23rd Parliament · 2nd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMulIin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– Has the Leader of the Government in this chamber seen a report in last night’s Melbourne “ Herald “ that a certain Government senator, who has been publicized as being opposed to certain proposed increases of sales tax, will be held up in Tasmania during the passage of that legislation through this chamber?
– I have not seen any such report. If there is any such senator, 1 am prepared to say he will not be held up anywhere.
– I wish to ask the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service a question which concerns the resolution of the Austraiian Council of Trade Unions on the subject of compulsory political levies. Has the resolution been communicated to the Minister in writing? If so, in what form is the written communication?
– Do you refer to the resolution of the executive or to the subsequent adoption of the resolution by the Trades and Labour Council?
– The subsequent adoption.
– I am not able to say whether the Minister holds it in writing. The Minister told me verbally that he had that information.
– Has the Minister for Civil Aviation any knowledge of what is called the red-white landing aid for aircraft now adopted for use at airports in the United Kingdom? Is this system equal to, or better than, that now installed at many of our major airports? If it is an improvement, is to be adopted in Australia?
– In the world of civil aviation this matter at the moment is being considered very actively. The position is that in July of this year the Federal Avia tion Agency of the United States made a comparison of the red-white landing aid - which is a landing aid that was developed in the United Kingdom by the Royal Aircraft Establishment - and the Australian precision visual glide path. The F.A.A. decided to adopt the United Kingdom red-white landing aid. Some little time after that, a new device was developed in this country. It was called the T-visual glide path. It was successfully tested in Melbourne as recently as October. The installation was sent to the United States of America and set up at the Federal Aviation Agency’s test facility at Atlantic City, where last week it was successfully demonstrated to aviation experts from the United States of America and other countries. The Federal Aviation Agency has said that it will make its own evaluation of the system. There, I am quoting what the authority said. That could imply that it may possibly review its earlier decision to adopt the United Kingdom red-white system.
– Is the Minister representing the Treasurer aware that manufacturing and commercial interests in Australia are concerned about the time at which the Government will introduce decimal currency? Is the Minister able to say whether the new system will be introduced before February, 1963? Have many suggestions been received about the new scheme, such as the £l-cent system and the lOs.-cent unit? Is it likely that the Treasurer will make a statement on this subject in the early months of 1961?
– At present it is not possible to make any definite or near definite statement as to when, or indeed whether, decimal currency will be introduced. Honorable senators will appreciate that the report which has been submitted and distributed to members of the Parliament is a lengthy document. It is currently under consideration by the Government.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade. Is the price of petrol sold in Australia to be the subject of a Tariff Board inquiry in the near future? If it is, what are the terms of reference?
– Senator Pearson was good enough to tell me that he intended to ask this question, so I obtained a clear answer. The Tariff Board has been asked to inquire and report on “ whether, taking marketing into account, assistance should be accorded the production in Australia of refined petroleum products other than mineral lubricating oils and, if so found, the nature and extent of such assistance”. The terms of reference do not specifically refer to the price of petrol, but this could be one of the factors that the board will fake into account if it is found to be relevant to the matter under inquiry. The board’s inquiry is scheduled to begin in Sydney on the 30th of this month.
– Has the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry been directed to the item in to-day’s “Daily Telegraph” under the heading “ U.K. Subsidy to Develop Forests “, wherein it is pointed out that the British Government is offering substantial incentives, including initial and annual grants and taxation relief to private landholders to develop forest areas? Did the Minister also notice that with regard to a similar scheme in the United States of America it was claimed that in areas like New Hampshire, which cannot compete with the production of the Middle West farm region, 75 per cent, of farm land is now under forest? Will the Minister discuss with his colleague, the Minister for Primary Industry, the possibility of getting the Bureau of Agricultural Economics to make a survey and report on the question of whether land formerly used for dairying purposes, but now operating below a satisfactory level of production, could be developed into forest areas by the same private land-holders with support and incentives by way of low-interest-bearing longterm loans and some taxation and death duty relief?
– I shall bring the suggestion of the honorable senator to the notice of the Minister for Primary Industry. I am confident that when the report of the Dairy Industry Committee of Inquiry is being discussed, the Minister will keep the suggestion in mind.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. Is the honorable gentleman aware that about 100 employees of the Standard Motor Company (Australia) Proprietary Limited of Melbourne, representing 10 per cent, of the total number of employees of the company, are under notice of dismissal? As the management of the company has stated unequivocally that the dismissals are the result of this Government’s economic proposals, will the Minister ask the Treasurer, even at this late stage, not to go ahead with the proposal to increase by 10 per cent, the sales tax on motor vehicles? If the additional sales tax is not imposed further wholesale unemployment in the motor industry will be avoided.
– I have not seen the report referred to by the honorable senator. If, indeed, the report is correct, I will immediately direct the attention of my colleague, the Minister for Labour and National Service, to the situation. If all or some of the men concerned seek alternative employment I will ask my colleague to request his department to look into the matter. ,
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. Has the Minister’s attention been directed to publicity given to the policy of some American banks of inducing women to become depositors by promising them mink-covered cheque books, Scottish plaid-covered savings bank books, pink safe-deposit boxes and richly appointed rooms in which to transact their business? As it is now common knowledge that many business and professional women in Australia are women of means as a result of their own achievements, has the Minister considered offering inducements to them to become depositors with the Commonwealth Bank?
– The question is one which opens up some exciting possibilities in banking. I have not seen the report referred to. I will certainly refer this question to the Treasurer, who has, I believe, a rather more intense knowledge of this kind of thing than I have. Minkcovered cheque books, Scottish plaid pass books and pink safe-deposit boxes, despite the fact that competition for bank accounts ‘becomes daily more intense, are, I think, at this stage of our development rather premature.
– 1 direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for the Army. It relates to a question that I placed on the notice-paper, and to which I received an answer yesterday. The question concerned the payment of increases to members of the Citizen Military Forces. The Minister in his answer said -
It was deemed essential that the regulations to give effect to the increased rates of pay to the Citizen Military Forces should be drafted to conform with the wishes of Parliament as expressed in the recent debate in the Senate on the financial regulations of the Service departments. The draft regulation is now expected to t>e ready for submission to the Governor-General within a few days.
As this delay is not the fault of members of the Citizen Military Forces, will the Minister give an assurance that the back pay involved will be available to the servicemen concerned before Christmas?
– If the honorable senator wants an assurance, since I merely represent the Minister for the Army, I cannot give it to him. I suggest that he place his question on the notice-paper, and allow tie Minister for the Army to assume the responsibility of dealing with it.
– I ask the Minister for National Development whether it is a fact that beryllium, because of its heat resisting qualities, is becoming of increasing importance in the manufacture of rockets. If so, does it mean that there is an increased demand for the ore of beryllium? If there is such an increased demand, has the Minister noticed in American newspapers advertisements of a machine devised in America for discovering ore of beryllium below the surface of the ground? If so, will the Minister advise the Senate whether similar equipment is available in Australia?
– In view of the technical content of Senator Scott’s question I should be obliged if he would put it on the notice-paper so that, in replying to it, I can obtain the help of my professional advisers.
– I preface a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Health by stating that no less than 24 per cent, of the Australian population is protected by hospital insurance benefits, and that the Commonwealth Government made a contribution towards hospital benefits during the year ended 30th June, 1960, to the order of £17,000,000. In view of the recent increase of hospital charges imposed in New South Wales by the State Government, will the Minister make representations to the Hospital Contributions Fund of New South Wales, which attracts a Commonwealth subsidy, to introduce a new family table which will cover the increases now in operation in that State?
– The suggestion of the honorable senator to overcome the increase of hospital fees imposed by the Government of New South Wales is one of importance. I shall pass it on to the Minister for Health, and ask him whether he will do as the honorable senator suggests.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The Prime Minister has supplied the following answers: -
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The Treasurer has supplied the following answers: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The Minister for Health has now furnished the following replies: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice -
– The Minister for Primary Industry has supplied the following answers: -
Debate resumed from 22nd November (vide page 1734), on motion by Senator Cole-
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- I have much pleasure in supporting the bill, which poses two very simple problems, namely, union affiliation fees and political levies on union members. I have always felt that it was wrong in principle that because a person belonged to a union - in some States compulsorily - a part of his union membership fees should be passed over to a political party. I think, too, that political levies on all members of a union, many of whom may not agree with the beliefs of the political party for whose benefit the levy is struck, are wrong in principle. We now have the rather unusual feature that the Australian Council of Trade Unions has passed a resolution in regard to this very matter.
The principle of unions imposing political levies on their members has operated over a period of years. In September last, it was reported in one of the newspapers that an important decision had been made by the interstate executive of the A.C.T.U. at a meeting which had been held in Sydney. The resolution indicated that the executive had unanimously decided that it was opposed in principle to the imposition of levies on individual members of unions for political purposes, and that that decision would be communicated to the Federal Government. It was stated that the Labour Advisory Committee, which consists of representatives of the A.C.T.U., the Federal Parliamentary Labour Party and the federal executive of the Australian Labour Party, had also unanimously endorsed that attitude. The report went on to state, as I believe to be true, that that decision was made in order to counter the threatened introduction of legislation by Senator McManus. As we know, it was Senator Cole, on behalf of the Australian Democratic Labour Party, who actually introduced the bill that we are now discussing. I am of the opinion that if it had not been for the introduction of that bill by the Democratic Labour Party, there would have been no resolution by the A.C.T.U. In other words, I believe that the resolution was adopted in an attempt to defeat the passage of the bill.
I am very much surprised to think that our Liberal-Country Party Government should fall for this sort of stuff. I am rather amazed, when I think of the strength of our Liberal-Country Party philosophy, that we are prepared to accept such a resolution by the A.C.T.U. as something which the Government considers to be of sufficient strength and character to bind the unions. I say that there is no direction in that resolution at all. It is merely an expression of policy. There is no real undertaking of any worth in it. The fact that the Government has accepted such a thing as having merit and being worthwhile indicates to me a weakness on the Government’s part. I should have thought that a Liberal-Country Party Government would have wanted something more definite and something stronger than that. Its acceptance indicates a policy of appeasement and a weakness of which I think we on this side should not be very proud.
There is no guarantee that the A.C.T.U. policy will be carried out. Those of us who know something of trade unions know that the Waterside Workers Federation of Australia is one of the unions that have been concerned in this respect. Jim Healy, the general secretary of that union, was in my home city of Mackay for many years. Do you mean to tell me that Healy and others, such as Elliott of the Seamen’s Union, will abide by the resolution if they want to strike political levies to help the Communist Party or any other party with leftist tendencies? Can you honestly tell me that they will toe prepared to abide by the resolution? Of course, they will not abide by it.
Those of us who served on the Senate select committee which investigated indemnity payments to maritime unions came into contact with men such as Elliott. Their characteristic demeanour when giving evidence before the committee indicated to me very clearly that those men have no regard for responsible government and administration in this Commonwealth. They are out to achieve disruption and anarchy wherever they can possibly do so.
That is my considered opinion. For our Government to accept a resolution of the A.C.T.U. that is not of a binding character indicates a weakness. I am amazed to think that the Government should consider the resolution to be of sufficient worth to be accepted.
To my way of thinking, this matter poses a simple human problem. It relates to the right of individuals to decide whether they shall subscribe to political parties in which they do not believe. No doubt there will be much discussion by members of the legal fraternity in the Senate during this debate, but I think, from the point of view of lay members of the Senate, that if we can confine the discussion to that of a simple human problem it will be more easily understood.
– When the vote on the sales tax legislation is taken, we will test you out to see whether you are prepared to subscribe to something that is compulsory.
– I should be very much surprised if Senator O’Byrne were to vote as independently as I do. I challenge him to show his independence and courage in this chamber in the same way that I display mine. I cannot see why a person who is a member of a union should be compelled to subscribe to the funds of a political party against which he votes when he goes to the polling booth. I can recall being told in days gone by by the then secretary of the Clerks Union in Queensland that part of my affiliation fee had to go towards the support of the Labour Party. I have always worked for the political party to which I have belonged; I have never been a fair-weather supporter of the party, even though some people may think I have been. I took a stand in the days when it was not very popular in Queensland to be a member of the Liberal Party, or of parties of the same colour. I can recall arguing, as a young man, with the union secretary to whom I have referred and asking, “Why should part of my union fees have to go towards supporting the Labour Party, to which I am opposed?”
– In the past, thousands of workers were sacked when they did not vote for the bosses’ party.
– In all the years I have lived in Queensland - I am a native of north Queensland - I cannot recall any one being sacked because of his political association. If Senator Brown wants to live back in the dark ages-
– He must be more than 100 years old!
– Yes. He is going back a long way.
– You know my age. I have had the experience of being sacked because I would not vote for the Conservatives.
– We are not speaking about the dark ages; we are speaking about recent times. I do not believe that people should be persecuted for their political views. Indeed, I do not believe in their being persecuted for any of their beliefs. I have employed people whose political opinions have been diametrically opposed to mine. Every person who has worked for me would be able to say that never once have I tried to influence him in his political opinions. I believe that most of the supporters of the Labour Party in Queensland would say that I am a reasonably fair-minded person, even politically. I am prepared to fight hard for what I believe to be right, but I respect people of the opposite view who also are prepared to fight hard for what they believe to be right.
Why should a unionist be forced, because of his union membership, to subscribe to a political party against which he votes? To my way of thinking, to compel a person to do that is quite undemocratic and wrong. It cannot be justified on any ground at all. Although I am in accord with the bill in principle, there is one provision which I should like to see altered. The bill provides that a unionist shall have the right to contract out as against contracting in. To state the position more simply, it provides that, if a person does not want his membership fee to be applied to the support of the Labour Party, he must write to the union and say so. In other words, he has to tell the union. In the same way, if the union is making a political levy, and if he does not want to subscribe to the party for which the union is making the levy, he has to tell the union so.
– Would you apply the same principle to business firms and contributions to the Liberal Party?
– You could apply it to business firms, as far as I am concerned. The point is that this bill requires a unionist to write to his union and contract out. In theory, that is all right, but in practice there is a weakness. A unionist needs some courage to contract out. I say this in all seriousness. It does require courage because in many unions there is an element of a very vicious type. In some unions there are people who would cause a man to lose his job because he dared to do this kind of thing. In unions which are controlled or dominated by Communists, we know that members who did this would be subjected to vicious persecution and that penalties would be inflicted upon them. As Senator Hannaford says, they would be victimized. Nobody could convince me that that sort of thing does not take place. I believe that there could be a greater degree of victimization of a unionist by a union than of an employee by an employer. Generally speaking, there are good relationships between employers and employees to-day. 1 do not know of any employer who wants to be oppressive as far as the working conditions of his employees are concerned.
There is another aspect of contracting out. Affiliation fees or political levies assist the political party to which a union subscribes, and membership of the union, if there is no contracting out, implies support for that party. I think that that is wrong. As we know, many people are neglectful and easy-going. They say, “ I do not agree with the principle; I am opposed to it, but what is the use of my doing anything about it “? Very often a certain union supports a political party which some members of the union are not prepared to support through the ballot-box. Last night, when replying to something that was said, I think by Senator Cole, Senator McKenna referred to a unionist having to be a member of the Australian Labour Party. I point out that a person does not have to be a member of the A.L.P. in order to support that party. Because the affiliation fees and subscriptions of unionists who are not Labour-minded politically go to help the A.L.P. , there is an implication that those persons support the A.L.P. I believe that the Labour Party derives many votes because of this thought in the minds of many unionists. I feel that it would be better for this bill to provide for contracting in instead of contracting out, so that a unionist would have to say that he wanted his subscription or levy to be applied in support of the Labour Party, the Democratic Labour Party, the Liberal Party or any other party. That would be a fairer and a better provision. However, unless an amendment is moved at the committee stage, the contracting out provision will remain.
As I have said, the affiliation of unions with the Labour Party is one of the things that has been a great source of strength to the Labour Party, because many people believe that as they belong to a trade union they must vote for Labour candidates at elections. I have had the experience of a unionist telling me that although he did not agree with Labour’s policy, on principle he felt that he must support the Labour Party because he belonged to a union. Why should there be an impliction that because a person belongs to a union, automatically he must vote for a certain political party? Because the Labour Party has derived great strength from this, it desires the practice to continue, despite the statement made by the Australian Council of Trades Unions, and is not desirous of legislation of this character being enacted.
I am against people being required to subscribe to the funds of a political party to which, in their consciences, they are opposed. Therefore, legislation of this character, which will help in some degree in that regard, will have my very solid support. In saying this, I am standing behind my own Queensland Liberal Party which, at its convention a couple of months ago, passed a resolution along lines similar to the provision in the bill now before the chamber. In saying what I have said, I am in agreement with the thinking of my own political party in Queensland.
I would like to thank the leader of the Australian Democratic Labour Party (Senator Cole) for bringing this bill forward. I admire the support that has been given to him by Senator McManus in the fight to have the bill enacted. I believe that this bill aims to give to the people, in as easy a manner as possible, the rights to which they are entitled. I support the bill. It provides for contracting out instead of contracting in, but at least it is a step in the right direction. The passage of the measure by this chamber will show the unionists what this Commonwealth Parliament thinks about the matter.
.- After having listened very carefully to what has been said during this debate, I am convinced that the position of the wage workers is not understood as it should be. Under existing conditions, they exist by the process of production, but it is not a process of production for the wage workers. The objective of trade unionism, as I understand it, is to reverse that process - to control the process of production for the wage workers. In other words, the objective is to establish self-government in industry and essential services. Taking into consideration all that has happened since wage workers organized as unions, I think honorable senators will agree that freedom is the appreciation of necessity and that necessity constitutes the driving force socially which makes freedom possible. When compulsion is condemned without reservation, the impression is created that compulsion is not necessary.
This institution would not exist as it exists to-day but for the revolutionary actions of the men who fought, particularly in England, France and Germany, and led the way. The freedom that we have to-day is the freedom of necessity - necessity to improve the living and working conditions of the working classes. In my opinion, no consideration is given to the fact that the people of this country, like the people of most countries - I do not know of any exception - are irreconcilably class-divided; and that is the cause of the friction that exists. In this highly mechanized age the owners of land and capital, particularly the monopolists, are becoming wealthier and fewer in numbers; but on the other hand the non-owners are becoming increasingly subjugated, exploited and impoverished to the lowest level of being destitute wards of the State. They are increasing in number in every country, including Australia.
For example, I refer to a report in the Melbourne “Age” of Monday, 21st
November, of a statement by the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton). The newspaper report reads -
Mr. Roberton said a record number of more than 693,000 Australians were now receiving age, invalid and widows’ pensions and allowances - an increase of 17,000 since the end of October last year. The biggest increase had been in the age pensioner group, which now totalled 535,000, compared with 517,000 in October last year. The number of widow pensioners had increased from 50,521 to 52,913, but invalid pensioners had decreased from 86,000 to 83,000. Mr. Roberton said these figures were the first available since the rise in pension rates had become effective last month . . . The number of pensioners in each State was: New South Wales, 282,000; Victoria, 170,000; Queensland, 107,000; South Australia, 62,000; Western Australia, 48,000; Tasmania, 22,000; Australian Capital Territory, 950; and Northern Territory, 740.
The point I am making is that a very big proportion, particularly of age and widow pensioners, are quite capable of earning a decent livelihood if they are allowed to do so. In the event of a war they would be provided with that opportunity. I know that only too well from my own experience of both aircraft production and the Post Office. Thousands of people came into those industries and made it possible for the work to be carried on and even for production to be increased and postal services to be improved during the war. Then after the cessation of hostilities, particularly when this Government came into power, those people went on the dole again as destitute wards of the State. To-day, the average working man has nothing to look forward to, except, if he lives long enough, to ending his days on the dole or possibly in gaol. I meet dozens of men and women whom I knew 50 years ago and who are now withered and in ruin. They are age pensioners and many of them are compelled to pay as much as £3 10s. a week for a room.
– Order! Senator, I think you are getting a little away from the bill.
– I am pointing out that compulsion is necessary in certain cases. If we are to provide adequately for people, some compulsory action has to be taken as it has been taken for as long as we can remember. What has become of the thousands of coal-miners in New South Wales who have ‘been expropriated from the coal mines and their homes? It is absolutely disgusting and inhuman. What has become of the sugar workers in Queensland and other workers who have been expropriated from their work?
If a decision in regard to compulsory unionism or compulsory political levies is a majority decision, in my opinion it should be honoured. One does not expect a minority of unionists to decide policy for the majority. We do not expect that to be done in the political sphere. Honorable senators opposite would be the very first to object if, as a result of an election, a minority took control of the machinery of government. But, by implication, this bill says that in a union a minority that objects to a decision of the majority should be free to please themselves. Freedom is a relative proposition. There is no such thing as absolute freedom. The freedom of wage employees is negative; the freedom of owners of land and capital is positive. People in the latter group have access to the means by which they live and have positive freedom; but the wage earner has no access to the means by which he lives, unless he has the permission of his employer to work for a subsistence wage. In the light of those circumstances, what do we intend to do to improve conditions as they should be improved?
I believe it to be true that we have resolved the problem of unemployment. We have learned the procedures and gained the skills whereby the greatest single disadvantage that was suffered by employees in the past has been removed. I believe that this objective has been reached with the minimum use of controls and the maximum liberty for the people as a whole. In the post-war Australian scene there has been no direction as to where the man shall work and the occupation he shall follow.
That is a gross exaggeration. If a man wants to work in the coal mines he demands the right to do so, but if the employers see fit they can deny him the right to work whenever they like to do so. The statement by the Leader of the Government is a gross misrepresentation of the true position. I believe that it was done deliberately. The statement is available for all people to read.
Senator Spooner said that the problem of unemployment had been solved. The position that is developing in this country is similar to the position that is developing in other countries to-day. Unless the Government adjusts its policies we shall have increasing unemployment in this country. Approximately 400,000 people are unemployed to-day in Canada. The number is even greater in the United States of America. There is unemployment in every country. The trend that is developing is similar to the trend that developed in the 1930’s. I can take my mind back to 1893, when the banks in this country crashed. I was a boy at the time, living in South Melbourne. The banks at that time had acted just as the banks are acting to-day. I can remember 1907, the 1920’s and the 1930*s, and the trend that is developing in this country to-day closely resembles the trend that developed in those bygone days. When Senator Spooner says that the problem of unemployment has been solved I can picture the man in the street, who is looking for a job, saying that the honorable, senator is a liar. Of course, I would not say that in this place, because I do not believe in being personal. But you cannot expect a man who is out of work, and who is trying to feed his family, to be as careful in his choice of words as Senator Wright would be when he is feeling very annoyed about some matter.
Nothing is done without compulsion. All things yield to pressure. Where there is no pressure there is no result. For all practical purposes most governments operate on the principle of the wheelbarrow. They go just as far and just as fast as they can be pushed by the people. The measure of freedom and liberty that we enjoy to-day has come to us as a result of the efforts of the people. That is why statements are made here and in another place in an effort to mislead the people. Senator Spooner referred to the erosion of inflation. He did not attempt to define what is meant by inflation. He did not tell us who were the inflationists. He did not tell us the object of inflation or how it could be prevented. He is under an obligation to give us that information. In my opinion, the problem of inflation could be solved, but in the process of solving it you would arouse antagonism because you would need to resort to compulsion, just as at times compulsion is necessary in the unions. Take, for example, a strike in a certain industry, where some employees do not believe in the strike. Supposing they believe the employer. In that case they act as strikebreakers. As soon as that happens you have a struggle. You cannot expect the average unionist to be the mental follower or dependant of the Leader of the Government or the Prime Minister or anybody else in another place. I have always encouraged unionists to think for themselves rather than be the mental dependant of so-called leaders. That is the best advice that I can give any worker. I have had a great deal of experience in unions in Western Australia and Victoria. Whenever the opportunity arises I point out to unionists that for all practical purposes they are compelled to work for a subsistence wage. Never before, in the history of this country has so much wealth been produced so quickly and so cheaply. By whom is that wealth appropriated? It is appropriated by the monopoly owners of land and capital. There you have the fundamental cause, of trouble in the unions.
This bill provides that unionists may refuse to pay a levy for political purposes. Politics is a word that does not apply only to parliamentary affairs. You can have trade union politics, municipal politics and commercial politics. Politics may be denned as the science of management. Therefore if unions are faced with a situation where in their own interests, they must raise money for the purposes of Parliamentary politics rather than hold up the country by means of strikes, they should be at liberty to make the decision accordingly. Personally I would have no hesitation in advising them to do so, provided I was of the opinion that their action was absolutely necessary. If it is considered absolutely necessary to raise money and the majority of trade unionists decide to do so, the majority decision should stand and all loyal unionists should take their place solidly behind the majority.
Reference has been made to the Hurseys’ case. I think that those unfortunate men were used by the ship-owners and the stevedoring companies for the purpose of weakening the Waterside Workers’ Federation. This is nothing new in my experience at all. In the parlance of the past they were known as agents provocateurs. The ship-owners did not succeed, and they are not going to succeed in the future. If I am any judge of the trend of the times and the change that is taking place in the minds of working men and women, the workers are going to take a stronger stand in the immediate future than they have taken in the past simply because it is absolutely necessary for them to do so. Otherwise how are they going to obtain sufficient of the necessaries of life for themselves and their families? How are they going to control prices? How are they going to solve the problems with which they are faced? They will not be able to do these things unless they are prepared to take a stronger stand.
That is exactly what the workers are doing in overseas countries. For all practical purposes a nine-weeks strike took place recently in America and the men acted entirely on their own initiative. The same type of action is being taken in other parts of the world. The workers in Australia will do the same thing consistent with their policy, their initiative and their understanding of the position. I repeat that they are going to take a much stronger stand in the immediate future than they have done in the past. They must do that if they are to survive, succeed as human beings and bring up their families as they should. I would advise them to do so, just as I advised them as far back as 50 or 60 years ago. As I have said before, all things yield to pressure. If no pressure comes from the oppressed, exploited and impoverished, and nothing is done to relieve them, all the pleadings and phrase-mongering will, not provide them with bread and the other things they need. They have to make their presence and the weight of their numbers felt.
With respect to the bill before the Senate, I remind honorable senators as I reminded unionists years ago, that power on paper is one thing but power in reality is quite another thing. When we speak of law and order, we should put the words in reverse. All law is codified custom, and there must be order before there can be law. I do not know whether that is understood as it should be, particularly by the legal men who, in my opinion should be even more careful than others in their approach to these questions. There is an old saying, “ Folly dogmatizes, wisdom doubts “. Yet we find members of the legal fraternity dogmatizing as they did quite recently in connexion with the waterside and seamen’s awards. It indicates to me that either they do not understand the position or they are afraid to say exactly what they think they should say.
I conclude by reminding the Senate that we cannot get away from compulsion where it is necessary. There is another old saying, “ Needs must when the devil drives “. The devil in this case is the economic needs of working men and women and their children. Those people should be able to live under decent and reasonable conditions.
.- We have listened to Senator Cameron, an old warrior in the industrial field, mouth his shibboleths, but I am afraid that he did not really relate his remarks to the bill before the Senate. We have before us a bill which I feel is one of the inspiring steps in the political exercises of this Parliament. It is a measure which I should think should evoke considerable support from those who champion the idea of individual freedom and civil liberties. In the realm of trade unionism the Democratic Labour Party has introduced into the Senate a bill to prevent the payment of trade union funds to political parties unless certain safeguards are applied. One of the safeguards is that no levy should be imposed upon an individual unionist if that levy is to be applied for a political purpose to which the individual unionist is opposed.
I state the proposition in that way to meet immediately any tendentious opposition such as that which comes from those who say that the bill is in an inappropriate form. At the second-reading stage we are concerned only with the principle of the bill. Any necessary modifications or improvements that may be necessary can be properly made in committee; but the second-reading vote will be the test as to whether the principle of the bill deserves support. Having listened to my leader, Senator Spooner, last night speaking on behalf of the Government, and then to Senator McKenna who led for the Australian Labour Party Opposition, I thought what a privilege it was, in the confusion that is emerging in the agreement between the Government and the Australian Labour Party Opposition, to have a place in the Parliament to speak clearly on such a fundamental principle. It is also a privilege to hear a man like Senator McManus - rich in trade union experience, impressive from the point of view of the action he has taken to safeguard what he espouses as his principles in trade union matters, and impressive on every occasion on which he rises to his feet in this chamber - put his point of view. It was a privilege indeed to have the principle of this bill expressed in worthy terms by Senator McManus and by his leader, Senator Cole. I remind the Senate that they are people who put their political principles in this respect to the test and took the disappointments that come from minority operations, because the monster monopolies of politico-trade unionism found it expedient to exclude them.
Last night, Senator McKenna reminded us of the long travail of trade union history. He recalled that 400 or 500 years ago Wages were fixed by local justices of the peace. Then he took a glimpse into the period, a century and a half ago, when the combination acts were in operation. He told us about the laws of the first half of the last century which outlawed conspiracy, and had as their object a restraint of trade in respect of increasing wages and of promoting strikes in furtherance of increased wages. These things are history, just as Port Jackson and Port Arthur are history - something we are proud to have emerged from. Nobody to-day who has any voice in politics speaks with anything other than intense appreciation of the status that the trade unions and the trade unionists have achieved. If only the trade unionists could have, too, the gift of intelligent leadership! I address that remark to the jocular and superficial leadership of Senator Kennelly, who laughs opposite. If intelligent leadership were the gift of the trade unionist to-day, he would move into the inheritance of a brave new world. But while there are agitators of the ilk of Senator Kennelly and others who have a vested interest in the right to strike, an improperly led and arbitrary trade union movement may become crushingly dictatorial, and so deprive the working man of the richest benefit that would come from democracy within his own movement.
After Gladstone piloted a trade union bill through the House of Commons in about 1870, the trade unions got a measure of relief. It was an historical misfortune that the 1890’s brought depression into the unhappy, low-wage lot of trade unionists. Then they were the unfortunate victims of the political enterpreneurs, and they fell for socialism. It took 60 years to work out of the trade unionist’s convictions the idea that the socialist virus was his chief benefit. He had to have the bleak experience of the nationalized industries of England to teach him that the State, as an employer, was infinitely more vicious than any capitalist employer known in his generation. Consequently, socialism, as an attraction for trade unions, waned.
Not within our own country, but chiefly externally, we live politically in more dynamic days than did the socialists of 1890. We are faced now, not with the onset of socialism in the trade unions, but with the threat of infiltration by communism, the fight against which is the basis of the Democratic Labour Party’s existence as an independent party. I pay tribute to the sagacity and courage of members of that party. Seeing the problem, seeing Communists enter the trade unions, they had enough courage, although it meant the political wilderness for many, to say, “ We shall fight any organization, even the A.L.P., that seeks to give comfort and protection to Communists in the trade union movement “. Is it not a rich experience to have in this Senate the leadership of Senator McManus and Senator Cole? They are not amateurs in this field. They are experienced in trade union affairs, and they are fighting for the individual liberty of the ordinary trade unionists. I hope that my leader, though not in the chamber, is listening. They are fighting for the liberal trade unionist and the trade unionist who shares the outlook of Senator McKenna, who realizes that the entrance of Communism into the trade unions will destroy true trade unionism.
It is a rich experience to speak upon such a principle with the guidance of the speech we heard last night from Senator McManus. I trust that the division that will be taken on this motion will not be the final judgement of the Parliament upon this principle. Humbled though I am to find the Government declaring against the bill, there is the one saving grace that this opposition has been put on the basis that the time is not opportune now to legislate and1 that the Government reserves the right to do so if the need arises. I do not accept that judgment. The time to legislate, and to do the statute book of this country proper credit is now, when the people have elected us to the Parliament upon the declared principle of protecting the individual trade unionist from victimization by being compelled to pay a political levy to promote politics to which, as in the case of communism, we are irrevocably opposed.
I remind myself that after the 1890’s the English trade union movement came upon the Taff Vale case, to which Senator McKenna referred last night, which reminded it that trade unions had1 obligations to respect other people’s civil rights, and that if they committed a wrong in the face of the law they answered for it, without discrimination as between persons in the community. Due to an accident of political history, in 1906 the British Parliament gave the trade unions complete immunity from that responsibility which, I am happy to say, the High Court of Australia has declared, in the Hursey case, does not belong to trade unions in Australia. For any wrong-doing and for the invasion of civil rights, trade unions in Australia happily are answerable in damages. But, Mr. Deputy President, though England gave to unions in 1906 that superiority to the law that I have mentioned, Australia, in 1 904, had created a system for the dispensation of industrial justice which the majority of trade unions and trade unionists in Australia, I should think, would say has had a terrific effect on the improvement of trade union law. I refer to the arbitration system of Australia.
For the purposes of that system we have allowed the registration of industrial organizations before the court, on a national basis. They may present their cases on an industrial footing. I cannot escape the conviction that any system of law in Australia that permits organizations, registered for the purposes of arbitration and conciliation, to combine with it all the strength and power of political organization, is tending to lead to great trouble. If you allow politics to envelop the arbitration system of this country and permit that system to become just another political forum, as it well may now that it is divorced from the judicial power of the Commonwealth, there is a threat of a national situation of unique dimensions.
Having noted the origin of these organizations and the importance of ensuring that the individual members of them are guaranteed that they shall enjoy what we consider to be ordinary freedoms within them, let us note how the strength of the industrial organizations in Australia has grown. It is the pride of almost every industrial politician in this country to say that Australia is more trade-unionized than is any other democratic country. Such is the fertility of the Australian atmosphere and the degree of acceptance of the purposes and ideals of trade unions, that the movement has grown to the stage at which well over 60 per cent, of the workers are members of trade unions. That development carries with it a consequence of tremendous importance from the point of view of the right of each worker to earn his livelihood, in that his right to work depends on his membership of a union. Anything that threatens to deprive him of membership of his union on unjust grounds, also threatens to deprive him of his right to work.
To me, it is odious to entertain the idea that a man can be compelled, by reason of his membership of an industrial organization, to pay to its funds money which can be applied to the furtherance of a political philosophy to which he is strongly and by conviction opposed. If he follows his conscience to the extent of refusing to pay, he risks expulsion from his union and, therefore, deprivation of his right to work. Wc were reminded last night, Mr. Deputy President, that in England in 1910, the House of Lords decided that this right to impose levies for political purposes did not belong to the trade unions. We heard from Senator McKenna a declaration of faith which, in my submission, was completely subversive of parliamentary outlook in that respect. He said that two of the law lords had founded their judgment on the ground that it was inconsistent with the freedom of an elected member of Parliament to become obligated to any outside organization or body of people which paid that member of Parliament to vote in its interests in the Parliament.
In my report on the proceedings of the Constitutional Review Committee, I made some comments in that respect, but I now have pleasure in quoting the views of Lord Shaw, because I think it is tremendously important that the absolute freedom and independence of individual members of Parliament should be preserved, just as I think it is important that the independence and freedom of individual trade unionists should be preserved. Lord Shaw said -
Unless a member becomes bound to the society and to the Labour party by these conditions, and shapes his parliamentary action in conformity therewith, and with the decisions of the parliamentary party, he has broken his bargain. Take the testing instance: should his view as to right and wrong on a public issue, as to the true line of service to the realm, as to the real interests of the constituency which has elected him, or even of the society which pays him, differ from the decision of the parliamentary party and the maintenance by it of its policy, he has come under a contract to place his vote and action into subjection not to his own convictions, but to their decisions. My Lords, I do not think that such a subjection is compatible either with the spirit of our parliamentary constitution or with that independence and freedom which have hitherto been held to lie at the basis of representative government in the United Kingdom.
– What is the authority to which the honorable senator is referring?
– Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants v. Osborne, reported in 1910, Appeal Cases. I could not forego the pleasure of restating those principles which the Leader of the Opposition, a responsible member of this Parliament, thought fit to assail in the Senate last night because he is bound by caucus.
The English judgment on the question of political levies, to which I have referred, stated that the right to impose such levies did not belong to the trade unions. The House of Lords followed that decision by legislation correcting the position in 1913. The act that was passed in 1913 underwent some modification in 1927, but was changed back to its 1913 expression by the Attlee Government in 1946. So, all shades of political opinion in England have been committed to an expression of policy on this matter. The terms of the 1913 English act, which were adopted by all political parties in the United Kingdom, are indistinguishable from the terms of the bill that is now before us. The principles are the same. The English legislation provided that a union might not expend its funds to meet expenditure incurred directly by a candidate in securing selection to Parliament or to a public office, and expenditure incurred in the holding of political meetings and the distribution of political literature.
Union funds are not available for such purposes, except upon certain safeguards being observed. The first is that the union shall maintain a separate fund into which moneys that are to be applied for a special purpose shall be paid. Secondly, any individual members of the union may claim exemption from having to contribute to that fund. Thirdly, any member who claims exemption shall not be discriminated against in any way. The law reports of England as recently as 1950 show that the courts have jealously preserved the legislative direction which prevents the objecting member from being discriminated against. Fourthly, a member shall not be denied membership solely on the ground that he refuses to subscribe to a political fund. Those principles of the English legislation are precisely the same as those that have been propounded in this bill. Honorable senators who vote against this measure will be denying to the individual trade unionist in Australia the benefit of those principles. When we realize that the attack upon the trade unionist to-day comes not from the socialist, but from the Communist, how much more imperative it is for members of the Parliament to be vigilant and to afford to the Australian trade unionist in 1960 the same meed of protection that was afforded to the English trade unionist in 1913.
It is particularly important to note what the Parliament will be doing in relation to the Waterside Workers Federation if it rejects this measure. Under the ordinary industrial law, the right of a man to work is dependent upon his membership of a trade union; but a man is prevented by law from working on the waterfront unless he is a member of the Waterside Workers Federation. So, if a waterside worker is denied the right to oppose a political levy and still retain his membership of the Waterside Workers Federation, the force of the Stevedoring Industry Act will be brought against him to prevent him from having the right to work in that industry.
I have heard it said that the Liberal Party stands four-square behind this principle; but between the hearing of the Hursey case and the presentation of this bill there have been communings between the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) and the Australian Council of Trade Unions. The A.C.T.U. has brought to the surface a resolution to the effect that political levies shall not be applied, in time for the Government to announce that it is not opportune at present to legislate. If the Government wishes to evoke that spirit of co-operation, which of course is necessary, and which is to be applauded if obtained on terms of honour, let it recognize that resolution. The Government says, “Let us rely upon resolutions “.
We have heard a good deal from time to time about the need to legislate to curtail restrictive trade practices and the activities of monopolies. 1 have consistently advocated the introduction of such legislation. But, if in our approach to the matter of restrictive trade practices we were to adopt the same process of logic that the Government had adopted in relation to the matter now under discussion, it would be proper for the Government to go to the Chamber of Commerce and ask it to pass a resolution to the effect that none of the undertakings under its control should indulge in restrictive trade practices. The Government could then publish that resolution in the Parliament, and so dispense with the need for us to exercise our authority to legislate. Tears would not be sufficiently abundant to mourn the outlook of a responsible government which believed1 that undertakings with a substantial section of the community were a proper substitute for law. I have heard some of our leaders wax eloquent about the priceless inheritance of the rule of law. It is a great pity that the rule of law is not being applied to preserve for every trade unionist, whether he supports the Liberal Party, the Australian Democratic Labour Party or any other political party, freedom from compulsion to pay levies for the benefit of political parties which he opposes. I support the bill.
.- Mr. Acting Deputy President, quite a number of honorable senators have spoken on this measure. They have been most amusing. The Leader of the Government in this place often commences his speeches by breathing fire and brimstone. He did so just recently, but after the suspension of the sitting he returned to the chamber and adopted a much milder tone. But yesterday, he was like a cooing dove. I admit that he finished up by being on the right branch which, of course, is very important in politics. But I marvelled at his sweetness when opposing the legislation. Later, we listened to the speech of Senator McManus, to which I wish to pay some attention.
– That was not so sweet?
– One would not worry about your speech. Let us consider the speech delivered by Senator McManus. The honorable senator attacked Mr. McNolty, the president of the Victorian branch of the Australian Labour Party, for coming to Canberra with a number of other unionists, some of whom possibly-
– Not possibly; certainly.
– lt is a case of fools flying in where angels fear to tread. Some of those who came to Canberra may have been Communists. 1 stipulated that any persons whom I saw must be members of the Labour Party. I saw three of them in my own room. We had a little chat about the Crimes Bill and they left, I hope, very satisfied. It would have been much fairer if Senator McManus had said that Mr. McNolty was secretary of the Sheet Metal Workers Union, which is perhaps the second largest union in the metal trades group. The metal trades group decided to send a delegation to Canberra because they felt keenly about a certain bill. Surely, in this age, they had a right to do that. Whether the delegation achieved much remains to be seen. Mr. McNolty did not come here in his capacity as president of the Victorian branch of the party - not that I want to take that away from him - but as the secretary of the Sheet Metal Workers Union. He had a perfect right to do that.
In his speech, Senator McManus praised the stand that was taken by the Hurseys. Let me trace some of the facts. The levy that was imposed by the Tasmanian branch of the Waterside Workers Federation, over which the trouble occurred, was for a State election, not a Federal election. The proposal to impose the levy was submitted at a stop-work meeting at which both the Hurseys were present. I am informed - and I believe this to be a fact - that neither of the Hurseys rose at the meeting either to support or oppose the resolution, which was carried by the union. I admit that afterwards certain action was taken when common sense could have prevailed, but the facts are these: The union has rules, and unless you are a financial member, you do not work on the waterfront. I say that to Senator Wright without equivocation.
What happened? As we know, there was trouble. The Hurseys were interviewed by the secretary of the Tasmanian Branch of the Waterside Workers Federation, who told them that if they paid the levy of 10s. it would toe given to any organization they nominated, even a charitable organization.
– At what part of the proceedings did that occur?
– I shall deal with you in a moment. The fact is that that offer was made. In the end, the levy was waived by a resolution of the executive of the Tasmanian branch of the Waterside Workers Federation.
– I do not think so.
– I think it was. I got my information from the secretary of the union, and he ought to know the position. Let us look at the facts. The rules of the union say that you cannot work on the waterfront unless you are all right on the books. I ask Senator Wright this question: If he were unfinancial in the Bar Council, how would he get on? I admit quite readily, as I think every .one else would do, that other people who interested themselves in this matter scored a good point by flying the Hurseys to Sydney to address a meeting in the Domain there. I would have done it if the Hurseys had been on my side. Of course, they made capital out of the case, but the fact of the matter is that the Hurseys were unfinancial in the union. In the old days, a man could not work on the waterfront unless he had his button. My opinion, for what it is worth, is that no member of a union - the Waterside Workers Federation or any other union - should expect, if he is unfinancial on the books of the union, to receive all the privileges that the union obtains. He should not attempt to get them on the cheap.
– Hursey was unfinancial only because the union would not accept hrs money.
– The fact is that he was unfinancial.
– Because the union would not accept his money.
– It is true, as some one has said, that in the unions there is rough justice. All the persons who lead the unions and take an interest in them have not received a legal training. However, as one who has been a member of a union for 30 or 40 years, 1 say that a pretty fair measure of justice is given in the unions.
– Does not the honorable senator think that the reason why a member is unfinancial is important?
– A person joins a union, knowing the rules. He does not join unless he wants to join. If he wants to work on the waterfront, he knows that he has to join the union and remain a financial member. Thank goodness, the law now backs up the union. That is delightful. I knew when the Stevedoring Industry Act of 1947 was implemented that it would mean that every one employed on the waterfront would have to honour his obligation. For my part, there is nothing wrong with that.
Senator McManus has said that the Labour Party has changed its opinion in relation to compulsory unionism. That is quite true. We have learned something since then. Now we want preference to be given to unionists on the job. It may be that that is the same thing, but under a different sort of name. We make no bones about it. Away back in 1913, the late Senator Barnes decreed that only members of unions could work on the construction of the east-west line. I was a very young boy at the time, but I remember reading the cries about that. However, the east-west line was built - built with union labour and built in good time.
– So were the pyramids.
– You would know more about them. You do not know much about the trade union movement of this country, other than what you have read in books. Your father, my friend, knew a great deal more about it. He believed in it.
Let me continue. I am a member of the union to which Senator McManus belongs. I have been a member of it for a great number of years. I do not contract in or contract out; I do not believe in that. I say that if a man is a member of a union, he should obey its rules. If he does not like what the majority decides, it is his place to attend the meetings of the union and try to get what he wants done.
– We might nominate you in the next election.
– I would want to be on a better horse than that. Senator McManus complained about compulsory unionism, but the organization to which we both belong put it into operation in respect of the tally clerks on the wharfs. Senator McManus knows as well as I do that a tally clerk could not work on the wharfs unless he had his brief, as we say. The same position applies in the breweries. I agree with the unions in this matter. I do not like people who want to accept all the conditions that the unions gain for them but are frightened to touch their pockets. In our own organization we practice compulsory unionism where we can. Senator McManus and I are very mutual on this point. The only reason why we do not apply it over the whole ambit of our own State and Australia is that we cannot enforce it. That applies not only to the Federated Clerks’ Union but also to every other organization.
I regret - and I think on reflection Senator McManus will also regret - that he said that the Australian Council of Trade Unions cannot be trusted. I believe that once a decision is made and is endorsed by four trades and labour councils, as this decision has been, that decision will be adhered to. If it is not, the A.C.T.U. has a perfect right to discipline an organization, if it wants to do so.
– The A.C.T.U. can cancel the organization’s affiliation with it. I will deal with what Senator McManus said. He said that the reason why the A.C.T.U. would not discipline an organization was that its financial standing was not as strong as he and I wanted it to be. That may be true; but he has been in the trade union movement for a long time and I do not think that that fact stopped the A.C.T.U. I recall when he and I were very close in politics. We are very friendly personally now. Possibly the future may bring us together again; one never knows. That is not a matter of hoping; it is a matter of stating cold, hard political facts. Surely the unions have to obey the decisions that are made. I see no reason why the men who govern the A.C.T.U. to-day are any different from Reg Broadby and the others, whom we both knew well, who governed it. It is true that the personnel will change, but the numbers are all right. While some may say that Healy is in the A.C.T.U. and there is also another Communist in it - I do not know whether the butchers’ representative is still a member of it-
– There are three Communists in it.
– I think there are three Communists out of about fourteen members, or whatever the number is. But, when all is said and done, the unions have the right to elect whom they wish to represent them. Surely no one intends to take that right from them. I believe that the unions are wrong in electing Healy and the other Communists. I would not vote for those men if I were in those groups. But the position is that if we want that wonderful thing called liberty, to which Senator Wright referred, do we intend to deny the members of unions the right to vote for the men for whom they want to vote?
I heard Senator McManus’s statement about men being refused votes in selection ballots. Of course, he conducted a number of such ballots and so did I; but I never refunded any shillings. I told such people that they were not entitled to a vote. I did not mess around and I did not refund money. It is most remarkable that in Victoria to-day 72 unions are affiliated with the Australian Labour Parly. In round figures, their membership is 246,000. I believe that five unions are affiliated with the Australian Democratic Labour Party.
– There are more than that.
– There are eight.
– There are the Federated Clerks’ Union, of which I am a member, the Manufacturing Grocers’ Employees Federation, the motor drivers, but not including those engaged in road transport, and the Hospital Employees Federation. There is also the Amalgamated Society of Carpenters and Joiners.
– And the Federated Ironworkers’ Association.
– I did not know whether it was affiliated with the D.L.P. I queried that.
– The Victorian Federated Ironworkers’ Association is affiliated.
– Therefore, the great preponderance of unions have, in their wisdom, decided with which body they will be affiliated. In round figures, the Australian Labour Party would have about 246,000 union members, compared with the Australian Democratic Labour Party’s union membership of about 26,000 or 27,000 counting the Federated Ironworkers’ Association in Victoria. I have known only two of those unions to give the right to contract out. Senator McManus said that the Federated Clerks’ Union says that a member can contract out, and I know that a member of the Amalgamated Engineering Union can contract out.
– There are a couple of others too.
– There may be, but they are small and infinitesimal. As I said before, I do not believe in contracting out and that is why I do not do it myself. I am quite honest.
Senator McManus also referred to a report in the “ Age “ of a statement made by Mr. Monk. He said that Mr. Monk was reported as saying that a union could make a donation to a political party and at a later date the union could recoup that money. I have been in touch with Mr. Souter. whom both Senator McManus and I know well. Mr. Souter’s explanation is that this agreement with the Government does not mean that there cannot be levies; it means that there cannot be political levies.
– Political election levies.
– Yes, political election levies. It means that a union may - and let us hope the unions will - recoup money at some future time. If half of the members of a union were on strike, it would be quite competent for the union to recoup money later. So, the position is not as it was blandly stated in the “ Age “.
– That is exactly the position.
– I do not think so.
– It was confirmed this morning. That is exactly the position.
– No, the position in regard to the undertaking is not as you implied.
– Very definitely, it is.
Sena or KENNELLY.- No, I cannot agree with you on that matter. Senator McManus also dealt with the Miller case which is now rather famous because a union was split as a result of that case. I can think of some one who possibly would not like to be reminded of the action he took in splitting the union. I do not want to hurt his feelings when he is not here to reply. It is true that that case caused a split in the union covering carpenters, joiners and other building workers. To-day, about 8,000 members belong to the Amalgamated Society of Carpenters and Joiners, and about the same number to the Building Workers’ Industrial Union I understand that recently conferences have been held between rank and file members of both those bodies with a view to getting together. I do not know what the outcome will be.
– There is more chance of other things.
– I know for a fact that talks have taken place, not between officials of the two unions, but between rank and file members who have sought to get together in the hope that as a united body they will be better able to achieve their objectives.
I do not know whether Senator McManus and Senator Cole have always been opposed to political levies.
– I will tell you when I reply.
– Political levies were made in Victoria in the years when Senator McManus was boss.
– I was never boss.
– 1 say with the greatest of friendly feeling that Senator McManus was boss. I pay this tribute to him: I always knew where he was going, but I did not always know where others were going. I know that after I ceased to be secretary of the Victorian Branch of the Australian Labour Party, at the beginning of 1950, compulsory political levies were accepted by the Victorian executive of the party from waterside workers for four or five years. Waterside workers paid a 5s. levy to the party. The party obtained funds, not only from the waterside workers, but also from the Wonthaggi miners. They paid political levies to the Victorian branch of the Labour Party when Senator McManus was boss. If the honorable senator was not boss in name, he was in deed, and deeds matter more to me than names. In April, 1950, the Wonthaggi miners paid to the Victorian branch of the party £20. In May, 1951, they paid £25. In June. 1952, they paid £25. In December, 1952, they paid £50. In November, 1953, they paid £25 and in May, 1954, they paid £25. According to the secretary of the union concerned, all those payments came from direct political levies.
– But they were not paid to me.
– They were paid into the office of the party.
– I never saw any cheque from them.
– Well, when I was secretary of the Victorian branch of the party I did not see every cheque that came in. No doubt Senator McManus had office staff, just as I had.
– I say those cheques were not paid to me.
– I am saying that they were paid into the Victorian office.
– That is different.
– That was when Senator McManus was the boss. It does not seem real that suddenly, on account of the Hursey case, and after accepting political levies at least from 1950 to 1954, he should feel that compulsory political levies ought to be outlawed. Senator McManus- did not think there was anything wrong with political levies when money was being paid in by the waterside workers in Victoria and by the Wonthaggi miners. When I was secretary of the State branch of the party money was required to run the branch. If a levy was imposed on a union I wanted to know how many men were members of the union in order to make sure that the branch received all that was due to it. That is where I differ from Senator McManus. He and his colleague are now making out a case why compulsory political levies should cease. During the time Senator McManus was assistant secretary of the Victorian branch of the Labour Party, money from political levies was paid into the branch. The honorable senator is much too astute to say that he did not know where that money was coming from. I always knew where it was coming from when it was paid to me.
– You must have taken a greater interest in those matters than 1 did.
– If the payments were not large enough I used to tell the person paying the money to take it away and give it a chance to grow.
Some of my political opponents on the opposite side of the chamber say how shocking it is for a union to pay affiliation fees. But I have never heard any of them say that it is shocking for Mr. Ian Potter of Melbourne to collect money with which to finance their campaigns.
– We did not see the cheque, you know.
– Speaking for myself, I would prefer to place all the information about political funds on the table for all to see. I would not mind that. Let us have a full disclosure. I know why the Government has taken a certain stand on this bill, and I am grateful that it has taken that stand. It is wrong to direct the unionists as to how they shall make political payments. In the last basic wage hearing the Government was represented by paid counsel. I have been supplied with the names of the counsel who appeared for the Government, but I have not been able to ascertain how much was paid to those counsel. Who else could unionists pay levies to but the Labour Party? There is more politics in unions to-day than ever before. If the unions want good politics there is only one way to get it. They get good politics by winning, and you do not win if the coffers are empty. I do not say that money is the only thing that wins elections, but if you. have not got adequate finance you have a. much harder job in putting your cast before the people.
I thought Senator Wright was at his top’ to-day. I liked his manner. I thought he was acting well, and was putting the case as he saw it. He was most interesting. He was more verbose to-day without hitting the nail on the head than he has been for a long time. Without being offensive, I would say that his verbosity was really tops to-day. He complained about the unionists entering into politics. That is funny. That is most amusing. The Government can brief counsel to appear before the court and oppose the granting of an increase in the basic wage.
– Senator Wright applauds that action.
– Of course he does. As long as the berry-growers and the lawyers are doing well, that is all right, but the ordinary fellow ‘ should not get anything at all. In fact at times I think that Senator Wright still believes in sackcloth and ashes.
– Does that mean to say you are contemplating penance?
– I have nothing to be penitent about as far as my politics are concerned. I have never thought that my party was wrong. Let me say that the only reason your party is in office is because the party in the corner places your candidates No. 2 on the ballot-papers, and also because of knighthoods conferred on Williams in Melbourne, and on Fairfax, Henderson and Packer in Sydney. In that way you have the whole lot sewn up in the one bag. For as long as I can remember, the Liberal Party has never won an election on its policy; it could always cry, “ The Corns are coming “.
The unions have to understand that unless they can obtain control of the parliaments of the States and the nation they will be worse off each year. They may have some control over their wages and conditions, but they have absolutely no control over the prices of the commodities- which they have to buy. It is more necessary than ever that the unions should get together and obtain control of the parliaments. If they do not do so, I say that their leadership is lacking and is not helping them to better their conditions.
The bill, Mr. President, deals with three matters.
– Thank goodness you are going to deal with the bill.
– Senator Vincent will be able to have a go afterwards. 1 shall not stop him. This bill intrigues me because it deals with three matters with which we are all familiar. There is no need for me to repeat them, lt provides that a unionist should not be compelled to pay affiliation fees unless he is able to contract out. It also provides that no payments should be made for political purposes unless they are made from a special fund and unless they are raised by voluntary contribution. If this bill were passed today, I have no doubt that lawyers would be able to drive a team of horses through it. A unionist having paid his fees, the union executive could decide that a certain proportion of the fees be put into a fund for a special purpose. When all is said and done, you would be able to drive the proverbial horse and dray through the legislation.
– Try it and see.
– You will not even get that far.
– If we do not get that far this time, we will at some later date.
– That could possibly happen in December next year if you are prepared to barter.
– You barter with the Corns.
– If you are prepared to sell your political convictions - if you have any left - to our friends on the other side you may be able to get a bill like this through. Your party keeps eight Liberal members in office in Victoria.
– And your party keeps Corns in their positions in the unions, and you know it.
– I do not mind you interjecting, but I think it is very rude if we both speak at the one time. I do not mind you interjecting at all; in fact I like it, but do not try to talk me down. Let me say to Senator Cole that my party cannot be accused of keeping Communists in positions.
– In the unions.
– I will be quite candid and say that I regret certain actions that have been taken in my own State of Victoria. I wish that when resolutions are carried about certain tickets they were more definite and did not leave words to be misconstrued. I am quite honest about that, and every one knows it.
– You should make sure the party practises what it preaches.
– That is all right. Rome was not built in a day; we will let the future look after itself.
– Is that a promise?
– Of course, if you deal with me it is a case of quid pro quo. I play it the hard way, I do not mess around.
I am glad that the Senate will reject this bill. You can never cure anything by being oppressive. If this bill were passed the unions would regard it as oppressive. It would take from them the right to control their own affairs. I am glad Senator Wright is in the chamber again. History is full of illustrations to prove that oppression never wins.
– Have you forgotten about Cromwell?
– You have had a greater advantage than me. I understand that at an exhibition in Melbourne one night you tried to imitate him when you put the Irish out.
– Why did the Attlee Government in England repeal the 1913 act?
– I understand that in 1946 the Attlee Government changed the law to provide for contracting out instead of contracting in; but however much 1 respect the Prime Minister of G rea Britain of that time, I should not slavishly follow everything he did. If we did not follow him in the field of foreign policy why should we follow him in this field? Speaking as one who has had a long and varied association with trade unions, I say that the unions would regard this bill as an attack on their liberties and on their right to do what they think is right. I believe that there will not be any change. We will find ways around such provisions as this. When Senator Wright has a client who wants to find a way around a law, perhaps the company law - I am not implying that there is anything wrong with this - Senator Wright gives him legal advice. I advise every one not to interfere with the unions or to get their backs up. They are strong to-day; I only wish that they were stronger. They are the salt of the earth. Do not interfere with them. If there is interference with them, it will be of no use to cry about strikes here and there. Strikes have brought more headaches to me than to any other man in this chamber.
This is not a good bill; it is a bad bill. The Government has the word of men whom 1 do not think any one would distrust. I refer to Monk and Souter. To any one in this chamber who does distrust their word, I say that the captains of industry do not. Otherwise, industry could not go on. The word of these men is taken. I know that they do not get all that they want, but I will not support any one who wants to make their job harder.
A letter from Senator McManus was published some months ago in the “ SunHerald “. It contained three propositions. I suggest that the first two of these should be forgotten. The third, relating to compulsory political levies, is the subject of an undertaking which will be honoured. Let honorable senators have no fear about that.
– You are more trusting now than you used to be.
– I am no more trusting than when I took money - possibly some of it obtained by compulsory levies - over to the Tasmanian branch of the Australian Labour Party to help Senator Cole get here. At that time I was federal secretary of my party. Why should we be humbugged? How can the Liberal Party lay on the table a statement showing whence its funds are obtained? It could not do that. Ian Potter would jump out of the Melbourne Stock Exchange if he thought that particulars about the money he collects, and from whom he collects it, were to be made public.
– You collect from the same sources.
– Not as much as the Liberal Party collects; that is what annoys me! I think that the honorable senator himself gets a little on the side. His party is spending more money in byelections to-day than do both of the major parties together.
– -The D.L.P. had three-quarters of an hour of good time on television. Money, money, money! Pennies from heaven, but they really come down in gold! I am not implying that there is anything wrong, but people in glass houses should not throw stones. Forget about the bill. It is a bad bill, which will do no good. It will be broken, and there could be strikes over it. I do not want strikes. I want industry to go on working. Do not do silly things to stop it.
.- I rise to indicate briefly why I intend to support this measure. We have listened to some most interesting addresses. In my opinion, Senator McManus and Senator Wright stated cases that are most difficult to answer. I pay a tribute to the splendid address of Senator McManus, who is a man with very long experience in union affairs. His contentions are, in my opinion, unanswerable. Senator Kennelly is always interesting. I believe that honorable senators on both sides enjoy his speeches, but to-day it took him a very long time to come to the point. I was particularly interested in his reference to the Hursey case. The treatment that the Hurseys received in Tasmania disgusted the people of Tasmania more than did any other union activity for years.
– It was not reflected in the votes they received.
– The votes for the Hurseys in no way affect the principles of this measure. Senator Kennelly said that the Hurseys were unfinancial members of their union. I believe that they offered their union dues, less the 5s. levy, and the union secretary, because the 5s. was not included, said that they were unfinancial and therefore not qualified to work on the waterfront. Whether or not that was in accordance with the rules of the Hobart branch of the Waterside Workers Federation in no way affects the principles contained in this measure. An attempt was made to impose a compulsory political levy on two waterside workers in Hobart, who objected. Because of their objections, they and their families were victimized, and they were assaulted. Finally, because they maintained their opposition to payment of the levy, they had to vacate the waterfront and seek some other employment.
Senator Wright has correctly said that because the percentage of trade union membership in Australia is probably amongst the highest in the world, and because, virtually, one cannot get employment in many occupations unless he is a member of a trade union, it behoves this Parliament to legislate to protect what most people regard as one of the basic freedoms in a democracy. I was very interested in a statement made by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) and repeated in this chamber by Senator Gorton. 1 think that that statement, with the exception of the last few paragraphs, could be cited as a case in favour of this measure. The Minister commenced by saying that the Government was opposed to compulsory political levies, and it was utterly repugnant that unionists should risk loss of employment or be victimized in other ways for failing to pay such levies. I believe that it is repugnant to the great majority of the people of this Commonwealth, and because it is so repugnant it is a fit and proper subject for legislative action.
The Minister’s statement ended on a weak note. He said - ! now inform the Senate that, if the Government is informed by the A.C.T.U. that the resolution has been properly endorsed, the Government will, in the belief that it will be unnecessary to legislate, defer further consideration of legislation to deal with compulsory political levies.
He went on to say that if, however, the agreement was breached, the Government would be forced to re-consider the need for legislation. Compulsory political levies so concern the fundamental liberties of the individual and are so repugnant, as the Minister has said, to the average member of the community, that their discontinuance should not be based on a mere promise by the A.C.T.U. that it will cease to offend. If we were to apply the same test to all legislation, and if we were to allow those who have offended in the past to enter into an agreement or to promise that they will not offend again, where would we get with our legislative programme?
Senator McManus referred last night to a startling statement attributed to Mr. Monk. The honorable senator said that Mr. Monk was reported as having stated - lt was also true that the Government had recognized that a union could subscribe to a political fund, and if it got into difficulties, could recoup the money by imposing a levy after the election was over.
I take it that that statement was published in the Melbourne press and that it means that a union could strain its finances almost to the limit and then, after the election was over, recoup its outlay by imposing a levy. If that is a true statement of the prevailing attitude of those who have entered into this agreement, let me say at once that it is not worth two bob. What possible difference can it make whether a levy is imposed on unionists before or after an election?
I have no hesitation whatever in supporting this measure. Senator Kennelly regretted the fact that Communists got into responsible positions in trade unions. I took note of Senator Wright’s statement that, having regard to the fact that the attack on trade unionism comes not from the socialists but from the Communists who support an organization that is out to destroy not only trade unionism but also the British way of life, it is necessary for the members of this Parliament to be extremely vigilant in this matter. In regard to the undertaking entered into by the Waterside Workers Federation - under protest, according to press reports - let us remember that the leaders of that union are men whose philosophy is that anything goes so long as it advances the cause of the Communist movement throughout the world. To further that cause they will use any means and take any action they consider appropriate.
Some time ago, there came into my possession a copy of a document that purported to be, and I believe it was, a statement of Communist philosophy. It included the statement, which we have heard before notably in connexion with the Hitler regime, that a lie is permissible and, in fact, may be regarded as a most estimable thing, if it advances the cause of the
Communist movement throughout the world. The statement went on to adjure the adherents of the Communist movement to act on that precept. In the light of the statement attributed to Mr. Monk, which I have read to the Senate, the undertaking given by the A.C.T.U. is simply not worth anything. It is a shallow and empty promise, which, in my opinion, means nothing, lt is an undertaking that comrade Healy and others probably would enter into and laugh about. On this empty promise the Government has shelved important legislation which, I believe, should be on the statute-book to protect the liberties of the citizens of this country.
I cannot understand the delay that has occurred since the Hursey case in moving to correct the position. In the events in which the Hurseys were involved we saw a flagrant breach of principles which British people have held dear for a good many centuries, and of rights they have striven to obtain. For long years they have struggled against incidents of that kind. In Hobart, we had the spectacle of men being driven from their employment. Forgetting about the red herrings, the union rules and the excuses that have been made, and getting right down to rock bottom, the essential point of those events in Hobart is that men were driven from their employment because they refused to pay a levy to a political party in which they did not believe.
Senator Kennelly has referred to a Mr. Potter. I do not know him, nor do I know anything about him, but I take it that the funds which he collects are given voluntarily. It is certain that if people do not wish to subscribe they are not deprived of their livelihood. That is the fundamental difference between the circumstances in that instance and those of the Hursey case. I support this measure without any hesitation whatever, Mr. Deputy President. I say that it should be on the statute-book. If the unions, including the Waterside Workers Federation, are genuine in their agreement so far as political levies are concerned, there should be no fundamental objection to stating in black and white, in the statutes of this country, the sentiments expressed in the agreement.
Sitting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.
.- Mr. President, I think it is fair to say that the viewpoint of the Australian Labour Party on the freedom of the individual was set out in an interesting and humorous, but rarely accurate, speech delivered by Senator Kennelly this afternoon. When he dealt with the Hursey case, for one reason or another he gained great comfort from the fact that the levy was for a State and not a federal election, as though tyranny associated with a State imposition is less obnoxious than that associated with a federal matter. He was indignant about the fact that the Hurseys did not voice their first objection to a packed meeting of the Waterside Workers Federation - a group of men who, later in the piece, were to attempt to maim Hursey Senior and to carry out certain physical actions against him, his son and his family. Senator Kennelly suggested, as did his leader last night, that these two brutal, aggressive workers - the Hurseys - were provocative in wanting to pay their levy to a political party of their < own choice. All these far-fetched ideas were simply adduced in an attempt to justify the willing acceptance by the A.L.P. of the blood money which was wrung from the pockets of the unwilling workers.
Senator Kennelly went on to say, quite blatantly and openly: “ I don’t care. If I were collecting the money, I would like to know my numbers so that I could get the full amount due to me.” He really revelled in the compulsory collection of funds against the will of an individual. Perhaps the honorable senator was indulging in a little, badinage. On the other hand, perhaps he was telling the brutal and naked truth. What a salutary warning the remarks of Senator Kennelly must be to people who toy wilh the idea of replacing this administration with one of a socialist complexion.
In truth and in fact, it is not as though the Labour Party is short of a few bob. Senator Kennelly justified this form of imposition on the ground that Labour needs the money. That really is not so. The Labour Party is the only party in Australia which runs a group of radio stations full time. It has a collection of newspapers that would make any other party green with envy, and. when an election campaign is being conducted, it is able to take such large time slots on the television network that it makes all the other parties look as though they are not really running in the election. Let us get rid of this silly idea that the Labour Party is short of a few bob. The idea that the Labour Party has an interest in the downtrodden and the oppressed is sedulously fostered.
I should like to tell my good friend, Senator Kennelly, who has just re-entered the chamber, that far from knowing nothing about the trade union movement other than what I have learned from books, I do know a little about it. In fact, I act for two trade unions. At least, I have acted for them until this very moment; I shall not speak for to-morrow. At all events, I have had to study their rules and have helped them to recover fees that were legitimately due to them. If the honorable senator is interested in chasing up the methods that are employed by some unions against their members for the recovery of fees, I suggest that he should have a look at the general power which is given to most unions, Federal and State, to sue for fees which have accrued until such time as a member resigns in writing. It very often happens that a person who is working in the metal trade goes to another industry and joins the appropriate union for that industry. Two years later, he finds that two years’ accrued fees are owing to his old union. Let the honorable senator not tell me that that does not happen. I know it has happened.
– Not once a man has got his ticket.
– That is what those concerned have thought. But that is just not the position. I want the honorable senator to know that, when it comes to a question of wielding monopoly power, some - I use the word advisedly - some trade unions make the activities of the greatest capitalist organizations look like a Sunday school picnic.
Adverting now to the measure which is before us, the mere fact that the Labour Party opposes it is not in itself a guarantee that the bill is a correct one. But it should put any Liberal on his guard. When the Labour Party thoroughly runs down and opposes a measure, there is a strong suggestion - I shall not go so far as to say there is a prima facie case - that there must be some good in it.
– That is what Senator Spooner told us.
– I am usually at one with my leader. The fact that this bill has been introduced into the Federal Parliament at all is a mournful commentary on the successful infiltration and penetration of our great trade union movement by the Communists. The bill has some good points, and it has some bad points; it is a bit like the curate’s egg. It seeks, in the main, to prohibit compulsory levies on trade unionists for political purposes. However, whether it will achieve the purpose which the sponsors of it desire is arguable. That is a point to which, perhaps, I shall return at a later stage in my remarks.
The imposition of compulsory political levies on unionists is a totalitarian act. Of course, it is natural thai the Communistcontrolled unions should have the worst record in this regard. Those people who have been showering us with pamphlets about the Crimes Act limiting freedom, justice and all the other abstract virtues for which we believe our democracy stands, would deny those rights and privileges to the people they have under their heel. I believe that the imposition of compulsory political levies in the middle of the twentieth century is the very negation of freedom. It is a complete denial of a liberal philosophy as applied to industrial affairs. I believe that the point at issue has only to be stated in order to carry with it its own refutation.
I do not think I am alone in believing that the Hursey case is a blot on our industrial history. It is old news now that two men who refused to pay a levy to a political party which they opposed were personally victimized and driven out of employment. Their families were terrorized, their womenfolk were insulted in public, and one of their friends was run down by a motor car. Every form of brutality and intimidation which could be brought to bear against two independent souls was brought to bear against these people. I should have thought that in circumstances such as that the Labour Party would have been quick to dissociate itself from this type of intemperant money collecting. I should have thought that as there was only a quid involved - 10s. from each man - the Labour Party would have been anxious to get out from under.
– Has not the honorable senator heard the old saying that if you look after the pennies the pounds will look after themselves?
– I regret that you have adopted that form of expediency in your philosophy. I know that it cuts right across your tender-hearted approach to your fellow man. I feel that you do not put that forward seriously and that you do not wish me to think that you are the black-hearted villain that those words suggest. I simply could not accept that proposition.
I think that a reference to our own Senate committee which had a look at some other funds a little over a year ago would not be out of place. A number of senators in this debate have referred1 to the Senate select committee on indemnity payments in the maritime industry. It has been said that one reason why we do not need this legislation is that the Australian Council of Trade Unions has given an undertaking, a promise, that it will honour. The statement was made, “ Look at what happened when the A.C.T.U. had an inquiry into indemnity payments. There have not been any such payments since then.” That, Mr. Acting Deputy President, is a half-truth or a complete falsehood. The reason why there have not been any further indemnity payments was that a thorough and complete exposure of the racket was made by the Senate select committee. Even Eliot V. Elliott and his henchmen would be a bit dubious about carrying on this practice after its exposure by the Senate select committee. lt is interesting to recall that when Mr. Elliott was being examined in regard to some of these moneys, he told us that one banking account of the Seamen’s Union carried the euphemistic title, “ Peace and Progress Fund “. When I asked him what “ Peace and Progress “ stood for, all that he could say was that it stood for the destruction of the Menzies Government.
– I am glad that my friends opposite are ad idem with their
Communist friends. Shortly after that inquiry was held - I cannot recall the exact number of months - the federal election of 1958 came about, and about six weeks before polling day the Seamen’s Union was able to produce £3,000 in cash, which was paid over to the Australian Labour Party for election purposes. Does any honorable senator opposite deny that? No! Surely our friends opposite should know that those who pay the piper call the tune. I think we have had enough of this business of funds and so on for the moment. All I say to my good friend, Senator Kennelly, is that if you are going to talk about these things, you have got to be like Caesar’s wife, or perhaps even more blameless than Calpurnia
To revert to the two men who were the original casus belli, or the cause of this explosion, I remind honorable senators that it is now common knowledge that they were driven from their employment, broken men. Before leaving that subject, I would like to refer to the feeling that was engendered in the Australian public by that courageous fight by men without money and with nothing but the labour of their hands to sell. I think it is to the lasting credit of one of the great Sydney newspapers that it took up a public subscription to help them in their struggle for freedom. I do not hesitate to mention the name of the newspaper. It was the “ Daily Telegraph “. You have only to look at the judgment which was delivered by the High Court in that famous industrial case in order to realize the necessity for at least investigating this legislation - I do not say approving of it - on a judicial level. I do not intend to weary the Senate-
– Hear, hear!
– I thought you were enjoying this.
– I want to know where the numbers are.
– That is coming shortly. In his judgment, Mr. Justice Fullagar sard -
This litigation arose out of the refusal of the Hurseys to pay a political levy to the Waterside Workers’ Federation to which they belong. . . . On 25th September, 1956, the Committee of Management of the Hobart Branch resolved that a 10s. political levy be struck to assist the Labour Party in the State election campaign. . . The Hurseys in April, 1957, tendered their annual fees-
They wanted to pay their union dues, but they refused to pay the levy -
The Secretary of the Hobart Branch declined to accept the annual fees on the grounds that fees cannot be accepted until all levies, fines, &c, are paid.
Shortly after this, the first stop-work meeting was held, on 1st May, and it purported to expel the Hurseys from the union but the justice handed out was so much of the Marquess of Rafferty type - I correct that because it is an insult to Rafferty and say that this treatment was so lacking in natural justice - that even the federal body of the union said, “ No. Even the Hurseys must be given a hearing.”
– Although that information was not imparted to the Hurseys until December.
– That does not surprise me. The judge went on to say - these are the judge’s words, not mine -
After this, the Hurseys were ostracized and subjected to petty and vindictive incidents by men working with them. 1 should like to interpolate that a crate of cargo was dropped on one of the Hurseys and one was locked in a refrigerated chamber. 1 do not know how petty people can get. 1 would have taken umbrage if that had been done to me. The judgment continued -
On 18th October, 1957, F. J. Hursey offered to pay. the annual fees less whatever amount would normally go to the A.L.P.
Surely that was the act of a reasonable man, but last night in this chamber the Leader of the Opposition, and, I think, also the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator Kennelly) this afternoon, said that these men were provocateurs.
– I did not use that term.
– That is a slightly upstage translation of what you were putting forward this afternoon. We on this side of the chamber thought that there was no longer any compulsion in Australia’s industrial laws, that there was no intimidation or brutality used by workmen against their fellow workmen, but when the High Court in a judgment is able to say - I say this with no disrespect to the learned judge who’ pronounced the judgment - that this is the state of the law, surely the position needs investigating. We should never forget that judges do not make the laws; they merely interpret them, lt is the function of this Parliament to make laws, and then it is the function of judges to interpret what those laws mean. The mere fact that the learned judge, in giving, his decision in this case, is able to state that certain rather amazing things are in fact the law does not mean that he is expressing his own opinion; he is expressing his views on what the law is. He said1-
The central and dominant object of the Waterside Workers Federation is found in federal rule 2 and branch rule 2 which are identical; to protect the interests, raise the status and improve the conditions of members of the federation.
He referred to other rules and then said -
The Waterside Workers Federation could therefore rightly think that the result of a State election was a matter of great importance and that it was in their interests for the Labour Party to win the election. It could rightly impose a political levy to achieve this objective.
I want honorable senators to observe carefully the intent and real meaning of the judge’s references to that power. He said that if the Waterside Workers Federation should believe - however wrongly, as it would normally turn out to be - that the success of the Labour Party was to its advantage, it would be legally entitled to impose a levy for that purpose. That is despite the fact that 38 per cent, of the members of trade unions vote for the Liberal Party and the Australian Country Party. That figure has been established in gallup polls. I notice that my friends opposite, who are interjecting, are very anxious to acclaim the accuracy of a gallup poll when it reflects in their favour, but they cast aspersions on gallup polls when the rather sobering fact that 38 per cent, of the members of trade unions vote for the Liberal Party and the Australian Country Party is put before them. The position is that while the Labour Party in Australia traditionally has a strong nexus with the trade union movement - in one sense the Labour Party grew out of it, and as Mr. Calwell put it, the Labour Party is simply the mouthpiece or the Charlie McCarthy of the union movement- honorable senators must not overlook the fact that the 38 per cent, of Liberal Party and Country Party members of the unions have some rights, and even members of the Australian Democratic Labour Party have some rights.
The Menzies Government has an excellent record in industrial matters. As I said, since the vast bulk of the supporters of the Government parties are in the trade union movement, it ls only natural that it should have been the Menzies Government which first introduced effective and successful secret ballot legislation in order to help rank and file unionists get rid of their Communist dictators. It was the Menzies Government which introduced the bill providing for the payment of the cost of courtcontrolled ballots so that in keeping the game clean the unions suffered no financial detriment. It is only natural that a government which takes some cognizance of individual freedom and the dignity and worth of the individual should have strong support in the trade union movement.
A reason has been advanced to show why legislation is not required in this matter. Observations have been made by previous speakers about a statement by Mr. Monk at the Trades Hall. I propose to refer briefly to one additional aspect of that disclosure. In an article entitled “ Trades Hall Backs A.C.T.U. on Levies” in the “Age” of 23rd September, 1960, Mr. Monk is reported as saying -
It was also true that the Government had recognized that a union could subscribe to a political fund, and if it got into difficulties, could recoup the money by imposing a levy after the election was over.
We do not say that we should not have any political levies and the Government has not pushed-
Notice the word “ pushed “, Mr. Acting Deputy President, in other words, most reluctantly, the A.C.T.U- has come to the conclusion that some face-saving undertaking should be given, irrespective of its legal validity and its power to bind those concerned. I notice that in the same article Mr. Monk is also reported as saying -
He was “ pilloried “ because he had wanted to clear up the position properly before the executive’s decision was placed before State trades and labour councils.
I can only guess, as honorable senators can guess, what he meant by the word “ pilloried “ and the reasons for which he was pilloried. When I learned of that arrangement I made some inquiries from people who were present at the Trades Hall Council meeting. I find that Mr. Monk, whom 1 do not criticize personally, was attempting to sell to delegates the line that they should agree to this arrangement with the Government. To show how little value or force can be given to this undertaking, he gave this example: Sometime ago, thi. Clothing Trades Union got into financial trouble because it contributed to the election funds of the Labour Party. All it did was to wait until the election was over and then impose a general levy to recoup expenses. That was the example gives: in order to persuade delegates that really this undertaking was of no force or validity at ali.
– Where are the facts to support your statement?
– 1 have just given the facts.
– No, you have not. Who told you about that?
– If you have a look in the papers you will see.
– Oh, the papers. They might have put you here, but you should not take for granted all that they say.
– I notice that you are most anxious to quote them when they support some of your less tenable theories My time is limited and I do not intend to waste it on chitter chatter across the chamber.
– Who made thai statement?
– Mr. Monk.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator O’Byrne). - Order!
– On 17th September, 1960, there was an article in the same newspaper headed “ A.C.T.U. Somersaults on Compulsory Union Political Levies “ In that article this paragraph appeared -
Strong opposition to the executive’s recommendation is expected in several trades and labour councils.
In other words, this undertaking was being obtained from the trade union movement against its will; it was not a free act. It was made clear that in any set of circumstances that suited the A.C.T.U., as in the example given by Mr. Monk, the undertaking could be evaded.
To emphasize that approach, an article headed “A.C.T.U. Move Condemned” in the “ Age “ of 6th October, 1960, reads -
The Federal Council of the Waterside Workers’ Federation has strongly condemned the decision of the A.C.T.U. executive to prohibit compulsory political levies in affiliated unions.
In the interests of unity, however, the council under protest instructed ils various branches to carry out the decision of the executive. “ It is most regrettable “ read a resolution adopted by the council, “ that the trade union movement has now to abandon a long-established principle, because of the noisy objection of a small minority and the threat of hostile legislation, moved by the anti-working class forces - mark those words - in the Federal Parliament. “ This Federation fought, with the support ot the A.C.T.U., a long and costly battle to protect the all-important principle of majority decision. “ That important principle was upheld by the High Court in the Hursey case, where it was made clear that it was the right of our union to assist the campaign of the Labour Party, including the power to impose a political levy to that end.”
That is the background against which this promise has been extracted. If the assurance and the undertaking were valid, that would be one thing, but what would happen if the undertaking were broken during the next federal elections, and the Government was in no position to legislate in order to correct the anomaly? The Government would be in no position to correct the injustice. Perhaps it would be better if the bill were passed, but not proclaimed for some time.
I had intended moving that this bill should be withdrawn and redrafted in order to provide that unionists should pay political levies on a purely voluntary basis, and so that the matter of affiliation fees could be more adequately dealt with. However, although I think that the bill as it stands is inadequate, I believe that it represents a step forward, even though it may be the hesitant and cautious step of a man with a loose cartilage. The bill is a step in the right direction, and I am prepared to vote for the second reading with the proviso that if the bill passes the second-reading stage, I shall move such amendments in committee as will radically transform the bill and strike a stronger and more effective blow to preserve the freedom of trade unionists.
Senator VINCENT (Western Australia) important political freedoms of the individual - freedoms upon which our democracy is based. For that reason alone I congratulate the Australian Democratic Labour Party on introducing the bill. This measure has given all of us an opportunity to express our views on a matter that is vital. I also take this opportunity to congratulate Senator McManus, who last night treated us with great ability to an exposition of his party’s views. Some excellent speeches have been made in this chamber on this measure, and 1 am encouraged by the knowledge that we can, without losing our heads, discuss such a vital matter at this time.
I want to refer to some of those speeches in a general way. Without being critical, most of the speeches to date have dealt with the principles upon which the bill is based. All honorable senators who have taken part in the debate have, with great clarity, elaborated those principles. We could have had no finer exposition of those principles than Senator Wright’s speech this afternoon. I make that point because I am somewhat at a loss to know why so much time has been devoted to the principles. Nobody in this Senate disagrees with the principles. I doubt very much whether anybody in Australia disagrees with the principles upon which the bill is founded - except the Communists, and they disagree violently. What are those principles? I think they should be stated and the matter allowed to rest there. I do not think that they need to be elaborated as much as they were by other speakers. The first principle is that a man shall be entitled to support whatever political party he likes, and that he shall be entitled to advocate and adopt whatever political views he likes. That is a fundamental principle. The second principle is that no man should be forced to support the political views of anybody else against his wish, or forced to support financially a political party in which he does not believe. I do not think anybody would disagree with that principle. The third fundamental principle flows from the first two. It is that no man should be penalized or in any way disabled or put at a disadvantage by his union or anybody else for what he asserts politically, for what he believes politically, or for what he does politically.
Those principles are fundamental freedoms. They form the basis of this bill. No one, except the Communists, would argue against them. There is a fourth principle, which has some relevance to the bill. It relates to the rights of a trade union in matters political. That principle, summarized briefly, is that a union has the right to take political action with respect of any particular political matter, and it may support, directly or indirectly, by payment or otherwise, a political party of its choice. That principle should be borne in mind when we discuss this bill. I think most of us will agree with those four principles. I think that all of us in this place firmly believe in them.
But the bill involves much more than a discussion of those principles. The first question that comes to my mind when I look at the bill is: Does the proposed legislation transpose those principles into reality? That is a difficult question to discuss, but it is very relevant when debating the merits of the bill. After all, this bill is designed to amend the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, and it is vitally important that we should ascertain whether the bill does in fact transpose the principles that I have referred to into statute law. With the greatest respect to the Australian Democratic Labour Party, I submit that the bill does not do that.
– Do not forget to give us some of your reasons.
– I will give quite a few reasons if the honorable senator will remain patient. I would say that the bill transposes to some extent those principles to which I have referred, but it overlooks very materially some important elements in those principles.
– Eminent counsel have advised us that the bill does the very things that you claim it does not do.
– I must pay respect to the eminent and unnamed counsel, but I nevertheless submit that the bill does not transpose the principles mentioned into statute law, and I will give my reasons for holding that view. If one turns to the clause in the bill relating to payments other than affiliation payments it is quite obvious that, in certain circumstances, payments outside the framework of that clause could be permitted with respect to political matters. For example, the bill could permit payment to an individual politician of expenses incurred in holding his political meetings. If this bill became law I suggest that it would be perfectly lawful for a trade union to go to Senator McManus and offer him £100 towards the cost of his personal meetings. Such a payment need have nothing to do with the party to which the honorable senator belongs. The union also could pay to Senator McManus any sum of money for printing and distributing literature in pursuance of his campaign for election. There is nothing in the bill to stop that. Finally, of course, a union could pay Senator McManus’s expenses, or my expenses. I only mention Senator McManus because I am looking at him. A fundamental weakness exists in proposed paragraph (e) in that respect.
The second weakness in this measure is to be found in paragraph (e), sub-paragraph (iv), proposed to be added to section 140(1.), which provides that no person shall “ be placed under any disability or disadvantage “. I suggest that those two expressions are too meagre to cover what could happen to a person in certain circumstances. They do not, for example, cover such matters as threats to a member’s wife, family or friends, or an insult to a member’s wife or family, or to the member himself; and in certain circumstances they would not cover even an actual assault on a member - an assault similar to that which occurred in the case of the unfortunate Hurseys. I mention these things because when we are talking about human freedoms and transposing them into legislative form, we must be very careful that we do really what we set out to do. I suggest that this bill does not do what it sets out to do.
I am surprised that no honorable senator has looked at the bill in relation to the questions involved. We are not passing a set of principles to-night in legislative form; we are endeavouring to pass a bill which alleges that it rests on those principles. I do not deny that it rests on them, but I do say that the bill does not adequately transpose those principles into legislative form.
There is a third, and I think, a very important omission in this bill. For example the same proposed paragraph (e) does not give a member the right to contract out. Proposed paragraph (d) does, but (e) does not. Under proposed paragraph (e) J suggest that it would be perfectly lawful for a union to sue a member in respect of a political levy. There is no protection so far as suing is concerned, lt will be lawful under proposed paragraph (j) for a union to sue at common law for the amount of an involuntary levy. There is also a further weakness in proposed paragraph (d) to which I wish to refer. Although the paragraph refers to affiliation payments and entitles a member to contract out with respect to such payments, no protection is given to a member if he does contract out. There is some protection under sub-paragraph (iv) of proposed paragraph (e) in respect of involuntary levies for political purposes but under (d) which relates to affiliation fees - which are compulsory - there is only a provision to permit a member to contract out. Having contracted out no statutory protection is given to the trade union member.
There is a further fundamental weakness.
– I hope it is more fundamental than the others.
– I think we can discuss these matters quite objectively without becoming heated. There is a fundamental weakness in the measure because no attempt has been made to define what the purposes of a political party are. 1 think that lack could involve trouble. I should not like to be a parliamentary draftsman saddled with the obligation of defining what a political purpose really is. For example, would a levy to finance a strike called for the purpose of opposing this legislation be a political purpose under this act? It would reek with political activity, of course. Would a compulsory levy imposed by a union to support a strike to stop this measure going through b; for a political purpose, or would it infringe the undoubted rights of a union to take action politically? There you get into trouble by trying to put down in statutory form matters relating to human freedoms. You strike trouble in trying to define in statutory form any of our human rights and freedoms. Would any draftsman care to put down in black and white in statutory form a law relating to the freedom of the press or religious freedom? No one would be game to try it.
I suggest that the practical difficulties associated with drafting legislation in statute form in respect of such difficult matters have always defied the draftsmen. A very good reason exists why they are still retained as elements of our common law - our nonstatutory law. One of the reasons why we do not put these things in statutory form is because it is so difficult to do so. The Americans have tried time and time again to do so, but with very scant success. I am not suggesting that if it were necessary we should not try to do so; I am merely pointing out that there are some very grave difficulties in the proposed legislation. The contents of the bill do not really tie in with my ideas of what should be in a bil to protect the freedom of citizens in relation to industrial matters.
– This is only part of section 140.
– I have read the whole section. In respect of the same problem, there are many weaknesses which I could mention - but time will not permit me - which arise in the drafting of such a difficult matter in statutory form. For instance, you could try to put into statutory form the right to protect an individual in an instance such as this: A unionist pays money into party funds and those funds go into a general account. They accumulate from year to year. At the end of each financial year the balance of the fund is transferred to next year’s account, and so on. At the end of a given financial year after a certain trade unionist has paid in his money for, say, ten years, the union might find itself very financial. That happens in unions. I was listening once to evidence given by the secretary of a very big maritime union in Australia. He stated that at the time he was giving his evidence his union had over £100,000 to its credit in the bank. Let us assume that the union executive decided to donate to the Democratic Labour Party, the Liberal Party or the Australian Labour Party, the sum of £1,000. How could any particular member who has paid into that fund over a period of ten years possibly identify the part of that £1,000 which belongs to him? How could his rights be protected in those circumstances? Because of the effluxion of time it would be difficult to protect them. No statute could effectively protect the rights we are talking about to-night.
– Why has the system worked so well in Great Britain?
– I doubt whether it has worked well.
– Everybody thinks so.
– Everybody does not think so. I do not think so. There has been case after case in the courts, which suggest that the legislation has not worked out. Just let us consider what would happen if the bill were passed. I am not now arguing that at some stage such legislation may not be essential.
– We could not have it. You have said so.
– The honorable senator has completely misunderstood me. Who would police such a statute? Who would bc responsible for ensuring that the political freedoms of the individual were looked after in accordance not only with the letter, but also with the spirit of the statute.
– Who polices the position now?
Sena ‘or VINCENT. - No one but the trade unions themselves.
– I do not think that you understand how the trade union system works.
– That is a gibe that is not worthy of Senator McManus. I have been a member of a trade union, and I have acted professionally for unions for 30 years. I think that I speak their language. Let us work the position out calmly without losing our heads. Proposed new paragraph (e) (i) provides - that the payment shall be made out of a fund set up by the organization for that purpose only.
That relates to payments to or for the purposes of a political party. Who other than union officials could ensure that a payment made out of the fund was bona fide? Is it not the easiest thing in the world to use trickery or subterfuge to gain one’s own end in that regard, and to defeat the spirit of the statute by creating a false fund? That would be most difficult to prove. All the auditors in the world could not discover it. The union official would have the responsibility of ensuring that the provision was observed in the spirit. The next subparagraph provides - that that fund shall consist solely of contributions by members of the organization.
Who could really ensure that the fund consisted only of subscriptions by members? Only the union officials could do that, and it would be the easiest thing in the world for a Communist-run union, by a simple subterfuge, to get round such a provision. The same criticism applies to the next two provisions. Any honorable senator could suggest a dozen matters in respect of which a union member might suffer great loss, but which can be covered in statute form only if it is possible to invoke the whole-hearted support of union officials.
I am not trying to prove that there should not be a statute. I suggest that even if there is a statute the greatest responsibility for policing it would devolve upon union officials. Nobody else could do it. Certainly the Registrar of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission could not do it. He has not the facilities, the time or the energy. The fact that a very great responsibility for ensuring that the legislation is observed in the spirit would rest upon trade unions is a very strong reason why the Government should put the responsibility in the first instance upon the Australian Council of Trade Unions. I believe that the Government was correct and wise in saying to the A.C.T.U.: “ It is your responsibility. You should accept the responsibility for guarding this individual human freedom. If you do not, we shall have to do something about it.” The trade union movement has looked after some individual freedoms of its members for a long time - in fact, since long before the Democratic Labour Party discovered these freedoms. For instance, if a trade union member is dismissed arbitrarily and unlawfully, which body looks after his rights?
– Dismissed from the union or from employment?
– From his employment, of course.
– Unions can become as arbitrary a monopoly as any other.
– I am not arguing about monopolies. I admit that unions are monopolies. But who looks after the individual rights of a member of a trade union who is unlawfully dismissed by his employer? The union accepts that responsibility. A grown-up union with a proper sense of responsibility can just as easily as any other body look after the important human right with which the bill is concerned. If the unions fail, the matter becomes our responsibility.
My friend Senator Hannan referred to the matter of indemnity payments. The committee examining that matter discovered that unions were wrongfully - probably unlawfully, I suggest - accepting bribes from maritime companies. The A.C.T.U. issued a direction, which was not very firmly worded. In fact, it was no more than an expression of opinion that those payments should stop. The unions concerned accepted that direction and the indemnity payments did stop. That direction was accepted by even a Communistled union. I do not say that the A.C.T.U. will necessarily do something effective about this matter, but it should be given an opportunity to do so.
I believe that the Government was wise in giving the A.C.T.U. a chance of removing the possibility of very grievous wrongs. I admit that the Hurseys suffered grievous injury. I think the whole of Australia accepts that. But I do not believe that any good purpose would be served now by rushing into legislation which will not effectively stop that sort of thing. For that reason, I am forced to say that I cannot vote for the second reading of the bill. I would be more inclined to vote for a bill that I thought could effectively protect the principles involved. This bill does not do that. It cannot be shown that the A.C.T.U. has yet fallen down on its job. The Government has made a very fair statement of its views, in which I concur entirely. For these reasons, I cannot vote for the second reading of the bill.
– in reply - I have listened with great interest to the speeches that have been made both for and against this very important bill that we have introduced in the Senate. First, I should like to express my appreciation of the way in which the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Spooner) has dealt with the bill, not so much in the speech that he made as the manner in which he has cooperated so that the bill could be brought before the Senate. This measure, Mr. President, sets out to give legislative expres sion to a principle which affects the democratic rights of people who work and are members of trade unions in this country. For that purpose, the bill proposes to provide that if a member of a trade union objects to the payment of affiliation fees to a political party, he shall not be forced to pay them; and, in addition, and perhaps even more important, that compulsory political levies, which deny the fundamental rights of trade unionists, shall not be imposed.
I have been amazed at the speeches that have been made during the debate. It seems that the only person who has expressed himself as being opposed to the bill is Senator Vincent. All the other speakers apparently believe in the principles that it enunciates.
– I think Senator Vincent agreed with the principles.
– I said that about six times.
– Then the honorable senator shares the views of the other members of the Senate who have spoken. They also agree with the principles. They think that something should be done. Yet, apparently, supporters of the Government parties and members of the Australian Labour Party Opposition will vote against the motion for the second reading. I cannot understand why that should be so.
The bill arises from circumstances in which the Hurseys found themselves in relation to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. They were driven from their jobs on the waterfront several years ago. When that happened, there was a terrible outcry from supporters of the Liberal Party - not so much from supporters of the Labour Party - to the effect that there had been destruction of human rights so far as the Hurseys were concerned. However, we have been waiting for several years for the Government to bring in the requisite legislation.
– Which it had drafted at the time.
– That is correct. We did not want to bring in a bill, because we wanted to see suitable legislation passed by the Parliament. We knew that if we introduced a bill there would be opposition from the Government, because we would be taking the business of the Parliament out of its hands, and we did not want to do that. 1 approached the Minister time after time to see whether he would bring in a bill. As has been said, at one stage legislation had been drafted. We wanted the Government to introduce a bill embodying the principles that we think should apply to trade unions in this respect. 1 did not receive any satisfaction. At one stage he did say, “ Well, it would be much better if we brought it in next year. It is an election year and it would be good propaganda.” We do not want the legislation for propaganda purposes. We want it because it is vital to the welfare of unionists in Australia. Finally, we were forced to bring in the bill now before the Senate. We foreshadowed what we intended to do. Then we found that the Minister tried to beat the gun. Knowing that we intended to bring in a bill at a certain time, he made known to the newspapers the nature of the business that he proposed to bring before the Senate on that day.
I do not know what his objective was, but we found out why this bill was not to be brought into the Parliament at that time. The reason was that certain agreements had been made. We found that the Minister had been led up the garden path by his departmental advisers; and he rushed in and made the statement to the newspapers to which I have referred. The Minister, knew that the bill was coming forward. Why then, did he not leave matters as they were? Why make a decision before the bill was discussed? The supporters of the Government would have had the opportunity to speak during the second-reading debate, so why make a decision before the matter was discussed, either in the party rooms or in this chamber? He did not give it fair treatment.
I am sure that the majority of honorable senators on the Government side agree with the principles that we are trying to enunciate in the bill. Those honorable senators on the Opposition side of the chamber who have spoken have said, with tongue in cheek, that they too agree with them. I exclude Senator Kennelly, because 1 am not quite sure whether he agrees with them. Apparently, he is quite ready to collect the cash if it is forthcoming. When Senator Spooner opened the debate and spoke against the bill, his attitude gave one the impression that he had rather a distasteful job to do. I think that the position of the Government in relation to the bill is that its main concern is to support the Minister, because he has made a certain decision, lt would be big of him if he were to realize that the passage of this bill is more important than his own pride.
Senator Spooner’s speech was really a homily or a sermon on the trade union movement and of the need for co-existence with that movement. The Minister made quite a good speech, but it did not get down to the fundamentals of the bill. He spoke about a new world, the atomic age, and so on. He said we could look forward to further progress. We agree with the Minister in that respect; but if conditions which this bill has been designed to overcome are allowed to continue, we shall eventually have a dictatorship and not democracy in this country. The Minister chided the Labour Party because it stood for socialism. He said that the Government stood for free enterprise. But the Government’s actions are such that I am wondering whether it has changed its objectives. The Government, too, is going in for socialism.
Senator Spooner said that better results would be achieved if the unions took the necessary action on this occasion. It is all right if the unions do the job themselves, but already we have had illustrations of what will happen in the ranks of the unions. The Government seems to have adopted the attitude that we should wait for another incident like the Hursey incident to occur before it takes action. To do that does not introduce the principle of justice into our statutes. The Minister further said that a voluntary effort was to be preferred to compulsion. That was a rather amusing statement. Just recently I have read about the presentation of a little budget.
– There was a bit of compulsion in that. At any rate, the insurance companies thought so.
– There was nothing voluntary about that. When we get down to bedrock, the Government does not mind compulsion. Compulsion is the theme of a bill that the Government will introduce shortly.
Now I should like to refer to what happened in the A.C.T.U. when this measure was discussed. The Minister for Labour and National Service said that the A.C.T.U. was of the opinion that a compulsory political election levy should not be made by affiliated unions. The words used were “ should not “; not “ shall not “. The Government has based its opposition to the bill on that expression of opinion, and has suggested that the unions should take whatever action is necessary. We know that there was some liaison between the Department of Labour and National Service and the A.C.T.U. When this bill was discussed by the A.C.T.U. certain statements were made which indicate that the promise made by the A.C.T.U. to the Government means nothing. When Mr. Monk went back to the Trades Hall in Melbourne, he said that the Minister had agreed that, if a union found that its finances were straitened by political donations prior to an election, it would be permissible to impose a compulsory levy after the election, provided it was labelled, “ For general union purposes”. He pointed out that the Clothing Trades Union had done that. Mr. Monk also pointed out that, in the opinion of the A.CT.U., the undertaking referred to political election levies, and he interpreted this to mean that the ban was on compulsory political levies only at election lime, and not at other times.
– That was the decoy they used - election levies.
– That is why the word “ election “ was used.
– Under the agreement, they can have compulsory levies at any other time.
– Mr. Monk said he asked Mr. Bland whether this interpretation was acceptable to the Minister, and he was told it was. We have the means of finding out what happened and the words that were uttered. So I say that the Minister has been sold on this issue. It is time that honorable senators realized that. The Parliament should pass this bill in order to safeguard the rights of unionists who, in some cases, are living in fear.
The bill deals with the matter of contracting out and contracting in. I think it was Senator Wood who was in favour of a provision for contracting in. We of the Democratic Labour Party believe in the principle of contracting out. I emphasize this point: We are not trying to destroy the source of Labour Party funds. All we desire to do is to make democracy worth something within the unions. Adoption of the principle of contracting in would remove the source of a great deal of the funds that go to the Labour Party for election purposes. I repeat that we are approaching the matter from a democratic stand-point, and not from the stand-point of trying to destroy the source of Labour Party funds at election time.
– Do you believe that a union should be compelled to subscribe to a political party?
– As I have already said, all we want to do is to bring democracy into the unions. The right to contract out would be a democratic right. If a unionist had that right, he could get out of paying a political levy, if he wanted to. I am in agreement with Senator Kennelly to a degree when I say that, if a unionist has not the courage to contract out, he should pay the money.
– What about Communist controlled unions where bashing and intimidation take place?
– I do not think you will find that-
– What objection have you to voluntary contributions, with no attachments or conditions at all?
– We are dealing now with affiliation fees, which are quite different from political levies. I myself think that the fairest thing to do is to give a person an opportunity to exercise his democratic rights. If he does not want to do that, that is his concern. If he has not the intestinal fortitude to contract out, that is his lookout. What we are after is the democratic right to do so. This has been the law m Great Britain for about 40 or 50 years- Senator Kennelly asks why we should follow Great Britain. We do not have to follow Great Britain. We can follow our own State of New South Wales, whose laws contain this rule. We do not need to go to the law of Great Britain.
– lt is already in the New South Wales law.
– Yes. I should like now to deal with two other points that were raised by Senator Kennelly to-day. lt seemed to me that he tried to camouflage the real import of this bill. We had quite an interesting time while he spoke about certain of the political chicanery that has gone on as far as fund-collecting for the Australian Labour Party is concerned. 1 am very pleased with his promise to clean up unity tickets. What we should do if the Liberal Party does not support democracy is to give our support to Labour at the next election. We will have the balance of power, and even if Labour gained office it could not do any damage. I think that the Liberals had better think along these lines. It is time they woke up to themselves.
– You are suggesting that we should sell our votes.
– You would sell them to-morrow if you could. There is one other point that was mentioned by Senator Kennelly with which I want to deal. He defended, very forcibly, the attitude that the Waterside Workers Federation took towards the Hurseys, mainly on the ground that they were not members of the union. As far as he is concerned, if a person is not a member of a union he has no rights whatsoever as far as his job is concerned. 1 think that is what the honorable senator meant, tout he supported the stand taken by the federal president ot the Australian Labour Party, who was not - and still is not - a member of the union that covers “his calling.
– The union does not cover it.
– I have before me a Setter from Mr. J. Riordan, the federal secretary of the Federated Clerks Union of Australia. It reads as follows: -
I refer to your enquiry of to-day in relation to the eligibility of persons who occupy secretarial positions in the Australian Labour Party to join this Union.
The constitution of this Union is sufficiently wide to cover all persons engaged in any clerical -capacity whatsoever. The Union has been pre*pared and has accepted applications for membership from persons who have been employed by the Australian Labour Party so long as their duties were within the ambit of the Union’s constitution.
I am unable to recall any secretary or assistant secretary of the Australian Labour Party in New South Wales who was not a member of this
Union. I am able to refer you to-
At this point, Mr. Riordan mentioned a number of people. The letter continues -
As you are aware Messrs. Colbourne and Mulverhill at present occupy the positions of General Secretary and Assistant General Secretary of the New South Wales Branch of the A.L.P. 1 might point out that Mr. M. Whinfield who, prior to bis appointment as Organizer of the A.L.P. in New South Wales, was an Organizer of the Transport Workers’ Union, upon his appointment sought and obtained membership of this Union and subsequently offered himself for election to a senior position. This was during his office as Organizer of the A.L.P. and prior to his appoint ment to his present position . . .
There is no doubt that should any person who at present occupies a secretarial position in the A.L.P. seek membership of this Union he would be accepted, subject only to the necessary undertaking being given to carry out the rules of the Union, which is the normal practice.
– Who signed the letter?
– lt is signed by Mr. J. M. Riordan, federal secretary of the Federated Clerks Union of Australia.
– That puts the matter beyond all doubt, I take it?
– You supported the federal president of the Australian Labour Party, who will not join the union covering his calling. Do you think that a member of the Australian Workers Union could get the privilege of employment on the waterfront? Of course, he could not.
– He could on the northwest coast.
– The waterside workers there belong to a different union. Senator Kennelly stated this afternoon that he brought a lot of money over to Tasmania to support me.
– A little bit.
– In Tasmania, we paid all our own expenses, including the cost of how-to-vote cards and propaganda.
– I always took a little.
– You have taken a lot during your life.
– I have taken a lot around this nation, it is true. I was always good to you.
– This bill is very important as far as the ordinary unionist in Australia is concerned. We brought it forward for a certain purpose.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin). - Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
Question put -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin.)
Majority . . . . 44
Question so resolved inthe negative.
Debate resumed from 17th November (vide page 1684), on motion by Senator Paltridge -
That the following paper -
Economic Measures - Ministerial Statement - be printed.
.- Mr. President, when this debate was adjourned last week, I was dealing with the increased sales tax on motor cars and station wagons, and several other matters that are included in the proposed sales tax increases. Before continuing on that subject, I should like to refer to an aspect of these proposals which Senator Spooner mentioned in this chamber only yesterday.
I give full credit to this Government for the fact that over the past eleven years Australia has had a state of prosperity and, as Senator Spooner pointed out, we have had full employment under a private enterprise system. In addition, that period has been a time of great expansion. I believe that this Government has created the conditions which have provided full employment in that the political and economic conditions have been such that private enterprise has been given the incentive which is so necessary if private enterprise is to expand and develop as it should. I repeat that we have had an example of what can be done under a free enterprise system, if it is given favorable political and economic conditions.
My mind goes back to 1944 when the matter of the transfer of fourteen heads of power was before the State Parliaments. I call to mind that Dr. Evatt went to the Tasmanian Legislative Council and attempted to induce its members to pass legislation that would transfer, by act of Parliament, those fourteen powers to the Commonwealth. During his harangue, when he tried to induce the members of the Legislative Council to agree to that proposal, he made this statement: -
You cannot have full employment in this country in the future unless you have with it the power to direct men where they shall work.
That was his view about full employment in Australia in 1944. Since that time we have had full employment. Our rate of expansion has been unsurpassed by any other country that operates under a free enterprise system. I know that it is inherent in human nature never to be satisfied. No matter how good things are, people always want them a little better. Perhaps that is just as well. It may well be that Australia has a lower percentage of unemployed than any other Commonwealth country. In addition, our standard of livingis one of the highest in the world.
Casting my mind back to the depression years of 1929 and 1930, I think it was the Scullin Government that first introduced sales tax. Sales tax was introduced at that time as a temporary measure. Special emphasis was laid on the fact that it was to be only temporary in order to tide the Commonwealth over the economic blizzard that it was then experiencing. Like all taxation measures that are introduced under the guise of being temporary, sales tax became permanent, and to-day it is an integral part of our taxation system. Succeeding governments have continued to levy sales tax. In view of the amount of revenue that is raised in this way and in view of the greatly increased commitments of the Commonwealth, the probability is that sales tax will remain with us. I am not one of those people who believe that all additional revenue should be raised by income tax. I believe that if you load an undue proportion of the commitments of the Commonwealth on to those who pay income tax you stifle incentive. When that happens enterprise is killed, and the result is stagnation of the economic system. Somewhat similar considerations apply to all forms of taxation inasmuch as there is a limit beyond which you cannot go.
As I said before the debate was adjourned, I look askance at this proposal to increase the rate of sales tax on motor cars, station wagons, motor scooters and motor cycles. In 1956, the sales tax on motor cars was increased from 16 per cent, to 30 per cent. - as a temporary measure. That was four years ago, and the rate has remained at 30 per cent, ever since. I do not think there is anything temporary in a measure of four years standing. It is now proposed to increase the rate a further 10 per cent, to 40 per cent.
– As a temporary measure.
– Yes. It is my great grief in relation to these temporary measures that if they institute new forms of taxation they become permanent. If taxes are increased as a temporary measure they become permanent. The greatest difficulty is experienced in ever reducing rates of taxation. Experience has shown that governments of all political complexions are rapacious. They do not like decreasing rates of taxation. Although the proposed increase in sales tax is described as a temporary measure, in my opinion any possibility of the rate being decreased in the future is very remote.
T regret that this proposal was contained in the measures referred to by the Treasurer. T object to it because it imposes the same penalty on the person to whom a motor car is a necessity as on the person who is in a far better financial position to purchase a motor car. I think of primary producers, many of whom live in remote areas far from centres of business. They must travel to those centres over rough roads, with consequent wear and tear on their vehicles. The primary producer is the man to whom we look to increase our exports. We are told that we much increase our exports because we have built up an edifice of costs which our present rate of exports cannot offset. It is unthinkable that these people should be slugged an extra 10 per cent, if they wish to purchase a motor car, which to them is an absolute essential. Without a motor car they would be compelled to live in isolation. They would not be able to take their families away from the farm. A motor car is absolutely essential to them if they are to take part in the social life of the community. As this measure is aimed at decreasing the rate of importation of all those things that are necessary to the motor industry it must be regarded as being inflationary. It must be obvious that if you increase a tax on something that is essential to a great many people in the community, and if you make that article dearer, the effect must be inflationary. I regret very much that the Government has seen fit to increase the sales tax on motor cars as a means of remedying the ills that beset the Commonwealth.
The Government proposes to compel, by act of Parliament, superannuation funds, provident funds and life assurance companies to invest not less than 30 per cent, of their funds in Commonwealth securities. Senator Kennelly said that he had no quarrel with that proposal. He said that if he had his way he would compel those organizations to invest all of their funds in Commonwealth securities. That is his point of view and he is entitled to it. Superannuation funds, provident funds and life assurance companies are in a different category from banks. Banks have a profound influence on the credit of the Commonwealth inasmuch as they represent the thrifty section of the community - the man who, during his lifetime, has seen fit to put away so much a year to guard against an evil day, and to make some provision for his wife and family. Superannuation funds and life assurance companies represent the man who has invested against the time when he will no longer be able to work and support those who depend upon him. Surely it is reasonable that the trustees of those funds should be able to invest them to obtain the greatest increment.
– What about the safety of the investment?
– I should think that the people in charge of these funds do not make many mistakes. Like every human being, I suppose they make some; but they are entitled to exercise their freedom by investing their funds wherever they deem fit. I believe that the Liberal Party has always stood for that principle.
Thirty per cent, may not represent a large proportion of the funds of these organizations, but nevertheless the persons in charge of the funds of these thrifty people, who are placed in a position of trust, must invest that percentage of the funds in Government loans. If we endorse the principle that it is fit and proper for any government to say to an insurance company, or to persons in charge of superannuation or provident funds, that they shall invest 30 per cent, in government loans, the percentage could easily be increased to 40 per cent, or 50 per cent. Senator Kennelly suggested we should make it 100 per cent. If we were to do that we would make the insurance companies and these other people agencies for the Commonwealth Government for the collection of premiums for investment in Commonwealth loans.
– And it would make the funds less attractive for thrifty people.
– Of course, it would make them far less attractive to that thrifty section of the community who, year by year, are thrifty enough to put portion of their money aside to guard against evil days.
The question arises whether this is a fit and proper procedure for a Liberal government to adopt particularly in view of the fact that only a few years ago when the Chifley Labour Government attempted bank nationalization, bank clerks and others employed in the banking institutions about which Senator Kennelly spoke the other night, opposed the measure on the ground that it constituted undue interference by the Commonwealth Government. That was one of the main factors in the defeat of the Chifley Labour Government of that day. The Government, it would seem to me, is at least partly applying the same principle to these institutions which are the custodians of the money of thrifty people in the community. I cannot agree with the principle. In advancing a reason for the action of the Government, the Treasurer said that the deductions allowed to the organizations amount to a very large sum. T just cannot find the exact amount.
– The Treasurer said that because these companies are allowed deductions amounting to £35,000,000 it is fair and reasonable to say to them that they must invest 30 per cent, of their funds in Commonwealth loans. If that principle were applied to everybody who was allowed deductions for income tax purposes, I do not know where it would get us. The deductions are nol made to the companies but to the people as an encouragement to them to invest their money in that way. It is not long ago - it is since I came into this chamber - that the taxation deduction allowed in respect of insurance premiums was increased from £300 to £400 a year as an inducement to people to invest in life insurance companies. Now the Treasurer advances the quite fallacious argument that because this deduction is granted, not to the companies, but to the people who invest in them, it is fair and reasonable to say to those companies that they must invest their money in Commonwealth loans which over the past few years have not been a good investment at ail.
I repeat that I sympathize with the Commonwealth Government in its attempt to rectify the position. However, if you can take notice of newspaper reports, the action that the Government proposes to take has already had an effect. I take it that there is some substance in the press reports that the credit squeeze on what are called1 the fringe banking institutions has already resulted in a tightening up.
– According to tonight’s news, 2,000 employees have been dismissed in the motor industry.
– I do not know how correct that statement is, but I repeat that there has been already a tightening up by hire-purchase companies. Only last week we read that there had been a fall of 15 per cent, in the price of shares of hirepurchase companies and that for several days there has been a distinct restriction in the purchase of motor cars on hire purchase. The companies are demanding larger deposits because they want to make their position more secure. 1 would not admit for one moment that all that is due to the action of the Commonwealth Government. It is a good thing and I do not criticize it at ail. However, when it is followed up by a savage impost on top of an impost that was already savage, it becomes simply rapacious. 1 agree with the leading article in the Hobart “ Mercury “ which has, 1 suppose like other newspapers, published good articles on this subject.
– What is the sales tax imposed’ on utilities and trucks used by farmers?
– I have no knowledge of that. I very much regret the intention to charge 40 per cent, sales tax on the vehicle of a man upon whom we must rely to boost our export income, which Mr. McEwen says must be increased by £50,000,000 a year. Having regard to restrictions on hire-purchase companies and the reported slump already in motor car sales, I hope that the Government will think twice before it imposes such a heavy impost as a 10 per cent, increase in sales tax. It has always been said of sales tax that it is only a temporary impost. I am very much afraid that the proposed increase, allegedly temporary, will acquire permanency.
– A statement on the Australian economy was made in another place on Tuesday of last week by the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt). It was repeated in this chamber by the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge), who represents the Treasurer in the Senate. The statement foreshadowed certain corrective measures to deal with trends that are apparent in our economy. The Treasurer said -
In February of this year, it will be recalled, we announced four measures directed to check excessive buoyancy already evident at that time. We intervened in the basic wage case to counsel the commission in the public interest against granting a further general wage increase at that juncture. We removed the great majority of restrictions on imports. We decided to work towards a balanced budget in 1960-61 and we staled our support for the policy of the Reserve Bank in trying to reduce excessive monetary liquidity in our economic system.
Let us have a look at those four measures that were directed to checking excessive inflation which was in evidence at that time. It is true that the Government intervened in the basic wage case. I believe that that intervention was the reason for the refusal to increase the wages of the working people of Australia. In spite of this pegging of wages, the fact that the cost of living was not pegged has resulted in a soaring of costs since the Government’s intervention in that hearing. The fallacy that wages force up the cost of living was disproved by the pegging of the basic wage. Wages do not force up the cost of living. I believe that the cost of living forces up wages. It seems that the Government believes that it is quite in order for hire-purchase companies to lend money at exorbitant rates of interest. The Government, as well as the whole of Australia, looks forward to higher wool prices. The Government also gives its imprimatur to the making of higher profits. However, as soon as the worker applies for an increase in the price of the only commodity that he has to sell, that is, his labour, there is a general outcry, not only from industry, but also from the Government, to the effect that the economy cannot afford an increase. The Government apparently believes that the law of supply and demand applies to everything except wages. I believe that that was the philosophy of the Government when it intervened before the commission to peg the basic wage. At that time, the Government was boasting that the Australian economy had never been healthier.
Let us look at what has happened since import restrictions were removed. Their removal has created a critical situation, but the Government, rather than admit that it was wrong, has adopted backdoor methods. Because it had not the courage to re-impose import restrictions, it asked the banks to impose credit restrictions, thus curtailing the supply of money to importers. I should like to be told how the banks are to discriminate between the importers of vital materials and those who import nonessential goods. The Government has abandoned the use of a scientific and selective instrument in favour of a nonselective one to achieve a reduction of imports.
Let us look back to 1949, when the Government came into office. In that year, credit reserves overseas stood at about £500,000,000. According to a recent statement issued by the Minister, our credit reserves in London at present amount to £400,000,000. At the end of 1959, they amounted to £547,000,000, so there has been a decrease of £147,000,000. That fall in our overseas reserves indicates that the removal of import controls was a mistaken policy. When the Australian Labour Party condemned the proposal to remove import restrictions it could foresee the inevitable results of such a course. The consequences for the Australian economy predicted by the Australian Labour Party some nine months ago have come to pass. We now see the sorry spectacle of the Government floundering in confusion. In some quarters, its reaction has been described as panic. Of course, not only the Australian Labour Party has condemned the Government’s administrative policies; many leading citizens and organizations also have voiced protests.
I believe that the economic measures which the Government proposes to take will not solve our economic problems which have resulted from a decline in our export earnings. Our major problem at the present time is the falling price of wool, which is causing our overseas reserves to diminish rapidly. Some weeks ago, we debated in this chamber the position of the wool industry and the important part that it plays in the Australian economy. Certain suggestions and constructive ideas were put forward from both sides of the chamber concerning ways in which the industry could be improved. Until ideas such as those are given effect and a measure of protection is provided for the wool industry, the present unsatisfactory state of the industry will continue. At that time, it was said that, although the volume of production of the industry had increased, the price of wool had fallen. It was pointed out that a fall of one penny per lb. in the price of wool meant £7,000,000 a year to the economy of the Commonwealth. It seems that there is no way to prevent the declining trend in wool prices.
I believe that the imposition of additional sales tax on motor cars will not reduce imports of materials to the extent suggested by the Government. It is true, of course, that the higher prices that will be charged for motor cars because of the increased sales tax will cause a slowing down in the sale of new cars, but I am of the opinion that the extent of the slowing down will be very slight. The imposition of additional sales tax will place an added financial burden on Australians who depend on motor cars for transport. It was stated in this chamber recently that in many cases a motor car is no longer a luxury but a necessity. It is grossly unjust to impose an additional 10 per cent, sales tax on new motor cars. My colleague, Senator Ridley, stated in a question that he asked in the Senate earlier to-day that a certain motor car company had reduced its staff by 10 per cent, because of the increase of sales tax. Senator Tangney told us earlier to-night that she had heard on the radio that 2,000 people employed in the motor industry had been given notice of dismissal. I have no knowledge of that report, but as it comes from Senator Tangney I am sure it is correct.
– It was announced in a news session on the radio.
– I thank the honorable senator for that information. Not only will the motor industry be hit very hard by the imposition of increased sales tax but other industries connected with it also will suffer.
I suppose it can be said that the increased tax will at least bring more money to the Treasury; but it will do so by a most objectionable means. I am not disregarding the fact that after increased sales tax had been imposed1 on motor cars in 1956, for the same reason that it is now proposed to increase the tax still further, sales of new motor cars decreased for a time. Gradually, however, the sales of new cars have increased each year since then. I do not believe that the imposition of an additional 10 per cent, of sales tax will halt the purchase of new cars, because the period of hire-purchase terms will simply be extended to cover the additional cost. If a person wants to buy a new car, the fact that he must pay an additional £60 or £80 will not stop him from doing so.
Senator Henty stated during the debate that the increase of sales tax would encourage people to purchase good secondhand cars instead of new ones. He went on to say that that would reduce the production of new cars and bring about a saving in the importation of steel, rubber and oil, which is costing the Australian economy £200,000,000 a year. I ask the honorable senator: Does he not know that second-hand cars use just as many tires, just as much petrol and just as much oil as do new cars?
– And more hospital beds.
– That may be true, too. I have not lost sight of the fact that a reduction in the number of new cars being produced probably will result in less steel being imported. I do not know how much imported steel goes into a motor car that is produced in Australia. I should say that the amount would be very small indeed. I now wish to reply to a statement that was made by Senator Lillico on Thursday last.
– Do you want me to bring him into the chamber?
– I am sorry that he is not in the chamber. The honorable senator is reported at page 1682 of “ Hansard “ as having said -
The Constitutional Review Committee was set up by this Parliament. Indeed, it was composed of members of the Parliament. Quite naturally, it indicated in its report just what powers it thought the Parliament should take to itself to enable it to be fully equipped to deal with any matters that come before it . . . May I say this in regard to the setting up of the Constitutional Review Committee: Before the committee sat, six men, half of the committee, were pledged to support any aggregation of power to the Commonwealth. Six of its members owe allegiance to a platform which says that the Commonwealth Parliament should be clothed with unlimited power. So, any move to detract from the powers of the States and to aggregate more power in this Commonwealth Parliament, and any move to destroy the federation, would be certain to obtain their support. 1 should like to say, in reply to Senator Lillico, that the Australian Labour Party does not believe in the Commonwealth Parliament being clothed with unlimited power. But it believes that the Parliament should have enough power to enable it to govern the country as it should be governed. If the Government has not the necessary power, let the people of Australia decide the issue. It has been said that not many referendums have been carried in Australia. I remind honorable senators that it is the majority of the people who decide whether this Parliament should have more power. I believe we can afford to place our faith in the majority of the Australian people, who would not vest powers in a government if they did not think it was entitled to them, and could not use them in the best interests of the nation.
I believe that the measures that have been adopted by the Government will not solve the current problem. The problem is tied up with our exports, as Senator Lillico said just a little while ago. Until we are able to help the primary producer to increase his exports-
– What about the secondary industries?
– Our secondary industries are important, but I believe that the wool industry is the most important of all. When I say that, 1 am not detracting in any way from the importance of our secondary industries. The only way in which we can build up our overseas reserves is to increase the volume of our exports. I hope that the Government will, as has been suggested by other honorable senators, review the rate of sales tax on motor cars. If it implements its proposals, widespread unemployment will be caused in the Australian motor industry.
Debate (on motion by Senator Mattner) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Paltridge) agreed to -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn till Tuesday next at 3 p.m.
– I think we all agree that the condition of the Australian economy is of vital importance to every citizen of this country. We are discussing a statement that was made in another place and in this chamber. That statement reviewed current events and future prospects for trade and commerce in Australia. I think we all agree that basically our economy is sound.
– We do not.
– I believe that basically our economy is sound. Later I shall elaborate that point. During the last few months, the Opposition, assisted by a section of the press, has tried to produce a state of panic and hysteria in the minds of the Australian people. Month after month we have heard the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) and almost every other Opposition senator forecasting disaster. Opposition senators have repeatedly said, “This nation is poised on the edge of bankruptcy “; or, “ We stand on the brink of ruin”, or “There is going to be wholesale unemployment “. But the Opposition has been indulging in wishful thinking. Only a few days ago, Senator Kennelly compared conditions to-day with those of 1929. He left no doubt in our minds about what he thought of the situation. He said that we would soon have wholesale unemployment, and he implied that the Government was quite oblivious to existing conditions. He added that we on this side of the chamber were unmindful of the welfare of the people of Australia.
What are the facts? We in Australia have a relatively low rate of taxation. Very few countries enjoy a rate of taxation as low as that which we enjoy. We have good working conditions and a high level of employment. In spite of what the Opposition says, our prospects for trade within and without Australia are sound. During the past eleven years the citizens of Australia have enjoyed a very high standard of living. I do not think that any one could deny that statement. I am delighted that we have enjoyed such good conditions. During that period, the people have had five opportunities to choose between Mr. Menzies and Dr. Evatt or Mr. Calwell, with Senators McKenna and Kennelly thrown into the bargain. On each occasion, they returned the Government parties to office, and this Government has justified the confidence that was placed in it.
All of the legislative action taken by the Liberal and Country Parties was designed and is designed to build a prosperous country - to induce the people to save and to invest their savings in productive industries, both primary and secondary. It has been designed also to develop sound trading conditions both within Australia and in the field of exports so as to encourage overseas capital to come to this country. There has been a continuous flow of overseas capital to Australia. The success of the Government’s policy in this direction has been outstanding. Surely the Opposition would not contend for a moment that we should not encourage overseas capital to come to Australia. If that is the contention of honorable senators opposite, they should say so. I think it is to the benefit of Australia for overseas capital to be invested here in order to develop both our primary and secondary industries.
The Government has supported and strengthened the Australian banking system. Under the guidance of banking experts, credit has been issued and expanded. Of recent years, with the development of hire purchase, a new system of credit has been evolved. This has led to a clash between the recognized banking institutions and the hire-purchase companies.
– What does the honorable senator think ought to be done about the matter?
– I shall refer to that subject at a later stage of my remarks. If Senator Toohey will possess himself in patience, he will hear what I have to say about hire purchase. He has said in debate that this Government has allowed inflation to run riot, that we have done nothing to maintain the value of money. I refute that assertion. I believe that to retain the value of money is the greatest challenge that faces both the Government and the Opposition, but the moment this Government attempts to do anything in that direction the Jeremiahs and the calamity howlers on the other side raise anguished cries and try to stir up panic and discontent in the community.
Senator McKenna has stated that the Chifley Government left vast overseas reserves which, he implied, this Government had spent unwisely.
– It has dissipated the money.
– I suppose that Senator O’Flaherty would agree that to dissipate is to spend unwisely. The year 1948 was regarded by the then Labour Government as the period of the golden age.
– That was a long time ago.
– Yes. It will be recalled that Moses said, “ Get on your asses and seek out the promised land “, but Mr. Chifley and his supporters said, “ Sit on your asses. This is the promised land.” At the end of June, 1948 - during the golden age - Australia’s holdings of gold and foreign exchange amounted to £208,000,000. At the end of June, 1949, they were £466,000,000. When the Labour Government fell in December, 1949, they amounted to £528,000,000. I might mention that that sum included a fair proportion of the yield from the then current wool clip. During the first six months of this Government’s term of office - that is, from December, 1949, to 30th June, 1950 - our overseas balances rose to £629,000,000. In 1951, they rose to the highest level - £803,000,000. Yet Senator O’Flaherty says that we dissipated the money that had been left by the Chifley Government as overseas balances. In 1952, our overseas balances fell to £372,000,000. Certain measures, although unpopular, were taken to deal with the situation. I well remember that the Opposition opposed those measures and stalked the country saying, “ Out with the Menzies Government “. Due to the measures I have mentioned, which were ridiculed by Labour, in 1953 our overseas balances rose to £561,000,000. The amounts of those balances in the following years were: In 1954, £428,000,000; in 1955, £570,000,000; in 1956, £355,000,000; in 1957, £566,000,000; in 1958, £525,000,000 and in 1959, £516,000,000. At 30th June, 1960, our overseas balances stood at £512,000,000. I think those figures prove conclusively that this Government has not dissipated Australia’s overseas reserves. Those overseas reserves do not belong to the Government; they are not the Government’s money. To say that this Government has allowed our overseas reserves to decrease is simply not true.
Even this evening we heard the Government castigated for lifting import controls. When they were applied, our opponents violently opposed them and said they were quite wrong. I am not in favour of import controls by any means. Import controls, with all the best endeavours and all the goodwill with which we tried to make them work smoothly and fairly, gave unfair advantages to many traders. The less we interfere with credit and import controls the better. We should let credit find its own level. In that way credit-worthy people will be able to obtain the goods that are required. International trade quickly adjusts itself to that principle. If one wants an example, one needs only to look at the position in France, Germany, Sweden and other countries. In those countries, particularly France and Germany, all import controls were lifted and manufacturers and producers, if they were credit-worthy, were, able to import goods. Those countries were rapidly restored after the war.
I must admit that it is very pleasing to see people realizing the important part that Australia’s exports play and that our exports build up our overseas trade balances. It is the money earned by our exports that enables the people of Australia to import necessary goods.
– For development.
– That is true. I have heard it said that it is necessary to import £50,000,000 worth of steel into Australia. I do not know whether that figure is correct. I am told that the fact that we are urgently in need of £50,000,000 worth of steel and steel products causes one of the greatest drains on our overseas funds.
Realizing the importance of our export industries, the Government is endeavouring to ensure that any such industries, which are credit-worthy and in need of financial backing, receive assistance from the banking institutions. My comment on this matter is that the Government must ensure that its will in this respect is being carried out by making certain that advances are made to export industries which are able to show that by the provision of additional finance, they will be able to increase their productivity and Australia’s exports. In my opinion, if there is any conflict at all between the accepted banking principle of making advances to credit-worthy primary producers and making advances to hirepurchase institutions, the primary producers must win. I hope that the Government will see that its direction in this respect is carried out.
– You hope that the Government will see that its direction is carried out.
– We on this side of the Senate will do our utmost to see that the Government’s direction is carried out. Earlier in my speech, Senator Toohey asked me what I thought of hire purchase. The first step has been taken by the Government to try to bring some stability into hire purchase. From this statement we know that the Government has been forced to use blunt instruments. I am advocating that the Government ask the States to grant to the Commonwealth power to deal with hire purchase. I do not think that we can go any longer without approaching the States. Whatever has happened in the past, the Commonwealth Government should ask the States whether they are willing to transfer the power to control hire purchase to the Commonwealth. The enormous rise in hirepurchase business drives home with added emphasis the hard fact that people cannot borrow their way into prosperity. That is one of the facts we have to face in life. Under hire purchase and a system of credit, people are not paying for the goods they are using. 1 readily admit that hire purchase is a service which has a useful part to play in the economy; but it must not be our master. In my opinion, the cost of the service rendered by hire purchase is far too high in comparison with the benefits provided. That is only my opinion.
There is the example of what happened in Great Britain. The British Government has far greater powers in this respect than this Government has. Rigid controls over hire purchase were exercised for a while in Great Britain and then those controls were lifted. We can learn lessons from what happened in Great Britain when there was unrestricted hire purchase and when there were rigid controls. The happy medium lies somewhere between those two extremes. I hope that the Government will investigate this matter. I believe that a great many of our problems to-day spring from the advances being made by hire-purchase companies.
– The fringe institutions.
– They are the fringe banking institutions. We know that a deposit is paid on an article and then the people who use that article pay a very high price for the service that is rendered by the hire-purchase company.
I am firmly of the opinion that the Australian economy is basically sound; but the Government proposes to implement two vital measures. It intends to make financial assistance available to credit-worthy primary producers through recognized banking channels. With a reasonable availability of money at 6 per cent, interest, the primary producer will win through. It is the availability of finance that is worrying the primary producer, not the fact that he has to pay 5 per cent, or 6 per cent. Admittedly, that is a high rate of interest. But if he is able to obtain bank accommodation on those terms, he in his turn will be able to make good.
The Government must make hirepurchase institutions observe what I would call recognized banking practices. I am firmly of the opinion that the Government’s proposals will bring about the desired result. I feel sure that our economy will remain stable, and that we shall continue to have full employment. If that happens, as I feel certain it will, the Government will quickly remove all unnecessary taxes. If the prices of wool and other vital exports rise, and if no restrictions are placed on them by other countries, our overseas balances will rise and our economy will once again become very satisfactory.
Anybody who is honest must concede that Australia’s development and progress in the last few years has been tremendous. I admit that there has been a certain amount of inflation, but a little inflation is far better than unemployment and stagnation. The aim of this Government has been to enable every man and woman in the community to earn a good living under good working conditions. It has achieved that aim. The fact that this Government has been returned to power at each election in the last ten years shows that the people endorse its policies. I support the proposals that have been announced by the Government. 1 disagree with them in one or two aspects, perhaps, but by and large, I feel sure that the measures outlined by the Treasurer will quickly restore Australia’s economy to its position as one of the best in the world.
– One of the most disquieting features of the statement delivered by the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) is the fact that such a statement was necessary within two months of the presentation to the Parliament of the Budget, and in fact at a time when the Estimates were still under discussion in the Senate. Surely the Government’s financial advisers should have ensured that our economic position did not deteriorate in such a short space of time. It is noteworthy that during the time this recession took place the Treasurer was absent from Australia, admittedly on duties of national importance. At the same time, several senior members of the Government also were out of the country. It is deplorable that while senior Ministers were absent from the country the economic situation was allowed to deteriorate to such an extent that the Treasurer was forced to make a statement last week.
The present economic situation has thrown the business world into turmoil. Senator Mattner, in referring to the state of the economy, derived great pleasure from the fact that at present our overseas balances are in the region of £504,000,000, and that in 1 950 they were about £629,000,000. He said that we have not done too badly. But on the hustings at every election (luring the last ten years the Government has proclaimed how prosperous the country is. It is true that we have been blessed with good seasons. We have had marvellous returns from our primary industries. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and others have told us that Australia has never had it so good. But, on the figures presented by Senator Mattner to-night, in the ten years since 1950 our overseas balances have declined by £1 17,000,000, which is a very conservative estimate indeed, even allowing for no deterioration in the value of the £1. So, despite the fact that we have had good seasons, and despite the other factors that have had a steadying influence on the economy, our overseas balances have deteriorated. In Australia, the leaders of industry, both primary and secondary, do not know what policy the Government will adopt to remedy the situation. This confusion has been further accentuated by the Treasurer’s statement, which came more or less out of the blue last night and which seems, if I may mix my metaphors, to have thrown Australia into the red. Sir Douglas Copland, one of the most outstanding Australian economists, said in Adelaide last night that the Treasurer’s policy had left Australia in an economic position of utter despair. He said that the Government’s new economic measures were indicative of supreme stupidity and utter confusion of thought. That statement by Sir Douglas Copland is reported in the newspaper that announces his appointment to a very high position in international economic affairs. Surely his opinion cannot be discounted, particularly as it seems to be in line with the opinion of the man in the street, who is bewildered by this sudden deterioration of the economic situation.
– Sir Douglas Copland’s opinion has been discounted before to-day with benefit to Australia.
– His opinions also have been accepted by this Government on many occasions. Nobody can be right all of the time, but Sir Douglas Copland’s opinion coincides with that of the man in the street, who finds himself bewildered and confused. I do not say that such bewilderment and confusion is justified, but continual changes in the economic climate over a short period of time are sufficient to bewilder any one. The fact that the Government does not seem to have any clearcut policy in these matters is of greet concern, particularly in view of the fact that the economic situation was deteriorating at a time when the Estimates were still under discussion in the Senate.
I ask for leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin). - 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.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 23 November 1960, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1960/19601123_senate_23_s18/>.