17th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. J. S.Rosevear) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I give notice that to-morrow I shall move -
Thatthe following new standing order be adopted by the House: - “ 322a. A Committee of Privileges, to consist, of seven members, shall be appointed at the commencement of each Parliament, or as soon thereafter as is practicable, to inquire into and report upon complaints of breach of privilege which may be referred to it by the House.” .
I have had a preliminary consultation with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies). and the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) on the general question of censorship. .”We shall confer again in the course of a few days. I hope that I shall then he able to make to the House an announcement on the subject.
Motion (by Dr. Evatt) - by leave - agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to provide for the payment by the owners of controlled coal mines of additional profits which have accrued as a result of the exercise of control by the Commonwealth Coal Commissioner.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now road a second time.
The Coal Production (War-time) Bill provides that the owner of a coal mine of which control has been taken by the Commonwealth Coal Commissioner shall be compensated in respect of any loss or damage which he may suffer as a result of the mine being so controlled. As he is to have an opportunity of recouping any loss or damage, it is reasonable that he should not have the benefit of any. additional profits, derived from the operation of the mine, which arc the result of the exercise of the . control. In other words, the owner is guaranteed against loss which results from control, but he is also prevented from making additional profits arising from control; if profits arise from other causes, they are not brought within the reach of the plan. The plan is not so much one of indemnity against taxation as of the stabilization of profit at the genuine pre-control level. For this reason, clause 23 was inserted in the Coal Production (War-time) Bill as ancillary to clause 22. As the valid operation of the bill might be prejudiced if clause 23 were regarded as taxation, in the strict sense, it is desirable that the obligation as to the payment of any such’ additional profits accruing from control should be provided for by a separate measure. That is the object of the present bill. It requires the owner of a eontrolled mine to pay to the Commissioner such amount of additional profits as is determined, in accordance with the principal measure, to have resulted from control. In the event of a dispute arising, the matter will be determined by the court. Until any amount has been ‘so determined, no obligation will arise under this measure. It is intended that determinations will be sought, as far as is practicable, in relation to accounting periods. The guiding principle, therefore, is that control by the Government will cause the owner no loss, but at the same time will give him no unearned profit. I submit that the bill should be passed.
– Does the right honorable gentleman propose to move an amendment to the clause referred to?
– I propose to- submit amendments to the machinery clause, in order to meet points that were raised during the second-reading debate on the Coal Production (War-time) Bill yesterday.
– This measure appears to remove the discretion for which that bill makes provision.
– No; the discretion will remain as it stands. I shall make the matter clear when the debate on the other bill is resumed.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Menzies) adjourned.
– ‘Can the Minister for Home Security say whether the continuance of black-out conditions in Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia and Western Australia is due to security reasons, or is it due to a desire to conserve electric power? When may the people of those southern States expect to obtain relief from such conditions?
– Black-out conditions prevail only when the air-raid alarm siren is sounded. In all areas below the tropic of. Capricorn, normal street lighting - which does not include flood lighting or neon signs - has been restored. If any other restrictions are in force, they have been imposed by the Controller of Electricity, an officer of the Department of Munitions, and inquiries on the subject should be addressed to the Minister for Munitions.
– by leave- The universities scheme has now been in operation for a full year, and its second year is just beginning. I feel it desirable, therefore, that I should make a brief review of the way in which the scheme is operating. The purpose of the scheme is, first, to ensure that sufficient numbers of doctors, dentists, engineers, scientists and other professional men are trained during the war to meet the nation’s needs for qualified persons both during the war and in the immediate post-war years; and, secondly, to make ability and diligence, rather than economic circumstances, the determining factor as to whether young men and women shall be reserved from other forms of national service in order to continue their university studies.
This is how the system operates: The Director-General of Man Power, on the advice of the Universities Commission, decides the number of students to be reserved in each faculty or course of study in each of the Australian universities. The universities then select an appropriate number from the applicants for enrolment. The basis of selection is merit, and the test of merit is made by the university, subject to approval by the Universities Commission and the Director-General of Man Power. First-year students are selected mostly on the results of public examinations, and students in higher years are selected according to their success in university examinations. Allowances are paid by the Universities Commission to reserved students according to a scale related to family income and circumstances.
The number of students assisted in 1943 was about 1,600, of which 90 per cent, came from families with less than £500 a year, and nearly 50 per cent, from families with £300 a year or less. Out of the total of 1,600 students receiving assistance, 190 were the children of widows, 67 were the children of pensioners and elderly persons retired from work, 65 were students dependent on their own resources, and 11 were children of unemployed persons. Among the parents are labourers, carpenters, railway and tramway employees, public servants, school teachers, clerks, farmers, dairy farmers, orchardists, ministers of religion and members of the armed forces. It is quite clear, therefore, that the scheme has opened the doors of the universities to many youths of ability who could not otherwise have afforded to go to a university, and whose scholastic ability would, therefore, have been lost to the nation. All assisted students sign a bond to undertake national service if required on graduation. Last year, the High Court declared invalid a section of the University Regulations under which the commission was given power to limit the number of students in any faculty, and to determine the method of selection of students. As there has been some discussion regarding the Government’s policy in this matter, I wish to explain how the present system works. The Government’ obviously cannot exempt from military service all young men who wish to attend a university. The Government decides the number of young people who should be trained for the professions under war conditions, and it then rests with the man-power authorities to determine whether any other applicants for enrolment at universities should be absorbed into the services, or into other forms o’f national service where they may be more urgently required.
In deciding the number of students to be reserved, for the year 1944, the Director-General of Man Power acted on the advice of the Universities Commission. The Universities Commission asked each of the universities to express its views on the number of students considered necessary in the national interest to be enrolled and reserved in the various faculties, and also to indicate the numbers that could be accommodated, having regard to the facilities at the disposal of the universities. The Director-General of Man Power obtained from his various professional advisory committees recommendations as to the numbers considered necessary in the national interest by these committees. Each advisory committee consists of members of the profession concerned, who are personally in touch with present national needs, and are advising the Director-General on the most satisfactory use to be made of members of their profession. These estimates - namely, the universities’ estimates of the numbers that they thought should be reserved and the number that the universities could handle, and the professional advisory committees’ estimates of the number that they considered were necessary - were then considered by the Director-General of Man Power with the Universities Commission, and quotas were finally fixed. I wish to impress on honorable members that any limitations placed on the numbers of students admitted has not been the result of arbitrary restrictions imposed by the Universities Commission but is because the universities themselves could not accommodate more within the scope of the existing teaching staffs, scientific apparatus, equipment and accommodation. This applied particularly to the science faculty upon which all the technical faculties depend. In most universities the numbers admitted have been slightly more than those sought by the university itself. The total number of reservations proposed for 1944 is 2,092. The figures are as follows: -
Provision is also being made in 1944 for inclusion within the scheme of the following students: -
On the whole, I think it can be said that the scheme is working very well. Those students who are selected for reservation have the satisfaction of knowing that it is the policy of the Government that they should continue their studies rather than undertake other forms of national service, because the nation will need their services on the completion of their courses. At the same time, the nation can be satisfied that the youn;: men and women who are reserved to continue university courses at a time when many others are called upon to fight, or to work on farms and in factories, are selected on merit alone.
– Will the Minister move that the paper be printed?
– Why not? Why can we not have some discussion on this?
– Order ! The Min iister has declined.
– The procedure of this House allows a Minister to read a statement by leave, but unless that statement is laid upon the table, or he moves that the paper be printed, no discussion of the matter is permitted. I ask the Prime Minister to direct that the statement which the Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman) has read relating to the admission of students to universities be printed, so that honorable members will have an opportunity to debate this important subject which touches the lives of many hundreds of young men and women?
– I see no insuperable difficulty in the way of the House discussing matters which it considers ought to be discussed. The opportunities provided by the Standing Orders to enable honorable members to debate various matters are very great. The Minister could have met the situation by the device of merely asking one of his supporters to direct to him a question relating to the subject, and he could have replied to it in extenso or asked leave to have it incorporated in Hansard. He did not do so. He asked leave to make a statement, and leave was granted. If the honorable member for “Warringah will examine the Standing Orders, lie will find that ample opportunity is provided to enable him to raise this matter. If, later in the session, we make sufficient progress with the legislation on the notice-paper, I shall endeavour to provide time for the honorable gentleman to discuss the matter.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture been drawn to a resolution carried at a meeting of fruit-growers in Tasmania last Monday, emphatically protesting against the decision of Cabinet refusing to grant increased compensation for the 1944 fruit crop? Is the Minister aware that the Minister for Repatriation said that he knew that the growers’ cause was just, that, when the matter came before Cabinet, he bad endeavoured to get Ministers to support him and had held the matter up for an hour, and that if growers could get another unit increase for their fruit as a result of his resignation from Cabinet he would willingly resign? Has the Minister any statement to make concerning the unjust treatment which is being meted out to the fruit-growers of Tasmania, as implied by the Minister for Repatriation?
– What the honorable member has said about the application by the Tasmanian fruit-growers is true, but the Government decided, with my concurrence, that they have been justly treated. The Minister for Repatriation has always keenly advocated the rights of the Tas-( manian fruit-growers, and their progressively satisfactory position in Tasmania is owing to his efforts.
– I ask the Minister for the Army : 1. How many Australian prisoners of war are now held in (a) Italy; and (b) Germany? 2. How many have been repatriated by (a) Italy; and (b) Germany? 3. “What steps have “been taken to try to secure an arrangement with Japan for the the exchange of prisoners of war similar to that which obtains with other Axis powers?
– I could give the honorable member figures offhand, but I prefer to furnish him with a detailed reply to-morrow.
– Has the Prime Minister seen the press report that a conference of the Federated Chambers of Commerce in Queensland carried a resolution that the Commonwealth Government should negotiate with the Government of the United States of America to limit the pay of American servicemen in Australia to a standard equal to that for similar ranks in the Australian forces, the balance to be deferred and paid on return to America? With a view to checking inflation and promoting the war effort, will the Prime Minister consider taking action along the lines ‘ suggested ?
– I have- not seen the report in the newspaper, but I bad submitted to me the same question earlier to-day at a press conference. I consider that the manner in which the Government of the United States of America arranges to pay its own forces is entirely a matter for it. I think that the proposition submitted by the Chambers of Commerce, which involves the law of another country, is something quite outside my jurisdiction.
– Will the Prime Minister take up this question with the Government of the United States of America ?
– The Government of the United States of America has forces in the United Kingdom as well as in Australia. I shall consider the right honorable gentleman’s suggestion, but my first instinct is probably sound.
Citizen: Military Forces: Enlistment of Men Discharged from Other Services - Releases of New Guinea Personnel.
– I ask the Minister for the Army : Is it a fact that men discharged from the Australian Imperial
Force, the Royal Australian Air ForcE and Royal Australian Navy are being called up for medical examination for the purposes of compulsory service with the Militia, and that some men discharged from the Australian Imperial Force on medical grounds have actually been drafted into the Militia? Is it, further a fact that following complaints from the Second Australian Ex-servicemen’s Association in Queensland, the order to certain of these men to proceed to camp was rescinded? Will the Minister have the matter investigated and ensure justice to these discharged men?
– I am not aware that the information furnished by the honorable gentleman is correct, but I shall have the whole position investigated and furnish a reply to-morow
– Will the Minister for the Army give further consideration to the instruction that has been issued that members of the armed forces stationed in New Guinea are not to be released for food production? I make this request because many of these men have been on service for four years and are broken in health, whilst thousands of men in Australia, many through no fault of their own, have not seen one day’s service in an operational area.
– I shall give consideration to the honorable gentleman’s representations.
– Is the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction in a position to make a progress report on the work of bis department in regard to post-war plans? If so, will he make the statement during the present sittings to enable the subject-matter to be debated?
– I am in a position to make a statement, but it would be fairly long and I should not care to impose it on the House in view of the other urgent business awaiting consideration. I shall have a statement prepared to show what has been done and either hand it to the honorable member or table it, if necessary. At a later stage, if it is considered that there should be some discussion, I am sure that the Prime Minister will agree.
– Has the Prime Minister seen the report in the Sun Pictorial of the 26th February, stating that three motions to be submitted to the annual Easter conference of the Victorian Australian Labour party ask the conference to “ express its opposition to preference in employment to returned service men and women and to support preference to unionists “ ? In view of the disquiet that such press statements are likely to cause in the minds of returned men and women, will the Prime Minister indicate what action the Government proposes to take in relation to preference to soldiers?
– I have not seen the report of what is intended to be discussed at a conference to be held in the near future, but every one has the right to discuss whatever he thinks proper. Preference to returned soldiers is already the law of the land. It is a part of the statute law of this Parliament. I have no doubt. however, that any further consideration of that matter will in due course be brought before the Parliament.
– I ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture what steps have been taken to give effect to the undertaking of the Government that a wool appraisement centre shall be established at Geraldton? Does the Minister propose to surrender to the vested interests represented by the Opposition, which successfully sabotaged the holding of wool appraisements in that centre last year? Will the Minister give an undertaking that the necessary land shall be acquired to enable the establishment thereon of the buildings necessary for the appraisement next season of wool grown in that district ?
– The whole matter of wool appraisement at Geraldton is now under consideration. At the request of the honorable member for Kalgoorlie a survey was recently made of the Agricultural Society’s ground at Geraldton, with a view to its use for the establishment of an appraisement centre, but on the report of the survey, which should be in the hands of the honorable member, that site was rejected. Every endeavour will be made to carry out the preliminary work in connexion with the establishment of appraisement stores at Geraldton.
Mr.CALWELL.- -The honorable mem ber for Darling (Mr. Clark) yesterday asked the Minister for Information, representing- the Postmaster-General -
I would like the honorable member to make representations to the Postmaster-General to proceed with the construction of the proposed broadcasting station at Broken Hill?
The Postmaster-General has supplied the following answer: -
Approval has been given for the provision of a regional broadcasting station at Broken Hill, and preliminary steps have already been taken with a view to the establishment of the station at the earliest date practicable.
– The honorable mem ber for Boothby (Mr. Sheehy), yesterday asked me, as representing the PostmasterGeneral -
In view of a letter that I have just received from an airman in New Guinea, wherein he states that he has not received mail for ages, I ask the Minister to take the necessary steps to ensure that all mail to New Guinea be expedited as soon as possible?
The Postmaster-General has supplied the following answer : -
In close co-operation with the Department of the Army, the Post Office is doing everything possible to ensure that mails are carried to the forces in the New Guinea area without delay. At times since the end of December, the air service between the mainland and Papua has been subject to dislocation owing to weather conditions, and in consequence of this, some letter mails have had to be carried by sea from Townsville to Port Moresby. Normally, however, all letter mails are transported by air. over that section and, as a general rule, despatches are made daily.
MR. J. McEWEN, M.P.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. Last Thursday evening, in the course of debate, the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) made a statement to the effect that about a year ago I bad asked the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) to recommend me for appointment to the Privy Council. Last Friday morning, when the first opportunity offered, I made a personal explanation in which I declared that the Minister’s statement was absolutely without foundation and that I regarded it as being damaging to myself. The Minister then made a personal explanation in which he repeated the allegation and added that it was common knowledge that 1 had approached the Prime Minister and asked him to recommend me for appointment to the Privy Council. I repeat now that the Minister’s charge was without foundation. I also said last Friday morning that I hoped to be able to make my personal explanation in the presence of the Prime Minister, as he was the only person who could confirm or deny its accuracy. Accordingly, I now take the first opportunity open to me to repeat my personal explanation in the presence of the Prime Minister, and to deny the allegation. I shall be obliged if the right honorable gentleman will indicate whether he is able to confirm my statement.Will the Prime Minister inform the House whether I have at any time, directly or indirectly, or through any third person, suggested to him that I should be recommended for appointment to the Privy Council?
Mr.CURTIN. - I greatly regret this episode. I answer the question by saying that the honorable member has never, directly or indirectly, made any representations or approaches to me in respect of any honour of any kind. That is also true of every other honorable member of this Parliament.
Mr.WHITE. - As many Australians are prepared voluntarily to reduce their butter ration for the purpose of sending some of it to Great Britain, will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture again permit the marketing of tinned butter, so that people may be able to send this food to friends or servicemen abroad ?
– I shall inquire into the matter immediately, because the Government is anxious to increase shipments of butter to the United Kingdom for the purpose of relieving the situation there.
– Will the Prime Minister inform me whether it is a fact that a Cabinet sub-committee has been investigating the possibilities ‘ of post-war migration to Australia? Can he say whether this investigation has led the Government to the point where active measures can be taken, particularly in relation to migration from Great Britain? Can he say whether- the possibility has been explored also of arranging for some American servicemen, who have privately indicated their desire to settle in this country after the war, to have the opportunity of doing so after consultation with the United States authorities ?
– A departmental committee has been examining this matter and has made certain tentative reports. A sub-committee of Cabinet has now been appointed to consider those reports and draw up a scheme which, we hope, will become a matter for full Cabinet for the formulation of policy. But I suggest to the honorable member, and to all honorable members, that it is not wise at this stage to select particular nationals to come within a scheme which other countries might consider, wrongly, as being exclusive to those nationals.
Mi-. Holt. - I referred only to migrants from Great Britain and the United States of America.
– Other Allied nations might consider that such a policy included certain of our friends, but excluded others. That would be an unwise foundation for any scheme.
– Have representations been made to the Government urging that breweries be permitted to increase their production of beer? Before agreeing to such a policy, will the Prime Minister have exhaustive inquiries made into the additional manpower, sugar, malt, hops and other materials, and transport, that such an increase of production would involve? Will he indicate from what pool of labour and materials those resources can be drawn? Before granting such permission, will the right honorable gentle man consider the needs of more essential industries for additional man-power and materials ?
– The honorable member has so phrased his question as to invite from me the kind of answer that would indicate how difficult it will be to grant any request, if one is made, without very exhaustive inquiries and without satisfying the various stipulations that he has named. Frankly, 1 believe that this country could do with more milk rather than more beer.
– A fortnight ago, ! brought to the notice of the AttorneyGeneral the fact that special consideration was being given to Italians who had previously been interned, to the disadvantage of Australian soldiers, particularly those who are required to work in labour battalions at military rates of pay. The Attorney-General indicated that he would give consideration to the matter, and discuss it with Cabinet. I ask him whether any decision has yet. been reached, and if so, whether he is in a position to reply to my representations ?
– Yesterday I answered a similar question by saying that the matter is under consideration by my colleague as anomalies arise under the appropriate award. At the earliest possible moment, I shall announce to the House the decision of Cabinet. I am quite aware of the importance of the question, but it is because of its importance that the decision has not been made hurriedly.
– Has the attention of the Attorney-General been drawn to the allegation that most unfair practices have been employed by ‘ certain investigating officers of the Prices Commission in order to secure convictions for breaches of prices regulations? Has the right honorable gentleman read the scathing remarks made by a judge in Sydney recently in relation to a certain case? If so, will he assure the House that such unfair practices . will not be repeated ?
– The question involves the conduct of investigators of the Prices Branch, who are under the jurisdiction of the Minister for Trade and Customs. In one particular case the conduct of these investigators was criticized strongly because the judge held that they had entered a restaurant solely for the purpose of inducing a breach of the meal law by the waitress. If that were the whole case, and if it were an isolated offence by the waitress, I do not believe that any one would do anything but condemn what was done. It has been reported to me that the practice laid down for the inspectors is not to visit an establishment unless there is reason to believe that systematic breaches of the regulations have been occurring. In such circumstances, the inspectors visit the place in order to procure evidence of a particular offence.
– They should not aid and abet an offence.
– None of us likes what has to be done even in those cases, but honorable members will readily admit that, in dealing with cases of systematic breaches of the law, there is only one approach that is likely to prove effective if there is a combination of customers and employee. That is the only practical way in which such offences can be detected.
– How is it known that systematic breaches occur?
– Complaints are made in regard to a particular place. I shall consult responsible officers in regard to the matter, for I appreciate the attitude of honorable members on the subject, but we are dealing with a difficult situation. We do not stand for the system of agents provocateurs or for the system of inducing offences, but in order to sheet home offences to persons who are guilty of systematic breaches it is necessary to prove that they have been guilty of one particular offence.
– Will the Minister for Civil Aviation have inquiries made to ascertain whether the premiums required to be paid by civil aviation companies in respect of the insurance of their aircraft are excessively high? If this is found to be the case, will the honorable gentleman make representations to the insurance companies concerned with the object of securing a reduction of the premiums. Alternatively, will he recommend that the risk be accepted by a government insurance office ?
– I shall have inquiries made and will consider the position in the light of the information I receive.
– I have received from the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson) an intimation that he desires to move the adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, “ The Australian meat industry “.
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
– Is the motion supported?
Five honorable members having risen in support of the motion,
– I am aware that in introducing this debate I am bringing to the notice of honorable members a most important subject. In time of war, items of production vary from time to time in their order of importance. An item which may have a low priority at one period may very shortly afterwards need a high priority, and, in consequence of the variation of war conditions, may quickly become a subject of major importance. The production of meat is undeniably of primary importance to Australia and to the Allied Nations generally. I wish to discuss the subject from the following points of view: -
There is no need for me to stress the importance of increasing the meat production capacity of Australia. This country is one of the main meat reservoirs of the Allied Nations, and the production of meat here must assume increasing importance. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) must be, or should be, aware of the primary importance of the subject. I am afraid that if the heavens do not open very shortly and the gentle rain fall in adequate measure we shall not be able to maintain our export figures, and it is distinctly possible that, in relation to the Melbourne market at any rate, we may find it difficult during the coming winter to maintain sufficient local supplies, even with the adoption of rationing. Our meat production is also of immense importance to Great Britain. Mr. Bankes Amery made it perfectly clear a week or two ago that any reduction of our exports of meat to Great Britain would be most embarrassing. The urgency of this subject has been steadily increasing, although it has been important for the last eight or nine months. It would be shocking if exports of meat from Australia caused a reduction of the already meagre meat ration issued to the people of Great Britain, particularly if that should occur in consequence of any lack of control measures in Australia. The Government has been tinkering at this problem, and has handled it with such a degree of uncertainty that those associated with the production and processing of meat have become extremely exasperated. I can say with complete truth that in Victoria the closing months of last year, and the early months of this year, witnessed the greatest wastage of beef, mutton and lamb that has ever been known in the history of the Commonwealth.
– That is sheer exaggeration.
– It is not exaggeration. Millions of pounds of mutton, lamb and beef was wasted owing to causes over which the Government had control, but failed to check. The Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) admitted in December that the nation was facing a most acute meat problem, and said that we could not allow the people of Great Britain to starve. The right honorable gentleman made that statement with the sure knowledge that ships had left this country with only a portion of their refrigerated space occupied, and with the full realization that the uncertainty throughout the producing districts was tending to retard rather than to assist production. Three things are necessary if meat production is to be placed on a safe and sound basis. First, stability must be given to the industry by means of fixed prices for a period of at least two years. Secondly, the necessary man-power must be made available at both the processing end and the producing end. Thirdly, there must be supplies of artificial manure. I hope that, should Nauru fall into Allied hands at an early date, steps will be taken immediately to have supplies of superphosphate brought from that island to Australia; because it is undeniable that an increase of meat production in many of the southern districts of Australia will depend largely on the availability of this fertilizer.
The other two matters can be guaranteed by the Government. When Great Britain tackled the food problem, it proceeded along simple lines, its first action being to grant to the producer an attractive fixed price for a period of years. I am not either asking or suggesting that anything approaching boom prices should be fixed, because these have an unfortunate habit of collapsing later. From May of last year there have been no fewer than four alterations of the wholesale price of beef. The majority of cattle sent to the Melbourne markets would have an average weight of approximately 600 or 650 lb. As the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) is aware, the fixing of wholesale prices is a determined factor in establishing the prices of cattle on the hoof. On the 24th May, 1943, the price was fixed at 53s. per 100 lb. On the 17th June it was raised to 55s., on the 26th October it was reduced to 43s., and on the 12th January of this year it was again raised to 51s. Honorable members may recall that in the winter months of last year, while the wholesale price was at from 53s. to 55s., the price on the hoof at the Melbourne market rose to between 60s. to 80s. wholesale. Butchers lost hundreds of pounds a week, because they .could not sell above the wholesale price, and could not buy in the yard at anything like that price. The high price fixed at Melbourne saleyards caused the price of store cattle to rise. It is useless to contend that the producer knows everything that is happening. He views the prices of his fat cattle on the Melbourne market, and naturally infers that the prices of store cattle will rise. There was a rather large increase of the price of store cattle. What was asked had to be paid, the alternative being to allow valuable fattening country to go to waste. When prices had soared, the Government reduced the. wholesale price to 43s., in an attempt to effect an allround reduction. I frankly admit that the level reached was altogether too high. But the situation had been allowed to develop, and the producer had to bear a loss of hundreds of thousands of pounds when the reduction was made. Continual alteration of the price must lead to uncertainty at the producing end. The Government should fix prices for all grades of mutton and beef for a period of two years, with different levels for winter and summer; because undeniably a producer who has to withhold cattle for winter sale has either to understock or to feed, and either will involve him in expense. The demand on the market during the winter period also entails a higher price. If definite winter and summer prices were fixed for a period, the producer would have the certain knowledge that when his cattle had been fattened a reasonable and safe return could be expected. This would have a big influence on the determination of the price of store cattle, particularly during the winter months, and would assist towards the stabilization of prices. Although the position in respect of mutton is not quite so bad as it is in respect of beef, there have been three alterations of price, and a similar procedure should be followed. The price should be fixed for weight and grade, so that the producer might market stock whenever he cared to do so on a certain and payable floor price basis. If he did not wish to gamble on the open market at Newmarket, he would always have the possibility of obtaining a just price at the works of the exporters in Melbourne, and at other centres throughout Australia. I come now to the problem of man-power, which became acute at the very time the Prime Minister was making his statement on the meat situation. It is well known that the great influx of fat stock to the Melbourne market occurs towards the end of the year. It happens every year, and full killing staffs are necessary in the meat works during that period. The exporters made early application to the man-power authorities for men, but most of those for whom they applied did not arrive. One leading exporter was promised men early in November, but they have not arrived yet, with the result that he had to work through the season with two of his killing chains idle. In 1938, these works put through 95,000 head of sheep and lambs a week. In 1942 the number had declined to 76,000, but this season only 63,000 head a week were killed. The fact that the exporters were unable to clear the stock led to a collapse of the Melbourne market. The Meat Commission, in an endeavour to relieve the situation, had to control the number of trucks coming forward to the meat works. In the case of another firm, the trouble was due, not so much to a shortage of labour, as to the fact that the men reduced their output. This is typical of what is occurring throughout industry generally - a gradual slackening of effort. It has proved to be disastrous to the meat-producers, and has led to untold wastage of meat. Before the war, the meat works to which I referred killed 17,000 sheep and lambs a day. This year, they have been killing between 11,000 and 12,000 a day. Not only did the men refuse to work overtime as they had done before the war, but they refuse to work even full time, knocking off. at 3.30 p.m. instead of the usual time of 4 p.m. It is estimated that, if they worked even on .the present basis with half-an-hour overtime, an additional 2,000 head of sheep and lambs a day could have been killed. Because they reduced their output, stock wasted in the yard and in the paddock. As a matter of fact, hundreds died in the yard.
– What age were those sheep that died?
– They were mostly canning ewes, I admit.
– Yes, probably as old as the honorable member himself !
– But there was also wastage of lambs, which were sometimes kept waiting a fortnight beforebeing killed. After the commission took control in November, and curtailed the number of trucks coming forward, thousands of lambs wasted in the paddock. In the Goulburn Valley alone many thousands of lambs wasted back to store condition, and the farmers were running around trying to get men to shear them. Because of the failure of the Government to make men available, and because the men on the job failed to kill their full quota, millions of pounds of mutton and lamb have been lost.
I touch on a matter now of immediate importance. Men who were released from the services to work in the meat processing plants were released on the understanding that they would be available until the end of March. I now ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture to ensure that they will not be taken away on that date, but will be allowed to continue in employment at the works throughout the year. There is plenty of work for them to do and no great numbers are involved.
It is assumed by those in a position to know that one of the chief reasons for the reduced output by slaughtermen is the high taxation imposed on their wages. I do not say that the Government should reduce taxation, but I suggest that it should apply to slaughtermen the same system of taxation as is applied to shearers. The majority of slaughtermen as well as shearers are employed on a seasonal basis, and although they earn high wages during the killing season, their overall earnings for the year are not necessarily very high. The shearer is not taxed at the ordinary rate on his week’s earnings. His income is averaged for the whole year, and a rate struck on that. The slaughterman, on the other hand, is taxed on his weekly earnings, and while it is true that he may be due for a substantial refund at the end of the year, that is not obvious to him at the time, and the system leads to reduction of output and to absenteeism. The averaging system, as applied to shearers, has been an important factor in maintaining the standard output of work among them, and I am sure that the application of this system to slaughtermen would have similar desirable results. When discussing this matter, I pointed out the fact that refunds could be made at the end of the financial year if over-payment of tax had been made. I was told, however, that many of them have not made income tax returns, and they are afraid that they will be penalized if they do so now. As wageearners have their tax deducted at the source, there is little danger that they have been evading taxation. I suggest, therefore, that it is unnecessary to go back over the years to see whether returns were previously lodged. The important thing is that returns be lodged from now on so as to ensure that tax can be properly assessed. I would go farther and say that every one over 21 years of age in this country should be compelled to make a return of income. I, however, see no sense in the imposition of penalties in cases where it is certain that the tax has been paid and that the Commonwealth has gained even though the men concerned have not furnished returns. I advise the Treasurer to say to these men, “All right; forget about the past, but you must make returns henceforth “.
As to skins, the price of wool to-day is on the same basis as it was during the last war. It is a mystery to a great number of wool-growers, however, why the value of the majority of wool from skins should be so much less than in the last war. The highest price for scoured woolskins last year was 34d., compared with 42d. in 1918, and the highest price per lb. for skins last year was 131/2d. compared with 17d. in1918. A reason was advanced in a letter sent to me by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture -
The duty of the Technical Advisory Committee when compiling the first Table of Limits was clearly defined, and that body had to ensure that all types of wool bore their comparative relationship the table that public auction and private treaty prices had determined in the season prior to the war.
It is common knowledge that before the war there was no correct relationship between the price of crossbred wool and the price of finer wools, but apparently the relationship has been carried through the table so far as skin wool is concerned. The result to-day is that, generally speaking, the price of skins of the finer qualities of wool is much lower than during the last war. Would any producer rather sell fat wethers with the possibility of receiving 10s. or 12s. a skin or hold them for a little while, shear them for a return of 15s. or 16s., and then hold them for a further two or three weeks and sell them at an additional1s. for the pelt? There is no doubt as to what he would do. This low value, particularly for bulky woolskins, curtails the supply of fatstock to the market during the second part of the season, and causes a glut later. The Government, thereby, looses the benefit of a regular flow of fat-stock into the processing works.
On the last point, if a stable policy is applied with fixed attractive prices and the main labour difficulties at the processing end are rectified and if there is an improvement of the price of skins, particularly of comeback and merino types, production will not be maintained unless attention be paid to labour at the producing end. It will be extremely difficult to maintain the supply of meat if labour and materials be not made available. As the offensive against Japan gathers weight there will be additional demands on Australia for the supply of meat, and this cannot be met unless there is man-power at the producing end.
– The honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson), who has moved the adjournment to discuss the all-important matter of meat supplies, has not shown that the Government has in. any way fallen down in organizing the meat industry of the Commonwealth. Every one knows that there is a shortage of men, but, as we are at war, we have to make the best of the men available. There has been a liberal response from the Army to applications for the release of men to go into the meat industry. I consider that the quantity of meat which has been produced this year with a record low number of men in the industry is a remarkable achievement and a tribute to the Commonwealth Government and the Meat Commissioner. Production of meat in 1943 was 1,045,000 tons. This is only 7,000 tons below the pre-war record of 1,052,000 tons, established in 1931. The production in 1941 was851,000 tons. Honorable members will realize that, in order to reach the 1943 figure, a great many difficulties had to be overcome. There were not only problems in relation to man-power on farms, but there were serious transport difficulties, lack of equipment to service stock routes and a smaller number of men employed in killing establishments, particularly when the possibility of invasion was most threatening; and drought conditions in some parts of Australia. Despite all these difficulties, production in 1943 exceeded bur target by a substantial amount. Honorable members might well appreciate the work done by stockbreeders and by those engaged in processing. There has also been a remarkable expansion of canned meat production. Approximately 85,000 tons of meat was canned during 1943. This represents a fivefold increase , over prewar figures. It did not just happen; it represents a vast amount of organization and planning. There is too often a tendency on the part of some honorable members to decry the work being done by primary producers and by those working in industry, instead of recognizing the fine contribution they are making to the national effort.For instance, some honorable members have taken particular pleasure in drawing attention to our falling meat exports to Britain. They must be fully aware that merely to compare pre-war exports with the present exports to Britain is telling only half the story.
The truth is that Australia is now exporting to our own and Allied troops in the Pacific area and other theatres, more food than it exported to Great Britain prior to the war. Whilst we have achieved record production because of our greatly increased obligations, we have had to introduce rationing in order that the requirements of Great Britain this year shall be met in full. Whereas before the war we provided only one-third of a smaller volume of production, we are now supplying 50 per cent. of an expanded production for essential war purposes. The British Government has a clearer recognition of the part that Australia is playing in producing food for the services than have some honorable members.
Closely related to the export of meat to Great Britain is the capacity of Australian cold stores to hold the meat awaiting shipment. It is idle to assert that cold storage is not being used to the maximum. If in the first months of the war the preceding Government had planned to create greater storage facilities throughout the Commonwealth, the position to-day would be much easier.
– That is not a fair statement.
– The previous Government was always planning, but got no results.
– Does not the Minister know that cold storage space was doubled in 1940?
– The temporary holding of meat for canning, for export, for supply to the services, and for sudden demands which arise for the provedoring of Allied ships, has thrown an unduly heavy burden on our cold store space, and the Government is taking practical action to extend the existing capacity. The expansion of cold store space is essential to maintain the maximum flow of stock to the market. Honorable members are well aware that, on the outbreak of war, this country was ill-equipped to handle big reserves of perishable foodstuffs. With the need for handling supplies on a large scale for export, cold storage space had to be expanded.This problem is not confined to Australia.For instance, cable advice from Canada indi cates that that dominion is encountering a similar problem because of the lack of shipping and other transport facilities. Recently officers of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture and the Department of Munitions carried out investigations, in conjunction with the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard) who assists me in Victoria, with the object of converting certain buildings into cold stores. The Government is justified in believing that, as the result of those investigations, it will be able to achieve its objective of rapidly expanding cold store space at a minimum cost. The following news item in this morning’s press indicates the seriousness of the position in Canada : -
The Government has announced the temporary suspension of meat rationing and the meatless Tuesday throughout the Dominion.
It is pointed out that rationing was introduced so as to build up a surplus of meat for export to Britain, and recently large surpluses had accumulated, creating a bottle-neck in regard to shipment.
Recently, Australian had a similar experience. In one State operations had to be suspended for fourteen days because of the lack of cold storage space. Meat could not he stored until the arrival of ships to relieve the “bottle-neck”. Consequently, meat had to he moved from Melbourne to inland centres in Victoria until the ships were ready to take it.
Some criticism has been directed at what has been described as a slump of prices in Victoria during the main export season. Unquestionably, a fall of price levels did occur at that particular period compared with the prices that operated in the off-season. Often, they were above the “ ceiling “. The honorable member for Deakin mentioned that at one stage prices were too high, and that a collapse of the market would occur if they were permitted to continue. The position was accentuated by the drought in northern Victoria. The most serious effect was on the plainer and lower grades of lambs, and the flow of stock to the market had to be regulated in order to protect producers. This difficulty invariably occurs during the periods of heavier supply. About that time, I received several deputations in Melbourne. One was introduced by the Minister for Agriculture in Victoria and another by the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin). I recall that responsible authorities in the meat industry declared that these happenings occurred fairly regularly at that particular time of the year. Because of the drought, stock had to be brought in earlier than would have been necessary under ordinary conditions. When Mr. Lilley, the president of the Wheat and Wool Growers Union, was speaking, the honorable member for Bendigo interjected, “ This has occurred before at specific periods in Victoria “. This year, the Government has attempted to protect the producers. Admittedly, the scheme was only a temporary expedient to safeguard them against a market condition that has perturbed them for many years. Wow, the Government is determined that this condition of affairs shall not be perpetuated. With that object in view, the Government is examining the extension of the principle of killing on o wner’s account, and the extension of purchases by treatment works on a weight and grade basis. Following negotiations, the Government has received an assurance from processors that they will treat a greater proportion of stock on behalf of owners. I appointed a meat expert to report on conditions in New Zealand. That report has now been received by the Meat Board and an attempt will be made to bring the process of killing on owner’s account as near to perfection as is possible. Of course, difficulties will arise. Some honorable members will protest because of the absence of a proviso ensuring an “ open door “ for the producer. They will declare that the exporter will always kill his own sheep before he will handle those of primary producers. But a condition has been laid down that a producer may give fourteen days’ notice of his intention to send a, consignment of stock to a registered establishment, and if that condition be complied with, the establishment must handle the stock. The meat will then be accepted under the Government’s plan on a weight and grade basis, and prices wall be paid at export parity. I assure honorable gentlemen opposite, as the Minister responsible for the maintenance of meat production, that I am always ready to investigate any sug gestions they care to make to me, and I am sure that the Meat Commission also would gladly examine any proposals for improving the position. The Government desires to safeguard the interests of the producers and to stimulate processing. No doubt mistakes have been made, but they have been honest mistakes and the Government is anxious to apply remedies where necessary.
It has been our objective since the introduction of meat rationing to make the maximum use of all slaughtering and inspection facilities so that the greatest possible contribution can be made to essential local and export needs. In tha past, inspection for export has bee» carried out only at plants slaughtering for export. In view of the imperative) need for greater production for export, and for the services, I desire to make the maximum use of all killing and inspection facilities. Some consideration was given to this subject at the last meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council. Our aim is not to lower export standards of meat but rather to make the greatest use of operatives who previously have been killing only for the local civilian trade. Some objection has been raised to any alteration of the present system, but I regard the need to provide meat for the services and for Great Britain as of paramount importance.
I express my indebtedness to the honorable member for Deakin for having given me the opportunity to explain the position and to advise honorable members of the ramifications of the concerted plans made by the Meat Commission to increase meat production throughout the Commonwealth. We are doing all that can possibly be done to fulfil our commitments locally and to the United Kingdom and the Allied Nations. I am glad to say that we are now working on a more satisfactory basis in relation to United Kingdom supplies, for some standards of meat which previously were not acceptable to the United Kingdom authorities have been approved recently and, in the future, meat of a standard which has been accepted by the services generally and by the Indian market will be acceptable also to the United Kingdom Government. The result will be that a considerably greater quantity of fresh frozen meat will be exported to the United Kingdom, and this will improve the whole position in the forthcoming season. The Government is most anxious to improve the overall position of the industry. Great problems have to be faced. The honorable member for Deakin referred to man-power difficulties. These face every industry throughout the Commonwealth, but the Government regards it as essential that the vital needs of primary production shall be most carefully examined and men provided wherever that can possibly be done. The fact is, of course, that we are at war, and we can do only the best that can be done in the circumstances that face us. The Government is determined to do its utmost and it will strain every nerve to maintain exports to the United Kingdom. I again assure honorable members that I am willing at all times to examine any proposals they make for the overall improvement of the industry. I appeal to honorable members opposite to co-operate with the Government in meeting the very serious problems that face all primary producers in these days. If a spirit of co-operation is displayed we shall overcome our difficulties.
.- In the latter part of his address the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) adopted a conciliatory attitude and appealed to honorable members to do all in their power to assist the Government. We realize, of course, that the administration is being called upon to face many difficulties. I must say, however, that the Minister finished a great deal better than he started. The honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson) submitted a well-reasoned case. He pointed out, in a commendable way, the difficulties that had been experienced in this industry and made suggestions for overcoming many of them. I believe that when the Minister reads the report of the honorable member’s speech he will admit that there was justification for all that he said. It is regrettable, however, that the honorable gentleman saw fit to charge previous governments with having done nothing whatever to meet cold storage difficulties.
– What I said was perfectly true.
– It does not do the Minister credit to adopt that line of argument. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), who was Minister for Commerce for some time, supported me when, by interjection, I disputed the accuracy of the charge that previous governments had done nothing to cope with cold storage difficulties, and I believe that that honorable gentleman will be able to give exact figures which will prove that during 1940 the government then in office doubled the cold storage accommodation available in this country. I well remember, as a member of the Cabinet in the previous government, that very many proposals were made and approved to deal with increased cold storage accommodation.
– If the accommodation had been trebled it would not have been adequate.
– The cold storage accommodation has not been doubled even yet, so the honorable member for Indi should be careful in what he says.
– I have not the slightest doubt about the accuracy of my statements.
– Will the honorable gentleman give details to show how the accommodation was doubled?
– The honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard) will have an opportunity to speak on this subject. The previous government appealed to the processing companies to increase their cold storage accommodation and their response was very good. The co-operative companies, and all the great proprietary companies, increased their available space to a substantial degree to meet the emergency that had arisen. The Government, at that time, made definite proposals to subsidize the companies on a fi for £1 basis, or on some such terms, in order to assist them to expand their accommodation. Not only the great cooperative companies and the State government meat handling organizations, but also firms like Vesteys, Sims Cooper, and Borthwick’s also did their part. The Minister was, therefore, unjust in making such unsupportable charges against the previous government.
I shall say no more on that aspect of the subject. The meat industry has undoubtedly fallen into an unsatisfactory state in the last nine months, owing to extraordinary difficulties that have arisen, partly because of inadequate control measures by this Government, partly because of difficulties for which the Government is not responsible, and partly because of its incapacity generally to grapple with the situation. The honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson) has pointed out that during last winter the prescribed ceiling wholesale prices were lower than the prices on the hoof that were being paid in the market to producers. The producers, being human, naturally enjoyed the receipt of high prices. But that was an absolutely chaotic state of affairs for both the wholesale and retail butchering trade in this country. Tremendous loss was suffered. I had the task of placing before the Prices Commissioner the conditions of butchers in some towns in my electorate, with the result that the prices permitted to be charged by wholesalers were raised. What happens in a trade of this sort, in which the butcher buys at auction nearly all the stock which he eventually sells over the counter? If he endures a period of loss he, of course, endeavours to recoup himself later at auction, by purchasing at the lowest possible prices. During the tremendous and unforgiveable slump of sheep values which occurred in Melbourne during the spring, and lasted right up to Christmas and for a short period in the new year, butchers and wholesalers were excusing the extraordinary profits which they could not deny they were making, by saying that they were recouping themselves for the losses which they had sustained during the winter months. From their point of view, there was possibly some equity in that. But they were not purchasing this stock at low prices at that time of the year from the producers who had sold at high prices in the winter months; they were buying from a different set of producers. My business in life is the raising of “fat stock ; consequently I am perfectly well acquainted with that whereof I speak. T say quite deliberately that never before in my experience has there been such a dreadfully chaotic state of affairs as was witnessed in the Melbourne livestock markets during the latter months of last year and a portion of January of this year. The handling of -the matter was well within the control of the Government. Many explanations were given. It was explained that there was not sufficient coal to run additional trains for the transport of the stock to market. That explanation was made for the information of those producers who could not get their stock to market. On the other hand, the market was choked with excess supplies, and there was no real regulation, having regard to the capacity to process the stock after purchase. Then, the slaughtermen in the treatment works put up a very poor performance in the number of stock which they slaughtered. Unfortunately, I have not before me the exact figures to prove this. The unions themselves prescribed for their members a permissible daily rate of killing. Only once during the height of the export season, at a time when it was a common spectacle for the yards of exporters to be filled to capacity with starving stock, which had been standing probably for a week, and at times undeniably for almost a fortnight, before being slaughtered, did the slaughtermen kill daily the number of stock which their own union had prescribed as the proper number to be killed. I have before me figures showing the degree to which the slaughtermen at Homebush Abattoirs, where the experience in this regard has been the worst, fell short of killing not the number of stock indiscriminately sent, but the number which their own unions had prescribed as the permissible daily number to be killed. In January and February, the killings of sheep were 80,000 head fewer than the unions had prescribed for the number of men engaged, the figure for January being 44,000. Surely this is a problem with which the Government ought to grapple! It is clothed with all power. Yet the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture says that “ everything is as sweet as a nut “.
– Is the honorable member sure that the sheep were at Homebush to be killed during that period?
– I am quite sure.
– They were not; supplies were not coming forward regularly. I have a record of every day’s sale.
– I frequented the market. (Extension of time granted.] In connexion with the handling of the stock that has been and can be produced, the Government has the capacity to provide an adequate supply of labour. There will be no solution of the problem unless the Government grapples with it and ensures that sufficient labour shall be made available to treat the stock before it is wasted inexcusably by being compelled to stand m the yards. . Irrespective of whether or not there is a desire to do equity to the producers, the continuance of a reasonable volume of production can be assured only if the producers receive a reasonable minimum price for their stock when they have raised it. What is the state of affairs to-day? Every other section of the trade except the producer is protected. The slaughterman has his rate of wage fixed. The wholesaler has his ceiling price fixed. The retailer has his margin of profit fixed, having relation to the prescribed level of February of last year. The exporter has his price assured. There is a schedule of prices for lamb, mutton, and beef of various grades. A fat wether or fat lamb has a value exactly determinable to a farthing, because, when killed, it is weighed. The Government inspector specifies the grade. The schedule of prices is consulted. The exporter has - (a) the weight of the lamb; (6) the grade of the lamb fixed by the Government inspector; and (c) the schedule of prices. He is completely covered. But what of the producer? He is at the mercy of buyers according to whether or not they nod their heads to the auctioneer.
– If the producer so’ chooses, he may consign his stock and have it sold according to weight and grade.
– That is a pleasant story, but it is not in accordance with the facts*
– It is in accordance with the facts.
– These producers are not without intelligence. They are business men, who would not send thousands of head of stock weekly to Newmarket to be sold for 4£d. per lb. on the hoof, when the prescribed contract price is 7 id. or 7-Jd., if they knew that they could elect freely to have them put over the hooks and to be paid according to weight and grade. They know that they have not that right and that they cannot get the trucks in which to transport them. They know that there are obstacles in the way, and they are dissuaded if possible by the advice of the processors themselves. They know that if they break their way through all those barriers, and send their stock for treatment, it will stand in the yards for seven, eight or nine days until the exporter has killed his own stock. Some producers have divided a consignment, sending one part to auction where it has been sold at pence per Jb. below the contract price. The other part they have sent to the abattoirs to be killed on the weight and grade basis, and that part has returned them even less than what they sold by auction. The explanation lies in the wastage that occurs while the stock are waiting to be killed, and, in addition to this, there is no adequate provision for paying the producers for the offal and skin.
– That is all provided for in the scale.
– I do not want to cite my own experience, but I could show honorable members my own returns, which indicate that I have received only a few pence for skins because they were not handled in the same way as the processors handled the skins of- the stock they themselves bought.
– But the weight and grade basis is the only safeguard the producer has.
– For years I have been, in season and out of season, an advocate of the sale of fat-stock on a weight and grade basis. I do not believe in the auctioning of fat-stock. Under the present system, the producers may send £100,000 worth of fat stock in a day to the Newmarket yards in Melbourne. The auctioneers do not have to find the buyers or to finance them. They merely mutter some words and hit the fence, yet the producers are mulct that day in £3,000 for commission. There is no justification for this, and the quality of the stock is affected by the handling. I admit that there are difficulties in respect of small country centres, but at least where there are processing works, and government supervision is available, there ought to be an end to the auctioning of fat-stock, so that the producers may get a proper return. One of the easily recognized advantages of the system I suggest would be that, instead of having two auction sales a week while there are six killing days, resulting in wastage of stock, there could be an organized daily flow of stock to the treatment works. I put this forward as a constructive suggestion. I trust that the Government will not, merely because this matter has been raised on a motion for the adjournment of the House, feel obliged to defend the existing state of affairs. I hope that it will sympathetically consider the proposal put forward with a view to improving the present system. I hope it will do this for the sake of the producers, and what is even more important, so as to maintain a high volume of production in the industry.
– I propose to confine my remarks to one phase of the subject, that of skin values, to which sufficient attention has not been paid in the past. The honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson) said that there was a difference of about 2s. a sheep in the price obtained by the producer if he managed to get the wool off before sending it to the processors, as compared with sending it for processing while in full wool.
– I said that there was a difference of 2s. in the value as between this war and the last.
– Well, the fact is that there is a difference of 2s. to the producer between sending his sheep to the works shorn and in wool. This is so well recognized that at one meat processing plant, that of Rogers Brothers, at Orange, they actually shear the sheep before killing them. I have tried to find out from technical men why there should be this difference between the returns, and one assured me that it was because those who handled the wool in
England got better results from it if they carbonized or scoured it themselves than if those processes were carried out in Australia. The effect of all this is to induce farmers, if they have the grass, and their stock are ready within a few weeks of shearing, to hang on to them so as to get the wool off before sending them to the treatment works. This results in the holding back of stock beyond the period when they are in top condition, and also in congestion at the treatment works during the height of the season. I think that the question of packinghouse licences should also be investigated by the Department of Commerce and Agriculture. At present about half the exporters . have packing-house licences. The buyers for the operators without packing-house licences have an advantage over those who have the licences. The quota for skins for appraisement is struck on a base period, but those who have licences are not using the full quota allotted to them. I suggest that the difference between the quota allotted to those houses and the weight of skins that they are handling for appraisement should be transferred to those houses which do not have licences. This is the way the handicap is demonstrated: In my electorate there are two fairly large meat works operated by rival companies - one the Angliss- Vestey group and the other the Rogers company. The Angliss- Vestey meat works has a packing-house licence, but the Rogers company has not. The buyer operating for the owner of a packing-house licence is able to offer 2d., 3d., 4d. and sometimes up to ls. a head more than the buyer operating for the firm which has no licence. Competition is very keen amongst these people. The Minister will be able to appreciate that when a mob of 4,000 or 5,000 sheep has to be bought at a yard, the person who is in a favoured position can get that stock away under the nose of the other man. That might mean the transport of a mob of sheep 200 or 300 miles away from the place where they could have been handled. The holder of a packinghouse licence derives a fair profit from the handling of skins, but, as his principal industry is the handling of the meat, he is able to transfer his profit from the packing-house undertaking to the meat side of his industry, and he is consequently enabled to use profit in order to get the stock of the producer against his rival who has no packinghouse licence. The man without a packing-house licence has to grade and handle skins to a certain degree. Those skins are then sent to auction or to the fellmongering industry, or they are sent to be treated on owner’s account by the rival firm which has a packing-house licence. As the rival firm has a full-time job handling its own skins, it will not handle other skins. Therefore those skins have to be channelled to the auction sales or to the fellmongering industry. As everybody knows, the auction marts cannot handle them because they are “ chockfull “. The fellmongers cannot handle them either. So the operator is left with the skins. That is why the man without a packing-house licence is operating under a handicap. In order that the industry may function with a better chance of success than at present, new packing-house licences should be issued. I do not say that new industries should be established during the war to make a demand on man-power already almost non-existent, but if a packing house is not using its full quota the differencebetween what it is handling and what it is entitled to handle ought to be transferred to other operators, especially meat’ works which have no packing-house licence.
.- The peak period of the last lamb season produced one of the greatest messes ever known in . the meat industry. We all know that during the peak period of the season there is frequently a glut and that the processing firms use their opportunities to force the market down in order to buy stock at a cheap rate, but last season, owing to lack of organization, there was insufficient labour available to handle the stock that came on to the market. Taxation was so high that the men who were available would not work to their full capacity, because the more sheep they killed the higher they rose in categories of income. The result was that thousands of sheep held over became “ stores “ and were lost at the time when we possibly needed meat more than ever before. In a great portion of northern Victoria and southern Riverina, a fairly severe drought was suffered, but there was a period when the lambs raised there could have been processed for export, although they were not first class. Transport was in such a shocking muddle, however, that, although a great proportion of the trucks available was provided for Ballarat, the western district and Gippsland, the lambs from northern Victoria and southern Riverina were not trucked and their condition deteriorated so much that they became useless to the meat trade. The authorities allowed lambs to be trucked back to the irrigation areas from Bendigo, but not south to Ballarat or the western district where pasture was available.
– There are good abattoirs at Bendigo.
– Yes, and there is good storage, but only about one-twentieth of what was required to handle those lambs. They had to be disposed of within two or three weeks if they were to be fit for processing. If held over that period they lost condition. The drought-stricken settlers in those areas lost the only bright prospect they had of gaining something from the wreck. Not only did that happen, but also they would not allow stores to be sent south from Bendigo. The Government allowed store lambs to be sent to Melbourne to be sold on the Melbourne market, and then sent to Ballarat.
– Who are “they” - the Victorian Railways Commission?
– No, the transport authorities.
– The director is chairman of the Victorian Railways Commis-. sion.
– No. The Director of Transport is an officer of the New South Wales Railways Commission. The Minister for Transport was the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward). . In fairness to both those gentlemen I must say that they were the only ones who tried to do anything to alleviate the position. They provided trucks - not a great number of them - to travel south from Bendigo, and also to proceed to a sale at Euralie. Approximately 20,000 excellent sheep raised in the north of Victoria and the western Riverina were offered, and ewes brought up to £1 9s. A week later, when similar sheep were offered at Echuca, no trucks were provided and market prices dropped by 5s. a head. The primary producers, who were already suffering from the effects of a severe drought, bore that loss. The Minister said that registered establishments must accept stock if a producer notifies them of his intention within fourteen days to forward consignments. Though sound in theory, that scheme fails in practice. Any person who deals in lambs knows that the period is nearer two months. After waiting that time, a lamb has passed the stage where it is a payable proposition, because it has lost bloom, is too big, and is not suitable for export. Sheep were forced on to the market by the conditions, and the only people who benefited were the three big meat processors, Vesteys, Angliss, and Borthwicks. They gained because of the lack of organization by the public servants who are attempting to run the meat industry. I urge the Minister to examine the methods that have been adopted in New Zealand, where the producers have the major voice in controlling the industry. Do not make the owner of a large cattle station the representative of the lamb-raisers of Victoria !
– Mr. Fisken is said to be the greatest authority in Victoria on fat lambs.
– I did not refer to him.
– He represents Victoria on the Meat Commission, and he is Deputy Meat Controller in that State.
– The Meat Board consists of “ fellows north of Sydney “ who have little or no knowledge of fat-lamb raising. Victoria produces a very large proportion of Australia’s fat lambs. As I stated, the policy of the Government formulated by public servants has only benefited the meat processing companies, who have “ slated “ the meat producer at every opportunity. These companies form an octopus that the Government must watch after the war. The sooner they are kicked out of this country and we handle our own meat, the better it will be for meat-producers and for Australia as a whole.
The Government has fixed the price of meat, That is the “ ceiling” price. The buyer is not compelled to pay anything like the price that he receives for the commodity. Fat lambs ready for exportwere sold at Bendigo at 4d. per lb. I bought 600 of them at an average price of 12s. 4d. They shore 3 lb. of wool. I hope that the Government will give the meat-producer avoice in the handling of his product.
– Order ! The honorable member has exhausted his time.
.- Countless thousands of pounds has been lost to meat-producers through the muddling which has occurred in the peak period for the marketing of fat lambs and sheep. Incidentally, that loss has been a. severe blow to the nation, which urgently requires meat at the present time. It seemed anomalous to me that when so much fat stock was offering, and could not be marketed, the Government decided to introduce meat rationing.
– Meat rationing did not operate then.
– No, but the Government announced its intention to introduce it. Undoubtedly, the position was greatly aggravated in that period of the season for the marketing of fat lambs by mishandling on the part of those in authority. True, war conditions created transport difficulties and there were contributing factors, but they caused producers to suffer great losses. In the north-west of Victoria, which contributes a large number of fat lambs to the export trade each year, many thousands of lambs ready for market could not be sent away, for reasons indicated by previous speakers. Those producers who succeeded in sending away their lambs suffered severe financial loss. I agree that Australia has not sufficient facilities for storing large quantities of meat, but I emphasize that this country has not utilized, to the best advantage, all the facilities that it possesses. In the electorate of Wimmera there is a freezing works worth, probably £100,000, which has been standing idle for years.
– Is it also a killing works ?
– Yes. The plant is modern in every respect. Two years ago I induced the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture and the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Mr. Beasley) to inspect this establishment, and they expressed surprise that, at that period, it was not being used. State authorities in Victoria have assured me that in the coming season the works will be operated. The reason advanced last season for allowing it to remain idle was the shortage of manpower. I contend that if man-power had been used to the best economic advantage, that concern would have been operating. I see no reason why, at a time like the present, we should insist upon very high standards in the slaughtering and processing of lambs and other stock. If the people of Great Britain and service personnel generally are to receive the quantities of meat which they need, I consider that partly skilled labour will have to be employed. As retrenchments are now being made in munitions factories, I suggest that the released personnel should be given some training in this industry, or in other food production industries which are vital to the prosecution of the war, and then employed on the work in a practical way. It will be reprehensible if recent experiences in the meat industry are repeated. We ought to learn from the mistakes that have been made, and I believe no attempt to “ pass the buck “ will be accepted by the Parliament or the people in explanation of even a small measure of the dislocations that have occurred in the meat industry recently.
– I intend to address myself to one aspect of this subject of meat production which affects New South Wales. I was interested to hear the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) discuss the shortage of manpower throughout Australia as it affected operations at meat works. I put to the
Minister, however, that even the available man-power is not being, fully employed. The men are not pulling their weight in processing meat for export or for use generally by the Allied Nations.
The Homebush Bay abattoirs has been described as the largest single killing unit in the world. The bulk of the stock that comes into the Sydney market is slaughtered at Homebush Bay. Two other killing works are operated by private enterprise. These are the Riverstone works of William Angliss & Son Limited and the Sydney Meat Preserving Works near Homebush Bay; but the preponderance of slaughtering is done at Homebush Bay abattoirs. I shall place before honorable members some figures to show what happened at Homebush Bay abattoirs from, the 1st January to the 31st December, 1943. The number of sheep and lambs slaughtered there in that period was 3,587,910. The works are operated on the chain system of killing, and when the first award was made to cover that system it provided that 80 head of stock should constitute a fair day’s work for a man on the chain, but in special circumstances the men could be required to kill all the stock yarded for the day. The men have hardly ever maintained the stipulated rate of killing. In 1943 the number of sheep and lambs left unslaughtered in consequence of the failure to observe the daily rate of 80 was 558,491. Seeing that such a large number of stock remained unslaughtered, the Minister cannot say that these works were operating at full capacity or that the men were pulling their weight. The first reason I shall mention for this loss of output in 1943 is major strikes at the works. In this connexion I give details of the following stoppages and the losses entailed : - 1st January. - Although it was declared a working day the slaughtermen refused to work, and as a result 18,000 sheep and Iambs were left unslaughtered 16th-18th February. - There was a complete cessation for one full day and portion of two other days, when the employees of this section decided to support an illegal demand by the cattle slaughtermen for extra labour. As a result approximately 34,000 sheep and lambe remained unslaughtered 4th August. - One team of 76 slaughtermen knocked off for the day about 10 a.m., making a frivolous claim of draughty conditions at one point on the chain, and as a result approximately 4,000 sheep and lambs remained unslaughtered 3rd-13th September. - There waB a complete cessation for six working days as a protest against the Industrial Commission which had refused to deal with the union’s application for annual leave to casual employees, following the refusal of the cattle slaughtermen to carry out the commission’s order re suspect and reactor cattle. As a result approximately 100,000 sheep and lambs remained unslaughtered 4th November. - Owing to the large number of absentee slaughtermen great difficulty was experienced in building one of the chains up to 7(i men, and when a few of them knocked off shortly after 9 a.m. the rest of the team held a meeting and they all went home about 10.30 a.m. As a result approximately 4,750 sheep and lambs remained unslaughtered 24th December. - Owing to the large number of absentee slaughtermen it was possible to man two teams only, and these both knocked off for the day before noon. A short day had been anticipated, and only a limited number yarded. In spite of this, 4,400 sheep and lambs remained unslaughtered. 29th December. - Five trimmers employed on one chain claimed the right to rotate in their jobs without reference to the foreman. As this is a dangerous form of job control the Commissioner refused to permit it, although willing to allow the men to rotate subject to the control of the foreman. The slaughtermen supported the trimmers, and as a result there was a cessation after only 170 sheep had been slaughtered, approximately 18,000 sheep and lambs remained unslaughtered
General. - In addition to the above there were numerous occasions on which one or more of the teams knocked off before the self-appointed finishing time of 3.20 p.m. In fact the men doing the first task on the chain, viz., sticking, rarely worked up to the time stated.
During the same period 84 stop-work meetings were held, which also seriously decreased the number of sheep and lambs slaughtered. In addition, there was a fairly consistent failure to complete the daily task even on normal working days. On 214 out- of 256 working days, the men failed to kill the task number of 80 sheep and lambs. Moreover, absenteeism, which has ‘always been rife among sheep slaughtermen, has had serious results, and the position is rapidly becoming worse. The percentage of daily absenteeism for the last quarter of 1943, exclusive of injury, sickness, &c, was as follows : -
If slaughtermen maintain their average of 80 head of stock per man they earn approximately £2 5s. a day. In view of the fact that we are engaged in a total war effort, I do not think that any one can say that the prescribed hours of work are onerous. The award provided that normally the men should work 8 hours and 48 minutes daily, but the actual working day has been 6 hours and 25 minutes, or when 15 minutes of the award smoko is included, 2 hours S minutes short of the prescribed time. The Minister had a good deal to say about the demands that have been made for more labour at various processing works, but I consider that, in relation to the Homebush Bay abattoirs, at any rate, it would be quite useless to attempt to obtain more labour until the present labour supply is fully used.
– Does the honorable member consider that labour is the only difficulty that has to be met?
– I do not. I have not the slightest hesitation in saying that a hundred and one other difficulties have to be faced.
– I am pleased to have the honorable gentleman’s admission.
– I say quite frankly that there are many difficulties, but although the union has been pressing the Meat Commission to, apply to the man-power authorities for the permanent release of all its members, including casual workers, for re-employment in the industry, the fact is that there is at present a great deal of absenteeism. If the Government would face this position quite frankly, and take steps to correct the existing troubles, we should be able to achieve much more satisfactory results, and our meat exports to the United Kingdom, could be substantially improved.
I wish now to discuss the available amount of refrigerated space. At the Homebush Bay abattoirs there is a store which was erected at a cost of £250,000 while the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) was Minister for Commerce. According to a report published in Country Life of the 11th February, that store to-day contains only a small quantity of meat, which is being held for military requirements. If killings were equal to the capacity of the works and of the available man-power, plenty of meat could be put into that very large store, and the ships sent to Great Britain would have their holds filled instead of sailing only partly filled.
.- The motion more or less condemns the Government’s handling of the production and distribution of meat. The problem is one which the Government will admit is not easy of solution. The production and marketing of meat present many difficulties, particularly in war-time. The chief of them is that which affects all other lines of production and is not peculiar to Australia - the problem of man-power. We have a limited population, from which we have to provide for the various fighting services and man the different food industries as- well as production in all other spheres. It is almost impossible to continue to provide additional man-power for any one industry. The problem is common to all the Allied nations, and even to the enemy. The United States of America, with a population in excess of 130,000,000, only recently completed an agreement with Mexico whereby Mexicans are sent to America to assist in the production of food; the first draft numbered 50,000. The Commonwealth Government has grappled with the difficulties as best it could with the available man-power, ft is not satisfied with what has been achieved, but expects better results because of the greater efforts that are being made to increase production in various spheres. The problem in relation to meat concerns production, marketing, killing, processing and distribution. The commission set up by the Government in October, 1942, has done excellent work in that regard. It has increased the production of stock and the number of slaughterings, and has improved the price to the producers. During the five years prior to June, 1942, the average production in the various States was 961,000 tons. Despite the great problem of man-power and the difficulties experienced in the killing establishments, the production for 1943 was 1,045,000 tons, which was the second highest for a very long period in the history of Australia ; the production in 1938 was approximately 7,000 tons higher. Substantial improvement of production in time of war is an excellent achievement. Comments have been made concerning production in New South Wales. In that State the number of sheep killed was 5,200,000 during the year 1943 and 4,900,000 during the year 1942. The number of lambs killed was smaller, but. that was entirely attributable to the existence of drought conditions and to the lower number killed during the peak period. A similar position existed in Victoria, where there was a substantial increase of the number of sheep’ killed, but a substantial falling off of the number of lambs killed, because in the first two months of the lamb season, from September to December, a very bad drought was experienced. The production of food of all kinds, but particularly meat, is dependent very materially upon the elements. That supplies to Great Britain have declined is admitted. At the present time, our surplus production is being sent not to Great Britain alone, but also to Allied services in the Pacific theatre, the Mediterranean, and other spheres. Before the war, Australia consumed 76 per cent, of the meat which it produced. To-day, its consumption is approximately only 55 per cent., the balance being devoted to the services and to export purposes. Were we not supplying Allied services, our supplies to Great Britain could be much higher. Certain priorities have been fixed. The fighting forces in specified areas have to receive precedence. The civil population has been rationed, in order to provide additional quantities for Great Britain. The problem of production has been adequately handled. While in Victoria a fortnight ago, I was informed that stocks were not being sent to the abattoirs in Melbourne in full quantities because the’ men were not killing their quota; further, that trucks had had to be cancelled, and stock were remaining in the country, on this account. I visited Melbourne at the request of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully). I interviewed the unions, and had discussions with the men. I learned that the men were killing all the sheep that were available at that time, and that production had decreased because chains had been closed down on account of shortage of stock in certain establishments, with the result that the necessary facilities for the slaughter of the stock did not exist. Thus the problem is associated with the general shortage of man-power, because these men had been put on to other work. Many of the difficulties in these works can be overcome if they are properly approached, f. hope that the killing capacity of many centres will be increased in the near future, thus raising the production of stock and the number available for slaughter. It has been said that the producer has not been getting a fair return, but that is not so. I have here a table of figures representing price quotations as reported in the Melbourne Age. Those for 16th October, 1942, represent prices ruling during the period before the Meat Commission was appointed ; and those for the 15th October, 1943, represent the prices ruling after the Meat Advisory Committee had been in operation for twelve months. Those for March, 1943, and March, 1944, are the prices which have ruled before and since the appointment of the commission, for that period of the year. The table is as follows : -
The following table shows the prices paid, to producers at the Flemington sale yards for three classes of meat, excluding skin and offal values: -
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– The honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark) made the novel claim that this Government was responsible for the increased production of meat during the present season. It is well known that the reason for the increased production was that a great deal of land went out of agriculture because farmers could not- get labour. The Government is welcome to whatever credit it may feel disposed to claim on that account. I am glad that the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) has agreed to accept suggestions from members of the Opposition. This is in pleasing contrast to his attitude some months ago, when we informed him that, unless the ceiling price for oat3 was raised, there would be a shortage of that grain. That prediction has been fulfilled, and to-day the Government is saying that it will investigate the position. At the time I directed the attention of the Minister to the matter, thousands of acres of land had been ploughed and made ready for sowing, but the farmers would not sow oats because it was not a payable crop, compared with others that could be sown.
No good purpose can he served now by reviewing the sorry history of the meat industry during the last few months. We want to ensure that something will be done to prevent a repetition of it. I suggest to the Government that slaughtermen employed in other occupations should be released in ample time this year to deal with the rush of stock coming forward at the peak period. It has been said that there have been gluts in other years at the peak period, and that is true, but never beforehave we been in such need of meat. Much of the dissatisfaction with meat rationing when it was first introduced was due to the fact that, at that very time, there were hundreds of thousands of sheep and lambs, ready for slaughtering, but no labour was available to slaughter them. The people in the country knew that those sheep and lambs might just as well be eaten as allowed to go back to store condition.
Debate interrupted under Standing Order 257b.
Motion (by Mr. Scully) - by leave - agreed to -
That Standing Order No. 70 - eleven o’clock rule - be suspended for this sitting.
Debate resumed from the 1st Mareh (vide page 770), on motion by Dr. Evatt -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– It is recognized that this bill is one which deserves the close attention of the House. I describe- it as a monument to capitulation and a memorandum of surrender. The measure has been introduced because of the Government’s inability to discipline the coal-miners to the degree necessary to ensure the maintenance of the country’s war effort. The position in the coal industry has militated against the best interests of Australia, and has made it difficult for this country to fulfil its international obligations. . The Government, after a period of procrastination and appeasement, after holding conferences and issuing regulations and codes, has now confessed that it has fallen down on its job, and has handed over its responsibilities to a coal commissioner. It must be very flattering to Mr. Mighell to realize that the Government values him so highly that it confidently expects that he will be able to do what the Government itself has failed to do during the two years that it has been in office. I have the highest opinion of Mr. Mighell, and I believe that if there is any one in the Public Service worthy of being entrusted with this responsibility, he is the man.
It is necessary to understand the background of this problem if we are to realize the full responsibility that is being placed upon the shoulders of the coal commissioner. Having permitted industrial lawlessness to prevail on the coalfields for more than two years, the Government now seeks parliamentary approval of legislation which it claims is designed to increase coal production. The objects of the bill are to ensure that coal production shall be increased and that adequate supplies of coal shall be provided not only in places supplied by local production, but also in every place where coal is required for the prosecution of the war and other purposes. To that end, the bill provides for an authority to govern and direct the production, treatment, handling, supply, distribution, marketing, and consumption of coal. The legislation, which is of an exceedingly comprehensive character, proposes to vest in one man, the Commonwealth Coal Commissioner, extraordinarily wide powers - powers which amount to the setting up of a dictatorship in the coal-mining industry.
Before making a more detailed examination of this bill, I propose to say something on decisions made by the Government from time to time to deal with strikes and absenteeism in the coalmining industry and to show how the Prime Minister and his colleagues have repeatedly failed to back up strong words with firm action. It was only a natural assumption that when Labour came into power it would receive a far greater measure of co-operation from miners than did the Menzies and Fadden Governments. In fact, their whole-hearted co-operation might have been assumed. We were told yesterday by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) that there are approximately 17,000 coal-miners in New South Wales, which contributes the bulk of Australia’s coal supplies. Those 17,000 men, unfortunately, have within their ranks ‘ some whom the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) has described as “ lawless irresponsibles “. The Prime Minister described the irresponsibles as consisting, in the main, of youths of military age and men engaged in dual occupations, men who, as well as being miners, were taxi drivers, starting-price bookmakers, billiardroom proprietors, dog-trainers and the like. It would be decidedly unfair, if not foolish, to say that all the coal.miners in New South Wales come within that category, but unhappily they are controlled by a small but noisy minority. It has been said that probably only 10 per cent, of the miners have evidenced lawlessness and irresponsibility, but they have made this measure necessary. Now we have the reason for the bill. The Government has not been able to discipline the coal-miners. The miners’ federation has been powerless to arouse in the lawless elements the sense of responsibility that would have obviated the necessity for this measure. Let us throw the searchlight of inquiry on the Government’s efforts ever since it assumed power to increase coal production in order to meet the indispensable requirements of an all-in war effort. The Government promulgated regulations on the 9th January, 1942, and amending regulations were made on the 5th February, 1942. Apparently they were ineffective, because, on the 14th April, 1942, amendments to strengthen the coal control regulations were made. Those amendments related to the duty of the owners to keep coal mines open and the duty of the employees to work. At that time, the Prime Minister admitted that production of about 578,000 tons of coal had been lost in the first three months of 1942 in New South Wales alone. Of that figure, 283,000 tons had been lost because of strikes and 201,000 tons because of absenteeism. The Prime Minister further stated -
It can be confidently asserted that the great majority of those strikes arose in respect of matters which were not associated in any way with relations between employer and employee.
The Prime Minister persisted in his endeavours to get coal, but the men at the Millfield-Greta colliery refused to return to work andi the Coal Commission was directed to enforce the regulations. Immediately this was done, other mines wont on strike. Subsequently, in May, 1.942, a series of conferences evolved what is known as the “ Canberra Code “. This was a standard code of rules and procedure to be observed by the management and employees of collieries in connexion with local matters in dispute in order to maintain coal production at the highest possible level. Again it soon became obvious that this code meant nothing to the irresponsibles in the coalmining industry. So, in July, 1942, the Government decided that stoppages of production would be a breach of the National Security Act, and regulations were issued to make it unlawful for any person to strike unless authorized by the governing body of the organization to which he belonged. This action, in my view, was not calculated to end strikes, in that the Government merely gave to the miners’ federation the right to sanction strikes. I am aware that prosecutions have been launched and penalties imposed upon both employers and employees. The number of such prosecutions is, however, paltry when the number of strikers and absentees is taken into account. That none of the measures hitherto taken by the Government has proved effective is shown by the fact that in July last further regulations were gazetted. The Prime Minister then warned the miners that the law would be forced absolutely. But the law was not enforced absolutely! The Government’s whole attitude to miners who went on strike was dictated by party political considerations. This was borne out prior to the general elections when the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Mr. Beasley) stated that if the Labour party was to win the elections strikes must cease and that there must be no absenteeism. In June, I declared that the only inference to be drawn from the Minister’s appeal was that, if unionists stopped striking and stuck to their jobs until after the elections and Labour was returned, they could then revert to strikes and absenteeism and do what they liked. That is exactly what has happened. The return of Labour was obviously regarded by the miners as giving them greater licence to strike than ever before. The nation was treated to still more warnings and conferences, but the coal position continued to deteriorate until in October, just as Parliament was about to go into recess, the Prime Minister announced the Government’s decision on coal production and the necessity for rationing the consumption of coal. According to figures issued by the Prime Minister, production fell sharply from 13,435,142 tons in 1939 to 10,246,235 tons for the first nine months of 1943. If all the mines had worked without interruption during that period, production would have increased by 2,501,702 tons. The major causes of that enormous loss were strikes and absenteeism. The loss due to strikes was 1,041,000 tons, and to absenteeism 1,033,000 tons. Those figures clearly show that despite what the champions of the miners say, the decline of the production of coal is largely attributable to the action of an irresponsible section of the miners, and to the unwise and dangerous perseverence and complacency of the Government.
If this bill is to be effective, as the Government would have the Parliament and the country believe, the measure should have been enacted last October, when coal rationing was introduced. Prom time to time the miners have given to the Government all sorts of assurances of their intention to increase production. They promised the Prime Minister that, if he would grant them a Christmas vacation, the loss of production when the mines were idle would be more than made up by increased production thereafter. But on the 5th January an outbreak of strikes at ten mines in northern New South Wales caused losses of 15,000 tons in two days. On that day, seventeen mines were idle throughout New South Wales, involving a loss of production of 22,000 tons. About 6,000 men did not work. On the 7th January, eleven mines were idle. On the following day, it was reported that the loss of production resulting from strikes on the northern coal-fields that week was the heaviest recorded since Japan entered the war. As the result of those stoppages, the industry was deprived of more than 60,00(1 tons. Fourteen mines were involved in the strikes. On the 10th January, three miners’ lodges in northern New South Wales decided to continue their strikes in defiance of the direction of the miners’ federation to them to resume work. On the 11th January, employees at six mines refused to work. In one case, the miners explained that they were protesting against penalties imposed on members of a particular lodge for absenteeism.
These examples show that the miners were contemptuous not only of their own organization, but also of the law. Whilst I contend that the Government has procrastinated in handling this problem, I believe that it assessed the loyalty and influence of the miners’ federation so highly that it expected full co-operation from that organization. That was to be expected. A Labour government, the miners would consider, would have great sympathy with their claims. a3 the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Hughes) said last evening, the striking miners have “let down” not only this nation and its Allies, but also their fellow unionists and the miners’ federation. It is regrettable that the position should have so deteriorated that the Government has been compelled to introduce this legislation in war-time.
The bill may be the forerunner of other methods for controlling other industries. Perhaps it is the thin end of the wedge of nationalization of coalmining. Indeed, an analysis of the bill convinces me that this scheme is even better than the nationalization of theindustry. As the Government will not actually acquire the mines, it will not be obliged to pay to the owners large sums as compensation. But the bill’ will enable the Government to manage and control the mines. When a deputation asked the Prime Minister to* nationalize this industry, he pointed out that such a policy would entail the expenditure of enormous sums of money and could not be contemplated in wartime. The right honorable gentleman has now discovered a most effective alternative. Without any capital expenditure, the Government will control the mines and distribute excess profits. His proposal satisfies all the requirements of nationalization, with the added advantage that the Government will not be obliged to pay compensation. . Those who believe in private enterprise and who are opposed to socialization, must take a grave view of this bill because it may herald .thesocialization of other industries. ‘The Prime Minister has been most patient with the miners and the union. For more than two years, conferences have been held for the purpose of ensuring peace in the coal-mining industry and innumerable regulations have been issued to improve the position.
Honorable members opposite declare that the production of coal in Australia has increased enormously since the Curtin Government took office. Even if that were true, it is beside the point. The problem which this Government must solve, is how to obtain sufficient coal to meet all the requirements of the nation. Comparisons of the production in 1939 or 1940 with that of 1942, are futile. After December, 1941, our title deeds to this country were in jeopardy. Australia was threatened with invasion. Honorable members opposite cannot compare those conditions with the position in 1939 or 1940, when Australia was very remotely at war. The national peril since December, 1941, has demanded the maximum production and the marshalling of all resources. Coal is the lifeblood of the economic life and the defence organization of this nation. There should be a greater production of coal, but we have to ask ourselves whether the Government is acting in such a way as to obtain it. In October last year coal rationing was introduced with the object of conserving reserve stocks, and of alleviating the condition of industry generally, but no justification exists for attempting to compare the situation to-day with the situation that existed when the previous Government was in office.
During the regime of the Menzies Government a bill was brought down to effect amendments in the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act for the specific purpose of making possible the application of disciplinary measures to the striking miners. The present Prime Minister, who was then Leader of the Opposition, urged the Government to postpone consideration of the bill. In support of his plea he brought to the notice of the House the following resolution which a conference of the Australasian Council of Trade Unions reached on the 5th June: -
This congress recalls and reaffirms the declaration of the New South Wales and Vic torian branches of the Australasian Council of Trade Unions and other sections of the Trade Union movement in 1939, and the Trade Union Congress of 1940, supporting the war against Hitler and Fascism. We record our uncompromising determination to continue the struggle against the aggressor Powers endeavouring to destroy personal liberty, industrial and political freedom, the right of collective bargaining and association, and therefore pledge the Trade Union movement to work for the swift and complete victory for the cause of democracy against aggression and oppression. We affirm that to prevent the possibility of individual profiteering by the war there should be brought about the immediate nationalization of the arms industries and the utilization of the national credit. We demand a substantial immediate improvement in the standard of life and freedom of speech and assembly.
That resolution pledged the trade union movement of Australia to whole-hearted co-operation with the Government in the war effort, and let me remind honorable members that a Labour government was not in power at the time. In consequence of the appeal, consideration of the bill was postponed. The Government adopted that course, because it hoped that the Parliamentary Labour party would be able to knock some sense into the minds of the lawless striking coal-miners, so that coal production could be stepped up. In the following October a change of government occurred. Since that time a constant stream of regulations has flowed from the Government and numerous conferences have been held. The Government apparently considered that it might be able to do something that would effectively meet the deplorable situation that had arisen, but now the Prime Minister has been forced to take the belated action outlined in this bill. If the Government considers that the policy it is nowproposing will prove effective, why was it not adopted when Labour assumed office?
But I shall now devote a little attention to the existing situation. Since Parliament adjourned last Friday, Army call-up notices have been served on about 500 young mine workers on the south coast of New South “Wales, who failed to obey an order of the chairman of the Commonwealth Coal Commission, Mr. Mighell. This action was taken after ten mines on the south coast had been idle for more than a fortnight because of a dispute affecting Coalcliff colliery. This call-up has received considerable publicity but, I remind the House, that power to call up miners who refuse to work existed as far back as April, 1942, under National Security (Coal Control) Regulations. But, whilst call-up notices have been issued, strikes continue on the southern and northern fields. One estimate is that 17,900 tons of coal was lost yesterday on all fields and that more than 120,000 tons has been lost during the twelve days’ stoppage on the south coast.
The Government, having belatedly realized that all its threats and all its regulations have failed to secure continuity of production, recently decided that it had better adopt a fresh plan in an endeavour to get the coal the nation so urgently requires. That plan is embodied in this bill. I have thrown the searchlight of inquiry upon the situation for the purpose of attempting to assess the prospects of the Government’s optimistic outlook in relation to this bill being realized. It seems that the Government considers that by appointing Mr. Mighell sole commissioner, with all the powers which the Government itself possesses, he will be able to act in the way that the Government itself could not act and, by his individual action, remedy the ills that the Government could not remedy by its collective action. Without any doubt the Government has given evidence of its incapacity to deal with the situation. It has said in effect, “ With all our powers and with all our authority we have not been able to discipline the miners. Although we have brought down numerous regulations we have failed to achieve the results we desire, but we believe that Mr. Mighell will be able to encourage the miners to increase production. We think he will, get them back to work, which is more than we have .been able to do “.
– What is the right honorable member’s solution to the problem ?
– I shall tell the honorable member in due course. I consider it most unfair to place upon one man the heavy responsibility which the Government is seeking to place on Mr. Mighell. He would have to be a superman to administer effectively the enormous powers which will be at his command. I have a very high regard for Mr. Mighell, as I have said on numerous occasions. I know that he must be taking up this work with his eyes open, for he has been associated for many months with the Coal Commission; but I cannot see how he can expect to achieve results which the Government itself has not been able to achieve, particularly in view of the high degree of absenteeism and the readiness to strike which is so characteristic of the coal-mining industry.
I come now to a consideration of the bill. I regard it as a monument of capitulation and a memorandum of surrender. Of course, the bill will become quite different if the many amendments which the Attorney-General has tabled are agreed to by honorable members.
– In the main they affect only three clauses.
– I shall not criticize the amendments if it can be proved that they will improve the bill that I have been studying for the last few days, for there is plenty of room for improvement in it.
Unlike the Waikato Coal Mines Control Emergency Regulations 194-2, of New Zealand, the bill does not contain a definition of excess profits. That may easily become a very contentious matter. There is a provision in regard to the disposal of excess profits. Whether or not profits have been realized as the result of control will probably be a question that will give the lawyers food for thought for quite a long time. There must be a comparable basis upon which to obtain a definition of excess profits. A mine may have been the victim of many stoppages to which other mines had not been subjected, and its production may suddenly be stepped up when control is exercised. If the profit which accrues under control in such circumstances is to be compared with a production that had been depleted by reason of dislocation of operations caused by industrial troubles, absenteeism, and so on, the assessment will be most unfair.
– Nothing is to be payable unless it is proved to the satisfaction of the court- that there has been an increase of profit due to control.
– What does that mean? It may be said that a cessation of strikes was due to control.
– In the framing of an act, ambiguity should be avoided and clarity, should be the watchword. Regulation 12 of the New Zealand regulations to which I have already referred reads -
Where any mine is a controlled mine during the whole or any part of any financial year of the owner’s undertaking, the following provisions shall apply: -
The definition of net profits is as follows : -
The net profits of any undertaking for any year shall bc deemed to be the net income thereof after providing for all proper charges (including depreciation at the rates usually adopted in the undertaking, but not including taxation or directors’ remuneration), but increased by the amount or value of any special discounts, rebates, or other concessions granted to shareholders of the owner directly or indirectly in respect of purchases of coal made by them from the owner, not being discounts, rebates, or other concessions granted to purchasers generally in the ordinary course of business.
There is the following elaboration: -
The average net profits of any undertaking shall be deemed to be the average of the net profits thereof for the three financial years immediately preceding the financial year in which the mine is declared to be a controlled mine.
That definition of “ net profits “ places the matter beyond doubt.
– All amounts over a certain average are taken by the Crown.
– Evidently it has worked satisfactorily since October, 1942. That definition has survived the test of time and experience, and the Government would be well advised to incorporate a similar definition of net profits in this measure.
– If it were incorporated, the -coal-owners would be in a worse position.
– I do not consider that they would be.
– Without the slightest shadow of doubt, they would be. I do not believe that they would welcome such an amendment.
– I am sure that they would. I have not studied the exact application to Australia, but I believe that there could be some such definition, designed to meet local conditions, which the coal-owners probably would accept.
– The matter is to be left to the court, because of its knowledge of local conditions.
– The legal profession, to which the right honorable gentleman belongs, likes courts. By reducing the necessity to go to court, we should be doing a service to the nation.
– I agree. I do not believe that one case in one hundred will go to the court. The taxation adjusters will see to that.
– And the one person who went might learn that compromise would have been better. I consider that the bill provides for concessional treatment of the miners. It is not likely to reduce the number of strikes, or absenteeism. The proposed penalty is of such a nature that it will rather encourage absenteeism and strikes. The miner who absents himself from his employment, or for any other reason comes within the penalty provisions, will have a certain sum deducted from his wages, and that sum will go to the miners’ welfare fund. The bill does not provide that the penalty shall be commensurate with the period of the absence or the dislocation caused. We heard last night both the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) and the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) say that the federation has not effectively disciplined its irresponsible members. The responsibility to do so should be cast upon it. It is the executive body, and it should devise means for disciplining those of its members who disobey its authority or its orders. The best way to impress upon it the necessity to do so is to freeze its funds in the event of a strike occurring. The strikers on the southern coal-fields have been out for three weeks, and even the recipients of call-up notices have not been influenced to change their attitude. The funds should be immediately frozen, strike pay should be stopped, and encouragement to remain on strike should be removed as far as is practicable. Australia wants an increase of coal production. It would be far better to have good miners than bad soldiers. The sooner these men can be engaged in effective work that will increase production, the more pleased will the nation be.
There are other features of the bill with which I shall deal in committee. I respectfully submit to the AttorneyGeneral that he should give consideration to the necessity for denning “net profits “ beyond doubt. He should be guided by what has apparently fulfilled requirements in New Zealand since October, 1942. The Government having “passed the buck” to the Coal Commissioner, the first requisite is to back that officer to the hilt, and to take all measures which will ensure that the miners’ federation shall contribute its quota of essential co-operation. The coal commissioner should be subject to parliamentary control. The bill does not make that provision.
– It is provided for in one of the proposed amendments.
– Every honorable member realizes how necessary it is to increase the production of coal. The Government has procrastinated for too long. It has been too patient, and has sought to handle the problem with kid gloves. Its duty now is to enforce its decision, and to do whatever may be necessary to ensure that sufficient coal shall be produced.
Sitting suspended from 6.S to 8 p.m.
.- We are at present concerned with the Coal Production (War-time) Bill 1944, and this is the debate on the second reading of that bill. I should say, having read the bill casually, that it is a measure for setting up a new dictatorship in a sphere not previously occupied by any one of our numerous dictators. The purpose of the bill is to encourage the production of coal primarily for the pur-pose of carrying on the war, a war waged to banish dictatorships from the whole world. For that purpose, we are waging war to the limit, and without stint or moderation. The AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt), who is in charge of the bill, is in the happy position that the measure will rece’ive the support of all honorable members - at least, I venture so to believe. Some will criticize it; some will even attack it; some will approach it with more class consciousness than others; but all, when it comes to the showdown, will vote in favour of the second reading of the bill.
This measure has achieved one useful purpose, a purpose aided, indeed, by much that went before its introduction; it has shown, to the point of demonstration, that it takes coal-miners to win coal. We cannot win coal. The honorable member in khaki (Mr. Archie Cameron), who is looking at me so menacingly, cannot, win coal. The Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin), with all his undoubted talents - and they are many and varied - cannot win coal. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), who is not present in the chamber can martial powerful arguments, but he cannot, win coal. He is a King’s Counsel and an ex-Prime Minister. He is at the moment Leader of the Opposition, but he cannot mine coal. On that point I insist. The Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) cannot win coal, either. He can add up figures very adroitly, he can teach his clients how to dodge the income tax, but he cannot win coal. The honorable member for Wentworth (Mt. Harrison) cannot dig coal, either. He dangled his brief for the mine-owners before the House. He was so eager to speak in the presence of his client sitting at the back of him that he even “ jockeyed “ his Deputy Leader out of hi.e turn in order that he might address himself to the question of getting coal which he, the honorable member, cannot, win.
The Leader of the Opposition, in the course of his speech - and I followed it with very great attention and interest - scattered some compliments. He had some compliments for Mr. Mighell, the new dictator. He even seemed to think that Mr. Mighell might be a benevolent dictator. He had some compliments for the miners, who, he seemed to think, wen like the curate’s egg - good in parts. He even seemed to think , that the Government was good in parts. He suggested as much, but he said of the miners that, though they were good, in parts, and even good for the most part, there were among them traitors to their country. Now, treason is a very serious crime. It is a capital offence. It is not a matter to be dealt with by the courts of petty session. . I suggest that when the right honorable gentleman used that word to describe some of a relatively small number of men - not more than 17,000 in the whole community - it was due to the whole body of working miners that he should name those who are guilty of treason, so that the forces of the law might be set in motion against them. By stating that some of them, were traitors, he put a stigma on the whole body of working miners, but failed to indicate, or even to suggest, that he was capable of identifying the guilty. I interjected accordingly, and he covered me with scorn. I am sure that if I had said that some members of the United Australia party were very good fellows, but some of them were traitors, he would have challenged me to name those whom I ventured to stigmatize as traitors, and he would have been right. However, I know that he did not name the traitors, who he says, are among the miners, because he does not know who they are - because he does not know that there is treason. I say that he was talking loosely and at large, though usually he speaks deliberately, and chooses his words with proper care.
The right honorable member went on to say that the bill was evasive in character, and in saying that he got back to the language of the law courts. In using that phrase, he assumed his best professional manner, but one hardly knows what he meant. I think he meant that the bill was intended to “ pass the buck but if he meant that, why did he not say so in plain English? I would like to add that that was intended to be a joke. I have made some inquiries regarding this expression “ passing the buck”, because I noted that the Prime Minister, in his speech on the bill, said that it was the very antithesis of “ passing the buck “. I do not know what “ passing the buck “ is, precisely, and I certainly do not know what is the antithesis of “passing the buck”. My friends in the Library looked the phrase up for me and I understand it originated in the game of poker. It is to be found in the Dictionary of American English. Only as recently as 1912 did it come to he used in the sense of passing responsibility on to somebody else. Well, the theory is that the Government is passing responsibility on to Mr. Mighell. Do my honorable friends opposite object to that? If so, why? They have been very eloquent in attempting to prove that the Government has not done too well in the matter. Now they complain because the Government is handing over to somebody else, although they proclaim that they will support the bill. Nevertheless, nobody can deny that the Prime Minister has laboured hard to have coal won - have coal won, I say - by the miners. Nobody can deny that. Nobody can deny that he has been constantly shadowed by the Opposition, which continues to declare that he has failed to win all the coal that he should, though it is to be granted that, if the term can be applied to him, he has won more coal than any other Prime Minister in the same time. So he has not done so badly, though he has not satisfied the Opposition. The Opposition is hardly satisfied now, because the Government is said to be shedding the responsi1 bility, passing on the responsibility, “ passing the buck “ in plainer American English, to Mr. Mighell, whose business it will be to issue orders and give directions and appoint controllers. One of those controllers, it is said, will be Mr. Willis. I have known Mr. Willis for many years. I have advised him and Mr. Baddeley when they used to be in Victoria. In those days, when the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) was guiltless of association with politics, I think that we instructed him in the interests of Mr. Baddeley and Mr. Willis. I think so. I know that we instructed him many times, and I think that we instructed him in that case. It is said that Mr. Willis is biased, likely to be biased, or must be biased. I contend that he certainly is in his sympathies biased in favour of the coalminers, but, after all, every one has opinions on these matters. Any one who is appointed- to the Bench has political opinions before he goes on the Bench.
Any one who occupies any kind of judicial position has political opinions. Even . the “ dictator Mr. Migbell, before he takes up these duties, may be accused of having some political opinions. The test of a man’s capacity and honesty is : Will he so far lay aside his preconceptions when he takes judicial office, if it be a judicial office, as fearlessly and fairly, as between parties, to apply the special knowledge which he undoubtedly possesses in the interests of his country and in the interests of justice in the abstract? Having known Mr. Willis for so many years - I understand that it is admitted that he is to be the appointed person, and that; it is admitted that Mr. Mighell is to be the other appointed person - I must express complete confidence in him and Mr. Mighell. I have confidence because I believe that those gentlemen, knowing that they are to exercise quasi-judicial functions in the interests of the nation at a very difficult and dangerous time, will do so fearlessly and honestly. More than that one cannot say. The Prime Minister wants more coal. The majority of this House wants more coal. The clients of the honorable member for Wentworth want more coal, undoubtedly, and I expect that as the winter comes on, I shall want more coal, too. We are all agreed in wanting more coal. I hope that this bill will get more coal, but I take leave to doubt it. I do not see how, if it fails to get more coal, my honorable friends opposite will have the laugh on us at all. I cannot see that. It merely means that the Government, which has exhausted all the measures within its knowledge up to the present, has brought down this new plan and tried it. If it fails, we shall get back to the point at which I started, namely, that it takes satisfied coal-miners to get more coal. I say that nothing will ensure more coal for the people but the participation of the coal-miners in the fruits of their labours. Nothing will get more coal but the common ownership of a common utility. Nothing, in a word, but socialism, Christian socialism I hope; and I hope also that that is still the objective of the Labour party. I hope that there is nobody in this party who, having subscribed to the doctrine of socialism, will run away from it for any political reason whatever. If coal is necessary, and I think that it is necessary - it is necessary for nobler and better purposes than waging war - and if coal seams are limited in their nature and extent, if, in fact, it is a public utility, then it is immoral and wrong that it should be monopolized by a few to the exclusion of the interests of the many. Coal is a prime example of the crying need for nationalization. In time of war especially, there should be no place or room for go-getters, exploiters, and monopolists, churning unearned profits out of the necessities of the people. Social ownership is always difficult in its inception, particularly difficult in its inception. It takes time to outlive the memory of the exploitation of the bosses, lc takes time to outlive the oppressive operation of the slave driver. It takes time to set up the notion of the motive of social ownership. Time is required to make people understand that, in serving others, they are serving their own interests. But in the life of a nation a, few years mean very little. It is this notion that something must be done in our time, that something must be done for us in our short lives, which accounts for much of the selfish intriguing of capitalist go-getters and their political agents of more than one party. Nevertheless, a change of heart is necessary, whether it be to win coal or to win the war. Coal-mining, in particular, has the traditional background of vile oppression of the human instrument, and equally vile exploitation of popular rights. I am not sure by any means that in the short-sighted and narrow view, the coal-miners are always in the right. I am not certain that in these numerous strikes at the present time, they are in the right. But I am confident that in the long-sighted and historical view, coal will not be won to full capacity until the miners are able to share in just measure in the fruits of their toil and the boss is eliminated.
Whilst I shall support the second reading of this bill, I cannot pretend that I shall vote for it with enthusiasm. The majority of honorable members, undoubtedly, want it, and will vote for it. The party to which I belong wants it by a majority. After having tried many things to increase the production of coal, the Government has now introduced this measure. I believe that a majority of the House as a whole wants it. Majorities must be served ; and by serving them we give at least lip service and occasional support to the theory of democracy.
– Honorable members have no doubt noticed that I .have been particularly faithful in my attendance in this chamber, and particularly diligent in listening to debates. But I have been warned that it is a dangerous practice, first, because it may have the unfortunate consequence of setting a precedent, and, secondly, one may possibly be influenced by some opinion expressed by an honorable member opposite. So I have run considerable risks, and if any signs of aberration appear in the course of my speech, I hope that honorable members will remember that, after all, I am merely the apprentice in the ranks of the fighting Opposition and therefore not answerable to the same degree as are the older and better members of the party.
Out of the mass of argument and disputation that has arisen from the debate on this bill, two clear issues emerge. The first is the necessity to win coal. The second is the necessity to re-assert and maintain the power of constituted authority. In normal times, the second consideration so far outweighs in importance the first consideration as to be beyond argument. But in war-time, the necessity to win coal makes of the other almost a dependant. For that reason, this Government in all its advances and retreats, its writhings and wrigglings, has never wholly forfeited my sympathy, even though it has not won my approval. But the point has now been reached where it may be said that we are in a fair way to losing the battle on both fronts. We are in danger of not having sufficient coal and in grave danger of losing control. The whole principle and practice of responsible government is at issue. At last the Government realizes that the time has arrived to take drastic action. This bill is the result of that determination.
As to what kind of a measure it is, honorable members have expressed vary ing opinions. For my part, I believe that the bill will be received with mixed feelings in many quarters. The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) has already made that perfectly clear. But if this legislation is to be regarded as an indication that the Government is determined to take thoroughly decisive action in the matter, the measure will be received with at least genuine relief. But the Government will have to exert the whole of its power in support of the commissioner of its choice. Not that it will need to interfere with his decisions, but it must, having appointed h’im, give him complete support. It cannot in any way escape or be allowed to escape its obligations to the people of Australia.
I always listen with the greatest interest and pleasure to a speech by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James). The honorable member does approach this problem, as he says, in a genuine desire to be helpful both to the miners and to the nation. He has informed us that the miners are different from most other sections of the community. With that statement I heartily agree. There are very obvious reasons for it. The honorable member has invited members of this Parliament to accompany him on tours of the coalfields. Some years ago I paid a visit to one of the northern coal-fields and visited the town of Cessnock. Sitting in a comfortable motor car provided by the Government, I gazed upon a dingy street, and saw a scene that has remained with me always as the very peak of grimness and unattractiveness. I imagine that any one living in that street would be liable to be very different from a person living in the surroundings of this Parliament, for instance. I do not agree with the opinion of the honorable member for Hunter that it is wise constantly to refer to old feuds and wrongs. That they have existed in the past obviously is true. But how many of us in this chamber can go back in our personal and family histories without finding evidence of some ancient wrong or injustice? These things have to be swept aside. I see no point in constantly referring to them. Until we eliminate to the greatest possible degree all human labour from mines of every description, we shall not have the peace in that branch of industry that we so fervently desire. I should hate, on a beautiful morning when I feel a sadness even at having to go into a house and so missing the brightness outside, to know that my work would take me into a black hole in the ground. On one -occasion, the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) paid a striking tribute to one very fine quality that is common to the mining community. He spoke of their sense of loyalty one to another, and their feeling for solidarity. That is recognized. Rut the pity of it all is the absence of a sense of loyalty to the community. There is no sense of community solidarity. By some means we must strive to create it in the coal-miners. That cannot be done in a hurry. It must be a part of a long and gradual process of education. Nor can it be achieved now in such a way that it will win more coal.
Having said all that, I still contend that in these days, people who go on strike are guilty of treachery, and should realize it. Some time ago, the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) made a statement in this House with which I heartily agreed. He said that he believed that a good deal of the trouble was caused by certain irresponsible sections amongst the miners. “ Irresponsible and hot-headed “, T believe were the words that he used. I believe that is true, but I go even farther. As most honorable members are aware, I represent a district which includes a large mining element. I cannot claim really to represent the miners, because I do not believe that many of them paid me the compliment of voting for me. Nevertheless, I do know something of the work .that those men perform, and something of their record. There has been no strike in any mine in my electorate during this war. The great Mount Lyell mine is in the centre of that district. So far as my knowledge goes, only two strikes have occurred in Tasmania since the outbreak of war. One of them was the occasion when the coal-miners - there are not many of them - stopped work in the general strike of 1941. The other stoppage occurred a few months ago; it was not of very great proportions, and lasted for only a few days. It occurred in a government undertaking. During the last few months more coal has been won in both Queensland and Tasmania than previously. I ask honorable members why? Why have there been no strikes in Tasmania, and why are there constant strikes on the coal-fields of New South Wales? Obviously something is wrong in New South Wales apart from the feeling we have that coal-mining affects the general psychology of the workers. Some kind of force is operating there that obviously is not present in other places. I go farther than the Prime Minister. I believe that professional, if unprofessed, trouble-makers of a very deliberate and treacherous kind are there. They could have little success in Queensland at this moment, because Queensland has been too close to the very edge of things. They would consider, I imagine, that Tasmania is not worth their efforts. It is too small and too far away. But in New South Wales they find a fruitful field for their activities, for in that State men are ready to accept such urging as these trouble-makers can suggest, though undoubtedly the suggestions are of a subtle .kind. If it were possible to discover a way to deal with them under National Security Regulations - and. I believe that it is possible to do so - I would be prepared to deal with them in that way.
I was much impressed by the remarks of the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), who spoke of the part that the unions must play. I believe that it is a very important part indeed. I have referred to the fact that many miners live in my electorate. I addressed hundreds of them during the election campaign. I did not hesitate to ‘deal with the coalmining troubles in New South Wales. Over and over again I pointed out that something must be wrong in New South Wales. I said, to the miners, “If you. value your unions, watch New South Wales. If your unionism is to be destroyed in Australia it will be destroyed from within.” Why? For the reason that it is inherent in human nature thai only so much power can be exercised without an upset of the balance of the individual human organization. The exercise of too much power has already eclipsed Mussolini, and it will eventually destroy Hitler. Within the trade unions a tremendous concentration of power is placed in too few hands. I have read many reports of trade union congresses. I remember reading one report which stated that a proposition had been agreed to by 719,425 votes against 324,573 votes. Does any honorable member suppose that anything like that number of people attended the congress? Of course not. But I should like to know bow many people actually voted on the proposition. I should also like to know how many had even heard of it until after it had been considered at the congress. I believe that the solution of the troubles in this industry is to be found in the rank and file of unionists, but apparently the whole matter is allowed to go more or less by default.
I have very little interest indeed in comparisons of coal production in one year as against another year. I regard as treachery the continuance of strikes in the coal-mining industry. It does not matter two hoots, in my view, whether more coal is produced this year than was produced last year, or the year before. What does matter is that 1 ton of coal is not won which could be won. To the degree that such coal is not won those concerned let down, to a very large degree, the men and women who are fighting for us. Any other contention is utter nonsense. The failure to produce coal is treachery to the nation, treachery to the workers - farmers, businessmen and ‘Other sections of the workers - and treachery also to a huge army of people whom I have seldom heard mentioned in this chamber. I refer to the women of this country, the housewives. I remind the Government that it, and the governments which have preceded it, have received the most splendid loyalty in all circumstances from the women of this country, who have accepted cheerfully all the restrictions and regulations that have been applied, and who, by their conduct, have set an example to the rest of the community, who, I remind honorable members, must all be men! I should hate to do or say anything which might disturb the amicable relations that exist between myself and other honorable members of this chamber, but I ask this question - Is any honorable member present wearing a victory suit, built to the original specifications issued by the Department of War Organization of Industry, and so charmingly displayed for the first time by the Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman) ? It will be remembered that at that time of sartorial crisis the male population of Australia was mainly distinguished by a vast love of vests and, inch by inch, the Government retreated before a solid phalanx of waistcoat buttons. The members of my sex, however, have cheerfully accepted all restrictions. They pass their butter on to other members of their family, and they make their quota of sugar into jam. They have accepted meat rationing and have eked out the lesser quantities, and made succulent the cheaper cuts. They have gone cheerfully without stockings, which, I assure honorable members, is no light thing, for there persists in most women the idea - I leave it to honorable members to place a value upon their judgment - that even the most undistinguished ankle becomes a thing of beauty when encased in silken hose, and even the most graceful without, deteriorates into a mere joint ! I seriously say, however, that the women of this country have given wonderful and splendid loyalty to the Government of the day. They work hard and go without many things to which they have been accustomed for many years. They are being constantly asked to save more power and to use less gas - things which are very difficult to do.
– I think the honorable member will admit, however, that they use their husbands’ coupons.
– I admit it, but it merely goes to prove that a certain generosity resides even in the man who insists on having his waistcoat. The Government owes it to these people who serve in whatever capacity they can, whether it be in the field, the workshop or the home, that it should now stand firm, resolved to use such power as it has. Whether this bill is acceptable in its entirety, or even if it is entirely distasteful, the fact remains that the Government has made a step in a certain direction in dealing with this problem. Having made its decision, there must be no turning back. It must remain faithful to its purpose. I have no doubt that if it does so, it will receive from the people of Australia the very warmest loyalty and support in whatever measures it may take.
.- Recently, the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) made a statement in this House which has a material bearing on this measure. The substance of his words was that the measure of our war effort this year would be the amount of coal we produce, and that the shortage of coal would be a limiting factor having its repercussions throughout the length and breadth of the Commonwealth. Every honorable member who has a knowledge of the problems of industry and transport must accept the Prime Minister’s words as a statement of fact which thrusts a tremendous responsibility upon the coalmining industry. It thrusts a responsibility directly upon both the employers and the employees in that industry; it thrusts a responsibility back upon the Government itself; and, to the degree to which the Government derives its power from this Parliament, it thrusts responsibility back upon the Parliament. Therefore, we must approach with the most careful consideration the latest measure which the Government has introduced as providing a solution of the trouble in the coal-mining industry. Without going into great detail, it is quite clear that a shortage of coal must have a limiting effect on. activities throughout the Commonwealth. Let me take, for example, the two basic requirements of munitions and food. We must have adequate power for factories and adequate transport if the munitions production of the Commonwealth is to be maintained. At present, food is our No. 1 priority. This year our food production will be directly affected by our power resources and our transport services, for foodstuffs must not only be grown in the fields, and processed in the factories, but must also be transported to the troops on service, and to the civilian population. If we are not able to exert our optimum of power, obviously we shall be seriously hindered. I believe that every honorable member would like to see the statement of the Prime- Minister, in his exact language, which was clear and direct, placarded at every pithead, in every lodge and in every board room of every coalmining company. It is necessary that what the Prime Minister has said shall be impressed deeply upon all who are associated with this industry, for upon them there rests, perhaps, one of the greatest responsibilities that will fall upon Australians in this year. We are experiencing what is unusual in having presented to us a bill designed to cover not industry generally, but a particular industry; to lay down, not rules that will have general application throughout the Commonwealth, but a detailed measure affecting one section alone. A justification for its presentation is that coal-mining is a peculiar business; that there are peculiarities about coal-mining, and the men and women who engage in the calling, which justify treatment such as we would not mete out to other industries. We do a disservice to the miner, to the industry, and to the country when we overemphasize, as we are inclined to do, the differences which exist. I do not deny their existence ; they are apparent to anybody who has made even the most superficial study of the industry. But it can be said that very many other industries also have peculiarities. Railway workers, slaughtermen, undertakers’ assistants, lighthouse workers, even politicians, lead what might be called abnormal lives, as the general community understands the term. One could produce a list as long as one’s arm of industries in which the worker leads a life that appears to be completely different from that which the majority of his fellow citizens would find congenial and normal. But, apart from questions of health and proper working conditions, we do not bring into this Parliament or into the State legislatures, problems connected with the management or control of the industry; it has been found that these can be dealt with by laying down broad decisions on matters of government policy, leaving to the accepted industrial tribunals the working out of a proper code of wages and conditions. Therefore, I submit that the only real justification which the Government can have for the introduction of the measure is the greatness of the emergency with which we are faced. Many other methods have been tried and have been deemed to have failed. I hope to prove later that this does not necessarily spring from the policy that has been announced, but may spring from either failure or refusal to give effect to that policy. I take it that the prime justification of the Government for the introduction of the bill is that the emergency appears to be so great, and its capacity to deal with it has proved to be so limited, that it now turns to another organization, in which it is prepared to repose its last hope and trust.
Before examining the measure in some detail, let us study some of the general considerations. What is the explanation for an apparently shabby performance by the industry during the last twelve months, compared with the largely increased production of the previous twelve months? Is this decline of production peculiar to the coal-mining industry? Has some curious lethargy affected the miner, which is peculiar to him and is not discoverable in. other sections of industry? We have been told by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) that the output per man dropped from 3.51 tons in 1942 to 3.2 tons in the succeeding year. I am sure that many honorable members know that in some industries there has been a decline of output per man which is as high as 50 per cent. ; in others, it is 33 per cent., and in some it may be only as high as 25 per cent. This is a matter which no government with a sense of responsiblity can ignore. My inquiries, which have been made over a very wide field, covering employers in many branches of industry, including discussions with trade union secretaries and the workers themselves, have revealed an average decline of the output per man of at least ‘33-J per cent, compared with the immediate pre-war year. That condition challenges the ingenuity of the Government. Constantly, when we press for labour for the maintenance of output in primary production and other branches of industry, we are told that it cannot be provided because of the existing shortage. If the Government were to obtain from those who are now in work the output per man that was given in the year immediately before the war, the man-power capacity would be increased by at least 33-J per cent. Spread over hundreds of thousands of men,, that would achieve a substantial result. We must look for the causes. I look for them in particular in the coal-mining industry. I do not intend to indulge in recriminations at the expense of the members of that or any other industry. I had personal contact with them while I was Minister for Labour and National Service, and learned to respect and admire them. With few exceptions, the Australian working man is prepared to do a very good best if the needs of the situation can be made known to him, and he can be infused with an awareness of what the country expects from him. His capacity for work, and his technical efficiency, are comparable with those of workmen in any other part of the world. In some respects, his work reveals greater resourcefulness and a higher degree of initiative. He must also have a high level of incentive and a keen awareness of what is needed. We have been accused by some critics, many of them in this country, of being a complacent people. Any member of this Parliament who has had to deal with hundreds of men who have been called up at short notice for service in the Army, or at 24 or 48 hours’ notice for service in the Allied Works Council, cannot say . that the Australian is complacent. In my electorate, which covers what may be described as one of the wealthier crosssections of this country, I have found a most cheerful acceptance of the severe income tax exactions that are levied from time to time. When the people have been made fully aware of the needs of the Government, they have responded uncomplainingly. Prom my contact with the miners, I became very much impressed by them as good industrial types. Their loyalty will bear comparison with that of any other section of the Australian community. But I do believe that the miner, because of the very circumstances mentioned by the honorable member for
Darwin (Dame Enid Lyons) - he leads a comparatively segregated life, living the life of the coal-mining industry all the time, without the external contacts that are made by the members of other industries - has lost some degree of awareness of what are the outside needs of the community at large; and until we can bring those needs home to him in such a way that he can be appreciative of the responsibility that is thrust directly upon him, we may not achieve, even with this new machinery, the results that we require. I believe that there are at least three important elements in this matter. I have already touched upon the first - the problem of education. That view has been advanced by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James), who has almost weekly, if not daily, contact with those who are engaged in “the industry. He has referred to the possibility of the Leader of the Opposition making available a film showing the effects of bombing in Great Britain. He has said that if the miners could see something of what has happened to their fellow miners on the Welsh coal-fields they would have impressed upon their minds the destruction which could arise out of defeat in this war; in other words, if they could he given” an awareness of what is required of them in this matter, we should have a better response from them. I believe that there is a great deal in the general proposition that we have ahead of us, so far as the miner is concerned, the problem of education, not in the generally accepted sense of teaching the three R’s, but in the sense of making him realize the niche that he occupies in our community life, the importance of it, and the responsibility that attaches to it. That applies not only when he has to be persuaded to produce more coal by his own manual labour, but also when he lias to be persuaded to realize the value of mechanization in the mines. It could be shown that mechanization can be a good thing, not only for the industry but also for himself personally; and it can certainly be a good thing for the community.
The second problem relates to incentive. I suggest to the Government that it should ponder on this, because I consider that it affects not only the worker but also the entrepreneur in practically every section of the community. Under war conditions, high taxation may be inevitable. As a member of a government which imposed very high rates, I accept it as inevitable. But I believe that, in its financial policy, the Government has revealed a continuing weakness when it has not taken into account the necessity for maintaining in the minds of the worker and the employer the incentive to produce more, to take risks, to use enterprise and initiative in order to achieve greater production. It may be alleged that surely the knowledge that one’s work is of direct assistance to. the war effort should be a sufficient spur. In the early years of the war with Japan it was a spur, and greater production was obtained. People threw themselves into their work with greater spirit and energy than they had previously displayed. But we cannot ignore the lessons of history and of human experience. Surely one of the most solidly established lessons is that, in order to obtain the best effort, men and women must have some incentive. Unfortunately, the Government, in its financial policy, has not realized the force of this necessity. It has allowed such a condition to develop that the miner, as the honorable member for Hunter has pointed out, considers that, having worked a certain number of days in a fortnightly period, produced a certain quantity of coal, and received a certain wage, the result of further effort would merely be to increase so steeply his rate of tax as to make the effort scarcely worth while. He can get more enjoyment, and even more profit, perhaps, out of a day’s fishing somewhere along the beautiful south coast of New South Wales. This feeling exists throughout the whole field of industry. A suggestion was put forward by our party that would have solved the problem, in part at least. We suggested that a scheme of war finance be instituted in which some of the money taken from the taxpayer should be held for his future benefit, but the Government declined to accept the suggestion. Even in the payasyouearn taxation, scheme, the Government had an opportunity to preserve the incentive to effort. Instead of availing itself of the opportunity, however, it has toldthe worker, as it told the employer, that the more he earns in this financial year the greater will be the burdenhemust bear.
The third and most important element in this situation is that of discipline . I say without political bitterness, but merely as a statement of fact, that this Government has never at any time since it took office attempted to discipline the coal-mining industry as it would have disciplined any other industry which was not giving of its best in time of war. That is not because the Government did not believe in discipline. The Prime Minister, on the 14th October, last, made astatement in this House in which belaid down what we thought was a sound and well-balanced policy, a policy which certainly involved the disciplining of the coal industry. It provided for the weeding out of those persons who, by bad attendance records, or by their general conduct,had shown themselves to be unworthy, and to be hindering production. We offered no criticism of that policy, because it appeared to us to be good.I cannot say that the policy failed. The fact is that it was never applied. The government said that prosecutions would be launched every time a worker absented himself without lawful excuse. The mines were to be mechanized, additional labour was to be obtained from the services, a second shift was to be worked on the South Maitland field, and holidays at Christmas time and at New Year were to be reviewed in the light of production. Although production fell, the holidays were still allowed. Conferences were to be held between the Government and the employers and employees. A Cabinet sub-committee was to be appointed, and Mr. James was to be appointed as liaison officer between the Government and the miners. The easy things in that programme were done, but no attempt was made to examine individual records, or to weed out those men who should not be in the industry. Inmost instances, prosecutions were not launched, and when they were the penalties imposed were not enforced.
– The honorable member should qualify that. His statement is not correct.
– I am speaking in general terms, and my remarks are based partlyon the admission which the Attorney-General himself made yesterday in the House. I do not think that he will claim that the disciplinary provisions indicated by the Prime Minister in October last have been applied. The Government’s policy as then enunciated might have been successful. Probably we shall never know now, because it was never tried. I hope that the commissioner, who will be given such extensive powers, will be allowed to make a fresh start, and will be able to enforce the new policy with more rigour than the Government used. Unfortunately, the impression has got abroad that this is one industry in which the rule of law does not run, in which the decision of lawfully constituted government tribunals can be wilfully flouted.
The bill covers much of the ground covered by the Prime Minister’s announcement on the 14th October, but with this important difference. The Government, instead of trying to deal with the industry itself, proposes to place in the hands of one man authority to do those things which, in the past, the Government its elf attempted to do. The cardinal feature of the bill is the provision giving full control to one man. For the rest, the bill seems to be very like just another national security regulation about coal, but one in evening dress. It has been hastily drafted, and is so full of blemishes that the Attorney-General has already submitted three pages of amendments.
The placing of absolute control in the hands of one man is an innovation in industrial practice which members of this House cannot accept with enthusiasm - even those who, like the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan), have made a public confession of their adherence to socialism. To them, as to us, only the most patent emergency could make the provision acceptable. Already there are signs that the wings of the commissioner are to be clipped. According to press reports, the Minister himself is to maintain close control over matters of policy.
– Nothing else was ever intended.
– Does that mean that dissatisfied miners, or their representatives, who feel aggrieved by the action of the commissioner, or one of the tribunals setup under this legislation, can come to the Minister, as they have been accustomed to do, and plead for a reversal of policy ? Perhaps “ plead “ is too humble a word. Are they to be allowed to demand a reversal of policy - because the representatives of the coal-miners are not accustomed to speaking the language of humility. Or does the bill mean that some person is to be given a genuine opportunity to exercise real control, and to impose real discipline on the industry? Unless it means that, the Government might just as well tear it up to-night. Our one hope of getting more coal immediately is to provide an opportunity for one man, by his own drive and energy and force of character, to achieve results which, so far, the Government has been powerless to achieve ; or, if not powerless, at least reluctant to exercise its power.
I object to the principle involved in that part of the bill which provides for the setting up of a central industrial authority to deal with industrial disputes. That proposed authority is to be one man. As the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) pointed out yesterday, he is to be given more power over industrial matters in the coal industry than is enjoyed, in his own sphere, by the. Chief Judge of the Arbitration Court. Yet this man is not to be a judge, or even a lawyer. He is to be a man with some practical experience in the industry. Hitherto, the Arbitration Court has been sustained by governments drawn from all parties. The Arbitration Court, by reason of the general view which it can take of industry, is able to lay down common rules which balance the requirements of one industry in the light of requests from other industries. But the Arbitration Court is to be ignored. I, for one, am utterly opposed to that provision in the bill. I have had first-hand experience of what it can lead to. The Government can, by this measure, do incalculable damage to industry. Any one with experience of the legal side of industrial problems knows that there is no more frequent cause of friction than the existence of different conditions in one industry as compared with another, when the employees in the second industry believe that the same conditions should apply to both. The Arbitration Court can be a steadying influence in this regard. It can take a general view of industry. It can say : “ We did this for the wharf labourers, and therefore, we can do this for the engineers, or for the shearers, but we cannot do something else that is asked It knows what it can ‘ do for one industry without causing friction in another. Yet it is proposed to ignore this institution, and to create an instrument which is to be placed in charge of a person with no detailed knowledge of industrial law. To this person it is proposed to give full power to deal with the most complicated industrial problems. The Government is not even going to allow him, as obtained under the former Central Reference Board system, representatives from both sections of the industry to advise him and put their points of view. He is not to be bound by the ordinary rules of evidence. His decisions are not to be appealed against. He has full authority to give lasting and binding decisions, regardless of the repercussions that those decisions may have on other industries throughout Australia. It has been stated that the industrial courts are not bound by the strict rules nf evidence. That is so, but, at least, there is the safeguard in those courts that on the bench is a fully trained lawyer, a judge who is able to exercise his discretion as to the necessity for proof of the matters brought before him. There is no such safeguard in this tribunal. I foresee nothing but trouble springing from the findings of a tribunal of this kind. I believe that there has been trouble already. The Government should revert to the policy of establishing a tribunal presided over by a judge of the Arbitration Court. That is the policy which the Menzies . Government put into effect. We think it worked well. At the time the men were suited by it. They unanimously accepted the tribunal that we established. They asked for the judge whom we appointed to preside over that tribunal. We appointed a judge of the Arbitration Court and in that way maintained a close link with the work of the Arbitration Court.
– Is it a fact that the then Government made every appointment that was asked for by the union?
– I do not think that that is completely accurate. What I accept as a fact is that every appointment we made was approved by the miners’ federation. We appointed three practical mining men, men who at the time were either members of the federation or had been working miners at some period of their lives, to be chairmen of the three local reference’ boards. We had associated with the practical knowledge of men in whom the miners themselves could have full trust and confidence, because they came from the ranks of the miners, the influence and supervision of a judge of the Arbitration Court, so that, if at any time a decision was given by one of the local reference boards which might have damaging effects, because it clashed with what was happening in industry generally, we should be able, through the knowledge and judgment of the judge, to maintain efficient control over the industry. The absence of such provision from this legislation, I consider, could be well reviewed by the Government. My own firm conviction is that what the Government is doing will be a fertile source of trouble in the industry in the months immediately ahead of us.
The second aspect with which I propose to deal relates to the power which the commissioner has to determine claims for compensation. It is quite usual, I know, that when the Government takes over property the department involved in the acquisition of that property seeks to reach an agreement with the person whose property has been seized. Under this legislation we are giving the commissioner power to reach agreement as to the basis of compensation to be paid to the owners whose mines are taken over. There is provision for compensation in other directions as well, if cause for it arises. There is a great difference between the policy which is now applied in government departments and the application of that policy to matters of this kind. I make no reflection on the man who will be appointed commissioner. I have the greatest confidence in his integrity, but that is beside the question. I say that he should not have thrust upon him personally the responsibility to reach agreement with men with whom he necessarily will be in almost daily contact, and on whose good grace and support and cooperation he must naturally rely if he . is to make a success of his job. We are asking him to reach agreement with those men as to the basis of compensation for mines which he might take over, and I say that that is a responsibility which should not be placed upon him. Itis not difficult to imagine alternatives. In New South Wales recently a Supreme Court judge presided over a royal commission on the coal-mining industry. A man of that type would be eminently suitable to determine the basis of compensation in such cases. When I have regard to the possibility in the post-war period, or even sooner, of other industries coming under this type of control, I suggest to the Government that it is setting up a very dangerous precedent and establishinga practice which it will have considerable difficulty in supervising as thoroughly as a government should supervise matters involving the disbursement of public moneys.
– What alternative does the honorable member suggest? It is provided in clause 22 that if there is no agreement an action at law may be brought by the owner.
– Does the honorable member suggest a third course?
– No. My point is that the commissioner necessarily will be in regular contact with the owners - I am not speaking from the point of view of the owners or the commissioner, but in what I believe to be public interests - and naturally he will not want to fix the basis of compensation solow that the owners will consider it necessary to approach the court. Owing to the desirability of their working in friendly co-operation, it will he the commissioner’s desire, as it will no doubt be the owners’ desire, to reach a basis of compensation completely satisfactory to both. Why put the commissioner in the position of saying, “ However, I am going to give you a basis of compensation which I believe to be satisfactory, but which you probably will think is too low and which you probably will be impelled to take to the court or “ I am going to give you a basis of compensation which I know will be acceptable to you but which may be greater than I feel is justified in the circumstances”? The Government should consider an alternative method of dealing with the problem. It does not arise necessarily in connexion with the other controls.
– I am quite willing to do that, but the honorable gentleman’s suggestion will exclude the possibility of agreement between the commissioner and the owner, and I suppose that in nine cases out of ten satisfactory agreement would bc reached.
– Agreement satisfactory to the commissioner and the owner, but would it be satisfactory to the people as a whole? I say frankly to the Attorney-General that, whilst it is true that in the last war a special tribunal for the coal industry did secure increased production of coal, there are many people whose arguments I am inclined to support, who say that that tribunal secured co-operation from the industry, in the first place, by giving to the miners ail they asked for and then, when the owners said, “ This is more than we can afford to pay”, agreed to increase the price of coal in order to recompense them. So you had this barometrical process whereby benefits were given certainly, but the price of coal to the public steadily increased.
– It would be a new experience to find a public authority paying too much for anything it took over.
– The honorable gentleman is speaking of a public authority, but I do not think it is the responsibility of the commissioner, who must work closely with the leaders of the industry among the employers and the employees, to be put in the position of arbitrating as to what is a fair compensation to be paid for property that he takes over.
– During the war in 99 cases out of 100 compensation for property taken over is settled by agreement between the owner and the Government.
– I think the right honorable gentleman is exaggerating. Tomorrow when honorable members for
Sydney have scurried off to catch the train, honorable members from Victoria, as is their custom, will carry out their duty to their constituents and adduce to the House a wealth of evidence as to dissatisfaction amongst many people with the compensation offered to them by thb Government for property which it has acquired from them. The Government will tell them that they can approach the court in order to get relief, but, many people, in view of the cost of legal action, are loath to go tothe court because the amounts involved are too small, only about £100.
– The honorable member says now that the Government pays too little, but he said earlier that he was afraid that it would pay too much a? compensation to the coal-owners.
– I made the qualification that what happens in government departments is a different proposition, because there is no direct link between the departmental officer and the people with whom he is dealing. If the land-owner acquired land at, say, North Essendon, and an officer of the Department of the Interior attempted to fix the basis of compensation, there would be no question of personal interest or association. But when you have the Coal Commissioner in almost daily, certainly weekly, contact with the owners and say that he is the one man who may reach agreement with them, and that if they are dissatisfied they can go to the court, you must realize that neither he nor they will want trouble with the court. It is a realistic approach to the manifestations of human nature for me to say that there is no guarantee that public interest will be best served. With a sense of duty to the commissioner himself I say that that is not a responsibility that should be thrust upon him. [Extension of time granted.”]
– There are two methods now - first by agreement with the commissioner to which the honorable member objects, and, secondly, by court action.
– As a third method the honorable member suggests arbitration.
– I suggest that there is a third method possible. I mentioned Mr. Justice Davidson as being a likely person to make a decision as to compensation. Under the procedure that I envisage it would not be a matter of going to the court. He could conduct the arbitration and determine the basis of compensation. The matter of compensation would be altogether divorced from the personalities directly engaged in the management of the industry.
– The honorable member should not exclude agreement, but if he wishes arbitration as the alternative to court action, I shall accept that.
– But the right honorable gentleman still retains the possibility of agreement ?
– Yes, I shall not exclude that.
– Agreement between the commissioner and the owners?
– Yes, certainly. I think that that would be the normal method of settling the matter.
– I hope that the Minister will have a discussion with the commissioner. If he considers that embarrassment or difficulty is not likely, I shall be influenced by his view.
– He has approved.
– The proper time to discuss details is in committee.
– The third aspect to which I wish to address myself is the proposal for the payment of the profits taken as the result of exercise of control into a special fund for the employees. One comment I make on that immediately is that here again the public and the Treasury seem to be on a “ Heads they win; tails we lose” proposition. If a raine shows a loss as the result of control, the Treasury is to pay compensation to the owner, but if it shows a profit, the profit is to go into a special fund for the benefit of the workers in the industry.
– For the coal industry as a whole, including social benefits.
– Yes, but certainly not to recompense the Treasury for any losses that may be incurred in compensating the owners of controlled mines. I direct the attention of the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) to the fact that the Treasury will be called upon to meet these losses. If profits are made, they will be paid into a fund for the industry generally. I invite him to consider the advisability of giving the Treasury first claim upon this fund to compensate itself for recouping losses. However, that is merely a comment in passing. .My real objection is to the fact that the Government is singling out an industry for special social welfare benefits in a particular way. That is bad government, practice.
– If the Government considers that it is good practice for employees in industry generally to have certain social benefits, it should submit its social welfare programme to this Parliament so that honorable members shall have an opportunity to express their views upon it. This proposal, which is a kind of bait to the employees of one industry, will create resentment and rivalry among workers in other industries. That will cause trouble. I shall not dwell on that aspect because it can be dealt with more adequately in committee. The real test a3 to whether this bill will succeed in its objective will be in the exercise by the commissioner himself of the powers conferred upon him. Although the drafting of the bill itself can be improved, honorable members cannot by mere draftsmanship improve the relation between those engaged in the coal-mining industry. Honorable members have confidence in the man who will be appointed virtually as the coal dictator of Australia. “Whilst we have our misgivings about this legislation, because it vests so much power and authority in one man, we wish him every success and express the hope that he will increase the production of coal which is so vital to the successful continuance of our Avar effort.
.- Whilst I, in common with other honorable members on this side of the chamber, regret the necessity for the introduction of this measure, I accord it my wholehearted support. I regret the necessity for a bill of this nature because the
Labour movement, to which I belong, ha3 for a long period, through the efforts of trade unions, and its representatives in the Commonwealth and State Parliaments, endeavoured to provide the necessary machinery for the settlement of industrial disputes. The efforts of the Labour movement were designed to protect the workers and improve the conditions under which they live and are employed. Such protection was intended to apply to every section of the community. As the result of the efforts of the Labour movement, working conditions have .been considerably improved. Compensation has been provided for men who are injured on the job, or “who develop occupational diseases. Conditions of employment were regulated for the protection of the health of the workers, particularly those employed underground. Because of those conditions, we claim that the workers to-day have the right to seek the protection of the machinery established by themselves through their cwn organizations. The object of the Labour movement, through the trade unions, was to establish Labour governments to give effect to the Labour party’s legislative programme.
– They will do what caucus tells them.
– The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) would need to possess much more political experience than he has before he would succeed in putting me off the track, despite the fact that I have been a member of this chamber for only ;i comparatively short time. All my life E have been associated with the Labour movement, for which I stand. I know and understand it. I have been loyal ro it. I still stand where I stood 30 years ago. That is more than the honorable member for Barker can say.
I am putting up a fight in the interests of the men who do the job. I reject much of the criticism which honorable members opposite have directed against this bill. Few of their speeches contained any constructive suggestions. Most of their effort? were intended to conceal the short-comings oof their own administration. IIn order to divert attention from their own failure to provide for the adequate defence of this country. they used as a screen the trouble in the coal-mining industry. I invite them to propose an alternative to this bill.
– What about martial law?
– Martial law! The policy of “ Fire low and lay them out “. The Australian people will not tolerate that. Honorable members opposite had their opportunity for many years, and they failed miserably. I liken the Opposition to a vanishing race. They have “ Gone with the wind “, and will never return.
– The roses will bloom again.
– The experiences of 1931, when the anti-Labour parties starved out of existence 800,000 workers, will never be forgotten. When the defences of this country should have been strengthened, the parties now in Opposition declared that money could not be found to provide employment for starving men and women.
– Order! Will the honorable member return to the bill?
– This bill is an honest endeavour on the part of the Government to increase the production of coal. I do not attempt to justify the attitude of the coal-miners in New South Wales. Something is lacking in the control of their own organization. Their own leaders have not the courage to go to the men and fight the battles inside their own union. For many years I was the secretary of a trade union in Western Australia, and I encountered internal disputes such as the coal-miners’ organization is now facing. I had to go to the mouth of the mine shaft in order to see that the case for the organization was put to the men. Our members included some militants known to me as Communists, and they were endeavouring to “ white-ant “ our union. They systematically incited strikes in the industry. The union took a stand, and forbade the miners to go on strike without its sanction. As the result of that firm action, we stamped out most of the industrial trouble in the goldmining industry of Western Australia. The coal-miners of New South Wales have everything to lose by bringing a bout the downfall of the trade union movement of Australia, and by trying to wreck this Government, which stands for the uplifting of the working class. To-day, the primary duty of the Government is to prosecute the war. By its courage two years ago it saved Australia from the Japanese. It now appeals to the miners to maintain production. They are not the only section of the workers who are called upon to make great sacrifices. Men are engaged on defence works in the north-west of Western Australia, where no ordinary means of transport is available to bring food to. them, and they have to depend upon meagre rations supplied by aircraft. Those men are making hard and bitter sacrifices to save Australia. To the coalminers I say, “ For God’s sake do everything you can to provide enough coal to keep the wheels of industry turning, so that we shall more quickly bring this deadly conflict to a victorious conclusion “.
– The honorable member has converted us; he should now try his persuasion on the Government.
– I recollect One who was crucified for trying to convert people. It might be impossible to convert the honorable member for Barker. This country is at war. We have been fighting with our backs to the wall. Whether things are better or worse than they were some time ago, we have not a moment to waste. No man in Australia works harder than does the Prime Minister, and he ought to be supported, particularly by the trade unionists of Australia. They should give to him their utmost loyalty in order to minimize his troubles. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) said’ that persons with legal training ought to be appointed to tribunals, for they could be depended upon to give a sound judgment on the evidence submitted to them. I have had some experience of legal tribunals. I remember the late Chief Judge Dethridge saying in a court on one occasion that irrespective of the evidence submitted to him he was charged with the responsibility of reducing costs in industry. That shows how far a legal training may go.
Surely trade unionists can realize that a Labour government is far more likely to give them justice than is an anti-Labour government. Almost inevitably people are influenced by the environment in which they are reared. I have known no university except that of the shearing shed, the navvy camps and the mining fields; but I would not exchange the experience that I have gained in that university for all the education that could be obtained within college walls. I think of Henry Lawson’s words -
My cultured friend, you have conic too late,
With your by-paths nicely graded;
I have travelled this far on mytrack of fate
And I will follow the rest unaided.
I conclude by appealing to the workers and the owners in the coal-mining industry to have done with the bitter fight. I know what industrial strife means. I say to the workers that no organization in the world will help them more than will a properly controlled trade union, and no government will give them more humane legislation and more healthy working conditions than will a Labour government. The coal-miners should work through their own unions, and I hope that they, and all working-class people, will do so.
– I was interested to hear the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Johnson) say that he did not endorse the direct action of the coal-miners of New South Wales.I agree with his views on that point. Most of the other remarks of the honorable gentleman were in praise of the Government. I do not agree with him on that point, but I do not consider that the coal-mining industry should be regarded from the party political point of view. The coal-miners of New South Wales have put this country into a disgraceful condition. This Government has done everything possible to remedy their grievances; in fact, it has practically bowed its knee to them, and granted almost every request that they have made. Yet the troubles of the coal-miners are not nearly so serious as arc those of the people engaged in rural industries who have not received anything like adequate assistance from the Government. The coal-miners have discarded all the advice that has been given to them, and by their actions, have shown that they are not prepared to increase the production of coal, although that is so essential to the nation. Not all the power that the Government has been able to exercise has achieved the desired result. It has, therefore, been compelled to introduce this bill “ in the interests of the defence of the Commonwealth and the effectual prosecution of the war, and for other purposes “. Those words, which I take from the title of the bill, indicate the seriousness of the position that faces us.
The Government is proposing to clothe one man with enormous powers in relation to this industry. In fact, this individual will wield all the powers that normally would be vested in the Government, and in the union executive, which, as we know, has fallen down on its job. The coal-miners have “scabbed” on their own union, their own executive, and their own government. They have paid no regard whatever to the general interests of the community. They have trampled underfoot the sentiments that have actuated many thousands of young men in Australia to fight and, if necessary, to die for their country. Although the coal-miners have been given extraordinarily good conditions, and have been relieved of disabilities which, in some degree, have hindered operations in the industry in years past, they still refuse to remain at work and produce the coal that we need for a 100 per cent, war effort. In my view some of the grievances of the coal-miners are utterly ridiculous, and are not to be compared with the grievances suffered by men and women on the land who are being so seriously hindered in their vital work of food production, because they cannot obtain implements and spare parts to carry on their work. Men, women and children are slaving in rural work in Australia while the coal-miners, because of the high wages they receive, can go on strike at any time and remain on strike week after week. The miners, as a matter of fact, are “scabbing” on the soldiers and also on the community at large. I say candidly that I have lost all patience with them. I consider that they are doing a very bad job for this country. They are being led by a few
Ifr. Bernard Corser. extremists into treachery and sabotage. It may yet be found that money is illegally changing hands, for it has been found, in every country of the world, that where industry is sabotaged traitors with money at their command are at work. We have just had the sorry experience of reading that the new 45,000-ton American battleship Missouri has been damaged by saboteurs. The war effort of this country is, undoubtedly, being seriously hampered by the dislocation in the coal-mining industry, and the coal-miners ought to expell from their unions any who are preventing the resumption of full-time work in the interests of the war.
The newly appointed Coal Commissioner, who will be clothed with such enormous power, will be called upon to do a mammoth job. I do not know how we can expect that he will succeed, seeing that the Government itself has failed. It has been said that the disciplining of the coal-miners should be left in the hands of one man. I can sec no reason why a commission of two or three or even more could not be appointed. We do not leave the management of the Commonwealth Bank in the hands of one man. A board of directors is responsible for its operations. But whether the responsibility of maintaining operations in the coal-mining industry is entrusted to one man or a dozen men failure will result unless the Government stands behind the controlling authority with the utmost, resolution and determination. The production of coal is essential in the interests of the war effort of the nation, and the Government must do everything possible to assist in ensuring increased production. Undoubtedly extremists in the coalmining industry are responsible for the present position.
Something has been said about the advantages of government ownership as against private ownership in this industry. The Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) directed attention in this House recently .to the result of government, enterprise in Russia. He said, in effect, that the Russians had been able to come through their great trials with such distinction because the enterprises of the country are government-controlled. 1 remind the honorable gentleman thai a great deal of the supplies that the Russians used in maintaining their struggle in their darkest days came from Great Britain, and the workers of that country are employed by private enterprise. The honorable gentleman’s submission does not get us very far. We must recognize that the coal of this country, at any rate in those collieries that have been developed, belongs to the people who have invested their money in the industry. Private enterprise, having risked its wealth in this investment, deserves proper consideration. If any proposal put forward for the nationalization of the iron, steel or coal industries is adopted, the people who have invested their money in them should be properly compensated. We have to encourage similar investments in the future, so as to make possible the production of the great latent wealth of this young Australia, which to-day has not one-fourth of the population that we should aspire to secure within a short space of time. I sincerely hope that the miners will be pleased to be rid of those who may be responsible for disturbances. I take it that that is the aim of the Government. Every effort should be made to remove the existing blot upon the reputation of the miners of New South Wales. They should produce coal in the same spirit as the workers in other industries apply themselves to their labours, realizing that they owe something to this country, and to those who are fighting for it. Their” disabilities are only normal. They are the most pampered section of the community. They do not work such long hours, or suffer such unhealthy conditions as do many other sections. The justification for such a complaint was removed by the reforms that have been effected by different governments. The production of coal is essential if victory is to be won by this and the other United Nations, and the Government will be expected to see that it is maintained at the level that is needed.
– We are becoming rather used to having presented to us, before a bill reaches the committee stage, sheafs of amendments which almost warrant the printing of a new bill. I suppose that, in not having to reprint this bill, the Government has achieved two objectives - it has saved paper and, according to its belief, has confused the Opposition.
That there cannot be a proper defence effort in this country without adequate coal supplies is undeniable. By “ supplies “ I mean, not only the daytoday supplies, but also the reserves that are necessary. For some years, I have had the conviction that those who control the miners’ federation in New South Wales have adopted the considered and deliberate policy that reserves of coal shall not be established in any part of Australia. That deliberate policy is being carried out in time of war with a ruthlessness which one would hardly expect from men who are supposed to be fellow citizens of all of us. More than one Minister, has complained that certain States have reached the stage of having not more than ten days’ supply of coal. A lengthy or serious stoppage of interstate shipping would not be needed to bring the industries of such a State to a complete standstill.
Under this bill, if it becomes law - as no doubt it will - there will be two forms of control. If I understand aright the attitude of the Government - and my view has not been modified by the amendments that have been circulated - some of the mines may continue to be worked hy the mine-owners, whilst others will be under the control of the Coal Commissioner. That gentleman, if the amendments be given effect, is to be completely controlled by some Minister; what he does is to be subject to a higher direction. Therefore, I am afraid that if we have any coal hold-up in the notfar.distant future, after the act has been brought into operation and the commissioner has been installed, that gentleman will accept the whole of the blame for whatever may transpire, whilst the important directions will have a political character and will emanate from the Government.
An important question upon which comment has not so far been made has affected many activities in this country during the last few months. Not long ago the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) saw fit to make the pronouncement that the country was no longer in clanger of invasion. That was a most unfortunate pronouncement for the right honorable gentleman to make. In my movements I have found that immediately it had a detrimental affect on the outlook of the people towards the war. There was a softening of their moral fibre. They considered that no longer need they bear the privations to which they had been subjected - which were few - but that they could look forward to a rosy future in which they would have a much easier time. In no part of New South Wales was that more evident than in the mining districts, although other districts also were affected in some degree. It is a condition for which the Government is responsible, and doubtless it has had an influence in accentuating the trouble with which we are faced to-day. It viands to reason that every honorable member on this side of the House desires that .the Government shall be enabled to obtain the greatest possible production of coal. I am not at all sure, however, that this legislation will achieve that result. The trouble is due, not to any shortcomings on the part of the Parliament oi- the majority of the .people, but to two factors - the deplorable determination of the miners not to play their part in the conduct of economic operations, and the failure of the Government to take a grip of the situation in the two years and five months during which it has been in office. There is a tendency to regard the Government as almost a new-born babe which is practically without any past for which it has to answer. It is time that this Parliament looked the matter fairly in the face, and recognized that few governments have received from the Opposition the consideration which the present Administration had during almost the last two years of the old Parliament. Since the 21st August, 1943, it has been in the excellent position of not having to care twopence what the Opposition thought about anything, because it has had the voting strength which has enabled it to do whatever it, has been minded to do. This week, it has taken .the decisive action of calling up certain men for military service as the result of their failure to engage in their occupation. One of two things may happen. The Government may have crossed the Rubicon and cannot retrace its steps ; or, on the other hand, it may have got itself into a bog out of which it cannot extricate itself. I hope that the reality will prove to be that it has crossed the Rubicon; that it has decided to take a grip of the coal-mining industry, to impose discipline on it and to insist that those who, of their own free will, have elected to work in it, shall either do so or be made to do their duty in other parts in which fellow Australians are discharging their responsibilities. There can be no question that, having taken this step, any sign .of weakening by the Government will give rise to the worst situation that could possibly face the Commonwealth, because there will then be no respect left for the Government.
I hope that certain amendments will be made to the bill in committee. I believe that it contains vicious principles. 1 use the expression “ vicious “, meaning what I say. One such is in regard to the taxation of profits. That is not the description, but the effect; it is nothing except a measure of taxation. Another is the equally illuminating cover-up - if one may use that expression - which is described as a deduction from wages. 1 have not previously heard a government propose that fines imposed on men for having wilfully disobeyed the laws of (his country shall be paid into a public fund from which they alone shall derive benefits. The only proper fund into which should be paid the .taxation which is levied on the coal-owners in respect of excess profits and the fines that may bc imposed on the miners, is the general revenue of this country. I agree with the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt), that if any social scheme is necessary, it should be implemented by means of special legislation, which should be considered on its merits. More than once in this House have I heard “ sobstuff “ on behalf of the coal-miners. The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) indulged in it last night. That honorable member always receives a good hearing when he makes a speech on coal.He told us about the poor and downtrodden miners who earn from £10 to £20 a week, yet live in wood and hessian hovels. The average man who is earning £10 a week in this country - a lot less than that in the State from which I come - lives in a stone house. There is something radically wrong with the spirit which permeates men who, drawing wages on that scale, live under the conditions which the honorable member for Hunter has described. From the information that has been given to this House time after time, the accuracy of which has never been challenged, we know that numerous miners are able to earn £3 a day whenever they care to go to work. Therefore, it is not the system under which the men live which is at fault, but the men themselves; they lack the initiative to make their living conditions such as they ought to be. The coalmining districts of New South “Wales are not desert country, and are not to be compared with the mining districts of the electorate of the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Johnson). They are in some of the most favoured portions of the Commonwealth. The existence of conditions such as we have heard described on more than one occasion, is not the fault of the Commonwealth or the State, but is a disgrace to the men who complain of having to live under them, because, as every one knows, they are able to earn high wages whenever they are prepared to work. I am not shedding any tears, or wasting any sympathy, on men of that type. They are the architects of their own fortunes and are responsible for the troubles which are brought on themselves and their families. They will have to study their own outlook, habits and methods, if they wish to have their conditions properly redressed. I trust that the bill will soon reach the committee stage, although T am not hope- . ful that any useful amendment will be made to it. Neither am I hopeful that it will result in the production of more coal. I say with the best of good feeling to the Government, to which I am opposed, that I hope this bill will be as successful in promoting the winning of coal as the Government was in winning seats at the last election.
– At this stage of the debate it is unnecessary to traverse the canvass of the coalminers or of the Government in con nexion with the decline of coal production. We all are aware of the need to produce more coal, and if this bill will assist towards that end we are prepared to give it our support, with some qualifications. The bill itself does little more than consolidate the various regulations which have been framed for the control of the coal industry since the outbreak of war. The only new features are the provisions for taking over control of the mines by the Government, and for setting up industrial authorities.
There is room for much criticism of the Government for its inactivity in the face of industrial disputes on the coalfields, but I do not propose to indulge in criticism. I realize that the Government has a difficult task in trying to persuade the miners, particularly in New South Wales, to do what others in the community believe to be their manifest duty. I remember that, when I was a member of a previous government, ships which had come from Adelaide to Newcastle for coal had to return with water as ballast because there was no coal ready for them to load. That position has not substantially improved, despite the efforts of this Government, and of previous governments. However, the time has come when the Government must accept the challenge. The patience of the public has reached breaking point, and now the Government itself, as well as the miners, is. on trial. The prestige of the Government must stand or fall by the success or otherwise of this measure.
Nothing is to bo gained by saying harsh things about the miners. We believe that their duty lies in a certain direction. We know that, in the matter of industrial disturbances, they are directed, not by the will of the majority, but by a small minority. I believe that a great deal of the trouble has its origin in local political duels between union officials. I now repeat the. suggestion, which was first made by Mr. Justice Davidson in 1930, that the term of office of federation officials should be extended beyond one year. Under the present system, no sooner is a nian elected to office, than he must begin to prepare for the next election, because his rival is already in the field. I do not believe that discipline can be enforced on the coalfields by fining men, or gaoling them, or even by calling them up for military service. The only way in which to obtain discipline in an organization so closely knit as the miners’ federation, and among mcn who are so loyal to one another as are the miners, is tor the organization itself to enforce it. However, it is hopeless to expect the officials to enforce discipline among the men when, in a few months’ time, they must look to those same men for reelection. It may be that in this matter of tenure lies the very kernel of the problem. I understand that the union elections are due in October next. Before then, the Government should declare that the officers elected shall hold office for three years, or for the duration of the war, or, at any rate, for some extended term.
– It might be provocative for the Government to interfere by regulation with the holding of union elections.
– The Government should make it clear that the elections are to be held freely and without interference, hut it should prescribe a term of office for the persons elected. The ex-president of the northern district, Mr. Scanlon, who was defeated at the last elections, stated that, in his opinion, the term of office should be extended.
– I agree with that.
– I am glad to have the support of a Minister who himself represents a coal-mining district. I agree with the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) that the only way to deal with the trouble-makers, who are indifferent to the welfare of their fellow unionists, is to throw them out of the union.
– Who will throw them out?
– The union itself will have to discipline them. There are some rather disturbing features about this bil], the most revolutionary of them being that which provides for the control of mines .by the Commonwealth Government. I am not very nervous about the provision for the acquisition of excess profits-. If the history of government par ticipation in business enterprises is any guide, there are more likely to be losses than profits. I suggest that the bill bt amended to provide that if, for instance, the dividend of a mining company is reduced as the result of government control, from 5 per cent, to 2 per cent., the company shall be compensated for the loss.
– That is the intention of clause 22.
– If the clause is amended, so as to make that intention clear, it will meet my objection. The Government can confer no greaterautho rityupon the commissioner than that which it now possesses - I do not suggest that what is being done is merely a delegation of authority; sometimes that is necessary - but this House and the country expect that when a single individual is charged with the administration of this proposed law he shall have the full authority of the Government behind him.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bil] read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 7 agreed to.
Clause 8 - (.1.) The Governor-General may appoint two persons as advisers to the Commissioner. (2.) An adviser appointed in pursuance of the last preceding; sub-section shall receive such remuneration for his services, and travelling allowance at such rates, as the GovernorGeneral determines. (:(.) Notwithstanding anything contained in this section, if an adviser is also a member of the Parliament of the Commonwealth olof a State he shall not be entitled to receive remuneration or travelling allowances in respect oT his services as an adviser, but he shall be entitled to be reimbursed such expenses as lie lias actually incurred in or in connexion with the performance of his duties as an adviser.
– I ask the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) what is the purpose of sub-clause 3. I have no doubt that it has a definite intention. Is it intended to appoint some member of this House to advise the commissioner? If so, who is the member? If not. why is the clause inserted?
.- In order that what the Government has in mind may be more clearly expressed, I move -
That, in sub-clause (1.), after the word persons “ the following words be inserted: - “ representative of thu owners and the federation “.
If the amendment be carried, the clause will then be clear that each of the two important groups in the industry will be represented by advisers to the commissioner. That has been the practice in the industry and, no doubt, is what the Government has in mind.
– I answer the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) by saying that no decision whatever has been made as to who shall be the advisers. The objective of subclause 3 is merely to ensure that the field shall not be narrowed. I cannot accept the amendment moved by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt). He suggested that the insertion of the words proposed to bo inserted would make it clear that the two advisers of the commissioner would represent the two groups in the industry. We may appoint advisers who, in fact, will represent the two groups, but we do not want to be restricted in that respect. It is no criticism of the existing members of the commission to say that it may be possible that there are unsatisfactory features in choosing representatives in that way. The honorable member will see what I mean. We want a completely free hand. The statutory power rests with the commissioner. I assure the committee that we shall appoint as advisers persons of value. It will turn out very much as the honorable member wishes, but I desire the Government’s hands not to he tied.
– I appeal to the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) to alter his attitude towards the amendment. If the advisers are to bo worth-while they must represent the different interests in the industry. If the selection of the advisers is left to chance, they may not represent all the interests. The Attorney-General said that it might turn out as he desired, but that the Government did not want to bind itself. Harmonious working between the two sections of the industry is necessary if the commissioner is to be able to wield the extraordinary powers which he is to be given. Without . that harmony the Government will pull a bag of trouble over itself, industrially and otherwise. Surely the object of the bill is the winning of coal. If so, harmony must be preserved between the interests concerned. It will be preserved if the commissioner’s advisers represent, on the one hand, the owners, and, on the other, the federation, but it will not be preserved if the majority of advisers arc biased in one direction. I do not say that thi? Government has been entirely at fault, but it has happened in the past that advice has been biased. If the advisers are partial and partisan, we shall get further trouble. The Attorney-General should reconsider his decision and specify that the advisors shall represent the owners and the federation.
– The commissioner will have a hard row to hoe at the outset, and I think that if he is to succeed in his task provision should be made to ensure that neither of his two advisers shall be allowed, without his authority, to publish or broadcast criticism of or comment on his work. I ask the Attorney-General whether he will accept an amendment to that end.
Dr. EVATT (Burton - AttorneyGeneral and Minister for External Affairs) [10.55 J. - I appreciate the importance of the point made by the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott), but I should prefer thai the committee allow the Government to do what he has in mind by regulation, or in some other way, rather than by a provision in the statute. I do not want a rigid rule, although I agree entirely with the principle, because it would be most undesirable if the advisers of the commissioner were able to go to the press with statements about confidenti.il matters.
– I take it that the Attorney-General will give effect to what T desire.
– I agree entirely with what the honorable member has said.
– I impress on the committee the undesirability of a politician being appointed as an adviser to the commissioner. A politician could not possibly give impartial advice because, regardless of his knowledge of the industry, he musttake into consideration what all politicians have to take into consideration, namely, the votes of those who elect them to Parliament.
– All that sub-clause 3 does is to prevent a member of Parliament from being disqualified.
– The significance of the sub-clause to any one not knowing its intention-
– No special significance is to be attached to it.
– Oh, well!
.- Both great groups within the coal-mining industry will be vitally affected by what the commissioner does and it will be essential that they shall know that their respective interests are directly represented by the advisers appointed.
– Without agreeing to a rigid rule, I say to the honorable gentleman that if we appoint as an adviser a representative of the employees we shall also appoint a representative of the employers. I should like the committee not to make that an absolute rule, although I am sure that the system will work very much in the way suggested.
– If an adviser is clearly, by association and past conduct, a representative of a particular group the other major group in the industry will be given the same opportunity of representation?
– Certainly; I assure the honorable member of that.
– That is more specific than the right honorable gentleman’s earlier statement. I, too, consider that if the Government goes to the length of appointing a member of this House or some other parliament it will incur danger. Obviously, if a member of Parliament were appointed as an adviser, he would be a man with a direct knowledge of the coal-mining industry, and he would be more than human if he was able to dis sociate his political sympathies from his job of advising.
– What about “Rowley”?
– The honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark) refers to a man with pronounced views on the operation of the coal-mining industry. I have no doubt that, if the positions were reversed, and we were administering this legislation and appointed as adviser to the commissioner a man of known violent views in relation to the conduct of the industry, that would not give satisfaction to the parties represented by honorable gentlemen opposite. Before the Government puts this power into effect it should reflect seriously on the dangerous possibilities inherent in it.
.- Sub-clause 3 has obviously been inserted to open the field of selection to the Government in the appointment of its advisers. Will the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) undertake that, if a member of the Labour party is appointed, he will be regarded as a representative of the employees?
– That, I think, is implied in what I have already said.
– That satisfies me.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 9- (1.) The Commissioner may, by instrument in writing and at his discretion, delegateto any person or body of persons all or any of his powers, functions and authorities under this Act . . .
.- This clause seems to me to call for careful consideration. Frequently we have heard protests, mostly outside this Parliament, about the delegation of legislative powers to persons who are not responsible to the people. Under this clause authority is to be given to the commissioner to delegate to any person. irrespective of the views of this Parliament, most extensive powers. Sub-clause 1 of clause 17 states that the commissioner is charged with the duty of regulating and controlling the production, treatment, handling, supply, distribution, storage, marketing and consumption of coal, and for those purposes, and for tUe purpose of carrying out his duties, and of exercising any of his powers and functions under the act, is empowered to make such orders and do such other things as he thinks necessary or expedient. There could be no wider delegation of power to any individual, and I protest against the delegation of such extensive powers. I submit that the delegation of powers, which to a degree must be permitted, should be restricted to administrative powers. It should not include legislative powers. I am totally opposed to the delegation to any individual of powers which have been given to this Parliament to legislate in respect of subject-matters. I know that this clause is identical with clause 10 of the original Coal-mining Regulations, but still I protest against it. I regard it as a surrender of the powers of this Parliament. I realize that to achieve the purpose of the measure it is necessary to give to the commissioner very extensive powers for a certain period, but I am opposed to the granting to him, in turn, qf authority to delegate wide powers to any individual.
– What legislative powers does the honorable member wish to exclude from the delegation?
– Clause 17 charges the commissioner with certain powers and functions, and that inferentially gives to him power to carry out those duties. Sub-clause 2 of clause 17 provides that, without affecting the generality of the last preceding sub-clause, the commissioner shall have powers and functions to do many things which are enumerated. I do not seek to impede the operation of this measure, but I contend that the commissioner should have the right to delegate only powers that are not of a legislative nature. That is important, if this Parliament is to retain its real function of legislating in respect of subject-matters. I should like to know the legal effect - although I have my own views - of section 18 of the National Security Act of 1939, which states -
A regulation made under this Act shall, subject to the Acts Interpretation Act of 1901-1937, have effect “ notwithstanding anything inconsistent therewith contained in any enactment other than this Act or in any instrument having effect by virtue of any enactment other than this Act.
We may pass this bill, but a regulation issued under the National Security Act could completely overcome or alter it. My second contention is that the regulations already in operation have not been abrogated. Side by side with the machinery of this bill we have the Coal-mining Regulations and the Coal-mining_ Industry Employment Regulations, with their various amendments. Unless these have been abrogated, which I understand is not the case, they operate with the same effect as this measure will, and indeed with an overriding authority. I gather that the intention is that this bill shall codify the position as far as the authority of the Coal Commissioner is concerned.
.- Dealing with thehonorable member’s second point, the legal position is that, notwithstanding the passing of this measure, the power under the National Security Act will still exist, and regulations promulgated under that act will, if inconsistent with the provisions of this measure, prevail. Some provisions in those regulations must be kept in full force and effect ; for instance, the power of prosecution in relation to absenteeism, to which I referred in my second-reading speech.
The more important matter referred to by .the honorable member is that to which he first directed attention, and in that regard I am substantially in agreement with him. The object of the power of delegation is to enable administrative duties to be carried out on behalf of the commissioner, particularly in distant parts of the Commonwealth. To meet the. wishes of honorable members I move -
That, in sub-clause (1.), after the word “ authorities “, first occurring, the following words be inserted: - “of an administrative character “.
That would make it clear that such persons or bodies of persons to whom the commissioner may delegate his powers, functions and authorities shall have no legislative powers.
– Although this bill may become law, the body of legislation contained in the National .Security Act will override it to the extent that it is inconsistent with that act. It seems proper that before bills are passed we should know the extent to which existing regulations are to be kept in force. A large number of regulations has been merged in this bill. I have perused the various clauses, and I know that the bill contains in substance no new provisions at all. Practically every clause has a counterpart in the Coal Mining Regulations or the Coal Mining Industry Employment Regulations.We should be informed as to whether these regulations are to continue to operate, because we are now deliberating upon the same matters as those with which the regulations deal.
Amendment agreed to.
– The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) has raised a most pertinent point regarding war-time administration, and the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) has not seen fit to answer it. This proposition is of far-reaching importance, and should not be allowed to pass as dust does in the desert. If the Attorney-General is not able to answer it now, he should give to honorable members an undertaking that an explanation will be tendered in the Senate. However, I hope that the point will be explained before the bill leaves this chamber.
– Having already explained the legal position, I thought that honorable members understood the point. The bill, as such, covers all the substantial operating portions of the existing regulations, but some provisions, such as the one which I indicated to the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender), will have to remain in force. The Government must possess reserve emergency powers to deal by regulation with new situations as they arise. I shall endeavour to give a fuller explanation before the bill leaves this chamber.
– The National Security (Coal Control) Regulations empower the commission, inter alia, to fix an average rail freight rate for the carriage of coal. Although that provision is not repeated in this hill, none the less it is the law.
This Parliament could be overridden tomorrow by the issue of a regulation.
– I shall endeavour to deal with that particular point and with allied matters at a later stage.
– Before the third reading ?
– Before the bill leaves this chamber.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 10 agreed to.
Clause 11 - (1.) The Minister may suspend the Commissioner from office for misbehaviour or incapacity. (2.) The Minister shall, within seven days after the suspension, if the Parliament is then sitting, or if the Parliament is not then sitting, within seven days after the next meeting of the Parliament, cause to be laid before both Houses of the Parliament a full statement of the grounds of suspension, and if within sixty days thereafter an address is presented to the Governor-General by the Senate and the House of Representatives praying for the restoration of the Commissioner to office, the Commissioner shall be restored accordingly; but if no such address is so presented the Governor-General may confirm the suspension and declare the office of the Commissioner to be vacant and the office shall thereupon bo and become vacant.
– I move -
That the clause he left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following clause: - “11. - (1.) The Commissioner may be suspended from office by the Governor-General for misbehaviour or incapacity, but shall not be removed from office except as hereinafter provided.
The Minister shall cause to be laid before Parliament a full statement of the grounds of suspension within seven sitting days after such suspension if Parliament is in session, and, if not, then within seven sitting days after the commencement of the next session. (2.) The Commissioner suspended under this section shall be restored to office unless each House -of Parliament, within twenty-one days from the time when such statement has been laid before it, declares by resolution that the Commissioner ought to be removed from office, and if each House of Parliament within the said time does so declare, the Commissioner shall be removed by the GovernorGeneral accordingly.”
The proposed amendment reverses the procedure outlined in the bill. Under the present clause, the Minister will be empowered to suspend the commissioner for misbehaviour or incapacity, and will be the sole judge. If, within 60 days thereafter, an address is presented to the Governor-General by the Senate and the House of Representatives praying for the restoration of the commissioner to office, he shall be restored accordingly. So far as I can tell, the clause does not safeguard the independence of the commissioner. The law of New South Wales provides that if the Executive considers it necessary to suspend a judge of the Supreme Court or the Commissioner of Police, the charges ?hall be fully ventilated in Parliament. In that respect, both Houses are positive in their approach to the matter. The judge or the commissioner cannot be suspended in any other way. The amendment which I have submitted will preserve the independence of the commissioner, and will enable any charge against him to be fully debated in this House before he is relieved of his duties. If the amendment be rejected, the Minister will be the sole judge of misbehaviour or incapacity on the part of the commissioner, and this House will be passive, particularly since the Government has the support of such a big majority of honorable members. We should ensure that no grave injustice shall be inflicted upon the commissioner.
Sir. SPENDER, (Warringah) [11.21 J. - I support the amendment, although I realize that this provision also appears in the National Security (Coal Control) Regulations which were introduced by a former Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt).. The matter raised by the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) is most important, in view of clause 20 and the amendment’s which have been foreshadowed by the Government. When Ministers are seeking to increase the production of coal, it is essential that the commissioner shall be removed from political pressure. I disagree entirely with the view expressed by some honorable members on this side of the chamber that it is of advantage to have the commissioner subject to the control of a Minister.
– Who said that?
– Th e Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden). The commissioner, who must ensure equity between owners and employees and who must not show partiality or favour to either one of the parties, must be removed from any threat of political pressure. Unless that safeguard he inserted, there will always be a risk that the commissioner will be hampered in the discharge of his duties. I shall refer to this aspect at greater length on clause 20, when I shall mention the activities of the Minister for Mines in New South Wales, Mr. Baddeley, and point out how the political pressure which he has exerted has impeded the production of coal. The Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) should accept the amendment because it will enable the House to determine whether there is ground for the removal of the commissioner for misbehaviour or incapacity. Otherwise, the Executive will have the right to dismiss the commissioner, and the House of Representatives will have the right to deny that action. Between the time of dismissal and the time that it takes for the House to deny it, the situation may have altered beyond repair. Another commissioner may be appointed, and the former occupant of the position, who was discharged by executive action, could not be reinstated. The commissioner should be able to discharge his duties under this bill without fear of threats or political pressure.
– I cannot accept the amendment. Both the National Security (Coal Control) Regulations and the bill provide that the commissioner, if suspended, may be restored to office by the resolution of both Houses. The amendment provides that the commissioner may be restored to office, against the will of the Executive, by the resolution of either the Senate or the House of Representatives, or both chambers. I cannot agree to unreasonable amendments based upon supposititious cases which could never arise in practice. The honorable member for Wentworth described how the law of New South Wales provides for the removal of a judge of the Supreme Court, but the two cases are entirely different. The commissioner is given great powers of an administrative character in the main, and will possess wide discretion and substantial security of office. The honorable member envisaged a fantastic set of circumstances. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) declared that a grave injustice could possibly be done if the Executive suspended the official and appointed a successor before the House confirmed or disallowed its action. On the suspension of the commissioner by the Executive Government for misbehaviour or incapacity, the grounds will have to be referred to the Parliament and, consequently, the matter becomes one for decision by the legislature.
– The Attorney-General is closing the stable door after the horse has bolted.
– A new commissioner cannot be permanently appointed to the vacancy when the occupant of the office is merely suspended. The appointment could be only a provisional one pending the decision of Parliament. I invite honorable members to consider what would happen if the Executive Government, on the ground of misbehaviour or incapacity, suspended’ a commissioner, the House of Representatives, which is the popular chamber, endorsed this action, and the Senate disagreed with the suspension. The commissioner would remain in office, and a preposterous position would be created. That would not be responsible government. The commissioner will be not a judicial officer, but an administrative officer, certainly with great powers, but subject to the general political policy of the government of the day.
Sitting suspended from 11.30 p.m. to IB (midnight).
Friday, 3 March 1HU.
– I listened with interest to the speech of the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) who was previously a distinguished member of the High Court Bench and knows that no such action- as that contemplated by the Government in this bill would be tolerated by the judiciary. Moreover, no self-respecting government would attempt to impose such conditions on the judiciary. Protection similar to that embodied in my amendment already exists in the legislation now in operation in New South Wales in regard to the
Commissioner of Police. Without such a safeguard that officer’s hold on his office would have been most precarious at times during recent years. The AttorneyGeneral may claim that the commissioner will not be a judge, but I point out that he is to be given dictatorial powers, and for that reason should have protection. The public has a right to demand that any charges laid against the Commonwealth shall be discussed by the Parliament, and that only the Parliament shall be able to remove him from office. Should the Executive decide to remove the commissioner, there is little doubt that the Parliament would support its action. The Attorney-‘General knows that it is much more difficult to upset a decision which -has already been made than to make a decision in the first place, and therefore I appeal to him to give the same consideration to my amendment as he would to a proposal to remove from office one of his former colleagues on the High Court Bench. I urge him to take steps to ensure the independence of the commissioner. Opportunity should be given to the Parliament to discuss publicly any action to remove the commissioner from office, so that the Minister shall not be the sole judge to decide whether the commissioner has misbehaved himself or has shown incapacity. It may be that the Minister of the day will have no knowledge of the coal-mining industry, yet as the bill now stands he would be able to remove the commissioner from office on the ground of incapacity. I suggest that the Attorney-General make it clear that only the Parliament shall be able to remove the commissioner from office.
– I support the stand taken by the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) in this matter. Some honorable members seem to assume that the commissioner will be a man who will act in a manner of whichthey approve. The name of one gentleman has been mentioned as the person who will be appointed as commissioner should this legislation be placed on the statute-book. That gentleman has a long record of efficient public service and he enjoys the confidence of all political parties, but the time may come when another individual will occupy the posi- tion of commissioner. Or it may be that circumstances will alter. I believe that the Executive should govern, and therefore I believe that the right to remove f rom office persona occupying administrative positions under the Government should rest with the Executive, subject, of course, to certain rights which are set out in clause 11, namely, that the Parliament shall pass judgment on the issue eventually. I visualize a time when the parties now in opposition will be in power and will disagree with the actions of the man holding the office of commissioner, and I am in full accord with the view expressed by the AttorneyGeneral. I shall therefore support the clause as it stands.
– I support the amendment moved by the .honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison). Almost everything will depend on the person who will exercise the powers and functions of the commissioner, because he will be practically a dictator in the coal-mining industry. The Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) has stated that Mr. Mighell, the present Coal Commissioner, will be appointed commissioner should this bill become law. Mr. Mighell is well known to most honorable members, as well as to those associated with, the coal-mining industry. His handling of matters connected with coal-mining has won for him the confidence of all sections of the industry and of every member of this Parliament. But it may be that certain powers will be delegated to others, and, again, everything will depend on the persons who will exercise those powers. In dealing with the matters covered by this bill a tremendous responsibility will be thrown on the Commissioner, and it is of the utmost importance that he shall have the confidence of all political parties, as well as of all sections of the coal-mining industry. In view of the importance of his office, it is disturbing to reflect that at the whim of the Minister of the day he may be removed from office, and the coal-mining industry placed under the control of some other person who has not Mr. Mighell’s record for impartiality. Some of the persons appointed to important positions by the present Government are not considered by many to be truly impartial. There has been some criticism of the recent appointment of Mr. A. C. Willis to the Central Reference Board because in some quarters he is not regarded as impartial. I think that it can truly be said that the coal-miners expected that he would be partial to them. Any proposal to remove from office easily a gentleman of great capacity who has proved that he understands the coal-mining industry is a matter of considerable importance. I do not regard with favour any measure which would weaken the power of the commissioner by making it easy for him to be removed from office. All that the amendment provides is that, before the commissioner can be removed from office, certain things shall happen. I hope that the Attorney-General will accept the amendment.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 12 agreed to.
Clause 13- (1.) The Commissioner shall be deemed to have vacated his office if-
– I move -
That, in sub-clause (1.), paragraph (o), the .words “ him or on. Ids behalf “ be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words : - “ or on behalf of the Commissioner “.
The amendment is designed to make it clear that the commissioner is prohibited from having an interest in any contract entered into by the commissioner in that capacity. In his second-reading speech the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) suggested that the paragraph as drafted might prohibit the commissioner from entering into any contract at all. Although it is doubtful whether the paragraph is capable of that construction being placed on it, the- Government thinks that it is desirable to meet the situation to which the Leader of the Opposition referred.
Mr. Menzies.^ What is the purpose of altering the wording to read “ by or on behalf of the commissioner”?
– It has been suggested that the words “ him or on his behalf “ may mean that the commissioner is to be debarred from entering into any contract, regardless of its nature or whether it was entered into by him in his official capacity.
– If he entered into a contract which was in conflict with his duty as commissioner it would not be entered into “on behalf of the commissioner “.
– Entering into a contract of that character would have to be dealt with in some other way, for instance, suspension.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 14 (Coal Production Councils).
.- I ask the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) to give to the committee some information as to the composition and functions of the coal production councils. Presumably these bodies will deal with coal production. Under the bill various bodies and persons are to be appointed to help in the administration of the coal-mining industry. The commissioner is to be in charge, and he is to have two advisers to assist him. Those advisers may .be members of the Parliament of the Commonwealth or of a State. There is also to he a coal production council in each State or part of a State. In another clause provision is made for the appointment of coal committees, whilst other clauses refer to “industrial authority “ and “ industrial officers “. A fairly considerable bureaucratic machine is suggested by these contemplated appointments, and we are entitled to have more specific information as to what is proposed. We should have some indication as to the number of appointments to be made, and whether the persons so appointed are to be paid, and, if so, the scale of their remuneration.
– Clauses 14 and 15, dealing respectively with coal production councils and coal committees, contain provisions which the commissioner and
I are most desirous of having included in the bill. The purpose of clause 14 is to set up, where it may be considered desirable by the commissioner in any State or any part of a State, an expert body which will be able to advise him as to the best means of increasing the production of coal in the State or part of the State in which the council may be functioning. Clause 15 reproduces regulation 15 of the Coal Control Regulations. The determination of the number of persons of which the committees shall consist is to be left entirely to the discretion of the commissioner. I do not want to fetter his discretion, but desire to give to him the powers for which he has asked.
– What about the remuneration ?
– Regulation 61a gives to the Governor-General the power to make regulations as to the payment of fees to the members of any council or committee. The matter of the number of persons on the committee or the council will be under the control of the commissioner so that neither will be an unwieldy body.
– In New South Wales there are mines ranging from some of the most obsolete in the world to the most highly efficient, and most modern. I have no doubt that the idea which underlies this clause is to “ pick the brains “ out of the industry, and endeavour to determine whether or not better management or more efficient technical methods may be applied in the mines and thus increase production. In a brief survey which I made of the industry some months ago, I formed the opinion that persons possessing high qualifications could, by better management, direction, and technical ability, ensure the production of much more coal than is at present produced, with the same man-power or less. That has been achieved in some degree in the J”, and A. Brown group, under the superintendence of a highly technical man; I believe that the output has been increased, and the efficiency of the mines generally has been improved. I do not think I am wrong when I say that some mines in New South “Wales are being worked under almost the same conditions as existed in the early part of the eighteenth century. I have no doubt that the working of those mines could be speeded up, and their production could be increased, by the application of better technical management and direction. There are technical men holding high executive positions in the industry in New South Wales to-day, who will agree with my contention. The ideas which the commissioner holds are sound. There are many problems relating purely to production and safety matters, as well as to the l technical means of operating mines, which have developed to a greater degree than they should have in the industrial field. Undeniably, one of these is the use of the scraper-loader. I suggest that the services of a qualified mining engineer be obtained from overseas. In collaboration with highly qualified technical men in Australia, he could make a complete survey of the industry, and thus be able to give to the commissioner really excellent and sound advice as to management, direction, and the technical methods of working mines.
– The commissioner has advised me that the production councils will provide technical advice to all owners in their areas. Many mines, particularly the small mines, have not competent technical advisers. Therefore, what the honorable member has in mind should in some degree be achieved.
– My suggestion goes further than that. Under the set-up that we have had during the last two or three years, many matters relating purely to technical production have degenerated into the realm of industrial politics. Undeniably, this has had an effect upon the production of coal in New South Wales, and our war effort. If an independent mining engineer were brought to Australia, and linked with highly technical men in this country under the chairmanship of the commissioner, a survey of many of these important matters might lead to a solution of a number of the problems that give rise to disputes. Then there is the mechanization of mines. There is no doubt that under mechanization production could be enormously increased. At the Richmond Main mine my friend, the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan), and I were told that the rate of production was approximately a ton and a half a man a day. At the Burwood mine, which is fully mechanized, the production at the same time was approximately 5$ tons a man a day. That illustrates what is possible by means of mechanization. Many mines in New South Wales have been worked for a considerable number of years under primitive methods, and it is impossible to install full mechanization. Locomotives cannot be employed in all places where they would have to run at right angles, on a track on which normally a horse-drawn skip is used. There are also other technical difficulties. It would not be possible to proceed with the complete mechanization of those mines - which, I should say, is the abjective of the commissioner. The question therefore is : How can such mines be partially mechanized so as to obtain the best results? The production committees could prove of great value; but their value would be enhanced if an outside mining engineer were brought to this country to make a complete survey of the industry in consultation with our own men.
– I am in accordance with the desire of the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Hutchinson) that the coalmines of this country should be mechanized. By contrast with other industries, the mining industry has lagged, probably because of the opposition of the miner to any improvement which would have the effect of producing coal more cheaply. The community has had to pay a higher price for coal because the industry has not developed as have other industries. Could it be argued that the great undertakings of which the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) has control could be brought to completion by the use of the pick and shovel method? The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) has informed honorable members from time to time that his policy is to expedite the production of agricultural machinery.
– The honorable member must connect his remarks with the clause.
– I am speaking of the mechanization of mines, and am comparing the development of the mining industry with that of other industries. Would the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Frost) say that the ravages of the codlin moth can be checked by the use of a pair of pincers, operated with the finger and thumb of one hand? Scientific methods have been developed in that direction.
– I again require the honorable member to connect his remarks with the clause, which deals with coal production councils.
– Provision should he made for these councils tohave access to scientific development, in order to promote mechanization. Had there been no development in air navigation, the honorable and gallant member for Balaclava (Mr. White) would have to use an umbrella instead of a parachute if he wished to jump from a 5-storey building.
– If the honorable member does not connect his remarks with the clause, I shall have to ask him to resume his seat.
– Other industries have been developed by the application of science. The mining industry also should adopt scientific methods. Mechanization would effect a larger volume of production at a cheaper rate.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 15 and 16 agreed to.
Clause 17 - (1.) The Commissioner is charged with the duty of mating provision for securing an increase in the production of coal for the needs of Australia and of the Powers allied with His Majesty in the present war and is empowered to regulate and control the production, treatment, handling, supply, distribution, storage, marketing and consumption of coal, and for those purposes, and for the purpose of carrying out his duties and of exercising any of his powers and functions under this act, is empowered to make such orders, and to take such measures, give such directions and do such things, as ho thinks necessary or expedient. (.2. ) In particular, but without affecting the generality of the last preceding sub-section, the Commissioner shall have the following powers and functions: -
– I move -
That the concluding words “ and shall have such other powers and Junctions with respect to coal mines and the coal-miningindustry as are prescribed “ be left out.
Sub-clause 1 provides that the most extensive powers be given to the commissioner, and sub-clause 2 gives powers in particular without affecting in general the substance of the first sub-clause. Then we go to the extent of saying at the end of sub-clause 2 that the commissioner “shall have such other powers and functions with respect to coal mines and the coal-mining industry as are prescribed “. I do not know what “ prescribed” really means in this sub-clause; but I assume that it means prescribed by regulation. My point is that we have given to the coal commissioner most extensive powers. We have, indeed, delegated to him the power of legislating, but we are now giving to him, not only the powers contained in the bill, which are extensive enough, particularly those contained in sub-clause 1,but also certain other powers as are prescribed. It is about time that we realized that by passing clauses of this kind we are simply denuding Parliament of its real power. When we give powers to an individual, as extensive as those to ‘be given to the commissioner in this bill, those powers should not be added toexcept by this Parliament which should know exactly the nature of the added powers.
Amendment agreed to.
– I move -
That the following sub-clause be added to the clause: - “ (3.) The owner of a coal mine to whom a requirement made under paragraph (k) of the last preceding sub-section applies may require the Commissioner on behalf of the Commonwealth to make an advance to him of such monies as are necessary to carry out the requirement, and the owner shall not be bound to comply with the requirement unless and until the advance is so made to him.”.
Paragraphk of sub-clause 2 gives the commissioner power to require the owner of a coal mine to modify, acquire or replace plant and equipment. The compliance with such a requirement would almost certainly involve expenditure on the part of the owner. In some cases it might be difficult for the owner to provide finance for carrying out the requirement. It appears to be reasonable, therefore, that where expenditure is involved the Commonwealth should be prepared to make the moneys available to the owner on loan. Any such loan would, of course, be covered by security.
.Paragraph b of sub-clause 2 gives the commissioner power to fix the prices of coal at various points. I ask the AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt) whether he has given full consideration to this power. I repeat the general observation which I made in my second-reading speech concerning the danger of enabling an officer, without reference to price-fixing authorities, to fix the price of coal in this way. It wouldbe more satisfactory to provide that the commissioner be given power to fix the price of coal subject to the approval of the Prices Commissioner.
– At present the price is always fixed in consultation with the Prices Commissioner, and that practice will continue.
– Will the Attorney;
General give me that assurance?
– Yes. I have discussed this matter with the Coal Commissioner, and he informs me that both authorities work together. The price of coal is not fixed without the approval of the Prices Commissioner.
– The inquiry made by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) might be answered in part by say ing that the particular sub-clause to which he refers was introduced in 1941 by the Government of which both of us were members.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 18 (Aquisition and requisition of coal, &c.).
Clause verbally amended.
– The amendment brings this clause into linewith clause 19 of the Coal Control Regulations of 1941. I should like to know whether the word “ trucks “ appearing in paragraph b is correct, ‘ because the word “ tracks appears in the regulation from which this paragraph is lifted. It is possible that the Government has in mind not the acquisition of railway trucks, ‘but the acquisition of railway tracks.
– Trucks, and not tracks, is intended.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 19 agreed to.
Any exercise of any power of the Commissioner may be general or confined to any coal mine, port, place, locality or State or part of a State or to any person or class of persons.
– I move -
That the following words be added to the clause: - and shall be subject to any directions of the Minister as to matters of policy”.
The amendment is designed to make it clear, as I pointed out in my secondreading speech, that the Government will continue to be responsible’ for general policy in connexion with the objects of the bill, namely, increasing and maintaining coal production.
– What might “policy” mean ?
– It is quite impossible to define “ policy “. The amendment means that general ministerial responsibility on the broad policy of the bill will still remain with the Government.
– The commissioner will be a political puppet.
– The right honorable gentleman said that we were “passing the buck “ to him. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) cannot have it both ways. I point out that, although the words proposed tobe inserted are not identically those in the regulation under the Air Force Act, where the functions of the Minister are distinguished from those of the Air Board, this provision in substance follows that demarcation. That is to say, the Air Board’s functions in relation to the Air Force are very considerable, but they are made subject to the decision, of the Minister on matters of policy.
The honorable member for Wentworth interjecting,
– As this matter has already been discussed fully, I ask the honorable member not to make comment merely restating the old arguments.
– I have not the remotest idea why the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) should not make a comment. I propose to do so myself. This proposal destroys the whole purpose of the bill. The Government brought down this bill, and said in effect, “We cannot handle this job. We are going to set up a man with complete authority to deal with it. He will be the commissioner “. Then, some honorable members opposite said, “ That will not do because that means that the Minister will not be running this matter. The commissioner will be running it. This actually means that you are going to have non-political administration of coal “. And so, this amendment is produced. lt is all very well for the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) to say, “ You were the people who said we were passing the buck ‘ “. We were the people who said that the Government was “ passing the buck “. The Government cannot have it both ways. If the Government says that it, as a Government, is going to run coal, then let it run coal and let it not go through the farce of setting up somebody with apparently dictatorial authority to control coal. If Ministers are prepared to assume responsibility for coal let them assume it; but here is a hill which was apparently designed to do exactly the opposite thing - a bill which was designed to take a man of. great acceptance - that is quite clear from this discussion - of proved ability and character, and say to him, “ You conduct this business with all the powers in the world without political interference, because we think you might be able to get. coal for us on those terms “. Then the Minister comes along - and I do not wonder that he does not want the amendment commented upon by the honorable member for Wentworth - and says, “ We will just add these words at the end of this clause”. The Attorney-General was asked, what a matter of policy was, and he said with commendable frankness that he did not know. And he is quite right. Nobody can tell you what a matter of policy is. As a matter of fact, in the Victorian Railways Act, where the commissioners were supposed to be- set up as an independent body, there was a provision that the commissioners would be subject to the direction of the Governor-in-Council on matters of policy. And then some one had enough wit to ask, “But what is a matter of policy?” The Railways Act in Victoria provided that wherever there was a dispute and the question was a matter of policy it would be settled by the Governor-in-Council. That was a very agreeable scheme. The Minister says, “ That is a matter of policy “. The commissioner says, “ That is not a matter of policy “, and then the Minister acting in his capacity of GovernorinCouncil, says that it is, and. he decides the dispute in his own favour. The result is that the apparent protection conferred upon the Railways Commissioners is illusory. There is no machinery in this bill for determining what is a matter of policy. The Minister may, with perfect honesty, say to the commissioner that such and such a thing is a matter of policy - that he shall not employ Brown or Jones or Robinson, or that he shall employ Smith. Who is to decide whether it is policy or not? The act does not define policy. The fact is that this amendment, by a single phrase, alters the whole character of the bill. This is a matter of such major importance that the committee must be divided on it.
– Must be?
– Yes, and it will be. This is something which has been introduced into the bill as an after-thought.
– As an after-caucus thought.
– Yes, as an aftercaucus thought. The idea behind it is that, while the Government has told the public that it is going to appoint a commissioner of great standing who is to do all sorts of things to obtain increased production, it has, by this amendment, retained the right of the Minister to overrule him at every turn. Honorable members opposite know that the effect of the amendment will be to perpetuate political control of the industry. They do not object to that, because they have a belief in political control which I do not share. I do not believe that the coal industry will be better handled than at present by the introduction of a system under which, when it suits the Government, the commissioner can control the industry, and when it does not suit the Government, the Minister can intervene and say: “This is a matter of policy.” If this amendment be agreed to, the bill will merely become a measure providing for the political control of the coal industry by a collection of politicians who have fallen down miserably on the job.
– The Leader of the Australian Country party supported this proposal this afternoon.
– I had not seen this amendment.
– The Leader of the Australian Country party can hardly be blamed for supporting the printed bill in the belief that it was the whole bill. Only later did he learn that the amendments were as great as the bill itself. Because this amendment completely changes the character of the bill, I propose to vote against it, and I shall divide the committee on it.
. -I regard this amendment as of great importance, and I find myself, in regard to it, in substantial agreement with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), whom I am glad to welcome back to the chamber. The AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt) was, I believe, correct in saying that it is impossible to define policy. As a lawyer, and a member of Parliament, I have the strongest objection to giving my support to anything which I cannot understand, and, therefore, I believe that this provision should not be included in the bill. I can understand the words “ shall be subject to any direction of the Minister “, because that means what it says. This is a cunningly devised amendment. If a particular plan should fail, it will be described as a matter of administration, and, therefore, the responsibility of the commissioner; if it succeeds, it will be a matter of policy, and, therefore, the credit will belong to the Government. 1 am opposed to the amendment, because it will have the effect of certain regulations at present in force. It is all “ eye-wash “ to suggest that this is a novel bill. I have been through it carefully, and it is similar, even to the wording in many instances, to existing regulations. The commissioner can never succeed in getting more coal unless he is free from political pressure both here and elsewhere. In the past, he has not received much assistance from a certain politician in New SouthWales. I refer to Mr. Baddeley, the Minister for Mines in the Government of New South Wales. The first instance in which he failed to be helpful was in connexion with the Coal and Shale Mine Workers Pensions Bill, which became law towards the end of 1941, and which was to operate from a date to be fixed by proclamation, the proposed date being February, 1942. On the 27th August, while the bill was in committee, Mr. Baddeley said -
The State Actuary informed me that if the Government had to provide even the benefits contemplated by the previous Government the levy on coal-miners would have to be 6s. a fortnight, the Governments contribution would be increased by £100,000, and the levy on coal would need to be (id. a ton. I said I did not want to have that, that I. did not propose to force 2,000 men out of the industry immediately and place them on pensions, but that the intention was to introduce the scheme gradually over a period of three years, and so avoid dislocation in the industry.
The next day, the 28th August, he said -
It is not proposed to grant 2,000 pensions immediately; they will be granted gradually, say, a few hundred for the first month or so.
Japan entered the war in December, 1941. and although the Pensions Act was not to become law until the end of February, Mr. Baddeley, under pressure from the miners’ federation, insisted upon the retirement of all men over 60 years of age as from 1st January, 1942. Mr. Baddeley was chairman of the tribunal appointed under the act, and that tribunal has power to suspend the -compulsory retirement provision of the act, but the tribunal refused several applications for suspensions, with the result that over 1,000 men were hunted out of the industry, notwithstanding the fact that the demand for coal was becoming urgent. In actual fact, the tribunal passed its authority over to the miners’ federation, and within the last two ‘Or ‘three weeks three men were retired from the Bellbird colliery in the northern field. At -the Coalcliff colliery, pillar coal had for three and a half years been extracted by means of scraper-loaders and in all that time there had not been one notifiable accident. But in. December, 1941 - again after Japan came into the war - Mr. Baddeley, as Minister for Mines, declared as a safety measure that am more coal was to be loaded hy scraperloaders. In doing so he was acting under pressure from the miners’ federation, because men working the scraper-loaders were not earning as much money as were those hewing coal by hand. The Minister was not concerned with getting more coal for the country, he was concerned only with doing the bidding of the federation.
– The honorable member is attacking a man who is not here to defend himself.
– I will tackle any man, here or elsewhere, who has to do with the subject-matter of this measure.
– Do you rule, Mr. Chairman, that the honorable member is in order in discussing the administration of a New South Wales law by a member of the Government of that State?
– The honorable member is in order to referring to. some person who is not a member of this House.
– But are his remarks relevant to the clause?
– If Mr. Baddeley were here, I would say these things to his face.
– But he is not here.
– That is not our responsibility. Mr. Willis and Judge Drake-Brockman have been mentioned by honorable members opposite, al though neither of them is present, so I shall not be deterred from referring to Mr. Baddeley.
– The question before the :Chair is an amendment moved by the Attorney-General to add the words “ and shall be subject to any directions of the Minister as to matters of policy “. The honorable member must connect his remarks with the amendment.-
– It is not possible to debate the amendment without drawing attention to the manner in which political control is likely to hamper the new commissioner. Under existing regulations the commissioner has been subject to interference by Mr. Baddeley, with the object of preventing him from controlling the industry. The commissioner has power to give a direction for the opening of new mines. On one occasion it was sought to open a new mine at Lithgow to provide coal for the local people during the winter months. It was a small mine, which I am informed the Coal Commissioner had given the men authority to open, but they had to go to Mr. Baddeley, and he forbade them to open it, because the miners’ federation wanted to force t’hem into its ranks. I have given three instances in which Mr. Baddeley, the politician - and that is the point of this amendment - obstructed the successful exercise of the commissioner’s function, which was to enable more coal to be won. By means of the amendment the Government hopes to catch on the swings, what it misses on the roundabout. It robs the bill of its real value. The object of the bill was to hand over to an authority, removed from the fear of political pressure, the right to determine as between owners and miners, what they should do and how they should do it. I am in favour of both being controlled. There have been faults on both sides, and it is time that some authority removed from politics had the right to tell each side how to conduct itself. If the amendment be carried the bill will be devitalized. I can understand the Government’s dilemma. We on this side said that the ‘Government in introducing the bill was “ passing the buck “. It denies it, bust, as Sir Roger de Coverley remarked, there is much to be said on bo;th sides. The Government should. give the commissioner his powers and say to him, “There is your joh; go to it “. I am wholly opposed to attaching a political tag to the clause. It will result in the commissioner being subject to continuous political pressure. Every man who has ever held office knows that once it becomes possible to apply political pressure to a civilian official, his job is made much more difficult. There can hardly be a more difficult job at the present moment than to secure more coal. I shall oppose the amendment.
– I enter my protest against the amendment, which I hope will be defeated, if not in this chamber then in the Senate. The introduction of the bill was an admission by the Government that everything it had done so far had been unsuccessful in obtaining the increased production of coal which was the most vital necessity for the assistance of our Allies and winning the war. The bill was to confer full powers on the commissioner to do what no one had so far been able to accomplish, but by this amendment the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) is turning, the new commissioner into a marionette. That official will simply have to carry out the policy not as laid down in any act of Parliament, but as shaped from day to day in the caucus, the miners’ lodges, or the meetings of the miners’ federation. Political pressure will be applied first to the Minister, who will pass it on to the commissioner. The amendment is a cockatrice hatched in the caucus to-day. Until this morning the Government had kept the bill detached from political influence and had won to a great extent the confidence of the people, who are disgusted at the way in which the coal industry is being carried on. Now that political pressure has been brought to bear on the Attorney-General, and having failed in caucus to win this battle for Australia, has moved the amendment. The people will be disgusted when they hear of it, because they will know that the measure is a sham, which will be as ineffective as all the other legislation. I ask the Attorney-General not to press the amendment, which, if agreed to, is- certain to wreck the bill. The Government and the commissioner will have no chance of getting the coal that is so badly needed so long as political pressure is allowed to operate.
.I oppose the amendment. The whole purpose of the bill will be changed by its insertion, becoming simply a time-wasting farce, and bringing us back to where we were before, with all this nonsense of a few irresponsible^ reducing coal production and disrupting the war effort. The following significant item appeared in yesterday’s Daily Telegraph :
After criticizing the growth of bureaucratic control the Labour Caucus insisted to-day on Parliament being responsible for control of the coal industry.
As a result of the Caucus discussion, the Government will insert a clause in the Coal Bill now before Parliament making the Coal Commissioner responsible to a Cabinet Minister.
Senior Cabinet Ministers were resentful to-night that the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) should have led to-day’s Caucus move against the bill” after raising no objection to it when it was before Cabinet recently.
The Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) sharply reminded Mr. Ward of this change of front during the Caucus discussion.
I hope that the right honorable gentleman will again sharply remind the Minister and then withdraw the amendment.
The paragraph continues -
Mr. Ward said that a Minister should bc responsible for the bill and should have authority over the commissioner.
The Government in its weakness puts up this exhibition of temporizing, despite what the Prime Minister said in October last about the mischief worked by a few irresponsible “ spielers and touts “, so to speak, as he called them, and the Government’s intention to purge the industry of such persons. By that means, said the right honorable gentleman, coal would be obtained, but when we asked him how many had been dismissed from the industry, and he gave a figure, we found on investigation that the only men who had gone out had either retired, were sick or had enlisted. It is not too late to save the bill, if the Attorney-General will listen to reason. I am sorry that the amendment was moved, because I felt that there were some good points in the bill, and that in the commissioner, who stands in high repute in the community, we should have an authority ready and able to take hold of the industry in a fair and impartial way, examining any grievances the men had with a view to adjusting them, and being equally impartial if the owners had grievances. All that is to go overboard again. The time of Parliament is to be wasted and the confidence of the public destroyed. Surely if, by means of a caucus move, the left wing has wagged the body of the party too vigorously, it is not too late for the Attorney-General, as a great man in Australian politics, to show his independence by deciding that, as the amendment is likely to be a great trouble-maker, it is wiser to withdraw it. If he does not do so, I hope that it will be rejected in the Senate. I shall call for a division on it, to test whether solidarity of the party opposite is as real as is supposed. No doubt it will be, but there is bound to be some grumbling and bitterness on the part of the public against those who sow discord in the party, and create trouble in the Commonwealth.
Mr. HARRISON (Wentworth) “1.10 a.m.]. - I have read the amendment with a great deal of interest. The committee will be staggered to learn that, after introducing a bill consisting of 62 clauses and a schedule, containing thousands of words, and seventeen amendments, with the sole object of making one man more powerful in this respect than the Government, it now proposes, by means of an amendment of fifteen words, to remove him from his high position and make him a mere figureheadIt is amazing that the adoption of a few words can so reduce his status. The words “ and shall be subject to any direction of the Minister as to matters of policy “ simply make the commissioner a factotum of the Government. I have a great deal of sympathy for Mr. Mighell, who is to be the new commissioner, because he is being prepared for the sacrifice. Upon his shoulders have been laid all the shortcomings of the Government with regard to coal since it took office. He has been burdened with the promises which the Government has failed to honour. It has said to him, “ Under this bill it is your job to win coal “, and he has staggered away with his burden. By means of various shufflings, he has adjusted the weight, and, just as he is about to win additional coal, he is subjected to political pressure. It is impossible for any commissioner to win coal when subject to political pressure. We know the control that the trade unions have over the members of caucus, and the control that the caucus has over the Government. We also know that, so soon the the commissioner is exposed to political pressure, the miners’ federation will see that the pressure i3 applied. Last night I gave the House the classical example of the Coalcliff colliery. A man was sent to Coalcliff under direction from a Minister to clean up the trouble. That is the sort of direction that will be given to the new commissioner. Honorable members will remember the trouble at Coalcliff. The industry on the southern coal-fields was going ahead and winning a. lot of coal. The miners there and then decided that things were going too smoothly, that the boys on the northern field were getting al] the publicity and that they were determined to get some, even at the country’s expense. Mr. Willis, who, I suppose, will be the industrial officer of the commissioner, was sent to Coalcliff with specific instructions. Mr. Willis admitted as much on the 18th January, 1944, when he said -
My definite instructions were to get in as quickly as I could and bring about a settlement.
There is no mistake about that, Mr. Willis was “ riding to orders “. He said -
I acted as a conciliation commissioner, prepared an order and served it.
Of course he did. The Government gave him his directions and he carried them out. He went on -
I issued the order.
He issued the order all right, but did he consider the merits of the dispute? Of course he did not. He was acting under instructions because this is what he said -
I issued the order not on the merits of the dispute, hut because the nation wanted coal. The order is issued without any expression of the merits of the dispute.
But he did not get the coal ! This would be laughable, if it were not so serious, because it is Gilbertian. The trouble is that the “show” is likely to fall slap into the lap of Mr. Mighell. He is the lamb being prepared for the slaughter. After bearing the brunt of the establishment of this system, he, because he will have fallen foul politically of the Attorney-General, as theresult of having refused to subject himself to political pressure, will be dispensed with. We shall have the Attorney-General making to the House a statement, which we shall not have the opportunity to debate in the full light of day, that Mr. Mighell is no longer Coal Commissioner. These fifteen words of the Attorney -General’s amendment are the key to the whole jigsaw puzzle of this bill. They deprive the commissioner of his power. I believe that the Prime Minister, the Attorney-General and the whole Ministry ruled by the caucus and the miners’ federation would be able to ensure the production of coal, but, since the Ministry is not game itself to do the job, it should not subject the commissioner to the political pressure that is likely to be generated by this amendment.
– The Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) said that I had supported this amendment, but I did not support it at all in the form in which it has been placed before the committee. I had not seen the amendment, when I spoke on the second reading of the bill.
– It was circulated an hour before the right honorable gentleman spoke.
– But I did not see it.
– The right honorable gentleman had it in his hand.
– The fact remains that I neither saw it nor studied it.
– I accept that assurance.
– This amendment so alters the bill that it is unrecognizable. It reminds me of the Constitution Alteration (Post-war Reconstruction) Bill of 1942. I give the right honorable gentleman a Roland for his Oliver. The commissioner, having been appointed and empowered by Parliament, ought to be controlled by Parliament. I stand by that; but I do not agree with the amendment. The Government wants to have it both ways. It wants to “ pass the buck “ on to the commissioner so that it shall be able to blame him for any shortcomings or disabilities that might result from his trying to give effect to the desire of the legislature to increase coal production, and to take the credit for the surplus production that might be brought about. It reminds me of the story of the squatter who took a black-fellow out to shoot ducks. They shot a duck and a crow. The squatter said, “ You take the crow and I will take the duck, or I will take the duck and you take the crow “. the black-follow said, “ Whichever way you look at it, I get the crow “. That is the position of the commissioner under the legislation. I am not prepared to support the amendment in the form proposed. The Attorney-General, as a justification for the amendment, said that it was impossible to define policy; but if it isthe, intention of the Government that there shall be a coal commissioner he should be given unreserved authority. I am certain that this amendment is the result of deliberations that occurred in caucus yesterday. I repeat what I said on the second reading, namely, that the commissioner should be under the control of this Parliament; because I am opposed to the creation of a dictatorship and the development of bureaucracy, but I ask the Attorney-General in all good faith and sincerity to withdraw the amendment.
– This bill has been approached very sympathetically by members on this side. It has been fairly criticized, but there has been a measure of goodwill to it because of our belief that the measure is an indication of the Government’s earnest desire to ensure the production of sufficient coal to meet the urgent needs of the country particularly to maintain its war effort. I supported the AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt) on the amendment to clause 11 because the provision covering the removal of the commissioner from office was such that, it was almost impossible for the Executive to remove him from office. But at one fell swoop the Government proposes to destroy the value of this bill. I would not give the amendment two minute’s consideration. Why has it been moved atsuchalate stage? The Attorney-General and his officers must have spent a long time and much care in drafting the bill, yet the Attorney-General brings down an amendment which will male it valueless in the winning of coal. Under the National Security Act the Government has all the powers that “this bill confers on the commissioner. If it wants to retain those powers, let it scrap the bill and carry on as at present, as it has the power to do. Why this farce of pretending to the community that the Government is introducing a measure designed to cure the ills of the coal-mining industry when it intends to continue the conditions which have operated for the last two years?
– Is it not obvious that the amendment is designed to improve the bill?
– It is obvious that the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) has joined the malcontents in the Ministry who desire to destroy the bill.
– Order ! The honorable member for Richmond must address the Chair.
– It is obvious that this amendment has been framed in the last twelve hours or so by individuals who do not care if the country has coal or not so long as they continue their control of the industry.
– The honorable member should not get heated about it.
– One will never get heated with the coal that will be won as the result of this measure.
– The honorable member is pleading for bureaucratic control.
– I am not.
– The honorable member is advocating it.
– Order !
– The honorable member for Denison (Dr. Gaha) can expound the case of bureaucracy if he so desires when he speaks. I am sure that he will do so efficiently. The Minister for Information apparently thinks that the politician is superior to the bureaucrat. I sometimes think, however, that the bureaucrat knows more about administration than does the person who relies on his voice and dramatic ability to have himself returned to Parliament. I say very earnestly to the Attorney-General that if he insists upon this amendment which, obviously to the Attorney-General himself and anybody else with intelligence, completely destroys the rest of the bill so far as the provision of powers to the commissioner is concerned, the bill will become a useless instrument. I shall vote against the amendment and against the third reading if the amendment is carried, although I do not expect that the honorable members on this side will be able to prevent the Government from forcing this bill through this chamber if it is determined to do so. Carrying this bill in its present form by sheer weight of numbers will not result in the production of one extra ton of coal. The Government may use its majority to force this amendment through, but it will find that by stultifying the power of the Coal Commissioner, it has defeated the very purpose of this bill. I say to honorable members opposite, “ Take your victory if you want it ; but it will be worthless to Australia “.
. - I venture to say that if any company had issued a prospectus containing statements such as those made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) in his second-reading speech upon this measure, and then had come out with something like the words of this amendment it would have been found guilty by the right honorable the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) when he was on the High Court Bench, of having issued a fraudulent prospectus. In moving this amendment the Government is asking honorable members to accept the very opposite of what was contained in the prospectus issued by the Prime Minister in his second-reading speech. In a most abject speech on another occasion recently, the Prime Minister not only told this Parliament and the people of this country that the Government had failed to get more coal, but also, metaphorically speaking, the right honorable gentleman went down on his knees and asked the Opposition to assist the Government to secure an increased production of coal. Probably the high light of the Prime Minister’s second-reading speech on this measure wa3 his statement that the coal-mining industry was to be removed from political control, and, in effect, that this Government which is so bound to everything democratic when lip service is fashionable, but not when deeds are required, was going to install a dictator over the coal-mining industry. We are still to have a dictator, but one has to look into the matter rather deeply to find out just who’ the dictator is to be. The Government would have it appear that the dictator is to be the Coal Commissioner, and that, in fact, would be the case were it not for this amendment. The moment that this amendment was moved it became apparent that the supreme authority would not be the commissioner at all, but the Attorney-General.
– Who is responsible to Parliament !
– The AttorneyGeneral is not appointed by Parliament, but by caucus, and he is bound to accept the dictation of caucus. He has to dance every time certain disappointed gentlemen in the ranks of honorable members opposite are able to impose their views upon their more inexperienced colleagues, who, surprised at their own success, came into this chamber last year. This amendment is one of the worst that I have ever seen moved in this place. After to-night’s experience, the Opposition will not know when in future the Government brings in a bill to do a certain thing that on the following day it will not move an amendment to do just the opposite. If this amendment be carried, the Coal Commissioner will be bound to do whatever he may be directed to do by the Attorney-General. He will be merely acting on behalf of the AttorneyGeneral, mid the Government, like the man who plays “ two-up “ with doubleheaded pennies, will not be able to lose. If the commissioner be successful in his handling of the coal industry under this legislation the Government will take all the credit, but if the commissioner be unsuccessful, the Government will accept none of the discredit. Were I not paired with an honorable member opposite, I should vote against this amendment because I am strongly opposed to it. It represents one of the greatest reversals of form that I have ever seen in this Parliament, and it is a measure of the dictation to which this Government is subjected by the men who sit behind it and dominate it by decisions in the caucus room. It is something which should be made public, so that the people may know what to expect if they permit action of this kind to be tolerated in this Parliament.
– I have endeavoured to keep my remarks upon this amendment as brief as possible, but I feel bound to emphasize the views of the Government. First, the Coal Commissioner, Mr. Mighell, upon whom encomiums have been lavished by the Opposition, has always been subject to ministerial control. He has been subject to the control of the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Mr. Beasley), and I contend that if Mr. Mighell has done a good job, then the Minister for Supply and Shipping is entitled to equal credit, as that job was done under his ministerial control. Secondly, it was never intended that the present position should be altered in substance. I emphasized that in my .second-reading speech, and not an honorable member opposite complained about it when speaking on the second reading. In fact, the right honorable the Leader of the Country party (Mr. Fadden), although he did not approve of the exact verbiage of this amendment, as he has now explained, approved of the principle which I am now enunciating.
– And still approves.
– The right honorable member admits his approval of that principle. The Government . cannot possibly abdicate its responsibility completely by conferring upon the Coal Commissioner exclusively the authority to decide important questions of policy affecting the coal industry.
– That is a democratic principle.
– Apart from being a democratic principle, in view of the present war position, no government could possibly adopt such a course. I made that perfectly clear to the House when I contradicted the statement of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) that the Government was endeavouring to pass the responsibility on to the Coal Commissioner. I have stated that we would make that clear in committee. The object of this amendment is to give effect to that intention. Honorable members opposite talk about the Government having it both ways, but it could be argued with equal force that if this measure were a success, the credit would go to the commissioner, but if it turned out to be a failure, then the discredit would go to the Government, The truth of the matter is that in time of war, an administrative officer who is vested with wide discretionary power must keep in close touch with the Government in respect of matters of policy. I agree with the Leader of the Opposition in regard to the Railways Act of Victoria. It is impossible to define in advance what will be a matter of “ policy “. That act is still the law, yet it would be quite wrong to say that the Victorian Government runs the railway service in that State day by day and week by week. .Sometimes it intervenes. That will also be the case under this measure. The general day to day administration of this legislation will be in the hands of the Coal Commissioner who will exercise the discretionary powers that are vested in him. but there will bc occasions on which it will be necessary, in the interests of the Commonwealth, that ministerial directions should be given. On such occasions the commissioner will have to accept the Government’s decision. That is democracy, and the opposite tendency has always been denounced by honorable members opposite. The vesting of exclusive authority in any administrative officer, even if he be a highly qualified public servant, is something which the Government does not favour. The object of this clause is to reserve to the Government, authority to act upon all important questions of policy.
– Upon all matters of policy?
– That is so, but, intervention will occur only on important matters, and. not in the day to day administration. I deprecate the violent speech of the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), especially his outburst about issuing a false prospectus. That is absolutely untrue.
The honorable member for Balaclava quoted a newspaper report of a caucus meeting, and I have never read a more inaccurate and unfair account of any meeting. Even if true, it would involve a breach of confidence by a member of the Labour party, but I can assure members that it is most inaccurate. Honorable members who were present at that meeting will support me when I say that it was made clear to the party, as it has been made clear to this committee, that in matters of policy the Government would maintain and retain its responsibility. Upon that matter there never was division in the Labour party.
This clause puts into words the intention which I expressed in my secondreading speech yesterday. I hope that, the committee will accept the amendment and that if honorable members opposite desire to test the feeling of the committee, they will do so immediately, because there is little more that can be said on the question.
– The AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt) has an ingratiating habit of assuring honorable members that words that mean something in a bill really will not mean that at all, and that wise administration will prevent the bill from having what otherwise might be a curious effect. The Attorney-General has said that this amendment is designed to give to the Government control of the commissioner on great matters of policy, or, if you like, on matters of great policy. But the amendment does not say so. It states “on matters of policy”, whether great or small. Somebody asks, with invincible curiosity. “What is a matter of policy?”, and the Attorney-General, being no more super-human than any of us, replies, “ I do not know “. Of course In- does not know. Nobody can know. Who is to determine whether any matter is not a matter of policy? Certainly no court, will waste its time determining whether a matter is one of great policy or small policy. So what the Minister says is a matter of policy will be a matter of policy, and it will be to nobody’s interest to dispute what the Minister says. Clause 17 gives to the commissioner a great nest of powers and functions. He can control the opening of new mines. He can fix prices. He can erect or control new plants, terminate contracts, require the owner of a coal mine to modify his plant, or put in new plant, such as scraperloaders, or replace plant. On all of those matters this amendment will make him subject to the direction of the Minister. All that the Minister has to do is to say to the commissioner, as a matter of policy, “ You shall cancel Jones’s contract “, or, as a matter of policy, “ You shall tell a colliery to put in a plant of a certain kind “. How can the Minister say that that is not a matter of policy, because not even the Attorney-General knows what a matter of policy is. I do not know whether scraper-loaders ought to be used or not, and I suspect that no politician in this chamber does.
Clause 23 deals with the financial control of the mines, and under that provision the commissioner has to exercise a discretion. That discretion will determine very profoundly the kind of treatment that is given to the owners of a mine which is brought under control; but whatever the commissioner does in that matter will be subject to the will of the Minister, who will say, if it suits him, “Please understand that as a matter of policy I direct you to do this or that “ and what the Minister says will go. Clause 27 contains a provision which is supposed to impose penalties by deductions from the pay of miners who disobey orders or who strike, but that is all subject to any order of the commissioner. Suppose the Minister says, “As a matter of policy I direct you not to impose deductions of pay on miners who strike in this district or that “. Is the commissioner to say that that is not a matter of policy? If he did, the Minister would at once retort, “If there is any matter that is one of policy, it is that of how strikers in Australia should be dealt with “. It was said quite truly a few minutes ago in thi? committee that this amendment, which we are discussing at ten minutes to two o’clock in the morning, alters entirely the character of a bill, the second-reading of which was debated before the public.
– I listened with great interest to the AttorneyyGenera l’s statement as to why the amendment has been moved, but two matters require explanation. Why was the amendment moved so late in the discussion of the bill, if the Government always intended to include it? A second and more important question calls for a reply. As I understand the position, this bill was introduced for the purpose of giving a new approach to the coal-mining problem. I am told that in the coal control regulations it is provided that the commission is subject to the direction of the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Mr. Beasley). That is correct, but I fail to appreciate the new approach to the problem in this bill. As far as I can see, the measure provides for only a repetition of the powers already residing in the Government, in the exercise of which the Ministry has failed utterly to increase the production of coal. [ understood that this bill was designed to give wide powers to an individual so that he could exercise it supremely in respect of this industry.
– Who said that?
– Although nobody has said it in those terms, this bill, which has received tremendous publicity throughout Australia, is offered as the Government’s new solution of the coalmining problem. But what is new in it ? What particular power is given by the measure which is not already conferred by the existing regulations?
– At least fifteen clauses.
– I should like to know one clause that confers new powers.
– The whole system of control of the mines is absent from the regulations. The method of control provided in this bill and the system of stabilizing profits at the pre-control level are entirely absent from the regulations.
– I disagree with the Attorney-General. Section 17 of the National Security (Coal Control) Regulations, which coincides with clause 17 of this bill, seems to confer all of the powers needed in respect of the control of any mine. That section states -
The Commission is empowered to control the production, treatment, handling, supply, distribution, storage, marketing and use of coal, and for that purpose and for the purpose of exercising any of its powers and functions under these regulations is empowered in pursuance(a) of sub-section 3 of section 5 of the Financial Security Act 1939- 1940, to make such orders, and (b)to take such measures, give such orders or directions, and do such tilings as it thinks necessary or expedient.
Those powers are wide enough to cover any action that the commissioner thinks necessary or expedient. The reference to greater profit is contained in section 22 of the regulations, which fixes the profit at8 per cent. It states that the Governor-General may, by order, on the recommendation of the commissioner, limit the rate of profit to be derived by any mine or group of mines to £8 per centum, or such less percentage per annum as is specified in the order. Any percentage can be specified. That power has been in the regulations since February, 1941. It is also provided that the profit can be applied for the very purposes set out in the bill, including social welfare schemes for employees in the industry. That has been in the regulations for over two years. I have gone carefully through this bill, and not one power is conferred by it that is not already given by the regulations. I am prepared to challenge the AttorneyGeneral on that aspect of the matter with regard to any power which he may mention. Up to December last the whole heap of regulations covered all of the subject-matters of this bill.
The gist of the bill seemed to me to be that it removed political pressure from the man on whom the responsibility of getting the necessary production of coal is cast. Under the measure we are to hand over the control of the industry to an official. I do not see how an industrial concern is to be conducted successfully if it is to be conducted by the Government. The bill in its original form seemed to involve a departure from the regulations that were in existence up to its introduction, by giving unfettered control to the commissioner. I invite the Attorney-General to mention one power given by the bill that is not already conferred by the regulations. If it were alwaysintended that the commissioner should be subject to ministerial control, why was such an important provision omitted from the measure as first introduced? Unless I am satisfied on those two matters, I shall resist this bill. I shall regard it as a facade designed to screen the fact that the Government is utterly incapable of dealing with the coal problem.
.- I support the amendment. The Government is prepared to grant extraordinary powers to the commissioner for the purpose of enabling him to control the coalmining industry. I do not believe that in a democratic country the Parliament should be prepared to relinquish its authority and vest it in one individual. Members of the Opposition believe that the commissioner, regardless of whom he may be, should possess dictatorial powers. If that advocacy were accepted, many things could follow. By an administrative act, the commissioner could change the whole system of mining coal. He could direct the introduction of machines, about which the coal-mining member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) speaks with such an air of great authority. He gained his knowledge of the coal-mining industry when he followed the occupation of shop-walker in many drapery stores.
– That is a lie.
– Order !
– The honorable member spoke with a learned air about scraperloaders. I understand that these machines have been demonstrated here. Of course, the demonstration would be conducted under perfectly safe conditions, vastly different from those in a coal-mine. AsI have repeatedly stated, there is a definite danger in pillar working. Miners fear that the noise of the machinery will prevent them from hearing ominous sounds warning of the impending collapse of a portion of the roof or the “ creep “ of earth. If the commissioner were not subject to parliamentary control, he would be able to order the installation of machinery for pillar extraction. The effect of the amendment is that, before the commissioner may make such a decision, he must obtain the approval of the Minister. That is only proper. Mr. Mighell, who is a conscientious man, has done a good job. But he might be influenced unconsciously by interests’ who advocate the introduction of machinery into the mines. Honorable members must always consider the safety of miners working underground. Only rarely is sympathy extended to them. As I stated in my second-reading speech, I do not agree with some of the stoppages that have occurred, but, from experience of the clangers of working underground,I know that when machinery is in operation in a mine, it creates dust, and explosions follow. Various gases which ignite, combined with the dust as a feeder, have the propelling effect of a high explosive. Apart from that is the tragedy of the thousands of miners who go to an early grave through dust on the lungs.
– Order! I ask the honorable member to direct his remarks to clause 20.
– With respect, I contend that I am not out of order when I refer to the necessity for making the commissioner subject to parliamentary control.
Unfortunately, many honorable members do not grasp the significance of coal-m ining, but my life hasbeen spent in the industry and I speak from an extensive knowledge of it. ‘Some dreadful tragedies have occurred in the past. For example, 197 miners were blown into eternity in a mine at Port Kembla. Disasters have occurred in the Bellbird and other mines. Does any honorable member imagine that I shall be content to remain silent if the commissioner is vested with dictatorial powers, so that the Parliament will notbe able to criticize any stupid advice that may be tendered to him, and accepted by him in good faith, to install machinery which might cause an explosion ? The AttorneyGeneral is right. The commissioner should not be granted dictatorial powers. Whether he be the appointee of a Labour government or of an anti-Labour administration, he should be subject to parliamentary control. That canbe achieved onlyby adopting the amendment.
The TEMPORARYCHAIRMAN. - Order ! The honorable member has exhausted his time.
– The Australian people will be bitterly disappointed by this alteration of the bill.
– The honorable member is very fair. Does he not consider that this matter has ‘been fully discussed.
– No. I heard the Attorney-General explain the position. I know that he possesses great legal ability and enjoys a splendid reputation in the political sphere. But I warn him that the people will be greatly disappointed because the bill has been altered in this manner. He has the opportunity to take it out of the bill. He has made some changes, and he can do this also. In my second-reading speech I said that I would support anything laudable in the bill, but would oppose anything which would be to the detriment of Australia. I have tried to act in a non-party way, but I cannot help feeling that the bill will be emasculated if the amendment be accepted. If there be any doubt in the mind of the Attorney-General, he should withdraw the amendment. We had hopes that the bill would result in more coal being produced; indeed, that is its objective. The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James), who has a keen interest in the industry, has spoken of tragedies that he has witnessed in coal-mining districts. Major Lloyd George, Minister for Fuel and Power in the United Kingdom, says that it takes 20,000 tons of coal to make one bomber attack of 2,000 tons. I submit that, by this amendment, the bill will bo mutilated, and we shall return to the status quo ante. The Attorney-General has said that the bill is very much as it was before-
– I said that ministerial authority had always existed.
– I challenge any honorable member to show how the control will differ from that which existed previously. We had hoped that as the result of this measure greater quantities of coal would be produced, that the country’s war effort would be increased, that the misguided young men in the industry would see the error of their ways and would return to work upon just terms; but if every provision in the bill, and every action of the commissioner, can be annulled by the Minister-
– The Minister is responsible to the Parliament.
– By a stroke of the pen the Minister may undo all that the commissioner has endeavoured to do. If we return to that order of things, industrial anarchy will continue, and laziness and lawlessness will still be with us. Evidently the “ left wing “ of caucus has had its say. The Attorney-General said that the statement in this morning’s Daily Telegraph was untrue. The right honorable gentleman and all government members know whether or not it is true; I do not know. When I read what was in that newspaper this morning I knew nothing of the amendment. The Attorney-General has flatly contradicted the newspaper statement; but it is a strange coincidence that it should appear at this juncture. I cannot help believing that the Government has abdicated to the dictators in the coal industry, those dictators being officials who do not send the men back to work. I ask the AttorneyGeneral to see whether it is not worthwhile for the good of Australia to withdraw the amendment.
.The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) has said that the Government has abdicated to the dictators in the coal industry. I entirely dissent from that statement. When my time expiree! just now, I was about to say tha.t the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) had been given information by some one in the gallery who ha.d had no coal-mining experience whatever. When that person was asked on one occasion what experience he had had of coal-mining, he said that he had been working on the south coast. When he was further asked what type of lamp was used in the underground workings there he replied that he had worked on day shift. Evidently he thought that the sun’s rays penetrated into the bowels of the earth. That is the man who was advising the honorable member for Wentworth. I appeal not alone to members on this side, but also to every honorable member opposite who has humanitarian instincts to support the amendment of the
Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt). Whoever is appointed to the position of commissioner will have to seek advice from mining experts, some of whom may be onesided in their outlook. The Government would be entitled to select a Labour man as commissioner. He would listen to the advice of Labour advisers and would consult with inspectors of the State Mines Department in regard to matters of safety. Let us suppose that Mr. Mighell is not appointed as commissioner, but that some keen supporter of the United Australia party, who will be advised by honorable members opposite, is selected. In that event, machinery will probably be installed in the mines. In the last analysis, the Minister must accept responsibility for the actions of the commissioner. If that responsibility is to be taken away, there will not be much use in continuing to fight the war, because we would be just as well off if a Hitlerite dictatorship were established forthwith. It would be absolutely wrong to appoint a commissioner and give to him dictatorial powers over the industry. We talk a. great deal about the democratic institution of Parliament. Let us not do anything to destroy that ideal.
– The Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) said that this matter had been debated fairly fully, and that as he had given his decision he could not see that any good purpose would be achieved by continuing the discussion. This is a most important amendment, and if the Parliament has no right to voice its opinion concerning it, I wonder why the bill was ever presented to the Parliament. Although I know that any protest by mc may be futile, I intend to place on record my attitude towards this critical amendment. I direct the attention of the Attorney-General, first, to the objects of the bill, and secondly to the powers which it is alleged are to be given to the commissioner. The objects of the measure are “ to secure that . . . the production of coal in Australia is increased and adequate supplies of coal are provided . . . and to that end to set up an authority to govern and direct the production … of coal …” Those objects are amplified by defining the powers and function? of the commis- sioner. Under clause 17, “ the commissioner is charged with the duty of making provision for securing an increase in the production of coal for the needs of Australia and of the powers allied with His Majesty in the present war and is empowered to do “- here follows a list of the things that the commissioner may do. Can anything be more contradictory than to set out the objects of a bill clearly, and to provide the powers under which the commissioner may act, and then to take away all the powers that are alleged to be there? In my opinion, honorable members have been treated unfairly. I do not say that the Attorney-General and Ministers of the Cabinet generally intended to act unfairly, but for a couple of days we have been regarding the bill entirely differently from what, would have been our view had we known that this amendment was coming forward. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) has made some strong statements; he compared the action of the Government with the issue of a fraudulent prospectus. I shall not use similar language, but I do say that there has been serious misrepresentation as to the purport of the bill.
– What is the difference?
– Every honorable member who discussed the bill at the second-reading stage would have approached the subject from a different angle had the provisions contained in the amendment been in the bill from the beginning. The House was treated with scant respect. If anything would fortify me in the opinion that political control of the coal-mining industry is intended the speeches of the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) would do so. He mentioned, not matters of policy, but matters of administration, such as the installation of machinery in a certain mine. He and other honorable members know that the commissioner, whether he be Mr. Mighell or some other gentleman, would not deal in that way with any mine without having first had advice from a score of experts in the Mines Department of New South Wales and other authorities to whom he may turn. Yet the honorable gentleman indicated that in his view political control will be so exercised as to withdraw from the commissioner the benefit of the advice of experts ! This predicates the need for the Government to take a stand which will enable the commissioner properly to discharge his duties. Is it suggested that the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) gives directions .on matters of policy, in respect of which decisions are made by the CommanderinChief? If so, I would have a little word in his ear concerning releases of personnel from the Army, which he claims that he is powerless to effect because the Commander-in-Chief has complete authority in that regard. The general in charge of production on the coal front is the commissioner. The Prime Minister of Great Britain, in a speech that he made to miners recently, said that war is fought with steel, that steel is made by the use of coal, and that the man who wins the coal is one of the most important factors in the successful prosecution of the war. If the Government really intends that coal shall be won, it will have to accept advice from this side of the committee in regard to the amendment. That the commissioner is at present under the direction of the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Mr. Beasley), as the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) has stated, is perfectly true. But if the position were satisfactory, would this legislation be necessary ? It is because the position is unsatisfactory ; because we are failing to get coal ; because of the necessity for measures other than those that are now provided, that this bil] has been introduced. I say in all earnestness that although the Government undoubtedly will win the division on the amendment, it will not thereby achieve a great victory which will be of benefit to the people of this country.
.The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) has advanced with sincerity the view that whether or not a large number of technical installations should be made in mines, it should be subject in the last resort to the view held by this Parliament. Do he and other honorable members really agree that that should be? He has mentioned the installation of scraper-loaders and other machinery, and the presence of dust in the air.
He and I, on one occasion, went down a mine together, and his surprise was equal to mine when we witnessed what was being done by means of machinery. No member of this Parliament is capable of determining what should or should not be done technically in coal mines. The honorable member for Hunter and the Government really propose that there shall be political control of matters upon which it is not within the competence of this Parliament to express an opinion. That is entirely wrong. The Government has been accused from this side of the committee of having “ passed the buck “. Whilst it has had control, it has done little to maintain production of coal. I shall not mind if it should decide to relinquish control. But control cannot be split into two parts. I have had quite a lot of experience in dealing with things that really matter. Division of authority leads to unworkability ; and that is what is proposed by the amendment. The original provision gave to the commissioner full power. The present proposal is that he shall be subject to the direction of Parliament in matters of policy. Policy is not definable. I do not mind what decision the Government may make, so long as it does something clear ; it may vest complete control in the commissioner, or take it to itself. I have not much trust in Ministers, because they have not done much in the past and probably would not do much in the future. Therefore, I rather favour the idea of “passing the buck”. The Goal Commissioner would very likely do what the Government has failed to do. So I urge the withdrawal of the amendment, which would not produce any good effect. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) has stated that it emasculates the whole purpose of the bill. Nothing remains except the old form of control exercisable under the regulations. Nothing would be gained by the acceptance of the amendment ; I therefore oppose it.
– If the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) will study the second-reading speech of the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) as I have done, he will find that it does not tally with the statements that he has made. I do not believe that the Prime Minister, when he introduced the bill, intended that the powers- which he said were to be given to the commissioner should be undermined by a provision, to be later inserted, that matters of policy should be determined by the Minister. All the necessary powers for the control of the coal-mining industry are contained in Statutory Rule No. 189 of 1941; in .fact, many of the clauses of this bill have been copied in their entirety from that statutory rule. It includes the power to make provision for or in relation to the fixation of prices for the purchase and re-sale of all coal at the pit, free on rail, free on board, free on wharf, or at various points of distribution ; to fix an average rail freight rate for the carriage of coal ; to prepare accounts and statistics concerning the whole of the coal industry; to require owners of coal-mines to make returns to the commissioner as to the output of the coal-mines owned by them and the working cost thereof; to investigate any system of wholesale and retail distribution of coal; to erect or control such plant as is necessary ; to enter into and. carry out such contracts as are necessary; to make recommendations to the Minister as to the provisions desirable to be made for the adjustment of boundaries of coal holders; and to terminate, suspend, vary or modify any existing contract or agreement. Even the clause which provides for the suspension of the commissioner in certain circumstances has been copied word for word from the regulations. Therefore, the powers contained in the bill had already been given to the nation by means of. those regulations. But there is the great distinction that the regulations frequently refer to a Minister whereas, except in connexion with the provision relating to industrial matters, there is an entire absence of such a reference in the bill. I did not notice evidence of extreme joy when the bill was introduced. It was not a measure to which we had looked forward, or which we believed to be necessary. What we had said frequently was that control should be firmly exercised by the Government, and that discipline should be established in the industry. We know from the history of the last two years that industrial relations in the industry have gone from bad to worse. The Prime Minister has repeatedly stated that he intended to enforce penalties. The earlier of Ms statements had some effect, because for a time strikes ceased to occur; but when action was not taken there was a recrudescence of them. During the last two years, a condition that was almost analogous to servitude has developed into one of anarchy and chaos. The Prime Minister, in a debate that took place not long before the introduction of the bill, almost wrung his hands above his head and said, “I wish that some one could tell me how to get coal “. He knew that the political set-up would not permit him, as the head of a Labour government, to. take the firm steps that were necessary, and for that reason he was prepared to transfer control to a commissioner whom he believed to be a strong man who would do things which he, as the head of a Labour government, was not courageous enough to do; because the controllers of this Government are not the people, but the great trade unions. Quite recently, the secretary of one of the biggest unions in Victoria said to me : “ Frankly, we are going to tell this Government what to do. It is our Government, and we are its bosses “. Am I to be told that the miners’ federation is not one of the most powerful industrial organizations in this country? The Prime Minister realizes that. Therefore, in order that guns can be forged and trains run, and our war effort generally, be carried on efficiently, he resolved to place the Government’s power to control the industry in the hands of a strong man. But since the caucus meeting that has been altered. Politically, he has not been able to carry out his intentions; and, so, by the addition of these few words the whole substance of the bill has been altered. To-night, the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) has stated clearly what he thinks is policy, although the Attorney-General cannot determine what constitutes policy. The honorable member for Hunter includes in policy such matters as safety regulations arid pillar extraction. He has said, in effect, that in these matters which pertain to the technical working of the mines, the Government, through the Minister, should have the right to interfere with the commissioner, because they are matters of policy. Some time ago a strike occurred in Abermain No. 2 colliery over regulations dealing with dust in the mine. Installed in the Mines Department in New South “Wales is an instrument which computes the volume of dust in the mine. However, that dispute was referred to the Attorney-General, and he referred it to Mr. Baddeley, the Minister for Mines in New South Wales. All honorable members know that that gentleman was the first president of the miners’ federation. They also know that he possesses no technical qualifications as a coal-miner. Without even troubling to visit the mine in question, he instructed the mine-owners to install water sprays in order to keep down the dust. The honorable member for Hunter says that in respect of matters of this kind, which are related directly to the methods of production, the AttorneyGeneral, if he desires to make them matters of policy, should be able to interfere in the industry. Every honorable member on this side of the chamber is anxious to get coal. Unless we do so our war effort will be jeopardized. If it were our responsibility to knock out the enemy, our first step would be to interrupt his supplies. That is why Great Britain has bombed the Ruhr Basin, destroying the enemy’s coal and war supplies. We on this side should prefer to see the Government itself exercise direct control over the industry, but the Government having failed in that responsibility, we thought that this measure might offer a ray of hope. Political influence which has emanated from this Parliament and the Labour party generally during the last two years is one of the main reasons for strikes in the industry. We have had not only a weak Government but also weak men in charge of the miners’ lodges. The result has been eternal conflict within the miners’ federation, and such conflict being aggravated by continual wrangling between the supporters of the State Labour party, the Communists and the Federal Labour party with the object of gaining the advantage at the federation’s periodical elections of its officers. So long as that state of affairs exists, the industry will continue to suffer. Therefore, the Government, in submitting this measure, is merely leading the country on a wild-goose chase. The Government has not told the truth to the public. The amendment will change the entire substance of the bill.
– This debate has proved conclusively that the amendment proposed by the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) is to be used purely in the interests of the miners. It has been made very clear to the committee that, should the commissioner decide upon the advice of his adviser, who, I hope, will be a technical man, that certain methods must be employed in order to win coal, and those methods are opposed by the miners, the miners’ federation need only confer with the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin), as it has done on other occasions, and he will direct the Minister to direct the commissioner to abandon such methods. Thus, anything that the commissioner may determine may be rendered null and void. Therefore, we are back to the point from which we started. The Government intends to continue to follow its policy of appeasement to the miners. The strange men, whom the honorable member for Hunter declared to be in a class apart from workers in other industries, will direct the policy of the Government; and the amendment will enable them to direct a still stranger government. If it is the intention of the Government to continue its policy of appeasement, and to revert to the conditions obtaining prior to the introduction of this measure, the AttorneyGeneral should be frank with the committee and say so. He should admit that the Government still intends to follow any direction which it may receive from the miners, and will ensure that any decision by the commissioner which runs counter to the wishes of the miners will not be enforced. If the Attorney-General were frank with the committee we should really know what is behind the amendment; but, unfortunately, that is not known to the Parliament, the Government, or the people. Only the miners know what this measure is all about.
– The committee might extricate itself from its difficulty by arriving at a compromise along the lines of those which have previously been a feature of proceedings in this blessed chamber. I am sure that the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) will second my suggestion that after the word “ Minister “ we should insert the words “ the caucus or the federation “, making the clause read, “ Any exercise of any power of the commissioner may be general or confined to any coal mine, port, place, locality or State or part of a State or to any person or class of persons, and shall be subject to any directions of the Minister, the caucus or the federation as to matters of policy “. At present, policy is completely undefined. To-morrow, it may mean something different from what it means to-day. How shall we know what it may mean a month hence? The Government will have one Minister or a number of Ministers engaged on this task. It is quite obvious from what we have seen up to date, that the caucus will have to tell those Ministers what to do, and the miners will tell the caucus what to do. Therefore, let the committee get down to tin-tacks, and insert in the amendment the words I have suggested. With a provision of that description we might render the measure understandable to the country as well as to honorable members.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be added (Dr.
Evatt’s amendment) be so added.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. Riordan.)
Majority . . . . 16
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 21- ( 1 . ) Where, in the opinion of the Commissioner, it is desirable in the interests of the defence of the Commonwealth or the effectual prosecution of the present war that, with a view of maintaining or increasing the production of coal from any coal mine, the coal mine should be operatedunder the control of the Commissioner, the Commissioner may, by order, authorize any person (in this Act referred to as an “authorized controller”) to exercise such functions of control and to do such things on behalf of the Commissioner,
.-I move -
That, in sub-clause (1.), after the word “ by “, the word “ written “ be inserted.
I feel sure that any order of such importance would he given in writing, but if the amendment be accepted it will make the instruction to the management definite.
– I accept the amendment.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
The owner of a controlled mine who suffers loss or damage, by reason of anything done in pursuance of an order under the last preceding section in respect of the mine, shall be. entitled to such compensation as is determined by agreement between the Commissioner and the owner of the coal mine, or, in the absence of agreement, as is determined by an action by the owner against the Commonwealth in any Court of competent jurisdiction.
– I propose to move an amendment to insert after the word “ loss “ the words “ of profit “. This amendment, if agreed to, would enable the owners of mines which had previously earned, say, 5 per cent., to be compensated for loss of profit if, as a result of control, the profit fell to 2 per cent.
– - I accept the amendment.
– If the amendment be accepted in the form proposed it will have the effect of limiting the original intention of the clause. Losses other than loss of profit might be suffered, and an owner should not be denied the right to claim in respect of them.
– I am prepared to insert after the word “ loss “ the words “ including loss of profits “.
– That is acceptable to me, and I move -
That, in sub-clause (1.), after the word “ (including loss of profits) “ be inserted.
Amendment agreed to.
– It seems to me that, under the clause as it stands, the owner of a mine would be without legal remedy if he suffered loss through the negligence of the controller failing to do something that ought to be done. The clause confers the right to recover for loss or damage “by reason of anything done in pursuance of an order “. Perhaps the difficulty could be met by adding the words or “ omitted to be done “, or by using the words “ by reason of any negligence in the discharge of his duties “.
– The view of the Government is that the words “by reason of anything done “ refer to the whole system of control brought into force by the order. Therefore, the provision would cover, not only positive action of the controller, but also any damage arising out of negligence. The honorable member knows, that in actions brought against public bodies such as the railways commissioners of a State, such words as “ in relation to anything done under this act “ have been interpreted iby the court as covering the whole field of activities of a railways department and, therefore, negligent actions are not excluded. I ask the committee to accept the clause in its present form.
– It is clear that the Government will not accept my suggestion for the amendment of the clause. My opinion is, that if ever this provision becomes the subject of litigation, it may be held not to cover negligence depending upon an act of omission. I believe that it is due to the owners to place the matter beyond all doubt, by stating plainly that they have the right to sue in a court of competent jurisdiction in respect of a loss or damage arising out of negligence.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 23 (Excess profits from controlled mines).
– I move -
That the clause be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following clause: - “23. - (1.) The Commissioner may make application to the Court for the determination of -
the question as to whether, by reason of the control exercised in pursuance of any order made under section twenty-one of this Act, the amount of the profits derived from the operation of any. controlled mine during any period while the mine is or was a controlled mine exceeds the amount of the profits derived from the operation of the mine for the period last preceding the date on which the mine became a controlled mine corresponding, as to dates, to the first-mentioned period; and
the question as to the amount of any such excess. (2.) Any such application shall as far as practicable be made in respect of a period corresponding to the usual accounting period in respect of the mine. (3.) The Commissioner shall cause to be served on the owner a copy of the application endorsed by the proper officer of the Court with the place and time of hearing and the owner shall be entitled to be represented before the Court on the hearing. (4.) The Court shall, on any such application, hear and determine the questions the subject of the application and the determination of the Court shall be final and conclusive and without appeal, and shall be binding on the owner of the mine whether he was represented before the Court on the . hearing of the application or not. (5.) The Commissioner may serve on the owner of the controlled mine notice ofthe determination of the Court specifying the amount determined by the Court, and specifying the date and place of payment. (6.) Any amount so specified which remains unpaid after the date so specified may be sued for and recovered in any court of competent jurisdiction by the Commissioner suing in his official name. (7.) In this section the expression ‘the Court’ means the High Court or the Supreme Court of a State.”.
This clause proposes to substitute, the High Court or the Supreme Court of a State for the Profits Assessment Committees provided for in the bill for the purpose of determining the additional profits derived from the operation of a controlled mine by reason of the exercise of control. The commissioner will have power to refer to the court the question whether any additional profits have been made in any period and the question of the amount of those profits. The commissioner will be empowered to make his application to the couTt in respect of a period corresponding to the usual accounting period of the controlled mine if that is practicable. If the court determines that an amount of additional profits has been derived from the operation of the mine, the commissioner may then give notice to the mine owner of the date and place at which the amount is to be paid and if the amount is not paid by the due date it may be recovered as a debt due to the commissioner. This clause is, in a sense, supplementary to clause 22. The principle involved is that, as the owner is to have an opportunity to recoup himself for loss or damage, including loss of profit, it is not right that he should retain additional profits arising out of the operation of the system of control. In short, the owner is guaranteed from loss resulting from control, and he is prevented from making additional profits resulting from control. If additional profits arise from other causes they are not affected by this provision. It is not so much a matter of indemnity or taxation, as the stabilization of profit at the pre-control level.
– Will the AttorneyGeneral explain how this clause is assc- ciated with the Coal Mines Profits (Wartime) Bill? What is the point of that bill?
– The bill which was introduced this afternoon and is now at its second-reading stage, provides for payment by the owners of controlled coal mines of additional profits which have accrued as the result of the exercise of control by the Commonwealth Coal Commissioner. Clause 4 of that bill simply brings the amount of profits ascertained as under clause 23 into charge as against the owner.
– Does not proposed new clause 23 do that?
– Proposed new clause 23 is really the machinery provision which must be read with clause 4 of the Coal Mines Profits (War-time) Bill. I need not read to the committee the whole of proposed new clause 23. Sub-clause 1 now before the committee gives the commissioner power to make application to the court, which means the High Court or the .Supreme Court of a State, for the determination, first, of the question of whether, by reason of the control exercised, the amount of the profits derived from the operation of any controlled mine exceeds the amount of the profits derived from’ the operation of the mine for the antecedent period, and, secondly, of the question of the amount of any such excess. Sub-clause 2 deals with the manner in which the application is to be dealt with, and sub-clause 3 with the service of the notice; sub-clause 4 gives the court jurisdiction to hear and determine the question, and sub-clause 5 gives the commissioner power to serve on the owner notice of the determination of the court. In short, the new clause provides all the machinery for the imposition of the charge on additional profits assessed in that way, so long as the additional profits result from the system of control.
– Are we to assume that the Coal Mines Profits (War-time) Bill which was brought in to-day was introduced separately because it is in effect a taxing measure?
– So that this bill will then become the machinery measure?
– .Shortly, that is the intention. I do not think that that bill is a tax bill in the ordinary sense, but, in the view of myself and those collaborating with me, it might well be so regarded. For that reason a separate bill has been brought in, although the two may really be debated by the committee in relation to this point, as both matters involve the same general principle.
The Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden), suggested the insertion of a definition of “ profits “, but, as he will see from what I have read, the basis or standard for fixing profits must be the same for the antecedent and subsequent periods.
– So long as there is a comparable basis I am satisfied.
– For the general meaning of “ profits “, I refer the committee to Konstam’s Law of Income Tax. 7th edition, page 118, quoting a well-known decision of the courts in tin; following words : -
What is the meaning of “ profits or gains “ » Unless the context requires a different meaning or the words appear to be used throughout the act in another sense, I think they must be construed according to their ordinary signification. When we speak of the profits or gains of a trader, we mean that which lie has made by his trading. Whether there be such a thing as profit or gain can only be ascertained by setting against the receipts the expenditure or obligations to which they have given rise.
The words “ profits or gains “ occur in the British act. That passage states the broad principle. We thought it advisable not to include a statutory definition of “ profits “, but to leave it to the court. The charge arises from the comparison of profits, and from the causal relation between the control of the mine and the apparent increase of profits. First of all, the onus is on the Crown or the commissioner to prove that there is a chargeable excess. It would have to be shown in a disputed case that the excess was due to control. If it were due to some other cause - and I recognize that there is a difficulty in applying the .principle - there is nothing payable under this clause. There must be proof of an excess of profits by comparison of the two periods, and it must also be proved affirmatively that the increase is due to the system of control. If that can be shown, then I submit that this is really a corollary of clause 22, which applies wherever the system of control has resulted in loss or damage, in which case the owner is compensated. Here, if control alone leads to excess profits, and it is shown that they arise from control, then they shall not remain with the owner, but in substance shall be regarded as unearned profits. The fund into which the money goes is dealt with in a special trust account.
– What exact causes may result in bringing about increased profits?
– To take a simple case, there might be an increased price. Under this system, the returns from the sale of the coal, the ownership of which remains unchanged, will go to the owner, and the increased profits in that case would be due to the increase in price.
– ‘Would that be so in both controlled and uncontrolled mines?
– I am speaking of controlled mines, because the clause deals with them and nothing else. There are cases, and this is an obvious one, where the excess or additional profits may be caused entirely by an increase of price. Obviously, in that case, the system of control would not have led to the increase of profits, therefore that increase is not brought into charge.
– But the system of control includes the system of fixing the price.
– That is not what is intended. The wording is: “. . . by reason of the order made . . .”, that is the order establishing a system of control. The question of price-fixing is not limited to controlled mines, but applies, one can assume, generally throughout the industry. Therefore, profits from the increased price would not be a mere consequence of the introduction of the system of control. That seems to be a clear case where the additional profits could not be proved as causally related to the system of control of the controlled mine.
– Supposing that, subsequent to the passing of this measure, the production of the mine increased, and the price of coal increased also, would the additional profits be held to be due to the system of control?
– If, after the introduction of the new system, all you had and all you showed was an increased production on the part of each man, that in itself would not prove that the system of control had caused the increase. Post hoc ergo propter hoc would illustrate the fallacy of the opposite argument. It always has to be shown that the system of control of the controlled mine alone bad caused the increased profits.
– How would clause 17 apply in connexion with the control, seeing that it gives the commissioner power to “fix or make provision for or in relation to the fixation of prices for the purchase and resale … of all coals “ ? If he increased the price of coal, would that come within the definition of excess profits due to the system of control ?
– In my opinion, it would not. The power to which the right honorable member refers is not sufficiently related to the system of control operating at the particular mine. The system of control with which we are dealing in relation to controlled coal mines is the substitution of the commissioner for the existing owner as manager of the mine. The commissioner simply comes in to supplant the present management. That is the system of control which is relevant, ai d not the general scheme of the act. The question is the effect of the commissioner’s management upon the profits of the owner. Has it reduced the profits or caused loss? If so, the owner obtains compensation under clause 22. If it has had no effect whatever on profits then no consequence follows.
– The fact that it was due to the industry as a whole would be taken into consideration.
– Strictly, it is the particular system of control introduced by virtue of clause 21, namely, the system or method of managing a particular mine by the commissioner instead of by the owner.
– What possibility is there of proof in that case?
– That is the difficulty which arises in all cases where the positive fact has to be proved by the commissioner. There may be cases where it could be shown that the prior management was inefficient, and that the new management by the commissioner has produced the improvement, but that it must be shown affirmatively and positively before this clause can affect excess profits.
– The new clause which the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) proposes to insert is curious, in some ways at. any rate, more particularly when one looks at it side by side with the Coal Mines Profits (War-time) Bill introduced to-day. I know that normally I am not at liberty to discuss another bill, which is now on the notice-paper, but it ii not possible to view this properly without having the other bill in mind. The Government introduced this afternoon a bill which provides, in terms, that where excess profits, as explained in the bill now before the committee, are earned, the owner of the mine shall pay to the commissioner an amount equivalent to the amount of the excess so determined. As the Attorney-General has said, that bill is brought down because such a charge may be regarded as a tax, and no doubt he has in mind section 55 of the Constitution, which provides that “ laws imposing taxation shall deal only with the imposition of taxation, and any provision therein dealing with any other matter shall be of no effect “. So that if this were the taxation provision in substance, and were included in the bill now before the committee, the rest of the bill would be ineffective as the result of that constitutional restriction.
– It would all go; .not even that particular provision would remain.
– In substance, yes, because, if the rest of the provisions were ineffective, the bill would have no substance left. To me there is a little mystery about the clause, because the Attorney-General has brought down new wording which I should have thought quite plainly created a liability to pay the money. After providing for the calculation of the tax, it continues -
Tho Commissioner may servo on the owner of the controlled mine notice of tho determination of the Court specifying the amount determined by the Court; and specifying the date and place of payment.
Any amount so specified which remains unpaid after the date so specified may be sued for and recovered in any Court’ of competent jurisdiction by the Commissioner suing in his official name.
I must say that, reading these two provisions together in this proposed new clause, I should not like to have to argue that there was any liability on the part of the owner of the mine to pay the amount in question to the commissioner.
– The right honorable gentleman will know that provisions similar to those which he has read are contained in every assessment act - -the Income Assessment Act and the Land Tax Assessment Act, for instance. The view taken is that provisions of that character, although they provide the machinery for enforcement and create the debt and so forth, merely quantify the liability and that the imposition of taxation is the result of the separate tax act fixing the rate of tax. We have looked into this matter very carefully.
– Yes. I raise this matter not factitiously, but for the consideration of the Government. The fact that similar provisions exist in some other acts leaves me a little cold, because I remember that I once succeeded in convincing a County Court judge in Victoria that the whole Income Tax Act was invalid. It Ls true that he was only a County Court judge, but he was a very intelligent judge.
– How did the right honorable gentleman get on with the appeal ?
– I have finished my story. I direct attention to that matter because it seems to be curious. I turn to the substance of the clause. I agree, with respect, with what the Attorney-General has said about profits. I am not so much concerned with the definition of profits, so long as it is the same definition in both parts of the clause, as it unquestionably would be, and, as long as the basis is the same, there will be a true difference. What the clause aims at’ is collecting the true difference for the Crown for purposes which will be disclosed by a subsequent amendment. But what I want to say a few words about is the principle of collecting this difference and what I have to say about it falls into two sections. In the first place, how is this difference to be arrived at? In other words, how will any tribunal determine whether the profits derived are in excess of previous profits by reason of the control exercised in pursuance of an order made under clause 21. The right honorable gentleman has given us an illustration of a case which would not fall within that category. I am disposed to agree with what he says on the subject of profits, but I should think that it would take a Philadelphia lawyer, plus a Philadelphia accountant, to settle down to the problem of determining whether ihe increase of profit was due to control by the commissioner. After all, we can all think of a dozen matters which might affect profit. All would happen under control and some of them might be indirectly attributable to control, and yet not one of them would justify appropriation of the profits. Take the two matters which I mentioned in the course of my second-reading speech. Suppose that, as the result of the commissioner taking over the control of a mine, the miners decided that they would work continuously. That is in no sense the fault’ of the owner because ex hypothesi he has been wanting continuous production, but, as the result of the bill, let us say, or some other feature associated with the bill, work becomes more continuous. The work is not of itself more efficient. ‘ The management is not of itself different. Yet the profit is greater because the production of coal is greater. In those circumstances, will it be said that the extra profit arises by reason of the control exercised under clause 21. Probably it will be said that it so arises. Take another case: “When the commissioner controls a mine he may, exercising his powers -under an earlier provision, direct that the mine be mechanized. Suppose he does. The owner may have wanted to mechanize the mine, but may have been opposed hy -the miners’ federation, but what happens when the commissioner says, “ Mechanize this mine “, and the mine is mechanized. The result is that the output of the mine is increased and with a resultant increase of output in relation to overhead the profits are increased. Is it to be said, as I think it will be said, that that additional profit arises by reason of the control exercised? Now, if each of these two cases which I have given, is resolved against the commissioner and in favour of the owner, what is left ? All that is left is this : that the commissioner will have to show that under his control there has been so much greater efficiency of management that a greater profit has been produced. The efficiency of management is always so much a matter of opinion that I should not be too enamoured of the commissioner’s chances of establishing a point like that; but I should be quite enamoured of his chances of establishing that, although the increased production is due to increased work through mechanization or something of that kind, it has still to be said to be due .to the control exercised by him under the earlier clause. That is the first thing I say about it.
The second thing I say about it goes to the basic principles of this clause. I understand perfectly the problem the Government looks at. It says, “ Now, here we are. We are taking power to take over a mine. If the taking over of that mine involves loss to the owner, we are going to compensate him; but, if it involves a profit, it is reasonable that he should not get that profit”. That is on the face of it logic. But the answer is to be found in this fact, which I recall to the minds of members of the committee: this Parliament has, for some time now in the course of this war, imposed, a rate of tax upon profits specially designed to cope with excess profits. There is the war-time company tax which, after a certain point, imposes a very steep sliding scale of tax on company profits. That tax is imposed partly because people who make large profits ought to make large contributions to the cost of the war, and partly to discourage what we call profiteering. That was the policy of both sides of this House and it is the policy which is expressed in law now current. I ask members of the committee to consider very carefully whether we should depart from that sound general rule in relation to profits in order to make a special rule in relation to profits of a coal mine. After all, if a coal mine does produce a greater profit than that which it produced twelve months before, the war-time company tax will hit the operating company. It will make its contribution in accordance with general law, and, for the life of me, giving these things the fullest possible consideration, I cannot understand why there should be one rule for a coal mine and another for an engineering shop and another for a chain store. In time of war, all businesses conducted by companies ought to be subject to the same kind of taxation law, and that is particularly true when, as in this case, we have a state of affairs in which it will be most difficult to determine whether an additional profit is due to the commissioner, or to events which are outside the control of the commissioner or are partly due to events under his control and partly due to general conditions of business. Therefore, I am opposed, not only to the proposed new clause, but also to the clause as it stands. I think that we shall do justice to this industry if we treat it, from the taxation point of view, on exactly the same footing as any other industry. If we do not, and if we say, “ No ; there is to be a special rule for coal-mining”, then by what process of reasoning shall we decline to apply the special rule to another industry, and yet another, and yet another, until we have completely destroyed the war-time company tax and introduced some new system with new and rigid controls upon business. I do not want to elaborate that. I have stated as carefully and deliberately as I can what seem to be the major objections to this clause. I certainly impress them upon the consideration of the AttorneyGeneral and the Government, and, if the Government is not willing to consider them, then I invite the committee to reject the proposals in both the proposed new clause and the original clause.
– This is a vital clause. I am opposed to it and to the proposed new clause. The Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt), in order to circumvent section 55 of the Constitution, has introduced another bill to implement this proposal. My objection is that I consider it to be the beginning of the socialization of industry. I do not know any owners of coal mines. But why should a coal mine be taxed in any way different from the way in which any other business is taxed? The coal mines may be owned by proprietary companies, public companies, or private individuals. They may conduct the mines at a great profit or at a considerable loss, but is there any reason why, if a mine is profitably conducted, the owners should not obtain the fruit of their investments by way of dividends on their shares or a distribution of the profits of a partnership? Yet the Government would treat them differently, even though, as the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) has said, excess profit is taken in taxation. That is the fair way in which to handle excess profits. Because it is a coal mine and the extra profit made, or allegedly made, is made under control, that extra profit will be handed over to the Government. This is Nazi socialism. It may astonish the Attorney-General to know it, but that is exactly how the German business system is run. I was in Berlin shortly before the war broke out.
– The Government probably copied the system from the German system.
– I do not know, but it is exactly the same system. I talked with the directors of the Siemens organization and prominent Nazis, and they told me that the Nazi party took all the profits above 6 per cent, into the exchequer. An extra 2 per cent, would be allowed for a company if it spent it on the employees. The Government has more or less borrowed that idea and put it into this bill. I see in it the first step towards carrying that principle into other industries. The mine-owners will not get the money back again. Once it goes to the Government it will not be distributed, as it should be, among the shareholders or the owners of a mine. Therefore, this system is one that we should strongly oppose. It is a departure from the liberty of the individual under private enterprise. It is, I think, the Government’s rather subtle way of starting to take over the mines and nationalize the industry, which is the objective of the Labour party and many men in the industry. Therefore, I contend that we must consider seriously the implications of this clause. It is the beginning of socialism, and can result only in chaos in the coal-mining industry. The Coal Mines Profits (“War-time) Bill which was introduced this af ternoon states clearly that “ the owner of the coal-mine shall pay to the commissioneran amount equivalent to the amount of the excess so determined “ and within the measure now before the committee are the penalties provided. Sub-clauses 5 and 6 of proposed new clause 23 state -
That completely ties to government control a mine which to-day is controlled by private enterprise. It is true that such control in war time may be justified, but I believe that there is a middle road in times of crisis by which the energy and enterprise of private business can be coupled successfully with government direction with good results. This measure will enable the Government to take over, apparently for all time, the profits of this industry.
– This is only a war-time measure.
– There is nothing to indicate that the control will not continue after the War. It is true that there have been disturbances in this industry and no doubt mistakes have been made by both sides, but I do not consider that the Government is justified in taking profits from the mine-owners, whether they be companies or partnerships, other than by taxation as is the case with any other industry. I strongly oppose the proposed new clause and also the clause in the bill.
– I have been very much impressed by the arguments advanced by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) and by the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White). It is unfortunate that the right honorable member for Koo yong did not raise these objections two or three years ago because that was when this principle was first introduced. As long ago as the Sth August, 1941, it was provided by Regulation 22 of Statutory Rules 1941 No. 189 that the Governor-General could, by order, on the recommendation of the commissioner, limit the rate of profit to be derived, from coal-mines, to 8 per cent, or to such less percentage per annum as was specified in the order. Regulation 17(5) of the same Statutory Rules, stated that the commissioner may provide for the application of profit limited in pursuance of regulation 22, in a certain manner, for the advancement of the coal industry. It is clear, therefore, that so far back as 1941, Parliament Avas “ sold “. That is a good example of how this Parliament is functioning to-day. By Statutory Rules 1942 No. 51 it was provided that -
Two-thirds of the excess shall be held by the Commission and shall bv applied by it in accordance with any direction it may give in pursuance of sub-regulation (3.) of this regulation and, subject thereto, to such purposes for the advancement of the coal industry, including social welfare schemes for employees in that industry, as the Governor-General directs.
It can be seen therefore that this has been the law for a long time. I have pointed out on several occasions the degree to which We have surrendered the legislative powers of this Parliament to the Executive.
The committee is indebted to the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) for the long time that he has sat at the table during the discussion of this measure, and for the manner in which he has assisted honorable members. I pay that tribute to the right honorable gentleman. In my view the committee stage is the most important stage of a bill. It is comparatively simple for an honorable member to make a second-reading speech, but when it comes to doing the real work in committee, only a few members are interested enough to remain in the chamber. It is discourteous to this Parliament that there are so few members in the chamber now, and that many honorable members who are present are taking little interest in the debate. The only contributions of any value are being made by honorable members on this side of the chamber and by the AttorneyGeneral. It is of great importance that the committee work should be taken seriously.
It will he recalled that clause 22 dealt with the owner of a controlled mine who suffered loss or damage. Now, in clause 23, we are dealing- with the owner of a controlled mine to whom profit accrues as the result of that control. When clause 22 was before the committee, I asked the Attorney-General for his views in regard to the words “by reason of anything done. . . .” It seems ‘to me that if the proposed new clause is inserted, it will give substance to the comments which I have made. Whereas in clause 22, as originally drafted, it was ‘provided that “ The owner of a controlled mine who suffers loss or damage by reason of anything done in pursuance of an order under the last-preceding section in respect of the mine “, should have certain rights, the original wording of clause 23 was: “ Where, by reason of anything done in pursuance of the order made under section 21 of this act, the amount of the profits derived from the operation of a controlled mine . . .”, The Government has changed the wording of clause 23 to read “ (a) the question as to whether, by reason of the control exercised in pursuance of any order made. . .”, and I suggest that at the end of the committee stage the Government should recommit clause 22 and further amend it so that in that respect it will have the same wording as proposed new clause 23. In other words, the same test that is to be applied in respect of loss or damage should be applied in respect of profits accruing from a controlled mine. There is no justification at all for the use of certain words in one clause and different words in another. I appreciate the reason for the introduction of this proposed new clause. I. only wonder whether it is necessary to have included in this broad measure sub-clause 6 of proposed new clause 23. That, in itself, may be said to impose a tax, but I merely offer that suggestion for the consideration of the Government.
– As I said before, the provision follows the formula of the assessment acts and is regarded not as imposing a tax, but as quantifying it, and dealing with the manner in which il; is to be paid and by whom it is to be paid. At least, that is the constitutional theory.
– That is my view also. However, that- is the Government’s responsibility. I am concerned .particularly with the profits which may flow from the control of a mine. It seems to me that the general principle which this committee lays down is that if, following upon the control of a mine, additional profits are made, the onus is on the commissioner to establish certain results. I do not think that this committee should be concerned with working out which case does or does not come within that principle. Once having committed ourselves to the principle of fixation of profits and beyond that to distributions in one direction or another, it is too late to retrace our steps. It may have been a wrong principle to adopt, but it was introduced by the previous Administration and carried on by this Government. There has been no opposition to the regulations.
.-! realize why this clause has been inserted in the bill. The Government naturally feels that if it is to compensate the mineowners for loss, so the mine-owners should compensate the Government in the event of increased profits being made under government control. However, it seems to me that the matter goes deeper than that. In the first place I should like to know how the excess profits are to be determined? I have given a great deal of thought to this matter, and I cannot see how it will be possible to establish a point beyond which any profits may be deemed to be profits due to control. There are many ways in which excess profits could be made. A government-appointed manager might decide that a mine required mechanization, the opening up of a new seam, or his actions may have been the means of settling strikes which in the past may have prevented the making of profits. Then, as the AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt) said, there are other factors: Profits may be increased by the prices charged. I should like to know definitely from the Government how it proposes to establish a line of demarcation beyond which profits are to be considered to be due to government control. A manager appointed by the Government may take over control of a mine under the direction of the coal commissioner, and that profits of that mine may go up, but how can the cause of the increased profits be determined ? I do not see how it will be possible to determine that a manager, who has replaced another manager, has been responsible for increased profits. The profits may have increased for variousreasons.
– Surely the honorable member can trace the causes ?
– It would be impossible under this clause to find out how profits had increased. The clause is likely to have no effect at all. Obviously this is a proposal to give a sop to the employees in the coal mines. The miners do not like the measure, and it is proposed by the Government to devote part of any excess profits to a social welfare scheme for the benefit of employees. That idea should be dropped completely, because, if the profits of the mines increased, the taxation laws would prevent those profits from falling into the hands of the shareholders. That should be satisfactory to the Government.
– As arule, when an industry is under government control, profits are not obtained in excess of those obtained under private enterprise.
– The profits are sure to be less under government control.
– Yes, but an important principle is involved, and it may be applied to other industries which may at a future time be taken over by the Government. I agree that the present proposals in the bill must be accepted because preceding governments have promulgated regulations for the same purposes as those for which the powers conferred under this clause are sought. I was not aware of the existence of those regulations, nor, I think, were many members of this committee. That seems to be an indictment of the system of government by regulations, of the existence of which very few members of Parliament become aware.
I was probably a member of the government which promulgated those regulations. When regulations by the hundred become law without the knowledge of members of Parliament, it cannot be fairly said that therefore the members are in agreement with them. The people who own the coal mines, or any mills or industrial organizations which may be acquired at a future time are not necessarily all wealthy. Thousands of individuals are shareholders in mining companies and industrial undertakings of all kinds, and they are dependent to a large degree, not only on the dividends they receive, but on the value of their shares. The share values of mines will be considerably influenced by the fact that the mines will be limited to a profit not in excess of that e.arned at possibly a period in which they experienced their lowest returns.Coal-mining shares command the lowest prices on the market, and are almost unsaleable. The earnings of the coal-mining companies have been small owing to industrial stoppages. Under this proposal, if a mine is taken under control by the Government, it will have no opportunity during the period of the war to improve its financial position. If such a policy were applied to any business concern on which honorable members opposite depended for a livelihood, would they submit quietly to such treatment? Some of tbe mines are no longer returning dividends, owing to stoppages of work and the impossibility, owing to war conditions, of obtaining suitable machinery. I should be quite content if the profits to be allowed were determined having regard to the returns obtained when mining operations were reasonably remunerative; but this clause limits the profit to that realized twelve months prior to the date on which the mine was placed under Government control, when stoppages might have resulted in a serious loss of production and a disappearance of profits. We should consider the matter from the point of view of equity and justice. Thousands of individuals throughout the community have invested sums of money in industrial stocks of all kinds, and the principle of this clause could be made to apply in future to any undertakings which the Government might take over.
– The profits of the mines have been lower during the war years than they were prior to the war.
– Yes, they have fluctuated considerably. In the last four years no mine, as far as I have been able to ascertain, has yielded a profit exceeding 5 per cent, or 6 per cent., whilst many of them have returned only 2 per cent, or 3 per cent., or no profit at all. The reduction of dividends was largely due to conditions over which the unfortunate colliery proprietors had very little control. Whatever criticism may be levelled at the Government, the low level of profits has been due to circumstances beyond the control of the mine-owners. If the procedure contemplated under the bill were applied to other industries, the control of which the Government may at some future time take over, there will be a sad lookout for many thousands of people who have invested their savings in industrial enterprises in the belief that their capital is safe.
– I listened to the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) in his account of what happened in the last Parliament. He castigated that Parliament for having paid insufficient attention to certain regulations. I could give a very interesting description of what happened on one occasion when I moved that certain regulations be disallowed, and the honorable member for Warringah was satisfied that the regulations were justified. Once again we have the spectacle of the present Government introducing a system for the fixing of profits and then moving an amendment which has no relation to the system for which the bill provides. Apparently the Government does not know where it stands with regard to these matters. It appears that the bill was drafted in haste and the Government, in order to rectify what has been conceded to be an error, has reached another hasty decision, and consequently honorable members are obliged to jump from one twig to another like a cock robin on a flowering peach tree in spring time. That is rather a pretty sight if one is in the right mood and has an appreciative eye for birds and flowers ; but it is not impressive in a committee of the House of Representatives at 4.15 a.m. on the 3rd March, 1944. With great respect to the AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt), I consider that this matter of the fixation of profits has not received sufficient care and attention. I am most concerned about it because I believe that if this invidious principle is conceded now, it’ will be applied to other industries shortly. This is only the thin edge of the wedge, a test and a try-out “. The principle originally contained in the bill was bad, but Heaven only knows what this is ! A court will be called upon to .decide the matter. The Government should express its policy and determine the method by which it proposes to achieve its objective. If that were done in this instance the intentions of the Government would bear signs of more definiteness and certainty. There would be less desire to throw the matter into the lap of litigation. One of the first marks which we expect from a Government confident of exercising its authority, is that its legislation shall bear the stamp of that authority. In this instance, too much is indefinite and uncertain.
– I disagree with ‘ the opinion expressed by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) that the Government does not know where it is heading and that the bill bears distinct evidence of uncertainty. After a close study of the measure, I have come to the conclusion that the Government knows its destination. Its approach to this matter has been very subtle. First, it introduced this bill containing 62 clauses conferring almost dictatorial powers upon a commissioner. Then, by the insertion of a few words, the Government has reduced that official to the status of a factotum of the Minister. The Government has introduced a feature which honorable members must regard as a matter of high principle. A precedent is being established that the Government will subsequently apply to other industries.
– I said that.
– I was merely pointing out that the policy of the Government is not uncertain or indefinite, because Cabinet knows where it is heading.
– It is very uncertain for the unfortunate individual who will suffer from this policy.
– The previous Government established this principle.
– The Government is heading pell-mell for the socialization of industry. If any doubt existed in the minds of honorable members, the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) made the position perfectly clear in his second-reading speech. Consequently, no uncertainty exists in the mind of the Government. I should like the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) to enlighten me on a few matters. As the right honorable gentleman knows, developmental work will be undertaken in certain mines for the purpose of increasing the production of coal. That work is already being carried out in some mines on the south coast of New. South Wales. Until it is completed, the mines will not produce to their full capacity. The Prime Minister (Mr.Cur tin) made a statement to that effect in the House. When the more favorable areas are being worked and the profits increase, will they be regarded as excess?
– In my opinion they will not be taxable profits because the increase would be due, not to the new method of management employed by the commissioner, but to the particular development work undertaken in that mine.
– I am glad to have that opinion, and I ask the AttorneyGeneral a second question. When the commissioner takes control of a mine, he may decide to carry out certain developmental work with the object of increasing production later. Should the production of coal, under the direction of the commissioner increase will the profits on the increased quantity be treated as excess profits ?
– No. I think that the profit brought into charge must be shown to be due to the fact that there is a new employer in the mine, namely, the commissioner, in place of the owner.
– I welcome that assurance, because it has resolved a doubt in mymind. Nevertheless, I consider that the Government is now establishing a principle that will be applied to other industries.
– No. This is applicable only to war-time control, and there is no change of ownership of the product.
– But what will happen if the people grant to the Commonwealth the powers sought in the Constitution Alteration (Post-war Reconstruction) Bill? That is what worries many people.
– Order ! The honorable member may not anticipate debate on that measure.
– My purpose in speaking on this occasion was to establish certain points, and I have succeeded in doing so. As an important principle is involved, I believe that the Opposition should divide the committee. Personally, I feel very keenly about it, and desire to place on record that honorable members on this side of the chamber will not support the socialization of industry.
Question put -
That the amendment (Dr. Evatt’s) be agreed to.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. Riordan.)
Majority . . . . 16
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended., agreed to.
Clause 24 (Payments to be made by owner of controlled mine).
– I move -
That the clause he left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following clause: - “ 24. It shall be the responsibility of the owner of a controlled mine to pay the remuneration of all persons employed in or about the mine as officers and employees of the Commissioner and the expenses incurred by the authorized controller of the mine with respect to the operation of the mine.”
I propose to substitute a new clause for clause 24, thus clarifying the position of theowner of a controlled mine with respect to payments to be madeby him for the expenses of operating the mine.
Under clause 24 as it stands in the bill the owner was to make payments for remuneration of. staff and miners and for expenses of operation as the agent of the commissioner. This would have meant that the owner would have had a claim for reimbursement from the commissioner. At the same time, the owner would continue to be entitled to receive the proceeds of coal recovered from the mine. Therefore, whilst he would be relieved of a certain portion of the expenses, he would be receiving, or be eligible to receive, the same return from the mine. In the event of his suffering loss or damage as a result of the control, the amount paid by the commissioner for wages expenses would be set off against that loss, but it is probable that in any event the balance would be unfavorable to the commissioner. In its revised form the clause continues the responsibility for payment of wages, &c, in the owner. If as a result of the control, he is called on to pay a greater amount than formerly, he will be able to include the additional amount in any claim he may make for compensation for loss or damage. Similarly, if as a result of the control, he is called on to make payments in respect of workers’compensation which he would not have been called upon to make but for the control, he will be able to include in any claim for compensation an amount to cover that additional liability.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 25 agreed to.
The terms and conditions of service of persons who are officers or employees of the Commissioner in pursuance of this Division shall, subject to this Act and subject to any variation in accordance with the provisions of this Act, be -
in the case of those persons who were prior to the coal mine becoming a controlled mine employed or usually employed in or about the mine by the owner of the mine - the terms and conditions (other than as to tenure of office or employment) on which they were employed immediately prior to the mine becoming a controlled mine; and
– I should like some information in respect of paragraph a of this clause. The position seems to be that the commissioner may discharge an employee who has had long service with the owner of the mine and whose conditions of service may entitle him to a substantial period of notice before he is discharged. The words in brackets “ other than as to tenure of office and employment “ may take from such an employee his right to receive proper notice. I see no reason why a controlled mine should not be subject to the same obligation as existed before it was taken over.
– This clause is designed to provide that officers and employees of the commissioner at a controlled mine shall work under the same terms and conditions as they worked under when employed by the owner of a coal mine. In the case where such officers or employees were not previously employed by the owner of the coal mine, they are to work under such terms and conditions as would he applicable to them if they were employed by the owner, or, if no such terms and conditions are applied by law, award, order or determination, under such terms and conditions as the commissioner determines. I. see no answer whatever to the contention of the honorable member for Warringah. Therefore, I am agreeable to omit the words to which objection has been taken.
Amendment (by Mr. Spender) agreed to -
That, in paragraph (a), the words and brackets “ (other than as to tenure of office or employment)” be left out.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 27 (Special conditions of employment).
Br. EVATT (Barton- Attorney-General and Minister for External Affairs) [4.36 a.m.]. - I move -
That the clause be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following clause: - “27. - (1.) It shall be a condition of employment by the Commissioner of any person in or about a controlled mine that, if, in the opinion of the Commissioner or the authorized controller of the mine, that person -
wilfully disobeys or disregards any lawful direction or order made or given by any person having authority to make or give the order or direction; or
fails, without leave or other reasonable excuse, to attend for work or to perform his duties on any day and at the times on and at which he is required so to attend and to perform his duties, then, subject to any order of the Commissioner, there shall bo deducted from any pay due or to become due to that person an amount in accordance with the scale contained in the Schedule to this act. (2.) The Commissioner may, if he thinks the circumstances of any case make it desirable so to do, remit any such deduction in whole or in part.”
It has been suggested that as clause 27 stands it does not make adequate provision for insuring that an actual disadvantage will be suffered by a person who is guilty of wilful disobedience of orders or of absenteeism.
In order to put the matter beyond doubt the clause has been recast to provide for deductions to be madefrom pay which is or may become due to a person who commits a breach of the conditions of employment set out in the clause. In addition, the deduction is now proposed tobe made dependent upon the opinion of the commissioner or the authorized controller of the mine as to whether or not a person employed in or about the mine has wilfully disobeyed an order or failed to attend and perform his duties.
– What is the reason for providing that the scale may not be amended ?
– It was thought better to have the scale set out in the statute, otherwise it might be suggested that the Executive would modify it.
– Could not the amendment be amended by adding the words “ not being less than the rates contained in the schedule”? Already, the amounts are little enough - £2 for the first fine, for instance. A miner could participate in four strikes and yet be fined not more than £10, regardless of the effect of his action on the community.For men earning big wages, that represents little more than cigarette money.
– A miner guilty of four instances of absenteeism could be liable to an aggregate deduction of £24.
– That would be only if he were convicted each time. The fourth offence is only £10. I ask that the words which I have suggested be included in the bill. The amendment would exclude them.
– No; the honorable member’s suggestion means that the Executive could increase, but not reduce, the rates.
– The penalties are light.
– On the contrary, they are heavy. Hundreds of coal-miners have been prosecuted, convicted, and fined sums ranging from £3 to £5.
– Usually the union pays the fine.
– That is not always so; in many cases the employee pays it.
-Cases in which the union has paid the fine are not infrequent. In any event, the fine amounts to only a few shillings a week. Men can disrupt the war effort and cause great inconvenience to their fellows by throwing industries idle, and be fined only a couple of pounds.Such a penalty is too small.
– Similar fines have been inflicted by the court.
– The amounts should not be lower than those set out in the schedule.
– The amending clause is reasonable. It has been brought forward in order to meet the case submitted during the second-reading debate.
– I support the view expressed by the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White). The rates set out in the schedule should not be reduced. The Government has an obligation to see that men work. The amendment also provides that it shall be a condition of employment by the commissioner of any person in or about a controlled mine that if, in the opinion of the commissioner or the authorized controller of the mine, that person does certain things. The original clause referred to wilful disobedience on the part of the employed person.
– The amendment strengthens the clause.
– I do not think that the amendment is so specific as the original clause was. It gives to the commissioner a discretion to say whether or not a man wilfully disobeys or disregards any lawful direction. In certain circumstances, a man either wilfully disobeys or he disregards a lawful direction. If he does one or the other, there should be no discretion on the part of the commissioner.
-What would be the position if the commissioner said that the employee wilfully disobeyed a lawful direction, and brought an action against him, and it was found that there was not sufficient ground to convict him ? I repeat that the amendment strengthens the clause.
– I hesitate to accept that view. If a man wilfully disobeys a lawful direction, he does something definite; but, apparently, the law does not mean what laymen think it means. On reflection, I must accept the interpretation of the law given by the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender), subject to any other opinion which may be expressed by other members of the legal fraternity.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
– I move -
That the clause be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following clause: - “28. - (1.) For the purposes of this Act there shall be a Trust Account which shall be known as the Coal Mining Industry Trust Account, and shall be a Trust Account for the purposes of section sixty-two a of the Audit Act 1901-1934. (2.) All amounts paid to or recovered by the Commissioner by reason of any determination made under section twenty-three of this Act and all amounts of pay deducted in accordance with the last preceding section shall be paid to the credit of the Trust Account. (3.) All interest received from the investment of any moneys standing to the credit of the Trust Account shall form part of the Account. (4.) The moneys standing to the credit of the Trust Account shall be applied for the advancement of the coal mining industry, including social welfare schemes for employees in the industry.”.
The bill provides for the payment into an account to be opened in the Commonwealth Bank of the additional profits derived from the operation of controlled mines by reason of the control, and of the amounts of pay lost under the provisions of clause 27. It is desirable to make more formal provision for the disposal and application of those moneys. Therefore, the proposed new clause provides for the establishment of a trust account under section 62a of the Audit Act 1901-1934.
.The Government will be required to reimburse owners for any losses arising out of the control of their mines. On the other hand, any additional profits are to be paid into a fund for the advancement of the coal-mining industry, including social welfare schemes for employees in the industry. From the point of view of the taxpayer, that is a “ Heads I lose, tails I do not win” proposition. The first call upon the fund should be the reimbursement of any payments which have been made out of Consolidated Revenue in respect of losses incurred by reason of control. I, therefore, move -
That, in sub-clause (4.) of the proposed clause, after the word “ applied “, the following wordsbe inserted: - “firstly in reimbursing the Commonwealth any amounts of compensation paid in pursuance of section twenty-two of this Act, and, secondly,”.
Public interest requires some protection in this matter. The people in the aggregate, as taxpayers, are to be called upon to make payment for losses incurred by reason of control, and if additional profits be made as the result of the control exercised in other mines, then the revenues of the Commonwealth should first be reimbursed any payments that have been made in respect of losses before the distribution of any amounts to the trust account.
– I cannot accept the amendment. On the hypothesis of the bill, the so-called profits will really be sums that are attributable to the system of management employed by the Commonwealth.
– Losses are attributable in like manner.
– I quite agree. The proposal of the honorable member has some appearance of fairness. The view of the Government, however, is that to devote these moneys to the welfare of the industry as a whole will not be unreasonable. As the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) pointed out a little while ago, the industry is one which can be improved and advanced in many respects, and social welfare schemes fall within the category of advancement.
– That is the modern way of advancing an industry.
– Deductions for such purposes are usually allowed in favour ‘ of an employer, because they are regarded as a part of the expenses of his business. I ask the committee to accept the clause in the form in which I have moved it.
– The contention of the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) has a good deal of weight and logic. Surely, control will be on a profit and loss basis; debits as well as credits will be taken into consideration. If the Consolidated Revenue is to be required to contribute towards’ losses in certain activities, there should be reimbursement from any profits that may accrue from other activities. The principle that losses should first be recouped before the revenue of the trust fund is distributed in the directions indicated, is indisputable. Surely, this legislation should not provide that profits shall he paid into the social welfare fund and that losses shall be borne by Consolidated Revenue! I thoroughly agree with the amendment.
– I, too, support the amendment of the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt). The committee would be recreant to its trust if it failed to give due consideration to it. If losses are to be payable from Consolidated Revenue, surely there should be recoupment of those payments before the residue is paid into any social welfare fund. It has been pointed out that if excess profits are taken from the owners and paid into a special fund, Consolidated Revenue will, in effect, he short by the amount so disbursed. On the other hand, should any losses occur, Consolidated Revenue will again be hit. The object is merely to satisfy the miner, to give him a “ sop “. The unfortunate taxpayer will be struck in two places at the one time. He will suffer because the revenue to which he contributes will not receive all that it should under the War-time Companies Tax, whilst at the same time any losses incurred will be defrayed out of Consolidated Revenue. The Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) should give consideration to, and not lightly dismiss, the points that have been raised.
– The principle that has here been introduced is rather bad, and I am dubious as to where it may finally land us. Let us suppose that a government of the future imposes heavy monetary penalties for pilfering on wharfs. Will the resultant revenue be placed in a special fund for the purchase of waterproof sheets for use on wet days by “wharfies “ who do not work? Applying the principle to the Homebush abattoirs, I should not suspect that in any circumstances the Government would devote to the purposes of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals amounts derived from fines imposed on slaughermen who absent themselves from work.
– The honorable member must connect his remarks with the clause, which has no relation to Homebush abattoirs.
– I am making particular reference to what may become of the money derived from fines.
– The coal-mining industry trust account can have no connexion with the Homebush abattoirs.
-The proposed new clause provides that the coalmining industry trust account shall be a trust account for the purposes of section 62a of the Audit Act. I am entitled to give illustrations in order to show what may happen to other trust accounts, am I not?
– The Consolidated Revenue of the Commonwealth is the proper place into which to pay the fines imposed on the employees and the tax levied on the employers. To provide that those who are guilty of a grievous offence against the welfare and safety of the State in time of war shall be virtually fined on that account, although the tender sensibilities of the present Government will not allow it to use the word “ fine “ in this legislation, and that the money so obtained shall be paid into a fund for their social benefit, is to introduce into legislation an entirely new principle. Acting on such a principle, one could assume that the greater the degree of disobedience to the lawful requirements of the coal commissioner, the larger will be the fund out of which social benefits will be provided for the delinquents. If Gilbert and Sullivan were a.live they would have wonderful scope for the employment of their talents on this measure. One of these days when the Parliament is not sitting frequently I may take to the writing of poetry. I have already done so once or twice. I could produce some startling results on this bill.
Amendment upon amendment negatived.
Original amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 29- (1.) The Minister may appoint a person to be the Central Industrial Authority. (2.) The Central Industrial Authority shall be deemed to be an officer of the Commissioner appointed under section sixteen of this Act.
.This is a very important clause, because it provides for the appointment of a central industrial authority, who is to make determinations in respect of industrial matters. I move -
That the clause be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following clause: - “29. - (1.) The Governor-General may appoint a Central Industrial Authority consisting of a Chairman who shall be a Judge of the Commonwealth Court of Arbitration and Conciliation and two representatives of the owners and two representatives of the Federation nominated respectively in the manner prescribed. (2.) At meetings of the Central Industrial Authority the opinions of the majority shall prevail and where the Members of the Authority present are equally divided in opinion the opinion of the Chairman shall prevail. (3.) Four members of the Central Industrial Authority shall form a quorum.”
Honorable members will realize that the kind of tribunal proposed in the amendment is entirely different from that which it is proposed to set up under the measure. We believe that the tribunal proposed under the measure is entirely unsatisfactory, that it conflicts with the traditional and established practice of the Commonwealth with regard to industrial matters. It takes completely out of the orbit of the Arbitration Court industrial matters associated with this vital industry, and empowers one individual, who does not possess a legal background, to determine matters of industrial principles. And his determinations may cut across decisions of industrial principles laid down by the Arbitration Court itself. Any honorable member who has had experience in industrial matters knows that there is no more prolific source of industrial trouble than conflicting industrial decisions and rulings. The Government proposes to set up one authority which will have no connexion with the Arbitration Court. In fact, that authority will possess more power in this particular industry than the Chief Judge of the Arbitration Court possesses in the jurisdiction he exercises.. The Government proposes that that authority with this great power shall be enabled to deal with all the industrial problems arising in the industry. No decision which he gives can be appealed against. He will be an absolute dictator in his own realm. We submit that the establishment of an authority of that kind will give rise to so much industrial trouble that the very purposes for which this measure has been introduced will be defeated. On the other hand, the alternative machinery which we propose not only gives adequate representation to the two great sections of the industry which are likely to come into conflict on industrial matters - the owners and the federation - but also provides that the chairman of the board shall be a judge of the Arbitration Court. In that way, the policy of the board would be definitely linked with that of the Arbitration Court, ana thus we should obviate very largely the possibility of decisions being given in one jurisdiction which might prove to be an embarrassment in the other jurisdiction. We submit that on all counts the authority which we propose is preferable. During the term of office of previous governments which honorable members on this side supported, there was a tribunal whose chairman was a judge of the Arbitration Court; and, I remind honorable members opposite, that machinery received the unanimous approval of the owners and the miners’ federation at the time it was established. The judge who was appointed chairman of that tribunal was specially requested by the miners themselves to preside over the tribunal. No real justification has been established by the Government in the course of this discussion for its decision to depart from the well-established machinery which was functioning satisfactorily prior to the removal of Judge Drake-Brockman of the Arbitration Court from the chairmanship of that tribunal. Therefore, we believe that on the ground of principle, and in view of the experience of that tribunal, the strongest possible case exists for reverting to the kind of tribunal proposed in the amendment, rather than that we should follow the unsatisfactory machinery which it is proposed to establish under the measure.
– I should like to say a few words about Part V. of the bill, which includes this clause. This part will replace those provisions of the National Security (Coal Mining Industry Employment) Regulations, which provide for the establishment and jurisdiction of the central coal authority and for the functions of the local reference boards in relation to industrial disputes and industrial matters which affect the coal-miners. The scheme of Part V. is to replace the central coal authority, which consists of five persons, by one person. Similarly, the local reference boards are to be replaced by local industrial authorities, each of which will be constituted by a single person. The view of the Government is that this reorganization will tend to expedite the settlement and determination of industrial matters arising in the coal-mining industry. In addition to the authorities mentioned, and also with a view to expediting the disposal of disputes and industrial matters at mines, power is given to appoint a coal production committee at any mine. The functions of a coal production committee will be to endeavour to settle by conciliation any disputes arising at the mine, and to furnish advice with regard to the means by which production of coal may be increased at the mine.
There are two points in the amendment. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) submits that the central industrial authority should continue to consist of five persons. That has not been found to be very satisfactory. Four of the five members represent groups in the industry, and on all important questions they divide as groups representing employers and employees might be expected to divide, with the result that the decision is made by the chairman. That brings me to the second point of the amendment, that a judge of the Arbitration Court should be the chairman. That provision should not be included in the bill. The chairman of the existing body which deals with these matters is not a judge of the Arbitration Court.
Mr. Holt. - Why did the Government remove Judge Drake-Brockman ? He was satisfactory.
– I agree with that and I prefer not to discuss the replacement of Judge Drake-Brockman hy Mr. Willis. I ask the committee to accept the existing position that Mr. Willis is, in effect, the chairman of the Central Industrial Authority. That fact, of course, is not binding upon Parliament, but the view of the Government is that we should not have assessors or extra members on either the Central Industrial Authority or the local reference boards.
– Does the Government still regard the wage-pegging regulation as applying to the coal industry?
– Broadly, there is no general departure from that general principle. However, questions may arise in a particular mine regarding conditions such as wetness or dust, which entitle the miners to extra remuneration, and there is power to award such extra remuneration in an industrial dispute. I ask the committee not to accept the amendment.
– I support the amendment. Possibly I should not have spoken at this juncture, but for the fact that two remarks made by the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) struck a responsive chord in me. The Attorney-General said that the one-man authority proposed under the measure would expedite decisions in industrial disputes in the industry. He also said that a membership of five on the tribunal was not satisfactory because four of the members divided into pairs, representing employers and employees, respectively. and consequently, the decision really rested with the chairman. Let me deal with the last point first. Probably, honorable members on this side of the chamber would not object to the one-man authority were we sure that he would be impartial, that is, if he were a judge of the Arbitration Court. But we know that the one-man authority is likely to be our friend, Mr. Willis. We know how partial he is to the miners. Has he not already said publicly that he is in sympathy with the miners? His record is such that he could not be other than sympathetic with the miners. When we know that this, central industrial authority is to be appointed we know that his decisions will be expedited in favour of the miners. There will be no possibility that the owners’ claims will receive fair consideration. It will simply be a case of history repeating itself. Has not the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) told the owners that they have always obeyed instructions and that they are not to blame for strikes ? The miners are .those who have disobeyed instructions. Mr. Willis stated that explicit directions were given to him. He was told to effect a settlement of strikes and troubles. When we couple the appointment of a one-man authority with the fact that he will be under the control of the Minister, who will be under the control of the caucus, which will be under the control of the Australasian Council of Trade Unions and the miners’ federation, we can see how and why his decisions will be expedited. That may be an ideal set-up from the point of view of the Government, but it will not make for fairness in the handling of disputes in the industry.
.The clause involves a very important principle. I very much regret “that the Attorney-General is not prepared to accept my amendment either as it stands, or in substance, by placing the industry under the control of a judge of the Arbitration Court. I am astonished that the Attorney-General with his judicial background, should pay so little regard to the importance of judicial control over this industry. That control can be provided only by a man of the type I have mentioned. But the Attorney-General is prepared to allow to develop industrial anarchy which must inevitably arise as the result of the set-up proposed under the measure. This is only a part of the total industrial machinery which the Government is maintaining for the handling of disputes on the coal-fields. There are the central industrial authority and the local industrial authorities. I assume that the chairmen of the local industrial authorities will be the same persons who now occupy those positions. The three persons selected by the Government of which I was a member, to fill those positions were practical mining men. Two of them., at the time of their appointment, were, and they may still be, active members of the miners’ federation. The third man had been a miner, and earned promotion to an executive position.
– The Government intends to re-appoint the same three gentlemen a.» chairmen of the local industrial authorities. I think that the honorable member himself, when he was Minister for Labour and National Service, appointed all of them to those positions, and they have filled them with credit during the last few years.
– I am glad to have that confirmation of the ability of those men. I am interested to have the AttorneyGeneral’s assurance that they will continue, but he must see how unbalanced the whole set-up now becomes. Previously, there were these three practical miners to deal with local problems arising on the three principal coal-fields. If the matter in dispute was likely to affect other districts, it then became one for the Central Reference Board, which would give a general ruling for the whole industry, and it was provided that a judge of the Arbitration Court should preside over the Centra] Reference Board. This system permitted the giving of quick decisions in regard t:> local matters in dispute.
– There are delays associated with obtaining assessors.
– I am not wedded to the system of appointing assessors. My objection would be largely met if the Government would give an assurance that the person to be appointed would be a judge.
– It is not intended to appoint a judge.
– That is an extraordinary announcement. The rest of the community are to have their cases heard and determined by a judge, or under the supervision of a judge, but what is good for the rest of the community is, presumably, not good for the miners.
– As has already been stated, it is intended that the present chairman of the central authority, Mr. “Willis, shall be re-appointed. That being so, how is it possible to agree that the chairman must be a judge?
– It should be no more difficult for the Government to do what we suggest than it was to remove the judge from the Central Reference Board and. put Mr. Willis in his place. Unless an adequate explanation is forthcoming of the Government’s proposed action, the Opposition intends to press for the appointment of a member of the judiciary.If there should be some objection to the judge who previously held the position there are other judges. There is, for instance, Mr. Justice Davidson, who, as a royal commissioner, inquired into the industry some years ago, and has a thorough knowledge of it. It should not be beyond the ingenuity of the Government to find a suitable man, but the Government is not looking for a man who will investigate disputes impartially and give a decision regarding them.. That, perhaps, would not satisfy the miners. The Government is looking for a man who would give quick justice to the taste of the, miners’ themselves. I repeat that the Government is proposing to create a precedent that will have injurious effects on industry generally, and the parties for which I speak will not stand for it
– Will the Attorney-General explain why it is proposed to follow different methods in the appointment of the central industrial authority and the local industrial authorities? In clause 29 it is stated that “the Minister may appoint a person to be the Central Industrial Authority”. Clause 33 states that. “ the Minister may, on the recommendation of the commissioner, appoint persons to be local industrial authorities”. Is it intended to weaken the authority of the Coal Commissioner, and to prevent him from operating effectively? Is it the purpose of the Government to ensure that Mr. Willis will be appointed as the central industrial authority by the Minister, because the commissioner is not in favour of that gentleman’s appointment?
Dr. EVATT (Barton- Attorney-General a.m.]. -Clause 29 is in substitution for a previous regulation relating to the central authority. The Government takes the responsibility for the appointment of the central industrial authority, but it is not to be supposed that the commissioner is opposed to the appointment of the gentleman whom the Government proposed to appoint. I take exception to the statements of the honorable member for Wentwonth (Mr. Harrison) regarding Mr. Willis. The extracts which he read in his second-reading speech do not bear out his assertions. Mr. Willis, in his capacity of Conciliation Commissioner, was told to do his utmost to effect an immediate settlement of a dispute. When coal is being lost, it is his duty to conciliate disputes. Surely his expression of sympathy with the miners is not to be held against him. Similar expressions might have been used by any judge of the Arbitration Court.
– Surely the AttorneyGeneral does not pretend that Mr. Willis could be impartial?
– There is no pretence about it. I believe that he will be impartial.Reverting to the questions asked by the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott), it was previously provided that the central authority should recommend persons for appointment to a local reference board. Under clause 33 of the bill, the commissioner is authorized to appoint persons to be local industrial authorities.
Question put -
That the amendment (Mr. Holt’s) he agreedto.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr.riordan.)
Majority . . . . 18
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 30 (Cognizance of disputes).
– The clause involves an important principle. It provides that -
The Central Industrial Authority shall have cognizance of any industrial dispute between the federation on the one hand and employers or associations of employers on the other hand, referred to it by the federation or the employers . . .
I know that that is the position as it exists under the present regulation, but a new situation has been created by the withdrawal from Judge Drake-Brockman of jurisdiction to deal with the matters referred to in this clause. Although members of the Coal Mechanics Union and members of the Federated Engine Drivers and Firemen’s Association may be working in the same mine as members of the miners’ federation, their conditions are to be determined by Judge DrakeBrockman, while the conditions of the members of the miners’ federation are to be determined by the central industrial authority to be established by the bill. A further anomaly may arise, with a non-federation pit not far from a federation pit, conditions in the former being determined by Judge Drake-Brockman and in the latter by the central industrial authority. I cannot believe that such an arrangement can assist in the smooth working of the coal industry. If there is to be a central industrial authority I prefer that it should deal with all the employees in the coal-mining industry.
– The other employees are quite satisfied with Judge DrakeBrockman.
– I have been told that all the employers are satisfied with him, but I do not believe that that is correct. The proper method is to give the central industrial authority power to deal with all employees working in the coalmining industry, as was the case up to the end of last year, when the alteration withdrawing from the judge all those disputes which now come within this clause was made.
– The practical answer is that the separation has been made. I admit that the position is anomalous; but coal production has been hindered and obstructed by stoppages in that portion of the coal-mining industry in which members of the federation are employed. Broadly speaking, what the honorable member says is correct, that the existing authority dealing with the conditions of employees who do not belong to the miners’ federation is doing that work satisfactorily, and few, if any, stoppages have occurred in relation to employees in that section of the industry.
– The conditions for all craftsmen are the same in all pits.
– That is so in the case of engine-drivers and the like. I ask the honorable member to allow the present system to remain. It has not been tried out sufficiently long to condemn it, and I hope that it will be successful.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 31 and 32 agreed to.
Clause 33- (1.) The Minister may, on the recommendation of the Commissioner, appoint persons to be Local Industrial Authorities. (2.) Any person so appointed shall be deemedto be an officer of the Commissioner appointed under section sixteen of this Act. (3.) The conditions and terms of employment (other than as to tenure of office) of a Local Industrial Authority shall be such as the Minister, by order, determines. (4.) A Local Industrial Authority may exercise his power under this Act, within such limits as to locality or otherwise as are specified by the Commissioner. (5.) The term of office of a Local Industrial Authority shall be for a period specified in the instrument of appointment (not exceeding two years from the date of appointment), or for the period during which this Act continues in operation, whichever is the shorter. (6.) The Minister may remove a Local Industrial Authority from office for misbehaviour or incapacity.
.- I move -
That the clause be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following clause: - “33. - (1.) The Governor-General may establish Local Industrial Authorities. (2.) A Local Industrial Authority may exercise its power underthis Act within such limits as to the locality or otherwise as are specified by the Commissioner. (3.) A Local Industrial Authority shall consist of a Chairman and a representative of the owners and a representative of ‘ the Federation nominated respectively in the manner prescribed and appointed by the Governor-General. (4.) The term of office of a Chairman of a Local Industrial Authority shall be for a period specified in the instrument of appointment not exceeding two years from the date of appointment or for the period during which this Act continues in operation, whichever is the shorter “.
This amendment is in principle on the same lines as that which I moved to clause 29, dealing with the central industrial authority, but it is clear from the attitude of the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) and his followers that it will not be accepted. However, having moved it, I shall leave it for the committee to express its view. Its effect is to appoint one representative each of the owners and the miners’ federation to sit with the local industrial authority.
– Will the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) agree to insert in sub-clause 6, after the word “may”, the words “on the recommendation of the commissioner “ ?
– That will make the removal of a local industrial authority from office for misbehaviour or incapacity depend on the recommendation of the commissioner, just as his appointment does. I am agreeable to such an amendment.
Amendment (by Mr. Spender) agreed to-
That, in sub-clause (6.), after the word “may”, the following words be inserted: - “ on the recommendation of the Commissioner,”.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 34 - (1.) Subject to this Act, a Local Industrial Authority may -
Industrial Authority on subjectmatters not covered by’ any award of the Court or award or order of the Central Industrial Authority.
.- I propose to move amendments which are in keeping with what I believe the Government intends. If the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) does not agree that they are, he should explain what he means by the words “ local matters “. I wish to insert in paragraph a after the word “local”, the word “ industrial “, thus making the paragraph refer to “local industrial matters “. Surely it is not intended that the local industrial authority should settle disputes as to production problems, or matrimonial causes!
– Paragraph a reads - “ settle disputes as to any local matters likely to affect the amicable relations of employers . and their employees
That shows that the local matter must be industrial, and likely to interfere with continuous production.
– Production may be held not to be an industrial matter. If a production committee is established, will a new field of industrial disputes arise out of arguments as to whether a mine shall go into production one way or the other? The Government would be well advised to accept the amendment. I propose also to move in sub-clause c to insert the word “ local “ before the word “ industrial “ first occurring. A consequential amendment will be required in paragraph d by inserting the word “ industrial “ before the word “ subject-matter “.
– The Coal-mining Industry Employment Regulations define “ local matter “ as -
Any matter howsoever arising which specially affects employees in the coal-mining industry employed in the locality in respect of which a local reference board is established.
I think there is enough in the text to indicate that the matters are industrial, but I am quite prepared to accept the honorable member’s first, third and fourth amendments, but not the second.
– That really depends on the treatment which this committee gives to the production committees which are referred to in clause 38. I understand that an amendment will be moved to limit the operations of the production committees.
– ‘If that, or anything like it, is carried the clause can be recommitted.
Amendments (by Mr. Holt) agreed to-
That, in sub-clause (1.), paragraph (a), after the word “ local “, the word “ industrial “ be inserted.
That, in sub-clause (1.), paragraph (c), after the word “ any “, the word “ local “ be inserted.
That, in sub-clause (1.), paragraph (d), the words “ subject-matters “ be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ industrial matters “’.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 35 agreed to.
Clause 36- ( 1. ) The Commissioner may, in pursuance of section sixteen of this Act, appoint industrial officers to inquire into or investigate, and report to Local Industrial Authorities on, disputes, industrial disputes or matters before Local Industrial Authorities. (2.) A Local Industrial Authority may, after consideration of the report of an industrial officer with respect to any dispute, industrial dispute or matter before him, forthwith deal with the dispute, industrial dispute or matter in accordance with the provisions of tills division without further inquiry or investigation.
– This clause seems to me to be the most objectionable in the bill. Under sub-clause 1 industrial officers are to be appointed to deal with disputes, industrial or otherwise. The provision in subclause 2 seems to be extraordinary. The sub-clause refers to “ disputes “ as well as to “ industrial disputes”, but I confine myself to industrial disputes. An industrial officer may be appointed. In view of some other appointments this Government has made, the industrial officer may be any one.
– “ Jock “ Garden, for instance.
– Yes. He will snoop around and then make a report; but he is under no obligation to ask the management to tell its story. Then, without even the employer knowing anything about it, the local authority can, on the ex parte statement of the industrial officer, reach a conclusion and forthwith deal with the dispute. I suggest that the whole clause be omitted or that, if it is to stand, provision should be made that the local industrial authority shall deal with the dispute only after having provided an opportunity for the other party to present its case.
– Sub-clause 1 which sets out the matters which industrial officers may deal with, would be improved by the omission of the word “ disputes “ first occurring.
– The objective of the clause is illustrated by what often happens on the northern coal-fields, which are the most important. The chairman of the local board is Mr. Connell. A great many claims involving trifling amounts come before him. For instance, a miner may claim water money for working in wet conditions. Mr. Connell cannot, because of the pressure of work, visit all the pits in the NewcastleMaitland district. The object of this clause is to enable him to send an in dustrial officer, who will be appointed by the commission, to inquire into the matters which, although trivial, may lead to a stoppage, so that the local industrial authority shall be enabled to deal with them then and there.
– I think that such a provision as that is necessary, but should there not be an obligation on the industrial officer to obtain the views of the employer before making his report?
– -Could we not deal with the situation by inserting in sub-clause 2 after the words “ industrial dispute “ before the following words: “ (such report to set out the views of all parties to such dispute) “?
– Yes. The word “ dispute “ first appearing in sub-clause 2 should also be left out.
– I do not think that is necessary. The industrial officer makes his report setting out both sides of the dispute and the local authority will deal with it. Is that agreed?
– No, I thinkthat the words proposed to be inserted should be inserted after the words “industrial dispute “, and that the word “ dispute “, first occurring, should also be left out.
– That is an improvement, and I am agreeable to it.
Amendment (by Mr. Spender) agreed to-
That, in sub-clause ( 1 ) , the word “ disputes “, first occurring, be left out.
That, in sub-clause (2), the word “dispute “, first and third occurring, be left out, and after the word “ him “ the following words be inserted: “ (which report in the case of an industrial dispute shall set out the views of all parties to the dispute) “.
.- I am not entirely happy about this clause. I think that the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) is too generous on the question of investigation of disputes. Clause 36 provides for the appointment of industrial officers to inquire into and investigate disputes. Clause 34 1b provides that the local industrial authority may investigate and report upon any industrial dispute.
– Under that clause only an industrial dispute referred to it by the Central Industrial Authority.
– The local industrial authority will have power to deal with local matters.
– I know, hut clause 34 1 b deals with industrial disputes referred to the local industrial authority by the central industrial authority.
– The local industrial authority will have authority to deal with local disputes. Otherwise, why would it be appointed? Clause 39 1 b sets out that-
The Production Committee shall deal with all industrial disputes arising at the coal mine for which it is appointed.
Does the Attorney-General think that three authorities will not lead to a great deal of complication?
– No. Clause 39. 1 b refers to industrial disputes atthe mine. It is proposed that the production committee shall consist of an equal number of representatives of the management and the federation. If the production committee can settle a dispute, it should be settled by it. The production committee’s jurisdiction will depend on its reaching agreement. The honorable member sees that?
– Yes, but we still have three cooks on the same broth.
– Not at all. We want to prevent that.
– But the Government is not doing so. On the contrary, it is appointing three cooks for the same purpose. I think that it would be better to eliminate all reference to the local industrial authority.
– I agree that, if the production committee can settle disputes, there will be much less work for the local industrial authority, but we must retain that authority to deal with cases in respect of which the production committee cannot agree.
– I still think that it would be better to eliminate all references to the local industrial authorities.
– I think this is a distinct improvement.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 37 agreed to.
Clause38- (1.) The Commissioner may appoint at any coal mine a Production Committee consisting of an equal number of members representing the persons engaged in the management and conduct of the coal mine, and of members representing the Federation. (2.) The Commissioner may appoint in addition a person to represent him on any Production Committee.
– I have an amendment to this clause which I submit for the consideration of the Attorney-General. I move -
That, in sub-clause (1.), the word “Production “ be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “Pit”.
Already in this measure we have dealt with coal production councils. We on this side of the chamber have taken no exception to the establishment of such councils, because we believe that they can do no harm, and probably may serve quite a useful purpose. However, we cannot see any need to increase the already extensive machinery which governs the industry at present. A further addition to it may hinder rather than help the working of the industry. The setting up of pit committees was discussed in Canberra in July, 1942, when the Canberra code was agreed upon. The view expressed then was that pit committees would make for the rapid settlement of industrial disputes by way of conference between mine managers and miners at the pits. The establishment of these committees was agreed to by the owners, but objections were raised by a number of miners. I am sure that the AttorneyGeneral will not suggest that there is any difficulty whatever with regard to the production side of the management of mines. Already the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) has committed himself in that regard. It will be agreed, therefore, that the only reason for the falling output of coal at present is the refusal of the men to work. The coal is there, and the management is efficient, but coal cannot be produced unless the miners work. If this industrial side of the problem can be remedied - and I take it that that is one of the things which the AttorneyGeneral hopes will be achieved by this measure- there should be a great improvement in coal production. The amendment which I have moved restricts the functions of the proposed committees to investigation of industrial matters. It seems to me that the very name “Production Committee “ may provide grounds for further disputes. The management of a mine has, as its sole object, increased production, and on the other hand, it appears that the miners have as their sole object highest wages in return for the lowest production. The following is an interesting report which appeared in the Cessnock Eagle: -
Webb said that Pit Committees are doing a good job. The men who are on these committees are paid by the companies for the time occupied, something we are trying to establish here,
The “Webb referred to is Mr. “ Paddy “ “Webb, the New Zealand Minister of Mines. I put it to the Attorney-General that if he persists in terming these committees “ production committees “ a wide avenue may be created for new industrial disputes. Already provision is made for production councils. The men are not concerned ‘with production. That is purely the task of the mine management; but it is the duty of the men, in cooperation with the management, to consider matters of industrial moment. The only effect of the amendment which I have moved would be to improve industrial harmony. My fear is that the proposed production committees may have a wide charter to go around prying into all sorts of matters and consequently digging up new troubles in the industry. I urge the Attorney-General to accept the amendment which I have moved.
.The amendment moved by the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) is merely splitting straws. Apparently, somebody has been supplying the honor.able member with the ideas he has expressed. Acceptance of the amendment would involve alterations throughout this very lengthy clause. I heard the speech that was made by the New Zealand Minister for Mines, Mr. P. C. Webb, to whom reference has been made, and that gentleman did not speak of pit committees, but of production committees, for which there is provision in the New Zealand act. Nearly every worthwhile idea for the improvement of industrial technique has come from the operatives. Very often these ideas are stolen by other people and are made the subject of patent rights. Generally speaking, the workers get very little benefit from them. However, in most industries, operatives are interested in stimulating production, and they should be given every possible incentive in that direction. In my opinion, the term pit committees would rather detract from the status of these bodies whereas, if a miner were appointed to a production committee he would feel that he was being elevated to something really worth while. Although miners generally have not the technical knowledge necessary to fit them for jobs as managers, they often have valuable ideas in regard to stimulating production, and they should be given credit for those ideas. Only too often an improvement suggested by an employee is taken up by a manager who advances it as his own and gives little credit to its originator. I believe that these production committees will be able to do a lot of good. As Mr. Webb has said, they stimulate production. There are some miners in my own electorate who do not agree that such committees are of advantage, but generally speaking their value is recognized. Foi instance there is a production committee at the Cessnock No. 2 mine which has an Australian-wide record for continuous work. It has never had a stoppage. We should be content with the term “ production committees “, rather than endeavour to lower the status of these bodies by referring to them as “ pit committees “.
.The name is not the important matter; it is the function that really counts. I suggest that in the ordinary range of industrial activity, miners have ready access to managers and owners in regard to production ideas. No doubt it is true that many improvements that have been effected in production methods in industry generally have been devised by the employees, I see no reason why in this case, collaboration between employers and employees should be made the subject of statute. Every employee engaged in a coal mine can go to his employer and suggest an improvement in production methods. That has been done in the past. I would have no objection to the appointment of these committees .were it not for the fact that it might give to -the miners the impression that they should have a say in the formulation of the general developmental policy of the mines. The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) must he aware that the ordinary miner does not usually have the knowledge of how a pit should or should not be developed, and that such information is possessed only by the technical officers of the mine. The same thing applies to all’ phases of industry. Although I quite approve of the name “ Production Committee” I do not approve of the functions of these committees, and I believe that their introduction will lead only to more trouble in the mines than there has been to date.
– I think that the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) will agree with the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) that an important matter to consider is not the name of a committee, but its functions. The committee should advise regarding the causes of industrial disputes and assist to settle them. The Canberra code provided that a committee should be appointed at each colliery and that any matter in dispute or likely to cause a dispute should be referred, to it. The committees provided for in the bill would-be able to delve into matters of production, but the ordinary coal-miner is not competent to deal with those problems.
– Where did. the honorable member get his information?
– From highly qualified technical men who are engaged in the industry, and who direct production in the mines. I am agreeable to the retention of the name “ Production committees “, but I suggest that the committee should not be called upon to advise with respect to means by which the production of coal might be increased apart from industrial issues?
.- I should like the clause to be retained because the production committees will not be representative of the miners alone, but will consist of an equal number of members representing the persons engaged in the management and conduct of the mine and of members representing the miners’ federation. Suppose we had a committee in which two members represented the management and two the miners’ federation. The main object is to reach agreement on all matters, and if there were disagreement the committee would fail to that degree. One of the functions of the committees will be to deal with local disputes, and to endeavour by conciliation to maintain harmonious relations between the miners and the management. What are to be their functions with respect to production? Paragraph a of sub-clause 1 of clause 39 provides that the committee shall advise the persons concerned with the management and conduct of the coal mine, or in the case of a controlled mine advise the commissioner, with respect to means by which production may be increased. If a committee consists of four members there will be an equal number of representatives of the management and the employees. If a committee can agree it will tender advice to the management, but it will not meddle in matters that do not concern it. The appointment of production committees may afford a solution of many of the difficulties experienced in the industry. The name “Production committee “ should be retained. The management would not be bound to accept the advice tendered to it by the committee. I understand that similar committees have proved successful in New Zealand and in Great Britain. No harm could come from a trial of this plan and I ask honorable members to allow it to be tried.
– There would be no objection to giving a trial to the proposed production committees if chey went no farther than offering advice, but the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) and other honorable members have told us that the miners are men apart. They cannot understand the ordinary ways of industrial life, and must be coddled and petted. The Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) wants to know what is wrong with asking for the committees’ advice, but he might also inquire why the miners strike over matters in the Canberra code that were agreed to. In other industrial undertakings no production committees advise the management as to the best way to produce the commodities made in their factories. The production committees are to be given a roving commission, and may consist of men who have not the necessary training and experience to advise the management on matters about which the management is mainly concerned. Some of the miners are irresponsible, and if such men happen to become members of production committees, as they probably will, and no notice were taken of their recommendations, industrial strife would immediately be fomented. The work of these committees should be restricted to the offering of advice regarding industrial matters and good relations between the management and the employees.
.In industries other than the coal-mining industry rewards are given to men responsible for ideas that lead to improved production, but that is not the practice in the coal-mining industry. When I was about fifteen years of age and worked in the Burwood colliery a boy conceived the idea of taking a set of skips round a turn without having to throw the rope off the “ Tommy Dodd “ rollers. Previously an adult was engaged to put the rope back after every set of skips had gone round the turn. That idea was of great benefit to the mine management. We should enable the miners to feel that suggestions for improved production would be appreciated. We should not change the name of the committee to a pit committee because the word “ pit “ is objectionable to the miners. If they were encouraged to give useful hints with regard to production I feel that production could be stimulated. The mine managers have said that they are afraid that the production committees would interfere with the working of the mines. Is that not what a friend of the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) named Campbell has told the Attorney-General? These committees will not interfere with mine managements, whose right to control the mines is asserted in the Coal Mines Regulation Act of New South Wales. I urge honorable members to show in this discussion a helpful spirit that will promote peace and harmony in this industry. To refer to them as pit committees “ gives the men the idea that they are not doing anything to help production.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 39- (2.) If the Production Committee at a coal mine is unable to deal with an industrial dispute or matter to the satisfaction of all persons concerned, it shall refer the industrial dispute or matter to the Central Industrial Authority or to the Local Industrial Authority, as the case requires.
– I move -
That sub-clause (2.) be left out.
By the inclusion of this sub-clause, the Government appears to be adding machinery to machinery. The present procedure seems to be adequate. The pit-top committees may refer these matters to the district officer, who in turn may refer them to the local reference board or, on this occasion, to the local industrial authority. Alternatively, they can take up the matter with the owners or the superintendent of a group of collieries.
– The honorable member’s point is well taken. An industrial dispute or order can go to the central industrial authority or a local industrial authority in another way.I accept the amendment.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
An award, order or determination of the Central Industrial Authority or a decision of a Local Industrial Authority shall not he challenged, appealed against, quashed or called into question, or be subject to prohibition, mandamus or injunction, in any court on any account whatever.
.I move -
That, before the word “ An “, the following words be inserted: - “There shall be an appeal to the court in manner prescribed from any award, order or determination of the Central Industrial Authority and from any decision of a Local Industrial Authority save as aforesaid “.
The clause then proceeds to declare that an award or determination of the central industrial authority or a decision of a local industrial authority shall not be challenged, appealed against, quashed or called into question. The purpose of the amendment is to enable an appeal to the Arbitration Court from a decision of the central industrial authority or a local industrial authority. Earlier I explained why regulations issued by the Menzies ‘Government did not provide for an appeal from the Central Reference Board to the Arbitration Court. The reason was that the decision not to allow an appeal was unanimously supported by the representatives of the owners and the employees, and at that time a judge of the Arbitration Court presided over the Central Reference Board. Therefore, the case for allowing an appeal to the court was not so strong as it is now. This control should be exercised by ‘ the supreme industrial authority of this country, namely, the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, and should apply equally to the coal-mining industry as to any other industry.
– The amendment proposed by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) would destroy the whole industrial system created by the bill. If an appeal be allowed to the court from this authority, everything that we hope to gain by expedition will disappear. The broad principle which the honorable member for Fawkner adopted when he was Minister for Labour and National Service, of segregating the coalmining industry for the purpose of settling industrial disputes will disappear.
– There is also the consideration that a judge of the Arbitration Court presided over the Central Reference Board.
– I realize that a change has been made in effect, and that the committee has determined who only shall be the chairman; but this clause, which provides that an award or determination shall not be challenged, continues the existing practice. I ask the honorable member not to press the amendment.
.- I understand, but I do not necessarily agree with, the view of the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) regarding the allowing of an appeal from the central industrial authority to a higher authority, but I urge him “to reconsider his decision not to allow an appeal from a local industrial authority. I have heard from all sides that one of the results of the present system, under which no appeal is possible, except in certain exceptional cases, is a large number of strikes when the decision given by the Local Reference Board is contrary to the wishes of the miners. It would help to prevent these disputes if an appeal were allowed from the decision of the local industrial authority to the central industrial authority. The adoption of my suggestion would not upset the principles of the bill.
.The Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) has already indicated that the kind of appeal which I suggested is not acceptable to him. Therefore, I shall support the suggestion of the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan). According to my information, the representatives of the miners pressed for the abolition of the light to appeal from the local industrial authority to the central industrial authority. In practice, that has the effect of denying to the owners this opportunity of appeal because when a decision is given against the miners and they resent it, they either go on strike or threaten to strike, with the result that the matter is again referred to the tribunal. That has occurred on several occasions since Mr. Willis became chairman. I shall cite one example. On the 14th May, 1943, the. Central Reference Board, -with Judge Drake-Brockman presiding, made an interim award fixing the rate for shuttlecar drivers, and reserving the right of either party to ask for a review after the shuttle-car had operated for three months. Immediately upon the expiration of that period the union renewed its claim for a rate of 33s. a day and, after a further hearing; the judge, on the 18th August, 1943, confirmed his earlier fixation of 2Ss. Sd. a day. Only two of these units were in use in the State, and only two employees were affected by the award, but seven days’ production was lost because of strikes over this matter at the colliery concerned. Despite the unchallengable award made, and subsequently confirmed by a judge of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, the union again renewed its claim for the rate of 33s. a day, and on the 26th January last the central coal authority grantedit in full.
In practice the only parties who are penalized by this refusal to permit an appeal are the owners. They are bound to obey the regulations. But if the miners are not prepared to accept, a decision, they can go on strike or threaten to strike. In that way they are able to have the matter reconsidered by the tribunal. For that reason, I support the suggestion of the honorable member for Flinders.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 41 and 42 agreed to.
Clause 43 (Representation of parties at hearing).
.I ask the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) to explain whether any special reasons prompted him or the Government to exclude the legal profession from participating in matters in dispute which come before the tribunals. On a previous occasion, the right honorable gentleman inserted a similar decision in the Contracts Adjustment Regulations, only to find later that it was necessary, in order to allow the parties to have their viewpoints properly represented before the court, to permit them to obtain legal assistance. It would be odd if this Government refused some members of the community liable to sickness the opportunity to consult their medical advisers. But in cases where legal difficulties arise, the Attorney-General, for some reason best known to himself, excludes thelegal profession from participation.
– I am merely continuing the existing practice under the regulations.
– Then legal representation will be permitted only with the consent of all parties.
– In the matter of contracts adjustment regulations, I considered that it was necessary to allow the parties to have legal assistance, and the regulations were amended accordingly. An industrial matter is not the same thing.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 44 agreed to.
Clause 45 - (1.) If any person claims that he has sustained any actual loss or damage by reason of an exercise by the Commissioner of the power conferred upon him by paragraph (g) of subsection(2) of section seventeen of this Act, he may, within three months after the exercise of the power, lodge with the Commissioner a claim in writing setting out full particulars of the loss or damage and the question whether any and, if any, what amount of compensation should in all the circumstances of the case be paid to that person shall be settled by agreement between him and the Commissioner, subject to the approval of the Minister, or, failing any such agreement, in such manner as is prescribed. (2.) No action, suit or other proceeding shall be brought to enforce any contract or agreement relating to or affecting the supply or distribution of coal (including sale, transportation by land or sea, loading, discharge, delivery, storage and use) unless the leave of the Commissioner is first obtained.
– I direct attention to the words in sub-clause 1: “ If any person claims that he has sustained any actual loss or damage by reason of an exercise by the commissioner of the power conferred upon him …” and ask the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) to explain the reason for the inclusion of the word “ actual “. As the right honorable gentleman will see, it may have a curiously limiting effect upon the expression “ loss or damage “. There may be some real loss or damage which may be, and should be, recoverable, but which is not yet resolved into terms of actual monetary loss.
– This clause should be read in conjunction with clause 17 2 g.
– That paragraph provides for the cancellation of a contract. It provides that the commissioner shall have power “ to terminate, suspend, vary or modify any existing contract . . “. There may be loss or damage arising from the termination of a contract which is not actual loss or damage.
– I agree to the omission of the word “ actual “.
Amendment (by Mr. Menzies) agreed to-
That, in sub-clause (1.). the word” actual “ be left out.
– I draw attention to the concluding words of subclause 1, “ subject to the approval of the Minister, or, failing any such agreement, in such manner as is prescribed “. It would be more consistent with the general practice if the words “ in such manner as is prescribed “ were left out. I move -
That, in sub-clause (1.), the words “in such manner as is prescribed” bo left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words : - “ by an action by the owner against the Commonwealth in any court of competent jurisdiction “.
That would mean that in the event of an agreement being reached the matter would be disposed of, but otherwise it would leave to the owner the right to his remedy in court.
– I agree to the amendment. Amendment agreed to.
– Sub-clause 2 seems to be a. curious provision. It reads -
No action, suit or other proceeding, shall be brought to enforce any contract or agreement relating to or affecting the supply or distribution of coal . . . unless the leave of the commissioner is first obtained.
The commissioner has already been given power in clause 17 2 g to terminate, suspend, vary or modify any existing contract or agreement.
– The sub-clause is taken from the existing regulations, but I agree with the right honorable gentleman that it is not desirable.
Amendment (by Mr. Menzies) agreed to -
That sub-clause (2.) be left out.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 46 to 49 agreed to.
Clause 50 - (l.) Where any question arises … as to whether the safety or health of employees at the coal mine is endangered . . . the Commissioner may refer the question , to an inspector of coal mines of the State with a request that the question be at once considered and reported upon. (2.) Where any such question has been so referred to an inspector of coal mines that inspector shall forthwith make or cause to be made such inspections, investigations and inquiries as he deems necessary and shall furnish to the Commissioner a report setting out his opinion on the question referred to him. (3.) If the Commissioner after receipt of the report from the Inspector of Coal Mines is of opinion that the safety or health of employees at the coal mine is, or is not, or is or is not likely, to be endangered by all or any of the matters referred to in sub-section (1.) of this section, he may, by order, direct the owner of the coal mine and any other person to do or refrain from doing all such matters or things in relation to the operation of coal mines as are specified in the order. (4.) The owner of the coal mine shall forthwith comply with the directions contained in the order.
– I move -
That, at the end of sub-clause (1.), the following words be added: - “so far as possible in co-operation with the person appointed or elected by the persons employed in the coal mines in the State or district in which the coal mine is situated to inspect coal mines on their behalf.”.
With a view to ensuring the fullest investigation of any question as to safety or health in connexion with any mine, it appears to the Government to be desirable that the representative of the miners appointed under a State law for the purpose of watching their interest - he is termed the “ check inspector “ - should be associated with the inspector who is required to report on such questions. It is proposed, therefore, that the official inspector shall be required to investigate and consider the question and report upon it, in co-operation withthe employees’ representative.
– I suggest that after the words “ in co-operation with “ the words “ the manager of the coal mine and with” be inserted in the amendment.
– I am agreeable to that addition.
Amendment amended accordingly, and, as amended, agreed to.
– I suggest that in sub-clause 2 the words “ as he deems necessary “ be left out and that the following words “ as are required by the commissioner “ be inserted in their stead. I suggest also that all the words after “ Commissioner “ be left out with a view to the substitution of the following words, “ his report setting out the relation of such question to the relevant provisions of any act of the State in which the coal mine is situated relating to safety and health in coal mines.”. The sub-clause would then read -
Where any such question has been so referred to an inspector of coal mines, that inspector shall forthwith make or cause to be made such inspections, investigations and inquiries as are required by the commissioner and shall furnish to the commissioner his report setting out the relation of such question to the relevant provisions of any act of the State in which the coal mine is situated relating to safety and health in coal mines.
In my opinion, he should not make such inspections, investigations and inquiries as he deems necessary, but only those that are required by the commissioner. The provision that the report shall deal only with the question referred to him does not go far enough. We have had cases of investigations being made by a Minister of Mines in New South Wales where he has cut across State legislation. The act of New South Wales is specific. Section 2S of the Coal Mines Regulation Act reads - (1.) If in any respect an inspector finds any mine or part thereof, or any matter, thing, or practice in or connected with any such mine, or with the control, management, or direction thereof by the manager, to be dangerous or defective so as in the opinion of the inspector to threaten or tend to the bodily injury of any person, the inspector may give notice in writing thereof to tha owner, agent, or manager of the mine.
The inspector shall state in the notice the particulars in which he considers the mine or any part thereof, or any matter, thing, or practice to be dangerous or defective, and require the same to be remedied, or if the same cannot be remedied, require the men to be withdrawn from the mine or part; and, unless the same be forthwith remedied or the men withdrawn he shall report the same to the chief inspector. (2.) If the owner, agent, or manager of the mine objects to remedy the matter complained of in the notice, he may withinfive days after the receipt of the receipt of the notice send his objection in writing, stating the grounds thereof, tothechief inspector, who may withdraw the notice or refer the matter to the court to be determined.
– I cannot agree to the deletion of the words “ ashe deems necessary “. Should the commissioner refer a question of health or safety to the Inspector of Coal Mines of the State with a request that it be considered and reported upon, that question may involve the safe working of the whole mine. That is to say, it may involve more than is submitted to the inspector by the commissioner, because associated matters may have to be investigated. I agree to the other suggestion of the honorable member.
– I agree with the Minister’s remarks as to the words “ as he deems necessary “.
Amendment (by Mr. Harrison) agreed to -
That, at the end of sub-clause (2.), the following words be. added: - “and as to the relation of that question to therelevant provisions of any Act of the State in which the coal mine is situated relating to safety and health in coal mines “.
Amendments (by Dr. Evatt) agreed to-
That, at the end of sub-clause (3.), thefollowing proviso be added: - “Provided that no such order shall derogate from any provisions of the law of any State prescribing requirements to bc observed for securing the safety or health of persons engaged in or about coal mines.”.
That, in sub-clause (4.), after the word “ mine “, the following words be inserted : - “ and any such other person “.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 51 to 59 agreed to.
Clause 60- (1.) The Commissioner may direct that a person shall not be employed in the coalmining industry and, so long as the direction continues in force -
Amendment (by Dr. Evatt) agreed to-
That sub-clause (2.)be left out.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 61 consequentially amended and, as amended, agreed to.
This Act shall continue in operation until a date to be fixed by proclamation, and no longer, but in any event not longer than six months after His Majesty ceases to be engaged in war.
Amendment (by Mr. Ryan) proposed -
That the words “ in war “ be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words: - “in the present war with
Germany, Japan and their respective Allies. Provided however that the cessation of operations of the said Act shall not for a further period of two years affect or prejudice the enforcement of any right to recover compensation from the Commonwealth in accordance with this Act.”
– If the honorable member would confine his amendment to the insertion of the words “ the present “ after the words “ engaged in “ at the end of the clause, 1 would accept it, for I have an amendment which will cover the purpose he wishes to achieve by the remainder of his amendment.
– That will suit me.
Amendment amended accordingly and, as amended, agreed to.
Amendment (by Dr. Evatt) agreed to-
That at the end of the clause the following sub-clause be added: - “ (2.) Notwithstanding the provisions of the last preceding sub-section, this Act shall continue in operation for the purposes of the enforcement of any right to compensation arising under this Act and the making of any application, and the determination of any question, under section twenty-three of this Act:
Provided that no such right to compensation shall be enforceable unless the claim for the compensation is made within twelve months after this Act ceases to be in operationfor purposes other than those specified in this sub-section.”.
– I suggest for the consideration of the AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt) the insertion of an additional clause. I shall not move for its insertion, because it requires a little consideration. I have in any hand a draft of a general compensation section, in case there are some matters which should give rise to a claim for compensation that are not covered by specific provisions. I shall hand this draft to the right honorable gentleman. If he considers it to be, either in its present form or in an altered form, a provision that he can accept, he might make arrangements to have it inserted in the bill in the Senate.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Messages recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s messages) :
Motions (by Dr. Evatt) agreed to -
Resolutions reported and - by leave - adopted.
In committee: Consideration resumed.
Schedule verbally amended, and, as amended, agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; report - by leave - adopted.
Dr. EVATT (Barton - Attorney-
General and Minister for External Affairs) [7.15 a.m.]. - by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a third time.
Earlier I promised to give the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) certain information, and I take this opportunity to do so. While the bill will replace practically the whole of the Coal Control Regulations, those provisions of the regulations - regulations 27a to 27e and regulation 27f - which are directed to preventing stoppages of work at mines and keeping mines open, will be continued in operation. With regard to the Coal Mining Industry Employment Regulations, those provisions dealing with the central coal authority will be omitted and certain amendments will be made to exclude from the jurisdiction of the Central Reference Board, and the local reference boards, those matters of which the central industrial authority and the local industrial authorities under the bill are to have cognizance.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed (vide page 820) on motion by Dr. Evatt -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– This bill does not break fresh ground. I have said all I desire to say on it in the debate on the Coal Production (War-time) Bill 1944, and, therefore, I have nothing to add.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Sitting suspended from 7.19 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Motion (by Mr. Curtin) - by leave - agreed to -
That so much of Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent notice of motion for the next sitting for leave to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Income Tax Assessment Act 1936-1943 being considered forthwith at this sitting.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Income Tax Assessment Act 1930-1943.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill seeks to effect a radical change in the basis of the income tax liability. Up to the present, taxation for the financial year has been levied on the taxable income derived during the preceding year. Now it is proposed to advance by twelve months the income year on which the tax is based, so that taxation for a financial year shall be based on the income derived in that year. This accords with the recommendation of the joint parliamentary committee appointed to examine this subject. The recommendations of the parliamentary committee have been adopted by the Government. Since the report of the committee was tabled in this House, honorable members have no doubt familiarized themselves with the proposed plan, and accordingly it is unnecessary for me to speak at any great length on the provisions of this bill. The circumstances which have prompted the alteration of taxation are that taxpayers whose incomes decline or cease are faced with a heavy liability to tax at high war-time rates when, in most cases, their financial resources are inadequate to meet their liability. This bill will afford relief particularly in these cases, and also to the general body of taxpayers who are concerned with the ever-present liability to tax on income of the past year. The Government proposes that the plan shall be put into operation as from the 1st July next. Broadly, the plan may be divided into two parts, one relating to the taxation of the salary and wages of employees, and the other relating to the taxation of business and investment income derived by non-employees.
With regard to employees, there will be little disturbance of the present system of collecting tax by means of deductions made from salary or wages. Tax deductions made from current earnings will be applied in payment of tax on the earnings of the same year. It is not proposed to depart from the present system of annual returns and annual assessments. After the close of each year an assessment will be made on the employee’s income of that year. Should the tax deductions exceed the tax assessed, the employee will receive a refund; should the tax deductions be less than the tax assessed, the employee will be required to make a cash payment.
It is essential to the success of the new basis of taxation that tax deductions made in the year shall be applied in payment of tax assessed on the income of that year. Whereas, at present, tax stamps are issued to the majority of employees, difficulty would be encountered when the assessment is being paid in determining whether the stamps presented in payment of that assessment related to tax deductions of the current year or of the previous year. If, however, the employer, instead of issuing tax stamps, pays the amounts deducted into revenue, there will be by the 30th June in each year a clear record of the tax deductions .made from the employee’s earnings of that year. It is accordingly proposed, for these and other reasons, to extend the system of the collection of tax deductions by means of employers’ group schemes. Employers of more than ten persons will be required to form a group and pay the group deductions into revenue at regular intervals.
Under the plan proposed for taxpayers in the non-employee class, tax for the current year will be based, on the income of that year, and will be collected during the income year by means of provisional tax. The amount of the provisional tax will be calculated upon the same taxable income as that assessed for the preceding year. After the close of the year in which the provisional tax is paid, an assessment based on the actual income derived in that year will be made, and provisional tax paid will be applied in payment of the amount of tax assessed, with any necessary adjustments. In those cases where the income consists partly of salary and wages and partly of investment or other income, provisional tax will be payable on the income not subject to tax deductions. Where income other than salary and wages is small, the taxpayer will not be required to pay provisional tax. Income tax on such other income will be payable on final assessment. The reasons that have led to the change in the basis of assessment of individuals do not, in the main, apply in respect of companies. Companies will continue to be assessed as at present for the financial year on the income of the preceding year.
Under the new method of taxation, tax will be payable for the next financial year, 1944-1945, on the income of that year ending on the 30th June, 1945. For the present financial year, 1943-44, tax is payable on income of the year ended the 30th June, 1943. The Government has decided to give effect to the parliamentary committee’s recommendation that tax on the income of the year ended the 30th June, 1944, shall be payable to the extent only of one-quarter of the amount of tax assessable at current ratesThreequarters of the tax assessable will be cancelled. Deductions made from the salary and wages of employees up to the 31st March, 1944, will have been applied to .pay the tax payable on income of the year “ended the 30th June, 1943. The liability of employees to tax on income of the year ended the 30th June, 1944, will be, as a general rule, discharged by the tax deductions which will be made in the months from April to June, 1944.
With regard to - non-employees, it is proposed that the uncancelled 25 per cent, tax on income of the year ended the 30th June, 1944, will be collected in three equal instalments over the next three years.
Special provisions in the bill are designed to avoid cancellation of unduly high tax where income of the year ended the 30th June, 1944, is abnormally high, owing to such causes ‘as unusual receipts of income, the manipulation of stock values, deferment of expenditure, &c. It is necessary in these cases that revenue shall be safeguarded, and, accordingly, the amount of the cancellation in such cases will depend on the taxable income of the year ended the 30th June, 194B. It is recognized that the application of a rigid formula to these cases might create inequities, and for this reason the Commissioner of Taxation is being given a discretionary power to meet the special circumstances of any case. The decision of the commissioner is subject to review by the Board of Referees constituted under the War-time (Company) Tax Assessment Act.
I do not propose to describe at any great length the other amendments contained in the bill as they are explained in a memorandum that will be circulated amongst honorable members. Ample time will be available for the study of the memorandum as the second-reading debate will not be resumed until next week. I may mention, however, that the bill restates the provisions of the Income Tax Assessment Act which permit the deduction of contributions made by employers to funds to provide pensions, retiring allowances, and other benefits for their employees and their dependants. The Government supports the principle expressed in the legislation that employers should be encouraged to establish and maintain these funds to provide some measure of financial security for employees who are unable to make adequate provision for the days of their retirement from active employment. Recent examination has disclosed, however, that the directorates of some large public companies are taking an undue advantage of the liberal nature of the income tax allowance. These companies have established funds from which the general body of employees are excluded, the moneys in the funds being allocated for the benefit of a small number of selected senior executive officers of the companies. In one case a public company has recently paid £50,000 to a fund to provide retiring allowances of £20,000 for its managing director, £10,000 for its general manager, and sums ranging from £1,000 to £4,000 for its departmental managers. The saving to the company in taxation is over £20,000, so that the cost to the company of establishing the fund would not be £50,000 but something less than £30,000. This is not the type of fund that was in contemplation when the income tax allowance was provided, and, in the view of the Government, the law should be amended to limit the deduction in this case, and in comparable cases, to fair and reasonable amounts. The annual deduction limit proposed by the bill is £100 in respect of each beneficiary employee, or 5 per cent, of the employee’s annual remuneration, whichever deduction is the greater. An allowance on this basis will preserve the present deduction in the great majority of cases. Should, however, any case arise where special circumstances warrant a deduction to the employer on a scale higher than £100 in respect of each employee, the Commissioner of Taxation is empowered to increase the deduction.
Further amendments liberalize the exemption granted in respect of the pay and allowances of Navy personnel and members of the Army and Air Forces serving overseas. The income tax provisions exempting the pay and allowances of members of the forces were enacted when the war was remote from Australia, and a review of the basis of that exemption has now been made in the light of the altered circumstances following the outbreak of the Pacific war. The exemption of pay and allowances earned in
Australia depends, in general, on service for a period of six months outside Australia. This was a reasonable test when the war was being waged mainly in Europe and northern Africa, and when units of the Australian forces which embarked for overseas service did not return to this country within six months. Australian forces engaged in the New Guinea campaign are frequently returned to Australia before completing six months’ service outside Australia, and it is desired to continue the exemption for the members of those forces. It is accordingly proposed in the bill that the period of six months’ service overseas qualifying for the exemption should be reduced to three months’ continuous service outside Australia.
The exemption is being extended to members of air crew of squadrons stationed in Australia which are regularly engaged in operational flights outside Australia. This will remove the anomaly of taxing air crew stationed at Darwin and other places along the Australian coast, whilst exempting air crew stationed in Papua and New Guinea and elsewhere out of Australia. If the squadron stationed in Australia is regularly engaged in ex- Australian operational flights, continuous service for three months as a member of air crew of the squadron will qualify for the same exemption as that granted in respect of overseas service.
Provision has also been made in the bill for the release of trustees from the payment of any outstanding income tax owing in respect of pay and allowances included in assessments of deceased members of the forces.
A concession is also being provided for representatives of philanthropic organizations and other civilian personnel associated with the forces in Papua, New Guinea and elsewhere outside Australia. The personnel who will receive this concession include official correspondents and photographers, and representatives of the Australian Red Cross, the Australian Comforts Fund and kindred organizations. The concession takes the form of the special deduction of £250 allowed to members of the forces. Another provision of the bill exempts the earnings of seamen of British and allied nations employed on vessels operating in Australian waters who pay income tax in the country of which they are nationals. The exemption to he granted by the Commonwealth will avoid double taxation on these earnings.
I commend the bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Menzies) adjourned.
– I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
This measure is designed to provide for payments to persons whose normal earnings have been interrupted through unemployment or sickness. It represents a further instalment of the Government’s plan to afford social security for all who are in necessity in this country. As has already been announced, the Government’s policy will be mo3t actively directed towards assuring maximum employment, but we realize there . will always be a certain percentage needing financial aid.
At the present time, unemployment is practically confined to the unemployable. This, therefore, is an opportune time to introduce a scheme of this nature, as the moneys set aside now for the purpose of paying benefits will establish a reserve which will be available should unemployment increase in the future. The incidence of sickness is fairly constant, and a large number of persons will become entitled to relief immediately upon the commencement of any plan for paying benefit.
The rates of benefit provided in the bill are identical for both unemployment and sickness. The scheme includes all females between the ages of sixteen and 60 years, and males between the ages of sixteen and 65 years, who have resided in Australia for at least twelve months immediately prior to application, and who are not qualified to receive a service pension or an invalid, old-age or widows’ pension. To obtain unemployment relief a person, in .addition, must be available for, and willing to, work. For sickness benefit the claimant must produce a doctor’s certificate and show that he has suffered loss of income up to the amount of the benefit he obtains. The rates of benefit provided for both schemes are -
A married person, whether adult or minor, will receive an additional £1 a week for a spouse and 5s. for one dependent child. Provision for children in excess of one in a family is made in the Child Endowment Act.
All benefits are subject to the imposition of a means test, which disregards the value of the property owned by a claimant and permits the possession of income, without affecting benefit, up to these amounts : -
For the purpose of calculating unemployment benefit, the income of the family group will be taken into account, but in case of sickness the sick person’s income alone will be considered in determining whether there shall be any reduction of benefit because of the possession of other income.
Where a person is entitled to some other payment, such as war , pension or workers’ compensation for the same disability .as that for which he claims sickness benefit, he cannot receive the two benefits unless the other benefit is smaller than the sickness benefit. Then he can receive, under this proposal, the amount by which this benefit exceeds the existing benefit. If, however, the claimant receives a benefit for a disability which is not the one that incapacitates him for work, then he is able to receive both .benefits, subject to the ordinary means test. For example, he can receive £1 a week for the loss of an eye and still receive £1 5s. a week sick pay while incapacitated with some other illness.
In applying the means test an amount of £1 of sick pay, payable by a friendly society or other similar approved society, will be disregarded. Therefore, a sick man may have £1 friendly society sick pay, £1 other income, and £1 5s. benefit under this scheme.
It is customary for unemployment and sickness benefit schemes to provide for a brief waiting period during which no benefit is payable. The bill fixes this waiting period as seven days, during which it is considered reasonable to expect an unemployed or sick person to subsist without payment of benefit. In some countries the period is fourteen days. In New Zealand it is seven days.
It has been found necessary to make special provision in the bill for persons who are normally engaged in seasonal or intermittent work. As the wages for such occupations are usually fixed on a higher scale than the normal wage because of the spasmodic nature of the work, and the stand-down periods which necessarily intervene between periods of work, it is considered reasonable to average the earnings over a period, as is done in New Zealand. Before determining the period over which the wages of seasonal and intermittent workers will be averaged for the purpose of establishing entitlement to benefit, it is proposed to make an investigation of all aspects of this problem.
It is proposed to deny benefit to those whose unemployment is due to direct participation in a strike. Refusal to accept employment in the place of any one on strike will not of itself disqualify a person frombenefit.
Part IV. of the bill deals with the grant of special benefit at rates not exceeding those for unemployment and sickness. It will often happen that a person is disqualified from receiving either sickness or unemployment benefit because of inability to comply with one or other of the statutory conditions. For example, a young woman who is required to remain at home to care for aged parents unable to look after themselves could not qualify for unemployment benefit, but she could be granted a special benefit.
Honorable members will appreciate that, because of the great deal of preparatory work involved, it is at present impossible to fix a date upon which this scheme will come into operation, as it is essential to ensure that the administrative machinery and staff are available before the scheme can be commenced.
The bill provides for payment of the benefits out of the National Welfare Fund. It is estimated that the cost of unemployment benefits at the rates provided in the scheme will be approximately £2,000,000 annually for each 1 per cent. of unemployment. In the case of sickness benefit, based on a 4 per cent. absence due to sickness, and after allowing for the waiting period and the means test, it is estimated that the annual cost of benefits will be about £8,500,000.
The bill is not to be regarded as a part of the Government’s plan for reconstruction and permanent economic improvement. We regard this social legislation as a piece of bridge-building to carry the people over those economic gaps which must necessarily occur from time to time. We cannot hope to eliminate sickness altogether, and it is necessary to take heed of it in our social legislation. We hope, by the passing of suitable legislation in the future, to provide regular employment for every one, but no matter how good the system introduced may be, there must be periods of unemployment when people are being transferred from one engagement to another. The Government wishes to ensure that people during such periods of unemployment shall remain a social asset by retaining some spending power.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Menzies) adjourned.
.- I move-
That the House do now adjourn.
I express to honorable members my gratitude for having endured the fatigue of an all night sitting in order to pass the Coal Production (War-time) Bill.
.- I ask the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) to investigate complaints regarding the acquisition hy the Department of the Interior of land adjacent to aerodromes at what the owners claim are ridiculously low prices. I admit that, in some instances, the owners may have been induced to pay more than a fair price for the land, but the offers of the department are so contemptuous that the owners have been compelled to form an association for the protection of their interests. They have showered members of Parliament with letters, but when we show them to the Minister for the Interior (Senator Collings), he sometimes raises the price of a block by a pound or two, and at other times refuses to do anything. Recently, a deputation of honorable members endeavoured to wait upon him to discuss the subject, but he declined to see any one hut the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway). In January last the department paid £75 for blocks for which it is now offering £37. The owners of blocks acquired by the department have, over the years, paid rates and charges for street construction. Some of the prices paid by the Government for the land acquired are so low that they are by a long way insufficient to discharge the remainder of the money still owed on the land, and these debts remain to be paid. It is useless for the Government to “say that the district has not improved. Reference to the reports of the Railways Commissioners prove that the district is developing. Passenger journeys from the North Essendon station have . increased each year since the land was subdivided in 1924. For the year ended the 30th June, 1924, the passenger journeys were 42,146, as compared with 410,578 for the year ended the 30th June, 1943, an increase of 874 per cent.
– The owners have the right to arbitration.
– No person would spend a couple of hundred pounds on a lawsuit in connexion with a £100 block.
– How could such persons go to law against the Government?
They have formed an association in defence of their interests. I could cite dozens of instances of unreasonable offers made to block-holders, but I shall content myself with citing only two. The first instance is that of a widow whose husband won the Distinguished Conduct Medal in the last war and subsequently died from war injuries, leaving her with five young children. He paid £115 for his block. His widow states that he mortgaged the block with the Bank of Australasia for £50, but that the best the Department of the Interior will do is to offer £25 for the unencumbered estate in feesimple, free from all mortgages, charges, liens and interests over or upon the land in full satisfaction of her claim.
– Where is this land?
– At Essendon.
– There are other places.
– Yes. All honorable members from Victorian constituencies can cite instances. The honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart) wanted to place before the House the case of the owner of property at Bradfield Park, Sydney, acquired for the purposes of the Air Force; but, unhappily, owing to a family bereavement, he is not able to be here to-day. The second instance is that of a man who paid £156 for his block, plus £34 for road-making and £30 for rates and taxes, and was offered only £52. The land was taken. The department did not offer to rent it. It was acquired without any cognizance being taken of the rise of prices. Wages and the cost of goods have risen, and why is it that land values must not rise ?
– The honorable member says that the owners of blocks have formed an association and that no individual has sufficient interest which would justify him in incurring legal costs?
– They have offered to the department independent valuations, but the Minister for the Interior has refused to entertain the idea. In order to show the attitude of that Minister, I shall read an extract from one letter I have received -
The Minister devoted the first half-hour of the meeting to a lecture delivered, of course, by himself, mainly on himself. At the end of this time I drew his attention to the fact that we were there to talk to him.
– Some of the blocks have been held for twenty years and nothing has been done to them. Other blocks may have been acquired quite recently. In each instance I will, myself, ensure that some person of independence shall be called in to make a valuation and decide what is a ju3t price for the Commonwealth to pay.
– The department is using its own valuer to decide the values. The owners claim that he must be completely out of touch with affairs and that lie is valuing on a 25-year-old basis.
– If there is any dispute between the valuer of the vendor and the valuer of the Commonwealth, I will ensure ‘ that some independent valuer shall be brought in.
– I am glad to have that assurance from the Prime Minister.
– But we do not think that we ought to pay to unfortunate speculators sums of money large enough to reimburse them for losses.
– One person had 5s. left of the Commonwealth Government’s payment to him after he had paid the balance of money that he owed on his block.
– I take it that what the honorable member requires is that the Commonwealth shall pay a just price for the land it takes over. That would have nothing to do with the purchase price paid by the vendor.
– I will not say that.
– For years these people have been paying municipal rates.
– I would not add the annual rates to the price paid and regard that as a fair charge against the Commonwealth.
– No, but the Commonwealth does not even accept the municipal valuation for rating purposes. I have numerous instances of the department offering only £15 compensation for the acquisition of a block which cost £100. The unsympathetic attitude of the Commonwealth towards these people is not right. A great many of them do not want to sell their land. Some have been paying for it for twenty years at the rate of a few shillings a week in order that one day they may be able to build a home on it. The land is adjacent to the Essendon aerodrome and it is necessary that it be acquired for extension of the runways. I recollect that about twenty years ago I suggested a better alternative site for Melbourne’s principal airport, but that is by the way. The Government must do a fair thing by these Australian citizens and I am glad to have the Prime Minister’s assurance that the matter will be investigated. The Minister for Air (Mr. Drakeford) represents this district and knows the facts.
– I do not represent it.
– The Minister’s electorate embraces a part of Essendon.
– But not that part.
– At any rate, the Minister is familiar with the subject. Whilst I do not deny that some of these people may have paid a few pounds more than they should have for the land, that is no reason why at this stage they should bc offered a contemptuous price.
.- I support the case so admirably made out by the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White). I assure the Prime Minister that the low values the Department of the Interior is placing on land acquired for the purposes of the services is a serious matter to those from whom the land is acquired. Not all those affected live in Melbourne. They live all over Victoria.
– All over Australia !
– In my electorate there are many of them. I have dozens of letters protesting bitterly against what the writers term a gross injustice. Although I know that land can be acquired at “ a reasonable valuation “, it is an injustice that people who have paid £100 for a block of land and still owe £70 on it, should be given only £40 in full payment. That leaves them still £30 in debt and they do not even have the land. The circumstances require the most searching inquiry, because what they have paid in rates and taxes often amounts to more than the Government is prepared to pay for the land. If this were done by private enterprise, we should call it “ robbery “ !
– Hear, hear !
– There is no other word for it. The Government is using its powers to the disadvantage of the people, many of them poor. The Prime Minister himself knows that many poor people buy a block of land on the timepayment plan and regard it as something in the nature of a savings bank account. They hope eventually to have a nest egg for their old age. The hope is always there that the value of the land will increase with the development of the demand of the nation for land for home-building purposes. Other people have bought land, which the Government has acquired from them, in the hope that one day they will be able to build homes for their old age. I protest most strongly against the attitude taken up by the Minister for the Interior (Senator Collings), who refused to admit to his room honorable members, some of whom had travelled hundreds of miles to see him about this matter.
– He would not allow us in, but’ he allowed a few of his colleagues in.
– We have a duty to the people as well as to the Government, and owners who have been offered on the take-it-or-leave-it basis about 2d. in the £1 for their land demand that that duty be done. The Government should err on the side of generosity to these people rather than deprive them of their nest egg by paying preposterously low prices for land it needs.
.- Some time ago in the Legislative Assembly of Victoria I represented the constituency in which this land at Essendon is situated. In order to ascertain what was the possibility of “ roll stuffing “ in respect of the property qualification, I obtained all the municipal rolls in the area. On examining them I was astonished to find that the land. now in question was held by people all over Australia, and even by people in other parts of the world. I could trace over the length and breadth of Australia the thread of most astute land salesmanship during the boom period following the last war. The majority of the people who purchased this land did so for speculative purposes. There may be a number of people who bought blocks in the locality in the hope that later in life they would be able to move from the part of the country where they live to the city.
– ‘Only four homes have been built there.
– Yes. I am directly concerned in this matter myself, because I am the trustee of an estate which owns a block of land on this area. It cost the estate £100. I, as executor, have been offered the magnificent sum of £25 for that land. That may be its actual value, because the estate was unfortunate enough to purchase the land from an astute salesman. I do not see that there is any justification, after a proper valuation is made, for this country to have to pay for some one’s stupidity in purchasing land far above its proper value.
– Why does the honorable member describe a legitimate speculation as stupid?
– It may turn out to be stupid.
– It may turn out to be sound business.
– That is neither here nor there. No honorable member has mentioned that the Lands Acquisition Act provides that people shall be paid fair compensation, and prescribes the procedure for the making of the valuation. In addition, a person has the right to seek arbitration if he is not satisfied with the compensation offered to him.
– The beneficiaries of the estate for which the honorable member is executor will not thank him for this.
– I have instructed my solicitor to inform the Department of the Interior that I, as the executor, am not satisfied with its’ offer. If the department does not make an adequate offer I shall consider taking the matter to arbitration. No one has much cause for complaint until he has used to the full all the protection that the law affords to him. I shall not complain until J have availed myself of those facilities. In order to carry out my duties as a trustee I intend to avail myself of those facilities if I do not receive an offer which I consider adequate.
– Has the honorable member ever seen a mouse attack a lion?
– There are grounds for belief that the Commonwealth valuer or whoever makes the valuations of this land has erred on the lean side, but I am inclined to think that the people concerned have been most unfortunate. They purchased land in an area where an aerodrome has since been greatly expanded. Apart altogether from the slump that occurred after the purchase of the land, the value of the blocks has depreciated because they are in the vicinity of an aerodrome. Every day aircraft will fly over that area and people are not keen to build homes adjacent to places where that kind of activity occurs. I hope that some endeavour will be made to see that the values are justly calculated.
.- I am glad that the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) is in the chamber to hear this debate, because I assure him that the instances that have come to my notice’ represent, in my view, some of the most unreasonable treatment that a government department has ever meted out to people. Long before the formation of this association cases of this kind were submitted to me. I had not heard of the existence of the association until I was invited to take part in the deputation to which other honorable members have referred. In the electorate of Fawkner many people purchased blocks of land at various prices, in the North Essendon district and in other areas around Melbourne. Some of those blocks have been compulsorily acquired by the Commonwealth Government.
– Was the honorable member admitted to the deputation?
– We were excluded.
– I do not propose to make a mountain out of that incident, but honorable members are entitled to know the facts, because a precedent was created involving their privileges as members of this Parliament. We were invited to be associated with the deputation to the Minister. Some honorable gentlemen went to a great deal more trouble than I did to be present, as I happened to be in Melbourne at the time. But the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) travelled to Melbourne from Bendigo specifically for that purpose, and the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) came from Mornington. Some honorable senators travelled to town from their residences. We assembled at what was to us an almost uncomfortably early hour of the morning, only to be told that although the Minister would permit one of his colleagues to introduce the deputation, other members of Parliament were to be excluded. We were actually on the floor of the Minister’s office when he sent that message to us.
– I was told at first that members would have an opportunity to accompany the deputation, but later that decision was cancelled. I was forewarned that I would not be admitted. ‘
– The honorable member was in a privileged position. Our experience was not so happy.
– I should like to know how large the deputation was and whether the Minister’s room could accommodate it.
– We were prepared to stand if necessary in the room. I refer to the incident only because it reflects the attitude of the Minister on this matter. The same authoritarian way with which he handled the members of Parliament who accompanied the deputation is reflected in his dealings with these landowners who have approached the Department of the Interior for justice. Before I cite a few instances, I ask the Prime Minister to bear these general considerations in mind. One honorable member has suggested that these people foolishly, stupidly, or ill-advisedly .paid excessive prices for the land. I refer particularly to the North Essendon area. I do not include the Ashbrook Park area; there has never been any suggestion that the prices originally paid for those blocks were too high. The department has claimed that in the North Essendon area the prices paid were excessive. I shall examine that contention. Many people, it is true, bought this land at the top of the boom, as we knew it in Australia. But other people bought at the same time assets such as shares, or agricultural properties. Those who purchased farms paid for the land a price which has since made in difficult for them successfully to operate it.
To say that the valuation of that land to-day is only approximately one-quarter of the amount that was paid for it at that time is to ignore some very important considerations. During the period, there were extensive sales of land in that district. Land, particularly vacant land for building purposes, has been affected in the last ten or fifteen years by two very important developments. The first was the depression. Just after these people had bought the land they encountered the depression, which had the effect of reducing, to almost a nominal figure, the values of small vacant building allotments. Housing was beginning to develop again before the war gathered momentum, and land values showed a tendency to return to the prices ruling in the boom years. The Government, by direct action, prevented the erection of homes upon those sites, and the negotiability of the titles in the land itself. As the result of this action, the value of those blocks was forcibly kept down. If those blocks were to be sold in the open market to-day, they would probably fetch more than the amount which was paid for them at the peak of the boom period. I refer the Prime Minister to the nominal share values that are current at the present time. Since the outbreak of war, the value of many of them has increased by about 50 per cent. That does not mean that their real value has increased, because the purchasing power of the £1 has depreciated since 1939.
If the Government holds these people to a valuation based upon sales about the time when the purchase of land ceased, it will do them an injustice, because it will hold them to an artificial figure. In addition, the Government will be paying them in currency that has admittedly depreciated by from 20 per cent, to 25 per cent, since the outbreak of war. If justice is to be done to these purchasers, these factors should be taken into account. You can tell a man that he was silly to pay £100 for a block of land which, you inform him, is now worth only £50. He may admit that he made a mistake, but declare his intention to hold on to the land until doomsday, if necessary, in the hope that the return of boom conditions will enable him to sell the block at a profit. When the Government compulsorily acquires the land, he does not get that opportunity. The honorable member for Balaclava and I know of instances where the valuation offered by the Government department was less than one-half of the valuation imposed on that land for .the purposes of municipal rating and land tax.
– For municipal rating? Is the honorable member sure of that?
– Yes. I shall cite a specific instance. The wife of a member of the Australian Imperial Force wrote to me -
Some time ago I purchased land at North Essendon, adjacent to the Essendon aerodrome. Recently I received a notification from the Minister for the Interior intimating that the Commonwealth Government had decided to acquire this land, and requesting me to submit a claim for compensation in respect of my block.
In response to my claim for £G0 I received an offer of £27 from the Department of the” Interior. I need scarcely say that this offer is inadequate, in fact, is scandalous.
In order to emphasize how unfair is the offer made, I would point out that the Commissioner of Taxes assessed land tax on tho purchase price and the municipal authorities rated the property on an almost similar valuation. I am reliably informed that land in tho vicinity has been sold recently at prices considerably higher than that offered by the Government.
I do not wish to indulge in “ tear- jerking “ tactics, but I assure honorable members that some of these instances are genuine cases of hardship. Some people are offered compensation that is less than the unpaid balance of the purchase price. A widow ha3 written to me as follows: -
As you are our representative in the Federal Parliament, I am enlisting your aid. Nineteen years ago my late husband purchased a block of land at North Essendon.
– The land could not have been a good proposition for building purposes, because it has been idle for a long while.
– Many people buy land in the hope that as building development extends in a particular district, the value of the land will improve. Some buy land as a speculation. The fact that so many; small blocks are valued at between £50 and £100 indicates that many people bought them for speculation, and they are quite happy to be left with their speculation. But the Government department intervenes, telling them that they made a foolish speculation and will not be allowed to retain the land. The letter continues -
Last year, the Federal Government acquired this land for aviation purposes, and offered me the sum of £19, a ridiculous amount.
– Then the Commonwealth will have either to build aerodromes only on Crown land or pay extortionate prices for it. ‘
– No. In the course of this war the Commonwealth has acquired a wide range of assets of various kinds. It is significant that this is the one type of asset in respect of which honorable members have received a welter of protests.
– I quite agree that the procedure under the Lands Acquisition Act, drawn up by Parliament, should be observed. But if there are persons who were unable to pay what they call the costs of having an independent valuation made, rather than have any argument about the matter the Crown will pay the costs of an independent valuation. I decline to accept the valuation of the vendor.
– The Prime Minister has gone a long way towards meeting the points that have been raised. I shall not recite all the instances that have been submitted to me, but shall merely complete that on which I had begun. The late husband of the woman in question purchased the land for £120 in 1934, well after the depression had commenced and therefore in what cannot by any stretch of imagination be regarded as a boom ,period, and she has been offered the sum of £19. She says in her letter -
As I am a widow, left with three young sons, I feel I have a veritable grievance, and emphatically decline Senator Collings’s menial offer.
In other instances, offers were made and the department, in effect, later admitted that it was in error. In one case, increased offers were made on three occasions subsequent to the making of the original offer. I do not doubt that the
Prime Minister will be impressed by the fact that members of all parties have had an experience similar to mine. It is an experience which we have not had in respect of other assets that have been acquired by the Commonwealth. That of itself should be sufficient to justify an investigation. The right honorable gentleman implied in an interjection that if there were an association of these people they should, not be hindered from submitting a test case, because in the aggregate they must have the necessary funds to fight it. That would not be satisfactory, because the circumstances of many of the cases vary. I doubt whether a decision in one case would be of very much value in having a determination made in respect of the hundreds of other cases. I welcome the undertaking which the Prime Minister has given.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– A very much bigger question is opened up than merely the valuation of these blocks of land. I have had correspondence in connexion with offers that have been made, and have not any hesitation in saying that some of those offers are ridiculous. I lack faith in the system of valuations that has been pursued in connexion with these blocks of land. I do not support anybody who wants to “ soak “ the country in time of war. But when a’ department makes a valuation in respect of a block of land, and changes its offer, first, from £15 to £20, and then from £20 to £30, I lose faith completely in the genuineness of the offer or the soundness of the valuation. So far as I can learn, that is what has happened in connexion with many blocks of land in this area. I am quite convinced that some of these blocks were bought on long terms from pursuasive canvassers, and that too much was paid for them. I know of a woman who bought a block of land because a returned soldier canvassed its sale and she thought that she would give him a start. That does not establish the valuation. As a big question has been opened up, a suitable opportunity is presented to lay bare a suggestion which I have considered it advisable to make. It is absurd to have valuations made by State, municipal and
Commonwealth authorities. There ought to be one valuation of land, and that should be the Commonwealth valuation, for the whole of Australia. There is a very good system in New South Wales. If that could be incorporated in the federal system, I believe that the result would be very effective. The municipal valuations upon which rates have been paid on the blocks at Essendon have in many instances been double what has been offered. Surely there should not be two valuations of one block of land ! In addition to the municipal valuation, there is a valuation for State land tax purposes. A valuation for federal land tax purposes is not made on small blocks, but valuations have been made of some blocks that have been acquired in the country. A well-trained staff of valuers’ is attached to the Commonwealth Taxation Department. The belief i= held in some quarters that the Taxation Department is not popular. I invite those who entertain that belief to consider whether or not they would be more satisfied, if a block of land were taken from them compulsorily, to have the valuation for acquisition purposes made by the man who had valued it for taxation purposes. After all, the valuers of the Taxation Department are not likely ridiculously to under-value. The same authority could be used in connexion with acquisition in other spheres, with a much better chance than now exists of justice being dispensed. There are valuers for purposes of Commonwealth taxation. The Department of the Interior uses many different methods. Sometimes it employs private valuers. I detest this as a principle; we should not need to go to any private firm for a valuation for either acquisition or taxation purposes. The Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) has made a very fair offer. I invite him to go farther, and, as a commencement, direct that there shall be one authority for valuation purposes in respect of every requirement of the different Commonwealth departments.
.- I have probably had a more direct connexion with this matter than has .any other honorable member. These blocks of land were acquired in, I believe, 1940, because at that time the Royal Australian
Air Force wanted additional land in that area. This land happened to be suitable for its purposes, and was acquired without the owners being asked whether or not they wanted, to dispose of it. The ordinary procedure was followed. A National Security Regulation was issued, dealing with the acquisition of land by the ‘Commonwealth. In those days, the Hirings Administration had the task of fixing the yearly compensation for the use of property. When the matter became one of direct acquisition by the Commonwealth it passed to the Department of the Interior. This department fixes the value, and makes the necessary payments in due course. I have a good deal of knowledge of the practice of the department in these and many other cases. I give to it every credit for its endeavours to save public funds wherever that may be possible. This applies also to the Hirings Administration. However, I have found that the general attitude towards the offers that were made by the Department of ‘the Interior is that they were very much on the meagre side. It is safe to say that 80 of 100 persons whose land has been acquired by the department are not satisfied with the transaction. That is natural. The honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard) has said that a dissatisfied vendor has merely to submit his case to arbitration. So far as I know, provision has not been made for any arbitrational procedure.
– The vendor has the right of appeal.
– He may submit his case to a court. The same procedure was laid down under the National Security Regulations which provided for the placing of valuations of land on a temporary basis ; any person who considered that he had a good case could submit it to a court-
– Is not the court an impartial authority?
– I agree that it is impartial, and I do not offer any objection to that procedure. But no one except large corporations which have substantial funds is so foolish as to take action against the ‘Commonwealth. No individual will run the risk of losing money by way of costs.
– That almost infers that the judge is partial to the governmental authority.
– The objection is to the costs that are involved. The Commonwealth usually briefs leading barristers to argue its case, and in order that he may not be prejudiced the plaintiff is compelled to follow a similar course. It was realized recently that under the National Security Regulations nobody went to court because the expense, or the risk of it, could not be afforded. An arbitration body was set up, to which disputes were taken in the first place, and in many instances this has had beneficial effects. But nothing of that character exists in connexion with acquisition of land by the Department of the Interior. Provision is desired which will enable those persons to obtain justice who consider that injustice has been done. I have no doubt that whilst some of these blocks were bought for speculative purposes, others were bought as an investment. All cannot be grouped under one head, and be regarded as having been purchased at too high a value, because that is not true. I received only this morning the particulars of a case. A man who lives right out in the country bought a block of land, at Essendon. Since 1920, it has cost him £80, and he has been offered £25 for it. Other persons have expended up to £300 on several blocks, and have been offered only £50 for them, this being a fairly substantial increase on the first offer made by the Department of the Interior. There should be an investigation of the matter with a view to ascertaining whether or not reasonable justice is being done in respect of the claims of these persons.
– This matter appears to have aroused considerable interest. I am glad that honorable members opposite are now displaying interest in it, because they evinced very little interest when I argued it some years ago. The land is quite close to areas that were acquired for the construction of a beacon station. A number of blocks was held by persons who are electors of mine, although the land is in the electorate of the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Dedman).
These electors had been subjected to what has been described by honorable members opposite as very unfair treatment by the Department of the Interior. The offer of the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) is a substantial improvement on anything that was offered when I raised the matter previously. My representations did not arouse the slightest interest. The present new-found enthusiasm proves to me quite clearly that honorable members opposite are impressed by the letters which they have received alleging that an injustice has been done. If it be an injustice how, it was an injustice when I made my representations; yet I was heard listlessly, and received very little support from honorable members opposite, and the. Government they supported did nothing about it. I am glad that some interest has been engendered in this subject at last. Probably the constituents of some honorable gentlemen opposite have awakened their representatives to the need for action. I do not say that the present valuation methods are satisfactory, but they provide that a representative of the Department of the Interior and an independent valuer shall submit valuations. All honorable members will realize, bowever, that some land has been sold by agents or sub-agents for four or five times its value. The people who sold it at boom prices have an obligation to give the purchasers some help when the need for arbitration arises. The undertaking given by the Prime Minister should meet the requirements of the case.
– I was greatly impressed by the wider view of the whole subject taken by the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin). The suggestion that an independent valuer should submit a valuation in addition to the valuations of the Government Valuer and the vendor’s valuer could, perhaps, be applied to other areas as well as to this one.
– In 1935, when I called attention to the need for action along these lines, only about fifteen or twenty people were involved, but now several hundred electors are concerned. The adoption of the principle enunciated by the Prime Minister should go a long way to allay any feelings of injustice. An unfortunate experience of a relative of mine in the purchase of land causes me to speak on the subject with some feeling. He was driven out to a certain area in a very fast motor car - I would not say by a very fast salesman - to inspect a ‘block of land which he bought for £110 in very quick time. At no period since then could that land have been sold for more than £40 or £50, and that is its true value. Many people of small means have the inclination to buy a block of land either for home-building purposes or for speculation, and they can very easily lose their money. Moreover, municipal councils often lose the rates on land resumed for governmental purposes and bought under unsatisfactory conditions. Land is frequently bought at prices far beyond its reasonable value. This land at Essendon has been enhanced in value because the Commonwealth and Victorian Governments have co-operated in the construction of a tramway to the locality. The location of the Essendon aerodrome had a great deal to do with this. The honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard) spoke wisely on this subject. I do not intend to go into the merits of what has been said about the reception of a deputation, because I do not know anything about it. I conclude by repeating that the interest which honorable gentlemen opposite are now displaying in this subject is in marked contrast to the indifference they showed when I took the subject up in 1935, or thereabouts.
– I have listened with great interest to the remarks of the Minister for Air (Mr. Drakeford), and I must register my complete surprise that although he has been in office for two and a half years he has taken no steps to remedy an evil which he admits he has known to exist since 1934. That is extraordinary. Usually, I have a very great regard for the practical approach of the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard) to the problems which he discusses; but on this occasion his firstargument was completely vitiated by his second argument. The honorable gentleman said that some “smart Alec” salesmen had been able to sell land at inflated values, because some people were stupid enough to pay the high prices demanded of them; but the honorable gentleman went on to divulge that, as the trustee of an estate, he had instructed solicitors to prepare a case for submission to the Government in opposition to valuations which it had adopted in connexion with the estate.
– I have a trust to fulfil. Mr. McDONALD.- It is unfortunately a fact that some purchasers of land owe more on it now than they owed when they made their purchase eight or ten years ago, and more than they are likelyto receive from a government department. I am pleased that this subject has been brought to the notice of the Prime Minister. In justice to him, I must say that I do not believe that he knew, until to-day, the state of affairs which actually exists. I cannot help remarking, however, that in my opinion the Minister for Air has been recreant to his trust if he has known, for eight or ten years that this state of affairs existed and, as an important member of a very important Government, he has taken no action to remedy it. Some farmers in my own electorate have purchased land at Essendon in order to build homes there for their retirement. They like the climate and also the location, and believed that they were acting wisely in making the purchase; but now, because of action taken by government departments, they are to be deprived of any advantages fromtheir purchase. As in the last few years the Government has been able to expend money with prodigal lavishness for many purposes, it should be able to compensate these people on the basis of the true value of their land.
– I have no doubt that every honorable member could direct attention to land acquisitions by the Department of the Interior and occupation of properties by the Army Hirings administration under inequitable conditions. I have had to take action for my constituents in connexion with several cases involving Army acquisitions. I am satisfied that the suggestion of the Prime Ministerwill lead to good results. I hope, however, that the principle that has been enunciated will not be applied solely to the acquisition of properties. It should also be applied to properties which have been occupied, though 110it purchased, by the Army or other service departments and in respect of which damage has been done. I have in mind a small grazing property of one of my constituents adjacent to Wollongong. It was let for 30s. a week - the annual municipal rates were 10s. a week - and was occupied by the Army for two years. The fences were pulled down and other damage done to it. When the Army had finished with it the owner was offered 5s. a week compensation for the occupation, hut nothing at all for the damage. It is no answer, in such cases, to say that the persons concerned can- take advantage of the arbitration process, for most of them are in indigent circumstances and cannot afford to employ legal assistance. It is high time for this subject to be ventilated in this Parliament and it does not matter to me which party ventilates it. I have seen the Minister for the Army on several occasions on matters of this kind, but, fortunately, if what some honorable members have said is true, I have not had occasion to interview the Minister for the Interior. I believe that the Prime Minister will make an effort to remedy the anomalies that have been revealed.
– I bring to the notice of the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) a matter affecting the administration of the Minister for the Interior (Senator Collings). Some time ago that honorable gentleman visited the Northern Territory. At Tennant Creek he was publicly asked to allow the residents to hold their annual race meeting. I believe that a deputation at Alice Springs made a similar request in regard to that locality. Honorable members should understand that the horses which race are only grass-fed, and no bookmakers operate.
– The system is different from that of South Australia.
– The visit of the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Conelan) to South Australia was apparently no more profitable to him in this regard than it was in causing his promotion to the Ministry. Most of the people who attend the race meetings in the Northern Territory come from surrounding cattle stations and mining camps. They have no opportunity for such sports as football, cricket, golf or anything of the kind; often they are too scattered even to play poker or “ two-up “. The annual race meeting provides practically their only amusement for the twelve months.
– In what season of the year do they hold the meetings?
– In the spring, I believe; but, in view of the attitude adopted by the Minister for the Interior, I did not make an inquiry on that point. The custom is to extend the gatherings over three days. Races are held on the Saturday afternoon, a social event of some kind is programmed for the Sunday, and races are held again on the Monday. I understand that the Minister for the Interior directed the Administrator to permit the races to be held only on the condition that they were confined to the Saturday afternoon. I am informed that for the six months of the year before the great event the people speculate about the races, and for six months afterwards they talk about what happened. I have no intention to refer to the action of the Government of South Australia in regard to horse-racing, except to say that the decision in that State rested with the State Government. The decision in relation to the Northern Territory, which is under Commonwealth control, rests with the Commonwealth Government. The Prime Minister -probably knows that I am not a racing man. I suppose I would be “ dubbed “ one of the “ wowsers “ of this Parliament. But I consider that the people who live outback are entitled to the limited enjoyment they are able to get from their annual sports meeting, and I regard the decision of the Minister for the Interior as having been too harsh. I ask the Prime Minister to give favorable consideration to my representations. I hope that he will permit the people to proceed with their normal programme in this regard. .Strikes do not occur in the Northern Territory, and the people go about their work in a very consistent way. I point out that not only have the young white men been called up for the various fighting services, but many of the young natives and half-castes also have been enlisted and the stations and mines are being operated at present under most unusual conditions. In my opinion the request is reasonable, and it would not be too much for the Government to accede to it.
.- I am aware that the Prime Minister promised to appoint a committee to inquire into censorship.
– No, I did not.
– Well, something was promised regarding censorship.
– An undertaking was given that a committee would be appointed to inquire into matters affecting the privileges of the House.
– In my opinion, the scope of any inquiry into censorship should be broadened to cover censorship of matter published in newspapers. There is strong evidence that censorship is being exercised in such a manner as to compel newspapers to report certain occurrences in a particular way, so that the reports appearing in various papers bear a striking similarity, even in phraseology. For instance, the following report appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald, of Tuesday, the 29th February : -
Traffic was blocked by a crowd of nearly 1,000 at the intersection of Pitt and Campbell streets yesterday afternoon, where two soldiers were stabbed and a brawl developed.
In the Daily Telegraph of the same date, the incident was reported in this way -
A crowd of nearly 1,000 gathered outside a Pitt-street residential after a brawl in an hotel yesterday afternoon. Two soldiers were stabbed in the brawl and were taken to Sydney Hospital. Some of the crowd tried to enter the residential, in which three other servicemen had locked themselves in a room after the brawl.
Mr. F. V. McGuinness, acting editorinchief of the Daily Mirror, wrote the following letter on the 29th February, 1944, to Mr. E. G. Bonney, Chief Commonwealth Publicity Censor: -
I desire to enter the most emphatic protest against the manner in which two stories have been censored in Sydney. One story dealt with the stabbing by American negro soldiers of two Australian soldiers, and a subsequent serious disturbance in Sydney yesterday. This story, as returned by tho censors, suggests that the affray took place between Australian soldiers, and that some Australian soldiers had been guilty of stabbing their comrades. This is not only untrue, but is a gross libel upon Australian soldiers. Similar deletions and alterations have been made to another story recording the stabbing of a civilian by an American negro soldier. The deletion of all identifying description in this story leaves it that the stabbing was done by a soldier. I consider that in the absence of other identification, readers will reach the conclusion, that the stabbing was done by an Australian soldier. This again is untrue and misleading’ and is also a gross libel upon Australian soldiers. It has been the custom of State publicity censorship up to this occurrence to allow references to “ coloured Allied soldiers “ in all such stories. The sudden absence of these qualifying terms in stories now appearing, leave the reader no option but to infer that the “ soldiers “ referred to are Australians. Tho fact that these wholesale stabbings - now almost daily occurrences in Sydney - are being perpetrated by the negro soldiers, is well known to the large number of Australian soldiers who are on leave or who are stationed around Sydney.
– “ Wholesale stabbings”? “ Almost daily occurrences “ ?
– I am merely reading what the writer has alleged. The letter continues -
The fact that newspapers appear to bc smothering up the guilt of these people is becoming well known amongst all those Australian soldiers, and is leading to very great resentment. This resentment is, in my opinion, likely to lead to very serious disturbances. I have considered it my duty to order the deletion of these stories as returned by the censors in Sydney from our newspapers. To publish them in the form they are returned would be to mislead the public, and as I have said, grossly libel the members of the Australian forces. I desire therefore to emphatically protest against the manner in which these stories are handled, and against the distortion and suppression that has occurred.
The direction given by Mr. McGuinness was followed in the reporting of the incident in his own paper. This is how it was referred to in the Daily Mirror -
As a sequel to brawls in the city yesterday, four U.S. soldiers - Frank Brown (25), Edwin Bay Garraway (21), James Scott Latham (24), and Wilson Alexander Todd (27) - were charged at Central Court to-day with malicious wounding. Latham and Todd were in court charged with the malicious wounding of Albert Edward Brown. They were handed over by Mr. Arnold, S.M., to Major Cook, of the U.S. Array, in accordance with the National Security Regulations. Brown and Garraway were alleged to have wounded Frank McLeod. an Australian soldier, and Brown was also charged with having wounded Jack Mercer, another Australian soldier. Constable Hatcher said Brown and Garraway had been handed over to the American authorities last night. They did not appear in court.
I do not wish to create the impression that I am trying to make a lot of the racial question. I appreciate what the Americans have done for us, and I recognize the right of the Americans to send to Australia with their forces such of their citizens as they choose, no matter what their colour. However, if it is true, as was suggested in the letter of Mr. McGuinness, that some one - I do not know who it is, but I have a suspicion that it is not the Australian censor-
– There is no other censorship in Australia.
– I have a suspicion that the censor has been constrained to censor reports in such a way that they convey a completely wrong impression of what takes place. I ask the Prime Minister to give consideration to this matter.
.- As one who has been associated with the business life of the community for a quarter of a century, and for all that time has fought against combines and monopolies, I direct the attention of ‘ the House to the grave concern . felt by country storekeepers at the unfair competition of combines and big chain stores which sell only commodities that are carefully hand-picked, so that they can be handled without skill, experience, or the ordinary risks of trade. From the earliest days of settlement in Australia, the country trader has rendered a national service by providing long-term credit for primary producers. His contribution to the development of our rural centres has been invaluable. He has carried the primary producer through times of worry and trouble, and has proved himself to be a friend in need. Now, his economic existence is threatened by the intrusion into more and more country centres of the big chain store. The country storekeeper is ready to meet legitimate competition, even from the big combines, and he realizes that their intrusion into country towns is inevitable. On the other hand, he feels that he is not being fairly treated, and that the Government is playing into the hands of the chain stores by fixing maximum prices for groceries without also fixing minimum prices. The chain stores are able to reduce their overhead costs because of their hand-picking of lines, and their exclusion of all lines that are costly to handle. The chain stores offer no assistance to primary producers nor, indeed, to town dwellers requiring temporary credit. They have no interest in town improvement, or the development of the district. Country storekeepers assume that the authorities are satisfied that the maximum prices fixed for groceries are not unduly high. They now want the authorities to declare minimum prices also. I believe that their request is justified. If the country storekeepers are driven out of business by the big chain stores, the country will suffer. The primary producers will be deprived of a valuable source of financial accommodation, and the burden of their sustenance will be thrown onto the State. The country storekeeper has his loyal customers who will stick by him in spite of all the low-price attractions of the chain stores; but the town dweller and the casual customer are unable to resist the slight saving that can be effected by dealing with the chain stores, and since the country storekeeper depends also on this casual trade, he must lose heavily when the chain stores are given an unfair competitive advantage. I strongly urge the Government to consider immediately the proposal to declare that the maximum prices of groceries shall also be the minimum prices.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Defence Act - -Regulations - Statutory Rules 1944, No. 39.
Defence Act and Naval Defence Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1944, No. 37.
National Security Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1944, Nos. 36, 38, 40, 41.
House adjourned at 3.44 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
The several military missions have agreed upon future military operations against Japan.
The three great Allies expressed their resolve to bring unrelenting pressure against their brutal enemy by land, sea and air. This pressure is already rising.
The three great Allies are fighting this war to restrain and punish the aggression of Japan. They covet no gain for themselves and have no thought of territorial expansion. It is their purpose that Japan shall be stripped of all islands in the Pacific which she has seized or occupied since the beginning of the first world war in 1914, and that all territories which Japan has stolen -from the Chinese, such as Manchuria, Formosa, and the Pescadores, shall be restored to the Rupublic of China. Japan will also be expelled from all other territories which she has taken by violence and greed. The aforesaid three great powers, mindful of the enslavement of the people of Korea, are determined that in due course Korea shall become free and independent.
With these objectives in view, the three Allies, in harmony with those United Nations at war with Japan, will continue to persevere in the serious and prolonged operations which are necessary to procure the unconditional surrender of Japan.”
Coal-mining Industry: Subsidies.
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
What ‘has been the cost to the. Commonwealth since the war began in respect of (a) subsidies or guarantees to the coal-mining industry; ( 6 ) administration in relation to such industry; (c) subsidies or guarantees to other primary industries; and [d) administration in relation to such primary industries?
– The information is being obtained and a reply will be furnished as soon as possible.
i. - On the 23rd February, the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Fuller) asked the following questions, without notice: -
The Minister for the Interior has supplied the following answers to the honorable member’s questions : - 1 and 2. In an agreement dated 18th October, 1909, between the Commonwealth and the State of New South Wales, the following clause is included: - “ 9. In the event of the Commonwealth constructing a railway within the territory to its northern boundary, the State shall construct a railway from a point near Yass on the Great Southern Railway to join with the said railway, and the Commonwealth and the State shall grant to each other such reciprocal running rights as may be agreed upon, or as in default of agreement may be determined by arbitration, over such portions of that railway as are owned by each.”
r asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1 and 2. Total pay and allowances per annum, expressed in Australian currency, are as follows: -
Lieutenant-General Lavarack. - £2,164 (pay only subject to income tax) as G.O.C. 1st Army; £4,115 (not subject to income tax) as head of Australian Military Mission, Washington, including special United States of America allowance.
SirIven Mackay. - Holds civilian appointment and does not now receive Army pay. As G.O.C. 2nd Australian Army, annual pay and allowances amounted to £2,031 (pay only subject to income tax).
Had either Generals Lavarack or Mackay completed three months’ service in New Guinea they would have been allowed substantial exemptions in respect of taxation.
Lieutenant-General Smart. - £2,448 ( not subject to income tax). Includes special London allowances.
Lieutenant-Colonel Julius Stone. - £1,012 (pay only subject to income tax).
y. - On the 25th February the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Fuller) asked the following questions, upon notice -
The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Mb. Kenneth Slessor.
n. - On the 24th February the honorable member forWarringah (Mr. Spender) asked without notice if the Director of Army Public Relations had asked the Department of Information to apply for the cancellation of Mr. Kenneth Slessor’s official accreditation to the Army, and whether such action could not be stayed until a civilian, and not an Army officer, was given an opportunity to determine whether Mr. Slessor was being treated unjustly and prejudiced by Army officials.
In reply to the honorable member, I desire to inform him that the CommanderinChief has been consulted by the Minister for the Army on this matter and, it is true that, with his approval, the Acting Director-General of Public Relations did request the Department of
Information to withdraw the accreditation of Mr. Slessor as a war correspondent. The request for thewithdrawal of Mr. Slessor’s accreditation was based principally on the ground that he had made incorrect statements to sections of the Australian press and that he had repeated on the mainland, for publication, matter which had been excised, on the grounds of inaccuracy, from a despatch which he had lodged in New Guinea. Mr. Slessor has admitted that certain statements in a published account of an interview he gave were fallacious. I see no reason for any further action.
t asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
In view of the grave public apprehension regarding the use of all forms of censorship, will he give consideration to the appointment of a justice of the High Court as a royal commissioner, the terms of reference to include an inquiry into and recommendations upon: (a) the methods under which censorship in all its forms has been, is being, and should be, conducted in Australia; (b) the disclosure to other persons, official and otherwise, and. the use which has been made, of information abstracted from censored mail matter and tapped telephone conversations (other than for valid security reasons) ; and (c) the personal records, character and qualifications of personnel employed in the various branches of the Commonwealth censorship service?
– I have had a preliminary consultation with the Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the Australian Country party regarding the general question of censorship. We propose to confer again in the course of a few days. I hope that I shall then be able to make an announcement to the House on the subject.
n asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Yes. The mechanization of the dairying industry to overcome labour shortages as far as possible is being actively planned. 2. (a) The nature of machinerypools will be determined by the State Departments of Agriculture. Those departments will consider applications from District War Agricultural Committees and will recommend to the Commonwealth. Directorate of Agriculture whether a pool should be established or not. The guiding principle is that machinery so supplied will be used efficiently and lead to greater production.
The code is sufficiently elastic to permit each of these methods to be adopted as desired by the States.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 2 March 1944, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1944/19440302_reps_17_177/>.