18th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. J. S. Rosevear) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn to Wednesday next, at 3 p.m.
-In the absence of the Minister for Labour and National Service, I ask the Prime Minister the following questions: -
Is the Government aware that coal stocks at Bunnerong power house are again at an alarmingly low level and that any hold-up in deliveries of coal could lead to a major industrial crisis in Sydney?
Is it a fact that the Communist-controlled
Miners Federation executive is whipping up the agitation for a new coal deal for the purpose of engineering a general strike?
Is it also a fact that many of those who participated in the South Coast miners demonstration on Wednesday were not legitimate miners, but Communists?
In view of the grave threat to industry as the general result of coal losses, accentuated by one-day stoppages, what action does the Government propose to take to ensure that coal supplies to essential industries are not further jeopardized?
– I am aware that for years there hasbeen an acute shortage of coal supplies; the coal available has not been adequate to provide reserve stocks of any great magnitude. I have had no official communication regarding the situation at the Bunnerong power house, but I know that the reserve stocks of coal there have always been low. I have no knowledge as to whether those who participated in a demonstration in Sydney last Wednesday were Communists or miners.
As to whether industrial stoppages have resulted in some lowering of coal stocks, the Government is well aware of’ the difficulties associated with maintaining continuous production. The Minister for Supply and Shipping is doing all that is possible to maintain coal supplies. There can be no question that one-day stoppages and some other stoppages that have occurred are completely unwarranted in view of the needs of the community. As honorable members know, the Government hoped to reorganize and rehabilitate the coal-mining industryunder the new Joint Coal Board, but that result cannot be expected tobe achieved in a couple of days, or even in a couple of years. The country is suffering from the feuds between owners and employees which have disorganized the coal-mining industry for 100 years or more. That is an evil which we have attempted to cure.
– Previous governments did govern.
– I do not want to indulge in propaganda. The Leader of the Opposition had some experience of coal strikes himself during the time that he was associated with past governments, and he knows something of the difficulties . that have occurred in other parts of the world. It is doubtful whether, either in the United Kingdom or here, any determined attempt has ever been made by governments or any one else to effect a complete re-organization of the industry. Such an attempt is now being made in a way which will, I believe, ultimately result in better conditions obtaining for the men engaged in the industry, and for the community, generally, which needs more coal. If we were back in the days when 8,000,000 or 9,000,000 tons of coal a year was sufficient for our needs, we should be all right. However, since the needs of industry are expanding, while the machinery of production has not expanded in equal ratio-
– And the answer to the question is?
– The answer to the question is that everything possible is being done by the Government to provide adequate supplies of coal.
– In view of the statement appearing in this morning’s press that there is a grave likelihood of a general coal strike taking place in Australia in the course of the next few days, will the Prime Minister say what action the Government is taking for the provision ofcoal during the course of the strike so that the whole of industry in Australia will not be tied up by the actions of certain gentlemen who wish to take a holiday?
– I thought I had covered the ground of the honorable member’s question at undue length in my reply to the honorable member for Wentworth. I assure him that every possible step is being taken to meet any position that may arise as the result of a strike in the coal-mining industry.
Access to Documents
– According to a report published in the Sydney Morning Herald on Tuesday last, the Minister for Immigration despatched a telegram to the federal president of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia offering to make all departmental files and relative documents on immigration permits available for examination by the federal secretary of the league, Mr. Neagle. At the same time, he refused access to the New SouthWales president of the same organization, although it was that body which had asked questions regarding his administration. I now ask the Minister whether these are the same documents that the Minister refused to table in this Parliament on the 21st November last, on the ground that they were privileged documents? On what grounds are departmental files made available to outside persons, and refused to members of this House? Has the Minister taken upon himself the sole responsibility of deciding to whom he will give access to public documents, and to whom he will refuse such access? Have any other persons outside his department had access to these documents? Was any information conveyed to a Mr. Masel, prior to his departure for Singapore and Hong Kong, to arrange travel priorities to Australia for refugees?
– I have a good memory, but I am not sure that I can remember all the questions in the “ speech “ to which we have just listened. Mr. Neagle was not permitted to see any documents that were privileged in the sense in which I used the word when speaking in November last, of documents about which the honorable member forReid had inquired. I did offer to allow Mr. Neagle to see certain papers relating to matters in connexion with which charges had been made against me by the president of the New South Wales branch of the returnedsoldiers’ organization of which he is federal secretary. Those charges were to the effect that certain figures which I had cited were preposterous, and based on a pack of lies. Mr. Neagle was shown the relevant documents, and I understand from my officers - I had no association with Mr. Neagle at all - that he was satisfied that the figures which I quoted to the House were correct. Mr. Masel, who has been mentioned by the honorable member, did not have authority to issue any landing permits. To me the implications of that portion of the honorable member’s question are most improper and a gross reflection upon a decent citizen. I do not take upon myself the responsibility of determining what documents shall be shown and what shall not be shown, or to whom they shall be shown and to whom they shall not be shown. I determine the issues in respect of my own department.
– That is not what the Minister said in the House on a previous occasion.
– I have always said that. Within reason, I am prepared to show to any honorable member in whose honesty I have faith, any document which I believe he ought to see. Quite a number of honorable members have, from time to time, consulted me in my room on departmental files, and I have not had the slightest hesitation in making these files available to such members. Quite a number of documents were shown to Mr. Neagle but none involving questions of income, or assets, of guarantors of migrants - that was the germane portion of the question asked by the honorable gentlemanlast year relating to migration - because I believe that as the federal secretary of an important organization, Mr. Neagle was entitled to see certain documents having regard to all the circumstances surrounding the controversy between the New South Wales branch of his organization and myself. Finally, those documents were shown to Mr. Neagle, because I have faith in his honesty, integrity, impartiality and patriotism. I have no such faith in the honorable member forReid.
– In view of the fact that many honorable members who have received invitations to attend Anzac Day ceremonies are anxious to reply to such invitations, and as Anzac Day falls on a Friday this year, can the Prime Minister State on what days the Parliament will sit during the week in which Anzac Day falls?
– Having regard to the convenience of all honorable members I discussed this matter with the Leader of the Opposition and the Loader of the Australian Country party. It was felt that the most suitable date on which Parliament should meet after the Easter recess would be the 11.6th April. As Anzac Day falls on Friday in the following week it was thought that, perhaps, we could meet on the Tuesday of that week and release honorable members on the Thursday.
– That will not give some honorable members sufficient time to return to their electorates.
– We did not go into all the details. I shall again consult with the Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the Australian Country party with respect to the arrangement of business during that week. We shall endeavour to meet the convenience of all honorable members in this matter.
– I ask the Minister for Immigration whether it is a fact that foreign doctors wishing to come to Australia must relinquish all idea of practising as medical men in this country. If so, is this the policy of the British Medical Association or of the Government?
– The registration of doctors is a matter for the States, which have different laws on the subject. Generally, there is reciprocity in this matter between all States of the Commonwealth and Great Britain and New Zealand, and, perhaps, one other dominion in the British ‘Commonwealth. Generally, there is no reciprocity with foreign countries, and until reciprocal arrangements are made between the universities of other countries and those of this country there is no likelihood of foreign degrees being recognized in Australia. It might interest the honorable gentleman to know that, when the war broke out, there was no reciprocity in this matter between the United States and Australia or, indeed, between Canada and Australia, and that the only foreign countries with which Australia had made such reciprocal arrangements were Italy and Japan.
– Some months ago the Minister for External Affairs said that he would table in this House the report of the Canadian royal commission on Russian espionage in Canada. So far as I am. aware, that report has not yet been tabled. I ask the Minister what is the reason for the delay, and when we may expect that the report will be tabled ?
– This question was raised originally by the right honorable member for North Sydney. Only one copy of the report, which consists of 700 or 800 pages, has arrived. It was placed immediately at the disposal of the right honorable member for North Sydney and, I understand, is now in the library.
– It is away being bound.
– If that is so, I shall ensure that it shall be made available to honorable members as soon as possible.
– Would it be possible to have a condensed report prepared for the information of honorable members?
– That would take considerable time, but I shall see if the information contained in the report can be summarized if honorable members so desire. The report is far too extensive to be reprinted.
– I draw the attention of the Prime Minister to a report in to-day’s Sydney Morning Herald of a Communist congress in London which is being attended by two Communist representatives from this country, namely, Mr. Jack Henry, of Sydney, and Mr. Gerald Peale. The report states that the Australian representatives boasted that the Communist party was behind the industrial unrest and turmoil in this country. Is the Government content to allow Communists to sabotage our post-war reconstruction in this way, or does it intend to take penal action against Communist agitators who provoke and instigate unwarranted strikes?
– I assume that the honorable member can vouch for the accuracy of the statements that he has quoted. I have not seen the report in the Sydney Morning Herald and, in fact, I am not aware of any Communist congress being held in London. If the honorable member will place the second portion of his question upon the notice-paper I shall endeavour to provide him with a full reply.
– At the final meeting of the War Expenditure Committee last year, which, as the Prime Minister will appreciate, was an all-party body, members of the committee, believing that a similar body could perform useful service in peace-time in scrutinizing government accounts and guarding against unwarranted expenditure, unanimously recommended that a parliamentary public expenditure committee be appointed for this purpose. I ask the Prime Minister whether he has had an opportunity to consider that recommendation, and, if so, whether he has reached a decision in regard to it?
– Some consideration has been given to the recommendation of members of the War Expenditure Committee. It will be recalled that, at that time, there was some difficulty in the appointment of parliamentary committees because some honorable members opposite did not favour Opposition participation in them. The alternative to the appointment of a committee of the type suggested by the honorable member would be the reconstitution of the Public Accounts Committee, which operated for many years. I have given some consideration to the matter, but so far a final decision has not been reached.
Austra lian Representation.
– This morning’s press reports that the opinion is held in London that Australia is the only country that will not have a Minister engaged in what are described as lobby discussions at the International Trade and Employment Conference at Geneva. The report proceeds to state that on the issue of Empire preference, which will of course arise, New Zealand, Canada and South Africa will have ministerial representation engaged in those lobby discussions, but that, owing to the anticipated late arrival of the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, Australia will be the only country unrepresented. I ask the Prime Minister to inquire whether the other dominions intend to have ministerial representation at the preliminary discussions. If they do. will he arrange that Australia shall not be unrepresented at that time and in those circumstances?
– The matter raised by the honorable gentleman has been given a good deal of consideration. The honorable member knows that preliminary discussions in London will have a bearing on the conference at Geneva. I have discussed this matter with the representatives of some of the other dominions. The New Zealand Government considers that New Zealand ought to have a Minister in London to attend the preliminary discussions. I do not intend to commit the Government of Canada, but I understand that it does not consider that the London discussions will be of such great importance, and that they will cover general rather than specific matters. The Commonwealth Government has decided that, if at any time the presence of an Australian Minister is required, either in London or Geneva, one will be sent immediately, fully briefed on the matters under discussion. We think it would be a waste of time to have a Minister waiting around for months while discussions not on a ministerial plane were taking place.
– Is the Prime
Minister yet able to announce to the House the stage reached in the negotiations on the sale of Australian wool to Japan ?
– I am not able to say more than was said in the statement I issued to the press. On the financial side, negotiations have proceeded to a certain point. Some smaller financial aspects remain for discussion. The predominant matter to be negotiated relates to types of wool suitable for Japan’s needs. It was understood by me and others associated with the negotiations that very little of the wool sent to Japan would be of the finer types, because we believe that other markets are more worthy of receiving it. I understand, however, that the Japanese negotiators were not satisfied to take wool of the poorer types. Thatis where negotiations stand.
Land Settlement or ex-Servicemen.
– Will the Minister for Repatriation recommend to Cabinet the extension of the payment of the sustenance beyond the period of twelve months, which is now permitted under the Act, particularly to those ex-servicemen who settled on the land and encountered drought conditions, and who are now in financial difficulties? If Cabinet is not prepared to extend the period, will the Minister recommend the granting of an economic pension or payment similar to that which New Zealand grants in order to meet these “ border-line “ cases of hardship.
– I shall ascertain what can bedone to meet the difficulty to which the honorable member referred.
Statements in New Zealand.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been directed to a news item which appeared in the Melbourne press yesterday in which Mr. E. V. Elliott, the Communist federal secretary of the Australian Seamen’s Union, who is at present in New Zealand, is reported to have advocated “ the liquidation of traitors tothe workers “ and boasted of the way in which the union had immobilized Dutch shipping? In view of those remarks, and the fact that Mr. Elliott criticized the Australian Government and referred to Australian ex-servicemen as “silly damn fools”, will the Prime Minister give to the House an assurance that in future, greater care will be exercised in the issue of permits to Communists whose activities are so injurious to this country?
– I have not read the article.
– The honorable member for Parramatta vouches for its accuracy.
– I was about to ask him whether he did.
– I have a copy of the report here.
– I have not read the report, and it has not been referred to me. In a reply which I gave to the honorable member for Hunter recently in regard to the issue of visas, I said that all Australians, whether or not they represent what the honorable member called” fascist organizations” or other organizations, have the right of ordinary citizens to obtain a travel permit unless they have broken the law in some way. I shall not ask the authorities to discriminate against any person in the issue of travel permits, no matter what his political views may be.
– Will the Prime Minister inform me whether it is a fact that Australia is importing only a limited supply of motor cars and utility trucks? As utility trucks are more essential than motor cars, could the right honorable gentleman make arrangements for Australia to discontinue the importation of luxury motorcars with a view to increasing the supply of utility trucks?
– The Minister for Trade and Customs and other Ministers have given careful consideration to our inability to obtain utility trucks from suppliers in other countries. We are fully aware of the urgent need for them, and we have made every endeavour in Canada and the United States of America to increase our imports of these vehicles. Of course, theneeds of those two countries are also very great. At the direction of Cabinet, the Minister for Trade and Customs has been investigating the importation of luxury motor cars with a view to ascertaining whether Australia could restrict its imports, having regard to the availability of dollars, to motor vehicles of a more utilitarian character. As I myself have made some inquiries into this problem, I realize the difficulty of determining what constitutes a luxury motor car.
– The Prime Minister’s motor car is an instance.
– The Prime Ministers motor car may be classed as a luxury vehicle, but the cars which Ministers use are not. They are the same as those owned by many private persons. A standard type of car has been used by members of this Government and previous governments, and I do not believe that there is any ground for complaint about the use of such vehicles. Perhaps the Leader of theOpposition and myself might fairly be charged with the use of luxury motor cars, but such a charge would not apply to other members of the Commonwealth Government or State governments. An endeavour is being made now to ensure that importations of motor vehicles shall be confined, as far as is reasonably possible, to utility types.
– I direct a question to the Treasurer on the subject of the taxation of incomes of Australian authors and artists. These incomes are taxed on an exceptional, or non-recurring, basis and in the case of authors, royalties from books, are taxed at property rates. In view of the small number of Australian authors who make a living by writing books, will the Treasurer have the incomes of authors and artists generally placed on an average basis for taxation purposes? This has been done in respect of some other classes of incomes. Will he also have royalties from the sales of books treated as income from personal exertion instead of as income from property, which is taxed at higher rates than personal income?
– The method of taxing large incomes obtained in one particular year has frequently been raised, as former Treasurers know, in relation to receipts from sources other than the sale of books. Income from inventions is one example. For instance, some honorable members will recall the case of the Owen gun, which was raised during the war on a number of occasions by the honorable member for Wentworth. The AttorneyGeneral has always been very sympathetic towards the claims of authors in this matter. I notice that there were reports in the newspapers this week of the discussions with the Com missioner of Taxation about this problem. The subject has already been raised by a number of honorable members, including the honorable member for Parkes who is interested in the cultural side of life. I promise to investigate it. I have a sound knowledge of the problem, because the detailsof it have been dinned into my ears very often.
Serviceability of Aircraft
– I ask the Minister for Air whether it is a fact that certain aircraft used by the Royal Australian Air Force on the courier service to Japan have become so dangerous that some crews have refused to fly them ? Is it a fact that, as a result of protests made by air-crews, aircraft have recently been left at Darwin and at other points on the route to Japan without completing their trips? Further, is it correct thatQantas Empire Airways will soon take over the courier service to Japan from the Royal Australian Air Force?
– I have no knowledge whatever of any anxiety caused by unsatisfactory maintenance of aircraft operating between Australia and Japan. I was assured some time ago, when unwarranted press reports to this effect were published, that there was no justification for such reports. As to whether pilots have refused to fly some of these aircraft, I say that pilots are justified in refusing to fly any aircraft which they consider to be not airworthy ; in fact, it is their duty to do so. However, I have heard of no instances of that kind. With reference to the question whether Qantas Empire Airways will take over the courier service, a very premature announcement appeared in one of the evening newspapers yesterday regarding the continuation of the service either by military or civil aircraft. This matter is under consideration. At this stage I am not prepared to say anything more than that.
Motion (by Dr. Evatt) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act relating to the imposition, assessment and collection of a charge in respect of the employment of waterside workers.
Debate resumed from the 21st February (vide page 128) on motion by Dr. Evatt -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This bill, which was presented to the House and explained last week, has two main sets of provisions. The first relates to the establishment of a Stevedoring Industry Commission, which is to be set up to control waterside work, and among other things, to settle industrial disputes and regulate industrial matters on the waterfront. Its second set of provisions relate to a scheme for the registration of employees and the control of their numbers by a commission or, under the commission, by port committees so as to provide for what is usually called the decasualization of the industry.
Before I address myself to those two principal matters there are one or two preliminary remarks that ought to be made, because this is not a problem of such simplicity that one can plunge into it without some preliminary investigation. Certain matters have characterized the waterfront industry for many years. Changes have occurred over the years, and these matters deserve some statement if we are to have the faintest idea of what the disease is, and what the remedy might be. Long before the war - as far back as the nineties - there were great problems associated with this industry and they give rise to a mass of what I shall at once describe as most legitimate grievances by the men engaged in this work. In the first place, the work of the waterside worker was highly casual ; it was most intermittent. For long periods his weekly earnings were as low as his hourly earnings might seem to some people to have been high. In other words, his work was most spasmodic, and there was, therefore, very great economic uncertainty about the whole of his life. In the second place, he stood around to be picked up, and he did so in the wind and rain at all sorts of times. That was a source of legitimate grievance. Thirdly there was associated with his standing around for selection and the circumstances in which he waited for work an almost complete absence of the ordinary decent amenities of life. Fourthly, the work which he was called upon to do frequently had to be done without let or hindrance at all hours of the day or night ; one can only describe them as eccentric and extraordinarily inconvenient hours. Those four sets of grievances were real grievances. But when the Commonwealth Arbitration Court was established it tackled those matters. It will, I think, be agreed by all honorable members that the work done in relation to the waterfront industry, particularly under the presidency of Mr. Justice Higgins, and, later, of Chief Judge Beeby and his associates was extraordinarily good work, and that a very great amelioration of the conditions that I have described has taken place. In order to illustrate, I mention that loaded hourly rates were introduced, in the first instance, by Mr. Justice Higgins to compensate for broken time. To put it in other words, what the Arbitration Court did was to say, “ We must not assume that week in and week out men engaged in this industry will have forty-eight, forty-four, or forty hours’ work. We will assume that week in and week out, over the year, the actual hours that they will work will be much fewer than that, and therefore, the hourly rate of pay ought to be loaded in order to provide for a fair average weekly earning in total “. ‘ That was a great reform. As time went on pick-up places as well as pick-up times came to be prescribed and suitable accommodation and shelter began to be provided, to a great degree as the result of government action but also in some measure as the result of court action. Working hours were regulated, not so much by prescribing a weekly schedule of work as by loading rates for overtime, and for work done out of certain days and certain hours, so that it became more profitable to have work done within certain periods of time, and therefore some greater degree of regularity of working hours was established. That is the second phase. I have indicated what I think were very great grievances indeed. Secondly, I have shown what was done before the war. I now desire to say something about what has been done since the last war began, because without it we shall not have a complete picture. In the first place, amenities have been greatly increased, undoubtedly as the result of action taken in the course of the war. For various reasons, there has been a much higher degree of regularity of work, so that there has been a marked rise in the average earnings of waterside workers. There has been a development of control by the Stevedoring Industry Commission which was set up under regulations, and there has been a steady weakening of the old authority of the employer in the engagement and dismissal of men. I think that honorable members will agree that that is an objective summary of the growths and changes during the war. But in spite of those matters to which I have referred - matters which one might have thought would tend to strike a blow at the sense of grievance, and produce a greater degree of satisfaction and a greater willingness to work - there has been a disastrous decline of the volume of work done on the man-hour basis ; there has been a remarkable slowing down of the handling of ships in port; and there has, in consequence, been a grave loss of shipping capacity, which is not plentiful in any view. That, of course, has affected our capacity to export cargoes of all kinds, and in particular, cargoes of foodstuffs to meet the needs that exist on the other side of the world. I do not believe that, so far in the course of my remarks, I have made one solitary controversial statement. I believe that what I have said is a completely fair summary of the facts - facts with which I have an outside familiarity because of my association with industrial courts at various phases of the developments to which I have referred. Unhappily, the rise of the standard of the rates paid to a waterside worker, due to very proper adjustments of the circumstances in which he lives and of his economic position, has been accompanied by a movement in almost inverse ratio by which the volume of output has been diminished and the efficiency of our shipping turn-around in Australia has been reduced. I can cite two very grave examples of that. The first relates to coastal shipping. It will be conceded that shipping is doing its work for the country when it is moving. It is not doing anything particular for the country when it is tied up. Therefore, the aim of all persons conducting shipping enterprises must be to have their vessels on the move for the greatest possible percentage of their lives. It will probably be agreed that, even before the war, we were not living in a state of perfection in these matters, but the fact is that, before the war, Australian coastal shipping spent approximately one-third of its time in port. To-day, it is spending two- thirds of its time in port ; or, to be very precise, at present 67 per cent, of the time of all coastal shipping is spent tied up in port being loaded or unloaded, or just tied up. Much the same applies to overseas shipping. I learned recently of an illustration which, I believe, is characteristic, and because it relates to a specific ship it has, perhaps, added interest. There is a ship called Nestor, which was very well known in Australian waters before the war. It traded regularly between Australia and the” United Kingdom, and particularly to the port of Liverpool. In 1939, it spent 42 days in Australia loading and discharging at twelve ports. Wow, Nestor takes 88 days to load and unload in only eight Australian ports. Nestor carries not only general cargo, but also food.
– Doe3 the ship carry the same kind of cargoes now as before the war?
– The cargoes carried now are comparable in all respects with those carried in 1939, and the ship is engaged in exactly the same kind of business. The honorable member may wish to have these figures verified, but he must recognize that the general trend is in the direction I have indicated because he has seen the same sort of thing happening in Tasmanian ports. All this has a tremendous bearing on the capacity of Australia to export, and to play its part in world economic affairs. It is all very well for us to fold our arms and express pious sympathy with the people of Great Britain in their almost imminent state of economic peril, but the fact remains that ships coming here to load for the United Kingdom take twice as long to handle cargo in Australian ports as they did before the war. It is necessary to get down to particulars in order to express a problem of this kind. Therefore, I refer specifically to overseas shipping in the port of Sydney, and to four kind? of cargo which are of particular importance to us. The decline in the quantity of cargoes of various kinds handled by gangs of waterside workers is illustrated by the following figures: -
It is evident, therefore, that the trend is all in the direction of employing more men in each gang while getting less output from each gang. It must be plain that if this process continues nothing but disaster can result. Judge Foster, of the Arbitration Court, conducted an inquiry
Ifr. Menzies. into the industry. He made & careful examination, and prepared an interesting report which has, no doubt, been read hy honorable members. He was not prepared to pursue the inquiry into exact figures to the ultimate point because, very sensibly, he said that it was not necessary for the purposes of the inquiry, but he did say -
There is no doubt that output per man pel hour lias fallen - by how much I am unable to say, but it would appear to be quite substantial.
This decline is not to be explained by saying, “ Oh, well, these nien have a sense of grievance because they are underpaid and because their economic position is uncertain, for which reasons they are not prepared to put their backs into the job “.
– The figures are of little value if the trend has ‘been arrested.
– The Minister can express that optimistic view later on if he wishes; but he would indeed be an optimist who could find in any of the figures which I have had worked out for 1.947, which is after Judge Poster made his report, that the trend has been arrested. But the point I was making was that this is not to be explained by a sense of grievance on the part of the men about earnings; because, unlike the period when my distinguished colleague the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) was fighting the battles of the industry, the waterside workers are to-day earning higher average earnings than more qualified tradesmen in many industries. I asked for and obtained a complete analysis of waterside workers’ earnings and hours of work for the period from July to December, 1946, that is the last complete half-year period. With the consent of honorable members I shall incorporate iiic complete table in Hansard. It is as follows: -
That table deserves a little citation in the course of this speech. For example, let me take the port of Sydney. The average number of men registered in the port of Sydney for waterside work in the period I have mentioned was 6,335. The average number of men who worked was 5,182. The average earnings per week of the men who worked were £7 2s. 7d., and the average number of hours per week of men who worked was 33.47. In Newcastle where the number of men who worked was 606, the average weekly earnings were £9 2s. 2d. for 37.71 hours worked. At Port Kembla where the average number of men who worked was 280. the average earnings per week wen £7 19s. 4d., and the hours worked 32.10. I shall not quote all the figures, but I might, perhaps, refer to Melbourne. In Melbourne, the average number of men registered was 3,671 of whom the average number who actually worked was 3,405; so, it is getting up to nearly full use of registered workers. The average earnings per week were £9 lis. 5d. and the average hours per week 39.68. Those figures show conclusively, first, that these difficulties do not arise from any legitimate sense of grievance about earnings since, in many cases, the earnings of these workers now have passed those of skilled tradesmen with years of apprenticeship behind them. There can be very little doubt if results be put in plain terms, that there is a very great and growing disinclination to work, and as the result very largely of bad leadership in the waterfront industries, because as honorable members know both the waterside workers and the seamen are hag-ridden by Communists, there has been a failure to realize the responsibility which the waterfront has for keeping up supplies, particularly at this moment, to Great Britain and Europe in the circumstances there existing. There can be no doubt that those things are very closely associated with this; that as a rule you will not get genuinely efficient work unless you have genuinely efficient management. I have always believed that the responsibilities of management are enormous if you are to have efficient work done; but the managing authority of employers in this industry has been almost entirely taken away. So, in the result, unless there is a marked change in the approach by the waterside workers to the job, no new artificial schemes like those contained in this bill will do anything useful, whereas, on the other hand, if this process is to continue - the more we heap Pelion upon Ossa, the more we pile regulation upon regulation and control upon control - the more likely we are to increase the process by which output falls and the capacity to use shipping to the fullest degree steadily diminishes.
– Why did not the right honorable gentleman cite the figures in respect of Port Adelaide and Fremantle?
– Because, as I explained, having obtained leave to incorporate the figures in Hansard I did not wish to weary the House. At Adelaide, in which the honorable member has a legitimate interest, there were 1,147 workers registered, of whom 1,118 worked, that is, almost 100 per cent, of the men registered worked during the period mentioned. The average earnings, were £8 3s. Id. a week, and the average hours actually worked 36.62. So, in the result, that is oven better than Sydney whilst, perhaps, not quite so good as the result in Melbourne. At Fremantle there were 1,265 men registered of whom 1,020 worked. The average earnings were £7 17s. 9d., and the average hours worked 31.29. So the honorable gentleman will at once realize that I did not refrain from citing those figures because they were out of harmony with my general thesis, hut only because the House had given me leave to incorporate the table in Hansard, and I did not wish to take up time unnecessarily.
I turn now to the principles involved in the bill. The first is: Should there be a special tribunal set up outside the Arbitration Court to deal with the industrial conditions of waterside workers? That is an enormously important question. Should we go outside the Arbitration Court and establish a special means of industrial adjudication for waterside workers ? At once, I propose to propound the answer, “ No, we should not do that “. The bill represents in reality a step in the direction of achieving, the militant objective in Australia of “ divide and conquer “ particularly when applied to indus trial tribunals. That is to say, if you can divide the industrial adjudication of the country up into a series of separate and really unrelated tribunals then you can destroy them one by one much more readily than you can destroy a powerful and highly organized Arbitration Court. My second reason for being opposed to a special tribunal is that one of the greatest causes of unrest in the history of our industrial discontents in Australia has been the anomalies which have come into existence between men doing similar work in different industries. Those anomalies will unquestionably multiply if we turn our backs upon the development of a steady body of consistent principles at which the Arbitration Court has always aimed. Some broad uniformity of principle in our industrial law is just as important as uniformity of principle in the ordinary law. It is unnecessary to point out .what extraordinary discontents would arise in the country, for example, if a taxation law, instead of being applied on a uniform principle all over the country, varied from place to place according to the bargain which the taxpayers in a community might have been able to .make with the Commissioner of Taxation. You must have some uniformity in similar circumstances if you are to give to people the feeling that a fair deal is being enjoyed. How that uniformity is to be preserved if for separate industries in Australia we set up tribunals which are responsible to nobody but themselves, which can proceed on their own basis of rules and work out their own principles, I am entirely at a. loss to understand.
– The same set of circumstances exists in connexion with State tribunals.
– Yes, and the right, honorable gentleman will at once agree with me that that very fact was the cause of tremendous discontent and, indeed, gave rise to the overlapping problem as between the Commonwealth and the States which taxed the minds of the people of this country long before I thought of coming to the Parliament.
The next point I want to make is that undoubtedly there will be demands from other industries for similar tribunals, particularly from those which closely touch the waterfront. The seamen, for instance, cannot be refused such a tribunal if the waterside workers have one. What about the land transport workers whose work is, to a large extent, in contact with that of the waterside workers? What about the storemen and packers, many of whom are actually employed in pursuing their avocation in the immediate vicinity of the transport workers? Again, there is very much less risk of political, interference with a powerful body, independent, and purely arbitral, like the Arbitration Court, than with this proposed commission which is partly arbitral and partly administrative. It is a serious confusion of functions. The commission is being given an arbitral job to perform which will itself occupy a great deal of its time, and at the same time it is being given the task of regulating and controlling waterside work, controlling the number of people to be engaged, dealing with amenities to be established, conducting an employment, bureau, doing a host of things which, are extraordinarily useful things to be done, but which, in the case of this commission, are all mixed up with the more important task of making arbitrary decisions as to rates of pay and settling all other industrial matters which may arise in the industry. On top of that, for some reason which has not yet been explained, this tribunal, which is being substituted for the Arbitration Court, and which should therefore be clearly independent of political interference, is to have as one of its members a Commonwealth officer, who, it is true, is to have no vote, but who is apparently to be an ever-present reminder that the Government has set up the tribunal. He is, no doubt, to be put in a position of always accommodating the commission with the views of the government of the day. As this commission generally follows the form of a balanced commission, with an independent chairman, and two representatives of employees, and two of shipowners, one overseas and one coastal, why is this man to be introduced?
– Such a representative has always been present during the war period.
– That seems to be the very best reason why he should no longer bc there. The Opposition stands firm in its belief that while there is abundant scope for the assignment of individual Arbitration Court judges to individual industries so that they may acquire special and expert knowledge in relation to them, nothing but harm can come from the creation of special tribunals. They subtract jurisdiction from the Arbitration Court and, in the long run, their establishment will tend to produce a nonuniform set of principles in industrial law and to create more industrial trouble than they settle.
The next question is whether this proposed commission is really integrally associated with the Arbitration Court, because I suspect that one answer that will be made to what I have just been saying is that I have misconceived the position, that the commission is to be a branch of the Arbitration Court and that it will preserve the arbitration spirit. I want to look at that. It is true that the chairman of the tribunal is to be a judge of the Arbitration Court or a conciliation commissioner. That will be found in clause 5. That .is to say, the chairman may be a judge of the court with the necessary qualifications to be possessed by a judge, or he may be an entirely untrained man who may possess no quali-fixations at all, to wit, a conciliation commissioner. There is no necessary requirement of qualifications. Clause 6 of the bill provides that the chairman shall not except with his consent be required to perform any duties as a judge of the court or as a conciliation commissioner, as the case may be. That, of course, moans that there will be no real participation by the chairman in the work of the Arbitration Court. I venture to say that with the mass of duties to which I have already referred, the chairman of this commission will not find any spare time resting on his hands. Consequently, it can be taken for granted that lie never will sit in the Arbitration Court or perform any duties in that court and accordingly this statement that he is to be a judge of the Arbitration Court is merely a statement of what his initial qualifications should be. He cannot be appointed as chairman unless he is a judge of the Arbitration Court, but thereafter he will never perform any functions in the Arbitration Court. The alleged association between this commission and the Arbitration Court is completely illusory. Again, honorable members will see in clause 11 that the commission has arbitral functions in the settlement of disputes and the regulating of industrial matters ; it is to prevent or settle by conciliation or arbitration industrial disputes extending beyond the limits of one State -in connexion with stevedoring operations and so on. I have already made some summarized reference to that. In addition, however, the tribunal is also to regulate and control the performance of stevedoring operations in their industrial aspects. It is very interesting to note that the completely broad and unlimited power over stevedoring operations to be given to the commission, a power which extends to the whole management of stevedoring operations and to the prescribing of industrial conditions, was suggested to the royal commissioner by Mr. Healy, the secretary of the Waterside Workers Federation, who is a well-known Communist. He said, “ You give us a commission that will nun the waterfront business and we will soon get rid of private interests “. In his report the learned judge said, “I will not deal with that. I do not recommend that at present because at some time in the future certain further steps must be taken. I will not recommend it. “ The learned judge said -
The conduct and control of stevedoring operations including the introduction of new methods and systems, the prohibition and modification of customs, the provision or acquisition of plant, equipment, &c. ; the control of wharfs and gear, and the entering into contracts to these ends, which have been pressed for by Mr. Healy on behalf of his association, and, while not recommending them at this stage, I do not reject them as being ultimately undesirable. These proposals are very far reaching and my investigations so far have not enabled me to fully appreciate all the implications involved. However, the immediate and most pressing problems fall for solution within the powers I have recommended.
So he did not recommend this ; but this is in the bill, and the result of it being in the bill is that there shall be two sets of farreaching powers in the hands of this commission, one dealing with industrial matters, .and the other dealing with business matters - administrative matters, and matters relating to the control of stevedoring operations. No arbitration court would ever be asked to perform two such entirely different functions requiring such different qualifications in the people who are to perform them. If honorable members will glance at clause 13 they will see the elaboration of the powers of the commission. There is reference to wages, hours, and conditions, annual leave, attendance money, employment bureaus, first-aid equipment, canteens, cafeteria, dining-roms, rest-rooms and so on. The emphasis is on what I shall describe as a duality of functions of this commission and the consequent unlikeness to the Arbitration Court. Clause 14 is one in regard to which, even in a second-reading debate I wish to make some point, because it puzzles me. Sub-clause 2 of clause 14 says that the provisions of sections 48 and 4.9 of the Acts Interpretation Act shall apply to awards and orders made by the commission which are of a legislative and not executive character in like manner as they apply to regulations. As almost every industrial award possesses a legislative and not executive character because it prescribes rules by which people are to conduct themselves in the future, the effect of sub-clause 2 will be that any industrial award made by this commission can be invalidated by a resolution of either House of the Parliament, in the same way as “either House of the Parliament may invalidate a regulation made under some regulalationmaking power. Therefore, we have here a provision for political action overruling an award. That condition does not exist in the case of the Arbitration Court. Let me remind honorable members that it does not necessarily mean political action by the government of the day. The government of the day may have command in the lower house, but not in the upper house; but the upper house will still be able to exercise this power to throw out an award of the Stevedoring Industry Commission. It is an extraordinary proposition that in relation to this industry the Parliament should be given power to overrule awards - one House of the Parliament at that - although no such power has ever been dreamt of in the case of the Arbitration Court. Then, in clause 16 there is another attempt to suggest that this is part of the Arbitration Court and within its general machinery, because, as honorable members will see, there is a reference of a highly pious kind to standard hours and to the basic wage. The clause provides that the commission shall . not alter the standard hours of waterside workers, or the basic wage applicable to them, except in conformity with the award of the Arbitration Court. But what are the standard hours for waterside workers 1 Are there any ? There are not. The waterside workers have been dealt with for many years on the basis that, as their working time is likely to be broken, it should be assumed that they will have 30 hours work a week.
– They were given annual holidays on the basis of a 44-hour week recently.
– Yes, 44 hours has been used as the basis of calculating the wage, by, of course, the process of deciding what ought to be the wage for a 44- hour week, and dividing it by 30 to get the hourly rate, and then making certain adjustments; but I should like to know whether anybody can say that the standard hours of work applying to other industries are to be treated as the standard hours of work in the waterside industry. I do not believe that anybody can say that any more than I believe that there is some basic wage that applies to the waterfront industry, because, as honorable members know, after these initial calculations have been made, there is always an adjustment because most people possess skill or are thought to possess skill, or because there are special circumstances that warrant the payment of a margin over the basic wage. As the Prime Minister is aware, there is an illusion in the public mind as to the percentage of workers who receive the basic wage.
Clause 18 gives power to the commission to refer a question of law for the opinion of the Arbitration Court; but if the chairman of the commission himself is initially a judge of the Arbitration Court, it would be rather against human nature for him, sitting as chairman of the Stevedoring Industry Commission, to refer to any single judge of the Arbitration Court, sitting somewhere else, a question of law for his opinion. I do not think that many questions are likely to be referred for opinion in these circumstances. Having had a little nodding acquaintance with judges in my time, I have found quite a few who would be very happy to refer a question of law for the opinion of the Full Court, but, so far, I have not had the pleasure of meeting one who would be prepared to refer a question of law arising in his own court for the opinion of one judge of equal status sitting in another court. It may occur, but not in my time. Therefore, clause 18 does not matter very much. Similarly, clause 19 gives power to the Arbitration Court to give an interpretation of an award made by the commission; but, for exactly the same reason, it is quite .obvious that that power will never he exercised. Consequently, as a result of this necessary, but rather tedious examination of this clause, it is abundantly clear that this is not the Arbitration Court; but that it is, in fact, deliberately established as something which stands outside the Arbitration Court and which is to exist on an entirely different footing.
The third question that arises is this. Should there be a commission charged with the rationalization of employment on the waterfront by the registration of workers, the fixing of quotas for various ports and so on. My answer is that there certainly should be such an authority. The attempt that has been made over a period of years, to get rid, if possible, of the intermittency of employment on the waterfront, deserves the support of all decent citizens. It would be splendid if it were found practicable - I know that the difficulties are enormous - for people to be employed on the waterfront at normal permanent rates of pay, working in a normal fashion, and, therefore, existing in the numbers that are required. But, of course, in the past the fluctuations of shipping have meant that a great reserve pool of waterside workers has been required, most of them working two or three days of the week on the waterfront and looking for other employment for the rest of the time. This attempt to rationalize waterfront employment by a careful examination of conditions at each port to determine how many men should be registered, and by provision for deregistration as well as registration, deserves support, and I for one hope that that part of the scheme will be successful, because if we could ultimately solve that problem it would be a remarkable major achievement. But in the performance of that work the commission ought to be under an obligation to give fair treatment to all employees and also to recognize what I venture to describe as supreme national policy in relation to exservicemen. Let me see how far that is done in this hill. The Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union of Australia came into existence, honorable members will recall, many years ago as the result of a strike on the waterfront. That union is duly registered in the Federal Arbitration Court, and therefore possesses plenty of rights. Members already registered under the existing regulations and the existing commission are, under clause 3 sub-clause 2 of this bill, to have the right to continue to be registered. That means that that union cannot recruit new members. So the purpose of this bill amongst other things, is to see that the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union shall steadily fade away. Indeed, its fading away may be a much more rapid process than some of its members may think, as the custom, in the stevedoring industry is to organize men in gangs, and no member of the Waterside Workers Federation is likely to work in the same gang as a member of the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union. Consequently members of the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union will be increasingly unable to supply gangs of the necessary strength. Subject to the protection that is given to those already registered, the crux of the matter about thi; registrations is contained in clause 24. the effect of which is to provide that, subject to the rights of those already registered, the provision for the retention of which protects a handful of permanent and casual men and a. few others, only members of the Waterside Workers Federation can be registered. That means, of course, in the first place, compulsory unionism and compulsory membership, mark you, of one union out of the two registered on the waterfront; but, as the bill puts no compulsion upon the Waterside Workers Federation to accept any one as a member, this bill really means that the Waterside Workers Federation will from now on determine who shall be employed on the waterfront. “ You cannot be employed unless you are a member of our union, and you cannot be a member of our union unless we, in our unfettered discretion, decide to let you in.” That is a great blot on this registration system. There is a second blot. I cannot find in this bill any protection whatever given to ex-servicemen, as such. For the ex-serviceman who joins the Waterside Workers Federation there is protection. As a member of the federation he will be eligible for registration.
– If he can get in.
– That is the point. There is no obligation on the federation to admit any one to membership. It has a perfectly unfettered choice. Therefore, there is no protection for ex-servicemen as such. If any honorable gentleman thinks that perhaps that is not necessary, because the Re-establishment and Employment Act looks after ex-servicemen, I warn him that the provision in clause 24 is subsequent in time to that act and will to that extent overrule it. The usual protection hitherto given under the Arbitration Act and under hosts of awards to ex-servicemen in relation to preference in employment on the waterfront is swept away. From now on you get a job on the waterfront if you are a member of the Waterside Workers Federation and, being such, are registered by the Stevedoring Industry Commission.
– Hear, hear!
– I imagined that the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) would say “Hear, hear!” Doubtless, the bill has been fully explained to honorable members on the other side. As we know, they have approved of it. By the way, Mr. Speaker, if I may, as it were, interrupt myself to make what one can almost describe as an aside, I have had a little quiet amusement out of this part of the bill, , because what do I find in it? Waterside workers have to be registered. They can be deregistered. They are to be given a token of registration to be produced at any time on request and to be surrendered if deregistered at any time. Of course, for many years, my honorable colleagues and I have recognized that von cannot have control of the waterfront without provisions of that kind; but, when we did that, as you will remember, the cry “ Dog-collar act ! “ went up all around Australia.
– This is the illegitimate son of the “ dog-collar “.
– Yes. The least that honorable members opposite can do is apologise for some of the remarks they have made about mc as the man who administered that provision. If this bill passes into law, I shall be waiting for a written apology from Port Kembla, but I do not expect to get one.
– If that is the right honorable member’s belief, he should be supporting tie bill.
– I am supporting that part of the bill. I am sorry if I did not convey my meaning to the right honorable gentleman. I said clearly that the part of the bill that sets out to control waterfront, employment ‘by placing a limit on the number of waterside workers that may be registered is good. Following the precedent set by the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) at the famous Constitution Convention in asking a question and then answering it himself, I ask whether experience of the working of the Stevedoring Industry Commission so far has indicated that the proposals now made are workable and effective. Various powerful reasons exist for saying that the answer ought to be “ No “. In the first place, the operations of the commission, which have now been going on since J942, have been closely associated with a steady decline of the volume of work done. There is no escape from that. I should prefer to say that the operations of the commission have probably resulted in a steady decline of the volume of work done. In the second place, the existence of the commission, and the exercise by it of its various regulating powers, has tended to destroy management, and when you destroy’ management you destroy efficiency. Tn the third place, the com mission itself has suffered - and I say it with respect to its members, whoever they may be - confusion of mind in its prescription pf industrial conditions. I illustrate that because I want to prove that statement. For many years waterside workers have been dealt with in Australia on the assumption that a full week’s work would not be available, that 30 hours a week ought to be presumed as the limit of the hours that they would be required to work, and that rates of pay ought to he introduced and fixed at such a level as to give a full and proper week’s wages if 30 hours was worked. Now, it seems clear that if that scheme is to be altered, for example, by providing weekly wages, the rates of pay must inevitably be revised, because the whole condition of the loaded hourly rate is that the men do not have a full week’s work and a weekly wage. (Extension of time granted.] Chief Judge Beeby, in the Waterside Workers case in 1932, said -
The workmen have also forgotten, and are encouraged by their leaders to forget, the reasons for the high casual rates of pay fixed by the court, rates higher than those paid in any other casual occupation in the Commonwealth. The union now seeks the removal of many of the disadvantages of casual employment without a parallel reconsideration of wage rates. But decasualization, if ever achieved, must carry with it reconsideration of wage rates.
I am directing the attention of honorable members to this because I propose to associate it with the much-debated problem of attendance money. Notwithstanding the principle which has been repeated rime after time in the Arbitration Court’s history, the Stevedoring Industry Commission, exhibiting confusion of mind on this matter, recently added what it calls “ attendance money “ of 16s. a day. The Treasurer (Mr. Chifley), with characteristic prudence, reduced it to 12s. a day. That was one of the few occasions when the right honorable gentleman was in a inducing mood. Attendance money is to br paid to the waterside worker who fails tei be nicked m> on any picking-up day. That is quite inconsistent with what the Arbitration Court did in the Waterside Workers case in 1 932. Chief Judge Beeby said on that occasion -
It is necessary for the carrying on of the in - dustry that those men should hold themselves free from other engagements and ready for ships when they come. This standing-by time furnishes the reason for dealing with the industry on lines different from most others and for the system under which a high nominal hourly rate has always been prescribed.
That puts the whole matter in a few lines. The anomalous character of this attendance money may be seen from the consideration once more of a few figures. These relate to the Port of Melbourne. I took the figures for one week in January, although all the figures I have seen for this year have a strong family resemblance. Twenty men who earned between £8 and £9 for the week drew, in addition, 12s. attendance money.
– Did they draw 12s. a day?
– No, for the week; that is to say, on one day the men presented themselves and were not picked up ; but on the remaining days of the week they earned between £8 and £9. They had not only a weekly wage immeasurably higher than any amount that the Arbitration Court had contemplated, but also attendance money to compensate them for not having an adequate weekly wage. Of 24 men who earned between £9 and £10 a week, 23 drew 12s. attendance money and one drew 24s. In other words, he drew attendance money on two days, and earned between £9 and £10 on the other days of the week. Sixtyeight men earned between £10 and £11 in the week, and every one of them drew, in addition, 12s. attendance money. Of 59 men who earned between £11 and £12 for the week, 54 drew 12s. attendance money and five drew 24s. Of 37 men who earned between £12 and £13 for the week, 35 received an additional 12s. attendance money and two received 24s. Of twenty men who earned between £13
Mid £14 for the week, each got 12s. attendance money. Of 22 men who earned between £16 and £17 a week, each drew 12s. attendance money. So it goes on! T cite those figures because it is necessary for honorable members to remind themselves that attendance money is intended to be compensation for non-employment, although, as I have shown, the loaded casual hourly rate was expressly designed to cover it. Partly by reason of present circumstances and partly by reason, I regret to say, of the slowing down of output so that the job is prolonged, the weekly earnings are much higher than were ever contemplated. But this award grants to the waterside workers a present of money, and imposes a completely wasteful burden on the transport of goods. This item, loaded by the special tax of which we had notice this morning, will probably cost approximately £400,000 a year. The high-water mark of absurdity regarding attendance money exists in two ports which are referred to as “ wireless “ ports. I had intended to refer to the Port of Melbourne, but as the honorable member for Grey (Mr. Russell) is a little anxious that Adelaide should not be overlooked, I am happy to [eli him that Adelaide is also a “ wireless port “. That is to say, it is a port, like Melbourne, where, by courtesy of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, certain gangs of waterside workers are notified when they will not be required. This information is broadcast at night and again early the next morning. So, a member of a gang, resting uneasily in his bed, may learn from the radio that he is not required that day.
– Surely he is not obliged to provide his own radio?
– That, of course, will come.
– Is the Leader of the Opposition out of bed at an early hour?
– I am not, and if I know anything about the honorable member for Hunter, he is not. Having heard this announcement, the waterside worker is entitled to attendance money. In other words, this money is paid, not for nonemployment alone, but for nonemployment and non-attendance. I suppose that is why it is called attendance money.
– The waterside worker must be in attendance at the radio.
– The honorable member for Hunter has put his finger on ir with unerring skill when he says, “ After all, the waterside worker has to attend at the radio in order to hear the announcement “. That is perfectly true. And the waterside worker collects the 12s. attendance money the next time he is at the picking-up place. At Port Kembla and Townsville, this information is conveyed, not over the radio, but by posting lists, and the small boy of the family, who is sent to look at the list, sees that papa’s name does not appear on it, and the result is that papa becomes eligible for the attendance money. It is fantastic.
Air. Holt. - How much does it cost a person to become a member of the federation ?
Air. MENZIES.- I do not know, but I forecast that the demand for admission into the Waterside Workers’ Federation, which enjoys this precious monopoly will he much greater than it was even in the turbulent days of the right honorable member for North Sydney. The Stevedoring Industry Commission has apparently ruled that, to become eligible for attendance money, the waterside worker does not need to attend the picking-up place. All he needs to do is to hold himself available for work ; and for this kind of absurdity, this industry will be loaded, with a heavy financial burden. Perhaps I should say that the industry itself will net carry the burden. These industries never do. They will pass the cost on, through freights and fares, to the general community. Therefore the general community must undertake to pay for this piece of what I venture to describe as perfect absurdity arising from utter contusion of mind in the Stevedoring Industry Commission, at a time when men of greater skill and much longer training in other industries do not receive attendance money and, for the most part, receive emoluments substantially smaller than those to which I have referred. Altogether, this bill, to put it modestly, needs very close scrutiny. Many aspects of it seem to mc to be deplorable and wrong; some aspects, which I have mentioned, seem to me to merit some support. However, it will undoubtedly require a lot of alteration, and some drastic amputation, before it. can reach a state in which we on this side of the House could possibly agree to pass it at the third reading stage and send it to the Senate.
is greatly concerned because there is to be some measure of union control over conditions on the waterfront. I believe in the principle of preference to unionists. I remind the right honorable gentleman that one of his colleagues, a former Prime Minister, introduced the law providing for the registration of waterside workers which became known as the “ dog-collar act “. The right honorable member is deeply concerned because that iniquitous legislation is to be superseded by the bill now before the House. We all know of the terrible riots (hat occurred on the waterfront when the “ dog-collar act “ first came into operation. A man named Tom Edwards was killed in Perth by a bayonet-thrust during those disturbances. The government of the day, the Bruce-Page Administration, had no hesitation in ordering out the military forces to enforce that law. Six other men were injured at the time when Tom Edwards was killed. Casualties also occurred on the waterfront at Melbourne. The workers do not forcibly oppose any law unless they believe it to be unjust and repressive. The BrucePage Government attempted to enforce that act in New South Wales, but met with no success.
The Leader of the Opposition lost himself in a maze of figures, which he quoted in attempting to prove that waterside workers are “going slow” on their jobs because the rate of unloading cargo from ships has decreased although the number of men employed in the gangs has increased. I do not know where the right honorable gentleman obtained his figures, and therefore I am not in a position to contradict them. They were news to me. Ministers are in possession of the facts, and they will be able to answer his argument on that point. I do know that a great deal of machinery used for unloading ships deteriorated during the war owing to om inability to obtain spare parts and replacements at. that time. Most of that machinery has become obsolete in any case. The slackening of the rate of handling cargo is due not to any “go-slow” policy on the part of the workers, as was claimed by the Leader of the Opposition, but to the inefficiency of worn-out and out-moded machinery. The right honorable member criticized the provision for the payment of attendance money to waterside workers. Most honorable members have seen waterside workers reporting for employment morning after morning, in all sorts of weather, standing about without shelter while they wait to be called up for work. They leave their homes early each morning, carrying lunches prepared by their wives, and often they are not called up. Sometimes, a man may obtain one day’s work in a week, and then he may be obliged to remain idle the following week. If the men have to be in attendance at- the pickup centres, there is no reason why they should not be paid for placing themselves :it the beck and call of the shipping companies in that way. Why has the Leader of the Opposition criticized the payment of 12s. for attendance at a pick-up centre? Consider the exorbitant fees that his fellow legal practitioners charge for representing clients in the courts of law. For instance, the right honorable member himself appeared on behalf of Mr. James, who, incidentally, is not related vo me, in the famous dried fruits marketing case. Yet, when the case came before the Privy Council on appeal, the right honorable gentleman appeared on behalf of the Commonwealth Government in opposition to James. These legal experts can twist and turn in every direction. They charge exceedingly high rates for the retention of their services, apart from their fees for court appearances, and they describe these emoluments as “ pin money “. Does that “ pin money “ amount to only 12s. a day ? More probably it amounts to 12 guineas or more a day. I have a great deal of respect for the legal fraternity, but when members of that profession rise in this House and complain because workers are to be paid 12s. a day attendance money, I cannot let their complaints pass without criticism. This bill will supersede the coercive measures that were introduced by anti-Labour governments and will eliminate the “ big stick “ of force from conditions on the waterfront. It is purely and simply a conciliation measure. It represents an honest attempt by the Government to provide for negotiation in disputes and for the prevention of disputes by consultation. Whenever the commis- sion hears of discontent in the industry it may bring together the parties involved and nip the incipient dispute in the bud. That is a human touch that will achieve good results. The coal-miner resents being called a “coalie” and the waterside worker resents being referred to as a “ wharfie “. It is up to the people generally to recognize that these workers are rendering a public service, are filling as useful a place in the community, and may be just as capable and efficient in their calling as is the black-coated, whitecollared public servant. Instead of recognizing the usefulness of the waterside workers, many people refer to them as “ common workers “. It is largely because of these slighting references that from time to time these workers feel impelled to demonstrate the importance of the work that they perform, and their usefulness in the community, and so they hold up transport, or take some other action to bring home those truths to the people generally. The result is a shortage of potatoes or other necessary commodities. Instead of recognizing these facts the press continues to abuse them and we allow that to be done. We read in our newspapers of merchandise deteriorating or rotting because of the action or inaction of these workers and we become indignant and say unkind ; hing: about them. The press is always willing to join the “hand waggon” of the shipping companies; but if it would tell the facts and let the public know that these men have to work in inclement weather and in the stench of ill ventilated ships’ holds where merchandise has rotted because of delays caused by the weather a more understanding attitude might be created and many hold-ups avoided. These workers have had to fight for every benefit that they have received - even for the right of shelter from inclement weather and the provision of gloves when handling cargo likely to injure their hands. It seems to be forgotten that they are human beings like ourselves, and are entitled to be treated as such. Why not inaugurate a. campaign to make this and other industries attractive, instead of callings to be shunned? In my opinion, the work of s waterside worker is as high a callins as that which we in this Parliament claim for ourselves because they, too, render a service to the community. They are the salt of the earth, and should be treated as such, instead of being despised and looked down upon. If this measure provides more of the human touch, and leads to a better understanding because of the use of conciliatory methods, we can claim that we have done something to give a higher status to those engaged in this industry than when they had to obtain licences and be registered like dogs.
– The wheat-grower has to be registered.
– This Parliament has done rauch for the wheat-growers of Australia, especially under Labour governments. The farmers have had a much better deal than has been given to waterside workers and coal-miners. During the regime of Labour governments the mortgages on large numbers of farms have been wiped out and the total indebtedness of farmers is nothing like what it was when governments consisting of Australian Country party and United Australia party members were in office. “Whenever an industrial trouble arises or threatens the “red” bogy is raided. I remember the time when the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), as a member of the Labour party, resented the raising of that bogy. I remind the right honorable gentleman that the same thing is happening to-day; the Labour parly is still said to be controlled by the “ reds “ and the unions dominated by Communists. We have only to examine the votes recorded at elections for Communists to see how small their numbers really are. In no other State than Queensland has a Communist ever been elected to Parliament; no Communist has ever been a member of this Parliament. I have never seen a small minority lead the majority. No Communist minority could lead such militant workers as coal-miners and waterfront employees. If fi few men are able to convince the majority that their views are sound, the majority must take the blame for falling into line. In such an event it is ridiculous to say that Communists control this or that union. Communists have a right to be heard, but after they have spoken the majority of the workers decide whether or not Do follow their lead. The workers surely are not being led by the nose. In some instances, t> small minority holding extreme views may secure control, but that happens only when there is a small attendance of unionists at a meeting. When it comes to the possibility of a general show-down which might lead to conditions bordering on starvation, the workers must believe that there is justice in their cause if they decide to cease work. The only way we can give a new deal to these men is, as I ha ve already said, by making their calling more attractive and by raising its status so that, as has happened in the past, waterside workers will not be looked down upon. That objective will be achieved under this measure which, in spite of the criticism levelled against it by the Leader of the Opposition, is based entirely upon Judge Foster’s report. Judge Foster has made a study of the industry for a number of years, and the measure hardly deviates from his report. The Leader of the Opposition, however, opposes the measure simply for the sake of expressing opposition. He has failed entirely to deal with the problem from a humane point of view. On the contrary, he has argued in support of action which, when taken in the past, caused many troubles on the waterfront. At one time, for instance, honorable members opposite and their supporters urged that the system of registration applying to waterside workers should be applied to coal-miners. However, the coal-miners successfully resisted that proposal. Honorable members opposite must be more tolerant in their attitude towards the waterside worker. The Labour party has promised at various elections to repeal the registration provisions applying to waterside workers. This measure will overcome that problem. When the bill is passed, it will give to the waterside workers a new deal, and will effectively stabilize the industry from the workers’ point of view.
Sitting suspended from 12.J,S to 2.15 p.m.
. The Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) has told us that this bill is designed to secure, or at least to promote, peace on the waterfront, and to ensure the efficient working of the stevedoring industry. Because peace is vital to this community, the measure ought to be treated on its merits, in a broad, national spirit. The commission, which, as the Attorney-General has told us, is to continue the functions of the war-time stevedoring commission, is to be composed of six persons, one of whom will be an officer of the Commonwealth, who will have no vote. There is to be a chairman, who will be either a judge of the Arbitration Court, or a conciliation commissioner appointed under the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act, together with two representatives of the owners, and two of the Waterside Workers Federation. It is to be noted at the outset that the bill contemplates the vesting of work on the wharfs in members of the federation who are recognized as being registered under this legislation.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) expressed the opinion that the setting up of this commission, although it would not challenge the authority of the Arbitration Court, was nevertheless a departure from what he regarded as salutary principles. I can hardly agree with him. We are to consider the circumstances of this industry, and the need for speedy settlement of disputes. As honorable members are aware, the Arbitration Court is charged with the settlement of industrial disputes in industry generally. Ft frequently happens that the court is not available to deal with disputes which are rapidly nearing what I may term the explosive point. I, myself, had long experience of this. I can recall an instance when we were fourteenth or fifteenth on the list, and there seemed no prospect of our dispute being considered by the court for some months. That, of course, is the experience in many industries.
This bill has some merits which, perhaps, the Leader of the Opposition overlooked. It provides for equal representation of the parties on the commission so that a spokesman, when appearing before such a tribunal, will be addressing nien who are familiar with the details of the industry, something which could not possibly be the case in the Arbitration Court. Those who have appeared before the Arbitration Court are familiar with that fact. Ah initio, the judges know nothing about the matter. Whether they understand very much more after the representative of the union has set forth his views is a matter for speculation. .1. sometimes wondered whether he did not cloud the issue rather than clarify it.
I most emphatically support the proposed tribunal as against the Arbitration Court, recognizing as I do that the tribunal does not in any way challenge the institution of a court with general jurisdiction over all industry. I believe that the court is essential because industries are inter-dependent, and there must be some authority which can co-ordinate procedure, and consider the field of industry as a whole. This the Arbitration Court is well fitted to do. However, the stevedoring industry, in particular, has a special call for the speedy settlement of disputes. Judge Foster has pointed out. that employment in the industry is subject to grave fluctuations - periodical, seasonal and intermittent. Ho other industry is quite like it. At the height of th” season there is a demand which frequently extends beyond the number of persons available to perform the duties required. It has been stated that the number of waterside workers available at the port of ‘Sydney is 5,000. Sometimes, however, more than that number is needed, and men have been sent out into George-street, Sussex-street and about the quay to pick up more labour. On the other hand, there comes a time in the slack of the year when 2,500 or 3,000 men are enough to do all the work offering. It is said that this decasualization of the industry, upon which proper emphasis has been laid, has to some degree been achieved. Whether the remedy is worse than the disease I shall leave t.o posterity to decide, because it is perhaps unsafe to express a decided opinion just now. Certainly it is an idea that never occurred to me, otherwise, I should most certainly have impressed it on the government of the time and upon the tribunal which was charged with dealing with this most vexatious problem. I believe that the circumstances of this industry demand the establishment of a special tribunal. I direct attention to the fact that the Stevedoring Industry Commission, which carried all the wartime responsibilities for maintaining the stevedoring industry, was established on the recommendation of Sir Owen Dixon, a justice of the High Court, who we must presume had well in his mind the effect of the operations of such a tribunal upon the general structure of legal institutions in this country.
I propose now to say a word or two about the bill itself. We are told that the decisions of the commission will be those of the majority of its members, and that where the voting is equal the chairman shall decide and his decision shall be deemed to be that of the commission. The Attorney-General deplored, and very properly, the conditions that we find in the waterfront industry to-day, conditions which we know have existed for some months past and maybe for some years past. We have to consider the effectiveness of this commission to deal with them and to obtain that peace and efficient performance of stevedoring operations which is required. I remind the right honorable gentleman, who dwelt with some force upon the fact that this commission was a continuance of the war-time commission, that it was under
I he administration of the war-time commission that all of these troubles arose, this war-time commission which, for present purposes, exercised the same powers as are to be exercised by the commission to be established under this bill. The personnel of the war-time commission was admirable. As far as I remember, Mr. Chief Judge Piper was president and Mr. E. W. Nicholl, who earned the respect of the Commonwealth in various capacities, was a member of that body. The war-time commission made awards, issued orders, and gave directions which were ignored on many occasions.
We may take it for granted that it was the practice for the Waterside Workers Federation to comply only with such awards, orders and directions of which it approved. If the federation did not approve of them it openly flouted the tribunal. Thus, the decisions of the tribunal were, in many instances, merely so much waste paper. The AttorneyGeneral is. of course, quite familiar with that fact. I shall cite an example of how orders were flouted and the government of the day refused to enforce the decision of the tribunal. Fourteen men were picked up for work on an interstate ship in the port of Sydney on Wednesday, the 25th October, 1944. There were two pay days in the port. Men working on interstate ships were paid on Thursdays, and those on overseas ships on Saturdays. The men engaged would have been paid on the Thursday, but in view of the small amount involved, requested that they be paid on Saturday. The request was referred to the shipping company concerned and was refused. The men declined to work until the request was granted. After two warnings the chairman of the Waterside Employment Committee cancelled their registrations. The dispute then extended and more men became involved. The fourteen men concerned appealed to the Stevedoring Industry Commission against their deregistration by the chairman of the Sydney Waterside Employment Committee. The appeal to the commission was heard and disallowed by the commission on the 31st October, 1944. There, one would say, would be an end of it. Not at all. On the 2nd November, 1944, the Government directed the Stevedoring Industry Commission to restore to the working-list the names of the fourteen men concerned. As the result of the Government direction the chairman of the Stevedoring Industry Commission, Chief Judge Piper, and the deputy chairman of the commission, Mr. B. W. Nicholl, resigned. Rightly understood that, of course, explains everything. The commission is given power to maintain operations on the waterfront, but it is also charged with the onerous duty of seeing that those operations are efficiently performed and that there is an adequate supply of labour; in short, the commission is charged with responsibility for the management of the industry, functions formerly exercised by the employers. That is just what the federation wanted, and what the official journal of the federation regards as a triumph.
The commission is to be constituted of six persons, one of whom is to have no vote. We must assume that in respect of all important matters the members of the commission will be divided in their opinion and that the chairman will have to exercise his casting vote. If whatever decision he gives, whatever award he makes.-or whatever order he issues is disregarded, there is an end to discipline, and without discipline work in industry cannot be performed efficiently. There is no discipline among the men themselves. In his speech this morning the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) mentioned the coal-mining industry which, in the manner of Mr. Dick in David Copperfield with King Charles’s head, he drags into every discussion. He mentioned that that industry had a tribunal which had functioned for years, issuing orders and giving directions which sometimes were observed and sometimes ignored. I dare say thousands of offences were committed against the orders issued hy that tribunal, and hundreds of men were fined. I ask the Attorney-General to tell the House how much has been paid in fines for dis- obedience of orders during the six years that that tribunal has been in operation, and how much of this money was paid by the men themselves and not by their organization. The basic cause “of the unrest on the waterfront is lack of discipline. This commission is charged with duties that it cannot successfully perforin. It cannot hope to do so because it must so frame its decisions as to win the approval of the men. Otherwise, no decision would be complied with by them. If, being confronted with such a state of affairs, the commission looks to the Government to enforce the law, what will it find? The Government will not enforce the law. The Leader of the Opposition reminded the House that civilization rests upon the rule of law, and that the rule of law in turn rests upon adequate force to compel compliance with the law, and to impose punishment for non-compliance. I have cited the case of the fourteen waterside workers who were involved in the dispute in Sydney in 1944. I could cite many others. The Government has been supine when appeals have been made for the exercise of its powers of compulsion. In every other avenue of society there would be chaos and anarchy if it were not for the fact that the law is generally enforced. But on the waterfront the law is not being enforced.
If I were asked to explain the reason for the lack of discipline on the waterfront and the failure of the tribunal to enforce its awards and maintain peace, I would say, “Look at those who control the Waterside Workers Federation “. I can speak with some authority on this matter because for many years I was in close touch with the men on the waterfront. In 1894 I reformed the Wharf Labourers Union which, for all practical purposes, had ceased to function after the great strike in 1890. I built that union up until it became a powerful organization. We sought redress of our grievances by round-table conferences and by appeals to the Arbitration Court. I fought doughty battles on their behalf, if or I never sought to obtain peace on the waterfront by sacrificing the interests of the workers. When I reformed the Wharf Labourers Union in 1804, the men were working for ls. an hour - they are now working for 4s. 0-Jd. an hour - and had to pay l$d. an hour to the employers for permission to work on the wharfs. That was the “ white ticket bureau “, and the means by which the employers hoped to perpetuate a system which would utterly crush unionism. For 21 years I was general secretary and chief executive officer of. the Wharf Labourers Union. In 1901, after the Commonwealth had been inaugurated, I founded the Waterside Workers Federation, and for sixteen years I was its president; so I know something about this industry. I shall not attempt to belittle its problems because 1 know them all too well. I do not lay on the shoulders of the rank and file any greater responsibility for the conditions that have arisen than I do on the people of this country. When most Australian citizens were voteless, and regarded adult franchise, yet a long way off, as the “ Holy Grail “, they were prepared to make almost any sacrifice for the right to vote. But when they secured this right what did they do with it? During my regime, about which I shall say no more than that while I continued in office, conditions on the waterfront were greatly improved, and in 21 years there was onlY one strike of any magnitude, and that was a strike against the intra-state shipowners who would not fall into line with an award made in respect of interstate ships. I think the Attorney-General and the Leader of the Opposition are mistaken in supposing that a strike may not arise out of intra-state trouble, because I saw that strike take place. It lasted for some weeks. True, it involved only 400 or 500 men ; but it threatened to paralyse the whole shipping of the port.
But I leave that. I do not pretend for a moment that during my regime perfect peace reigned so that some one stumbling into the arena would mistake it for Utopia, but, by comparison, there was peace on the waterfront. There was peace because I believe in arbitration and the rule of law. I fought for the men to the best of my ability, but when an award was given or an agreement was reached, I loyally abided by it in both the letter and the spirit. So there was peace. But the men at the head of the Waterside Workers Federation to-day believe not in peace but in industrial unrest. They flourish on industrial unrest. If industrial peace rules they wither and die. As t he Attorney-General and every other member on the other side know perfectly well, the leader of the wharf labourers f.o-day is a Communist. Communists stand for revolution. They hope to goad or lure the great mass of the unionists to bloody revolution and the shattering of the edifice of law which has been built up for centuries. That is why there is no peace on the waterfront. I look at this bill sourly because the wharf labourers’ leader, Healy, says, “ It is just what we want “. My reply is, “ If it is what you want, by heaven, it is not what I want ! “ Honorable gentlemen opposite want industrial peace. It is vital to them that there should be industrial peace. I do not know that it is so vital to honorable gentlemen on this side. We might do very well politically out of trouble, but not our honorable friends on the government side. The honorable member for Hunter is like a cooing dove, but, in the newspapers this morning, we were warned that there will be trouble on the coalfields again as the result of which we shall be denied the coal that is essential to our industry. Indeed our Communist element hopes for it. The cause of it all is that there is no discipline in the miners’ federation even as there is no discipline in the Waterside Workers Federation. Every man is a law unto himself. The rank and file coal-miners and waterside workers want peace, but their leaders will not let them have it.
I have attended meetings of unions and I know that those who stand for unanimity have jaws of iron. . Oratory is persuasive, but at the disposal of the men who run the unions are other means of ensuring unanimity. Propaganda is one.
This bill provides that work on the wharfs shall be done by members of the Waterside Workers Federation. Provision is made for the continuance of the registration of existing members of the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union of Australia; but, as the Leader of the Opposition said, that union cannot recruit new members and it will die out. But what about that other section of the community, which will last our time, the ex-servicemen? The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) piloted through this chamber last year the He-establishment and Employment Bill, which promised preference in employment to exservicemen. How many of them will be eligible for employment under that measure? Apparently they will not be able to get a share of this highly paid work unless they arc members of the Waterside Workers Federation. I shall not say much about that, except that a recital of the facts is a grim commentary on the glowing eulogies that the Attorney-General indulged in of the blessings that will flow from this bill. The Attorney-General ought to make provision that returned men, physically capable of work on the waterfront and desirous of becoming members of the Waterside Workers Federation, shall at least have a reasonable opportunity of so doing. I think that can be done. If the right honorable gentleman says, “ I do not know what the position of the union is now “, I reply that in my many years of experience I have never known the books not to be full, at least, when any one wanted to join the union. The books are always full ! No room inside! A medical officer employed at Newcastle found that a great many of the men on the books were over age. As has been pointed out to-day, no new men could join in the last six or seven years. So, the average age of the men on the wharfs has gradually increased, unfitting them for speedy efficient performance of duties on the wharfs.
Therefore, there should be room on the wharfs for returned servicemen. Because of my upbringing, I cannot urge that they should be allowed to enter this field of employment without becoming members of the “Waterside Workers Federation. I do not ask that; hut I do ask that they should have a real chance to engage in this work. Let them be given the opportunity, in substantial numbers, and not as a tiny trickle. If that were done, we should be assured of a body of men for labour on the wharfs physically cap;i bie for the efficient performance of their duties.
The Attorney-General, who introduced this bill, desires to ensure the maintenance of peace on the waterfront. I know that the right honorable gentleman believes that this bill is the best way of achieving that objective. I do not propose to argue about that now, or discuss The question whether some provisions of r.he bill are ultra vires the Constitution, f am not so much concerned with that because I believe, as the right honorable gentleman himself said, that we have power under the trade and commerce, defence and external affairs provisions of the Constitution, as well as under paragraph (xxxv.) of section 51. The ambit of the legislative authority of this Parliament is sufficiently wide, in my opinion, to cover most disputes. However, I see no reason at all for excluding, in so many words, intra-state wharfs. If they cannot be included, there will be an everpresent fear of a dispute spreading from one wharf to another. Evidently, the Attorney-General is not familiar with the position on the wharfs. If he were he would not have included this provision in the bill. In Sydney, a deep-sea wharf, an interstate wharf and a north coast or intra-state wharf stand side by side. Goods which go on to the north coast wharf, if taken on to the interstate or deep-sea wharf, might precipitate, without any further provocation, industrial trouble on the waterfront. I do not say that the Commonwealth Parliament possesses the legislative power; but, on the other hand, I do not say that this Parliament does not possess that power. The Commonwealth is taking power to manage this industry. Where does the Commonwealth derive that power? Not from paragraph (xxxv.) of section 51 of the Constitution! The Commonwealth may derive its authority from the defence power. Probably it derives its authority from the external affairs or trade and commerce powers. I have issued a warning regarding intra-state wharfs. In more than twenty years the only dispute of any magnitude in Sydney occurred in the intra-state section.
The Stevedoring Industry Commission can be the means of ensuring peace on the waterfront, but its efforts will he successful only if the Government is prepared to enforce its awards and decisions. If the Government does no more for this commission than it did for the war-time commission, there will not be any peace on the waterfront. The Government can do another thing, not only for this industry, but also for every other one. Since we believe in the rule of law, and the Liberal party is pledged to uphold arbitration, every Communist in this country should be precluded by law from holding office in any industrial organization. That would separate the sheep from the goats. Then we should see those who were the “ stooges “ and the mouthpieces of communism, but who did not have the guts to join up with the Communists. These people are to be found in every union and every league. The course which I have suggested is the way in which to bring them to heel. We believe in arbitration, and the rule of law. Those men do not. They take their directions from Moscow. We take our directions from Canberra, and nowhere else.
Debate (on motion by Dr. Gaha) adjourned.
Wak Service Homes - Northern Territory : Livestock - Public Service: Preference to exServicemen - Damage to Roads - Butter.
Motion (by Dr. Evatt) proposed -
That the House do 11OW adjourn.
.- I desire to raise a matter relating to the War Service Homes Commission and the erection of houses in the country districts. In my opinion, the conditions which are placed upon the construction of war service homes in country areas impose a prohibitive penalty upon exservicemen, and virtually debar them from undertaking the construction of their own dwellings. The St. George Expatriation Committee, writing to me on behalf of returned servicemen, points out that no person other than a registered architect is permitted to prepare the plans for a war service home. No one can claim to have a complete knowledge of the vast distances in Australia until he has lived in St. George, Cunnamulla or Quilpie in the far-west of Queensland. From time to time, the Premier o’f that State, Mr. Hanlon, and other prominent politicians have declared that we must arrest the drift of population from country districts to the large cities, and encourage men to settle in the outback areas. Notwithstanding those declarations of policy, nearly every step taken by the Commonwealth and State governments debars returned servicemen who live in the country, from enjoying the same advantages as those which are offering in the cities. To obtain war service homes in country centres, returned servicemen must pay a premium. I have here a copy of a letter written by the Deputy-Commissioner of War Service Homes to the secretary of the St. George Repatriation Committee. The official stated that the department insisted upon a registered architect being employed to draw the plans of a war service home in a country district. A local contractor would not be permitted to draw the plans ; the department would decline to accept them. If this policy is persisted in, returned servicemen will be obliged to pay £10 for the architect’s plans and £20 for each inspection, which includes travelling expenses. These payments will increase the cost of a home for an ex-serviceman in a country centre by £70, because two inspections are insisted upon during the period of construction and one after the dwelling has been completed. Practical contractors are not allowed to draw up plans, and there are no registered architects nearer to St. George than Toowoomba or Brisbane. If these conditions were applied to other citizens, there would be no towns like St. George, Cunnamulla, or Charleville. People would not build houses in inland towns.
Another penalty is inflicted upon exservicemen in country areas. An exserviceman wishing to build a house in a city is required to pay a deposit of only 5 per cent, of the value of the building. The secretary of the St. George Repatriation Committee has received a letter from the War ‘Service Homes Commission, dated the 20th September, 1946, stating that the deposit on a house at St. George must be 15 per cent, of its value on account of the greater risk in country areas. The committee wishes to know the reason for this stipulation, because any financial risk would be covered by insurance. I ask the Minister to investigate this matter. Ex-servicemen residing in outback districts should receive the same treatment as ex-servicemen living in the cities.
– At the request of the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) I direct attention to the “situation confronting the Northern Territory, not only in regard to the supply of ordinary materials at Alice Springs, but also in regard to the southward movement of cattle. As Ministers know, there is a strike of railway employees on the east-‘ west and north-south lines That is not unusual in these times. In fact, it may be a matter for comment in the newspapers soon if anybody is at work; strikes will be taken for granted. At Alice Springs, there are 16,000 head of cattle from outlying stations and thousands more are on the way. Many of them will take some weeks to reach the railhead. Stock feed in that area is scarce owing to the low rainfall. A dislocation of this nature is one of the most serious calamities that can overtake the stock-raising industry in the Northern Territory. I understand that all sorts of moves are being made to settle the strike on the railway but I suggest that the Government should take heed of an old proverb to the effect that prevention is better than cure, particularly as, in this instance, the sufferer will be not the Government but the civilian producer - the man who has the least chance of doing anything to help himself in this crisis. I shall not canvass the position which will arise in the southern stock markets as the result of the withholding of Northern
Territory cattle from those markets. That is another matter. Certain people in the south may benefit from it, but the important thing is that cattle should not be held up when they are ready to be transported south. They cannot be turned back and they cannot be held at Alice Springs. Unless trucks can be made available for them at the railhead, the owners must suffer heavy financial losses. It will be no consolation for them to be told by the Government that, at any rate, they will not have to pay income tax on the sale price of their stock and that, to that degree, they will not be “ buying shares in the Treasury “.
.- I raise a matter which shows how the Government is dealing unfairly with exservicemen employed in Commonwealth departments. It is giving them the reverse of preference in employment. Legislation which was recently debated in this House shows how the Government is progressively taking preference rights away from ex-servicemen. The information which I have shows that men who did not serve in the fighting forces are being promoted over the heads of permanent employees of the Department of Supply and Shipping who served in the armed forces. I have received a letter from the federal executive of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia setting out the following resolution passed by one of the branches of the league: -
This general meeting of members of the Supply and Shipping branch of the Returned Soldiers League records its strong protest against the proposed appointment of four officers from the Victorian Railways to positions in the Department of Supply and Shipping as permanent Commonwealth officers, as it is claimed that ex-servicemen at present in the department are capable of carrying out the duties.
The letter states that the four officers in question had no special qualifications for these positions at the time of their temporary appointments, and that they are now being given preference in promotions to responsible positions on account of experience which they gained during the war - experience which was obviously denied to ex-servicemen, several of whom are permanent officers of the department and who, given the opportunity, would prove themselves to be equally as capable as the four officers in question. The executive further states that the four officers were brought to the department from the Victorian Railways Department, which has repeatedly requested their return. It claims that they should be returned to the State department accordingly. The men who should have been promoted have been told, in effect, “ You have not enough experience because you have been at the war “. The other men, who were perhaps eligible for war service - I have no information on that point - have been promoted over their heads by reason of experience which they gained while the others were engaged on war service. That is a disgraceful way to treat ex-servicemen. As the Victorian Railways Department wants the return of its former officers, the Commonwealth department should release them immediately. I believe that the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Senator Ashley) is aware of this matter, because various organizations have taken up this case previously, without success. I now ask him to investigate the matter and ensure that justice shall be done. Some of the men who have been overlooked are highly qualified officers and could definitely do the work of the senior positions.
– I shall again bring the matter which has been raised by the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) to the notice of the Minister for Supply and Shipping and ask him to consider the honorable member’s request. I shall draw the attention of the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Johnson) to the matter raised by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron). The Minister is a man of the outback, and he realizes the desperate situation of the owners of the cattle. I assure the honorable member that the Government is doing everything possible, and will continue to do so, to settle the strike of railway employees, and to see that the cattle are brought to the markets.
The matter raised by the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Adermann) has been exercising my mind during the few months in which I have been administering the affairs of the War Service Homes Commission. Certain difficulties are presented by the provisions of the War Service Homes Act, which lays down that the commission, which is a corporate body, must be satisfied that the security offered in respect of a loan is adequate and that the type of construction of a house is adequate, having due regard to the amortization basis which is specified. The commission had a number of unfortunate experiences in the early stages of its operations, when some jerry-built houses were erected. Ex-servicemen purchased these buildings, and, as the result, sustained considerable financial losses. We do not want such things to happen again. However, we must strike a balance and try not to be too rigid in our dealings with ex-servicemen, particularly in country areas where there are no architects. In view of the honorable member’s representations, I shall endeavour to evolve a scheme whereby the extra costs mentioned by him will not be made a charge against ex-servicemen living in country areas, but will be spread over the general administration costs of the commission. Deposits required of ex-servicemen wishing to build war service homes in the country are higher than - elsewhere because the value of assets in remote districts often fluctuates considerably. For instance, values are affected by the varying fortunes of “ boom “ towns and towns which are sometimes by-passed when new roads are constructed. Personally, I do not favour the prevailing practice, because I believe that, with the general development that is taking place throughout Australia, there is no real reason why men in country towns and outback districts should have to pay a bigger deposit than is required in metropolitan areas. I shall examine the matter.
.- A serious position has arisen because of damage to roads in some country districts. On behalf of Mr. M. E. Buttsworth, of Hannam Vale, I made representations to Mr. Bradley, the Deputy-Director of Posts and Telegraphs in New South Wales for a deviation of a route to enable a mail service to be continued, and on the 20th February I received the following reply :–
Referring to your representations of 11th February, on behalf of Mr. Al. R. Buttsworth, Hannam Vale, for a deviation of the route of the John’s River-Stewart’s River mail service to the boundary of the Manning anc! Hastings Shires, I have reviewed the matter as requested.
The desired route was traversed by an officer of this Department in November last, and was found to be in a very bad state. Its condition has not since been improved, and the Mail Contractor declines to travel over it.
As it would be inequitable to require the Contractor to carry out the deviation, I regret that I am unable to meet the wishes of Mr. Buttsworth.
It is a serious state of affairs when mail services which have been carried on for many years have to be discontinued because of the bad state of the roads. Unfortunately, this trouble is not confined to the road mentioned but is typical of the roads in the vicinity of Brinerville and Darkwood in the Bellinger River district where, first, heavy timber traffic during the war and, later, severe floods so damaged the roads and approaches to bridges that the cost of repairs would exceed the revenue of the shire council for three years. The result is that produce has to be taken to market by pack- horse. I suggest that the Government should make a special grant of, say, £5,000,000 to the shire councils whose roads have deteriorated because of heavy war traffic, including the haulage of timber. To make matters worse, most of the heavy machinery belonging to the shire councils was either commandeered by the Government or lent to it during the war, and, of course, the war-time traffic in some districts was greater in volume and included heavier loads, than in normal times. On some roads there is not a sound culvert left. I ask that my suggestion that a special grant be made for the repairing of damaged roads be given sympathetic consideration.
Recently. I asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) to make an interim payment of 2s. per lb. for butter produced by dairymen until the special committee appointed to inquire into dairying costs has submitted its report. I understand that that committee proposes to examine about 1,000 farms and the accounts associated with them, an undertaking which may last another six or nine months. At the time the Minister said that he could not accede to the request, but I again urge him to do something in this matter. Should he adhere to the attitude he has adopted, I ask him, on behalf of many producers who have approached me in this matter, to give an undertaking that, whatever increased price is recommended by the committee which is inquiring into dairying costs, it will be made retrospective to the 1st January, 1947.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Defence (Transitional Provisions) Act - National Security (Shipping Coordination ) Regulations - Orders - 1947, Nos. 4. 5.
House adjourned at 3.21 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for. Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following information : -
n asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
Is it a fact that while Mr. Justice Clyne’s inquiry into the cases of the Australia First internees was in progress, Colonel Prentice, Chief Intelligence Officer of the Military Forces, New South Wales, wrote to Corporal Downe, one of the internees, expressing his personal confidence in him and mentioning arrangements to transfer him to the cipher branch, the most secret branch of the Army?
If the facts are as stated, will he arrange for a High Court judge to hold a further inquiry into the Australia First cases?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 28 February 1947, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1947/19470228_reps_18_190/>.