20th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. Edward mattner) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the Minister for Shipping and Transport the following questions: -
– The honorable senator was good enough to indicate, during the debate on the motion for the adjournment of the Senate, last night, that he would ask these questions. Accordingly I have obtained the following information from my department: - 1 and 2. Yes. 3, 4 and 5. The present Waterside Workers’ Building at Hobart is inadequate because it is used ‘both as an assembly hall and an amenities building. The Australian Stevedoring Industry Board has agreed with the Hobart Marine
Board on the erection at the estimated cost of £19,000 of a large building adjoining the existing building. The new building Trill be used as an assembly hall for waterside workers. The board understands that specifications are in the course of preparation. No date has been set for the commencement of the erection of the building, but as Boon as specifications are complete and the necessary documents are executed, there will be nothing to prevent an immediate start. As soon as possession can be obtained of the new building, the existing building will be converted for amenities purposes, and additional showers will be installed.
– I address a question to you, Mr. President. “Will you have inquiries made into the cause of the delay in the arrival of Tasmanian newspapers in Canberra? Is it not a fact that Trans-Australia Airlines has a daily service from Hobart which arrives in Canberra at 12.40 p.m. on the day that it leaves Hobart, and that Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited has a daily service from Hobart which arrives in Canberra at 1.20 p.m. on the same day as it leaves Hobart? Is it not a fact that the daily Trans-Australia Airlines service from Burnie arrives in Canberra at 5 p.m. on the same day as it leaves that town? Are you aware that, notwithstanding the arrival of these aircraft at the times mentioned, the Hobart Mercury, which is supposed to be placed on the files in the Parliamentary Library at approximately 3 p.m. on the day of issue, is often 24 hours late; and that the Launceston Examiner, which could and should be on the same aircraft, is not placed in the library until the next day and is often not placed there for 27 hours after the arrival of the aircraft? Are you aware that the Advocate is usually placed on the files 48 or more hours after the arrival of the aeroplane from Burnie? Can arrangements be made whereby Tasmanian newspapers will be sent on the first aircraft from Tasmania and placed on the files in the library on the day of issue ?
– The matter that the honorable senator has raised is under the control of the Library. The Usher of the Black Rod has already taken steps to ascertain whether the conditions to which the honorable senator has referred can be remedied in the near future.
Commonwealth oil REFINERIES LIMITED.
– Can the Minister for Trade and Customs say whether there is any secrecy surrounding the name of the individuals or firms whose valuation of the assets of Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited formed the basis of the purchase price paid to the Commonwealth? If there is no secrecy, will the Minister provide those names to the Seriate before this chamber has to consider the legislation ratifying the sale of the assets to the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company Proprietary Limited?
– So far as I am aware, there is no secrecy in this matter. However, it is not the Government’s practice to disclose every detail of its business. I am quite sure that, in relation to this matter, the Government will follow the traditional practice of governments since federation. That, I am sure, will be the correct procedure.
– In view of newspaper reports that a unit of the Commonwealth Division of the United Nations forces in Korea has been wiped out, and the subsequent denial’ of those reports by the Minister for the Army, can the Minister representing the Minister for the Army say whether censorship is applied to war correspondents in Korea? What authority, if any, governs the accreditation of journalists in Korea ? If Australia has no censorship or accreditation authority, are other members of the United Nations in a similar position?
– I am not aware of the full details of the matter referred to by the honorable senator, but I am quite sure that the only censorship that is applied to the despatches of war correspondents from Korea is that considered necessary for security purposes.
SenatorFRASER - Because of the unsatisf actory answer which the Minister has made, I ask leave to place the question on the notice-paper so that it may be answered properly.
– Order ! The honorable senator should be aware that he may place his question on the noticepaper if he wishes to do so. That is his privilege.
– Can the Minister representing the Treasurer say whether the Loan Council has fixed the rate of interest on local government loans at 4-J per cent. ? Is it a fact that certain local governing authorities in “Western Australia are unable to secure loans at less than 4f per cent.? Have representations been made to the Loan Council by local governing authorities for permission to pay 4 per cent, on loans? If so, what was the Loan Council’s decision ?
– In view of the fact that a meeting of the Loan Council will be held on Friday next to deal with this matter, I ask the honorable senator to put his question on the notice-paper so that the Treasurer may give it his personal attention.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture inform me whether the price of new cornsacks is controlled? If it is controlled, by whom is it controlled? Is the Minister aware that the primary producers are being charged approximately 70s. a dozen for cornsacks by the Australian Wheat Board, whilst the present cost of imported cornsacks is approximately 32s. 6d. a dozen? “Will the Minister cause inquiries to be made into this matter and inform the Senate of the reasons, if any, why primary producers are being charged such high prices for cornsacks ?
– I have had an opportunity to consider the report of the Jute Controller, who is in charge of the importation of jute goods, with particular reference to cornsacks. Honorable senators will appreciate the fact that for a number of years supplies of cornsacks have been very difficult to obtain. The Jute Controller has ensured each year that adequate supplies of cornsacks and woolpacks would arrive in Australia at the appropriate times. As honorable senators are aware, the wheat industry would be placed in a very embarrassing position if ships arrived to transport the harvest and sufficient supplies of cornsacks were not available. In other years, when the price of jute has been increased after orders have been lodged overseas, the farmers have received the benefit of the lower price. This year, the price of jute has fallen very considerably since orders were lodged and farmers and other jute users will have to pay a price based on the cost. I understand that the prices of cornsacks in stock and of those arriving in new shipments are averaged and that, apart from a small commission paid to those responsible for effecting deliveries, farmers and others buy cornsacks at the average cost price. I very much regret that the price of jute has fallen considerably since orders for cornsacks were placed. Those of us who are in business know what the fall in the price of jute will mean. Jute is not the only commodity in respect of which merchants are now making substantial losses.
– On the 11th September, Senator Wordsworth asked the following question : -
I desire to ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Supply. By way of explanation, I point out that the road between Launceston and Bell Bay, in Tasmania, is in a very bad condition and is rapidly becoming worse, because of the cartage of heavy materials for the construction of the aluminium works at Bell Bay. This project is more or less a defence undertaking. The Australian Government subscribed four-fifths of the capital, and the Tasmanian Government only one-fifth, and it may be claimed that the road is, in some measure, a military road. Will the Minister consider the possibility of assisting financially the Tasmanian Government in the repair and reconstruction of this road?
The Minister for Supply has now supplied the following answer : -
The Commonwealth’s concern in this road is limited to the interests of the Australian Aluminium Production Commission, the highway itself being a State public works project which the Premier of Tasmania announced would be undertaken as an alternative to railway connexion. The commission has neither the authority nor the financial resources to participate in the building of this road. It is also pointed out that during the present financial stringency, it would be out of the question for the Commonwealth to assume a further burden of possibly £1,000,000 for work which the State of Tasmania should provide in its loan works programme. The Australian Aluminium Production Commission, though naturally eager to see the highway constructed us early as possible, has taken a realistic view of the position by urging the Tasmanian Public Works Department to make an early start on the construction of a new section of the highway from the vicinity of Hillwood to Bell Bay - .the worst section - with adequate maintenance of the LauncestonHillwood portion until Suite finances permit its reconstruction. This appears to be a reasonable proposition which, I hope, will he favorably considered by the Public Works Department, and put in hand by stages according to the amount of funds which the State is able to provide.
– I preface a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Supply by referring to an answer which “was received from him when a request was made for assistance in the construction of a first-class road and railway to the port of Bell Bay, which is the site of the aluminium industry in Tasmania. The Minister then stated that the Australian Aluminium Production Commission has neither the authority nor the money to provide such assistance. As the Tasmanian Government has stated that it has not sufficient funds to undertake this very urgent work, would the Minister give sympathetic consideration to a request by the Premier of Tasmania that the Australian Government should purchase the one-fifth shareholding of the Tasmanian Government in the aluminium industry on condition that the money paid for that shareholding shall be expended by the Tasmanian Government on the provision of such a road and railway?
– I undertake to bring to the notice of the Minister for Supply the question that the honorable senator has asked. I shall ask the Minister to furnish a report as quickly as possible.
– Will the Minister for Trade and Customs inform me. of the amounts of import licences that have been granted to Tredco Limited? What quantities of cotton piece goods were imported by that company in each year since 1949, and from which countries were the goods imported?
– I am in the very happy position of not being able to answer the honorable senator’s questions. Even if I were able to do so, I should not, because it is not the practice of this Government - nor has it been the practice of any former government - to disclose publicly particulars relating to the private transactions of individuals or companies to whose records the Government has access. If the honorable senator desires to ascertain the quantities of cotton piece goods that have been imported from various countries, I shall be happy to obtain that information for him. I have no doubt that, upon reflection, he will agree that it would be improper for me to disclose information that has been gleaned from private records to which the Government, by virtue of its authority, has access.
– I preface a question to the Minister representing the Minister acting for the Minister for Civil Aviation by pointing out that, according to press and radio reports, Australian airline operators intend to purchase turbo-propelled aircraft for use in Australia. I understand that such aircraft could save from nine to ten minutes on the journey from Melbourne to Sydney, compared with the aircraft that are at present in operation on that route. Will the Minister inform me whether a large expenditure of public funds would ‘be involved in the provision of reinforced concrete standings on the major airports of this country. I understand that their purchase would make heavy inroads into our muchneeded exchange. Would it not be possible to purchase, instead, pistonengined aircraft that have an extensive life still ahead of them, for use on the ordinary airlines of Australia? Such aircraft are capable of travelling just as quickly as the jet aircraft, have a greater range, operate more economically, and their purchase would not involve such a large expenditure of public moneys. Will the Minister assure the Senate that contracts for the purchase of turbo-jet aircraft will not be entered into until the Parliament has had an opportunity to examine the matter?
– I have had an opportunity to peruse documents relating to the purchase of new and second-hand aircraft. However, I am unable to inform the honorable senator whether it is proposed to purchase turbo-jet aircraft, or whether the existing aerodromes in this country would be capable of handling those faster machines. If the honorable senator will be good enough to place his question on the notice-paper I shall obtain a considered reply for bini.
– Is the Minister representing the Prime Minister aware that because of the stoppage of construction of the Great Southern water scheme in Western Australia, a work for which the Australian Government and the Western Australian Government have agreed to share the cost, the expansion of that scheme to serve other towns has been halted ? Is he also aware that, because of the stoppage, Brookton, Pingelly, Narrogin, Katanning and other towns again face severe water restrictions during the coming summer? In view of the trials to which residents of these towns are continually subject during the summer months, will the Government take the necessary action to complete this urgently needed work without further delay?
– I was not aware of the circumstances disclosed by the questions asked by the honorable senator, but I shall have inquiries made and give him an answer as soon as possible.
– Does the Minister representing the Minister for Defence know that campaign ribbons of World War II. are on sale in Sydney to those who wish to buy them? Is it a fact that national service trainees have been observed wearing such ribbons? If the Minister finds this to be so, will he consider exercising his power under the defence regulations to prohibit the sak of such ribbons, and will he also cause the provost corps of the respective services to control irresponsible and illegal wearing of campaign ribbons?
– I have m, knowledge of the matters to which the honorable senator has referred, but if the facts are as he has stated them, I fully appreciate the importance of corrective action. I shall be happy to bring the matter to the notice of my colleague, the Minister for Defence.
– Some months ago I addressed questions to the Minister representing the Minister for Health and the Minister for Trade and Customs concerning the illegal use of drugs and their entry into Australia. I”.: reply to those questions, the Senate was informed that an extensive inquiry was being made and that a report would be furnished. Can the responsible Minister now say when the Senate may expect this report?
– ;I shall bring thi* matter to the notice of my colleague, the Minister for Health, and ask him if a report is yet available and when it can be supplied to honorable senators.
– On the 7th October, Senator Sandford asked me the following question : -
I preface a question to the Minister representing the Minister acting for the PostmasterGeneral by pointing out that grave inconvenience anil eye-strain has been caused to employees of the Postal Department engaged in the mail room at thu Melbourne General Post Office by the fact that the fluorescent lighting system has been inoperative for a considerable time. I understand that the department has experienced difficulty in obtaining replacements of the burnt-out tubes. Will the Minister endeavour to have the restoration of the fluorescent lighting there expedited?
The Minister acting for the PostmasterGeneral has now furnished me with the following information : -
For some time past, the fluorescent lighting installation serving the mail room of the Melbourne General Post Office has been operating at a reduced level due to the inability of the department to obtain suitable replacement tubes from local sources. To effect some improvement, pending resumption of local manufacture, small quantities of tubes have been obtained from overseas. It is expected that local manufacture will be resumed early in 1953.
– It has been reported, Mr. President, that portraits of yourself and of the Speaker of the House of Representatives have been painted by a well-known South Australian artist, and, in common with all other honorable senators, I look forward to seeing your portrait decorating the walls of Parliament House.
Honorable senators interjecting,
– I now . understand that those portraits have already been hung. My question, sir, is whether you consider that the Joint House Committee should appoint members of the Parliament with a knowledge of the fine arts to examine critically the portraits which now hang in Parliament House, because I think that some of them may fairly be considered to be not merely inartistic, but actually libellous representations of their subjects and. unworthy of the prestige and standing of the Parliament.
– The Historic Memorials Committee determines the suitability or otherwise of works of art to decorate Parliament House, and it is not, therefore, the function of members of the Joint House Committee to set themselves up as art critics or to decide whether or not a particular portrait is suitable for hanging in th’is building. If I may say so, 1 think that, considering the subjects he had before him, Mr. Ivor Hele has done a wonderful job.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration, upon notice - 1.1b it ft fact that unemployed European immigrants living in Government hostels are charged a lower rate of board than that charged to unemployed British immigrants?
– The Minister for Immigration has supplied the following answer to the honorable senator’s questions : -
European immigrants who become unemployed while living in hostels are charged the same rates for board and lodging as those charged to British immigrants in similar circumstances. It is true, however, that some time ago it was decided to speed up the placement in employment of newly arrived immigrants by transferring some of them from reception and training centres operated by the Department of Immigration to hostels operated by Commonwealth Hostels Limited, where they would be on the spot for interview and engagement by employers. Immigrants so transferred cannot be regarded as ordinary hostel residents since they are awaiting their first placement in employment in the same way as those in reception and training centres and the Commonwealth Government is just as liable for their support as it would have been had they remained in the centres. The presence of these immigrants in a hostel is a matter of convenience to facilitate placement in employment, and they cannot, therefore, be asked to contribute more towards their upkeep than those who await placement in a reception centre. Immigrants awaiting initial placement in employment receive a special Social Services Benefit from which they contribute towards the cost of their maintenance in the reception centres or hostels as the case may be. This benefit is equal in amount to the unemployment benefit and when this was 25s. a week, the single immigrant contributed 20s. a week towards the cost of his accommodation. Following the recent increase in the amount of this benefit from 25s. to 50s. a week, there will be a corresponding increase in the contribution hy the immigrant towards accommodation costs, hut the actual amount has yet to be determined. In the case of those accommodated at hostels, the Department of Immigration meets the cost of the balance of the hostel tariff.
To date, 415 immigrants have been moved to hostels under these special arrangements and of these 360 have already been placed in employment. I would emphasize that immediately an immigrant residing in a hostel is placed in initial employment, ho becomes liable to pay the full hostel tariff, and if he subsequently becomes unemployed he is charged the same tariff as that applicable to other unemployed residents. The concession mentioned is extended only until his initial placement in employment. It will, therefore, be seen that immigrants placed in this manner enjoy no advantage ill the matter of hostel charges over any other immigrants arriving in Australia under inter -governmental agreements, and that there is no discrimination as between European and British immigrants in the rates -charged by Commonwealth Hostels Limited.
– I lay on the table the following paper : -
Sugar Industry - Report of the Sugar Inquiry Committee, dated 11th September, 1952.
Ordered to be printed.
– By way of personal explanation, I should like to take this opportunity to place on record my denial of a report which appeared in the Melbourne Herald yesterday, Tuesday, the 14th October, 1952. The Herald stated that in a speech which was made by me in the Senate some weeks age I advocated the transfer of Australian industries to Singapore and to other places in the East in order to get the advantage of cheap coloured labour. At no time did I intend that construction to be placed on what I said, and at no time did I say that. I did suggest that we should encourage Australian industry to move into South-East Asia, and later in my remarks, I suggested that we encourage every Australian industry that could possibly do so, to establish branches in South-East Asia.
In advocating that course I followed exactly in the footsteps of cur late Prime Minister and Treasurer, Mr. Chifley. Mr. Chifley gave tangible help to Australian industries which wished to expand into those areas. His help has been publicly acknowledged by industrial leaders in this country.To suggest, as some would, that I advocated the closing down of Australian factories, and their re-opening outside Australia, is a complete and utter falsehood. I, with my party, have advocated and fought for the expansion of Australian primary and secondary industries, so that high standards and full employment would be a part of our normal way of life. But, if Australia is to play its part in the Pacific; one of the most important ways that it can do so, is byexpanding and developing our industries in Asia.
Mr. Chifley has said, and I say now, that the most tangible expression of the desires that were written into the Colombo plan would be the establishment of branches of our industries in those countries which sorely reed our help. The leaders of those nations have pleaded with the great industrial countries of the world to come intotheir countries and play their part in helping to industrialize them and so lift their standards.
– Order ! The honorable senator has obtained leave to make a personal explanation. I think that he is trespassing dangerously in using arguments to support his view.
– I am only repeating what I said previously in my speech to the Senate. I was going to say that the strongest bulwark against communism in Asia would be the action of anti-Communist nations such as Australia in helping Asiatic countries to build up their standards so that they can mount their own fight against communism. I thank the Senate for its indulgence.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Spicer) read a first time.
Senator SPICER, (Victoria - Attorney-
General) [3.41]. - I move -
That the bill he now read a second time.
This bill; in conjunction with legislation submitted to the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory, is designed to give effect to certain proposals which were announced by the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) on the 6th September in a statement respecting native welfare. In that statement the Minister referred to the conditions under which land might be resumed from aboriginal reserves, the method by which it might be resumed and the conditions under which prospecting and mining might bepermitted on reserves. A significant part of the announcement was to the effect that, if mining took place on an aboriginal reserve or on any land which had been resumed from a reserve, a royalty should be levied on the minerals won and those royalties should be paid into a trust fund which would be applied for the benefit of aborigines.
In order to put the proposal into effect, legislation is necessary both in this Parliament and in the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory. A bill which was recently introduced into the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory to amend the Mining Ordinance of the territory sets out the conditions under which mining may take place on aboriginal reserves, and lays down the procedure for the resumption of reserves for the purposes of mining. It also lays down that a royalty shall be levied on any minerals won and that these royalties shall be paid into a trust fund to be known as the Aborigines (Benefits from Mining) Trust Fund, to be administered for the benefit of the aboriginal native inhabitants of the Northern Territory. The ordinance provides that, with the consent of the Minister, the Administrator of the Northern Territory can make payments or grant benefits from the fund either direct to, or through the agency of any person or association of persons on behalf of an aboriginal native’ inhabitant of the Northern Territory or a group or class of aboriginal native inhabitants of the Northern Territory in such a manner as the Minister sees fit.
Legal advice was given to the Government that the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory did not have the power to create a trust fund and the purpose of the bill now before this Senate is simply to establish the fund. The bill contains one substantial clause to the effect’ that a. new section shall be inserted in the Northern Territory (Administration) Act .1910-49, establishing the trust fund as a trust account within the meaning of section 62a of the Audit Act 1910-50, and providing that there shall be paid into the fund, out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund, which is appropriated accordingly, amounts equal to the amounts from time to time received by or on behalf of the Commonwealth by way of royalties under any provision of the law of the territory relating to mining on aboriginal reserves or on lands which have been included in aboriginal reserves. The clause also provides that payments of such amounts as the Minister directs or approves may be made out of the fund and applied to or for the benefit of aboriginals or aboriginal institutions. Interest received from the investment of money standing to the credit of the fund will form a part of the fund.
In commending this bill to the Senate, I should like to repeat the assurances which were given in my colleague’s earlier statement that great care will be exercised in the granting of permits to persons to prospect or mine on aboriginal reserves, and that the interests of natives will be safeguarded at all times. It is not the policy of this Government to throw open aboriginal reserves or to reduce them thoughtlessly ; nor should any prospector or miner be misled into thinking that he will be encouraged by this Government to enter on reserves. The effect of the action we are taking is that, in those cases in which reserves or portions of reserves are not necessary for the useand benefit of aborigines, and where the presence of minerals is suspected, we will in future have the legal power to permit the entry of the prospector or the miner, and, if minerals are found in such quantities as to make the action worthwhile, we will have the legal power to resume a part of a reserve for mining purposes. In every case, however, the interests of the natives will be watched carefully. There will be no general rule in favour of miners and prospectors. Each application will bo determined in the light of the surrounding facts and will have to be justified by the facts. Each permit to enter a reserve and the granting of each mining lease will be subject to such conditions as may be necessary to ensure that the remaining interests of the natives are respected. No resumption of any part of a reserve will be made without reference to the Governor-General, and any resumption will have to be notified to this Parliament, which will, of course, be able to exercise its customary powers if it wishes to disallow such resumption.
In some quarters, the question has been asked why the natives themselves should not work any minerals that may be found on the reserves. In general, mining would be beyond the skill and the resources of most of the natives in the Northern Territory. If it should happen that any natives living on reserves show an interest in, and capacity for, either prospecting or mining on those reserves, they will receive every possible encouragement and opportunity to engage in this activity. Natives outside the reserves, who would be entitled to apply for a miner’s right or a mining lease can, of course, do so. It may be that natives will be able to work on their own account and benefit from it, but in the great majority of cases the present condition of the natives in the territory and the nature of their interests are such that, both as individuals and as a group, they are likely to receive a more practical and more immediate benefit by a system of royalties which will provide funds to be expended for their social advancement. I commend to the Senate this bill to create a trust fund for natives.
Debate (on motion by Senator Critchley) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator McLeay) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill bc now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to amend the Wool Realization (Distribution of Profits) Act 1948 to permit a distribution to persons who have left the wool industry of their full entitlement of profits arising from the operations of the Joint Organization, and to set a final date by which all profits shall be distributed. The profits result from the sale by the Joint Organization of approximately 0,800,000 bales of Australian wool which could not be sold during the war. The United Kingdom is entitled to receive one-half of the profits made on the sale of this wool. The share of profits which has accrued to Australia so far is approximately £92,000,000. It is expected that a relatively small additional amount, perhaps of the order of £1,000,000 or £2,000,000, will accrue to Australia during the liquidation of the Joint Organization.
Late in 1948, the Parliament passed the Wool Realization (Distribution of
Profits) Act to give legislative effect to the several governmental promises that Australian wool-growers would receive the profits made from the sale of the wool supplied by them in war-time. That act enabled the Government to make advance distributions out of the expected net profit, and to make a final distribution when the full profit had been ascertained. Further, it established the right of all wool-growers, who had submitted participating wool during the war, to share in all distributions of profits by reference to the value of wool submitted by them for appraisement. In November, 1949, the first profit distribution under the act was made. Approximately £25,000,000 was thus paid out in the middle of the 1949-50 wool year, when wool prices reached quite high levels. In the following season, 1950-51, wool prices attained unprecedented heights - the seasonal average price for greasy wool was 144d. per lb. - but, late in that season, they fell substantially. The somewhat lower levels then established prevailed during the 1951-52 season, when the average price for greasy wool sold at auction was 72d. per lb. In March of this year, this Government arranged for a further £25,000,000 to be distributed. In the last three years, therefore, wool-growers have received two payments totalling £50,000,000, representing profits on wool supplied by them in war-time, and, in addition, they received very satisfactory returns from the sale of current clips at high prices. Thus, the undistributed profits amount to approximately £42,000,000.
The Government has decided that a programme shall be established for the distribution of the balance of profits. It has become increasingly evident that many wool-growers who left the wool industry before the high level of wool prices became established have been experiencing hardship of one form or an- . ‘ other. Some are aged and infirm, and have been looking forward to receiving their shares of the profit to assist them to carry on. After considering the possibility of making special provision to meet cases of hardship, the Government came to the conclusion that the most satisfactory way to deal with the many such cases that had come to its notice would be to make to all the growers who had left the industry a distribution of their full entitlement of profit. As I have said, the people who were affected were those who left the industry before the higher level of wool prices became established. Such a distribution was not necessary for those who enjoyed the high wool prices prevailing during and after 1949-50. Therefore, after discussing the matter with representatives of wool-growers’ organizations, the Government decided that the special distribution should be extended only to those who had left the wool-growing industry before the 1st September, 1949, which marked the beginning of the higher level of wool prices.
The Government decided, further, that following the interim distribution of £25,000,000 in March, 1952, in which all entitled persons participated, there should be further interim distributions to those persons who had remained in the industry after the 1st September, 1949, the object being to make, as provided in the bill, the final distribution not later than the financial year 1954-55. Subject to developments in the Poulton case, to which I shall refer in a moment, the Government’s intention is that there should be three further such distributions at annual intervals.
Three main factors were responsible for the Government’s decision not to distribute at once all the profits available. First, the level of taxation was, and still is, such that, had the full profit entitlement been distributed to all growers at once, a great many of them would have retained very little of the money. The principal beneficiary would have been the Consolidated Revenue Fund, and that would have been contrary to the Commonwealth’s intention. The second reason - and from the point of view of the national economy a very important reason - for the Government’s decision not to make a complete distribution of the profits immediately was that the addition of such a large sum to the monetary system in a period of high wool prices and rising prices in general would have greatly magnified the inflationary problem, the effect of which the Australian economy is still feeling. If all the profits had been paid out in the financial year 1951-52, and not merely the £25,000,000 which was distributed last March, approximately £67,000,000 would have been added to the currency stream. The third reason is that there is still pending in the High Court the case known as the Poulton case, in which the plaintiff, who is. a dealer, not only claimed, as against the grower, to be entitled to payment under the act, but also put in issue the whole basis of the war-time wool acquisition scheme. The hearing of the case has been completed, but judgment on it has been reserved. The Government has felt that the implications of this case are such, and the amount which could possibly be involved is so large, that the proper course for it to take was to postpone the completion of distribution of moneys under the act. This third reason is of course the only factor responsible for the delay in making payments of the current full entitlement to persons who left the industry before the 1st September, 1949. How long this situation will prevail will depend on the length of time the litigation may take. If, as is hoped, the case is settled promptly, passage of this legislation now will enable the Government, as soon after the court’s judgment as applications can be dealt with, to make the special distribution to persons who have left the industry.
The Government realizes, however, that the legal proceedings could be prolonged. In that eventuality, adherence by the Government to its decision to postpone, during the litigation, further payments under the act, would delay further distribution to those who have left the industry and thus negative the Government’s objective of relieving hardship. The Government is eager to avoid this, and wishes, in the event of prolonged litigation, to be able to distribute to those who have left the industry at least a portion of their full entitlement, pending settlement of the Poulton case. The Government cannot decide what portion could safely be distributed until it is aware of the total amount involved in payments under the special distribution. This will be disclosed by the applications from persons entitled to participate in the special distribution and a decision can then be made and an appropriate amount distributed. Applications will be called for immediately the legislation is passed.
The bill has therefore been drafted to cover the alternative possibilities of a prompt or a deferred settlement of the litigation. It is not proposed that these special arrangements should apply to persons who had not left the industry before the 1st September, 1949 - that is, to the participants who would normally share in the three annual distributions - and, of course, they would not apply in respect of any profit moneys relating to wool submitted for war-time appraisement through dealers. Such moneys are directly at issue in the Poulton case, and can be paid only when the court has determined whether the dealer or the grower should receive them. The bill allows of the annual instalments to which I have referred being paid as decided by the Government, provided that all the profits arc distributed not later than the 30th June, 1955. There would thus be flexibility, which would enable the Government to make a final distribution much sooner than the 1954-55 financial year, should that course be considered necessary or desirable.
The bill provides for the establishment of a trust fund, to be known as the Wool Disposals Profit Fund, into which will be paid all the profits - most of which are now held by the Australian Wool Realization Commission - arising from the operation of the Joint Organization, other than those already paid out or reserved for later payment under the terms of previous distributions.
As was contemplated by section 25 of the existing act, the interim distribution effected last March was made out of an advance made by the Commonwealth Bank to the Australian Wool Realization Commission. Repayment of this advance would te made out of the Joint Organization profit moneys, which the commission is authorized by the bill to retain. Legal advice that has been received by the Government suggests the advisability of validating the method of distribution adopted in 1949, and there is a provision in the bill to cover this aspect of the matter. Payments in connexion with subsequent distributions will be made out of the Wool Disposals Profit Fund.
The bill will introduce into the existing act a completely new part which will enable the Government to make the special distribution to persons who left the industry before the 1st September, 1949. Each person’s share in that distribution will be calculated as a percentage of the appraised value of all wool that was submitted by him for appraisement in the war years, and which was regarded in the war-time scheme as “ participating wool “. The percentage will be calculated according to the amount in the Wool Disposals Profit Fund at the time of the special distribution, and the total appraised value of all participating wool. Persons sharing in the special distribution will ‘ receive in one payment their full share of all profit moneys held in the fund at that time, provided that the Poulton case has been settled by then. Otherwise, as I have already indicated, they will receive, as an advance payment, as much as the Government considers may safely be paid out, having regard to the total amount payable under the special distribution and the implications of the Poulton case. Suitable provision is made in the bill to ensure that persons participating in the special distribution will receive their due share of any moneys received by the Commonwealth from the Joint Organization after the special distribution has been made. Expenses in each distribution will be borne by the participants in that distribution. Participation in the special distribution will be by application. The applications will be examined by the Australian Wool Realization Commission, which will include a majority of growers, and which will make recommendations to the Minister on whether the claims come within the provisions of the legislation. Each person whose application is approved will become entitled to be paid an amount equal to the declared percentage of the appraised value of participating wool that was supplied by him during war time. In connexion with the proposed special distribution, it has been necessary to make specific provision for the treatment of trustees, holders of securities, companies and partnerships. The bill also contains a clause to ensure that, although a person may qualify technically for the special distribution, he may be excluded from payments under it if the Minister considers that, in all the circumstances, he cannot fairly be regarded as having left the industry before the 1st September, 1949. His overall entitlement, of course, will be thereby affected.
Under the existing act, payments of less than £1 are not made in any distribution, but because it is how contemplated that there will be five distributions in all, the act is to be amended to provide that, as a part of the final distribution, the total of such unpaid amounts will be paid to entitled persons, provided they exceed £1 in all. Many of the provisions of the amending bill are of a machinery nature, to implement the proposed alteration of the present scheme. I need not refer to them at present. I commend the bill to honorable senators. .
Debate (on motion by Senator Courtice) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator O’sullivan) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Customs Act 1901-1951.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Motion (by Senator O’SULLIVAN put -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the bill being passed through its remaining stages without delay.
The PEESIDENT . - 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.
The bill will amend the Customs Act 1901-1951 so as to remove doubts of the validity of certain regulations and administrative procedures, and in order to bring certain provisions of the act into line with present-day commercial practice. It will also simplify procedures in the interests of people who transact business with the Department of Trade and Customs. Section 4 and other sections of the act refer to aerodromes that have been appointed for the purposes of the act. As the term “ airport “ is now used internationally, it is therefore desirable for the term to be substituted for “ aerodrome “ in those sections.
Division 1 of Part IV. of the act provides that the goods specifically enumerated in the division, and all goods the importation of which is prohibited by regulation, shall be prohibited imports. In addition, certain sections of Division 1 are either redundant or similar in effect to other sections of this act and of the Copyright Act 1912-1950. It is therefore considered desirable to repeal and re-enact the whole of the division. The effect will be that goods which are prohibited imports will be prescribed in the regulations.
It has been found necessary in certain circumstances to issue import licences subject to the fulfilment of certain conditions after importation, such as, for example, that the goods shall not be sold within a specified time. Experience has shown that when import licences have been issued subject to the fulfilment of certain conditions after importation, and such conditions have not been complied with by the importer, the Department of Trade and Customs has no power to enforce the conditions, and it has no right of action against the goods or the importer. It is proposed therefore, to amend the act in order to provide the necessary power to issue import licences subject to certain conditions to be fulfilled after importation, and to enable the taking of securities to ensure that the conditions upon which importation has been allowed shall be complied with.
Under section 97, warehoused goods may be removed from a warehouse for the purpose of public exhibition, as prescribed by regulation. It has been found impracticable to deal with such matters expeditiously by regulation. The amendment of the section will enable Collectors of Customs to approve the quantities, and specify the periods during which the owner may retain the goods outside the warehouse without entering the goods for home consumption.
Section 132 provides that all import duties shall be paid at the rate in force when the goods are entered for home consumption. As it is not practicable to apply that section to stores for ships and aircraft, owing to the fact that they are consumed before they could be entered for home consumption, it is proposed to add a new section in Part VII. to provide for the acceptance of duty at the rates in force on the date the declaration of stores consumed is signed.
As Part VII. is considered unsatisfactory from a drafting point of view, the bill proposes to repeal and remake the Part. The provisions of the proposed new Part VII. will not alter any of the existing practices in relation to the control of stores for ships and aircraft.
The proposed amendment of section 162 will enable security, in lieu of a deposit of duty, to be given to the Customs authorities that goods imported into Australia will be re-exported within a period of twelve months. It is proposed, also, that the period during which the goods may remain in Australia may be extended at the discretion of the Minister. The insistence upon a deposit of duty, and the inability to extend the period beyond twelve months, have proved unduly onerous to importers, in certain circumstances. A new section 234a has been included in the bill, whereby unauthorized persons may be refused entry to any ship, aircraft, wharf or place where passengers are being cleared through the Customs until such time as the necessary customs formalities have been completed. Experience has shown that the presence of unauthorized persons hinders the speedy clearance through the Customs of passengers and their baggage and is an obvious aid to smuggling. In this connexion it has been found imperative, particularly with immigrant ships, to control the many visitors who come to the wharfs to meet their friends.
The customs tariff authorizes the Minister to make by-laws under which goods are admitted at concessional rates of duty. Numerous applications for entry of goods under by-law are received, necessitating, in many instances, inquiries in Australia and the United Kingdom to determine whether the goods are entitled to the benefits of by-law admission. It is frequently the case that, before a by-law is gazetted, the goods have arrived and are entered at the normal rates of duty. A subsequent refund of the difference between the duty paid under the normal tariff item and that due under the by-law enables the importer to obtain the full benefit of the tariff concession. As there is doubt as to the authority in section 163 to pay such refunds, it is proposed to amend the section to authorize these payments.
In isolated cases the situation also arises that a by-law item under which the goods would have been eligible for entry has been repealed before the bylaw could be gazetted. The inability of the Minister to make by-laws in such circumstances imposes severe hardship on importers. It is therefore proposed to insert a new section 271 which will provide, inter alia, that a by-law may be made in respect of any item of the customs tariff in relation to any goods entered for home consumption during the continuance of that item, notwithstanding that the item has been repealed prior to the making of the by-law.
The remaining amendments are of minor importance and are designed to simplify certain customs procedure in the interests of those transacting business with the Department of Trade and Customs, and also to authorize various practices which have been operating satisfactorily in the past. These are -
I- commend the bill to the favorable attention of honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Courtice) adjourned.
. - I move -
That Standing Order GS be suspended up to and including Saturday, the 1st November next, to enable now business to be commenced after 10.30 pun.
You. will remember, Mr. President, that this is a traditional motion which is moved as a sessional period draws to a close. I understand that it is more or less a formality in order to- get business through the Senate. In the last week or ten days of a session,, the Senate usually agrees to the suspension of that standing order to enable the business of the Senate to be completed.
– Standing Order 68 reads -
No new Business shall be commenced after half past ten o’clock at night.
The real purpose of the standing order is to. present a process of legislation by exhaustion. After honorable senators have addressed themselves to the business of the Senate, from either eleven o’clock in the morning or three o’clock in the afternoon, I consider that 10.30 p.m. is at seasonable hour at which to terminate the1 introduction of new business. If, after that hour, the Government sees fit to-‘ introduce new bills,, the intention is obviously not merely to float such business1,, but also- to carry it to a conclusion. That plainly involves sitting into the small hours of the morning.. When that practice Is repeated,, or even’ if it occurs only once, it is most detrimental to the health of honorable senators and all who are associated with the Senate. The terms of the motion indicate very plainly that the Government has made up its mind that this sessional period shall end on the 31st October. On behalf of the Opposition, I oppose that proposal most wholeheartedly. So far as the Opposition is concerned, there is before the Senate a vista of vastly important bills, many of which are highly controversial. The Opposition sees no reason why the next two months of this year should not be available for adequate debate of those bills. No Minister who has spoken about the 31st October as a.n objective for the ending of this sessional period has given a single reason why that date has been decided on.
The Opposition has continuously cooperated with the Government, particularly in the closing stages of a session when many bills which are not of a controversial nature are introduced. The Government has not the slightest justification for any claim that it has not had the full co-operation of the Opposition. I leave that as a challenge to honorable senators on the Government side ot the chamber. Again and again they have received the fullest co-operation from honorable senators on this side. It now appears that to the ruthless gagging of debates which has marked the conduct of the Government in this chamber recently, and of which I suspect we are to have- one more outstanding example- later to-day, is to be added a process of legislation by exhaustion. I do not propose to address myself to the motion at greater length, but I do not wish anybody to think that the relative brevity of my protest is not matched by the intensity of the objection of the Opposition to the proposal’. The Opposition will oppose and vote against the motion.
– Of course, the honorable senator has never moved a similar motion !
– In answer to the interjection made by the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Spicer), I do not recall having ever submitted such, a motion when I was. in office.
– Then, some of the honorable senator’s colleagues did it for him.
– I may have been a Minister when such a motion was proposed on behalf of the government of the day, but I know that no such motion was ever introduced weeks before the end of a sessional period. The Government has received a high degree of co-operation from the Opposition in this Parliament, and if the Government had approached us and indicated its wishes in regard to each of the several bills that it proposes to introduce, it would have received every assistance from us. However, in view of the conduct of Ministers in this chamber during recent weeks, when debate has been ruthlessly gagged by the Government on many occasions, I warn them that they cannot expect to continue to receive the same measure of co-operation from the Opposition as they have been privileged to receive from us in the past. And in using the word “ privileged “ I do so advisedly.
. - in reply - The Senate has just been treated to a most extraordinary, but not very impressive, piece of pantomime. I do not know why the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) has come to the conclusion that the Senate will necessarily rise by the 31st October. My remarks did not imply any such intention on the part of the Government. Concerning the honorable senator’s suggestion that the Senate might be kept in session for another two months, I say that whilst honorable senators on this side of the chamber would be quite prepared to sit for another two months, we cannot see any purpose in remaining in session for an. extended period during which there would not be one member of the Opposition present. It is very difficult to keep them here now. In fact, it is an amazing and encouraging experience to see three or four of them present in the chamber now.
The Leader of the Opposition said that he did not recall either the former Administration of which he was a member or himself having introduced such a motion as that which I have just submitted.
– I said that I had not myself ever introduced such a motion.
– The honorable senator did not do so for a very good reason. That reason is that such a motion is almost invariably submitted by the Leader of the Government in this chamber, and the honorable was not, of course, the Leader of the Administration of which he was a member. My recollection, like that of many other honorable senators, of the procedure adopted by the last Labour Administration is that similar motions were repeatedly and ruthlessly introduced by it towards the close of sessional periods. And the members of that Administration did so notwithstanding that the Opposition was composed of only three members.
Although honorable senators opposite who were members of the last Labour Administration regularly criticize the parliamentary procedure adopted by the present Government, basing their attacks upon us on the experience they obtained while in office, I was amazed this afternoon that the Leader of the Opposition should accuse us, with so much unction, of disregarding the rights of members of the Opposition. I repeat that ‘ this motion is merely a formal and traditional procedure which has been invoked ever since the Senate existed.
Question put -
That Standing Order68 be suspended up to and including Saturday, the 1st November next, to enable new business to be commenced after. 10.30 p.m.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. Edward Mattner.)
Majority . . . . 7
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from the 14th October (vide page 2956), on motion by Senator McLeay -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– The purpose of the bill is to amend the Navigation Act. Fortunately, I can make at least one non-controversial statement in the course of my remarks; it is that the bill is both comprehensive and important, and the act that it proposes to amend deals with matters of vital importance.
I invite the attention of honorable senators generally to the fact that the bill occupies 21 pages of print and consists of 38 clauses. At the commencement of his second-reading speech yesterday, the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) shocked the Opposition when he intimated that the Government wanted the bill to be passed by the Senate to-day. In fact, we were doubly shocked by his intimation after we had had an opportunity to ascertain the length of the printed bill and the importance of the matters with which it deals. If the Minister adheres to his intention to force the bill through the Senate to-day, the result will be that the 60 members of this chamber will have only a few hours in which to debate the motion for its second-reading and to consider in detail all its clauses.
Some of the 3S clauses in this bill provide for the insertion of many new sections in the act. For instance, clause 30 provides for six new sections to be incorporated in the principal act, and clause 37 provides for fifteen. new sections to be placed in it. This bill deals with 60 or 70 substantive matters each of which will require full and complete consideration in committee. There are many matters on which the Opposition desires information and I have little doubt that information will be wanted by Government senators also. I invite the Senate to examine the act that is to be amended. The Navigation Act was prepared after years of study, royal commissions and general consideration and is incorporated in 241 pages. It has 425 sections and 94 pages of schedules. I, personally, am not familiar with the measure that is to be amended. I doubt very much whether more than two or three honorable senators could honestly claim that they were familiar with such a comprehensive and technical piece of legislation as the Navigation Act. One cannot have a clear understanding of the very comprehensive amendments that have been submitted to the Senate without a background knowledge of this legislation. In these circumstances it is obvious that I and many of my colleagues have not had adequate time in which to consider the measure.
– Nor has anybody else.
– I am glad to hear that interjection from a Government supporter. After this bill was introduced yesterday, honorable senators were busily engaged in this chamber until after 11 o’clock at night. It is common knowledge that honorable senators on both sides of the chamber have been engaged throughout the whole of this morning at executive and party meetings. So the one opportunity that we have had to examine these proposals, which cover 21 pages, was in the small hours of this morning. Neither I nor any of my colleagues have had an adequate opportunity to study the implications of this measure.
– What is the Government’s haste?
– I propose to ask the Minister that question at a later stage of my remarks. In order to study the maritime industry it is necessary to have a knowledge of the operations of the Maritime Industry Commission which was set up in 1942. That body had promulgated 63 major orders by early 1948. An intelligent approach to this bill requires at least some knowledge of those orders. I acknowledge that the continuance of the operations of the Maritime Industry Commission under a national security regulation, long after the war has ended, is far from desirable. I think it is very necessary that matters concerning the maritime industry should be incorporated in permanent legislation. I can support the Minister to that extent. But the Government has had almost three years in which to prepare the amendments to the Navigation Act. Yet it wants all these comprehensive amendments to be disposed of to-day. The Minister has given no reason for treating the bill as a matter of urgency. I hope that the Minister will not prevent himself from replying to honorable senators who speak on this measure by moving “ That the question be now put “. If the Minister intends to gag this debate I invite him to make some opportunity available to himself to reply to the very important submissions which I am certain will be made to him from both sides of the chamber.
– He would close the debate if he replied.
– But it is inevitable that the Minister will have to gag the debate on the second reading of this bill if it is to be passed through all its stages to-day. If the Minister proposes to restrict this debate let him, at least, reply to honorable senators before he moves that the question be put.
I invite the Minister for Shipping and Transport to ‘ tell the Senate why, although he has had three years in which to submit this measure to the Senate, he has now demanded that it shall pass through all stages in one day. Honorable senators are entitled to know why the Minister wishes to limit this debate. This bill is of vast importance, not only to ship-owners, charterers of ships, and officers and crews, but to every individual in Australia because sea transport is of vital importance to everybody. It has an impact on the daily life of every individual although very often the individual does not realize that fact. This industry, which is now under considera tion for the first time in many years in this chamber is, without doubt, of fundamental importance to defence. One would expect that before the Government proposed to amend the Navigation Act, which has stood almost unaltered in all its majesty and volume for many years, it would have consulted the practical people who are concerned with the maritime industry. I ask the Minister whether the Maritime Industry Commission which has guided this industry for the past ten years has been consulted regarding the bill. 1. am prepared to suggest to the Minister, on the information available lo me, that the commission was not consulted prior to the introduction of this measure.
– I understand that the principal man to consult is in Moscow.
– I do not know what the Minister means by that remark. He seems to have some phobia in relation to Moscow. The Government knows that the Maritime Industry Commission has done an excellent job in a period of ten years. The Government itself has allowed the commission to function for the last three years. Yet I did not hear, in the second-reading speech of the Minister, one word of thanks to the members of that commission who have served long and well. There was an implied suggestion in the Minister’s speech that the commission had been responsible for the disastrous delays that have taken place in the maritime industry. I think that the Minister might at least have uttered some word of appreciation to the members of the commission. From the national viewpoint, surely those who, for the past ten years, have controlled this important industry should have been consulted about every detail of this bill. Both the shipowners and the employees’ union should have had the fullest opportunity for consultation with the Government.
Section 424 of the Na vigation Act provides for the reference of matters connected with this act and regulations under it to a marino council. Sub-section 1 of section 424 reads -
The Minister shall appoint a Marine Council of such number as may he prescribed which shall include representative.? of the following interests, namely: ship-owners, under-writers certificated navigating officers, certificated engineer officers, and seamen.
It was compulsory for the Minister to s’et up that body. Sub-section 2 of section 424 reads -
The Minister shall refer to the Marine Council for advice all proposed regulations with respect to the scales of officers, crew, and provisions-, and also every proposal to specify the crews to be carried by particular ships.
Sub-section 3 provides -
The Minister may refer to the Marine Council for advice, any questions as to the making or altering of the regulations, or the administration or amendment of this Act.
It was clearly contemplated by the framers of the act that this expert body should be consulted before regulations were made. Although it is not mandatory for the Minister to consult the council regarding amendments to the act, the purpose of this section is to ensure that the Government will not act without reference to those who represent all sections of the industry. From the inquiries that I have been able to make in the very limited time at my disposal I have learned that the provisions of this bill have not been referred to the Marine Council. I invite the Minister to say “~hy the council was not consulted. Why was not the spirit of section 424 of the act observed? Does the Minister consider that all wisdom and knowledge in relation to this important industry, with such varied ramifications, lies within the ambit of his mind and the minds of those in his department who advise him? Surely it would be common sense to seek the advice of those who are engaged in the industry.
It is exceedingly unfortunate for the prestige of the Senate that one of the rare bills which are first introduced in this chamber should be dealt with so contemptuously and gagged so unmercifully. This is one of the worst blows that has been struck against the prestige of this chamber. The Minister for Shipping and Transport, who should have the standing of the Senate at heart, has denied honorable senators the right to make a real contribution to the debate on the bill. I deplore the attitude of the Minister, which apparently is supported by all other members of the Government and by all members of the Government parties in this chamber. It is regrettable indeed that honorable senators opposite should lend themselves to a practice of this kind. Their action is derogatory to the Senate and injurious to its status’. The Minister is driving one more nail into the coffin of this chamber. Practices such as this can only hasten the abolition of the Senate. I have had occasion to make that comment several times in the past few days owing to the behaviour of the Government. The Government’s action in connexion with this measure is in marked contrast to what was done, under the aegis of the . Attorney-General (Senator Spicer), recently in relation to the Patents Bill. That measure was introduced in the ordinary manner, and so that honorable senators could absorb its very voluminous contents, a considerable time was allowed to elapse before the debate on it was called on. Those people outside the Parliament who are interested in the measure also had ample opportunity to examine it and express their views upon it. When the bill had been passed by the Senate, it was introduced into the House of Representatives, and once again the normal leisurely process was followed. Many suggestions that emanated both from the Parliament and from the general public were found to be practicable and desirable, and they were adopted. In due course, the bill came back to the Senate with many amendments, and, in its amended form, was approved unanimously by this chamber. That example could well have been followed on this occasion. It is most unfortunate that the Minister, backed by his Government, had decided otherwise. It is an insult to this chamber to ask it to dispose of this vastly important and comprehensive bill to-day. It is also an insult to every individual member of the Senate. I certainly regard it as such. If the present tendency to curtail debate continues, we shall very soon have a Minister moving, at the conclusion of his second-reading speech, “ That the question be now put”. Surely all honorable senators opposite will concede that the Opposition has not merely a right to investigate bills, but also a duty to do so. I do not question the accuracy of secondreading speeches by Ministers, but our duty, as well as our right, is to apply our minds objectively and independently to the contents of those speeches and to probe and test them with every means at our disposal. That right has been denied on this occasion. If the Minister adheres to his announced decision to secure the passage of this bill to-day, he will be acting not only unreasonably but also outrageously. I go further and say that the proposal is totalitarian. If the present trend continues we shall very soon reach the stage at which, just as in certain, other countries there is only one candidate to vote for at election time, so, in this Senate there will be only one effective voice. I regard this matter as being of such importance that I fear £ am unable to protest adequately against the Government’s attitude. I should like to he able to protest much more strongly than I am capable of doing. Having said that, I put it to the Minister thathe should indicate before I conclude my speech that he will allow the debate on this measure to be adjourned until next week. If, in the course of my remarks, the Minister will indicate that I may move that the debate be adjourned, he will be doing the right thing by the Senate, by the maritime industry, by the Parliament and by democracy.
– There has been too much stone-walling, time-wasting, and propaganda already.
– I am dealing with the bill now before the Senate. I have been speaking only for a few minutes, yet already the Minister is talking about stone-walling. That shows how completely unreasonable his outlook is, and merely strengthens my determination to protest. If the Minister is not prepared to permit me to move for the adjournment of the debate, I shall, at a later stage, move for the appointment of a select committee to examine this measure. I shall inform him now of the terms of the investigation that I have in mind.
– More time-wasting.
– I shall move-
That the billbe referred to a select committee to consist of seven senators, four to be appointed by theLeader of the Govern ment, and three to be appointed by the Lender of the Opposition in this Senate;
That the select committee have power to send for persons, papers and records, and to move from place to place; and
That the Committee report to the Senate this day fortnight.
Clearly there is a severe limitation on the functions and operations of that committee.
– That proposal will not take long to deal with : We reject it.
– Will the Minister be specific about my request for an adjournment of the debate?
– We reject that too.
– Since the Minister has rejected my request for an adjournment of the debate and has indicated that the Government will not agree to the appointment of a select committee, the Opposition will oppose the motion for the second reading of the bill.
– That is not a bad excuse.
– It is a very real reason. At least, I do give plain reasons for my attitude. The Minister has not given even a hint of the reason why he proposes to gag this bill through the Senate in less than a day. I notice that although he is always very voluble whilst I am on my feet, when honorable senators on this side of the chamber are seeking information, he is completely inarticulate. Now that we have a clear understanding of the attitude of the Opposition and I have answered the question that the Minister asked me earlier in my speech, I come to the bill, and I remind honorable senators opposite that there is ample time in which I may deal with the measure at this stage.
The main purpose of the bill is to abolish the Maritime Industry Commission which, as I mentioned earlier, was established under the National Security Regulations in 1942. There was a real reason for the establishment of the commission. We were at war, and the maritime industry had to play a very large and very important part in the furtherance of that Avar. The Government did not have to rely entirely upon its defence power to establish thecommission. TheCommonwealth has full power over overseas trade, interstate trade - subject to the provisions of section 92 of the Constitution - and maritime activities between the territories of the Commonwealth. Therefore there were those three heads of power on which the Government could draw to set up the Maritime Industry Commission. The one great activity not covered by those three heads was intra-state shipping. ‘ Almost plenary power was invested in the commission. It consisted originally of nine members. Later, in 1948, it grew to ten members. I understand that as the result of a recent High Court judgment, there are real doubts about the validity of the totality of powers exercised by the commission at present.
I come now to the individual provisions of the bill. Scattered throughout the measure there are numerous amending clauses. In the limited time that I have had to study this measure, I have endeavoured to examine the effect of those clauses on the act. They deal with such important matters as definitions - important definitions - and their effect will be threaded through the whole of the Navigation Act, which consists of 420 sections. I certainly have not had time to trace the effect of the proposed alterations right through the act, and I am prepared to say that no other honorable senator has had time to do so. The machinery clauses, too, deal with very important matters. The calculation of wages, the payment of crews after wreck or loss of ship, the allotment of pay, the engagement of aliens in the service, the recruitment of minors, the extension of the term of the agreement of service from six months to twelve months, the care of seaman left on shore when sick or injured, :we all vastly important matters affecting employees in the industry. Although T have endeavoured to trace the effects of the proposed alterations of the principal act and although I believe that many of the alterations will be beneficial, I am not in a. position to give unqualified approval to them. The main purpose of the bill, of course, is to abolish the Maritime Industry Commission.
– The Government proposes that henceforth, the commission’s work relating to industrial disputes shall be done by a single judge of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration.
– The reason for that is quite clear.
– I am not at the moment disputing the justification for that proposal. I am merely stating what the bill will do. I agree that the Chifley Labour Government did very much the same thing with the Australian Stevedoring Industry Commission, but it did that for the very clear and specific reason - a reason that it had the courage to announce - that the representatives of the employees on the commission included Communists who were sabotaging the work of the commission. We have heard no such explanation from the Minister for Shipping and Transport of the Government’s decision to abolish the Maritime Industry Commission. The Minister has merely said that there has been a great number of stoppages on the waterfront, and I am sure that the implication that that is attributable to the Maritime Industry Commission will be strongly resented by that body. The principle of investing this industrial power in a single judge is not opposed by me personally or by my party. I could quote some instances in which Labour governments have done something similar. Analogies may be found in the Coal Industry Tribunal and in the industrial authority in the Australian Capital Territory. Therefore, there is no conflict between the Minister and me on that point. I notice that the most specific power is to be conferred on the single judge of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court apart from the arbitral power. Sub-section 2 of proposed new section 405r» states - (2.) The Court has power to hoar and determine industrial matters submitted to it in so far as those matters relate to trade and commerce with other countries or among the States or in a Territory of the Commonwealth, whether or not an industrial dispute exists in relation to those matters.
In other words this bill proposes to confer upon the new tribunal, which is to consist of a single judge, as plenary a power as the Commonwealth could confer. To that there is no objection. I record the fact that, in appointing a judge, the bill specifically ousts, apart from appeals jurisdiction, the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court and the power of the conciliation commissioners. The bill further specifically confers upon a single judge the power of the court and of the conciliation commissioners.
– It is a provision similar to that which applies to the Snowy Mountains project.
– Yes, but I point out that the bill does not contain a. provision similar to the provision in the Stevedoring Industry Act that the judge shall have regard to the decisions of the Full Court in relation to standard hours and the basic wage. I ask the Minister in charge of the bill to indicate why such a provision was omitted from this measure. Is there a reason for its omission? Was it omitted because the Minister wishes the judge to be completely free of decisions on these major matters made by the Full Court of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court?
The Opposition opposes two aspects of this tribunal. In the first place the penalty clauses to which the Labour party objected when they were embodied in an amendment of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act have been expressly incorporated in the powers of the judge. Insofar as the Labour party opposed the incorporation of those provisions in the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, it records its opposition to their perpetuation in this measure. The provisions in this measure which relate to appeals from the decision of the judge are very similar to those which were written into the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. For the reasons that we advanced when that act was amended to incorporate those provisions we oppose the inclusion of similar provisions in this measure. The bill provides for appeals of three kinds. First, on application by a party the judge, with the concurrence of the Chief Judge, may refer a matter to the Full Court. Secondly, after a matter has been determined by the judge, again upon the application of a party, the Chief Judge may grant leave to appeal to the Full Court. Thirdly, the judge may, at any stage, refer questions of law to the Full Court. The judge is not bound to await a decision, but in due course he must follow it by amending, if necessary, such awards as he has made. I do not propose to detain the Senate by restating all the reasons for our objection to these penalty and appeal provisions. Any honorable senator who is interested to ascertain them may do so by a perusal of recent debates on this subject. I merely record the fact that we oppose them and that we shall vote against them.
I come now to the very important matter of crew accommodation in ships. At present the minimum requirements to be observed in the housing of seamen in vessels are laid down in the principal act. In this bill it is proposed that the GovernorGeneral may make regulations prescribing minimum requirements and standards of accommodation. The Opposition also objects to that proposal. We believe that minimum standards should bc prescribed by legislation and not left to control by regulations issued by a Minister, who may or may not be properly advised and who may or may not have a proper understanding of the very important issues involved, and whose decisions may cause no end of industrial turmoil in this rather difficult and turbulent industry. The Minister, in his second-reading speech, indicated that the bill would provide for the appointment of a crew accommodation committee on which shipowners and unions directly concerned will be represented, and that the committee will be assisted by the expert advice of governmental shipping and shipbuilding officers. He has said tha.t the decisions of the committee on accommodation problems will be final. Let me relate those, statements to the provisions contained in the bill. An examination of the measure reveals that no obligation rests upon the Minister to appoint such a committee. Proposed new section 138 reads as follows : - (1.) The Minister may, for the purposes of this Division, appoint a committee to bo known as the Crew Accommodation Committee.
Thus, the Minister may please himself whether he appoints such a body. The appointment of the committee should be made obligatory in accordance with the terms of the Minister’s second-reading speech. Again, the bill contains no provision that the committee shall he representative of the various interests in the industry. That proposal also should be embodied in the measure. If the Minister has correctly interpreted the mind of the Government, let the appointment of this body be made mandatory, and let the Minister be bound to appoint to it representatives of the various sectors of the industry. If the committee is appointed accommodation problems can be thrashed out while ships are in course of construction and before industrial troubles reach the dispute stage.
Examination of the industrial pro- visions of the measure reveals that an industrial dispute relating to accommodation may be referred to the judge. Proposed new section 405q reads as follows : -
An order or award under this Part does not have effect to the extent (if any) to which it is inconsistent with a law of the Commonwealth other than Division 15 of Part II. of this act.
In other words, an award must observe Commonwealth law except in respect of accommodation. Once an industrial dispute occurs an award of the industrial tribunal will completely override the provisions of this legislation. Why does the Minister need power to prescribe by regulation very important matters relating to accommodation and standards which may be altered from time to time? Why shouldnot clear minimums be prescribed as asafeguard to everybody concerned in the industry? In inserting this provision did the Minister have in mind the saleof theCommonwealth ships? It is in the mind of Opposition senators that the Minister is merely clearing the way to make it easier for the Governmentto find buyers for theCommonwealth shipping line, which it is obviously committed to sell. Will the Minister indicate whether there is any justification for our Suspicion on that matter?
– I can answer the question by saying”No “.
– The Minister mightgo furtherand tell us whyhe wants this vast regulation-making power. Why not determine now standards, the basis of which is already well established ? Existing standards may be somewhat out of date and may need to be reviewed. Why not review them now and make appropriate provision for them in this legislation instead of leaving decisions on them at the mercy of the Minister?
I come now to the very important question of the complements with which ships may put to sea. We have been told that the provisions in the bill relating to that matter are in accordance with accepted practice. I do not dispute that statement, but I have not had time to verify it; and whilst I do not disbelieve the Minister, I demand an opportunity to investigate it thoroughly. Indeed, it is the right and the plain duty of the Opposition to do so. Under this bill the new dictator is to be the Superintendent of Mercantile Marine who will be able to say to a. ship’s captain, “ I authorize you to proceed to sea without your full or minimum requirement of officers. You can get along without the assistance of those officers who are short of the prescribed complement “.
– That is not the position.
– Senator Kendall questions the accuracy of my statement. I remind him that I am referring to officers, and not to members of the crew. Proposed mew section 14 (S.) reads as follows : -
Where the prescribed complement of officers for a ship has not been obtained and -
in the case of a voyage which ordinarily does not take more than 96 hoursto complete - the muster or owner of the ship satisfies the superintendent at the port of departure of the ship that the master or owner has made all reasonableefforts to obtain the prescribed complement of officers for the ship; or
in any other case - the owner or masterobtains the approval of the Deputy Director, thesuperintendent at the port of departure of the ship may, by writing under his hand authorize the master to take the ship to sea with not less than the complement of officers specified in theauthority.
The authority referredto is the authority prepared ‘and presented ‘by the superintendent.
– It would depend on the decision of the Deputy Director of Navigation.
– If Senator Kendall will read the proposed new subsection again he will observe that paragraphs (a) and are not cumulative but are alternative. In short, the proposed new sub-section means that where the prescribed complement of officers for a ship has not been obtained, and reasonable efforts have been made to obtain it, the superintendent, without recourse to the Deputy Director, may authorize the master to take the ship to sea with not less than the complement of officers that he names. This new authority is to bc vested in the superintendent. I do not pretend that that provision will compel a master to take his ship to sea without a full complement of officers.
– Proposed new sub-section 9 contains the requisite safeguard.
– That is so. Under that new sub-section discretion as to whether a ship may be taken to sea in such circumstances is left to the deputy director. The point I raise is whether the master of a vessel, who may reasonably be expected to have great concern for the safety of the persons “he carries on his vessel, will have complete discretion in this matter, or will the owner or charterer of the vessel direct him in the matter?
– The owner or charterer will undoubtedly direct him.
– I should not be so concerned if I believed that the ultimate discretion would be completely exercised by the master of the vessel. I am not so unreasonable as to refuse to concede that it is very necessary to avoid pin-pricking tactics from being employed to prevent a ship from leaving because of a shortage of one or two members of its complement. Although I agree that something should be done about that aspect of the matter, I submit that the main consideration of the Parliament in this connexion should be the safe transport of people by sea. There is no specified percentage in relation to officers-, but a ship is to be permitted to go to sea with only four-fifths of its prescribed minimum complement of various categories of crew, which are defined. Again, this provision will be all right as long as the master is not influenced in his decision on whether he will or will not take advantage of the authority that is proffered to him.
– He will be given the authority ito command.
– The Minister should not be aggrieved, because I have already conceded that. However, I invite him to ‘tell me, if he can, whether the decision will be left in the uncontrolled discretion of the master.
– Of course it will not.
– I am glad to hear that interjection. If that is not the case, the Government should take steps to strengthen the clause to provide that the master’s decision in the matter shall be the final determinant. There should be an appropriate insertion in the bill.
– The marine superintendent of the shipping company will have that authority.
– He merely gives an authority. What I fear is apparently what Senator Cormack fears, that authority will be taken to be a command which may, perhaps, be pushed to extremes. The development of a loose practice in this connexion could result in a grave marine disaster. When minimum standards are established, they ought not to be departed from to any appreciable extent. There- ought to be a limitation of interference with the ultimate discretion of the master of a ship, who really ought to have the final say on whether the situation is safe enough for him to take his ship to sea, because he is responsible for the safety of the lives on board.
One could not help but approve of the proposed provisions with relation to the engagement of seamen, which include a denial to people outside the industry of the right to engage men for jobs in the industry. One knows the abuses that could take place in the absence of such a provision. This has our complete approval. The Minister has stated that what has been written into the legislation conforms to the practice that has been followed down the years. Although I do not doubt that statement, I consider that the Opposition should be afforded an opportunity to test it. Up to date we have had no opportunity to do so.
Hitherto, a seaman who has been denied the right to be engaged in the industry because of bad discharges, has had no general right of appeal. The bill proposes to give him a right of appeal to a judge. That will be a big improvement. T shall not at present criticize the clauses relating to such appeals, which are very expansive, but I hope that the Government in its magnanimity will give to the Opposition an opportunity to consider their adequacy at the committee stage. I shall now advert to the proposed provisions in relation to agreements that may be made between members of the crew and the master. Proposed new subsection (3a.) of section 46 reads -
The form of agreement prescribed for the purposes of sub-section (1.) of this section shall include a provision that, if the seaman commits a ‘breach of discipline specified in the form of agreement, that breach shall be a breach of the agreement and the master shall impose on the seaman a line of the amount specified in the form of agreement in relation to that breach of discipline.
Why does the Government propose to make it mandatory for the full amount of fine to be imposed? Why could not some discretion be left in the fining authority? It will not be sufficient for the Minister to reply that proposed new sub-section (3b.) provides -
The regulations may prescribe the manner and circumstances in which fines so imposed may be reduced or remitted.
Why should not the fining authority, who is close to the situation, and who knows all the circumstances, whether mitigating or otherwise, not have a discretion within limits? I hope that the Minister will have the good grace to deal with this aspect of the matter when he replies.
There is not a mention in the bill of the staff of the commission. When the National Security Regulations were gazetted the Maritime Industry Commission was given power to engage staff. Is the staff still existent? I understand that not very many people are employed by the commission, but it is the duty of the Senate to consider what their position will be when the commission has been abolished.
– The staff comprises only four persons.
– Will the staff be taken over by another authority, or will they be thrown on to their own resources? Until the Minister stated by interjection that the staff comprises only four persons, the Senate had no knowledge of its size.
I understand that certain claims that have been made by the Merchant Service Guild and other registered organizations have been pending before a conciliation commissioner for up to two years. Some of them were referred to the High Court and have not yet been determined. I have in mind an instance of an application that was referred to the High Court quite recently. The High Court held thatimportant matters such as annual leave, compensation, and intervals of duty were matters that should be determined by a conciliation commissioner, but that a conciliation commissioner should not deal with the subject of pensions for seamen. I understand that the hearing has been almost concluded, and that about 90 per cent, of the claims have been disposed of. Will the Minister inform the Senate whether a safeguard has been adopted in order to ensure that the matters that are still pending before a conciliation commissioner shall be instantly picked up by a judge and carried on without starting ab initio and going through the evidence again ?
I emphasize that there are grave dangers in the Parliament proceeding with this measure when quite obviously there has been a lack of consultation with the bodies in the field. The Minister may have the utmost confidence in his advisers, but no matter how good they are I believe that practical persons engaged in the industry could throw a lot of light into dark places, which would be a real help to the Minister. Senator O’Byrne has stated by interjection that by this measure the Government is seeking to antagonize the Australian Labour party. If that is the Government’s objective, it is very likely to succeed if it proposes to gag this measure and trample it through the
Senate to-day. Foi- the sake of this very important measure, and the future relationships between the Government and the Opposition in this chamber, I appeal to the Minister to reconsider the answers that he has given to me to-day, namely, that there may not be an adjournment, and secondly, that a select committee will not be appointed. If he considers that a period of fourteen days for a select committee to function would be too long, and suggests a period of seven days, I shall agree to the shorter period. I have made two proposals to the Government. The first was that the bill should be set aside for fourteen days and then considered in the light of a report by a select committee; the second was that the bill should be stood down for seven days to enable its various aspects to be fully considered by a select committee. If the Government’s acceptance of either proposition is not forthcoming I can only conclude that the Government is ruthlessly determined to gag this measure through, for some reason which it has not had the good grace to disclose.
– No one on the other side, besides the Minister, would know the reason.
– Perhaps so. On behalf of the Opposition I inform the Minister that if neither proposition is acceptable to the Government the Opposition will be left with no choice but to record, an emphatic protest against the bill by voting against the second reading of the measure, despite, the fact that there are many features of it that we support.
– The speeches of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) frequently contain constructive criticism. Apparently, however, that is not a characteristic of speeches that he delivers on Wednesdays, when the proceedings of this chamber are broadcast. His submissions then usually lose much of their effectiveness, because of the propaganda in which he engages. The Leader of the Opposition devoted more than half of his speech to a criticism of matters other than the provisions of the bill. Much of his remaining time was devoted to commenting on provisions which apparently give mutual satisfaction to all. The Leader of the Opposition has complained that he has not received answers to his questions. As the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) has supplied answers ex tempore to many of the questions that he has raised - ;i practice that is not often followed in this chamber - I believe that the complaint of the Leader of the Opposition has arisen not from the non-supply of answers but because he was dissatisfied with the decisions that have been announced by the Minister. I consider that the Minister’s answers have merited the full support of the Senate.
The main purpose for which the bill has been introduced is to amend the Navigation Act 191.2-1950, by providing for the replacement of the Maritime Industry Commission. The Leader of the Opposition has commented about the length of the principal act. The bill before the Senate deals only with some aspects of the matters that are contained in the existing legislation. I consider that the navigation legislation should be completely overhauled, and that a full discussion of all details associated with it by the legal members of this chamber would be beneficial to all honorable senators. I shall direct myself to weaknesses of the administration of the Maritime Industry Commission. The commission consists of ten members who were appointed, according to Statutory Rule 68_, for the maintenance of discipline on ships and in the maritime industry. For various reasons, the commission has never been entirely successful. In my opinion, the main reason for its lack of success is due to the fact that the Curtin Government, which established it, failed to support its decisions. It soon lost the services of its first chairman, who resigned because the Government was not prepared to back decisions which the commission had made. In my opinion, nothing but good can come of the proposed replacement of the commission by a single judge of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. I was glad to hoar the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) agree that such a step is necessary.
The Maritime Industry Commission was really a product of that arch-socialist, Mr. Dedman. He is one of those dreamyeyed socialists who have a great capacity to mesmerize themselves. Only a person with the ability to mesmerize himself could have high hopes of a commission to which had been appointed such a wellknown militant Communist as Mr. E. V. Elliott, who is the president of the Seamen’s Union of Australasia. It should not be overlooked that the Australian Labour party has never been able to legislate unless it first compromised with, militant Communists. I suggest that one. of those compromises was the appointment of a commission to administer discipline in the maritime industry, and the appointment of a militant Communist leader to the commission. Naturally, no discipline was administered. Frequent instances of petty disputes being fostered by Mr. Elliott, on the most trivial excuses, have occurred. There have been many hold-ups and delays of shipping. To illustrate that statement it is only necessary to point out that 74 Commonwealthowned ships and 287 privately owned ships engaged in interstate trade have been held up during the last two years, with the appalling loss of 4,237 shipping days. Can it be wondered at that freight rates have risen by more than 400 per cent. ? This lack of proper discipline is just one of the factors which have contributed to a vast increase of freight rates in Australia. We in Tasmania have suffered most ‘ severely from these increased rates, because Tasmania is a maritime State. We find that this large increase is particularly detrimental to us. The actions of Mr. Elliott have been largely responsible for that increase. Therefore, I commend the Minister for Shipping and Transport and the Government for seeking to replace this commission by a judge of the court.
It is a pity that it is almost invariably necessary to resort to arbitration in industrial disputes. In my opinion, arbitration should be the last resort. I am strengthened in that belief by the reported views of a great English trade unionist. I refer to Mr. Arthur Deakin, who is general secretary of the Transport and General Workers’ Union of Great Britain, the largest union in’ the world, with a membership of approximately 1,300,000.
– Mr. Deakin is alsoa socialist.
– Even socialistsshow a glimmering of common sense at’, times. Mr Deakin is reported to have stated -
We have had a number of Australians overhere. You can pick ‘eni out by the amount of trouble they cause - far too antagonistic. They come over with all sorts of fiery ideas, wanting to stir things up. They think we’redreadfully slow with our methods but we get’, there in the end, brother. We get there. Now,, brother, don’t think I’m being too critical,, but Australia is a young country and has a lot to learn. To get peace in industry theremust be mutual trust between employer and’ employee.
I suggest that that is the very thing which, the members of the Opposition fight against at every opportunity. They invariably endeavour to ensure that mutual trust will not be developed between employer and employee, if they can help it. Mr. Deakin also said -
That’s something that’s been developed in England. Arbitration’s good, but it’s the last resort. Employers hero don’t turn over disputes automatically to the courts. They feel,, when they do that, it’s an admission of defeat. I’ll tell you this. Forty-nine out of every fifty disputes- arc settled at the factories directly between the employers and the unions. Mutual, trust is something that growsnaturally. You can’t teach it.
In my opinion, that advice from a great trade union leader is worthy of proper recognition. We should do well to remember it. However, at the present time, at any rate, we believe in a system of arbitration. Consequently, the Government proposes to place this great industry under the arbitration system. Whilst we have arbitration we must, certainly use it.
I now wish to read the following passage from the second-reading speech of the Minister for Shipping and Transport because I think that it is of particular interest: -
The bill preserves the orders of the MaritimeIndustry Commission. Under these orders, a disciplinary code for seamen has been developed by which seamen are excluded from employment if they receive three bad discharges or are guilty of particularly serious misconduct, failure to join ship or desertion being included as a bad discharge. Seamen are also required to serve a minimum period at sea each six months, upon penalty of exclusion from the industry. The master of a merchant vessel is empowered to take a vessel .to sea if it is short not more than one-fifth of its deck or engine room complement.
It seems to me that the real reason why ,honorable senators opposite are opposed “to the replacement of the Maritime Industry Commission by a judge of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court is that they resent the fact that the Government has been far-sighted enough to give to the court teeth with which to enforce its -awards. The Australian Labour party apparently considers that although the court should have power to make awards it should not have power to ensure that its decisions are carried out.
– Who told the honorable senator that bedtime story?
– The Leader of the Opposition stated directly that the Opposition objected to the placing of penal powers in the hands of the court. The proposed penal clauses are intended to ensure that the decisions of the court are observed.
At the port of Newcastle to-day this irresponsible Seamen’s Union of Australasia has called a one-day stoppage as a protest against the fact that the employers of Australia have approached the Commonwealth Arbitration Court to increase working hours and reduce the basic wage. On that basis, the union has called a one-day stop-work meeting, with consequent loss of trade in Newcastle and loss of wages to its members. Surely any responsible person must appreciate that if arbitration is to function efficiently it must be impartial. Both parties to a dispute must at all times be free to approach the court for its decision. The Seamen’s Union of Australasia is trying to bring pressure to bear on the court on a matter which is sub judice. In my opinion, if the Government is able to bring the maritime industry under the control of the court it will be a step forward, particularly if the court has authority to enforce its decisions.
Sitting suspended from 5.^5 to S p.m.
– I have already mentioned that the principal purpose of the bill is- to remove the control of the maritime’ , industry £rom the Maritime
Industry Commission and to place it under the control of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. The original purpose in establishing the commission was to provide a body to maintain discipline oh ships and throughout the industry. Although the commission has endeavoured to achieve its purpose, I think that it has failed to do so. The court, which is clothed with certain “ penal powers “ - to borrow a phrase from members of the Opposition^ - will be much better equipped to administer the industry than is the Maritime Industry Com mission.
Industrial relationships in the shipping industry have been characterized by turbulence on the part of the1 seamen and other- employees; who have been responsible for repeated serious dislocations of marine transport, very often on only the most petty pretexts. They must accept responsibility for a great, deal of the enormous increase of shipping freights and charges which has done so much to increase the cost of commodities to the whole community. The decision of the wartime Labour Administration to establish a commission of ten members, amongst whom were included Mr.- E. V. Elliott, the Communist leader of the Seamen’s Union, was obviously unsound. Indeed, it was absurd to expect Mr. Elliott and other militant union leaders to discipline their own members, and the course’ of subsequent events has demonstrated the extent of the absurdity.
The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) complained in the course of hig speech of the alleged failure of the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) to furnish prompt information in reply to questions asked concerning shipping matters. However, I think that the honorable senator did not really mean that* because the Minister always furnishes prompt answer’s to question’s and makes firm decisions on any points raised. In fact, I think that we are’ fortunate that Senator McLeay occupies the portfolio o’f Shipping and Transport because’, during the comparatively short time he has held it, he has so’ administered the Commonwealth’ shipping Hae’ tha’t,- from having . been a big financial liability, .it is’ now beginning to show a small profit. The reason that he has made such a success of his administration of the portfolio is that he makes clear-cut decisions and adheres to them. Furthermore, the Minister brings to bear in his administration considerable practical business experience.
Although the bill represents merely one instalment of the Government’s plan to overhaul the Navigation Act, its passage will remove one of the principal causes of discontent in the industry. The proposal to establish an accommodation committee is most commendable. There have been far too many hold-ups on the waterfront because of petty pretexts such as the position of a door in a crew’s quarters or the fact that a seaman’s bunk happened to be 2 inches short of the prescribed length. Such hold-ups, which have cost the community many thousands of pounds, have occurred, notwithstanding the fact that the accommodation for ship crews is examined and approved of by representatives of the Seamen’s Union when ships are being fitted out. The proposed committee will include representatives of ship-owners and seamen and will have available the advice of experts. This proposal represents a practical approach - one might say a typical McLeay approach-
Opposition senators interjecting,
– Members of the Opposition have been castigated severely by the Minister for Shipping and Transport from time to time, and it is quite natural, therefore, that when something creditable to the Minister is mentioned they should try to howl it down.
Another valuable feature of the bill is the proposal to appoint superintendents in the principal ports of Australia. These officials, who will be practical men of experience in the industry, will be empowered to exercise control and to make decisions on the spot. The Navigation Act was passed in 1912, and through the effluxion of time many of its provisions have become hopelessly out of date, but very little effort has been made over the years to bring them into line with modern requirements. This measure aims to overcome some of the more obvious deficiencies of the act, and deals, in particular, with those that require immediate rectification. After all, the only opposition to this measure has come from honorable senators opposite and some members of the present commission, whose positions will be abolished.
– Wait until the seamen tell the Government what they think of this measure.
– When the Labour party was in office it always had to run to the Communist-controlled Seamen’s Union before it took any action to alter conditions in the industry. It was not game to introduce any legislation unless it first consulted the Communistcontrolled unions. In fact, members of the Opposition to-day still maintain the same attitude towards the militant Seamen’s Union. I noticed that the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) in the course of his speech complained that .the Government had not consulted the Communist-led unions before it introduced this legislation. The fact is that the present Government does not do things that way. It feels that it has a duty to remedy the unsatisfactory state of affairs that prevails in the Australian maritime industry, and this bill represents an important step in that direction.
In supporting the bill, I commend the Government for its enlightened attempt to remove from the maritime industry some of its greatest defects. Amongst them is the painfully slow turn-round , of ships, which has caused such a great increase in freight charges, and has been responsible in such a large measure for the increased cost of commodities. When this bill becomes law the implementation of its provisions will benefit the community as a whole, and that is something which this Government always aims to do. I look forward to the introduction of further legislation to complete the Government’s aim to improve the efficiency and the smooth operation of the maritime industry. Finally, I emphasize that when the political parties in power to-day decide to introduce some reform they do not consult the Communists, and that is’ something which I am sure the electors of Flinders will bear in mind at the by-election to be held in that constituency on the 18th October.
– I join the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) in uttering a most emphatic protest against the manner in which the Government is endeavouring to force this bill through the Senate. The Navigation Act, which this bill proposes so drastically to amend, was drafted following inquiries and research by a royal commission, whose recommendations, and expert comment thereon, were exhaustively considered by both Houses of the legislature. In fact, a period of many years elapsed before the original proposals for a navigation bill became law.
Notwithstanding the complexity and importance of the matters with which that’ act deals, the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) informed us yesterday that he was determined to have this bill, which includes so many radical changes in the present legislation, passed through the Senate to-day. I trust that there are still some supporters of the Government who are sufficiently fair-minded to realize that it is utterly impossible to discuss adequately a comprehensive measure of this nature in the few hours allowed to us. The bill was introduced only yesterday, and in fairness to the Government’s own supporters, quite apart from members of the Opposition, the Minister should allow debate on the bill to continue until next week. This measure proposes, in one stroke, to delete whole sections of the Navigation Act, notwithstanding that it has required many years of experience and consideration to evolve the comprehensive code set out in the act in its present form. Before we throw that act overboard we ought to satisfy ourselves that we have had the best advice. In any event, the Navigation Act deals with matters of such vital importance that we cannot afford to indulge in any hasty or ill-considered amendments. This bill contains 21 pages of print and is composed of 38 clauses, many of which are quite revolutionary.
– They are also reactionary.
– That is so. Furthermore, I remind honorable senators that the control of the maritime industry is a matter of grave seriousness to the thousands of Australians who take their lives in their hands in our coastal ships. Before we interfere with the safety margins that have been laid down by the experts over the years and before we interfere with those standards that have stood the test of time we should be very sure that the changes we propose are for the better. I challenge the Minister and Government supporters to say that, having received the bill into this Senate a few brief hours ago, if they dispose of it to-night they will walk out of this chamber sure that they have acted wisely.
Even now the Minister should agree to allow the debate on this bill to be adjourned until next week so that honorable senators may examine the bill and consult people who understand the industry so that they can bring to the debate worthwhile criticisms and suggestions. If the Minister insists on forcing the bill through the Senate tonight I can do no more than offer a most emphatic protest at this method of legislating.
– Why does not the honorable senator deal with the bill?
– I realize that the Minister would like me to confine my remarks to the bill but I have only had a few hours to consider these 21 pages of legislation. Does the Minister expect me to be able to make appropriate criticisms? If the Minister agrees to the adjournment of the debate until next week I shall not then refer to any matter outside of the bill and the criticism that the Opposition will offer will be completely constructive.
– That will be something new.
– At least honorable senators will have been given an opportunity to understand what they are discussing. It is an insult to the Senate to expect Opposition senators to discuss this bill. They have not even had time to read it. I can only offer a most emphatic protest at the Government’s action at forcing legislation of this kind through this chamber in this fashion.
– “ Commo “ fashion.
– The Government has acted in a totalitarian fashion, whether Communist or fascist. This is not the sort of conduct in which Australians believe. We have always believed in a democratic way of discussing measures. Labour senators have always believed that the minority in the chamber has some rights and should receive fair consideration.
– Order ! I remind the honorable senator that his remarks do not apply to any matter contained in the bill.
– I agree.
– As the honorable senator agrees, I rest assured that he will now deal with the bill.
– I bow to your ruling, Mr. President. But I know that you will allow me once again to make an emphatic protest against the manner in which this bill has been presented to us. This industry has been in a depressed state for a long number of years. At the turn of the century this Parliament decided that those who work in the industry and those who place their capital in it should be provided with a code to ensure the safety of the ships and the people who worked in them. In those days poor accommodation and food was provided for those who worked in the shipping industry. Their conditions were dangerous. The Commonwealth Parliament decided to pass a navigation act. It was decided that the conditions which men had to endure on ships should not be allowed to continue on the Australian coast. Part of the act was devoted to the subject of how those who worked in ships on the Australian coast should be accommodated. It laid down minimum standards for them. It had been common for fifteen or twenty seamen to be accommodated in hammocks slung up in the forecastle of the ship where they had to live out their lives in all weathers. The parliamentarians of 40 years ago, who had some feeling for their fellow men, laid down standards to be observed in providing accommodation for the crews of vessels. They stipulated the number of cubic feet of space each man should have and set out in detail the minimum conditions to which seamen were entitled. The act provided that theMinister should consult the marine council before any changes or regulations weremade.
The Government could have referred this bill to a committee of experts monthsago. But without obtaining any expert advice the Minister has submitted to theSenate a bill which would have the effect of deleting the whole of the provisions of the act which relate to accommodation in ships. These provisions have stood the test of time and raised the standards of Australian seamen higher than those of seamen in any other part of the world. Yet the Minister has proposed, that in a few hours, a bill shall be forced through the Senate for the purpose of withdrawing these conditions. He has said, in effect,. “ In my wisdom, I shall make regulationswhich will provide for these conditions He has not even stated the provision, that will be contained in the regulations. Hehas not even done the Senate the courtesy of stating that he proposes to- make- regulations which will give effect to the- provisions of the existing legislation.. Hehas simply stated that he will prescribethe accommodation to be provided ii* the future. If the Minister considers that the requirements as laid down in the act 40 years ago were not sufficient he should improve them by incorporating new requirements in the act. He should not take away the protection which the act. provides for seamen. He should not put them in the position of Italian and other seamen who still suffer the conditions which existed on the Australian coast 50 years ago. When certain ships arebrought to Australia from overseas it costs thousands of pounds to alter theaccommodation for the crews in order tomake it conform to the standard required for Australian seamen. Does theMinister intend, when a. ship with pooraccommodation is brought to Australia infuture, to make regulations that the accommodation in it is good enough for Australian seamen? If that is not his intention why has he not said so? Whyhas he proposed the deletion of thissection without informing the Opposition or his supporters of the provisions to be contained in the regulations that are tobe made?
The bill is silent on the committee which will consider the subject of accommodation. The Minister said that the seamen would be represented on the committee. Why has he not provided in the bill for them to have. that representation ? Any new measure should improve the provisions of the Navigation Act and mot take away from seamen the conditions that have been established. The measure proposes that, in certain circumstances, ships may go to sea with four-fifths of their minimum crew. On this matter, the Minister has not been specific. Again he proposes to deal with this matter by regulation. Those who framed the Navigation Act laid down, after due consideration, the minimum number of seamen who could safely operate a ship on the coast of Australia. Of course that minimum became the maximum. However, it is the minimum that can safely operate our ships. Now, this measure proposes, in effect, that if it has been stipulated that 50 men are required to man a ship, and somebody is delaying its departure it shall be permitted to go to sea with 40 men instead of 50. What will happen when a ship goes to sea with only four-fifths of the complement that is regarded as necessary for safety ? Will the Minister accept responsibility for the safety of that vessel should a storm or some other sudden emergency arise? (Senator Henty said that the purpose was to provide for the disciplining of seamen. I suggest that the price that may have to be paid for the disciplining of seamen may be too great. Surely some other way could be found to discipline seamen.
– It has not been found up to date.
– I hope that the Government will continue to try to find some other means. The maritime industry has been a depressed industry. It “has been unattractive as an avenue of employment. It has had nothing to offer to ambitious men. A man who goes to sea as a seaman has little to look forward to. He has to sacrifice his family life. He is condemned to a life of continual travel round the coast of Australia. I believe that an attempt should be made to make the maritime industry attractive. For instance, permanent employment should be offered, and seamen should be encouraged to seek promotion. They should be given opportunities to study and to progress in the service. Perhaps a superannuation scheme could be devised. The problems of the maritime industry could, I believe, be tackled by some means other than coercion. This bill merely means that the influence of the Communists upon the maritime industry today is to be countered by totalitarian methods. The seamen will be caught between the two forces. Again I say that the limited time that has been available to honorable senators to study this, measure has not been adequate for a thorough examination of it. Any points honorable senators on this side of the chamber may raise to-night are the result of a quick perusal of the bill. Had we been permitted sufficient time to examine the bill thoroughly, we might have been able to assist the Government to improve it in many ways. The Minister has done a great wrong to the Senate by insisting upon the rapid passage of this legislation. Having voiced my protest, I ask the Minister in all seriousness to see whether it, is possible to raise employment standards in the maritime industry, and to encourage seamen in- such a way as will cause them to want to take our ships to sea.
– I congratulate the Government upon the introduction of this very necessary measure. The Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) has foreshadowed further amendments of the Navigation Act in the next session of the Parliament, and he has been good enough to ask me to submit my ideas for consideration. I looked forward to this debate because I believed that it would be an entirely non-party discussion. We are dealing with a matter of great national importance, and I regret very much the reasons given by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) for opposing the bill. Honorable senators opposite have decided to’ oppose the measure merely because they have not been able to get their own way in certain directions. However, I have no doubt that the Minister will deal with that matter when he replies to the second-reading debate. Had the Opposition decided to oppose the bill on definite grounds, I should have been able to understand its attitude.
– What time did we have to examine the bill?
– The same time as I had. I admit that it was rather short. I was up until two o’clock this morning studying the effects of the measure on the principal act. As one who has spent 35 years at sea, I believe it to be’ my duty to endeavour to explain some of the provisions of this bill to honorable senators opposite because obviously they do not know very much about it. I believe that if I can do that with any degree of success, I shall be contributing something towards an improvement of the standard of debating in this chamber. My explanation may be a little tedious. I shall not go through the bill clause by clause because my time is limited, but I shall deal with the clauses that I consider to be most important. Legal matters I shall leave to my colleague, Senator Wright who, I understand, will address the Senate at a later hour.
Some honorable senators may not understand why certain changes have been made in definitions. For instance, clause 4 provides for the omission from the definition of “ Australian-trade ship ‘ the words “ the islands on the Pacific “ and the insertion, in their stead of the words “ the islands of the Pacific Ocean south of the equator and west of the one hundred and eightieth meridian of longitude”. The reason for that alteration is quite obvious to me though not perhaps to other members of the Senate. As the definition is worded at present, an Australiantrade ship can trade to any of the islands of the Pacific. There are, of course, many islands of the Pacific north of the Equator. They include Japan, Hawaii and the Aleutians. It is quite possible for an Australian-trade ship, therefore, to go as far .north as the Aleutians. This measure will stop that by substituting for the words “ the islands of the Pacific “ the words “ the islands of the Pacific Ocean south of the Equator and west of the one hundred and eightieth meridian of longitude “. That altera tion will prevent conflict between hometrade ships and foreign-going ships. The definition of “ Limited coast-trade ship “ is being altered to avoid conflict between Commonwealth and State laws. There is nothing very much in either of those definitions.
The new definition of “ desertion “ is worthy of note. In short, it means that if a seaman is absent from his ship for 48 hours without leave or reasonable excuse, he may be deemed to be a deserter, and the master of the ship may engage a man to replace him. This alteration will obviate the necessity for the master to wait until just before a vessel is due to sail before trying to engage a new man, which perhaps would delay departure for a day or two. The new definition will be of considerable assistance to masters of ships. Paragraph (Z>) of proposed new section 14 (1.) provides that the master of a ship registered in Australia or engaged in the coasting trade shall not take the ship to sea unless the ship carries the prescribed complement of officers for that ship. That paragraph differs from the provision in the principal act in that it gives a direct order. In the principal act the word used is “ may “ and not “ shall “. That is a small but important change. The Leader of the Opposition referred to the provision which permits a ship to go to sea with less than its prescribed complement of officers. I point out that the average ship on the Australian coast carries one, two or even three officers more than the complement prescribed.- In other words, ships on the Australian coast generally carry more officers than are necessary for safety and efficiency. There are many reasons for that. There is much more work to be done in port than at sea where it is mere watch-keeping. Under the British Merchant Shipping Act, Queen Mary, one of the largest ships in the world, can go to sea with only a master, a mate and second mate and the latter two need have only a mate’s ticket and a second mate’s ticket respectively. Of course, that is never done. Queen Mary generally carries nine officers.
– Because there is plenty of work for them to do. Ships of less than 1,000 tons operating on the Australian coast need carry only one officer. Ships of over that tonnage have to carry two officers, but there is hardly a ship on the Australian coast of more than 1,000 tons that carries less than three or four officers. Consequently, if an officer becomes ill and has to be taken to hospital at an outport, the ship need not be delayed. It can sail with one officer short provided it will not be at sea for more than nine days. The absence of one officer makes no difference to safe navigation. Ships are often one officer short. In fact, I know from my own experience that junior officers are often very keen to collect a little extra pay for a short run. The pay of an officer who has been taken off a ship is divided amongst the remaining officers. However, the important point is that the absence of an officer makes no difference to the safe navigation of the ship and involves only a few hours’ extra work for the remaining officers. Sub-section 9 of proposed new section 14 states - (!). ) Where the number of duly certificated officers included in the prescribed complement nf officers for a shi]) has not been obtained, the Deputy Director shall not approve, and the superintendent shall not authorize, the taking to sea of a ship unless he is satisfied that the officers to be carried on the ship are able to perform all the duties to be performed by the duly certificated officers included in the” prescribed complement of officers for that ship.
No deputy director or superintendent that I have ever known has failed to discharge his responsibility not only to the Government but also to his cloth by sending a ship out inadequately manned. I very much approve of the word “ shall “ in that provision, although in the next sub-section the word “ may “ is’ preferable. It states that the master “ may “ take the ship to sea if the superintendent agrees. There is no obligation on him to sail. The onus is placed on the master. I am satisfied as the result of my own experience in the cloth that no master would take his vessel to sea if he were in doubt about its safety.
– The original onus is on the owners.
– No. It is on the master of the ship. To-day, tomorrow and for as long as he remains master of a ship it is his responsibility, no matter what the owners may say. Furthermore, he is protected by the Director of Navigation or the port superintendent.
The bill also seeks to amend the provisions of the principal act which relate to the complement of snips’ officers and crew. In certain circumstances, a ship will be allowed to sail with one-fifth of its complement short. A provision of that kind, has existed in the principal act for many , years. The amendment proposed by this measure is designed to improve slightly the wording of the provision in order to express more clearly its intention. The average ship engaged on the Australian coast carries a good many more crew members than are necessary for its safe navigation at sea. Additional crew has to be carried to meet the additional work that arises when the ship enters port. In order to navigate a ship, say, from Brisbane to Sydney, only three quartermasters’ and a couple of look-outs are needed; but when the ship arrives in port a great many more men are needed to handle the work in port. Over the years the provision in the principal act that a ship may sail with one-fifth of its complement short has always been accepted.
– The honorable senator would be satisfied to carry on with only four-fifths of a ship’s complement all the time?
– I did not say that, nor does the bill contemplate that such a practice shall be followed. All that is proposed is that, in an emergency, and in special circumstances in order to circumvent the tactics adopted by certain unions, a ship may be allowed to sail with a complement two men short of requirements. Honorable senators are well aware that frequently a couple of men in a crew deliberately absent themselves from their ship and that no other seamen in the port will stand up in the pick-up and offer to make up the required number. Under the provisions of this bill a master will be able to take his ship to sea without having to make up the full complement of crew and, by so doing save some of the ship days lost through hold-ups of that kind. The Minister has told us that in the last two years, no fewer than 4,237 ship days were lost through one cause or another. Hold-ups caused by the failure of crew members to report for’ duty are an important ingredient of the problem of the slow turn-round of ships. . I assure honor : able senators that 90 per cent, of the seamen employed in the Australian coastal .shipping trade do not want these stoppages to occur. The trouble is caused largely by a handful of persons in the industry. During the seamen’s strike in 1933, I discussed this problem with the crew of my ship. They said, “ “We do not .want to go on strike, but if we do so we shall be forced out of the industry and never get our jobs back again “.
Proposed new section 14 (8.) prescribes that when the master of a ship has made all reasonable efforts to obtain the required crew for the vessel the superintendent at the port of departure of the ship may, in certain circumstances, authorize him to take the ship to sea. The purpose of the sub-section is to give to the master authority to command the ship’s company to sail. The Government has wisely decided to give to a ship’s master some authority to decide these matters. I have the greatest sympathy with those who command ships on the Australian coast at present. Indeed I am glad that I” came ashore when the war ended and that I have had nothing to do with the extraordinary system under which ships are run at present. I would not put up with it for one moment.
The bill provides that superintendents shall refuse to approve the engagement of a seaman who has received three bad discharges during the preceding five years, or who is guilty of serious misconduct, or who fails to serve a minimum period of service during any six months. Those provisions are very fair. Every man who receives a bad discharge should be given a second chance and, in certain circumstances, even a third chance, but if seamen are guilty of repeated misdemeanours they should wake up to themselves and get a job in some more congenial industry. After they have settled down ashore for some time they may regret that they deserted the sea.
Whilst I am dealing with this subject I inform the Minister that I have never at any time agreed to the system under which loose paper discharges are handed to seamen. Under present conditions, when a seaman is discharged before the shipping master he is given a loose piece of paper which constitutes his discharge. He may take it home and accidentally burn it or lose it. Under the British Merchant Shipping Act, a continuous record of discharges is kept in a book. It is possible to examine the book and run through the list of discharges shown on each page. I suggest that a similar practice be adopted in Australia. Proposed new section 45a (4.) reads as follows : -
A .seaman who deserts a ship or, after signing ari agreement to serve in a ship, refuses or fails, without reasonable cause, to join that ship or to go to sea in that ship shall, for the purposes of this section, be deemed to be a seaman in respect of whom a master has, on the date of desertion, refusal or failure, delivered a report under section 07 of this act showing the conduct or character of that seaman as “ bad “.
That is a very fair provision to which no objection can be taken.
I was astonished to hear some honor-‘ able senators say that the provisions that relate to the Maritime Industry Commission are the most important provisions in the bill. I do not agree with them. I believe that there are other far more important provisions in the measure. The Maritime Industry Commission was established under National Security Regulation during the war to deal by regulation with matters concerning the maritime industry. It was never intended that the commission should be a permanent body. The council, which it replaced, and which was provided for in the original legislation, was composed of representatives of the owners, engineers, masters and mates, seamen, firemen and stewards, and all the employees that go to make up a ship’s company. The reason for the establishment of the Maritime Industry Commission no longer exists and the Government in this bill merely proposes to revert to the normal peace-time council as provided for in the principal act. The Maritime Industry- Commission did a splendid job during the war. At one time I was worried lest trouble makers in the industry, who had been shut out of it as the result of a regulation promulgated by the commission, would be allowed to return to it. I am glad that provision has been made in the, bill to ensure that those men will continue to be excluded from employment in the Australian coastal shipping trade.
One amendment in the bill seeks the deletion from, the principal act of the provision relating to the employment in the industry of aliens. That provision, which has remained in the act since World War I., is now outdated and is to be removed. Many of the immigrants who are arriving in Australia will subsequently seek employment in the industry. Alien immigrants will eventually become naturalized and be permitted to enter the industry. Provision has also been made to enable seamen to make allotments of pay commencing after the end of one month’s service if they are absent from Australia. A two months’ period is prescribed in the principal act. That is a very long time for the wife of a seaman to have to wait for her allotment money. I welcome the new proposal. The bill also provides that wages and salaries due to seamen may be paid into a trading bank instead of, as at present, only into a savings bank. That provision will be of benefit to seamen who wish to operate on bank accounts other than savings bank accounts.
Under the provisions of the bill, when the service of a seaman is terminated before the time contemplated in his agreement, by reason of the wreck or loss of the ship or, in war-time, the torpedoeing of a vessel, he will be entitled to wages for each day on which he is unemployed whilst returning to his home port, up to a period of two months. In the early days of World War I., after a merchant’ ship had been torpedoed, no matter how long it took a seaman to get home, his pay was stopped on the day his ship was torpedoed because on that day its articles were closed. I recall that, in 1915, although a month elapsed before I was able to get back to my home port, I did not receive a penny in wages in respect of that period. The amendment proposed is a step in the right direction. The amendment proposed in clause 23 highlights the fallacy of the paper discharge to which I have already referred.
There should be a continuous record of the service of all seamen.
The bill proposes to make a number of minor machinery alterations. Clause 27 makes provisions with relation to fines for breaches of discipline, &c. The effect of the clause will be to place on the superintendent of a mercantile marine shipping office, rather than on the master of a ship, the onus for various things. In view of the many difficulties that have been encountered in connexion with shipping on the Australian coast during the last two or three years, which have added to- the duties and responsibilities of masters, I consider that this is a good clause.
Clause 28 provides for the omission from paragraph (b) of sub-section. (1) of section 127 of the principal act the words “ venereal disease, or “. I thing that that is a very desirable amendment because, after all a sailor is no better and noworse than other men, and a member of the crew is not worse than any other man because he has had the misfortune to contract that disease.
Senator Arnold has referred to the regulations relating to special accommodation. I point out that the schedules to the principal act that deal with accommodation have not been disturbed. The Government proposes to. appoint a committee of people who actually man and run the ships. If the construction of a new ship were under consideration, such a committee could supply valuable information about the accommodation that should be provided for the sailors, firemen, engineers and deck officers.
– The standards of accommodation have not been altered.
– That is so. I consider that the appointment of the proposed committee will be a step in the right direction. The standard of accommodation that is now provided on merchant ships for the officers and crew is very good by comparison with the standards that obtained when I- was a boy. I consider that the standard of accommodation that is provided for them on vessels in Australian waters is first class. Despite the gradual improvement that has been made in this connexion, I remember that about eighteen months ago a ship was held up for about a week because the bos’n wanted a red carpet on the deck of his cabin. The average sailor is happy as long as he can get a good steady job at his home port, so that he will be able to see his family at regular intervals.
Senator Arnold also referred to ships that are brought to Australia from overseas. I point out that those ships must conform to the requirements laid down in the schedules to the principal act before manning can be undertaken. . The only aspect of proposed new section ‘138 that I do not like is that it provides that the Minister “ may “ appoint a committee. I consider that the word “ shall “ should be substituted for the word “ may “. Most of the remainder of the provisions of the bill a re matters for consideration by the -legal members of the Senate. I look forward with interest to Senator “Wright’s contribution to the debate. I should like to summarize my thoughts on this subject. I look forward with a. great de’al of interest to the introduction next year of another navigation measure, in which, I hope, effect will be given to some of the suggestions that I have made. I hope that the Minister will adopt my suggestion about continuous discharge books. I should like to see introduced a system for the payment of sailors by the day instead of by the month, because- the present racket has been going on for as long as I can remember. It is most unsatisfactory to the men. I should like the Government to repeal at least a portion of the Shipping Act 1949, particularly section 3, which, in my opinion, places too much power in the hands of one man. Under that section, one man- may refuse to grant a licence for the construction of a ship; a licence for a ship to trade oh the coast; or a licence in respect of a ship which is more than 24 years old.
I shall now direct myself to the service of able-bodied seamen. A letter that I received recently from a friend of mine connected with the merchant service contained the following paragraph: -
One nf the most frequent complaints received at the present time is about the general incompetency of seamen eni ployed on the Australian coast: on many ships not one of them can splice a wire, and they seem to regard the stop-watch as a much more important item of equipment than the knives and spikes that were carried by the old type of sailor.
Under the British Merchant Shipping Act, before a seaman may qualify for promotion to able-bodied seaman, he must serve for three years on different kinds of ships and pass examinations that are prescribed in the schedule to the act. When I was younger it was taken for granted that a seaman would be required to serve for a reasonable period and pass an examination before he could be rated as an able-bodied seaman. I urge the Minister to consider seriously the introduction of an examination for seamen who are serving on the Australian coast, many of whom are not qualified to be elevated to the rank of able-bodied seaman.
A considerable proportion of the trouble that has existed on the Australian waterfront has been attributable to the practice of men who have gone to the pick-up sheds and refused to answer the call. As honorable senators are aware, the practice that has been followed for the picking up of a crew has been for the chief officer, or the second engineer of a ship to go to the pick-up shed, which i3 usually near the shipping office, and to announce that he wants so many men for such and such a ship. The seamen have adopted signals to indicate, to one another that a ship has been declared black. It has frequently happened that following the giving of such a signal, the men have refused to sign on. Following such a refusal the men may return to the pick-up shed on a dozen occasions. I consider that a provision should be inserted in the legislation to provide that a man who has not answered the call for a pick-up’ on three occasions should be suspended for twelve months, and that if he again refused to answer the call after that period he should be excluded from the industry. I congratulate the Minister on the splendid start that he has made to overhaul the navigation legislation, and I support the bill.
.- I wish to support the protest that has been voiced by the Leader of the. Opposition (Senator McKenna) about the manner in which this matter has been handled by the Government. The Minister for Shipping and- Transport (Senator
McLeay) has wantonly disregarded the rights and responsibilities of honorable senators. Protest in this connexion will bc voiced by many other members of the Opposition. Senator Kendall, who has spent many years at sea, dealt only briefly with some provisions of the bill, and then stated that the bulk of them were matters for the lawyers to consider.
– I said that the remainder of the provisions were matters to which the legal members of this chamber could devote themselves.
– That was virtually the whole of the bill. This is a terrifically complex measure, which has been designed to change the fundamentals of the law in many respects. It should bo closely scrutinized. It is not possible at this late stage of the sessional period for honorable senators to discharge adequately their responsibilities to the people in connexion with the proposed legislation. The Government’s action is most unfair not only to the people outside but to honorable senators who sincerely wish to carry out their duties efficiently. Prior to the suspension of the sitting, Senator Henty stated that the bill did not contain many amendments. However, I point out that the Navigation Act contains 425 sections, and that the measure before the chamber proposes to amend 26 of those sections. Whole new divisions are to be inserted; at least three new substantial sections are proposed, and the bill provides for a number of substitutions. Honorable senators should have ample opportunity to study the effect of the proposed amendments of the principal act, in order to ascertain whether existing provisions are to be deleted in toto, or merely varied. That opportunity has been denied to them. The Government’s action is grossly unfair to the many interests that will be affected by the legislation.
Senator Henty also stated that a new navigation code was under consideration. Senator Kendall also referred to that matter. Of what use is it for the Government to bring down an amending measure precipitately, when a completely new code is in active contemplation? The navigation legislation affects the lives of all people who go down to the f983 sea in ships, and seaborne commerce. It is based on common law, admiralty law, and old maritime practices. It is not possible to alter one part of it without affecting the remainder. The Minister stated in his second-reading speech that the proposed provisions would streamline the industrial machinery in the ‘ shipping industry. Again, that is an integral part of the code, which has a distinct relationship to the prosperity of the nation. I urge the Government to adopt the suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition to set aside the bill until a report has been received from a select committee. The shipping industry is most important to Australia. We have inherited a seagoing tradition from our forebears. Geographically, our position is similar to the position of the Mother Country. Much of our prosperity depends on sea-borne traffic. That is why we on this side of the chamber are as solicitous as is any other section of the community for the efficient operation of the shipping industry. Senator Henty was guilty ,of gross misrepresentation when he alleged that the Leader of the Opposition had confined his remarks on the bill to the welfare of the maritime unions, which, the honorable senator stated, are Communist-controlled. The Leader of the Opposition did nothing of the kind. In his speech he recognized all the interests which are affected by the Navigation Act and which, necessarily, are affected by any amendments of that act. The interests which will be affected by the bill now before the Senate are many and varied, and all are important. For instance, there are the rights of the Australian people to a sound economy which, in this instance, depends on the import and export of goods. Such trade can, and is in the main, carried by sea, although a small contribution can be made by airborne craft. Secondly, there are the rights of those employed in the industry, on whose work and energy the success of the shipping trade depends in large measure. Thirdly, there are’ the rights of the men who own the ships and who build and pay for them. Fourthly, there are the rights of those who charter ships. Fifthly, there are the rights of the people who are merely passengers in ships. All these rights will be affected by amendments of the Navigation Act. The Leader of the Opposition contemplated all such rights and expressly referred to them, although Senator Henty has chosen to brush aside such references.
The Navigation Act cannot be amended in a particular way without the amendment affecting not only the rights of Australian people but also those of other countries of the world. The Navigation Act deals with such matters as salvage, collisions at sea, and the apportionment of damage. If any part of the act is disturbed in relation to Australian shipping, the rights of persons in remote corners of the world may also be affected. If the safety provisions are disturbed.it may happen that a ship which is sent to sea in an unseaworthy condition will collide with a ship coming from Venezuela and, because of the amendment, the rights of the Venezuelan seamen may be trampled upon. That is why it is essential to approach such amendments on a wide basis. It is necessary to safeguard the universal rights of all those who use the sea. The Opposition considers’ that the matter is of vital importance and cannot possibly receive the consideration that it merits and demands in the short time at our disposal.
The Navigation Act is a code consisting of 425 provisions. This bill purports to establish new jurisdictions to deal with the rights of employees, including their right to work, which is one of the fundamental rights of all people. The bill purports to deal with that right in such an important manner that it requires our closest scrutiny. Yet we are not to be permitted to so scrutinize the measure. I should like to know who was consulted by the Government in the preparation of this amending legislation. Did it consult the Maritime Industry Commission which, by reason of the wide experience of its members, would have been worth consulting and which, in its industrial jurisdiction, has had ten years of solid experience which could have been called upon? I point out that the personnel of the commission include men who represent intrastate trade, shipowners, the Merchant Service Guild, marine engineers, cooks, stewards and seamen, and interstate shipowners. The com- billed experience of the members of the commission represents a wealth of know- ‘ ledge upon which the Government could have called. Has the Government been guided in this matter by the moon or the stars, or has it set its course by dead reckoning ? lt seems as though the latter method has been adopted, and that it does not altogether know where it is going.
In the rather short time at my disposal 1 wish to deal particularly with the rights of those employed in the shipping industry. The disciplinary code which is set out in the bill is apparently a reenactment of the existing disciplinary code contained in the orders of the Maritime Industry Commission, although I have not had an opportunity, because of lack of time, to check this matter. Because it is a re-enactment, the Government suggests that the code must be satisfactory. I point out, however, that this bill does not envisage the mere gathering together of provisions from the principal act, or the mere taking over of a code already in existence. Disciplinary matters are to be placed in a different jurisdiction. Whilst the disciplinary code established by the Maritime Industry Commission may be acceptable in the circumstances under which the commission operates, it may need to be completely re-oriented when such matters come within the jurisdiction of one individual, such as a superintendent, as this bill proposes. The mere fact that the Government proposes to re-enact the disciplinary code of the Maritime Industry Commission is not in itself a justification of that code. I suggest that that matter again illustrates my point that honorable senators should have been given sufficient time to examine in detail all sections of the existing disciplinary code in order to see whether they are completely applicable, desirable or even justifiable under the proposed new organization.
I wish to deal particularly with a proposed amendment of the act which, in my opinion, is fundamental to the rights of the employees engaged in the industry. Section 6 of the principal act defines “ desertion “ as -
The absence of a seaman or apprentice from his ship without lawful cause or excuse’ with the intention of not returning thereto.
I t is proposed to alter that definition in a most radical and dangerous fashion. The bill before the Senate proposes that the new definition of “ desertion “ shall be as follows : - “ Desertion “ means -
Honorable senators will notice that there are two grounds upon which a man may be judged to be a deserter - the first that he has no intention to return to his ship, and the second that he has been absent continuously for 48 hours without leave, oven though he intends to return. That is a vital matter in the disciplinary code.
– Why does not the honorable senator read the whole definition?
– The definition states, “without lawful cause or reasonable excuse “.
– Exactly. That proviso covers the whole thing.
– I suggest that he does not need to have the animus deserendi. The significance of that proposed amendment can be seen if honorable senators turn to section 67 of the principal act which provides that if a seaman asks for a discharge the master may or may not give him a good or a had discharge. I suggest that the master would be most reluctant to give a good discharge if,’ in fact, the seaman had been found guilty, convicted and punished for the offence of desertion. In my opinion that certainly would be a factor which would weigh against the exercise of the master’s discretion to grant a good discharge. Proposed new section 45a (4.) reads as follows : -
A seaman who deserts a ship or, after signing an agreement to serve on a ship, refuses or fails, without reasonable cause, to join the ship or to go to sea in that ship, shall, for the purposes of this section be deemed to be a seaman in respect of whom a master has, on the date of the desertion, refusal or failure, delivered a report under section 67 of this act showing the conduct or character of that seaman as ‘ bad ‘.
In other words, the Government proposes to widen the definition of “ desertion “ so that it will be possible to establish that a man is a deserter even though in fact he had no intention to desert. I contend that in reading that particular subsection., Senator Kendall misrepresented the position.
– I did not. The proposed sub-section merely follows ordinary British law.
– I repeat that Senator Kendall misrepresented the proposed sub-section. The fact that a seaman has received a bad discharge will immediately affect his future right to engage in the industry. A person who, from one cause or another, has been absent from his ship for 48 hours without lawful justification or excuse, but who in fact never intended to desert and who receives three bad discharges on that ground is precluded from engaging in the industry. I say that that is an extremely bad provision. Nobody would attempt to condone a lax approach to working conditions by an employee, but I suggest that there could be many occasions on which a seaman might accidentally fail to join his ship within 48 hours. I contend that it is a very serious matter to deem him a deserter in such circumstances and to give him a bad discharge.
When honorable senators consider the provisions which deal with the powers of superintendents they will see that in fact superintendents will have little or no discretion. Proposed new section 45a (2) provides -
Where the approval of a superintendent of the engagement of a seaman is sought and -
the conduct or character of that seaman has, in three or more reports furnished under section sixty-seven of this Act within the period of five years immediately preceding the date on which the approval is sought, been shown as “bad”; and
the approval is sought within six months after the date of delivery of the most recent of those reports, the superintendent shall refuse to approve the engagement of that seaman.
– That is a very good provision.
– On the contrary. This proposed amendment will compel a seaman so aggrieved to appeal.
The members of the Opposition consider that this bill deals with complex matters, including the rights of many persons, and that it has possibilities which probably have not been foreseen by the Government. That fact may persuade the Government, in the cold, calm and dispassionate light of reflection, to withdraw the measure and redraft it. No opportunity is being given to the Opposition to co-operate with the Government on this matter. Indeed, the Government is denying to honorable senators on this side of the chamber, and to the Parliament as a whole, the right to scrutinize closely a most important measure which will affect every person in the community and, ultimately, the stability of the country. The Opposition believes that that denial amounts to wanton disregard of and disrespect for the Parliament and the people whom we represent.
– This measure, which is designed to deal with the critical emergency that has developed in the coastal trade of Australia, is eminently practicable, as one would expect of any measure introduced by the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay). I sympathize with the predicament in which members of the Opposition have been placed by its introduction. In fact, they have demonstrated by their utterances during this debate that they are completely unaware of the serious crisis that has developed in the maritime industry. In reply to their repeated complaint that they have not had sufficient time in which to appreciate the real purpose of the measure, I point out that notice of motion of its introduction was given a week ago and the second-reading speech, which was couched in clear terms, was made by the Minister yesterday. It is utterly futile for individual members of the Opposition to spend half the time allotted to them for discussion of this measure in reciting the number of printed pages it occupies and the number of clauses it contains.
The plain fact is that in the period of approximately eighteen months that has elapsed since the Government was relieved of the obstruction caused by a Labour majority in this chamber, the Communistcontrolled unions in the maritime industry have been responsible for the loss of more than 4,000 shipping days. In the light of that fact it is surely not to the credit of members of the Opposition that they have been unable to make any intelligent contribution to the debate. In fact, if I were not burning with indignation at the deplorable conditions of the maritime industry, I would shed a tear for the pitiable barrenness of the contentions of honorable senators opposite.
Like the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) I represent the island State of Tasmania, but unlike him I welcome the introduction of this measure because I believe that its passage will ameliorate the hardship imposed upon Tasmanians by the present Communist control of the shipping industry. As an indication of the degree of suffering imposed upon Tasmanians by the militant unions, I shall recall the unpleasant facts connected with the cargo vessel Dubbo. In fact, I am astonished that that incident in itself has not inspired even the Leader of the Opposition to assist the Government in its attempts to speed up the movement of our shipping.
On the 25th March last Dubbo, which had a full cargo pf wheat for Tasmania, was tied up at Port Adelaide because of a dispute initiated by the ship’s firemen, and the sailing of the vessel was delayed for 33 days, with a consequent loss of £22,640, to the Australian Shipping Board. which is a government instrumentality. The firemen alleged that the quality of bunker coal carried on the ship was so inferior that it was dangerous for the vessel to put to sea, and demanded of the master that he undertake to proceed only at reduced speed. Later they shifted their ground and claimed that it was unsafe for the vessel to proceed to sea at all. The Australian Shipping Board had samples of the coal analysed, and it was reported to be of higher than average quality. Later a conciliation commissioner, after a most patient hearing of the firemen’s case, found that the board’s proposals for settling the dispute were utterly reasonable. However, Communist influence caused the dispute to be prolonged, and even when it had ended, the secretary of the Seamen’s Union refused to allow the vessel a full complement to enable it to sail. .The consequence of this nefarious conduct on the part of the Communist unions concerned was that Tasmania was left so short of wheat that bakers in the southern half of the island did not have sufficient flour to bake bread for the people.
I propose now to recall the incidents associated with another completely unjustifiable hold-up. In fact, the circumstances of this case are so bad that they ought to galvanize every honorable senator into a determination to rectify this critical situation at the earliest opportunity. A tug built in the United Kingdom for Howard Smith Limited arrived in Melbourne under its own steam about last June. Subsequently, representatives of the Seamen’s Union refused to man the vessel on the pretext that the accommodation for the crew was unsatisfactory. They went further, and urged that the vessel should be converted from coalburning to oil-firing on the alleged ground that the space in the boiler room was too cramped to permit firemen to engage in co al -firing, and they also demanded other costly structural alterations. Technical officers of considerable repute in the shipping industry were consulted, and every possible concession was made to the demands of Mr. Bird and Mr. Elliott, the Communist leaders of the two maritime unions concerned. The shipping company even offered to give the ship a trial run in order to demonstrate that the conditions for the firemen were satisfactory, but this request was refused. The net result of all this Communist manoeuvring is that although nearly four months have elapsed since the tug arrived it is still lying idle, notwithstanding our urgent need of these vessels.
It is an odd circumstance that the Maritime Industry Commission, which the bill seeks to abolish, was brought into existence, not by legislation, but by regulation. In fact, the regulation concerned was never submitted to either House of the Parliament but was merely signed by a Minister in his office. It is ironical therefore, for the Leader of the Opposition to criticize this bill on the ground that it will empower the Government to implement its requirements concerning shipping accommodation by mere regulation. Would any one but the Labour senators opposite contend that in 1952 Australian ship-owners would provide accommodation for crews no better than that provided in 1912 or 1921? The contention of the Leader of the Opposition that the Government should not be empowered to prescribe by regulation accommodation standards in vessels is answered by the obvious fact that shipping design alters and improves as time goes oh. The accommodation for the men of our mercantile marine must be the best possible accommodation, and we should not restrict the skill and ingenuity of our marine architects by shackling them with static legislation. The prescription of standards of accommodation and shipping design by regulation, instead of by legislation, permits of flexibility and improvement in these standards.
– How long has the honorable senator been at sea?
- Senator Cameron should have gone to sea as a boy. No one has a higher esteem for the members of the Australian mercantile marine than I have. Their achievements and their sacrifices during two world wars speak for themselves. In fact, they are in keeping with the great tradition of the British mercantile marine, which was so magnificently exemplified during the recent war by the heroism of Captain Fogarty Fegan, the master of Jervis Bay. However, I would never suggest that at this stage of his career Senator Cameron should seek to join their exalted company.
After all, Australia has a coastline much greater than that of the United Kingdom, and possibly also that of the United States of America. We are a maritime nation, and the traditions of the British merchant marine have been magnificently maintained by Australia’s seamen.
In a moment of aberration Senator Byrne told the truth when he said that the Navigation Act had grown into a magnificently complete code for the protection of our seamen. I thoroughly agree with that statement, - but it is obvious that it is our duty, as members of the Legislature, to use both elbows to jockey the Communist monkeys off the hacks of our seamen. However, I have no sympathy with members of the Labour Opposition, who find themselves in. a dilemma because they have not had time to consult either the executive of . their political party or the Communist unions concerned in order to determine their attitude towards this bill. “When the Curtin Government introduced the regulations to establish the Maritime Industries Commission it realized that the responsibilities of that commission, particularly for maintaining discipline in the industry, were such that its chairman should be a judge. Accordingly, Mr. Justice De Baun was appointed chairman, and he rendered signal service in that office from 1942 until 1944. In 1944 Mr. Justice De Baun reviewed the scale of war bonus that had been granted in the more perilous days of 1942, and came to the conclusion that the scale of payment should be reduced in view of the lessened risk to seamen. However, the Labour Government of that time, in accordance with its practice of undermining the judiciary, directed the commission to review its decision. Mr. Justice De Baun who was true to the traditions of the judiciary, replied in these terms -
Recent events have made my retention of the position of Chairman impossible and quite inconsistent with my duty as a judge acting as Chairman of the Maritime Industries Commission appointed, as I was, to represent the public interest.
He resigned from the commission forth. with. During the five barren years of Labour administration that followed no one was appointed to succeed him as chairman, and the consequence was that this lame duckling was left to function without a chairman. Whatever success it has achieved, as the Minister for Shipping and Transport so properly pointed out, has been due to the personality of Mr. S. T. Edwards, who has acted as chairman since Mr. Justice De Baun’s resignation. In the fifteen months that followed the last general election the Government has made great strides which have been too hasty for the Opposition. The Government has now proposed to give the seamen the right of access to the Common- wealth Arbitration Court “for the settle- ment of industrial disputes. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) has approved of that proposition, except in one respect. The bill makes the Government’s power to prescribe regulations subject to alteration by decision of the Arbitration Court. The Leader of the Opposition has objected to that aspect of the bill. I consider that the Government can take great credit for the fact that it does not wish to have the final word in determining the amount of accommodation to be provided for crews. The final word, if there is any appeal against the regulations, is to be spoken by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. That is made clear in proposed new section 135 which states that the provision relating to accommodation shall be subject to any order or award made by virtue of Part Xa of the act. That is the part which commits all industrial matters to the Arbitration Court. Proposed new section 405q of the bill states that an order or an award under this part made by the Arbitration Court does not have effect to the extent that it is inconsistent with any law of the Commonwealth except a regulation made under the division of the act which entitles the Government to make regulations in regard to accommodation.
I express my complete contempt for Opposition senators who, with this display of the principles of British justice before them, have accused the Government of attempting to introduce Italian conditions into the ships that sail along the Australian coast. Let me deal with the manning of the ships. It is a part of the tradition of the British mercantile marine to have a Superintendent of Mercantile Marine in every por.t of note to act as guardian and protector of the interests of seamen. Who is better equipped than the Superintendent of Mercantile Marine to decide whether a ship has a sufficient complement of officers to go to sea? The bill provides that the superintendent shall make that decision. When the superintendent has authorized the master of a vessel to take his ship to sea the final decision as to whether he will put to sea will still be the responsibility of the master whose tradition is worthily represented by Senator Kendall who sits on this side of the chamber. Senator Kendall has stated that a master would not put to sea if the safety of his crew or his passengers was, in his judgment, likely to be endangered. The bill makes it abundantly clear that, having received authority from the Superintendent of Mercantile Marine to put to sea, the final decision is left to the master, and if he decides to sail he may give a lawful command which his crew is bound to obey. It is the tradition of the Mercantile Marine that the master is the god-father, the law-giver and- the guardian of all who go down to the sea with him.
– According to the law.
– According to the law for the framing of which Senator Cameron accepts his allowance. Could any provision be more practical than that one? Could any provision better safeguard the interests of the master and his crew ? It is provided that if the master has made reasonable efforts to obtain a full crew the superintendent may authorize him to take his ship to sea with not less than four-fifths of the engine-room crew and not less than four-fifths of the deck crew. As I pointed out- by way of interjection earlier, that is the law as it has been in force since 1921, but it has only provided a means of defence for a master who has been prosecuted for having taken his ship to sea without an adequate crew. Under this bill the master will be authorized to give a lawful command to his crew and the crew will be bound to obey.
It was a matter of great regret to me that Senator Byrne resorted to one of the principles of British justice, as do the Communists, not for the protection of that justice, but for its exploitation. It is true that the old definition of “ desertion “ required proof of the express intention of a seaman to abandon a ship in any prosecution for desertion. However, it will not be inappropriate if, in the presence of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator “Nick” McKenna), I remind Opposition senators of the old aphorism that the devil himself knoweth not the mind of man. The Communists soon learnt that it is very difficult to prove intentions. When a seaman has been accused of being a deserter because he has been absent for a week he has said that he was in,structed by his union secretary not to report for duty.
– A week!. Senator Wright has been absent from this chamber for a fortnight!
– I am touching the Opposition to the quick. The provisions of the bill are essential to safeguard the community from Communist exploitation.
This bill should receive a little consideration in committee in order to determine whether it would not be appropriate to introduce a provision to prevent persistent Communist malingering and exploitation of conditions that have been built up- for the protection of the seamen’s unions. If a seaman refuses, without lawful excuse, to accept three offers of engagement in succession he should be deregistered and so disentitled to the benefits of unionism that have been built up around the Arbitration Court. Even Labour senators might find that proposition worthy of consideration. So far from this measure being dealt with precipitately. I regret that, after eight years of Labour government, it has been delayed for fifteen months after the Labour majority was removed from this chamber. The bill provides that from the end of this month there shall be in charge of this industry a practical organization which will have a reasonable prospect of enabling ships to operate to the benefit of 90 per cent, of seamen who are bona fide and to whom Senator Kendall referred. It will also bring prosperity to other sections of the community in whose welfare Senator Byrne professed to be interested.
– The Senate has listened to a very humorous but tragic address by Senator Wright. Throughout the whole of his speech, the honorable senator attacked Australian seamen. He also sought to make as much political capital as possible out of Labour’s decision to oppose this bill. I submit that by drawing attention tq one glaring inaccuracy in the honorable senator’s statements, I can discredit the whole of his speech, and show that his remarks are not worth a tinker’s benediction. The honorable senator stated that, under this measure,. crew accommodation will be dealt with by the Crew Accommodation Committee, and that, in the event of any dispute, the matter can be taken to the judge of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, who will constitute the maritime tribunal. However, according to the Minister for Shipping and Transport, who introduced this measure and, presumably, should know something about it, there is no appeal from decisions of the Crew Accommodation Committee.
– To be fair, the honorable senator should read proposed new section 136.
– I am not concerned about that provision. The position is that the Minister has said one thing and the honorable senator has said another. In this instance, I am prepared to accept the version given by the tubby Minister. Senator Wright went on to tell us something about certain ships that had been held up and how the despatch of cargoes to Tasmania had been delayed. Once again he attacked only the seamen although, quite obviously, there must be at least two parties to every dispute. There again, I submit, we can discount the honorable senator’s statements. He is worse than biased. A biased man can usually see his own bias, but a one-eyed man can only see the bias of his adversary. Senator Wright is one-eyed.
I join with other honorable senators on this side of the chamber in objecting strongly to the Government’s attempt to rush this legislation through the Senate. It was quite obvious from Senator Wright’s statements that even he had not been able to consider the bill thoroughly. His speech was full of inaccuracies and clearly he did not know what he was talking about. For instance, he said that certain provisions of this amending legislation had been in force since 1921. If that is so, how does the Government expect to overcome the trouble on the waterfront by means of this legislation? If honorable senators opposite believe that our waterfront difficulties can be solved by tackling only the seamen, they are making a grave mistake. The bill provides, for instance, that a superintendent - one of the dictators who are to be appointed - may refuse to permit the engagement of seamen. I believe that if the provisions of this measure are enforced there will not be a seaman left in the Australian coastal trade at the end of twelve months. That will not be because the seamen do not want to man the ships, but because superintendants will refuse them permission to do so. That refusal is mandatory in certain instances. Superintendents will be obliged to deprive seamen of their right to ply their trade. If the Government believes that our shipping problems can be solved in that way, it has another think coming. The only result will be to tie up vessels all along the Australian coast and to deprive seamen of their livelihood.
The measure provides that a vessel may go to sea with four-fifths of its complement. I cannot see what assistance that provision will be because, to tie the vessel up, it will only be necessary for another seaman to walk off the ship. I contend that the Government should make a thorough inquiry and endeavour to ascertain the cause of what it terms petty stoppages. My experience has been that 90 per cent, of disputes on ships are over accommodation or amenities. The Maritime Industry Commission did npt deal effectively with accommodation problems. The proposal now is that accommodation requirements are to be variable by regulation. It is quite obvious that pressure is being brought to bear on the Government to alter the accommodation requirements for ships trading on the Australian coast. We all know that in the past shipowners have been compelled in many instances to improve accommodation on vessels that have been purchased overseas for the Australian shipping trade. ‘When this measure becomes law, it will be possible for a regulation to be issued stating that the accommodation provided on a certain vessel is adequate, whereas in fact it may be a long way below Australian standards. Unfortunately we shall not have an opportunity to examine, and if necessary, disallow such regulations because they will not come under the statutory rules which cover regulations issued under other legislation. Therefore, the regulations may be kept secret. A regulation may apply to only one ship, and only those associated with that ship may know about it. It is true that the master would have the right, in the event of a prosecution being launched, to produce the regulation to prove that he had not infringed the law, but the regulation could be kept secret. In that provision, therefore, we have a starting point for the breaking down of minimum accommodation standards provided for ships on the Australian coast. It is quite obvious that shipping companies have enormous power over this Government. Apparently pressure has been brought to bear on the Government to give the shipping companies some relief from maritime controls. We must remember, of course, that some shipping companies have wide interests. For instance, certain airways in this country are owned by shipping companies. Relief is to be granted in that direction also. Shipping interests are also concerned in the distribution of oil, and they are getting something there, too.
– They are also interested in coal.
– And steel.
– That is so. Their ramifications are very wide indeed, and in every direction they are being given something by this Government. There are only four clauses of this bill under which action may be taken against employers or masters. The rest of the measure is aimed at the seamen. The penalty provisions that the Government has inserted in the Conciliation and Arbitration Act are now being put into the Navigation Act. If honorable senators opposite believe that this measure will obviate shipping hold-ups, I disagree with them. Senator Henty said that the appointment of the Communist Elliott to the Maritime Industry Commission by the Labour Government proved the undoing of the disciplinary authority of the commission. Turning to the Minister’s second-reading speech I find that the members of the Maritime Industry Commission are Mr. S. T. Edwards, acting chairman; Mr. F. W. Radford and Mr. L. G. Mathews representing interstate shipowners; Mr. F. J. R. Gibson, representing intra-State shipowners; Captain W. G. Lawrence, representing the Merchant Service Guild; Mr. E. A. Cole, representing marine engineers; Mr.
Senator Henty and Senator Wright referred to the subject of petty hold-ups. It is all very fine for honorable senators who are living in the lap of luxury, and who have never been engaged in the rough and tumble duties of a seaman, to characterize disputes in the shipping trade as petty hold-ups. They should seek to discover the reasons for the hold-ups rather than attempt to make, party political capital out of them at every opportunity. I do not suppose that any official of a trade union has not at one time or other .committed a foolish act. Like us, trade union officials arc human; they are not angels. Instead of condemning them for their ideological beliefs, and blaming them for all the disputes that arise in the industries with which they are associated, honorable senators opposite would do better if they applied their minds to the possibility of remedying the causes of the disputes.
Throughout this bill emphasis is placed upon the need to discipline seamen. In the eyes of the Government seamen are to blame for every dispute that occurs in the industry in which they are engaged. I wonder whether the marine- cooks, the marine engineers or the marine stewards have ever had a dispute with the shipowners. ‘ Persons engaged in those callings all work in ships, but we hear very little of them; the emphasis is always upon the so-called recalcitrant seamen. Honorable senators opposite never fail to take every opportunity to make political capital out of industrial disputes by endeavouring to prove tha.t the Labour party, allied with the Communist party, has been responsible for fomenting them. Nothing is further from the truth.
The Minister, in his second-reading speech, referring to the Maritime Industry Commission, said -
The first chairman of the commission was Mr. Justice de Baun. He rendered notable service until November, 1944, when he resigned because of the failure of the Labour Government of the day to support his decision to reduce the war risk bonus, following on pressure tactics by the unions.
That statement was commented on by Senator Wright. I remind honorable senators opposite that in November, 1944, Australia and the Allied nations were experiencing perhaps the most dangerous period of the war. The government of the day had to keep ships moving at all costs. Probably it gave way to some degree on this matter as it had to do in respect of many other matters. It ill becomes the Minister or Senator Wright to make political capital out of the fact that the Labour Govern- ment; during the darkest days of the war, was forced to take certain action in order to enable it to prosecute the war with the utmost vigour. Honorable senators opposite should not forget that they and the parties to which they belong stood firmly behind that government in all the actions, that it took to bring the war to a successful conclusion.
– That was a most subversive action. It amounted to the undermining of the authority of the judge.
– That is not so. The Labour Government did everything possible to ensure a steady flow of food and weapons of war to the armed forces, not only ofthis country but also of the United States of America, Great Britain and allied countries in the Ear East. I regret that honorable senators opposite should endeavour to make political capital out of troubles that were the direct outcome of war conditions.
Members of the Government and the shipowners, who are bringing pressure tobear on it, may believe that, as a result of this legislation, disturbances will not occur on the waterfront. Undoubtedly, the Government is eager to organize another seamen’s strike and to endeavour to prove that there is a link between the Labour party and the Communist party. I warn the Government that if this bill be passed the inequitable clauses in it will be repealed as soon as a Labour government is returned to office. We have no desire to see an Australia-wide industrial disturbance. I remind the members of the Seamen’s Union of Australasia and the other maritime unions that there will be no need for them to strike in order to defeat the provisions of this bill. The provisions of this bill, if properly availed of by them, can be used to defeat the objectives of the Government. I advise those who go down to the sea in ships to examine this legislation carefully before they take precipitate action.
Declaration of Urgency.
– I declare that the Navigation Bill 1952 is an urgent bill.
Motion (by Senator McLeay) put -
That the bill be considered an urgent bill.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. Edward Mattner.)
Majority . . . . 7
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Allotment of Time.
Motion (by Senator McLeay) proposed -
That the time allotted in connexion with the bill be as follows: -
For the second reading, until 10.45 p.m. this day. (6.) For the committee stage, until 11.45 p.m. this day.
For the remaining stages, until 11.55 p.m. this day.
– I cannot too strongly deplore the action of the Government in this matter. The proposition that the Senate is asked to agree to is that, after only eight honorable senators of the total number of 60 members of this chamber have spoken to the motion for the second reading of the bill, only another quarter of an hour shall be allowed for the completion of the second-reading debate. Only four of 28 Opposition senators have been allowed to voice their views on this important and comprehensive bill. The Government must take the responsibility before the people of its ruthless gagging of the debate, and of its completely undemocratic action. The hill comprises 21 printed pages, and contains 38 major clauses. As new sections are proposed to be inserted, it will be necessary to consider 60 substantive clauses at the committee stage. It is proposed that the bill shall be passed by 11.55 p.m. The committee stage must be completed within an hour. Only one minute has been allowed for a consideration of each of the 60 clauses. I point out that, on behalf of the Opposition, I am charged with the responsibility of moving eight amendments. It is quite certain that I shall not have an opportunity to move even half of that number. Moreover, several of my colleagues had intended to propose amendments. The Government has asked for co-operation, yet when the Opposition is ready to make constructive suggestions the Government denies them the opportunity to do so. I should like to know whether the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) will give to the Senate the courtesy of a reply to the matters that have been raised.
– It will be a. refreshing change for the Minister to reply. I do not want to deprive him of any more time, and I want to give to the Senate the fullest opportunity to express its mind as far as the limited time will allow. I record the complete indignation of the Opposition at its cavalier treatment by the Government.
Question put -
That the motion be agreed to. )
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. Edward Ma ttner.)
Majority . . . . 7
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed (vide page 3114).
– in reply - I want to take this opportunity to congratulate both Senator Wright and Senator Kendall on their excellent speeches, and I give to the Leader of the Opposition (Senator. McKenna) credit for his analysis of variouis aspects of the bill. The remainder of the Opposition speakers devoted about 90 per cent, of their time to matters outside the scope of the bill. In the limited time at my disposal, I want to make it quite clear to the Leader of the Opposition that it is well known that there has been a conspiracy between the Communistcontrolled Waterside Workers Federation aud the Communist-controlled Seamen’s Union of Australasia to cause chaotic conditions on the Australian coast. The Government has received protests about the actions of those unions, and At has been urged to take appropriate action to lift the Queensland sugar that -is awaiting shipment. It is important that this matter should be dealt with promptly. I make no excuse for hurrying the bill through the Senate and, for the benefit of the many people who may be listening to the broadcast of the proceedings in this chamber, I say quite frankly that the stonewalling of the Opposition during the last month has been responsible for the worst delay that I have seen during the seventeen years that I have been a member of the Parliament. Their propaganda ‘does not cut any ice with me. Unless the Opposition is prepared to co-operate with .the Government in the passage of important legislation it shall receive no respect by the Government.
– Why not get on with the reply?
– Order ! Senator Grant should refrain from interjecting while the Minister” is replying.
– The Leader of the Opposition has stated that the Maritime Industry Commission was not consulted about the matter. It is not usual for the Government to consult a body that it proposes to displace, when it is intended to transfer to the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration the matters that have been administered by that body. However, the acting chairman of the commission, Mr. Edwards, was informed that the Government was giving consideration to the proposal. One of the reasons why I was not prepared to consult the commission was that Mr. E. V. Elliott, the secretary of the seamen’s union, who has caused 90 per cent’, of the trouble on the waterfront, was not prepared to play the game. I cannot understand why Opposition senators who are just as hostile as I am to the Communists are not prepared to get behind the Government in its attempt to deal with the Communist menace. It is well known to honorable senators that the legislation that was introduced to provide for secret ballots in the trade unions did not have the desired effect in relation to the seamen’s union. For a long time , I have striven to provide a regular shipping service on the Australian coast, particularly to the distant ports. It should be unnecessary for me to remind honorable senators of the many hold-ups that have occurred on the waterfront during the last two years.
The submissions of Opposition senators in relation to the accommodation that is provided for ships’ officers and crews have been very effectively answered, by Senator Wright. As Senator Arnold was a member of the Australian Shipping Board, I believed that he knew something about the navigation legislation. If the’ honorable senator will refer to section 44 (2.) of the original act he will find that the provision for a ship to go to sea with only four-fifths of its complement has operated for many years. The Government has decided to appoint a committee of experts to advise on matters relating to accommodation, because it has been the practice of Mr. Elliott, the Communist, to decide whether or not a ship should go to sea, and to stipulate the accommodation that should be provided for the crew. Mr. Bird decided when seamen should offer for a tug that has been held up in Melbourne for some months. The Government has accepted the advice of its technical officers, one of whom has occupied his present position for 37 years. I cannot understand the action of the Opposition in opposing some of the proposals contained in the bill. The staff of the commission are four in number. The secretary is a permanent officer-
– Order! The time allotted for the second-reading stage of the bill has now expired.
Question put -
That the hill be now read a second time.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. Edward Mattner.)
Majority . . 7
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I mo ve -
During my speech on the second-reading debate I foreshadowed this amendment. I gave notice to the Government of my intention to take this action. Also during the second-reading debate the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) indicated that the Government would oppose the motion. Therefore, I have no hope that it will be accepted by the Government, and I do not propose to address myself to it at any length. I have already voiced my objection, on behalf of the Opposition, to the very limited time that has been made available for the consideration of this measure, and I move this motion now primarily to give to the various sections of this very important and diverse industry an opportunity to consider the contents of this bill. From that consideration may well come suggestions that will prevent the Government from making very serious tactical errors. Even though in the motion I suggest that the report shall he brought up within fourteen days, I say to the Minister that if he is happy with seven days I shall accept a proposal to. shorten the time, in order to give an opportunity for these matters to receive proper consideration. I ask the Minister why when this measure has lain idle for three years, the Government is now obliged to gag it through this chamber in one day. Let us look at the record of the Government during the last two years, as indicated by the Minister himself in the course of his second-reading speech. Almost with pride, the honorable senator referred to the achievements of the Government. He stated that in the last two years 4,237 ships days have been lost. If the honorable senator, who is in charge of this bill, is proud of the fact that his Government has presided over that record series of hold-ups in the shipping industry, he may have his pride on his own.
– The honorable senator should not misrepresent the position.
– I have used the exact words of the Minister for Shipping and Transport. Those days were lost during the period of office of this Government. Surely that is not a record of which it can he proud. In fact, it is a record number of hold-ups in the shipping industry in this country. This” is the Government which has had the pleasure to preside over that most unfortunate result for the people of this country.
I do not propose to spend any more time advocating the appointment of a select committee. After the demonstration by the members of the Government and their supporters in the Senate to-day, it seems that some honorable senators opposite have foresworn all parliamentary procedures and rights, in the light of which I have little hope that the motion which I have proposed will receive support from the Government side of the Senate.
– The Government will not accept the proposal of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna). We are familiar with the delaying technique that has been practised by the Opposition for a considerable time. If the Leader of the Opposition wishes to comment on the failure of the Government to prevent hold-ups in the shipping industry, he should refer also to the support which the Government received from him and his colleagues when it was trying to put through legislation to deal with the “ red “ menace in the industrial life of this country. The honorable senator should mention also the marvellous conduct of the Opposition when it first decided to oppose the Communist Party Dissolution Bill in the House of Representatives and then, when it received instructions from outside, reversed that decision. As Senator Wright stated this afternoon, one of the things that seem to be worrying the Leader of the Opposition is that he and his colleagues have not had an opportunity to consult Mr. Elliott-
– I rise to order. I suggest, Mr. President, that the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) is neither replying to the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition Senator McKenna) nor discussing the bill.
– The Minister is in order.
– I do not wish to delay discussion of this issue, but if the Opposition is prepared to continue these tactics’ it must accept fair criticism from the Government. We accept full responsibility for this bill. We also accept full responsibility for the proposal to transfer authority from the Maritime Industry Commission, which was set up by a Labour government, to the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. It is well known to honorable senators, and also to the people of Australia, that because of the limited powers at present possessed by the Commonwealth it is impossible to remove undesir able persons from the two unions to which reference has been made in this debate. However, when an attempt was made before the High Court of Australia to deal with this matter, Dr. Evatt, the Leader of the Australian Labour party, defended the Communists.
– I again rise to a point of order. I submit, Mr. President, that we are not discussing the Communist Party Dissolution Bill. In my opinion, the Minister is entirely out of order in discussing what the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives (Dr. Evatt) did or did not do.
– Order ! I ask Senator Grant to resume his seat. The conduct of the Senate is under my control, although perhaps some honorable senators would prefer the position to be otherwise. I again rule that the Minister is in order.
– I also rise to a point of order. The Minister has stated that the Leader of the Labour party defended Communists in the High Court of Australia. The members of the Opposition greatly resent that statement. We consider that it is untrue and that the Minister should not be allowed to get away with statements of that kind.
– Order ! I repeat that the Minister is in order.
– I, too, rise to a point of order. Standing Order 418 reads as follows : -
No Senator shall use offensive words against either House of Parliament or any Member of such House, or of any House of a State Parliament, or against any Statute, unless for the purpose of moving for its repeal, and all imputations of improper motives and all personal reflections on Members shall be considered highly disorderly.
I claim that the Minister has been most insulting to the Opposition and has made highly improper personal reflections on the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives. In view of the provisions of Standing Order 418, I respectfully request that you Mr. President, direct him to withdraw his remarks.
– Order ! I am well aware of the provisions of Standing Order 41S. In my opinion no offensive words have been used by the Minister.
– There has been a reflection on a member of another House, namely the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt).
– Order! I am perfectly capable of deciding whether a reflection has been made on an honorable member. I am as keen to defend the honour of honorable members as is any one in this chamber. In my opinion there has been no reflection whatsoever on an honorable member.
– I assure honorable senators that this Government-
– I rise to a point of order. I desire to draw your attention, Mr. President, to the fact that we are discussing the proposed appointment of a select committee. The Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) has stated that the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives participated in a court case, which has nothing to do with the matter under discussion. I should like you to point out the standing order that provides that it is proper for an honorable senator to speak on a subject other than that being considered by the Senate.
– Order ! It is true that there is a motion before the Chair, but it deals with the bill which honorable senators are discussing. The motion proposes that the bill shall be referred to a select committee and it specifically mentions the bill. If honorable senators will read the bill they will see that it mentions the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. Therefore, the Minister’s remarks are relevant to that motion submitted by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna).
– Will you inform me, Mr. President, whether I would be in order in moving that the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) be no longer heard?
– Order ! The honorable senator would not be in order in moving that the Minister be no longer heard.
– This is but a continuance of the stonewalling tactics adopted by the Opposition to delay the passage of this measure. Resuming the trend of my remarks, I say that because of the attitude of the Labour party when the Government sought power from the people to deal with the menace of Communist control of the unions–
– I again rise to order. When. I referred to certain causes of delay in shipping during my speech this afternoon, you, Mr. President, held that my remarks were irrelevant to the bill. Now, the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) is trying to discuss the Communist menace in the -course of debate on a measure which does not relate in any way to communism. If the Minister can point to any reference to communism in this bill I shall withdraw my point of order, but in the meantime I submit that the Minister is completely out of order in referring to the Communist menace during discussion of this bill.
– Order ! I cannot uphold the point of order.
– I rise to order. Does the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) intend any reflection upon the members of the judiciary of this country in the remarks that he has made concerning the measure introduced by the Government to deal with the Communist parties?
– I do not intend any such reflection.
– Order ! I have yet to learn that any reflection has been made on the judiciary in the remarks made by the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay), and if I thought that any such reflection were intended I would have called the Minister to order. The Minister will continue his remarks.
– Mr. President, I am still not clear about what question is at present under consideration.
– Order ! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. Edward Mattner.)
Majority . . . . 7
Question so resolved in the negative.
The Clerk having read the motion,
– I said earlier that the Government would not accept the motion. Honorable senators must appreciate the situation that has arisen in the Australian maritime industry. This bill represents an honest attempt on the part’ of the Government to rectify that situation. It was drafted after very careful consideration and after a thorough examination by a number of experienced officials of my department. They recommended that industrial disputes arising in the maritime industries should be brought within the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, which has full power to deal with such matters. It. mustbe obvious to honorable senators that the powers at present possessed by -the Maritime Industry Commission, which was established as a war-time expedient, have faded, and that the efforts, during the past three years, of conciliation commissioners to bring about peace in the industry have not been successful. In fact, certain conciliation commissioners have publicly exhorted the steamship owners not to be blackmailed by the tactics adopted by some of the union leaders.
I am surprised that members of the Australian Labour party should oppose this measure because, as I said earlier in my remarks, I know that that party is opposed to communism and that a number of men in the Labour movement and in the maritime industries have done a great deal to remove the Communists from control of the unions concerned. Furthermore, as the result of my association with men engaged in the industry, I know that 90 per cent, of them will be pleased if the present Government can devise some means of overcoming the troublesome elements in the industry. They do not want industrial disputes, and the loss of wages which those disputes entail.
I repeat that the Government accepts full responsibility for its proposal to place the control of the maritime industries in the hands of a judge of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, and, it believes that that is the best proposal it can make at present, having regard to the limitations imposed by the Commonwealth Constitution. In. conclusion, I regret that the Opposition is not prepared to support us. In fact, it is evident that the Opposition is not prepared to help us at all in this matter.
– Iregret that the Government is not prepared to accept our proposal to refer this matter to a select committee, because I think sufficient has emerged during the debate to show that the bill has not been properly considered. Honorable senators generally have not had a proper opportunity to examine it. The Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) accused me of having made a mistake when I referred to a particular clause of the bill. However, the Minister himself is not clear on this matter, because he has proposed a vital alteration. These facts make it quite clear that the bill has not received proper consideration. All that the Opposition asks now is that a. select committee should be appointed to examine the proposals contained in the bill and to report its findings to the Senate within fourteen days. If that course is followed, a proper and adequate judgment can then be formed of the merits of the bill.
I am unable to say whether the proposals in the bill will deal effectively with the Communist menace in the maritime industries. However, I know that the bill presented to the Parliament by the Government some time ago for the express purpose of dealing with the Communists was subsequently rejected by the people, who regarded it as a totalitarian measure that was wholly unacceptable to them. The Minister has accused members of the Opposition of criticizing this bill because they seek to defend the Communists. .However, I say that we are defending the liberties of the people of Australia, just as we defended, so courageously, the liberties of the people when we opposed the Communist Party Dissolution Bill. To-night we again protest most vigorously against the Government’s attempt to foist a totalitarian measure upon us. If the people of Australia had the opportunity to pass judgment on such a method as the Minister has proposed to use they would return the same ringing answer as they gave some twelve months ago.
The Minister for Shipping and Transport, has had three years . in which to introduce amendments to the Navigation Act. No emergency has arisen in the last couple of days which would require this bill to pass through all its stages in a few hours. The Opposition has asked only that the debate be adjourned for a short period so that we may properly examine the measure. No doubt the Minister will try to convince his supporters that there is some reason for his haste. The Opposition is afraid of the totalitarian methods that the Government has adopted and which the people of Australia have rejected. “We demand reasonable time in which to examine measures that are brought before this chamber. If this practice is to be continued the Government cannot expect the Opposition to acquiesce meekly in what it proposes. We are suspicious of any Minister who tries to hasten a bill through the Senate in a few hours without giving any explanation of its urgency, without having had it examined by any body of experts and without Opposition senators having been able to obtain any information about it. Consequently, we have submitted that the bill should be examined by a select committee and if honorable senators opposite believe in liberalism they will give the minority in this chamber an adequate chance to discuss the measure and vote for the establishment of that committee.
– Honorable senators have listened to Senator Arnold advocating the case for a select committee. Surely the intelligence which he possesses- above that possessed hy other Opposition senators enables him to recognize that this bill has been designed to deal with a critical national situation. Comparatively speaking, it is a bill of a few simple clauses and any public man who has kept himself reasonably well informed on the circumstances existing in this industry should be able to bring his mind to bear on the propositions contained in the bill. If he confesses that lie is incapable of doing so, that is an admission that he has not concerned himself with the disastrous state of affairs that has developed in the industry.
The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) said that the Minister foi; Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) referred with pride to the fact that during the last two years only about 4.000 ship days had been lost in this industry. That reference was made not with pride but in sorrow, in the hope that Opposition senators who are concerned for the public welfare would realize that this was a matter, not for committee consideration, but for action. Senator Arnold confessed, in effect, that he and his colleagues are totally uninformed with regard to these critical conditions. That confession does no credit to a party which calls itself “ great “.
– I support the motion of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna). Only two arguments have been advanced in opposition to the motion. The Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) said that we must get rid of the Communists overnight. Senator Wright said that a critical national situation had developed. Did it develop overnight or has it been developing for the last two years ? On the Government’s own admission, 352 disputes have occurred in this industry during the last two years. Yet Senator Wright has contended that the position has arisen overnight and the Government has expected the Opposition to absorb the contents of the bill overnight.
– It does not expect Senator Aylett to absorb them.
- Senator Wright would not expect me to do that because he himself is incapable of absorbing anything that relates to democracy. He has given an exhibition of his attitude to democracy by supporting the Minister for Shipping and Transport who wants to overthrow democracy. If Gladstone knew what was happening in this chamber under the name of liberalism he would rise in his grave and come out of it. Opposition senators have asked the Minister to give us fourteen days to consider this measure and collect evidence in relation to it. Indeed, the Leader of the Opposition has asked for only seven days. What is behind this bill? Why must the Minister have it passed to-night ? I venture to say that it will not be passed in another place for a fortnight. The Minister said that he must get rid of the Communists. If Communists are sabotaging industry he has power to deal with them under the Crimes Act. The reason that he has not done this is that he lacks the courage. He is game only when he can play the part of a dictator. He then says, “ I have the numbers behind me. To the devil with democracy. I do not believe in it “. fs there any democracy in the Government’s attempt to have this bill passed by five minutes to twelve although no honorable senator on this side of the chamber had any information concerning it until yesterday? If the Government wishes to overthrow democracy in this country it has only to continue to use the tactics that it is using now, to continue to give champagne dinners to the Communists, and to continue bringing to Canberra delegations such- as that which visited this city to-day. I would not be surprised to learn that the Minister played a part in paying for the bus which brought that delegation to Parliament House.
The only other argument that Government senators have put forward has been that Dr. Evatt defended the Communists. Dr. Evatt never, at any time, defended the Communists. He acted in defence of the civil liberties of people who had had the bone pointed at them. Certain individuals had been branded unjustly but had had no right of appeal against this blackmail. Dr. Evatt proved that the Government was wrong and that it was running away from democracy in introducing legislation to brand private individuals who were not connected with Communists. The Minister stated that we must get rid of Communists. If Communists have disrupted industry nobody is to blame more than the Minister. The Minister has proposed that one judge should control the whole of the maritime industry. If the conditions of the last two years in this industry continue that judge will have to settle 352 disputes during the next two years. That would occupy his time fully and even then I do not think that he would be able to do justice to the parties.
The Government wishes to press this measure through the Senate because it knows that it is flouting the fundamental principles of unionism. That is why it will not give the Opposition the opportunity to set up a committee to inquire into the matter. The Government knows that if it piles all this work on to one man, ships will be held up throughout Australia. The Government wishes to bring about that state of affairs. The Government’s action has been sinister from start to finish. The Minister has revealed that fact every time that he has ‘ spoken on this measure, which he has been unable to debate civilly. By way of interjection, he has immediately said “ No “ to propositions which Opposition senators have put to him. He nas not been prepared to listen to reason. If lie intends to apply the same tactics to seamen as he has applied to Opposition senators all the ships in Australia will be tied up and the Minister will have something on his back which will drag him down.
– Order ! I remind honorable senators that, in accordance with the time-table for this debate, the Senate has only until 11.45 to debate this motion. If honorable senators wish the Leader of the Opposition to reply to what they have said they should make sure that he will have time in which to do so. There are now only seventeen minutes of debating time left for this motion.
– The only way in which the people of Australia will be able to get the champagne dinners to which Senator Aylett referred will be by putting an end to the strife which has occurred on the waterfront during the last two years. The time lost on 74 Commonwealth ships and 287 privately owned ships during the last two years has been equal to the time that would be lost if one ship were laid up for eleven years. This has been due to the trouble that has been caused by the Communist-controlled Seamen’s Union. By providing that a judge of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court shall be invested with the powers that are set out in this bill we shall make it possible to obtain the shipping necessary to export the produce of this country. In Western Australia Ave have suffered for five years because we have not been able to get ships turned around fast enough to transport urgently needed goods. We have not been able to do the developmental works that we would like to have done. We have had to rely on road transport on many occasions in order to obtain goods. We have also had to rely on rail transport simply because ships have not been manned in sufficient strength to put to sea. Some vessels ‘ have been held up for as long as 100 days. Australia is a huge continent and efficient shipping services are essential to its development. Stoppages by seamen and wharf-labourers have cost Australian fruit-growers more than £1,000,000 on consignments to Great Britain. One vessel which was carrying refrigerated cargo, took 101 days to travel from Hobart to London. The ship was delayed at every Australian port and by the time it reached its destination, its cargo of fruit was rotten. The proposal of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) for the appointment of a select committee is sheer hypocrisy. The committee would have to complete its inquiries within a few days. Obviously it would not have sufficient time to do the job properly. The motion is further evidence of the Opposition’s intention to delay legislation. Honorable senators opposite want the Maritime Industry Commission to be retained so that Mr. E. V. Elliott, who controls the Seamen’s Union may keep his job as a member of the commission. He holds up ships whenever he wants to. I have no doubt that sincere Labour members of Parliament are just as eager to end Mr. Elliott’s influence in the maritime industry and in the Seamen’s Union as the Government is.
– Does the honor able senator not agree that the Opposition should have been given a reasonable opportunity to examine this measure?
– The Government is eager to have the bill passed. Honorable senators opposite claim that the Government has had three years in which to introduce this measure but I recall that when I first took my place in this chamber in 1949, the Senate was Labour controlled and every piece of legislation that was designed to benefit this country was blocked by the Opposition. The sooner this bill receives the Royal assent the sooner will our shipping problems be solved and the sooner will our producers be able to send their products overseas and so increase our earnings. I am sure that the measure has the blessing of every true Australian, including the truly Australian members of the Seamen’s Union. There are not many Communists in that union, but unfortunately, they are able to control it. By placing the maritime industry under the jurisdiction of a judge of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, the time taken for the turn-round of ships will be halved almost immediately. . I oppose the motion that has been moved by the Leader of the Opposition.
. - Senator Wright endeavoured to foster the impression that ample notice had been given of this measure, whereas, in fact, notice of it was given only yesterday. That is borne out by the Journals of the Senate which states that -notice was given by the Minister for Shipping and Transport of an amendment of the Navigation Act. We had no indication that the legislation of which notice was given would abolish the Maritime Industry Commission, and we were not informed of the wide scope of the bill. Surely no member of the Senate could be expected to be fully acquainted with either this amending legislation or with the Navigation Act which, as the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) has pointed out, consists of over 200 pages. Senator Henty urged that we should adopt an attitude of mutual trust in our approach to industrial matters. I think the time has arrived when an attitude of mutual trust should be adopted in this chamber. A little more consideration should be given to the Opposition. All that the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) has done is to allege that there is - an association between the Labour party and the Communists. He claimed that a rapid passage of this measure was desirable so that the Communists could be dealt with. He also referred to Mr. Elliott. I remind him that Mr. Elliott is not the only person who will be affected by the bill that is now being bludgeoned through the Senate. Does the Minister believe that the maritime engineers have anything to do with communism? Does he consider that the maritime cooks, bakers, butchers, stewards and others are Communists? I do not object to the proposal to place the affairs of the maritime industry under the jurisdiction of a judge of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, but I take strong exception to the claim that the change will in any way affect communism. The only political party that has ever really fought communism is the Labour party. The industrial movement of the Australian Labour party has done more to defeat communism in this country tha.i this Government will ever do.
– It is a pity that the honorable senator himself has not done a little more.
– I have done far more than the Minister has done. His contribution has been very small indeed. It has consisted mainly of abuse, and that will not get him anywhere. I shall not trespass further on the time of the Senate. I support the motion that has been moved by the Leader of the Opposition. I have not had an opportunity to examine the bill closely and I claim for the workers in the maritime industry the same right as has extended to the ship-owners. No mention has been made by honorable senators opposite of the fact that Mr. Edwards, the acting chairman )f the Maritime Industry Commission and a representative of the ship-owners, has wired to the Government protesting against the proposal to abolish the commission. I hope that in future the Government will show more consideration for the Opposition than it has shown on this occasion.
– The speeches of honorable senators opposite on this measure have reminded me very much of the words of the famous song by Private Willis. Honorable senators will recall that, referring to politicians, Private Willis sang -
They have to leave their brains outside and vote the way their leaders tell ‘em to.
It is obvious that honorable senators opposite have left their brains outside. They are in rather a quandary about how to vote because the3 have not been able to consult their leaders. In fact that is the only reason for their annoyance with this bill. The debate has shown quite clearly that the Opposition is not in the least concerned about the merits or demerits of the bill. I have listened to speaker after speaker on the Opposition side moaning that sufficient time has not been allowed for the consideration of the bill. Government supporters have had plenty of time to make valuable contribution to the debate, but I have hardly heard one rational suggestion from the Opposition. The theme of speeches of honorable senators opposite has been, “We have not had time to discuss the bill “. If they genuinely desired to discuss the bill they would have exercised their right to do so. The motion that has been moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) is merely a subterfuge to gain time in order that members of the Opposition may consult their masters on how to vote on this measure. I suggest that the only opponents of this bill are honorable senators opposite and comrade Elliott, who is about to lose a very good job. In recent years he has been able to order strikes at will.
– I rise to order. The question before the Senate is whether there should be a select committee to examine this ‘bill. I submit, therefore, that Senator Vincent’s remarks are quite out of order. He is discussing the bill itself and other matters which are entirely extraneous.
– I contend that as Senator Grant is not in his proper place in this chamber, he has no right to raise a point of order.
– As there still appears to be some confusion about the question that is before the Chair, may I suggest, Mr. President, that the Clerk be asked to read the motion again.
– The motion has already been read twice, and I do not think it is necessary to have it read a third time. Surely all honorable senators are capable of assimilating a motion that has been read to them twice.
– Honorable senators opposite-
– Order ! The time allotted for the consideration of this stage of the bill has expired, and I shall now put the motion proposed by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna).
Question put -
That the motion (vide page 3117) be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. Edward Mattner.)
Majority . . 7
Question so resolved in the negative.
– The time allotted for the consideration of the committee stage of the bill having expired, the question is “ That the bill stand as printed, and that I report the bill without amendment “.
Question put -
That the bill stand as printed and that the Chairman of Committees report the bill without amendment.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Senator George Rankin.)
Majority . . 6
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill reported without amendment.
Motion (by Senator McLeay) proposed -
That the report be . adopted.
Question put. The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. Edward Mattner.)
Majority . . 6
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Thursday, 16th October 1952.
Motion (by Senator McLeay) put -
That the bill be now read a third time.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. Edward Mattner.)
Majority . . . . 6
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Motion (by Senator O’Sullivan) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I regret to have to detain honorable senators at this late hour, but during a debate in this chamber a few weeks ago certain criticisms and allegations were made about the administrative control of the Army. My colleague, the Minister for the Army (Mr.Francis) has taken such a serious view of those allegations that he has asked me to place on record in this chamber the facts of the matter. It relates to a conscientious objector named Private Mason. As I have already outlined to honorable senators, in a reply to a question, the details of the case, I shall not traverse that ground again.
On the 30th September, Senator O’Flaherty made serious allegations about the fairness of the treatment that had been extended to Private Mason. I shall disregard the historical facts which are already on record. When Private Mason was transferred to the Military Corrective Establishment at Holsworthy he was informed that if at any time he indicated his willingness to undergo normal training of a non-combatant nature, instructions would be issued for his release from the corrective establishment and for his transfer to the 16th National Service Training Battalion at Woodside to complete his period of training. Instructions were issued by the Minister for the Army to the Army authorities at the time that no undue coercion was to be brought to bear upon Mason while he was detained at Holsworthy to compel him to wear uniform, to train, or to work, unless he was prepared to doso.
Senator O’Flaherty stated on the 30th September that while at Holsworthy Mason “ has been subjected to treatment, of a kind that those who support the Government contend is meted out to certain persons in Russia, China, Korea and other countries “. The Minister for the Army has asked me to inform honor able senators that that statement was ill-considered, reckless, irresponsible, dangerous, incorrect, and unworthy of the honorable senator. Private Mason’s legal representative, Mr. J. S. L. Treloar, of Treloar and Treloar, Adelaide, in personal interviews with the Minister for the Army and the Secretary, Department of the Army, advised that he had no criticism of the way in which Mason has been treated while undergoing detention at Holsworthy. In a letter addressed to Mason at the Military Corrective Establishment, Holsworthy, a copy of which was sent to the Minister for the Army, Mr. Treloar stated, inter alia -
It is grand that the Minister for the Army, the Honorable Mr. Francis, and the Secretary of the Army are treating you so fairly and kindly.
In a report received from the Holsworthy Corrective Establishment, dated the 2nd October, 1952, it is stated -
It is important to state that the Military Corrective Establishment generally is not run as a gaol or a rigid disciplinary punishment area, but, as its name implies, it has been established to comply with modern army conditions, with a view to training the undisciplined soldier to adopt a more reasonable and sane attitude towards military service, and thus become a good soldier and citizen. All of the activities at the corrective establishment are designed to that end, and honorable senators can be assured that, unless a serviceman proves incorrigible, he is given every facility and every encouragement to make good.
The basic principles which govern the administration of this establishment are that soldiers who are undergoing detention for disciplinary reasons are divided into two categories, namely (1) those considered capable of rehabilitation as soldiers, and (2) those considered not capable of such rehabilitation. In the case of former soldiers, the linking of rehabilitation with punishment is designed to return the soldier to his unit with his military training continued and improved and with a better understanding of the virtue of discipline. As soldiers in this category indicate by their behaviour that they are responding to their instruction, they are permitted to live under conditions which resemble the life- of a soldier living in barracks in a normal unit. An important aspect of this corrective establishment is that both staff and soldiers undergoing detention receive the same rations and the same meals. As I have already indicated,” Private Mason was given especial treatment and was not subjected to any military discipline or required to carry out dutiesother than those he was prepared to undertake voluntarily. That statement completely refutes the reckless and irresponsible contentions of the honorable senator.
– In my opinion the details contained in the statement made by the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) on behalf of the Minister for the Army and the fact that the Minister for the Army has given his personal attention to it, indicate how well a rid sympathetically the Army is administered.
– I wish to speak of a matter which is closely connected with that referred to by the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner); 1 refer to the treatment accorded to people who are genuine conscientious objectors to military service. I refer particularly to a man whom I knew during World War II., and who was a scientist and a naturalist. When war broke out he genuinely wished to direct his efforts to his life’s work rather than to military affairs. He was taken before a court for refusing to undergo military service and was sentenced to a term of imprisonment. Immediately on release, he was. re-arrested and again imprisoned. Altogether, he spent approximately twoyears in prison. This man has now a. son eighteen years of age who is at presentundergoing a second term of imprisonment because he also is a conscientiousobjector to military service. It seemsto me that a man who sincerely believes that he should not be obliged to undertake military service should not be so treated. I should like the Minister to consider borderline cases of that kind. No one could say that the young man to whom I have referred is not a genuine conscientious objector. In my opinion, the fact that he objects to military service is his own business. It seems altogether unfair that because his life and character have been formed along certain lines, and his mind works in a certain way, he should be subjected to continuous imprisonment. Conscientious objection is a very difficult matter to define. It is possible that many men who are man-powered into the army may object to the manner in which their services are used. On the other hand, men who do not go into the armed services at all may consider that their services could be used to better advantage. It seems to me that a man who does not wish to take part in military activities should receive a greater measure of consideration than has this young “man in whose blood is an objection to military service. It may well be that it is not his fault that he objects to such service. Such cases should be considered closely in order to avoid victimization of genuine conscientious objectors.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Commonwealth Grants Commission Act - Commonwealth Grants Commission - Nineteenth Report (1952).
Defence (Transitional Provisions) Act - National Security (Industrial Property) Regulations - Orders - Inventions and designs (2).
Overseas Telecommunications Act - Sixth Annual Report of the Overseas Telecom- munications Commission (Australia) for the year ended 31st March, 1952, together with financial accounts.
Public Service Act -
Appointment - Department of National
Development - F. M. Kicinaki
List of Permanent Officers of the Commonwealth Public ‘Service as at 30th June, 1B51.
Senate adjourned at 12.19 a.m. (Thursday).
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 15 October 1952, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1952/19521015_senate_20_220/>.