18th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. Gordon Brown) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– Has the Minister for Supply and Shipping any statement to make regarding the present strike on the Sydney waterfront? What progress has been made in the negotiations which he said were going on? Is there any likelihood of an early settlement of the dispute ?
– The negotiations are still proceeding. I am not in a position to express an opinion as to whether they will be successful or not, hut, like, every other honorable senator, I am hopeful that they will be successful.
– Has the Minister for Supply and Shipping seen to-day’s issue of the Sydney Daily Telegraph in which a report, under the headlines “ Watersiders plan long hold-up “ and “ Sydney facing food shortages “, states that a meeting of 5,000 Sydney waterside workers yesterday decided to organize for a long waterfront strike and that thirteen miles of wharfs on the Sydney waterfront were double picketed last night to keep out volunteers? If so, what action has the Government taken, or does it propose to take, to meet this situation?
– I have seen the headlines to which the honorable senator refers, but the information contained in the report that he has read to the Senate is quite incorrect. There was not a meeting of 5,000 Sydney waterside workers in Sydney yesterday. I do not propose, therefore, to discuss the matter further.
– Will the Leader of the Senate arrange for an opportunity to be given to honorable senators to discuss the Government’s defence plans before the , arrival in this country of Field-Marshal Montgomery? Will the
Minister also approach the Prime Minister to see if it is possible to arrange a secret meeting of honorable members and honorable senators to coincide with the visit of Field-Marshal Montgomery, to enable all members of the Parliament to inform themselves fully on this subject, and, at the same time, demonstrate to the people that defence is above party politics ?
– The honorable senator’s question deals with a matter of Government policy, and, as he is aware, it is not the practice to answer such questions. I shall bring to the notice of the Prime Minister the honorable senator’s request that a secret meeting of honorable members and honorable senators be arranged to coincide with the. visit of Field-Marshal Montgomery.
– Last year I represented the Commonwealth Government at the conference of the International -Labour Organization held at .Seattle, United States of America, and other honorable senators have attended, various conferences of that body in different countries. Will the Leader of the Senate request the Government to invite the International Labour Organization to hold its next conference in ‘Australia?
– I am not aware of the procedure followed in determining the venue of conferences of the International Labour Organization, but I shall bring the honorable senator’s request to the notice of the Government.
– Oan the Minister for Health inform the Senate whether any moneys have been paid by the Commonwealth to the Government of Western Australia under the provisions of the Tuberculosis Act 1945 for (a) the maintenance of diagnostic facilities, (b) the maintenance of after care facilities (c), as payments to tubercular patients in tuberculosis hospitals and (d) as special allowances to sufferers and dependants?
– The Western Australian Government has not taken up any portion of the amount provided by the Commonwealth Government on a £1 for£l basis, for new diagnostic or after care facilities in cases of tuberculosis. Ibelievethatall States share the common difficulty in respect of shortages of build- ingmaterials and also staffs for such institutions.Paymentsunder the Hos- pitalBenefits Act are being made to the States to cover the cost of providing for tuberculosis patients in public wards. Hospital benefits are being extended to tubercular patients in private hospitals at the rate of 6s. a day. The amount of £250,000 per annum made available by the Commonwealth for the assistance of tubercular sufferers and their dependants has not been wholly taken up; but the position in Western Australia is that the amount of £10,215, covering the current six months, was paid to that State on the 12th February last. Payments have now been made to all the States with the exception of Queensland which is the only State which has not yet applied for its proportion ‘of the annual tuberculosis grant of £250,000. It may interest honorable senators to know the details of the amounts paid to the different States up to date. They are as follows: - Tasmania, £6,174 on the 29th January, 1947; South Australia, £10,005 on the 30th January, 1947; Western Australia, £10,215 on the 12th February, 1947; and Victoria, £29,716 on the 12th February, 1947; whilst New South Wales has applied for £51,389 for which a cheque will be paid to that State to-day. The Commonwealth recognizes the economic and humanitarian aspects involved in dealing with tuberculosis, and, as I informed the Senate not very long ago, we have called for applications for the position of Director of Tuberculosis. The applications have been received and applicants are now being interviewed. I hope tobe able to inform the Senate in the near future of the name of the appointee. Furthermore, the subject of tuberculosis has been placed on the agenda of the conference of Ministers for Health to take place in Canberra on the 14th and 15th April next. All aspects of the problem will then be surveyed, and the Commonwealth will co-operate with the
States with a view to seeing what emer- . gency measures can be taken in the meantime to deal with the problem. I hope that an extensive, long-range plan to deal with this dread disease will be undertaken.
South. Australiansupplies - Ramsay Gasificationprocess
– For many months past people in South Australia have been living practically from hand to mouth because of the shortage of coal in that State, which has entailedsevere rationing of gas and electricity, whilst transport services have also been seriously dislocated. Will the Minister for Supply and Shipping undertake investigations with the object of ascertaining whether it would be possible to maintain not only more continuous, but also greater, supplies of coal to South Australia than have been made available during the last six months, and in that way help to overcome the restrictions to which I have referred ?
– The problem of obtaining adequate supplies of coal is not limited to South Australia. The Joint Coal Board distributes the supplies that are available, and in each State, there is a special committee handling this matter. The allocation is made on as equitable a basis as possible. I cannot see any immediate prospect of an improvement of supplies. One difficulty, of course, is the present dislocation of shipping services. However, I shall ascertain whether an increased quota for South Australia is possible to obviate the difficulties that are confronting the people of that State.
– Can the Minister for Supply and Shipping give me an assurance that the Joint Coal Board or his department will give due consideration to the Ramsay method of gasifying coal underground, and so obtaining power without bringing the coal to the surface?
– I am not aware of any action that has been taken in regard to this method of utilizing coal deposits, but I can assure the honorable senator that it will be considered by the
Joint Coal Board which will investigate all matters relating to coal production and methods of obtaining power.
– Can the Minister for Supply and Shipping say whether anything has been done, following the representations that I made some time ago to arrange for a regular fortnightly cargo shipping service between Sydney and the north-west coast of Tasmania? Also, have any arrangements been made for a regular cargo shipping service to the far north-west port of Stanley in Tasmania, to replace the pre-war service? _ Senator ASHLEY. - Recently additional ships were acquired by the Directorate of Shipping, and Tasmanian requirements will be borne in mind when an allocation of the shipping is being made. The shortage of shipping tonnage for carrying cargoes has been a problem for some time, but due consideration will be given to the request of the honorable senator.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture consider the possibility of opening negotiations with the Indian Government to exchange Australian wheat for Indian linseed oil to overcome the present shortage of that commodity in this country?
– I shall bring the honorable member’s question to the notice of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture.
– Last year, the Minister for Health informed the Senate, in answer to a question, that steps were being taken by the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories to make penicillin available to the public at a reduced cost. Is the Minister aware that, despite his assurance, penicillin .produced by private enterprise is being sold in this country at a price lower than that charged for the product of the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories ? If so, will he advise the Senate of what steps are being taken to reduce the cost of this important drug? Will he also ascertain whether it is possible to have penicillin supplied in a homeopathic form, and in containers of a suitable size for household use in view of its short life when exposed to the air?
– I understand that the price of imported penicillin is lower than that of the product of the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories. This matter is constantly under my notice. The point to be borne in mind, however, is that penicillin imported from Great Britain is produced in large quantities by the tank system, whereas, at the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories, the mould required for penicillin is produced in bottles. Scores of thousands of bottles are required, and honorable senators will realize that this system is not very efficient. Considerable handling is involved, and there is a substantial waste of bottles. Approval was given some time ago for the erection of a plant similar to that used in Great Britain. The sole reason for the discrepancy between the price of locally produced penicillin and that imported from Great Britain is the method of production. In this country, the bottle system was improvised in haste. Orders have been placed for tanks, but construction of them is being held up by strikes. The construction of buildings has been retarded for the same reason. However, I believe that the honorable senator, in the very near future, will not have cause for concern about the cost of penicillin in this country, because the Government proposes to proceed with its free medicine scheme, under which penicillin and all other necessary drugs and medicines will be made available to the public of this country without charge. In those circumstances, whilst I shall continue to watch very closely the prices that are being charged, the situation need not cause concern to the people very much longer. I welcome the honorable senator’s suggestion .that penicillin should be made readily available to the people generally, but I do so subject to two reservations. First. there is a distinct shortage of penicillin at present and, although the real needs of the people will be met within the next few months, there is a constant wastage of bottles which cannot be replaced owing to strikes in the engineering industry. Secondly, it has already been demonstrated that the regular use of penicillin will produce in the user a form of immunity against it. Therefore, before penicillin can be made available to the people without restriction and free of medical supervision, a great deal of information about it must be widely disseminated. Even when the supply becomes plentiful, it may be desirable, in the interests of the health of the people, to control distribution so that penicillin will be effective when a real emergency develops.
– In view of the present serious shortage of ships, will the Minister for Supply and Shipping inform the Senate what types of ships are being built to-day in Australian yards and for whom they are being built? Would it be possible for the Government to re-open shipbuilding yards that have been closed for the purpose of constructing cargo ships?
– Shipbuilding comes within the province of the Minister for Munitions. I shall bring the honorable senator’s question to the notice of that Minister, and an answer will be supplied to him.
Proposed Merging of Departments
– In view of the enormous extension of the duties of the departments under his control, will the Minister for Health consider merging the Department of Social Services and the Department of Health so as to bring about greater economy of administration and greater convenience for people who have to deal with those departments?
– I shall consider the honorable senator’s suggestion. I have already given some thought to the proposal, but the final responsibility, of course, rests with the Prime Minister, who determines where certain functions shall lie. The honorable senator’s suggestion would involve the amalgamation of two portfolios. I do not propose to recommend an immediate move in that direction because, although I consider that this must ultimately be done, I am hesitant to make any changes in the Health Department until all aspects of the national medical scheme have been settled. We are on the eve of vast developments in that connexion. I assure the honorable senator that there is complete recognition of the fact that the activities of the two departments are directed to the one purpose ; they are concerned primarily with the health of the people, in the widest sense of that term. The amalgamation suggested by the honorable senator has also been proposed from various other influential quarters. It may be possible to evolve a form of organization that will embrace the activities of both departments.
Senator ALLAN MacDONALD.In view of the reply given to Senator Herbert Hays by the Minister for Supply and Shipping, who cast doubt on the accuracy of certain Sydney newspaper reports, will the Minister also reflect upon the Sydney newspaper which has published a photograph of a huge consignment of tea, consisting of approximately 6,000 chests, waiting to be unloaded from a ship in Sydney Harbour? What steps does the Government propose to take to ensure that that tea shall be unloaded, in view of the acute tea shortage in Australia? There is a grave danger of the consignmenr being returned to Ceylon. Therefore, will the Minister endeavour to have the tea unloaded at some other Australian port, so that the public will not be denied these supplies, which are urgently required ?
– I repeat that any report to the effect that a meeting of 5,000 waterside workers in Sydney yesterday made certain decisions is incorrect. The unloading of the consignment of tea mentioned by Senator Allan MacDonald will have to await the conclusion of the strike on the Sydney waterfront. Any action taken to unload that tea would probably result in an extension of the strike to other ports and other industries.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows : -
asked the Postmaster-
General, upon notice -
– The following is the reply to the honorable senator’s question : -
Trans- Australian Line Dispute
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The Minister for the Interior has supplied the following answers : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Information, upon notice -
– The Minister for Information has supplied the following answer : - 1 and 2. There may be some recordings of war-time speeches made by Australian wartime Prime Ministers in the possession of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, but there are no such recordings under the control of my department.
Government Appointments to Public Positions
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
What number of defeated members of Parliament was appointed by previous Governments to positions during the six years preceding the Labour Government?
– The Prime Minister has intimated that in order to answer the question with accuracy it would be necessary to obtain information from all Commonwealth Government departments. This would entail considerable extra work for departmental staffs and the amount of research involved for each department would, it is considered, be out of proportion to the value of the information which would be obtained. However, if the honorable senator desires information regarding any particular appointment or appointments arrangements will he made to furnish him with such information.
Motion (by Senator Courtice) agreed to-
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Beer Excise Act 1901- 1928.
Bill presented, and read a first time. Motion (by Senator Ashley) proposed -
That so much of the Standing and Sessional Orders be suspended as would prevent the bill being passed through its remaining stages without delay.
– There being an absolute majority of the whole number of senators present, and no dissentient voice, - I declare the question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Honorable senators are informed that under existing legislation, the Beer Excise Act provides for the payment of the excise duty on beer by means of stamps bearing monetary denominations. Stamps are purchased from the Customs Department at their face value and whenever a variation of the excise duty on bear takes place all unsold beer duty stamps require to be surcharged. This practice involves considerable time and labour due to the large stocks of stamps required to be held by the Collector of Customs in each State.
In order to obviate the necessity for surcharging unsold stamps when a change in duty is made, it is proposed to amend section 26 of the Beer Excise Act to provide for the sale of stamps showing the gallonage only as the denominator. In regard to the proposal to insert a further section in the Act, that is section 29a, I remind honorable senators that, in its present form, the Beer Excise Act makes no provision for the delivery of beer from a brewery without the duty having first been paid. In consequence, when it is desired to export beer the duty must be paid and drawback claimed. This procedure is cumbersome, involves superfluous work for both the exporter and the Department of Trade and Customs and in practice serves no useful purpose from any aspect.
The proposal provides the necessary legislation to permit beer to be exported under bond, as is done with all other excisable goods, whilst at the same time the existing drawback provisions are retained in the act and may be availed of by any exporter who so desires. Further, the excise tariff provides for beer to be delivered free of duty for certain specified purposes hut, as previously stated, the act makes no such provision and the amendment, in this respect, is designed to correct an anomalous position and to provide clear legislation to implement the tariff. Under section 60 of the Beer
Excise Act, it is an offence for any person outside a brewery to add any liquid to beer with intent to defraud the revenue. Offences under that section are, however, extremely hard to detect, and it is considered that a maximum penalty of not less than £100 would act as a greater deterrent. The present prescribed maximum penalty is £20. The proposed amendments will facilitate administration, obviate unnecessary work, and deter unscrupulous persons from defrauding the revenue, and the public by diluting beer From all these aspects I commend the bill to honorable senators for favorable consideration.
– This is purely an administrative measure to which I do not take exception. I shall give it my support.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion .by Senator Ashley read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
An announcement has already been made in connexion with the Stevedoring Industry Bill, 1947, that it is .proposed that the expenditure arising from the activities of the Stevedoring Industry Commission in pursuance of the provisions of that measure shall be met from the proceeds of a charge to be levied upon the stevedoring employers. This charge being in substance a tax, the Commissioner of Taxation will be charged with its administration, and provision to that effect is made in this bill. The basis of the charge has been determined after consideration of a number of proposals, with a view to “ determining which of them, would operate most equitably. It is clearly desirable that the weight of the levy upon each employer should be proportionate to the actual degree to which be employs waterside workers. In these circumstances, it is proposed that the charge shall be based upon the number of man-hours of employment, by each employer, of persons who are registered as waterside workers for the purposes of the Stevedoring Industry Act. It is understood that the number of man-hours of employment will be readily ascertainable for this purpose. Stevedoring employers who are liable to pay the charge will be obliged to furnish monthly returns to the Commissioner of Taxation within fourteen days of the close of each month, setting out the number of man-hours of employment during each pay period ending in that month. The returns will also show the amount of the charge payable and the charge shall be paid at the time of lodgment of the return. Where an employer is liable to pay the charge in respect of employment arising from the performance of a contract under which he renders stevedoring services to another person, the employer is authorized to recover the amount of the charge from that person. In such cases, the employer will be obliged to state the appropriate amount of the charge separately on each account rendered by him to the other person in respect of such services.
The hill provides that the legislation shall come into operation upon a date to bo proclaimed. It is proposed that that date shall coincide with the date to be proclaimed as the date of commencement of the Stevedoring Industry Act with which this charge is associated. The bill contains procedural provisions which are based on those incorporated in other taxation acts, relating to such matters as collection and recovery of the charge, penalties for offences, and authority to make regulations. The rate of the charge will be the subject of a separate bill, which will be placed before honorable senators at a later stage. The basis of the charge has been discussed with the persons who will be liable to pay it, and it is understood to be acceptable to them, having regard to the purposes for which it is intended. I commend the bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator McLeay) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Ashley) read a first time.
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose and scope of the Stevedoring Industry Charge Bill have previously been explained in. connexion with other legislation which has already received the attention of honorable senators. Briefly, the purpose of the charge is to supply the funds necessary to meet the expenditure to be incurred by the Stevedoring Industry Commission in the course of carrying out its functions as specified in the Stevedoring Industry Bill. This expenditure will comprise the ordinary administrative expenses of the commission, the payment of attendance money, and the provision of such amenities as may be found necessary or desirable. The charge will be payable by employers of waterside workers, who are registered under the Stevedoring Industry Act, and the amount to be paid by each employer will be 4-kl. for each manhour of employment by him during each month after the commencement of the charge. It is estimated that, at this rate, the charge will produce revenue to the amount of £550,000 per annum. The charge will commence on a. date to be proclaimed. It is proposed that that date shall be the date to be proclaimed as the date of commencement of the Stevedoring Industry Act.
Debate (on motion by Senator McLeay) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 19th March (vide page S13), on motion by Senator Ashley -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– As it is the usual practice to debate bills of a cognate character together, I ask that leave be given to refer in this debate to the Stevedoring Industry Charge Bill 1947 and the Stevedoring Industry Charge Assessment Bill 1947.
– There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I do not propose to speak at length on this measure. Great, publicity has been given to the debate which took place in the House of Representatives, and from past experience 1 know that the Government is not prepared to amend the measure in any way whatever. I oppose the bill. It represents a step towards the destruction of the Arbitration Court. Since the Government assumed office, we have witnessed the sorry spectacle of strike after strike, and of Ministers yielding to pressure groups in order to appease the unions. It is quite obvious that as Mr. Healy, the general secretary of the Waterside Workers Federation, believes that the. waterside workers will be able to obtain greater concessions from a tribunal dealing exclusively with the stevedoring industry, the Government has introduced this bill in order to accede to his wish. That is the main reason for this measure: but I have not the slightest doubt that very soon proof will be forthcoming to show that this proposal is a retrograde step as a method of settling industrial disputes. This measure, and the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Bill which has been introduced in the House of Representatives, will effect fundamental changes in our industrial arbitration system, because the Government proposes to appoint fifteen conciliation commissioners to perform many of the functions now performed by the court itself. The Government prefers the new system to the existing system under which the court was able to give uniform decisions in respect of work in comparable industries. Already separate tribunals, such as the Stevedoring Industry Commission and the Joint Coal Board, have been set up, to deal with separate industries; and I have no doubt that -pressure will be brought to bear upon Government to establish similar tribunals to deal with other industries.
The first and most important matter arising under the measure now before us is the selection of the chairman of the proposed Stevedoring Industry Commission, which, like the conciliation commissioners to be appointed under the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, will ba empowered to determine margins and conditions of employment above the basic wage and standard hours fixed by the Arbitration Court. It is a physical impossibility for fifteen commissioners to give uniform decisions. Having regard to the Government’s past record, it will be obliged to appoint as chairman of the commission a person who is acceptable to Mr. Healy, or the great body of unionists engaged in a particular industry. The Government will not have the courage to appoint any person who is not acceptable to the unions, because it fears that such action would cause further industrial unrest, and incur loss of votes at the next general elections. In adopting such a policy the Government is simply storing up trouble for itself. It is bringing industrial problems hitherto dealt with exclusively by the Arbitration Court, into the parliamentary arena, and making our industrial arbitration system the plaything of party politics. The Government will soon regret such a policy. The appointment of the existing Stevedoring Industry Commission as a temporary body in March, 1942, in order to meet special .conditions then existing on the waterfront, gives to us an opportunity to examine the real effectiveness of the body which the Government now proposes to make permanent. In spite of the fact that the Labour party has been in office in this Parliament since the commission was established, and that a Labour government is in office in the Parliament of New South Wales, we have experienced nothing but trouble on the waterfront in Sydney. At this very moment, Sydney is paralysed by one of the most serious hold-ups on the waterfront in the history of that port; yet the Government is afraid to take appropriate action to deal with those responsible for that dispute. The disruptionists are gradually undermining the authority of the law. The present dispute in Sydney is not a dispute between the waterside workers and their employers, but a strike against the Government itself. The waterside workers are in rebellion against the Stevedoring Industry Commission. I sympathize with the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Senator Ashley) who is the Minister directly concerned with such disputes. When trouble arises, it would appear that he is obliged to put pressure on the chairman of the commission and representatives of the parties to yield a little more here and there in order to appease the troublemakers. It is reported in the press today that pressure is now being brought to bear upon the chairman of the Stevedoring Industry Commission to reverse a decision which he has given with respect to the number of men to be allowed to register. Once a government allows itself to be brow-beaten in that manner, and pursues a policy of appeasement, it is thebeginning of the end. There is no doubt that continued industrial unrest is having: a disastrous effect upon our economy. The disruption is so serious as to threaten’ the existence of the Government unless it it prepared to protect the interests of thecommunity. During recent years, hours’ and conditions of work on the waterfront have been substantially improved, and wages considerably increased, but, in spite of such concessions, union leaders are still not satisfied. Some of the evidence given before Judge Foster, who was appointed by the Government to inquire into the industry with a view to determining whether the Stevedoring Industry Commission should be made permanent is most illuminating. It is interesting to compare the total cargoes handled on the waterfront in Sydney and Melbourne since 1939, when the present Government took office, and the volume of work now performed in those -ports by increased numbers of waterside workers. These figures show a marked falling off of the volume of work per man-hour, in spite of the fact that hours are now shorter and conditions of employment have been greatly improved. Here are a few of the relevant figures -
The effect of this decline in the volume of work on the waterfront upon our economy as a whole is felt by everybody in the community. I cannot understand why the Government, which has the responsibility to do so, will not state the facts and emphasize the disastrous effect of “ go-slowism “ on the waterfront and the unreasonable attitude adopted by the waterside workers. The total cargoes handled in Sydney dropped from 7,700,000 tons in 1939 to 3,500,000 tons in 1946, although in the same period the number of waterside workers increased from 3,500 to 6,000. The total cargoes handled in Melbourne dropped from- 6,400,000 tons in 1939 to 5,700,000 tons in 1946, although, in the same period, the number of waterside workers in that port increased from 3,000 to 3,750. As was stated by the Director of Shipping before Judge Foster, the position simply is that under present-day conditions it takes four ships to do the work which three did during the war; and the main causes for this development are reduced output, the refusal of waterside workers to work overtime and frequent mass hold-ups, particularly in the port of Sydney. Judge Foster had this to say -
There is no doubt that output per man per hour has fallen - by how much I am unable to say - but it would appear to be quite substantial.
Statistics compiled over a period of twelve months show that on the average ships spend over 67 per cent, of their time in port. Despite these facts, the Stevedoring Industry Commission has been most generous in its treatment of the waterside workers. It granted to workers in eighteen ports, including all the main ports, payment of attendance money at the rate of 12s. for each attendance, and it has been variously estimated that this will cost between £250,000 and £450,000 per annum. In addition, the Arbitration Court recently granted annual leave to casual waterside workers, to operate retrospectively from the 1st July, 1946, and this innovation is estimated to cost an additional £220,000 per annum. The Stevedoring Industry Commission introduced the payment of attendance money without considering readjustment of the high casual rates, which are based on an average of 30 hours a week, and, therefore, include compensation for the lost time factor. To give some idea of the high hourly rate3 paid to waterside workers, I cite the following: - Ordinary time 4s. 01/2d. an hour, 6 p.m. to midnight 6s. 03/4d. an hour, 1 a.m. to 7 a.m. 8s. Id. an hour, Saturday afternoon 8s. Id. an hour and Sundays 10s. 11/4d. an hour. When we examine the amount of money earned in relation to the hours actually worked in the various ports it is clear that the waterside workers have been treated most generously. Here are the relevant figures -
In spite of all these concessions, there has been a strike on the Sydney waterfront during the last eight days. I am sure that the Minister for Supply and Shipping and his colleagues know quite well that the fanatics in this industry are not anxious for peace. They want to destroy the present system. The perpetuation of the Stevedoring Industry Commission, functioning apart from the Arbitration Court, will do more harm than good. Under the charges measure associated with this bill, a levy of 4£d. per man-hour is to be imposed on employing organizations to meet the cost of the. commission. The Minister has estimated that the annual amount to be raised in this manner will be more than £500,000. All these costs are mounting. One of the- problems that are worrying the manufacturers of this country to-day and will, I am afraid, worry them much more as time goes on, is that our costs of production are too high for a country such as Australia which has only a small population and therefore a very limited home market. For this reason, Australian manufacturers find it most difficult to compete with manufacturers in other countries, particularly America. But this Government appears to have little regard for production costs. Elementary principles of economics do not seem to worry it. Its main considerations are political ones. The waterside workers and other sections of industry have been able to push the ‘Government around, and the Senate should protest strongly against the inaction of Ministers. Reference was made yesterday to the dispute on the Sydney waterfront, and the Minister for Supply and Shipping admitted that he was afraid to take any action against the strike leaders in case the trouble spread. Who ever thought that in a British Parliament a government would openly confess that it was unable to govern, and unable to enforce the law? Failure to govern, of course, must inevitably lead to anarchy. The power to discipline the wharf labourers lies with the Waterside Employment Committee. Hundreds of reports of misconduct by waterside workers have been made by employers in the last six months in Sydney alone, but what action has been taken by the Waterside Employment Committee, the commission or the Waterside Workers Federation to discipline the men involved? The commission is being held up to ridicule. The waterside workers are not prepared to honour their promises. They have been well treated, and their conditions of employment have been improved considerably. They enjoyworking and living conditions company able with those of workers in any other section of industry in this country, yet chaos on the waterfront continues. Although we have had a clear demonstration of the inefficacy of the Stevedoring Industry Commission during the last three years, this measure seeks to place that body on a permanent basis. Again I say that this is the first step towards the white-anting of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. It is the first move to destroy a practical organization which in the past has rendered excellent service to the community by bringing about the necessary degree of uniformity in industry.
.: - I listened attentively to the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay), and I could not help being struck by his statement that he was personally opposed to this bill. I should not have been surprised had he said that his party opposed the measure, but when he made opposition to it a personal issue he obviously abandoned any intention of embarking upon an impartial discussion of it.
The Leader of the Opposition said that this measure was the first step towards the destruction of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court. I take the opposite view. For years, not only in this Parliament, but also throughout the industrial movement, complaints have been made about the slowness of our arbitration system. For many reasons, the workers of this country have been gradually losing their faith in the Arbitration Court. Their main objection of course is in respect of the legal processes associated with hearings. Under the Constitution, a dispute must extend beyond the borders of one State before it comes within the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth tribunal. On some occasions, the delay in having applications heard by the court have been out of all reason. Hearings have been held up not merely for weeks or even months, but in some cases for years, and often when a decision has been reached eventually, the circumstances of the case have altered considerably. The workers generally have desired to employ constitutional methods of settling their grievances, but they have found the processes of the Arbitration Court intolerably slow. The Australian Labour party stands for the settlement of disputes by conciliation and arbitration; but ever since there have been organizations of workers and of employers, there have been strikes and lockouts regardless of the political colour of the government in office. Various instrumentalities have been set up to overcome these periodical upheavals, but I am afraid that it is not within the competence of any administration to change human nature. It is true that on occasions disputes have been influenced by certain elements in the community but it cannot be denied that a majority of strikes have occurred for other reasons. This measure is part of the Government’s plan to streamline our arbitration system with a view to making it more acceptable to the great masses of the working people of this country. Honorable senators opposite claim that the Government is on the road to the destruction of the Arbitration Court, but they have not told us why. It has been argued that the appointment of fifteen additional conciliation commissioners under the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Bill will lead to the creation of different sets of conditions in industry. That may be so, but I am nol: sure that the workers of this country would benefit from uniformity in the conditions of work and rates of pay of workers throughout industry. For instance work in some industries is not nearly so arduous as that in others. Also, occupational risks vary. The object of this measure as I understand it, is that there should be somebody in authority to make a determination after an investigation of the circumstances relating to an industrial dispute or an impending dispute. The necessity for quick action is obvious, mid has been apparent for a long time. In the past although a dispute has been known to he impending, nothing could be done until an open breach occurred. Then the parties have been told that the Arbitration Court could not hear them until they went back to work. In that way, our arbitration machinery has broken down. The object of this legislation is to have a body of responsible officers who, knowing that a dispute is likely to occur will be able to do something to prevent it. They will be able to command the parties to attend a conference under penalty, and so will be able to ascertain all the facts before a strike takes place.
– How will that differ from present arbitration procedure?
– First of all, the
Arbitration Court to-day will not hear a case while the men are on strike. The men must return to work first.
– But the court makes its findings retrospective.
– It very seldom does po. According to my knowledge of arbitration procedure, particularly in Western Australia, the court is not able to order retrospective payments. The honorable senator is only dragging a red herring across the trail. This Government is not attempting to destroy the existing system; it is endeavouring to improve it. Each conciliation commissioner must be an Arbitration Court judge or have equivalent ability. This means that the men selected for the appointments will be not “ mugs “ but persons of good character and wide experience. Their task will be to investigate disputes, and, if possible, to settle points at issue before disputes openly break out. When disputes do occur they will be required to effect settlements as speedily as possible by the methods of conciliation and arbitration. The legislation contains the important provision that the commission shall have power to make determinations in respect of hours of work, the basic wage, annual leave and so forth, but shall not be entitled to alter the basic wage or standard hours, other than in conformity with the awards of the court. Jurisdiction over those four matters will continue to reside entirely with the Commonwealth Arbitration Court as at present constituted, and, the court, when dealing with applications in relation to these subjects, must consist of the Chief Justice and at least two other judges. The commission will have the right to investigate the intricacies of the industry and determine what marginal rates shall be payable for skill, disabilities, and so forth. It will also have powers in relation to many other matters. The appointment of this commission will give the workers and the employers quick access to a responsible judicial authority, whose determinations will be binding. Awards made by the commission will be, in effect, awards of the Arbitration Court. The court will have the right, to determine tiny matters of law referred to it by the commission.
This measure represents ti genuine effort by the Government to bring about peace in industry by fostering a better understanding between workers and employers. The Leader of the Opposition said that, as the result of this legislation, the Government will receive requests from other groups of workers for similar action to be taken in relation to their industries. What would be wrong with that? It would be right and proper for the Government to create special arbitration systems for other industries just as it is now doing for the stevedoring industry. I have no great fear of the Government experiencing trouble from the operation of this legislation, as the honorable senator forecast. I, and the majority of Government supporters, sincerely regret the industrial dispute on the Sydney waterfront.
– Does the honorable senator believe that, this legislation will settle it?
– I have faith that it will go a long way towards preventing similar occurrences in the future, because it. will provide the workers and the employers with the opportunity to make a direct approach to a responsible authority and obtain quick decisions in disputes in a way not provided for under existing law.
– Why do not the waterside workers wait for this legislation to come into effect?
– I cannot tell the honorable senator what is in the minds of the waterside workers. Personally, I deplore the action taken by the Sydney stevedores in the present dispute. As far as I can see, the only matter at issue is whether the men shall work a limited number of hours of overtime each week. In my view, the men should have had the matter determined by some responsible authority before striking. As a member of the political branch of the Labour movement, I say .definitely that I hope that the workers will quickly realize what is taking place in Australia. I do not object to workers taking direct action in order to achieve their objective, if such action -be necessary. However, before they act, they should consider the effects of their actions on their own mates and the remainder of the people of Australia. The workers have good reason to thank this Government for what it has done on their behalf, and I appeal to them to give the Government a chance to implement its industrial poliCy. Honorable senators opposite frequently ask Ministers why they do not settle industrial disturbances which, if they were in power, they themselves could not settle. Some of the actions taken by the workers in industrial disputes are having a bad effect on the minds of many Australians. We must endeavour to settle this unrest. This bill is one method by which the Government is making a sincere effort to improve our system of conciliation and arbitration. If it can be applied satisfactorily to the waterside workers, there is no reason why its principles cannot be applied to other industries.
The Leader of the Opposition presented certain figures relating to wages on the waterfront. He said, for instance, that hourly rates of pay in some instances were 4s., 6s. and 10s. He also cited rates of pay received by various waterside workers for a certain number of hours of work. He endeavoured to prove thereby that waterside work is highly remunerative and that the stevedores have no cause for complaint. The honorable senator did not state the average earnings of waterside workers over a full year. It is a dangerous thing to cite the amount of weekly payments unless they be static rates payable throughout the year. This bill proposes to decasualize what, after all, is a casual industry. The incomes of waterside workers depend upon the number of ships that come and go in the ports where they work. They are not like ordinary industrial workers, who know that their employment is assured from day to day and that their weekly wages are fixed. Therefore, the waterside workers are in a special category. The payment of high hourly rates for intermittent work is a reasonable proposition, which is generally accepted in industry. In order to help it to decasualize the industry, the Stevedoring Industry Commission will have certain sweeping powers. It will keep a register of the workers and the employers engaged in the industry, and it will have the power to cancel or suspend the registration of workers or employers in certain circumstances. This means, in effect, that the commission will determine how many men shall be required to work on the waterfront at Sydney, Melbourne, Fremantle, ,or anywhere else in Australia, year in year out. It is to decide the number of men required, so that there shall be at least continuity of employment for these workers. That has been lacking in the industry hitherto. Furthermore, it confers on the waterside workers of this country a very great advantage, bepause the only people who can be registered will be members of the Waterside Workers Federation of Australia. I have no objection to that. The bill provides that if there are not sufficient members of the federation available to carry out the work, the commission may employ any other person. We have heard criticism of the power given to the commission to suspend or cancel the registration of workers in the industry. It is suggested that by the exercise of this power the commission might unfairly select individual workers and cancel their registration. From the point of view of any industrial worker, that is a very serious thing. The wrongful application of that power could result in great harm being done to individual workers. On the other hand, 1 am confident that the power will not be exercised in that way. The bill .provides for the constitution of an employment committee in any port under the authority of the Stevedoring Industry Commission. On that committee there will bo equal representation of employers and employees under the presidency of an independent chairman. .Because of that provision, victimization should not arise, as it might if the matter were to be determined by the “ boss “ himself.
The Leader .of the Opposition said that since the commission was s.et up in 1.942, we have had nothing but trouble. I do not agree with that statement. By and large, the waterside workers of Australia have done a very fine job, particularly during the war years. In considering these matters, we should not forget the influence of human nature. I know what happens when a body of workers conceive the idea that action must be taken to redress their grievances. It is very difficult to get them to submit their grievances to arbitration when they know that toy using another method they can achieve their objective more easily, though perhaps at greater cost. Instead of condemning the Government we should commend it for the courageous step it has taken in introducing this new solution of an old industrial problem.
– I have listened with interest to Senator Nash. One of the reasons which he advanced in justification of this measure was that it might prevent many of the strikes and upheavals we have witnessed in the last few years. The fact is that there has been more trouble in the past two years than there has ever been. That applies not only to the waterfront industry but to other key industries, and especially to the heavy industries. No sooner is a dispute in one heavy industry settled than it is succeeded by a disturbance in another. What is the cause of the continual unrest in these vital industries, which so seriously affects the whole community? These key industries have come under the control of the extremist element, whether it be called Fascist, Communist or anything else, and it is the policy of Fascists and Communists to create the maximum of unrest. I thoroughly agree with the Leader of the Opposition when he says that this is the first step in abolishing the Arbitration Court. Continuous disruption and unrest must result in the most serious disorganization of the functions of the
Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court. These Communistcontrolled industries make it their business to see that this constant disturbance continues with this end in view. Now, another authority is to be set up to deal with the waterside workers. There is no real ground for their grievances; these disputes have been created merely for the purpose of obstructing the Arbitration Court in the performance of its functions, so that another body may be set up to deal with the disputes.
The waterfront industry is undoubtedly one of the key industries of Australia. This bill is designed to “provide for the settlement by conciliation or arbitration of industrial disputes in connexion with stevedoring operations”. If that preamble means anything at all, it means that the Government hopes to achieve peace on the waterfront, and every responsible person in the community desires to see that end attained. But is this bill likely to achieve that objective? Let us. analyse the position in Australia. At present, approximately 21,000 men are employed in this industry. Their function is to unload incoming ships as quickly as possible, so that the community may get delivery of imported goods, and to load on to outgoing ships our exports. Undoubtedly, the time taken for the turn round of the ships is of great importance, not only to Australia, but also to the countries to which we export our primary produce and manufactures. Our goods, particularly our food, are needed urgently in other parts of the world. Any delay in the turn round of the ships carrying food must have a most injurious effect, not only on the countries to which it is being exported, but on Australia’s trade with them. People overseas realize that the goods which they so urgently need are being held up in Australia, not because of the work involved in shipping t] cm or of the shortage of labour, but because a small section of this community decided to run the industry in its own way. This section has ignored the instructions of the Government and the Stevedoring Industry Commission.
Let us review the history of this industry. Prior to World War II. the Stevedoring Industry Commission was run by steamship companies and, in general, by private enterprise. The Stevedoring Industry Commission was set up in 1942 in the belief that it would expedite the loading and unloading of ships in Australian ports. Much has been said regarding the turbulent days on the waterfront before the commission was appointed, and any reasonable person will admit that conditions in the stevedoring industry were then bad. Waterside workers were justified in asking for better conditions of employment and higher pay for their work, and they obtained their objective by banding together as members of a union. After the Stevedoring Industry Commission was set up many amenities which previously did not exist were provided, and yet the commission was unable to ensure peace on the waterfront. One of the worst features of the unrest in this industry is that the turn-round of ships is now a slower process than it used to be. Yet we are asked to give legislative sanction to the appointment of a similar body to that which has nominally been in control of this industry since 1942 and has failed to achieve what was expected of it. In his second-reading speech the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Senator Ashley) said -
The Stevedoring Industry Commission has amended these conditions in a number of ways, introduced schemes for rotary employment, initiated canteens and other amenities, and in other important matters modified or added to the awards and orders previously operative in this industry. It would be altogether impracticable for the orders which the commission has made merely to lapse upon the expiration of the National Security Regulations and some steps in this regard are therefore essential.
Conditions in this industry have been vastly improved during recent years. Indeed, practically all the demands of the waterside workers have been met but, as I have said, the output is below what it was in 1939, and is worse than before the commission was established.
The Government has followed a policy of appeasement similar to that which operated in the international sphere before the outbreak of war in 1939. Eventually there was a show down with Germany, and the result was war. I have no doubt that the Waterside Workers Federation will continue to ask for concessions or to make demands, until the Government will be forced to take a stand. When that time comes, it will be far more difficult to take a firm stand than if strong action had been taken about two years ago when trouble first occurred. Had the Government then shown clearly that it had been elected to govern, and intended to govern, there would have been more peace in industry than we have experienced during recent years.
The bill provides for the setting up of a stevedoring industry commission, consisting of two representatives of employers and two representatives of employees, with an independent chairman, a total of five members. The position of chairman is important, because, in the event of an equal vote by the other representatives, the chairman will have a casting vote, and will therefore decide whether a certain thing shall, or shall not, be done. Consequently, great care should be exercised in choosing the chairman. In his report on this industry Judge Foster recommended that the chairman should be a judge of the Arbitration Court, and should be free from political or other pressure. I was hopeful that the Government would give effect to His Honour’s recommendation. On the other hand, Mr. Healy, the secretary of the Waterside Workers Federation, expressed a desire for a layman to be appointed as chairman. A man without legal training, and therefore without experience in the sifting of evidence, would not be so successful as chairman as would a man with a legal training. The Government has compromised by providing in the bill that a conciliation commissioner may be appointed as chairman. I agree that a conciliation commissioner is more likely to succeed in that office than a layman, but even a conciliation commissioner will not be so suitable as a judge of the Arbitration Court.
This measure authorizes the introduction of industrial conscription in the stevedoring industry. I draw attention particularly to clause 26 dealing with (he registration of waterside workers. It is true that similar legislation was introduced by a non-Labour government in 1928, but at that time a crisis had arisen.
The provision for the registration of waterside workers was strongly opposed by the then Opposition, and as soon as the Labour Government came into power it repealed what it described as the “ dog collar “ act - a piece of legislation which had done more than any other act on the statute-book to preserve peace on the waterfront. The present Government, which opposed the legislation of 1928, has now reverted to the system of registration of waterside workers. I wonder whether this experiment, if successful, will lead to the registration of workers in other Australian industries, and make it impossible foi- an unregistered person to obtain employment. If that, occurs, we shall have complete industrial conscription. That very proposal was rejected by the people at two referendums. The cost of maintaining the commission is to be met by a tax of 44d. per man-hour, which is to be imposed upon the employers; and it is estimated that collections from that tax will total approximately £550,000. It is clear that, in the main, this additional charge will have to be borne by industry as a whole. The tax in respect of the unloading of imported cargoes will be added to the cost of such goods, and to that degree it will be paid by the consumers. However, the tax collected in respect of hours worked in the loading of goods and commodities for export will be borne entirely by exporting industries, and as primary industries produce most of our exports, the bulk of that tax will be an irrecoverable additional charge upon the primary producer. At the same time, the primary producer, 83 a consumer in the community, will also have to shoulder portion of the tax collected in respect of work performed in the unloading of imported cargoes. We know that our standard of living depends mainly upon the export of our primary products. Income from the sale of exports enables us to pay for our imports, and our standard of living depends directly upon the prices which we are able to obtain for the goods we export. The present industrial unrest, particularly on the waterfront, is seriously holding up our production in both primary and secondary industries, and, at the same time, prevents us from exporting primary products to our full capacity. We are thus unable to build up credits overseas. In addition, as has been pointed out by other honorable senators, hold-ups on the waterfront gravely interfere with the despatch of foodstuffs which are urgently needed in other countries. Therefore, I am puzzled when sensible men, who have had the advantage of our high standard of education, fail to realize the folly of industrial unrest. Strikes reduce production as a whole, and do serious injury to die ordinary member of the community. The people who suffer most as the result of hold-ups on the waterfront are not wealthy people, but the workers and their families, who are obliged to live practically from week to week. Every honorable senator will agree, that, possessing the necessary raw materials in abundance, Australia’s greatest need at present is to increase production. Therefore, 1 appeal to the waterside workers to consider these facts before they decide to strike. I ask them to realize that, unless «-e produce to our full capacity, we shall not be able to maintain our present standard of living, and our existing social services, or be able to pay off the debts we incurred during the war. All of us must put our shoulders to the wheel and do our utmost, particularly at this critical time, to produce all the goods we possibly can. I charge the Government with having failed to do everything in its power to discipline lawless individuals ho comprise but a small minority of the workers. The Government has sought to appease those who have been largely responsible for holding up production and the export of our primary products. It is the duty of the Government to discipline these law-breakers, if only in order to give a fair deal to the loyal and hardworking sections of the community. Bearing in mind our experience during the last, two years, this measure will not establish peace on the waterfront or give security to the community against further strikes. On the contrary, more industrial trouble is occurring now than before this measure was introduced. The Government’s policy of appeasement during the last eighteen months has not been successful. The Opposition in the Senate and the House of Representatives will co-operate with the Government in any action it takes to maintain law and order in industry and to enforce observance of the awards of the Arbitration Court.
– It is with some trepidation that I rise to speak on this occasion following the dissertation given by Senator Cooper, in the course of which he displayed his colossal knowledge of the waterfront industry. I fear that I shall appear as a mere pigmy alongside the honorable senator. However, despite his intensive research into the history of this industry, he apparently did not understand certain matters with which he dealt, because some of his statements were inaccurate. He declared, that the registration of wharf labourers had produced certain results, and that the action of the present Government in re-applying that principle would also produce certain results. I point out to him that there is an important difference between the old system of registration and that which the Government now proposes. The old system was introduced by a non-Labour government deliberately for the purpose of smashing the Waterside Workers Federation. On this occasion, the present Government is co-operating with the federation and is giving to the waterside workers a voice in the administration of the Stevedoring Industry Commission which will regulate conditions of employment on the waterfront. Therefore, the proposal embodied in this measure is not analagous to the “ dog collar “ act. Senator Cooper ako declared that certain union leaders were fostering industrial unrest, and that to the degree that this measure met the wishes of such individuals, it would tend to destroy the Arbitration Court. Even supposing that some individuals do nothing but advocate strikes, it must be clear to all honorable senators that the Arbitration Court has always given a better deal to the sound and strong organizations that can finance a strike for the purpose of persuading the court even to hear their demands. The court has slavishly followed precedents set during the early period of its existence, and it has been most difficult to persuade it to ignore precedents which have no application to present-day industrial conditions. Only in recent times the court yielded in that respect ; and it has done so only because of widespread industrial unrest which has been forced upon the workers in order to obtain redress of the wrongs which they have suffered for so long. However, I shall deal with that aspect when we are considering the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Bill. In the stevedoring industry, longstanding principles have been departed from because the Government believes that it is essential to give the waterside workers some voice in the operation of the Stevedoring Industry Commission; and in giving that right to the workers, the Government has taken away certain rights which the worker has claimed for many years. Another departure is this: The Arbitration Court seldom acts of its own volition. It must be notified officially of a dispute before it can embark upon a hearing. The result is that on many occasions unions are forced to take decisive action in order that their grievances may be considered. This measure departs from that principle. It gives to the Stevedoring Industry Commission power which I understand is also to be given to the Arbitration Court, to deal with a dispute before an open breach actually occurs. The object is to keep the waterfront industry operating and that is something that was not achieved even under war-time powers.
The Stevedoring Industry Commission will be linked with the Arbitration Court because provision is made for appeal to that court. There is no other court of appeal, and that too is an innovation in industrial matters. Not long ago certain findings of the Arbitration Court were taken by the employers’ organizations concerned to the High Court and declared invalid. The result was, of course, further unrest on the waterfront. In the Arbitration Court in the past the real issue in many cases has been shrouded in abstract legal arguments and jargon. Legal technicalities should be separated entirely from industrial matters.
In framing this measure, the Government has taken into consideration the views of both the employers and the employees on the waterfront. The bill provides for a Stevedoring Industry Commission, membership of which will include representatives of both employers and employees. These men will be thoroughly acquainted with stevedoring procedure. The commission will have an independent chairman who will be either a judge or a conciliation commissioner of the Arbitration Court. The presence of representatives of the waterside workers and of the employers on the commission will ensure that the views of each side as to how a particular case should be dealt with, or where hearings should take place, shall be given due consideration. Union officials should give the Stevedoring Industry Commission a chance to hear a case before an order to stop work is given. I realize that in times gone by the employees have not always been without justification in ceasing work immediately; but the commission provided for in this measure will be clothed with wider powers than are possessed by the old commission.
– But not wider than those of the Arbitration Court.
– In some instances, yes. For instance, the Stevedoring Industry Commission will be empowered to order the provision of amenities for waterside workers in certain circumstances. That is something that the Arbitration Court cannot do. That is only one instance of the commission’s wide authority. I say emphatically that the waterfront organizations should regard it as their duty to give the commission an opportunity to settle a grievance before labour is withdrawn from the wharfs. It is true that during the war, and since the war ended, the stevedores at certain Australian ports have kept industrial dislocation at a minimum by discussing their grievances with the various port committees before taking direct action, but unfortunately certain sections of the industry are not prepared to adopt that attitude. Because of that I say again that the waterfront organizations must be prepared to ensure that the commission shall have a chance to deal with a threatened dispute before the order to stop work is given. It is important also that the commission should give full consideration to human as well as physical factors in determining the matters that come before it. There must not be a repetition of some of the dictatorial orders that have been issued to the men at certain ports. I have worked in industry, and I have been the secretary and the president of a union. I had no wish to work overtime, but if somebody had come to me and said, “ There is certain work that has to be done urgently. We should like you to work overtime “, I should have done so willingly. But when an official says, “ If you do not work overtime you will lose your job “, men become antagonistic immediately. That is what happened in the Sydney waterfront dispute. A statement was issued that if the men did not work overtime their registration would be suspended. No unionist is anxious to take the place of a colleague who has been suspended because he refused to work overtime. I trust that these human factors will be carefully weighed before the commission makes a determination. After all, even honorable senators opposite will concede the right of free contract - the right of a man to work where he pleases. I should object to any one telling me that I must perform certain duty after I had worked for the normal span of hours.
Once a stoppage of work has occurred, or men have been locked out, nine times out of ten the original matter in dispute i0 lost from view and the only issue is who is to lose prestige by giving in. The union representative is frightened of losing prestige by ordering the men back to work, and the employer is afraid that he will lose face with his colleagues if he adopts a conciliatory attitude. This applies to the Arbitration Court, and it will apply to the Stevedoring Industry Commission. I trust that the future will bring an era of peace between man and master on the waterfront. Neither the workers nor the employers can be blamed for all of the disputes. There have been faults on both sides ; but I hope that this measure will be the means of overcoming past difficulties, .and, for that reason, I give it my blessing.
– Discussion of industrial unrest in this country has occupied more time in this legislature and in the State parliaments than any other subject in recent years. The Commonwealth Parliament has done everything possible to bring about harmony between employers and employees, and the Arbitration Court has played an important part in promoting industrial peace. We must not lose sight of the fact that the present waterside dispute is not a Commonwealth-wide strike. The waterfront troubles responsible for the introduction of the measure now before the Senate have virtually been confined to Sydney. Ships are not held up in other ports, where the waterside workers have done their best to expedite trade and commerce by handling cargoes with despatch. I sympathize with the Government in its dilemma and I share its hope that this measure will help to solve the problems of the waterfront. Nevertheless the bill differs very little in principle from other legislation already on the statute-book. Senator O’flaherty has said that the Arbitration Court cannot deal with an industrial dispute until there is an actual cessation of work. That is not true. The law provides that strikes are illegal. There is a recognized process by which workers can lodge a plaint with the Arbitration Court if they consider that they have a grievance. That is the correct procedure to follow, and the judges of the Arbitration Court have the right to refuse to hear a case until strikers return to work. That procedure is consistent with the procedure of other courts of law. If a citizen lodges a plaint, his case will be brought before the appropriate court after a delay of perhaps two months. Does any honorable senator claim that a delay due to pressure of court business would prejudice a plaintiff’s case? The delay might cause inconvenience, but it certainly would not cause the judge to lose interest in the case or to take a biased view of it. We must have faith in our courts. It is idle for any honorable senator who professes to support the principles of arbitration to say that the Arbitration Court has failed because workers in one or two key industries, who are strongly organized, persist in provoking industrial disputes. Every honorable senator should realize the difficulty of dealing with a body of 6,000 men who refuse to work in spite of the law. The arbitration system should not be blamed for the present disturbance. The union is at fault. The Australian Workers Union, whose members work in many industries in all parts of Australia, has a fine record of industrial peace. It has never rebelled against the Arbitration Court, as the “Waterside “Workers Federation has done. There may have been isolated disputes involving the Australian Workers Union, but there has never been a general uprising of its members in defiance of the law. Honorable senators opposite have said that the conciliation commissioners who will be appointed to deal with the stevedoring industry will be able to settle disputes “before they occur.” How can that be possible? If a representative of the waterside workers approached a commissioner with a grievance, the commissioner would have to decide, in his own discretion, whether the case was of sufficient importance to justify action by him. The procedure would be no different from that which is followed under the present conciliation and arbitration system.
He who believes that this bill will bring about peace on the waterfront is unjustifiably optimistic. If there were any reasonable ground for believing in the efficacy of the measure, the waterside workers in Sydney would not have gone on strike in the present dispute. Had i hey trusted the Government, they would have waited for the enactment of this legislation knowing that the Government, with a clear majority in both Houses of i he Parliament, could expedite the passage of the bill. The Government has said that when this bill becomes law, the “Waterside Workers Federation will be able, within a few hours, to secure the benefits provided by it. . Why then are the waterside workers not prepared to wait for it to become law? If they were anxious to settle their dispute, they would return to work and wait for the Government’s plan to reach fruition. They ought to do so as a guarantee of good faith and as an expression of appreciation of the Government’s intention, in introducing this measure, to bring contentment to the industry. I do not believe for a moment that the bill will achieve its purpose unless there is goodwill and a desire by the unionists to help their country. The Government should make provision for the holding of secret ballots by the workerson matters that give rise to disputesThere can be no valid objection to such, a proposal. The men should have an opportunity to decide for themselveswhether they should go on strike or not,, and they should exercise that right in full knowledge of the fact that stoppages mean the withholding of food from peoplewho need it badly and the disruption of the trade of the nation..
This dispute now in progress in: Sydney could be handled just as satisfactorily , under the present arbitration system as under the provisions of thisbill. The Commonwealth Conciliation, and Arbitration Act makes provision not only for arbitration but for conciliation. It is true that this bill provides for conciliation; but are we to believe that the proposed conciliation commissioners will be better able to deal with industrial disputes than the judges of the Arbitration Court? Under the present system representatives of the employers and employees present their cases to a judge of the Arbitration Court, confident in the belief that justice will be done. Experience has shown that unless there is power behind the law to enforce it people lose respect for the law and pursue- their own selfish ends. What is the power behind the laws of this country? Is it not the fear of punishment? There are laws against theft; and is it not the fear of the police and of the police courts which deter wrongdoers from stealing? I know how difficult it is to deal with such a position as that which confronts the Government today, but there are many methods which could be employed to overcome the difficulty. The introduction of a compulsory secret ballot by the unions before strike action is taken is one way. If people are to respect the law the Government must insist that every one, irrespective of his position or his strength, obeys the law. No country has done more for the improvement of the workers’ lot than the Australian Government, and nowhere has more attention been paid to workers’ conditions than in this country. In this respect State arbitration tribunals have played a very big part. We have had experience of the wages board system, which permits employers and employees ;to meet together to determine the conditions under which employees shall work. But there is nothing like that in the provisions of this bill. This measure expressly precludes the Stevedoring Industry Commission dealing with wages or hours. Most of the trouble in this industry has occurred because of disputes over wages and hours of employment. The present dispute in Sydney arose because of overtime. Is not the natural solution to this problem to employ more men? If 2,000 men are required to move the cargo on the wharfs and sufficient men are not available, why should not other men be permitted to work eighthour shifts to overtake the accumulation? If the present back-log of cargo necessitates work for sixteen hours of the 24, could not the waterside workers work the normal eight hours and outside men nork the other eight hours? If some goodwill and unselfishness were shown by the waterside workers this dispute could be ended very quickly.
The Australian working man, as I know him, is a good citizen, whose only desire is to live a decent life and play his part as a citizen. But every honorable senator opposite knows that the handful of men who are causing this trouble do not want to see these disputes settled. They hold their very positions because of their militant attitude. I say, let the workers choose from amongst themselves nien, who have been through the mill, men who have been workers themselves, to lead ih am. The unions should be compelled to hold a secret ballot on controversial issues. If a secret ballot were taken on disputes as they arose, would not the workers accept readily the verdict of their fellows in the same way that members of this chamber accepted the verdict of the people at the last election? If the members of the trades unions were allowed to exercise their citizen rights there would be an end to this trouble on the waterfront, and, indeed, to most of the industrial trouble we have to-day.
This Parliament and the parliaments of the States have spent a great deal of time on industrial legislation, but now we find ourselves no closer to industrial peace than in the days when we had no industrial legislation. The industrial position or. the waterfront could not be worse if there were no court to which the workers could appeal.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– This legislation will whittle away the powers of the Arbitration Court and establish a precedent for legislation -to deal with disputes affecting only small sections of industry. The dispute in which waterside workers at Sydney are involved is confined to one section of the “Waterside Workers Federation, namely the Sydney branch. Other sections of that organization have remained at work, and have not associated themselves with the trouble at the port of Sydney. The Minister has not convinced me that anything contained in this bill will serve a purpose which cannot be served just as well by the Arbitration Court if the parties to the dispute are willing to abide by the decision of :i properly constituted tribunal. The Stevedoring Industry Commission, which was constituted in 1943, has full power to deal with this dispute, and as this measure will not give to that or any other body greater powers than those which now exist, and will not ensure peace on the waterfront, I shall vote against the second reading.
– Senator Herbert Hays said that consideration of the relations between employers and employees occupies more time in this chamber than the discussion of any other matter. I agree with him. The reason is that that relationship is not understood, and matters which are not understood naturally require more consideration than do those things concerning which there is a clear understanding. Ear too much is taken for granted in connexion with the relations between employers and employees. During this debate much has been said about arbitration. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) said, in effect, that if this bill became law it would mean the destruction of the Arbitration Court, but beyond that he did not attempt to go. He did not show how the court would be destroyed, nor did he say what constituted arbitration. The principle of arbitration is one thing, but the act which purports to give effect to that principle may he an entirely different thing. The interpretation and administration of that act is still another thing. A .person who expresses his views on a subject in general terms does not always convince his hearers that he appreciates those distinctions. I do not think that any sane person objects to the principle of arbitration, which means that when the parties to a dispute cannot agree the matter is referred to an umpire or arbitrator. There is nothing wrong with arbitration, so long as there is equity in the law; but in industrial arbitration there is no equity. Workers who appear before the Arbitration Court in support of a claim for higher wages or better conditions are told that the most to which they are entitled is the cost of their subsistence, plus a margin for skill. That means that their claim is considered on the basis of the minimum payment that can be made to them, whereas the other party to the proceedings - the employers - are allowed to increase their profits to the maximum. There is, therefore, no equity, and that being so, there is bound to be trouble. I agree with Senator Sampson that as we have sown, so we shall reap. Parliament is reaping to-day what it sowed in the past. What the workers have received in the form of purchasing power - I- refer particularly to workers on the waterfront - has always been in inverse ratio to the wealth that their labour has produced. In other words, the harder and faster they have worked the less they have received in comparison with the wealth that they have produced. That aspect of the subject is never taken into account by the critics of those who work for wages; they merely rely on vague and ambiguous generalizations to support their case. They have said that any cessation of work amounts to a repudiation of arbitration, but it is nothing of the sort. All that a cessation of work amounts to is a challenge, first, to the act itself, and, secondly, to the way it is interpreted and administered by the court.
The .members of the court cannot act in the capacity of legislators. The act dealing with arbitration has been handed to them by the Parliament, to be given effect by them as they think best. At no time in my recol- lection have we had any advice or guidance from members of the Arbitration Court as to how the principle of arbitration, as distinct from the act, can be given effect. Instead, the court has gone on until such time as its policy has become unworkable, and it has been physically impossible for the workers concerned to accept the wages and conditions laid down by the court. Periodically, as the awards of the court have been challenged, either by means of strikes or by sustained and constructive criticism, we have found either that the act has been amended or that the attitude of the members of the court has been modified. In that way the state of affairs which exists to-day has been reached. This bill proposes to establish on a permanent basis the Stevedoring Industry Commission to which so much exception has been taken by the Opposition. For all practical purposes we have made a virtue of necessity. For this reason, where labour power is dispensable in the sense that the supply exceeds the demand, the price of labour power is reduced to the irreducible minimum. That was the case in 1928; and the court decided accordingly that wages should be reduced. And when the workers on the waterfront rebelled, resisted or protested by withdrawing their labour power with the object of at least maintaining the status quo, a member of this Parliament, who now occupies one of the highest positions in the judiciary, led the way in the passage of the Transport Workers Act, and some honorable senators opposite acquiesced in that measure.
– As a matter of fact, the honorable senator and his colleagues would reduce the Australian worker to the level of the Chinese coolie. There is no sentiment, or altruism, in this matter. The objective of the employers is to obtain labour power at the lowest possible cost so that they can increase their profits to the maximum. Senator Sampson acquiesced in that legislation, and had it been possible to do so, he and his colleagues in 1928 would have reduced the Australian waterside worker to the level of waterside workers in India, China or Japan.
– Nonsense !
– The honorable senator’s very arguments support my statement. I have no illusions about any desire on the part of honorable senators opposite to do justice to the waterside worker. What is justice in the relationship that exists between the people we know as employers and the people we know as employees? The only justice that honorable senators opposite recognize is that which permits them to reduce the cost of production by reducing wages to the minimum and by increasing the profits of employers to the maximum. That is the conception of justice of honorable senators opposite. All of the laws passed by governments which they supported have been based on that conception, and enforced to the maximum degree to which it was possible to enforce them. But when the last war broke out and it was discovered that labour power was indispensable, whereas previously it had been dispensable, the tendency of such governments was to say to the waterside workers, as had been said to the soldiers and workers in other industries, “ We are prepared to give you more because our need of you is greater. Had we not wanted you more, we should not have been prepared to give you more “. And, if, during the last war, soldiers had not been required in the numbers needed in the Crimean War in 1854, they would have received 3d. a day, as was paid to those who served in the Crimean War. But as time went on and labour power became more and more indispensable, the employing class, acting under duress, was prepared to extend more consideration to the workers.
The Leader of the Opposition said that the waterside workers are now receiving a great deal more in wages than before the war. The fact is that there has been no .actual increase &t all of the purchasing power of the worker. As I have said on many previous occasions in this chamber, the purchasing power of wages measured either in terms of gold, or commodities which can be purchased, is not so great to-day as it was in 1907, although in terms of the depreciated currency which this Government has inherited from previous governments it would appear that the basic wage has increased by more than 150 per cent. However, the basic wage to-day cannot huy more bread, ‘beef, butter, fruit, clothing, houses or anything else than the basic wage in 1907. Therefore, no real increase of income has been granted to the waterside worker. Whilst he and other classes of workers do not understand the subtle and ingenious technique involved in this matter, they understand the actual effects and they are rebelling against them. I again refer to the passage of the Transport Workers Act in 1928. By supporting that legislation, Senator Sampson, although he himself is a returned soldier, acquiesced in putting thousands of returned soldiers on the bread line so that foreigners could take their places on the waterfront. That was done in the name of democracy and justice. If honorable senators opposite believe that they can escape the consequences of action of that sort, they are destined to be disillusioned. But, to-day, the waterside workers are taking up a different attitude. If I were a waterside worker as I was in 1910, when I worked on the waterfront for ls. 3d. an hour, carrying bags of wheat weighing 200 lb. each, I also would adopt a similar attitude. Without being egotistical, I believe that I could put up a much better case to justify their attitude than even Mr. Healy, the present secretary of the Waterside Workers Federation, whom honorable senators opposite have maligned. It has been said that the waterside workers are doing less work to-day than they did before the war. That may, or may not, be true; but assuming that it is true, the fact simply reflects an attitude of self-defence which has been forced upon them. All waterside workers, both old and young, realize intuitively, if not by intelligent deduction, that unless they establish relationships between employer and employee which are much more balanced than they have been in the past, they will suffer just as much in the future as they have suffered in the past. The waterside workers now adopt a policy of self-defence, because they know full well that the more work they do for a wage which is a diminishing factor, the less they receive relatively. That is why they take up their present stand.
This measure is an attempt to establish more balanced relations between the waterside worker and his employer. It does not go so far as I should like it to go, but it is a step forward. As Senator O’Flaherty has said, instead of waiting for actual trouble to occur in the form of a strike, or cessation of work, or a hold-up, the Stevedoring Industry Commission will be enabled under this measure to take action immediately it has reason to believe that trouble is brewing. The commission is now being given the opportunity to prevent industrial trouble. The Leader of the Opposition has said, in effect, that a uniform basic wage is essential. The more we try to do to give effect to a basic wage based on the mere cost of subsistence, the more we shall bring into being the very trouble about which honorable senators opposite now complain. We must realize that men who work on the waterfront are human beings, who have a right to expect that they shall be treated as we should expect to be treated were we in their places. If they are frustrated by the employers, as they have been in the past, they will resist to the best of their ability. Honorable senators opposite have also said that the Government has adopted a policy of appeasement towards the waterside workers. The policy of the Government is to endeavour to bring into being much more balanced relations between the waterside worker and his employer. There is no appeasement in such a policy in the sense in which the word is usually applied. All that the Government is doing under this measure is to concede to the waterside workers a greater measure of justice than was meted out to them in the past. I recall the conditions that existed in 1910 when I was a waterside worker in Fremantle. I and my fellow workers were herded together like a lot of cattle in a sale yard. Our right to work depended solely upon the ganger who represented the employer. We stood there waiting while the ganger picked out a certain number of men and told the rest that they would have to await the convenience, pleasure and profit of the employers. Persons like myself who were prepared to challenge that state of affairs and to object to being treated as cattle, were usually selected for the most arduous work at the lowest ratesof pay, such as carrying 200-lb. bags of wheat or huge baskets of coal at ls. 3d. an hour. The more congenial and more profitable work never came our way. Wewere regarded as cattle and treated as cattle, and to-day, although honorable senators opposite would not admit it, the workers would be still treated as cattleif the opportunity arose. All this humbug, hypocrisy and make-believe is notaccepted to-day as it was in the past, and’ the sooner that honorable senators opposite idealize that they have to face the realities of the position the better it will be for themselves and for the community generally. I commend the bill.
– Few industrial measures that come before this chamber fail to draw the usual diatribe from the Postmaster-General (Senator Cameron). The Minister does not achieve anything at all by his dull and tedious repetition of fallacious allegations regarding the character and temperament of honorable senators on this side of the chamber. There a re just as many men on the Opposition side who are interested in the welfare of the workers as there are on the government benches. We do not abuse honorable senators opposite because of their ultra sympathetic attitude to the workers. Measures such as this should be discussed in a dispassionate manner. No good purpose can be served by repeating extravagant phrases as the PostmasterGeneral is so fond of doing. He does not help the Government nor does he help the waterside workers.
This hill makes permanent the Stevedoring Industry Commission which was set up during the war under the National Security Regulations. Also, the commission is to be clothed with additional powers. But I ask the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Senator Ashley) who hae been more closely associated with the Sydney waterfront dispute than any of his colleagues, whether the trouble could have been avoided had this measure been law. Unrest on the waterfront is not new, nor is it a child of World War II. It was in evidence even before the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) became an official of the waterfront organization. I had some dealings with the stevedoring industry when, acting on behalf of a former government, I conducted an investigation into conditions at Queensland outer ports. This bill is an attempt by the Government to find a new method of dealing with the entire problem of waterfront unrest. Some action was necessary because the National Security Regulations under which the original Stevedoring Industry Commission was constituted, are about to expire, and some new authority for the continuance of the commission is necessary. I believe that the Government’s attitude is quite wrong. Tn the first place, I do not know why the waterside workers should be singled out for special consideration in regard to conciliation and arbitration. They are not the only casual workers in Australia. There are many other occupations in which employment fluctuates. We in this country like to proclaim proudly that we are the fathers of industrial arbitration and that our arbitration system is the best in the world. That statement is accepted in many countries. In fact, it is quite common for an Australian visiting another country to be asked to explain our system of arbitration. The fact is that our methods of handling industrial disputes are no more effective than they are in other countries. This is proved by the fact that we have just as much, or perhaps more industrial unrest than any other nation. I believe, therefore, that the problem is being tackled in the wrong way. In the first place, I do not know what peculiarities are associated with work on the waterfront that give this vocation a federal character. We had much more industrial peace, in Western Australia at least, when all industrial matters were dealt with on a State basis. Many disturbances in Western Australia have been fomented in other parts of the Commonwealth. They spread to the West only because federal unions were involved, and Western Australian workers did not want to “ scab “ on their colleagues. I see no reason why arbitration and conciliation should not be solely within the province of the States. I am sure that the workers on the Fremantle wharfs would do just as good work, or possibly better work, if they did not belong to federal unions. In what, way could the provisions of this measure affect a dispute such as that now occurring on the Sydney waterfront? That, disturbance is confined entirely to the State of New South Wales. The authority conferred upon the Stevedoring Industry Commission under this bill will still be- subject to the Commonwealth Constitution, which provides that disputes shall come within the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, only if they extend beyond the boundaries of one State. It is because of this provision that there has always been a tendency to make disputes interstate in their incidence to bring them within the province of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. Therein lies the origin of much of our industrial trouble to-day. Many disputes would be obviated if greater powers were given to State tribunals to handle their own domestic affairs.
The Government is making a great mistake in creating an industrial instrumentality outside the province of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. There will be a tendency for this principle to be applied to other industries which may claim that employment in them has peculiar circumstances. In other words, our entire Commonwealth arbitration system may be emasculated.
This bill has an added danger because it undermines the authority and scope” of the Arbitration Court. If the Minister for Supply and Shipping could give some assurance on this point, 1 should be prepared to submerge my prejudice against the Commonwealth arbitration system in the hope that we could bring peace to the waterfront; but I am afraid that, bearing in mind our unfortunate war-time experiences, and the many incidents that have occurred since the war ended, any hopes held out for the success of the new Stevedoring Industry Commission cannot be regarded as very bright. If, as I have said, the Minister for Supply and Shipping were prepared to give an assurance, I should be willing to support the bill and to support the Government’s endeavours to achieve peace on the waterfront. However, my experience of stevedoring operations at various outer ports is that much of the trouble on the waterfront has its origin in small pin-pricking matters which could be dealt with easily if both parties were prepared to approach the problems that confront them in a proper manner. I was able to make suggestions that resulted in the eradication of some minor irritants. The work of conciliation must not be sporadic. It should be carried on continuously by accredited officials of the Arbitration Court. Such officials, instead of waiting for smouldering disputes to burst into flames, should move about the outer ports ascertaining causes of discontent so as to remove them at an early stage and obviate major troubles. This work could be done by sympathetic men with experience of the industry and clothed with power to act wherever there was likelihood of a dispute. The commission to be appointed under this bill will probably meet in Sydney or Canberra. It will be a distant authority and, because of its remoteness from the industry, will not be so likely as State tribunals to get to the root of waterfront troubles.
The intermittent nature of waterside labour is less evident in Sydney than in any other Australian port. By no flight of imagination could one reasonably believe that waterside work in Sydney, generally speaking, is of an intermittent character. Certainly it is of a diversified character, owing to the many different types of vessels from different countries, carrying wide varieties of cargoes, which visit the port. During the eight or nine days of the present dispute, approximately 85 vessels have banked up in Sydney Harbour. Such an accumulation of ships indicates that stevedoring work in that port is most unlikely to be intermittent. In my experience, the places where waterside work is intermittent are the outer ports of Queensland such as Cairns, Mourilyan, Mackay, and Bundaberg, where the quantity of cargo shifted annually is largely dependent upon the sugar harvest. Before the war, many waterside workers in those ports received a very low average weekly wage, and conditions have not changed much since then. Attention should be directed to the needs of waterside workers in those ports, and every effort should bc made to make their work more nearly permanent, either by shifting the men about or by reducing the number of men employed, which, of course, would mean that overtime would have to be worked. Even with the working of overtime, the situation would even itself out by reason of the intermittent nature of the work. I was on good terms with members of both the Waterside Workers Federation and the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union. I found them to be reasonable men, and we were able to overcome many hurdles by taking a fair view of both sides of any matter that we considered. The Government should encourage that sort of conciliation, instead of creating a Commonwealth department, the activities of which must be restricted by the Constitution. My advice to the Government is to leave matters of a domestic character to the States. Unfortunately, the Port of Sydney, in the main State of the Commonwealth, is too close to Canberra, which therefore is easy of access to the men who want to create for themselves privileges that are not enjoyed by other workers under our arbitration system. If the’ Government took less notice of these demands for extra privileges, it would probably find that the unionists concerned would have recourse to the Arbitration Court. However, as long as they are encouraged to come to Canberra and plead their case for special legislation, so long will there be recurrent disputes on the waterfront. The bill is bad in all respects, and the Government is only creating trouble for itself by establishing this additional department. For its own sake, if for no other reason, the Government would be wise not to proceed with the measure.
– I was provoked to speak on this occasion by my old comrade in arms of the Boer War, the Postmaster-General (Senator Cameron), who engaged in his usual line of “ sob stuff “. I resented his charge that honorable senators on this side of the chamber were hard-hearted hypocrites, a callous lot of scoundrels who would grind the faces of the poor and would like to return the waterside workers to the conditions that prevailed at the time of the Crimean War, or even earlier. I was interested in what he had to say about conditions in 1910, when he was humping bags of wheat that weighed 200 lb. each. When I was a lad of sixteen years I was lumping bags of wheat weighing 240 lb. each and potatoes that weighed out at eleven bag* to the ton instead of sixteen bags to the ton as they do to-day. The Postmaster-General tells the same old story every time he speaks. He well knows that industrial conditions on the waterfront have for many years been vastly different from those of the almost pre-historic days on which he likes to dwell so often. In his second-reading speech, the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Senator Ashley), referring to the Stevedoring Industry Commission, made the following statement : -
The -‘Stevedoring Industry Commission has amended these conditions in a number of ways, introduced schemes for rotary employment, initiated ‘canteens and other .amenities, and in other important matters modified or added to the awards and orders previously operative in this industry.
Anybody who -studies the awards must know that waterside workers are very well paid to-day. Work on the waterfront is not the terrible manual toil that the Postmaster-General would have us believe it to be. Anybody who visits any port in Australia and sees what the men do when they are actually working can see that they have a good joh. There can he no comparison between the effort that waterside workers ,give in return for their pay and the efforts of our troops a few years ago when they were loading and unloading .ships for us on 6s. 6d. a day. I suggest that the Minister knows that most of his statements to-night were mere “ guff “. I wish I could believe that this bill will accomplish what the honorable gentleman has said ‘that it will accomplish.
The “Government claims that the hill is modelled almost entirely on the report on the stevedoring industry which Judge Foster produced about twelve months ‘ago. With all deference, I suggest instead that the bill closely ‘resembles the draft hill prepared by Mr. Healy. We have seen what government meddling did to the Stevedoring Industry Commission during the war. It caused the resignations of valuable officers of the commission. I refer particularly to a judge who resigned because of government interference with decisions of the commission. Have we any guarantee that the government will not interfere with decisions of the new commission? The present commission has been held up to contumely, “ridicule and contempt, and its rulings have been openly defied. The waterside workers have refused to take any notice of its orders, and apparently the commission has no redress. In his second-reading speech, the Minister for Supply and Shipping referred a great deal to discipline. Discipline has been lacking on the waterfront for many years. He also made great play with the words “maximum efficiency “, something which is to be hoped for devoutly. The honorable gentleman quoted the following passage from Judge Foster’s report.: -
Peace may restore it, but in the meantime if employers “will not, or cannot, conduct this industry witta maximum efficiency, then, in the interests of the industry and of the community the Stevedoring Industry Commission must be given .some powers to this end.
That refers specifically to the employer. Have the employees nothing to do with efficiency in the interests of the industry and the -community? I agree that the commission must he clothed with power. But it should also have behind it the full moral force of the .government which establishes it, and I have very grave doubts about that.
Then there is talk of co-operation “. That, of course, is absolutely essential. The subject of registration of waterside workers was mentioned. I am glad that provision has been made for it in this bill. The Government says that this is an experiment, and that for its success cooperation will be required, and that such co-operation will involve ‘“painstaking and earnest -.efforts’”. That reads well, but it is nothing more than a highsounding platitude, and I think it verges on hypocrisy, in the light of what is happening to-day. The Minister then went on to say that the whole community is vitally concerned. Of course it . is. Honorable senators have only to go to Sydney and meet some of the housewives to discover how vitally interested ‘they are. We are all vitally concerned in this matter, and, not least, the starving people of Britain.
Funds will be required for the commission, and, to defray its administrative costs, a levy is to be made. In addition, the commission may impose charges on industry. All this expense will be borne by the community. I resent the suggestion that the waterside workers are overworked and badly treated. For years past the position has been quite the reverse. From what I have seen of those workers, particularly in the ports of Tasmania, the allegation about bad treatment is far from the truth. These men were pampered and nursed during the war years, and to-day, particularly in New South Wales, they are simply making war on the community and on this Government. I hope that the bill will achieve what its sponsors fondly imagine it will, but, in the light of what has happened in the past, and particularly during the war years, that hope, I fear, is nothing more than a. pious one. I wish the measure well, but I must say that I deplore the fact that it takes away from the Arbitration Court control of this industry and hands it over to a body which will be nothing more than a party-political junta.
– im, reply - Before dealing generally with observations made by honorable senators opposite, I shall reply to some of the points raised by Senator Herbert Hays. I answered a question by the honorable senator to-day with regard to a statement in the press that 5,000 Sydney waterside workers had decided yesterday to organize a protracted strike. At the time I questioned the accuracy of that report. There may have been some basis for the report, but I do not think so. However, I assure honorable senators that no meeting took place. It is a fact that a meeting was to have been held yesterday, but the statement that it was attended by 5,000 waterside workers is quite wrong. As a matter of fact, at the general meeting of the federa-tion, which was called to decide the issue of whether there should be a strike, only 3,500 members attended. I challenge the press of Australia to mention any meeting at which 5,000 members attended.
These reports may have been published because of a mistake, and there may be an explanation in the press to-morrow. Possibly it was understood that a mass meeting of waterside workers was to be held and the press tried to “beat them to it “. However, the meeting did not take place at all, and it is regrettable that unfounded reports calculated to inflame the minds of the people should appear in our newspapers.
The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) in opening the debate, said that the loading and discharging operations on the wharfs had diminished greatly since before the recent, world war. However, there are special features of this industry which distinguish it from any other. On the waterfront, some men work until they are 80 or 85 years old. That has obtained in every port in Australia, including Hobart, of which Senator Sampson spoke. Senator McLeay referred to conditions experienced eight years ago, but there has been a deterioration since then. Young men are not entering the industry to-day because, as in the case of the coal mines, there is nothing to attract them to it. Certainly conditions in the industry showed some improvement during the war, but that has been the result of the activities of the Stevedoring Industry Commission, which has been in control since 1942.
Adverse comment has been made on the proposal to establish a permanent tribunal to deal with this industry. The decision to establish this body was made on the recommendation of Judge Foster, who made a thorough inquiry into the industry. Honorable senators cannot question the experience or ability of the judge in industrial matters. In his report he states : -
This industry has had a long record of turbulence and struggle stretching back into pre-Arbitration Court days, a story of evil conditions, low wages, unsatisfactory relationship, of bitterness and unrest. These have been referred to many times in the judgments of the Arbitration Court.
That is the history of the industry. Senator Herbert Hays said this afternoon, “ Look at the Australian Workers Union; that union does not have any trouble or take part in strikes”. When conditions in the waterfront industry are improved as they have been by the Australian Workers Union in the pastoral industry, there will be peace on the waterfront. But I remember the time when there was turbulence and unrest in the pastoral industry. L recall the strikes in the shearing sheds in those days, and the activities of the Australian Workers Union-
– That was in 1SS9.
– No, much later than that. I remember the time when nien working in the sheaving sheds and in other seasonal occupations had to sleep o-n wooden bunks, in tiers of three, head i,o head around the wall, and using gum leaves for mattresses. Those are the conditions that obtained in those days, and which brought into existence the union which the honorable senator was eulogizing. As the result of that union’s activity, the conditions in that industry were improved.
The Leader of the Opposition declared that this Government is simply yielding to pressure, following a constant series of strikes. May I remind him that some time ago it was believed that the only people who struck were the workers, but in Australia to-day the graziers, whom Senator Gibson represents, refused to send their products to market because ceiling prices had been fixed for the purpose of stabilizing meat prices. The honorable senator, however, raised no objection when the wages of the workers were pegged. Of course, it is a different matter when the graziers cannot get what they consider a fair and just price. The dairymen, and the butchers strike, too; but as soon as there is any action by the waterside workers a hue and cry is raised, and the two unions which in- variably receive the condemnation of honorable senators opposite are the Waterside Workers Federation and the mining unions.
The discrepancy in the rates paid to waterside workers in the different ports was referred to by the Leader of the Opposition. I point out, however, that the conditions of employment vary in the different ports, and that explains the variation in remuneration. The honorable senator also referred to the fact that the tax to be imposed in this industry is 41/2d. per man-hour. Does any one who is at all familiar with the improvements made and amenities provided in other industries in this country suggest that those improvements are not costing at least 4£d. per man-hour? On a recent visit to Tasmania I saw the conditions under which persons engaged in the papermaking industry worked. I saw a diningroom for employees larger than this chamber, a dispensary, a sports ground, a dance hall, indeed, practically everything that any person could desire. There was a doctor on the premises in case of accident.
– The capitalists arc not such bad people after all.
– Those amenities cost more than 41/2d. a man-hour.
– Who pays for them?
– The consumers pay for them. These things are not paid for by the employers because the cost is passed on. Honorable senators should not think that these costs will be paid by the shipowners ; they will be passed on to the consuming public.
– The cost will be paid by the producers.
– By the producers and the consumers. If these conditions are good enough for workers in the papermaking industry, they should be good enough for waterside workers also.
– Employers in the paper-making industry can pass on the costs, but the exporters of goods cannot.
– The Leader of the Opposition was also disturbed at the thought that the disciplining of waterside workers was left to their own organization. Only last week the chairman of the Stevedoring Industry Commission told me that the disciplinary action taken by the union was achieving the results desired. If the commission is satisfied with the system I do not think that honorable senators need be greatly concerned. One of the objections to removing the power to discipline members from the union is that if this matter be left tosemiofficial bodies a record of every misdemeanour is kept and is passed on to employers, so that a man who has once misconducted himself in any way has a black mark placed against his name, and thereafter he is unable to get employment. The bill provides that any man who misconducts himself may be removed from the industry, by the commission, but disciplinary action in respect of minor offences can I believe best be entrusted to the members of the organization themselves.
There has been a good deal of complaint that this bill provides for a tribunal which will be independent of the Arbitration Court. That is in accordance with a recommendation of Judge Foster who said that because of the casual nature of the work on the waterfront, and the fact that a man may work in one week for a number of employers, a different system of control was justified. On this point Judge Foster said -
Then again, one of the most important of the functions proposed for the Stevedoring Industry Commission is. the running of an employment bureau as an administrative task winch- has not heretofore been undertaken by the Arbitration Court, and which it has not been equipped to do satisfactorily, or at all. It is questionable whether administrative work of this kind should be mixed up with the judicial and arbitral functions of the court.
Later, his Honour said -
My recommendation for the continuance of the Stevedoring Industry Commission must not be construed as a want of confidence in the Arbitration Court or any criticism of its work or its procedure. There are, as I have indicated, special, reason: for this tribunal for this industry.
In the face of those statements in the report of Judge Foster, who made an extensive inquiry into this industry, the . appointment of the special tribunal proposed by the Government is justified.
Senator Cooper said that the setting up of this commission would be the first step towards the- abolition of the Arbitration Court.. That is an entirely erroneous conception of this measure, because the Government has no intention to do away with, oe to undermine the powers of, the Arbitration Court. It believes, however, that the stevedoring industry requires special treatment, just as some hospital patients need special, attention. There- has been, unrest and- trouble in the industry for many years. One honorable senator opposite said to-day that the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) gained his first industrial experience in this industry. In his earlier day he was just as militant as is any member of the Waterside Workers Union now on strike. I regret that the right honorable gentleman, who has mellowed a great deal with age, is now ill, and I hope that he will soon recover.
Senator Hays said that the Waterside Workers Federation was the outcome of a number of workers banding together to improve their conditions. That has happened in connexion with many industries. I deplore the present strike on the waterfront at Sydney and the dislocation that it is causing. No one is more keen than I am that the trouble shall be settled at the earliest possible moment.
The suggestion that there was a possibility of a layman being appointed chairman- of the commission was made by Senator Cooper; but the bill provides that that position shall be filled by a judge or a conciliation commissioner, and therefore I do not think that the honorable senator need have any fear that an unqualified person will be appointed.
Senator Allan MacDonald wanted to know whether the existing- law was sufficiently strong to stop the dispute on the Sydney waterfront. I remind the honorable senator that where reasonable wages and working conditions’ exist in an industry, and- necessary amenities’ are provided, there is more likely to be contentment than where working conditions are unsatisfactory. I do not know whether honorable- senators opposite’ have ever taken the trouble to inquire into the conditions under which men work on the Australian waterfront. I have done so, not only at Sydney, but also at other ports throughout Australia. The only attempt that has been made to improve their conditions emanated from my own department during the war- years. The department provided fork lift trucks to do certain hea>vy work which otherwise men had to perform thereby running the risk of undue strain and injury. The modern trend is foi: machinery to do heavy work instead of entrusting it to human, beings, but in many Australian ports the facilities for loading and unloading vessels haute not improved since the time when the right honorable member for North. Sydney worked, on the wharfs. No other industry has been so neglected in respect of measures for increasing efficiency. Should rain fall in the port of Sydney every day for a week between 3,000 or 4,000 men might have to cease work, and no public outcry would be heard; but if they cease work for even one day as the result of an industrial dispute the waterside workers are condemned from one end of Australia to the other. Constant condemnation of any body of men does not tend to promote peace in industry. The object of this bill is to improve conditions in the stevedoring industry, and I sincerely hope that when the commission has been appointed an era of peace on the Australian waterfront will be ushered in. I commend the bill to honorable senators.
That the bill benow read a second time.
The Senate divided.
Ayes . . . . . 14
Noes . . . . 8
Majority . . . . 6
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 5 agreed to.
Clause 6 (Stevedoring Industry Commission).
– This clause provides that the commission shall consist of a chairman, an officer of the Commonwealth, and four other members. I should like the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Senator Ashley) to explain the reason for the appointment of an officer of the Commonwealth. Is such an officer to have solely a watching brief on behalf of the Government ? What will be his duties?
– The experience gained with the present commission shows that the appointment of a government member will be of considerable advantage to both the Government and the commission. The government member cannot by vote take part in the decisions on industrial conditions as between employer and employee. He can be of use to the commission, as it is contemplated that he will be an experienced public servant, and because of his knowledge of administrative matters and of relations between departments and governments. A government interest in the acts of the Stevedoring Industry Commission will accrue also where the commission’s decisions affect, to a significant degree, other vital industries. The purpose of the amendment is to provide a ready and authoritative channel for communication between the commission and the Government.
Clauso agreed to.
Clauses 7 to 16 agreed to.
Clause 17- (3.) Where a direction is given orally, the Commission shall, within twenty-four hours thereafter, record the direction in writing and shall immediately confirm it, in writing, to the person to whom the oral direction was given.
Amendment (by Senator Ashley) agreed to -
That, in sub-clause (3.), the words, “and shall immediately confirm it, in writing, to the person to whom theoral direction was given “, be left out.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 18 agreed to.
Clause 19 - (l.) The Court or aConciliation Commissioner shall not be empowered to make an award or order in relation to the salaries, wages, rates of pay or other terms or conditions of service or employment of waterside workers.
.- I move-
That, in sub-clause (1.), after “order”, the following words be inserted: - “, under the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904-1046,”.
The purpose of the amendment is to provide against a possible conflict arising from the operations of clauses 10 and 19. Clause 10 provides that the commission may delegate powers. It would be in order for a delegation to be given by the commission to a conciliation commissioner. Clause 19 provides that a conciliation commissioner shall not he empowered to make an award or order in relation to the salaries, wages, rates of pay or other terms, or conditions, of service or employment of waterside workers. The aim of clause 19 is to limit the jurisdiction of the Arbitration Court, so that fixation of industrial conditions shall be by the Stevedoring Industry Commission only. A possible effect would be to prevent a conciliation commissioner from “ acting under proper delegation from the Stevedoring Industry Commission. The amendment makes it clear that the limitation in clause 19 applies to a conciliation commissioner only when he is acting as an officer of the Arbitration Court. The amendment is in conformity with the original intention of the bill.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 20 to 24 agreed to.
Clause 25 -
The Commission may, in respect of any port, establish and maintain -
a register of employers at that port; and
a register of waterside workers at that port.
.- I move-
That the following new sub-clause be added : - “ (2.) The Commission may, for the purposes of this section, define the limits of any port.”.
This is a machinery provision to make clear in what area registration provisions for a port- apply.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 26 to 28 agreed to.
Clause 29 - (1.) Where the Commission has reason to believe that an employer -
– I move -
That, in sub-clause (1.), the words, “Where the Commission has reason to believe “, be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof, the following words: - “Upon a -written complaint being made to the Commission”.
The amendment provides that the commission shall require to have before it a written complaint before calling upon an employer to show cause why his registration as an employer should not be cancelled or suspended. A similar requirement, but in respect of calling upon of waterside workers to show cause, is contained in clause 30. The amendment will bring clauses 29 and 30 into conformity with each other in respect of this requirement.
Amendment agreed to.
.- I move-
That, after sub-clause (1.), the following new sub-clause be inserted: - “ (1a.) The onus of proving any allegation contained in a complaint made to the Commission under the last preceding sub-section shall lie upon the person by whom the complaint was made.”.
This clause refers to the position that will arise where an employer is called upon to show cause why his registration as an employer should not be cancelled or suspended. The clause, as previously amended, provides that the commission shall act upon receipt of a written complaint, and this amendment throws the onus of proof on the person making the complaint. A similar clause appears in clause 30 regarding the onus of proof, in instances where waterside workers are called on to show proof. The amendment will bring clauses 29 and 30 into conformity with each other in respect of this requirement.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 30 agreed to.
Clause 31 (Operation of section 37 not to be affected).
. -I move-
That the clause be left out.
It is proposed at a later stage to move for the deletion of clause 37 in its entirety. The proposal to leave out clause 37, and this amendment are consequential.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Clauses 32 to 36 agreed to.
Clause 37 (Offences).
.- I move-
That the clause bo left out.
The Stevedoring Industry Commission, although it is to perform almost all the functions of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, is not itself a court. Clause 37 recognizes the limits placed on the Stevedoring Industry Commission’s powers because it is not a court, but accords to it a function, in respect of suspected offences against the Stevedoring Industry Commission Act when passed, similar to that of a court.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Clauses 38 and 39 agreed to.
Clause 40 consequentially amended and, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 41 to 49 agreed to.
Clause 50 (Audit).
– Sub-clause 2 provides that the Auditor-General shall report to the Minister the result of each inspection and audit. Will such reports be made also to Parliament?
– The submission of the reports to Parliament will be a matter for the Minister.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 51 to 53 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed (vide page 898), on motion by Senator Ashley -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed (vide page 898), on motion by Senator Ashley -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– Although this measure was discussed in conjunction with the other stevedoring industry bills that we have just passed through this chamber, I feel that I should register a protest against the manner in which the charge is to be collected. A charge of 41/2d. per man hour is to be imposed to provide funds for certain amenities and for the payment of attendance money to waterside workers at the rate of 12s. a day. I have no quarrel with the principles of that payment. That is a matter for the Government. However, I protest against the method of collection. This will be a tax upon industry. Obviously the cost of the tax will be passed on, by means of freight charges, to industry generally. As the bulk of the exporters from Australia are primary producers, it is evident that the cost of approximately £550,000 a year will be borne mainly by primary producers. It is unfair to burden them with extra costs. The cost of attendance fees could have been made payable from ConsolidatedRevenue so that every member of the community would have had to pay a share. I admit that some of the charge will be borne by importers, but that will be passed on to the general community through increased prices for the goods imported. The primary producers again will have to bear a share of such costs and so, colloquially speaking, they will be caught “going and coming”. I protest against this imposition on primary producers.
. - in reply - I point out to Senator Cooper that the proposed method of collecting the. tax has been adopted by private industry and by government undertakings, such as railway services, which pay attendance money to casual employees. The position in the waterside industry is more acute than in any other industry. A waterside worker must attend at the pick-up place early in the morning. His wife must rise and prepare his breakfast and pack his lunch. Frequently, there is no work for him when he arrives at the pick-up place and he returns home. In order to create stability in the industry, we must provide some inducement for men to remain in it. That is why attendance money is paid to the workers.
– I do not object to the payment of attendance money.
– I appreciate that fact. The payment of attendance money has not been criticized during this debate. There is every justification for it. Attendance fees will absorb at least two-thirds of the tax. Therefore, I cannot see any grounds for complaint against it. Waterside workers object to working overtime for the same reason that they wanted attendance money. They say, quite rightly, “ If we go to work in the morning and work until 5 p.m., our wives expect us to return for dinner, and, they prepare a meal accordingly “. If the employers demand that they work extra time, their’ domestic arrangements are upset. Very little consideration is given’ to the home comfort of these men, who have a right to enjoy the same conditions of domestic life as other citizens. As the result of the payment of attendance money and the introduction of some of the provisions visualized in this bill, there will be contentment in the industry and the tax will be well justified.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Motion (by Senator Ashley) agreed to-
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn to Tuesday, the 25th March, at 3 p.m.
Motion (by Senator Ashley) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
. - During the lastfew weeks I have received letters from many organizations of all kinds, including branches of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia, protesting against the holding of the final of the National Quiz Championship in support of the Third Security Loan on the night of Anzac Day. I wrote to the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) and informed him of the wishes of these organizations. The right honorable gentleman replied that he had investigated the matter thoroughly but had decided that the Quiz programme would take place as arranged. I have now received requests to make another appeal to the Prime Minister and to raise the matter in the Senate. In order to give an indication of the nature of the requests which I have received, I quote the following letter from a Sub-branch of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia: -
It is requested that you bring up on the floor of the House, during the present sitting, the matter concerning the holding of the final of the National Quiz in support of the Third Security Loan on the night of Anzac Day. We further urge you to oppose this move and endeavour to have the date changed.
As you are fully aware Anzac Bay is a day of reverence and remembrance to those who gave the supreme sacrifice so that others may live free men and women. As exservicemen, eight hundred in numbers, we are ot the opinion that this day should be kept as such and the holding of the Quiz final on that night, at an hour when special services of remembrance are held and broadcast, is an insult to those who fell and to those who still live. It is felt also that the sentiment of the people of Australia should not be gained by the holding of this Quiz on this night. It should also be remembered that this subbranch supports this Third Security Loan and wish the Government every success in obtaining their objective, but we do oppose the night and hour when it will be launched by the Prime Minister.
I have raised this matter in the hope that a final appeal to the Government may be successful. The Quiz championship could be held on the night before or the night after Anzac Day. I fail to see any objection to changing the date. The event certainly would not lose any of its appeal to the public if it were held on the previous night instead of on Anzac Day, because that would be nearer to the hour of the early morning landing at Gallipoli so many years ago. Probably it would have more appeal at that time, especially for men who participated in the landing. I ask that further consideration be given by the Prime Minister to this earnest request by many organizations.
– Earlier today, Senator Amour asked the following questions, upon notice : -
The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows: -
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appointments - Department -
Civil Aviation - E. H. Fry.
Interior- K. Gottlieb, C. A. Maddern,
D. 6. Thomas.
Defence (Transitional Provisions) Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1947, No. 31.
Seat of Government Acceptance Act and Seat of Government (Administration) Act - Ordinance - 1947 - No. 1 - Liquor Poll.
Senate adjourned at 10.15 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 20 March 1947, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1947/19470320_senate_18_190/>.