17th Parliament · 3rd Session
The President (Senator the Hon. Gordon Brown) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers,
SenatorCOOPER.- Will the Minister for Trade and Customs inform the Senate whether it is a fact, as reported in the Sydney Morning Herald to-day, that 2,000 wharf labourers in Brisbane are each to receive a special supplementary allowance of 2 oz. of tobacco a month? If so, what justification is there for this special treatment of a section of government supporters when the average citizen in Brisbane finds it . practically impossible to buy even a packet of cigarettes?
– In the early stages of the war, arrangements were made to supply the industrial canteens with a definite supply of tobacco, so that the men would not be wasting their time trying to buy it. Waterside workers are employed in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, the northern ports and elsewhere. It was represented to me by their organization that, as honorable senators know, it is imperative to keep them at their jobs, and see that they have at least some amenities to prevent them having to roam about the streets looking for tobacco. The demand for shipping is so urgent at present that the granting of a certain additional supply of tobacco to the waterside workers was, in my opinion, justified. This had been done in Sydney and Melbourne, and in the railways departments of Victoria and other States, and I see no reason why the waterside workers should not enjoy a similar benefit. Ordinary civilians no doubt obtain their tobacco from certain shops, and they are probably still able to obtain regular supplies. The supply of tobacco leaf in Australia is ample to meet requirements, but the supply of girl labour in the factories is inadequate. Therefore, the limited supplies now available must impose a certain amount of hardship on purchasers. Last year civilians received an increase of 5 per cent, in their quota of tobacco and I am hopeful that the issue may be increased as soon as the necessary labour becomes available. The claim of the waterside workers could not be ignored. We give priority in the matter of tobacco supplies ‘to members of the fighting services and to the men in the operational areas, and also to those in the home establishments and to ex-servicemen who are invalided’. First in order of priority, the members of the services are catered for, and then we have paid special attention to the industrial army. This action has been warranted by the results.
– I present the first report of the Printing Committee.
Report - by leave - adopted.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The Treasurer has supplied the following answers: -
– On the 13th June, 1945, Senator Lamp asked me a question, without notice, concerning payment for seed for the 1945 vegetable crop. I now advise the honorable senator that payment isbeing made by the Vegetable Seeds Committee for 1945 vegetable seeds as soon as information is received from the agents of the committee that the seed has been received by them and the results of the necessary preliminary purity and germination tests are available. Over £200,000 has already been paid to growers by the committee in respect of the 1945 seed crop.
In committee: Consideration resumed from the 14th June(vide page 3056).
Clause 23- (3.) Section eighty-three of the Commonwealth Public Service Act 1922-1943 is repeated. (5.) Section one hundred and four of the Commonwealth Public Service Act 1922-1943 is repealed.
.- I move -
That sub-clause (3.) be left out.
Sub-section 3 of section83 of the Commonwealth Public Service Act, which this clause seeks to repeal, reads - (3.) Where the employment of a returned soldier has been terminated owing to temporary assistance not being further required, he shall be eligible for further employment at any time after the termination of his previous temporary employment.
The repeal of that sub-section would deprive returned servicemen ofa cherished privilege; men whose average age would be about 46 years would be denied what is now a legal right. The “ red raggers “ who belittled “ diggers “ during the 1914-18 war would be eligible for these jobs. Is it fair to those “ diggers “ who have now settled down with families to be deprived at their time of life of a job which, under section S3 of the Commonwealth Public Service Act, is theirs by law? Hundreds of these “ diggers “ served with me on Gallipoli and in France. I know what they went through, and, they deserve better treatment. My amendment retains the “ diggers’ “ right to temporary jobs in the Commonwealth Public Service, whether skilled or unskilled.
. -When replying to the arguments adduced in support of a previous amendment moved by the honorable senator, I pointed out that the Government’s main reason for repealing existing legislation is because it is essential to have only one measure operating on this subject so that the law will be clear and certain. Therefore, we must repeal the preference provisions under existing legislation. Otherwise, employers and ex-service personnel would be confused. They would not know where they stood. Section 83 of the Commonwealth Public Service Act reads - (1.) Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, a returned soldier whose name is enrolled in the prescribed register for temporary employment shall, if competent for the work required, be considered for temporary employmentin priority to any person who is not a returned soldier. (2.) Upon report from the Chief Officer that a returned soldier temporarily employed has satisfactorily performed his duties, the Board may extend his employment for such time as temporary assistance is still required. (3.) Where the employment of a returned soldier has been terminated owing to temporary assistance not being further required, he shall be eligible for further employment at any time after the termination of his previous temporary employment.
The same protection is given under another clause in this measure. I suggest that the Government of the day, regardless of party political affiliations, would observe the same preference in that class of government employment as has obtained up to the present. However, as I have already said, the Government’s main objection to the amendment is that we cannot operate this measure and existing legislation at the same time.
– I fail to follow the explanation of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane) when he says that the returned man would not know where he stood if the preference provision under the Commonwealth Public Service Act were retained. I suggest that it would be unwise to repeal section 83 of that act. The Minister has not sustained his argument that its retention would cause confusion. That section provides that ex-service personnel shall be considered for temporary employment in priority to any person who is not a returned soldier. We should retain that section in its entirety. It has conferred great benefits upon returned men; and I cannot see that equal benefit is being substituted under this measure. Indeed, I ask the Minister to indicate what clause in this measure replaces the benefits provided in section83.
– The repeal of section 83 of the Commonwealth Public Service Act will have the same effect as the repeal of section 117 of the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act, provided for in clause 22. Whilst admitting that it would be unwise, and, in fact, impracticable, to have conflicting legislation on preference to ex-servicemen, these sections of earlier legislation which are being repealed conferred upon returned soldiers in perpetuity the benefits of preference in employment. Instead of repealing those sections permanently, why not. suspend their operation, for the sevenyear period only. In that way the Government could make a gesture to these men, and emphasize its intention to ensure to them, a certain degree of preference in employment, so long as they require it. The repeal of section S3 of the Commonwealth Public Service Act will deprive ex-servicemen of a privilege for which we in this chamber put up a strenuous fight eighteen months ago.
– This clause was referred to extensively Inst night during the debate on the clause 22 which repeals section 118 of the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act, and there is no need to repeat now the arguments advanced on that occasion. I emphasize, however, that the section of the Commonwealth Public Service Act which this clause repeals, will become inoperative for all time. In his reply last night, the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane) said that exservicemen would receive the same measure of preference under this legislation as they had enjoyed under the acts to which I have referred. That may be true, but it is open to doubt, and the fact remains that ex-servicemen will not receive any preference benefit at all at the expiration of the seven-year period, whereas under the repatriation and Commonwealth Public Service legislation preference was available to them in perpetuity. Preference will be required most by temporary employees to whom reference has been .made in the course of this debate. Many of these employees, perhaps because they have not had sufficient education or because they have no great ambition to better themselves by passing the necessary examinations for permanent appointment in the Commonwealth Public Service, are con tent, after their strenuous years at the front, to pass the rest of their lives without enduring much mental fatigue. They elect to remain temporary employees. At the end of the seven-year period, however, under this legislation, they will not have any measure of preference in employment, just at the time when they need it most. There will not be anything to replace the privileges which will be denied to them when the preference clauses of this measure become inoperative. They will be thrown out into the cold world and nobody’s hand will be raised to help them. Surely the Minister has the seeds of mercy in his soul. The first men to be affected under this clause will be those on the lower grades of income who have most difficulty in earning a living. Honorable senators opposite, who pose as the champions of the lower paid workers, will take away from them something which they have had ail their working lives and will leave them at the mercy of whatever government may be in power. There can bc no sincerity in a government that, at the first opportunity, hits hard at the “ vitals “ of these men and- says to them : “ After seven years, we shall not be concerned with you, whether you have fought for the country or not.” The Government has told them that they will benefit under this bill, but it has not told them that, aif iter seven years, those benefits will lie taken a way and will never be reinstated unless some other government enacts similar legislation. This bill exposes in a lurid light the supposed sympathy of the Government for the lower-paid workers. The men who will be affected most under this clause are threatened with the loss of their livelihood after seven years, and they will resent that deprivation. The Government is supported blindly by its followers in everything that it does.
– Its Scottish reconstructionist M’inister says that he and his colleagues want to be generous.
– They want to appear strong, but, like most stubborn men who think they are strong, they are only weak. When we show where their misguided actions will lead, they are too weak to accept, our advice. A month or two ago, when I made a suggestion in this chamber relating to income tax on overtime, I was accusedby Senator O’Flaherty of having made a snide suggestion. Although he violently attacked me on that occasion, I notice that the principal business at a Labour conference which is now taking place is the very matter to which I referred. When Labour representatives are called together from all parts of Australia for a conference, they are supplied with extra beer and cigarettes.
– Order! There is nothing about beer in this clause.
– When the Opposition parties hold a conference they do not find it necessary to introduce such lures.
– There is nothing in the clause about tobacco.
– Order !
– When Ministers interject,I must show them ordinary courtesyby replying to them.
-Beer is not referred to in the bill.
– A little lubrication might be of some assistance. The Minister in charge of the bill sits adamant like a sphinx. One of these days I hope that he gets “ hot under the collar”.
– The Acting Leader of the Opposition is an optimist.
– Had the exLeader of the Senate been in charge of the measure, we should have seen whitecrested waves beatingup against a rocky shore.
– Order! The honorable senator must discuss the clause.
– If the clause is passed, the lower-paid men will be left to swim without a life-belt to the inhospitable shore offered to them by the present Government,
– The honorable senator said all that last evening.
– I am hoping against hope that the Minister will eventually do what he knows in his own mind ought to be done.
– Sub-clause 1 of clause 27, which provides for preference, covers the point raised by the honorable senator.
– Not at all. It may cover it for seven years, but at the end of that period the lower-paid men will be left out in the cold. As the Minister seems to have his cohorts well drilled to carry out the order of the Government not to depart from the bill in any respect, I suppose it is hopeless for me to persist in this discussion. The fact remains that the lower-paid men, whom we should endeavour to help to the best of our ability, are the first to be thrown to the wolves.
Question put -
That the sub-clause proposed to be left out (Senator Brand’s amendment) be left out.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Senator B. Courtice.)
Majority . . . . 8
Question so resolved in the negative.
.- I move -
That sub-clause (5.) be left out.
Section 104 of the Commonwealth Public Service Act, which this section seeks to repeal, is as follows: -
Returned soldiers shall, in respect to consideration of qualifications and claims for appointment, have priority over all other applicants.
.- The amendment is not acceptable for reasons that I have already given.
Clause agreed’ to.
Clause 24 (Provisions of this division to be exclusive of other laws, &c).
– “Would the Minister favour me with an explanation of sub-clause 2, which reads -
The provisions of this division shall apply to the exclusion of any provisions, providing fur preference in any matter relating to the employment of discharged members of the Forces, of any law of a State, or of any industrial award, order, determination or agreement made or filed under or in pursuance of any such law, and whether the law, award, order, determination or agreement was enacted, made or filed ‘before or after the commencement nf this section. lt will be noticed that the sub-clause includes the words “ to the exclusion of any provisions providing for preference in any matter relating to the employment df discharged members of the forces, of any law of ‘a State, or of any industrial award, order, determination or agreement made or filed “. . . . The sub-clause seems to be most comprehensive, and the committee should not pass it without, knowing what it means.
.- The effect of sub-clause 1 is to provide that, apart from this division, any Commonwealth law or any award, determination or agreement under any law providing for preference in any matter relating to the employment of discharged members of the forces, shall be inoperative, whether enacted or made before or after the commencement of this provision within seven years of the cessation of’ hostilities’. Sub-clause 2 has the same effect in respect of State laws, awards, &c, providing for preference in any matter relating to the employment of discharged members of the forces as subclause 1 has on. Commonwealth laws and orders.
– That means that any 1’aw of any State, or any ind’Ustrial award providing for preference in relation to employment ceases to operate. Does it also mean that any industrial award which provides for preference to unionists will go by the board? If the sub-clause included the words “ in addition to “ instead of “ to the exclusion of “ the Opposition would be satisfied. It would appear that this provision means more than appears on the surface.
– The sub-clause has no reference to preference to unionists; it relates only to preference to returned soldiers.
– Even if it does not apply generally to preference to unionists, it does apply to members of the forces who have been granted an industrial award. It may mean - and I think that it does - that returned soldiers need not become members of a trade union in order to get work.
– The honorable senator is becoming technical.
– .Some one needs to become technical, because the Minister was not at all clear .as to what the sul; clause means.
– It deals only with preference to servicemen, and has nothing to do with preference to unionists, which will be dealt with later.
– Will the Minister substitute the words “ in addition to “ for “to the exclusion of”?
– Having pointed out the danger that may arise when any industrial award, order, determination or agreement, made or filed under, or in pursuance of, any of these laws, ceases to have effect, I can say no more. The blood will be on the Minister’s own head.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 25 (Interpretation).
– This is the first indication in the bill that many persons other than ex-service personnel are included under the measure, because clause 32 provides that “ any person” can be brought in provided a preference board decides that he is entitled to preference under the measure. I emphasize this point, because this perpetuates what I consider to be the great evil of the measure; that is, it makes it not a soldiers’ bill but a bill under which preference is given to everybody. Therefore, I urge the Government to omit paragraph b of the definition of “person entitled to preference”, and thus confine preference to soldiers, sailors or airmen who are genuinely entitled to preference, and eliminate those members of the civil population who, in the opinion of many of us, are not entitled to the same degree of preference as are ex-service personnel.
– The honorable senator’s argument was disposed of in my second-reading speech. The Government cannot agree to amend the clause.
.- Clause 32, read in conjunction with this clause means that persons who are registered by a preference board have exactly the same preference as ex-service personnel. That is entirely wrong. As I said earlier, if the Government wishes to give prefer- ence to civilians, why not make such provision in a separate measure? Under this measure preference is being given to civilians who can prove that theywere connected in any way with a war industry. For example, a man who was employed digging potatoes could claim that he was supplying food for the armed forces; and this measure places that man in exactly the same category as ex-service personnel. The bill should be confined strictly to ex-service personnel, and we can do that by deleting paragraph b of the definition of “ person entitled to preference “ and the relevant portion of clause 32. The bill is being absolutely overloaded insofar as it makes provision for preference to civilians whose contribution to the war effort may be insignificant compared with that of ex-service personnel.
.- This clause gives, for the purposes of the division, a specified meaning to certain words frequently occurring, unless a contrary intention is apparent. “ Employer “ and “ employment “ are self-explanatory ; whereas for the purposes of this division of thebill “ member of the f orces “ means a person who was a member of the Commonwealth Defence Force or Army Medical Corps Nursing Service and served on continuous full-time service during the 1914-18 war, as well as a person included in the definition of “ member of the forces “ appearing in clause 4. With respect to a “ person entitled to preference” it will be noted, first, that a member of the forces whose discharge is imminent is a person entitled to preference the same as a discharged member of the forces; and, secondly, clause 32 provides that where a person, other than a member of the forces, considers that by reason of the service performed by him in relation to the war, he is entitled to preference, he may apply to a preference board for registration. If the board decides to register him, he becomes, by virtue of this definition, a “ person entitled to preference “. Examples of groups who have approached the Government in relation to preference are members of the merchant navy, civil airline pilots serving in association with the forces, officials of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department serving in danger zones, and so on.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 26 agreed to.
Clause 27- (3.) In determining whether reasonable and substantial cause exists for not engaging in employment a person entitled to preference, the employer concerned shall consider -
.- Sub-clause 3 provides that in determining whether reasonable and substantial cause exists for not engaging in employment a person entitled to preference, the employer shall consider among other things the length, locality and nature of the service of that person. How shall the employer make that decision and differentiate between two persons? There is nothing on the man’s discharge certificate to show where he served, or the nature of his service. At one time that information was shown on the discharge certificate. To-day, however, an ex-serviceman might “ pitch “ a good tale and claim that he was in almost every engagement in the Middle East and New Guinea, whilst another man, more honest, would tell the truth about his service. But the employer might be carried away with the story told by the one man, and so do an injustice to another. How shall the employer find out these particulars.
.- Subclause 3 sets out the factors which an employer is to take into account in determining whether he has reasonable and substantial cause for preferring another applicant to a person entitled to preference. The employer may employ a member of the forces without considering these factors. Paragraph a of the sub-clause deals with information about the length, locality and nature of the service and this information will be obtainable from the discharge certificate and other service records. Steps will be taken to see that these are readily available. Under paragraph b an employer must in the interests of efficiency consider the comparative qualifications of applicants. Paragraph c is self-explanatory. With respect to paragraph d, an example is a law prescribing that applications for certain positions shall be called for in a certain form. With respect to paragraph c many matters may be relevant and indeed absolutely essential, but as these depend on the particular conditions of service in the thousand and one occupations which the bill will cover, these cannot be specified. An obvious example of relevant matters are certain matters arising in connexion with the employment of relatives of the employer. In certain cases it would be reasonable to engage a relative if the relative were content to work on certain terms involving living in, &c, or accepting lower wages than apply normally.
– May I assume from the explanation just given by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane) that the Army authorities will supply, perhaps, not on the man’s discharge certificate, but in some serviceable form, the particulars mentioned in this clause?
– But when we come to other people, such as persons registered under clause 32, what safeguard will the employer have in knowing that those persons have actually served ? The Minister mentioned members of the mercantile marine, civil airline pilots and officers of the Postmaster-General’s Department. Can he assure us that when the application is made the Preference Board would tabulate the relevant particulars on some form, and make those particulars available not only for the protection of the applicant but also the employer ? In my view the real difficulty arises with respect to those persons covered by clause 32. We may overcome the difficulty so far as ex-service personnel are concerned.
– I regard paragraph b of sub-clause 3, as the most objectionable provision in the bill. It provides that in determining whether substantial and reasonable cause exists for not engaging a person entitled to preference, an employer shall take into consideration the comparative qualifications of that person. As I said in my second-reading speech, a man who, during the five years of war, has had training and experience in industry, will be far more qualified to do a job than a man who has been in the front line for that period and has had no opportunity whatever to fit himself for employment. That provision is most unfair, and I regret that it is in the bill. It will give preference to men who, in the early days of the war, became engaged in essential industries in which they carried on their usual vocations and received substantial remunerations, including overtime.
.- I move -
That paragraph (6) of sub-clause (4.) be left out.
Surely some consideration should ‘be given to men who, during the war, have not had an opportunity to increase their skill or technical knowledge. This is a hotch-potch provision, and the best course would be to delete it altogether.
I intend later to move that paragraph b of sub-clause 3 also be left out.
.’ - “Whilst I agree with Senator Brand’s amendment, it does net go quite far enough. The undesirable feature which he seeks to eliminate from the clause by deleting paragraph b of sub-clause 4, is contained also in paragraph b of sub-clause 3, which also lays down what procedure shall be followed by an employer who seeks to engage an employee. As this is a matter to which long consideration was given by the Government, I am surprised at the clumsiness of the clause. Honorable senators opposite were loud in their denunciation of the much simpler provision which was inserted in the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act by this chamber eighteen months ago. They claim that it is quite easy for an employer to evade the obligation imposed upon him by that section ; yet we find that in this clause, the opportunities for evasion are greater than ever. First of all, an employer must consider the length of service of applicants for a job. Does that mean that a man who has had four years’ war service will have preference over another man who has had only three years’ service, or will an employer be ‘able to use his own judgment? An employer has to consider also locality of service. “What does that mean? Will an employer be able to say to an applicant, “I do not like the locality in which you have been fighting for the last six years; I have in mind for this job a man who has been ‘ fighting ‘ in the locality of Victoria Barracks, and I prefer him “. An employer may be fined by a court because he has given preference to the wrong locality. He may take the view that a man who fought in Bougainville is preferable to a man who fought in
Borneo; but because a court may hold a different opinion, that employer may be fined up to £100, or may be sentenced to imprisonment for any term up to six months. The position is ridiculous. Then, of course, an employer has to consider ako the nature of service. He has no guidance in this matter either, because the Government has not laid down a system of points whereby, say, an infantryman would have two points, an artilleryman three points, a man who had. never been near the front four points, and so on. How will the employer know what to do? As the clause stands, it either provides loopholes for employers to evade the purpose of the bill or it places employers in a position in which they may be convicted’ and fined for making an error of judgment. Surely the Minister will realize that the clause is vague and requires clarification regarding the length, locality, and nature of service.
– This clause provides all sorts of opportunities for employers to avoid giving preference in employment to exservicemen. The very words, “ unless he has reasonable and substantial cause for not doing so “, in sub-clause 1, enable the man who wishes not to carry out the intention of the bill to do as he pleases. An employer is entitled to decide that there is insufficient cause for employing a person entitled to preference after considering a number of specific qualifications, and as provided in paragraph a “any other relevant matters”. That paragraph offers a complete escape for the unco-operative employer. I should like the whole clause to be replaced by a more clearly worded clause stating that an employer must give first and complete preference in employment to any person defined in the bill as an ex-serviceman. As the clause stands, it will be as easy as walking through an open gate for an employer to avoid giving preference. It is- obnoxious and dangerous. In it, the Government says in effect : “ If you do not want to employ an ex-serviceman, here are reasons for not doing so “. I should like our learned friend, Senator McKenna, to give his legal opinion of the clause. In my view, a legal man would have no difficulty under this clause in exonerating any employer who jibbed at giving preference to ex-servicemen.
.- With the permission of the committee, I shall temporarily withdraw the amendment which I’ have moved in order to move an amendment relating to paragraph b of sub-clause 3.
– There is no objection to the honorable senator doing so.
Amendment - by leave - temporarily withdrawn.
Amendment (by Senator Brand) proposed -
That paragraph (ft) of sub-clause (3.) bc left out.
.- “Will the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane) answer the questions which I asked earlier in respect of paragraph a of sub-clause 3, which deals with the length, locality and nature of service of applicants for preference in employment? I understood that the honorable gentleman was obtaining additional information on the subject. There must be some answer to my questions.
– I have already told the honorable senator that information regarding length, locality and nature of service will be obtainable from an ex-serviceman’s discharge certificate, and that other service records will be readily available. This information is necessary for the guidance of the authority which will settle disputes as to the relative merits of a number of exservice applicants for one position. A.? the honorable senator has suggested, an employer will not engage the first applicant interviewed, and in the event of a number of ex-servicemen applying for one position, he will need to have some means of gauging the relative importance of their claims. It would be reasonable for an employer to consider that a man who had served in Borneo, on the Kokoda Trail or in some other dangerous place deserved preference over a man who_ had served in a less dangerous operational area. The bill has made provision for every eventuality mentioned by the honorable senator. The employer is tied down ; he must give preference to ex-servicemen. If he does not observe the law, there is a tribunal which the aggrieved person can approach.
– I assume that the intention of the Minister is that first priority shall be given to members of the forces who have served overseas. We are dealing also with persons other than ex-servicemen, and I should like to know whether we may assume that the Government would regard men with overseas service as having a prior claim to employment. One of two men applying for a position may have been employed by the Allied Works Council, whereas the other may have served in a forward operational area. I take it that the man with service overseas would have the first claim.
– There is nothing in the bill to that effect.
– I feel sure that the Minister will give the committee an assurance on that matter.
– Under this clause an employer could engage an ex-serviceman at any time. No reasonable employer would refrain from having regard to all the factors mentioned in the clause, if he thought that members of the forces should receive full consideration.
– Paragraph, a of sub-clause 4 provides that in determining, as between two or more persons entitled to preference, which of those persons shall be employed, the employer shall consider the matters referred to in paragraphs a, c, d and e of sub-clause 3. The Minister suggests that consideration of the length of service means that a man with six years service, irrespective of where it was given would be entitled to preference over a person with five years’ service. If one man had served for five years at the front and another had served for six years with the Allied Works Council or in some similar capacity the man with the six years’ service would get preference over the fighting man. When locality of service has to be considered the same principle would operate. If the employer did not know whether a man had fought at El Alamein or in Crete, or whether he had gone out of Australia at all to fight, no indication would be given by this bill as to whether he should receive preference. The Minister may say what he likes about the intention of the Government, but the committee should be guided by tie terms of the bill, because the interpretation will be made by a court of law. An employer could be fined if he did not take into consideration the length, locality and nature of the service of the person entitled to preference. The subclause does not state whether the total length of service is to be considered, or how much consideration is to be given to the locality and nature of the service. If an employer decided in good faith that a man who had given four years’ service of a kind which entitled him to preference over another man who had given five years’ service of a less vital nature, he might be deemed to have contravened the law. All that the Government would have to do in employing persons in the Commonwealth Public Service would be to go to the court first. If the Government decides for itself on the question of length of service, it might find that the applicant for the job had not fought in the right place, or that the nature of his service did not recommend itself to the court. The Government evidently regards this provision as of first importance, because the consideration as to the length, locality and nature of the service is the first in the list of factors to be borne in mind. The Government should tell employers how much consideration should be given to the various factors mentioned in the clause. I know that the Government has a “ set “ on employers. It believes that there should be no employers except the Government; but why, in an allegedly free country, should we put the employers in danger by a loose provision of this kind? Is the Minister prepared to qualify it?
– The more I look at it the more convinced I am that it is necessary, so that the employers shall consider the very vital factors of length, locality and nature of the service.
– What locality? Have the men of Tobruk not to be con sidered before those who have done no fighting ?
– All fighting men will be considered. This clause strengthens the claim of the “ dinkum “ soldier, and it was deliberately inserted. Men in the barracks in Melbourne, for instance, should not. have the same claim as those who have been overseas in the blood and sweat of war. It is all a matter of administration.
– It is not merely a matter of administration. Both the employers and the men have to be protected.
– The men will be protected, and so will be the employers.
– The employers will not be protected, if they are shot at from all sides.
– The honorable senator is beating the air.
– The Minister says that the clause 3 has .been deliberately inserted so that the fighting man shall have preference, but it does not say that. What is meant by the term “ nature of the service”? To say that the point raised by me is of no importance is an abrogation of ordinary legislative procedure. I now turn to paragraph b of sub-clause !>. which provides that the employer shall consider the “ comparative qualification of that person and of other applicants for engagement in employment in the position concerned “. Of course, that takes away all preference except to a returned serviceman who has qualifications above those of a civilian. I do not object to a comparison between two servicemen, but I do object to a comparison of the qualifications of a serviceman and a civilian.
– The honorable senator is harking back to his main contention, but that argument has already been settled.
– I cannot go back to it too often. The committee mustrealize that paragraph b of sub-clause 3, which necessitates a comparison of the qualifications of the servicemen with those of other applicants for the position, will leave the employer an entirely free hand to do what be likes.
– That is what the honorable senator has wanted all his life - power to de what he likes with his employees. His protest this morning is only so much make-believe on his part. He does not believe what he is saying, any more than the man in the moon believes it.
– I object to that statement, and I ask that it be withdrawn.
– As Senator Leckie has taken objection to the remark, it should be withdrawn.
– Does Senator Leckie take exception to the truth? If he takes exception to the truth, I withdraw it.
– That is not a withdrawal, and I cannot accept it. The honorable senator has aggravated his offence.
– Senator Sheehan must withdraw the remark to which exception has been taken.
– In deference to you, Mr. Chairman, I withdraw it.
– Now we are happy again, but that does not solve the problem.
– The honorable senator’s time has expired.
.- There is justification for the contention of Senator Leckie. I would see no objection to this paragraph if it related only to employment in the Commonwealth Public Service, because applicants would go before a tribunal which would have no difficulty in choosing the most suitable: but in private employment it is an, entirely different matter. According to paragraph a of sub-clause 3, the employer must take into account the length, locality and nature of the service of the soldier applicant, and, under paragraph b, the comparative qualifications of that person and of other applicants for the position. Which of the two paragraphs is to override the other? The employer may say that he is not concerned about the length, locality and nature of the service rendered by the soldier applicant. He will not bebound by paragraph a. But he will face a problem when attempting to give effect to paragraph b. The employer will desire to appoint the man with the bestqualifications for the position, and will therefore give prominence to para graph c, which requires him to take into account “the qualifications required for the performance of the duties of the position “. In practice, the employer will disregard paragraph a; he will have a look at paragraph b, but will quickly pass on to paragraph c and select the man with the best qualifications for the vacant position.
– He will do so at his own risk.
– The employer will choose the man most experienced in the class of work to be done; and, in most instances, that man will be a civilian because of his continuous training in the performance of similar duties. In the interests of members of the fighting services, paragraph b should be deleted, because in practice it will work out that the civilian, not the serviceman, will be engaged.
Motion (by Senator Brand) agreed to-
That the question be now put.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be left out (Senator Brand’s amendment) be left out.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Senator B. Courtice.)
Majority . . . . 8
In division :
Question so resolved in the negative.
.- I move -
That paragraph (6) of sub-clause (4.) be left out.
This paragraph also relates to the comparative qualifications of applicants. There should be no such deciding factor, because in practice it will mean that the fighting man will be at a disadvantage every time.
– The amendment is not acceptable to the Government.
– I draw the attention of the committee to paragraph 6 of sub-clause 5 which provides that nothing in this clause shall - require the engagement in employment of a person who has, since the termination of his service, been convicted of an offence of such a nature that he is unsuitable for engagement in that employment.
I move -
That, in sub-clause (5.), paragraph (6), the following words be left out: - “since the termination of his service “.
The reason for my amendment is obvious. The clause disregards the previous record of a person who may have committed serious civil offences, and places such a person, provided that since the termination of his service he has not been convicted of an offence, on the same footing as a man who has a perfectly clean record. Surely, the Government does not mean to do that. A man may have been in gaol for long periods for the most serious offences, but because he serves six months in, say, the Militia, or with the Allied Works Council, or other bodies, his previous record is not to be taken into account; and, provided he has not committed an offence since his discharge, the employer must engage him. In the bill as originally introduced this provision read, “has not been convicted of an indictable offence “ ; but that was open to various interpretations.
– A man might commit an offence while on leave before he is discharged, but that offence could nol be taken into consideration by an employer.
– That is so. Hp may have a month’s leave and commit some crime during that time; but. as it is committed before the termination of his service, an employer must engage him as against a man with a clean record. This provision reacts against, not only the employer, but also the individual, himself, because cases are bound to happen ‘of men stealing the goods, property or money of their employer; and, whereas, in ordinary circumstances, an employer rather than put the man in gaol would be content with dismissing him, he must, in order to protect his own interests- under this clause, take the man to court. He cannot exercise the quality of mercy at all, because in order to protect himself against a man who has been dishonest in his service he must take that man to court, or, otherwise, as is provided under this clause, he must employ him. My amendment will remedy that defect.
Senator KEANE (Victoria - Minister
Government cannot accept the amendment moved by the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Senator Leckie). Paragraph b of sub-clause 5 has been inserted deliberately in order to provide for the “ hard case “ serviceman who, probably, has committed offences while on service. It is designed to ensure that the employer will not consider offences committed by nien on service. On the other hand, a man may bc convicted of some serious offence after he leaves the army. In that case, the amendment would throw the onus on the employer to employ a person who might be quite undesirable. Therefore, it would be an error to do what the Acting Leader of the Opposition proposes.
– I cannot follow the reasoning of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane). The point I make is that regardless of the character of a person prior to his war service, he is placed on the same footing as the honest and decent citizen who has had no black mark against his character; and the employer must employ him. I am disregarding military offences. In fact, such offences did not cross my mind. Very probably, an employer would not regard military offences in .anything like the same light as civilian offences.
– Does the honorable senator believe in reform?
– Yes ; but I also believe that the employer should not .be compelled to employ a criminal. Surely, the honorable senator does not uphold the criminal, but admits that there is some sense of decency, and that -a man who has led an honest life should he given preference over a criminal. When I used the word “ criminal “ I meant a man who, after serving a sentence for one offence, persists in committing crime. Under this provision, such a man, because he has served, say, six months in the Militia, or with the Allied Works Council, and has not been convicted since his discharge, the employer must employ him. To my mind, that is the limit of legislative . foolishness.
.- I direct, attention to paragraph a of sub clause 5 which provides that nothing in this clause shall -
Does that mean that this clause will not apply to any person in the Crown’s employ at present who has got in on the ground floor and consolidated his position in the absence of service personnel? Such a person may now be paid a salary of ‘£500 a year. Does the Government intend that he shall not be affected in any way whatever? I point out that 16S .employees in the Department of Post-war Reconstruction now receive a salary of £500 a year or over, and my observation would apply in respect- of many other departments.
.- The amendment moved by the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Senator Leckie) would leave a loophole to the employer to refuse preference. However, if an employer can satisfy the court that a man is a criminal he would not have to employ him.
In reply to Senator Brand, I point out that preference applies only to initial employment. What the honorable senator has suggested may occur. There are many temporary employees in the Commonwealth Public Service, but when permanent appointments are made, preference would apply.
– I do not think that the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane) has given a satisfactory answer to the point raised by Senator Brand with respect to paragraph a of sub-clause 5. To my mind, that provision means that if an exserviceman is engaged by an employer at the basic wage, and that man should seek promotion, preference would not then apply, because the man had already been employed. Is that what paragraph a means? Apparently, once a man is given employment, he will be tied to that level, and the Government says, in effect, that as it has found him employment it has finished its job so far. as preference to ex-service personnel is concerned, regardless of whether the employment is a poor and miserable job and on the lowest level.
– He would not have a job if a government supported by honorable senators opposite were in office.
– That is a cheap gibe. Any government which I supported would ensure preference on the basis of rehabilitating ex-service personnel in good positions. But this particular provision denies preference to ex-servicemen in respect of any promotion. The danger is that once having been engaged by an employer, an ex-serviceman will receive no further consideration. Other nonreturned soldier employees may be promoted over his head. I am sure that the Government has not thought of that possibility, and I trust that further consideration will be given to this clause.
– I trust that the Government will note that the question that is being argued in connexion with paragraph a of . sub-clause 5, is a vital one and will take early steps to introduce a regulation clarifying the meaning of this provision, which according to my reading, could mean the very negation of preference to ex-servicemen. If for instance a trade union advertised for a secretary, and a returned soldier applied1 for the position, he could be informed, in accordance with paragraph a of subclause 5, that his claims could not be considered because the organizer of the union, who was not a returned soldier, but who already was in the employ of the organization, was also an applicant for the job. I do not believe that the Government intends that this evasion of the preference provisions should be permitted, but it could happen unless this provision is clarified. The Government apparently is most reluctant to accept an amendment, so that the .clarification of the provision will be left to regulations.
.- The preference provisions of this clause will apply to every engagement of an employee. However, an employer will not be obliged to give preference to returned soldiers if he wishes to engage in another capacity a person already in his employ. Preference applies only to initial em ployment. In the case advanced (by Senator Allan MacDonald, namely, the appointment of a union organizer as secretary of a union in preference to a returned soldier, the action of the employer would appear to me to be a breach of these provisions.
– It could be done as this sub-clause is now drafted.
– I say not.
– The more one studies this clause the more one is convinced that it is one gigantic loophole. In actual practice it will mean that preference to fighting men will be a mockery and a delusion. To me the entire clause is obnoxious. I move -
That the clause be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following clause: - “ Notwithstanding anything contained in any Commonwealth or State legislation, statute, act, regulation or measure, or in any award or industrial agreement, every employer shall give first and complete- preference in employment to any person defined in this Act as member of the Forces ‘ and those who served in the 11)14-18 war. including the Hoya] Australian Navy and the Royal Australian’ Air Force.”
It is a great pity that the Government did not study thoroughly the draft preference bill prepared by the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia. The definitions contained in that measure are clear. If the Government were honest in its desire to give preference in employment to men who have seen active service, it would use that measure as the basis of its preference legislation.
– Order ! The question now before the Chair is that clause 27 stand as printed. The honorable senator will not be able to move his motion until after that question has been determined; but, if he so desires, be may announce his intention of moving for the insertion of his proposed new clause, and he may discuss the merits of that clause.
– In the measure prepared by the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and, Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia there is the groundwork of legislation, which would provide real preference for men and women who have been on active service. The league took great care in drafting that measure, and not long ago an assurance was given by the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) that a bill granting preference to returned soldiers wouldbe introduced. This bill does not give any measure of real preference to returned soldiers. It is a mixture of two things between which there is a distinct difference. I can see trouble brewing if this clause becomes law. One has only to study it line by line to see that it leaves obvious loopholes for any employer, including the Crown, to defeat the intention of the preference provisions, if he so desires. It is grotesque to compare the service of the man who stayed at home, whether he was compelled to do so or not, with that of the man who fought or is still fighting on Bougainville, at Aitape, or elsewhere, suffering, or, perhaps, dying, for us. I am amazed that this clause has been inserted in the bill, because it is a clear invitation to employers to evade their obligations in regard to the granting of preference to returned soldiers. The retention of clause 27 will defeat the entire object for which we have been striving for years. Am I right in assuming, Mr. Chairman, that your ruling means that clause 27 mustbe agreed to by the committee before I can move my amendment, the intention of which is that the present clause should be omitted and a new clause substituted?
– The honorable senator has advanced arguments as to why the existing clause should not be agreed to. If the committee has been influenced by the honorable senator’s argument, it may agree to the deletion of the clause and to the substitution of the proposed new clause.
– I rise to order. Clause 27 commences with the words, “ An employer shall . . . “. I suggest that Senator Sampson would be in order in moving that all the words after “ shall “ be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words contained in the proposed new clause.
– That would be in order.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– There are precedents for accepting an amendment to leave out a clause and insert another clause in its place, and in order to simplify procedure I shall accept Senator Sampson’s amendment in the following form : -
That the clause be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following clause: - “ 27. Notwithstanding anything contained in any Commonwealth or State legislation, statute, act, regulation or measure, or in any award or industrial agreement, every employer shall give first and complete preference in employment to any person defined in this act as ‘ member of the forces ‘ and those who served in the 1914-18 war, including the Royal Australian Navy and the Royal Australian Air Force.”
.- The amendment complies with the requirements of honorable senators on this side of the chamber, namely, that absolute preference be given to ex-servicemen. It does away with all the complications regarding length, locality and the nature of service and the comparative qualifications of applicants. It also disposes of the difficulty in regard to convictions for offences. The Minister, in referring to that provision, ignored clause 28, which is as follows: - (1.) Where any person whom an employer has refused to engage in employment considers that, having regard to the provisions of the last preceding section, the employer should have engaged him in employment, that person may apply to a court of summary jurisdiction constituted by a police, stipendiary or special magistrate for an order under this section. (2.) On the hearing of the application, the court shall have regard to the matters specified in sub-section (3.) or sub-section (4.) (whichever is applicable) of the last preceding section and shall make such order as it thinks just and reasonable in the circumstances.
-What is wrong with that?
– The employer is compelled to overlook any convictions that may have occurred prior to the termination of service of the applicant. Clause 28 continues - (3.) The court shall not, on the hearing of the application, make an order directing an employer to engage a person in employment in any position if the court is satisfied that that person -
The Minister seems to think that the employer is safeguarded in the event of the ex-serviceman applying to the courts. That might be so if the courts were permitted to take cognizance of all circumstances of the case, but they can not do so. Senator Sampson’s amendment clarifies the position. The Government should accept the amendment, which would do everything that is desired without endangering the rights of the employer or of the applicant ex-serviceman.
– I am unable to accept Senator Sampson’s amendment.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be left out (Senator Sampson’s amendment) be left out.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Senator B. Courtice.)
Majority . 8
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 28 agreed to.
Clause 29 (Appeals).
– I draw attention to the complications that will arise from this clause and the preceding clause. An exserviceman who is refused employment has the right to appeal against such refusal to a court of summary jurisdiction, and in the event of his application being rejected, he may be allowed to appeal to the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. These provisions are likely to give rise to a long series of applications to the courts, and an extraordinary amount of trouble and expense will be caused to ex-servicemen who have been refused employment. Probably, in most cases in which an employer refuses to engage an ex-serviceman, the ex-serviceman will apply to the courts against the employer’s decision. If the application is successful, costs will most likely be levied on the defendant employer, but who will pay the costs if the applicant loses the case? A man making such an application would be unlikely to have sufficient money to pay legal and other expenses. In these circumstances, surely the provision for an appeal to a higher court is unnecessary. The procedure set out is a cumbersome method of dealing with a simple matter. I can well imagine an employer being put to the trouble and expense of having to defend himself in two courts. The public ought to know that this bill has been hedged round with restrictions and complications.
– The right of appeal under clause 28 is given solely to the person entitled to preference who has not been granted employment. In other words, it is given mostly to ex-servicemen. The employer is given no right of appeal to the first court, and the need for an appeal does not arise there. Obviously, once a court of inferior jurisdiction has pronounced on the matter, the employee or prospective employee and the employer should both have the right of appeal. If there were to be only one appeal, one of the parties to the dispute would be excluded altogether. I have discussed with the Crown Law Department the fact that there is no explicit provision with regard to costs, in respect of either clause 28 or clause 29. The department’s view, with which I agree, is that both courts would have jurisdiction to award costs if they decided that costs should be granted in favour of or against either party. That matter will be in the jurisdiction of each of the two tribunals.I think that the objection of Senator Leckie may be somewhat modified, if not removed, as a result of what I have said.
. -I take it for granted that the courts would be able to award costs one way or the other, but the man who applies to the court may not be in a position to meet costs that may be awarded against him. I am anxious to save expense to both parties. If disputes could be finally determined in a simple way before a special magistrate, that would be the best way to deal with them, without complications of the kind contained in the bill. In the process of getting a job, a man should not have to go to two courts if he has been refused work in the first instance. My doubt regarding the matter has not been removed. A serviceman might have to wait weeks, if not months, for work, if he had to go to two courts. The second appeal is to the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court, which is already congested with business.
– What right did ex-servicemen have under the legislation sponsored by the Opposition parties?
– They had a right to a job, but under this bill they might have no such right unless they take legal proceedings.
– Compulsion was exercised only with regard to employment in the Commonwealth Public Service.
– After the last war, if a returned soldier had been in employment prior to the war, his employer was compelled to take him back into his former job. Most of those servicemen were older than the majority of those who have served in the present war, and had jobs to which to return; but. many of the young men serving in the present war, have never been in jobs at all.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 30 agreed to.
Clause31- (2.) Each Preference Board shall consist of a chairman, one member to represent persons who have rendered war service, one member to represent employers and one member to represent employees. ( 8. ) Unless in any particular case the Minister is satisfied that it is not practicable, a majority of the members of a Preference Board selected from the panels shall be persons who have been members of the Forces. (10.)A Preference Board shall exercise such powers and functions as are prescribed
– I move -
That, in sub-clause (2.), after the word “service”, the following words be inserted: - both of whom shall nave had war service also, “.
I understand that this’ amendment was submitted to the Government in the House ofRepresentatives and was rejected, but it is of the very essence of the assistance which the ex-serviceman requires.
– Does the Government agree with the opinion expressed by Senator McKenna on an earlier clause that all of the members of the preference boards will be persons entitled to preference. No doubt the members of the boards will be remunerated for their services. If the Minister endorses that view the Opposition need not go further with the amendment. Preference has to be given to ex-servicemen, and Senator McKenna said that all of the members would automatically be returned soldiers. I should like to know the Minister’s opinion before suggesting the withdrawal of the amendment. Is the suggestion of Senator McKenna accepted by the Government?
– During the second reading debate I referred to preference boards, and I do not consider that the amendment goes far enough. I said then, and still believe, that in determining the matter of preference the only kind of persons who should decide it is those who have seen active service. I maintain that the four men to be appointed should be returned soldiers.
The representative of the men who have had war service should be a person nominated by a servicemen’s organization such as the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia. The matter of payment does not arise. I was a member of a preference board after the last war and the members received no remuneration. There were five of us and we were all ex-servicemen. Such a board should be set up under this bill. I regret that the Minister apparently does not intend to adopt any of the suggestions which I made in discussing the second reading of the bill.
.- The amendment is not acceptable to the Government. The position is covered by sub-clause 8, which provides -
Unless in any particular case the Minister is satisfied that it is not practicable, a majority of the members of a Preference Board selected from the panels shall be persons who have been members of the forces.
.- The Minister has not answered by objection. Does he accept the opinion given by Senator McKenna?
– At the moment, no.
– Sub-clause 11 reads -
The members of Preference Boards shall be paid remuneration and allowances at such rates (if any) as the Minister determines.
I do not know whether the words “ if any” relate to the allowances as well as to the remuneration, but I think that they do. It would appear that the members of preference boards are to be paid, and, therefore, this bill ensures that each of them will be a returned member of the forces. Is not that the position?
– .Sub-clause 8 covers that point. It includes the words “ a majority of the members of a Preference Board selected from the panels shall be persons who have been members of the Forces “.
– That does not get over the point that I have raised. Does the Minister accept the opinion of Senator McKenna that, as these are to be paid positions under this legislation, they can be filled only by members of the forces?
That is the question that I want decided, because if that principle be accepted, other amendments which Opposition senators propose to move to this clause may be withdrawn. On the other hand, if the Minister will not be guided by the legal opinion which has been given to the committee, we can only persist with our amendments.
– I suggest that honorable senators opposite persist with them.
.- I agree with Senator McKenna that the persons chosen for these positions must be members of the forces if servicemen have applied for appointment. Other persons are excluded. The Minister for Trade and Customs (.Senator Keane) referred to sub-clause 8 which reads -
Unless in any particular case the Minister is satisfied that it is not’ practicable, a majority of the members of a preference board selected from the panels shall be persons who have been members of the Forces.
As the Minister “will determine how they will be chosen, he will, in practice, choose them. In the circumstances, I can see no reason why the amendment of Senator Cooper which provides that two members of each preference board shall have been a member of the forces cannot be accepted. Senator McKenna’s interpretation is that if they are paid all of them must be ex-servicemen. Sub-clause S has little to do with this matter.
– I hope that the Minister will agree to the amendment. It takes a “ Digger “ to understand “ Diggers “ and their problems. It would be a step in the right direction to have on each preference board two men who actually had had war service. I cannot see any objection to the amendment. Sub-clause 8 contains the words “ unless in any particular case the Minister is satisfied that it is not practicable “ . Why should it not be practicable? There will be thousands of returned servicemen when the war is over. I repeat that it is impossible for any person who has not seen service, particularly front-line service, to understand men who have been through the fiery furnace of war. I ask the Minister to accept the amendment.
– I move -
That, in sub-clause (8. ), the words “a majority of “ be left out.
I referred to this matter in my secondreading speech. I defy the Minister to indicate instances in which it will not be practicable to appoint members of the forces to a preference board, but I am prepared to concede that point, knowing that the Minister will have no choice in the matter. We on this side consider that the persons appointed to decide matters of preference should be men who have experienced the discomfort of war, because they would be more likely than others to come to proper decisions.
. -I move -
That, in sub-clause (10.), after the word “ prescribed “ the following words be added: - “in this Act”.
We are devoting a great deal of time and thought to making the intention of this legislation clear, but the inclusion of the words “ as are prescribed “ leaves the way open for the issue of regulations which will enable the Government to do what it likes. Acceptance of the amendment would safeguard the intention of the Parliament.
– Surely the Minister will give a reason for not agreeing to the amendment. Subclause 10 reads: “A preference board shall exercise such powers and functions as are prescribed “. Those powers and functions will be prescribed by the Minister, who will have authority to make any regulations he likes. The object of the amendment is to ensure that the regulations shall be in comformity with this legislation. I am aware that clause 136 gives power to repeal, amend, or add to, any of the provisions of this legislation ; but, in the meantime, it is only fair to provide that a preference board shall exercise only such powers and functions as are in accordance with this legislation. The amendment will not diminish the power of the Minister, and therefore. I cannot see what objection can be raised to it.
.- The amendment is not needed. The legal effect of the sub-clause is the same as if the amendment were agreed to.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 32 (Registration of certain persons entitled to preference).
– This clause will sabotage the whole of this legislation, and make it of no use at all. It is not a clause which can be amended ; it is so bad that it ought to be deleted entirely. It takes away fromthe returned fighting man all the benefits of any other part of this legislation, and puts him in the ruck with every one else. Under this clause all sorts of other persons may become entitled to the same rights as men who have fought. The declared object of the Government is to grant benefits to returned servicemen, and therefore, even at this late hour, I appeal to the Minister (Senator Keane) not to do anything which will deprive fighting men of benefits to which they are entitled. I cannot understand why such a provision should have been included in the bill at all. It should be deleted.
.- This is the clause to which the Minister for the Interior (Senator Collings) referred when he said that every one in the community has taken some part in the war. This clause is associated with the Government’s policy of “ employment for all “, and means that persons engaged in the production of food, coal, or other materials required for war purposes, shall be entitled to the same rights as the bill confers on those who have experienced all the risks and discomforts of active war service. As Senator Leckie says this clause will nullify the benefits of the whole bill. This is, allegedly, a bill to provide preference to ex-service personnel, but the clause specifically provides preference to civilians, that is, to the whole community; and, judging by the remarks of the Minister for the Interior last night, that is the intention of the Government.
. -As the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Senator Leckie) has pointed, out, the clause destroys the principle ofl preference to ex-service” personnel, because it means that any person can put up a case for preference to a regional preference hoard, and, if necessary, appeal from the decision of that board to the central preference board. As the Minister for the Interior (Senator Collings) implied, the Government’s idea is that everybody who has been doing war work of soma nature or other is entitled to preference, and in respect of a total war such a provision is almost limitless. Therefore, the clause should be deleted.
. - If ever a clause were designed to nullify a measure, that is obviously the purpose of this clause, because it waters down preference to ex-service personnel to such a degree that all classes of persons who have rendered some form of war service, even in the remotest degree, may apply to a regional preference board to qualify for these benefits in respect of their alleged war service. So wide is this watering down process, that it makes the bill a sham so far as preference to ex-service personnel is concerned. Even “ Balance-sheet “ Thornton can claim preference under this clause. He went abroad as a representative of the Australasian Council of Trade Unions, and during his journey entered, certain danger zones. On that basis, he can claim that he has rendered war service. It seems lamentable that we should have such a provision in a bill which, it is claimed, has for its purpose the provision of preference in employment to ex-service personnel, particularly those who have been in the firing line. I hope that a vote will be taken on the clause.
– The Minister (Senator Keane) in his second-reading speech said -
The preference scheme of the Government is notable for two things in particular. First, it is the first nation-wide scheme of general preference-
Not particular preference - attempted by any Government in this or any other country during this or any other war. Sufficient credit has not been given to the Government for this contribution.
Credit cannot be given to the Government, because this clause absolutely nullifies the principle of preference to ex-service personnel.
, - I also press for the deletion of this clause. I believe in straight-out preference to ex-service personnel. Preference is to be provided to all men and women who have rendered war service, but this provision absolutely nullifies the preference to which the returned man is entitled. Unfortunately, the measure will become law, because the Government has a majority in both chambers. In this instance, we are handing over the destiny of our ex-servicemen, and through them the destiny of our nation, to the “brilliant intellects “ whose records make the grimmest reading since the time of Ethelred the Unready. I refer to the professors whose scorchedearth policy has ruined our rural industries, and will just as certainly ruin our secondary industries.
3.6 ). - I fail to see why honorable senators opposite are so perturbed about this clause. I am sure that they would not suggest that men who have suffered the horrors of bombings at Port Moresby and Darwin, and members of organizations, such as the .Salvation Army, who have run risks in order to provide comforts for our fighting men in operational areas are not entitled to the benefits of this measure.
– The Minister knows that we do not object to their inclusion under the measure.
– I was amazed to hear Senator Allan MacDonald refer to a trade union leader as “ Balance-sheet “ Thornton.
– He is the head of the militants.
– I should like to know why honorable senators opposite failed to show so much consideration for preference to ex-service personnel when appointing the general secretary of their party organization at a salary of £2,000 a year. They did not appoint a returned soldier to that position. Honorable senators opposite should cease to be hypocritical in this matter. This measure is above party politics. I appeal to honorable senators opposite to forget about party politics in considering it. We should approach this measure solely in an endeavour to see whether we can improve it, and not with the purpose of obtaining some party political advantage. I ask honorable senators opposite to enumerate the classes of persons whom they say are not entitled to be included. Under this measure, the people to whom they have already referred are only given the right to prove to a preference board that they have served in a theatre of war and been exposed to the same dangers as those to which service personnel are exposed. I ask honorable senators opposite to indicate the classes of persons whom they say should be excluded from the measure.
– The Minister for Supply and Shipping (Senator Ashley), without a blush, has asked whether the Opposition wants to exclude from the benefits of the bill men who have served in the forces at Port Moresby or Darwin. Those are the very people whose rights we wish to preserve. Our objection is that the rights of persons who ha ve served at Port Moresby and Darwin are being swamped in a welter of outside organizations, because this clause permits all classes of persons to qualify for the benefits provided under the measure. It states that a person becomes entitled to the benefits of this division “ having regard to the service performed by him in relation to the war”. That means that a person who worked in a munitions factory, turning out shells and explosives for the forces, or was engaged servicing vehicles for the use of the forces, or was engaged in the manufacture of blankets or other goods for the troops, or in the supply of foodstuffs of any kind to the troops, can claim the benefits of the measure. We object to that provision. If the Government wishes to give a secondary preference to persons coming within those categories let it’ do so; but the greatest defect of this measure is that by giving preference to everybody it does not give real preference to anybody. As the Minister for the Interior (Senator Collings) said last night, the Government’s view is that every man and woman in the country has taken some part in the war; and, clearly, the bill is intended to include every man and woman in the community. Therefore, the Minister for Supply and Shipping is unconvincing when lie nobly springs to his feet to support his leader in this policy of negation of preference by swamping ex-service personnel among a host of other people. The Opposition is fighting to preserve the rights of the very people whom the Minister implied that we wished to exclude from the bill. We are only too willing to insert in the measure in plain and unmistakable language that preference shall apply to the persons to whom he referred, so long as they were in uniform and did their jobs. The Minister declared with horror and indignation that we would refuse preference to men who served at Port Moresby and Darwin. That was the burden of his song.
– Tell us about the Opposition party’s action in appointing a man, who was not a returned soldier, to be secretary of the party at a salary of £2,000 a year.
– I realize just how anxious the Minister for Supply and Shipping and his colleagues are because of the progress that is being made by the Liberal party in all States. However, his interjection leaves me cold. Obviously, he and his friends opposite are beginning to fear that the people of this country are becoming tired of being pushed around and may soon make demands upon the Government.
– The Acting Leader of the Opposition and his colleagues artconcerned only with big business and profits.
– There, the Minister is becoming anxious again.
– Order ! There is no mention of profits in the clause now under discussion.
– But it does mention benefits, and- sometimes it is difficult to distinguish between benefits and profits. I ask the Minister for Supply and Shipping this very plain question : Does the Government intend that the benefits of this legislation should be extended to men who have worked in munitions factories, wharf labourers who loaded ships with raw materials, >and other civilians? If these people are not to be included, well and good. We shall know where we stand; but if this clause means what it appears to honorable senators on this side of the chamber to mean, we shall understand that the Government is deliberately sabotaging the object of this legislation.
– This clause relates to clause 4 in which “ war service “ is defined. It will be recalled that when clause 4 was before the committee, I moved an amendment seeking the specific inclusion of the Salvation Army, Australian Red Cross Society and other organizations of that kind ; but the Government rejected that amendment, with the result that the door is left wide open for the inclusion of all and sundry. Can the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane) say whether any machinery is in existence or is likely to be provided, to guide these boards in determining what individuals or organizations shall be entitled to preference?
.- Of necessity, members of the boards will have a thorough knowledge of this legislation. They will be guided by the definitions contained in clause 4. And who will constitute the boards? They will consist largely of returned soldiers.
.- The Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane) has said that this clause would be read in conjunction with clause 4, in which “war service” is defined, inter alia, as -
When the Minister says that clause 32 is governed by clause 4, and that in conjunction these clauses mean something other than what we are able to read into them, he is deceiving the committee. That explanation is not good enough. I do not know why the Government should be so tender on this matter. I have asked a simple question: Is it the intention of the Government that munitions employees, wharf labourers and so on should come within the provisions of this bill? Why will the Minister not give a plain answer to that question?
Question put -
That the clause stand as printed.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Senator B. Courtice.)
Ma jority . . . . 8
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Motion (by Senator Keane) agreed’ to-
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn to Tuesday next, at 3 p.m.
Motion (by Senator Keane) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I take this opportunity to express the gratification of members of the Opposition at the fact that the Acting Prime Minister (Mr.Chifley) has been appointed a member of the Privy Council by the King. I ask the Leader of the Senate (Senator Keane) to convey to the Acting Prime Minister our heartiest congratulations and our expression of pleasure. Everybody respects the Acting Prime Minister, and most of us havea special feeling of respect for him.
– My attention has been drawn to an article written by Mr. Massey Stanley which appeared in the Sydney Daily Telegraph yesterday under the heading. “ Mrs. Pedvin’s Eviction is Not Parish Politics”. I have had occasion previously to draw the attention of the Senate to newspaper articles which are grossly inaccurate, evasive, and untrue. In this case, the author of the article has taken particular pains, in the usual newspaper fashion, to abuse the Government and has gone out of his way to mention myself. If I were permitted to use the Australian vernacular in this chamber, I would say to the writer, and whoever else is responsible for publishing the article, that they are bloody liars. I could say that they are scurrilous liars, because the accuracy of the statements made regarding me could easily have been checked. It was stated that I had been absent from Canberra at a time when I should have been here. With the exception of some week-ends, I have not been away from Canberra since the 12th February, and I have attended to every job that has been assigned to me. The Daily Telegraph, in its usual scurrilous fashion, villified me as a member of the Senate, and tried to mislead the people by suggesting, first, that I am holding some job which I do not hold, second, that I am not attending to that job, and third, that I have not been in Canberra when I ought to have been here. Since the 12th February, I have been absent from Canberra on eleven days, five of which were Sundays. I have never been absent during the meetings of the Senate. I object to the tactics adopted by the Daily Telegraph and the man who wrote the article.
– What did the article say?
– It said a lot of things. It said that I was a member of the committee which inquired into the Pedvin case, whereas I am not a member of that body. One paragraph stated -
Each time questions have been asked about the investigation, the answerhas been that it was difficult to assemble the committee because Mr. Pollard was in SanFrancisco and Senator O’Flaherty “ absent from Canberra”. No reference is ever made to the suggested compromise which showed that the case could have been settled before the two Labour members went away.
The article is in keeping with the practice of this and other newspapers which use every means of villifying the Government. In this case, the article tends to mislead the public, and, particularly my constituents, into believing that I am neglecting my duties, and I object strongly to that. At first, after reading the article, I intended to submit a motion to the Senate seeking to bring the writer before the Senate for contempt. However, this explanation should be sufficient to make him more accurate in future.
– I join with the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Senator Leckie) in complimenting the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) on the honour which has been bestowed upon him by the King. We are all gratified that he has been accorded this distinction, because we know that he is worthy of it.
I ask the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Senator Ashley) to supply me with some information in the light of an answer given by the Acting Minister for the Army (Senator Fraser) to a question which I asked yesterday regarding the reported deterioration of tyres and. parts of Army motor vehicles assembled at a large motor vehicle park in the district of Nungarin, in Western Australia. The Acting Minister for the Army informed me that certain repairs had to be made to the vehicles. I now ask the Minister for Supply and Shipping what procedure is adopted by his department in handling the vehicles after they have been declared surplus by the Army. The Acting Minister for the Army indicated that certain repairs are carried out by the Army, but I have been informed that, after vehicles have been disposed of by the Commonwealth Disposal’s Commission, further repairs and inspections have to be made by private traders, who charge a fee for the service, lender what regulation are the traders allowed to make these charges and carry out repairs if the Army authorities have already effected repairs?
– The honorable senator must have misunderstood me. I did not say that the Army carried out repairs before the vehicles were taken over by the Disposals Commission.
Senator ALLAN MacDONALD.That is what I (understood the Minister to say, and my impression is confirmed by reading in Hansard the report of the honorable gentleman’s answer. The point at issue is that if the vehicles are in a state of repair when they reach the traders, it should not be necessary for further repairs or inspections to be made. This practice enables traders to charge more than the ceiling price fixed for the vehicles by adding charges for repairs and inspections. There seems to be some overlapping of work. There should be as little delay as possible in disposing of the vehicles to the public. They are needed by private owners and, furthermore, the weather conditions in Western Australia are highly detrimental to the rubber tyres.
– This afternoon Senator Sampson asked me, as Minister representing the Minister for Air, the following questions, upon notice -
The Minister for Air has now supplied the following answers : -
.- I have already congratulated the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) on the honour conferred upon him by the King in appointing him a member of the Privy Council. However, Senator Cooper and I, representing the Australian County party in this chamber, desire to be associated, with the expressions which the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Senator Leckie) has asked the Leader of the Senate (Senator Keane) to convey to the Acting Prime Minister. Mr. Chifley 13 held in the highest esteem by all honorable senators. He is doing a difficult job under strenuous conditions, and doing it remarkably well. When a man is doing his work well it is our duty to tell him that we recognize and appreciate it.
.–On behalf of the Leader of the Senate (‘Senator Keane) I express appreciation of the congratulations of the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Senator Leckie) and Senators Allan MacDonald and Gibson upon the appointment of the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) as a Privy Councillor. I am sure that their pleasure is shared by the people of Australia generally. I shall have pleasure in conveying the congratulations of honorable senators to the right honorable gentleman.
– In conformity with the sessional order that, unless otherwise ordered, the motion for adjournment shall he put, on Fridays, at 3.45 p.m., I formally put the question -
That the Senate da now adjourn.
Question resolved in the negative.
– Reference has been made by Senator Allan MacDonald to the disposal of Army motor vehicles which he said were repaired at the Army depots, but I suppose that he was referring only .to running repairs. It is generally thought by the public,’ and even by some members of the Parliament, that when motor vehicles are declared surplus, representatives of the Commonwealth Disposals Commission can go to an Army depot and drive away, say, a thousand vehicles. That is not the position. All ofl those vehicles have to be accounted for. A record is taken of the numbers of the engines, and particu- lars about the condition of the tyres are also, recorded before the vehicles can be made available to the commission. As Senator Allan MacDonald remarked, they are disposed of through the trade. When they are in good order there is no need for expenditure on repairs, as far as the trade is concerned; but in many cases they have deteriorated to such a degree, or have been damaged so seriously in accidents, that they have to he used for spare parts.
Particulars of vehicles at Nungarin, Western Australia, as at the 20th May lust are as follows: -
The position as at the 6th June was as follows : -
Government instrumentalities have the first claim on these vehicles, and some of them were released before ‘being sent to the traders for sale. The vehicles remaining in the park include the following types:’ 8-cwt., 12-cwt., 15-cwt., 1-ton, 1-i-ton, and 3-ton trucks. The commission is disposing of approximately 1,000 vehicles weekly in Australia, and, up to the present, 75 per cent, of them have been sold in rural areas. Consideration has been given to the fact that motor vehicles are urgently required by people on the land. With the co-operation of the Army authorities everything -possible is being done to make these vehicles available to the public as soon as possible.
– What about the vehicles left in the park at Nungarin?
–They are undergoing transf er to -new owners at present.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
National Security Act - National Security ( Rationing,) Regulations - Orders - Nos. 87-91.
Senate adjourned at 8.50 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 15 June 1945, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1945/19450615_senate_17_183/>.