17th Parliament · 3rd Session
The President (Senator theHon. Gordon Brown) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
“GO SLOW” POLICY.
Senator McLEAY. - Has the Acting Leader of the Senate (Senator Ashley) read a report in this morning’s press headed, “Union’s Go Slow Fines held illegal “. If so, will he make a statement to the Senate on the matter prior to its adjournment to-day. The report is as follows : -
In a reserved judgment to-day the Arbitration Court said that union executives should refrain from issuing orders that decent men found impossible to obey, if they expected their decisions to be observed.
The judgment criticised the go-slow policy of the Federated Boilermakers’ Association.
Fines of £10 imposed on tour men by their union for exceeding the daily quota of 171 rivets per man were ruled to be illegal.
In view of the importance of this matter, and the serious effect that the application of such a policy to the galvanized iron industry would have, if the report be correct, will the Government, under National Security Regulations, intern or deport those responsible for such a dastardly action?
Senator ASHLEY. - In view of the length of the question, it would be hardly possible for me to make a statement on the matter this morning. I want all the relevant facts placed before me. I do not suggest that the press report ia incorrect, but many statements which appear in the newspapers are incorrect. This report may be an exception. I presume that it is accurate, but if the Leader of the Opposition were , in my position I do not think he would be ready to make a statement on the matter before the Senate adjourns to-day. I do not propose to make any statement regarding it.
Senator JAMES McLACHLAN. - Will the Minister representing the Minister for Information make inquiries as to whether the press report read by the Leader of the Opposition is correct? Press reports of this kind cannot be brushed aside lightly ; they must be either true or untrue.
Senator ASHLEY. - I shall convey the honorable senator’s request to the Minister for Information, or the appropriate Minister, but I doubt whether either will be interested in the matter.
– Is the Minister for Supply and Shipping in a position to say when the turbine steamer Taroona is likely to be restored to the Bass Strait service? It is now under repair and overhaul, and in view of the fact that many passengers are now awaiting transport between Tasmania and the mainland, will the Minister investigate the position, if he has not already done so?
– Owing to the acute shipping shortage, no vessel is laid up for repairs unless such action is absolutely necessary. The honorable senator would be the last to suggest that a Vessel which is not seaworthy should continue in service. Vessels are held up” only when . such a course is essentia] in the interests of the safety of passengers and crew.
– I think that the Minister has misunderstood me. It is recognized that the Taroona had to go into dock for a complete overhaul. My question was asked in order to ascertain what period is likely to elapse before the vessel will be restored to the Bass . Strait service.
– I shall endeavour to obtain the information asked for, and will let the honorable senator know how long the repairs to the Taroona are expected to take.
– Is the Acting Leader of the Senate in a position to make a statement regarding the business of the Senate so that honorable senators may make arrangements for their future movements? At present there appears to be a lack of business for us to consider.
– I have conferred with the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Mcleay) on this subject and have informed him what business the Government expects to transact within the next two weeks. At my suggestion, he has agreed that the Senate, at its rising today, shall adjourn until the 2nd April. The lack of business is not peculiar to this Government; similar conditions have occurred in the past. I. well’ remember that, when sitting in Opposition, I and other honorable senators frequently had to wait because of lack of sufficient business to enable the sittings to be continuous. The proposed adjournment will obviate such waiting, and honorable senators will be able to attend to other duties elsewhere.
asked the Minister representing’ the Treasurer, upon nobir.p. -
Will the Treasurer inform the Senate: -
What was the total income tax collections from each State for the year 1944-45?
What allocations were made to each State by the Commonwealth for the year 1944-45?
– The Treasurer has supplied the following answers: -
In accordance with the terms of that Act, the total of the above amounts was reduced in 1944-45 by £823,000 representing arrears of State income tax collected by or on behalf of the States during that year, whilst an a mount of £553,000, representing further financial assistance under the States Grants (Income Tax Reimbursement) Act 1942, was paid to South Australia in respect of 1944-45.
In addition, of course, there were in 1944-45 other direct payments by the Commonwealth to the States amounting to £15,223,000.
asked the Minister for Supply and Shipping, upon notice -
Will the Minister supply the Senate with the following information : - (a.) The number of distilleries established throughout Australia for the production of power alcohol?
The situation of these distilleries.
The total cost of each distillery? (d.) The total production of power alcohol to date from all such distilleries?
The actual cost per gallon of power alcohol, including the capital costs of buildings, material, labour, &c. ?
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows : -
The answers that I have given are based on the assumption that the honorable Senator is referring to the Commonwealth-owned distilleries. There are distilleries owned and operated by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company at Sydney and Melbourne and one atSarina, Queensland, owned and operated by the Australian National Power Alcohol Company, as well as some small “ wet” alcohol distilleries associated with wine distilleries.
Debate resumed from the 14th March (vide page 282), on motion by Senator McLeay -
That, in the opinion of the Senate, the present acute housing shortage and the problem of rehabilitating ex-servicemen are being aggravated by the persistent series of industrial strikes and disputes and the lack of effort on the part of the Chifley Government to combat industrial lawlessness.
– I welcome the motion of the Leader of the. Opposition (Senator McLeay), particularly that portion of it dealing with the housing shortage. This is a grave matter, and full public discussion of it is essential. The shortage of homes exists, not only in a few States, but in all parts of the Commonwealth. I listened carefully to speeches made in the course of this debate by honorable senators opposite only to find that the majority of them avoided the main issue. They talked extensively about what should have been done in the construction of homes during the depression years of 1929 onwards. The PostmasterGeneral (Senator Cameron) delivered a lecture on the disadvantages of private ownership of homes, claiming that these dwellings were paid for many times over by the occupants. The honorable senator also told a long story about an elderly gentleman in Melbourne who made a fortune by purchasing slum dwellings, but eventually died in one of them. The Minister also eulogized the Government’s housing plan; but talk is of little use in the face of such a serious problem. Talking will not produce one more dwelling. The Government has set a housing target for the year 1945-46, but it is evident that actual construction will fall far short of the target. It is that aspect of the matter with which the Opposition and many thousands of homeless people throughout Australia are con1 cerned. To-day, families are sharing inadequate dwellings, and living unhygienically under conditions akin to those associated with slums. This occurs in every State. People are using whatever sort of shelter they can get; some live in garages, others in tents, and I read a few days ago of a family living in a motor car. This family bought the morning newspapers as soon as they were issued and answered advertisements offering accommodation, only to find that other house-hunters had preceded them. This position was evaded by Ministers and Government supporters. The people are concerned about obtaining homes now, not about what happened years ago or about some wonderful plan that the Government may have for building homes in the future. They want to have roofs over their heads and some security of tenure. The official estimate is that 33,000 homes are required in Queensland alone. The Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lazzarini) stated in his report that, for the year 1944-45, 496 homes had been completed or were under construction. The target figure was l,855. So there was a tremendous lag for that year alone. A statement issued by the Department of Postwar Reconstruction on the 28th February, 1946, disclosed that only 299 houses were built in Queensland under the government housing scheme from April, 1944, to December, 1945. That figure referred to completed houses and did not include those under construction. There fore the figure of 496 mentioned by the Minister is misleading.
– That would include privately built houses as well.
– I hope so, because otherwise the discrepancy between the two figures is very great. At any rate, only299 houses were completed under the Government’s housing scheme. The Queensland statistician, Mr. Colin Clark, estimates that the requirements of Queensland will not be satisfied before 1960. What are the homeless people to do during the next fourteen years? If we have to wait until 1960 before we catch up with our housing needs, there will be a revolution amongst those who are unable to obtain homes. The Commonwealth Housing Commission estimates that it will be necessary to build80,000 houses a year to overcome the shortage within a reasonable period. I know that large numbers of houses are being built by private contractors, but I am referring to the official figures of the Housing Commission. The problem is vast and it is necessary to have some body such as the Housing Commission to take control of the situation and direct materials to the places where they are most needed and ensure that each State has a fair share of available supplies. Prior to the war, the War Service Homes Commission, which has done great work since its establishment after the 1914-18 war, was responsible for building a number of houses. However, the figures given in its report for the year 1944-45, which was tabled in the Senate a few days ago, are not encouraging. The report stated that the number of ‘applications for war service homes received over the whole Commonwealth during the year was 3,519. The number of applications approved was 294, and the number actually placed under construction was 72. The number still under construction at the 30th June was 64. There appears to be a bottleneck somewhere, seeing that of about 3,500 applications for homes, only 294 were approved and only 72 houses were under construction in the whole of the Commonwealth. The commission has completed 21,379 houses since its establishment, but in a year when the shortage of homes is most acute it has built only eight houses. I understand from a statement by the Deputy Commissioner of War Service Homes in Queensland .that from the 1st July, 1945, to the 30th June, 1946, he expects that 100 homes will be constructed in that State. That will not go far to met the deficiency, as thousands of men and women are being discharged from the fighting services. I understand that the number of discharges in Queensland alone in the last month has been about 2,000 a week. Many ex-service men and women are needing homes badly. They have the necessary cash with which to purchase or pay deposits on land or dwellings. You, Mr. President, as well as I, have been interviewed by men and women who have nearly walked the soles off their boots in looking for homes or housing accommodation of any kind.
There is a great shortage of building materials in Queensland. The buyer for a large warehouse in that State recently asked me to help him to secure nails. He told me that the total supply he had been able to get for some weeks past was only two cases a week. Disabilities of that kind are most irritating, and are causing much difficulty amongst homeseekers. There is also a great shortage of kitchen sinks, stoves, baths, piping, taps and other domestic hardware, as well as fibro sheets for building purposes. Of course, the shortage is largely due to the aftermath of the war. Referring to a remark made by Senator Armstrong, I appreciate the enormous demand at present for building materials.
– I asked whether it is a fact that more homes are being built now than ever before in the history of the Commonwealth.
– I doubt whether there are. It is hoped that more homes will be built, but they are not now under construction. The Government must share the responsibility for the shortage of houses, because of its mismanagement and the lack of proper organization and co-operation on the industrial front. The Government has been elected to govern in the interests of the whole of the people, and not in the interests of only a section of them. It has allowed a section of the workers to direct government policy. It has not disciplined the extremist section of +l, r industrial movement, but it has allowed that section to discipline the Government and “ get away with “ its extremist policy, which has acted to the detriment of the great masses of the people. I allude to the strikes in New South Wales, which have a great bearing on the present shortage of houses. The strike of the ironworkers at Port .Kembla on the 23rd September, 1945, when 7,000 men, representing fifteen trade unions, stopped work, im mediately made it impossible for the target set by the Government to be reached. That strike spread to the works of Lysaghts Newcastle Works Proprietary Limited and the Commonwealth Rolling Mills Proprietary Limited, which were producing wire for the manufacture of nails. That is how the serious shortage of nails commenced.
– The shortage was felt throughout the war.
– No. Plenty of nails could bc purchased twelve months ago. The acute shortage occurred when the mills making wire ceased to operate. It will take some time to overtake that shortage. It will not be overtaken next week or next month, and in the meantime there will be insufficient stocks to enable a progressive housing programme to be proceeded with. On the 30th October, the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited paid off a number of men because of a shortage of coal resulting from stoppages on the coal-fields. It is, unfortunately, true that a dispute in one industry affects other industries also. On the 3rd December members of the Miners Federation and the Seamens Union held stop-work meetings and called on members to strike in support of the steel-workers. That principle is definitely wrong. There is an Arbitration Court to which the unions could have applied for redress. These men must have known that their action would cause a great deal of inconvenience, and, in many instances hardship, to other loyal, hard-working citizens. By the end of the year the estimated loss to the Australian national economy was loss of employment to approximately 500,000 workers and loss of wages amounting to approximately £15,000,000. In Sydney alone registrations for relief were made in respect of 42,500 workers. In addition, there was loss of export trade through ships being held up and of at least 500,000 tons of coal. Those losses did not include losses and inconvenience to the citizens of other States, although it is well known that the effects of a strike in one State are felt, either directly or indirectly, throughout the Commonwealth. That is true particularly of strikes affecting such key materials as coal and iron. As far distant as Queensland and “Western Australia people felt acutely the effect of strikes in New South Wales, and to-day the housing programme is still feeling the effects of those disturbances.
– Does the honorable senator blame the Government for that strike?
– An early settlement of the trouble was the responsibility of the Commonwealth Government.
– Had the honorable senator been a member of the Government when that strike took place, what would he have done?
– I am not a member of the Government. It is the duty of the Government of the day to govern the country or to get out of office. The trouble to which I have referred was not something which occurred suddenly; it had been creeping on us for a number of years. It cannot be said that the Commonwealth Government had no control of the coal industry.
– Previous governments which the honorable senator supported did not have much success in their attempts to control the coal-mining industry.
– I am looking forward, not backward. I want to know what is being done now, and what is contemplated to be done in the future, to provide houses for the people. An early settlement of the trouble at Port Kembla would have had a great influence on the building programme for the whole of Australia, and I maintain that the Commonwealth Government had a responsibility in the matter. It failed to do its duty.
– How could the Government have settled that dispute?
– It is not for me to answer that question; I have not the facilities that the Government had at its disposal to deal with the dispute. I repeat that, in my opinion, more could have been done than was done. The Government must, therefore, accept its share of the blame for the acute housing shortage that now exists.
Senator MeKENNA (Tasmania) [11.11]. - I was struck by the comparative diffidence with which the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) embarked upon his speech in support of his motion. Knowing the honorable senator’s broad kindliness, I took it that he was concerned not to hurt the feelings of honorable senators on this side of the chamber. To my surprise, Senator James McLachlan, at the inception of his remarks, tendered an apology for participating in the debate, and I took it that hp. too. was actuated by the same gentlemanly and tender feeling for honorable senators on this side. I readily accept Senator James McLachlan’s apology, and I believe ‘that other honorable senators on this side will be gracious enough to join with me in doing so. The truth is now out; it now appeai’3 that the Opposition is, in fact, without a case, and therefore its members have made a poor attempt to fabricate one. Judging by the tenor of the debate so far, I should say that the Opposition has very little heart in continuing it. I have been prompted, if not inspired, to enter into the debate by a remark made by the Leader of the Opposition. In the course of his speech he said, “ The Liberal party stands for arbitration “. I agree with that statement. The Liberal party certainly stands, but it stands motionless; and it has so stood for the past seventeen years. I propose to review briefly some portions of the history of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act. I do so for two reasons: First, it enables me to make a comparison between the attitudes of the Labour party and the liberal party in their approach to that legislation; and, secondly, it is a very convenient way for me to deal with certain grave defects in our arbitration legislation. Going back to the beginning, I mention briefly the difficulty which any federal government faces owing to the very severe limitations placed upon its power in relation to industrial matters. This Parliament, regardless of what government occupies the treasury bench, has to face the position that it has no control over industrial matters generally, conditions of employment or disputes as such. Its power is really confined to _ arbitration and conciliation in relation to some classes of disputes, namely, those that are interstate in character. And even the methods that this Parliament may pursue are confined in fact in their application solely to the prevention or settlement of such interstate industrial disputes. Once the Commonwealth Parliament is so restricted it may not branch out into dealing at large with matters affecting industry. Its lack of power in this matter is not understood by the workers, or by the people of- Australia ; and that very limitation upon the Commonwealth’s power is itself a potent cause of industrial unrest, if not, perhaps, the chief cause, because the workers, not understanding that constitutional limitation, and not being in a position to understand it, keep on asking why the Commonwealth Parliament does not do this or do that, when in fact the Commonwealth Parliament has not power to do the things that the workers are demanding. The best comment that I have heard upon our lack of constitutional power was made some time ago in this Parliament by a prominent member who had this to say - and . I think that it is the best presentation of the case that up to date I have heard - lt seems curious, looking back on the matter at this stage, that the Constitution should have conferred upon this Parliament power to control the problems of customs and excise, power to control the whole fiscal policy of the continent, and made it an exclusive power, and yet, at the same time, should have refrained from granting to this Parliament power, the ancillary power, as 1 would have thought, to deal with the wages that should bo paid and the conditions that should be observed in the great industries which were bound to be established and fostered under the fiscal policy of the country. . . . That anomaly is one which will continue to exist until more effective treatment of it is made possible by giving complete industrial power to the Commonwealth of Australia. “With almost every word of that very excellent statement I find myself in com plete accord. “Where I differ is in giving complete industrial power to the Commonwealth. I believe that there should be a limitation - that this Parliament should not be in a position to direct labour, or to conscript it. The right honorable gentleman who uttered those words on the 22nd ^November, 1938, was the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives (Mr. Menzies). I trust that the lead that he has given to the nation and to his own party in this matter will be followed by his own followers at large, and in particular by his colleagues in this chamber. Recently, the Mercury, of Hobart - and for the information of honorable senators, in case the fame of that newspaper has not spread to this place, it is a daily newspaper published in Hobart - advanced a very progressive view on the subject of industrial power. It sought an expression of opinion upon its leading article from me, and I furnished a comment. I included in my comment the extract from the speech of the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives which I have just quoted. I record the fact that that portion of my comment was completely excluded from the press report. It may be, qf course, that the newspaper was in difficulty about space.
I propose to review, first, the approach of the Opposition party to the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act. I propose to go back to 1930, bearing in mind what the Leader of the Opposition in this chamber said towards the conclusion of his speech when he stated, “ There should be 99 per cent, conciliation. There istoo much court “. With that sentiment I entirely agree. Let me now trace th« h1’ story of the honorable senator’s party, keeping that thought in mind. In 1930, the Scullin Government, which had a brief reign from 1929 to 1932, embarked upon amendments to the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act. At that time, although the Scullin Government had a majority in the House of Representatives, it had a hostile majority against it in this chamber, the latter majority comprising members of the party which constitutes the present Opposition, although it was then known by another name, and, I think, has enjoyed, several other names in the interval. A very comprehensive bill to amend the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act was introduced by the Scullin Government. It was debated for months. It was a highly contentious measure. It passed on several occasions between the Bouse of Representatives and the Senate, and provoked one of the very few occasions upon which there has been a conference of Managers from both chambers. The bill had an exceedingly difficult and tortuous passage. Thirty amendments were moved in the Senate. Those amendments, I say without hesitation, completely emasculated the act, and were responsible, and still are responsible, for the grave problem of industrial unrest in Australia to-day. Any . honorable senator who cares to follow the passage of that legislation will find a complete record in Bills of the Senate, 1929-31, at pages 1200 to 1213. I have no intention of traversing the whole of the 30 amendments made by the Senate. I select four as being typical and as supporting my point that the Opposition party, then in a majority in the Senate, and now in Opposition, completely emasculated industrial arbitration in this country. The bill introduced by the Scullin Government provided that there should be appointed an unlimited number of conciliation commissioners. The Senate restricted that number to three. I now draw particular attention to the statement of the present Leader of the Opposition . that he is in favour of 99 per cent, conciliation; and that, of course, involves an ample number of conciliation commissioners armed with adequate power and in a position to deal instantly with disputes in their initial stages. So much for the attitude of the Opposition in this matter, then and now. Secondly, on that occasion in 1930 the Senate insisted upon the incorporation in section 1 Se of a brand new clause 31a. Not only did the Opposition majority limit the number of conciliation commissioners ; it also provided that the decisions of those commissioners should not be final. It said that there should be an appeal to the Arbitration Court in three respects, namely where a matter of wages was involved^ where a matter of hours was concerned, or any condition of employment which in the opinion of the court was likely to affect the public interest. The first two matters are fundamental in industrial relationships; and the third provision is a drag-net provision as wide as the world. Thus, in effect, the* Senate insisted upon an appeal from the conciliation commissioners to the Arbitration Court; and, thirdly, not satisfied with that, it amended section 31 to provide for an appeal to the High Court not only in respect of questions of law arising in any arbitration proceedings but also questions of fact. There have been noteworthy instances within the last few years where matters of fact in industrial disputes have proceeded right through to the High Court. I again repeat the statement of the Leader of the Opposition that there is “ too much ‘ court in arbitration “. I agree with that view; but I point out that the blame for that position rests upon the present Opposition and its predecessors in this chamber. Responsibility for the fact that, there is unending litigation in industrial matters, with undue delays drawing out proceedings for months, and the fact that unions are involved in the Arbitration Court arid its incidental tribunals in vast expenditure lies entirely -at the door of the party now known as the Liberal party. I could recite many instances showing how union after union has approached the Arbitration Court and has been obliged to pursue litigation along the long and tortuous road deliberately set up by the Senate at the time to which I refer. And many unions have fallen by the way because they have been unable to meet the cost involved in the proceedings with their arrays of barristers, and have been unable to bear the expense of following their claim to its conclusion. Unions have been obliged to incur costs before commissioners and the court, and costs arising, ultimately, in respect of appeals to the High Court. There lies one of the potent causes of industrial unrest in Australia to-day, and it has been at the root of many of the troubles experienced in recent years. My fourth point in relation to that act and the actions of the Senate is a small one, but it is important because it shows the illiberal approach of the Liberal party- to the problem, of arbitration. The Scullin. Government. proposed, to extend from six months to twelve, months the period within which an employee could recover back wages. The Senate contestedthe proposal hotly, and. reduced the period to nine months.I confess that I have never been able to understand whythere should be a limit of even, twelve months on claims of that kind. I seeno reason why they should not be in the same category as any other debts contracted in the com- munity, with the Statute of Limitations applying, only atthe end of six years. The roots of industrial unrest in this countryaredeeply embedded, first,in the lack of constitutionalpower, and secondly in thevital changesbrought aboutin the Commonwealth Conciliation an,d Arbitration Act in. 1930 by a majority in this chamber, opposedto the will of the administration of the day the Scullin Labour Government.
Before I pass to the next phase of the Liberal party’s activity, or rather inactivity, I shall refer to sections 33 and 3,4 of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act, which provide for the appointment ofconciliation committees consistingof a conciliationcommissioner as chairman and equal numbers of representatives of employers and employees. Power is conferred up.on the bodiesso constituted to deal with industrial disputes. Those sections do not provide, however, for a hearing of the parties in dispute. The validity of those sections was tested before the High Court in the case known as the Australian Railways Union against the Victorian Railway Commissioners as far back as 1920. The High Court, without much difficulty, held those sections to be invalid, because it was a matter of natural justice that parties in dispute should not have judgment passed upon them without having an opportunity to be heard. It is remarkable that our arbitration legislation has had . so little attention from all parties - particularly from the Liberal party, which ruled this country from 1932 until 1941 - that those two sections, both declared invalid in 1920, still remain in their original form in the act, as also does the provision relating to a common rule which was declared invalid many years before 1920. In 1931. the Scullin Government, after its rebuff on its arbitration legislation by this chamber in 1930, introducedanother amending bill. Recognizing then, as the Leader of the Opposition, recognizes now, that conciliation should play a very much greater part in industrial relationships, the Scullin Administration introduced a bill to that effect, believing that it might have the support even of the Senate.Thebill provided for conciliationcommittees of the type I have, indicated, but it went farther, and provided for hearings as well as determinations. The new provisions were clearly within the power of the Common- wealth, and within the ambit of the High Court’s decision. Thebill was introduced in the House of Representatives on the 29th May, 1931, by the then AttorneyGeneral, the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan), and was finally passed by that chamber on. the 21st July, 1931, nearly two months later. It reached thischamber on the 24th July, 1931, and was thrown out completely on,the very same day. There again is an example of the approach of the parties then and nowin opposition to the problem of con- ciliation. The Scullin Government relinquished office in 1931, and responsibilityof government devolved upon what is now the Liberal party. In 1934, the then government introduced a bill to amend the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act. It dealt with two matters, and constituted what I would describe as a microscopic contribution to.the arbitration system. The two. effective sectionsof the bill dealt solely with the removal of inspectors appointed under the act from the ambit ofthe Commonwealth, Public Service Act, and with the question of the recovery of penalties before the courts.From 1934 to 1939, thesuccessive administrations were bombarded with requests for amendment of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act. In 1.939., the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies), then Prime Minister, addressed his able qualities to the task, listed all the suggestions that were made, and obtained the decision of his Cabinet on them, but the matter rested, there and nothing further was done. In .1 940, the right honorable mem- . bor for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), the then Attorney-General, drew ‘up a bill amending extensively the existing arbitration legislation. That measure reached the stage of being printed, but it was never introduced or circulated in “either branch of the legislature.
– Was there not a war on then ?
– There was, and I come now to give some credit to the parties of which honorable senators opposite are members for their first positive approach to the arbitration problem - an approach showing clearly theM- conversion to the viewpoint advanced in 1930 by the Scullin Government. In 1940, widespread industrial unrest faced the government of the day - much worse than that which is being encountered to-day - and what are known as the Industrial Peace Regulations were introduced providing for the appointment of an unlimited number of conciliation commissioners. The provisions of these regulations were incorporated in the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act. Thus honorable senators’ opposite completely reversed their outlook on conciliation. They were forced to face realities by the danger in which the British Empire stood, and the jeopardy in which the interests of everybody in Australia were placed at the time. The principle of a common rule was also adopted. The Government of the day allowed the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, temporarily of course, for the duration of the National Security Act, to deal with disputes that were not interstate in character. Upon the conciliation commissioners was conferred the power, and in many instances the duty, to hear and determine industrial disputes immediately. That shows a vast difference in the approach of the anti-Labour parties to the problem of arbitration - an approach that gives me hope that the Liberal party at least has seen the light and that we shall have its support for the measures which I hope will come before this chamber, in the not distant future, providing for the complete remodelling, or at least the extensive amendment, of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act.
I come now to 1941 when the Menzies Government handed the problem of arbitration and conciliation, still unsolved, over to the present Government in the midst of a world war, and on the eve of the extension of the conflict to the Pacific. Let me review for a moment the record of the Labour party from 1930 onward. As everybody knows, Labour was out of office from 1932 until 1941, so that full responsibility for arbitration during that period rested with the various anti-Labour governments and coalition governments that held office. Coming now to the war, we find that, as the Postmaster-General (Senator Cameron) said yesterday, the unions made sacrifices in the common interest. They sacrificed principles for which they had fought for many years, principles which they had established at great cost and trouble. They readily accepted the sacrifices involved in wagepegging, in the dilution of labour, and also in permitting women to enter all types of industry, and at that stage they did not insist upon their long-established principle of equal pay for the sexes for equal work. I -pay tribute to the farsightedness, patriotism, and loyalty of the union leaders who were able to impress upon the unionists the need for these sacrifices. Sufficient thought has not been given to the things that the unions were prepared to endure during the war. I add a special tribute for the increased production that was secured in Australia not only with less labour than normal, but also with far less skilled labour and under exceedingly trying conditions. The Labour Government in power in 1942 broadened the industrial peace regulations - a positive approach to the problems of industry. It provided that the Arbitration Court might make an award for the dairying industry and an award for people engaged in harvesting and other rural work two spheres of activity that had been the subject of much sweating through many decades.
– The Government has not dispensed with the sweating of child labour in the dairying industry.
– If there is anything of that nature’ in existence, I am certain that this Government will not be slow in rectifying it as soon as it has power to do so.
Let us now look at the record of the Labour Government in the matter of arbitration since the end of the war. As soon as the war ended in August, 1945, the Government embarked upon an investigation of the need for alterations to the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act.
– ls the honorable senator “giving a judgment” that the war ended in August, 1945.
– The honorable senator is concerned as to what constitutes the end of the war. I should want more time than is at my disposal now, and I should need to give more thought to the matter before I could answer him adequately. I hope that he will excuse me for not being diverted to that subject. The Government announced its intention of amending the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act and it invited interested persons te- make suggestions. There are enough suggestions on hand at the moment to enable many arbitration acts to be drafted, but the Government is adopting a perfectly judicial attitude. It recognizes its responsibility not only to the parties in industry but also to the whole community. Some comment was made by the Leader of the Opposition regarding the fact that the Australasian Council of Trade Unions is about to present a draft bill to the Government. That draft bill will be given full and due consideration, as will also certain amendments which are being prepared by lawyers in Melbourne at present for certain employers and employers’ organizations. The Australasian Council of Trade Unions is not the only body that will make representations to the Government in this matter. Some comment was made, too, upon the fact that the proposed industrial peace conference has not been held. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) deplored that fact. The conference was convened in the first instance for December last by the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) in the hope that much good would come from it. The steel Strike caused it to be put off. When the Government proposed to embark upon the conference following the settlement of that dispute, the employers suggested that it would not be worthwhile in view of the litigation then pending on the 40-hour week question. Therefore, the Government should not be taken to task for the fact that the conference has not yet been held. I do not criticize the validity of the reason which the employers gave for requesting a postponement of the conference. I merely draw attention to the facts.
Dealing with the further activities of the Government in arbitration since the war ended, I point to two more positive steps that it has taken. It has intervened in the 40-hour week question which is now before the court. It has directed and encouraged the various unions to approach the court. I am sure that nobody will find fault with that step. Within the last few days, the Government has decided to take another very important and positive step. It will go to the people at election time with a referendum seeking power over industrial conditions. A tentative head of power has already been given some prominence in the press. It relates to the terms and conditions of employment in industry. The proposal will not permit of any conscription of labour. It plainly states that the relation of employer and employee must be established before the power to regulate terms and conditions can become operative. That argument may be too obscure, although I believe it to be correct, to be readily understood by the people, and I believe that a further attempt will be made to make it perfectly clear that conscription of labour will not be possible in the hands of those who will wield the proposed power. I make no prophesy whatever as to the success of the referendum, but I express my sincere hope that it will succeed. I believe that it will do enormous good if this Parliament is charged with the responsibility for industrial conditions. At the present time, apart from war-time provisions, Parliament has no power over industrial conditions generally. In view of what ha* been said by the Leader of the Opposition, I look forward hopefully to receiving the co-operation of both Opposition parties in seeing that this desirable national end is achieved. I am inspired to seek that co-operation by the remarks which the Leader of the Opposition made yesterday. I submit that this Government, with the record established since the end of the war six months ago, has made a notable contribution and is about to make a further notable contribution to the cause of arbitration and towards allaying and settling industrial unrest. In view of my appeal for co-operation, I hesitate to criticize the inadequacy of the policies adopted by . anti-Labour governments up to 1940. After reviewing what has been said during this debate on the subject of industrial unrest, I have come to the conclusion that the Opposition is bankrupt indeed of matters that might properly justify criticism of the Government in the industrial sphere. Apart from the plea made by the Leader of the Opposition for tolerance between the parties in industrial matters - plea in which I join - no suggestion has been made by any Opposition, senator either to amend the arbitration act or to amend the Constitution in order to give to this Parliament the power that is vitally necessary to permit conciliation in industrial disputes.
Departing from particular principles, I come to a specific matter, the attack launched by the Opposition with regard to the steel strike, which has disrupted industry in Australia since prior to last Christmas, and is still having disastrous effects on our economy and on the housing position.I join issue with the Lender of the Opposition and Senator Cooper on their statements that the Government allowed the trade unions to dictate its policy. I shall face that issue squarely, in relation to the steelworkers’ strike. The position broadly was put accurately by Senator Cooper, but a record of the position would not bo complete if one did not begin by pointing out that there was something in the nature of a dispute between two powerful trade unions, the Australian Workers Union and the Ironworkers Union. The former was the plaintiff before the Industrial Commission in New South Wales in a matter which caused Mr. Justice Cantor to visit an establishment in that State where members of both the Australian Workers Union and the Ironworkers Union were employed. When His Honour made that visit, the ironworkers ceased work and threw the plant into idleness. They prevented the Arbitration Commissioner from making an inspection to enable him properly to understand the matter submitted by the Australian Workers Union. Because of their contempt of the Arbitration Court, the Ironworkers Union was de-registered by the New South Wales Industrial Commission. The Parker incident developed after that. When that occurred the Ironworkers Union was in the position of a body which had been de-registered by the Arbitration Court of New South Wales. At that point the proprietors of the works, and those responsible for the conduct of the establishments where Parker was employed, declined to confer on the subjectmatter of the Parker dispute with the union that had been de-registered.
– That was quite p roper.
-I have no complaint on that score.I am glad the Leader ofthe Opposition agrees with me on that point. At that time, that was the view of, not only the Prime Minister, hut also the Government. Some honorable senators have asked why the Government did not intervene. It was for the very reason that the Leader of the Opposition has just given. This Government and thePrime Minister believe in law and order. They believe in the principle of arbitration. They were not prepared to go to the employer and say, “ You must confer. We exercise our powers under the National Security Act and Regulations and you must confer, perforce, with the union that has been de-registered “. The Prime Minister stood firm, and it was solely his firmness, and the people’s recognition of the fact that it was necessary to throttle down anarchy, that enabled that strike to be settled. This Government, and particularly its Prime Minister, struck a blow for law and order, and struck one of the best blows for arbitration and conciliation ever delivered.
– Why did not the Prime Minister order the men back to work pending the Arbitration Court’s decision in the matter?
– As a matter of law that, could have been done, but one would have had to consider the next step and ask, “ What will I do if they do not obey the order “. If there is disobedience of such an order, the next step is to punish, fine, and ultimately imprison the employees concerned. No thanks would be given to any government, and no results would be achieved in favour of the position, if that extreme step were taken.
– That is where we differ.
– I have no recollection that there was any intervention of the nature suggested by the Leader of the Opposition during the periods of vast industrial unrest that prevailed in 1940-41, when the government of which the honorable senator was a member was in power. What steps did his government take in those years to enforce the full rigour of the law against strikers? It recognized, as the present Government did, that it would be futile to invoke the provisions of the National Security Regulations against a large body of men. I pass on to a further consideration of the stand taken by the Prime Minister on that occasion. I say that his personal prestige was established by his acts then. The prestige of the Government soared high in the minds of the public. People in New South Wales were prepared to put up with privation, inconvenience, lack of light, shortage of transport over the Christmas period, and restrictions on power and fuel, because they recognized that a real fight was being made for law and order; anarchy was being attacked, and the principle of arbitration and conciliation was being upheld. I propose to conclude on a note with which I began. I accept the statement of the Leader of the Opposition that his party stands for conciliation and arbitration, and I say that the Labour party fights for that principle.
.- I am sure that honorable senators on both sides of the chamber are indebted to Senator McKenna for his lucid explanation of the Commonwealth powers with regard to industrial arbitration and for his conclusions on the matter. I presume that the Government proposes to submit to the Parliament some amendments of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act in the near future, and possibly Senator McKenna’s explanation could have been more appropriately made at that time, because, after all, his remarks in that regard, like the flowers that bloom in the spring, have nothing to do with thecase. Nevertheless, I was interested in his references to conciliation, and was reminded of an Irish farmer who, having had a dispute with his neighbour, hit him on the head with a waddy. When he was brought before the court he pleaded, “Your Honour, I did not assault him. I was only conciliating him “. It seems to me that in the matter of conciliation the weapons will he all on one side. Senator McKenna did have a word of praise for the Menzies Government, in that in 1940 it decided to appoint conciliation officers who could go to the scene of industrial disputes and try to settle them. I was a member of the Ministry then in power, and I believe that that policy was adopted largely on my advice.
– How many were appointed?
– The government of the day was appointing a good many when it was put out of office..
It will be realized that the shortage of housing is a matter of the greatest concern to the people generally and particularly to ex-service men and women. As Senator James McLachlan said, the Government is indebted to the Opposition for having provided it with some work to do. It has had five months in which to prepare legislative proposals, and the only reason for the long delay was the fact that some honorable senators opposite had visited the other side of the world in order to acquire a little continental polish. I am glad to notice that the Minister for Health (Senator Fraser) and Senator Sheehan are now back in Australia. I hope that their minds have been broadened by their trip overseas, and I hope that they will now realize that their narrow outlook regarding labour and other matters requires some’ alteration. I notice that already they have acquired some of the polish to which I have referred. The outstanding feature of the policy of the Labour party on its return to power was that it claimed to- be composed of long-term planners, and it called to all quarters of Australia for anybody who bad a plan. It said, “We are going to be wise in our generation and plan for every purpose “, although apparently there was no purpose in any of their plans. When the war was over it was expected that the Government had drawers full of plans, and that on any subject one might mention blue-prints would be ready for instant use; but we have found that not one of those plans are in operation. The Government was not ready with any of its plans and now it has had to fall back on its own astuteness. In order to recognize that the housing problem was a matter of great importance and in order to obtain chaos out of order, the Government appointed the most junior Minister in the Cabinet to take charge of this nation-wide scheme. He has certainly obtained chaos out of order. In the statement made by him in the House of Representatives last week the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lazzarini) said -
While ex -servicemen are naturally anxious to obtain homes as quickly as possible, I have no knowledge of seething discontent in their ranks.
What sort of an ostrich is he? How deep is the sand in which he buries his head? If he does not know that there is seething discontent among ex-service personnel who cannot obtain homes for themselves and their wives or their wives to be, he has an extraordinary mentality. If the Minister for Health knows anything about the matter, he ought to tell the Minister for Works and Housing that there is some discontent. All the plans of the Government are mere figments of the imagination. The people ask for bread and are given a stone. They ask for houses and they get castles in the air. The Government says, “ These castles are beautiful. . They are decorative inside and out. They have refrigerators, wireless sets and all modern conveniences, but they are all in the air.” Why are houses not being built? The Government says that it has a target, but it fires high and hits low. Last week the Minister for Works and Housing said that approximately 12,000 applications for homes had been received by his department and that 69 homes had been erected.
– That is a “Rip Van Winkle “ story. The Government has been awake all the time.
– From the 1st July, 1944, to the 28th February, 1946, only 69 houses were erected for ex-servicemen.
– That is not correct.
– Those are figures given only two days ago in the House of Representatives by the Minister for Works and Housing.
– Those figures refer only to war service homes. The honorable senator should tell us of the number of homes erected in addition to war service homes.
– Various excuses are given for the delay in getting houses built. The Government says that it cannot build houses of timber because there are no ships to bring the timber from Tasmania. Senator McKenna would do well to use his influence to get more ships into service. For the last three or four years Tasmania has had a raw deal from the Government in the matter of the transport of both passengers and goo.ds to and from that State. When people on the mainland were needing potatoes and apples the only reply the Government could give to representations made to it was. “ No ships, no ships, no ships “. That answer is still heard, notwithstanding that there have been instances of ships with Tasmania timber aboard arriving in Melbourne only to be sent back to Tasmania because workers on the mainland would not unload them. The Government says ‘ that it cannot accept responsibility in these matters because if it took the slightest action against the waterside workers the whole of the waterside workers of Australia might go on strike. Has not the Government any pluck at all? Does it not govern the country? Or does it not want to govern the country?
– The Government does not govern the country as the Employers Federation governed it when previous administrations were in office.
– The Employers Federation does not want to govern the country. The reasoning of the Minister for Health is of the standard of a child in a primary school. -Another reason why houses are not being built is that there arc no workers to build them, because the Government will not take’ men out of the Navy, the Army and the Air Force and employ them in the building of houses. Moreover, there are no bricks. How could there be bricks when there has been no coal to bake them? Similarly, there are no tiles so houses cannot be roofed. We have heard a great deal of the Government’s plans in respect of housing, but it has failed in its planning. Many houses require galvanized iron for roofs, and even tiled houses require galvanized iron down pipes and spouting. These things are not available because of a “ tin-pot “ dispute about the dignity of some obscure union representatives at Newcastle. The Leader of the Opposition referred to men being fined £10 by their union because they exceeded 171 rivets for their day’s work. No wonder the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) complained that the price of building ships in Australia is almost double the cost on the Clyde. To-day a man is said to have done a day’s work at bricklaying if he lays 300 bricks. I could lay that number of bricks before breakfast - if breakfast was not too early. The replies of the Government reveal its helplessness and ineptitude. There is little hope of the people getting houses when all that the Government can do is to wave its arms and say, “We must not offend any one “ : It is a mistake to think that the war is over, because the Government is still at war. It is at war with Formosans, especially Formosan women and children. And so we have to view these matters from the point of view of a Government which is still at war. I would hesitate to controvert Senator McKenna’s able and learned exposition of our arbitration laws, but I draw attention to the following newspaper extract : -
The Federal Cabinet will consider this month a bill prepared by the Australasian Council nf Trade Unions to amend the Conciliation and Arbitration Act to provide that industrial claims and disputes shall be determined by conciliation committees of employers’ and employees’ representatives instead of by judges of the court. The proposed bill will be submitted to the Government after a meeting of federal unions in Melbourne on the 26th March. The retirement of the present judges on a pension is proposed to be followed by the establishment of courts of conciliation and arbitration to’ prevent and settle industrial disputes and make awards which shall not be challenged or subject to prohibition, mandamus, or injunction in any court or on any count whatever.
In that report we have a preview of the arbitration legislation that is to be brought before this Parliament within the next few weeks. I remind the Senate that most of the industrial disputes that have taken place recently have been not between employers and employees but between employees in industry and the community. From a purely business point of view, employers do not care what an article costs so long as they can sell it. The present outlawry on the part of employees is a revolt not against employers but against the community. N”o court composed solely of employers and employees has a right to lay down the basis on which industry shall be carded on or on which disputes shall be determined. The people - the consumers and users of goods - are entitled to have their say in these matters. The proposed courts are bound to fail because they will not represent consumers as well as employers and employees. A tribunal presided over by a judge, who holds the balance between the contending parties, is much .more likely to achieve results satisfactory to the community than is one consisting of representatives of both sides of industry who make decisions against, which there can be no appeal. What is the cause of much of the unrest in the building trade? Is it not attributable in large measure to the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement Act which was passed last year? I acquit the Government of any intention to bring about the results that we see, but undoubtedly that legislation is having a bad effect. When a worker knew that by laying only 300 bricks a day instead of, say, 1,000 bricks, the cost of the house being erected would be higher and its rental increased, he knew that he was working against his own interests1, but under the legislation to which I have referred a tenant will not pay more than one-fifth qf his income as rent whatever the house costs. That -being so, it does not matter to the workmen engaged on the house whether it costs £1,000 or £3,000.
I can imagine union bosses of the mentality of Mr. Thompson of the Builders Labourers Union’ whispering to his men, “ Go slow “. Should the men expostulate, and say that su’ch a policy would increase the cost of the house and therefore increase its rental’ also, I can imagine him continuing, “ Don’t worry about that. As the rental cannot b© more than onefifth of the tenant’s income, it doesn’t matter what the house costs; so go slow So, it does not matter what the price is; the policy is “ go-slow “. The PostmasterGeneral (Senator Cameron) Spoke about monetary cost and economic cost, but when I asked him what was the “ go-slow “ cost he did not answer. Of course, I quite understand that the Prime Minister should not interfere in a big dispute like the recent dispute at Port Kembla. I am amazed when honorable senators opposite blame the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) for the fact that when he was Prime Minister he went to the coal-fields during a coal strike in 1940 in order to speak to the miners. That was an example of what honorable senators- opposite are advocating, namely, round-table conferences.
– He was not blamed for that; the question was: what else did he do to settle the strike.
– He was scorned and ridiculed because he was prepared to go to the coal-fields and say to the miners, “If you are sensible men let us Iia ve a talk about this matter, .and we will settle it “. We know what was the cause of that strike. The’ Minister for Supply and Shipping (Senator Ashley) advanced the plea that vast quantities of coal reserves were dissipated at that time; and those reserves have not since been replaced. That is correct. But why were those reserves, dissipated ? They were dissipated so that the miners could hold to ransom the rest of the community to whom they owe a livelihood at all. Of course, as I have said, it would be infra dig. for the Prime Minister of this country to interfere in a hig dispute like the Port Kembla dispute which caused hundreds of thousands to be thrown idle. But it was not out of place for the Prime Minister nor was he wasting his time, when he spared two hours, or more, to settle some- dispute in Canberra which arose because some ob’ scure barman at some obscure hotel was dismissed for some particular reason. Where is the fairness or candour in actions- of that kind ? The action of the Prime Minister in implementing instantly the whole, of the industrial machinery of Canberra, be it large or small, in order to settle the Canberra dispute caused amusement from one end of Australia to the other, and, I believe^ overseas. There came the world-quaking news that the Prime Minister had devoted two or three hours of his- valuable, time to fix up that dispute. But he could not interfere in a coal strike, or a steel strike, which placed hundreds of thousands of workers in danger of losing their livelihood. The Minister for Supply and Shipping, when dealing with the hold-up of Dutch ships, made some rather remarkable statements. He said that the dispute was due entirely to the fact that Indonesians walked off the ships, and that later the dispute was due entirely to the fact that Lascar seamen would not man the ships. Then, in to-day’s newspaper we read that there was a big row last night in the New South Wales Trades and Labour Council, and that that body by a small majority, 74 votes to 63, decided to back the Australasian Council of Trade Unions in saying that these ships must be loaded. These ships could now be loaded. The Government now has leave from the Australasian Council of Trade Unions and the Trades and Labour Council of New South Wales to load some hospital ships with medical supplies and foodstuffs for the starving people in the Netherlands East Indies. While we hear all this talk from honorable senators opposite about the brotherhood of man and all people being equal, the Minister for Supply and Shipping says that the accommodation on those ships is fit only for Asiatics; it is not fit for anybody else. I wonder what will be the reaction of our Chinese and Indian friends to a statement like that by a senior Minister in this chamber.
– I s.aid that - the accommodation for seamen on Dutch shirs manned by Asiatic crews was not up to the standard to which Australians were accustomed.
– I am not misrepresenting the Minister. He said that the accommodation on these ships was fit for Asiatics, but not for white men. Yet, at the same time, he and his colleagues crow about the brotherhood of man, and. say that no distinction should be made in respect of creed or colour. The Postmaster-General said, that there were a lot of. things he could apologize for to the workers. He would apologize to the men at the Mount Lyell, mines in Tasmania for the conditions under which they had to work ; and in another couple of minutes, had he been agitated at all, he would have apologized because a man has to work at all.. His speech was a real Yoizuki speech; it was crammed with, alien refugee facts and figures gleaned from the Middle Ages.
The purpose of this motion is to urge the Government to infuse a little ability and pep into its administration. The motion was designed to preserve to the Senate some rights of free discussion which were being denied to us. It was an attempt to see, whatever the Government’s complete plan may be, whether the infinitesimal, amount of the accomplishment counts more than any target on paper. Viewed from the aspect of accomplishment and not from the point of view of the Government’s promises, or the Government’s castles in the air, the people can only come to one conclusion, namely, that up to the present the glorious promises of a new order which bias been held out to them by the Government and its supporters, and the promise of jobs for all which is proclaimed from the housetops, have now disappeared into the stratosphere.
– And what is happening in other parts of the world?
– In other parts of the world they are doing pretty well. In Great Britain millions of houses were destroyed and millions more were damaged.
– And millions of other houses ought to be destroyed.
– That may be; but judging by the record of this Government if the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Senator Collings) were in office in Great Britain, no houses would have been repaired and none would have been built. I admit that the Government is confronted with a difficult job. The Cabinet is not built for this sort of task. It requires new recruits from its own party ranks.. The Government has not accomplished anything. That is the justification for the examination which the Opposition has forced upon the Government by presenting this motion. I hope that the Government’s promises in the future will not be conditioned on the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act upon which Senator McKenna has been working in recent months. I repeat that the disputes occurring in industry are not disputes between the employer and the employee. Taken on the whole there is no ill-feeling in factories between employers and employees. This supposed ill-feeling is synthetic; for the most part it is being manufactured. These disputes are between the employees and the community; and any system of arbitration and conciliation which provides merely for conferences of representatives of employers and employees without regard to the fact that the consumer is the man most concerned is bound ultimately to fail.
– Conciliation commissioners would represent the consumer.
– No; these roundtable conferences are to be attended by equal numbers of employers and employees.
– All of whom would be consumers. Let the honorable senator exercise a little logic.
– Paney the VicePresident of the Executive Council telling me that he is a consumer. Let us suppose that a strike occurs in the breweries, for instance. Would the VicePresident of the Executive Council consider himself to be capable of representing the point of view of consumers in such a dispute. Every one would laugh such a proposition to scorn. This debate has been diverted considerably from the lines followed by the Leader of the Opposition Nothing can hide the fact that thousands of families in this country are crying out for a roof over their heads, and that this Government is failing signally to meet their requirements.
– I rise to oppose the motion of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay). Although the motion has three phases, namely, housing, industrial unrest and rehabilitation of exservicemen, it has been noticeable that practically all honorable senators opposite who have participated in this debate, have avoided the rehabilitation issue, and concentrated upon the housing shortage and industrial disputes. Senator Leckie’s statement that only 69 war service homes have been provided for ex-servicemen is lather wide of the mark. Surely the honorable senator is aware that State housing authorities have prescribed that 50 per cent, of all new houses for which building permits -are issued shall be occupied by ex-servicemen. Obviously, all ex-servicemen will not wish to obtain housing loans from the War Service Homes Commission. Many of them will prefer to make private arrangements. The Opposition is always claiming that this Government does not stand for private enterprise; but here the Government is giving to private industry an opportunity to build homes for exservicemen. A. bulletin issued by the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lazzarini) on the 5th March give3 the lie direct to some of the allegations that have been made in regard to the housing position. It shows, for instance, that for the twelve months ending the 30th June of this year, it was estimated that 24,000 houses would be built, and that of that number approximately :l 4,000 had already been completed, leaving 10,000 to be built during the next three and a half months to complete the programme originally set down for the financial year. The figures I have quoted were issued by the Commonwealth Statistician and may be checked if necessary. It is common knowledge that during the past six or seven months certain factors have slowed down the building industry, but we are hopeful that with the return to that industry of large numbers of exservicemen, the production of materials and the construction of homes will be so speeded up that the target of 24,000 houses for the current financial year will be not onlyachieved but also exceeded.
Several Opposition speakers haveemphasized the necessity for the Commonwealth Government to give a lead toprivate enterprise in the provision of homes. Senator Herbert Hays suggested that the Postmaster-General’s Department could do something in this regard ; but it has been my experience, particularly in country districts, that postal officials generally are well housed. It is gratifying also to see that along the transcontinental railway, the Commonwealth Government is replacing with modern homes, the shacks which for many yearshave been occupied by railway workers and their families. For that I give credit to the Vice-President of the ExecutiveCouncil .(Senator Collings) who was Minister for the Interior when the building programme along that line was inaugurated. In Western Australia, theState Government has gone a long way in the provision qf adequate housing. forits employees. For instance, in the timber industry, which is a vital adjunct to thebuilding industry, we find that at the government settlement at Banksiadale, a fine housing scheme is in operation, providing all kinds of amenities for workers at the timber mills. That is an excellent lead for the timber industry throughout Australia.
I was rather surprised to hear Senator Herbert Hays mention the working conditions obtaining at the Mount Lyell mines in Tasmania. I visited Mount Lyell eighteen months ago and found that in Queenstown the workers are housed under extremely poor conditions. Many of the houses are of galvanized iron, with very little protection against the severe climatic conditions of which Senator Herbert Hays has spoken. I also saw men working under adverse industrial conditions; The manager at. the mine informed me that the average worker receives £5 3s. a week. I hope that the- industrial peace which has reigned in Queenstown during the war period is not an indication of complacency on the .part of the workers and satisfaction with their present conditions.
– No, but surely the workers are to be commended for their loyalty during the war.
Senator -TANGNEY.- It is true that they kept the wheels of industry turning during the war, but I trust that their initiative has not been so sapped by the climatic and industrial conditions, that they are not able to make a stand for an improvement of their working conditions. So far as private enterprise in home-building is concerned, I call to mind a sad incident which occurred some years ago in Western Australia. A young mother with a baby eighteen months old lost her husband by drowning a month before her second child was born. Between the time of the recovery of her husband’s body and the funeral, the estate agent charged with the letting of her house called to see what arrangement could be made in regard to future rental payments. The unfortunate woman was evicted from her home a fortnight after the tragedy.
– And there is a Labour government in office.
– Thi This incident occurred before the advent of the Labour Government. Had the action to which I have referred been taken by a Labour government instead of by a private landlord, it would have been emblazoned in the press throughout the length and breadth of Australia. The woman and her children were rendered homeless because the owner of the house wanted to lie quite certain of getting his rent before providing shelter for these destitute people.
One hears much talk to-day of the housing shortage. We on this side of the chamber too, arc aware of the position and we deplore it. I remind the Senate, however, that a similar situation existed some years ago when thousands of people could not obtain dwellings not because of a shortage of houses, but because they were unable to pay the rents that were demanded. In those days we had the spectacle of Australian, citizens ‘ living in al] kinds of makeshift settlements from “ Happy Valley “ in New South Wales, to Blackboy Hill camp in Western Australia. In all States, on the banks of rivers, people were to be found living in derelict buildings. At least there is some excuse for the present housing shortage. We have just emerged from a six-year conflict which has sapped the vitality of many thousands of our workmen. Men who for years have been in the fighting services, are only now returning to civil life, and the transition from war to peace is much more difficult than was the transition from peace to war. Surely it is far better that the people of this country should now be experiencing some difficulty in obtaining adequate shelter than that this country should have been enslaved by a foreign foe. ‘ It is unfair to blame this Government entirely for the present position in view of the war burden it has had to shoulder during the past five years. I do not approve of “go slow” tactics. One of the principles of the party to which I belong is that the worker must give a fair return for a fair wage. The Labour movement has machinery whereby it. may deal with those who do not live up to this creed.
Much has been said about the Labour party being controlled by trade unionists ; but after all the trade unions gave birth to the Labour movement and maintain it to-day. From the ranks of trade unionists many great leaders of this nation have been drawn. The charge has also been made that, the Labour party is under the influence of Communists. I say frankly that there is not one known Communist in the Labour party, which alone, of all political parties in this country, takes precautions to ensure that members of other political parties - the Communist party is specified particularly - are riot admitted to its ranks. On the other hand,- for the small fee of 2s’. 6d. anybody can join the Liberal party and no questions are asked.
Senator Leckie deplored the fact that there is not sufficient shipping space available to carry certain building materials from Tasmania to the mainland. I ask the honorable senator and his colleagues why is it that we have not sufficient ships ? Who gave away the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers, which, had it remained in our possession, would have been of incalculable value to this country not only now, but also during the war years? Not only would the retention of those vessels by the Commonwealth have greatly altered our economic position to-day, but also there would have been no occasion for the outcry by servicemen’s wives in Great Britain because of lack of shipping lo bring them to this country.
I did not like Senator Leckie’s gibe at the Government’s connexion with the Yoizuki incident. Perhaps the honorable senator has not read the speech made by the Liberal party candidate for the Henty seat a few nights ago. Speaking of this incident, that gentleman said that he had not received any letters on the subject, and so far as he was concerned personally, he would have loaded another 1,000 enemy subjects on the vessel.
– But he said that the women should have been excluded.
– Neither the Melbourne nor the Sydney press reported the speech to which Senator Tangney has referred.
– Mention has been made of certain other industrial disputes, but nothing has been said about the consumers, that is the general public, being the ones who suffer. Have honorable senators opposite not heard of the meat industry strikes which have completely upset meat supplies in Victoria and Western Australia? Those strikes have not been caused by the employees but by the employers in an endeavour to circumvent the rationing and price-fixing regulations. Apparently those disturbances have? been ignored in framing this motion.
In the rehabilitation and reestablishment of ex-servicemen this Government Iia s been confronted with a gigantic task. Figures show, however, that during January alone 73,000 men were demobilized and that the total number demobilized to date is 325,000. That rate of demobilization has not been approached by any other belligerent nation of the last conflict. Placing this huge number of men in industry, and establishing them as independent members of the community, is an immense task and I commend the Government for the manner in which it. has tackled the problem. I claim, therefore, that in the three fields covered by the motion, the Opposition’s views have not the support of the people of this country. In its endeavour to promote industrial peace, the Government has been as active as it. was in waging war.
Question resolved in the negative.
Motion (by Senator Ashley) agreed to-
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn to Tuesday, the 2nd April next at 3 p.m.
Motion (by Senator Ashley) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– Earlier to-day, Senator Brand asked me the following question, upon notice : -
Will the Minister consider introducing an amendment to the Unemployment and SicknessBenefits Act in order that a war pension may not be counted as income when considering anapplication for unemployment benefit based ona means test?
The answer to the honorable senator’s question is as follows: -
When the consolidation of the social services legislation is being carried out. a number of amendments may have to be made and thisproposal will receive the consideration of theGovernment in conjunction with other amendments. The honorable senator will appreciate that this is a matter of government policy towhich n direct reply cannot be given in answer to a question.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
National Security Act -
National Security (Prices) Regulations -
Orders - Nos. 2410-2457.
National Security (Supplementary) Regulations - Order - Deferment of banking business.
Senate adjourned at 12.44 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 15 March 1946, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1946/19460315_senate_17_186/>.