15th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon.G.J. Bell) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– Is the Prime Minister aware’ that members of the Military Forces are committing breaches of the law in different places by reason of the unrestricted quantity of alcohol that they are able to obtain in hotels when on leave? Seeing that the establishment of wet canteens in military camps would have a restrictive influence, is it the intention of the Government to take this action and thus enable the rank and file, as well as officers, to obtain alcohol in those camps? If this action is proposed, will it be taken before the ensuing elections are held, or does the right honorable gentleman intend to leave it to a Labour government after the elections?
– I was not aware of the existence of the state of affairs described by the honorable member. The second portion of his question relates to a matter of policy, to which it is not customary to reply.
– I desire to inform the House that, consequent on the deaths of the Honorable G. A. Street, M.C., Minister for the Army and Minister for Repatriation, of the Honorable
Sir Henry Somer Gullett, K.C.M.G., Vice-President of the Executive Council, and of the Honorable J. V. Fairbairn, Minister for Air and Minister for Civil Aviation, the following appointments were made by His Excellency the Governor-General on the 14th August. -
Senator the Hon. P. A. M. McBride, Minister for the Army and Minister for Repatriation.
Senator the Hon. H. B. Collett, C.M.G., D.S.O., V.D., Vicepresident of the Executive Council.
Senator McBride and Mr. Fadden will, by virtue of their office, be members of the War Cabinet.
Senator Collett will be the Minister in charge of Scientific and Industrial Research.
– During the last period of the session the honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson) asked that I should place before the Minister for Trade and Customs a suggestion that, before any licences for the importation of tobacco leaf from the United States of America are issued, a full statement regarding the position, particularly in relation to local stocks of both imported and local leaf, be submitted to Parliament.
The Minister for Trade and Customs has now supplied me with the following information : -
Apart from the tobacco leaf purchased in the United States of America before the outbreak of war, practically no licences have been issued for tobacco leaf. From the figures furnished above it will be observed that Australian manufacturers are using approximately 2,000,000 lb. of Australian leaf more than is produced in Australia annually. Yearly consumption of locally-grown leaf represents 50 per cent. more than the total Australian annual production. Therefore, even in normal circumstances without the assistance of licensing, a considerable opportunity exists for tobacco-growers to increase production. The only qualification I would make is that the increased production must be a good quality smokable tobacco.
Interview with Prime Minister.
– Can the Prime Minister clear up the mystery surrounding the interview that recently took place between himself and the Honorable B. S. B. Stevens,at one time Premier of New South Wales? Did the right honorable gentleman invite Mr. Stevens to interview him at either Canberra or Melbourne? If not, did Mr. Stevens invite himself?
– I can well understand the honorable member’s curiosity concerning what was, after all, a purely private conversation. If he will be good enough to place his question on the noticepaper for one day next week, I shall be pleased to furnish him with an answer to it.
– Will the Minister for
Supply and Development state whether the published details of the petrol rationing scheme of the Government are correct? Are vehicles used exclusively for commercial purposes, such as the supply of bread and milk, to be rationed to an estimated 5,000 miles a year? Will the honorable gentleman also say why vehicles that are used partly for business and partly for private purposes, are to be rationed up to an estimated 10,000 miles a year? Why has such a low scale been provided for vehicles engaged in purely commercial and essential services?
– If the honorable member will peruse the scale of tables, a copy of which I understand has been supplied to him, he will see that in each of the two cases mentioned by him the rationing is based on an effective mileage comparable with the mileage covered last year. By the strict application of that principle it will be impossible for the inequities implied by him to occur.
– What is the estimated percentage reduction of the importation of petrol which is expected to accrue from the new petrol rationing scheme? Can the Minister for Supply and Development estimate the amount of sterling and dollar exchange which will be saved as theresult of the scheme ?
Sir FREDERICK STEWART.Answering the first part of the question, I assure the honorable gentleman that the Government’s objective has been, and is, the saving of 331/3 per cent. on the pre-war civil consumption of petrol. There has been no change. I shall have inquiries made and supply information in answer to the second part of the question.
– As there appears to be confusion in the public mind concerning the necessity to ration petrol, I ask the Prime Minister whether he will state the reasons which have causedthe Government to take steps to that end? Has the Government given consideration to the loss that must necessarily accrue to trade and industry in consequence of the rationing of petrol? If so, doesthe right honorable gentleman still consider that rationing is inevitable?
– I must ask the honorable member to excuse me for not making an exhaustive statement on the reasons for the introduction of petrol rationing. I shall, however, be happy to have a statement on the subject prepared. I have no doubt whatever concerning the need for rationing. Other parts of the British Empire, notably Great Britain and New Zealand, have instituted some time since a system for the rigid control of imports, and this has involved petrol rationing. I am quite sure that Australia will not desire to play less than its part in the conservation of funds for necessary war purposes.
Service in Australia.
– In view of the fact that a large number of men who enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force for overseas service have been sent to defence bases in north Australia, possibly for the duration of the war, can the Prime Minister state whether they will be classified as returned soldiers in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Service Act and any other acts giving preference to returned soldiers?
– I cannot answer that question off-hand. I shall furnish the honorable member with a reply to it to-morrow.
Motion (by Mr. Scholfield) - by leave - agreed to.
That leaveof absence for the, remainderof the session be given to the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) on duty with the Royal Australian Air Force.
– In connexion with the appointment of Sir John Latham as Australian Minister to Japan, will the Minister for External Affairs state whether important discussions in relation to Pacific problems will, in future, be negotiated direct with Japan, or in collaboration with the British Government?
– The appointment of an Australian Minister to Japan will in no sense alter the very closest collaboration between the Governments of Australia and the other dominions and the Government of the United Kingdom, in reference to all matters affecting foreign policy, and especially Far Eastern policy. The Government of Australia doubtless will be better informed by reason of this direct representation in Japan. Certainly it will be more intimately and more immediately informed, in relation to matters of interest in the Far East. The reciprocal appointment of a Japanese Minister in Australia will add to the effective ness of the exchange of information. As to the actual devising of Empire policy, I can say that the policy of close consultation and collaboration which has been followed in the past will be continued.
– Has the Minister for External Affairs noticed the press controversy respecting the legal propriety of appointing the Chief Justice of Australia, Sir John Latham, as Australia’s representative at Tokyo, Japan? Can he say whether, before making the appointment, the Government satisfied itself that the appointment would be perfectly legal?
– I have not noticed any newspaper controversy on the subject, but the Government is convinced that the step taken is a proper one.
– Is it proper in a legal sense?
– It is proper in every way. Legislation will be introduced during this session to deal with certain aspects of this matter.
– Can the Minister for External Affairs explain to the House the exact powers of the Ministers that have been appointed to represent Australia at Washington and Tokyo ?
– That question is of sufficient importance for me to ask time to prepare a considered reply. I ask that it be put on the notice-paper.
– Can the Minister for Commerce say whether, at the conference of fruit-growers held in Sydney last week, a final decision was reached regarding the disposal of the 1940-41 apple and pear crop ? If so, will he give particulars to the House?
– I believe that a final decision has been reached in respect of the apple crop. The terms will be made public after certain negotiations with the State governments have been completed. So far as pears are concerned, difficulty has arisen in regard to canned fruits. As soon as the matter has been cleared up, and there is some indication of what the pear crop is likely to be, it is hoped that a similarly satisfactory conclusion will be reached in respect of pears.
– Can the Minister for External Affairs say whether the figures concerning British and German air losses, as published in the press from British sources, are correct? If so, will he take steps to see that only British figures are published, so that the people will not be misled by the different figures announced by Germany?
– I am able to reply to the honorable gentleman’s question with an intimate knowledge of the facts. The Commonwealth Government is informed by cable at least once a day, and on many occasions more than once a day, of the fullest details of war operations during the previous 24 hours. From my knowledge of the British Government’s reports, I can assure the House that Australian newspapers give prompt and accurate reports of the successes and losses of the respective air forces.
– For some time I have sought information from the Minister for Commerce in regard to wool appraisement centres. Is the Minister yet in a position to tell the House what centres have been selected for this purpose ?
– I shall make a statement on the subject shortly.
– Can the Minister in charge of Externa] Territories say whether it is correct, as stated in the press, that the Government is giving consideration to a joint administration for Papua and New Guinea? If such be the case, will the Government consider the establishment of aterritorial service which will enable officers to be transferred to positions in either Papua or New Guinea, with a view to benefiting both services?
– The answer to the first part of the honorable member’s question is “ No “, and therefore the second part of his question does not require an answer.
– Can the Minister for External Affairs say whether the Government has received any information about the establishment of a joint Defence Board by Canada and the United States of America, and can he make a statement to the House on the subject?
– The Government has been informed that a joint Defence Board has been established by the United States of America and Canada. I understand that on this board each of the two nations concerned will have equal representation, and that the personnel will consist principally of members of the services of the respective countries. It would appear that happenings during the last few months have convinced the people and the Administration of the United States of America that the defence of that country, and, indeed, of the Americas generally, cannot be regarded on the basis of insularity, but that the first line of defence of the American continent is the British navy. The recognition of that fact has caused the establishment, for the first time in history, of a defence board representing a belligerent in a major war and a neutral country. As this defence board has been set up principally to ensure the defence of the northern half of the western hemisphere, which includes a substantial portion of the Pacific basin, its establishment is of particular interest to Australia and New Zealand.
– Has the Prime Minister noticed in the press a statement attributed to Sir Phillip Goldfinch, an officer of the Ministry of Munitions, that there are about 5,000 unemployed males in Victoria and about 46,000 unemployed males in New South Wales? Can the right honorable gentleman say whether those figures are correct;and if they be not correct, will he take steps to prevent the dissemination of loose statements by officers associated with the Government?
– I have not seen the statement complained of, but I can hardly imagine that Sir Philip Goldfinch could have been correctly reported as saying that there are only 5,000 unemployed males in the State of Victoria. There are substantially more than that. My recollection, which I shall check, is that there are somewhere between 25,000 and 30,000 in that category in Victoria. I shall ascertain the precise figures so far as they can be obtained and give them to the honorable gentleman.
– When the Prime Minister is checking up the number of unemployed in Victoria and New South Wales will he also check up the number of men who were unemployed when the Lyons Government came to office in 1932 ? Will he ascertain whether the number was not 200,000?
– Yes, I shall hare those figures taken out.
– Will the Prime Minister ascertain the position, and if possible, before Parliament adjourns, advise the House, or myself privately, when the contemplated munitions annexe at Launceston will be established and in working order?
– I shall obtain such information as is available and give it to the honorable member this week.
– Can the Minister for Commerce say what the Government intends to do about the acquisition of the 1940-41 wheat crop? Can the Minister say when the next payment will be made for the 1939-40 wheat pool and what the amount of the payment will be?
– The Government will acquire the next crop in the interests of the farmers. A payment for the 1939-40 pool was made on Friday last. I can assure the honorable gentleman that, at this stage, I have not considered when the next payment will he made.
– I ask the Prime Minister: Has the Government had submitted to it by a Mr. Buckman a formula for the manufacture of a motor fuel with a power-alcohol base, and requiring no dilution with petrol? Was such fuel sub mitted to test by the Commonwealth Fuel Advisor (Mr. Rogers) and found to be entirely satisfactory ? Did Mr. Buckman, as the inventor, indicate that in territories under the control of the Commonwealth there were materials sufficient to produce at least 200,000,000 gallons of power alcohol per annum at a price which would make it economically sound ? If so, why has the Government not taken action to make use of this formula in order to conserve dollar exchange and, at the same time, make Australia independent of overseas sources for the supply of fuel?
– A proposal substantially of the kind referred to by the honorable member was submitted to the Ministry and it was examined on certain aspects by Mr. Rogers, the department’s expert. The problem of the economics of the proposal will come before the Power Alcohol Committee which will begin its sittings, I think, on Thursday this week.
– I ask the Minister for Defence Co-ordination whether instructions have been given for the erection of refuges from bombs in Melbourne ? If so, where are they? Will he consider the erection of underground passages at the intersection of Elizabeth, Swanston, Russell and Flinders streets to the railway stations, so that when the war is over, they will still be useful?
– I shall look into that matter.
– I ask the Minister for Commerce whether, in view of rising costs of production in Australia, it is proposed to review the contract with the Government of the United Kingdom for the disposal of Australian wool in the coming season?
– The price obtained last year will rule for this year too.
– In view of the fact that Great Britain and Australia are dependent on the United States of
America for supplies of magnesium alloy for the production of aircraft and that the United States of America will allow only limited supplies to come to Australia, which has urgent need of the metal, will the Prime Minister take the necessary steps to establish in Australia an industry for the production of magnesium ?
– I am aware of the honorable member’s interest in this matter, because he has spoken to me about it himself. The matter is at present under investigation. As soon as I am able to give him a reply I shall do so.
– Will that be before the elections?
– Oh, yes.
– Has the Prime Minister seen in the Sydney Morning Herald and other newspapers, reports that the journalists from the United States of America, who are visiting Australia, had interviews with the Director-General of Munitions Production, Mr. Essington Lewis, and took newsreels of various Australian munitions works? Has the Prime Minister also seen photographs which show that some of these journalists carry cameras? Will the pictures that have been taken by these journalists be allowed to go out of Australia? If so, how can that conform to the regulations that were issued early in the war forbidding citizens to approach defence works with cameras? I do not raise this matter in a hostile way, because we welcome these people, and are friendly to them and their nation, but does the Prime Minister not think it extremely dangerous for photographs of important defence works to be taken out of this country?
– The journalists, and presumably the photographers, referred to, were accompanied by the Director- General of Information, who administers the censorship. I assume that the ordinary rules of censorship have applied, but I shall ascertain whether that is so.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior inform me whether, for the pur poses of the next general elections, members of the Australian Imperial Force and Royal Australian Air Force at present on service in Darwin will be enrolled as electors of the Northern Territory or of the electoral divisions in which they resided prior to going to Darwin?
– I shall obtain the information for the honorable member.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior able to tell me the last day upon which citizens will be able to secure enrolment on the supplementary rolls for the purposes of the coming elections?
– The information will be made available in due course, and in good time.
– Has the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior been drawn to the appalling housing conditions prevailing at Darwin which require two or three families to live in one small house, and, in many cases, the husbands to live in tents apart from their families? If so, what does he intend to do to improve such conditions?
– My attention has not been drawn to the matter referred to by the honorable member, but if he will furnish me with a statement relating to the conditions of which he complains. I shall submit it to theMinister for the Interior for inquiry.
– I lay upon the table the following paper: -
Ordered to be printed.
– Is the Prime Minister able to say whether there is any foundation for current rumours that Australian Consolidated Industries Limited has entirely dropped its plans for the establishment of the motor vehicle manufacturing industry in Australia? If there is no foundation for these rumours, will the right honorable gentleman inform me whether the company intends to commence operations before the end of the war?
– I do not know what the position is at the moment, but I shall make inquiries from the company to ascertain the exact situation.
Mr. FRANCIS, as chairman, presented the report and recommendations of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works relating to the proposed erection of a repatriation hospital at Randwick.
– Will the Minister for Supply and Development furnish me with the latest available figures showing the monthly, quarterly or half-yearly importations of petrol from abroad, and indicating whether they show a decline of such im por ta tions ?
– I shall be pleased to go through the figures and furnish them to the honorable member.
– Has the Prime Minister noticed recently published press statements attributed to Mr. Mair, the Premier of New South Wales, to the effect that the present system of interning enemy aliens is inadequate, and that, in the opinon, of his Government, all enemy aliens should be interned to ensure the safety of this country ? Has the Commonwealth Government taken any steps to ascertain whether the present methods of internment are adequate for the safety of the country,
– I have seen statements of the kind referred to by the honorable member. The Commonwealth Government does not accept the view that all enemy aliens, irrespective of their circumstances, should be interned. The Government has applied the policy of interning all people who are disloyal, or who have been found guilty of subversive activities. Where there is any real doubt, the benefit of it is given to the safety of the community. Where there is no such doubt, the Government is not able to agree that persons who have been received into the sanctuary of this country should not be permitted to enjoy it.
– I ask the Minister for Commerce whether, in view of the serious loss that Western Australian growers of two-row barley have incurred in consequence of the adoption of the barley acquisition scheme, action will be taken to compensate them?
– All questions relating to breaches of contract in that connexion have been submitted by the Commonwealth Government to His Honour Judge Payne for consideration. Claims may be presented to His Honour until the end of this month.
.- I move -
That regulations 1, 2, 3 and 4 of the National Security (Employment) Regulations (contained in Statutory Rules 1940, No. 128, made under the National Security Act 1939- 1940) be disallowed.
I have moved this motion because the regulations constitute a definite and indisputable step in the direction of industrial conscription. From time to time legislation has been passed dealing in a general way with the control of labour and industry, but these regulations leave no possible room for doubt regarding the Government’s intention. Parliament met on the 6th August, and that was the first opportunity which presented itself to move a motion for the disallowance of the regulations. My, motion was lodged on the 7th August, so it cannot be said that I jumped the claim of any one else who might have desired to move a motion of this kind. Since notice of my motion was given, the Australasian Council of Trade Unions has become interested in the matter. According to a press report, a telegram has been despatched by the council urging the Federal Labour party to move for the disallowance of Statutory Rule 128 under the National Security
Act. I cite that not to canvass support for my motion, but to controvert certain statements made in the Senate that the trade union movement supported the regulations.
It is interesting to trace the development of this matter. Two previous pieces of legislation have a bearing upon it - the National Security Act 1939-1940 and the National Registration Act 1939. They may be regarded as pointers indicating the general trend of Government policy regarding the control of labour. Upon the introduction of the National Registration Bill, the Opposition vigorously objected on the ground that the Government was preparing the way for industrial conscription. This was emphatically denied by members of the Government, and by all honorable members supporting the Government who took part in the debate. The then Minister for the Army, the late Mr. Street, when moving the second reading of the National Registration Bill, said -
There are, I believe, some who say that this is a form of industrial conscription, that it is proposed to do something that is foreign to the spirit of democracy, something thai is abhorrent to Australians.
Those are strong words, stronger perhaps than those used by many who condemned the bill as a step in the direction of industrial conscription, but they were used by a responsible member of the Government. The next step was taken when the Supply and Development Bill was introduced. The Opposition was again suspicious of the Government’s intentions, because of the special manner in which it was proposed to treat servants of the Crown. The Opposition believed that, under the powers conferred in the bill, the Government could apply industrial conscription to persons in the service of the Crown, In order to allay fears of that kind the Government on 30th September, 1939, adopted the rather unusual procedure of supporting amendments moved by the Opposition to the Supply and Development Bill and designed to remove all doubt on this point. It is also important to remember that an amendment of section 13 of the National Security Act, passed on the 20th June of this year, gives the Government power over all persons, and “ all persons “ means, I take it, persons of all ages and both sexes. Therefore, every one, irrespective of age or sex, is covered by Statutory Rule No. 128 and its regulations, which I have moved to disallow, because they constitute a definite instalment of industrial conscription. These are the earliest regulations issued in pursuance of the enormous powers recently granted to the Government under the National Security Act. They supersede regulation 59 a of the 24th May, 1940, which was cancelled by Statutory Rule No. 157. What was the effect of regulation 59 a, which has now been cancelled ? Regulation 2, paragraphs 1, 2 and 3, which I am now moving to disallow, are precisely the same as 59 a, paragraphs 1, 2 and 3, up to a point, but here is the difference: Paragraph 2 of 59 a contains these words -
But nothing in this regulation shall authorize the imposition of industrial conscription.
These vital and- significant words are missing from the regulation under discussion. Even the Prime Minister will not deny that the deletion of those words was deliberate, and that its only purpose must be the abolition of the one safeguard that the workers had against industrial conscription.
– The honorable member is falling into error. Those words were omitted by a recent amendment of the National Security Act.
– I do not deny that, but the Prime Minister will admit, I am sure, that the amendment, no matter what may appear in these regulations, covers persons of all ages and both sexes. The mask of deception has been dropped, and that which the Opposition feared, and the Government denied, namely, industrial conscription, has been brought about. The story, in sequence, is that regulation 59 a, gazetted on the 24th May, 1940, deliberately prohibited industrial conscription. The next step was that on the 20th June, 1940, the Government amended the National Security Act to permit the industrial control of all persons and subjected them to. a form of compulsion in industry. The regulations of the 5th July last superseded and abolished the safeguard contained in regulation 59 a, and represented the first instalment of industrial conscription. In. the words of the late Mr. Street, “ something that is foreign to the spirit of democracy, something that is abhorrent to Australians “, has come to pass. Paragraph 1 of regulation 2 provides that if it appears to the Minister that the efficient prosecution of the war is likely to be prejudiced by reason of a shortage of persons skilled in any particular trade, he may take action to train a sufficient number of persons in that trade. This, of course, means the dilution of skilled trades. Paragraph 2 empowers the Minister to destroy any award, determination or agreement in order to carry out his purpose. I submit that the onus of proof that there is a scarcity of skilled labour in any industry rests on the Government. After viewing the munitions works and annexes we are convinced that the skilled men in those works are not being used to the fullest advantage. This was particularly noticeable when we visited the Chullora workshops and annexe. Fifty men were engaged inside the munitions annexe at the Chullora shops and of the 30 outside the annexe who were employed in British munitions factories during the last war, not one is engaged in munitions work to-day despite the fact that their services have been offered to the Government by the New South Wales Railways Commissioner. Similar offers by State workshops and by private manufacturers have been rejected. I have no doubt that such a state of affairs exists in many other places. Apparently it does not suit the Government to make use of available skilled labour, though for what reason I have never been informed.
– What would be the Government’s object in refusing to employ these men?
– I do not think the Government is aware of the position. It is satisfied to obey the dictates of the representatives of big business in this connexion. For all we know, it might suit Mr. Essington Lewis’s purpose to keep these factories out of the munitions pool, and I presume that it is his guidance that the Government is following. Regulation 2 provides that if it appears to the Minister that there is a scarcity of labour he may take action to correct the position. I question very much whether the Minister, offhand, could even name half a dozen factories engaged in the manufacture of munitions, or whether he could tell the House, from his personal knowledge, anything about the availability of skilled labour in certain industries. Although the regulation provides that the Minister may do certain things, he has to rely for advice on his advisers, in this case the State munitions boards or Mr. Essington Lewis. Who, after all, is Mr. Essington Lewis?
– He is the best man in Australia for the job.
– That may be so, but we must also remember that he is a representative of the steel combine which is the biggest “ munitioneer “ in Australia. He is certainly no good friend of the workers engaged in the steel industry. Who are the members of the New South Wales Munitions Board ? The board comprises Sir Phillip Goldfinch, managing director of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited; Mr. Hartigan, Commissioner of Railways for New South Wales, and Mr. Kneeshaw, a representative of the cement combine, who was at one time and may still be as far as I am aware, a member of the United Australia party consultative council of New South Wales. Thus, this fine democratic organization is largely composed of those who rank in the Commonwealth as the greatest exploiters of the workers. Trade union officials say of their companies that they always attempt to evade awards of the Arbitration Courts by pleading that the industries they represent should not be covered by the awards. These are the men upon whose advice the Minister will make his decisions. I anticipate the reply of the Prime Minister that on the New South Wales Munitions Board is also a representative of the trade union movement, Mr. Cranwell, of the Amalgamated Engineers Union. How did Mr. Cranwell secure his appointment? I addressed a question to the Prime Minister in this House on the 6th August last in an endeavour to ascertain this information. I knew that Mr. Cranwell was not recommended for appointment by the Australasian Council of Trade Unions, by the Trades and Labour Council of New South
Wales or by any responsible union. I was informed by the Prime Minister that he was appointed on the recommendation of the Munitions Board itself. The trade union movement has always jealously guarded its right to elect its own representatives to these bodies. Why was it not permitted to do so on this occasion? Some years ago a delegation in which he was a representative of the trade union movement was appointed by the Bruce-Page Government to visit America. Included in the delegation, however, was a man who had not been endorsed by any trades and labour council in Australia.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. G. J. Bell).Order ! The honorable member is not discussing the motion.
– I am endeavouring to point out the credentials of the gentleman who is supposed to represent the Labour movement on the New South Wales Munitions Board.
– The question of the appointment of a member of a delegation appointed years ago can scarcely be related to the motion before the Chair.
– I merely refer to it to show how the trade union movement has always jealously guarded its right to choose its own representatives. That was the first demonstration of force on the part of the Labour movement against this method of making such appointments. There was a similar disputation between the Labour movement and the Government in connexion with the selection of delegates to represent the movement at Geneva.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman must realize that he is not discussing the motion before the Chair.
– The Labour movement has the same deep-rooted objection to-day to delegates being selected as the men have been selected for these particular boards, which are typical of the committees that will guide the Minister in making his decisions. I cast no aspersion on the patriotic endeavour of the members of these boards; they may bo impelled by the highest patriotic motives. But it must always be remembered that the interests which they represent, and will continue to repre sent after the termination of the war, are interests that have fought the Labour movement from time immemorial. The Labour movement has expended hundreds of thousands of pounds in fighting them in the courts in order to secure for the workers in industry the wages, the hours of labour, the customs, and the usages, that they have. The advantages the workers have derived have been dragged from the employing class. Those interests have been fought tooth and nail. Yet to them is being given the power to destroy all that has been achieved. These conditions in industry have been a thorn in the side of the interests which these persons privately represent, and they would not be human if they did not take some advantage of the powers that they will be able to wield. It may be argued that these regulations cover only certain defined trades. In reply to such a contention I would point out that paragraph 4 of regulation 2 makes the following provision: -
It will therefore be seen that sufficient power is given to enable every sphere of industrial activity to be covered. To say that the regulation merely covers whatwe usually regard as munitions of war is an exaggeration. It covers the whole of the organizations which might, in even the remotest degree, be engaged in war effort. Any factory could be covered, no matter how small its contribution might be to the war effort. Regulation 3 provides that no employer can employ a man without a clearance from his former employer or from the Director of Labour. That places the workers practically in the position of ticket-of-leave men. Paragraph 1 of regulation 4 prevents an employer from offering more than the basic wage for which provision is made in the schedule. This, I contend, is a denial of the first principle of arbitration, under which the practice has been merely to fix the minimum wage tobe paid. This regulation compulsorily makes the minimum the maximum, and. consequently, is opposed to every principle of arbitration. When the Arbitration Court makes an award for the workers, from the labourer to the highest skilled tradesman, it always fixes the minimum wage, and leaves it to the discretion of the employer to compensate a man for any additional skill or ability he may possess. Ry compulsorily making the minimum the maximum, this regulation leaves no margin for the recognition of extra skill or efficiency. It will destroy individuality and initiative, and will lead to a form of passive resistance on the part of those workers in factories who are compelled to give their labour for the wage fixed in the schedules. It is true that any higher marginal rate being paid to an existing employee will be maintained; but any new men who are engaged, no matter how high may be the degree of skill or efficiency they possess, cannot be paid more than the minimum provided in the schedule. That will lead to discontent, and will not make for greater efficiency in this industry, at which the Government professes to aim. We do not propose that there shall be any interference with either the first or the second schedule; that is a simple and an ingenious trap into which we shall not be led. The schedules represent merely classifications and marginal payments for which provision is made in the respective arbitration awards or ‘agreements. These could be safeguarded, in any case, by the policing of the awards. Consequently, the inclusion of the schedules in the regulations does not afford any additional protection. So far, the Government has not attacked those standards, but in all probability they will next be attacked. Speaking on the National Security Bill on the 20th June last, the Prime Minister said -
No government has any desire to impair the industrial standards and conditions that the trade unions of Australia have obtained and now enjoy. Of course not.
He was asked, “ Will you stick to that ? “, and his reply was -
But I say to the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. McHugh) and to the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) whose voice I hear, that it would be sheer humbug for any Prime Minister- of Australia to stand in his place to-day and say that those standards will never be impaired.
In the Sydney Daily Telegraph of the 27th June last, the right honorable gentleman is reported to have said -
In speeding up the production of munitions, there are bound to be cases of excess spread of hours. Payment for overtime and working conditions generally will be affected.
Clearly, the right honorable gentleman anticipated that there might be reached the stage when these brilliant munitions committees, which are so effectively providing munitions in New South Wales that many of the troops are only partially clothed and armed, would make further recommendations, under which the minimum standards now provided would be attacked. I believe that this will not be the last attack upon the conditions of the workers in industry, but that it is merely the initial step and that other steps will be taken at a later date further to impair those conditions. We shall resist any attack that might be made. We regard the schedule as the irreducible minimum, beyond which the Government is not prepared to go. We now know exactly the intentions of the Government when it introduced the national register and the Supply and Development Bill. It then told this House and the people of this country that it had not the slightest intention to introduce industrial conscription in Australia. The provision which gave a guarantee to the workers was enacted for the purpose of lulling the suspicions of the Opposition. The Government even then had designs on the conditions of the workers. I do not think there can now be the slightest doubt in the mind of any person as to its real purpose, namely, industrial conscription. We warn the Government that “ thus far shalt thou go, and no farther “.
– I congratulate the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) on his extremely interesting pre-election speech. True, it had very little relation to the regulations which received formal mention in the motion moved by the honorable member. Its great value, particularly to honorable members who sit on this side of the House, and possibly also to some honorable members of the Opposition, lies in the fact that, for the first time, we have had expounded to us the policy of the new
Labour party. Like some of my colleagues, I have wondered what was the rationale on this subject of this new non-Communist Labour party and have waited until to-day to be informed of it.
The policy that we have had expounded to us is one of complete unreality in respect of the position that confronts us to-day. According to the doctrine that it preaches, there is no war that can shake Australia, and no reason for any realistic approach to any of the problems of this country. That is a completely negative and unreal policy. It is garnished with only one flavour, namely, a bitter and childish hatred of the best industrialist in Australia, Mr. Essington Lewis. I can expect to hear mention of the speech of the honorable member being made throughout Australia. Judging by the view held of Mr. Essington Lewis by this party, that gentleman does not want to employ competent munitions workers or to marshal the resources of munitions factories. Apparently, he would like Australia to be successfully invaded and defeated. If there is one man who has been responsible for industrial development and preservation in Australia, it is this great industrialist. Hatred of him is a poor foundation on which to build a policy, yet such a policy has been evolved by this group which proposes to ask the people of Australia to return it to office.
The honorable member for Dalley has argued that the regulations in question are the first instalment of industrial conscription. “ Conscription “ is a “ blessed word “ to use ; it is a great catch phrase. With commendable industry, the honorable member for Dalley goes back to regulation 59 and finds in it words which exclude industrial conscription. When he looks at regulation 12S, he does not find those words. That is true. The same may be said of national security legislation. The National Security Act of 1940 is not limited, as was the act of the previous year; on the contrary, it gives to the Government very wide powers over persons, their services and their property.
– The honorable member for Dalley did not support that legislation.
– I was about to say that the Australian Labour party supported it, but at the moment I feel somewhat like a matrimonial magistrate, because when I look at honorable members opposite, I do not know whether I am attending proceedings for a separation or a divorce, or proceedings designed to lead to a reconciliation. The Labour party - I mean the Australian Labour party whose leader in this House is the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Curtin) - supported that legislation.
– I am the only one here with an identity disc.
– Yes; the Labour party of which the honorable member is the leader in this House supported the national security legislation of 1940.
– Some of its members did.
– I said that the party supported that legislation. I do not undertake to speak for the few individuals who may have separated themselves from that party. I remind the House that when that bill was being debated in this chamber the Leader of the Opposition said that he spoke for his party, and I have no doubt that he did so speak. Of course, the “ nonCommunist “ or “ anti-Communist “ - at least, the “ something to do with Communists” Labour party - voted against that bill, and to that degree its members are consistent. But at that point the honorable member for Dalley goes further, for he finds that my late lamented colleague, the former Minister for the Army (Mr. Street), said that industrial conscription, or any compulsion applied to persons employed in industry, was foreign to Australian ideas. That is true. I think the actual phrase was “ something abhorrent to Australia “. Has the honorable member for Dalley forgotten that, since that time, something more abhorrent to Australia has occurred in the world? Has he forgotten that, since then, Holland, Belgium, Denmark and Poland have been crushed, and France defeated ?
– And that the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited has showed bigger profits than before?
– Before he goes to the people the honorable member should consider seriously whether this overrunning of a great portion of the world by brute force is not abhorrent to the people of Australia. If he does that, he will give up talking in unreal terms. He will recognize, as the Labour party itself recognized when the bill was before the House, that in a time of emergency and danger unusual things have to be done. The honorable member was good enough to quote me. He could do no better; it is an exercise that I commend to him. But he quoted what I said when I was asked by a member of the Opposition whether I was prepared, in effect, to guarantee that there would be no impairment of standards in Australia. My reply was “ No “. No Prime Minister who was not a humbug could give such a guarantee.
– Hear, hear!
– The best Labour men with whom I have had conversation in recent months have said quite plainly that, in certain circumstances, every standard that we have may be impaired. They are concerned - and, I say, properly concerned - to see that the first sacrifice shall not be made by the people whom they represent. They claim that whatever sacrifice has to be made must be shared by all. Let us apply that principle to these regulations. I strongly advise the honorable member for Dalley to read the regulations.
– I have done so.
– It is true that the honorable member made some academic reference to them. What do these regulations do? Regulation 2 provides for the training and employment of persons for the production of munitions or supplies. The regulation reads -
Does the honorable member for Dalley quarrel with the principle of ministerial responsibility? Does he quarrel with the idea that a Minister of State, who is responsible to this Parliament, shall be satisfied about these things? If that be his quarrel, the honorable member is worse than I thought he was, for his quarrel is with democracy. That regulation is based upon a realization of the fact, which no honorable member can challenge, that from time to time in war a nation may find itself short of skilled tradesmen of one class or another. Before that regulation was promulgated the Government conferred with the two great engineering unions, the Amalgamated Engineers Union and the Australasian Society of Engineers, which frankly recognized that some steps had to be taken to increase the number of skilled tradesmen.
– Does the Prime Minister say that they asked for this regulation ?
– They did not ask for what is here.
– Does the right honorable gentleman say that the panel discussed this regulation?
– This regulation arises out of the agreement between the Government and the engineering unions in respect of the dilution of labour, which was negotiated by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) when he was a member of the Ministry. This regulation is designed to give effect to that agreement and to other agreements of the same kind. It is a perfectly plain recognition of the realities of the war position.
Regulation 3 is probably the one to which the honorable member of Dalley particularly referred.
– It is.
– It reads-
– (1.) An employer shall not engage any employee to whom this regulation applies unless he produces -
– The right honorable gentleman has again gone past the second regulation.
– I have said what I wanted to say in regard to it. The honorable member must fight this matter out with the engineering unions.
– Regulation 3 imposes restrictions upon the transfer of certain employees from one place of employment to another. To what classes of employees does it refer? The list is given in the first schedule, which I am grateful to know the honorable member for Dalley proposes to leave standing. The list is as follows: -
Forger and/or faggoter.
Machinist (Engineerings - First-class).
Tradesman - gun manufacture.
Tradesman - fitter and/or turner.
That is a relatively restricted class of men who are in great demand, because they are key men in the manufacture of munitions. “What is the Government to do? Is it to stand by in a time of war and say, “ We do not carewhether you stay in civil employment or not. We are quite prepared to allow employers to bid up in order to retain the services of men who are needed for the production of materials of war “ ? At such a time no Government could refuse to take power which would enable it to marshal the services of the best and most skilled men for the production of munitions.
– The honorable gentleman must not make the mistake of thinking that, merely because he makes a complaint, that complaint is justified.
– It was proved.
– This regulation was designed to put a block on the transfer of certain men, for the reasons that I have given. When that matter came to be discussed, the question arose as to whether the Government would be entitled to penalize a man who could command a higher salary elsewhere by saying “ You must stay where you are “. That matter was discussed with at least one representative of the trade union movement who now acts as Director of Labour in the Department of Munitions. The proposal was made - and I submit that it was fair - that if restrictions were to be imposed on the movement of men from one employment to another they should be paid an adequate margin for the skill that they possess. It is wrong to say that these margins, which are set out in the second schedule, are merely those prescribed by certain awards. Reference was made to the greater margins being paid in government munitions establishments. Those greater margins were made of universal application to men engaged in this class of work. The result was that the margins of a great number of men affected by this regulation were increased. Not one man had his margin reduced. That increase was in the nature of compensation for the restriction imposed on these men by the regulation. I ask honorable members to say whether that is unjust or unreasonable in a time of war. I am discussing the case, not of people whose standard had been impaired, but of people whose standards had been increased, although they had had certain restrictions placed upon them in regard to moving from one employment to another. The view that the House and the people will take will depend entirely on whether or not they take a realist view of the war and its problems. The detached and unreal view put forward by the honorable member for Dalley, I assume on behalf of his party-
– The right honorable gentleman’s presumption is correct.
– The unreal view is to regard the war as something distant from us - a news item - and that, therefore, it is safe to play the petty game of politics as before. Those who take that unreal view can make speeches like that which the honorable member for Dalley has made to-day: they can say to the people of Australia, as he does, “ If you put me and the members of my party into office, we guarantee that no one in Australia will suffer from this war “. I am sorry, but I can give no guarantee to the people of Australia that nobody will suffer in this war. I believe that we shall all suffer, and I do not believe that the worker is any more immune from suffering than the employer, or the citizen who is neither an employer nor an employee. The real problem is a problem of being fair, and if there were ever a regulation which approached this difficult matter fairly, with proper generosity and with appreciation of what will happen to these men, this is the regulation. The honorable member reached what I might with respect treat as the pinnacle of his eloquence on the subject of how we got the trade union men on the State committees of management, and he made brief reference to an honoured trade unionist of this country, Mr. Cranwell, the president of the Amalgamated Engineering Union, a man of undoubted standing and a representative of one of the most important unions from the point of view of munitions manufacture in Australia. He has gone on to the committee. My honorable friend from Dalley says, “ Why didn’t you get the trade union movement to nominate him?” I hope the honorable gentleman, when he has leisure to sit down, will write me- a letter and tell me how one consults the trade union movement. I should like to know. But to-day the honorable gentleman says, “ You should have consulted the Australasian Council of Trade Unions “.
– I did not say that at all. I asked the right honorable gentleman whether he had consulted the Australasian Council of Trade Unions, the Trades and Labour Council, or any responsible union.
– I am sorry ; I apologize. I might have known that the honorable member would have a backway out - and he had - -because, if I had the opportunity to question him closely, I should ask, “Do you recommend the Australasian Council of Trade Unions ? “ and his answer would be “ No; some other body”. I should say, “What other body “, and his answer would be “ I do not know; any body, so long as it is a reputable body”. Who knows what it is ? I talked to the Australasian Council of Trade Unions. I should mention no names, but it is a body of reputable men with whom the Australian Workers Union will have nothing to do, in whom the engineering union does not take a great interest. The Marine Council, or is it the Maritime Council - my friend will know - has no connexion with the Australasian Council of Trade Unions.
What am I to do? Life is short. Time goes on and these problems are pressing. So we . got a man whose standing, personally, as a head of a great union, is so high that nobody, the Australasian Council of Trade Unions, the Australian Workers ‘Union, the Maritime Council, the Australian Labour party (non-Communist), or any other group professing, or calling itself a representative of, unionism, could quarrel with the choice. Does anybody, in fact, quarrel with the standing or authority of the president of the Amalgamated Engineering Union as a representative of unionism, or with the standing and authority of any of the men who are on the State committees of management? Not at all. But my friend yonder, saying to himself, “ The regulation does not matter, but the election does”, comes along and says, “You have not gone through the right channel “ ; and it is as difficult to select the right channel through which to -approach the trade union movement as it is, on any given day, to write down a list of the new groups which have formed themselves on the much-haunted flanks of the political Labour party of Australia.
– This is a practical problem. It is not a problem of platitudes or catch cries. It is a question as to how the Government is to give effect to the powers which it sought to enable it adequately to defend Australia. It is perfectly true that the Opposition decided that the entire resources of this nation should be at the disposal of the Government. That was a decision, not only of the party here, but also of the authoritative body of the Labour party as it exists in Australia. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) welcomed that decision as a manifestation of the readiness of the responsible and authoritative people of Australia to co-operate with the Government in the face of the common danger, and he said, “ We are taking compulsive power, but the best way to exercise that power is co-operatively.” We have sought to give in respect of the defence of this country, the maximum degree of co-operation, so that there would be at least, to the citizens of this country, regardless of individual political opinions, the spectacle of the Parliament and Government doing their best to save them in the face of a dreadful situation. I shall mot debate that declaration myself. It stands. I say that the Opposition could more effectively defend this country than the Government can, having regard to the policy which it is applying. That is merely my opinion ; I allow for another opinion. But that is our positive declaration and, if we come into power to-morrow, we shall not repeal the National Security Act, because there could not be any defence for this country if it were repealed. We say that we shall operate the law cooperatively.
These regulations were gazetted by His Excellency the Governor-General, no doubt in accordance with the advice tendered to him by Ministers. Ministers said that they desired to get the maximum output of munitions and that it was desirable that there should be power to make necessary arrangements to train fitters and other tradesmen for occupations in which there was a deficiency of- skilled labour. We agreed to that. We say that it is perfectly proper that they should be trained, but we want to know what are the conditions under which they arc to be trained. There is no conflict as to the objective and purpose. Every body knows that we have to command the very considerable capacity of this country to produce means of defence. No doubt more and more workmen will be required and, inevitably, having regard to all circumstances, a greater number of persons, who are unaccustomed to work of this type, will have to be trained in order that their services may be used to reinforce the services of those already trained. The regulations say that the Minister may make arrangements for training. I agree that that should be, but not if the Minister himself makes arrangements which conflict with what I consider to be fair and reasonable, which would be a violation of industrial standards. The emergency that the right honorable the Prime Minister had in mind when he said, “ I am not able to guarantee everything in the years to come”, has not arisen. At least, up to when the regulations were gazetted there was no need, in the arranging for the training of tradesmen, to impair any of the standards customarily practised in the affected crafts. There is no indication of how conditions under which these men are to be trained will be affected.
– That is the point made by the engineers.
– I know that. The regulations say that any arrangement which the Minister may make shall be lawful notwithstanding the existence of any statute, award or condition to the contrary. The regulation, I submit, gives to the Government not merely the power to carry out all of the objectives of the country, but also authority to fix conditions of training regardless of anything else. The Prime Minister very properly says that that involves ministerial responsibility. I agree, but I point out that, in spite of all the difficulties that the Prime Minister has had in the constitution of the industrial panel, this is a job which most properly is a responsibility for the panel. It is the responsibility of the panel to give advice.
– I agree.
– The first meeting of the panel was held on the 9th August. The regulations were gazetted long before the Prime Minister was successful in constituting the panel, and I should have preferred that the regulations had not been gazetted until the panel had had opportunity to consider the problem of the Government in relation to the training of persons for reinforcing the existing capacity for output in Australia. I still submit that it is very desirable that the panel should look at the matter in order that the Prime Minister might have its advice.
– I informed the panel at its first meeting that all regulations which touched employment in any way, although made in the past, would be forwarded to it, and that, if it had any suggestions to make in relation to any of them, they would be considered.
– I understand that that is true, because I had consultation with some members of the panel after it had its first meeting.
I say parenthetically that the Prime Minister’s difficulties in regard to the constitution of the panel are difficulties which any ‘Prime Minister would experience in Australia, because, as everybody knows, there is no complete unified organization of labour in Australia. There are all sorts and sections of unions which will affiliate with the Trades and Labour Council and others which will not. There is the Australasian Council of Trade Unions, with which some unions are affiliated and with which some trades councils are affiliated. Those unions exist in more populous States, and they may have a very large membership. This is one of the inevitable problems of organization of labour. Carlyle declared that he who would organize labour on a complete basis would achieve the most extraordinary success of any man who had ever attempted to do anything for society. The organization of labour is the supreme problem of the modern world. We have not organized labour in Australia; we have it partially organized, and within the realities of that situation we have to work.
I say to the trade union movement and to the Australasian Council of Trade Unions that with the panel now existing I am quite satisfied It is composed of men who are representative spokesmen, quite competent adequately to represent the trade union movement. I should be glad if the Australasian Council of Trade Unions as a sort of greater entity of unionism of Australia would go into the panel as it already exists.
– Hear, hear!
– I say, therefore, that these regulations ought to go to the panel for immediate consideration. In the meantime, no harm will be done by disallowing the regulations.
– Disallowance would disallow the dilution agreement already made.
– No; that agreement is independent of the regulations and it is an agreement which will be honoured by the trade union movement. The statutory rule is not an imperative necessity for the observance of the agreement already made. I venture to say that it will be honoured in any event. If the regulations were disallowed and the panel met, the panel could, after discussion with the Minister, indicate its view upon the matter. The Minister would then be in a position to advise the GovernorGeneral to establish the regulations in a way which would entirely meet the cooperative aspects of the Prime Minister’s proposals to Parliament as against a purely arbitrary exercise of the powers. Regulation 3 could on the face of it, be invoked to prevent any man from leaving one job to accept another. To that degree, therefore, a man may be compelled to remain in his present employment.
– In the classes of trades mentioned.
– I do not agree that the regulation applies to persons other than those engaged in the occupations set out in the first schedule. The extraordinary thing is that the Australasian Council of Trade Unions was asked by me to say what it thought of the regulation and sent me a telegram asking me to support a motion of disallowance; but to-day it has sent me another stating that it does not desire the first and second schedules to be eliminated. In fact, however, to eliminate the clause complained of would leave the schedule absolutely meaningless.
– But the men would still be covered bv awards.
– It should be borne in mind that the subject-matter of this regulation was discussed with the unions whose members fall within the classifications of the schedule.
– That is true. I myself held consultations with the unions and pointed out to them that the rates of pay set out in the schedules were better in respect of the workmen concerned than the rates of pay set out in their respective awards. That should be remembered by the workers who are affected.
– But workers of the classes specified always receive rates of pay higher than those stipulated in the awards.
– Quite so, but the point has been taken that the awards would be as satisfactory as the schedules. I dispute that. But for the existence of this regulation men not transferred to another employer might be compelled to remain with their existing employer under the rates of pay stipulated in their awards, and would thus get no benefit from the margins set out in this regulation.
– What is the difference between the rates of pay set out in the award and those set out in the regulation?
– That is not the point. If all the men affected could be assured of similar rates of pay and similar margins, one employer would not be able to entice men from another. Prior to the gazettal of this regulation some employers were actually enticing skilled men from other employers by offering them certain increases of pay, with the result that the organization of industry for munition-making purposes became somewhat demoralized, and certain contractors were unable to keep up deliveries. This was undoubtedly due to the fact that some of their employees were being lured away by other employers. It was because of this that the Director of Labour, Mr. J. B. Chifley, took action. He said, in effect, that the fairest thing to do was to make sure that wherever a man worked in these occupations he should receive the maximum margins, and he selected those set out in the schedule. Whatever may be said about Mr. Chifley I do not think that any one would accuse him of being a wage-reducer.
– Oh yes he is. He favoured the Premiers plan.
– And he was expelled from his own union!
– The honorable gentlemen who have interjected are, no doubt, good at politically jibing other people. I say quite frankly that, from the point of view of securing justice for the workers of Australia, the record of Mr. Chifley will compare with that of any other man in the country. I do not desire to introduce personalities into this discussion, for it is time that we dropped all that kind of thing; I merely observe that in my opinion Mr. Chifley is not a wage-reducer.
– He was a Premiers planner.
– Well, once more the family is displaying a little discord.
Having outlined the circumstances that led to the drafting of this regulation, I submit that now that the panel has been constituted, the right thing to do is to clean the slate. Let us disallow the regulation and permit the panel to give unhampered consideration to the rates of pay and the general conditions that should apply to the classes of work involved. The importance of work of the kind under discussion cannot be overemphasized. It is of major significance in relation to the capacity of Australia to produce munitions. That there must be some regulation of this class of work appears to be obvious. I know that a good deal can be said pro and con on this subject, and I resent the idea that any government should use arbitrarily, in respect of labour, its power to provide for the defence of the nation. I have accepted and still accept the view that the Prime Minister has never had any intention to do so. I do not think he has any such intention at this moment. I should be surprised to know that he had ever wished to apply his own ipse dixit to labour. He has sought consultation, and has set up the requisite machinery to obtain all advice that is available. He has drawn a very fair line between ministerial responsibility and the obligation that rests upon a Minister to satisfy himself that unfair burdens are not placed upon the people. I have supported the constitution of the trade union panel, and, now that it has been established, I urge that this regulation should be disallowed and that the panel should be asked to deal with the whole matter, in which case I should expect a regulation to be gazetted which would be satisfactory to all concerned.
– I shall touch upon only a few points. I draw the attention of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) to the fact that, although he referred in his remarks to the discussions that took place some time ago between the honorable member forFawkner (Mr. Holt), when he was Assistant Minister, and the Amalgamated Engineering Union, in relation to the dilution of labour, he did not tell the whole story. The Amalgamated Engineering Union feared the possible results of referring the subject of dilution to the Arbitration Court, for it was not pleased with the attitude that the court has previously adopted on the subject. It also feared that if it agreed to the dilution of labour by means of the adoption of the machinery of the court, it might find itself in the position in which labour organizations in Great Britain found themselves after the last war. During the last war, the engineering unions of Great Britain agreed to certain dilutions of labour on the understanding that immediately the war ended the status quo would be restored. That agreement was not honoured. I doubt whether the status quo was ever restored. Even such restorations as were made were the result of continuous agitation. Having that experience in mind, the workers of this country were not willing to take a similar risk. If the employers of Great Britain were unwilling after the last war to restore the status quo, the workers considered that it was quite on the cards that the employers of Australia would not be willing to do so after this war. For that reason, among others, the workers were not prepared to agree to the Arbitration Court dealing with the subject. An agreement was ultimately reached without the intervention of the court, but I do not think that it was an agreement to which the Amalgamated Engineering Union and the Amalgamated Society of Engineers were parties with the Government. I do not think that all the unions concerned were consulted. At any rate, many metal trades organizations were not represented at the preliminary discussions. As a matter of fact, the whole subject became a very live issue among the members of what is known as the metal trades group. The Iron Trades Union, the Moulders Union and the Electrical Trades Union were not called into the consultations, which led to the agreement being adopted. The Amalgamated Engineering Union only was responsible for whatever agreement was made, and I am informed that it was resolved that the agreement was not to form the subject-matter of a regulation at the later stage. We object to the regulation because, in our opinion, it gives the Government the power to override the agreement which it made with the Amalgamated Engineering Union, and also gives it the power to set aside the conditions that were finally endorsed by that union.
We contend that as the Government had made an agreement with the unions in respect of the classes of work referred to, there was no reason for the gazettal of the regulation. The Prime Minister simply drew a red herring across the trail when he suggested that our opposition was actuated by a desire to withhold the services of skilled men from munition-making enterprises. The fact is that the workers have freely offered their skilled services for munitionmaking services, but the Government has not as freely accepted them. Many workers qualified to engage in munitionmaking are to-day still working at other and less essential occupations. It has been said that there is a shortage of skilled labour for munition-making, but that has never been proved. We have challenged the Government again and again on the point and our challenge has not been accepted. We say that the workers have never refused any request made for their services for munitionmaking work. They are, as a matter of fact, prepared to do their utmost to ensure that Australia shall be fully prepared to defend itself. The Prime Minister will recollect that in discussing munitions production some weeks ago I referred to the transference of workers from one employer to another. I mentioned specifically the case of five fitters employed by Australian Consolidated Industries Limited who wish to offer their services to the Railways Commissioner of New South Wales for work in the manufacture of aircraft. These men were employed by Australian Consolidated Industries Limited in fitting and setting up moulds in connexion with the glass industry. This was not essential work and had nothing to do with preparations for defence. The men wished to transfer their services to the aircraft manufacturing industry but were not allowed to do so. The regulation that we are now discussing was invoked by Australian Consolidated Industries Limited to prevent their transfer to the more essential work of aircraft manufacturing, for the company refused the men the necessary permits.
Acting under instructions from the Amalgamated Engineering Union, these men stopped work, and refused to go back to the glassworks.
– Two hours having elapsed since the moving of the motion, I must, under the Standing Orders, call on the Orders of the Day.
Motion (by Mr. Menzies) - by leave - agreed to -
That Standing Order No. 119 be suspended to enable the debate to be continued.
– This is how the regulations apply in the case of marine engineers. When a ship is in dock for repairs, marine engineers sometimes obtain employment ashore. Some of them are now finding that, having taken work ashore, they cannot go back to their ships because their employers refuse them permission to do so. The regulations are also preventing the recruitment of young men to the marine engineering trade. It is necessary for a man to go to sea in order to obtain experience in marine engineering, but young men are being refused permits by their employers to leave their employment to join ships. Here is another instance : A fitter, with special qualifications, had applied for the position of teacher at a technical college to train men under the new labour-dilution scheme. While waiting to hear the result of this application, he took a job at Cockatoo Island dockyard. Recently, he was informed that his application was successful, and he was offered the position at the technical college, but the management of Cockatoo Island dockyard refused him a permit to leave his employment there.
-But surely that was on the ground that he was engaged on essential war work?
– This man had special qualifications which would have enabled him to render more valuable service to his country training men at the technical college than in filing or fitting bearings at the dockyard. The management, however, finding that he was a good fitter, was too selfish to release him for the more important work. I am sure that the members of the industrial panel would not approve of this misuse of the powers conferred by the regulations.
Before issuing regulations of this kind, the Government should first of all have given proof that such extraordinary powers were necessary, but no attempt in that direction has been made, even up to the present time. I have a close knowledge of workshop practice, and am acquainted with many of the men at present engaged in industry. I know that skilled men are straining at the leash to serve their country in the manufacture of aircraft, munitions, or other war material necessary for the defence of the country. There has been no hanging back. Therefore, we object strenuously to the giving of these powers to persons and institutions which the Labour party and the trade union movement have found it necessary to fight for years past. We cannot forget what has happened. It is of no use for the Prime Minister to indulge in special pleading for the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, or for Mr. Essington Lewis. Experience has shown that the patriotism of many persons engaged in big business and financial undertakings is measured, not necessarily by their love of country, but by the profits they can make. The Labour movement has had to fight the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited before, and Mr. Essington Lewis is the key man in the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited. The prosperity of this firm has been built up, to a great degree, on the protection given to it by Parliament, yet it is always trying, now that it has captured the market in Australia, to depress wage standards and conditions of employment. We have no confidence in many of these people, and we resent their enjoying such extraordinary powers.
I am aware that the awards of the Arbitration Court do not provide, in all cases, for the full margins recognized in the various industries.For instance, I know that the Amalgamated Engineering Union works under an agreement in connexion with the munitions plants at Maribyrnong which is something apart from its general award. Is is only right, therefore, that the agreement should stand, even though the rates contained therein are higher than those provided in the award.
– It is an agreement, anyway, it is not conscription.
– That is so. This has particular application to munitions workers at Maribyrnong. This factory has been in operation for a number of years, and the union has been able to enter into agreements with the management providing for matters not necessarily enumerated in the award. There is also the question of the value of a man’s skill under a particular set of conditions. We take the view that no restriction should be placed upon a man possessing special qualifications in his efforts to secure the full margin agreed upon in respect of those qualifications. It cannot be argued that the workers of Australia have refused to offer their services for necessary war work. As a matter of fact, thousands who have offered their services have not yet been called upon. In spite of that, however, the Government has taken these drastic powers, and we fear that even more onerous conditions will be imposed later.
It is cheap for the Prime Minister to suggest that the workers do not realize the seriousness of the situation at the present time. They realize it all too well. Many of them, indeed, are of the opinion that the Government has not realized it to the degree that it should, as otherwise our defence preparations would not have been so lamentably backward. It has been suggested that we are talking to the electors. Well, I trust that we shall be able to convince the electors that we are right. The workers of Australia will not be found wanting when every ounce of energy is wanted, whether in the workshops or on the battlefield in the defence of this country.
.- I support the motion moved by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear). To-day we are seeing this system of government by regulation working at its best. These regulations were made six weeks ago, and now we have an opportunity to discuss them, and to reject them if we see fit; but it is quite possible for regulations to be issued just after the prorogation of Parliament, so that an opportunity to review them might not present itself for six months, or even longer.
I was one of those who voted against the National Security Bill, and I make no apology for my action, because that was intended to give to the Government of the day, without consulting Parliament, power to control the working conditions of the workers, and to break down their standards. I felt strongly on the matter because, at a conference of representatives from all parts of Australia, which sat only the day before, it had been declared that one of the planks of the Labour party’s defence policy should be “full recognition of trade unionism, and the safeguarding of industrial standards “. Knowing what had happened in this country, and in England, I was convinced that these powers would be used to break down industrial standards. The portion of the regulations to which I take the greatest objection is that which prevents a worker from freely changing his employment. When the Supply and Development Bill was under discussion honorable members on this side of the House were successful in having inserted in it a provision that no regulation made under the act should fetter the freedom of movement of workers. Honorable members on this side of the House were very concerned that nothing should be done to interfere with the freedom of workers because of the English experience of similar legislation. In Great Britain at the commencement of the last war not merely did the Political Labour party make a truce with the Government but also the Trade Union Congress entered into a Treasury Agreement by which it consented to a suspension of trade union rules and agreed that there should be no strikes and that all matters in dispute should be submitted to arbitration. Taking advantage of the Treasury Agreement and the acquuiescence of the Trade Union Conference, an act was passed in 1915 entitled the Munitions Act which contained a “ notorious section “ establishing leaving certificates which is the basis of these regulations. That section provided that no worker employed on munitions could change his job, nor any employer give him a job, unless he possessed a certificate from the employer by whom he was last employed that he left work with the consent of his employer, or else a certificate from the Munitions Tribunal that the consent had been unreasonably withheld. According to Maurice Dobb from whose pamphlet Trade Union Experience and Policy 1914-1918 I am quoting, the system of certificates aroused more opposition among the trade union rank and file than perhaps any other single measure brought down during the war years. Dobb says -
The report of the Commissioner for the North Eastern area to the official Committee of Inquiry into Industrial Unrest declared it to he “ one of the most fruitful causes of discontent”. This report proceeded to quote complaints that workers resented being tied to a job and “ as they sometimes put it, virtually in a state of slavery “.
The result of the recommendations of that committee was that the act was amended. Certain modifications were introduced and, although even these were not satisfactory, they have not been introduced here. It was made obligatory for an employer to give a certificate to any worker discharged by him, provided the worker was not guilty of misconduct for the purpose of obtaining discharge, or to any worker who left because he had a justifiable complaint against the conduct of his employer or foreman. If an employer refused to issue the certificate an employee could appeal to the Munitions Tribunal. Notwithstanding that, however, the trade union opposition to the act went on and, although the Trade Union Congress had entered into an agreement that there should be no strikes during the war, unofficial strikes broke out and an entirely unofficial body, known as the shop stewards organization, was set up to provide the strikers with leadership that they did not otherwise have. All of the men affected were liable at any time to be called up for military service abroad. The strikers included women and men whose husbands and sons were fighting but who felt that a great deal was at stake in preserving conditions which had been laboriously built up in a century of trade union organization. They felt that the trade union is more than the agent of those who are now its members. It is the trustee of posterity - the guardian of the interests of that everchanging body of workers that constitute the trade. They felt that they were asked to consent to conditions being broken down not merely for themselves but also for the generations of the future. I think that no more dangerous form of industrial conscription could be introduced into this country than that which provides that workers shall not be free to change their employment without the consent of the Director of Labour. It is useless to talk about the competence of the present Director of Labour; he is a candidate for election to this Parliament and may not occupy his position after the coming elections. Are we to commit ourselves to any Director of Labour? We are told to put absolute powers into the hands of a dictator because he is a good man and will not abuse them; we want the protection of the law and not the goodwill of any person invested with arbitrary power.
I object to the provision in regulation 4 that an employee cannot be paid more than a certain wage. It is all very well to say that the scheduled wage is higher than the present wage rate; but no one can tell whether it will be the proper rate for next year or the year after. I know that this regulation is designed to prevent an employee leaving his employment but I submit that it is only another phase of what we regard as industrial conscription. When the National Security Bill was under discussion I suggested that the Government could get all it wanted by agreement and consultation with the men affected and not by coercion. In spite of that the Government was prepared to take the short cut of coercion and say “ If you do not agree to the things we ask you to agree to, we have the power to compel you That is the position to-day. I believe that the Government is not anxious to do tyrannous things, but it is now in a position to go to employees and say “If you agree to these terms we propose, well and good; if you do not, we are able to impose them on you by law.” That is industrial conscription and I oppose these regulations as the first instalment of it.
.- The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in replying to the motion for the disallowance of these regulations treated us to a fair measure of electioneering eyewash which one might have thought we would have been spared in the light of the fact that it was, from that point of view, a mere repetition of a move discredited and found unsuccessful in the recent byelection for Corio. I hope that I shall not be justly accused of undue reverence for precedent or of slavish adherence to the virtue of consistency, but with due respect for precedent on the one hand and for consistency on the other I feel that I must of necessity support the motion moved by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear). There is a well-known principle of law that a man is assumed to intend the natural and probable consequences of his own acts. When I voted against the National Security Bill I voted in contemplation of such a consequence flowing from the passage of that bill into an act as has in fact now appeared in concrete form in these very regulations which are under discussion. It is true that industrial conscription as we understand it, and as it has been so well explained by the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn), was expressly excluded from, that act ; but it is equally true that the original act went so far and was so dangerously an approximation to industrial conscription that members of the Labour party foresaw the very great danger of accepting the measure and voted against it. I must confess that the amending National Security Bill later introduced occasioned me no surprise because it seemed to me that it was, as I have already said, one of the ultimate consequences which were likely to flow from the original measure. Consistently with my vote against the original bill my vote went against the amending bill which removed one of what some people thought were the safeguards implicit in the original bill. Now, we find that this industrial conscription, which was threatened in the original measure and approved by the amending measure, is finally being given effect in these regulations, as the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) says “ in practical form “. I realize, of course, having regard to the tremendously wide powers of the original bill and its amendment, something of this kind may be adopted again by regulation. When you hand over to an executive government absolute powers you can never by anything done in the House be immune from grave social danger. All that a member of this House can do is to record a vote and state as best he can his reasons for it. I do it at this time in these few words. I am happy to find that the speeches I have made on this subject from the beginning and through the various stages through which consequential legislation has passed, by regulation or otherwise, my original views and succeeding votes, have been entirely justified by events. Therefore I have much pleasure now in supporting by my vote the motion moved by the honorable member for Dalley.
.- I have followed this debate with considerable interest, and have come to the conclusion that the power given to the Government is likely to be used to the detriment of the working class of this country. The practice of profiteering in the production of munitions of war is the basic cause of all the trouble with which we are confronted. It appears to me that the purpose of regulation 3 is to prevent an employer from using racketeering methods in order to secure the services of men who are engaged in the production of munitions in workshops under the partial control of the Government, in order to make enormous profits out of a commodity that is not necessarily required for defence purposes. According to the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley), men cannot be transferred to occupations in which they would be more suitably and valuably employed. That point should be stressed. No man should be taken from an industry in which he is most valuable, and employed in another merely in order that tremendous profits might be made. Labour must, be empowered to exercise a certain degree of control in industry. It has been suggested by previous speakers that I voted for industrial conscription. I give that an emphatic denial. I believe in the workers being given high standards. At no time would I be prepared to assent to their being lowered. I have been just as sincere in my attitude as have other members who claim to be the only “ lily-whites “ in the Labour movement. I do not suggest that it is impossible for me to make a mistake, but I should not wish to hold my seat if the effect of any act of mine was to reduce the standards of the workers. The practice of profiteering in the production of munitions will continue to be the direct cause of all of our troubles unless the Government takes complete control of production, and allows no profits to be made. The honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) is in favour of the payment of certain highly-skilled men at a higher rate than applies generally. In my industrial activities and my association with the trade union movement, I have always found that employers are not philanthropists. If they pay a higher rate to any employee, the object is to use him for speeding-up purposes. The mau who accepts a higher rate has no other purpose than to set a rapid pace, which his fellow workers also have to maintain. The slower men are just as important to industry as those who speed up operations. Speeding should not be tolerated or encouraged. Any scheme having for its object the placing of men where they are most valuable should be evolved by representatives of the employers and employees in co-operation. No man should be transferred from one position to another except with the approval of the trade union representatives. Action of this kind should not be taken at the behest of a Minister, or with the sanction of an employer. The workers should have representation on the industrial panel, in order that they may be kept informed of any move likely to be detrimental to them. I have been twitted by “ lily- whites “, who may shortly be criticizing me in their electorates. I have no wish to score off any of my mates. I stand for good wages and conditions, but am not in favour of the speeding-up system. I recognize as clearly as does the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) that if the Nazis win the war, all of the conditions of the workers of this country will go by the board, as they have in Prance, where the trade union movement has been abolished. There are in Australia big industrialists who are prepared to exploit the Nazi system in order to destroy the trade union movement, and they are supporters of the present Government. If, by disunity in the ranks of the representatives of the workers, the Government is enabled to win the next elections, what will happen to the workers? We must have a united front, with a common cause ; otherwise we may be defeated, and the workers will have industrial conscription imposed on them. I have never been a party to dividing the forces of Labour, either politically or industrially. My leader has suggested that these regulations should be withdrawn and that the matter should be submitted to the industrial panel, so that the trade unions may be given an opportunity to decide what is the proper course to take. Unless the trade union movement is permitted to have a voice in the drafting of regulations affecting the workers, we shall never have co-operation or the highest degree of efficiency. If certain men now employed in different branches of industry would achieve better results if engaged in the training of youths in industrial schools, they should be given that occupation, and the big employers should not be allowed to exploit their skill. Let us take highlyskilled men from industry and place them in the technical schools. If these regulations have had the effect of reducing efficiency, they should be withdrawn and redrafted with the co-operation of the trade unions. When the Opposition supported the Government in its national security legislation, it did not contemplate the enslavement of the workers by imposing on them industrial conscription. If the Government wishes the worker to put forward his best effort, it should not pass legislation the effect of which is to reduce his standards, but rather should endeavour to raise his standards.
– I rise to support the motion for the disallowance of certain regulations under the National Security Act which has been moved by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear). I regret that the Prime Minister should have said that members of the party to which I belong are not realists, in that we fail to recognize the seriousness of the present war situation. Members of this party are fully aware of the happenings overseas, but we claim that if industrial conscription was not necessary when the regulations were issued on the 24th May last after Poland, Finland, Czechoslovakia and other countries had been over-run by the German hordes, it was not necessary when further regulations were issued on the 21st June. Nevertheless the clause which prohibited industrial conscription was excluded on that occasion. Members of my party see in any departure from that exclusion a grave danger to the community. It is true to say that these regulations came as a great shock to the workers of Australia. Thousands of loyal men are waiting to do a job on behalf of the nation, but their services are not being utilized. In the Cook electorate alone thousands of men are out of work. In such circumstances, I cannot see any need for industrial conscription, or for vesting in the Government the power to set aside industrial awards and disregard the legislation providing for arbitration and conciliation. The regulations which are now under consideration have been in operation since the 5th July, as a number of men at Lithgow are only too well aware. Under these regulations they have been forced to remain at Lithgow where they are separated from their wives and families. When they endeavoured to obtain employment near to their homes because they could not get housing accommodation at Lithgow, they found that they had left their employment at Lithgow a day too late as these regulations were then in operation. Now, these men cannot obtain employment in any other munitions establishment unless they first resume their employment at Lithgow and obtain permission to leave it.
– They are blacklisted.
– The fact that so many men who are anxious to find employment in the manufacture of munitions are out of work indicates that Mr. Essington Lewis, in whom the Government has such great faith, is not the wonderful organizer that it would have us believe. Some time ago, in reply to a question, I was told that the shortage of steel bars was due to import difficulties. This shortage has caused the dismissal of many men from the Cockatoo Island Dockyard, Mort’s Dock, Garden Island, and elsewhere. Only last week, 800 men were put off from Lysaght’s works because of the shortage of steel bars. We have been at war for nearly twelve months, and yet an essential requirement for the manufacture of munitions is nol available. The man who should be taken to task for this unsatisfactory state of affairs is one in whom the Government has great confidence. Mr. Essington Lewis should be called upon to show why the country is in such a precarious position, and why men who could be employed in the making of munitions are still out of work. Some time ago I was asked to address 120 men in my electorate who informed me that .notices had been posted in their places of employment that they could not leave their present jobs without the permission of their employers. They claimed that they were not doing essential defence work, and asked that they be employed in the manufacture of munitions. When I addressed these employees of the British Standard Machinery Company at Alexandria during their luncheon adjournment, I told them that regulations under the National Security Act definitely imposed industrial economic conscription on them and that they had to remain in their present employment until given permission to leave it. I do not say that they are engaged in the making of luxuries, but I do say that some of the work that they are doing is not essential, and that these skilled men could be better utilized in making munitions. Some time ago, a number of marine engineers undertook temporary work in a factory at Alexandria while waiting for their ship to go to sea. Later, when they wished to rejoin the mercantile marine, they were told that they could not leave their employment on land, notwithstanding that they were paid at rates less than they would have received at sea. It has been said that the margin over the basic wage will compensate skilled men for being kept in certain employment. In this connexion, it is interesting to note that the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, which had an application before the court for the cancellation of overtime payment for Sunday work, withdrew its application when regulations under the National Security Act were issued. The company knew that under these regulations it would have to pay only ordinary rates for Sunday work and overtime. I join with my colleagues in protesting against these regulations, which are unnecessary and unjust. There is a possibility that, under them, the Government will take unfair advantage of youths who leave school at about fourteen years of age. The people of Australia were prepared to engage in home defence under the Defence Act, but only men between the ages of 18 and 60 years were covered by that legislation. Now, however, every person in the community comes under these regulations. A father may wish that his son, instead of leaving school at the age of fourteen, shall receive a higher education, but the Government will have the power to prevent it. It is not right that the employers should have such power over the workers in industry, and I hope that the motion will be carried.
.- Any one who has listened to the debate will realize that there is a great diversity of opinion regarding the operation of these regulations. Honorable members know that the emergency legislation under which they are issued caused a split in the ranks of the parties opposite and led to the creation of the non-Communist section of the Labour party. The opposition to these regulations is purely political. It is claimed by those who oppose them that the Government is not to be trusted to conserve the interests of the workers of Australia. I submit that no political party has a better record than has the United Australia party. Under its administration, the country has made great progress, employment has increased, and the nation as a whole has become more prosperous. The only safe party to control the nation in a time of war is the United Australia party.
– Is that statement not a reflection on the Country party?
– It was meant to be a reflection on the two or three parties opposite. I cannot imagine any one advocating that the power to control industry, particularly in a time of war, should be vested in the Labour movement. This move to have these regulations disallowed shows how badly the trade unionists are represented in this Parliament. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) admitted that the principal trade unions of Australia had been consulted by the Prime Minister before these regulations were gazetted and then he said that yesterday he had received a telegram from one union instructing him to vote for the disallowance of the regulations and that to-day he had received another telegram to this effect, “ Whatever you do, don’t vote for the omission of the schedules “. The honorable member did not know where he stood. Apparently within 24 hours and after some further study that union had found some good in the regulations.
– There is no reference in the motion to the schedules.
– No, but the honorable member knows that if the regulations are disallowed, the schedules become null and void. The honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) gave the history of the growth of trade unionism in Great Britain since 1915. It was pitiable to hear the honorable member hark back to Great Britain for examples. Has the trade union movement in Australia no history? The honorable member should not use Great Britain as an example in order to show what may happen in Australia, Decause there is a vast difference between organized labour in Great Britain and organized labour in Australia. The honorable member declared that, because there was difficulty, after the last war, in re-adjusting certain things that had been allowed by the workers in Great Britain, there would be the same difficulty in re-adjusting affairs in Australia after this war. Whatever else there is about this country, it has a culture of its own, industrially and in every other direction. The trade union movement of Australia has thrived, largely because the United Australia party has always believed that trade unions are essential for the well-being of the workers.
– Does the honorable member believe in preference to unionists ?
– I have always believed in preference to unionists, because I have always believed that unionism is the backbone of labour. I believe also that these regulations are accepted by 95 per cent, of trade unionists, because unionists have sufficient faith in the Government to know that it will do nothing to impair the efficiency of the Australian trade union movement. The honorable member for Denison (Mr. Mahoney) clashed with the “ non-Communists “, who accuse him of being a traitor to trade unionism because he voted against them for the national security legislation. The honorable member was astray, but he gave a good illustration when he said that employers offered higher wages to induce men to join their staffs only because they want I beni, as pacemakers for other employees.
– Does the honorable member think that every man who is paid more than the award is a speeder-up ?
– No, but the honorable member for Denison does. Here we have two strong Labour men, one saying one thing and another the opposite. I ask the honorable member for Denison to believe that the Government is honorable. Some honorable members opposite claimed at the outset that we were out to conscript men for overseas service, but they lost on that. Now they are placarding the country with charges that the Government’s policy is industrial conscription.
– The Prime Minister admitted that it was to-day.
– No; that will never be admitted. We are not seeking industrial conscription, and the honorable member knows it, but he realizes that the charge is a good election cry. He knows that the only reason for his motion to-day is the opportunity that it provides to strike a blow at the other brand of Labour that he has left. The members of the Australian Labour party - non-Communist have continually chid the Opposition for supporting the Government in its war efforts. We are engaged in a life and death struggle, yet the honorable member for Dalley and his colleagues are prepared to trail their political views through this House in order either to brand other honorable men on their side as deceitful and false to trade unionism, or to make the charge that we on this side are only sponsors of the employing class.
– We should be right in that.
– No; we believe that the employers and the employees are essential to each other for the good government and the maintenance of happy family life in this community. Employers are not anathema to this country. Mainly, they have climbed from the bottom to the top of the ladder by virtue of their energy and ability to organize skill and lead other men. 1 have yet to learn that men who are earning in some industries an average of £4 10s. a week feel that they are suffering any injustice. I am one who would support the honorable member for Dalley immediately if I thought that in these regulations there was any danger to the working classes, but I know that 95 per cent, of the workers are true BritishAustralians and do not resent one word of these regulations. Why, the advancing Germans are abolishing trade unionism in every country which falls beneath their onslaught!
– The honorable member would have us beat the Germans to it and wipe out trade unionism here.
– No. The honorable member and his colleagues should show loyalty to the great Labour movement by helping to win this war and refrain from efforts to make party political capital out of actions which the Government takes iri order . to ensure that its war effort will be unimpaired.
– Order ! The honorable member must discuss the motion.
– It is false to say that these regulations mean the conscription of industry. They have been gazetted merely because the Government must have latitude to meet any emergency that may arise. If honorable members opposite ask the House to disallow these regulations, I have the right to put the other side and to say that their motive is not to help the trade union movement and to preserve its integrity and honour, but rather to destroy political machinery to which they are opposed. If these regulations are disallowed, 95 per cent, of the unionists will be disappointed that the Government has not firmly held to its right to rule and to ensure that we shall play our part alongside Great Britain. The honorable member for Dalley and the honorable member for Fremantle, make a great mistake when they say, “ Disallow these regulations “. The only purpose of the regulations is to weld together the industry of this great country. “We are told that this war will be won in the workshops, and the purpose of these regulations is to see that our workshops continue uninterruptedly in production. I am sorry that this motion has been moved and I am convinced that, before the House will agree to it, much better reasons than have been given will have to be advanced.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 till 8 p.m.
.- Trouble of the kind that has arisen over these regulations, which is deplored by us, was predicted twelve months ago as likely to occur. When the Government decided to allow private enterprise to engage in the manufacture of munitions we said that if cut-throat competition occurred difficulties would undoubtedly be encountered over wages and working conditions. That is exactly what has come about. Strange as it may seem, the trouble is limited to the 20 per cent, of the work that is being done in private manufacturing establishments. About 80 per cent, of our munitions is being manufactured in Government establishments, and in these no trouble has occurred.
– If the honorable member had had hia way, we would have had very little in the way of munitions.
– My reply to the honorable member is that not only is 80 per cent, of the work being done in Government establishments, but also the work is of better quality and the output of greater volume than that which marks the activities of private establishments. Had all of our munitions manufacturing been done in Government establishments, we should have been much better off to-day than we are.
– Some of the Government workshops are “ duds “.
– A few days ago I heard the honorable member complimenting the officers of some Government workshops on the efficiency of their establishments. It is right that we should acknowledge merit where we find it. Better work is also being turned out of the Government workshops of Great Britain than out of the private workshops there. Work has had to be taken away from some private contractors in Great Britain because of their inability to make deliveries within the contract time. Tb.B fact is that some of those contractors accepted orders simply to keep them out of the hands of their competitors. That sort of thing is happening^ on a smaller scale, in Australia. Munition-making, as everybody knows, is a profitable business and some organizations in Australia are afraid that orders will go to their competitors.
– The private establishments are generally efficient.
– If the Government had spent on the extension of Government workshops the £50,000,000 which it made available for the provision of annexes to private manufacturing establishments, our situation would be far better to-day than it is. We are in trouble over this regulation because the Government has permitted private enterprise to manufacture munitions of war for profit.
The Government acted unwisely or else it has not played the game in connexion with this regulation, as a review of the situation in respect of our national security measures will clearly show. When the first National Security Bill was introduced a protracted debate occurred because the Labour party contended that the interests of the workers had not been safeguarded. Ultimately* after conferences with representative leaders, the Government agreed to insert a provision which we felt would protect the interests of employees. Although it was said by Government spokesmen at that time that it was not intended to interfere with working conditions, or to reduce wages, we feared that action of that kind would be taken unless proper safeguards were enacted. The second National Security Bill was introduced, in my opinion, for the sole purpose of removing the safeguard that had been included in the first measure. Under the present National Security Act the Government ha3 absolute power. We were again told when that second bill was before Parliament that it was not intended to interfere with the working conditions or to reduce wages. It was also said that the power sought would not be used to introduce new practices into industry, such as the dilution’ of labour and the use of ‘ semi-skilled work in skilled operations, unless such action had previously received the approval of the trade unions concerned. After the passing of the measure, various advisory panels and numerous boards and committees of one kind and another were appointed. The workers have played the game in every respect in all these matters, and have appointed their representatives as desired by the Government. That being so, it is to be deplored that this regulation should have been issued without the approval of the Trade Union Advisory Panel.
We have been told that the regulation simply gives effect to an agreement already reached with the Amalgamated Engineering Union concerning the dilution of labour. Unfortunately, however, there has been sandwiched into the regulation a provision which has never been discussed with the workers concerned, and for that reason we object strongly to the Government’s action. I refer, of course, -to regulation 3, which relates to the mobility of labour. It has been a fundamental principle of the working class movement throughout its history that the workers shall be allowed to sell their labour where they please and for what they can get for it.
– That is not so in Germany.
– And we are fighting Germany on that account I We wish to maintain this fundamental right. Regulation 3 is undoubtedly intended to prevent workers from transferring their services from one shop to another. The intention of the Government, it ‘ has been said, ‘ is to prevent employers from taking advantage of the workers, but we cannot accept that view. The regulation has not been introduced because of any fear of that description. Hitherto Government supporters, who look to the employers of labour for financial assistance, have always argued that these friends of theirs are patriotic and fairminded, and are willing to assist the country in its war effort without consideration of profit. We know very well that in the last few months the largest groups of employers of this country have been granted financial assistance by the Government in order to establish annexes for the manufacture of munitions. It is now being said that this regulation must be applied to such employers in order to prevent them from exploiting the Government. Our view is that the regulation has an entirely different purpose. We are all well aware that, although certain rates of pay may be agreed upon between representatives of employers and employees at roundtable conferences, or may be awarded by various industrial tribunals as fair and reasonable, some men invariably earn extra money by reason of their special skill.
– And not necessarily by “speeding up”.
– Quite so. We all know that especially efficient men may earn from 10s. to 12s. a week more than their companions in the same industry. The rates of pay fixed by the various tribunals are intended to provide for the average workman. I can see in this regulation a desire to fix an absolute maximum rate of pay beyond which a man may not earn anything, whatever be his skill. Moreover, advantage will be taken of this regulation to prevent these especially skilled men from offering their services to other employers with the object of earning a little more than the normal rates. This being the case, I feel that the right thing to do now is for us to disallow these regulations so that the whole matter may be referred to the Trade Union Advisory Panel for consideration. Had the Government acted wisely it would have referred the draft regulations to that body before their gazettal. The secretary of the Trade Union Advisory Panel and also the representatives of the Amalgamated Engineering Union who are members of it are expected to arrive in Canberra towards the end of this week to discuss with the Government certain matters relating to the intensive training of artisans and also the dilution of labour. Surely the regulations could be held in suspense until after they have been discussed by these men who will be so vitally affected by it. Unless action of this kind is taken I fear that the harmony hitherto existing between the Government and the workersin relation to war work may be destroyed. That is the last thing that we should permit to happen. Any such discord could be avoided if the Government would agree to allow this matter to remain in suspense until after it has been discussed by the Trade Union Advisory Panel. Unless the Government is willing to follow this course, I shall be obliged to vote for the disallowance of these regulations.
– Will the honorable member “ let down “ his friends in the Senate?
– Not at all.
– It appears as though the Labour party is speaking with two voices.
– Or else honorable gentlemen opposite do not know much about the subject!
– We have not voted on it yet.
– So there is still time for honorable gentlemen to change their minds.
– It appears to me that the supporters of the Government are not prepared to argue the case on its merits. If they cannot do so, I suggest that they should not waste their breath talking about something that has nothing to do with the subject.
– It is votes that count.
– The honorable gentleman is now introducing an element of discord. I suggest that because regulation 3 was introduced into the regulations without discussion with the panel, these regulations should be withdrawn altogether. I propose to vote in favour of the motion, and to take no risks.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) has put the matter clearly on behalf of the Opposition. These regulations must be withdrawn and redrafted, so as to remove all possible cause for objection. I believe that, if the matter were referred to a properly constituted industrial panel for consideration, proposals could be evolved which would satisfy everyone. The regulations would then work without friction, and that is what we all want. When the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) said that he proposed to vote against the regulations, he made it clear that, in doing so, he had no wish to hamper or delay the nation’s war effort. That applies to all of us, and I suggest that the Government, having heard the opinions and arguments of members of the Opposition on this matter, should now withdraw the regulations. The Government will admit that honorable members on this side of the House represent practically all the trade unionists of Australia, to whom we must look for the production of munitions of war. The honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn) and the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) have put the position clearly from the legal point of view, and have shown how the regulations can and do operate to the detriment of men engaged in the production of munitions. As an example, in Victoria there is, according to reports, great dissatisfaction among the men employed in the Newport workshops, because of the manner in which the regulations are being applied. Certain men have been allowed to transfer to the munitions annexe at increased wages, while others, just as competent, and engaged on the same kind of work, are refused permission. They are asking that this anomaly be removed.
Criticism was offered here to-day against the Director of Labour, Mr. J. B. Chifley. I have been in close touch with the secretary of the Munitions Workers Union, who has assured me that, whenever representations have been made to Mr. Chifley, the unions have been given prompt consideration and satisfaction.
– I merely said that, on one occasion, he stood for a reduction of wages, and that is true.
– On that occasion he was merely applying as a Minister the policy of the Government of the day, and I do not think that any reflection could fairly be cast upon him on that account. His- work as a member of the Royal Commission on Banking reflected credit upon himself, and upon the Labour party, of which he was a member. His activities as Director of Labour cannot be challenged. I am convinced that if he is given an opportunity to administer the regulations, as we desire to have them altered, he will do an excellent job both for the men and for the Government.
The men in the Newport workshops have a legitimate cause for complaint. Certain men who wish to transfer to munitions work are refused permission, while others, junior to them, are allowed to go and earn more money on the munitions side. The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) asked by interjection whether we were prepared to close down private workshops engaged on munitions work. My reply is that the Opposition would have the Government take control of all munitions factories throughout Australia so that there would be no exploitation of the public under war conditions. When this work is handed over to private interests, trouble always occurs. I was recently informed by a manufacturer that he was asked to quote a price for the manufacture of certain war materials. After he had stated a price, he was asked whether he was prepared to do the job at 5 per cent, on cost. He agreed to do so, but he was not given the job. Some time later, however, he was rung up by another company, which I understand is a subsidiary of Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, and asked whether he would do the work for that company at 5 per cent, on cost. I have not gone into the matter extensively, but, on the face of it, it would appear that there was to be a percentage of profit for the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited subsidiary, as well as a profit for the actual manufacturer. I asked a question in the House on this matter, but though there has been plenty of time in which to prepare a reply, no reply has been forthcoming. I believe that there should be an investigation into the methods employed in the manufacture of munitions. There should not be more than nominal profit-making On munitions, let alone excessive profits.
– Yet you say that skilled men should receive extra pay.
– I say that they should receive what is stipulated in the award or agreement which determines their rates of pay. I would have no objection to regulations providing for that, but it is wrong to prevent a man from transferring from one job to another for which he is better qualified.
– But does the honorable member suggest that the prescribed minimum, wage should become the maximum wage?
– No; but I say that the conditions prescribed by the award or agreement should be those which apply, and I say further that no one man should be prevented from going to a better paid job while a junior or less qualified man is allowed to do so.
– The honorable member means that if the worker is able to sell his labour at inflated war-time prices, he should not be prevented?
– The honorable member’s argument supplies its own answer. No question of that kind would arise if all munitions factories were controlled by the Government, as the Labour party suggests. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) said that it was difficult to find out who really did represent the unions. I remind the Prime Minister that he also had difficulty, apparently, in finding out who represented the motorists and the motor trade, when plans were being discussed for imposing restrictions on the consumption of petrol. A rationing scheme was evolved which was not acceptable, but when a more representative committee was appointed, a scheme was devised which has met, more or less, with the approval of all sections concerned. No one can deny that the Australasian Council of Trade Unions is one of the most representative Labour bodies in Australia. It was suggested on this side of the House that the Australasian Council of Trade Unions should have been consulted regarding the formation of this industrial panel, but even those who put that proposal forward advocated that persons outside the Australasian Council of Trade Unions should also have been on the panel. I am not saying anything against those who are on the panel. Some of them are known personally to me, and I know that they are well qualified and are anxious to do a good job; but I believe that if the view of the central body had been accepted, a more representative panel could have been appointed. The Government should endeavour to secure the co-operation of the workers, and to that end it should withdraw these regulations, and substitute others - after reconsideration by its representatives and those of the workers - that will give satisfaction to every one.
.- in reply - I regret that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) devoted so much of his time to the discussion of matters that had nothing to do with the points which I raised when moving my motion. He employed a good deal of flowery and flippant language in the course of what was obviously an electioneering appeal. He charged my party with taking an unreal view of the war situation. Let me assure the Prime Minister, and the members of his party,, that we take just as real a view of the situation as does the Government, the difference between us being as to how Australia’s best effort should be made in defence of democratic institutions. In this respect, we are not satisfied that the Government has done the best job possible. As a matter of fact, our party can take credit to itself for being largely responsible for exposing the unsatisfactory position in regard to munitions annexes, which had resulted in leaving Australia virtually unprotected. If that is not taking a realistic view of the situation, I do not know what is. I desire further to inform the Prime Minister, and the members of his party, that they have no monopoly of patriotism in this House or in the country, nor do the people of Australia believe that the Government parties are alone capable of taking a realistic view of the situation. That was demonstrated clearly in the recent Corio by-election, and in the State by-election for Tamworth, in which the interests which support the Government made an issue of the Government’s win-the-war effort. The Prime Minister also uttered cheap gibes against the Opposition on the ground of its lack of unity. The cheap gibes of the Prime Minister regarding the disunity in the ranks of the Opposition will not heal the obvious breaches in the ranks of the Government parties. We realize and appreciate the struggle for world domination by the powers of reaction with all its implica tions. We know that the workers of this country will lose materially mote than any other class in Australia should the dictator powers succeed in their ambition. We know, too, that the people we represent in this House are called upon to make the greatest sacrifices in blood and sweat to preserve this Commonwealth against invasion. Because the big financial and business interests of this country are making nl) sacrifices comparable to those made by the workers, and because they have shown, no disposition to make any sacrifices in money or property for the defence of thi* country, we are determined that there shall be a levelling up of sacrifice before the workers are asked for more.
The Prime Minister claims that my criticism of Mr. Essington Lewis, Sir Phillip Goldfinch and Mr. Kneeshaw of the Munitions Board in New South Wales, and those of similar kidney who control the munitions boards in other States is based on- personal hatred. I went to great pains to point out that there was neither personal bias nor animus in our criticism of these gentlemen. We do not question their patriotic motives. We do claim, however, that they influence the decision of the Minister and in their advisory capacity wield enormous autocratic powers. It is ridiculous for the Prime Minister .to say we believe that Mr. Essington Lewis would not care if Australia lost the war. We know very well that that gentleman’s material interests are wrapped up in the success of this country just as much as are those of the people whom we represent. What we do say is that these gentlemen are only human beings who, because of their past interests and environment, would not hesitate to use their enormous powers to effect some sort of breaking down of the conditions of the workers. The Prime Minister professes childish innocence as to who should he consulted as to the appointment of the workers’ representatives on the munitions boards. The right honorable gentleman said that it was difficult to determine who could speak with responsibility on behalf of the trade union movement. It is true, as has been pointed out by the Prime Minister and by the Leader of the
Opposition (Mr. Curtin) that there is a considerable division of authority in the industrial labour movement. The Australasian Council of Trade Unions does not represent all the trade unions of Australia, nor does it represent all the States of Australia, but at least that body does represent the vast majority of the organized trade unionists in Australia, and the Prime Minister might well have consulted the Australasian Council of Trade Unions before the appointments of workers’ representatives on federal boards were made. It is equally “true that the Trades and Labour Council in each of the States does not represent 100 per cent, of the trade union movement because many unions are not affiliated with the Trades and Labour Council. Nevertheless, the fact remains that the Trades and Labour Councils represent the vast majority of organized labour in the States, and satisfaction would have been given to a majority of the workers if the Trades and Labour Councils had- been consulted before the appointments of workers’ representatives were made. The Government might even, as a last resort, have consulted representatives of organizations connected with major industries. On the admission of the Prime Minister, however, neither the Australasian Council of Trade Unions nor the Trades and Labour Council in any State, nor any responsible body of trade union opinion was consulted in the matter. “We, and the. workers generally, are expected to accept as the workers’ representatives on these State boards men who were appointed, not on the recommendation of the trade union movement, but on the recommendation of people who over the last half a century have been the executive officers of the enemies of organized labour in Australia. It is an interesting fact that, although the Prime Minister did not deny that these regulations represent the first instalment of industrial conscription, he endeavoured to split straws as to how the bringing about of industrial conscription was accomplished. I said that regulation 59 a of the 24th May 1940 contained a definite safeguard which protected the workers against industrial conscription. I pointed out that that regulation contained a proviso that nothing in ft should authorize the imposition of any form of industrial conscription. I said, further, that Statutory Rule No. 127 of the 5th July repealed regulation 59 a. I further pointed out that on the 20th June the principal act was amended to give the Government compulsory powers over labour. I then pointed out that Statutory Rule No. 128 was identical with regulation 59 a with the exception of the omission of those vital words which gave the workers protection against industrial conscription. In denying the accuracy of the statement I made regarding the means utilized for the introduction of industrial conscription the Prime’ Minister is merely splitting straws. The right honorable gentleman was uncharitable enough to those who supported the amendments to the act in June to say that the damage was done when the amending National Security Bill was passed on the 20th June last. I am not particularly concerned whether the Prime Minister is technically right in saying that the amending bill passed on the 20th June brought about the abolition of the safeguard against industrial conscription or I am right in saying that regulation 59 a, which contained the safeguard, is superseded by those regulations which I now propose should be disallowed. We already have conscription of labour, and conscription of man-power for service in the Militia, but up to date the Government has made no effort to conscript wealth or property for the defence of Australia. Yet the Government, at the behest of the representatives of capital on the munitions boards, demands further sacrifices from the organized trade union movement. The Prime Minister did not substantiate the claims of the Government that there is a genuine shortage of skilled labour in Australia. He says that these regulations arose out of an agreement with the Amalgamated Engineering Union. I do not wish to do the right honorable gentleman an injustice when I say that he sought to imply that the Amalgamated Society of Engineers was au fait with what was contained in these regulations; in fact I think he would have us believe that that body is entirely in favour of the regulations which we now ask the House to disallow. I challenge the accuracy of that statement. I do not think that any part of the industrial or political labour movement in Australia was consulted in connexion with this matter. I challenge the right honorable gentleman to demonstrate that any section of any union in Australia has shown any inclination that it is prepared to support the regulations lock, stock and barrel. Our party will not quibble over regulation 3. We say thatthe whole of the regulations should be thrown out, because one paragraph is entirely dependent on the other.No Labour man would vote for their retention. Much has been made of the schedules appearing at the end of the regulations. Irrespective of whether or not the regulations go by the board, the wages fixed in the schedules will still prevail. The schedules are merely a sugar coating to make a bitter pill appear more palatable to the workers. I am pleased to hear that the Leader of the Opposition and his party will support us in our endeavour to have these regulations disallowed. The only regret I have is that the honorable gentleman and his party are not prepared to vote against the whole of them unconditionally.
Question put -
That regulations 1, 2, 3 and 4 of the National Security (Employment) Regulations (contained in Statutory Rules 1940, No. 128, made under the National Security Act 1939-1940) he disallowed.
The House divided. (Mb. Speaker- Hon.g. J. Bell.)
Majority . . . 5
Question so resolved in the negative.
The following bills were returned from the Senate without amendment;-
Papua Bill 1940.
Gold Mining Encouragement Bill (No. 2) 1940.
Bill received from the Senate and (on motion by Mr. Nook) read a first time.
– I desire to inform honorable members that I propose to recommend to His Excellency the Governor-General that a dissolution of the House of Representatives be granted, with a view to the holding of the general elections on Saturday, the 21st September.
I have informed His Excellency that the necessary financial provision is being made for the carrying on of the public services of the Commonwealth during the period that must elapse before Parliament can re-assemble.
It is proposed that the date of issue of the writs shall be Friday, the 30th August; that the closing date for the receipt of nominations shall be Saturday, the 7th September; and that writs shall be returnable on or before Saturday, the 26th October.
In accordance with established practice, the elections for the Senate will also bo held on Saturday, the 21st September.
– I move - [Customs Tariff Amendment No. 3.]
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 20 August 1940, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1940/19400820_reps_15_164/>.