18th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. J. S. Rosevear) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) agreed to-
That the House, at its rising, adjourn to tomorrow, at 10.30 a.m.
Proposed Australian Presentation o» Speaker’s Chair.
– Some time ago it was announced that the Australian Government would present, for use in the new House of Commons at Westminster, a replica of the Speaker’s chair in this House. I ask the Prime Minister what progress has been made towards the fulfilment of that promise?
– In 1941 the present Leader of the Opposition, as Prime Minister, made an offer on behalf of the people of Australia to present a replica of the Speaker’s chair in this House for use in the new House ofCommons at Westminster. For reasons known to honorable members, it was not possible, during the war, to proceed any further with the matter. In 1946, I repeated the offer and indicated that the Australian furnishing trades were prepared to make the replica of the chair. I was informed later by the British Government, through the High Commissioner in London, that Sir Giles Scott, architect for the construction of the new House of Commons, desired that the new chair should be made in England. I have since asked the Australian High Commissioner in London, Mr. Beasley, to renew the offer made on behalf of Australia to have a replica of the chair made here or, if that were not acceptable, to arrange for an Australian workman to be sent to England to assist in the making of the chair.
– I ask the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral whether he will ascertain from his colleague when it is expected that the building of the proposed new general post office in Brisbane will be commenced? Is the Postmaster-General aware that a previous government placed a large sum on the estimates for the construction of the new building, and that the provision so made was withdrawn subsequent to the outbreak of the war? Does the Postmaster-General intend to carry out the previous Government’s proposals by demolishing the old and obsolete mail branch section of the present post office in Elizabeth-street and rebuild it as part of the first section of the new building?
– I shall ask the Postmaster-General to give sympathetic consideration to the matter raised by the honorable member.
– As a considerable period has elapsed since the war ended, can the Minister for External Affairs say whether Australia is to be given the opportunity, with other countries, to work out the details of the treaties with Germany and Japan before they are put into final form for submission to a general peace conference?
– The answer to the right honorable gentleman’s question is “Yes”. The general principles of the peace treaty with Germany were discussed at a meeting of deputies in London and are now being considered by a conference of Foreign Ministers at Moscow. The details, which the right honorable gentleman will realize are just as important as the main principles, will be worked out by committees on which Australia will be represented. The Government is striving to ensure that in relation to the treaty with Japan, Australia shall be a party principal throughout the discussions.
– As it has been stated in South Australia that large supplies of three-ply timber are held by the Department of Munitions, and as I have secured a small allotment for some ex-servicemen engaged in the making of joinery, can the Minister representing the Minister for Munitions say whether it is a fact that large quantities of this material are held by the department and, if so, why it is being retained? Will he examine the position and see what can be done to meet the needs of ex-servicemen requiring three-ply?
– I shall bring the honorable member’s question to the notice of the Minister for Munitions who, I am sure, will do all that he can to provide three-ply for ex-serviceman engaged in the making of joinery.
– As I have been informed on reliable authority that licences granted to ex-servicemen to import watches have either been cancelled or drastically reduced, and that the Comptroller-General of Customs has been instructed by the Prime Minister to renew the licence authorizing the honorable member for Watson to import watches to the value of £2,700 a year, I now ask the right honorable gentleman whether he has given a direction for the general cancellation or restriction of licences to ex-servicemen to import watches, and, whether the licence granted to the honorable member for Watson is subject to the same conditions as are imposed upon other ex-servicemen, [f not, why not?
– The only portion of the honorable gentleman’s question to which I can give an immediate answer is as to whether I gave any direction in relation to licences for the importation of watches. I assure him that I have not given any such direction in respect of import licences granted to the honorable member for Watson or any other person. I shall bring to the notice of the Minister for Trade and Customs the other portion of the honorable gentleman’s question and shall endeavour to let him have a reply as early as possible.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping indicate the Government’s intentions regarding the future of petrol rationing in Australia, particularly the continuance of the voluntary pool that operated during the war years and is generally understood to end this month? Can he say whether consideration has been given to the continuance of the pool in the event of rationing being continued? I ask this question because garage proprietors say that unless the pool is continued there will be considerable confusion and much added work associated with the distribution of petrol should a number of companies be in competition, because separate tickets will be required for each company.
– I understand that the Department of Supply and Shipping has made representations to the major oil companies regarding the continuance of the voluntary poor. The discussions and negotiations have not yet been concluded, but when a decision is reached, I shall inform the honorable member.
Sale to New Zealand - -Drought Relief
– Has the Prime Minister yet decided whether he will lay on (he table of the House the wheat agreement with New Zealand, together with relevant documents and communications leading up to the conclusion of the agreement? In view of the fact that the Wheat Stabilization Act, which provided for the institution of a wheat pool for a period of four years, cannot now become effective because the Parliament of South Australia has refused to pass the necessary complementary legislation, does the Government propose to continue, for the duration of the New Zealand agreement, some variance of the National Security Act so that it may compulsorily acquire wheat year by year? Failing this, does the Government intend, when the wartime compulsory power lapses, to enter the market and buy wheat as an ordinary purchaser for re-sale to New Zealand at 5s. 9d. a bushel?
– The honorable member has asked me whether the Government is prepared to table copies of all relevant papers in connexion with the New Zealand wheat agreement. I have already stated that I intended to discuss this matter with the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. I have done so, and the decision is that, as a full statement has been made to Parliament on this subject, it is not intended to table the departmental papers.
– Does the Prime Minister mean, by the term “departmental papers “, communications that passed between the Government of New Zealand and the Commonwealth Government?
– I understand that that is what the honorable member wanted.
– 1 said “relevant communications “.
– I am sure that some of the papers would be communications or correspondence between the two governments. The second part of the honorable member’s question would require a fairly long answer, and would involve points of Government policy. In the circumstances, I ask him to put it on the notice-paper.
– In view of the financial plight of many wheat-growers owing to the total or partial failure of the New South Wales wheat crop in the last three years, I ask the Prime Minister whether he has been approached by the Government of New South Wales with a view to joint action by the Commonwealth Government and the State Government to provide them with financial assistance. I direct the attention of the right honorable gentleman to the fact that the farmers cannot get advances from the banks and are in a most serious financial position owing to the imminence of the sowing season.
– I have received a request from the Premier of New South Wales for the Commonwealth to assist cereal-growers by subsidizing the industry in that State on a fifty-fifty basis. The matter has not yet been considered by the Commonwealth Government, but I hope that a final decision will be made at the next Cabinet meeting, which will be held on Monday week.
– Can the Prime Minister say whether consideration was given to the position of war widows when pension rates were being reviewed recently? Does the Prime Minister know that the members of the War Widows’ Craft Guild, whose president is Mrs. George Vasey, have urged that no warbereaved family should receive less than the basic wage? Does he know that their women believe that, as their husbands might well be considered totally and permanently incapacitated as far as maintaining their families is concerned, those families should receive the same consideration as that given to the families of incapacitated men? Is it reasonable that, while a single man, unable to earn a living, is paid £4 16s. or thereabouts, the war widow with a family to maintain should receive only £2 10s.? Will the Prime Minister reconsider the position of war widows?
– Pensions for war widows have been considered by the Government, and in a measure which it is proposed to introduce into this House later, provision is made for increasing those pensions. The honorable member referred to families being maintained by war widows, but she must be aware that special rates are allowed in respect of the children of war widows, and this places them in a different position from the dependants of other pensioners. As for the other matters mentioned by the honorable member, I shall give them my consideration.
Dispute in Tasmania.
– Is the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture aware that, as from to-morrow, there will be no meat available for purchase in Hobart? Is it a fact that although the fixed retail price of beef in Hobart is 62s. per 100 lb., producers state that they cannot produce at a cost below 70s. per 100 lb. for the wholesale trade? As there are no prospects of settlement of the meat dispute, is the Minister prepared to review existing wholesale prices of meat in Tasmania ?
– I have been advised that a shortage of meat supplies exists in Hobart. I shall refer to the Minister for Trade and Customs the honorable member’s request that an investigation be made of wholesale prices of meat in Tasmania.
– In view of the long delay farmers are experiencing in obtaining delivery of new tractors, some of which were ordered two years ago, and in view of the fact that many farmers have already purchased machinery to be used with the tractors, will the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs make a statement indicating when the position is likely to improve? Will he also endeavour to speed up the importation of new tractors?
– The problem of ensuring adequate supplies of agricultural tractors is largely beyond the control of the Commonwealth Government, in as much as the great bulk of supplies for agriculturists in Australia are imported from the United States of America, and, owing to a number of factors operating in that country, we have not been able to import our requirements. However, my department has been particularly active in its endeavours to obtain adequate supplies. The Director-General of Agriculture, during his recent visit to the United States of America, paid special attention to that matter. At present, it would seem that the lag in supplies will not be completely overtaken for at least eighteen months. A number of tractors are being manufactured in Australia, but local manufacturers are not likely to be able to meet our needs for some time to come. Every endeavour is being made to increase the rate of local production.
– I ask the Minister in charge of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research whether the Russian Professor, Sergei Paramanov, has been appointed to the Division of Economic Entomology of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research? If so, who was responsible for this appointment? Did the Minister give his approval to the appointment? Is it intended to appoint additional Russian professors to the council and, if so, in what divisions?
– I shall obtain the information sought by the honorable member.
– In view of the grave shortage and high price of jute goods, will the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping ascertain whether it is practicable to utilize the stocks of tow which have been accumulated by the Flax Committee in the manufacture of materials for the making of bags?
– I am aware that considerable stocks of tow have accumulated at flax production centres in various parts of the Commonwealth. I believe that there would be some difficulty in using it in the manufacture of sacks because of the shortness of the fibre. However, I shall ask the Minister for Supply and Shipping to see if anything useful can be done with that by-product.
– Has the chairman of the Stevedoring Industry Commission, Mr. M’orrison, recomended to the Government that the commission should be disbanded? If that be true and if that and other aspects of the present hold-up on the Sydney waterfront have been considered by the Cabinet, have any decisions been reached? If any decisions have been reached, will they affect the legislation in connexion with the commission now before the House? If so, will the Prime Minister inform honorable members so that they shall have these developments in mind in the event of the legislation being proceeded with?
– I have received no recommendation myself from the chairman of the Stevedoring Industry Commission about the disbandment of the commission, but I understand that the Minister for Supply and Shipping has had some consultation with Mr. Morrison, as I had this morning, although I did not discuss that particular aspect with him. I understand that he has been very disturbed that decisions of the commission have, in some cases, not been obeyed. As to the second part of the honorable gentleman’s question, the Stevedoring Industry Commission Bill will be proceeded with. Its proclamation will then of course be a matter for government decision.
– What steps does the Government intend to take to bring to an early end the dispute which is laying idle the port of Sydney? Will the Government consider calling for volunteers to work on the wharfs so that the turn round of ships, particularly those necessary for the transport of urgent foodstuffs to Great Britain, may be more speedily achieved in that port?
– Naturally, the holdup on the Sydney waterfront is causing the Government great anxiety, particularly in view of the banking up of cargoes in that port and the necessity to expedite the turn round of ships quickly because of the world shortage of shipping. This morning in company with the Minister for Supply and Shipping I consulted with the chairman of the Stevedoring
Industry Commission, and later this afternoon I propose to discuss the matter with the representatives of the unions concerned. I am unable to give the honorable member any further information on the subject at present.
Use of “Asturias”.
– I ask the Minister for Immigration whether the Imperial Government intends to make available to the Commonwealth Government the Royal Naval transport Asturias, which arrived at an Australian port yesterday, in order that it may be used to carry the large number of prospective migrants awaiting transport from Great Britain to Australia? Is it possible to get additional naval transport of that description for that work?
– Asturias is one of the few vessels owned by the British Government. It was formerly in use in the South American trade. The British Government requires its services urgently at present. We should gladly accept the ship if the British Government would let us have it for the Australian run, but there are many factors beside our Australian needs to be considered. I shall ask- the Australian High Commissioner in London to make inquiries along the lines suggested by the honorable member.
– Having regard to the impasse reached in the meat industry in Tasmania, the constant trouble in the milk industry and the urgent need to build up the depleted numbers, both cattle and sheep, I ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture whether the Commonwealth Government will consider subsidizing those engaged in breeding those classes of live-stock, on a strictly annual basis, until the existing dangerous shortage has been overtaken ?
– I shall refer the honorable member’s question to the Minister for Trade and Customs and ask that an answer be supplied.
Dust Problem in Queensland. “ Mr. FRANCIS. - I again draw the attention of the Prime Minister to several paragraphs of Mr. Justice Davidson’s report on the coal-mining industry, to which I referred in a speech in this House last Thursday. I then pointed out the serious effects of coal dust in Queensland -mines and reminded the right honorable gentleman that he had arranged, after many strikes by miners in the southern areas of New South Wales, to have the coal dust problem in New South Wales mines examined by experts of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research ‘ and Professor T. David Jones, of Wales, who is visiting Australia.
– I know that, but they have not been to Queensland and apparently Professor Jones does not intend to go there. The Sydney Morning Herald yesterday published a report of an interview with Professor Jones, who stated that in the next three months he would inspect the northern, western, and southern coal-fields of New South Wales, and, after visiting Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia, and Western Australia, would furnish a report to the Government. This statement proves that I had good cause for making my protest last. Thursday against the neglect of the welfare of Queensland coal-miners. Why has the Prime Minister not -made arrangements for Professor Jones to visit Queensland, having regard to the serious nature of the statements made by Mr. Justice Davidson, in his report, on dust in Queensland mines? Will the right honorable gentleman co-operate with the Premier of Queensland by offering the services of Professor Jones and the experts of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research to investigate the dust menace in Queensland mines?
– Tie distinguished professor mentioned by the honorable member came to Australia at the invitation of the Commonwealth Government, but I understand that the arrangements for his examination of coal mines have been made by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, in conjunction with the authorities associated with the industry. I was not aware that Professor Jones would be able to visit all of the States; I understand that the time at his disposal was limited. However, I shall ascertain whether it will be possible to accede to the honorable member’s request for Professor Jones to visit Queensland.
– Has the Minister for Repatriation considered the establishment of special institutions for the treatment of ex-servicemen who are suffering from war neurosis? Can he state how many ex-servicemen are victims of this complaint and when it is likely that something will be done for the benefit of these unfortunate men?
– The subject of war neurosis has been constantly receiving my attention since I became Minister for Repatriation. This complaint creates probably the most serious and complex problem that my department is required to deal with at present. We are appointing a specialist in psychiatry, and we hope that as the result of his advice, we shall be able to treat more thoroughly and effectively this unfortunate section of the community. Offhand, I am not able to say what numbers have so far come before the department, but I shall obtain the information for the honorable member.
– I have received complaints from residents of New Guinea that, customs duty is imposed on parcels sent to them from Australia, and that this condition of affairs did not obtain before the commencement of World War TI. I ask the Minister for External Territories: 1. Is it correct that New Guinea is being treated as a foreign country in the imposition of customs duties? 2. Is customs duty levied on parcels sent from Australia to New Guinea? 3. If so, when were these duties first, imposed, and what is the reason for them ?
– For the purpose of levying customs duties, the Territory of New Guinea is treated as a separate entity from Australia. This condition prevailed before the commencement of World War II. No additional imposts have been introduced since the conclusion of the war and since the new Administration took office, but the whole matter is now under review in order to ascertain what relief may be afforded to the residents of the Territory in this direction. As soon as I am in a position to give to the honorable member any additional information about this subject, I shall do so.
– Before the Parliament adjourned for the Christmas recess, I had asked on several occasions whether the Government intended to bring to Australia from Germany plant for the extraction of oil from coal, or proposed to adopt the recommendation in my report that German experts or technicians on this subject should be brought to tha Commonwealth. My recommendation was based upon information which I had obtained from a representative of Imperial Chemical Industries in Germany. Since then, I have read in the press reports that German experts were coming to Australia. Can the Prime Minister inform me whether those reports are correct? Will he state whether Australia will obtain from Germany, as part of itsshare of reparations, machine tools, ineluding plant for the extraction of oil* from coal? Will the right honorablegentleman also give consideration’ to the’ advisability of bringing German mining’ experts here for the purpose of showing us how to work deep seams? I have in mind particularly the Balmain seam, which is considered to be too deep to work.
– When the honorable member raised this matter some time ago, consideration was given to whether machinery capable of extracting oil from coal should be Drought to Australia from Germany as part of our share of reparations. However, an examination of the proposal showed that the cost of dismantling and shipping the plant - shipping was a most difficult problem - was so great as to necessitate the abandonment of the idea. Arrangements were made, I understand, to obtain blue prints and drawings of the type of plant which the honorable member mentioned in his report. Some of the technicians who will be coming to Australia, have had valuable experience of the process of extracting oil from coal. Indeed, all the men whom we propose to bring here from Germany are capable of performing technical work for which no men are available either in Australia or the United Kingdom. At the moment, I am not able to inform the honorable gentleman what progress has been made in the transport of these men from Germany to Australia, but I shall obtain the information for him.
Food fob Britain.
– I refer to the recent statement by the Prime Minister that it is proposed to grant to Great Britain a credit of £25,000,000 in order to defray a portion of the expenditure incurred by that country in fighting the war in the Pacific. As this credit is to be in the nature of a book entry against accumulated Australian funds in London, will the Prime Minister consider devoting part of the money to the acquisition of food in Australia, particularly unrationed foods, such as tinned milk, fats and the like, so that we may be able to export additional food that would be of immediate help to the people of Great Britain?
– The honorable member does not seem to understand the nature of the proposed gift to Great Britain. Any suggestion that it is to be a mere book entry is sheer nonsense. The fact i3 that an appropriation will have to be made by this Parliament of the necessary moneys to provide the grant, and that the grant itself will be in the form which is most acceptable to the British Government.
– In view of the fact that extraordinary hardships are being suffered by the British people owing to the severity of the winter, will the Prime Minister permit a debate on the question of means to increase Australia’s food exports to Britain, either by permitting discussion of the motion in the name of the right honorable member for Cowper that a gift of food worth £25,000,000 be made, or by substantive motion by the Government itself?
– I am sure that there will be ample opportunity to discuss thi.subject in the course of debates on the various measures which are coming before the House.
– There has been established at Ulverstone, Tasmania, a factory which is shortly to begin the canning of rabbit meat for export to Great Britain. In view of Britain’s great need of food and the value of rabbit carcasses as an item of diet, will the Government consider subsidizing or in other ways assisting such factories as are prepared to can rabbit meat for export, and thus recognize the practical value and importance of this new Australian export industry?
– I shall discuss the honorable member’s question with the Minister for Trade and Customs, and shall furnish a reply later.
– Is it a fact that the Wakool rice project has been abandoned? If so, in view of the available reports in connexion with the growing of rice in that area, and the need for supplying more rice in Australia, why was this action taken.
– The Wakool rice project has been abandoned. It’ was a joint war project in which the Governments of the Commonwealth and New South Wales were associated, but both governments now consider that it should not be proceeded with any further. I understand that there is a shortage of water in the area, and that rice can be grown more advantageously in the Leeton-Griffith area.
Finances of the Australian BROADCASTING Commission.
– I direct to the Prime Minister in his capacity as Treasurer a question arising out of the annual report of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, which reveals that in a budget amounting to more than £1,000,000 losses have been made and that further grants will ‘be necessary to prevent losses in the future. I now ask the right honorable gentleman whether, in view of the magnitude of the financial transactions of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, the fact that a substantial grant of £71,000 has already been made to that body from the Commonwealth Treasury, and the fact that reports indicate that even more substantial grants are urgently required, he will appoint a representative of the Treasury as a financial member of the commission in order to ensure that wasteful expenditure shall not be incurred, and generally to supervise Treasury grants?
– The facts relating to the payment of moneys by the Treasury to the commission, with the approval of the Government, are as stated by the honorable member.
– Is the Treasury not merely withholding the payment of fees ?
– In addition to the original grant of a portion of listeners’ licence-fees a special payment was made with Cabinet approval to recoup some of the losses made by the Australian Broadcasting Commission. As the finances of the commission are now being examined by the Broadcasting Committee, I do not think it proper that I should say much until the committee has submitted its report, but I can assure the honorable member that officers of the Treasury are taking a keen interest in the finances of the commission. Yesterday the Secretary of the Treasury, Mr. McFarlane, with whom I have discussed the general subject of the commission’s finances, gave evidence before the Broadcasting Committee. I shall endeavour to supply further information to the honorable member after the committee has submitted its report.
– Can the Minister for
External Affairs say whether it is correct, as reported, that Senator Grant is interviewing candidates for cadetships in the diplomatic service; whether any representations in regard to candidates have been made by him; what qualifica tions Senator Grant has for such work; what form of questioning has Senator Grant adopted, and what kind of questions are submitted by him to candidates ?
– Ever since diplomatic cadetships were instituted, about four years ago, it has been the practice for all candidates for appointment as cadets to undergo a written examination, and also to appear before the members of a committee who question them and make a report. That committee consists ofthe permanent head of the department, and a representatives of the Government and of the Opposition in the Parliament. Dr. Grenfell Price, a former member of this House, was appointed to represent the Opposition parties, he is still a member of the committee. Senator Grant has been a member of the committee since his election as a senator. There is also a representative of the university authorities. The selection of candidates depends not merely on the results of the written examination, but also on the report of this committee, which represents all shades of political opinion. So far, the reports of the committee on candidates have been unanimous, and I hope that will continue to be the position.
Low-flying Aircraft - Pardo Aerodrome - Eagle Farm Aerodrome.
– Has the Minister for Air received complaints from municipalities in the vicinity of the KingsfordSmith aerodrome, at Mascot, of low flying on the part of incoming and outgoing aircraft? Can he say whether arrangements could be made for all aircraft approaching and leaving the aerodrome to travel via Botany Bay, thereby avoiding low flying over the suburban area?
– Some complaints of low flying by aircraft have been received from municipalities in the Mascot district. Similar complaints have been received from residents in the vicinity of other aerodromes. It would appear that people who have wanted aerodromes in certain localities are now finding that there are disadvantages associated with them. Pilots are under instructions not to fly below a certain level when close to built-up areas and as far as possible and subject to weather conditions they comply with those instructions. Whenever persons observe instances of low flying they are asked to record the time and markings on the aircraft which are in three inch lettering and to report the occurrence, with a view to disciplinary action being taken, as is done in all such instances where unnecessary low flying is proved. That course of action will be continued.
– Can the Minister for Air say to what stage negotiations for the purchase of an aerodrome site at Pardo. Tasmania, have progressed? Can he say whether the owner of the land has received any official notification of the Government’s intention to establish an aerodrome there, and what prospects there are of developmental work being undertaken immediately upon completion of the purchase of the land ?
– A sum of money has been placed on the estimates for preliminary work on an aerodrome at Pardo, and negotiations between the Department of the Interior and the owner of the land are in progress. When they have been completed the department will be in a position to begin work on the aerodrome site, but on account of priorities for more urgent work I do not hold out any hope that the work will be commenced in the near future, although it is possible that a start will be made within a year.
– Has the United States of America presented, free of cost to the Commonwealth, all aviation facilities installed at Eagle Farm aerodrome, Brisbane, during the war, provided that Australia maintains Eagle Farm as an international airport to be used by United States aircraft, and to furnish all facilities to aircraft irrespective of nationality? If so, has the offer been accepted? What was the total approximate cost of the facilities, and what will be the cost of maintenance under the proposed scheme? Does this mean that the question of reciprocal landing rights has been finally determined ?
– I shall answer the last part of the question first: The agreement between the Government of the United States of America and the Commonwealth regarding landing rights is altogether separate from the agreement regarding the taking over of equipment at Eagle Farm. The agreement regarding landing rights has been signed, and specific conditions which do not apply particularly to Eagle Farm have been laid down. The aerodrome at Eagle Farm was used largely by the American air force during the war. There was a good deal of equipment there, so that it became necessary to discuss with the American authorities the transfer of this equipment to the Commonwealth Government. There was some reference in the press to a condition that the Eagle Farm aerodrome should become an international airport, but that point was something entirely apart from the bilateral agreement between Australia and the United States of America on the subject of landing rights, and the report has, perhaps, given rise to some misunderstanding. The whole matter has been handled by the Department of External Affairs, rather than by the Department of Air or of Civil Aviation, and I understand that a satisfactory adjustment of all outstanding difficulties has been achieved. American authorities have, I believe, advanced very satisfactory proposals regarding the disposal of their assets at the Eagle Farm aerodrome, which the Commonwealth Government was glad to accept.
PRICE, of Milk.
– In view of the dissatisfaction that exists in the milk industry, and the representations that have been made for an increase of the price of milk, will the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs give consideration to the granting of an increased price?
– I shall refer the honorable member’s question to the Minister for Trade and Customs.
– I desire to ask a question of the Minister for External Affairs. In explanation, I point out that there Ls widespread uneasiness lest he, in the course of negotiations with Asiatic governments, should agree to the alteration or compromise of those sections of the Immigration Restriction Act, upon the enforcement of which depends the White Australia policy. In order to allay these feelings once and for all, will the Minister, when closing the debate on international affairs, give an assurance to the people in Australia, and make a statement for the information of people abroad, that no alteration or modification of the White Australia policy will be undertaken in any circumstances whatsoever ?
– It is quite unnecessary for me to wait for the closing of any debate in order to give that assurance. [ gave such an assurance during the debate on international affairs; but I point out that the subject was mentioned then only because a question on it had been addressed to me by the honorable member for New England. I gave the assurance then, and I give it now. If the honorable member likes, I will give it morning, noon and night. The White Australia policy is absolutely basic to the economy and politics of this country. There has never been any suggestion, direct or indirect, that it would be interfered with. The subject has never been mentioned by me except in the circumstances which I have recounted. I am obliged to the honorable member for giving me the opportunity to remove the so-called uneasiness which, if it exists at all, has been caused by what other people have said, not by anything that I have ever said.
Murder of AUSTRALIAN Officers.
– Almost a year ago, three Australian officers were murdered in the Netherlands East Indies while investigating the fate of Australian servicemen in that area. Is the Minister for External Affairs yet in possession of the report of the judge who was sent to the Netherlands East Indies to investigate and report upon the incident? If so, will the Minister make the report available to such honorable members as desire to see it? Is the Minister yet in a position to say whether a claim will be made upon the Indonesian Government or the Dutch Goovernment-
– Or both?
– Or both, for an indemnity to aid the circumstances of the widows and children who were dependent on the murdered officers?
– The report has been received. There are matters in it which cannot well be published ; but I shall take the course which the honorable member has suggested. There is no reason why the report should not be read by those honorable members who desire to read it. In every case, the relatives of the memwho were unfortunately killed are receiving the full benefits provided under our own law. No question arises of a claim against the Dutch authorities. The judge’s report is to the effect that the Dutch authorities are not in any way concerned; but a claim may be advanced, on the basis of the report, against the Indonesian authorities.
– When will a decision be made on that point?
– The claim can be made only when an Indonesian authority is properly established. However, the ground has been prepared for the making of such a claim, and at some time in the future I shall make further details available to honorable members.
Hospital Benefits fob ex-Servicemen.
– Last week, I asked the Minister for Repatriation upon notice whether he would lay on the table of the House the report on hospital benefits for ex-servicemen which was presented to him in October. His reply was to the effect that the report had no public value. I now ask the Minister whether it is true that the main reason for the refusal of the Government to make this report ‘available to the public is that the Government’s policy in relation to hospital treatment of ex-servicemen was severly criticised therein? If not, will he say why, on a matter of extreme public importance, he refuses to make available to the Parliament a report which concerns the treatment of so many ex-members of the fighting services? “Will the Minister give further consideration to my request that he table the report?
– Is the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture aware that there is grave dissatisfaction among wool-growers regarding the contributory charge of 5 per cent, on all Australian wool sold in Australia or abroad? Ls hp also aware that Australia’s wool clip this year is estimated to be worth about £90,000,000, so that about £4,500,000 will be collected under the 5 per cent, levy? Is be aware that, after the payment of all that is due to the Australian Wool Board for research, and after defraying the cost of the Australian Wool Realization Commission, there will be surplus in the fund of about £3,500,000? Seeing that the contributory charge for next year has to be fixed before the end of June this year, will the Minister consider fixing a purely nominal rate for the coming year? In particular will he be guided by the chairman of the Australian Wool Realization Commission in future, instead of ignoring its recommendations as was done last year?
– I am not aware that there is any grave dissatisfaction on the part of the wool-growers-
– You ought to be; you are the Minister.
– If the honorable member does not want me to answer the question, I ask- him to place it on the notice-paper.
Formal Motion foe Adjournment.
– I have received from the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) an intimation that he desires to move the adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely : -
The necessity for immediate steps to be taken by the Australian Government to call an imperial Economic Conference on the highest ministerial, official and technical plane to co-ordinate the views of the various parts of the Empire in order to ensure maintenance of substantial Empire preference for the preservation and progressive development of Australian industries and Australia’s effective contribution to the expansion of world trade.
.- I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
– Is the motion supported ?
Five honorable members having risen in support of the motion,
– One of the most important matters concerning Australia to-day is the maintenance of the political unit of the British Empire. That great agent for the Pax Britannica that has kept the world in balance for 100 years is being bluffed out of existence by subtle propaganda to which I fear the Government has succumbed. The defence and security of the whole British Empire is greatly assisted by the strength of each of its members. The prosperity of every member is indispensable to its development. Development of the natural and essential industries of each part can be best assured by a common Empire economic policy. That policy must aim at the greatest freedom of trade possible between constituent members, their full development, and agreement upon a common 1)011CV in their dealings with outside nations. As trade is largely the ultimate determinant of our foreign relations, defence, foreign relations, trade agreements and Empire preference are all closely bound together. Empire preference has been the traditional policy of Australia. Even before federation, some of the colonies bad taken practical steps in that direction. This policy yielded great results after World War I. in stimulating our development; and, of the great financial and economic depression in the nineteen thirties, when the Dominion of Canada called a special economic conference at Ottawa such as I advocate to-day. Insidious propaganda that Empire preference constitutes a serious barrier to world trade, is being disseminated throughout the world and is matched in its determination to smash the British
Empire only by the activities on the industrial front of Communist organiza-tions, but the facts are that, during the five years immediately following the signing of the Ottawa Agreement, world trade increased from £7,659,000,000 to £10,800,000,000. As each part of the Empire grew and its local prosperity increased, it became a greater buyer of the goods and services of not only Empire countries but also foreign countries. Figures compiled by the League of Nations show that the share of the British Commonwealth of Nations in world trade, that is with countries outside the Empire, increased from 26.7 per cent, in 1931 to 30.8 per cent, in 1946 ; whilst, during the same period, trade between countries within the British Commonwealth of Nations increased from 25.79 per cent, to 31.4 per cent, of total world trade. That is to say that there was a definite increase of trade between Empire countries and also between Empire countries and countries outside the Empire. The figures reveal that the greatest increase took place in respect of items to which Empire preference did not apply. It is interesting to examine these figures in detail. They show that from 1931 to 1938, as the result of the Ottawa Agreement, the value of Canada’s trade within the Empire increased from £12,670,000, or 1.59 per cent, of the total Empire trade, to £26,100,000, or 3.04 per cent, of the total Empire trade, whilst the value of Australia’s trade within the Empire increased from £23,770,000, or 2.98 per cent, of the total Empire trade to £37,660,000, or 4.39 per cent, of the total Empire trade. During the same period the value of Canada’s trade in respect of items to which Empire preference did not apply increased from £14,220,000, or 1.78 per cent, of the total world trade, to £35,730,000, or 4.17 per cent, of the total world trade, whilst the value of Australia’s trade in respect of items to which Empire preference did not apply increased from £13,770,000, or 1.73 per cent, of the total world trade, to £22,840,000, or 2.66 per cent. of the total world trade. Those figures give the lie absolutely to the insidious propaganda that Empire preference has tended to hamper world trade. On the contrary, Empire preference has assisted world trade. Therefore, one is forced to ask, why is the system of Empire preference so viciously attacked? If it were not valuable it would not be attacked; it would be ignored with contempt. It is attacked because it is valuable, and has proved vital to the progress of the British Empire. As that system has proved of such value it is not surprising to find that only two decisions emanated from the international trade conference held about three or four months ago. The first decision was to the effect that British Empire preference should ultimately be eliminated; and the second was that after British Empire preference had that after British Empire preference had been eliminated the nineteen nations represented at the conference should grant to each other, unconditionally, most favoured nation treatment in matters of trade. “What is British Empire preference in reality, but most favoured nation treatment to countries within the Empire? In effect, that conference said that whilst most favoured nation treatment within the Empire must ultimately be eliminated, it should be adopted by the nineteen nations concerned. Whilst the delegates at that conference displayed a very keen business sense, they showed very little sense of humour. Their attitude was Gilbertian. Whilst they said that it was impossible to continue most favoured nation treatment within the Empire, such a policy would be all right provided all the countries represented at that conference could get in on “ the racket “.
The American panacea for world troubles, advertised like all nostrums to cure everything, is this mostfavourednation treatment. It suits America at any rate, like most well-developed countries, but is not so good for developing or backward countries. Their development will be stifled. America is in the position of a successful buccaneer, who, enriched after 100 years of activity, now wishes to consolidate his gains and become thoroughly respectable, and says he is satisfied with half his gains in the future, if allowed to float himself into a world limited liability company. One hundred years ago the Americans themselves called their tariff “ the tariff of abominations “ - and that was before the Hawley Sm001 tariff in 1900 which established a world record in height. Now, America is willing, for a consideration, of course, to take off 50 per cent, on certain items, knowing that the hurdle is still too high. In return for this magnificent gesture and concession, other nations, including Australia, through its representatives, are being induced to pass sentence of death on British Empire preference.
– Who said that?
– It was said in a conference report.
As an act of grace, the day of execution is deferred for a time. Does living in a condemned cell give stimulus and encouragement to build up plans for the future? How cheered struggling industrialists in Australia must feel when they see their progress impeded in this way! The Australian Government has betrayed the people and the industries of Aus-: tralia in this regard.
The time has come for the people of this country and the rest of the Empire te take a strong stand in this matter, because apparently their governments will not. We must set in motion a great centripetal force to hold the Empire together by fighting the opposing centrifugal forces of Communist.? on the industrial front and subtle propaganda on the trade front. One can scarcely pick up a newspaper to-day that docs not contain such statements as that the Empire i? doomed and that imperial trade preference is causing the decay of world trade. We read in the press that India, Bunna and other components of the British Empire want to leave it and have self-government.
Strong action now on Empire trade policy may easily prove a determinant factor as to whether they elect to stay in the Empire and its trade system or leave it. Callous desertion of Empire preference means acting directly contrary to the best interests of the Empire and of world trade and, indeed, contrary to the considered opinions and desires of the people. The poor excuse the Australian Government makes is the usual one that some one else, in this case the British and Canadian governments, desire to relinquish preference.
The history of Empire preference is that the Dominions have always been the driving force. At the very nadir of government intertia in 1930, the people of such places as Birmingahm, Liverpool, Hull and many others rallied with the producers of the outer Empire to fight the issue. Within a year or two of the Government’s abject surrender to outside forces, we saw the greatest advances made in Empire co-opera,tion. The drive must again come from the Dominions. They will be supported to the full in the counties of the Mother Country. The Dominions gave Britain preferences for 25 years before Britain reciprocated. That country was, of course, our great defender, and always gave reciprocity when the Empire as a whole was in distress, as in World War I. and in the depth of the depression. Britain itself led the way for Empire aid by the Import Duties Act, and the Ottawa Agreement. The people of the Empire still demand the continuance of the preferential system.
On the 20th February, 1947, the Australian Chambers of Manufactures said -
The chambers record the strongest opposition to the proposed elimination of the longestablished Empire preference system. The preservation of this system is vital to Australia and to other Empire countries, both in respect to imports and exports-
Especially meat, butter, sugar, &c. -
There is no quid pro quo for Empire preference. To imagine that some possible tarin” reduction in the United States tariff -will provide compensating advantages is worse than wishful thinking - it is sheer wilful selfdeception.
The British Association of Chambers of Commerce is just as definite -
The association urges that the Government should resist pressure for removal of Imperial preference as a condition precedent to the commencement of international discussions affecting barriers to world trade. The prosperity of the British Empire is being an important contributory factor in the restoration of world trade - as it waa in the 30’s - is evidently completely overlooked. The British Commonwealth of Nations, the colonies and dependencies are as much entitled, should they so desire, to be regarded as a single economic unit as are the States which comprise the United States of America, or the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. They are, therefore, unquestionably entitled to the much looser and less exclusive economic association which they have preferred.
That is the opinion of the people of Australia and Great Britain, and similar statements are made by the peoples of Canada and South Africa. Imperial preference has developed and not hindered world trade because preferential duties have brought about increased prosperity and thereby enabled & greater volume of world trade.
There are three great menaces to the expansion of international trade, as well as to currency stability and world peace. The first is the very high tariff of the United States of America. Had that country substantially reduced its tariff barriers after World War I., it could have played the part that Great Britain played as a great creditor nation- in the world for many years, with the result that World War II. might have been deferred, or even averted. The second great menace to world trade expansion is the Soviet system of control by governmental agencies of imports and exports to and from Russia. The Russian Government does not impose preferential tariffs; it simply states that goods may be exported fir imported freely or not at all. The third great menace to trade lies in the low wage standards and conditions in countries such as China, India, Japan, Italy and possibly Germany if the peace treaties are not properly -framed. The industries which will he needed to bring these countries back to prosperity must not be allowed to compete too keenly with Australian industries, the development of which is essential to our future welfare. I dissociate myself entirely from the pessimists who say that Australia cannot carry a population of more than 20,000,000 people. Recently I read a book by a certain professor which purported to prove that 20,000,000 was the maximum number of people that could be supported in Australia. The author gave estimates of food production, water supplies, and mineral resources to support his arguments. They were entirely misleading. There are several areas in Australia which could easily support a population of 20,000,000 people. For instance, the electorate which I represent, an area about as large as Great .Britain, has as much water, and mineral and power resources as Great Britain had when it became one of the greatest industrial nations of the world. Tasmania also could easily accommodate a population of 2,000,000 people where it now has 20,000. [Extension of time granted.] We must develop our natural resources and our secondary industries, and we can best do so under a system of Empire preferential tariffs.
I aim to prove, contrary to this subtle propaganda that Empire preference is damaging to trade, that the Empire preference system has improved world trade. Consider the three menaces to world trade which I have mentioned. Did they arise before or after the great basic plan of Empire preference was formulated in 1932? They all came into existence before the introduction of Empire preference. The American Hawley-Smoot tariff scheme was implemented in 1930. The Soviet trade policy, of course, came into force about 1918. Low wage standards, against which our industries need protection, have existed in some countries for hundreds of years. What has happened since the introduction of Empire preference? There has been a complete change of front on tariff matters by the United States of America on account of the Empire’s greatly increased bargaining power. It was possible for Canada in 1935, and for Great Britain in 1938, to make trade treaties with the United States of America by which American import duties on a very wide range of commodities were reduced. The Cordell Hull system of arranging trade treaties between America and other countries on the basis of most-favoured-nation treatment was also introduced after the Ottawa agreement. The American President was given power to reduce any duty in the thirties, well after the Ottawa agreement by 50 per cent, at his own sweet will. In Australia, we insist that our tariffs must not be reduced except after careful investigation of all relevant circumstances by the Tariff Board. In America, tariffs are so high that the President may reduce them by 50 per cent, without making much difference to the national economy. I refer to one high American tariff that affects Australia. We are most interested in wool, which is by far Australia’s most important export commodity. The present
American duty on wool is 33 cents per lb. which, owing to exchange depreciation, represents about 2s. 2d. per lb. in Australian currency. That is almost 100 per cent, of the value of wool in normal times, even though the commodity is imported by America only as a raw material for manufacturing purposes. How can world trade prosper under such conditions? That is the sort of tariff policy that we should attack. I agree entirely with the British Association of Chambers of Commerce that we should not permit the destruction of Empire preference to precede the cutting down of such prohibitive tariffs as the American import duty on wool.
A country’s bargaining power lies not in high tariffs but in the power of its people to buy the goods of other countries. The more prosperous we make the British Empire, the greater will be the buying power of Empire countries. Therefore, before we commit ourselves to the surrender of any of our preferential duties, there should be a general meeting of senior representatives of all Empire governments. Such a conference should be on the highest plane, and Australia’s senior Ministers should be present in full strength. I am glad that the Minister for Postwar Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) will be present at the forthcoming conference, but I consider that the Commonwealth should be. represented by at least two senior Ministers. When Mr. Henry Gullett and Mr. Bruce returned from the Ottawa Conference, they told me that their task had been herculean, even though they had been assisted by armies of officials and representatives of Australian industries. Men who were present at that conference say that only the tact, knowledge, and long political experience of their leaders, prevented the discussions from breaking down. Mr. Bruce told me that the negotiations were in danger of failing a dozen times, but that the situation was saved by the efforts of statesmen with great political experience, armed with the authority of the governments which they represented. The presence of such leaders is a factor of prime importance in any international trade discussions. Another important factor to which the
Sir Earle Page.
Government should pay attention is the need for an improved system of liaison between the representatives of different Empire governments. This would enable a better interchange of points of view with the aim of rationalizing the expansion of trade and industries throughout the Empire. In 1936 I negotiated with the great electrical companies of Great Britain for the establishment of new factories in Australia, but unfortunately the arrangements in Australia broke down Those companies wanted to manufacture in Australia power generating and transmitting equipment that was in demand throughout the world. The MetropolitanVickers Electrical Company Limited had established a research factory at a cost of £250,000 to engage in only one line of research work and was prepared to invest large sums in this country. The company wanted Australia to grant special tariff concessions, on very heavy electrical equipment in return for which it was prepared to expend £10,000,000 within five years to expand electrical factories in this country to increase the manufacture of consumption and light transmission equipment. In addition, it agreed to arrange for a loan of £15,000,000 to Australian governments to finance the construction of electrical generation and reticulation systems. What a wonderful difference that would have made to Australia’s economy had the plan reached fruition! Australia would have been able to make a contribution equal to that which Canada is now making to Great Britain in its time of need, the Government should endeavour to retain, if it still exists in any form, the organization that was established during the war to deal with the manufacture, supply and distribution of war materials. One of the great statesmanlike acts of the war was the establishment of the Eastern Supply Council, which aided the allied cause in the South-East Pacific Area not only in a military sense but also by creating friendly relations between Australia and neighbouring countries. In Great Britain during World War II., the Empire Supply Council was established on a ministerial, official and technical plane. As the representative of Australia on that body, I found an extraordinary degree of good, will, and an absence of friction, because the various representatives knew one another personally and were able frankly to explain their position to one another. This achieved excellent results. The Government of the United Kingdom informed me then - and I am sure it has not changed its views - that it would agree to an exchange of officials between the Australian. Department of Trade and Customs and the Department of Commerce and Agriculture, and the British Board of Trade. That reciprocal arrangement should be encouraged. Before our policies become rigid, we should ensure in departmental discussions that they will cause the least possible conflict. If a dispute should arise regarding the sale and distribution of goods, we should be able to adjust our differences. It is of paramount importance that Australia should not do anything, by a hasty ill-considered move, to imperil its future development, and the stability of existing or potential industries. Then, in years to come, we shall leave a heritage of unlimited possibilities for many millions of people.
.- I support the motion moved by the honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page). In recent years, the Parliament has not given sufficient consideration to matters of trade. The legislature has been deeply engrossed in subjects involving wages and conditions of employment, which though important, are definitely secondary to the trade of the nation. Trade is indeed an historic subject. We should not regard commerce as a mere exchange of goods. It affects the security and happiness of every individual in a nation. Commerce is the great civilizing agent. When we exchange goods in effect we exchange ideas. In Australia, we incur a grave danger of isolationism, and of severing ourselves from world, affairs, particularly in trade, as the result of industrial disputes on the waterfront and inordinate delays in unloading and loading ships in Australian ports. Everything which hampers trade reacts against the worker and his family. We cannot sustain a good living standard unless the people work and trade. Trade is the life-blood of a nation. We must ensure that our trade is expanded to its fullest dimensions. One hundred and fifty years ago, Napoleon taunted the British people with being a “ nation of shopkeepers “. By that, he meant that the British were a commercial nation. They proceeded to show him, in battle, that they were capable of other things. Definitely, the British dominated commerce, and as the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) has shown, they set an example of cooperation which we must continue.
Now, what do we find? For some years, the Parliament has not had an opportunity to discuss tariff schedules. As Minister for Trade and Customs for nearly six years, I have seen many tariff schedules passed by the Parliament, and listened to discussion upon thousands of items; but in recent years, honorable members have not been asked to consider a tariff schedule or to debate the trade cf the Commonwealth. Trade has been pushed aside, and left to officials. Competent as those officials may be, the position now is that our trade has become a subject for regulations, prohibitions and permits. If an Australian manufacturer or merchant desires to import any machinery or goods, he must apply in many cases to the Department of Trade and Customs, and three months may elapse before the law of the Commonwealth provides that Australian citizens shall be at liberty to import goods, provided they pay the duties applicable to them. But our import trade is hampered and cramped by restrictions.
Our export trade is in a similar plight. In many instances the export of goods is prohibited unless a permit is obtained from the Minister for Trade and Customs, or, in practice, a departmental official. Australian merchants and manufacturers are not allowed to import certain goods from Great Britain, because in some cases according to the official attitude they can te made in Australia. But we know that sometimes Australian manufacturers are not able to meet the present demand. These trends reveal the advisability of honorable members discussing matters of trade in the Parliament.
Empire preference is an historic subject. The idea originated in Australia. At the Imperial Conference, in 1907, Australia offered imperial preference to Great Britain. At that time, Great Britain did not accept the offer because it had a “ flying start “ as a great industrial nation and did not need protection for its industries. Despite this refusal, Australia initiated Imperial preference in 1908 and granted preference to British manufacturers. By 1932, Great Britain had felt the effect of the Hawley-Smoot Tariff (imposed in the United States of America, which was one of the principal reasons for the world wide financial and economic depression). That country was feeling the competition of younger industrial nations such as Germany, and was losing some of its trade. Therefore, Britain turned to the dominions and at the notable conference held at Ottawa, decided that co-operation in trade within the British Empire was necessary if the world were to be extricated from the economic quagmire into which it had fallen. One international conference on trade had failed, just as the forthcoming International Conference on Trade and Employment may fail, but the Empire conference held at Ottawa was an outstanding success, as the Dominions received reciprocal treatment in tariff preferences and a plan for commercial co-operation was adopted. I remind the House that the decisions of that conference were reached, not by a handful of officials sent from Australia and the other members of the British Empire, but by prominent statesmen. Australia’s representatives included a former Prime Minister, Mr. S. M. Bruce, and the then Minister for Trade and Customs, Mr. Henry Gullett. The Ottawa Agreement was validated in this Parliament, and, in broad outline, continues to be the tariff of Australia at the present time. Departmental officials from Australia who are now attending the International Conference on Trade and Employment will not have that free knowledge of the history of those previous agreements which is essential. Unfortunately I have not time to cite statistics, but if I had. I could show that the United
States of America, which is the foremost nation in the world to-day and is our great ally and friend, has not set an example by reducing tariffs. The Textile Export Association of the United States of America, which is seeking to make it possible for American textile exporters to compete in the markets of the British Empire on equal terms with Lancashire, stated -
First and foremost among major barriers to increased world trade are the British imperial preference agreements. These agreements have effectively curbed sales of American products to British dominions and possessions and unless eliminated or substantially modified will hamper trade with Australia, Canada, India, New Zealand and South Africa.
On many occasions we have urged the United States of America to reduce its high tariffs; but in spite of pious statements by a former .Secretary of State, Mr. Cordell Hull, which meant a reduction of tariffs by other countries, America would not revise its fiscal policy. A few months ago the London Times published a letter written by Lord Croft, chairman of the Empire Industries Association, which showed that America’s favorable trade balance was due almost entirely to trade with the British Empire. Australia has always bought more from Great Britain that the United States of America or any other foreign country has done. For decades Great Britain too, has been our biggest customer, sometimes purchasing up to 90 per cent, of our exports. Great Britain will continue to be our best customer for as long as we like. Yet, recently, we appointed trade commissioners in almost every country except Paraguay and Uraguay!
– We have one in Ceylon.
– If the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) hears that we have not a trade commissioner in Uruguay lie will quickly rectify the omission. We are linked with Great Britain with sentimental ties that common sense and heart and head dictate. Yet, almost blithely we send off a contingent, some being minor officials to determine the future trade policy of the Comonwealth. I should like to know whether the VicePresident of the Executive Council (Mr. Scully) or Mr. Dedman, the Minister who may go to the conference realize the implications of the Ottawa Agreement. In 193S, the right honorable member for Cowper, the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) and I led a delegation to Great Britain for the purpose of re-writing the Ottawa Agreement, and that revised document is still in force. It should not be discarded, or its provisions should not be whittled down. But if we are to judge from the statements which have been published in the press, the forthcoming International Conference on Trade and Employment will seal the doom of Empire preferences. I warn the House that the United States of America will retain its preferences with the Philippines and Cuba. In addition, Australia will probably agree to multilateral trade treaties. A concession given to one country must be granted to all countries. The . bilateral system of trade treaties will no longer exist. If we give concessions to the United States of America or to Great Britain they would then apply equally to a reconstructed Japan or a reconstructed Germany. This is nothing but idealistic folly. We are taking part in this trade and employment conference, as we have participated in conferences on international matters, believing that an international issue is a fine issue ; but we must remember our loyalties and keep them in proper perspective. Our first loyalty is to Australia and our delegates must do everything possible to protect its interests. Our second loyalty is a family loyalty which we owe to the British Commonwealth of Nations, an aggregation of nations greater than the League of Nations of bygone years and greater than the United Nations. We should stand steadfastly for Empire unity and make our first objective the strengthening of the British Commonwealth of Nations, which bore the brunt of the impact of the recent war. Australia should set an example to the rest of the world, as it did when the Ottawa Agreement was concluded.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– In supporting the motion one might take a considerable number of Australian industries the economy of which has, to a fairly large degree, been dependent upon the operation of Empire preference, and point out how the application of Empire preference has assisted in their development. In view of the relatively short time available to me, however, I propose to deal with only one, namely, the sugar industry of Queensland and northern New South Wales. In years of normal production the sugar industry exports at least 50 per cent, of its production. Exports of sugar commenced in 1924 largely as the result of the development of the industry following the fixation of the home consumption price of sugar by the Hughes Government. Within the space of a few years the industry rapidly developed, hut a stage was reached where it became evident that production would have to be curtailed because of the inadequate price received on the export market. The industry was, however, saved from difficulty arising from export prices by the Ottawa Agreement. After the conclusion of that agreement production continued to increase until 1939, when the peak export of 545,000 tons was reached. At that time Australian consumption amounted to between 365,000 and 375,000 tons. Honorable members will realize that the development of the industry was largely brought about by the operation of Empire’ preference. During this period, the value of exports in one year amounted to £6,000,000. During the period from 1932 to 1938, which included the depression years, the price of raw sugar on the export market did not reach £9 a ton. The lowest price, which was obtained in 1934, was £7 lis. 3d. a ton. Of the latter amount, £3 15s. a ton represented the value to the industry of Empire preference. Thus, approximately 50 per cent, of that lowest price, and from 30 to 40 per cent, of the average price received over the period of seven years, was represented by preference. On the one hand the present quantity of sugar exported is low because of conditions arising partly from the war and partly from drought. O21 the other hand the present export price is higher than it has ever been in the history of the sugar industry. That position is, of course, abnormal, and we must expect a return to lower prices before long. In the coming year we shall probably export not more than approximately 100,000 tons; but within a short time the sugar industry will again return to normal production and have available for export from 400,000 to 500,000 tons of sugar annually. The price cannot be expected to continue at its present level; it will undoubtedly recede to a figure which will be unprofitable to the sugar industry. The retention of Empire preference is therefore absolutely essential to the continuance of this very important industry at a normal level. The only alternative would be to increase the fixed homeconsumption price, a step which the Government would no doubt be unwilling to take. The Government will, however, have to face the necessity for increasing the home-consumption price in order to keep the industry in a reasonably flourishing condition if the British preference is not retained. Let us for a moment consider the value of this industry to the community generally. I propose to deal only with one phase of its value. I pass over the value of the industry in the form of cash returns, in the establishment of a thriving community, in the development in the north of Australia of valuable markets for the production of the southern States, and also the value of the credits it has established overseas. Those phases of the importance of the sugar industry are by now well known to the community generally. A new phase, which may not be so well known to the people, is the value of the industry to the defence of Australia. Over a period of years tests have been carried out to ascertain whether industries other than the sugar industry may be established on the northern littoral. It has been conclusively proved that, having regard to the population on our northeastern seaboard, the sugar industry is the only one that can be successfully developed. The continuance of Empire preference had enabled the Australian sugar industry to expand, and as a result, during the recent war we were fortunate to have a strong virile population in the vulnerable northeastern portion of the continent. In that area it was found that ports, roads, and facilities of vital importance in the conduct of the war against Japan had already been established and a highly mechanized industry was in existence upon which the services were able to draw for their urgently needed mechanical equipment at a time when additional seaports and strategic roads had to be developed at short notice and when the requisite mechanical equipment for that development was not readily available elsewhere. Finally, the volume of production in the industry which was above the Australian needs enabled it to supply the requirements of sugar of all the allied troops in the South-West Pacific Area. Had it been found necessary to import sugar from abroad an enormous strain would have been placed upon the already overtaxed sea transport. Indeed, so great was the demand for shipping space for the materials of war that it may not have been possible to import sugar at that time. The only other possible source of supply that readily comes to my mind would have been Cuba, and honorable members can understand the difficulties that would have had to be met had it been necessary to bring hundreds of thousands of tons of sugar from Cuba. I stress this fact because I do not believe that the value of the industry has been properly realized, and that it is not generally known that a great part of the credit for its successful expansion is due to the maintenance of Empire preference. I do not imply that the Government is unaware of these facts; but recent events suggest that it is relying too much on the advice of theorists. The. Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) has said from time to time that there is no intention on the part of the Government to throw overboard this vital principle of our economic life, hut the negotiations so far appear to have been left almost entirely to departmental officials and theorists, one of whom seems to have accepted as inescapable the loss of preference.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
Mr. DEDMAN (Corio- Minister for Defence, Minister for Post-war Reconstruction and Minister in charge of the
Council for Scientific and Industrial Research) [4.51]. - A short answer to the motion of the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) is that what he has suggested is now, in fact, being carried out, with the exception that the conference which is now taking place in London is not on a ministerial level.
– And therefore the decisions arrived at will not bind any Government ?
– The line of action which this Government is taking is in accordance with principles enunciated by the right honorable member for Cowper in 1938, in which year he led an Australian trade delegation to a conference, held in London, between the Governments of the United Kingdom and Australia to discuss the future of the Ottawa Agreement. A memorandum containing the conclusions arrived at was tabled in this House by the right honorable gentleman on the 17th September, 1938. The following is an extract from his speech in submitting the motion that the memorandum be tabled : -
Both United Kingdom and Australian Ministers are strongly attached to the principle of preferential trade within the British Empire. At the same time, they realize that several of the important facts above stated render it not only inevitable but desirable that both the United Kingdom and Australia should from time to time enter into trade agreements with foreign countries. In this way the two countries can assure their own full development and at the same time make
An effective contribution to the expansion of international trade. To this end, the United Kingdom and Australian Ministers have undertaken to co-operate in every practicable way with a view to assisting each other in arriving at trade agreements with foreign countries.
Commenting on clause 4 of the memorandum the right honorable member for Cowper is recorded in Hansard as saying-
This realistic recognition of the practical needs of each other affords a substantial assurance against the development of irritations and misunderstandings. It does not weaken the preferential system; it strengthens it, by the avoidance of excesses which might ultimately destroy it.
– Does the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction say that this is inconsistent with what the right honorable member for Cowper has said to-day?
– I have said that the course which the Government is now pursuing is in line with that advocated by the right honorable member for Cowper in 193S.
– Does the Minister suggest that there is any inconsistency between what the right honorable member for Cowper said in 1938 and what he has said to-day ?
– I do not suggest any inconsistency. I merely said that the present Government is pursuing a course exactly in line with that advocated by the right honorable member for Cowper in 1938.
– Then the Minister will accept the motion?
– I have said that what the motion asks shall be done is already being carried out, with the exception that the conference is not on a ministerial level. I shall deal with that point later. I submit that the negotiations now taking place in London, and those which are to take place at Geneva, are the practical outcome of the principles enunciated by the right honorable member for Cowper in 1938. I shall relate the history of events in connexion with this subject. There was a conference between members of the British Commonwealth of Nations prior to the preparatory conference held in London last November, the report of which I tabled in this House last week.
– That conference was not on a ministerial level.
– I have already said that I shall deal with that point later. A conference between representatives of the several governments within the British Commonwealth of Nations was held prior to the preparatory conference which took place in November, 1946. The representatives agreed that a further conference between the representatives of the British Commonwealth of Nations should be held prior to the Geneva Conference. That conference was timed to start yesterday in London. It is true that this Government will not be represented at that conference by a Minister.
– Has the Government issued instructions to its representatives?
– I shall deal later with that point, also. Although the Government is not represented by a Minister at the conference now being held in London, that is the position also with respect to the other dominions, with the exception of New Zealand. Moreover, the latest information is that the New Zealand Minister, who originally intended to be present at the conference, is, for some reason unknown to me, not to be there. It is true that Sir Stafford Cripps is to preside at the conference; but I understand that he will attend only in order to open the conference, and that immediately he has done so he will retire, and discussions will then proceed between the officials representing the several governments. It may be that the dominions ought to be represented at that conference on a ministerial level, but on that point an agreement was reached at the preparatory conference held prior to November, 1946. It may also be that that a decision ought not to have been arrived at; but it was agreed to unanimously by members of the British Commonwealth of Nations at the suggestion of the United Kingdom Government. As to whether it would be better that the dominions and the United Kingdom should be represented on a ministerial level, I point out that the Australian delegation, which is led by Dr. Coombs, the Director-General of my department, was given instructions by the Government prior to its departure. Members of the delegation will be in close touch with the Government during the negotiations, as will also the delegation which will attend the conference at Geneva next month.
– What were those instructions ?
– They were secret instructions.
– They were not secret instructions. The delegation has been instructed to put forward the view of the Government that no preference now enjoyed is to be given away unless Australia will get something which will more than compensate for any concession that it may make. It is entirely untrue to say, as has been said in the press and by Opposition members, that the system of Empire preference is doomed.
– Dr. Coombs has said so.
– The honorablemember for Reid (Mr. Lang) is in error. Dr. Coombs made no such statement.. From time to time the press has published reports of what Dr. Coombs said on this and other matters, but I was present on the occasion referred to, and I know that Dr. Coombs made no such statement.
– He came so close toit that it does not matter much.
– The press references were to an alleged statement by Dr. Coombs that imperial preference was doomed. Dr. Coombs does not believe this, and it is not the opinion of this Government, nor of the Government of the United Kingdom. Neither is it in any way indicated in the report of the preparatory conference which met in November last in London. When I asked by way of interjection, where the right honorable member for Cowper had obtained his information to the effect that the preference system was doomed, he said that he would quote from this report in a minute or two. He did not do so, but I propose to quote from it now so that honorable members may know just what the report contains. I quote from page 49 of the report, section D, paragraph 1 of Article 24, which sets forth certain self-explanatory rules to be observed during the negotiations. It states -
Prior international commitments- such as the Ottawa Agreement - shall no.t be permitted to stand in the way of negotiations with respect to tariff preferences, it being understood that action resulting from such negotiations shall not require the modification of existing international obligations except by agreement between the contracting parties or, failing that, by termination of such obligations in accordance with their terms.
That is to say, that the preference system can be abolished only by the agreement of those who subscribe to it. It cannot be abolished by the outside action of other parties. Therefore, it is not true that the whole trend of these negotiations justifies a belief that the preference system is doomed. As I have said, preferences can be removed only by agreement between the parties concerned or, failing such agreement, by one of the parties, after six months’ notice, denouncing the agreement. Is it suggested that the Commonwealth Government will denounce the Ottawa Agreement? If there is any such suggestion, I give it an emphatic denial. In reply to the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Davidson), I point out that it is not expected that the preference Australia enjoys in regard to sugar will come up for discussion at all. Possibly it will, but at the moment it does not appear probable. Included among the general matters for discussion is a proposal that commodity agreements should be reached .regarding particular items. For instance, an international commodity agreement is in existence regarding wheat, and it is expected that a similar international agreement will be reached in regard to sugar. Therefore, it is not expected that sugar will come up for discussion while preferences are being considered.
– It may not be discussed specifically as sugar, but may be included under some other heading.
– It may be that that could happen. Preference is two-sided. Under the Ottawa Agreement, we enjoy certain preferences in the British market, and in other dominion markets. On the other hand, the United Kingdom enjoys preferences in the Australian market and in the markets of other dominions. If, in the course of negotiations, the United Kingdom were able to obtain an assurance that the United States of America would make tariff reductions in its favour if it was prepared to give up certain preferences which it enjoys in the Australian market are we, as a government, to deny to the United Kingdom the right to make such an agreement in its own national interest, and in the interest of world trade? Of course, before any action could be taken, it would be necessary to brins legislation before this Parliament enabling it to give up certain preferences which it enjoys at the Australian market, and that holds good of anything that might be decided upon as a result of the negotiations. Nothing can be done except by the will of this Parliament.
– The Minister does not seriously suggest that the Parliament will decide the matter?
– I certainly mean what I say. That is one side of imperial preference. We enjoy certain preferences in the markets of the United Kingdom, and of the dominions, and these, too, will be the subject-matter of negotiation. The right honorable member for Cowper has said that the first thing we should do is to make a demand on the United States of America to reduce its very high tariffs.
– I did not say “ demand “.
– We could only do that by requesting, or demanding, that the United States of America reduce its very high tariffs. But the position is that the United States of America has said, rightly or wrongly, that if it reduces its high tariffs it desires some return from other governments, including the Australian Government ; and since that is the case, the only practical way we can approach this problem is to ask ourselves this question : Supposing we could obtain a reduction; supposing we could induce the United States of America to reduce its tariff on Australian wool imports by 50 per cent. - and the right honorable gentleman has already indicated the high degree of protection afforded American wool-growers by that tariff - might it not be worth our while to agree to a reduction of the tariff protection which we enjoy in the markets of the United Kingdom and other dominion countries for certain commodities we export? It would be a matter of balancing one against the other. This is not the time to enter into details in regard to this matter; but I point out that because of America’s high import duty on wool, the consumption of wool in that country per capita is only about half of the per capita consumption of wool in Australia. [Extension of time granted.] It is obvious, therefore, that the people of the United States of America are starved of woollen textiles, and that any reduction of the American tariff on wool imports would immediately result in an enormous increase of the demand by the American people for woollen textiles. That would be a tremendous advantage to Australia’s economy; but no firm decision has been- taken by the Government on these matters, or by any of those concerned with these negotiations. All that we say is that these matters must be examined. The advantages which will accrue from any tariff reduction that may be offered to us must be balanced against the disadvantages which are involved in any decrease of our existing preference, or any form of protection which the industries of this country, both primary and secondary, now enjoy. We must weigh the ‘ advantages against the disadvantages. If, in the opinion of the Parliament, the advantages to be gained are outweighted by the disadvantages, it would be the duty of the Parliament to reject the recommendations which might be made at the Geneva Conference.
– Who is weighing the advantages and disadvantages now while the discussions are going on?
– No one is doing that at the moment. That will be done at the Geneva conference, and the Australian delegation will be instructed by the Government as to what view it holds of the advantages compared with the disadvantages that may be involved.
– And then the Government will be instructed by the delegation.
– -The delegation will, at all times, be instructed by the Government. Whatever instructions may be given to the delegation, or whatever attitude the delegation may adopt at the conference, nothing can be done at all without the consent of the Parliament either to reduce existing preference, or to concede any of the advantages that Australia now enjoys under Empire preference. Nothing can be done in these matters until the Parliament has considered them. The final decision rests with the Parliament, and there is nothing to fear in respect of the system of Empire preference. Insofar as it is advantageous to this country, that system will be preserved. As there may be some items in respect of which we may concede a reduction of tariff, such concession will be balanced by a reduction of tariff by other countries which, in the opinion of the Government, will more than outweigh any disadvantages to us.
– Should the Government, when it is making a deal, find it necessary to prejudice an industry, such as the dried fruits or the canned fruits industry, is it in the mind of the Government to take action to stabilize those industries ?
– That is not the substance of the subject-matter under discussion. At the moment the question before the Chair is whether we should press for an imperial economic conference. I conclude by saying that all that the right honorable member for Cowper asks for in, his motion is already being carried out, except that the present negotiations are not being conducted on a ministerial plane. A conference was held prior to the November meeting, and a second conference is now being held in London at which this Government, and other dominion governments, are represented. It is by agreement between the members of the British Commonwealth of Nations that the conference now being held in London should not be on a ministerial level. Therefore, the Government has nothing for which it should apologize.
– I do not propose to attempt the impossible task of discussing this enormous problem in the few minutes at my disposal. This problem is of vital importance to Australia, and, indeed, I believe with the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) that it is of vital importance to the whole British Empire. The House should have, at an early date, an opportunity to discuss it completely. Perhaps that opportunity will come on the adjourned debate on the report of the preparatory committee which was tabled last week; but, certainly, within the space of two hours and in a few short speeches this matter cannot be adequately considered. I do not intend to endeavour to debate it for those reasons; and I would not now be speaking were it not for the extraordinary attempt made by the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) to deny the existence of the threat to the system of Empire preference. He has referred to some ..passages in the charter as indicating that nothing will happen to the system of Empire preference except by mutual agreement, and, in reality, to say it is doomed is to engage in the language of exaggeration. I shall make three comments on that. The first is that this Government sold this pass on the lend-lease agreement with the United States of America. The lendlease agreement with the United States of America contained various provisions, and the gist of them was the provision that there should be thepromotion of advantageous economic relations between countries, and that for the furtherance of that end there should be an elimination - and here are the exact words - “ of all forms of discriminatory treatment in international commerce “. At the very time Australia associated itself with the lendlease agreement, I and other honorable members pointed out its effect, and its grave ultimate implications in connexion with a system of Empire preference. That is the first matter, but the second occurred when the United States loan was made to the United Kingdom. It is idle to suppose that the United Kingdom is a free agent in these discussions. It is acting under enormous economic pressures at present, and one of those is the pressure exerted on the whole Empire fiscal structure by the American loan and by its conditions, and no one with his eyes open can suggest that the whole impact of the American loan is not directed against the system of Empire preference, because it plainly is. The third factor appears in the document that the Minister tabled. While he has been busy denying that there is any threat to Empire preference, denying that Empire preference is to be eliminated, I have been having another glance at the document, and, at page 9 of the report of the preparatory committee, I find these words - and I propose to read them -
General Commercial Policy. section a.
General Most-Favoured-Nation Treatment, Tariffs and Tariff Preferences, do.
Most-Favovred-Nation Treatment -
The Preparatory Committee is in agreement with the principles
that members of the International Trade Organization should grant each other general unconditional most - favoured - nation treatment in respect of all customs matters.
I pause there to say with the right honorable member for Cowper that the moment we establish this most-favoured-nation rule in that form and with that extension, of course, no system of preference within the British Empire is going to maintain itself for very long, because every time some tariff concession is made - and it is made universally - that clause and a later clause provide that preference to that extent shall diminish. Paragraph 2 says -
– Who presided over that committee?
– The committee was an international committee. We were represented by Dr. Coombs and the chairman was Mr. Max Suetens, representing Belgium and Luxembourg.
– Excuse me, but the chairman of that committee was Dr. Coombs. If the right honorable gentleman reads the list of committees, he will see that the chairman of Committee II., which was responsible for General Commercial Policy, was Dr. Coombs.
– Yes ; I am obliged to the honorable member; but I refer to the words of this report, because they show that the allegation that the policy, or principle, is to eliminate preference does not fall from the lips of some irresponsible person or critic, but is a part of the report made by the preparatory committee.
– And it waspresided over by Dr. Coombs, as the agent of the Commonwealth.
– Quite so, and it is stated as a matter of principle. We might just as well face up to it that when the policy which is now being devised is applied, in due course, by one stage, another stage, and a final stage, Empire preference is to be destroyed, and if there is one policy that Australia is vitally interested in, it is the policy of Empire preference. The British Empire has plenty of critics in this world. Plenty of rival nations have looked at the preferential system and seen its value and said, “ If we could only get rid of that we would be all right”. I have never been able to understand why it is unjust domination for British countries within the Empire to give preference one to the other, whereas it is quite all right for all the States of the United States of America to live in a condition of complete internal trade. “What is the distinction? Is one rule to apply to 70,000,000 or 80,000,000 white British people and another to apply to 140,000,000 people in the United States of America? These matters are essentially matters of internal concern. The reference to the statement of 1938 was very disingenuous. The Minister referred to what was said in 1938 in a document that, if I remember correctly, I had the honour of drafting myself, in order to suggest that the right honorable member for Cowper was now playing a different tune, but not one word in that statement is inconsistent with what has been said on this side of the House to-day. All it did was to recommend in a practical form that there was no inconsistency between Empire preference and the making of effective trade treaties between Empire and non-Empire countries.
– In any case, it was drawn up by a conference of Ministers.
– Quite so. The Minister thinks that is a trifling distinction, but it is not. This is a matter of immense moment, and the Minister must be made aware that there is a feeling of great anxiety, not all on one side of the House, about these discussions. There is a strong feeling that delegations that go to fight our battles should be the strongest that we can put into the field, and that they should certainly be on a ministerial plane, enriched by people with a knowledge of the background of the Australian industries. It is no theoretical job. It is not a job of writing down something that may look all right on paper. It is not a matter of finding some formula. It is a job of defending the vital interests of this country, and I join with those who have urged upon this Government that these discussions should be of a most intimate kind between the British countries, in the first place, and that they should be discussed on the highest level with the greatest possible authority.
– With the concluding sentence of the speech of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) I think every one on this side of the House would agree. The discussions that have been taking place for some time now are of the greatest importance to Australia. Indeed, they are vital to the British Commonwealth of Nations. The right honorable gentleman read extracts from a report that he claims proves the contention of the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) that the Government is not discussing the subjects on the highest level through people with the most intimate knowledge of them. That assertion is made without the slightest possible foundation. I deny that Opposition members are the only ones interested in preserving Imperial preference. I propose to quote extracts from the following paper : -
Documents relating to the Anglo-American financial and economic discussions held at Washington, United States of America (September-December, 1945).
I propose to quote what has been said by the British Prime Minister, Mr. Attlee, on this subject. On page 7 of the report the following paragraphs appear : -
The statement makes it clear that, in pursuit of the objectives of Article VII. of the Mutual Aid Agreement, we for our part are ready to agree that the existing system of preferences within the British Commonwealth and the Empire will be contracted, provided there is adequate compensation in the form of improvement in trading conditions between Commonwealth and Empire countries and the rest of the world.
The statement further provides that in entering negotiations for the reduction of tariffs the parties concerned will not refuse to discuss the modification of particular preferences on the ground that these are the subject of prior commitments ; on the contrary, all margins of preference will be regarded as open to negotiation, and it will of course be for the party negotiating the modification of any margin of preference which it is bound by an existing commitment to give a third party, to obtain the consent of the .third party concerned.
Further points to be noted are -
The statement makes it clear there is no commitment on any country in advance of negotiations to reduce or eliminate any particular margin of preference. The position is that each country remains free to judge in the light of the offers made by all the others, the extent of the contribution it can make towards the realization of the agreed objectives.
It is recognized that reduction or elimination of preferences can only be considered in relation to and in return for reductions of tariffs and other barriers to world trade in general which would make for mutually advantageous arrangements for the expansion of trade. There is thus no question of any unilateral surrender of preferences. There mustbe adequate compensation for all parties affected.
The discussions will be conducted on the highest possible plane, as suggested by the Leader of the Opposition, by experts who have a complete knowledge of the subject. These men understand Australia’s industrial background and are anxious not only to preserve Australian industries, but also to expand them. The subject must be examined in the light of existing world conditions. No party represented in this House has a monopoly of interest in Australia’s development. Of course, the Government and its supporters do not approach the nation’s problems from the same standpoint as do honorable members opposite. But Australia is a democratic country with democratic ideals and democratic principles. The people have the right to elect a government of their own choice. They recently exercised that right, and in doing so they entrusted this Government with the responsibility of dealing with trade as well as many other complex problems that have arisen since the cessation of hostilities. The Government has taken the Opposition into its confidence. Having announced its policy, it will pursue that policy to a successful conclusion. Dr. Coombs, who is the leader of the Australian delegation overseas, has discussed the subject of the conference at great length with officers of his department and with Cabinet Ministers. He has addressed government supporters and also those members of the Opposition parties who chose to hear him. Dr. Coombs is the Government’s economic adviser on trade matters, and therefore the Government gave Opposition members an opportunity to hear its point of view as expressed by him.
– We did not hear it.
– That is not the fault of the Government, which has gone out of its way in order to take the Opposition into its confidence.
– Just as it did in connexion with the New Zealand wheat agreement !
– That has nothing to do with this matter.
– Order! If I hear any further facetious interjections by honorable members I shall name them.
– The motion of the right honorable member for Cowper was submitted to enable ‘the House to discuss -
The necessity for immediate steps to be taken by the Australian Government to call an Imperial Economic Conference on the highest ministerial, official and technical plane to coordinate the views of various parts of the Empire in order to ensure maintenance of substantial Empire preference for the preservation and progressive development of Australian industries and Australia’s effective contribution to the expansion of world trade.
The Government is dealing with this subject in a way which it considers best suited to the interests of the nation. It will continue to do so despite what may be said by honorable members opposite. It is easy to see that many members of the Opposition do not treat this subject seriously; otherwise they would not make the facetious remarks which many of them have uttered during this debate.
– Order ! The Minister’s time has expired.
– The motion submitted by the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) is of the utmost importance. The Government’s reply to his speech, which was made by the Minister for Postwar Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman), was extraordinary. The Minister opened his speech by declaring that the Government was doing exactly what the right honorable member for Cowper wished it to do. Then, for half an hour, the honorable gentleman proceeded to show either that the policy of the right honorable member for Cowper -was completely wrong or that there were certain important qualifications to his proposals with which the Government does not agree. If this is a subject on which the Minister and the right honorable member for Cowper agree, then Lord help us when they disagree ! In discussing this subject, my mind returns to the days of the Ottawa Agreement. I was not a member of this House at the time, but I have at least a hazy recollection of what took place at Ottawa. According to my recollection, when the Ottawa Agreement came before this House members of the Labour party opposed it very strenuously.
– They voted against the second reading of the bill embodying the agreement.
– Exactly. This is one of the points of policy on which the Labour party has not turned its customary somersault. In fact, inwardly the Labour party to-day
Still holds exactly the same view as it held when the Ottawa Agreement was ratified. The Leader of the Opposition showed, from the document which the Minister quoted, the principles to which the Government has already been committed overseas. I presume that we were intended to treat that document seriously, because the Minister made a long speech when he tabled it in the House. There is one notable omission from that report of the first session of the Preparatory Committee of the International Conference on Trade and Employment. On page 10 of the report is a chapter dealing with “ the withholding of tariff benefits from members of the organization which fail to carry out obligations for the reduction of tariffs and elimination of preferences “. What this provides for is a new structure of international sanctions to be put into operation against countries which are parties to this agreement and which do not reduce tariffs and eliminate trade preferences. Those are not my words, or the words of the right honorable member for Cowper, or the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies). Those are the words of a committee presided over by the Government’s own nominee, Dr. Coombs, a gentleman who, as the Minister for Repatriation can truthfully state, visited the Opposition party room and enlightened us for a considerable time regarding his thoughts on these matters. Now, the honorable gentleman has told us, in reply to an interjection, that Dr. Coombs pronounced the Government’s policy. I did not speak at that meeting. I listened. But what I did hear was a clearcut, unequivocal statement by Dr. Coombs that he considered that the system of preferences was doomed. That is what members of the Opposition were told at the meeting. If Dr. Coombs expressed the mind, policy, and intention of the Government, the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction and the Minister for Repatriation this afternoon did not know the intention, mind and policy of the Government. If the two Ministers were correct, the man whom Cabinet deputed to enlighten us did not understand what the Government had in mind. No other construction can be placed upon this situation. There is no middle course.
I come now to the necessity for complying with that very modest request by the right honorable member for Cowper. In the economic circumstances in which the world in general and the British Empire in particular are placed to-day, there is infinitely more justification and an imperative necessity for a second Ottawa Agreement than ever there was in 1931-32. Bad as conditions were during the financial and economic depression, conditions to-day are infinitely worse. In those days, we certainly suffered from some forms of overproduction, the result of which was an international wheat agreement, sugar agreement and silver agreement. To-day, the position is reversed. The world is suffering from a shortage of the necessaries of life, and the United States of America, which is the most powerful nation economically and financially,- is consistently laying down certain conditions at every opportunity. Three or four years ago in this chamber, I forecast that after the cessation of World War II., the world would meet in the United States of America an economic imperialism such as it had not seen since the days of the Roman Empire. I am still of that opinion. The United States of America, having changed as the result of World War II. from being a debtor nation to theworld’s great creditor nation, must now change its whole outlook on international trade. Whereas previously it stood for tariffs and desired to protect its own industries, to-day it stands for the collection of its debts overseas. The House has not yet been asked to consider a bill to ratify the Bretton Woods Agreement, but later, a debate will take place on that subject, and certain matters contained in the document issued by the Minister for Postwar Reconstruction, who is Cabinet’s most vocal if not most able exponent of the Bretton Woods Agreement, will have to be related. When the recommendations come before us, we shall examine some of the language used in this document, and certain things which are provided in the agreement. An economic and financial understanding between the components of the British Empire is vitally necessary. As the right honorable member for Cowper said, this understanding is not only necessary but also overdue. Until that conference is held, and until the British countries have got together as one family and decided the financial and economic policy that they will pursue, the sending of a delegation abroad under the leadership of either Dr. Coombs or the new Russian professor whom the Minister is bringing to Australia, is beside the point. He might just as well send the Russian as Dr. Coombs if the policy to be pursued by this Government is that which is contained in this document. It is quite true that the contents of this document have not yet been embodied in a bill ; but it is equally true that whatever may be the decisions of the Geneva conference, or any other international conference, this Parliament cannot alter them. Honorable members opposite find themselves in the same position as honorable members on this side of the chamber. Supporters of the Government must either accept the agreement of the international conference, or reject it; and recent history has shown only too truly the difficulty confronting some honorable members opposite in regard to this matter.
Having decided in caucus that something is wrong, they must argue in this House against their own inner convictions. If that is the system under which government is to be carried on in this country, the outlook is poor indeed.
Our trade is of vital importance. The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction spoke about wool. I shall tell him something about American and Australian wool. Our wool production is of a high spinning quality and very little else. The United States of America has very little wool of the type that we produce, and from the stand-point of the American wool-grower it would not matter if his product did not have any tariff protection at all. Notwithstanding the American tariff to-day, America is now importing greater quantities of Australian wool than ever before. The tariff is a big barrier, but Australian wool is surmounting it, because the buying and spending capacity of the United States of America is greater to-day than at any time in its history. The barrier which may have meant one thing before the commencement of World War II., means something entirely different to-day. What might have been a big barrier then is a comparatively small barrier now.
Australia’s dried fruits industry is also vitally interested in the retention of Empire preferences. We export about 80 per cent. of our production of dried fruits. Probably the United States of America does not export more than 2 per cent. or 8 per cent. The position of America is not to be compared with our own. Until these matters are fought out at an Imperial conference on a ministerial level the delegation sent to Geneva might as well have been sent to the South Pole.
– I have not had the opportunity to listen to everything that has been said in this debate, although I heard the earlier portion of the speech of the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), and some of the “ bellowings “ of the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) in the last few minutes. To the right honorable member for Cowper I say that no advantage whatever is to be gained from holding a British Empire economic conference at present. Time will not permit me to describe in detail the economic plight of the United Kingdom to-day, but I remind the House that Great Britain must have some regard to world affairs as well as to Empire affairs. This great nation, which has a wonderful tradition, is fighting for its economic existence. It cannot give all its attention to its relationship with the Dominions. The Government has always fought to retain Imperial preference, not because of its great Empire economic value but because of its economic value to certain Australian industries. But there exists, even in some dominions, and certainly in the United Kingdom, as I understand it, a belief that the present economic circumstances and trade conditions prevent Great Britain from continuing the exclusive preference which it gave to the Dominions. The point I wish briefly to emphasize is that neither New Zealand nor Australia can maintain preferences which other Empire countries which are parties to Imperial preference agreements are not prepared .to continue. That is the position as I see it. The United Kingdom Government believes that some concessions or modifications in respect of Empire preferences will have to be made if it is to join in the world trade organizations, membership of which involves other implications as the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) and the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) well know. To-day Great Britain is acting in one of the greatest economic dramas in its history. During the war it poured out its blood and its treasures. It lost a great portion of its overseas investments and from a great creditor nation it has now become a great debtor nation. Not only has it great debts in the Dominions in respect of sterling areas, it has also to make very heavy payments to other nations in order to maintain even the existing low standard of living of their peoples. The Dominions cannot supply the things needed to maintain the prewar standard of living of the people of Great Britain; many of their needs now have to come out of the dollar area. The recent loan from the United States of America would, it was hoped, enable Great Britain to carry on until its industries had reached their pre-war output. I know its problems fairly well, but I am not in a position to speak as to its possibility of being able to rectify its adverse position in the years ahead, or of how long it will have to continue to import from dollar areas and at the same time not be able to export to dollar areas. I believe that Great Britain depends to a great degree on obtaining sympathetic treatment from the United States of America in the future, lt is not of much use to indulge in a lot of noise and fury about this matter. Whether we like it or not we must face the fact that the United States of America is the dominant economic nation in the world to-day. All British politicians agree that, for the future peace of the world, it is absolutely essential that the peoples of Great Britain and the United States of America shall work in the closest co-operation and with sympathetic understanding of one another’s problems. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) has referred to the tariff of 33 cents imposed on Australian wool entering the United States of America. I agree that it would be of great economic advantage to Australia if Australian wool could be imported into the United States of America free of duty; but there are other considerations and other industries vital to our economy of which we must not lose sight. We must, for instance, not overlook the importance to Queensland of the sugar industry, and of the dried and canned fruits industries to other parts of the Commonwealth. It is true that, because of the great surplus of expendable wealth, the purchasing power of money in the United States of America to-day is higher than it has ever been before; but we cannot make long-range plans, nor can the United Kingdom Government, based on the continuance of that state of affairs for all time. Let us consider the position of our sister dominion, New Zealand, because its development rests largely on primary production. It is very important to New Zealand to be able to place its butter and lamb on the American market at a very much reduced tariff ; but after all, capacity to sell commodities in normal times depends on the purchasing power, not of the rich people, but of the average man in the street. If an article is very expensive because of the tariff imposed upon it not only is the average man unable to purchase it, but there is also a general lessening of the demand. I assure honorable members that no commitments will be entered into by the members of the Australian delegation, and that, should it appear desirable, a Minister will immediately be sent to take part in these conferences. The Empire discussions, to which the honorable member for Barker has referred, are already taking place in London on a governmental level. Yesterday discussions commenced between dominions representatives on preference matters that may arise at Geneva. If, however, the United Kingdom, Canada or South Africa indicate a desire that certain preferences should not be maintained, it is obvious that it will not be possible for Australia or New Zealand to continue to grant them. All draft decisions must be based upon mutual agreement among Great Britain and the dominions. Honorable members realize some of the economic difficulties which Great Britain is facing to-day. We shall have an opportunity to discuss them later. I hope that time will permit the paper tabled by the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) to be discussed in this House. The mere indulgence in a great fury of words cannot do anything to help the hard realities which face the United Kingdom Government. We must understand the problems facing the British people, and we must fight to retain the things which we believe are generally for the good of all the members of the British Commonwealth of Nations. We must realize that decisions made by Australia cannot be binding upon other dominions, and that questions relating to Empire preference must be resolved by friendly consultations between Great Britain and other Empire countries. I wish to make it clear that any arrangements entered into either at Geneva or at London will be submitted to this Parliament for ratification.
– This debate has been justified because the maintenance of Empire preferences is a matter that is causing concern not only to honorable members on this side of the House but also to the Premier of
Queensland. The impression created in the minds of Australian Country party members by Dr. Coombs coincides with the views stated by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron). That impression is strengthened by a public statement made by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear). The Daily Telegraph of the 2nd December, 1945, reports the honorable member to have said -
Australians should completely reorientate their views on Imperial preference. We cannot ask the Americans to protect us from invasion and then treat them as foreigners.
When we hear such views put by a supporter of the Government we must be concerned. I agree with the honorable member for Barker that this Parliament will merely be told of decisions made at London and Geneva, and, as happened in connexion with the Bretton Woods Agreement, we will have to take them or leave them. Whatever decision has to be made ought to be entrusted to a responsible Minister because of its possible effect on Australian industries. In one breath the Minister said that no preference can be abolished except by mutual consent; but in the next breath he said it could be abolished by the decision of any one of the parties. If the latter statement be correct, the principle of Imperial preference would break down should either the United Kingdom Government or the government of a dominion decide to depart from it. Australia is in the fortunate position that, at the time of the making of an agreement, it has foodstuffs which other countries require, and therefore its representatives ought not to be overawed by members of any international organization which might combine against Australia’s interests.
Debate interrupted under Standing Order 25 7b.
Sitting suspended from 6.2 to 8 p.m.
Motion (by Dr. Evatt) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904-194G, and for other purposes.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
. -by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill opens a new chapter in Australia’s attempt to regulate the relations between the two groups - employer and employee - engaged in the conduct of Australian industry. It does not repeal, but it does substantially amend, the existing Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act, enacted in 1904 and amended on fifteen occasions since then. It retains the basic principle of the act, namely, that, within the limits permitted by the Constitution, the maintenance of industrial peace, and the adjustment of the terms and conditions of employment, are matters not merely of local or private concern, but also of vital importance to the community as a whole. I speak of a new chapter in the history of industrial relations in Australia because this bill has an entirely new emphasis; it builds on the foundations of experience, but it also seeks to get away from the legalism and the technicalities of the existing system which have been so much criticized. The court is to be retained, but assigned to it will be only those functions which require the use of judicial techniques, or demand uniform treatment because of their overriding importance to all Australian industries.For the daytoday work of preventing and settling industrial disputes by means of conciliation and arbitration, the bill will replace judicial procedures by administrative and conciliative procedures.
In its main lines the act of 1904 was largely experimental in character. The keynote of that experiment was the creation of a court, staffed by highly qualified judicial officers. The changes of 1926 served only to emphasize the judicial element in industrial regulation. That approach has dominated the history of industrial relations in the Australian system, which is limited by the Constitution to disputes of an interstate character. The original emphasis is illustrated by the title which Mr. Justice Higgins, who for so long was president of the court, gave to his account of the work of the tribunal. He called it “ a new province for law and order “. I do not under estimate the contribution that judicial tribunals have made, and will always make, to the development of our civilization. It is wrong to under-estimate the value of legal training and outlook, not only in those fields which belong to the domain of strict jurisprudence but also in those persons who may be charged with the public duty of securing and maintaining the terms and conditions of employment. Indeed, there are outstanding names in our industrial history which bear witness to the latter truth. I think especially of great men like Higgins, Heydon and Piddington, and others who have rendered distinguished service. The system of industrial regulation cannot be properly administered without impartiality, disinterestedness, and a strong sense of justice ; and these qualities should be, and usually are, developed by a legal training and judicial habits. But it is a profound mistake to think that these qualities, and especially the judicial temper, can be exhibited only in courts of law or in the application of ordinary legal techniques and procedures.
The Australian people have had more than 40 years’ experience of the Arbitration Court system.. “When on one famous occasion the practical abolition of the court was proposed, the Australian people spoke very decisively in favour of retaining it. Although the court cannot be said to have fully satisfied all the hopes that have been built upon it, it has important practical achievements to its credit. It has influenced Australian economic life as a whole to a degree far greater than its founders ever imagined possible. It has improved industrial conditions gradually, but effectively. Through its basic wage and standard hours awards it has provided a national minimum ; it has lessened the aggregate of industrial dislocation; it has encouraged and almost made mandatory the Australian system of collective bargaining through registered organizations. I assert confidently that the Australian worker, the employer and the Australian community have been far better off with the court than they could possibly have been without it.
The years of the two world wars, and even the uneasy years that lay between them, witnessed a great industrial expansion in Australia. The vastly increased industrial effort and output have created new and more acute problems of industrial relations, and new industrial demands have been stimulated. In all democratic countries this generation has witnessed the establishment of many and varied types of administrative bodies to replace courts and legal tribunals. These administrative tribunals have been established partly in order to avoid the formality, aloofness, and time-consuming methods which are so often characteristic of legal tribunals in ascertaining facts.
The new emphasis must, therefore, be on informality, as opposed to formalism ; on expedition as opposed to the law’s delays, which in themselves are likely to accentuate industrial disputation and dislocation. A primary purpose of the bill is, therefore, to expedite the machinery of conciliation and arbitration. Australian industries are now so closely interconnected, and industrial organizations are on so large a scale, that expedition is the first requisite for any successful effort towards industrial peace. In the days of smaller industrial operations, and, therefore, of less extensive disputes, more leisurely treatment could be afforded. That is not so to-day. “Within a few days, or even hours, the activities of a small number of individuals may hold up the industries of a continent. Every effort must, therefore, be made to streamline the methods by which actual industrial disputes, and more particularly threatened disputes, can be brought to the knowledge of the industrial administrator; to give as much scope as possible for the initiative of conciliation authorities; and to improve the methods by which they can act in the public interest for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes.
In preparing the hill, the Government has taken the opportunity to ascertain and consider the opinions of many organizations of employers and employees, and also of those who have had practical experience in the working of the arbitration system. It found that there was a substantial measure of agreement in -the opinions expressed, not only as to the defects in the present system but also as to some, at least, of the means by which they can best be eliminated. I make it clear, however, that the bill, while drawing on some of the important suggestions put forward, represents an independent attempt at a solution.
I shall now state the main changes which the bill introduces. First. - The bill frankly turns away from the existing method, the settlement of disputes by judicial decision under a very artificial system of procedure, and turns back to the primary method specified in the constitutional power of the National Parliament - that is, prevention of disputes and conciliation of disputants. In our view the present practice, whereby, the court is given general jurisdiction over arbitration, and conciliation commissioners occupy only subordinate positions with very inferior status, is unsatisfactory and should be altered.- Therefore, each of the conciliation commissioners will be given power, without technical and artificial hindrances, to go to the cause of impending industrial trouble, and to endeavour to remove the cause of the trouble by conciliating the disputants.
Second. - The bill provides that if conciliation fails a conciliation commissioner shall then, but not till then, proceed, without further formalities, to act in an arbitral capacity and to prevent or settle the dispute by making an award or order. Under the National Security Regulations some of these procedures were available to the Commonwealth because of the defence power.
– The conciliation commissioner could always go to the site of a dispute.
– He could, but under the present system the conciliation commissioner has very few opportunities to be in a position actually to settle a dispute. Nearly always, he acts under the superintendence of a judge. The purpose of this bill is to give the commissioners much more power.
Third. - Under the bill we shall abolish the present formal procedure, the following of which, under the act as it stands at present, is a condition precedent to the exercise of arbitral functions. Section 19 of the act prescribes four procedures by means of which the court may obtain “ cognizance “ of an industrial dispute.
Procedures of this kind make possible delays, doubts, and obstructions at the most critical incipient stages of disputes. These procedures will all be remedied. The simple provisions introduced by the bill are designed to enable commissioners to intervene long before differences between parties become irrevocably denned.
Fourth. - The bill requires a conciliation commissioner to deal expeditiously with industrial disputes. Immediately he becomes aware of the existence of an industrial dispute or of an industrial situation which is likely to give rise to an industrial dispute, a conciliation commissioner must endeavour to bring the dispute to an end by conciliation and, if this is not possible, to settle it by arbitration. In addition, organizations and employers who are aware of the existence of an industrial dispute’, or an industrial situation which may bring about an industrial dispute, are required to notify the fact, so that a conciliation commissioner may proceed forthwith to deal with the matter.
– Is that the clause under the Industrial Peace Regulations?
– It is an analogous clause. This measure is designed to provide a permanent method of dealing with interstate disputes. The Industrial Peace Regulations will terminate at the end of this year. Some of the procedure introduced during the war to enable a conciliation commissioner to get hold of a dispute in the earlier stage will bo incorporated in this measure.
Fifth. - Experience has shown that it is absolutely necessary not only to make the industrial authorities absolute masters of their own procedure, which the present act does, but also to assist them by giving indications of specific powers which should be exercised in the interest of expedition. The bill does this. For instance, the bill empowers a conciliation commissioner to determine what periods are reasonably necessary for the fair and adequate presentation of the respective cases of the parties and to require that the cases be presented within such period accordingly. Similarly, the bill enables the commissioner or the court to require evidence or argument to be presented in writing, and to decide the matters upon which oral evidence or argument will be heard. The exercise of these powers will greatly expedite hearings.
Sixth. - Under the bill, the task of the conciliation commisioners will be to bring to bear on existing or threatened disputes practical knowledge and judgment. The bill imposes on each of them the duty of keeping himself acquainted with industrial affairs and conditions. It also provides that conciliation commissioners may be assigned to particular industries or groups of industries. This will give greater opportunities for expert handling of the ‘problems of those industries.
Seventh. - The bill provides for conciliation commissioners a security and independence which the Government thinks are essential for the proper discharge of the functions assigned to them. Under the present law conciliation commissioners hold only short-term appointments. Under the bill, on the other hand, a conciliation commissioner will hold office until he attains the age of 65 years, subject only to removal on address from both Houses on the ground of proved misbehaviour or incapacity. This is a guarantee of independence equivalent in nearly every respect to that of a judge. Such a tenure is the best guarantee of free and unfettered judgment.
Eighth. - The court will remain. Its principal function will be to deal with distinctively legal matters, and it will sit as a bench of at least three judges. Indeed, the purely legal functions of the court will be extended, while the aggregate of legal questions arising under the act or the awards will be considerably reduced. The bill proposes to make the court the only and final court of appeal in all judicial proceedings concerning the act and awards and orders made under it. That is to say, in proceedings in State courts for an offence against the act, or for claims based upon an award, an appeal will lie to the Arbitration Court and not to the Supreme Court or the High Court. The decision of the Arbitration Court on such an appeal will be final. The present appeal to the High Court from the Arbitration Court in relation to questions of law will be abolished.
Ninth. - The bill assigns to the court arbitral jurisdiction in relation to certain matters of wide general importance in which it is desirable that uniformity should exist. These matters are standard hours, the basic wage, annual leave, and female minimum rates. But this is all. The awards or decisions of individual conciliation commissioners will not be subject to appeal to the court. These general matters, however, are of such complexity and of such far-reaching importance that uniformity is essential, and they can most fitly be dealt with by the court itself.
– “Who will prescribe a general award in the sense in which it is now understood?
– That will fall exclusively within the jurisdiction of the conciliation commissioners, except in regard to the four matters I have already mentioned, namely, standard hours, the basic wage, annual leave, and female minimum rates.
– Will they specialize in particular industries?
– They will be assigned to industries, or groups of industries. We cannot say the exact number that will be required, but I think it will be in the neighbourhood of fifteen; and the salary payable to each commissioner will be £1,500 per annum, which is practically a judicial salary.
Tenth. - The bill provides for a bureau of research and statistics for the purpose of collecting and compiling, in accordance with the directions of the Chief Judge, information which may be of assistance to the court and to conciliation commissioners in the exercise of their powers and functions, and to carry out research in respect of such matters as the Chief Judge directs. This bureau should become of immense value under the new system.
Eleventh. - The bill retains all the methods provided for in the existing act for securing the acceptance and observance of awards. One extreme view, presented by a section only of employers, was that all the penalty clauses which were repealed by the Scullin Government in 1930 should now be restored. This view we have rejected. It was not put forward by all employers, but by a section of them. Equally we have rejected suggestions that all existing disciplinary powers of the court itself should be eliminated. The existing provisions relating to the deregistration of organizations, the secret ballot under court orders, the cancellation and suspension of awards and the enforcement of sanctions inserted in awards are therefore retained.
– Who is to attend to those duties, the court or the commissioners?
– The whole jurisdiction in relation to them is given to the court.
– On reference by whom ?
– On application by direct motion, or by the court itself.
– Can the Attorney-General institute proceedings?
– That provision is not made in the principal act; but I think that it should be a matter of action by the court itself. However, that aspect can be dealt with at the committee stage. The bill also imposes on the Registrar, and on inspectors appointed under the act, the duty of instituting proceedings for an offence against the act whenever so directed by. a judge, and imposes the same duty on an inspector whenever so directed by the Registrar.
Twelfth. - The bill contains other amendments designed to improve the act and the system. The definition of “ industrial matters “ is enlarged and broadened. Safeguards against any abuse in the employment of young, infirm or aged workers are strengthened. The official inspectors are armed with greater powers to prevent breaches of, and to police, awards. The period during which arrears of wages are recoverable is extended to twelve months. The existing restrictions on the court’s powers to award preference to organizations will be removed, without, of course, prejudicing in any way the operation of the law governing preference to ex-servicemen. There are other amendments which, no doubt, will be fully examined at the committee stage.
Having mentioned the main principles of the bill, I may add that a special memorandum is being prepared showing the existing act as it will appear when amended by this bill, and I am arranging for copies of this document to be made available to all honorable members at an early date. In view of the extensive amendments made, it is proposed to renumber the act so that the Australian industrial code may be readily found and understood.
It may be useful if, at this stage, I draw the attention of honorable members to the schedules. The first schedule contains a list of textual or formal amendments to the principal act. The second schedule gives effect to the proposals for re-numbering which I have just mentioned. The third schedule contains amendments consequential on the renumbering.
I emphasize that the success of the new system of conciliation and arbitration will depend almost entirely on the men who administer it.
For forms of government let fools contest; Whate’er is best administered is best.
That applies with great force to the system of arbitration. I have said something about the value of judicial experience. Some of the greatest figures in the history of industrial jurisprudence in this country have been members of the bench; yet honorable members will recognize that in this very difficult field, the requirements for success in administration are so rarely found that it is essential to find the right administrator, capable of handling great disputes which are so much more important than ordinary litigation. Men are required with a strong sense of social justice, a high degree of personal disinterestedness and that impartiality without which the trust of both sides can never be secured. Common sense, human understanding and courage are also necessary. The bill, I am convinced, affords better conditions and clearer direction for the work of those who will constitute the industrial authorities of the future than the statutebook has hitherto contained.
May I sum up in a few sentences? First, the bill boldly attempts to grapple with the two outstanding defects of the present procedure. It emphasizes informality and expedition in bringing the machinery of conciliation and arbitration into play. It abolishes the cumbrous preliminaries which have tended to prevent the industrial authorities from getting hold of a situation before it crystallizes into a dispute. Secondly, when the machinery has been brought into play, the bill substitutes for legal technique and courts of law the practical decision of experienced and independent laymen, who will exercise administrative discretions. When they have got hold of a situation, their methods will not be governed by any technical, or legal, procedures. They will be given wide discretion to take action for the purpose of preventing and settling disputes. The aim of the Government has been to embody in the present bill the true spirit of the constitutional power of the National Parliament with respect to industrial disputes. The wisely chosen words of that power - “conciliation and arbitration for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes “ - convey no idea of formality, of technicality, of legal procedure, or of the atmosphere of courts. In the decisions of the last 40 years, almost every one of those words has given rise to a large number of constitutional decisions. At least, we know the limitation of the power which many have attempted to explain to both the Parliament and the people with a view to broadening it and freeing it from some consequential decisions such as that which prevents a common rule being made for an intry while a dispute involving that industry is before the court. But, taking the words as they are, they breathe the spirit of informality, of practical methods,” of the absence of all technicalities, of conciliation and, when all else fails, a settlement of industrial disputes by arbitration rather than by the ordeal of legal battle. The ideals of the constitutionbuilders finds clear expression in the bill which I now submit for approval by the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Menzies) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 7th March (vide page 508), on motion by Dr. Evatt -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– The honorable member for Denison.
– On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, I refer to Standing Order 289 and to the fact that the noticepaper, at page 105, of the 5th March, states that resumption of the debate on the Stevedoring Industry Bill 1947, was in the hands of the honorable member for Denison (Dr. Gaha). The notice-paper for to-day states the same thing. The honorable member for Denison, according to the Votes and Proceedings, was not absent from the House last Wednesday when we met, and I want to know whether an honorable member is entitled to have the adjournment twice in the debate, having regard to the fact that other honorable members were willing to debate the measure when he was not.
– I am not sure of the position. I was not in the Chair when the debate was last adjourned. But it has always been the practice of the House, if an honorable member desires to waive temporarily his right to speak, to permit him to do so. No rule has ever been enforced that an honorable member must speak. We should find ourselves in difficulties if an honorable member had the right to speak and did not want to do so. The indulgence has always been given to an honorable member to waive his right to speak and exercise it later. I advise the House to adhere to that course, or we may not have honorable members speaking at all.
– You have not appreciated my point, Mr. Speaker. The honorable member for Denison secured the adjournment of the debate. That gave him priority to speak on the next sitting day. That is a rather valued concession that honorable members of the Opposition seldom have the opportunity of exercising. I put it to you that if an honorable member does not desire to avail himself of that concession when it has been granted to him by the House, it is fair and proper that he should stand down until every honorable member who desires to speak and is present when he is present has spoken.
– The call resides on the Government side because the last speaker was on the Opposition side. The only honorable gentleman on the Govern ment side who desires to speak now is the honorable member foi’ Denison. I do not think there is a great deal of substance in what the honorable member for Barker has said. There are many reasons, including indisposition, why an honorable member might not desire to carry on, and> that should not debar him from securing the adjournment on . another occasion. That has been a long-standing practice of the House, and I do not propose to stop it.
.- I am sorry to have disturbed the gentility of honorable members opposite by my capriciousness.
– Order I Deal with the bill.
– So many honorable members have spoken on the bill that I am left with not a great deal to comment on, but I am struck by certain aspects of the debate that require elucidation and comment. I think the best way to approach this proposition is not in the abusive fashion of honorable gentlemen opposite, with an attempt to belittle it by slashing the wharf lumpers of this country but in a conciliatory manner in the hope that something better may be done than has been done. I am not enamoured with the arbitration system of this country. I am not satisfied that it has given the satisfaction that it was intended to give. I do not altogether blame the Arbitration Court or its judges. I blame the Australian people in particular, because the difficulties of the court have been pointed out to them on many occasions.
In 1943 we asked for specific power to deal with industrial matters, and the people emphatically refused to grant them. In 1946 we again asked for power to deal with matters of that kind, and again they turned us down. So they cannot have it both ways. They cannot have sovereign powers residing in the States and at the same time ask the Commonwealth to exercise powers it does not possess. We have just heard something that indicates that those observations are not incorrect. If disturbances occur and we have insufficient machinery to deal with them, those who refuse to give us the machinery must be blamed. Our difficulty is that there is no clear line of demarcation in industrial matters. I am brought to that conclusion by seeing the curious way our powers operate. The first thing that one is struck by in this country, looking at the whole picture of industry, is that we have about 2,000,000 workers, white-collar workers and others, and that one hears of great trouble in only the four major industries - coalmining, transport, heavy and stevedoring. The workers in those four industries represent fewer than 250,000, or one in eight.
The honorable member for Parramatta interjecting,
– I am not a legal man, but, in my plain fashion, I am trying to state the case as I see it. If the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Beale) wants a “ bashing “ be shall have it.
That means that seven-eighths of the Australian working population is satisfied one way or the other. We cannot simply say that all the people in the remaining one-eighth are bad and that the others are good, because that oneeighth consists of a cross-section of the people. We must examine the situation to discover why the seven-eighths of the workers are reasonably contented. There may be many explanations. I submit that the best explanation offering is that there is a great deal of personal contact in a great many industries in this country and that employers of 300, 400, 500 and 600 people resent intervention by any one else in the settlement of their disputes, whereas in those great soulless institutions, where there is not the same personal contact, the picture is vastly different, with the behaviour of the 250,000 distinct from that of the 1,750,000. It cannot be because of the people themselves, because they are all a cross-section of the population. If you have 1,750,000 contented, surely by the same process as you content them you will content the others.
The reason why the heavy industries, the coal-mining industry, the transport industry, and the stevedoring industry have troubles is perhaps because those in control of them do not have the same personal contact with the employees as the other employers have with their employees. We never hear of troubles in big emporiums like
Myer’s and. Anthony Hordern’s, where thousands of hands are employed. We hear of them down on the wharfs where only 200 or 300 men are employed. Are we to believe, on that evidence, that “ wharfies “ are all bad, and that only good people are employed in the other places, or are we to believe that the employers are at fault ? Of course, anybody who tells the employers that they might be at fault is very unpopular. But when we realize that many employers in Australia are wealthy only because their fathers made fortunes, and that these brainless heirs to millions of pounds have only £4-a-week minds, we understand why there are so many industrial disturbances. From long experience, I am convinced that this section of the employing class causes a great deal of industrial unrest.
– Ninety-nine per cent, of Australian coastal shipping is government-controlled.
– Was the honorable member born in the fifteenth century? He looks like it. His opinion is entirely wrong. I refer to what Judge Foster has said about the stevedoring industry. It may not penetrate the brain of the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser), but it will be informative to other honorable members. Judge Foster said -
I do not feel it necessary to write of the history of this industry - it has a long record of turbulence and struggle stretching back into pre-Arbitration Court days - a story of evil conditions, low wages, of unsatisfactory relationships, of bitterness and unrest. These have been referred to many times in the judgments of the Arbitration Court.
He then referred to disputes which occurred in 1914, 1918, 1922, 1924, 1928, 1932 and 1936. Yet the honorable member for Wide Bay blames the present Government for waterside disputes ! That silly remark shows how honorable members opposite will use any political trick in an endeavour to saddle the Government with the responsibility for industrial disturbances which date back to 1914.
We should examine this problem with the object of finding out where the source of the trouble really lies. It is remarkable that seven out of every eight Australians employed in industry are reasonably contented, but that the discontent on the waterfront is supposed to be the fault of the men who work there. I have been “ knocking about “ the wharfs for the last 25 years, and I know the conditions under which wharf labourers work. I have seen horses treated better than some wharf labourers have been treated in Australia. Conditions on the wharfs are not creditable to the employers, to say the least. I can understand the resentment of honorable members opposite at any attempt to improve conditions on the waterfront. I repeat that personal contact between employers and employees is the reason for the existence of satisfaction with industrial conditions amongst 1,750,000 workers in Australia. This bill represents an attempt to establish such personal contact in the stevedoring industry.
– There has been personal contact in the present dispute on the waterfront. The Stevedoring Industry Commission has been functioning.
– At least my statement got under the honorable member’s skin, Mr. Speaker, although the truth of it will not get into his head. There are many examples of the inefficiency of the Arbitration Court system in Australia. I do not set myself up as an authority on law or wish to castigate the legal authorities of the Commonwealth, but I believe that a great deal of the Arbitration Court’s deficiencies are due to the inadequate constitutional powers possessed by the Commonwealth. The Government has appealed to the Australian people twice in recent years to grant it increased constitutional powers so that it might deal appropriately with industrial and other problems. However, the people have refused to grant those powers and the Government has been obliged to seek an alternative. It must either hand back to the States such powers as it possesses and let them deal with industrial troubles piecemeal - in other words, “ pass the buck “ - or ask the States to hand to it complete power to deal with such troubles.
– The Government had full power during the war.
– During the war people were hysterical, conditions on the waterfront were entirely unsatisfactory, and 1,000,000 young people out of a total population of 7,000,000 were away from the country, yet the honorable member argues that war conditions are consistent with peace conditions ! A wooden-head like his is not worth worrying about. The Commonwealth’s constitutional powers in relation to conciliation and arbitration have never been satisfactory. The time has come for the Government either to hand its powers to the States or to ask the States to give full power to it. We could make progress if the States would hand their powers to the Commonwealth. It is anomalous that, in times of great national crisis, nothing will stop the States from handing over to the Commonwealth such sovereign powers as they possess which the Commonwealth may exercise for the security of the nation, and that, when the crisis passes, the States demand the return of those powers. The result of this practice of “ passing the buck “ is that the States, during my lifetime, have never exercised their powers to any great degree, even though their powers in relation to industrial affairs are far greater than those of the Commonwealth. A curious biological fact is that man must have something tohate. That is a human peculiarity. In. order to illustrate this characteristic, I refer to events which followed World. War I. After that war, we had to find’ something against which to direct our hatred, and we found an organization called the Independent Workers of the World. We abused them roundly, and several of them, including a member of the Parliament of the Commonwealth, were imprisoned for their so-called evil behaviour. Four years later, they were released because the authorities found that they had really been gaoled for an insufficient cause.
– Order! I fail to see that the honorable member’s remarks bear any relation to stevedoring.
– I crave your indulgence in this matter, Mr. Speaker. Honorable members opposite have severely attacked the Communists, and I am endeavouring to show that whenever there is a hysterical move in Australia to attempt to justify something, the Opposition parties always bring out a bogy. This time, it is the Communists. If you, Mr. Speaker, rule that I have no right to refer to the Communists during the second-reading debate on this bill, I shall refrain from doing so; but I point out that the Opposition has already soundly “bashed” them. I am endeavouring to trace the history of this attack. After the I.W.W. bogy, the anti-Labour forces discovered “ Langism “ and whenever they wanted to beat the Labour party, they put their hands across their mouths in the best bookmaker fashion and yelled, “Langism”. That occurred for several years before the economic depression. Then the antiLabour parties discovered that, when people were starving, the time was not opportune to create any bogy; but a few years later, they discovered a new racket which they called “ communism. “ When the Communist myth has been dispelled, “the Opposition will raise a new one with which to satisfy the newspapers. I do not say that there are no Communists in Australia. Always there have been a few agitators, whether we knew them as members of the Independent Workers of the World or as “ Langites, “ but I do not fear them.
The Government must deal with the problems of the waterfront on sound, rational lines. This bill is a departure from any legislation that has ever been introduced into this Parliament. The conditions which it will create could not possibly be worse than the conditions which prevail on the waterfront at the present time. I refer honorable members to a statement by Mr. S. V. Jones, a member of the Overseas Shipping Representatives Association and acting chairman of the Stevedoring Industry Commission. Mr. Jones was describing the conditions reached by 1942. I emphasize the words, “ by 1942.” It is not “ since 1942.” He said-
T feel that the award governing waterside workers is a very untidy document-
Does not that sound a liberal statement! Honorable members on this side of the House have other words with which to describe it. The statement continued - ‘
The re-writing of it should be undertaken by the body suggested as soon as possible.
This bill is being introduced five years later. Honorable members opposite are silent on hearing those words. The
House is well aware that the award is “ a very untidy document “. For many years, conditions in the industry have been very unsatisfactory, and the worst features of employment have been rampant, to the detriment of waterside workers. I am surprised that they did not rise long before this for the purpose of exercising their rights in a proper way.
The Opposition ridiculed the payment of attendance money. They conveniently overlooked the fact that these men worked often for very long hours in war-time for a remuneration of £7, £8 or £9 a week. Referring to those amounts, the Opposition endeavoured to show that waterside workers were generously paid. According to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), some waterside workers earned £16 or £18 a week. The right honorable gentleman omitted to say how many waterside workers earned those wages, and for how long. Every body knows that these employees are required to work under most unsatisfactory conditions. The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) will recall those dreadful days when foremen took the meal money which was offered to waterside workers. “ Kissing went by favour “ at that time. Happenings on the waterfront were without parallel in other phases of our industrial life. Naturally, members of the Opposition are silent about them, although they must be fully acquainted with what occurred. If waterside workers are given reasonable working conditions, the industry will be more settled than it is to-day. I do not claim that this bill will end all strikes on the waterfront. Industrial unrest on the wharfs was not unknown between 1914 and 1942, and strikes may occur even immediately after this legislation becomes law. But I contend that if we improve working conditions on the waterfront and establish greater harmony in the industry, conditions will become more settled, and communism will not prevail on the wharfs.
– Honorable members opposite will also have to close the mouth of Mr. Morrison, the chairman of the commission.
– There is no guarantee that he will be appointed chairman of the new commission. In my opinion, the principles of the bill are sound. Any constitutional issues which it raises will be matters for the legal profession to argue ; but the intention behind the legislation, namely, to establish an independent tribunal to deal with this problem, is good. All the workers in Australia may be’ divided in hundreds of different categories, and many of them are working reasonably well under awards of industrial tribunals. On the wharfs, however, there is often considerable unrest, and the bill will create a commission of five, which will endeavour to give to this industry that which every other industry has, namely, a soul. The result, if successful, will be to the advantage of the waterside workers.
The amenities and equipment which are provided for the employees have never been satisfactory. Only after the outbreak of World War II. did the stevedoring companies instal on the wharfs machinery to minimize labour. Responsible people have informed me that before the outbreak of the war in 1939, equipment was so poor that the employees had to carry wheat on to a stack ten bags high. To-day, with mechanization, the wheat may be stacked up to the roof of a shed. With better mechanization, by giving this industry a soul, and by approaching the problem on rational lines, we shall eradicate many of the evils of the days when the big stevedore and ship-owner waxed fat on the earnings from the sweat and blood of the workers. The bill, which the Parliament should accept for what it is worth, is an attempt to abolish all semblance of those conditions.
– The bill should make an attempt to stop pilfering on the wharfs.
– That is a perfectly proper observation, and I agree entirely with it. After the Parliament has passed this bill, the Government should approach the States with this proposition: - “ Either we shall give you such powers of conciliation and arbitration as we possess and allow you to deal with the problem piecemeal, or give us, by reference and not by a body of power, authority to deal with the great problems of the waterfront “. I do not believe that the States would desire to accept the first proposition. Although I am not com petent to speak with authority about decasualization, I do know sufficient about the position to entitle me to say at this juncture that when the Stevedoring Industry Commission begins to function, places waterside work on a weekly basis and deals with the problems of the industry upon a rational and reasonable basis without temper, we shall have greater efficiency’ on the waterfront, and many of the communistic trends which are now the result of a bad set-up, will disappear.
.- The honorable member for Denison (Dr. Gaha) threatened to give us a “ bashing “ ; he has certainly given us an ear “ bashing “. The honorable member indicated, and it is true, that in Australia the major industrial troubles from which we suffer arise from half a dozen heavy industries. He drew the conclusion from that, a conclusion which eluded me, that there was nothing wrong with the industries hut something wrong with the employers. The pertinent fact is that all of the six heavy industries of Australia which are most turbulent and which engage mostly in unlawful industrial stoppages are under the direct control of the Communist party.
As it was a little difficult to understand that the honorable member for Denison was speaking about the Stevedoring Industry Bill, let us have a look at its purposes. It is said to be a bill to provide for the prevention or settlement, by conciliation or arbitration, of industrial disputes in connexion with stevedoring operations. I suggest that if that means anything it means peace on the waterfront. Every serious-minded person on both sides of this House is desperately anxious to ensure peace on the waterfront, not peace without production, but peace with production. The acid test that should be applied to this bill is: Is it likely to achieve peace on the waterfront? The Australian stevedoring industry employs some 20,000 men. Its business is concerned with the loading and unloading of ships, not the least of which at present are the foodships for’ our kinsmen abroad. It is a key industry. That is why it has been taken over by the Communist party. It is the accepted technique of that party to take control- of key industries. The Communists need not worry about the clerical industries; so long as they control the heavy and key industries they can control the economy and the government of this country. That is the worldwide technique of the Communists. The industry is run by employers who may he stevedoring companies, shipping companies from abroad, or shipping companies operating ships trading up and down the Australian coast. Of its very nature it is, and always will be, a casual industry. An attempt was made throughout the war years, and no doubt will continue to be ‘made - and a very desirable attempt, too - to decasualize the industry. From the very fact that ships come in by day and at night it is in essence a casual industry.
It is, as the honorable member for Denison reminded us, a most turbulent industry. It has a history of grave industrial injustices. There is no doubt that in the early days of our history the waterside workers had to struggle and fight for what they got and that they would never have gained anything had they not banded themselves into a union and engaged in a struggle with which the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) had so much to do in his early carrer. The great injustices have, however, been largely remedied. I am not suggesting that all of them have been remedied ; it is never possible to remedy all industrial injustices. As growth and progress take place, conditions change and new circumstances have to be met. It is clear, however, that the major industrial injustices of the waterside worker have been dealt with. Notwithstanding that fact, and the striking improvements made in the conditions of the waterside workers in recent years, it is still a most turbulent industry. As Judge Foster said in his report, the industry includes in its ranks h number of undesirables. Mr. Healy, the Communist secretary of the Waterside Workers Federation, made such an admission before Judge Foster’s inquiry. lt is a vital industry but it is essentially an unskilled industry. Yet figures have been cited which indicate that the rates of pay and hours of work of waterside workers far surpass in liberality the pay and hours worked by many men in more arduous and highly skilled callings. It is an industry of high wages and short hours. Notwithstanding the fact that in recent times, especially during the war years, its major industrial injustices had been remedied and that generous conditions have been granted, in 1946 ships which should have been turned round more quickly than ever before were spending 67 per cent, of their time in port, as compared with 30 per cent, before the war. It is an industry of chaotic strikes and stoppages. These are the facts which nobody can deny. The root cause cf these strikes and stoppages in the industry is its control by the Communists. Strikes and stoppages took place during the war when under its defence powers the Government had complete and absolute power. At this time Australia was fighting with its back to the wall and for every reason of decency and patriotism men should have stayed on the job. Words fail to describe the risks Australia had to face by reason of the failure of the waterside workers to ensure the rapid turn round of ships during the war.
– Was it not the same in Great Britain?
– I should imagine not; 1 do not care whether it was or not; all I know is that when this country was threatened by the Japanese the waterside workers set a very poor example in the matter of patriotism. At that time the industry was controlled by the Stevedoring Industry Commission, which was established in 1943 with expediency as its only principle. Let us see what Judge Foster had to say about it. At page 12 of his report the learned judge said -
It was conceived as a war measure and it relied upon the almost unlimited war powers of the National Security Act. It had one main objective, the most rapid “turning round of the ship “. Cost was almost unimportant, expediency largely governed its activities and there was an expressed agreement from both Bides assented to by Mr. Justice Dixon that it should be regarded as a. war measure and to cease at its termination.
That was the commission which governed the waterfront throughout most of the war years, and it failed. Notwithstanding the fact that that commission .could not control the waterfront, that it could not bring about peace and improved output, we are now being asked to pass into permanent .legislative form a stevedoring industry commission constituted along similar lines. During the regime of the Stevedoring Industry Commission, from 1942 onwards, there has been a series of strikes, appeasement and interference by the Government. Notwithstanding that more and more amenities have been provided for waterside workers, at astronomic cost to the taxpayers of Australia, statistics for that period show a reduced output. On page 15 of his report Judge Foster said -
There is no doubt that output per manhour has fallen.
It has been made clear that output per manhour has fallen below a reasonable figure.
Again, on page 17, he used almost identical words. It is obvious from the report that the learned judge was at some pains to justify the existence of the commission. His leanings are clear ; he was, indeed, a real “ Leaning Tower of Pisa “. But he was obliged to say, on page 13 of his report -
True it is that the Stevedoring Industry Commission did not secure industrial peace nor harmony - it did not prevent all disputes in any port, even disputes of a major character - it did not prevent hold-ups of ships nor secure regular continuous stevedoring operations - it did not make the fullest use perhaps of the skill and knowledge of stevedores and their foremen - it did not secure the .authority of the Waterside Workers Federation of Australia over its own members - it faced direct defiance of its orders and directions, sometimes even by the federation.
Elsewhere .he made similar comments. In to-day’s newspapers it is reported that Mr. Morrison, the present Stevedoring Industry Commissioner, will recommend to the Government that the Stevedoring Industry Commission be abolished because waterside workers will not obey its orders, and that the bill before the House be abandoned. In answer to a question to-day the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) said that he had not had any conversation with Mr. Morrison on this subject, but that the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Senator Ashley) had consulted with him. In effect, Mr. Morrison has thrown up his hands in despair, and has besought the Government to abandon the bill because it will be useless. In face of Judge Foster’s admissions and the reported attitude of Mr. Morrison, why does the Government still persist with a scheme which is a proven failure, and will cost the taxpayers a large sum each year? Concurrently with the introduction of this measure a bill to authorize a levy on this industry was presented, and it is estimated that the cost, which will be passed on to the taxpayers, will be over £500,000 per annum. The reason why the Government has persisted with this legislation is that it has given way to direct Communist pressure and influence. I direct the attention of honorable members to a Communist publication, The Wharfie, in a recent issue of which the bill now before the House is praised. Honorable members generally will agree with the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) that if the Communists want this legislation, that is a good reason why other people should not want it. An association of genuine Australian Labour party wharf labourers, known as the Miller’s Point Social Club, also publishes its own journal. That publication shows clearly that the. organization behind it does not want the bill. I invite honorable members to draw their own conclusions from the fact that the Communist journal wants the bill, whilst the Australian Labour party journal does not want it. During the inquiry conducted by Judge Foster, those who appeared before him were invited to submit a draft bill for the establishment of a stevedoring industry commission, in the event of the Government deciding to set up such a body. Among the draft measures submitted was one prepared by Mr. Healy, the general secretary of the Waterside Workers Federation, who is also a prominent member of the Communist party. It was difficult, but not impossible, to obtain a copy of Mr. Healy’s draft bill. I shall read some of its provisions andi ask honorable members to notice that there is a striking resemblance to some of the provisions of the measure before the House.
– Mr. Healy is the de facto Attorney-General.
– That may be, but he is undoubtedly a de jure Communist. Again and again throughout the bill prepared by Mr. Healy there are words and phrases identical with clauses in the bill before the House. That point should not be too strongly stressed, because certain legal phraseology is likely to be adopted by any draftsman who prepares legislation, hut there is too much similarity between the two draft bills for us to ignore it. A study of the two bills will reveal the family resemblance and establish the fatherhood beyond all doubt. For instance, clause 7 of Mr. Healy’s draft bill provides -
There shall be a stevedoring industry commission consisting of a chairman and four members, two of whom shall represent the federation, one shall represent overseas shipowners and one shall represent Australian shipowners.
The wording of that clause is practically identical with clause 5 (1) of the bill now before the House. Again, clause 9 of Mr. Healy’s draft bill, which corresponds with clause 5 (3) of the present bill reads -
The chairman shall be appointed by the Governor-General and shall hold office on such terms and conditions as the Governor-General determines.
Judge F.oster recommended, in his report, that, in the event of a stevedoring industry commission being set up, it should have as its president a judge of the Arbitration Court. On the other hand, Mr. Healy preferred a layman as president. Judge Foster plumped for an Arbitration Court judge, and he gave sound reasons in support. Mr. Healy would not have that at all. He said, “ We will not have a judge, we will have a layman “. The present bill has effected a so-called compromise. It says that the chairman shall be an Arbitration Court judge or a conciliation commissioner. As we know from perusing the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act, a conciliation commissioner may be anybody; in practice, he is a layman. Thus Mr. Healy wins again.
Let us consider clause 22 of Mr. Healy’s hill, which provides that the commission shall have power to do so and so, and then are set out in detail the powers which Mr. Healy thinks the commission should possess. These, which appear in Mr. Healy’s bill in paragraphs A, B, C. D and E, appear in identical terms in clause 3 of the present bill. Indeed, the gentleman who drafted the bill now before us was apparently so mesmerized by Mr. Healy that he simply lifted the provisions from Mr. Healy’s bill verbatim, and included them in the present measure without altering a word.
Nor does the similarity end there. In clause 24 of Mr. Healy’s bill, there is a provision for setting up waterside employment committees, and clause 35 of the Government’s bill is nearly identical. Again, provisions for the registration of waterside workers are set forth in clauses 37, 38, 39 and 40 of Mr. Healy’s bill, and in the present bill, they appear in clauses 22, 23 and 24. Again, the provision for issuing tokens of registration for waterside workers is taken from Mr. Healy’s bill. Yet again, clause 31 of the Government’s bill provides that a person shall not, except with the consent of the commissioner or of an officer, engage anyone for employment in any port unless he is registered under the act. That provision is also found in Mr. Healy’s bill. I know that clause 26 of the Government’s bill makes provision for the registration of members of the Permanent and Casual Waterside Workers Union; but, in the future, it may be stated that, for practical purposes, unless a man is a member of the Waterside Workers Federation, he will not be registered, and, therefore, will not be able to obtain employment. Clause 52 of Mr. Healy’s bill states -
No award or order of the commission shall be challenged, appealed against, reviewed, quashed or called in question, or be subject to prohibition, mandamus or injunction, in any court on any account whatever.
In other words, no appeal shall lie from any decision of the Stevedoring Industry Commission.
– Has it not occurred to the honorable member that Mr. Healy might have got a lawyer like the honorable member himself to draw up the bill?
– It has, and I am grateful to the honorable member for mentioning the matter. Mr. Healy is not capable of putting a bill together in this form, but the lawyer whom he employed took his instructions from Mr. Healy. These provisions in Mr. Healy’s bill are substantially the same as those in the Government’s bill.
– Is not Mr. Healy the workers’ representative, and their chosen man?
– Not only is lie the workers’ representative, hut he is also the Communists’ representative and, it would appear, the representative of this Government too. The hand is the hand of Chifley, but the voice is the voice of Healy.
– The honorable member is becoming spiritual.
– The honorable member for Martin (Mr. Daly) will not know it, but some of his colleagues will, no doubt, remember the famous Biblical character with whose story many of us were familiar in our childhood, who attempted to pass himself off as somebody else. The words which I have just paraphrased were used to describe that event, and I suggest that they may be aptly used to describe this bill, also. Although it pretends to be a Chifley or an Evatt bill, it is, in fact, the very creature of the Communist party, and that is why we should throw it out. Let me turn again to the Government’s bill. Clause 5 of the bill provides that the chairman shall be appointed by the Governor-General. Judge Foster recommended that he should be a judge of the Arbitration Court, but in this bill it is laid down that he shall be a judge or a conciliation commissioner. As I have said, in practice, he will be a conciliation commissioner, which means that he will be a person without judicial qualifications.
– That will break the honorable member’s heart!
– It will break the heart of the Australian people, too, when they see how it works out. The AttorneyGeneral, in his second-reading speech on the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, paid a graceful and not undeserved compliment to the judicial qualities when he said that they were “ disinterestedness, impartiality, and the trained mind “. In this bill, it is provided that the person to be appointed may be a concilation commissioner who will be a person without judicial training. I am not concerned with the matter of legal knowledge but only judicial training. I know that any reference to the need for training and the possession of qualifications is always calculated to raise the blood pressure of honorable members opposite, but I remind them that Mr. Justice Davidson, in his report on the coal-mining industry - which- this Government has conveniently shelved - severely criticized the “cult of the untrained “ which has become a curse of Australian life. It is not so much a matter of insisting that the chairman of this commission shall possess legal qualifications. It is a matter of choosing somebody who possesses judicial qualifications; some one with such qualifications as those of which the Attorney-General was thinking when he spoke of “disinterestedness, impartiality and fairness of mind “.
The history of jurisprudence in England and here over the last 200 years has proved that the training which men get on the floor . of the courts in our legal forums has. one great advantage : It does teach them to be impartial. To-day, a man will appear in one interest, to-morrow in another. He has his heart broken to-day when he loses a case that he thinks he ought to win; he is consoled to-morrow when he wins a case concerning which he was not confident. Such experiences develop those qualities of disinterestedness, impartiality and fairness of mind referred to by the Attorney-General. That is why in England up to the present time, and in Australia until recently, it has been considered essential that trained lawyers with wide forensic experience should be appointed to judicial offices. The great variety of cases with which the lawyer becomes acquainted, together with the trials and disappointments and experiences of all kinds that come his way, teach him not one side of a question only, but all sides of it. It is a grave defect in the bill that Judge Foster’s recommendation that a judge should be placed in charge of this commission has not been carried out; and we are left, in practice, with a conciliation commissioner who, undoubtedly, will be a nominee and friend of the Government. That is the first great defect in the bill.
– The chairman may be Judge Foster.
– He may be ; but he may not be. That is my point; and from my knowledge of the inclination of the
Government, Judge Foster will certainly not be appointed chairman of the commission. The appointee will be some friend of the Government, without any legal, or judicial, qualifications whatever.
– He will not be Judge Beale.
– No, I am not a friend of the Government. Let me remind the honorable member of a statement made by a famous man many years ago-
– Not a lawyer?
– No; the honorable member may not have heard of him. He was Edmund Burke, who, 150 years ago, when speaking of the practice of the law, said -
This study renders men acute, inquisitive, dexterous, prompt in attack, ready in defence, full of resources . . . They augur mis.government at a distance, and sniff the approach of tyranny in every tainted breeze.
This bill is tainted, indeed. It is essential to appoint as chairman of the commission a man who, by reason of his training and background, can stand up against any pressure group, whether it be composed of employers, or waterside workers, of whether it be the Government itself. He should, by training, be qualified to do his job with the capacity with which God has endowed him; and the person best able to do that is the kind of person recommended by Judge Foster.
The Government’s proposal to appoint a conciliation commissioner also bristles with legal pitfalls which apparently, have not been fully considered. The chairman of the commission will be called upon to exercise judicial as well as administrative functions. As an officer exercising judicial functions, how is he to enforce his orders? How is he to give real power and authority to his decisions? The Constitution provides very strict limitations with respect to the appointment of judges. It provides that a judge, in order to exercise judicial functions, shall be appointed for life. These commissioners will not be appointed for life; they will be “ neither fish, nor flesh, nor good red herring”. In this instance, the Government is walking into a maze of legal difficulties with which a lawyer might be able to cope; but such a system will not make for industrial peace. The
Government would be well advised - and it is not yet too late for it to do so - to say that if we are to have a commission, it shall be presided over by a judicial officer; because as the Attorney-General pointed out in his second-reading speech, the decisions of this body, in practice, will be the decisions of the chairman, because each party will have two representatives on the commission, and the chairman will exercise a casting vote. By appointing an untrained man to this judicial office, the Government is inviting legal difficulties and technicalities which its supporters avow they wish to avoid.
The next defect in the bill is that it takes this industry away from the Arbitration Court. The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) expressed his disapproval of the bill on that very ground. This proposal will sectionalize the industry, and place the waterside workers apart from the general body of workers except in so far as the Arbitration Court will continue to determine standard hours and wages for the industry. In effect, this industry will be a separate industry having practically nothing to do with the Arbitration Court. Those who believe in arbitration, and wish to improve the present arbitration system, do not want arbitration under which a large section of industry is cut off from the system. As the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) pointed out, this is exactly what the Communist is striving to achieve on the principle of “ divide and conquer “. The aim of the Communist is to free industries from the general supervision of the Arbitration Court and to hand over control of them to commissioners, thus sec.tionalizing industry and dividing it with the object of conquering individual industries one by one. That is one of the greatest defects in thi* legislation. It does not co-ordinate arbitration methods, hut sets up within the arbitration system a body which will compete with the court. Except in respect of the fixation of standard hours and wages, this section of industry may be awarded any rates of pay in respect of margins, and amenities, as the commission thinks fit without paying any regard whatever to the conditions applying to the general body of industry. That will, surely, cause discontent among workers in other industries. We know that in New South Wales grave discontent has existed for many years because of the overlapping of State and Federal awards in cases where the State award provides for the payment of a few shillings more than the Federal award for workers doing the same classes of work. Under this measure, the Government proposes to give legislative sanction to setting this industry apart, and to placing it in a privileged position. Thus, it will not decrease, but increase, industrial turmoil.
– What I want to know is why should this industry be removed from the Arbitration Court?
– I entirely agree with the honorable member.
– Adequate machinery already exists in the Arbitration Court.
– In fact, under the bill, as the honorable member for Batman has said, the waterfront industry will be set apart as a separate industry. There is no need to do that. I have no objection to the appointment of a stevedoring commission to deal with problems peculiar to the industry; but the commission proposed under this measure is a judicial body which sets the industry completely apart from the general arbitration system. That is a step in a backward, and not in a forward, direction. Another objection is that in the clauses to which I have referred, provision is made for compulsory registration for waterside workers. That is compulsory unionism. I take a firm stand in opposition to such a proposal. I believe implicitly in unionism, but I reject the view that any body of unionists has the right to compel any member of the community to join its organization under penalty of starvation. Such a proposal is un- Australian, tyrannical and undemocratic. Further no union, least of all the Waterside Workers Federation, is entitled to be given that right unless is- has put itf- own house in order, ariives fair treatment to minorities and insists on discipline among its members. I oppose this provision for compulsory unionism tooth and nail.
– Does the honorable member contend that men should be allowed to remain outside a union, but, at the same time, enjoy all the privileges won by that union?
– I have no objection to strong, well-knit unionism. It has done great things for this country, and to abolish it would be a tragedy for the workers and a bad thing for Australia. Also, I believe in preference to unionists, but not in absolute preference which I observe is embodied in the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Bill introduced earlier this evening by the AttorneyGeneral, and about which I shall have something to say later. I do not believe in the right of any one to dictate to a person who may, for religious or political reasons, be unwilling to join a secular organization under penalty of starvation. That is what I oppose, and I believe that most Australians would agree with that proposition if it were put to them.
The next point about this bill is the extraordinary absence of adequate provision for the one thing that would save the industry - discipline in the industry. The main reference to discipline is contained in sub-clause 3 of clause 14 -
A person shall not contravene or fail to comply with any provisions of an award or order made by the Commission which is applicable to him.
I suggest that, in the light of experience, those words mean nothing in practice. Again they are Healy’s words. If the Government believed in discipline, if it had learned the lesson that only by courageous enforcement of the law can the stevedoring industry be saved, why did it not insert a provision for the punishment of union leaders who incite the workers to strike? Why did it not make provision for deregistration instead of taking the industry out of the hands of the Arbitration Court, which has the power to deregister a union, and make it a separate entity? Why did it not insert a provision to prevent the sniping that the Waterside Workers Federation and other militant unions have got up to in recent years? Why did it not insert adequate provisions whereby breaches of the law, industrial stoppages against awards, shall be punishable? Regardless of what amenities are provided and what luxuries are granted, and regardless of how all the things that tend to make the workers discontented may be ironed out, unless the Government is prepared to enforce the law, we shall never have industrial peace on the waterside or anywhere else. This bill is “ wishy washy “ and insincere and absolutely inadequate to meet needs. It is tyrannical in many clauses and it does not provide for industrial discipline. It openly surrenders to the Communists. It will never achieve the result we wantindustrial peace. What it will give us will be more and more industrial chaos. The words of Mr. Morrison in the morning press asking the Government to give up the bill are proof of that.
Mr.DUTHIE (Wilmot) [9.43].- I support this bill, not as a cure-all for industrial problems on the waterfront - it does not claim to be that - but because it is a step towards industrial peace on the waterfront. The honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Beale) has made a tremendous lot about the lack of disciplinary provisions to enforce conditions laid down by the Stevedoring Industry Commission. He said that men could flout the law and get away with it, but it is obvious that he, in spite of all the legal jargon that he has indulged in to-night, has not read the bill thoroughly. A clause that deals specifically with discipline that be did not mention is clause 27, which provides - (1.) Where the Commission has reason to believe that a waterside worker -
That is a rigid clause that certainly provides for the discipline that the honorable member for Parramatta says is lacking.
I commend the general aim of the bill. In spite of the mistakes made on the waterfront, in the most difficult period of Australia’s history, there is still too much good in this bill for it to be thrown out completely. We on this side recognize that the successful operation of many provisions in it will depend on the human element; but no legislation, no matter how good it looked on paper, could be put into effect without dependence on the human factor. I propose to deal with that aspect more fully later. What this bill aims to do has never been attempted hitherto. The Stevedoring Industry Commission’s powers are set out in clause 13 -
For the purpose of exercising its functions under section eleven of this Act -
the Commission shall have power to make such awards and orders, give such directions and do all such other things as it thinks fit; and
without limiting the generality of the last preceding paragraph, the Commission shall have power -
to make awards and orders with respect to the wages, hours and conditions of employment of waterside workers;
to make provision for annual leave and sick leave for waterside workers;
to make provision forthe payment of attendance money to waterside Workers;
to establish and administer employment bureaux for waterside workers;
to provide, or require .the provision of, first-aid equipment and ambulance facilities for waterside workers;
to provide, or require the provision of, canteens, cafeteria, dining rooms, rest rooms, and adequate sanitary and washing facilities for waterside workers ; and < vii ) to make provision for the payment of guaranteed weekly or daily wages to waterside workers.
No organization like that has ever been set up in Australia. It is an experiment, but unless we try something like that, how shall we ever solve the waterfront problem and give contentment to the waterfront workers? They have always been regarded by a vast majority of upper class Australians - I say this regretfully - as the scum of the earth. In order to raise the standards of these men in the eyes of the people, the Government wants to treat them as human beings. They are entitled to such benefits as are laid down in most of our industrial awards to-day. ‘ The amenities specified in this bill must be provided in every new factory in Australia in future ; otherwise permission to build the factory would be refused by the Government. Why should we deny to these 20,000 waterside workers these fundamental human rights, and why should they be looked upon as mere hewers of wood and drawers of water for the wealthy shipowners? They should be treated first and foremost as human beings, as workers in other industries are treated. This bill is designed to give greater emphasis to the human factor in the stevedoring industry.
Much has been said by honorable members opposite about restlessness on the waterfront. I do not think that they fully appreciate the effects of the war on the people of Australia, although they talk a lot about such effects, and we read about them almost daily in the newspapers. The war has caused vast changes in our economic and industrial systems. There is a serious psychological factor underlying unrest in all spheres of industry, including the waterfront. For six years of war we worked at top pressure. Every hour of profitable labour that could be dragged out of the people was dragged out of them. Man-power regulations were brought into force in order to keep their noses to the grindstone. Many of them worked overtime far into the night. The waterside workers have been severely criticized by honorable members opposite on account of one or two strikes during the war.
– One or two ?
– Yes; they have been grossly exaggerated in terms of duration and hours of work lost. The Opposition complains because there are further strikes now that the war has ended. 1 remind them that the effects of the war have not ended. A nation cannot change smoothly from war conditions to peace conditions overnight. We see restlessness and defiance of authority in our own homes to-day. Children defy the authority of their parents, and the same psychological condition is manifest in the divorce courts in the high rate of divorce, which is increasing throughout the world. If unrest and defiance of authority exist in the home, how can we reasonably expect industry to reflect any other condition? Unless we have peace in the home, which is the centre of our national life, we cannot have peace in industry. This condition is due to a deep psychological reaction. We are living in a new age. A new age dawned when war broke out, and when the atomic bomb fell on Hiroshima. The moral effects of this change will continue to manifest themselves for many years. No bill which any government could prepare could prevent that. Unless honorable members opposite realize this fact now, they will be disillusioned later. Until we can solve the problem of lack of discipline in our home life, we cannot solve it in industry, where it is an enlarged reflection of the home life of the country. If a husband cannot control himself in his own home, how can he control himself in industry? Have honorable members opposite ever thought of that? They have criticized the waterside workers on account of the slow turn-round of ships in port. I remind them that, in nearly every instance to-day, ships come into port and leave port fully loaded. That was not a common occurrence before the war.
– It is not a common occurrence now in north-western Tasmanian ports.
– I admit that my statement is not applicable in some instances.
– Is it applicable in any instance ?
– Yes. Ships are carrying more freight now than they did before the war, and therefore the men must take longer to load and unload them. Honorable members opposite have also complained about the objection raised by waterside workers in Sydney to the working of overtime. I point out that, when branches of the Waterside Workers Federation throughout Australia were asked to decide whether they would join in an Australia-wide strike on this issue, they refused to do so. Only one section of the federation, the Sydney branch, proposes to defy the majority. These men have good arguments in support of their decision. All industrial awards in Australia contain penalty clauses relating to the working of overtime. The Government has tried to reduce overtime in industry, because overtime work is not good, physically or mentally, for the workers. How can we have full employment if we encourage overtime work, making one man work long hours while another man is waiting for a job? The logical procedure is to divide the labour so that one man shall have full employment and the other man shall have parttime, if not full, employment. If we want full employment we must reduce overtime.
The human factor in industry operates in two ways - from the top down and from the bottom up. The successful functioning of this ‘bill will depend upon those who administer its provisions. Therefore, it will depend on the learned gentlemen who were mentioned by the honorable member for Parramatta. Any judge who may be appointed to the commission will be a capable man; he would not be appointed otherwise. However, he should have other qualifications than merely legal ones. I remind the honorable member for Parramatta that great legal minds have been responsible for gross injustices. The Tolpuddle Martyrs would not have bad to come to Australia as vagabonds and convicts if legal men in Britain in those days had been sympathetic men a.< well as legal machines. Thus we must. seek to secure the appointment of a judge who has not only high legal qualifications but also a warm human understanding. The latter factor is most important. In a perfect judge we expect impartiality and also courage, a quality which most of our judges possess. We should expect personal disinterestedness, a quality which is not so common as the others I have mentioned. It is difficult for a man to remain neutral in this age, but I believe that the Government,, having experience to guide it, will be able to find men who have a personally disinterested approach to the problems of the waterfront. And what of the men who work on the waterfront? The purpose of this bill is not specifically tocreate an arbitration court within theArbitration Court. That aspect has been grossly exaggerated by honorable members opposite. A judge of the Arbitration Court would not have been appointed to the Stevedoring Industry Commission if the Government had desired to create a new arbitration court.
– The bill. does not provide that a judge shall be appointed to the commission.
– That is so, but more often than not, a judge probably will be appointed to the commission.’
– I do not think so.
– It is a matter of conjecture, and I leave it to those responsible for making the appointment. The purpose of making the commission a permanent body is to ensure closer contact between the tribunal and the workers. In its present form, the Arbitration Court is a cumbersome body, and always gives the impression of being outside the human scene. This commission is an adjunct of it. The powers of the Arbitration Court will be transferred to the commission for the specific purpose of bringing peace and order to the waterfront. The bill has no other purpose. If this legislation will abolish industrial unrest on the wharfs, its introduction will be well justified, because 20,000 men who are engaged in this industry, control to a large degree the lives of all the people of the Commonwealth When the’ waterside workers go on strike industry comes to a standstill. If, by legislation, we can ensure peace or a semblance of it in this industry, all complaints that the commission will be an arbitration court within the Arbitration Court must fail.
– Does the honorable member consider that a commission should be appointed for every industry?
– That would have to be thought out by greater minds than mine.
– The idea has not worked successfully in the Commonwealth Public Service.
– There are elements of risk in all these matters, but this bill is an -honest attempt to create order and contentment within this turbulent industry. I note that two of the members of the Stevedoring Industry Commission will be members of the Waterside Workers Federation. So far as I am aware, it is the first time in our history that waterside workers themselves have been given any voice in the conduct of their own industry. The proposed representation of the federation may not appear to be large, but the employees will have an opportunity for personal contact with the Arbitration Court through the commission. In my opinion, that factor is of considerable importance.
Clause 24, which deals with the registration of members of the Waterside Workers Federation, is open to abuse. The clause reads -
Under this clause, the commission will have extensive powers, and, therefore, I urge those who will administer this legislation to act with great discretion. Clause 25 deals with quotas, and I have received two protests against it in the last two days from waterside workers in Tasmania. Sub-clause 2 states -
Where the number of waterside workers registered at a port is greater than the number determined by the Commission under the last preceding sub-section in relation to that port, the Commission may suspend or cancel the registration of so many waterside workers registered at that port as it thinks fit.
This provision contains elements of danger. The men will be deregistered merely because there are too many of them for the work offering. In my opinion, this clause should be amended in committee. I do not agree with the provision as drafted, because the powers which it will confer on the commission are too wide, and may be dangerous to the interests of waterside workers.
The honorable member for Parramatta declared that opposition to this bill was widespread and spoke as if hundreds of protests were being received against it. That is not so. As I have indicated we have received protests against certain clauses, but no organized protest has been made throughout Australia against the bill. To state that there has been is grossly to exaggerate the position.
– ;Is the honorable member sure of his facts?
– I have not heard of any organized protest against the bill. Members of the Opposition have also attacked the Communists. Doubtless, the honorable member for Parramatta will look under his bed and in his wardrobe before he goes to sleep to-night lest, there be a “ commo “ hiding there. Like many other members of the Opposition, the honorable gentleman has a “ commo “ complex. He referred to a Stevedoring Industry Bill which had been prepared by the secretary of the Waterside Workers Federation, Mr. Healy, and compared it with the bill which we are now debating. He stated that on legal grounds he had no fault to find with Mr. Healy’s bill. He added that a number of its clauses had been included in the bill now before us. In reply to the honorable member, all I can say is that the “ commos “ do not lack brains.
– That is the real difficulty.
– Honorable members opposite have severely criticized Mr. Healy. I remind them that Mr. Healy is a member of an industrial organization, and acts .under instructions and not “ off his own bat”. Whether a man be a Communist or a fascist, when he represents an organization, he expresses at’ any conference the views of the people who elected him. In this instance, all the talk about Mr. Healy being a Communist is so much “ eye-wash “. I guarantee that if he is a true Communist all of his own views are not contained in this bill. Therefore, we should view with a great deal of suspicion this constant attack on the Communists by honorable members opposite. The honorable member for Parramatta declared that .the bill was wholly and solely a Communist publication. Nothing could be further from the truth. Such statements, which are published in the newspapers and broadcast to the listening public, do a great disservice to all those members of the “Waterside Workers Federation who are not Communists. I believe that 90 per cent, of them probably are not. If men are dissatisfied with their leaders, there is a way in which they may change them. In spite of all the talk about communism, we are still a democratic country. Officials of the Waterside Workers Federation are elected annually, and the waterside workers themselves may change their leaders if they desire to do so. To say that the Communist doctrine is permanently implanted in the Waterside Workers Federation and that the men have Communist leaders is wrong.
– The waterside workers did change their leaders in Sydney.
– If that be so, I fail to understand the contention that Communist doctrines have been embodied in the bill. It does not make sense. I commend the bill as an honest and genuine attempt to bring contentment on the wharfs and to do justice to this large body of Australian workers.
.- As the House has listened to a complete discussion on the merits and demerits and the technicalities of this bill, and as it i3 perfectly obvious to all that the debate has failed to show in the smallest particular just how and where the position on the waterfront will be improved by this legislation, my comments on it will be brief. The bill is revealed not as a measure which will improve waterfront conditions from the viewpoint of the national interest but as a measure of appeasement designed to delay the inevitable showdown between anarchy and the forces of legal authority. All that is left to us now is to relate cause ‘ and effect and ask ourselves where we go from here. I have every confidence in the ability of the Australian worker to rise to an occasion; I have every confidence that it is his earnest desire to give the very best that is in him in the interests of his country and the country of his children; and I am equally confident that that desire is frustrated at the moment by circumstances .which have temporarily got beyond his control. The position of the Australian worker to-day, particularly those engaged in key industries such as the one we are discussing, is I believe, analogous to that of the sleeping dog in the old saw. He is dangerous to waken and I am confident that when the Australian worker does ultimately awaken to the threat to his security and to the’ security of his children there will be unleashed in this country a dynamic force that will sweep, the industrial saboteur from every office in which fortuitous circumstance has temporarily placed him.
As the result of this debate I believe that every honorable member has a very keen appreciation of what can be done in the loading and unloading of ships. Therefore, we are all competent to debate the little that facts and figures prove is being done. A study of these facts and figures leads me to the conclusion that I could, without any great difficulty, get a gang of men from a farm in the country, give them a day to look around the waterfront, and then guarantee that they would do double the work in half the time. Even then they would be looking for a gymnasium at night for a little exercise. No one in these days expects men to work continually at high pressure. I believe that the country can provide comfortable conditions and security for a far greater number than we provide for today ; but we have the right to expect that men who claim the sole right to the emoluments of any trade or calling, and arrogate to themselves the right to determine who shall and shall not be employed, will accept the responsibility which their jobs entail. We should insist that this be done, or at least we should insist that those who control the waterfront and will not do their share in the maintenance of the trade and commerce of this country shall get out and make room for somebody else who will. Instead of that we have a threat that, regardless of pay or conditions, which this measure is designed to improve, in no circumstances shall there be any return to the rate of loading or unloading which prevailed in 1938-39, a rate which was achieved without any very great discomfort to the men concerned.
– That is pure supposition.
– That is the threat made by Mr. Healy and his cohorts. Consider this threat in relation to the industrial burlesque which occurred on the Melbourne waterfront recently and which was reported in the Melbourne Age .last Saturday, under the heading “ Wharfmen Annoyed “. The newspaper report reads -
About 300 tons of cargo for the Dutch navy loaded into the Australian freighter Kooringa at North Wharf this week will have to be removed from the ship before she is able to begin her journey to Perth about next Wednesday.
This extraordinary situation follows the decision of wharf labourers to declare the ship black unless the Dutch cargo is taken off. The wharf labourers loaded the cargo, but did not realize until the job was almost finished that the goods were Dutch-owned.
Following the discovery, the waterside workers, in pursuance of the ban on Dutch shipping, refused to handle the remainder of the cargo. Trucks which continued to arrive were forced to take their goods back to the storehouses. The cargo, which was chiefly tinned food, was to have supplied units of the Dutch navy based in Perth.
They were paid a high rate to load the cargo, and on their own say-so, and not on the say-so of the Dutch navy or of the industrialists concerned in the export of the goods, they had to be paid a higher rate to unload it again. I impress upon the House that this action was taken against the Dutch navy, which had committed the unpardonable sin of assisting in the protection of the Australian coastline throughout the whole of the war. This action was inspired by malcontents, acting under the Communist dictatorship of the waterfront. Yet we constantly hear of’ the necessity for “ soft-soaping “ these people. Instead of facing up to the issue, and demanding that the country’s interests be protected, the Government makes decisions solely in the interests of the man on the waterfront. Surely such a Gilbertian situation is not only an affront to the intelligence of this nation, but also a direct challenge to the authority of this Government. If this Government can do nothing to prevent this continued menace to our international relations, the only decent thing it can do is to admit its ineptitude and resign from office. After every single threat to its authority, the Government calls a conference, which usually resolves itself into a meeting at which threats are made on one side and promises on the other, or, alternatively, the sending to the scene of the conflict a Minister or a liaison officer who adopts an approved grandfatherly attitude, waves an admonitory finger at the culprits and orders them not to do it again. Only recently the Parliament passed a bill providing for the control of the coal industry which was designed, as is the bill now before us, to prevent trouble in an important industrial activity. Has the coal legislation achieved anything? Not a thing; not one more ton of coal has been mined as a result of it. I believe that this measure will be as completely inocuous in bringing about industrial peace on the waterfront.
If we examine the cause of, these continual hold-ups on the waterfront we are forced to the conclusion that there is a good deal of loose thinking associated with them. There appears to survive in the minds of the leaders of these hold-ups an archaic idea that they are harassing and embarrassing those they term the wealthy shipowners. They have their little “Sir Echoes “ in this House - little men who derive a sadistic satisfaction from believing that they are hurting some one else of whom they are either envious or jealous. In defending the actions of Communists, even though they speak with their tongues in their cheeks, they encourage the agitators to continue the tactics which have proved successful from their point of view. But their actions do not affect the shipowners or the big industrial magnates, because in this industry, as in others, costs find .their way into charges and prices which ultimately are paid by the general consumers, including the Australian workers. So far the Government’s answer to these tactics has been one inglorious surrender after another. During the war the term “ appeasement “ was applied effectively to describe certain situations. To-day it has become a euphemism. The Government’s failure to take hold of any dispute which may provoke international retaliation can only be described as an abject surrender of legalized authority to the clamant demands of the unrepresentative minority. That attitude must stop. A government which makes a magnanimous gesture, such as the passing of this bill, to better the conditions of men on the waterfront is entitled to something in return. It is entitled to expect reciprocity, and a recognition that those people who claim that they have the sole right to work on the waterfront should at least guarantee that they will do the job that the Government of the country expects them to do in return for measures of this kind. [ would not introduce a measure of this description without first obtaining an undertaking from the people who are supposed to benefit from it that they will play their part. I warn the Government of the possible result of Australia becoming a party to the financial agreement under which certain export trade allocations may be made to this country. It may be that our national wellbeing will depend upon the fulfilment of those obligations. It is unthinkable that a decision as to whether goods shall be sold to this or that nation shall continue to be left tq Communist dictatorship on the waterfront. It is a government responsibility, and if Australia fails to meet its obligations irreparable damage may be done. It is time that the Government awakened to its responsibilities to the country, instead of being concerned only with placating the Communists and other trouble-makers in the community. The Government has a duty to the people of Australia, and it is time that it showed some intention to fulfil its obligations.
In answer to the inevitable question of the weak and the irresolute : “ What would the honorable member do if he were in power?” I reply that that question was partly answered last week in this House in a speech by the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell). When speaking on the possibilities of espionage in Australia, he said that if he found any person acting in a manner calculated to do injury to the nation he would not hesitate to deport that person. That is the answer here, also. If we were to analyze the troubles and agitations which have taken place in Australia we should find that the great majority of the agitators have come here from other countries. If we go further, we shall discover that the remainder of the persons responsible have been influenced by the ideologies of other countries. Consequently, the first step that I should take in order to ensure industrial peace in this country would be to pass an act, if one does not already exist, providing for deportation, where it could apply, as a minimum penalty for any act of industrial sabotage, sedition, or treachery against the interests of Australia. Secondly, I should encourage people with patriotic motives, as well as a personal desire or interest, to take charge of Australian trade unions. Thirdly, I should guarantee them a fair deal ; and, fourthly, I should inaugurate an educational campaign with the object of removing from the minds of the workers the nonsensical superstition that their best interests are served in this Parliament by men who describe themselves as members of the Australian Labour party. If I may use a trite saying, I believe that on those foundations we could usher in an era of industrial peace in which Australia would reach a stage of progress and prosperity that it has not previously experienced. On the other hand, if we continue in the disastrous way that we are going, we shall lose every opportunity for expanding markets which a goodshungry world is offering to us. I am neither for nor against the bill because I am convinced that it will have no effect. We are wasting our time discussing it when we should be tackling the trouble at the right end. If the Government adopts a strong attitude, those who are causing trouble will capitulate, but if it cries “ defeat “ every time these people raise their voices, it will indeed be “ down and out “. The Government should get out of office if it is impotent in the face of a threat from a few men. There are plenty of red-blooded, virile men ready to take over the reins and do a good job in the interests of all the people of Australia, including the workers.
– I am aware that this bill has already been debated at length, but as I represent a constituency which contains five of the eight ports in Tasmania, I am impelled to reply to some of the arguments advanced, and bo add some further comments which have not already been voiced. There are two principal tests to apply to any measure brought before this House. The first concerns the objective of the bill: Is it worth while? Is its aim a good one? The second test is whether the measure is likely to achieve the results aimed at. But there is a third consideration, and it is one which it is becoming increasingly necessary to apply: Does the new bill attack or endanger any institution which is of more value than itself? The main criticism from this side of the House is on the ground that the bill does attack, and in some measure endanger, the arbitration system. I have been astounded to hear some of the criticism directed at our arbitration system from the other side of the House. We know that it does not work perfectly. Sometimes there have been undue delays. We know that it has never given complete satisfaction, but has any human institution ever completely fulfilled all demands? However, I remind honorable members that it is mainly owing, to our system of industrial arbitration that we have in Australia a balanced economic system. Those who have not been outside Australia are scarcely conscious of the fact that in this country we have fewer great aggregations of wealth than in any other country in the world, and that we have none of the absolute poverty and less of want than is to be found in other countries. . We are economically and socially better balanced than most countries, and this is in large part due to the working of our arbitration system. Yet, that system is attacked in this bill, and clause 17 of the measure definitely limits its operation. Some honorable members opposite argue that the bill will not have the effect of divorcing the stevedoring industry from the Arbitral on Court. However, ohe legal member on the Government sides does not take that view, nor does any one else who has carefully examined the matter. Let us look at the composition of the commission. The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) said that the system proposed in the bill was, in fact, very similar to that in operation in Western Australia. I know that it is very similar to that in operation in Tasmania, and, possibly, also in Victoria, but those State tribunals deal with local industries only, whereas we should seek in the Commonwealth sphere to establish a homogeneous arbitration system, something that will preserve relative justice between all industries. If we cut one industry off from the general body of industry throughout the country, we shall destroy the real value and purpose of our arbitration system.
The bill provides that the Stevedoring Industry Commission shall consist of a chairman, two representatives of the employers and two of the employees. The crux of the whole business is the chairmanship of the commission. We have been told that the provisions contained in the bill are based on the recommendations of Judge Foster. I have looked carefully at those recommendations, and I find that Judge Foster recommended that the chairman of the commission should be an Arbitration Court judge. In making that recommendation he had some very fine things to say about the qualities which should be possessed by an Arbitration Court judge or, indeed, by any judge. He said -
Perhaps a layman might be found who would achieve that better than a judge of the court, but my recommendation involves those qualities which it was gratifying to have the eminent gentlemen of the bar concede were to be found in our judges in Australia, and which are not ordinarily to be found in laymen. As specialized training, a capacity to hear and determine, a knowledge of law, of the rules of evidence, of the weighing of evidence, an appreciation of the necessity of proof, of weighing of interests, and above all an independence and freedom from political and other pressures. Here it is important to realize that a judge does in a special way represent the community interest, and is on this tribunal the only representation (if representation it be) the community has.
That is indeed an important point, one to which, so far, no one has drawn attention in this debate.
– That cuts out the conciliation commissioner.
– Yes. Mr. Healy, on the other hand, wanted a layman appointed as chairman, and the Government has compromised, just why I do not know. Perhaps some member of the Government will explain why it accepted neither the recommendation of Judge Foster nor that of the representative of the union. If we may draw conclusions from the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Bill which was introduced to-night, it is extremely probable that the chairman will be a conciliation commissioner, so that he will not be in the category of a judge who, as Judge Foster pointed out, would be directly representative of the interests of the community. Mr. Healy, I understand, has expressed himself as well satisfied with this measure. At the risk of incurring the displeasure of those honorable members opposite who become very restive at the mention of Communists in connexion with any measure which the Government introduces, I suggest that- Mr. Healy’s satisfaction may well he based on the fact that he can regard the bill - I do not say that the Government so regards it - as a first step towards the kind of control of industry at which he ultimately aims. As Judge Foster remarked in his report -
His (Mr. Healy’s) proposals envisaged the running of a very big business by his Stevedoring Industry Commission throughout Australia as actual employers.
In New Zealand, that system already operates, and I point out in passing that in New Zealand the record for output is rauch1 lower even than in Australia. I doubt whether any honorable member is really proud of the record of the stevedoring industry in Australia over the last few years.
What are the objectives of this bill? Are they good? Frankly, I believe they are. I think that the general objective - to obtain peace in industry - is excellent. I also believe that the subsidiary objectives, if I may so describe them, are entirely good. These objectives are set out in clause 13, under the heading, “ Powers of Commission “. Paragraph a reads -
The commission shall have power to make such awards and orders, give such directions and do all such other things as it thinks fit.
I have already said that I do not think that it should lie within the power of the commission to do those things. The next function of the commission is -
To make provision for annual leave and sick leave for waterside workers.
I believe in that. The clause continues -
To make provision for the payment oi attendance money to waterside workers.
Frankly, I have no objection, to that if the provision is administered properly. I can see that it might open the way to many abuses and, indeed, it has been shown that administrative abuses have already occurred. Nevertheless, I believe it to be entirely good that an attempt should be made to ensure a regular income to waterside workers. The next function of the commission is -
To establish and administer employment bureaux for waterside workers.
Then the clause refers to the provision of first-aid equipment and ambulance facilities for waterside workers, the provision of canteens, cafeteria, diningrooms, rest-rooms and adequate sanitary and washing facilities for waterside workers, and it makes provision for the payment of guaranteed weekly or daily wages to waterside workers.
– Does the honorable member oppose that?
– No; I have been saying that in general terms, I believe all these things to be worthy objectives. I know something of the conditions that have obtained on the waterfront, and I know that Judge Foster speaks of the low morale of the waterside workers. It is not without significance that their conditions have not been properly attended to in the past. I believe that there is some relation between the fact that their morale is low and that their conditions are not good. I agree with the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) that we should look at these things from the human stand-point as well as from other stand-points; but, then, we must ask ourselves whether this commission is the best means of attaining those objectives. The best thing to do in those circumstances is to look at the record of the commission up to date. Judge Foster gave very many reasons why he believed the commission to be a better proposition than any other; and I find one argument which he used, to be singularly impressive It is this -
The specialized knowledge of the proposed tribunal and its continuous close association with the industry would enable it to meet unrest in its incipient stages, and to supervise closely the working of proposed remedies, avoid delays, and exert controls and methods calculated to improve output.
Is the particular kind of commission proposed to be set up under the bill the only means by which we can achieve that objective? Cannot specialized knowledge of the industry be gained by any judge of the Arbitration Court to whom a particular industry is assigned ? Further, what is to prevent the Government from setting up this commission without arbitral powers to deal with subsidiary matters, and, at the same time, preserve intact the arbitration system as we know it, strengthening, as we should, its conciliation powers, certainly, but also strengthening rather than weakening its arbitration powers?
Let me examine the commission’s record. The first charge against it is loss of output during the war; and the second charge is slower turn-rounds. The figures cited by honorable members on this side . are absolutely unanswerable. The honorable member for Wilmot has spoken of fuller ships. I shall enlighten him on that point. At present, Nairana runs biweekly from Melbourne to the northwestern Tasmanian ports of Burnie and Devonport. Before the war Nairana came from Melbourne and berthed at Burnie at an early hour of the morning. After loading for three, or four, hours it went the 30 miles to Devonport, where it unloaded cargo, and then returned to Burnie at night to top off with mails and light cargo. And on almost every occasion it departed a full ship. But to-day, at a time when every inch of shipping space is valuable, that ship is partly empty on every trip because it cannot get full loading. It must visit one port, or the other, because men cannot be obtained to work sufficiently to fill up the vessel at both ports.
– Is that not because the same quantity of cement is not being loaded on the vessel now?
– No ; times out of number it has departed while cargo has been on the wharfs either at Burnie or Devonport. Devonport is the only port where cement is loaded, and the ship goes only to one port or the other alternately.
Another charge levelled against the commission is that of indiscipline. We have a story of constant stoppages. All of us know that story. There is also another story of lack of discipline within the commission itself. Recently, at Burnie, an attempt was made to exercise the disciplinary powers of the commission, but this move was frustrated by the commission itself. Here is that story - On the 5th February, 1947, waterside workers at Burnie claimed 4s. an hour obnoxious cargo rate in respect of a shipment of limil which was being discharged by the steamer Kooralya. On the same day a meeting of the port board of reference was held, those present being members of the Waterside Workers Federation and of the Australian Steamship Owners Federation. The chairman, Mr. A. M. Orpwood, announced his decision at 11 a.m. on the 7th February, 1947. The decision was 4d. an hour for work in holds; and 3d. an hour for work on wharfs. Men working Kooralya objected to the decision, and nineteen were suspended by the port employment committee. Men working on Karuah, the other ship in port, walked off in sympathy with the suspended men. Limil was not in Karuah’s cargo, nor was any other obnoxious matter. The next day the watersiders not under suspension reported at the pick-up point, but refused to work the two ships unless the nineteen men were reinstated. The strike, which did not end until the 12th February, resulted in 12,000 bags of potatoes being left in the sun for such a period as to render many of them valueless. In addition, Karuah was forced to return to Sydney without discharging a cargo of wire netting and other material urgently needed in north-western Tasmania. For the information of honorable members opposite, I add that the chairman of the port employment committee happens to be the Labour candidate who opposed me at the recent general elections. Honorable members opposite can take it from me that he is not biased against the waterside workers. This is what happened to his decision. On the 12th February, 1947, the Director of ‘Shipping sent word from Melbourne that the men were to receive an extra 2s. an hour for handling the limil. This overrode the decision of the local authority. It is known that the original claim for 4s. an hour was made only because the men considered that, in so doing, they were certain of at least 2s. an hour. I have taken this information from the local press.
Another charge against the commission is the tremendous growth of pillaging. I do not say that pillaging is solely the work of waterside workers. That would be a very foolish and sweeping statement; but much of the evidence goes to show that a good deal of it must be done by waterside workers, and I suggest that if the commission had really done its job it would have instituted some means of dealing with pillaging in a way not so far attempted. Some time ago a ship crossed the Strait and in respect of its cargo the Government was obliged to pay compensation exceeding £200 because of pillaging. If so much pillaging can take place on a small ship on so short a voyage, the aggregate loss as the result of pillaging in ports throughout Australia must be very high indeed. But the most serious charge levelled against the commission is that of lowered output. The honorable member for Robertson (Mr.Williams) made an admission which I thought was a very strange one, coming from an honorable member opposite. He said that lowered output is now a feature of all industry in Australia; but I had heard the argument that production had increased throughout Australia. However, lowered output is a feature particularly of the waterside industry, and no honorable member opposite has attempted to refute that fact. The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. O’Connor) made an excellent defence of the waterside worker. He presented him as a man working under great difficulties, and he put before the House reasons that he thought operated to cause the lowering of output. I congratulate him on having advanced those reasons, and I want to mention the reasons that Judge Foster gave. I believe that we have to look at this matter fairly and squarely and not blink any of the facts. Judge Foster said that the reasons for falling output in the stevedoring industry were these - they are abbreviated for convenience -
That means, I think, that at present it is improved -
Judge Foster’s words !
And finally -
I do not quarrel with reasons given by Judge Foster. I have no doubt that every one of them operates to a degree, but let us face the real fact: that, in spite of those reasons being a contributing force, the greatest cause of all is the lack of effort of the men. The other day in Tasmania there was a conference on this point and this was recorded from the conference -
Councillor G. Lyons, of Burnie, who is president of the Burnie Branch of the Australian Labour party-
No relation of mine, I would remind honorable members - said the waterside workers appeared to be the major stumbling block in the way of an improved service.
Their decision to work one daylight shift only each 24 hours appeared to be desirable on the surface, but would work out disastrously for the country. Seamen and others connected” with shipping were prepared to work “ through the clock “. He suggested that a deputation visit Canberra to confer with the Prime Minister, Minister for Shipping and representatives of the waterside workers.
Alleging that only a email minority of watersiders were in favour of one shift per day, Councillor Lyons said he was sure boats would be turned round in good time if the majority’s desires were fulfilled.
Before I leave this matter of the reasons for the slow turn round and decreased output, I should read one other section bearing on it from Judge Foster’s report, but, before doing so, I must say that, although, because I have no evidence to the contrary, I accept it as a statement of fact adduced by Judge Foster, I believe that the implications in it cannot and must not be accepted by this House or the community at large. Judge Foster said -
It is especially noteworthy, however, that, according to the evidence, a falling of output has occurred and was continuing before. It occurred prior to the 1928 waterside workers’ strike in Australia. It was cured by the depression which followed.
T have no dou’bt that awakens in the breasts of honorable members opposite something of the feelings that it awaken3 in my own. We do not want the position to arise in which a depression will be the cure for any of our ills, but I warn the waterside workers of this country and every other worker in industry or person working for himself that we are beading for just such a depression unless we are all prepared to work together. If we are content with a lower output we must be content with a lowered standard of living.
During the term of my husband’s occupancy of the Prime Ministership, I received a letter from a clerical friend from which I gained great comfort at numerous stages of my husband’s career when times were turbulent. He said, “ Tell ‘ Joe ‘ not to worry too much, that the State, like the Church, still goes on in spite of the efforts of its servants “. I begin to wonder whether the State can go on in spite of the efforts of its servants. We are all servants of the State in one way or another, and it is apparent to all that some of us are not pulling our weight. Another reason advanced for lower output is the contamination of communism. I believe that this is largely true ; but, if it be true, the whole community appears to me to be largely contaminated with the doctrine of communism. I fear that it may be ascribed to a species of moral rot that has set in; but, as for the implication that communism as such is a menace to this country, I fear not so much the machinations of the organized Communists as the infiltration of their ideas throughout every section of society. We are gradually accepting Communist ideas and organization all along the line. This Government is particularly marked in that regard. Its members believe, in their innocence, we hope, that they are combating communism, and yet, as is evidenced in this bill, they are adopting certain forms of Communist organization of society, or moving in that direction, in such a way that they are absolutely playing into the hands of those who espouse Communist doctrines. The very form of organization that is sponsored in this bill is not only in accord with Communist doctrine, but was the very basis of industrial organization in the fascist state of Italy. If “communism “ is not a fearful word to some people, “fascism” is.
There is yet one other piece of evidence in this bill that we are gradually adopting Communist notions of organization. I refer to that clause which provides for registration. I know that it has been commented upon by honorable members on both sides. It has been criticized, on the one hand, because it is a means of introducing compulsory unionism and, on the other, because it gives too great a power to the commission, as was said by the honorable member for Wilmot. Although this provision in the bill represents an attempt to decasualize the industry - as the ugly word that we have coined expresses it - it is nevertheless an exceedingly dangerous measure. There was a time when a similar piece of legislation on the statute-book was known as the “ dogcollar act “. That act was introduced to meet a very grave crisis, but I can easily foresee a time when a government of the left will say to employees in any industry at all, “ There are too many workers in this industry. You must he weeded out. Therefore you must be registered “. That state of affairs will apply to the waterside workers under this bill. It can apply to farm-workers to-morrow, or to shopworkers.
– So it should.
– Here we have a man who believes in conscription in industry! He has openly confessed himself. I recall that, on the last occasion when a hill was introduced in this House to authorize a referendum, one of the amendments accepted by the AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt) was to the effect that, under the new constitutional powers to be sought, there would be no industrial conscription. I do not believe in industrial conscription, and I point to this bill as a possible beginning of the very form of thing which scared off the workers of Australia from the first referendum conducted by this Government. I believe that the vast majority of Australians who work with their hands value their freedom and will fight for it when they realize that it is in jeopardy. But, time after time, they accept this, that, or the other decision of the Government without realizing the danger to which they expose themselves when they do so. This bill is a case in point. There is one further point that I would raise. Much of the strife on the waterfront, which has developed in many places, has no direct bearing upon the actual conditions obtaining in the industry. Most of the strikes have been political strikes aimed against the Government. Throughout the history of government, there have been occasions when honest men have decided that they could no longer endure the injustices of their government or could no longer countenance or tolerate its policies. These decisions may have been justified entirely by later history, but they were always recognized at the time for what they were - a revolt against the constituted authority of the day. To-day there seems to be very little appreciation of that fact, although it is a fact which must be faced, because we, who are in responsible positions in this Parliament, should fail in our duty if we did not open the eyes of the people to the dangers which beset even the most innocentseeming legislation. I have mixed feelings towards this bill. I have tried to call up some of the traditional virtues in my approach to it, but I am afraid that I have very little faith, though I have some hope, and, as honorable members will agree, I have exercised a great deal of charity. Above all, I fear that this measure will lead along a path that most honorable members would hesitate to follow if they were fully aware of its implications.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Haylen) adjourned.
The following papers were presented : -
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determination by the Arbitrator, &c. - 1947 - No. 11 - Trained Nurses’ Guild.
Australian Broadcasting Act - Regulations -Statutory Rules 1947, No. 17.
Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1947. No. 27.
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appointments - Department -
Postmaster-General - D. M. Waters.
Supply and Shipping - G. N.
Chamberlain, J. Daly, J. C. Dooley, E. McCarthy.
Customs Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1947, No. 29.
Re-establishment and Employment Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1947, No. 20.
House adjourned at 11.4 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping, upon notice -
– The Minister for Supply and Shipping has supplied the following information: - 1 and 2. The honorable member can be assured that the Government is taking all possible action to assess Australia’s resources of radio-active minerals, but it mould not be in the public interest at this stage to furnish the information sought by the honorable mem- ber.
on asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
Mr. POLLARD. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
asked the. Minister for External Affairs, upon notice- 1,. How many committees and/or subcommittees are associated with the work of the United. Nations Organizations? 2., On how many of such bodies is Australia represented?
t. - The information required by the honorable member is being obtained. Immediately all the facts sought are available, they will be communicated to him.
– On the 5 th March, the honorable member for Boothby (Mr-. Sheehy) asked a question concerning the scarcity of childrens’ clothing in South Australia.
The. Minister for Supply and Shipping has supplied the following information:
Woollen and worsted piece goods used in. the manufacture of boys’ and men’s clothing are in short supply throughout the Commonwealth. Manufacturers of woollen and worsted piece goods are not subject to Government direction as, to the typos produced. Distribution as between States and from manufacturers to wholesalers or merchants is not controlled by the Government.
It is considered that, in general, manufacturers of piece goods are using the yarn available to the best advantage and that all concerned are distributing the piece goods coming forward in the most equitable manner possible. Everything possible is being done both by the Government and the manufacturers concerned to increase production of woollen and worsted yarns and piece goods.
e asked the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1 and 2. The Commonwealth Statistician has furnished) the attached statement which embodies the information requested by the honorable member for Balaclava. The statistics furnished show the totals by stated race of all persons who arrived in the Commonwealth during each of the years 1937-46. In furnishing the information the Commonwealth Statistician has advised that the number of British subjects recorded in the table is not confined to those persons whoserace is shown as British, Indian, Maltese and Cypriotes. A number of persons of other races are British subjects bynaturalization.
n asked the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are asfollows : -
Since the 1st December, 1946, two married women who failed to report for duty, were consequently dismissed.
r asked the Minister for Works and Housing, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1 and 2. The Government’s decision on Com m on wealth assistance to local government authorities for public works within their local governmental areas was announced by the Prime Minister on the 1st July, 1946. The gist of the announcement was that the Commonwealth did not propose to depart from the principle that the responsibility for the financing of the works programmes planned rests on the States alone. Local government authorities should submit their loan proposals to their State governments in the usual way.
Public Service: Preference to Ex-servicemen.
n asked the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is a follows : -
In appointing the Secretary to the Department of External Affairs, careful consideration was given to the possible claims of other officers of the department and of other departments, whether or not they had war service. Dr. Burton was reserved from military service by reason of the nature of his external affairs duties, which were of national service and which required him to serve on important overseas missions. Whether or not theRe-establishment and Employment Act technically applies to such appointment, its general principles were observed.
n asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Government Premises: Unlawful Occupation.
n asked the Attorney-
General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1 to 4. It appears from the press report of the application of .the Brisbane City Council for an injunction against certain “squatters” in the South Brisbane Town Hall that Mr. Justice Philp did direct attention to section 543 of the Queensland Criminal Code which provides that Any person who conspires with another to effect any unlawful purpose is guilty of a misdemeanour and liable to imprisonment for three years. I am informed that three families did shift to certain empty Royal Australian Air Force buildings at Victoria Park which have been handed over by the Commonwealth Disposals Commission to the State Housing Commission. The matter of taking action against trespassers in the buildings handed over to the State Housing Commission is one for consideration by the appropriate State .authorities.
Plywood : Ma n mis a c t uri n 6 Equipment.
n asked the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, upon notice-^
– The answers to the right honorable gentleman’s questions are as follows:-
A plywood factory is not to be established at the Alexandria annexe.
Postal Departments-Transmission of Offensive Matter.
l.-On the 6th March, the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison), asked the following question : -
Can the Postmaster-General’s Department not take action to prevent the delivery of offensive matter through the post?
The Postmaster-General, has supplied the following information : -
Section 44 of the Post and Telegraph Act 1901-1934 empowers the Postmaster-General to refuse to transmit any newspaper packet Or parcel containing any article book picture Or advertisement of an indecent or obscene nature but this authority does not extend to articles posted in sealed covers. Section 3 of the act defines the term “ indecent or obscene matter “ but does not include literature or advertisements relating to contraception or contraceptives. Consequently the Postal Department has no legal power to refuse the transmission by post of contraceptives or literature whether or not in the nature of ‘an advertisement concerning contraceptives unless such contraceptives or literature are received from beyond the Commonwealth when they become subject to customs prohibition. Up to the 31st December, 1040, power was given under the National Security (Venereal Diseases and Contraceptives.) Regulations to refuse transmission by post of literature and advertisements regarding the. subject under notice but as these regulations have now -lapsed existing powers are limited to those prescribed by ‘the Post and Telegraph Act. In cases where recipients of unsolicited literature or advertisements have regarded them as grossly ‘offensive and have forwarded such articles to the department with a request that delivery be prevented in future, steps have been taken to secure an undertaking from the person or organization concerned, that any literature or advertisement relating to birth control or contraceptives will not be sent through the post to any person who has not made a request therefor. A similar practice will be observed in future in all cases where the addressee of an article makes representations to the department in connexion with the matter.
Arm ed Forces : TransportofWives and Familiesof Australians in Japan.
– On the 5th March, the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) asked a question concerning arrangements appertaining to the movement of families to Japan. I am now able to inform the honorable member as follows : -
Members serving in the British Commonwealth Occupation Forces who desire that their wives may join them in Japan must make applicationto the CommanderinChief, British Commonwealth Occupation Forces, through normal unit channels. No action can be taken by the Army authorities on an application by the member’s wife and it is unnecessary for a wife to make any application for movement. On receiving the soldier’s application, the Commander-in-Chief, British Commonwealth Occupation Forces, providedhe approves of the application, calls forward the member’s wife through the headquarters of the service concerned in accordance with the priority allotted by him having regard to the circumstances of the individual case and the local conditions. When Australian Headquarters receives the names of the wives called forward, arrangements are made to advise each wife individually that she has been approved for entry into Japan. She is asked to confirm that she is willing to proceed and to nominate the date by which she will be ready to move. At the same tune, a brochure is forwarded to her, setting out all necessary details which she will requi re to know in order to prepare for her movement. Information contained in the brochure includes advice as to the necessary medical procedure, passport requirements, baggage arrangements, also advice as to the household furnishings and other articles which it is advisable to take to Japan. In addition, the wife is given the name and address of the nearest Army Family Liaison Officer and advised to contact him should she encounter any difficulties in arranging movement or require any further information. As it is realized that wives who are contemplating joining their husbands in Japan may require this information prior to approval being given for their entry, directions ‘have been issued for copies of the brochure tobesupplied to any wife of a member serving in Japan on application to the nearest Army Family Liaison Officer. This officer may be contacted at the Head-quarters of the Command orMilitary Districtin each State.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 12 March 1947, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1947/19470312_reps_18_190/>.