfront. Does this mean that the Government now recognizes that the penal provisions of the arbitration legislation ‘which it has already put in the statute-book are as ineffective as we -said they WOUld be? You cannot deal with a turbulent industry by passing penal legislation. What I said the other night in relation to the turbulent coal-mining industry in New South Wales was true. Events over the past thirteen years have proved that the Chifley Labour Government was correct in its attitude. You can never deal with a turbulent industry with legislation of this character. The speeches of the Minister and the honorable member for Bruce show clearly that they think along one line only - that if a Communist happens to be the leader of an industrial union in this country everything that the union does is wrong. Every time the Government introduces legislation of this character into this House it is establishing him more firmly in the position he holds, and that is what it is doing now. The waterside workers of this country will rally against legislation of this type. I recall what the Labour Government did with respect to the coalminers. After thirteen years of operation of legislation of a different type the Minister for Labour and National Service now brings down a bill which will worsen the situation on the waterfront When introducing the bill the Minister told only half the story in some respects. The honorable member for Bruce to-night spoke of a statement attributed to Mr. Monk. I wish to direct attention to the March report of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority which deals with stoppages by waterside workers.
Strangely enough, March was one of the best months for a long time on the waterfront. In that month 42,597 man-hours were lost, whereas the average monthly loss is 51,227 man-hours. Sixty per cent, of those man-hours were lost in the Melbourne stoppage on 15th March, and the union has already been fined £500. To give the lie direct to the aspersion that has been cast on the reasons for stoppages by waterside workers, 1 turn to the official documents. At Brisbane, on 1st “March, a stoppage occurred because of an alleged protest against suspensions imposed on waterside ‘workers involved in the “Dunedin Star” dispute. On 15th March, a stoppage by waterside workers at Brisbane, Maryborough, Urangan and Townsville was related to the ‘State industrial legislation and ‘caused the loss of 2,’944 man-hours.
Let me remind the House that at the time when the waterside workers stopped work in those places practically the whole of the trade union movement in Queensland stopped work in protest against State legislation of similar character to that now before the House.
In Newcastle, on 17th March, a stoppage was caused by the dismissal of a job delegate. At Port Kembla on 6th March, there was a stoppage to discuss pensions and long service leave. At Townsville on 2nd March, there was a stoppage owing to a dispute on a ship called the “ Inchstaffa “. In Melbourne, on 6th March, a dispute was caused by a refusal to work overtime on the “ Port Huon “. There was a further dispute in Melbourne on 29th March, because the men refused to wear wet weather clothingwhich had not been cleaned after previous use. At Burnie, on 24th March, there was a short stoppage because a meeting was held to decide policy.
I put it to the Government that a ; great proportion of these waterside stoppages - in this turbulent industry - results from a section of the present Stevedoring Industry Act. We have heard a great deal about the so-called shortcomings of the employees. Let us examine what is happening on the employers’ side. I find that during March, 2,238 man-hours were lost. At Sydney five overseas vessels were delayed, with a total of 1,089 man-hours lost, every one of which was the responsibility of the owners. On 30th March, 390 man-hours were lost through the employers keeping men at work on a vessel on which the gear had been condemned some days previously by the Inspector of Navigation. Derogatory remarks by a supervisor caused the loss of 115 man-hours, but later he apologized. Thousand of man-hours have beenlost through the actions of the employers. What has ‘this Government done about that position? The Stevedoring Industry Authority cannot do anything, because of sub-section 2 of section ‘17 ofthe present act, introduced by this Government. The sub-jection reads as follows: -
In regulating the performance of stevedoring operations under this Act, the Authority shall, except to such extent as, in the opinion of the Authority, is essential for the proper performance of that function, avoid imposing limitations upon employers with respect to theircontrolof water side workers engaged by them and their manner of performance of stevedoring operations.
In that provision lies the cause of the greatest trouble on the waterfront to-day. The Stevedoring Industry Authority has control over the union and employees, but this provision has been interpreted to mean that the authority must not interfere with the control of the employers over the waterside workers. Until such time as the Stevedoring Industry Authority is put in a position where it can deal with the employers it is useless to discuss legislation of this type.
In 1950 non-productive working time taken over nine main ports and excluding smoke-ohs was 24.7 per cent. In 1960 it had increased in ten main ports to 31 per cent. So in ten years the loss had increased from one in four to nearly one in three. In the year ended 30th June, 1960, 29,912,276 man-hours were worked and paid for; 9,272,795 of the hours worked were in connexion with actual cargo handling. In the year ended 30th June, 1960, 806.133 man-hours were lost through stoppages. They were not paid for and were equal to only 2.7 per cent. of the total man-hours worked. A breakdown of the figures covering unproductive time shows that the loss of 598,245 man-hours was attributable to waiting for cargo and 658,000 man-hours were lost in the despatch and placing of labour by employers. In that year, with the total I have mentioned, 1,256,000 man-hours were paidfor and lost as the result of failure by the employers on the waterfront properly to organize the work force available. The Government has introduced this legislation without correcting that situation. It is an omission I never expected in a free parliament in this country.
– Are they the official figures?
– Did you not agree to the present legislation?
– If the Minister can pin on me any statement to show that I acquiesced in this type of legislation I will be prepared to donate any sum he wishes to any charitythat he nominates.
This industry is not a young man’s occupation, asthe Minister should know if he examined it. According to the official documents only 6.8 per cent, of the workforce at the six capital ports and four major ports is under 30 years of age. This is an old man’s industry.
– Because a winch-driver, for instance, becomes accustomed to his work on the waterfront and is better at it than any young man who comes into the industry. He is not prepared to give away his work-value to the nation and go out on the age pension. That is the fact of the matter. This bill is intended to put the old men into the irregular group. The Minister did not quite tell the truth this afternoon, but that has been corrected by the honorable member for Bruce. When referring to elderly workers the Minister said that they not only will be eligible to receive the monetary value of the leave but also will be entitled to go on working whenever they please. That is completely false. Under the legislation, the only time they could work would be when no registered waterside workers were available. The honorable member for Bruce said that in his speech. It is the complete reverse of what the Minister said this afternoon.
The Government cannot use the method of fines, as recommended in the Tait report, so it proposes to use the system of depriving a man of four days’ attendance money for every day of stoppage. That penalty will operate on days when waterside workers are not required, and in that way funds will be accumulated. In addition, the Government proposes to provide a great force of old men from which the stevedoring authority will be able to pick and choose men as plums are picked and chosen. This is the worst form of casual employment I have ever seen. The authority will want these old men only when nobody else is available.
The figures show that there are 792 men classed as old men on the irregular roster. They are working on an average about halftime. The latest reports show that, on an average, 300 out of the 792 are working. What the Government proposes to do is to prevent these men from coming in any more in that fashion. They are, instead, to stand by all the time. By that provision and the provision for the cancellation of appearance money, the Government will be able to provide for the employers, the stevedores, an ever-standing casual staff for nothing. Is that the type of thing that supporters of the Government want to vote for? I have fought against this kind of thing down through the years. The Minister must surely know what will happen as a result of the legislation. On the one hand, the Government will oppose three penalties for one offence. There has never been such a provision before. That is something else that I thought went out in this country many years ago. It will also provide a casual staff to stand by, ready to be pulled in when nobody else is available.
The Minister has told us about how he believes that this measure will correct the difficulties on the waterfront. Surely the Minister does not believe that men will throw away rights they have had for twenty years. Under this provision, if the authorities want to get rid of the old men they will bring somebody else in. I am wondering whether this legislation is not an attempt on the part of the Government to take up the slack in employment to-day and, by putting more men on a pension, provide employment for some of those who are unemployed. That is what the legislation will do. It will put out men who are prepared to work. They will draw a pension, but they will be standing by, ready to be picked for work as required. I did not think I would ever see such a provision in a bill.
The honorable member for Bruce said that he did not think there should be a compulsory retiring age. If there is to be a compulsory retiring age on the waterfront, the same thing should also be good enough for this place, and one could go right down the line. Does the Minister think for one moment that trade unionists, no matter who leads them, can be driven into a position where, for the sake of gathering a mere three months’ long service leave for every 20 years of service, they will give away what has been understood as their standard right - the right to strike when they feel that a hardship is being imposed on them? You cannot handle waterside workers that way, although you may handle people in some other industries that way.
The Minister himself refers to the turbulence of this industry. All this bill will do is to create the prospect of increased turbulence in it. I agree with the Minister when he makes the point that what happens in this industry affects our economy. If that is so, then it is a standing disgrace to him as a Minister, and to the Government, to attempt to pass legislation that affects a group of workers, that has an impact on every section of the economy, without first discussing the legislation with the trade union movement, which has these things very close to heart. We hear honorable members, including the honorable member for Bruce, get up in their places here and pay tributes to the leadership of Mr. Albert Monk. But there was not even a telephone call about this legislation to Mr. Monk, suggesting that he bring some representatives along. Is that the way to keep peace in industry? Has the Minister forgotten forever the principles that industrial legislation that affects a turbulent industry will not succeed unless the Government first gets the support of the A.C.T.U.? Does the Minister not understand that all this legislation is doing is to fly in the face of what Mr. Monk wants to do to bring peace to industry? I say seriously to the Minister finally, that this legislation is a blot on Australia’s approach to the human problem of long service leave for workers.
– I claim to have been misrepresented, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison) said at the outset of his speech that I had attacked the interstate executive of the A.C.T.U. and the unions, and had reflected very badly on them. I am sure that on reflection the honorable member for Blaxland will realize that I did not do that. In fact, I have great respect for trade unions and the A.C.T.U., and what I said to-night was that the A.C.T.U. interstate executive had acted in spite of the fact that there were Communist members on that executive, including Mr. Healy, the general secretary of the Waterside Workers Federation.
.- There are three parts of importance in this bill. They deal with long service leave, attendance money and the retirement of elderly workers in the industry respectively. I think we must look at each one of those three parts, which is more than the mem bers of the Opposition have done so far to judge from their speeches to-night. Let us look first at the problem of long service leave. What amazes me is that the Opposition says that it intends to vote against the second reading of a bill that proposes to give long service leave to waterside workers. I think it is amazing that, when we are going out of our way to help people in the waterfront industry, the Opposition has announced its intention to vote against the proposal. Here is a government going out of its way to provide for three months’ long service leave for every 20 years’ of service on the waterfront, with an extra six-and-a-half weeks for every subsequent ten years of service. That shows that the Government has looked to the interests of the waterside workers and decided how it can help those workers. At the same time the Government has drawn attention to the principle upon which long service leave is granted in other industries - that is, that long service leave must be earned by the worker in the industry as a result of long and continuous service. That means, surely, that there must be a period of good conduct in the industry. If no work is carried out, then there can be no long service leave for that period of failure to work.
The question we have to ask ourselves right at the start is whether there has been good conduct in this industry. I say to the House very definitely that, unlike almost every other industry in the country, this has been a turbulent industry, as the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) himself remarked. He even went so far as to say that there was anarchy on the waterfront in Australia. He realizes himself some of the things that occur in the industry. So here we have the Leader of the Opposition going out of his way to admit the problem that exists throughout this industry. Unlike every other industry, the conditions for long service leave in this industry must be of a special nature and must be different from those which obtain in other industries which have had a universal history of good conduct.
The conditions affecting long service leave in this industry relate only to unauthorized stoppages. Reasonable authorized stoppages do not affect the leave and, as honorable members already are well aware, eight authorized stoppages are already allowed in every period of twelve months. The provisions of this bill are intended to reduce the number of unauthorized stoppages on the waterfront. When we hear the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison) say that we must be tolerant and must not have any idea of imposing penalties, we should remember that although he says that the Australian Labour Party does not believe in penalties, only three or four days ago he said that in 1949 penalties were imposed by the Coal Industry Tribunal acting under the orders of the Labour Government at that time. It is quite obvious that the Australian Labour Party realizes that penalties are sometimes necessary when dealing with turbulent industries.
As the honorable member has said that we should be more lenient, let us go back to the time when the new award was made by Mr. Justice Ashburner in 1960. During the hearing, Mr. Docker, who represented the Waterside Workers Federation, gave the commission an assurance that if the federation’s claim was granted in substance, the federation would discourage to the utmost of its ability any tendency on the part of its branches to conduct unauthorized stopwork meetings. What has happened? Has that undertaking been observed? The history of the industry shows that, since being able to hold eight authorized stop-work meetings a year, branches of the Waterside Workers Federation in numerous ports have either held meetings in excess of this number or have held unauthorized meetings without notice. Practically without exception, the unauthorized meetings have proceeded as planned. For how much longer can we go on trusting the words of the Waterside Workers Federation and believing that it will do as it says it will do?
To my mind, the number of unauthorized stoppages must be reduced. The community is being held to ransom by this industry. A third of the time lost in all industrial disputes in Australia was lost on the waterfront. As both the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) and the honorable1 member for Bruce (Mr. Shedden) have pointed out, 20,000 workers in this industry are responsible for the- loss of a third of all the hours lost in the whole of Australia in a work force of 4,200,000. What is more important, these unauthorized stoppages are very seldom held for industrial reasons. When the Minister was making his second-reading speech, the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) by way of interjection said, “ Prove it “. I think it is wise, therefore, for us to look at the position.
Let us examine the reasons that lie behind these 107 major port stoppages that have occurred. Let us look at some of the major stoppages that have occurred for political reasons. Two were held on 14th and 21st September of last year in protest against the Queensland Government’s actions in relation to the Rocklea Engineering Works strike. Another eleven were held between 29 th September and 6th December in Sydney, Melbourne, Port Kembla, Urangan, Maryborough, Brisbane, Townsville, Cairns, Newcastle and Geelong, all in protest against amendments to the Crimes Act. These had nothing to do with industrial conditions on the waterfront. Another strike on 15th March at Brisbane, Townsville, Urangan and Maryborough was held in protest against the Queensland Government’s proposed changes in the arbitration act.
If we look at what happened in Melbourne between February, 1960, and 4th May, 1960, we find that the waterside workers went on strike in protest against a stoppage of Sunday trains. This had nothing to do with the waterside workers themselves but was in support of another union. During that time, nine stoppages were held in Melbourne-. Then, a total of 32 stoppages were held between 20th May, 1960, and 15th March, 1961, for miscellaneous reasons completely unconnected with the employers. The whole port of Cairns was idle on 21st July because the waterside workers decided to go off for the local show day, although this was completely against their award conditions. More important still, we should note the stoppages that have occurred in protest against the actions of the Commonwealth Industrial Court as such. On 12th April, 4th May, 22nd November and 24th November, almost all ports were idle whilst the waterside workers protested agains*, actions of the Commonwealth Industrial Court. They were in fact protesting against the umpire’s decision. Again, be ;en 7th July, 1960, and 17th March, 1961, eighteen major stoppages were held in protest against the decision of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority.
– You know the last stoppage in Fremantle-
– Again, the waterside workers were protesting against the umpire’s decision. I am not dealing with awards in. Fremantle. These are stoppages which are not connected with the Fremantle stoppage. That was a different matter. We have ten stoppages held in support of members of the union who committed breaches of the award. Again, the men were protesting against the umpire’s decision. Finally, as both the Minister and the honorable member for Bruce said, there was a stoppage held in protest against the actions of Fidel Castro in Cuba.
All these stoppages were major stoppages by the whole port. They were not minor stoppages by a few men; they were major stoppages. To my mind, these unauthorized stoppages - each one was unauthorized - endanger the whole set-up of this Parliament. Here was a union trying to decide the foreign policy of Australia. Surely each one of us here, members of the Opposition as well as members on this side of the House, agrees that we are elected to this place to determine the foreign policy of the country. That is our job; that is what we are elected to do. It is our job also to determine other matters of policy, such as whether the Crimes Act should be amended. Should we, members of the Opposition and members of the Government parties, allow the decisions on these matters to be taken out of our hands? Should we allow ourselves to be dictated to by members of an organization who are not elected by the people as a whole? The majority of the people have elected us to do a job. Surely we should do that job and make certain that no one prevents us from doing it. Secondly, these unauthorized stoppages endanger the whole set-up of the industrial court and the machinery of conciliation and arbitration which is built into the industrial life of Australia. I believe every Australian feels that the principles of conciliation and arbitration should be built into the industrial life of the community, and that every other industrial worker, except possibly- the seamen, believes in obeying the umpire’s decision. Here is one union that has constantly and continuously flouted the decisions of the umpire. By doing so, it is bringing the whole of the machinery of the Conciliation and Arbitration Court into contempt.
Thirdly, I think we must also realize the tremendous costs that these stoppages are loading on the whole community. As the honorable member for Bruce (Mr. Snedden) pointed out so clearly to-night, these stoppages do not cost the average member of the Waterside Workers Federation anything because if the work is not done to-day as the result of a stoppage,, it is banked up and has to be done to-morrow and often overtime is incurred. So it does not cost the average waterside worker nearly as much as it costs the other members of the community.
These costs are included in the higher prices for our exports and our imports. If honorable members on the Opposition side disagree with that statement, they have only to consider how the formula worked out by the. Overseas Shipping: Representatives Association operates every time- costs are higher because of the importunities of the waterside workers. So costs are loaded directly on to our import and export prices.
Then there is the extra cost that has been built up because of alternative forms of transport. These have had to be organized around the Australian coast because the costs of coastal’ shipping have risen to such an extent and the service has been unreliable. We have seen how a branch of the Australasian United Steam Navigation Company Limited had to go out of business because it could no longer bear the costs that had been imposed on the industry by the members of the Waterside Workers Federation. Only when the members of the federation work themselves out of a job completely will the cost of their actions be evident to them, and that position is beginning to appear just as it did in the coal-mining industry a few years ago.
If we examine the dangers to Parliament itself, and to the Conciliation and Arbitration Court machinery and the costs that are levied on the whole community by these stoppages, it is clear that the Australian community expects the Government to act at this time. We know perfectly well that the Commonwealth Government has a responsibility to this industry. It has a responsibility first to the waterside workers, and I believe that it has exercised its responsibility and looked after the waterside workers to a pretty good extent. Even to-day, as honorable members know, the average take-home pay of a waterside worker is £21 19s. lOd. for a week of just over 30 hours. There are not many workers in other industries in Australia who are taking home as high a regular pay as does the waterside worker. The Leader of the Opposition asked whether the average waterside worker could rely on getting that rate of pay. For many years now, the pay of waterside workers has been gradually increasing year by year until now he can always rely on a take-home pay of more than £21 a week if he works in an A class port. In addition, the waterside worker “gets attendance money, sick and holiday pay and extra amenities. Safety and first-aid appliances are provided also as a result of legislation enacted by this Government in 1956. We can almost say that the average waterside worker is enjoying permanent employment, and I believe that we have gone a very long way towards de-casualizing this industry.
But while we have responsibilities to the waterside workers, the Government has responsibilities also to the community as a whole, and this bill helps both the waterside workers and the community. Each waterside worker now must decide whether he is going to conform to the rules of the game and abide by the decisions of the umpire. If he so decides, he will benefit from long service leave. If he does not, surely he must realize that he must bear some of the responsibility for any deficiencies.
The general secretary of the Waterside Workers Federation, Mr. Healy, has talked about productivity and has said that there has been a 30 per cent, increase in productivity over the past few years. I remind him that at the same time there has been a considerable rise in the pay of the waterside workers. After all, the waterside workers were granted a marginal increase of 28 per cent., including 17 per cent, for increased productivity; but let us also not forget that the watersiders have contributed to this productivity only to a very small extent.
Let us have a look at what has been done in the waterfront industry over the past few years. New wharfs have been, and are being, built now in nearly every port. New bulk-handling terminals for both loading and discharging have been constructed at enormous cost to governments, primary producers and private enterprise. New ships with modern gear and faster and easier handling arrangements have been built at great expense. Stevedores and port authorities have provided cranes, fork lifts, tow motors and machines to do the heavy work of lifting and trucking and more and more cargo is being mechanized. Shipowners have provided large containers so that smaller packages can be handled in bulk by machinery instead of by hand by individual men. The “Princess of Tasmania” carries cargo which is rolled on and off and the waterside workers do not have to lift every package as they did previously. Nowadays a few men are engaged on a ship discharging bulk sugar, loading bulk wheat, or handling bulk soda ash. A tremendous amount of money has been spent by the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited in modernizing the steel wharfs in many ports. There has been almost complete revolution on the waterfront and all those who have taken part in that revolution must be rewarded for the money, the time or the work that they have put into it.
But even with all these improvements, the standard of efficiency on the waterfront is still low. As a result, some of the coastal shipping firms have had to go out of business, because they could not work on the higher costs. The formula agreed upon by the Overseas Shipping Representatives Association and the Federal Exporters Oversea Transport Committee is still rising because of the low efficiency on the waterfront, and every reputable authority shows that overseas ports generally are still more efficient than the average Australian port. I am glad that the Waterside Workers Federation realizes the value of productivity. Let us hope that it will continue to increase the rate of productivity among its members. Otherwise it is certain that they will work themselves out of a job within the next few years.
Now I turn to attendance money. Let us remember that the provision for attendance money is not a new one. What is the object of attendance money? It is to recompense men who have held themselves in readiness to work, are prepared to do so and do not get a job on a particular day. Those men receive attendance money because they constitute a pool of labour which is continually available to meet the needs of a port.
What would happen if we did not have this system? The alternative would be to have an unorganized group of men, not limited in number and with no monopoly of the work, who could seek work or not as they chose. Such men would have no obligation to hold themselves available, and they would not be entitled to attendance money. They would not constitute an organized pool of men, of a limited number, regularly available. If there is a pool of men organized to meet the needs of the port, to have a monopoly of the work, to be the only ones whose names appear on the register, the only ones who can have their names placed on the roster of men available for work, and if all the men in this pool decide that on a particular day they will not do the work which is reserved for them alone, then I believe that they no longer retain the right to be regarded as men regularly and consistently available to meet the needs of the port, and they no longer deserve the payment which is confined to men regularly and consistently available.
As a result of this legislation each individual waterside worker will be able to choose whether, on a day when a stoppage is sought by those who lead the union members, he will continue to earn the right to be paid attendance money, or whether he will delay the loading or unloading of the goods of the community that are taken from place to place by ships. We are very clearly putting the choice before each waterside worker, and each of them will be responsible to make the choice.
For the benefit of those honorable members opposite who disagree with the principle that is now being written into the legislation, let us have a look at the costs. First of all, the cost to the Waterside Workers Federation of a nation-wide stoppage will be 20,000 times £4 16s. - this amount being the equivalent to four days’ attendance money - or about £100,000 a day. The cost to the community would be about £1,000,000 a day, being made up of about £1,000 a day for each of 1,000 ships. If the community has to bear a cost of £1,000,000, surely it is reasonable to expect the Waterside Workers Federation to accept its share of the responsibility and also of the cost. As I am reminded, in such a case the federation would have been responsible for a stoppage that was completely unauthorized and for which there was absolutely no need, because appropriate machinery is available to the federation, and it can have resort to it if it so desires.
In the last few minutes available to me I should like to refer to the matter of retirement of elderly workers. Of the men engaged in the industry, 6.4 per cent, are over the age of 65. A further 6.1 per cent, are between the ages of 60 and 65. As the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison) has pointed out, only 6.8 per cent, are under the age of 30. Surely it is desirable to have a more even age distribution throughout the industry, so that we will always have young men coming into it while the older men go out of it.
I believe the original intentions of the 1947 act are being undermined, and that the average age of waterside workers is increasing, with the result that costs, not only to the industry itself but also to all other sections of the community, are likewise increasing. The provisions that it is now proposed to enact will not ruthlessly and suddenly deprive a man of his livelihood. First of all, the elderly man will be entitled, in the same way as any other man of like age, to draw his pension. He will also be entitled to work to supplement his pension if he wants to, but he will not be able to work if it means depriving younger men of work. As an irregular the older man will still come in on busy days and have a right to work. He will be much better off than workers who have been retired from other industry.
After all, we have had this kind of irregular roster in operation for many years. This is something that the honorable member for Blaxland seemed to forget. Therefore I believe that the older men in this industry will be given a better deal. Those over 70 will get long service leave straight away if they can satisfy the necessary conditions. At the same time, we will have younger men coming into the industry.
Repeated attempts have Deen made from time to time to improve the waterfront industry. Attempts have been made to help the men employed in it and to induce them to co-operate. However, little improvement has been effected, and I believe the nation now demands action by this Government. In my view this legislation will help every waterside worker who will conform to its requirements and comply with the awards of the umpires, the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission and the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority. Long service leave provisions have helped every other Australian who has met the requirements of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. As far as this legislation is concerned, the only people who will be hurt are those who try to hold the Parliament, the arbitration machinery and the community to ransom.
For these reasons 1 strongly support the bill and congratulate the Government on having brought it down.
– It has been interesting to listen to Government supporters making their contributions to this debate. I thought we were to discuss a bill designed to make provision for long service leave for waterside workers. We saw the honorable member for Bruce (Mr. Snedden) rise in his place and chastise the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell), suggesting that the honorable gentleman had not dealt with the bill. It appears to me that neither the honorable member for Bruce nor the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Howson) has dealt with the provisions of the bill that it is suggested were designed to benefit waterside workers. It occurs to me that this bill should be referred to as a bill to intimidate waterside workers who are prepared to strike for what they think is right and just.
– You do not mean that!
– That is what thestatements of the last two speakers on the Government side have implied. The honorable member for Fawkner made it very clearthat what the Government wants to do isto take action to prevent stoppages. He said that the waterside workers have been penalizing the other members of the community by indulging in stoppages, and that the Government is now taking action toprevent them from doing so. You cannot have it both ways. You cannot say, on the one hand, that the bill is designed to give long service leave benefits to waterside workers, and, on the other hand, that the Government is taking a big stick to wield against waterside workers - and there is no doubt in my mind that this is just what the Government proposes to do. f will go further. J believe that this legislation has been brought in at this time in an attempt by the Government to divert attention from the economic and other difficulties in which it finds itself. We know that there is to be -a general election late this year or early next year. We know that there have been no outcries in the press, either in editorials or in letters to editors, about the industrial activities or conditions of waterside workers. We have, however, seen many leading articles condemning the Government for its handling of the economic situation. The honorable member for Fawkner referred to the losses that have been incurred by shipping companies. He told us that some of those companies have gone out of business. He mentioned the firm of Howard Smith Limited, and we know that there are other interstate companies that are unable to compete with overseas shipping lines in the passenger trade, so that their ships are now practically confined to the cargo trade. It seems that this legislation is designed to help certain people, but so far as the general economic situation of the country is concerned nothing is being done at all.
I have taken an interest for years, not only in long service leave, but in superannuation and pension schemes for employees in various industries. Years ago, certain professional men at the University of Adelaide made representations to the effect that their economic future was- not provided for. They pointed out that provision was made in this respect for professors and senior lecturers but not for other professional men such as research workers and tutors. I told them to put their case to the university council, of which I was a member, and I would see that consideration was given to it. As a result, the council recognized the rights of all employees in the university. It was decided to make some provision for all of them upon their retirement. That was done in a very generous manner and I appreciated it. That was only one occasion on which I learned, during my years in public life and before, of the endeavours of people to have some security in a time of need.
I have been a little amused at what has been said about the elderly worker, because I have many waterside workers in my electorate. I suppose that not many electorates have a bigger percentage of waterside workers than mine has. The bill before the House provides that service only from 1942 shall be considered in determining eligibility for long service leave. Such a provision does not apply to other long service leave schemes or superannuation schemes. I know of men on the waterfront in Port Adelaide who were working there before 1942. Some were working there in 1922. Yet those men are not to be given credit for those earlier years of service. They will only be credited with service since 1 942 and they will have to wait for three years before they can benefit from that service. That means a total waiting period of 24 years before becoming entitled to long service leave.
This aspect of the matter has not been much discussed. The honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison) touched: upon it, but the- honorable member for Bruce, who should know the position through and- through, did not deal with it. He: is nor concerned with the interests and welfare of- the waterside worker. He and the honorable member- for Fawkner wish to point out only the sins- of the waterside, worker. I say to honorable members who are connected with, big business that I- would like to get into the secret chambers of some business; organizations and go through their documents to find evidence of what they have done- to people over the years. But honorable- members opposite are not concerned with that. They say that those who comprise the world of big business are to be praised. They are good people. Never mind what they have done in the past; they should not be penalized for it. Only the waterside workers should be penalized.
Much as the Australian Labour Party dislikes strikes and much as I hate strikes personally, we still believe in the right of the worker to say, “ I will not work under conditions that I think are wrong “. That is the policy of the Labour Party, lt has been alleged, in a snide way, that the Leader of the Opposition had said that he did not believe in strikes but would not say, straight out, where he stood. I do not believe in strikes. I do not like them. At the same time, many old philosophers, much as they have disliked certain conditions, have said that since those conditions reflected the will of the people they would put up with them. I take that view now.
What are we going to do under this legislation? The aim of this legislation is not purely to grant long service leave to waterside workers. It has been said in this chamber that all other long service leave legislation penalizes people if they do not carry out their work. But this legislation goes further than that. It seeks to penalize men who might never be entitled to longe service leave. It does not propose to wait until a man is 65 years of age and due to retire before punishing him. It proposes that, for each day of a stoppage, the men concerned shall lose four days’ attendance money which they would have received, on days on which there was no work for them. Attendance money was originally introduced to try to decasualize the work. It is paid at the rate of £1 4s. a day. Consequently, for each day of a stoppage the men will lose £4 16s.
Some of the men involved in a stoppage might have said at the union meeting that they should- not stop work. But, being real democrats, trade unionists believe that the decision of the majority must prevail. Consequently, they comply with the decision to stop work. Yet, under this legislation those men will be treated in the same way as those who- have advocated- stopping work. I will admit that, very often when a ship is held UP, it may seem to the ordinary person that there is no justification for it. But the waterside workers concerned in a stoppage act in a democratic way, on the decision of the majority.
The withholding of attendance money will be automatic unless the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority decides otherwise. This means that an authority which is not a court will decide the issue. It will determine, in effect, whether a fine should be imposed on the men.
I say to honorable members: What is the Government doing to get over its difficulty? On my interpretation of this bill, the Government’s whole idea is not to give long service leave to the waterside workers. The prevention of stoppages is the Government’s real idea.
– That is quite laudable.
– The prevention of stoppages may be quite laudable, as the honorable member for Mallee says. But the point is that the Government wants to use this measure to prevent stoppages on the waterfront and not to give the waterside workers long service leave. I suggest, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that the Government would not have introduced this measure now if the purpose had been only to provide for long service leave. There are two aspects. One was brought up by the honorable member for Blaxland, who stated that the Government’s purpose was to force the waterside workers to carry on. I forget the honorable member’s actual words, but that is the effect of them.
I suggest that we ought to look back at the past. I recall an occasion some few years ago when an earlier Stevedoring Industry Bill was before us. The present Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt), who was then Minister for Labour and National Service, introduced that measure. He wanted to give the employers and the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority the right to register men for work on the wharfs and to deregister waterside workers if they were considered not to be doing as they ought to do. I warned the present Treasurer on that occasion that he was just playing with fire and I told him what the consequences would be. I was pleased to note that the provisions to which I am referring were not put into operation. When the Govern ment went into the matter, it realized that it would be trying to do something that would not have worked. We remember, also, an occasion when the Government proposed to have a reserve body of men to bring in to work on the waterfront. I objected to that proposal, also, and it was never given effect.
The Government’s approach to the circumstances of the elderly men on the waterfront to-day resembles its former proposals in these matters. What is the position of the elderly waterside worker? I have known since long before 1942 men who are now elderly and who have worked on the waterfront for very many years. Some of them have come to me and said: “ I am nearly 65. I have never been able to save much, because work has always been intermittent.” We hear people talking about waterside workers now receiving an income of £21 a week. Let those people reflect back on the earlier years of the elderly men who are now reaching the age at which they will be entitled to long service leave. Let those who talk about the high income of to-day look back to what these men earned in earlier years. Let those people go back with me to the time of the Lyons Government, which gave preference to volunteers on the wharfs. Day after day, in those times, men came to me and told me that they were getting only a miserable dole of 4s. lOd. a week from the State Government. There was no unemployment benefit then. Labour had not been able to legislate for it. These men told me that they were getting only 4s. lOd. a week for rations. They were given, in addition, half that amount for their children, if they had any. These men said: “ We cannot get along. What shall we do? “ One can imagine the bitterness of those men.
We hear talk to-day about workers going on strike and not playing fair. Those who say such things should have been with me more than twenty years ago among the waterside workers in the days when the United Australia Party Government led by Mr. Lyons gave preference to volunteers and the genuine waterside workers were pushed aside. The bulk of the volunteers at that time were not Australians; they were men who had come from southern Europe. In those days, many of the genuine waterside workers, with their wives and children, were practically without clothing and other necessaries because the men’s employment was given to others. That is no criticism of the men who took the work. They did not know any better. They did not understand, and they were only trying to do the best for themselves and their families. But men who had given their lives to the waterfront industry were badly treated, and I do not wonder at their attitude since and at their stopping work at times over issues that may appear to persons who do not understand the situation not to warrant stoppages. Knowing these men and their history as I do, I can appreciate their stopping work at times, even though sometimes stoppages may not have been in the best interests of everybody. The fact is that influences are carried over from the past.
I have already mentioned things that were done for years in South Australia to men who have grown old in their employment on the waterfront. These men come to me and say: “I am 65. What can I do now? I cannot really keep working for five or six days a week at the hard work that has to be done.” I tell them that they are entitled to an income of £7 a week in addition to the age pension, if they are married and the wife is over 60. In some weeks, they get that much. We have read about what the Government proposes in this bill, and we have heard the statements made by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) to the effect that these men can get intermittent work. This bill will accentuate the position that already exists.
One honorable member just a little while ago asked what was the effect of the rollon, roll-off system. I can tell him what has happened at Port Adelaide. As a result of the introduction of this system, one of the shipping companies has removed from service a ship which used to run weekly to the area known as the west coast in South Australia. Before this intrastate vessel was removed from, service, elderly waterside workers were able to get work for one day a week rolling off the vessel empty petrol drums returned from the farms in the west of South Australia and undertaking similar tasks. Sometimes, these men could get two days’ work in a week. Provided that they did not earn more than £7 a week averaged over the whole year, they could get the pension. We are now told that these men are to be put on the pension.
I was struck by the Minister’s remark in which he asked, in effect, “ Why should these people be privileged above other people and get a benefit in addition to the age pension? “ That can be read in the report of the Minister’s second-reading speech. We do not hear him telling the public servants anything like that. We do not hear him telling them, for example, that the Government will subsidize by £2 or £3 a week every £1 that they receive out of a fund to which they have contributed, and that they may in addition receive the age pension provided that their total income is not more than £17 a week. What the Minister says may be all right for the Government and for those who are helped by the social services legislation when they grow old. But it all depends on what class one is in when one gets old. I do not ask the Government to deprive the public servants of anything. They should receive what they have a right to receive from funds to which they have contributed in an effort to do something for themselves. They are entitled to have that benefit supplemented by the age pension up to a total of £17 a week. If they receive superannuation of £14 a week, they are entitled to another £3 a week in age pension to give them a total income of £17 a week. Nobody growls or complains about that.
The Minister has the audacity to ask what right waterside workers have to talk about pensions, because there is no provision for pensions in this bill. When he said that, he was just having a smack at the waterside workers. My interpretation of this bill is that it will not help the elderly men on the waterfront. It will not help the men who, as I said a few moments ago, used to be able to get work on one day a week on an intra-state vessel in South Australia which has now been removed from service. Their only chance of getting a job now is when work is still offering after the full-time gangs have been employed. The men in these full-time gangs receive appearance money if there is no work for them, and .the Minister says that only when ali of those men are employed can the elderly .men .get a job.
What is the true position? At certain periods of the year in some ports there is not a general run of cargo all the time. At Wallaroo, in South Australia, for example, there is work only in the wheat season ot the barley season. At these times, the men on the waterfront there are able to get a reasonable amount of work loading ships, although, of course, bulk handling has been adopted and large bins are now used. As a consequence, elderly waterside workers are unable to get work and do not know what to do.
J do not know whether some of the provisions proposed in this measure will operate for very .long, because they are to apply only to men who were in the industry in 1947. I refer to the provisions under which those who were in the industry in 1947 will not be put off on the ground that they are old. If they began working on the wharfs in 1948 - that is thirteen years ago, and sixteen years will have expired by the time this proposal begins to operate - they will not be protected. Those who were not working on the wharfs in J. 947, no matter what their age .may be, will go. This proposal indicates quite clearly to me that, as the honorable member .for Fawkner (Mr. Howson) has suggested, the intention of the Government is for young men to enter the industry. The Minister for Labour and National Service has said that many of the older men are being carried by the younger men. I have never heard one complaint from the younger men to the effect that they were carrying the older men, although I know that to some extent they are doing so.
– Who is carrying the Minister?
– I suppose there is some one carrying us all, and undoubtedly some one is carrying the Minister. As to the suggestion that the younger men are carrying the older men, let me tell the Minister that in all walks of life there are some middle-aged men who do much more that some of the very young ones.
I oppose this measure because the men concerned feel that it will be of no benefit to them. The few nien who will have <the benefit of long ;service leave feel that they might be penalized in other ways. If they are good boys, they will receive £298 when they retire. It the.y are not good boys, then, for every twenty days for which they have been parties to a stoppage, they will lose the equivalent of 80 .days at £1 4s. a day, .It must be remembered that Australia is not the only country in which there are militant waterside workers. In America, England, and, indeed, in almost every country the most .militant workers are those engaged on the waterfront. They are .the men who will put up -a -light, even though .at times the cause for which they fight is wrong. Now it is proposed to penalize them to the extent of £4 16s. for every day on which they take part in an unauthorized stoppage, so we see .that those who .would receive the benefit of long service leave might lose much more than the value of the proposed benefit. I can understand the feelings of the men when they consider this point. On the other hand, if they were granted long service leave without any tags in the way of penalties, they would feel that the Government was -trying to do something for them.
Let me emphasize, too, that this benefit will not be paid for out of the public purse by way of parliamentary appropriation; it will be something for which the community in general will be required to pay. The benefit will not be paid for by the imposition of any additional tax or special tax on :any individual. It will be a community contribution.
Perhaps 1 have failed to relate my remarks closely to the clauses contained in this measure. I should like to deal with many of them, but this proposal affects people whom I know very well, some of whom went to school with me. When the Government seeks to apply to people whom I know very well provisions which are not fair or just to the people concerned, I must protest. I shall gladly vote against the second reading of the bill. Although the introduction of a retiring benefit for all people when they reach a certain age is something that I have worked for over the years, I feel that it is unfair to ask any one to agree to the imposition of penalties as a condition for the granting of long service leave.
As I said earlier, I do not think there is any provision to pass on any accrued long service leave benefits to the dependants of those who die before attaining 65 years of age, although they might have been penalized heavily while they were working. We all know too, that quite often, because of accident or for some other cause, men are not able to continue in their employment until they have accumulated even ten years’ service, but, on the waterfront, a penalty of £4 16s. would be imposed upon such men for every day on which they are engaged in a stoppage. I am very sorry indeed that the Government has been misled and believes that this type of legislation will put an end to the trouble on the waterfront. My tip is that on the first day on which a penalty of £4 16s. is imposed there will be further trouble.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– The honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson), in common with other members of the Opposition, is obviously claiming the benefits of this legislation without accepting any obligations on the part of the waterside workers in return for those benefits. It is all very well for members of the Opposition to complain about the imposition of penalties on the waterside workers, but the community is very concerned about the penalties that have been imposed upon it as a result of the industrial lawlessness engaged in by the waterside workers. We in Australia have probably the highest transport costs of any of the major countries, accounting for about 30 per cent, of our national income, as against 10 per cent, in other countries.
Years ago, we looked upon coastal shipping as the cheapest and most reliable form of transport in Australia. To-day, there is virtually no coastal shipping service, and coastal shipping is the most expensive and most unreliable form of transport. If pilfering is taken into consideration, the cost becomes even greater. I know that I have quoted on previous occasions the figures I am about to put before the House, but it will do no harm to refer to them again. In 1939, before the war, the cost of transporting goods by sea between Sydney and Melbourne was a little over £1 a ton. It is slightly over £7 a ton to day, despite all the modern machinery for handling goods on the wharfs and despite larger gangs and other aids. The great retrogression of the coastal shipping trade is obvious to every one. We now have only a few Australian-owned coastal freighters and general cargo ships in operation, and I doubt whether they will last much longer. I do not think there is one Australian-owned passenger ship engaged in our coastal trade to-day. This decline is due to the uncertainty of sailing times, resulting from the actions, not only of the waterside workers, but also of their good comrades, the seamen.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) said that there was a mystery attaching to the bringing down of this legislation now. The only thing that mystifies me is that we did not bring in such a measure earlier. The Minister is to be congratulated upon introducing the bill, because undoubtedly it will bring great benefit to Australia and to the waterside workers themselves. We have all seen thedisruption of our coastal trade, particularly in Queensland which is mainly a primaryproducing State. I think it was the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison) who stated that large numbers of watersiders are working at coastal portssuch as Mackay, Bowen, Townsville and Cairns. To take Mackay as a case in point, 300 watersiders previously were engaged at this great sugar-loading port, but as a result of the uncertainty of having cargo loaded’ and the weeks of delay that often occurred, the industry found that it could not afford to carry the costs involved so a mechanical loader was erected. A large capital cost was involved but the loading is being carried out in a most efficient manner. If the watersiders had not carried on their lawlessness, 300 of them still would be employed and’ the sugar still would be loaded by manual labour.
In the far north of the State there is the small port of Port Douglas. A few years agoeighteen waterside workers were engaged there to load sugar from the Mossman mill. They were quite satisfied with their job. The shipping company used to send three lighters to load the sugar and every one was happy. But three members of the “ progressive “’ section of the Waterside Workers Federation; visited Port Douglas and in no time disputes. arose and delays occurred. The lighters would miss the tide and would have to wait 24 hours. Disputes arose about washing facilities and that kind of thing. There may have been a lot of merit in the watersiders’ claims, but the point I am making is that the union representatives went to Port Douglas to cause trouble. The result is that to-day no ships load at that port and therefore no watersiders are employed there. All the sugar from the Mossman mill goes by road to Cairns where it is handled by the bulk-loading installation. This means additional cost. We must pay large sums of money for the upkeep of our roads simply because our cheap reliable coastal shipping trade does not exist so far as general cargo is concerned.
I shall cite another instance to indicate how vital industrial peace is to our primary industries. In my electorate is located the only deciduous fruit area in Queensland. Being in the higher latitudes the growers have their fruit, particularly apples, about six weeks earlier than do the growers in the south. Obviously, the northern growers have an advantage in the export trade. They are able to land their fruit in the United Kingdom ahead of every one else and the apples, being the first of the season, command a very good price. On the occasion to which I shall refer our first large shipment of 50,000 cases was being despatched from Brisbane to Great Britain on the “ Dunedin Star “. Being a perishable cargo, it was essential that no delay should occur in having the fruit loaded but this is what happened: At 10 a.m. on 28th February, 1961, 99 waterside workers walked off the “ Dunedin Star “ because of the dismissal of one of their colleagues for allegedly abusing the supervisor. As a consequence, one waterside worker was discharged. On the same day 64 waterside workers transferred from the vessel “ Ordia “ for a 1 p.m. start on the “ Dunedin Star “. They refused to start work and left the job. At 5 p.m. 103 waterside workers rostered for work at the vessel failed to report.
At noon on 1st March, 1961, 706 waterside workers walked off eleven vessels. At 5 p.m. 297 waterside workers failed to report at five vessels, and at midnight eighteen waterside workers failed to report at one vessel. These stoppages were held in alleged protest against the suspensions imposed upon the waterside workers involved in the “ Dunedin Star “ dispute. On the first day, 1,474 man-hours were lost, and on the second day 4,756 man-hours were lost - all because of an altercation between a waterside worker and a supervisor. Eleven ships were delayed because there was a port stoppage. Another ship had to tie up temporarily and wait until her berth was vacated by one of the ships affected by the stoppage. A tug and a pilot subsequently had to be engaged to shift this vessel. Five ships had to put back their sailing time by at least 24 hours and nine ships had to be worked in overtime hours. But for the walk-off, these vessels would have been worked during ordinary hours.
No Opposition member has complained about the penalties that are imposed on the community by such frivolous strikes as this. No one can say that a real reason existed for the waterside workers to cease work. The supervisor may have been in the wrong but the machinery exists to consider both sides of a dispute. There was no need for the hold-ups and loss of man-hours that occurred. The obvious intention of the leaders of the Waterside Workers Federation is to cause as much disruption as they possibly can. I do not want to bring the question of communism into the debate again, but I am afraid that it is tied up with the Waterside Workers Federation. I do not mean that all the waterside workers are Communists. I believe that 90 per cent. of them are true Australians. The unfortunate thing is that they are under the influence of their Communist leaders. The honorable member for Bruce (Mr. Snedden) in a very fine speech to-day indicated the real position. controlled ballots. This was a very important step, and a tremendous number in view, the Government introduced court.
It has been suggested that the legislation to make the waterside workers take stock of their leaders. This Government has always been on the side of honest trade unions. We realize the importance of trade unions to our community, and we have endeavoured by our legislation in the past to put the control of the unions into the hands of the rank and file. With this object before us is designed to intimidate waterside workers into working peacefully on the waterfront, but I believe that it is designed of unions have availed themselves of courtcontrolled ballots. Of course, we must not forget the old story that communism does not thrive where there is prosperity. A good instance of this is provided by the waterside workers’ union and another is provided by the Seamen’s Union. A strike by seamen last year cost the community £1,500,000. Such strikes will continue while the Communists are in charge. In the early war years when Russia was ranged on the side of Hitler there were numerous disputes on the waterfront; but as soon as Russia was on our side we had our first period of real peace on the waterfront. Just prior to the Labour Government going out of office in 1949, there was the greatest disruption possible on the waterfront. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) said that we should leave the position in the hands of the trade unions, but it has been left in their hands too long. Mr. Bryant - What has?
– The waterfront situation. The Opposition is prepared to sit down and let the community pay while industrial trouble wrecks the prosperity of this country. After all, our export trade is particularly vital to Australia. We are very vulnerable to anything that threatens our exports, and the most important factor in export is fast delivery. I think the member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) or another member of the Opposition said to-day that we should have our own Australian shipping line. Where would we be with an Australian line when costs piled up? Free enterprise had to go out of the shipping business although it gave us the cheapest and most efficient transport we have known in Australia. To-day it has been ruined by Communist control of the waterfront.
When the previous Labour Government was in power the watersiders dictated even its foreign policy. There were many instances of that dictation and the Opposition cannot deny it. I think the Labour Party has a good deal of sympathy for the Waterside Workers Federation, because I believe it suffers considerable embarrassment at the hands of its Communist friends. During the adjournment debate a fortnight or so ago the Opposition had no answer to statements on this position. The Leader of the Opposition abused the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight) when he made a most interesting statement on the extent to which Communist influence has controlled Labour policy. The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) is completely anti-Communist - I give him that - but when he spoke in that debate he tried to take us into orbit with the Russian spacemen. I have never seen the Labour Party so humbled by critics from the Government side as it was that evening. It had absolutely no answer whatever to them.
I believe that honorable members opposite have a great deal of sympathy for the watersiders because they realize that the men are in the hands of the Communists and would like to get rid of them, but cannot. Therefor, I consider that when this legislation is passed the waterside workers will take stock of their leaders. They have the power to remove them despite the unity tickets.
Mr. Arnell, president of the waterside workers organization in Queensland has been returned to office three years in succession when running on a unity ticket. He is standing as a candidate in the next Senate election on the Australian Labour Party ticket. This will be the first unity ticket for the Senate team. I direct attention to another factor. When there are these disruptive influences in a union the right type of person is not attracted to the industry concerned. Men go to industries where they have the opportunity to do a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay and they want continuous work. I believe that 90 per cent. of the watersiders want continuous work and do not want to be called out on strike. This bill gives them the incentive to do something about the present position, and I congratulate the Minister on having introduced it. The legislation will mean a lot to Australia. I commend it to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Duthie) adjourned.
The following bills were returned from the Senate: -
Without requests -
Customs Tariff Bill 1961.
Customs Tariff (New Zealand Preference) Bill (No. 1). 1961.
Customs Tariff (Canada Preference) Bill 1961.
Without amendment -
Wine Overseas Marketing Bill 1961.
House adjourned at 11.7 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
m asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
What have been the dates and terms of arrangements entered into with the States with respect to the collection and publication of statistics and the supply of statistical information?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is -
The following are the dates on which the Governor-General in Council approved arrangements with the respective States under the Statistics (Arrangements with States) Act 1956: -
New South Wales- 7th August, 1957.
Victoria- 18th June, 1958.
Queensland - 14th December, 1957.
South Australia- 27th March, 1957.
Western Australia- 16th May, 1957.
In respect of Tasmania the Statistical Bureau (Tasmania) Act 1924 was assented to on 20th October, 1924.
Terms of arrangements entered into with respect to the collection and publication and supply of statistical information vary slightly in specific detail between States, but each arrangement provides broadly that the Integrated Statistical Service shall continue to compile and publish those statistics which were compiled and published by the Government Statistician before the commencement of the arrangement, provide the like services of a statistical character for State departments and instrumentalities and compile and publish such other statistical matter as may reasonably be required for the purpose of the State or of the Commonwealth.
It was also provided that the State may retain or appoint a reasonable number of employees to perform at its expense and on its behalf the functions of statistical officers under the direction of the Government Statistician acting in his State capacity.
The full text of a typical arrangement, viz.. that for Queensland, is printed as a schedule to the “Commonwealth and State Statistical Agreement Act of 1958- Queensland 7 Eliz. II. No. 4 “.
d asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
y asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
What was the reason for the increase of the Reserve Bank’s holdings of government and other securities from £456,000,000 to £622,300,000 during the period of twelve months dating from February, 1960, when the Government first introduced credit restrictions?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
The increase of £166,300,000 between the February, 1960, and February, 1961, weekly average of the Reserve Bank’s holdings of government and other securities was due partly to an increase in the indebtedness of the Commonwealth Government to the Reserve Bank in respect of the usual seasonal lag in revenue receipts, but mainly to the Reserve Bank’s purchases of Commonwealth Government securities from the trading banks.
i asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: - 1, 2 and 3. The saw-milling industry is widely dispersed throughout Australia and includes many small mills. According to figures published by the Commonwealth Statistician the industry employed some 32,000 people in some 2,700 mills in 1958-59 - the latest year for which figures are available. In addition there were in 1958-59 some 70 plywood mills employing approximately 3,600 workers. ‘The Statistician’s “figures also indicate that in -that ‘year 803 of the saw-mills employed less than four persons, 210 employed four persons each, and 794 mills : employed between five and ten .persons -each. -It is thus quite ‘impracticable for my department to provide precise answers to these questions. However, the Commonwealth -Employment Service -knows -of -some 59 saw-mills and plywood mills - 22 in New South Wales, eighteen in Victoria, four in Queensland and fifteen -in Tasmania, closing between ‘midNovember of ,1960 and late April of this year. It is also aware that during this period -just >over 100 .mills have reduced their employment levels for a variety of reasons. In all, some -2,212 workers are known to have been retrenched ‘from various saw-mills and plywood mills -throughout Australia in this same ;period.
Unemployment in Queensland.
z asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon mouse -
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
t. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
s asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
y asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice -
What quantity of margarine was produced in (a) each State and (b) Australia during the past twelve months?
– The following are the answers to the honorable member’s questions: -
Employment of Physically Handicapped Persons.
s. - On 4th May, the honorable member for Bowman (Mr. McColm) and the honorable member for Kingston (Mr. Galvin) asked questions without notice about the Government’s intentions as to that portion of the Boyer committee’s report which recommended the permanent employment of physically handicapped persons in the Commonwealth Public Service. I now furnish the following additional information: -
I understand that the interdepartmental committee which has been examining this proposal will complete its report within the next few weeks. The Government will give the report prompt consideration.
I would remind honorable members that the permanent employment in the Public Service of physically handicapped persons requires not only a careful examination of the medical standards adopted for entry to the Public Service, but also of the effect of their admission on the established retiring benefits schemes.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 10 May 1961, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1961/19610510_reps_23_hor31/>.