18th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. J. S. Rosevear) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Motion (“by Mr- Chifley) agreed to -
Tha* ths House, at its rising, adjourn to to-morrow, at 1D.30 a.m.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping whether nine D-class Teasels built by the Commonwealth Government were found to be practically use/less upon completion, owing to faulty boiler design.? If go, is it proposed that the fault shall be corrected, or that costly structural alterations shall be made.? What .will be the additional cost per vessel of this work? Notwithstanding the discovery of the fault, waa the construction of one additional vessel with exactly the same faulty boiler design proceeded with at Walsh Island? If so, what is the explanation of this unnecessary expenditure of public rooney? How many of the nine vessels were completed before the discovery of the fault? What was the original cost of their construction. J What have they 00at to date’? What is ifc estimated they will have (jost before being finally ready for service,?. Who is responsible, for the. faulty design.? Why waa’ the. fault not discovered before the completion of the vessels?
– The -honorable gentleman has asked a .’lengthy series of ^questions. .1, of course. have not, at the moment, the particulars which would enable me to answer them. I do not know where he obtained his information. It may, of course, be entirely inaccurate.
– It is not,
– I shall prefer the questions to the Minister for Supply and Shipping.
– The accuracy of ‘my information is .proved by the fact that, none of the nine vessels is in commission.
– I am sure that my colleague will be able to supply an effective answer.
– I have re ceived an air-mail letter from the Queensland branch of the Demobilized Sailors. Soldiers and Airmen’s Association of Austraia, complaining of its exclusion from f anticipation in the benefits of theistribution of surplus army canteen funds. -As this association .is an Australiawide body, and has been iri existence for a lengthy period, will the Prime Minister reconsider the distribution of surplus canteen .funds, with a view to having the association included in the benefits derivable therefrom?
– The Minister for -the Army will answer the question.
– I have received a letter the terms of which ma similar to those -in the communication received by the honorable member. Consideration is being (riven to the representation of the Demobilized. Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Association of Australia on the trust fund committee which is dealing with the distribution of surplus canteen funds. A decision will be .made before the Services Trust Funds, ££0. has finally passed through both Houses.
– I. have received letters from- constituents stating; that rabbits, era increasing; in numbers, particularly in tha northern portions el Yietoria, Respite the high price of rabbit. skins. As the period of three months for which the levy on skins was lifted will expire soon can the Minister say what! policy the: Government intends to adopt in the future? Most pastoralists and primary producershope that thelevy will be abandoned.
Mr.POLLARD- The policy, of the Government in regard to the levy on rabbit, skins is to administer the act in its present form,
Mr.Fadden: - It must have been, a perfect piece of legislation.
– Itwasone of the few perfect acts on the statutebook when the present Government took office. At them oment, the levy is notbeing collected, because the fund created by it is ample for present needs. It will not be reimposed until the necessity arises to recoup the fund for the purposes for which it was established.
TASMANIANREPRESENTA tion S .
– As in many fruit growing districts of Tasmania the fruit crop failed either totally or partially this season because of severe frosts making it necessary for growers to seek financial assistance can the Prime Minister say whether he has received representations from the Government, of Tasmania in this connexion, and also whether it would be possible to grant assistance to growers out of the unexpended funds, estimated at £100,000, provided for relief from floods and hail under a scheme by which the Commonwealth Government paid £1 00,000 and the Tasmanian Government £300,000?.
-Representations have been received from the Government of Tasmania for assistance to fruit growers, particularly growers of apples. The Minister forCommerce and Agriculture has received communications from Mr. Madden, the Minister for Agriculture in Tasmania, and only this week, I have been in touch by telephone with the Premier of Tasmania on the subject. Mr. Cosgrove has submitted a request that unexpended moneys to the credit of the fund raised for flood and hail relief, supplemented by funds from the
State Government, be used for the purpose. I have promised him that the matter will be examined immediately. That is now being done. At the moment, I cannot say what the Government’s policy will be,but I hope tobe able to make an announcement within a few days.
– Can the Prime Minister say whether it is a fact that an inquiry has been ordered, and is now proceeding , into the expenditure incurred by TransAustralia Airlines? Is it a fact, that the expenditure and commit- ments of Trans Australia, Airlines to date have, reached a total of £3,000,000? If an inquiry is proceeding, will the right honorable gentleman say by whom it is being conducted, and whether it was ordered only when TransAustralia Airlines sought still further money for its undertaking?
Mr.CHIFLEY. - The expenditure incurred by all governmental bodies is continuously under review.No special inquiry has been ordered into any department or section of a department, but the Treasury makes it, it’s business to keep closely in touch with the expenditure of all departments, including that of TransAustralia Airlines. There have been discussions between Treasury officials, one of whom is directly associated with the controlling body of Trans Australia Airlines, the Minister for Civil Aviation, under which that organization operates, and myself, but apart from that no inquiry has taken place. Those discussions were held with a view to learning how the money is being spent, and if it is being spent wisely.
-Recently the Minister for Air inspected the Cambridge aerodrome with a view to deciding whether the airfield should be extended or replaced. Will the honorable gentleman inform the Government of Tasmania as soon as he reaches a decision regarding the future of this aerodrome, so that it may proceed with or modify its programme of public works adjacent to the airfield?
– The honorable member and the Government of Tasmania have made representations tome on this subject.
– So has the honorable member for Franklin.
– In fairness, I must add that the honorable member for Franklin has also made representations on the subject. I visited the Cambridge aerodrome for the purpose of inspecting the area, and on my return to Victoria, I asked the Department of Civil Aviation to expedite its consideration of this project. The aerodrome at Cambridge is efficient for the kind of aircraft that we have there, but if the programme of further development is to be undertaken, the decision will be conveyed immediately to the Government ofTasmania to enable it to proceed with its own programme of road construction, which would be affected by the decision of my department.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister, in his capacity as Treasurer, a number of questions with respect to Commonwealth expenditure upon education and assistance to the States for educational purposes. What is the total Commonwealth expenditure on education ? How much of this is for reconstruction training of the university type? How much of this is for reconstruction training of the. technical type? How much has been spent by the Commonwealth on buildings and equipment at the University of Western Australia? What is the grant to the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research? What is the amount of research grants other than to the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research ? What is the amount of assistance to students other than reconstruction trainees? What is the amount of loan programmes approved by the Australian Loan Council for the States, and canthe States use this money, or any part of it, for an educational building programme?
– The honorable member has set me rather a hard task, but the answers to some of his questions come to my mind readily enough because of discussions upon education that have taken place in the Australian Loan Council. Commonwealth grants to the States for education now amount to about £15,700,000. About £4,000,000 is being spent on reconstruction training in universities, and something over £9,000,000 on reconstruction technical education. The amount on the Estimates this year for the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research is approximately £1,200,000. As for the University of Western Australia, a total of £160,000 has been made available for equipment and capital expenditure, but I cannot remember the amount for each item. For research work by students other than ex-servicemen Commonwealth expenditure amounts to about £230,000. The loan programmes for the States cover many items besides education, the total amount this year being £32,750,000. A considerable part of that is placed on the Estimates for education, hut is subject to certain arrangements between the CommonwealthCo-ordinatorGeneral of Works and the State works co-ordinators. I shall prepare a complete answer to the honorable member’s questions giving the exact figures.
Surrender of Meat Coupons
– Before I ask the Prime Minister a question relating to the surrender of meat coupons with the object of making more meat available for export to Great Britain, I may mention that I received a brief letter yesterday from Mr. J. G. Plater, of Grafton, in which he said, “Please find enclosed my moat coupons and see that Mr. Chifley forwards that much extra meat to the starving people of Great Britain “. Mr. Plater enclosed the whole of his meat coupons up to the end of December. I ask the Prime Minister what arrangements have been made to coordinate the activities of departments to facilitate the surrender of meat coupons, such as the Rationing Commission and the Department of Commerce and Agriculture which handles supplies, and whether the right honorable gentleman will make a statement dealing with this matter ? I also wish to know whether, as suggested in letters which I have received, facilities could be provided for the receiving of coupons in locked boxes at the chambers of local government authorities, or, as I also suggest, at every post office ?
– First, I commend the gentleman who forwarded his meat coupons to the right honorable member. With respect to the assurance sought that meat, in, respect of which coupons are surrendered, will be forwarded to Great Britain, it must be ‘ obvious that as coupons are made available to cover the requirements of the Australian people, therefore, when coupons are defaced, destroyed or surrendered, an equivalent amount of meat is thereby. made available for export to Great Britain.
– That is a new one.
– That is only logical. A.s requested by the right honorable member for Cowper, I shall ascertain whether it will be necessary, or -of assistance, to provide depots for the collection of surrendered coupons.
– In view of the serious food position in Great Britain, will the Prime Minister give earnest consideration to sending an all-party parliamentary committee to that country to ascertain the full facts of the situation and to decide how Australia can best .help the Mother Country in its plight?
– The . answer is “ No “. I think the facts relating to the food situation in Great Britain are fairly well known from details supplied to the Government by the British Ministry of Food and obtained through our contacts here with the High Commissioner for the United Kingdom, who is kept fully posted as to the position. Apart from that, I think it is quite evident that the difficulty of obtaining adequate quantities of food within the sterling area has meant that the United Kingdom, has had to import supplies from the dollar area, which “has imposed a very heavy drain on dollar funds. I do not think that any further inquiries into the subject would help the position at all.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs say whether the Deputy Commissioner of Rationing in New South Wales issued ‘ instructions that meat coupons are to be. accepted only from residents of Sydney and Newcastle and not from people living in rural towns and areas? If such instructions were issued does it mean, that the department acknowledges that it cannot effectively police the rationing of meat outside cities; in other words that these coupons are valueless in rural areas and even if surrendered will not serve to increase the quantity of meat available for shipment to Great Britain?
– I do not know of any such statement having been made or of any such instruction having been issued but I assure the honorable member that I shall make inquiries and ascertain the facts. I am quite sure that the position is not as represented by the honorable gentleman.
Ft uorescent LightinG.
– “Let there be light ! “ might be a suitable heading for a question which I direct to you, Mr, Speaker, as a member of the Joint House Committee. Complaints have been made that the lighting in Parliament House is so bad that it has caused severe eye strain to many, obliging them to wear spectacles prematurely, and has generally affected the health of many others. Will the Joint House Committee give earnest consideration to the possibility of installing fluorescent lighting throughout Parliament House, and, if possible, in both chambers?
– The Joint House Committee has under consideration the installation of fluorescent lighting in. Parliament House and has already installed that system in the library. The committee is now examining the cost of extending the installation to offices throughout the building and should the scheme prove successful, .it will examine the possibility of installing fluorescent lighting in both chambers. Generally, however, I should think that honorable members need protection more for their ears than for their eyes.
– I ask the Minister for Immigration whether all Australian women who were issued with permits to ,go to Manilla to work for the Americans and to the Netherlands East Indies to work for the Dutch’ have returned to Australia in accordance with the terms of their original .agreements? [f not, how many are still outside Australia ? Were any of these women released from the terms of their agreements and permitted to stay abroad?
– All of the women who went abroad to serve with the American and Netherlands a.rmies were issued with passports endorsed only for the countries in which they were serving. They were not given general passports because we had no desire to export our young women to fill clerical positions in any allied army. We were prepared to give this temporary assistance to our allies, but the conditions laid down were that the women had to come back to Australia after the expiration of a certain time. We have extended the period from time to time in order to help the Americans and the Dutch. Those who are still serving with the Netherlands army are expected to return soon. Many of them have already done so. We have told the Americans that they must terminate the appointments of the various groups as from a date commencing, I believe, in August next. Those in the last of these groups should be back in Australia by February next. When these people return to Australia they will be at liberty to apply for passports to any country in the world the same as any other person. We are not making it convenient for people who went abroad to serve with foreign armies to obtain passports to go anywhere they choose. In a few instances we have not insisted upon’ the return of these young women because they have married abroad and therefore are entitled to clearance passports, as are other persons so circumstanced. Men a3 well as women have been concerned in the issue of these passports, and they have been treated in exactly the same way. The conditions laid down when the passports were originally issued must be observed by the armies which took these people out of Australia.
– In view of the very bad condition of hundreds of miles of country roads and the poor financial position of shire councils an<i their inability to obtain sufficient money to repair and maintain these roads, will the Prime Minister consider the desirability of granting financial assistance to the States for this purpose over and above that proposed in the t Commonwealth Aid Roads and Works Bill now before the Parliament? Will the right honorable gentleman also consider diverting some portion of the -surcharge on petr ol, which amounts to approximately £2,000,000 annually to shire councils so that country roads may be repaired and maintained?
– A bill providing for financial assistance from the Commonwealth to the States, and to some degree to local governing bodies, for the construction and maintenance of roads has been introduced by the Minister for Transport. In addition to the main grant to the States, the bill makes provision for £1,000,000 per annum to be made available to the States for a period of three years for the assistance of shires, municipalities and other local governing bodies on conditions which I understand have yet to be finally determined, but which will generally provide for the construction and maintenance of developmental roads in sparsely settled areas, and in some cases, for the purchase of road-making machinery.. After the expiration of that period the proposal will be reviewed. I see no prospect of anything further being done at this stage. In regard to the last potrion of the honorable member’s question, it would take too long to trace the history of the surcharge on petrol,- but I shall let the honorable member have a full answer at a later stage.
– Has the Prime Minister granted to. the Metropolitan Water.Sewerage and Drainage Board authority to float a loan on the New York market. Was a similar request by the Brisbane City Council rejected by the Prime Minister some time ago, after the Lord Mayor of Brisbane, Alderman Chandler, had actually left for America to arrange for the flotation? Will the Prime Minister indicate why preference lias been given to the Metropolitan Water, Sewerage and Drainage Board in regard to this matter?
– Prior to Alderman Chandler’s departure from this country he was informed that the Commonwealth Government was not prepared to agree to the floating of local government loans in New York until arrangements had been completed for certain Commonwealth conversion’ operations in that market. An indication was given that a postponement of the operation he had in mind would be necessary so as to avoid any conflict ‘between government and semi-governmental negotiations. I under.stand that Alderman Chandler had other reasons for going abroad when he did. Some embarrassment had occurred on a previous occasion, when representatives of a New ‘South Wales local government body were carrying on negotiations at the same time as a government loan was being negotiated. The Loan Council had earlier decided that government loans should not be interfered with by local government loans. I discussed the Brisbane City Council’s proposed loan with the Premier of Queensland, Mr. Hanlon, and made it clear to him that we did not desire loans of that character to be floated at other than what we regarded as appropriate times. In the case of the Metropolitan Water, Sewerage and Drainage Board, its proposed .operation, was at a later date and could not conflict with the Commonwealth’s negotiations. The Leader of the Australian Country party can rest assured that no preference will be given to any particular local government authority in the flotation of loans in New York. The only consideration will be in the interest of government and local government bodies as a whole, and, in accordance with the principle laid down by the Loan Council, the governmental interests must prevail.
” Mr. FULLER. - In view of the urgent need in country districts for telephones, lack of which, in some cases, is causing extreme inconvenience to primary producers, doctors, and business men, will the Minister representing the Postmaster-
General take up with that -Minister the question of speeding up the supply of new telephones to meet the needs of hundreds of applicants already on the waiting list.
– I shall ask the PostmasterGeneral to give me a detailed reply to the honorable member’s question. It is generally recognized that the PostmasterGeneral’s Department is an efficient organization, and is doing its best in most .difficult circumstances. I shall also ask the Postmaster-General to supply me with a statement showing; the number of telephones that have been connected in city and country districts’ since ‘ the war ended. That list, I am sure, will show that, although many telephones have yet to be installed to meet the demand, the department has done a fine job in nil the circumstances.
Hoi.u-uv OF Cargoes.
– Last night the honorable member for Swan referred to the fact that about 30,000 tons of cargo is held up in eastern States awaiting shipment to Western Australia. As there is a big accumulation of cargo urgently required in the different States, will the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping ask his colleague to provide honorable members with a full statement of the interstate shipping position, setting out what shipping is available and what the Government proposes to do to ensure more rapid deliveries of cargo, whether by more speedy turn-round of ships or the provision of a greater volume of shipping?
– I will pass on the honorable ‘ gentleman’s request to the Minister for Supply and .Shipping.
– I’ ask the Treasurer whether the Commonwealth Government and its financial advisers are considering the advisability of adjusting the rate of exchange between the Australian £1 and sterling? If so, has any decision been made?
– There has been no discussion of the appreciation of Australian currency. As the honorable member knows, I constantly receive letters from private persons and concerns saying that the exchange rate requires adjustment, but the matter has not been discussed by the Government with the British Treasury or in any other way.
– Last Wednesday 1 asked the Prime Minister whether he would prosecute for contempt of court the chairman of the Australian Metal Trades Union, Mr. J. J. Cranwell, who. said -
Unless unions demands were complied with, measures decided on for further extensions would become operative.
I also asked him whether he would arrange foi- the prosecution of the Communist railway union leader. Mr. J. J. Brown, under section 58ba of the Arbitration Act for incitement to strike. Has the Prime Minister consulted with the Attorney-General about this matter and, if so, with what result? Has he any general statement to make on this serious matter?
Dr.- EVATT.- The Prime Minister referred to this matter on Friday last in answer to the questions asked by the honorable member for Fawkner and, I think, other honorable members. The matter was discussed between the Prime Minister, the Minister for Labour and National Service and myself. Any further reference to it should be postponed nt least until after the pending proceedings before the Arbitration Court, in connexion with the same matter, have been concluded.
– In view of the recent decision of the High . Court on land resumed for the Essendon Aerodrome, will the Minister for the Interior instruct his department to reconsider the offer made to owners of land resumed at Laverton and in various other areas around Melbourne? In some cases the department has offered £5 each for blocks that cost their owners £S5, on which amounts they have paid rates and land tax. In other cases owners of land for which they paid about £360 have been offered about £S0. Will the Minister have the matter investigated by his department and arrange for reasonable and just offers to be made to the people concerned ?
– In view of a decision recently given in the courts the whole matter of valuations in connexion with the land mentioned is being reviewed, and I hope to be able to give to the honorable member the department’s decision in connexion therewith within the course of a week or two.
– I have here an extract from the Adelaide Mail of the 19th April, in which a leading tailor is reported to have stated that 1,350,000 suit lengths, consisting of 4,000,000 yards of suit material, have been exported from Australia during the last nine months. Can the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs ascertain whether these figures are correct? I have . been informed by school committees from my electorate that parents are having great difficulty in obtaining suits for school boys.
– I shall be glad to. supply the honorable member with the facts concerning the export df cloth from Australia.
– Last week I drew the attention of the Attorney-General to a report that an unauthorized person had been able to wander freely through the offices of the Navy, the Army, and the Air Force in Sydney, and had seen a number of documents. I asked what steps the security authorities had taken to prevent a repetition of such an occurrence. The Attorney-General said that he would let me have a reply. He. has not done so yet, and I now ask him whether he can give me one.
– When the honorable gentleman asked the questionI suggested to him, I thought clearly enough, that he might inform me of the source of his information.
– It was a report in a newspaper.
– What newspaper? We cannot trace every paragraph in every newspaper. If the honorable member will furnish me with a copy of the newspaper, as I thought I asked him to do last week, I shall have the matter looked into immediately. I cannot answer the question merely on an assumption. If the honorable member willdo as I ask, I shall have the matter referred to the Commonwealth Investigation Branch immediately.
– Last Wednesday, I asked the Prime Minister whether the Waterside Workers Federation had refused to obey the Stevedoring Industry Commission’s instruction that, if there was not a full day’s work for a man on a particular ship, he should be transferred to another vessel for the remainder of his working day. The Prime Minister promised to inquire into the matter, and supply an answer. I have not yet heard from the right honorable gentleman, and I now ask him whether he is in a position to reply to my question?
– When the honorable member referred to this matter, I mentioned that various statements had been made, some by the Waterside Workers Federation, and some by the owners, through their chairman, Mr. Craig, that a proper utilization had not been made of labour on the waterfront. Charges and counter charges were made. As I then intimated to the honorable member, I discussed the matter with the Minister for Supply and Shipping, who proposed to call the parties together and ascertain the facts. I understand that the Minister was not able to summon the conference until Friday, and I believe that the talks were continued yesterday. I regret that I have not had anopportunity to discuss the matter with him to date, but I shall do so as early as possible, and let the honorable member have the facts.
Medical Personnel: Accommodation at Balmoral.
– As the Navy is virtually the first force that goes into action in war-time and the injuries which occur in naval engagements are of extraordinary severity, will the Minister for the Navy review the conditions of naval medical personnel for the purpose of ensuring that their rates of pay shall be at least equivalent to those of officers of the Commonwealth medical service, with some additional reward for the extra danger that is associated with their calling?
– The rates of pay of all services are at present being considered by a sub-committee of Cabinet. It is hoped that the sub-committee will reach a decision in the near future so that the rates of pay, which it is proposed to increase, will take effect from the1st July next. I believe that the right honorable gentleman will be satisfied with the decisions that the sub-committee will convey to full Cabinet, and that all his wishes will be met.
– Is the Minister aware that at the naval depot at Balmoral there are unoccupied quarters which formerly accommodated members of the Women’s Royal Australian Naval Service? If so, will he authorize the use of those quarters as residences for the wives and families of naval ratings now on shore duty in Sydney, who are unable to obtain housing a ccommod ation ?
– I, too, have received a letter similar to that which prompted the honorable member’s question. The Department of the Navy is considering the matter.
Formal Motion for Adjourn men t.
– I have received from the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) 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 danger of Communist influence upon the Government and the Commonwealth Public Service including the staff of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research.
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
– Is the motion supported ?
Five honorable members have risen m support of the motion,,
– I have submitted this motion for the purpose of directing attention to the influence of the Communist party upon the Commonwealth Government Public Service, including the staff of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, and I propose to show the influence which this party is exerting upon the Commonwealth Government through the trade union movement and’ the Australian Labour party in the various States. The Government, because it is terrified of the power of these people, has taken no action against the organization referred to in the report of the Canadian Royal Commission on Espionage as “ The Agent of a Foreign Power In order to be fair to the Government and to the Australian Labour party I propose to quote mainly from the utterances of Labour leaders themselves and to show the fears which they have themselves expressed regarding the infiltration of Communists into their organization. Mr. J. P. Ormonde, a member of the executive of the Australian Labour party in New South Wales, has for some months past been contributing articles to the Thursday issue of the Sydney Morning Herald. An examination’ of these articles shows at a glance the amount of space Mr. Ormonde has considered necessary to devote to this subject. It is <a noticeable thing that iri the policy speech of the present Premier of New South Wales, Mr. McGirr, there is no reference whatever to Communists nor is there any indication of any action he may intend to take against them. Furthermore, the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) has consistently stated in this House that it is impossible for a member of the Communist party to be *i member of the Australian Labour party. I heard the “ Hear, hear “ of honorable members on the Government side, including the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) who is soon to transport himself overseas, and
I hear those “ Hear, hears “ repeated. In a few moments I will indicate the number of people in one particular branch of the Australian Labour party who for months past have been known to be Communists and against whom no action whatever has been taken.
The next point I want to make with regard to the Government’s fears regarding Communists is that the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction said that he doubted his own statement with regard to Arthur William Rudkin, who was appointed some time -ago to the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. The plain fact is that these Communists exist like a cancer in the Labour movement and the party knows they should be removed, but it is terrified to submit to the operation because it fears the operation may be fatal. On the 6th March,Mr. Ormonde wrote this regarding the tactics of the Communist party -
Action is urgent, .because the future of the Australian people is being jeopardized by the strike tactics now being employed such . strikes enfeeble the workers and bankrupt their unions.
In- the issue of the 20th March, he wrote -
The Labour party would hunt from its ranks -any man who would do to a union what the Communist members of the Waterside Workers Union did to theirs.
Yet the Labour party has taken no action to hunt members of the Communist party, as a party, from trade unions or the innermost sanctums of Labor. On the 23rd January last, Mr. Ormonde pointed out how the Communist party exerted its influence on trade unions, and through them on the Australian Labour party and finally on the Commonwealth and State Labour Governments. In his article on that date, he said -
It (the Communist party) exerts a definite influence in the management of unions in which its members have a majority of executive positions, and where they are a minority, on the line of action taken by such minorities in the discussions of that union . . . But the Communist party, exercising no political power, of its own, seeks to make .itself felt through the trade unions.
He went on to. state -
The Labour party, on the other hand, seeks the affiliation of trade unions and gives them in proportion to their membership the right t.u sen’d delegations to Australian Labour party conferences.
He frankly stated that Communisteon.trolled unions arc invited by the Australian ‘Labour -party to become members of its organization and to send delegates to branch meetings and -meetings of district councils
I do not propose to indulge in generalities in order to show exactly what is happening. I shall choose a .particular branch of the Australian Labour party, and show .what happened in it’ during a period of three years. The branch that I choose is the Katoomba branch in the Macquarie federal electorate, which is represented by the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley). I have chosen it because, up to ;i little over a month -ago, one of the dominant branches in the electorate of the Prime Minister was Communistcontrolled. It was deregistered on the 7th March’ last, not because it had in its ranks a large number ‘of Communists, who held most of the executive positions in it, but because it had criticized actions which the Prime Minister had taken. The New South Wales State secretary of the Australian Labour party, Mr. J. Stewart, M.L.C., said that the branch had been deregistered because it had caused friction and was in .an unsatisfactory state. The Prime Minister must have known for more than two years that this branch was under Communist control ; nevertheless, lie was content to represent it, to owe his selection in .part to it, and to be elected by its help to represent the Macquarie electorate in the Commonwealth Parliament. It is a severe commentary indeed on the Commonwealth Labour Government and the Australian Labour party that they were prepared to allow this, tie largest branch of .the Australian Labour party in the Prime Minister’s electorate, to remain for so long under Communist domination. In 1946, the approximate membership of this branch was 291, and although the number of Communists in it was not known the percentage was probably not more than 10 per cent. Yet those Communists completely controlled the election of officers ,and delegates, and the selection of Labour candidates for municipal elections. I intend to give a list of the chief Communist operatives in the branch. They,arc -
Dr. E. P. Dark, the last Australian Labour party president of the branch. Although he may not be an acknowledged Communist, he is closely linked with the party underground, and is of the same type as Dr. Alan Nunn May, according to the report of a Canadian royal commission an ardent but secret Communist.
His wife, Mrs. Eleanor Dark, the novelist, also an underground worker for the Communists.
-Australian Labour party minute secretary, who conducts a -money-lending business in Katoomba.
Mr. Bruce Millis, Australian Labour party conference delegate, in -many ways the most .active Communist in the Australian Labour party. He was at one time a mercer in Katoomba, but now conducts a boarding house, “Wakehurst “. That is the address of other Australian Labour party members.
Mr. Millis appears to control the local Communist funds.
Mrs.. Millis, his wife, also is a Com,munist
Mr. Andrew Levings, who at one time ha’d a furniture shop at Katoomba, but has since left that town “ for -health reasons “. He is one of the strange figures in the set-up. I am informed that while he was at Katoomba the president of .the Australian Communist party, Mr. L. L. Sharkey, was a frequent “visitor at his house, and that the other Communists would gather there, presumably to receive Mr. Sharkey’s instructions.
Mr. Frank Murray, who took over Mr. Levings’ shop.
Mr. Small, a piano tuner, who resigned from the Australian Labour party some time ago to become president of the local branch of the Communist party.
Mrs. Small, his wife, who also resigned from the Australian Labour party and is now openly a member of the Communist party.
Mr. Peter Carroll, who left the Australian Labour party and openly joined the Communist party a few months ago. He is a truck driver.
Mr. Apthorpe, who left the Australian Labour party a few months ago and now is in charge of the Communist library at Katoomba.
Mrs. Apthorpe, branch secretary, who left the Australian Labourparty at the same time as her husband.
Mr. McCredie, a chemist.
Mr. Hal Pratt, a teacher at the Katoomba High School, and an expresident of the Australian Labour party branch. He is a secret Communist who maintained his Australian Labour party membership to the end.
Miss Beth Armstrong, another high school teacher.
Mr. Toakley, a radio engineer.
Mrs. Toakley, his wife, one of the Australian Labour party nominees for the municipal elections in Katoomba in1944.
Mrs. Kilner, mother of Mrs. Toakley.
Mrs. Butterfield, widow of the exsecretary of the Australian Labour party and a very strong undercover Communist.
This list is not complete, but it shows that these active Communists dominated this largest branch of the Australian Labour party in the Prime Minister’s electorate and were able to secure most of the executive positions in it.
I come now to the story of the 1944. municipal elections at Katoomba. The branch decided to run an Australian Labour party “ ticket “.
– Order! The Chair has been very generous in having allowed the honorable member to establish a case. He must be aware that he is departing considerably from the motion, which relates to” the danger of Communist influence upon the Government and the Commonwealth Public Service, including the staff of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research “. The honorable gentleman has been speaking for ten minutes, and in that time I have not heard any mention of the matters that are referred to in themotion. If he continues along such lines, he will have to resume his seat.
– I was pointing out that Mr. Ormonde had shown that the policy of the Government is influenced by what occurs in the unions, and inthe branches of the Australian Labour party. I was also showing that this Communist controlled branch dominated the Labour organization in the Nepean electorate, and that it must have an influence in shaping the policy of the Commonwealth Government. The only other point that I make is that the Government took no action, although it knew what was happening, because the Prime Minister’s organizer, Mr. Walford, had resigned two years previously as a protest against the domination of this branch by Communists. I merely wish to add that, right up to the 7th March, this branch was dominated by Communists.
– Order ! Only a minute ago, I told the honorable gentleman that he was out of order.
– The next point that . I bring to the notice of the Parliament relates to the influence of the Communists, and the attacks that they are making, on organizations in the Commonwealth Public Service. Last year, approximately 4,000 income tax officers were transferred from State positions to permanent positions in the Commonwealth Public Service. Those officers were eligible for enrolment in Commonwealth Public Service organizations. At first, they thought of forming a union of their own, but were advised that, as there were existing organizations, such action would not be legal and they would probably not be able to achieve their aim. They decided to join the existing organization. About that time it was after July, 1946 the Commonwealth Temporary Clerks Association, which is affiliated with theFederated Clerks Union, found that its strength in the Commonwealth Public Service was declining rapidly owing to the discharge of large numbers of temporary employees who were no longer required because of the ending of the war. TheFederated Clerks Union then decided to enrol the transferred permanent officers in their union. Accordingly, they approached representatives of the transferred officers and suggested that a Taxation Branch of the union should be established. The proposal met with considerable opposition from some of the transferred officers on the ground that the Federated Clerks
Union was controlled by Communists. Ballots were taken in most of the States as to the advisability of joining the Federated Clerks Union; but only in Queensland was there’ an affirmative vote. Despite the fact that the majority of officers were opposed to it, the union took steps’ to form n - Taxation Branch. A good deal of propaganda was indulged in, and much organizing took place. The union denied that it was Communistcontrolled. The result was the formation of a Taxation Branch of the Federated Clerks Union, which is now functioning. The union is now attempting to extend its influence into other branches of the Commonwealth Public Service. Its representatives have approached officers associated with the Postmaster-General’s Department, T rans- Australia Aiirlines, the Repatriation Department, the Department of Labour and National Service, the Department of Air, the Department of Commerce and Agriculture, and other government bodies. In the organization of this movement the principal figure in New South Wales is Mr. J. R. Hughes, secretary of the New South Wales Branch of the Federated Clerks Union and a leading member of the central committee of the Communist party in that State. The Public Service Association protested against infiltration by Communists, and Mr. Langker, who was recently appointed to the Public Service Board and was previously general secretary of the Commonwealth Public Service Clerical Association and is, I understand, a qualified legal practitioner, expressed the opinion that the Federated Clerks Union could not legally enrol permanent public servants as members. Mr. Langker has since made a complete reversal; he now says that it is not competent for the Puhlic Service Board to question thu right, of the Federated Clerks Union to enrol Commonwealth public servants. The existing bodies have appealed to the Prime Minister to protect them from this Communist-controlled organization, but up to the present the right honorable gentleman has not taken any action. One would have thought that the Public Service Board would have waited until either the Arbitration Court or the Public Service Arbitrator had made a decision as to whether a Communist-controlled body was entitled to enrol permanent public servants as members, but so great is the influence of the Communist party on the present Government, and on Labour organizations generally, that the Government is afraid to oppose communism.
I wish now to refer to the appointment of Mr. Arthur William Rudkin to a position in the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. In June, 1940, Mr. Rudkin was arrested in Western Australia and later he was sentenced to four months’ imprisonment for publishing information which might have been of advantage to an enemy. It was stated in the court that information which he published was military information of great value, and was to be conveyed to Mr. J. B. Miles, the general secretary of the Australian Communist party, who was to be asked to pass it on to the Communist party of Great Britain. It was revealed that Mr. Miles was in communication with the Commintern in Vienna. It will be remembered that at that time the Soviet was an ally of Germany because of the “ pact of blood “ signed by Ribbentrop and Molotov. I do not believe in hounding any .mau. merely because he has altered his opinions during the years, but recent writings by Mr. Rudkin show that he stall holds Communist views. On page 15 of the October, 1946, issue of Focus, in an article entitled “ Atomic Crossroad “, Mr. Rudkin wrote -
Naturally, politicians as dumb as Truman and Bevin are dumb enough to try to use compulsion on scientists:, and in an attempt to terrorize them, have imposed heavy gaol sentences on two leading physicists, Dr. Alan Nunn May and Dr. Charles Boyer, for carrying on the perfectly normal scientific activity of discussing their work with fellow-scientists of a nation to which Mr. Churchill, when Prime Minister, pledged all possible scientific and technical assistance . . . Scientists, in short, are getting tired of churning out discoveries to be used by brass hats, crooked politicians, and mud-brained profiteers for their anti-social ends.
When Mr. Rudkin wrote that he must have known that Dr. Alan Nunn May had been sentenced to penal servitude for betraying vital war secrets to the Soviet Embassy at Ottawa. He had handed an enriched sample of uranium 235 to the Soviet military attache’s representative, Lieutenant Angelov. The sample was regarded as of such great value that
Motinov, the assistant military attache, immediately left for Moscow with it. In September, 1946, Mr. Rudkin again published an article in Focus in which he stated -
The only industrial countries one can safely say are not able to produce atomic bombs are Britain and Canada, which have introduced so much restrictive legislation to preserve the secret they haven’t got (Truman accepted all the help he could get from the British Empire scientists, but was very careful not to let them into any of the engineering secrets) that they have brought atomic research practically to a standstill in their own territories.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Motion (by Mr. McEwen) put -
That the honorable member for New England be granted an extension of time.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. j. S.Rosevear.)
Majority . . . . 17
Question so resolved in. the negative.
the motion of the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) is far reaching, and couched in, language of apparent importance. It contains these words -
The danger of Communist influence upon the Government and the Commonwealth Public Service, including the staff of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research.
The honorable member has failed to substantiate his charges, or to give any serious character to the motion which he has submitted. His first point was that there is a danger of Communist influence within the Australian Labour party. What did he say in support of that charge? He said that one Labour league in New South Wales has members who are not Communists, but near Communists. In New South Wales alone there are between 400 and 500 branches of the Australian Labour party, while in the other States there are 1,000 or 2,000 branches. From all those branches he selects one Labour league, that of Katoomba. He does not say that any member of that league is a Communist, but he gives a list of names of persons who, he says, are associated with Communists, and are a danger to the Government. If the honorable member were to say outside the House what he has said inside it on this subject, Ibelieve that some of the persons whose names are on the list that he read wouldbe able to seek a proper remedy. I do not believe that most of them are either Communists or the associates of Communists. However, the fact is that the Australian Labour party withdrew the charter of thatbranch, and excluded it from the organization. In other words, the Australian Labour party tried to get rid of the Communist element in its midst, and having done so, has brought upon itself the criticism of the honorable member. I have here a resolution proposed in 1943 by the late Prime Minister, Mr. Curtin, which still stands as the policy of the Australian Labour party. It is as follows -
The Australian Labour party refuses affiliation to and dissociates itself from the policy, method’s and propaganda of the Communist party, and all its auxiliary organizations. It declares the Communist party to be an antiLabour political organization. It declares, furthermore, that the Communist party is in direct conflict with the policy, platform and constitution ot the Australian Labour party.
Membership of the Australian Labour party is attainable “by every person who supports its principles and .policy, and who is not a member of any political party, or any subsidiary body connected therewith. It is by membership of the Australian Labour, party alone that a united front can be presented by the workers of £he Commonwealth towards the forces _of wa.r and Fascism’ and reaction generally.
That policy is accepted in every State, and is binding through -the Commonweal tb conference. It U unfitting that the honorable member for Kew England should make -charges such as we have heard to-day, and then- fail to support them. What he has said is .untrue of the Labour party and. its executive, and it is certainly untrue of the Government, the policy of -which was accurately stated by Mr. Curtin, and lias been applied faithfully by this Government.
I was unable to follow the honorable member’s argument about the Commonwealth Public .Service. He suggested that the Government was in some way to blame because the Public Service unions organized themselves in a certain way. I know that recently there was a trek to Canberra of a large number of public servants organized in a provocative way, their purpose being to pursuade the Government to interfere with the process of arbitration in the Public Service. The Prime Minister refused .to see the deputation, and in a pamphlet which was published afterwards he was attacked for having stood loyal to the unions, including the very council to which the honorable member for New England referred. The Prime Minister stood firmly against that attempt by pressure of numbers to affect the judgment of the Public Service Board and the Public Service Arbitrator. All the thanks he receives now is the suggestion by the honorable member for New England that in some way he is -encouraging Communism. He did the very reverse. Those are the facts.
The third matter raised by the honorable member for New England was in relation to employment in the Commonwealth Public Service. That aspect will be dealt with by the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman), who is in charge of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. However, there are 90,0.00 employees in the service of the
Commonwealth, and of that number the honorable member cited one, and only one, employee in support of his arguments today. Obviously, in Australia, where the Communist party is not an unlawful association, it will have a number of members. Its membership was reported four years ago to be 28,000, and since then it has -fallen .to .20,000. The probability is that in .all walks of life, not excluding the Commonwealth Public Service, there will be persons who are in sympathy with the Communist party and vote for its candidates, and may even be members of the party. I do not know exactly what policy the honorable member for New England would adopt in this matter. I know that at the last general elections the Australian Country party, through its leader, the right honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Fadden), .said that if returned to. office it would r.e-introduce Hie method of deportation in dealing with members of the Communist party. I do not know whether he seriously considered the fact that such action would be of doubtful validity, having regard to the decision of the High Court in the deportation case some years ago. I also recall .that the leader of the Australian Country party or some members of that party - I do not know whether they included” :the honorable member for New England - advocated >tho banning of the Communist party which, I suppose, means that membership of it shall be illegal and that every one associated with it shall be guilty of a criminal offence. That, I suppose, was the objective of that proposal. Under the Commonwealth’s wartime powers, regulations were passed in 1940 declaring the Communist party an . illegal body ; but it must not be assumed that anything -like that could be done now. However, even the regulations under which the - Communist party was banned were subsequently held by the High Court to be invalid. That action was not in relation to the Communist party, but that party was .covered by the regulations dealt with by the court. It is important to .see exactly .what policy the honorable member for New England would adopt. He has a reputation for liberal views on this matter, and I do ‘not know whether he would enforce the proposals which I have endeavoured, briefly, to analyse. Those proposals could not be accepted by any democratic government in this country. We told the people at the last general elections that if there were cases of advocacy of violence, prosecutions would have to be made; but I know of no single case .of advocacy of violence by any one associated with the Communist party. I am not defending any member of the Communist party in any way, but the honorable member for New England raised this matter recently in relation to security. He was entitled to do so, and his action on that occasion may produce good results so far as. security is concerned. His proposition to-day, however, is different. Taking, it to its logical conclusion, it is difficult to see where he would stop. The attitude of the Communist party towards the Government is’ illustrated by a sample of the propaganda which that party directs against the Government. In this pamphlet, which was issued by the Communist party, is reproduced a large photograph” of the Prime Minister which is headed by the caption, “ Wanted for Robbery of Pay Envelopes “. That is a shocking and disgraceful, thing, but it shows the Communist party’s intense hatred of the Government.
There are two extreme views on this matter. First, we have the view of the Communists which the Government repudiates, and in relation to which it adheres to the declaration made by the late Mr. Curtin which I have already cited, and the action taken by the Katoomba branch of the Australian Labour party, against persons merely suspected of being members of the Communist party. Secondly, the Communist party tends to bring into existence trends which are of the opposite character, that is, of a Fascist character. Honorable members need only study the advertisements published in the Melbourne press in relation to communism to . realize, that unless great care is taken there may arise in this country some sort of movement of the character of the “ New Guard “, which would advocate the use of violence and be a danger to the whole polity of this country. Between those two extreme views, the Government has advocated, and has carried into action, the democratic pro- cesses evidenced by the Parliament of this country, to respect democratic rights and to guard the security of the country ; and in any case of advocacy of violence appropriate action would immediately be taken. I submit^ therefore, that the honorable member has not shown that any Communist influence is exerted upon the Government. In fact, there is not. There is no influence whatever exerted by the Communist party upon the Government. In some respects, that matter has been dealt with in previous debates. I deny that allegation. The honorable member has not produced evidence in support of it, or any evidence.of any influence by Communists upon . the Public Service. Although there are 90,000 persons employed in the service of the Commonwealth, he cited only one case of a Commonwealth employee being a Communist; and even that case was unconvincing.
.- It is wise when approaching a matter of this character to speak in as temperate and restrained terms as one can, because I know of no other subject which seems to excite people’s feelings so much as that of communism. I am sorry that the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) was not given the usual courtesy of an extension of time when he was submitting his motion, I am also sorry that the honorable members opposite expended a good deal of time by interjecting because, after all, this is a subject of some importance whether one agrees, or not, with what a particular honorable member may say. The first thing I draw attention to is that no honorable member opposite ever seems to take the trouble to ascertain what the Communist party really is.. The AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt) has seen fit to evade that aspect, which is the very nub of the problem. The Communist party is a revolutionary party. Some people call it a political party. They say, “ It is just another political party”; and that is the basis of their approach to it.
– Order ! I do not desire to interrupt the honorable member’s speech, but I must remind him that a dissertation on what the Communist party is has no relation to the subjectmatter of this debate, which relates to the influence of that party upon the Government and the Commonwealth Public Service, including the staff of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research.-
– It is submitted that one can only understand these matters by understanding the technique adopted by an organization such as the Communist party, which proposes to establish not only a dictatorship but also a small oligarchy, first by the propagation of class war in particular, which has so permeated the Labour movement to Australia’s great disadvantage, and by making the Australian democratic system unworkable as the result of strikes and other interferences ; and secondly, by controlling key industries and institutions in Australia and permeating government departments with key men and Communist cell’s. The technique is well known ; we read about it in books and see it in action in many spheres. Every honorable member is well aware of what the Communist seeks to achieve and what his methods are. When the State is sufficiently weakened by this technique the next step is for the Communist to take over,. by force if necessary. The Communists of Australia undoubtedly intend to use force and to clamp a dictatorship upon this country from which we may never recover. It is also true that the Communist party of Australia is a branch of the Russian .movement. That is made manifest by the spy trials in Canada and the countless pieces of evidence published in reports, one of the latest being the report issued by the House of Representatives Committee of Inquiry in the United States of America. It is said by honorable members opposite as wellas by “ parlour pinks “ and by fellow travellers that Communism is a. humanitarian movement and not a revolutionary movement at all. The fact one should face is that in Australia, as elsewhere] the Communist organization is tough, hard and ruthless and seeks to “ collar “ the government of this country. Its strength is not to be measured, as the AttorneyGeneral suggests, merely by the votes its candidates secure at elections. It does not submit many candidates for election ; its members generally vote for the Labour candidates, but when candidates from both parties contest a seat they exchange preferences. That was done at the last
Commonwealth elections and it will be done at the forthcoming New South Wales State elections. It is sheer humhug to claim that there is no association between the Communist party and- the Australian Labour party when preferences are exchanged in that way. /
– Why do not Communist candidates oppose the honorable gentleman as they do the Labour candidates?
– They realize, perhaps, that I am such an important person that I must never be opposed. I have no doubt the same rule applies to the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James), as they do not oppose him either. Communist candidates do not go into electorates where they have no chance of success. Where it thinks it has no chance the party submits only token candidates.
– I had a Communist opponent in Kooyong, and by direction of Communist head-quarters his second preference votes went to the Labour party candidate.
– The two parties are associated. If one looks at the Sydney telephone directory one finds that in Sydney, whilst there are only five or six telephone numbers for the Australian Labour party, there are sixteen for the local Communist organization and its affiliated clubs. All the Communist party’s propaganda and literature discloses this affiliation.
Honorable members interjecting,
– Order ! Honorable members must cease interjecting.
– Honorable members opposite may not like these facts, and they express their displike for them by constant interjections. But facts cannot be evaded in that way. Having regard tothe avowed objectives of the Communist party in Australia, let us look at how itsofficials are employed. Who are thepeople in control of the big key industries of Australia? We know that the Federated Ironworkers Association of Australia is dominated by Mr. Thornton, that Mr. Healy is federal secretary, and that Mr. Roach is a prominent member of the Waterside Workers Federation. We have been told about Mr. Hughes, the secretary of the Clerks Union. We know about, Mr. Brown, who is Victorian secretary of the Australian Railways Union. “We. also know about Mr. Idris Williams, general president of the miners’ federation; Mr. Scanlon, vice-president of the Northern District Miners; Mr. Southwell, metropolitan organizer in Victoria of the Amalgamated Engineering Union; Mr. Flanagan, Victorian secretary of the Federated Ironworkers Association; Tom Wright, the secretary of the Sheet Metal Workers Union; Mr. Grant, secretary of the Boilermakers Society; the unbearable but irresistible Mr. Elliott, of whose activities in New Zealand we heard not a. little; Terry Gordon of the Ship Painters and”, Dockers Union ; and- many others. It is obvious from, this list of avowed Communists that the Communist party has achieved its objective of obtaining control of the key industries of Australia. The organization is obviously growing in importance in Australia and’ its. members are rapidly, infiltrating Government instrumentalities, as has been indicated by the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott). During the debate on the Stevedoring Industry Bill honorable members on this side of the House proposed an amendment designed to exclude any known Communists from appointment to public positions pf various kinds but it was not accepted’. One wonders why the amendment was rejected.
– Honorable members opposite obviously could, not reject their friends.
-Order ! The honorable member for Parramatta may not refer to a debate of the current session.
–I merely remind the House that that amendment was rejected.
-Order ! The honorable member must not. defy the Chair.
– I say to the House tern- 1perately and’ fairly tha.t a warning- has been issued - .and the Government should take heed- that in Australia- the three stages of the Communist technique are well advanced. The. next stage is that when the Communist organization believes it is strong enough it will’ take ever the government of the country and maintain its control by force and all the apparatus, of tyranny and oppression.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– The House has become accustomed to the “ red “ baiting activities of the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott). The case he has submitted this morning is such a poor one that it scarcely needs any reply from the. Government. Insofar as. the motion related to the alleged influence of” the Communist party on the Government, the Attorney-General has shown that the Government is not in any way subject tei such influence; that the Australia.!! Labour movement repudiates the Communist party and will’ not tolerate within, its ranks anyone who is a member of that party. The Government has stood firmly by the principle- held by the Australian Labour movement that any reforms must be made by constitutional means. Wc repudiate any attempt to bring about, reforms by revolutionary means. That is the main distinction . between the philosophy of the Australian Labour party and that of the Communist party. If there be any association between the- Communisparty and any other political party iri Australia it is between- the Communists and the anti-Labour parties rather than the Australian Labour party. On two occasions, I have been opposed by a Communist candidate in the- electorate of Corio, and on each occasion the preference votes of the Communist candidate went to the anti-Labour candidate. An examination of more recent figures than those of the Corio, electorate - the last occasion on which a’ Communist candidate stood for election in Corio was at the 1940 byelection - shows that in New South Wales the same thing has occurred. At a- certain election in New South Wales;,. United Australia party and Australian Country party candidates advised their supporters to give their second preferences to- Communist party candidates. If honorable members opposite doubt the- accuracy of my statements I can show them a copy of an advertisement that appeared in the Sydney Morning- Herald at that time. Coming to- a still more- recent’ date; at the last State elections in Western’ Australia the electorate of Swan, at Midland Junction, approximately 400 preferences went to the Liberal party candidate.
– How does the Minister know that?
– That is a deliberate lie.
– Order! If members of the Opposition “ hand it out “, they must also learn to “ take it “. . The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Hamilton) has. made a most disorderly remark. This is not. the place to shout out about “deliberate lies” Should this conduct continue I shall be obliged to take strong action in the matter.
– I have shown clearly that if the Communist party has affiliations with any other political organizations, they are the non-Labour parties. However, I shall not waste any more time on that aspect of the matter. I come now to the appointment of Mr. A. W. Rudkin, an alleged member of the Communist party, to the staff of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. It is alleged that the Government, the Public Service, and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, are being influenced by the appointment of Communists, but the only evidence that the honorable member for New England gave in substantiation of that charge was that, one individual who. was a Communist had been appointed to the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, the total staff of which is 2,600.
– Why have any at all ?
– Technical appointments to the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research are, made on the recommendation of the executive committee. lt is true that appointments must be approved by the Minister in charge of the . Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, but obviously it would be impossible for the Minister to ascertain the political affiliations of all the individuals appointed to this big organization. The appointment of Mr. Rudkin was recommended by the executive committee in January, 1945. On that date the members of the executive committee were Sir David Rivett, Dr. Richardson, Dr. Clunies
Ross and Dr. White. Will any honorable member opposite suggest that any one of these distinguished gentlemen is associated with the Communist party? The fact is that appointments are made with due regard to the qualifications and merits of the individuals concerned. The committee is not concerned with the political opinions of prospective appointees. Its only object is to appoint the individual best qualified to do a job. As I have said, the appointment of Mr. Rudkin was made on the recommendation of the executive committee.
– Did the committee also recommend Mr. Mountjoy ?
– No. Appointments to the executive committee itself are the prerogative of the Minister. That is an entirely different matter. ‘ When the hon.orable member for New England asked a question about Mr. Rudkin’s appointment, it was alleged, and subsequently found to be true, that Mr. Rudkin had been, convicted in Western Australia in 1940 for an offence under the National Security Regulations. The truth is that at that time, there was a feeling approaching hysteria amongst certain members of the community because of the inadequate measures taken in regard to air raid precautions within Australia. Undoubtedly there were many cases at that time in which individuals were wrongfully convicted under the National Security Regulations. There was another case in Western Australia where an individual was convicted and sentenced to six months imprisonment because he had a copy of a Communist newspaper in his possession. The Communist party at that time was a banned organization. Although the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) now says that he does not believe in banning the Communist party, his Government did in fact ban that organization in 1940. Since then, the High Court has ruled that the Communist party was banned illegally because there was no constitutional authority for such action. I do not know whether the executive committee of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research was aware when it recommended Mr. Rudkin, that he had been imprisoned in Western Australia, but in the circumstances, it might have been quite entitled to disregard that fact entirely. In any case, recommendations made by the executive committee are placed before me for consideration, and my part as a Minister is to approve or reject them. Taking into account all matters relating to the appointment of Mr. Rudkin I believe that the interests of this country can best be served by appointing to positions on the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research those individuals who are best qualified to fill them.
– Order ! The Minister’s time has expired.
Motion (by Mr. Scully) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. J. S. Rosevear.)
Majority … 16
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the negative.
Debate resumed from the 22nd April (vide page 1496), on motion by Dr.
That the bill be now read a second time.
– We have before us one of the most important bills, which I suppose, could be produced to the Parliament by any government. The AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt) came to light last night with a list of 54 amendments. It is not the first time he has brought down a bill and found the need to amend it. extensively before the secondreading debate has been concluded, but I think this is the most important occasion. In those 54 amendments we have some remarkable changes of front on the part of the Attorney General. Accompanying the amendments is a memorandum explaining them. According to the memorandum, in amendment No. 3, he is goingto define the jurisdiction of the Arbitration Court. Amendment No. 5, he states, is directed to the better organization and allocation of the work of the conciliation commissioners. Amendments Nos.8 and 9 are designed to enable certain action to be taken. No. 12 is designed to confer certain powers on the court. Nos. 14 and 15 are both designed to ensure that certain things shall be clone. No. 17 enables a conciliation commissioner to summon certain parties to a conference a power that he did not have before. No.18 is designed to ensure the attendance of certain persons. Nos. 19 and 20 are intended to bring certain proposed new sub-sections more into conformity. Amendment No. 21 expresses more clearly the intention of the Government. In each case I am quoting the exact words of the AttorneyGeneral from the memorandum. In amendment No, 32 the words proposed to be omitted are considered to be unnecessary. He has had another change of mind there. The note on amendment No. 33 says that the proposed new section would be more easily understood if the language now to be used were inserted. In No. 34 he wishes to place the court and the conciliation commissioners on the same footing. In No. 37 he states that certain things are made clear and in Nos. 38 and 39 that it is desirable that the section should apply in a certain way. In No. 40 he extends the operation of a proposed new section to all employees, not merely to children. That is a sort of juvenile section. In No. 42 he breaks a proposed new section into three, in order, in his own words, to make something else clear. In No. 50 he provides for better co-ordination. In No. 51 it is thought that one of the duties ought to be altered. In No. 52 he brings the bill into accord with the existing practice. In nine instances in this memorandum he starts off by saying that the amendment is designed to make certain things clear. I say that the amendments are so far-reaching, deep-seated and wide that the proper thing for the AttorneyGeneral to do is to withdraw the bill and recast it. Never in my parliamentary career of 20 years have I known of a government bringing down a major measure of this sort, and, before the secondreading debate has been concluded, introducing a host of amendments.
– The honorable member will remember a similar experience in respect of the Be-Establishment and Employment Bill.
– I do remember that. I said that this was not the first instance of this having been done; but it is the worst that I have known the Attorney-General to be guilty of. ‘ We are becoming accustomed to the spectacle of what is believed to be one of the great legal minds in the Common-‘ wealth drafting legislation of this kind, introducing it in the Parliament with his imprimatur, saying over the air, in the press and in the House, “Look at the result of my labour. Here contained in a few printed sheets are the fruits of months, and perhaps years of careful study of the industrial laws of the Commonwealth “, and then, before the debate on the second reading ends, coming to light with 54 amendments, some of them of a major character. If that is the attitude of the Attorney-General on matters like this, what reliance can we place on his second-reading speech? The proper thing for him to do is to withdraw this bill, have it redrafted and reprinted and then come down and make another second-reading speech based on the new terms incorporated in the bill.
I do not think this bill will achieve much. I do not think we are going to get much in the way of industrial peace as the result of the passage of this legislation, because I do not think the will to industrial peace resides in the direction and control of trade unionism today. Those of us who were not alive 50 years ago, or were too young to realize, share with the rest as the result of our reading a knowledge of the industrial conditions that then existed. That scene has been completely changed, but, after reading a lot of the remarks of alleged trade union leaders, one would think that the ideas which applied in industry 50 or 100 years ago had been unaltered by the passage of time ‘or the intervention of governments. In the old days, we had rampant industrialism, but to-day we have a form of trade unionism which is just as rampant as the unbridled and irresponsible industrialism of 100 years ago.
Modern industrial unionism is absolutely sectional in its outlook. In many instances, it is anti-social in its operations. It is militant, and it is party political in a very vigorous, and even offensive, form. Its partisanship is offensive even from the point of view of many of its members. It exists for the enforcement of certain political views upon its own members, many of whom are forced to belong to unions. Under a system of compulsory unionism, we have a state of affairs in which, in certain circumstances, if a man is not a union member he is denied the right to work in a particular avocation. That is absolutely contrary to the ideals of democratic government or of full employment. Democratic government is a subject about which the Attorney-General speaks very frequently without ever going to the trouble of defining it. I am not sure that the right honorable gentleman has a definition of the term. I should be interested to hear him if he would take even five minutes to tell us, in a few concise phrases, just what he does mean by the term “democratic government “, which he used earlier to-day in another debate. Study his statements though I may - and I hear most of them - I am not able to say to myself, “ Well, the Minister’s views on democratic government are so and so and such and such “. I have mentioned the anti-social attitude of many trade unions. What I have to say on this subject will not be popularly received in certain quarters, but it must be said to the unions before very long. Many trade unions to-day are prepared to cut off power, gas, light and transport services and to hold up supplies of sugar, meat, bread and other commodities, according to their whims and the dictates of the sectional policies that they pursue. Such institutions ought to be under government control, and they ought to be dealt with just as carefully and as vigorously as any trust or combine would have been dealt with by the Labour party 30 years ago, had it possessed the power to do so. I refer now to the political aspects and activities of modern trade unionism. Because a man happens to belong to a ‘certain trade union, it does not follow that his political views necessarily must be those of the Labour party, or of the Communist party for that matter. I think that it would be an excellent thing for trade unionism at large if the unions became merely industrial organizations and were prohibited from taking any part in the support of any political organization. That would be a first-class improvement.
– That is how the unions were originally.
– Yes. To-day I know from personal experience that many trade union members have no more faith than I have in the Australian Labour party and its policy. Nevertheless, they are obliged, virtually by law and by the facts of the situation, to subscribe to the funds of this political party in which they have no faith at all. One of the great . works that the AttorneyGeneral could do would be to devote himself to a study of trade unionism as related to democratic government, assuming that he is able to make up his mind about what he means when he talks of “ democratic government “. I am sure that he would be prepared, after mature deliberation and fair consideration, to agree that a person should not be obliged to give financial support to any political party merely because he happens to earn his daily bread in a certain way.
– Unionists are not obliged to do that. All sorts of political opinions are represented in the unions.
– The honorable member need not think that, because I come from a farm, I am altogether innocent. There is a fairly large concentration of secondary industries in my electorate, including cement works, agricultural implement factories, woollen mills, paper, mills and saw mills, as well as railways. I know many of the men who work in those places and I know what their political views are. This is a question which the Australian Labour party must face in the very near future, whether it wants to or not. One of the grievances frequently expressed by Government supporters is that, because the Communists have taken control of certain trade unions, the Australian Labour party has been politically weakened. We have heard sHell complaints in this chamber time after time. If control of a anion by the Communists weakens the political Labour party, them it stands to reason that, if Communist infiltration had not taken place, that union would be supporting the Labour party, not the Liberal party or the Australian Countryparty.
We are all greatly disturbed by the great degree and variety of chaos in the public life of the community due to the strikes which are continually taking place. I cannot see anything in this hill which gives me any hope that such strikes will be more infrequent or of shorter duration after the measure becomes law. The whole of the bill merely represents a concession to the extreme left wing of the trade union ‘movement. It has very little, relationship to the needs and requirements of the community at large. After it, becomes law, we shall merely have chaos by conciliation instead of chaos by strikes. In order to prove that statement, I need only refer to the remarks of the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James). That vociferous gentleman was proud to declare to this Parliament - and we must take his words at their face value - that no man would be permitted to be a conciliation commissioner unless be bad virtually been chosen by the unions. He said that, if a commissioner did not do what the trade unions expected him to do, there would be no alternative but to remove him from office. In other words, unless these commissioners are selected by the trade unions, or are content to remain willingly subservient to the policy of the trade unions and to have a complete disregard for the rights of the community at large, they will not remain in office. That is a direct and complete negation of everything -for which arbitration and conciliation stand. If we are to have conciliation with a view to preventing disputes, instead of arbitration with a view to settling disputes after they have occurred, it stands to reason that the conciliation commissioners must take into account every point that will affect the life of the community. We live in a very complex civilization, and at a stage of the world’s history when any one industry may throw out of gear the whole of industrial and civilized life. For instance, the coal-miners, if they wish to go on strike, are entitled to hold up the whole country to very great inconvenience, extremely serious losses, and, perhaps, even to ransom. They are permitted to say, “ We will not work under the Arbitration Court award “, which is the law of the country. In other, words, they may say, “ We will defy the law of the country “, and at the same time they may declare, “No other citizen shall be allowed to obey the law of the country “. That is the crux of the matter. I willingly concede the right of a person to say, “I disagree entirely with the Arbitration Court’s award. It is no good to me, and I am not prepared to work under it “. That man, in any democratic community, as I understand the meaning of “ democracy “, should have the right to say, “ This award, these hours of labour, these conditions of employment, and these wages do not suit me, and, therefore, I am not prepared to continue with the -job “. That man is entitled to seek other employment. But I do not concede the right to any section of the community to say, “ We are not satisfied with this award, we refuse to work under it, and, in addition, we are not prepared to allow any other person to work under it “. That is one of the most undemocratic and anti-social actions that could be ta.ken by any body of men. Yet that action is taken day after day by unions, often, I am satisfied, with the support and the connivance, and, in many instances, I think, at the instigation, of men who are in the dual position of leaders of trade unions and Ministers of the Crown, sometimes in the Commonwealth and sometimes in the State spheres. The Attorney-General .should be one of the legally-minded men in this chamber. As n. former member of the High Court Bench, he should have a very great respect for the law. He should ensure that the law is respected and obeyed. If the Government encourages or permits a condition of affairs in which men are allowed either individually or in the mass to disregard and defy the law, this disobedience will extend to branches of the law other than industrial law. It is only a small step from one to the other.
This state of affairs has existed for a long time. We are living in a period which, in my opinion, is the worst in the history of the Commonwealth for industrial strikes. I admit quite frankly that I was one of those who in 1940-41 considered that, in certain circumstances, the Labour party in office might be able to obtain from organized industrial labour in war-time a degree of obedience which might not be conceded to a government formed by the parties which now constitute the Opposition. In that, I have to admit, I was wrong. The Labour party was not able to get any better production, any improvement of discipline, or any superior industrial leadership because of its political views than were the governments led by the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) and the leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden). Industrial labour appeared to take the stand that it at last had friends at court and might be able to browbeat and perhaps blackmail them into doing things for them that they were not prepared to ask of another government. In other words, industrial labour thought that it might get, and I believe that it did get, from the Labour Government, certain terms and conditions that it did not have the hardihood to submit to a government composed of the parties which now constitute the Opposition in this Parliament. Out of that, we have witnessed a steady development and increase of the downright arrogance of some trade union leaders who have come here .repeatedly and issued virtual ultimatums to the Prime Minister of the day in his own office. Yet they were not shown the door! They seemed to have been accepted, if not as friends, then perhaps as masters who came to collect the rent or to see whether the Parliament was functioning properly. From that, it was only a small step to the introduction of this bill.
Sitting suspended from, 12.k5 to 2.15 p.m.
– Prior to the suspension of the sitting I said that we did not know whether the amendments before us were the result of certain investigations by the Attorney-General or whether pressure had been brought to bear on the Government. I believe that our, arbitration law is due for a thorough overhaul, but it does -not get it in this measure. One of the most wicked things in the community to-day is the differentiation in rates of pay as between people who are members of unions and associations and those who are not. For an illustration of that we do not have to go outside Parliament House. If men are members of cer’tain service organizations they get certain rates of pay, travelling allowances, and so forth, but if they are not they receive less remuneration and smaller travelling allowances, although they may be doing identically the same work. I think that is a shameful proceeding. I think that if the Arbitration Court is to be of any benefit to this community the time has come when it should be treated differently from the ordinary courts. Its functions are not legal in the ordinary sense; its object is the promotion of peace in industry, and its entire efforts should be directed to that end. Therefore, the old practice of a complaint being made to the Arbitration Court by certain bodies with an application for a certain award should cease. The Arbitration Court should make an award for an entire industry covering everybody in the industry, so that all will be bound by, and entitled to the benefits of, it, whether they happen to be members of trade unions or not. The principle under which the King’s subjects are divided into two elements introduces one of the worst examples of class distinction which we could possibly have in the community. That principle is unjustifiable, outmoded and indefensible. The arbitration machinery will have to be overhauled to remedy these grave defects, but the present Government is too reactionary and conservative in outlook to indulge in anything like that. ‘ The Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward), who now appears to be getting ready to reply on behalf of the Government, is one of the worst reactionaries on the Government side. . He is one of those who would be a revolutionary if he could. But time and circumstances do not permit it, so he hesitates on the brink Of the precipice, never quite prepared to go over, and always maintaining his grip on the ground. Although there is much more that I could say, I am not going to delay the passage of the bill any further. I have to do some electioneering over the week-end in an effort to upset the McGirr Government in New South Wales, and I shall reserve my remarks on industrial arbitration until we have a government which does not represent only labour interests-
– During the debate on this very important measure quite a great deal of extraneous matter has been introduced. Most members of the Opposition have availed themselves of this opportunity to vent their spleen and antagonism on the organized workers of this country. I do not know whether the honorable member who has just resumed his seat himself recognizes the fact, but he has often ‘advocated fascist methods in dealing with trade unions in this country. It was the Fascists who first introduced the idea of government-controlled trade unions, and that is what the honorable member has suggested this afternoon. It is very evident that although he is a representative of the people in a Parliament democratically elected he has actually no faith in the democratic form of government. This measure, as is recognized by most honorable members who have addressed themselves to this question, is long overdue. Even the Leader of the
Opposition (Mr. Menzies) has admitted that there is need for reform in regard to our arbitration machinery. He admitted that the present system was not the best that could be devised. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt), when he was Minister for Labour and National Service, convened a conference which was presided over by Sir George Beeby, then Chief Judge. of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, to consider means to streamline our arbitration machinery. Therefore it is quite evident that most members of this chamber recognize the great need for improvement in our system of arbitration. The objections of the Leader of the Opposition to the present measure “were, first, that it was going to destroy the jurisdiction of the Arbitration Court, secondly, that Labour governments would appoint conciliation commissioners not because of their particular qualifications for the positions but because of their political affiliations, and, thirdly, he complained that, there was no provision for appeal against decisions of the conciliation commissioners, and finally he said that there would be no unanimity in their judgments. With regard to the last criticism, one of the amendments- circulated is evidently designed to overcome that difficulty. The amendment provides for the appointment of a chief conciliation commissioner with a view to securing some degree of unanimity in the awards of the commissioners’ awards. Several members of the Opposition said - and the Leader of the Opposition repeated several times in his speech - that they are not opposed to siners provided the right men. are appointed - meaning no doubt that as long as the Opposition parties can secure the appointment of individuals who are prejudiced and biased against the organized workers of this country they have no objection. In support of his argument the Leader of the Opposition quoted as an example of the danger of appointing as commissioners men qualified only by practical experience in industry paragraph 7r. of the report of Mr. Justice Davidson who conducted an inquiry into the coal-mining industry, which reads -
However honest a .person may be he cannot avoid a bias in favour of .the workers amongst whom his life has been spent.
If we are to accept and apply Mr. Justice Davidson’s comment, is it not equally obvious that men who have had long association with employers’ organizations, chambers of .manufactures and commerce and, in some cases, direct political association with anti-Labour forces would have a prejudice even though in some cases it may be unconsciously against the workers of this country? I sincerely hope that those appointed to these positions will be men who have had practical experience in industry and association with workers’ organizations, men with a sympathetic approach to the problems of the workers. Honorable members opposite have impliedly suggested that men who have been associated with anti-Labour movements and who hold anti-Labour views forget their preconceived bias and become completely impartial the moment they are appointed to judicial positions. I should like to mention merely one or two of such appointments in this connexion. The present Acting Chief Judge of the Arbitration Court, Judge DrakeBrockman, was for many years an anti-Labour senator in this Parliament. I have gone to the trouble of examining some of the speeches he delivered an the Parliament and I could not find anything in them to suggest that he was in any way unbiased or impartial. The late Judge Dethridge was president of an employers’ federation, and had not demonstrated any .impartiality in his consideration of the claims of workers, prior to his elevation to the bench. Then there is Sir John Latham, the present Chief Justice of the High Court. When I first entered this Parliament, Sir John Latham was a member of one of the anti-Labour parties. I consider that there has been no more vicious or prejudiced anti-Labour advocate in this Parliament than was the present occupant of the Chief Justiceship ‘ of the High Court. The mere manner in which he secured elevation to that position would, in my opinion, lead many people to believe that the anti-Labour parties give very great weight to a person’s associations and opinions when they are filling such important positions. Sir John Latham was appointed to his present position in order to create a vacancy in this Parliament, so that the present
Leader of the Opposition might enter the political field in the Commonwealth sphere. I recall that Sir John Latham on one occasion, as a member of this Parliament, said - ‘ The independence of the judiciary is essential to the preservation of our national and individual liberties’, and it is upon the independence of the judiciary that the just and nonpolitical interpretation and just administration of the law depend. The judges, when they are appointed, take an oath to administer the law without fear, favour or affection. I say that I agree that the acceptance by a Cabinet of political direction regarding appointments to the’ judiciary is unsound and strikes vitally at the authority of the court.
There .are innumerable instances, when appointments to various Commonwealth courts have been made, of very great attention having been paid by anti-Labour parties to the past affiliations of those whom they appointed.
Another objection raised by the Leader of the Opposition was in the matter of appeals. It is rather peculiar that he should have raised an objection not only against the absence, of the right of appeal against the decision of a conciliation commissioner, but also the absence of any provision which would empower this Parliament to vary a decision by a conciliation commissioner. I do not know whether his suggestion is that the Parliament should have power to interfere with decisions of judicial authorities in matters in which they believe that the public welfare is concerned.’ I consider t,hat, in the past, the Arbitration Court has been permitted in many instances to exercise legislative as well as judicial functions. There are certain matters upon which, in my opinion, this Parliament should adjudicate; for example, a standard working week, and the basis upon which the basic wage shall be determined. But when this Government attempted to secure- for the Parliament additional powers which would enable it to give some guidance or direction to the Arbitration Court on those very important matters, the parties now sitting in Opposition advised the people to reject its proposals. In the past, the Opposition parties have consistently advocated that these functions, which in my opinion are purely legislative in character, should be left exclusively to the court.
The Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) and the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) are to be complimented upon the manner in which they have framed this legislation. I am not arguing that it will ensure complete industrial peace; but I do’ believe that it represents a practical approach to the’ problem, and that very beneficial results will .accrue from it. One proposal is that a bureau of research and statistics shall be established. “What is the present position? The Leader .of the Opposition tried to belittle the efforts of trade union advocates when he said that they- were long-winded and, because of their actions in court, had been responsible for protracting the proceedings. Trade union advocates cannot afford to run the ri.sk of leaving unargued any section of the case on behalf of their men. when the matter comes before the court for determination. The establishment of a bureau of research and statistics will enable matters of fact which are beyond dispute to be made immediately available to the court; therefore, much repetition of factual matter will be avoided. Trade union advocates will realize that. The Leader of the Opposition has admitted that, if practical men are appointed .as conciliation commissioners they will be- able to get to the seat of any trouble directly and immediately. Long overdue in this country is a revision of the principle upon which the basic wage is determined. It would appear that anti-Labour representatives who have been appointed to the Arbitration Court, for many years have always regarded what is termed the Harvester judgment as the basis for all time upon which the basic wage in this country should be determined. Looking back over past records, I have found that when that judgment was made the determination was that 60 per cent, of the wage represented food, 16 per cent, repres’ented rent, and 24 per cent, represented miscellaneous items. Meanwhile, the percentage available for food has decreased, whilst the percentage for rent has increase. It would a’ppear that, according to some people, the wage of the workers must be tied to the principle upon which it was established in 1907 no matter by how much the productivity of industry may have since increased. That is wrong. The full Arbitration Court itself has expressed the opinion that some of the matters which it is today called upon to determine ought to be determined by the Parliament. I believe that that point was madeby the Leader of the Opposition. I have discovered that the late Sir George Beeby, in the course of an inquiry in respect of the basic wage, said -
Wehave clone thebest we can in the circumstances to find the minimum standard for the community. But we have no rules to show what share of total production should go in wages, in profits, and public services.
Doubtless, the court considered that it was seriously embarrassed and restricted in its approach to this problem by the fact that it had had no guidance from the Parliament. The very basis upon which the wages of workers in industry are determined has been altered by anti-Labour governments. The late Mr. Justice Higgins, in the Harvester judgment in 1907, said-
The provision for fair and reasonable treatment is obviously designed for the benefit of the employees in the industry; and it must be meant to secure for them something which they cannot get by the ordinary system of bargaining with employers. The standard must, therefore, be something else, and I cannot think of any other standard appropriate than the normalneeds for each employee, regarded as a human being, living in a civilized country.
That principle has been departed from materially; because, whereas the early Arbitration Court judges based their decisions on the requirements of existence in a civilized community, an anti-Labour government changed the law and made decent existence dependent upon the capacity of the employers to pay. Therefore, whether or not industry can afford to pay is a matter to which the court should devote its attention ; and, in the past, the court has not applied itself as it should have clone to this very important aspect of the fixation of wages. Furthermore, many judges have shown themselves to be out of sympathy with the workers by their approach to the problem and their biased statements. That, however, is not unique to Australia, but exists wherever the system of arbitration has been accepted. The chairman of a British royal commission on the coal industry said to Mr. Robert Smillie, then president of the miners’ federation, answering one of the union’s claims -
But Mr. Smillie, do you really mean it when you say the miners actually want baths in their houses?
In 1937 Judge Dethridge, when dealing with a claim by workers, said that he regarded radio receiving sets as being outside the necessities of a working man’s home. Would any one argue to-day that a radio set is not a necessity in every home ?
Honorablemembers opposite may say that more cannot be taken out of industry than is put into it. I have heard that argument many times. Those who advance it say that wages must have some relation to the capacity of the industry to pay. But when the court is determining such matters, why is it that only the wages of the workers are determined on that basis? The workers in an industry receive a portion of the value of its production in the form of salaries and wages. The employers also receive a portion of the output of the industry in the form of dividends and profits. If it is right to determine the wages of the workers on the capacity of the industry to pay, it is logical to argue that those who draw their incomes from the industry in the form of dividends and profits should also be subject to the same conditions.
– That is the position.
– I should like the right honorable gentleman to tell the House of any instances in which dividends and profits have been closely examined by the court, or of any attempt to decide whether an industry could afford to pay them. The fact is that the courts have invariably accepted evidence submitted by employers that the industry could not afford to pay higher wages. Some years ago the Leader of the Opposition was associated with an attempt to prevent the court from ascertaining the exact position of the Shell Oil Company. When an inquiry into the activities of private oil companies was in progress, and a request that the books of the company should be examined in order to ascertain its profits was made, the company, on the advice of the right honorable gentleman, refused to produce its hooks and documents to the court.
– That is untrue.
Mr.WARD. - Later, the matter was referred to the Privy Council. As an illustration to support my argument I draw attention to what happened in connexion with the Bellambi Coal Company. That company had a capital of £225,000 in 1908. By 1930 its shareholders had capital amounting to £520,000 returned’ to them. That is to say, they received in return practically twice as much as their original capital. When the company was reconstructed its capital was £130,000, and its reserves were stated to be £118,000.For a number of years that company paid dividends as high at 17½ per cent notwithstanding that practically twice its original capital had been returned to the shareholders. Some of the gentlemen now occupying high judicial positions revealed their attitude towards the workers prior to their elevation to such high offices. The present Chief Justice of the High Court, Sir John Latham, when referring to the Premiers plan, said in this Parliament -
I accept the necessity for the reduction of governmental expenditure proposed in the bill. I do so under each of the headings mentioned, salaries, wages and pensions, including the maternity allowance which, although not a pension, is an allied payment, and also invalid and old-age and war pensions. These payments were fixed on a prosperity basis, and we cannot afford to keep them up in the present difficult time.
My objection is that when the occasion is considered opportune, the people who believe that expenditure should be reduced always commence at the bottom by suggesting that budgets should be balanced not by a reduction of dividends and profits payable to the wealthy section of the community but by making a direct a ttack on the wages of the workers.
The Leader of the Opposition also complained that there was not sufficient provision in this legislation to discipline the workers, whilst the honorable member for Fawkner placed in the same category men who had committed breaches of the industrial law and those who offended against the criminal laws of the country.
– I did not say that.
– The suggestion in the honorable member’s statement was that workers should be classified and dealt with as criminals. That is the unsympathetic approach of members of the Opposition to this problem.
I shall now deal with the charge that workers frequently defy the orders of the court. They are not the only section of the community to do so, nor are they the only persons dissatisfied with decisions of the court.
– I said that whatever penalties existed for breaches of the law should apply equally to all offenders.
– Mr. Justice Higgins,. who was regarded as a fair-minded member of the Bench of the Arbitration Court, gave to the builders labourers a working week of 44 hours. Later he gave a 44hour working week to the miners at Broken Hill and to the timber workers.. The employers became alarmed, and decided that the activities of Mr. Justice Higgins must be curbed. As they were not able to remove him from the bench they arranged to have the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act amended to make it necessary for the Full Court to deal with such matters as the fixing of standard hours. That action shows that even when a judge of the court is prepared to adopt a sympathetic attitude towards the claims of the workers in industry anti-Labour forces are prepared to go to any lengths to prevent him from continuing to give decisions not acceptable to them.
I shall again refer to the period covered by the Premiers plan. The Commonwealth Arbitration Court had to deal with a claim for a reduction of the basic wage. By some peculiar reasoning, thecourt decided that an allround 10 per cent, reduction of wages should he applied notwithstanding that the basic wage was the minimum fixed by the court itself. When the workers attempted to have the wage restoredat a later stage they were not completely successful. If the workers of this country want any reminder of how much regard anti-Labour governments have for decisions of the court, I remind them of what happened in New South Wales some time ago. The anti-Labour Government in New South Wales led by Mr. Stevens passed what was known as the
Relief of Unemployment Act. Most of the workers at that time were not much concerned, because they believed that it would apply only on works which were initiated for the alleviation of unemployment. However, the act empowered the Minister to declare any work to he a relief work, and once that was done he had authority to determine what wages and industrial conditions should apply. The anti-Labour Government in New South “Wales extended this principle beyond what could be regarded as unemployment relief works. For instance, the Metropolitan “Water Sewerage and Drainage Board persuaded the Minister to declare one of its normal undertakings a relief work, and when the workers received their wages the following week they received relief rates only, not award rates. The union took the case before Mr. Pryor, the industrial magistrate, who found in favour of the workers. However, the employers appealed to the Pull Court, which declared, that the Minister had authority to declare any work a relief work. If that Government had remained long enough in office all government and semi-government undertakings in New South “Wales would have been operating under relief conditions, not as the result, of an order of the court, but on the order of the government itself.
In 1.927, Mr. .Justice Piddington conducted an investigation of the basic wage, and he recommended a substantial increase. However, the workers did not obtain the increase. Immediately the judge issued his determination setting forth what he regarded as a fair and reasonable wage, there was a storm of protest from employers organizations, which declared that the payment of the higher wage would cost so many more millions of pounds, and that industry would crash under the burden. The workers are the only section of the community who have ever had their awards determined on the basis of the ability of industry to pay.
I now propose to quote certain statements made by anti-Labour members in this Parliament which make clear their attitude towards any suggestion that the workers should receive- fair treatment. A former member for Gippsland, Mr. Paterson, who was .a member of the Australian Country party, said that it would be necessary to have many of the harassing restrictions on the employment of labour set aside, and to allow employer and employee to make their own arrangements. Everybody knows what would happen to the workers during a period when unemployment was prevalent under a system of that kind. In March, 1932, Mr. Thorby, who was an Australian Country pary candidate at the last election, said -
Rather must wo as a Parliament and n nation provide employment in reproductive avenues where labour can be economically and profitably used, and endeavour to increase the exportable production of the country. It would bc desirable to remove many of the legislative restrictions placed upon those engaged in rural industries. We all know that many primary producers refrain from employing outside labour because of those restrictions, so that production is either diminished or the maximum result is not obtained from their holdings. It may be necessary for our governments to agree temporarily to suspend the operations of legislation such as the Hut Accommodation Act. the Workers’ Compensation Act, the Child Endowment Taxation Act, and the Rural Workers’ award.
According to him, all forms of protection which have been granted to the workers by Labour Governments were to be swept aside.
– Back to the jungle !
– That is so. The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White), speaking on the 17th of March, 1932. declared - and I quote from Hansard. page 1275 - . .
It would be better if the basic wage provision of the industrial awards did not operate until the workers reached the age of 23 or 25. At the same time the frills of Arbitration awards might be laid aside. The condition that provides that time and a half must be paid to a man who works for two days or less - a feature of many Arbitration awards - keeps numbers of shop assistants out of work. The bulk of extraneous payments should be wiped out.
He now criticizes this Government because it wishes to amend arbitration legislation so as to make a more realistic approach to the problems of the workers. It is not necessary to throw our minds back many years in order to recall what anti-Labour governments were capable of doing, and this is true whether they called themselves Liberal or United Australia party or Australian Country party governments. Indeed, one would have to watch the newspapers closely from day to day to be sure just what title they were going under at any particular time, but at all times they were active in opposition, in the interests of the workers. Not many years ago, the unfortunate daughters of the workers had to work in city “ rag-shops “ for six months for no wages at all. They were supposed to be working to gain experience. Then, if the employer wanted them to continue - and that was only if he could find no other girls who were wanting experience - they were paid 2s. Sd. a week. In those days they did not work on only one late night. From Monday to Saturday they worked all day and late into the night. It is not so many years since women were trundling- clay in the brickyards for 12s. to 14s. a week. The workers should be very mindful of any proposition put forward by antiLabour governments allegedly for their welfare. From bitter experience we know that nothing good can come to the workers out of such proposals.
The Leader of the Opposition, and some of his supporters, professed to be worried because the Government has not disciplined the workers. They declare that anarchy prevails .in industry, and they say that production should be increased. Let me. recall some of the methods employed by the right honorable gentleman himself when he was Prime Minister. In 1940, just before the present Government came into office, there was a very serious strike on the northern coal-fields, one of the most serious -of recent years. However, the Leader of the Opposition, who was then- the Prime Minister, did not attempt to coerce the miners All he did was to go to the coal-fields and make a plea to the miners to return to work. Never before have I heard so much irresponsible talk about the activities of Communists who are said to foment industrial trouble. I worked for many years in industry, and I know from personal experience that it is not an easy matter to get men to down tools and leave work, because they know that by doing so the first people they penalize are those dependent upon them. The workers down tools only when they have, a just grievance, which they have failed by other methods to have rectified. It is only in desperation that they resort to direct action. Is it not thehistory of industrial relations in this country that on many occasions theworkers have had to resort to the weapon of the strike in order to fight for what they believe to be their just claims? Let us take, for example, the coal-mining industry. Does any honorable memberopposite suggest that conditions in that industry to-day are what they should be, or that this Government is responsible for those conditions? The coal-mining, industry badly requires re-organization in order to provide necessary amenities for the miners and improvements of their working conditions. I doubt whether any honorable member opposite has any real knowledge of the conditions under which the miners work, or, if he had such Knowledge, whether he would have sufficient sympathy with the workers even to examine their claims. We find that whenever a stoppage of transport occurs some city workers complain when they have to walk even an additional block. They protest because the usual transport from their homes to their places of work is not available. But many coal-miners after they reach their place of employment have to walk many miles to the coal face, not over even pavements, but over rough tracks. They have to carry heavy pit tools, and at times, because of the lowness of the pit roof they are often bent almost double. Evidence is available to show that members of the miners federation have been so fatigued at the end of a day’s work that they have paid a few shillings out of their fortnightly pay to wheelers for the privilege of being allowed to hang on to the traces of ponies in order to help themselves up inclines. This’ Government decided to examine the industry, and to expend large sums of money to improve conditions of employment in the mines. But those who have capital invested in the industry’ said that they could not afford any expenditure in that direction. However, the Government, in co-operation with the Government of New South Wales, was prepared to’ expend large sums of money in order to improve conditions . and provide amenities for the miners. That was the purpose of the Coal Industry Bill of 1946. But what happened when the Government made that attempt? Honorable members opposite who say that the workers refuse to co-operate with the employers, and who express concern about the inconveniences caused to the community by stoppages in the coal mines opposed that legislation. When they found that they were not able to prevent its enactment by this Parliament what did they do? They made representations to their party-political colleagues in the Legislative Council of New South Wales to defeat the complementary measure required to be passed by the Government of that State. There was a rapid marshalling of anti-Labour’ forces, some members of that chamber being brought to Sydney by aeroplane, whilst others were brought out of sick beds in order that sufficient votes would be marshalled to defeat that legislation, which was designed to increase coal production and, at the same time, provide proper conditions of employment for the miners. I need cite only one amendment which was proposed in the Legislative Council of New South Wales in order to indicate who was behind the move to defeat that legislation. That amendment was to the effect that the agreement proposed in the measure was not to apply to any mine the product of which was exclusively used in an associated industry. Had that amendment been agreed to the whole of the coal mines owned by the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited would have been excluded from that legislation. Therefore, it is obvious that all this talk by honorable members about their concern for Australian housewives and the interests of the workers is merely clever propaganda designed to distract the attention of the public from the real objectives of antiLabour parties. They have tried the methods which they now advocate to coerce the workers. The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) and the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen), and other honorable members opposite, talk about disciplining the workers. In 1909 an anti-Labour government in New South Wales, led by Charles Gregory Wade, applied leg-irons to the leaders of trade unions who went on strike. The incident of those days in which Peter Bowling figured is well known to most Australian workers. In 1929, an ultimatum wa.s issued by the coal-mine proprietors against the miners who refused to accept a reduction of 12-J per cent, of their wages. The proprietors did not go to the court and apply for that reduction to be made, but themselves issued an ultimatum to the miners that only those who would accept the reduction would be employed. The miners resisted and refused to work under those conditions. I recall also the prosecution of the late John Brown, the coal baron of that time, because he locked out for twelve months the miners employee! in his collieries; but when an anti-Labour government was elected to office in this Parliament it took action immediately to withdraw that prosecution. That has been the story of industrial relations in this country right through the years. In recent months, what action did honorable members opposite propose be taken against dairyfarmers who refused to supply products, or against master butchers who refused to open their shops because they were dissatisfied with the prices they were receiving? It is only when the workers take action to obtain fair wages that -honorable members opposite talk of discipline in order to maintain industrial peace. It is rather peculiar that it is only when industrial disturbances occur that they became interested in industrial workers. Then they ask “ Why don’t the workers submit their case to the Arbitration Court? Why do they hold up the community to ransom?’”’. However, as I have already said, the workers know that by going on strike they injure their own people in some cases more than they injure their opponents, and it is only in desperation that they take direct action. Turn over the pages of Hansard .and show me one instance where any honorable member opposite has put up a plea for the improvement of working conditions or an increase of wages.
The Labour party subscribes to the policy of industrial conciliation and arbitration, but we believe that there are few people in this country who would regard the present arbitration set-up as adequate to meet the requirements pf the ‘nation. Consequently, the Government set out to examine the whole arbitration system.
This Parliament’s power to deal witu that matter is limited. I had hoped that at the last referendum the people would have given to the Commonwealth greater powers in respect of industry, and would have enabled it to go much further than is proposed under this measure. But, at least, we propose to appoint, conciliation commissioners who will be practical men. On the admission of the Leader of the Opposition, they will be able to go right to the root of industrial problems, and because of their knowledge of industry do much to maintain, industrial peace. A Labour government should not be concerned about the criticism of honorable members opposite that we will make these appointments on party political grounds and not on the basis of qualifications and ability. I say to the Leader of the Opposition that in the ranks of the Labour movement there are men with sufficient capacity and ability to fit them :is candidates for any position which may fall- vacant in this country; and that applies in the industrial field as in any other sphere. Such men understand the problems and difficulties of the workers. The Leader of the Opposition said that the appointees would be biased in favour of the workers. The workers of this country do not want bias; they want only justice. They have not received justice in the past. One thing which the Government accomplishes under this measure, and upon which I compliment those responsible for drafting the bill, is the decision to establish a Bureau of Research and Statistics which will enable the conciliation commissioners to be armed. with all the information which has been accumulated over many years. I hope that when the people have the good sense to grant increased power to the Commonwealth Parliament in respect of industrial matters we shall go further and empower authorities charged with the fixation of wages to determine also whether any particular industry should be allowed to pay the dividends and profits which have been paid by it in the past.
– The Minister’s time has expired.
.- As one who has not been out of industry for very long, I congratulate the Government upon the introduction of this measure which will effect a necessary reform of our arbitration system. Much has been said during the debate in respect of the intentions of the Government in this matter. I make it, clear that it has been, and still is, the policy of the Labour party to prevent and settle industrial disputes by conciliation and arbitration. I am firmly convinced that this bill to amend the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act, a statute which has already been amended on fifteen previous occasions, will give to the workers and the community in general something for which they have been asking for a number of years. Australia to-day is far more highly industrialized than ever before. As the result of the war the industrialization of this country has progressed to a stage which would not normally have been reached for at least 25 years. New industries have created new problems. I have been a. trade unionist since I was thirteen years of age; I have now almost reached a period of service in the union to which [ belong which would entitle me to be made a life member. In that industry I have witnessed the trials and tribulations that have confronted the .workers from time to time. It employs the greatest number of workers engaged in any single industry in South Australia. I have before me a list of the awards governing more than 233 classifications of workers and fixing no fewer than 34 differing rates of -pay in that industry alone. When we consider the implications of figures of this kind we must visualize the necessity for a closer view of the anomalies that must crop up in an industry governed, in such a way. Claims have been made during this debate that no unwarrantable delays have occurred in proceedings before the Arbitration Court. Honorable members on this side of the House know full well that the greatest factor agitating and irritating the minds of the workers is. the long delays that take place between the presentation of a case and the issue of the final judgment of the court. I have received from the secretaries of various unions in South Australia particulars relating to the periods that have elapsed between the presentation of claims to the court arid the delivery of the court’s judgment thereon. In one instance proceedings commenced in 1943 but the final judgment was not delivered until 1945. Thus, for more than two years the workers in the industry concerned waited for the judgment with what patience they could muster. The’ workers in that industry stood solidly behind the principle of conciliation and arbitration and were made the victims of circumstances. Workers in other industries who took direct action to gain their ends were given precedence over those who allowed the law to take its course. 1. trust that as the result of the appointment of the fifteen conciliation commissioners that anomaly will be obviated. The conciliation commissioners will have a great responsibility to the whole community. I have no doubt that men selected for appointment will be possessed of the qualifications necessary to carry out their task. I know of one gentleman who is at- present acting as a conciliation commissioner in South Australia who is spoken of most highly by every industrial organization in that State. I am convinced that in the Australian community there are other men of equal ability. Fear has been expressed by honorable members opposite that the G< . eminent may appoint to these posts staunch supporters of long standing in the Labour movement who may not be capable of giving unbiased judgments. It is my belief that in the trade union movementare to be found many men eminently capable of filling these positions with distinction. Over a. long period the union of which I am a member paid large sums of money in obtaining legal’ advice as to the - best methods of presenting its claims to the Arbitration Court. After reviewing the position, the union made it possible for its secretary to become its court advocate. In that role he was most successful in having the claims of the organization met. That gentleman is now a member of the Senate. Some time before this bill was brought before this chamber it was stated frankly by captains of industry and by industrial officers attached to important industries in South Australia that more round-table talks and less legalism in industrial matters would go a long way towards the prevention of industrial disputes. I do not regard .all employers as hostile to the principles for which we on. this side of the House so assiduously strive. I have in my own electorate employers who share with their employees the profits of their enterprise. Many of these employers have expressed a keen desire for an extension of the system of round-table conferences as a rapid means of ironing out industrial differences. I recollect an occasion when, in the course of an inspection of an industry generally, a judge of the Arbitration Court paid a visit to the undertaking in which I was employed. I could not help feeling that that gentleman did not have sufficient time at his disposal to survey the industry fully, but was required to rush through it. That is a difficulty that will be overcome by the appointment of conciliation commissioners under this legislation. 1 am confident that the speeding up of hearings that will result from these appointments will ensure to industry, generally a far greater measure of peace than exists to-day. I was interested to watch closely the course of the cast- that came before the Commonwealth Arbitration Court in South Australia recently, involving a claim by transport workers in respect of penalty rates for week-end work. The following newspaper report refers to the court’s decision : -
Only the full Arbitration Court can clarify the Saturday rates question. At present’ i.t appears that railway and tramway employees in South Australia are to get only time and a quarter for Saturday work, against time and a half in the eastern States. If the court has actually created this serious anomaly it should at least say why.
The reason for the court’s decision was obvious. In New South Wales and Victoria, where Labour Governments are in office, the claims of transport workers in regard to week-end work were not opposed, but in South Australia, where the Playford anti-Labour Government is in office, the claims were opposed. The interview ‘ of the South Australian Premier with the Acting Chief Judge of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court was an amazing incident. It was followed by the announcement that if the employees refrained from striking and the conciliation commissioner recommended the payment in .South Australia of the same rates as were awarded to employees in Victoria and New South Wales, the
South Australian Government would urge I he commissioner to grant this concession. Apparently the Premier of South Australia believed that he had a right to approach the Acting Chief Judge in regard to this case. But .what would have been the reaction of the press of Australia if the secretaries of the unions covering the transport industries had sought a private conference with the Acting Chief Judge? It would have proclaimed that the court had given way to pressure by the unions. On this occasion, however, we were told under great headlines of Mr. Playford’s dramatic appeal to avert a strike of transport workers. Never In-fore have I seen such a glaring case of an individual setting up. a straw doll merely to knock it over. It is not strange that, in the States where the claims of the transport workers were not opposed by the governments concerned, they were granted, whereas in the State where they were opposed, they were refused. As one who only four years ago worked side by side with industrial workers in this country, I say without hesitation that Labour still adheres to its traditional policy of conciliation and arbitration. In Australia to-day there exists a state of affairs’ which honorable members, opposite said could never exist, namely, full employment. When a community is fortunate enough to enjoy full employment, many people are apt to forget the benefits that have accrued to them as the result of conciliation and arbitration. I am most concerned about this matter. However, should unemployment return to this land - it will not return so long as Labour occupies the treasury bench - there will again be a full realization of what the workers owe to conciliation and arbitralion. If they are obliged to go cap in hand to the employer, with the Arbitralion Court dispensed with, their position will be disastrous. Abolition of arbitration is, I believe, the objective of the Communist party of Australia. That party is alined equally with the Liberal party and the Australian Country party against the Labour party. I know that, because T was opposed at the last general elections by a. Communist, and Communists stood against Labour men at the last genera] elections in South Australia. I hope that when this bill becomes law it will be given a fair trial and that the workers and their leaders will realize that « the Government has adopted a measure by which it considers that the court can give to them a speedier hearing of their claims in the order in which they are lodged. I hope, too, that the trade union movement will allow to_ unionists the right of hearing claims in order of lodgment. As one who has worked under the present ‘arbitration system, I consider this a splendid attempt by the Labour Government to. give to the .people of this country what must be given to the people of all countries - the right of every section of the community to receive justice. I congratulate the AttorneyGeneral and the Minister for Labour andNational Service on their having prepared this bill. The responsibility devolves upon, the conciliation commissioners anc! the industrial organizations to make die ^legislation effective.
.- in reply - The debate on the second reading has occupied a fair amount of time and I wish to make my remarks in reply as brief as possible. Still, the bill is of such importance that, it may help to clear up some of the difficulties Of honorable members if certain points made in criticism of the bill are dealt with. First, despite acute differences on certain points, there seems to me to be a substantial agreement in the House. It is agreed, for instance, that the present arbitration system does require a complete overhaul. It is also agreed that more expedition and fewer formalities in the hearing of cases are required. The differences of opinion are mainly concerned about not ends but means. The . Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), in his analysis of the problem, put the view that the improvevent should lie rather along the line of enlarging the judicial element of the present system, but, later in his speech, he frankly conceded that it might have been better if from the first it had been realized that industrial arbitration is not strictly a judicial matter at all but rather & matter of the exercise of administrative discretion and therefore not peculiarly appropriate for the exercise of the judicial power of the ‘ Commonwealth. It is that .second point of view that the right honorable gentleman expressed that after all is the basis of a great deal of the Government’s case for the bill. That is why we propose to appoint more conciliation commissioners and to give to them greater powers and functions.
Of course, there is the other point of view on which there is an acute difference of opinion, that is, the suggestion that the punitive and coercive or disciplinary provisions of the bill should be extended. The Government’s view of that has been stated quite frankly. The proposals mentioned by the Leader of the Opposition in his speech were contained in substance in the legislation that existed before the Scullin Government’s amending legislation of 1930 was introduced. A.t that time there was a Labour majority in this House and an anti-Labour majority in the Senate, and, practically by agreement, for there had to be agreement, because the two Houses were differently constituted, the penal sanctions of the character referred to by the Leader of the Opposition were omitted. For many years thereafter, although anti-Labour governments ruled in this- Parliament, they were never reinstated. The Leader of the Opposition made those proposals at the last general elections and the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) refused to accept them. I submit that it is a fair conclusion that the people are not in favour of restoring those penal sanctions.
The Government’s proposals rest on the important differences between the ordinary judicial functions of courts and the functions required for successful conciliation and arbitration. I do not think that the main difference has been sufficiently appreciated in some of the speeches. In 1938 Mr. Justice Isaacs and Mr. Justice Bich made that difference the ground of their decisions They pointed out that when parties went to courts of law for rights they asked the courts “to enforce existing rights. They had a claim for damages for a breach of contract or a tort and they asked for damages. The law existed’ before, they went to the court. In the* Arbitration “Court they asked the court not to declare rights but to make rights, to give new rights. So the function of the Arbitration Court is rather administrative and legislative than judicial. I think too that there is this important difference; once we recognize that the ArbitrationCourt has quasi-legislative functions, wehave, I think, to realize increasingly that the industrial situation is dynamic, never static, and that the court, in settling each, individual dispute, has to take a longrange view. Mr. Justice Higgins emphasized from the first that there should bea gradual improvement and strengthening of the living standard of the workers in industry. Again, the courts, unlikethe Arbitration Court, cannot deal with, the matter until their jurisdiction is invoked. This bill is based on the theory that the court or a conciliation, commissioner should act before the situation: develops into an acute industrial disputeSo the main function of -a good portion, of this bill is tho provision of machinery to prevent disputes, arbitration being held, in reserve if the dispute develops. I quote from a famous judgment of Mr. Justice Higgins dealing with preventivelegislation -
As disease may be dealt with by way ofprevention as well as by way of cure, so a dispute may be dealt, with by way of prevention as well as by the way of settlement. I’ assume that the evil to be cured - or prevented - is a dispute which extends in fact into morethan one State.
It is only those disputes with which the Australian Parliament is concerned hecontinued -
But just as a disease may’ bc stamped out, or a bush fire extinguished, before it passes a State boundary, so may a. two-State dispute be “ prevented “ from existing as a twoStatedispute.
That is why, in the bill, we amplify prevention of disputes, to include; as the Leader- of the Opposition rightly pointed: out, a situation, likely to give rise to a. dispute. He quite rightly observed too that that might increase the matters to be dealt with. It gives the conciliation commissioner jurisdiction to deal with -a. matter before it has crystallized as a dispute. Although it will increase the numbers of matters which have to be considered, that should in the. long run prevent disputes from materializing or crystallizing.
Now I shall deal with a point that has- been emphasized throughout the debate, namely, the criticism of those honorable- members who want to preserve the right of appeal to the court from a decision of a conciliation commissioner. That proposal cuts across the scope of the bill. If we should make decisions of the conciliation commissioners under this bill subject to appeals to the court, that would cause far greater delay than occurs under the present system. The essential point is that, under the bill, the conciliation commissioners will deal with two broad matters - margins, and conditions of work in an industry- the court having exclusive jurisdiction over the matters of standard hours, the basic wage and other matters. What is the position under the present Commonwealth law? The ‘Full Court, determines any alteration of standard hours or of the basic wage. In any given industrial dispute, the matters at issue can be divided into four categories, namely, standard hours, the basic wage, margins and the classifications in relation to margins, and conditions within an industry. Those, broadly, are the matters dealt with in any award of the court. At present, a. single judge deals with margins and with conditions within an industry, leaving the other two basic matters to the full court. There is no appeal from a single judge to the Pull Court. All that this bill provides in relation to margins and conditions of labour is that the jurisdiction of a single judge shall be vested iri a conciliation commissioner. Moreover, under the present law, there -are many eases in which the functions of judges of the court and C 011ciliation. commissioners overlap. The court and the commissioners split up the work to be performed, and the way in which the machinery works causes many delays. Under the law- as it, stands, the court refers matters to conciliation commissioners, sometimes to be heard and -determined and sometimes to be reported upon to the court. If a conciliation commissioner hears and determines a matter and makes an award, that award is subject to an .appeal to three judges under certain conditions. If he merely reports back to the court - a single judge in that event - the court must either accept the report or hear the whole matter. This system gives rise to delays. I emphasize that these delays are due to the system and are not the responsibility of individual persons.
I shall give only two illustrations of such delays. A little more than a year ago, the court referred to a conciliation commissioner for report only a dispute between the Shipwrights’ Union and an employer. It arose from the alleged suspension or dismissal of certain persons concerned in the management of the union. The conciliation commissioner made a report to a judge suggesting certain terms of settlement. The judge refused to accept the report, and there was no further hearing of the matter at that stage. The dispute dragged on for a considerable time - I think it was twelve months - before the matter had to be taken up again by a conciliation commissioner. It was then settled on almost, exactly the same terms as the commissioner had originally recommended. Under the system that we now propose to introduce, the commissioner would not, have been a mere reporting authority but would have been authorized to determine the dispute, and he could have dealt with the matter within a few days.
– The right honorable gentleman will agree that that was an unusual case.
– I shall reply to the honorable member a little later. First, I shall give another illustration of the delay that occurs under the present system. In June, 1941, there was a dispute involving pit timber workers in and around Newcastle. It was notified to the court under the industrial peace regulations and was immediately referred by the judge to a conciliation commissioner for investigation and report. The commissioner reported on the 25th June, 1941, eleven days later, and the judge made an interim award but referred the matter to another conciliation commissioner for further investigation. After further hearings the matter was eventually referred by the judge to a conciliation commissioner, not for a report, but for hearing and determination. That was on the 16th December, 1942. The commissioner’ made his award on. the 21st December, five days later, and on the 6th January, 1943, the employers gave notice of appeal to the Full Court. The appeal was heard in January, 1943, and the final judgment was given by the Full Court on the 2nd February, 1943. Thus, the commissioner’s functions were invoked in two ways - first, / merely to report, and secondly, to make an order settling the dispute. When an order was made, it was subject to appeal. The appeal in this case resulted in a. final decision being given nearly twenty months after proceedings had commenced, following two references for investigation to conciliation commissioners, one determination by a judge, one determination by a conciliation commissioner, and, eventually, an appeal to the Full Court. That does not describe the normal working of the system, but there have been many similar instances of delay. These delays are not due to anything more than the machinery provided in the statute. In referring to the statute, I do not speak of the industrial peace regulations which were introduced by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) as a .member of the Menzies Government, and which simplified a great deal of the court’s procedure. A- curious fact is that under the statute, the court must have cognizance of a dispute and a commissioner may act in such a dispute only at the direction and under the authority of the court. Having acted, he may either report to the court or decide the matter. If he decides the matter, his decision is subject to an appeal to the Full Court. Irritating delays and disappointments are inevitable under that procedure, no matter how promptly each individual step may be taken by the person concerned. The system provides opportunities for passing a matter to and fro between the court and a commissioner. This bill not only permits but also requires a conciliation commissioner, on his own responsibility, to take every possible step, as soon as he becomes aware of a situation that might breed a dispute, to get to the source of the trouble. He will be able to give a decision on all matters that come within his jurisdiction. For that reason we do not want, and it would be wrong, to have an appeal from the decisions of a commissioner to the Full Court. The bill will merely replace the jurisdiction of a single judge of the court in relation to margins and conditions with the. jurisdiction of a conciliation commissioner. The Full Court will retain jurisdiction over standard hours and the basic wage.
Since the bill was introduced in this House, because of its importance, members of the Government, particularly the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley), the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) and myself, have considered suggestions that have been made for its further improvement. Some of the suggestions emanated from honorable members during this debate; others were by men outside the House, including judges of the Commonwealth and State arbitration courts, conciliation commissioners, industrial inspectors, and people practising in and acquainted with this very difficult jurisdiction. We have considered all the suggestions very carefully, and have applied to them only one test: Will the adoption of any proposal help to carry out the general purposes of the bill, namely, the expeditious and effective working of the new machinery? It is for that reason that numerous amendments, with a full explanation of their purpose, have been circulated among honorable members. A perusal of them will show that, apart from three or four matters which were referred to during the second-reading debate, such as the appointment of the chief conciliation commissioner, these amendments are for the purpose of clarification, and to improve procedure and machinery.
The debate has revealed the necessity for closer co-ordination of the work of the conciliation commissioners, and one of the functions of the chief commissioner, under one of the proposed . amendments, will be to organize and distribute the work among his colleagues. That, in turn, will make for uniformity of approach among the conciliation commissioners. In addition, conferences between the Chief Judge and the conciliation commissioners will be called three times a year. The original intention was that they should be held half-yearly. Those conferences will be particularly necessary in the early stages. The bill provides that the chief conciliation commissioner shall report annually to the Parliament on the operation of the act. All the amendments should assist in meeting at least some of the possible difficulties to which honorable members have referred in this debate. “
The bill, in its present form, reproduces the provisions of the existing law, with some amendments directed mainly at giving to the court power to initiate proceedings in relation to discipline. That should be done. In my opinion, this should not be a matter of political responsibility. The supreme body should be the court itself.
– Why does not the right honorable gentleman also retain that power as Attorney-General?
– If the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Beale) will refer to the existing act, he will find th’at the Government has no power, except in connexion with the basic wage and standard hours, to intervene in the court.
– Why does not the AttorneyGeneral take the necessary power?
– The further this matter is removed from initiation by a political officer, who is also a legal officer, the better it will be for the working, of our industrial machinery. I desire now to. correct a statement by the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony), who said that the bill overrides the provisions of the Re-establishment and Employment Ac-t, which give preference to ex-servicemen in obtaining employment. The opposite is the truth. The honorable member for Richmond was the victim of a double error. First, section 24 of the Reestablishment and Employment Act has express overriding powers. Sub-section 1 of section 24 applies to all Commonwealth laws and industrial awards, whether they were made before or after the passing of the act. . Then, again, the provisions in relation to preference apply to the exclusion of every other similar provision in any law of the Commonwealth or a territory of the Commonwealth, or any industrial award, order, or determination whether made before or after the section came into force.
– What section is that?
– I am giving the substance of sub-section 2 of section 24 of the lie-establishment and Employment Act.
– The Attorney-General will agree that by subsequent legislation, such as the Stevedoring Industry Act, that position could be altered.
– When I read the two provisions together, I contend that the preference provision in the Reestablishment and Employment Act will not be overridden by this legislation. Secondly, the first schedule of the bill provides that the existing provisions safeguarding exservicemen shall be retained and extended to ex-servicemen of World War II. I refer honorable members to section 107 in the memorandum which reproduces the proposed act as it will appear when the amendments proposed by the bill have been incorporated. It reads -
Nothing in any award or order made under this Act or in any agreement relating to industrial matters, shall operate to prevent the employment of a person who is required to be engaged in employment under section twenty-seven of the Re-establishment and Employment Act 1945.
It amends provisions of the existing Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act in order to give the benefits of the provisions in the existing law to those entitled to benefits under the Reestablishment and Employment Act. Consequently, a double protection is afforded, first, in the Re-establishment and Employment Act in its proper interpretation, applying, as it does, to awards made .after the act came into force, and secondly, in this bill.
That brings me to the last point that I desire to make. All honorable members will agree that this is the crux of the bill. Nearly everything will depend upon the suitability of the conciliation commissioners who will be appointed. The qualifications are not merely formal, technical or professional. As honorable members have pointed out, they require an experience of industrial problems, the capacity for judging those employed in industry and bringing them together, a sense of fair play and justice, and a grasp of what is practicable. The Government will search for men possessing those qualifications for appointment as conciliation commissioners. To one remark by the Leader of the Opposition, the Government is entitled to take the strongest exception. The right honorable gentleman referred to the possibility or the probability of the Government appointing to the important positions of conciliation commissioners men who were not persons of great ability, and capable of performing these important functions. The Minister for Labour and National Service was in the House when the Leader of the Opposition made that statement. By interjection I asked the right honorable gentleman whether he made a charge that the Government had appointed to a judicial office any person not entirely fitted for the position. The Leader of the Opposition replied, “ No, it is not the judicial positions. These are not judicial positions “. Theref ore, I turn to the appointments which the Curtin and Chifley Governments made to the positions of conciliation commissioners. One of the positions has been occupied by Mr. Murray M. Stewart for many years. We appointed two persons to the positions of conciliation commissioners under the statute as distinct from the Industrial Peace Regulations. One was Mr. D. M. Morrison who is well known to honorable members for his outstanding work with the Stevedoring Industry Commission. He . has the highest reputation for skill and impartiality in these matters, and rendered wonderful service to the industries of Australia, particularly in the Sydney area, during the war. The second appointee is Mr. G. Mooney. The Leader of the Opposition read a long extract from the report of a discussion in the tribunal over which Mr. Mooney was presiding. Mr. Mooney showed determination to carry out his duties fearlessly in the particular case before him. His work has been recognized by all the employers and all the trade union representatives who have appeared before him in his jurisdiction.
– I thought that we appointed Mr. Mooney.
– No, Mr. Mooney was appointed to the statutory position by myself, and so was Mr. Morrison. Not only those two gentlemen, but all the conciliation commissioners have done their work with exceptional ability and impartiality. It has been assumed too readily that there are to be fifteen vacancies to be filled with new appointees. That is hardly likely to be the position. Without elaborating the matter any further at the moment, I point out that the present commissioners will he eligible for appointment, and I know of none against whom the slightest complaint has been made. The Government realizes that the success of this plan depends very largely on the success of the individual commissioners. They must be persons who will make the system work, and to a great degree the future of industry will depend upon them. What an opportunity they will have, by reason of their ability and their knowledge of particular industries, to further industrial peace and to extend the sense of social justice. That after all, is the ultimate aim of this bill. It is a. great opportunity for those who are to he appointed commissioners and the House can rest assured that the men appointedwill be worthy of the important functions they are to discharge. The appointments will be in consonance with the practice of this Government and of the Curtin Government when filling important positions. That is my general reply to the criticisms that have been made. I admit that the success of the proposals contained in the bill does depend to a great degree on the success achieved by the commissioners, and for that reason we have determined that the commissioners appointed shall be worthy of the great responsibilities to be entrusted to them under this important amendment to the industrial law.
Question put -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The House divided. (Mb. Speaker - Hon. j. S. Rosevear.)
Majority . .18
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and committed pro forma; progress reported.
Declaration of Urgency.
– I declare that the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Bill 1947 is an urgent hill.
That the bill be considered an urgent bill.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. J. S. Rosevear.)
Majority . . . . 18
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Allotment of Time.
Motion (by Dr. Evatt) proposed -
That the time allotted in connexion with the bill be as follows: -
For the committee stage, until 10.45 p.m. on Wednesday, the 30th April.
For the remaining stages, until 11 p.m. on Wednesday, the 30th April.
– As I understand the position, the “ guillotine “ is to come down, not on portions of the bill, but at 10.45 p.m. on Wednesday of next week, at which time the committee stage will come to an end. So that the matter may be clearly understood, I point out that the Government has circulated 54 amendments, and that it will be open to the Government to have all of its amendments put whenever the “ guillotine “ comes down, No non-Government amendment will have the right to be proposed, discussed or decided except at a suitable time before 10.45 p.m. next Wednesday. There are various most important matters which have to be discussed in committee. I am at a loss to understand why the Government should consider that the committee stage of the hill will require less time for consideration than has the secondreading stage.I should have thought that all experience has indicated that it will require more time.
– The AttorneyGeneral has said that it is essentially a committee bill.
– Several persons have said that. In any event, it is a very long bill. The amendments circulated by the
Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) include, I agree, minor matters relating purely to drafting. But they also include some major matters, which will come before the committee for discussion for the first time, ‘because they were not originally in the hill and have now been introduced as supplements to it. In these circumstances, it seems to me a most extraordinary limitation of the rights of private members, and particularly of the minority1 in this House, that it should be found necessary at this stage of the sessional period-, in relation to a bill of this kind, to declare the -matter one of urgency and to act accordingly, whereas - let us face up to it - quite plainly, nothing that the Government has done or has failed to do in the last twelve months has ever before given the impression that it considered that any industrial problem in Australia was urgent.
.- This is another attempt by the Government to curtail debate in this House by applying the “ guillotine ‘’. If there is one act for which the Government has become notorious, it is the act of curtailing debate in this Parliament. The Government has, I believe, a recordor a near record majority in the Parliament, yet it is constantly employing the force of its numerical superiority, not merely to carry the legislative proposals that are brought before the Parliament, but also to prevent the depleted ranks of the Opposition from debating the issues that those proposals involve. There seems to be no issue which cannot be made the victim of the “gag”, or some other action, by the Government.
– Order! The honorable gentleman is not entitled to discuss the general subject of the “gag”. The question is, whether the proposed allotment of time is adequate.
– That is very pertinent to the use of the “ gag “. I am submitting that the proposed allotment of time is not adequate, and that no allotment would be adequate which prevented members of the Opposition from giving full expression to their views on legislation which would have such far-reaching effects upon the whole of the economic life of Australia as will this so-called arbitration measure. The proposal that honorable members on this side of .the House shall be denied the opportunity to debate some of the principles which it is intended shall now belatedly be incorporated in the bill, is indefensible. The measure itself, apparently, is so involved that the whole array of legal talent in the Attorney-General’s Department, not to mention that of the right honorable gentleman himself, has been unable, until the last month, to discover that it had no fewer than 54 deficiencies. If the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) and his officers can now find in the measure deficiencies which require 54 amendments, after they have had months, if not years, to consider the necessity for some alteration of the arbitration machinery of this country, then there certainly can be no justification for arguing that many deficiencies do not still remain in the measure, not to mention .many injustices which could be revealed only by a full debate by honorable members on this side of the House. I put it to the Government, not in any expectation of its acceptance of my views, but for the purposes of record, that it will not enhance what remains of its prestige by using its numbers constantly to prevent full debate in this Parliament. I realize that debates here do not alter the substance of the legislation introduced by the Government, because once proposals to be submitted to . the Parliament have been accepted by caucus any further discussion is academic, and the Parliament becomes merely a debating society. Nevertheless the Opposition intends to employ whatever opportunities are left to it to reveal to the people of Australia not only the deficiencies and injustices of the Government’s proposals but also the constant use by the Government of every device sanctioned by the Standing Orders to prevent the Opposition from debating matters in this chamber. The time allotted is entirely inadequate. Indeed, any. schedule designed to curtail debate would be inadequate. I enter an emphatic protest against the proposal before us.
.- Although Ministers and their supporters have referred to this measure as one of the most important that this Parliament has been called upon to -consider, . we are now told .thai .adequate .opportunities to consider it in committee will not be provided because, apparently, the bill has suddenly become an urgent measure. How bas it become urgent ? .1 recall that not long after the session commenced in November, 1946, a bill to amend the existing arbitration legislation was forecast. Indeed, many members expected that it would be introduced .and dealt with before the end of that year. Apparently, the legislation was not urgent then, but now, after nearly four months of 1947 have passed, it suddenly becomes urgent. No Minister or supporter of the Government, can say that the Opposition has adopted obstructive tactics in debating the measure so far. Honorable members generally have dealt with the bill seriously ‘as, indeed, its importance to the economic life of Australia demands. Although many speakers on both sides of the House have emphasized that the proposals before us constitute a radical departure from existing arbitration practice the Parliament is expected to treat it as a matter of urgency, notwithstanding that no reasons have been advanced for declaring the .bill to be an urgent measure. Among other things, the bill provides for the appointment of conciliation commissioners, but can it be shown that anywhere in the Commonwealth industrial disputes await settlement because no suitable officer, whether a judge of the court or a conciliation commissioner, is available to deal with them? Of course not. For several months the metal trades dispute has dislocated industry and there have been stop-work meetings of various kinds. Yesterday work on the waterfront was held up because of a. stop-work meeting of tally clerks.
– The honorable member’s remarks have nothing to do with the allotment of time which is the subject before the Chair. The House has already declared the bill to he- an urgent measure and, therefore, -the question of urgency does not now arise. A schedule allotting certain times for dealing with various portions of the measure is before the House, and I ask the honorable member to confine his remarks to the schedule.
M>r. HOLT.- It is extremely difficult, for ‘honorable members to say, at ‘this stage, bow adequate the times stated in the schedule will be to deal with a large number of amendments. _ ‘ Mr. SPEAKER.- Nevertheless, that is the question before the Chair.
– I invite any supporter of the Government to say that he has considered the proposed amendments one by one, and understands their effect on the various clauses of the bill which they seek to amend. Yet the Parliament is asked to accept a limitation upon its right to discuss those amendments thoroughly. It may be that some of the amendments are of a machinery character, but others may be of major importance. I repeat that at this Stage no Minister or honorable member can say whether the times shown in the schedule will be adequate to enable a full discussion to take place. The Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) has given notice of 54 proposed amendments to a bill which the Government has had under consideration for months. Opposition members desire to submit other amendments, which they regard as vital. We on this side believe that the bill, is bad in principle, but we are prepared to submit amendments which will improve it. However, I expect that the procedure adopted in connexion with the Reestablishment and Employment Bill and banking legislation will be followed on this occasion, and that little or no opportunity will be given to the Opposition to submit amendments. The only amendments which will have a chance of being agreed to will be those submitted by the Minister ; and they will be rushed through without proper consideration being given to them. I enter a strong protest against the contemplated action.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired. ‘Mr. ABBOTT (New England) [4.21]. -I, too, enter my protest against the proposed limitation of time for the discussion of this important bill. I regard the times set out in the schedule for the consideration of this measure in committee as entirely inadequate. I am aware that the House has accepted the bill as an urgent measure, and I also agree with ‘the Attorney-General (Dr.
Evatt) that it is the most carelessly drafted pieceof legislation that hasever beenbrought before the Parliament. The right honorable gentleman is so fond of cricket that it would appear that, in his enthusiasm, he is attempting to make a record score in the number of amendments tobe made toany bill that has come before this Parliament. Just fancy a Minister intimating that he will submit 54 amendments to a bill whichhas not yet reached the committee stage ! I predict that when the bill is in committee the AttornoyGeneralwill be hitting fours to right and left, with an occasional “ sixer” inan attempt to break the record he originally hopes to make. In the light of statements by the Attorney General and many Government supporters that the arbitration system has broken down, the bill demands careful consideration of every clause. We on this side do not agree that the arbitration system has broken down because of any inherent defects in the existing legislation ;any failure of the system is due to deficiencies of administration,.
– I ask the honorable member to deal with the schedule.
– It is the duty of the Parli amen t to ensure that the arbitration machinery is properly lubricated so that it will work effectively. If after a cursory examination of the bill the AttorneyGeneral has found 54 amendments necessary, a careful examination would probably reveal the need for 454 amendments. The schedule will make it impossible for members of the Opposition 10 give to the Parliament the benefit of their combined wisdom.
. -Somethingcan be said for the point of view of the Attorney General (Dr. Evatt) on this occasion. He has no doubt taken into consideration the peculiar situation of honorable members opposite. Quite a number of Government supporters are abroad in unknown places. No fewer than four Ministers are getting ready to go overseas, and will not be much interested in this debate. Also, the AttorneyGeneral well knows that other honorable members who sit behind the Government are participating in State elections campaigns. Were it not for such absences and defections the time allotted for the consideration of this bill in committee would be hopelessly inadequate. I believe that, even as things stand, the time is inadequate, even though the House will be a thin one. The Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) said that this was essentially a committee hill rather than one for debate in the secondreading stage. Therefore, one could have expected him to allow ample timefor consideration in committee. This is the fifth day upon which the bill has been debated in the secondreading stage, and now we are to be allowed only three more days to consider it in committee.
– Plus today.
– A little bit of today only.One thing to be remembered is that the Lord has never made a half-day. Tomorrow, we shall not have a full day on the bill. We meet at 10.30a.m., and the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) has said that the House will adjourn at 3 o’clock because the followingday is Anzac Day. Next week, we shall meet at 3 p.m. on Tuesday, so that we shall not have a full day then. The onlyfull day will be on Wednesday next. Even taking into account tike number of friends absent overseas and engaged in State election campaigns, we shall not have sufficient time available to us to consider the bill clause by clause and. line by line. We have not yet had an opportunity to study the proposed amendments which the AttorneyGeneral has placed before the House. We received them only last night, and I am sure that the fertile brain of the AttorneyGeneral will producea further crop before next Wednesday, so that the Opposition will get farther and farther behind in this chase after amendments.
I have always believedthat the committee stageof a bill, particularly a complicated one like this, is much more important than the secondreading stage. During a secondreading debatethere is often too much repetition, whereas in committeehonorable members get down to the things that matter. For that reason, I am surprised that the AttorneyGeneral has allowed so little time for the consideration of the bill in committee. Honorable members could profitably spend six to seven hours discussing some of the .major Government amendments, and it is possible that the Government would then be so impressed with the Opposition’s arguments that it would agree to three or four additional amendments. I protest .most vigorously against the Government’s proposal to curtail the time for consideration of the bill in committee.
– I am not concerned with absent friends overseas’, as is the honorable member for’ Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), but I protest most emphatically against the limiting of the time for consideration of this bill in committee. I have made a rough calculation of the time which will be available to honorable members, and it will be all too short ; that is, unless we continue sitting until 4 o’clock or 5 o’clock in the morning, a practice which I deprecate. I have observed that during late sittings the debating strength and brain power of honorable members on both sides of the House is at a low ebb. It is necessary that honorable members should be alert when considering a bill in committee, not half asleep as they are during late sittings. If we begin the consideration Of this bill in committee at 4.30 p.m. to-day, and the House adjourns at 11.15 p.m., the actual sitting time will be four and threequarter hours, allowing for the suspension for dinner. To-morrow, Friday, the time available will be two and a half hours as we are to rise at 3 p.m. and question time must be considered. On Tuesday next, the actual sitting time will be approximately six hours, and only on Wednesday will there be a full working day of eight and a quarter hours, the time for this debate terminating at 30.45 p.m. Thus, the actual time available for considering the bill in committee will be less than 24 hours altogether. The Government itself has circulated 54 proposed amendments, and if the Opposition moves their share, there will be less than one quarter of an hour for the consideration of each amendment. Under the Standing Orders, every honorable member is permitted two fifteen-minute periods to speak on each clause, or amendment to a clause. Therefore, what chance will honorable members have to exercise ‘their right under the proposed time schedule? Only one fifteen-minute speech could be made on each amendment, and it would not even be possible to hear a speaker from each side of the House. I protest against this ridiculous time limit. It is not right that a democratic institution like this Parliament should agree to a proposal for the restriction of debate on important legislation.
.- It seems that this Parliament is becoming less and less a deliberative assembly. Under Labour governments, the practice is tha!; a bill is thrown on the table, thi’ Minister mumbles a few words, or reads them, and we must turn to the press, as a rule, in order to obtain an intelligible summary of what the ‘bill is about. In the case of major bills it has become the practice for the Minister in charge to declare that no amendments will be accepted, meaning- that no amendments will be accepted from the Opposition. Such announcements have been made by both the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) and the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman). In other words, what the Minister says is, “ The matter has been decided in caucus. Our masters, the representatives of the militant unions, have been here, so what you say does not matter.” We were told that no amendments to this bill would be accepted, but now a small volume of them has been brought down by the Government itself. Indeed, when I saw this sheaf of amendments I thought it was a new bill. The amendments appear to be just so much mumbo-jumbo. I am sure that no one understands what they are all about except, perhaps, the Parliamentary Draftsman. Now it is proposed to stifle debate in committee. Perhaps it does not matter much. It is certain that this measure will not prevent industrial disputes. The Opposition might, perhaps, have fought a delaying action on the bill, and that is why the Government proposes to limit debate. The Government, fearful that it will not be able to get this piece of class legislation through, has introduced the “ guillotine “. Well, the writing is on the wall. Labour has seen it in South Australia and Western Australia, and honorable members opposite know what will happen in New South
W ales and Queensland when the elections take place there. The Government is fighting for time. If it cannot get this class legislation through before the next federal elections it will disappoint its “ Commo “ and militant friends outside. I. object to the. attitude of the Government. However, its attitude is in line with previous Labour governments. The time proposed to be allotted for further consideration of the bill is, I repeat, totally inadequate.
.- If honorable members opposite are prepared to waste time as they are now doing honorable members on this side of the House will be prepared to accommodate them. Earlier to-day the time of the House was wasted debating a ridiculous adjournment motion moved by the honorable member foi’ l$.ew England (Mr. Abbott).
– I rise to order. I submit, Mr. Speaker, that a.ny motion which you considered worthy of being debated by the House could not have been ridiculous.
– I never say whether 1 consider a motion to be ridiculous; I merely rule whether a motion proposed is, or is not, in order.
– It is my experience that the House does its best work when a time limit is placed upon debates. If honorable members opposite are genuinely anxious to give of their best in considering this bill, they will marshal their points beforehand and, in the time proposed to be allotted, will have adequate opportunity to put them forward. However, honorable members opposite have short memories in this . matter. When the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) was Prime Minister they, themselves, resorted to this course.
– Order ! The honorable member must confine his remarks to the question before the Chair.
– Honorable members opposite are now putting forward arguments which they themselves scoffed at when they sat on this side of the House. Last night, I took the opportunity to read through the schedule of amendments submitted by the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt), and I see no reason why within the time proposed to be allotted honorable members on bith sides should not be able to deal adequately with the amendments foreshadowed.
– I protest against the motion. In the time proposed to be allotted, I shall not be able to place before honorable members the views I wish to express on various courses.
– Order ! The time allotted for consideration of this motion has expired.
Question put -
That the motion (vide page 1538) be agreed to.
The House divided. (Mk. Speaker - Hon. J. S. Rosevear).
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of Governor-General’s message) :
Motion (by .Dr. Evatt) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to amend the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904-1946, and for other purposes.
Resolution reported and - by leave - adopted.
In committee: Consideration resumed (vide page 153S).
Clause-1 (Short title and citation).
’. - I rise at this stage- on a question of procedure. The bill contains a great number of provisions but not a great number of clauses as such. For example, clause 8 proposes to repeal Part III. of the principal act and to insert in its place a very large number of proposed new sections and sub-sections. If we are to discuss this, matter coherently, I suggest that when we come to a clause of that kind we should discuss the proposed new sections separately, Instead of putting the question, “ That clause S be agreed to “, which would cover the 40 or 50 proposed new sections incorporated in it, we should take those new sections separately. The Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) will, I believe, agree that that procedure would produce a more intelligible discussion.
– I agree with the suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies). It was for that reason that I did not attempt to divide the available time at the disposal of the committee between the . various clauses of the bill. When we reach clause- 8 it may be considered by the committee that proposed new section 10 which is embodied in tha>t clause is the- principal section which members wish to debate. Provided the suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition meets with your approval, Mr. Chairman, I support it.
– It would. I believe,, be advisable to deal, with the bill in. the manner suggested by the Leader of the Opposition and with . the concurrence of the committee that, procedure will be followed…
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 2- and 3 agreed to.
Clause 4 -
All orders and awards made under the Principal Act, and all agreements- filed and certified under that Act,, which were in force immediately prior to the commencement of this Act shall continue to have effect in accordance with .their tenor but may be set aside varied or suspended under the Principal Act as amended by this Act.
[4.4S).: - I move-
That, at the’ beginning of the clause, the following new sub-clause be inserted1: - (I.) Notwithstanding the repeal- by this Act of Part TIT., of the Principal-Act, .the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and, Arbitration existing immediately prior- to the commencement of this. Act- shall not cease to exist but shall continue as the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and- Arbitration referred to in the Principal Act as amended, by this Act.” .
Explanatory notes on the proposed amendments have been circulated for the assistance of the committee-. They will enable honorable members to understand their purpose more clearly.
– The explanatory notes have only made confusion more confounded.
– If any confusion is. introduced it will be deliberately introduced, by honorable members opposite. The purpose of the amendment is to make it clear that the continued, existence of the Commonwealth Court of. Conciliation and Arbitration is not affected, by the bill. There will be no gap between the. court as it exists, to-day and as it will exist under the amending legislation. The amendment is in accordance with the whole purpose and principle of the bill.
Amendment agreed to.
.- I move-
That the words “ their tenor “ be left out with a view to insert in lieu .thereof the following words.: - “ the Principal Act as amended by this Act “.
The- purpose of this amendment, has been explained in the document circulated for the guidance of the committee. The amendment is purely of technical significance as explained in the document.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 5 -
Sections two and three of the Principal Act are repealed and the following sections inserted in their stead: - “ 2. The chief objects of this Act are -
to constitute a Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration having exclusive jurisdiction in matters of law arising under this Act and limited jurisdiction in relation to industrial disputes; and
– I move -
That, in proposed new section two, paragraph (f), the words “exclusive jurisdiction in matters of law arising under this Act and limited “ be left out.
The effect of the amendment is that paragraphf would then read -
The words already in the bill are designed to set a limitation on the function of the court in favour of the power of the conciliation commissioners. I have presented the amendment in this form not because this is the operative part of the hill but because I do not desire to move a series of amendments which will lead to repetition of argument. If the principle is not accepted at this stage I do not propose to come back to it later. The point I raise is this: Should the Arbitration Court, as a court, be confined, as it is to be under this bill, to the determination of certain questions of law, which may or may not be submitted to it by the conciliation commissioners, and to the four matters that we have discussed a great deal during the secondreading debate, namely, basic wage, standard hours, minimum female rates and annual leave? At the present time the court, through its various judges, has complete jurisdiction to deal with all industrial disputes which fall within the Constitution and the act and of which it obtains cognizance under the machinery set up by the act. Without repeating what has already been said in the course of the secondreading debate, I merely say that the judges should not be excluded from what are called general arbitrations, and that failing the acceptance of that argument they should certainly not be excluded from exercising the power of appeal from the conciliation commissioners. Let me take these two things in their order. I have stated that in my view the most effective way of overcoming any delays that exist in this jurisdiction would have been to appoint more judges. The Government has rejected that view and has said that the effective way is to limit the authority of the judges and to appoint more conciliation commissioners. That is a neat issue which we need not debate any further. The appointment of conciliation commissioners and the conferring upon them of exclusive authority that is to say, authority exclusive of the judges on ordinary matters of industrial arbitration will in my opinion mean that we shall have very little concerted action. We shall probably have their view of common principles and we shall certainly not avoid the creation of a host of anomalies and the creation of anomalies as between industry and industry, between group, and group, and even between individual and individual, as the whole of our industrial history shows, is one of the most fruitful causes of industrial discontent. It is only a few weeks since we discussed the Stevedoring Industry Bill, which was designed to establish for the stevedoring industry a body that was to act primarily as an industrial tribunal. When Judge Foster inquired into the waterfront industry it was put to him by the unions concerned that he should recommend a tribunal of which the chairman would not be a judge but a conciliation commissioner. Judge Foster refused to make such a recommendation, and the Government, I thought, had taken a rather similar view because, as honorable members will recall, section 6 of the Stevedoring Industry Act states that the chairman of the Stevedoring Industry Commission shall be a judge ofthe Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, or a conciliation commissioner appointed under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. So, on that occasion, only a few weeks ago, the Government said, in effect, that the question whether the chairman should be a’ judge or a conciliation commissioner would be left open ; but now, it seems to have veered right round, because it is saying, “ This arbitral jurisdiction is not to be exercised by a judge, except in relation to certain matters “. In the Stevedoring Industry Commission Act, standard hours and the basic wage, the two great matters that arc reserved to the court under the present bill, were also reserved to the court. The Stevedoring Industry Commission had to deal with industrial matters other than those two great things, while the Government reserved the choice of a judge or a conciliation commissioner as chairman. But in this bill, the conciliation commissioner occupies the field, and the judge goes out.
– Somebody might have brought some pressure to bear on the Government.
– I do not wish to deal with that question now. I am merely pointing out, as I believe I should, that there is something here that calls foi an explanation; that there has been a perceptible change of approach to this problem. Whilst that is not a question of great moment - so faia as I am concerned the Government is entitled to change its mind on these matters - there is at least an inconsistency in public policy that deserves some attention. So much for giving power direct to the judges to act as arbitrators. The second aspect of the matter is whether the judges should be excluded from .appellate powers except on matters of law, or, to put it in another way, whether, if the court” is not to have what I have called original jurisdiction over industrial matters, it should exercise appellate jurisdiction over industrial matters. Should one be able to take an important determination by a conciliation commissioner, affecting perhaps the whole of a vast and important industry, to the Arbitration Court on . appeal ? Many honorable members will feel that one should be able to take such a matter to the. Arbitration Court and to determine whether or not it is right. It is necessary to have a glance at the power that these conciliation commissioners will exercise. A conciliation commissioner will deal with the whole problem that comes before him. A dispute having been brought before him, he will say first of all, “ Have I. jurisdiction to deal with this? “ The bill clearly contemplates that he will determine that question as a preliminary. That is partly a question of fact, and as all our industrial history of the last 30 or 40 years shows, it is also, on occasions, . an extremely difficult question of law. Having answered that question in the affirmative, he will proceed to deal with the dispute. In doing so, he will consider not only all the questions of fact involved, but also all the questions of law involved. Questions of law such as the interpretation of some agreement that has been made or the bearing of some State or Commonwealth law on what should be done are involved in many .disputes. The conciliation commissioner may if he wishes decide each of these three matters - the question of jurisdiction, the question of fact and the question of law - in his own fashion, and at his own sweet will and then make his award. There can be no appeal. If he feels that he would like the assistance of the Arbitration Court on the question of jurisdiction he may refer that matter to the court.” Similarly, a question of law may be referred to the court but, of course, he can not send a question of fact to the court unless it also involves a question of jurisdiction. The point is that unless the conciliation commissioner chooses to consult the court in that fashion, he will be the final arbitrator on these matters.
– In any case a conciliation commissioner need ‘ not accept the court’s view.
– An amendment has been circulated dealing with that point, which was raised by the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) and by myself. My opinion is that it will meet the objection to which we drew attention. The point I am making is that, a conciliation commissioner cannot be compelled to send these matters to the Arbitration Court. That is an enormous jurisdiction. I emphasize to honorable members that a man who is empowered to determine first that he has jurisdiction to deal with a dispute in relation to an industry that has say 30,000, 40,000, or 50,000 workers and in which vast sums of money are involved, secondly, to decide all the questions of law that may arise, and thirdly, to decide all the questions of fact that may arise, has a power which in a broad sense is a power of adjudication that goes , far beyond the power exercised by an ordinary judge in an ordinary matter; yet there is no provision for appeal. The AttorneyGeneral in his reply to the secondreading debate said with great force and my own opinion is to the same effect that if we were to have a universal appeal from industrial decisions, we might find our appellate tribunal completely cluttered up. That is why I began by saying that the real remedy for the present state of affairs was to appoint more judges and to let them exercise the functions of adjudication, because then we would have individuals, fully armed both in law and in facts, deciding these matters, working closely together, regularly associated in the Full Court, and working on a general body of principles and so preventing anomalies from arising.
There are one or two other aspects that I have noted, but as they will arise on a later amendment, I shall not refer to them now.I have explained the real purpose of the amendment that I have moved. I have moved it at this stage because in this clause is to be found the first reference to the matter, and it is convenient to have the question debated now, once and for all. The clause does raise sufficiently the question whether the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration should be confined to jurisdiction in certain matters of law arising, and to its limited function in, relation to the few matters referred to, or whether it should have a general jurisdiction, both legal and arbitral, in relation to all matters that arise under the act. That is why I have moved the amendment in its present form.
– I shall not occupy much of the time of the committee on this matter because the point that has been raised by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) occupied the attention of the House to a substantial degree during the secondreading debate. But I should like to say just a few words about it. The Leader of the Opposition’s purpose in moving this amendment indicates two things. The first is that the remedy for delay or any improvement of the arbitration machinery should be by an increase of the number of judges rather than the appointment of conciliation commissioners with the powers that this bill confers. The second is that, in any event, assuming that conciliation commissioners are to have jurisdiction over margins and conditions in industry, there should be an appeal. I think that would bring about delays even far greater than occur under the present system, because today all matters of margins and conditions go to a single judge, not to the three judges. The Full Court deals with the basic wage and standard hours. There is no appeal to the Full Court from a single judge on those matters. There may be a reference, but the practice is that the decision of the single judge completes the matter. The bill allowsjurisdiction to be exercised in the same way by a conciliation commissioner, so I submit that once we assume the plan of the bill the argument for an appeal is extremely weak. An appeal would increase delay to an incalculable degree. So the real purpose of the amendment is to indicate formally the preference of the Opposition for an increase of the number of judges with jurisdiction conferred on them as under the present act. What the Leader of the Opposition said about the Stevedoring Industry Act is correct. We have reserved the power to appoint either a judge or a commissioner, chairman of the Stevedoring Industry Commission. Judge Foster recommends a judge and, as I told honorable members during the debate on that legislation, the Government intends to appoint a judge, if that can be done, andI am confident that it can be. This proposal is not a departure in policy or inconsistent with the proposal for the stevedoring industry. The conciliation commissioner system already exists. We have eight or nine conciliation commissioners exercising jurisdiction, but exercising it in a way that, by the very nature of the system, causes delays. I illustrated that in my speech in reply to the secondreading debate.
The judge asks a conciliation commissioner to report on a matter. The report goes to1 the. judge. He may or may not accept the report. He may hear the matter himself or subsequently decide to remit it to the commissioner for hearing and decision - three hearings. After that it- may be brought to the Full Court.. I do not wish to repeat the broad difference of our approach. It is not as though the judges will not continue to perform important functions under the act. They Will perform the full functions of tha determination of standard hours, the minimum wage, and annual leave and will have jurisdiction on all questions of law referred to them by the conciliation commissioners’ and on questions whether there is- an industrial dispute so that the conciliation commissioner may exercise jurisdiction. We have not made it mandatory for the commissioner to refer those matters to the judges because, in practice, if an- important, point arises, reference will be made. If we made it mandatory in every case delays would be interminable. I think the Leader- of the Opposition has stated ‘ clearly from thelegal point of view and. from the point of view of his party the differences of approach. It is a matter of opinion as to which would make for greater efficiency:. I .repeat that everything, will depend upon die qualifications of’ the commissioners- appointed to exercisethis important: jurisdiction.. If -they are of the quality which characterizes thepresent commissioners- 1 believe that; the new procedure will make for more speedin arbitration.
.. -The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) has raised an important point and the explanation made by the AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt) does not take away one iota of the force of his remarks. Indeed, the mere fact that the AttorneyGeneral has agreed with the submission of the Leader of the Opposition that the Government intends, notwithstanding the power under the Stevedoring- Industry Act to appoint a layman or a judge as chairman of the’ Stevedoring Industry Commission, to- appoint a judge is an admission that the- points- made by the Leader of the Opposition are strong- in fact and substance. The Attorney-
General ‘has- the opportunity to give effect in this bill to; the principle that he intends to give effect under the Stevedoring Industry Act. He ‘has said,, in effect, “ We recognize that a lay chairman, of a commission of that type will not be able to determine points of fact and law conjointly, and, therefore, we will not take the risk of appointing a layman,, because the Stevedoring Industry Commission is too important and valuable a ‘body, and we. propose to appoint as chairman a judge, who will be able to consider points of. law as well as fact “. The Attorney-General has given added point to the submission- of the Leader of the Opposition. Dealing with the points made by the. Leader of the Opposition about the right of appeal, the Attorney-General said, “ We do not think an- appeal is. necessary, because it may delay decisions that may be made by the conciliation commissioners “,,but what, he did. not say was that the: present-day conciliation commissioners; have not the powers that are proposed, to. be given to the commissioners to be appointed under these amendments. Under this legislation a conciliation commissioner is to be all powerful in his own sphere. It is proposed that the- conciliation commissioner,; will be given control of certain sections of industry. Will’ a conciliation commissioner be empowered^ in the- event of adispute; to consider- all the ramifications of sectionalized employment in one industry? If he is,, questions of law must be involved, ‘and, when they are and he fails- to make a reference to the- Arbitration Court, because- of the- possibility- of d’elay, he- takes the ris’k and may make- an unjust, decision-, notwithstanding the injustice perpetrated on either the employer or the- employees1, and there- will1 be noappeal. That consideration must underlie the decision of the Attorney-General on the chairmanship of the Stevedoring Industry Commission. The possibility of an injustice being-‘ done by lay chairmen has prompted him) to sa-y; “ An injustice, must not be allowed to- be done to a militant union, because it. will take power into its own hands’,, as. it has done “. Therefore, he: has decided not to take- a risk, in this regard, and will- appoint a judge- who- will be able- to make his decisions immediately, knowing the law, and having been trained to deal’ with matters of this nature. However,, he will deal with other unions’, the members of which aire equally as important as the waterside workers1, though perhaps not so militant; by appointing as conciliation commissioners men who are untrained in law and have no experience of its operation, and who, in some instances, may also lack experience of industry. We know how this- Government has made public appointments in the past, and we fear that it will give these rich political plums to its friends. Therefore, there is a danger that the conciliation commissioners will have a partisan outlook and will give decisions that favour the unions. Of course, if the appointments were made by a government of another political colour, they might have a tendency to lean towards the employers. In view of the risk of injustices occurring in this way, there should be a right of appeal from decisions of the conciliation commissioners. Other unions may not be so militant as the Waterside Workers Federation, but they are untitled to have the same treatment as that organization. The proposed amendment is sound, and it is in- conformity with other proposals that have been accepted by the Attorney-General. I cannot understand why he refuses to make the practice in this regard uniform throughout the industrial system.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) submitted his amendment in a very helpful manner in an endeavour to secure uniformity of practice in the field of arbitration. He pointed out the inconsistency between the provision in the clause now before the committee and the provision contained in the recently passed Stevedoring Industry Bill, and I was amazed at the Attorney-General’s reply to him. The Minister said that the chairman of the Stevedoring Industry Commission would be an industrial authority which differed from a conciliation commissioner appointed under this bill. The chairman of the Stevedoring Industry Commission will have the same powers as will be vested in conciliation commissioners appointed under this measure, and he may be either a judge of the Arbitration Court or .a conciliation commissioner. The Minister’s refusal to agree to the amendment reveals a complete change of attitude. He has said that delays may be caused if matters of law have to be referred! to a judge. However, as the bill stands’, it will be possible for the fifteen commissioners, being without legal training, to give fifteen different interpretations of one law. That will only make’ confusion worse confounded. There will be no law a.t all if each- conciliation commissioner is able to give his own interpretation of the law. The conciliation commissioners should be obliged to submit questions of law to the Arbitration Court if a.ny of the bodies appearing before’ them, desire that such action be taken. This would ensure consistent interpretations of the law by judges of the court. The Attorney-General has already assured us that he will alter the original provision that a conciliation commissioner need not accept a decision of the court regarding the interpretation of the law7. He would do himself, and the Government, a good service by also accepting the amendment submitted by the Leader of the Opposition.
.- I move-
That, in proposed new section two, paragraph (/), after the word “exclusive” the word “ appellate “ he inserted.
This amendment has two objects. First, the exclusive jurisdiction of the Arbitration Court in industrial matters relates only to matters which come to it on appeal from other courts, and accordingly the reference to the court’s exclusive jurisdiction requires limitation. The Arbitration Court will act as an appeal court, for instance, from a magistrate who might make an order f or payment of wages or in .connexion with some class of award. Secondly, the amendment defines the jurisdiction of the Arbitration Court so as not to include any matter as to which the High Court has original, as distinct from appellate, jurisdiction under the Constitution. Nothing that the Parliament can do can alter the High Court’s .original jurisdiction to issue a prohibition against Commonwealth officers.
– Does the limited jurisdiction in relation to industrial disputes refer to the provision, which is contained in a later clause of thebill, that the court can deal with standard hours, the basic wage, female rates, and matters of that kind ?
– Yes. It is a matter of jurisdiction conferred in another part of the bill. This is an “ objects “ clause, which merely describes what comes later in the bill.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 6 -
Section four of the Principal Act is amended -
) by inserting after the definition of “Association” the following definitions: - “Conciliation Commissioner’ means a Conciliation Commissioner appointed under this Act;”
by omitting the definitions of “Industrial dispute” and “Industrial matters” and inserting in their stead the following definitions: -
Industrial matters means all matters pertaining to the relations of employers and employees and, without limiting the generality of theforegoing, includes -
any question arising between two or more organizations, or within, an organization as to the rights, status or functions of the members of those organizations or of that organization or otherwise ;
Amendment (by Mrs. Blackburn) proposed -
That, in the proposed new definition of “ Conciliation Commissioner “, after the words “ a Conciliation Commissioner “ the words “ male or female,” be inserted.
– The Acts Interpretation Act, which defines the meaning of words in all Commonwealth statutes, provides that either gender is included in the denomination of one gender. Therefore it is quite clear that a woman could be appointed as a conciliation commissioner. The bill does not require amendment for that purpose.
– I do not desire to submit an amendment to this clause, but I do wish to direct attention to an important aspect of it The definition of “ industrial dispute “ is altered, and now falls primarily into two parts. The first is that in which “ industrial dispute “ means -
The second includes - a situation which is likely to give rise to a dispute as to industrial matters which so extends.
This is not a mere matter of words. The power which this Parliament exercises is a power to make laws with respect to conciliation and arbitration for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes extending beyond the limits of any one State. The definition in the. original act was a “ threatened, impending or probable dispute “. The idea was that a condition of affairs might arise indicating an interstate flare-up, such as a group of men on strike in one State, and demands being made in another State, which might give rise to difficulties, and that at some point of time the Arbitration Court, subject to correction by the High Court, might say, “ Th is has all the earmarks of a threatened, impending or probable interstate dispute of an industrial kind, and, therefore, we can deal with it “. That was a substantia] jurisdiction, sharply limited always by the requirement of an interstate dispute. Now, the proposed amendment will add to that definition - a situation which is likely to give rise to a dispute as to. industrial matters which so extends.
What I desire to point out to the AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt) is this : If that definition goes beyond what the courts have always regarded as a threatened, impending or probable dispute, it will raise difficult constitutional questions. It may prove to be a trap for people who invoke the jurisdiction of a conciliation commissioner. I myself consider that there is great merit industrially in being able to say at a very early stage, “ Here is a sore point. Here is a spot where there is difficulty. Do not let this flare up and go through all the stages that produce an interstate dispute. Let us treat it in the early stages “. But, however much I approve of that method, it does not fit very easily into the structure of the constitutional power. The constitutional power is to deal with industrial disputes, and if the definition of “industrial dispute” includes the earliest stages of matters which exist in only one State and which might grow, and conciliation commissioners deal with them, prohibition proceedings might be taken successfully in the High Court, because the matter is beyond the constitutional power of the Commonwealth. In that event, industrial arbitration, so far from being assisted, will receive a setback. Many workers will say, “ This is a trap. We have observed this act. ‘ Industrial matters ‘ has a very wide definition, and, therefore, we requested a conciliation commissioner to proceed to a factory in New South Wales or Victoria. He exercised his jurisdiction, and now we find that it is all wiped out by a legal decision “. That legal decision cannot be avoided by any provision that we insert in this bill, because it is a legal decision which will depend, not upon an act of Parliament, but upon the Constitution. That is a great difficulty.
Having matters of that kind in mind, I, on behalf of my colleagues on this side of the chamber, made a certain observation during the debate on the Constitution Alteration (Social Services) Bill last year. Honorable members will recall that we were “then discussing a proposal to extend very greatly the industrial power of the Commonwealth Parliament. I had been “making a speech in which I attached importance to preserving conciliation and arbitration. Without recapitulating the subject unduly, I remind the committee that the great controversy at that moment was whether the Parliament should have power to deal with these industrial matters by direct enactment, or whether it should be required to deal with them through the conciliation and arbitration machinery. When referring to that speech for the purpose of verifying my own words, I found that, in the course of the discussion as reported in Hansard of the 3rd April, 1946, page 905, 1 said -
If the Government had desired to preserve arbitration, but to get rid of technicalities in the arbitration jurisdiction, and to pave the way for the most flexible and simple machinery, surely its right course would have been, not to write in this new power, but to amend paragraph (xxxv.), so that it would read “ conciliation and arbitration for the settlement of the terms and conditions of employment in industry”. In one hit, all jurisdictional difficulties would disappear.
I remind honorable members of that, because I believe that it is completely true. Had that proposal been accepted, the argument which I have just been advancing would be irrelevant, because we would then be able to give to “ industrial matters “ any definition we liked, and proceed to deal with localized industrial troubles, so long as we dealt with them through conciliation and arbitration and not by direct parliamentary provision. I have not risen for the purpose of moving an amendment, because I am reluctant to take any step which might suggest even to somebody who wanted to . misunderstand me that I believe that the powers of the court should .be confined to full-fledged industrial disputes. Nobody who has had experience of these matters will say for a moment that the only price of peace in industry should be a first-class preliminary war in industry. That always seemed to me to be a mutual contradiction. Therefore, a reasonably wide interpretation of “ industrial matters “ is good. I rose really to offer the warning that this definition is so wide that it may easily include a number of matters which come into conflict with the Constitution. If it does, we shall have trouble, bitterness, disappointment and misunderstanding. All that is a very good reason why full provision should be made in this bill for the exercise of authority by the judges upon matters of this kind, which they are so much more fitted to understand and deal with than the conciliation commissioners possibly can be.
– This variation involves one of the most important principles of the bill. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) correctly pointed out that had the constitutional power of the Commonwealth been extended in a certain way, our present difficulties would have been greatly reduced. But even under the existing power, this Parliament may make- laws with respect to conciliation, and arbitration for the prevention of disputes extending- beyond the limits of any one State. The new statutory provision, which we propose, is based upon the principle that the court or the appointed arbitrator may deal, by conciliation or arbitration, with a situation bet ore it has crystallized into an industrial dispute. I shall read a brief extract from a judgment of the late Mr. Justice Higgins, in which he illustrated the kind of matter to which this clause is addressed -
As I said during, the argument, Serbia and Bulgaria may be massing troops on each side of- a river, preparing for battle- as to the division of. Macedonia.- there may even be a battle. - although as yet neither State has made a definite demand. There may be two nations arming against each other, jealous, suspicious, bitter and abusive: there may be no definite matter in dispute between them ; and yet a stray spark may at any. moment produce an explosion. In industrial matters, as well as in other evils, prevention is better than cure; and an arbitrator can often do good service by bringing the parties together to discuss an agreement if they are standing apart- and preparing for a strike; by even getting them to formulate their precise demands, and to reduce the hostility to precise issues; by bringing them out of- the region of hot antagonism into the region of cold reason. There is nothing either impracticable or absurd in the intervention of an impartial arbiter before discontent has taken shape in definite demands, before growling lias turned into biting. If A is complaining that his wages are too low, without saying, what they should be, it may be that the matter is as yet too indefinite to amount to a “ dispute “ ; but what is absurd or impracticable in the court taking cognizance of the threatened dispute, trying to. get the parties to come to an amicable agreement, and, if they will not, arbitrating?
Industrial discontent might occur in some establishment or industry in one State only. At that stage, it cannot be said that there is an- impending interstate dispute ; but that dispute might be of such a character that, if allowed to spread, it will develop into an interstate dispute. The power of prevention is given to the Parliament.
– Is that the reason for the second part of the definition?
– The Attorney-General is having a gamble.
– One has a gamble with any legislation in this field.
– If we lose in the gamble, we are in no worse -position than we were before.
– I agree with, the right honorable gentleman. If we. lose, our position will not be any worse. Our powers under the act will, be intact. Therefore, it is our duty to confer this extra jurisdiction. If the attempt to deal, with industrial discontent by prevention is successful, a great- deal will have been achieved.. The observation of the Leader of the Opposition reminds me of old legal battles on this problem, and of the difficulty that one lias in deciding, what, will pass muster before the High Court when the constitutional power is limited. Here, however, the power is not limited:.
– What a.bout the bitterness which, will remain if what the.-people are led- to expect does not materialize?
– This is a new jurisdiction, but there cannot be any doubt of the wisdom of -making the experiment. Already in the States a conciliation commissioner can exercise .this power, because he is not restricted constitutionally.
– The objective is. very desirable.
– Yes, and- particularly as this is a constitutional method. The Leader of the Opposition knows the legal struggles that have been waged’ in connexion with the exercise of preventive jurisdiction and how little it has been exercised in practice - in - fact, it has hardly been attempted. The Government feels that if provision can be made to nip industrial disputes in the bud a great deal of the trouble will be eliminated.
,. - In some “ways there is very little, difference between, the views of the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) and myself.. Rut I should not like there to. be left any doubt as to. what that difference is. As I said before. I agree with him .that the earlier, in- point of time, in any dispute in which the. tribunal can operate the better. That is. a very sound principle, and I am not to be taken as quarrelling with that in. any way; I am all for it. But. I pointed out that,, so far, the -courts have taken a. view of “ industrial dispute “ which has not gone beyond something which is actually threatening or impending as an interstate industrial dispute. Now. the AttorneyGeneral .agrees that the second part of this definition is designed to cut short a threatened or impending or probable dispute. All I d.o is to offer a warning that if it can influence a threatened, impending or probable dispute its own authority is “ impending, threatened or probable “. As the Attorney-General recollects from one of the many legal battles in which we bad the pleasure of opposing one another, namely, the Caledonian Collieries case on the northern New South Wales coalfields, the High Court by an overwhelming majority - Mr. Justice Isaacs dissen ting - held that there was not an interstate dispute threatening, impending or probable in a matter in which practically all the men ‘ were out on the northern coalfields of New South Wales. There had been a sympathy stoppage in Queensland and a sympathy strike at Wonthaggi in Victoria. Eliminating the minor issues, those .were the three chief matters for determination. The High Court acceded to argument presented to them by very distinguished counsel to the effect that this was not a. threatened, impending or probable industrial dispute within the terms of the Constitution. I mention that to honorable members opposite because although at first sight it may appear to them to be absurd, it’ is not absurd. It has the clear authority of a number of judges of the High Court. If we intend to go beyond the limits imposed and exercise this admirable jurisdiction, to “ get in early “ in the settlement of industrial disputes, there will be a lot of decisions successfully challenged in the courts.
The .right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) says : “ You are no worse off if you fail, and much better off if you succeed “. With infinite deference to that honorable gentleman I do not agree with that. I venture to think that the last , state may be worse than the first; that we may very well find that there is a great deal of bitterness amongst employees who have been led to believe that they have achieved, the benefit of some favorable treatment from a conciliation commissioner only to find later that it is set aside.
– Would they not be just as bitter if there were no preventive jurisdiction?
– The right honorable gentleman has fallen back on’ the old proverb : “ “lis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all”; but that is a proverb about which I have had the most extreme doubt all my life.
. <-I hope that the objection to this clause will not be pressed.
– No amendment has been moved.
– During recent years when attempts have been made to alter the arbitration law, our opponents have declared that the present law is sufficient to meet all needs. Honorable members opposite have strongly- opposed the giving of full powers to this Parliament. I consider that sooner or later this question will have to be faced by one party or the other. If parties to a dispute go before a conciliation commissioner and his decision is set aside by the High Court the whole question will arise for determination by this Parliament: But even if that be the intention of the employers and of those who have contended that no alteration is necessary in order to give a reasonable interpretation of what should- be done under the act, T cannot* see that we shall face all. those dangers. In reply to the fear expressed by the Leader of the Opposition that our second state will be worse than our first, I can only say that if we are not giving to conciliation commissioners or the court under this legislation the power to meet the position, the act will have to be further amended. I believe that the employers will not challenge a bona fide decision that is given under the powers that will be exercised according to this interpretation.
.- This clause makes a very strong appeal to me. Having given consideration to our arbitration law for many years, I consider (hat- that section of it which provides for the prevention as -well as the settlement of industrial disputes has been neglected. This is an attempt to give it more prominence. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) has sounded .a -note of warning. He has said that if a dispute arose in a factory or some other place, and a conciliation commissioner, in an attempt to prevent it from spreading, gave a decision which, upon being challenged, presumably by the employers, was held by the High Court to be not valid, the bitterness thus caused might make the second position worse than the first. I challenge that argument. I have said by way of interjection that if any bitterness arose among employees because what they strove to obtain legitimately from a conciliation commissioner was held to be invalid, that would be no greater than what would inevitably ensue if their grievances were not considered in the first place. “With a facetious quip, the right honorable gentleman sought to turn that argument aside; he said that, he did not accept the old proverb, “ ‘Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all “. I counter that by saying. “‘Tis better- to have tried and failed than never to have tried at all “. That is what this Government is doing. There is a good deal of experimentation in the whole of this legislation. Surely honorable members opposite know that we are passing through a period of industrial unrest which warrants any legitimate experiment in an attempt to meet the situation. What position is contemplated by this measure? We have had experience of disputes which, one would imagine, could have been settled at the beginning by the exercise of common sense. I do not contemplate a just settlement being disputed. Probably a settlement could be reached by agreement which would not be possible without the early intervention of a conciliation commissioner. If a dispute is allowed to develop until it assumes interstate dimensions, bitterness will be caused which it will be hard to eradicate. The right honorable gentleman cited an example, and I assumed from his comment that he was the legal advocate for the side which the High Court upheld.
– He said “ a distinguished one “.
– I believe that he was a distinguished one.
– I was taking the rare occasion of saying something in my own favour. Very few people will say it for me.
– I am not quarrelling with the right honorable gentleman for having done that. But I point out that it is not a matter for wonder that there is bitterness in the minds and hearts of many bodies of working men when, having a legitimate grievance, they find themselves thwarted at every turn by legal hair-splitting, even by the High Court itself. The experience down the years has shown that the decisions of the High Court are not infallible, and have not always been upheld by subsequent decisions of the same tribunal. The interpretation of our Constitution has been entrusted’ to fallible men who have been known to make mistakes, and many of whose decisions have been changed by their successors. So I would say to the committee, “Do not turn aside this very laudable aim to achieve this extended interpretation, but rather let us go as far as is possible towards providing for the prevention of industrial disputes “. If it be a gamble,- as the Leader of the Opposition has said, the better course is to take that risk, because I do not believe that the second position would be worse than the first. It is much better to try to extinguish a fire when it is confined to the kitchen, than to wait until every room in the house is ablaze. So I repeat, “ ‘Tis better to have tried and failed than never to have tried at all “.
– I have risen only because, after the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) had spoken, I detected in the comments of other speakers the implied criticism or suggestion that he was not sympathetic towards what is desired. It has been said that this is a bold experiment, and that we are making experiments in order to meet grave problems. I point out that this experiment is not a novel one, and that no allegation of lack of sympathy, or implication to that effect, can be levelled against the Leader of the Opposition; because, when we were in office, we embodied this kind of provision in our Industrial Peace Regulations. Under those regulations, if an organization of employers or employees, or a factory, establishment, or business concern, considered that a situation was developing which might lead to an industrial stoppage, the Registrar of the Arbitration Court could be asked to bring the parties together, and go ahead with the process of conciliation to which the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) has referred so appreciatively. So that, when we place before the committee the dangers that we see in the situation, and point to the constitutional weaknesses of the position, that does not imply lack of sympathy with the objective itself. We seek to remove any technicalities which would prevent a conciliation commissioner or the court from giving a fair, prompt and impartial decision upon matters which managements and men genuinely desire shall be determined. Whilst 1 believe that there are criticisms which could be directed against both elements in the disputes that have occurred in the past, my experience in recent years has been that there has been much less tendency to raise technical objections when matters have been placed before industrial tribunals for adjudication. The parties now genuinely desire a settlement, and endeavour to ensure that no technicalities shall impede them. I rose merely to dissipate the misapprehension that we are unsympathetic towards the objective which the Government has in mind. If this particular experiment is to be commended, then I believe that we are entitled to approbation for those that we introduced.
– I move -
That, in the proposed new definition of “Industrial matters”, paragraph (n), after the word “otherwise”, the following words be inserted: - “, in relation to the employment of those members “.
The object is to make it clear that any question as to the rights, status or functions of the members of two or more organizations over which there is jurisdiction, shall be in relation to employment, not in relation to other matters which would be industrial in character.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 7 agreed to.
Clause 8 -
Part III. of the Principal Act is repealed and the following Parts are inserted in its stead : -
That the clause be considered by proposed new sections.
Proposed new section 10 -
Part II. - Conciliation’ Commissioners.
Division 1. - Appointment of Conciliation Commissioners. (1.) The Governor-General may appoint Conciliation Commissioners for the purposesof this Act.
– I move -
That, after proposed new sub-section (1.), the following new sub-section be inserted: - (1a.) The Governor-General may appoint a Conciliation Commissioner to be the Chief Conciliation Commissioner.”
The functions which the chief conciliation commissioner will exercise are set out in a subsequent proposed new subsection; it shall be his duty ‘to organize and allocate the work of all the conciliation commissioners, subject to the power of the Chief Judge to allocate the commissioners to various industries. The object is to prevent overlapping and to ensure that conciliation commissioners will be appointed in every State and that their work shall be so organized that nothing that ought to be done will be left undone..
– This amendment is one which I confess I am at a loss to understand. Why could not the Chief Judge of the Arbitration Court do what is proposed shall be done by the chief conciliation commissioner ; why .should he not be in charge of the business of the court and of the conciliation- commissioners? In my opinion, there should be the fullest contact between the conciliation commissioners and the judges of the court, particularly the Chief Judge. If the amendment be agreed to, we shall have judges with a Chief Judge and conciliation commissioners with a chief conciliation commissioner. The proposed ‘ set-up would emphasize the separate nature of the two classes of officers, instead of bringing them together so that each may learn something from the other. If the judges and commissioners are to have their own completely independent functions, with certain matters being dealt with by the full Arbitration Court,
I do not think that the arrangement will be so good as if the jurisdiction of the Chief Judge were extended to cover the work proposed to be performed by the chief conciliation commissioner.
Proposed new sub-section 10 deals with the appointment of conciliation commissioners, and is a most important part, of the bill. The AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt) has made statements in general terms relating to the number of commissioners to be appointed, but before accepting the Government’s proposals the committee should havemere detailed information before it. Are the conciliation commissioners to be selected because of their specialized knowledge of the industries with which they will deal; what is to be. the administrative set-up; are the commissioners to be dispersed throughout the Commonwealth, and how many will be allocated to each State? These, are matters on which we should have further information. I hope that when the committee resumes after the suspension of the sitting for dinner the AttorneyGeneral will supply further information as to the Government’s intentions.
– I shall do my best to supply the information sought by the honorable gentleman.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
.- Before the dinner recess the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) asked the AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt) to explain the amendment which he had moved to clause 8. I understood that the AttorneyGeneral was to consider the matter, and make his explanation later. Is he in a position to offer it now?
– The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) asked for information about that provision in the amendment which will give the chief industrial commissioner power to organize and allocate the work of his brother commissioners. I wish to make it clear that the exercise of such power by the chief commissioner is subject to the overriding authority of the Chief Judge to assign commissioners to such industries as he thinks fit. Full authority will belong to the Chief Judge,but he may say that the actual location of the commissioners in the various. States shall be amatter for decision by the chief commissioner.
The honorable member for Fawkner also asked for information about the general organization of the work of the commissioners. At an earlier stage of the discussion on the hill I mentioned that about fifteen commissioners would probably be appointed, but no number is fixed in the bill itself. The number fifteen was simply an estimate by the Government, reached after consultation with the judges, of the. total number of commissioners likely to be required when the scheme is first put into operation. This number will include existing conciliation commissioners of whom there are seven or eight throughout the Commonwealth. It is not likely that there will be fifteen new appointments, because every one knows that the present commissioners have done very well.
– So there will be six or seven new appointments?
– About that number. Of course, there may be more.
– How did the Government arrive at the number of fifteen by divination or astrology?
– By considering the needs of the situation. It should be remembered that the number of judges of the Arbitration Court is not fixed by statute, but may be varied from time to time.
– The Government was guided by advice which it received.
– From whom ?
– From very high quarters. The honorable member for Fawkner also asked for information as to the probable location in Australia of the industrial commissioners. Most of them will be located in Sydney and Melbourne, and there may be one in each of the other States.
– The belief is that most of the work will be in Sydney and Melbourne. Most of the awards in force in Queensland were issued by State authorities. It is expected that Western Australia and Tasmania will occupy the time of only one man.
– In both Western Australia and Queensland1 the greater part of1 the authority in these matters is exercised by State industrial bodies. New South Wales and Victoria are the centres of most of Australia’s industries. As T: have said, the allocation of the commissioners will be determined by the needs of the- industrial situation.
– What about Commissioner Rowland in South’ Australia?
– He is one of the commissioners, who has. done very well under the present, system. It is true o£ him, as of others, that during the war he did extremely good work.
– He will be absorbed into the new system?
– A man like him will have to be re-appointed, but it is. no secret” that the present intention is to reappoint those who have been a success.
– Will a selection be made of men with a special knowledge of theindustries to which they are assigned,, or will’ the Government choose men with a general, knowledge of industry ?
– The- one kind of knowledge is not necessarily exclusive of the other. In the case of certain industries,, where technical knowledge is essential,, it would be proper to appoint a person* experienced in that industry but, as the honorable member himself knows, men’ possessing industrial experience are generally qualified to take up industrial, work in a number of industries or groups of industries.
– I am. grateful for the information which the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) has given, us. It helps to clear up some of our’ doubts, but it lias not resolved all of them, and it has by no means resolved the misgivings which honorable members on this’ side of the House have felt from’ the outser. In regard to the appointment of conciliation’ commissioners, our concern’ arises, partly at any rate,, from a fear that men unsuitable for the positions are’, likely to be’ appointed”. That is> no reinfection upon the men who have been, functioning as- conciliation commissioners! up- to. the. present. Some of. them, were appointed by the Government of which-.
I was a member, and by myself when L was: a Minister. But when we examine the personnel-‘ who have been carrying out the duties- of conciliation commissioners it will be- found that in almost every instance they have been men who could not be declared to be associated with any particular industry: Most of them were, in fact, officers of the Arbitration Court itself. I have in mind Mr. Murray Stewart,. Mr: Morrison, and Mr. Rawlings. They were officers of the Arbitration Court and were given the higher responsibility of dealing with industrial matters as conciliation commissioners. The other existing .commissioners are. men who could be said to be neutral in so far as their interests are concerned. Mr. Mooney, to whose ability reference has. already been made, and whom the Menzies Government appointed to the position, possessed a legal background and a knowledge of affairs as they were- affected by industrial matters..
– He was appointed by that Government to a1 temporary wartime position; but the present Government appointed him to his- present” permanent position.
– That is so; I am not challenging’ his appointment: The. fear which: w.e on this side of the chamber,, and, indeed,, most critics of this phase of the legislation,, feel is that- under pres.sure, from those- who have been able to demonstrate’, their influence with this Administration, or State- Labour administrations,, and under pressure from the trade union movement, most of the appointees will be men who have. been active in trade union matters,, or have specialized knowledge of some1 particular industry with which they haw been associated as trade- union officials-. Inevitably, such, men would be influenced by feelings arising from contests- with thoseagainst, whom they had been opposed in the past. In- short, we believe that theGovernment will not get impartial and neutral commissioners- from- men of that kind., If the Attorney-General- says that our fears are- without foundation, I remind him. of- the remark made by the honorable, member, for Hunter (Mr. James), who’ said that the: commissioners should: be- drawn from the taints of. trade unionists and should be men sympathetic towards the Labour point of view. Just a few minutes ago, when the AttorneyGeneral was asked how the number of fifteen commissioners was decided upon, the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) said that it was fixed “ upon advice received “. When we pressed for a more particular answer the Attorney-General said half jokingly that the number was fixed upon advice “from very high quarters”. My impression was that the trade unions had recommended that that number of commissioners be appointed.
– That is not correct.
– If that is our state of mind, it is also the state of mind of a great many people outside the Parliament. If the worst evils which we have predicted as likely to occur under this scheme are to be avoided, men chosen for these positions must be men who command the respect of the employers and the employees and the public as well. They must he men who the public can feel will give just decisions and will not be affected- by any past bitterness, or controversy, in the industrial field.
Another aspect of this matter is that we are told, broadly speaking, that the existing commissioners will continue their functions, and that additional appointments are to be made. How much nearer will the Government be to its objective, which is to overcome delays, when under this scheme it proposes to take out of this particular sphere “of industrialarbitration the present judges, Chief Judge Piper, Acting Chief Judge Drake-Brockman. Judge Kelly, Judge Sugerman and Judge Foster? Under the bill they are to be relieved of the job of dealing with disputes arising from time to time. Their activities are to be confined to appeals on matters of law referred to them by the conciliation commissioners, and to certain reserved matters of a limited number set out in the bill. If those five judges are taken out, and only six or seven additional commissioners are to be appointed, the Government will not advance much farther its claim that there have been delays which will be obviated by the appointment of a few more conciliation commissioners. My view, which is supported by those who have had experience in industrial arbitration; is that this talk of delays in dealing with disputes is exaggerated. It may take a long time to deal with important industrial principles, such as the 40-hour week or a revision of the basic wage. Quite clearly, detailed evidence is required on those matters, because they vitally affect the economic life of the Commonwealth. But so far as the general class of industrial disputes is concerned, I donot know of any that could not have been settled almost out of hand had the parties desired an early settlement. Under the industrial peace regulations, any body of employers, or any trade union, could approach the registrar of the court and refer to a matter in dispute and have it heard the next day.
– What about new awards?
– I do not imagine that a conciliation commissioner will be able to make a new award in less time than it now takes the court to do so. Indeed, the legal training of judges is directed towards eliminating irrelevancies, and matters which are not necessary so far as judgments are concerned. Far from removing delays by the appointment of men who have not had that training, 1 suggest that if. they are going to deal with awards and the revision of awards, they will be required to take just as much time over such matters as does a judge. The primary virtue of the conciliation system as we knew it was that officers existed whose function it was to get to a dispute, bring the parties together and, if there were room for conciliation, to help them reach, agreement. But time and again it was found that after a conference had been held, such officers were not able to bring about a settlement and,, thereupon, they referred the dispute to the court, although, in some instances, the officer himself was empowered to make an award. If these additional appointments are to be made at a time when the functions of the existing judges are to be reduced by reason of the fact that they will not now be. called upon to determine day-to-day disputes, I fail to see what has been gained by this legislation, which, we are told, is designed to eliminate delays. I emphasize my original objection, because if the
Government, through any pressure whatever, appoints as conciliation commissioners men who have not the necessary training, experience, judgment and capacity to deal with these matters, it will bring into disrepute and public condemnation the arbitration system which has been the bulwark of this country’s economic progress. I make a last appeal to the Government that such pressures as may be applied be ignored and that it select men for appointment as conciliation commissioners who it feels can be relied upon to give fair, just and impartial decisions.
.- The appointment of conciliation commissioners is undoubtedly the fundamental principle in this bill. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt), and the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) by interjection, asked how the number of commissioners proposed to be appointed had been arrived at. The number selected is merely approximate; it may be found in practice that additional appointments will have to be made. The number decided upon was .determined not as the result of discussions with trade unions, or other outside bodies, but after discussions between the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt), and the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway), and myself, with those responsible for the working of the system.
– That is, the judges of the A rbitration Con rt ?
– Yes ; but I do not want it to be inferred that the judges are in ‘any way committed to the number the Government has in mind. They are the only people with whom we have discussed this aspect- of the bill. In advising the Government they had the advantage of their expert knowledge .of the spread of awards. At first the Attorney-General and I thought that twelve might possibly be sufficient; but upon examination we realized that, not only would it be necessary to allocate conciliation commissioners to different branches of industry, but that it would also be desirable to have one or two who could be free in an emergency to deal with any particular matter that arose outside the general industrial field.
In considering the allotment of commissioners regard was paid to the fact that the bulk of their work would be carried out in New South Wales and Victoria and, to some degree, in South Australia. It was thought that in either Western Australia or Tasmania there would probably not be sufficient work to occupy fully the time of one commissioner, and that one would be sufficient for Queensland.
There was a feeling that at least two fairly versatile commissioners capable of handling a variety of cases should be at the disposal of the Chief Judge. I mention this, not with a view to committing any member of the Arbitration Court to any ideas the Government may have about this subject, but merely to show that we sought advice in every quarter upon all aspects of the proposal. We realize that upon the type of men selected will depend its success or failure, and we are fully alive to the difficulties that will confront us in making a wise choice. I had a great deal of experience in the Arbitration Court in New South Wales in years gone by when I had an opportunity to appear both with and ‘before .men who were brilliant lawyers of very high academic qualifications. I can recall how we used to argue the pros and cons of the appropriate time to make an approach to the court and very often it depended upon the state of the liver of the presiding judge. In saying that, 1 have no desire to reflect upon the absolute honesty of the men I have in mind. That has been the experience of industrial advocates in a number of States. Men, even of the calibre of the late “Mick” Connington - who was appointed by the present right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) to a very high position - at times found the greatest difficulty in getting civility and courtesy from the Bench unless, as 1 have said, the presiding judge’s liver was in good condition. It may be -possible to get men with brilliant records and of high qualifications to accept these posts, but there is an intangible quality possessed only by a few men which enables them not only to hold the scales of justice evenly but also to convince others that justice has been done. A member of the judiciary may often giver a decision which from the judicial and logical viewpoint is compl’etely sound, hut the manner in which he gives it, and the way ‘in which he conducts the case creates a feeling of antagonism among those who have appeared before him. The selection of a judge of the Arbitration Court .or a conciliation commissioner is. therefore one of the most difficult tasks that any government has to face. I pay a tribute to the manner in which the honorable member for Fawkner handled his task when, as a Minister, he - had charge of industrial matters. The honorable gentleman showed great understanding and tolerance in his dealing with both the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) and myself when we approached him on matters .of industrial concern in which we were interested. High qualifications for appointment as a conciliation commissioner does not necessarily connote deep legal knowledge. As to impartiality, whatever advantage some people might hope to gain by appointing a man favorable to the interests they represent is hound ultimately to be lost. Conciliation commissioners are to be appointed and remain in office until they attain the age of 65 years. A conciliation commissioner who shows partiality towards one side to-day may be intolerant towards that side at other times. The outstanding qualifications required by conciliation commissioners .are capacity, firmness and ability to ad indicate upon the facts fairly in the interest of not only the employer and employee but also the community generally. The history of arbitration is one of endless argument and strenuous endeavour year after year to wring concessions from the Arbitration Court. I could cite numerous instances that have occurred in the Commonwealth Arbitration Court and the arbitration courts of the States where employers have argued that certain things could not possibly be d,one. that certain concessions were absolutely impracticable and beyond reason, yet years afterwards, when we persuaded the judges that they could, in fact, be done it was found not only that they could be done but also that they could be done without difficulty. The present Minister for Air and Civil Aviation (Mr. Drakeford) could cite numerous examples of that in connexion with matters Upon which he, in earlier years, made representations to the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner. ‘One of the great difficulties is that very few -employers ta’ke a practical interest in arbitration, court proceedings; they remain aloof -and. employ paid advocates to whom successmeans giving absolutely nothing away, nomatter what the justice of the case may be.
The honorable -member for Fawkner referred to the selection as conciliation, commissioners of men who have had ‘experience in a particular industry.
– I am not recommending: that.
– No. I do not say that one can lay down a black and whiterule on the matter. .Some industries arevery complicated. Take for instance the metal trades -group. As the honorable member for Fawkner knows, it was thearduous work in connexion with those industries that contributed largely to the early .death of Judge O’Mara, who was faced with a. task that was far too much for any one man. The same may be said of the work of other Arbitration Court judges. Their work is of a most difficult nature, and because of the pressure, they are often unable to give adequate thought to the many problems with which they are called upon to deal expeditiously. Arbitration work involves not only complex economic factors but also human factors. Any man who is selected for appointment as a conciliation commissioner under this measure will require a wide general knowledge if he is to be called upon to deal with a variety of undertakings. It is not possible in the time available to me .now to define at length the qualities that will be -required, but I know that it takes many years for a judge of the Arbitration -Court or a conciliation commissioner to become familiar with complex industries such -as those ‘in the metal trades group, the cloth- . ing trade industry, and public utilities like the railways. He has to acquire a knowledge of the jargon used in these industries and of an infinite variety of other individual characteristics before he can absorb quickly the facts of a case without placing upon -counsel the burden of giving detailed explanations. Unless he. can do this he is at a great disadvantage. Despite what the honorable member for Fawkner has said, there is much to be said, in favour of having arbitration matters relating to a particular industry handled by an individual who has had am opportunity to’ gain some knowledge of that- industry, but there may be other men of greater capabilities and more suitable for the job who- have not had anything to do with the industry at all. The Government appreciates fully the responsibility that, rests upon its shoulders’ in regard to the selection of the right type of men for this work. I do. not. agree that the Arbitration. Court judges, who in- the past have been very much overworked, cannot be more usefully employed within the arbitration system. They will have an opportunity to devote much more thought to. industrial problems, and for that reason their services will be of even more value than they are to-day. It is impossible to say off-hand from what particular class in the community the conciliation commissioners will be drawn. It is. a question’ of selecting men of high ability, complete honesty and understanding, aptitude, and capacity for absorbing facts. The selection of such men will not be an easy task. It might be simple enough to find men who appeared to have these qualities, but experience might show that a mistake had been made. There is something of a gamble in the selection of a man to fill any position in life. Some men develop unsuspected talents, or are found to be particularly adaptable to . certain work. Evidence of that is to be found ‘in this chamber.
– Order ! The right honorable ‘ gentleman’s’ time has expired.
. -I have listened with great interest to the remarks of the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) and of the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt), but I am afraid that the fears in the minds of every person, who is likely to be affected by decisions of the proposed conciliation commissioners; have not been allayed by anything that these right honorable gentlemen, have said. Rather will those fears be aggravated, by the observations of the Prime Minister, who has said,, in effect, “ We know we are embarking on a new venture. This is an experiment. We intend to appoint laymen to make awards and to prescribe conditions in various- industries. We hope that the appointees will be able to do the j,ob, but. we are not sure that this will be so “. If that statement will not create a feeling of misgiving in the minds of the people who will be affected by this measure, I cannot imagine what would. We are now discussing the most important clause in the bill. The Government proposes to appoint . a certain number of conciliation commissioners. When the bill was first introduced honorable members opposite acclaimed, it as perfect; but even before the second-reading, debate had been completed, we had placed before us a printed list of 54 Government amendments. Th,amendment proposed to clause S now under discussion provides that the GovernorGeneral may appoint a conciliation commissioner to be the chief conciliation commissioner. That provision was not in the original measure. Honorable members will recall that one of the conditions laid down in the bill originally was that there should be a conference of conciliation commissioners, at least once every six months. Apparently there was to be a. sort of “ old boys’ re-union “, at which the conciliation commissioners would swap reminiscences. What could such conferences’ possibly do to maintain close relations between the various branches of industry? Apparently since the bill was first introduced the Attorney-General has seen the light. First, lie has realized that no provision has been made for somebody to tell the conciliation commissioners what their work is to be. Secondly, it is thought, apparently, that a six-monthly interval between conferences would he too long, and so the period has been reduced to four months. We find the Government going over and over the ground that it has already covered, building up this gigantic experiment which will be carried out at high cost to the industrialists, and without; bringing, to the employees any appreciable measure of comfort. The Prime Minister has acknowledged the fa.ct that the selection of the conciliation commissioners will be one of the primary difficulties. I cannot conceive of any layman, apart from a former employee or employer in a particular industry, having sufficient knowledge to control that industry. He would not have the training that a judge of the Arbitration Court has in the taking and valuing of evidence, and in the consideration of the. many points of law that must arise. The Prime Minister said, almost in agreement with that, “ But there will come a time when this man, who may have had hi:is in his early days, will have tolerance. Only experience will teach him”. But what is to happen to industry in the meantime? We are to have fifteen conciliation commissioners, perhaps some from the employing side, but most from the ranks of union secretaries and advocates, men with understanding of industry from the labouring angle who will, as the Prime Minister says, have bias in their early days. What will happen until that bias has .been overcome by commonsense, cold logic and reasoning, if it is ever overcome by them?
We know, of course that the Government has the happy knack, under pressure, of directing conciliation commissioners, as it has directed the chairman of the Stevedoring Industry Commission, Mr. D. V. Morrison, and all others associated with commissions appointed by it. Directions from the Government have resulted in the resignation of even judges. The resignation, of Judge de Baun from the chairmanship of the Maritime Industry Commission is an instance. Under this legislation, the conciliation commissioners will be appointed from one side or the other of the industrial field. Otherwise, the Government will have to appoint laymen without knowledge of industry who will have to gain that knowledge, as Judge O’Mara had to gain it, at the sacrifice of his health and ultimately his life, because it took many years for him, despite his great capacity and his ability to bring to bear on the matters before him a trained legal mind and a knowledge of evidence and points of law, to gain the knowledge that was necessary for him adequately to discharge his duty as a judge of the Arbitration Court. We are told that the conciliation commissioners are to be laymen without knowledge of the law. Perhaps they will have no knowledge of industry. From .their decisions, which may be made in ignorance or with a possible desire to do away with injustice in wages and industrialconditions, there is to be no appeal. They may or may not go to the Arbitration Court for a ruling on a point of law. They have that discretion. Can honorable members imagine anything moreGilbertian than that? A man who, the Prime Minister admits, may ‘ be prejudiced may be so prejudiced that hewill not brook a ruling on a point of law, but will go ahead and possibly create an injustice from which therewill be no appeal. It is true that this is a gigantic experiment. It is equally truethat a conciliation commissioner may bea superman and may not be subject to the same liverish conditions that the PrimeMinister spoke about as being associated, with justices of the High Court.
– Not the High Court.
– Yes, he may be a superman with no liver complaint, but I venture to say that he will suffer many headaches before he will overcome all the intolerable disabilities that must beassociated with a job such as his will be.
We have experienced the methods employed by this Government in appointing people to special positions. I do not desire to speak in terms of political jobbery, but I am greatly concerned at the possibility of one of our Communist comrades being appointed as. a conciliation commissioner. The honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Conelan) laughs at at that prospect, but does he not remember that Mr. Healy, an avowed Communist, was and is a member of the Stevedoring Industry Commission and had the temerity to submit to the Government the draft of a bill dealing with the stevedoring industry the details of which it closely followed in the drafting of the Stevedoring Industry Bill itself? I have no doubt that when this bill becomes law and the serried ranks of the trade unionists realize that there are fifteen beautiful plums to be picked, pressure will be brought, to bear on the AttorneyGeneral and the Prime Minister in the making of the appointments. That pressure will possibly be greater than they can bear. I know what they are likely to go through. I know the representations that are likely to be made to them. I know where they will come from. I know the arguments that are likely to be advanced by Communist-controlled unions to ensure that men acceptable to them shall be -appointed as conciliation commissioners in the industries with which they are concerned. When appointments are made under those conditions, what is likely to happen to industry while the peculiar bias that the Prime Minister spoke of is being overcome by cold logic and reasoning? Will industry be able to stand the period in which the conciliation commissioner will be learning to overcome his prejudice? Industry is under such anextraordinary strain that it cannot bear one more stress. Yet, we have the Prime Minister rising and saying, “ We realize the difficulties in appointments of this character and how difficult it will be to appoint men perfectly honest and with the necessary experience and knowledge to do the job. “ There is one way in which to overcome the difficulty. If the Government insists on laymen - and I am opposed to them - the Prime Minister can give the duty of making the appointments to the Chief Judge of the Arbitration Court, who will be able to select men with at least some grounding in legal matters, with a. knowledge of how to take, sift and apply evidence, and acquainted with industrial matters in a broad way, if they have not a complete, clear and specific knowledge of the industries that they are called upon to investigate. If the Government is not prepared to do that there is another course for it to follow, f know that the Government will not accept the first course, because I know that it intends to use the weight of numbers against amendments, or even suggestions, from this side. The Prime Minister even declared, before the Attorney-General’s 54 amendments were circulated, that no amendments would be accepted. If the Government intends to rush forward with this experiment, which will possibly cost industry a decade of development, let it give the Chief Judge the right to appoint laymen to the jobs and the opportunity of calling them together in order to keep in close touch with all matters associated with- the making of awards in the different industries. Otherwise what is likely to happen? We shall have fifteen conciliation commissioners operating in a multiplicity of industries without cohesion and with no knowledge of the interests of the outside consumers and no knowledge on the bear.ing on the national economy that will be bad by the awards that they make as laws unto themselves. Can the Government not see that each union will use each conciliation commissioner as a stepping-stone to higher wages and better conditions that industry will not be able to afford? The more one looks at it the more one realizes that this gigantic experiment is an experiment that the country cannot afford. .
.- The speech that we have just heard was, I think, one of ‘the most malicious examples of distortion that has been put up in this chamber for some time. The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) endeavoured to convince us that the appointments to be made by the Government will be bad because they will be appointments of conciliation commissioners, not of judges as many honorable members opposite have advocated. The logical implication of his argument was that, if the Government appointed judges, the appointments, would be good. I direct attention particularly to the honorable member’s suggestion that laymen should not be associated with arbitration courts, or any courts dealing with industries. In Western Australia for many years the Arbitration Court has consisted of a lay president, a representative of the employers, and a representative of the employees. The position of Mr. Healy, who is a Communist, in the Stevedoring Industry Commission, to which the honorable member for Wentworth referred, is not that of a presiding judge or even that of a conciliation commissioner. Mr. Healy is the elected representative of the Waterside Workers Federation, and occupies his position by the same right as does the representative of the employers on the commission. The neutral chairman of the commission, Mr. Morrison, has been commended by honorable members opposite as being a man worthy of respect. It is a curious fact that honorable members opposite say that all conciliation commissioners who have been appointed in the past have been worthy of respect, but that those who will, be appointed in the future, will not be worthy .of respect. . If .this Government is incapable of appointing competent conciliation commissioners, it must be equally incapable -of .appointing competent Arbitration Court judges. Theretore, that .argument is not necessarily directed, against the principle of appointing .conciliation commissioners. The ‘question of appointing laymen who should have an expert knowledge of industry is important. Honorable members opposite have stressed the need -for the presence of lawyers in the Arbitration Court and on the Arbitration Court Bench. The whole aim of the. arbitration system in Western Australia, which has been much more successful than the systems in other States, is to exclude lawyers from the court and have an atmosphere of complete informality in its deliberations: On one occasion, in a timber workers’ case, the Arbitration Court met in the forests i.n the south-western area of Western Australia. Lawyers are admitted to that court only in special .circumstances and with the consent of the parties to a dispute. That principle is applied not only in the Arbitration Court of Western Australia but also in the Public Service of that State. A law recently passed by the .State Government which was defeated at the elections a few weeks ago departed from that principle in relation to appeals against promotions in the Public Service, and it led to .grave dissatisfaction with the legal quibbling which immediately arose in what previously had been a court of equity.
Honorable ^members opposite have stressed the need for confidence in the conciliation commissioners. I agree with them. There is also a need for confidence in Arbitration Court judges. A Chief Judge of the- Arbitration Court, when presiding over a coal-miners’ dispute, .stated that he would not know a coal mine if he fell into one. I presume that that was a perfectly honest statement; but it would not commend the Chief -Judge to the coal-miners as a person who should have authority to determine a dispute in the coal-mining industry.
– The coal-miners asked for that judge to be appointed ito the presidency of the tribunal. Be fair to Mm.
– I am not .being .unfair .to the judge. I merely stated that, if he said, that .he would not -know a coal mine if he fell into one, he was not. inspiring confidence among the miners, who desired to have somebody, who would, understand’ their industry. That is only a statement of .fact. If the Opposition insists that every person, who presides in these industrial courts-should be a lawyer,,, trained as a barrister, it will he saying,, in .effect, that there should .be a predisposition in the Arbitration Court. Arbitration Court judges, .are not called upon to decide points of law. The quotation, which the Attorney-General made from a statement by the late Mr. Justice Higgins,, that the -ordinary court pf law determines law as it is, whereas an arbitration court makes industrial law, overthrows entirely the argument .that lawyers are needed in arbitration court’s. Is it a legal matter todetermine what is a fair wage in an industry ? Is it necessary for a man to have been trained in criminal law in order torn alee .such a determination? Proceedings in an arbitration court are not in the realm of civil law. The decision of what is a fair return to the employees in an. industry is npt a legal decision at all. It is strange that although honorable members opposite attack the principle of appointing laymen to arbitration tribunals, they admit that all -of the laymen w’ho have been appointed as conciliation commissioners have done their work well. In Western Australia, where arbitration has been much less legalistic and informal tha’n it is in the other States, the lay “appointees to the court have ‘been successful. Another “ red herring “ drawn across the trail by ‘the honorable member for Wentworth was his statement that fifteen conciliation commissioners making awards in different industries will make awards differing from one another. That is exactly what -happens under the existing system. For example, the Arbitration Court of Western Australia made a determination dm 1938 fixing a basic wage that was 6s. or 7s. a week higher than that which applied in the ‘eastern States. Does the honorable member seriously ask us to believe that,- if a judge of the Arbitration Court is making a determination in connexion with the coal-mining industry, he consults some other judge who has ‘been making a determination in connexion with the .stevedoring industry before he issues .an award. Obviously not ! This nill provides that fundamental matters, such as the basic wage and standard hours of work, shall be left to an arbitration court, but that, in particular industries, matters which are not fundamental shall be determined on the spot by .conciliation .commissioners, who will have some chance of acquiring expert knowledge of those industries. Nothing could be plainer common sense. The speech of the honorable member for Wentworth, with its bogies of political appointees and the argument that laymen are incapable of making fair awards, although he admits that existing lay authorities have made good .awards, was just to darken counsel.
.- I arn sorry that the ‘honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) should have indulged in such exaggerations as to say that the speech of the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) was “ a malicious attempt at distortion”. The honorable member tried to make up in vehemence of speech what he seemed to lack in knowledge of recent political history. Considering recent appointments made by ‘ the Government - for instance, those of Mr. Frost and Mr. Breen, defeated Labour politicians, as trade commissioners to Ceylon and Egypt respectively - I say that we have good reason to have doubts about the appointment of the proposed fifteen conciliation commissioners. The clause now before the committee is a most important part of the bill. I know that the Government, having a strong majority will pass this clause in spite of our objections, so that what we have to say about it will not matter. Nevertheless, I want the Attorney-General to listen to a proposal that I shall make. He may be able to clear our minds on this .point. Under this provision, fifteen, conciliation commissioners will be appointed to decide whether we shall have industrial peace or shall ‘continue to have industrial chaos I agree with . .the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) that ‘the conciliation commissioners .should be men of integrity, and should display impartiality in making their determinations. .Such men will be difficult to find, but I have no doubt tha they can be found. In my opinion, the judges of .the Arbitration Court should select , them. The reputation of our judiciary is excellent. Regardless of the political beliefs of the various governments which appointed them, the judges are .above reproach. If they were made responsible for appointing the conciliation commissioners, the Opposition would be satisfied, the workers would be happier, and the employers would be relieved to know that impartiality would be displayed in the making of awards. If the choice of conciliation commissioners is to be determined by caucus or Cabinet, some of .the appointments might be unwise, and that would give rise to -considerable difficulties. Honorable members know the pressure that can be brought to bear upon Cabinet. Frequently, we see iii the galleries men whose names are notorious throughout Australia - the leaders of the great militant unions who are causing havoc in Victoria to-day. If some of these men should be appointed conciliation commissioners, great misery and unemployment will occur in Australia.
It is useless for honorable members opposite to say that politics will not enter into the choice of these commissioners. The Communists are more than a political party. The honorable member for Fremantle knows that as well as any one else. Communists are revolutionaries. They do not owe allegiance to Australia, and their contesting seats at Commonwealth and State elections is purely incidental. If, perchance, one of them were made a conciliation commissioner in a key industry, he could bring disaster upon this country. The Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) is well aware of what occurred in Canada recently. The oath of allegiance does not mean anything to a Communist, and a member of the Canadian Parliament, who was a Communist, was sentenced to a term of imprisonment for having betrayed official secrets to Russian spies. Furthermore, a renowned British scientist, also a Communist, is now in gaol for a similar offence.
– Order ! I ask the honorable member to relate his .remarks to the clause.
– I am about to make my request to the Attorney-General. ‘ The right honorable gentleman has met the sta tesmen of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. He is well aware of the menace of communism to the world. We require from him an unambiguous statement that no Communist or suspected Communist will be made a conciliation commissioner under this legislation. The persons appointed to these positions will retain office until they reach the age of 65 years. There are certain persons with less courage than Messrs. Healy and Thornton, who do not declare themselves. The Government must know who they are. Any of these men, if appointed, will betray Australia. This issue is bigger than a union or an industrial matter., [f honorable members opposite disregard my warning, they will betray their own oath as members of this Parliament. They know that some Communists have been appointed to government departments. The Attorney-General should give an assurance that Communists will not be appointed conciliation commissioners. The fairest and most impartial way will be to allow the judges of the Arbitration Court to make the appointments. If the Attorney-General will give this assurance, r,he people of Australia, including large numbers of unionists, will feel vastly relieved.
.- I was most interested to hear the remarks of the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) about Communists. In truth, he must dream about Communists every night. The greatest disappointment that the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) and the honorable member for Balaclava could have, would be an omission on the part of the Government to appoint any Communists fc.s conciliation commissioners. Those two honorable .members would be the most satisfied persons in this Parliament, and, indeed in Australia, if a Communist were appointed to one of those positions. If the Opposition were able to appoint laymen as conciliation commissioners, and they were successful, surely the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley), the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt), and the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway), are competent to appoint men of equal calibre and ability who will understand the problems of this country and its industries, and the requirements for its expansion and advancement. The Opposition did not protest against the appointment of judges of the High Court and the Arbitration Court when the appointees were members of anti-Labour political parties. For example, the Chief Justice of the High Court, Sir John Latham, was Attorney-General in a Nationalist government. Acting Chief Judge DrakeBrockman, formerly a senator, was a member of one of the present Opposition parties.
Do honorable members opposite believe that, with a passage of time, the workers of Australia should not derive some benefits after they worked and fought in two world wars ? A .few days ago, the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) declared that Australians in all walks of life had stood shoulder to shoulder in those two conflicts, and helped to gain the victory. We now have an opportunity to reward the workers. The employers will be able to offer their objections, and submit their case when they disagree with the claims of their employees for improved wages and conditions. In Queensland, as in Western Australia, we do not consider that judges of the Arbitration Court should necessarily have been legal practitioners. ‘ Queensland has experienced as little industrial unrest as has Western Australia, and probably less than any other State. Although two judges of the Queensland Arbitration Court were laymen, they are recognized by employers and em ployees as being most capable. For a number of years, they have done an excellent job, and will continue to do so. If the Opposition sincerely desires harmony in industry, honorable members opposite now have an opportunity to assist to .achieve that objective. If the conciliation commissioners understand the ramifications of various industries, and have no legal practitioners to influence them or the employers when they m’eet to resolve some dispute, disagreements will be adjusted quite satisfactorily. The Attorney-General has acted wisely in deciding to appoint a chief conciliation commissioner. I had not approved of this proposal earlier, although I believed that some officer should be placed in control of them.
– The honorable member did not have any say in the matter.
– I have more say in this House than has the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), because I am a member of the Labour party which has a majority in this Parliament, and we shall carry out the policy which Ave submitted to the people and on which they elected us. I consider that the chief conciliation commissioner will be an excellent man. The Opposition complained that the Attorney-General had circulated a. large number of amendments after he had moved the second reading of the bill. ‘Surely honorable members opposite realize that the right honorable gentleman was courageous enough to accept certain advice which was tendered to bini in this chamber. They should approve of these amendments, instead of abusing the Attorney-General for having realized the necessity for them. With the passing of this bill, discord in industry will be reduced, the people will approve of the selection of conciliation commissioners, and Australian industries w ill expand and function most efficiently.
.- I am principally concerned that this bill shall restore peace in industry so that primary producers - I represent a large primary producing constituency - may quickly resume the production of food that is so necessary to this country. Because of industrial stoppages, primary producers are unable to obtain the” agricultural machinery that they require.
– Order ! I remind the honorable member that the committee is considering the selection of conciliation commissioners.
– Regarding the selection of conciliation commissioners the suspicion of honorable members cn this side of the chamber has arisen from good cause. The honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Conelan), who has just resumed bis seat, boasted that the Government received its numbers from the electors, which, of course, is quite correct. However, when we look at the history of this matter we remember that this Government asked for more’ than the people’s votes at the last election. It asked for authority to fix wages and conditions in industry, but this power was refused by the people. That is one of the reasons why members on this side of the chamber are suspicious of this measure although the electors returned this Government with a big majority it did not give it the authority to control industry, which it sought, and we said at the time : “ What will be the next move?” We knew the Government wanted that power, that it was denied it by the people and that it was going to seek to get it somehow. ‘
– Order ! The honorable member must deal with the clause and not address himself to other matters.
– The only way the Government could achieve what it desired was to appoint conciliation commissioners, as is proposed in this bill, so that they could directly fix the conditions in industry.
The honorable member for Griffith condemned the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) ‘ for speaking of communism and the activities of Communists, and he declared that the honorable member for Balaclava must dream about them. I can assure honorable members of the Government that the menace of communism “ in this country is not a dream ; it is a reality. If the Government is just dreaming about it;-
– Order ! The honorable member is not addressing himself to the clause.
– I rise to order. The amendment before the committee deals with the appointment of a chief conciliation commissioner. As I understand the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull), the point he is endeavouring to make is that there are grave possibilities of a Communist being appointed to the position of chief conciliation commissioner. I submit that he is quite in order in referring to that.
– Order ! The Chair understands otherwise. The honorable member for Wimmera is notspeaking to the clause before the House. The clause under consideration provides for the appointment of conciliation commissioners, and the honorable member is not entitled to embark on a, general dissertation. He is at liberty to deal with the whole subject of the appointment of conciliation commissioners and he may deal with the type of men to be appointed and any other aspects that are relevant.
– I rise to order. Is it not possible that if an error were made in the appointment
– Order ! The honorable member for Wimmera is addressing the Chair.’
– The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) said that it had been suggested that the present Government was incapable of making satisfactory public appointments, and that is the real point at issue. There are- many technicalities surrounding it but the real point, as is agreed by honorable members on both sides- of the chamber, is whether the right men will be appointed. The Government was refused this power by the people and it is seeking te obtain it in another way. A review of recent appointments made by the Government lends colour to the- suggestion that was voiced by the honorable member for Fremantle. However, I want to be fair and not look only at one side to the exclusion of the other. The Prime Minister expressed a reasonable view, and one which I support with certain reservations, when he remarked that- if the Government, in making these appointments-, selected men who were rank unionists or Communists the harm they would do would wreck the scheme altogether. Of course that is true. On the ocher hand, we know that these commissioners are to be appointed for a very long period-. However; it is idle to say any more; the Government has decided what it will do and, since it has the numbers, any amendments which the Opposition puts forward will be disregarded. But I would not be a conscientious representative of a primaryproducing constituency if I did not register my most strong protest against these proposals.
.- The honorable -member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull) said, that he was. very worried about’ primary producers; but since he made very little reference to the- actual clause I think his remarks may be- entirely disregarded. There seems to be a great deal of fear - largely simulated, I suggest - that politically affiliated laymen will be appointed to these positions. Honorable members opposite may have guilty consciences in regard to. appointments which their governments have’ made. The names of quite a number of their appointees were mentioned to-night. Naturally, they are worried, believing that this Government may adopt their policy of appointing individuals of the same political pursuasion
I am just an ordinary layman, one of the great number that will be affected, by this measure. I propose to say something of legal men, but I do not do so disrespectfully. Because a man has legal qualifications it does not mean that he also has practical ability. I am not criticizing the value of sound legal knowledge, because it, undoubtedly, has its worth. But, if we are dealing with practical matters,, legal men are sometimes as incapable as babes in the wood. It is for that reason that the Government contends that the appointment of men experienced in industry, in preference to legal men, as conciliation commissioners is justified. I cam give an example of the failure of a judge to deal practically with a serious dispute- in the pastoral industry in the 1920’s. The gentleman concerned was a learned judge of the Arbitration Court. The pastoralists concerned were, represented at the arbitration proceedings by legal men,, but the shearers, the other parties to the proceedings, were represented by laymen like the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Johnson). The award ultimately made by. the learned judge astounded the graziers as much as it did the shearers. It reduced the shearers’ rate by 10s. a hundred sheep shorn. The pastoralists themselves got a tremendous shock, because they knew that men would not come from Victoria or Tasmania to New South Wales to shear at the rate fixed, by the award’ and they realized that they would be without labour at shearing time. The graziers themselves have a union - and no one- blames them for that - and their association became concerned at the fact that some of its- members were not observing; the new award. The result was that th& judge had t’o reconsider his award. Had representatives of the pastoralists and the shearers conferred together in the first place they would undoubtedly have reached a more practicable decision than did the judge. I am not reflecting on the judiciary. But the members of the judiciary are only human beings and, as the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) said, they may be influenced by the state of their livers. Half the trouble that occurs in industry could be settled before it reaches the stage at which it requires a decision by a judicial body. The Opposition need not fear; there are members of the Government who are just as competent in selecting the right men for the positions that will have to be filled as is the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt). I am sure that great benefit will accrue from this legislation.
.- While the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) was addressing the committee, I asked out of pure curiosity how the number fifteen in relation to conciliation commissioners had been arrived at. Immediately, there was a duet from the ministerial table, the AttorneyGeneral singing from his seat and the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) from his. I suspect that their songs were not quite in tune, because not very long afterwards there was a cantata from the other side of the chamber. Whenever there is some doubt as to how the ministerial ship is steering, the Prime Minister takes his place at the table and engages in a dialogue, cantata or duet with one or two of his Ministers. The statement that we had from the right honorable gentleman while seated was that the number fifteen had been arrived at by resorting, not - as’ I suggest - to divination, astrology, or something of the kind, but to advice. Later, the Prime Minister was good enough to rise to his feet. He then told us that the number had been arrived at by resorting to advice from the Attorney-General, the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway), and - I think he mentioned - one or two other Ministers. I thought that the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Scully) might have been called in to act as an impartial chairman, but he was not. Seeing that the num- ber is fifteen, I thought that perhaps the whole of the Ministry had played a game of crib, a card game in which I do not indulge, but in the playing of which, . I have noticed, the number fifteen enters into the calculations of the players very many times. Possibly, therefore, the remarks of the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McLeod), in regard to shearing, had quite another implication; my friends opposite may have been out on one of their favorite pastimes for a week-end, and may have indulged in a friendly game of crib. So far as the debate has progressed, we have not been informed as to how the number fifteen was arrived at. Therefore, I may be just as right as anybody else if I say that the stars were consulted or the number was taken out of a hat. In either peace or war, if a government department wants to employ a certain number of people there is generally justification for it. To begin with, we have a certain number of Ministers; the number is limited by the Ministers of State Act.
– Are they justified?
– I have not said that’ they are justified. One of these days the limit may be raised. Then, the number of members of Parliament is limited by the Constitution. We limit every year the number of persons on the civil establishment, and in departments of State. In the armed forces, we have establishments, complements and so on, in order -that we shall not have more men than are required. There is some reason for every one of these limitations. That reason has been thought out, and it can be explained and justified. The Prime Minister and the AttorneyGeneral are the two chief artists in the Government cantata. Both of them have made contributions to-night, yet we are still in the dark. We have had only one ray of daylight. Rather should I say that we have had two rays, although one was perhaps not more than half a ray. That was vouchsafed to us when the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Williams) made his contribution to the debate last week. He did not quite switch on the torch, .but we know that he had it, and the direction in which it was pointed. The honorable member for
Hunter (Mr. James) was most frank, unusually frank even for him, because he was good enough to tell us in a public statement that all of these conciliation commissioners are to be appointed from the ranks of trade unions.
– I expressed the hope that they would be.
– I suspect that the honorable gentleman’s hopes were founded on something fairly substantial. He further .said that if these men, having been appointed, did not carry out the will and the wish of those who had appointed them - I may not have given his exact words, but they convey the sense bf what he said - in other words, if as conciliation commissioners their verdict does not go to the side from which they come, he hoped that they would be recalled. As the clause is drafted, I do not see any method by which they could be recalled. I ask the Attorney-General to tell me whether any one of these conciliation commissioners can be removed by an address of both Houses of the Parliament.
– Yes; that is provided for in the bill.
– I am not a lawyer, and have sought a little free advice. Foi’ once in my life, I have been given it. That gives us some little hope. Lt may also give more hope to the honorable member for Hunter, who now will have a clear idea, if he did not have one before, of the means whereby these men may be removed from office if they do not give the verdict expected of them by the’ side from which they have come. The whole basis on which this clause has been built is unsound. Some of us suspiciously minded people - Opposition members always have to be - considered that there was something not quite right about it. The honorable member for Robertson sharpened those suspicions somewhat, and after the honorable member for Hunter had given his advice there was no longer any doubt in our minds. A few minutes ago, the debate turned on the question whether a Communist could be appointed. It was also suggested that only lawyers should be appointed. I have no doubt that, in the ranks of the legal fraternity in Australia, one or two
Communists may be found. But the objective of the Communist party is the complete destruction of the arbitration system. I believe that the AttorneyGeneral has signified his knowledge of that, by the way in which he has nodded his head. Therefore, it would be a very easy matter for the right honorable gentleman to incorporate in this bill, if he were so minded, another amendment to provide simply that no person who had been or was reputed to have been a Communist could be appointed as .a conciliation commissioner. That would be the fifty-fifth amendment, put forward by the right honorable gentleman; and no doubt the Opposition will submit one or two more. The whole system which this bill will give effect to -when put into operation is one which causes the Opposition to have the gravest misgivings. It must cause every person who has any regard for peace and stability in the industries of the Commonwealth of Australia also to have the gravest misgivings. This is one of the biggest experiments which any government has ever undertaken. I am not. one who says that a man could not fill one of these positions unless he happened to be a trained lawyer. But I do say that the appointees, from whatever walks of life they may be drawn, will have to be men of tried balance and a good deal of moral courage. They will have to be able to stand up to a lot of pressure; and, as things have gone in the industrial world in the not far distant past, they will have to bear a lot of political and public ridicule and abuse from some of those who do not like the decisions that they give. These men are not found as easily as gooseberries can be found in spring time. They will have to be selected with care. I am glad that there is one method by which they can be removed from office if unsatisfactory. I should be interested to know why the Attorney-General proposes that they may retain office after attaining the age of 65 years, because I was under the impression that he held the opinion that justices of the High Court and other judges should not remain in office after reaching that age. The proposal of the right honorable gentleman will have the effect of a cold douche on some honorable members sitting behind him who from time to time have criticized certain occupants of the Bench for continuing to act as judges after reaching the age at which most public servants are called upon to retire. I should like to know on whose advice this proposal has been put forward; we have been assured by the Prime Minister that it was done on advice. There are other questions which I could ask, but I know that, unlike Echo, we should not get an answer to them.
.- The contribution to the debate by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) has not been helpful, as it consisted chiefly of satire in relation to conciliation commissioners. The honorable gentleman fears that Communists may be appointed to such positions. The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) is so obsessed by his views on communism that when he goes home at night he looks under the bed, as he did when staying at the Hotel Kurrajong. When he saw a red quilt on the floor he was so convinced that it was a Communist that he left quickly. Since then he has resided at another hotel. The honorable member for Barker fears that men will be appointed as conciliation commissioners but will not be approached to settle disputes. When the coal-miners were illegally locked out, and no action was taken against those who locked them out, Sir Henry Gullett, a non-Labour member of this House, asked why they did not approach the Arbitration Court. He said- that anti-Labour governments expected the court to carry out the wishes of the Government. When the parties now in opposition were in power, it was their practice to appoint their political friends to judicial positions. That was probably due to the influence of members of the legal fraternity on non-Labour parties. One thing can be said in favour of the legal fraternity, and that is that lawyers are strong unionists. The only way to streamline arbitration is by the appointment as conciliation commissioners of men with practical experience in industry, who know how to get straight to the heart of a dispute. Lawyers, unfortunately, are concerned more with filling their pockets than with settling disputes.
As the honorable member for Barker has said, this legislation is in the nature of an experiment. In my opinion, the time is overdue for experiments in the realm of industrial relations. After 40. years of industrial turmoil, it is right that we should experiment. Already we have had some experience of conciliation commissioners who have rendered excellent service to the community. I have in mind Mr. Blakeley, a former member for Darling, who has served under successive governments with distinction, Mr. Findlay, and others. In my secondreading speech I referred to Mr. Connell, - who made 63S decisions in industrial disputes in a year - an average of more than two for every working day of the year. Mr. Connell works day and night, including Sundays, in order to promote peace in industry. That is something which no member of the legal fraternity would do. Honorable members opposite complain of unrest in the coal-mining industry, but I assure them that there would be more trouble if Mr. Connell were not there. He was appointed, not by a Labour government, but by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt), when he was a Minister in a non-Labour government. Men like Mr. Connell are frequently able to nip disputes in the bud because they are so acquainted with conditions in industry that they can get right to the root of the trouble. Many potential disputes have been settled because of the sound judgment of such men.
During the debate the honorable member for Fawkner interjected that the coalminers had asked for Acting Chief Judge Drake-Brockman of the Arbitration Court to be appointed. I doubt the accuracy of that statement. I think that the honorable member meant that certain craft unions had asked for his appointment. Acting Chief Judge DrakeBrockman made an award for craft unions in respect of holiday pay retrospective to the 6th December, 1946, whereas the decision of Mr. Gallagher, of the Joint Coal Board, was that it should date from the 1st April, 1947.
Mr. Holt. - Both the president and the secretary of the miners’ federation have asked for the appointment of Acting Chief Judge Drake-Brockman.
– There have been so many, presidents and secretaries of the federation that I should like to know to which men the honorable member refers.
– I refer to Mr. Nelson and Mr. Grant.
– I think that they asked for some one else as well. The honorable member for Wentworth was wrong when he said that the commissioners would be able to increase wages. It is specifically laid down that the commissioners will have no power to vary the basic wage. We know that the honorable member sees red from time to time, and that. he can see no” good in the Labour party. However, he did not see anything wrong with the New Guard, which was thanked by members of the Government that he supported.
– The honorable member does not know what he is talking about.
– I know that the New Guard was a fascist organization.
– Let us get back to the point. The honorable member cannot deny that the conciliation commissioners will have power to alter margins for skill.
– That is different, but they will have no. power to interfere with the basic wage. The record of conciliation commissioners for speedy settlement of industrial disputes compares -very favorably with that of judges of the Arbitration Court. A judge will not give his decision on the day on which the case is heard. He will reserve his decision, and consult somebody else. The commissioner, who knows the industry, can give a decision on the spot. Honorable members opposite have accused lay industrial advocates of causing delay in industrial proceedings. I maintain that it is the lawyers who delay proceedings, so that they may draw more in fees. Lay advocates do not receive anything extra for appearing before the court. If they were paid by the court they would have to refund the money to their unions because they are not allowed to receive double pay. On the other hand, the lawyers sometimes receive double and treble pay.
This clause has my support, because I prefer conciliation to arbitration any day. I prefer the system where men can meet around the table and discuss their differences face to face, with some one who gives a decision if need be. Frequently, under the chairmanship of the late Charles Hibble, disputes were settled in the mining industry without the necessity for him to give a decision at all. Under this direction the parties were able to reach agreement among themselves. That was because he knew the industry thoroughly. Among other things, he was a coroner, and frequently went down the mines as a preliminary to holding inquiries. I do not advocate the making of political appointments. I am prepared to accept ‘any one as a commissioner who 1 knows something about industry, whether it be -the wool industry, the coal-mining industry, or the stevedoring industry. Let us have some one with knowledge, though it need not necessarily be technical knowledge. Let us have men who are known to be honest and sincere, and who are anxious to bring about peace in industry. I have mentioned the names of several men who are well qualified to fill these positions. I am not recommending them for the- job, because some of them, including Connell, have jobs already, but they are of the type that we need. 1 am sure that suitable men can be found. Then, if in fifty years, perhaps, the party opposite gets into power again, it will be forced to admit that this Government acted wisely, and it will have no wish to repeal the legislation now being considered. I can sympathize with honorable members opposite. I have been in opposition, longer than I have been a government supporter, and I know that honorable members opposite are voicing their carping criticism because the proceedings are being broadcast, and because there is a State election’ campaign in progress in New South Wales. They want to give Treatt .a treat, but the people who are listening know that their criticism is unfounded.
.- I appreciate the sympathy of the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James), and he will admit that we are always sympathetic with him when he discusses the coalmining industry. However, he has not said anything new to-night. He has merely told us what we already knew, namely, that the coal tribunal has functioned well with the appointments made by the government which we on this side of the chamber supported. However, we are apprehensive of the kind of appointments that will be made by this Government. We know that hot so long ago it made appointments which were not as suitable as they might have been. The Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) underlined some of our objections to this clause when he. spoke of the difficulty of finding suitable persons for appointment as commissioners. He drew on his own experience when he said that at least one of their attributes should be a good liver. I agree. It is a desirable attribute of any human being, not least of honorable members; but other attributes are necessary in those who will hold important positions as conciliation commissioners. In addition to a good liver they should also have a good brain. They should have a character beyond reproach. In addition - and this is a point which will be appreciated by the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt - they should be, in a sense, diplomats. No one can settle a dispute unless he possesses some of the qualities a diplomat is supposed to possess, but rarely does. Therefore, it will be difficult to find men possessing the necessary qualifications for these positions. That is . why we suggest that appointees should be drawn from the legal profession, the floor average of which’ is above that of other professions, although its ceiling average may not be higher than that of other professions.
My next point is that the conciliation commissioners are to be clothed with dictatorial powers. There can be no appeal from any of their decisions; and, far worse from my point of view, they are to be appointed for life. It will be practically impossible to displace them. The Attorney-General explained that they could be removed by a vote of both Houses of the Parliament; but so far as I know, no official, or judge, has been removed from his position in that way. Apparently, a person would have to reveal himself as a moron before Parliament would take steps to remove him from office. Dealing with our argument that anomalies are likely to arise from decisions of fifteen conciliation commis sioners the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) said that anomalies now arose with respect to decisions of the present judges. He cited the case of a judge in Fremantle giving an award which was inconsistent with awards governing the same industry in the eastern States. However, judges of the Arbitration Court frequently confer among themselves, and as trained men they endeavour to apply the same principles of. law in arriving at their decisions. At all events, if anomalies now arise with respect to the decisions of only five judges, how much more likely is it that numerous anomalies will arise in respect of the decisions of fifteen conciliation commissioners who will have no legal training? One of our main objections to the clause is that even on matters of principle the decisions of so many untrained commissioners will give rise to numerous anomalies. No doubt the Attorney-General is familiar with the phrase, quot homines, tot sententiae - “ as many men, so many minds “. That saying can be aptly applied in this instance. I intend to vote against the proposal of the Government.
– The crux of the debate on this matter has been whether the Government should appoint as conciliation commissioners men with legal training, or, what honorable members opposite term, laymen. Honorable members opposite are doubtful about the ability of laymen to carry out the functions of these offices. I am rather disquieted by their expressions of distrust of the Government in the making of important appointments. I believe that these posts are so important that no government, regardless of its party political affiliations, would yield for one moment to pressure that might be brought to bear upon it to appoint to them anyone who was not capable of filling them. I am certain that the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley), the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) or the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) would not appoint to these positions men who were not capable of carrying- out the duties involved. I fail to comprehend the reasoning of honorable members opposite when they contend that the Government will inevitably appoint men who have been connected with the trade union movement. Indeed, such arguments lead me to suspect that governments which honorable members opposite supported followed that principle in the making of important appointments, and, accordingly, selected for important posts persons whose cause was pushed by party political organizations associated with those governments. Are the Opposition’s chickens now coming home to roost? Apparently honorable members opposite are judging the Government by their own standards. However, I point out to them that in relation to appointments made by this Government since it assumed office, the trade union movement as a whole has protested that too many of the appointees have been persons who have no sympathy with the Labour ‘movement. That complaint has been made frequently by the trade unions. Therefore, there is no ground for the fear expressed by honorable members opposite that the Government will merely appoint trade unionists as conciliation commissioners. The proposition put forward by the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) that the Government must ensure’ that no Communist is appointed as a conciliation commissioner shows that he underrates the intelligence of the Government. The allegations that the’ Labour party is affiliated with the Communists, and that its members exchange preferences with Communist candidates at elections, is grossly untrue. At the last elections three candidates submitted themselves to the electors in my electorate - I, as a Labour man, a Liberal and a Communist, and the “ Howtovote “ cards issued on my behalf advised the people to give me their first preference, their second preference to the Liberal candidate and their third preference to the Communist.
– That bas nothing to do with the clause.
– Honorable members opposite, who have themselves departed, widely from the clause, are the first to ridicule others and attempt to halt their speeches. I say to them that when they strike me on .the cheek I shall” not turn the other cheek, but shall return blow for blow. My experience of industrial matters is not theoretical, but. practical. Many honorable members opposite appear to found their views on industrial relations upon what they read in newspapers opposed to the cause of Labour. Many of them speak as though their politics and thoughts in respect of industrial matters spring not from their knowledge of the subject but from what newspapers fear the Government may do.
I propose now to deal with the question as to whether suitable conciliation commissioners cannot be obtained from other than professional sources.
– To what profession does the honorable member refer?
– Honorable members opposite have suggested that they should be drawn from the legal profession, contending that a legal training is necessary to equip a man to undertake such a task. My experience is that industrial disputes are not settled by members of the legal profession. For the purpose of laying down rules of procedure, the advice and guidance of a lawyer is often of great’ value, but in the settlement of a pending or existing dispute members of the legal profession cannot be compared with a layman familiar with industry and the conditions of labour. I point out that no limitation has been imposed by the clause upon the selection of members of the legal profession as conciliation commissioners. In making its selections the Government will realize, how much the future welfare of this country and the industrial peace and harmony of its. people depend upon the appointment to these important posts of men of the right type. The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr.White) appeared to regard brains as the highest qualification in an applicant for an appointment of this kind. I remind the honorable member that some of the most, brainy men we have ever known have ‘been what are commonly termed “ cranks “, men who, apart from an intimate knowledge of some particular subject, are absolute loons. The highest qualifications are a knowledge of industrial conditions, social welfare and social needs, which will enable a commissioner to use wisely such brains as he may possess. Do not for one moment think that honorable members on this side of the chamber, myself in particular, would judge whether or not a man has brains merely by the letters he may be able to write after his name. It is not university degrees or a university training that counts. Merely because a man has not had a university education,- he is not necessarily uneducated or without brains. Real education is manifested by the person who is able to utilize .his brains to accumulate and assimilate knowledge of the world round about him. Honorable members may rest assured that the Government will appoint men of high qualifications and ability to carry out this important task. I appeal to honorable members opposite to reconsider their attitude to this proposal. I have always supported the system of conciliation and arbitration, notwithstanding that in the past it has not always operated satisfactorily to the workers. I have always urged the workers not to discard it and take direct action, but to work for its improvement. That is what the Government is trying to achieve in the clause now before us. In my secondreading speech I mentioned -a big industrial dispute that took place in South Australia some years ago, and caused untold misery to hundreds of workers and their families in my ^ electorate. Both employers and employees had been working under a system which had been in operation for a number of years, but, because of an order made by the Arbitration Court changing that system, the men went on strike and suffered greatly as the result.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Had it not been for the remarks of the honorable member for “Wannon (Mr. McLeod), [ should not have taken part in the discussion of this clause. This clause is the very core of this piece of legislation, and it behoves somebody to make some comments on behalf of the primary producers in relation to it. The honorable member for Wannon claimed that the clause will not affect primary (producers. Any man, irrespective of what his politics may be, who says that industrial peace does not affect the primary producers, does not know what he is talking about. How can the primary producer be expected to carry on when transport strikes are an almost every-day occurrence?
Obviously he is vitally concerned in these matters. What would be the plight of the people of Melbourne to-day if the railways were to cease to carry food to that city. They would very soon realize how necessary it is that industrial peace should be maintained so that the man on the land may be kept in production.
I was pleased to hear support from the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) for my remarks last night. I maintain that there is no necessity to have members of the legal profession in the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. I have had some personal experience of the work of that court. The real need is for men who have a thorough understanding of industry; men who are tolerant and are prepared to make full and honest investigations of whatever disputes may be in progress or pending. The appointment of such men would put this country well on the road to industrial peace.
– That is what we are going to do.
– Various opinions have been expressed by honorable members opposite. There is no .uniformity in their views. The Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt), for instance, has said that it is not the intention of the Government to appoint union secretaries as conciliation commissioners; but the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James), the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini), and the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Williams) have admitted quite frankly that in their opinion union representatives only are the men that are required.
I admit that this measure is a grand experiment and one for which there has been a need for many years. I commend the Government for its action in bringing this bill forward.
– Then why oppose it? Mr. HAMILTON.- I am not opposing the bill. I am merely opposing the ideas of some honorable members opposite who would have all the conciliation commissioners appointed from one section of industry. Persistence in that demand can only bring suffering upon the workers. Government speakers in this debate have alleged that we on this side of the chamber are all opposed to the appointment of laymen as conciliation commissioners; that we should all like to see legal gentlemen appointed to these positions; and that we are all opposed to the bill. I have yet to learn that all honorable members on this side have expressed these views. Each of ns has stated what he believes to be correct - unlike certain other honorable members in this chamber. It is obvious that, encouraged by the views expressed by certain honorable members opposite, some unions will bring pressure to bear upon the Ministers who will be responsible for the appointment of the conciliation commissioners. Certain unions have strong militant minorities that control the majority of members, and I am certain that the Government will be told that if it does not meet the wishes of these militants, reprisals will be taken at the next elections. That has happened before. I realize that there is no hope of preventing the passage of this measure in the form desired by the Government. Steam-roller tactics will be used to. force it through, but as this clause is the very core of the legislation, I implore whoever will be responsible for the appointment of the conciliation commissioners to ignore altogether any pressure that may be brought to bear upon them by any section of industry. This legislation will be on our statute-book for years. The conciliation commissioners will hold office until they reach the age of 65 years, and an immeasurable amount of harm may be done to industry generally and to the workers by the appointment of the wrong men. I sincerely trust that we shall be able to commend the Government for having divorced political considerations from the appointment of these conciliation commissioners, just as the parties now on this side of the chamber, while holding office, refrained from making political appointments.
– Honorable members opposite have spoken of the risk that they allege will be taken if men who are not members of the legal profession are appointed as conciliation commissioners. Why should we not make experiments? Only by experimenting can we progress. The establishment of the Arbitration Court itself was a great experiment. Speaking of the “gradual development of standards and practices “ in the solution of actual problems in concilation and arbitration,. Mr. Justice Higgins said -
I had to learn the business with no book of instructions, no teacher other than- experience, no kindly light except from tire Pole Star of justice.
What that distinguished gentleman was able to do then surely can be done now if the guiding light is> again the Pole Star of justice.
– When the second reading of this measure was being debated, the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) was criticized by the Opposition for his alleged unwillingness to accept amendments or to permit any modification of the Government’s original proposals. Since then, we have had submitted to us a list of 54 amendments; but the Attorney-General is now being accused of weakness. Surely, in submitting those amendments, the right honorable gentleman has indicated his willingness, not only to modify the original provisions, but also to accept worthwhile suggestions for the improvement of the measure.
In the discussion of the clause now before the Committee, we have heard from honorable members opposite a continuance of the theme that has characterized their case against the bill. The debate has taken on the characteristic form of lawyer versus layman. With the exception of the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt), honorable members opposite have failed to qualify their suspicion. They claim that the mere fact a layman may be appointed as a conciliation commissioner will render all the appointments suspect. Why, I am at a loss to know.’ Yet we are informed that mere membership of the legal profession automatically removes people from the suspicion that attaches in the minds of honorable gentlemen opposite to laymen. I repeat I do not know why. I leave it to those who have advanced that theme to justify it. The provision for appointment of laymen should have the commendation of all. We are dealing with a form of the national life that has been in existence for 40 years. We have in our midst men who have participated in its development who have not had the opportunity or advantage of going through the university, but who, I Say with deference to every one, regardless of their being bereft of an LL.B. degree, can stand up in any company and claim that they have contributed as much to the development of conciliation and arbitration as those in the possession of that degree. Why the appointment of men as conciliation commissioners should be challenged merely because they are not members of the legal fraternity is beyond comprehension. Why members of the legal profession should be exempt from suspicion, if there be suspicion, is something that members of the Opposition cannot explain. Many men without the advantage of a university education have devoted their lifetime to the development of the arbitration system as we know it. With their qualifications and experience they will continue to play a part in the development of the system if they should be appointed as conciliation commissioners.
.- I hope I shall not base my comments on this clause on mere suspicion. We have something much sounder than that on which to base arguments against the proposals contained in this clause. We have heard a great deal about the deficiencies of the present arbitration system. The two main complaints are that not enough emphasis is placed on conciliation, as distinct from arbitration, and that there, is too much delay in the present system. I believe that they are the only two justifications advanced for the appointment of these commissioners. I think it is worthwhile in considering whether commissioners should be appointed to analyse the results of arbitration in the last few years.
– Order ! The honorable member would not be in order, in doing so. He must confine himself to the appointment of the commissioners.
– I unhesitatingly accept your ruling, Mr. Chairman; but it is difficult to determine whether we should ‘ appoint conciliation commissioners if we are not allowed to discuss our experience of conciliation commissioners and the objectives hoped for from the appointment of a new body of con ciliation commissioners. We have to be guided in our decision by experience. This provision divides the arbitration system and adds new watertight compartments.. Our experience of the conciliation commissioner system has not been altogether happy. Experience of industrial arbitration has varied from time to time and State to State. Conciliation commissioners, without the powers now proposed for them, have not been satisfactory in New South Wales, but in South Australia the arbitration system has worked extraordinarily satisfactorily in all circumstances. In other words, in South Australia in 1945-46 we lost through industrial disputes only 220 days for every 1000 workers.
– Order ! The Chair cannot allow the honorable member to proceed to a general discussion. That speech could have been made on the second reading, but it cannot be made in committee. The honorable member must confine himself to the clause and the amendment. :
– I hasten to say that if the title given to the people to be appointed, namely, conciliation commissioners, clearly denned and limited their powers, I should have no objection to their appointment, but these commissioners will not be only conciliation commissioners, because they will be commissioners with wide arbitral powers, and, consequently, it is misleading for the Attorney-General to designate them in. the bill and the amendments as concilia tion commissioners. They are conciliation and arbitration commissioners and the powers they are to exercise go far beyond the limits of conciliation. It is well for us at this stage to direct attention to that, because, once they are appointed, as we know from the statements of the Attorney-General and other members of the Government and those who support them that the commissioners will not be confined to conciliation, but will enter the field of arbitration in its widest sense. It is extraordinary that the AttorneyGeneral, after having given time and consideration to and received advice about the bill, should have had to come down with this huge body of amendments before it had passed the second reading. This latest amendment will make confusion more confounded, because we were told in the AttorneyGeneral’s second-reading speech that the allocation of the duties of the commissioners would be- a matter for the Chief Judge of the Arbitration Court, but be has now shifted his ground and wants the committee to agree to the appointment of a chief conciliation commissioner who, to all intents and purposes, will exercise the powers that the Attorney-General told us were to be exercised by the Chief Judge.
We are not at all aware of the effect that this bill will have on arbitration, because we have not the faintest idea of what form it will take, not only when it leaves this chamber but also when it passes through the Senate. This great experiment, as it has been described, is an experiment made against all our experience in the last two or three years of this kind of arbitration. If the Attorney-General had analysed the results of the various authorities created to assist to distribute functions over a wider field than before the war under the system that he is trying to perpetuate and greatly increase the scope of, I am sure that he would not have brought down the bill in its present form. -We had conciliation commissioners during the war and, under the National Security Regulations, their authority was extended until they had certain arbitral powers, which they could exercise subject to the approval of a judge of the Arbitration Court. Now, they are to be given even greater arbitral powers, and they will be” competent to decide for themselves how those powers shall be used. Neither the AttorneyGeneral nor any ‘ other Minister has cited an example of the effective working of this system since it has been in operation. The fact that we are now experiencing industrial trouble to a greater degree than at any time during the war period indicates the lack of efficiency of the system. That fact is convincing evidence that this method of dividing the arbitration system into watertight compartments has not been successful. The proposed appointments of a chief conciliation commissioner and of fifteen other conciliation commissioners will perpetuate a system which, particularly during the last two years, has failed utterly to bring about industrial peace.
The Opposition is entitled to cite the facts which- 1 have stated as reasons why the Attorney-General should not press the amendment now before the committee, or any clauses of the bill to which it will’ apply, so that the powers of the commissioners will not be extended beyond the scope of conciliation into the field of arbitration. I am sure that, if the AttorneyGeneral were prepared to limit their powers to conciliation, he would have the support of every member of the Opposition. Such a decision would show that the right honorable gentleman is prepared to profit by the experiences of the not far distant past. Whilst I am not opposed to the appointment of conciliation commissioners, as such, or to an increased conciliation effort in industrial disputes, I am strongly opposed to th, appointment of commissioners with powers such as are proposed in the bill.
– We have arrived at the stage at which this skeleton of a bill, which will eventually become an act, must be clothed with its meat, which is the most important part of the measure. I refer to the appointment of its personnel. As I have frequently stated in this chamber, the human element is the factor that counts in making an act of Parliament effective. Naturally, we are suspicious of the Government’s intentions regarding the appointment of conciliation commissioners, because of recent appointments which it has made and of which we have been very critical. The Government did not cull applicants for those appointments as it should have done. In other words, it did not appoint the men best qualified for the positions which had to be filled. We have an important problem to solve in dealing with this bill. To my mind, the subject of conciliation and arbitration i.= very closely linked with the art of living. If I had sufficient time at my disposal, I should extend my theme a little, and deliver a lecture on town planning. However, I merely remind honorable member? that we have a very important problem to solve in the industrial field and that all Australians are aware of that fact. How should we endeavour to solve this problem? Some honorable members say, first of all, that we should not employ lawyers. I admit that there is a surfeit of lawyers in this chamber and a paucity of other professional men. However, I was delighted to hear the exchange of views that took place to-day between our two leading legal men, the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies). I ask honorable members who criticize lawyers what we should do in the absence of such eminent gentlemen.
There is only one way in which we can solve the industrial problem with which we are faced. First. we must obtain the facts of the situation. Then we must analyse those facts - and nobody <:an be better fitted for that task than men who have had sound legal training. Having’ analysed the facts, we must synthesize - that is, build up our solution. Next comes the problem of rounding off the jagged edges of the structure, which might be described as a sphere which has been divided into facets,’ until we have a well-rounded figure. Of course, no sphere can be made perfect by human hands, but we can do our best. Having completed our structure, we must ensure that the right men are appointed to carry out the provisions of the bill. We must cull all applicants mercilessly. En order to explain my .point more clearly, I refer to an article written by a British post office surveyor, which I read about eight years ago in the Parliamentary Library in a copy of the Public Administration Journal. British post office surveyors are highly qualified men. I assume that their status is equivalent to that of our own very highly qualified postal inspectors who, in my estimation, rank higher than bank inspectors.
– Order ! The honorable member should return to the subject before the committee, namely, the proposed conciliation commissioners.
– I bow to your ruling, Mr. Chairman. I am pointing out how these commissioners should be mercilessly culled by the Government. I am drawing an analogy by referring to a statement in an article written by an eminent British authority. He stated that there was a conflict between administrators and technical and practical men. The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Thompson) has said that professional men should not be appointed as conciliation commissioners, but that practical men should be selected. The author of the article to which I have referred stated that no man should be appointed to an administrative post unless he was familiar with the tools which he would be required to use or give decisions on. It is desirable that he should have studied some technical subject sufficiently to know when a thing is proved. He would be fighting against odds unless he had the requisite professional training. This is a fact, whether he had studied the solution of abstruse problems of astronomy or mathematics, or the science of botany. Without technical knowledge and ability, a man is unfitted to deal with a technical subject. The Government should appoint highly qualified technical men to act as conciliation commissioners. I hope that it will not repeat the foolish mistakes which it made in recent public appointments.
There is a wider, aspect of this matter which has not yet been discussed. I have not heard any honorable member refer to the appointment of conciliation commissioners in the northern areas of Australia. What does a man in Perth or Bridgetown know of conditions in Broome? What does a man in Sydney know of conditions in Cairns and Townsville ? Even more important, what would! any of them know of the tropical conditions’ in Darwin, under which men haveto work? I have heard a good deal of criticism of workers in the northern areas,and some of it was justified, but I pointout that a considerable volume of scientific data on the subject was collected by doctors not only before World -War II. but also during that conflict. They created artificial conditions in the holds of ships in order to study the effects of humidity, and to ascertain how many hours a man could work efficiently under such conditions in Darwin, Cairns or Broome. But those matters have not been discussed this evening. I have heard a good deal of criticism - some of it justified - of waterside workers in Darwin, but axemen and others who have worked for me in camps-
– Order ! I ask the honorable member to relate his remarks to the clause.
– I am emphasizing that * a conciliation commissioner, whose duties will take him to the northern areas, should possess a thorough knowledge of tropical conditions in order , that the workers who approach him shall receive a fair deal.
The Attorney-General assured honorable members that the conciliation commissioners will not have power to determine hours of labour, but undoubtedly they will be asked to advise the judges of the Arbitration Court on this matter. In my opinion, it will be foolish to create fifteen conciliation commissioners. I am always suspicious of a proposal to vest authority in one man, because he may prove to be a martinet. I prefer the appointment of five committees of three men. Before a final decision is made, the Attorney-General should seriously consider this suggestion, and, in particular, ensure that the northern areas shall be served by a conciliation commissioner -who is familiar with tropical conditions.
– The discussion on this clause has covered a wide field Some honorable members have described this provision as representing the core of the bill. In my reply, I shall not attempt to repeat the arguments that were advanced on behalf of the ^Government for the adoption of this principle. The crucial point in which honorable members are most interested is the qualifications that should be possessed by a conciliation commissioner. As the honorable member for “Wakefield (Mr. McBride) stated, a conciliation commissioner who is appointed under this legislation. will not be merely a commissioner of conciliation. He will have important arbitral functions.
– Then why will these appointees be known as conciliation commissioners?
– Under -the’ law in force to-day, these officials are described as conciliation commissioners, and they exercise, under certain safeguards and protections, arbitral functions.
– Those safeguards are not provided in this bill.
– The Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) gave to the committee a positive assurance regarding the qualifications which would be sought in the’ conciliation commissioners. The right honorable gentleman did not give ‘ any specific undertaking regarding the distribution of the conciliation commissioners on the basis of their knowledge of local conditions in various parts of Australia. . The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) completely failed to understand what the Prime Minister and I stated. We both said that, in fixing the number of conciliation commissioners at fifteen, we had consulted, not fellow Ministers, but judges of the Arbitration Court. I do not know how the honorable member misunderstood that perfectly clear statement.
– Both spoke at the same time.
– The honorable member described it as a cantata, but it was in perfect unison and probably monotonous, because we both said the same thing, and it was correct. The fifteen commissioners might prove to be too small in number, having regard to the enormous expense of dispute and dislocation in industry in any part of Australia or its territories. This provision simply deals with the appointment of a chief conciliation commissioner in order that he may allocate the work among the conciliation commissioners. That will not affect the other provision which gives to the Chief Judge of the Arbitration Court the right to assign commissioners to various industries.
I am not attempting to repeat the general argument in favour of the bill, which the House accepted by granting the second reading, but I submit that the plan, if properly carried out, is dependent upon the personnel who will administer it.. “ What e’er is best administered is best “, and it will be very difficult to get the right men for these positions. Certain fears have been expressed regarding the kind of person who might be appointed. Those fears are quite groundless.
– Will the AttorneyGeneral give me the undertaking which I sought earlier in the evening?
– I repeat what the Prime Minister said: We shall seek persons with outstanding qualifications for these positions. How any honorable member can think that we may appoint a member of the Communist party, which does not believe in arbitration, I cannot imagine !
– Then the Attorney General will not appoint a Communist as a conciliation commissioner?
– That has been said over and over again. How can the Government appoint people to administer the arbitration system who do not believe in. arbitration? I might give a long list of groups of people who would not be appointed as conciliation commissioners. In this discussion, reference has been made to the suitability of members of the legal profession as conciliation commissioners. I disagree entirely with many of the remarks which some speakers have made on this subject. For more than twenty years, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) and I have had experience of the system of industrial arbitration in Commonwealth, and State spheres. The man who, through a long study not merely of books but of the industry itself, became pre-eminent as an authority on the metal trades was Judge O’Mara. He did not begin with a profound knowledge of the industry, but subsequently any person who had a problem in connexion with the metal trades consulted him. The late Mr. Justice Higgins, Mr. Justice Piddington and Chief Judge Dethridge, who were pioneers of this system, were lawyers. Various men with legal training have been imbued with ideals of social justice. But having said that, that does not exclude well qualified people who have not got the particular legal qualifications. We have agreed as a committee that certain men whose names have been mentioned, Messrs. Mooney, Morrison and Rowlands, and others who have been out- standingly successful in carrying out the functions of conciliation commissioners are fitted for appointments. The mere possession of a legal qualification will not make the individual concerned a successful arbitrator any more than the absence of such a qualification disqualifies him from being a successful arbitrator. In the result this clause does not debar lawyers, or even judges, from filling these positions and should not if they are qualified in other respects to discharge the duties. In the list of applicants for appointment will be found a very large number of individuals who have already have had considerable experience of the administration of industrial arbitration in the States, and I have every confidence that the panel when finally appointed will be one which the people of Australia will accept.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendment (by Dr. Evatt) agreed to.
That, after proposed new sub-section (2.), the following new sub-section be inserted: - “ (2a.) Each Conciliation Commissioner shall give his whole time to the duties of his employment “.
– I move -
That, after sub-section (3.), the following new sub-sections be added: - “ (4.) An officer of the Public Service of a State who becomes a Conciliation Commissioner shall, subject to the next succeeding sub-section, retain all his existing and accruing rights. “ (5.) An officer of the Public Service of a State who, immediately prior to his appointment as a Conciliation Commissioner, was a contributor to the Superannuation Fund of that State, shall not be entitled to retain any existing or accruing rights in respect of superannuation unless he pays to the Commonwealth the contributions (if any) refunded to him from that Fund upon his resignation from the Public Service of that State.”
This relates to the rights which accrue to a member of the public service of a State who is appointed a conciliation commissioner. He would retain his existing and accruing rights, but in the case of superannuation if he became entitled to a refund from his State superannuation fund it would be necessary for him to pay his contributions into the Commonwealth Superannuation Fund. This provision makes for continuity of rights with a just and necessary proviso.
Amendment agreed to.
Question put -
That the clause to the end of proposed new section 10, as amended, be agreed to.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. J. J. Clark.)
Majority . . ..16
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Proposed new section 11 - (2.) When a Conciliation Commissioner has attained the age of sixtyfive years and, in the opinion of the GovernorGeneral, it is desirable in the public interest that the Conciliation Commissioner should continue in the performance of the duties of his office and the Commissioner is able and willing to do so. the GovernorGeneral may direct that the Conciliation Commissioner shall continue in his office until he attains the age of sixtysix years. (3.) When any Conciliation Commissioner in respect of whom a direction has been given under the last preceding sub-section has attained theage of sixtysix years and, in the opinion of the GovernorGeneral, it is desirable in the public interest that the Conciliation Commissioner should continue in the performance of the duties of his office, and the Commissioner is able and willing to do so, the GovernorGeneral may direct that the Con- ciliation Commissioner shall continue in his office until he attains the age of sixtyseven years.
.- I move-
That, in proposed new sub-section (2.), after the word “ attained “ the following words be inserted: - “, or is about toattain “.
That, in proposed new sub-section (3.), after the word “ attained “ the following words be inserted: - “, or is about to attain”.
Proposed new section 11 provides for the extension of the term of a conciliation commissioner when he has attained the age of 65 or 66 years, enabling his appointment for a further year. These two amendments, enable action to be taken when the conciliation commissioner concerned is about to attain either of those ages; that is to say, the appointments may be made for a further term of twelve months on the eve of his reaching 65 or 66. In any event he cannot hold office after attaining the age of 67 years. These amendments are designed to that end.
Amendments agreed, to.
Proposed new section, as amended, agreed to.
Proposed new section 12 - (2.) The GovernorGeneral may suspend a Conciliation Commissioner from office for misbehaviour or incapacity.
.- I move-
That, in proposed new sub-section (2.), the word “ for “ be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words: - “on the ground of”.
This amendment is designed to bring sub-section 2 of proposed new section 12 into conformity with sub-sections 1 and 4, making it clear that the commissioner can only be removed on the ground of misbehaviour or incapacity.
Amendment agreed to.
Proposed new section, as amended, agreed to.
Proposed new sections 13 and 14 agreed to.
Proposed new section 15 - (3.) The exercise of any power or function by a Conciliation Commissioner in relation to any industrial dispute shall not be questioned on the ground that that Conciliation Commissioner was not the Conciliation Commissioner assigned to the industry, group of industries or individual dispute towhich that industrial dispute relates.
.- I move-
That, in proposed new sub-section (3.), the words “ , group of industries or individual dispute to which that industrial dispute relates “ be left out with a view to insert in lien thereof the following words: - “or group of industries to which that industrial dispute relates or to that individual dispute “.
The amendment simply re-arranges the wording in more grammatical and clear form.
Amendment agreed to.
– The proposed new section 15 states -
The Chief Judge may assign a Conciliation Commissioner to a particular industry or group of industries- and so on. It goes on to state -
The Chief Judge may assign a Conciliation Commissioner to a particular industrial dispute.
In other words, the proposed new section deals with the control by the Chief Judge of work that has to be done by the conciliation commissioners. If we look at the list of amendments, we shall find that the very next one to be moved provides for the insertion of a new section, 15a, which states -
It shall be the duty of the Chief Conciliation Commissioner to organize and allocate the work of all the Conciliation Commissioners.
This matter requires some explanation. Whose business will it be to organize the work of the conciliation commissioners? Is it to be the business of the Chief Judge, under the proposed new section 15, which is not to be amended in this respect, or is it to be the business of the chief conciliation commissioner? There seems to be a very serious inconsistency between those two ideas, and I should be very much assisted if the AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt) would explain to the committee what function the chief conciliation commissioner will be expected to perform under the foreshadowed amendment for the insertion of the new section 15a, which is not to be performed by the Chief Judge under the proposed new section 15 ; because the two things, as I look at them, will be quite, inconsistent. Somebody is to be in charge of the work of the conciliation commissioners. Who is it to be? In the event of conflict between their views, whose view will prevail ?
– The question submitted by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) is proper and fair. Under the proposed new section 15, which is embodied in the bill, the primary authority for assigning conciliation commissioners to industries and so forth will rest with the Chief Judge. We intend to provide, by the proposed new section 15a, something that will be subject to the provisions of the proposed new section 15, because the former commences by saying -
Subject to the last preceding section, it shall be the duty of the Chief Conciliation Commissioner to organize and allocate the work of all the Conciliation Commissioners.
In other words, the Chief Judge may very properly consider that, so long as he indicates what industries or groups of industries shall be dealt with by particular conciliation commissioners, he can leave to the chief conciliation commissioner the actual allocation of the commissioners and the organizing of the work within that overriding direction. It is intended that the two shall work together. In the event of any inconsistency, the view of the Chief Judge will prevail. That is quite clear. We consider that this is one of the improvements to the bill which should result in a closer link being established between the court, the conciliation commissioners as a group, and the chief, conciliation commissioner.
Mr. harrison (Wentworth) [11.5]. - I wish to have the picture quite clear in my mind. Am I to understand, from what the AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt) has said, that the assignment of a conciliation commissioner to a particular industry will be as is provided for in the proposed new section 15; that the Chief Judge will assign him ?
– The allocation of the work that will necessarily have to be performed will be the function of the chief conciliation commissioner?
– The chief conciliation commissioner will direct the conciliation commissioner as to what he must do. That is all very well as far as it goes. But there is another matter which I should like the Attorney-General to explain. Sub-section 2 of the proposed new section 15 provides -
The Chief Judge may assign a Conciliation Commissioner to a particular industrial dispute.
Sub-section 1 of that proposed new section . provides -
The Chief Judge may assign a Conciliation Commissioner to a particular industry or group of industries and that Conciliation Commissioner shall, so far as is practicable, deal with industrial disputes relating to that industry, or to that group of industries.
That has been made clear by the explanation of the Attorney-General. But the Chief judge, having assigned a conciliation commissioner to a particular industry or group of industries, may assign him to a particular industrial dispute which has no connexion with that particular industry or group of industries to which he has been assigned.
– That is quite possible.
– Sub-section 3 of the proposed new section 15 provides -
The exercise of any power or function by a Conciliation Commissioner in relation to any industrial dispute shall not be questioned on the ground that that Conciliation Commissioner was not the Conciliation Commissioner assigned to the industry, group of industries or individual dispute to which that industrial dispute relates.
I do not know how complete harmony is to be achieved out of assignments of this character. The aim of those who took part in an earlier debate relating to the appointment of conciliation commissioners was the appointment of men who would have some knowledge of the industries to which they were assigned. That seemed to be the basis of the argument developed by the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) and. the Attorney-General.
– I said that there would be some spare conciliation commissioners who could be sent here and there.
– The AttorneyGeneral has made it perfectly clear that this set of circumstances may arise: A conciliation commissioner assigned to a particular industry or group of industries may subsequently be assigned to a particular industrial dispute which is entirely dissociated from the particular industry in relation to which he is exercising his functions. That raises a most important point. There would then ensue the very circumstance about which we have been complaining, namely, the failure to interlock the decisions of a commissioner assigned to one industry with those of a commissioner assigned to another industry. A conciliation commissioner may be assigned to an industrial dispute in an industry of which he has no knowledge. I should like the Attorney-General to explain to the committee how he proposes to overcome that extraordinary set of circumstances.
– Allowance must .be made for the exercise of some wisdom by the Chief Judge.
.- The Chief Judge and the chief commissioner will work it out together. Broadly speaking, the bill provides that a commissioner will be assigned to an industry or group of industries, but two or more commissioners may be assigned to an industry such as the metal trades industry. A dispute may arise, say, in the Northern Territory, or in a distant State, and the Chief Judge may think that it would be wise to send a commissioner from the metal trades industry to deal with it. Those things will work out in practice without difficulty, provided that the Chief Judge and the chief commissioner work in harmony. The chief commissioner will be subject to the direction of the Chief Judge. It is hoped that the conciliation commissioners will have special knowledge of particular industries, but that does not necessarily mean that they will be confined to particular industries indefinitely.
Proposed new section, as amended, agreed to.
Amendment (by Dr. Evatt) agreed to-
That, after proposed new section fifteen, the following new section be inserted: - “15a. - (1.) Subject to the last preceding section, it shall be the duty of the Chief
Conciliation Commissioner to organize and allocate the work of all the Conciliation Commissioners. “ (2.) Each Conciliation Commissioner shall comply with any direction given for the purpose of the last preceding sub-section which is applicable to him “.
Proposed new section 16 -
A Conciliation Commissioner shall not be empowered to make an order or award in relation to -
– I move-
That the words “ in relation to “ be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ altering “.
The intention of the bill, broadly speaking, is to place conciliation commissioners in the same position in relation to the Full Arbitration Court as that of a single judge in relation to the Full Arbitration Court under the existing law. At present a single judge may make an award relating to standard hours and the basic wage, but he is debarred from altering the standard hours or the basic wage. The amendment preserves that position.
– I should like to be clearer on this point than I now am. The proposed new section contains the words - . . make an order or award in relation to
I agree that the proposal to substitute the word. “ altering “ for the words “ in relation to “ brings the proposed new section into line with the existing act, but I am not altogether happy about the word “ altering “. Let us suppose that a conciliation commissioner is dealing with a dispute and that some one says that the standard hours ought to be 40 or 44 a week. The conciliation commissioner then hears argument and decides that the standard hours ought to be 44 a week. In that event, he has, in reality, made a decision in respect of standard, hours, although he has not altered them. He could, in fact, hear argument, but he would not exceed his jurisdiction unless’ he gave a decision in favour of a shorter working week. We ought to be clear as to how the different authorities will work. It is true that at present there is the Full Court and single judges, but they are all judges, and they sit either in full court or as single judges. Now we are to have conciliation commissioners, and distinct from them the Full Court of judges in the Arbitration Court. What will the Full Court do? How will the matter of standard hours, the basic wage, or annual leave come before it? We can only assume that, in some mysterious fashion, these matters will be referred to the Full Court by some one, and that the Full Court will come to a conclusion that the standard hours of work shall be, let us say, 42 hours. It will be seen that I have adopted a middle course for the sake of argument, and to avoid confusion. Will the conciliation commissioner then be bound automatically to apply that decision? Let us suppose that a special case is put up that, in a particular industry or class of work, the hours ought to be more or less. It may be that in a particularly strenuous industry it will be suggested that the standard hours should be 36, or even 32, a week. Will the Full Court determine that matter, and, if so, will the conciliation commissioner merely have to say that no argument can arise as the standard hours that have already been fixed ? In my opinion, it would be better to use the word “ determining “. The determining of standard hours or the basic wage is a matter entirely outside the jurisdiction ofa conciliation commissioner. A man might hear a lot of argument and say that the standard hours should be 40 a week. If that decision agreed with the decision of the Full Court it would not he a violation of this provision, but otherwise it would be a violation. If we are to ask three judges to determine the four important matters referred to in proposed new section 16 it should be made clear that those matters are not to be debated before a conciliation commissioner. They will be determined by the judges. If they are not to be debated, the conciliation commissioner ought not have thepower to determine them, even though his determination is in line with the decision of the Full Court. I agree that this is a matter of words, and that the word which has been used for a long time is “ altering” but I have never been happy about it because I think that it opens the door to the things that I have mentioned.
– Proposed new section 16 must be read in conjunction with proposed new section 2S, which deals with the jurisdiction of the court with respect to the same four matters as are set out in proposed new section 16 for the purpose of preventing or settling an industrial dispute. Proposed new section 28 gives the court jurisdiction to make an order or award determining the standard hours of work in an industry. If the provision remains as originally proposed, a conciliation commissioner dealing with an application before him in respect of an industry in which the question of standard hours is included, and which is therefore part of a dispute, could not do anything in the matter if there were - no claim to have standard hours in that industry altered.
– I agree with the Attorney-General that the words “in relation to “ ought to be altered. As I have said, I am not entirely in favour of the word “ altering “. It is merely a matter of what word should be used. The amendment which prevents two hearings is an improvement. v ,
Amendment agreed to.
Proposed new section, as amended, agreed to.
Proposed new section 17 - (2.) If it appears to a Conciliation Commissioner that an industrial dispute has occurred or is likely to occur, he shall (whether he has been notified under this section or not) immediately ascertain the parties to the industrial dispute and the matters which form the subject of that dispute and shall take such steps as he thinks fit for the prompt prevention or settlement of that dispute by conciliation or arbitration. (5.) Upon any notification being given under either of the last two preceding subsections, it shall be the duty of a Conciliation Commissioner to examine whether an industrial dispute exists or is threatened, impending or probable, and, if so, to ascertain the parties to the industrial dispute and the matters which form the subject of that dispute. (7.) Nothing in any other provision of this Art shall prevent a Conciliation Commissioner from taking action under this section.
.- I -move-
That, in proposed new sub-section (2.), the word “ If “ be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words: - “Subject to sections fifteen and fifteen a of this Act, if “.
The purpose of this amendment is summarized in the analysis of amendments before the committee. This amendment, and the one which follows it, are designed to achieve that a commissioner shall, in the performance of his duties hold himself bound by the directions of the Chief Judge or the’ chief conciliation commissioner
Amendment agreed to.
Proposed new section further consequentially amended.
.- I move-
That proposed new sub-section (7.) be left out.
The purpose of this amendment is to make it clear that a commissioner shall not have power to vary, the basic wage or standard hours of work, which are matters for determination by the Full Court.
– I have still some doubt about this matter. I had drafted an amendment to cover the point, with the idea of making it clear that subsection 7 would not diminish the effect of proposed new section 16. That section prevents a conciliation commissioner from making an order or award altering standard hours of work or the basic wage, &c. Proposed new section 17 imposes certain duties upon conciliation commissioners, and they are very properly stated in rather comprehensive terms. For example, sub-section 2 provides as follows : -
If it appears to a Conciliation Commissioner that an industrial dispute has occurred or is likely to occur, he shall (whether he has been notified under this section or not) immediately ascertain the parties to the industrial dispute and the matters which form the subject of that dispute and shall take such steps as he thinks fit for the prompt prevention or settlement of that dispute by conciliation or arbitration.
Sub-section 6 provides that -
It shall be the duty of the Conciliation Commissioner to do all such things as he thinks fit for the prompt prevention or settlement of the industrial dispute by conciliation or arbitration.
The AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt) will agree that if a dispute involving hours of work, or the basic wage, or annual leave, or female rates of pay is viewed in the light of proposed new section 16 alone, the commissioner would deal with the matter and make an award. The AttorneyGeneral is relying on the fact that although proposed new section 16 gives the commissioner wide powers, if we look back to proposed new section 15 we find that he is not to have power to do certain things. I suppose it is all right, but I am not quite satisfied with it.
– And we are omitting subjection 7.
– That improves the position, but it does not remove the doubt altogether. Between now and the time the bill goes to the Senate I should like the AttorneyGeneral to consider the insertion of the words “ subject to the provisions of section 16 “. That would put the matter beyond all doubt.
Amendment agreed to.
Proposed new section, as amended, agreed to.
The following paper was presented : -
House adjourned at 11.26 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
t asked the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Mr. Hasluck’s resignation has not been in any way connected either in general or in particular with the policy and activities of the Australian representation at the Security Council or associated United Nations organization. Indeed, Mr. Hasluck has for some considerable time past expressed a desire to relinquish his employment in the department in order to free himself to carry out important work which he had previously undertaken to perform in connexion with the writing of portion of the official history of the war. It is on personal grounds that Mr. Hasluck’s resignation was tendered late in February last, and an arrangement has been made for accepting the resignation and for Mr. Hasluck’s taking leave before completing his work in the Australian Mission in New York.
In acknowledging completion of arrangements for winding up his work at the United Nations’ Headquarters, Mr. Hasluck addressed theMinister for External Affairs as follows: - “ I should like to take this opportunity of expressing my continued admiration and respect for your achievements in developing Australian foreign policy. It was an honour and a privilege to be associated even in a small way with applying that policy in the establishment and growth of the United Nations and, as an Australian. I feel proud of what has been done by you personally and under your instructions in helping to build the new organization on a basis of principle. While I was moved to resign from the department for reasons given in previous communications, my interest in the advancement of the purposes of the Charter is unchanged and I beg you to acceptmy best wishes for the further success of your own and the department’s labours to that end “.
I wish to express my appreciation of the work done by Mr. Hasluck throughout the war years and since in the Department of External Affairs. Mr. Hasluck was one of the small team of External Affairs officers who assisted greatly in the difficult, but I consider, successful, endeavour to put forward and have accepted many Australian viewpoints at the San Francisco Conferenceon World Organization. He has since ably represented Australia at New York on the Security Council. It is hoped that after his return, my department may still be able to avail itself of his special knowledge and experience by using his services from time to time in an advisory capacity.
n asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows :- 1 and 2 -
t asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following information : -
The Prices Commissioner is unable to supply the information requested owing to secrecy restrictions placed upon him by regulation 11 of the National Security (Prices) Regulations.
n asked the Minister repre- .senting the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following information : - 1 to 5. To supply the information asked for by the honorable member for W7atson would involve a lengthy examination of the records of the Department of Trade and Customs -in each State. In this connexion collectors of customs iri the various States have been given standing instructions for dealing with cases such as those to which the honorable member refers, and unless there are some unusual features connected with the transaction or unless a heavy commitment in “ hard “ currency foreign exchange is involved the collectors do not report the cases to the central administration. Apart from the fact that to supply the information asked for by the honorable member would involve the disclosure by the department of confidential information, the work involved could not be justified, particularly at the present time, when the department is faced with many difficulties in administration because of its greatly depleted staff. If, however, the honorable member will furnish details of the particular cases he has in mind I will obtain and furnish as much of the information asked for in respect of such cases as can be done without divulging anything of a confidential nature to a third party.
Industrial Unrest: Unemployment.
Mr.Francis asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice-
How many persons arc out of employment in each State as a result of current industrial disputes ?
Howmany of those out of work are actually on strike in each State, and how many have been thrown out of work as an indirect result of strikes?
What is theamount of unemployment benefit paid weekly in each State, as a direct and indirect result of disputes since the 1st July last to date?
y. - The answers to the honorable - member’s questions are as follows : - 1 and 2.No information is available as to how many persons are out of employment in each State as a result of current industrial disputes. The honorable member is invited to refer to the answer I gave to the honorable member for Warringah, vide noticepaper number 30, question 10, in relation to the number ofemployees involved in strikes and lockouts. It can be said, however, that as at the beginning of April, the total number of persons in receipt of unemployment benefit or reemployment allowance in the Commonwealth was 11,004, and that the latest figure available for persons registered with the Commonwealth Employment Service as disengaged and seeking employment is 38,805. At least 10 per cent, of these had. been referred to employers and confirmation of placement was awaited; others were known to have secured employment on their own account. 3.. I am advised by the Minister for Social Services that a very large amount of departmental work would be involved in ascertaining the amounts paid weekly in each State as a direct and indirect result of industrial disputes since 1st July, 1946, but it is estimated that the amount paid in each State as a result ofsuch disputes between 1st July, 1946, and 5th April, 1947, was approximately as follows : -
These payments represent an average of £4,400 per week. No payments have been made to persons unemployed as a result of direct participation in a strike.
Broadcasting : News Service of AUSTRALIAN BROADCASTINg COMMISSION.
– On the 17th April the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) asked the following question : -
Has the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s independent news service yet started to function, and has the news service yet established a corps of correspondents in foreign countries?
The PostmasterGeneral has supplied the following information : -
The commission’s overseas service was inaugurated at the beginning of this year. In this connexion, the commission has made arrangements to obtain its basic news through Reuters, Associated Press, British United Press, Exchange Telegraph and Press Association. The commission’s London news staff makes a selection from the news obtained from these sources, and cables , the items chosen to the commission’s news office in Sydney. The commission does not propose to appoint other correspondents overseas, except in respect of New York, where it is intended to have an officer, for the purpose of obtaining background information and covering the United Nations organization. The commission has almost completed arrangements for its independent local news service, which will be introduced not later than the 1st June next.
Postal Department: Air-mail Service to Japan.
l. - On the 1 7th April, the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. McBride) asked the following question: -
Does the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral support the ruling of officiate of theGeneral Post Office, Sydney, that airmail letters may not be sent to Australians in Japan who are “ private persons “ and that Australian newspaper correspondents officially attached to the Public Relations Office, General Headquarters, Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers, are ruled as coming within this category ?. Is it not a fact that newspaper correspondents are the only Australians at present in Japan who come within the category of private persons? Is thisa further government punitive measure against the Australian press!
The PostmasterGeneral has supplied the following inf ormation : -
There is no civil air-mail service between Australia and Japan, and mail matter for ordinary civilians is forwarded by surface means. In accordance with the approval given by the controlling authorities in Japan, such mail matter is restricted at present to unregistered lettersand non-illustrated postcards. Correspondence of a business nature is limited to communications forwarded for the purpose of ascertaining facts and exchanging information preparatory to the resumption of trade. Lettersaddressed to members of the British Commonwealth Occupation Force in Japan are conveyed between Australia and Japan by Royal Australian Air Force aircraft without air-mail fees. This special arrangement has been adopted toprovide a speedy, service under presentday conditions when shipping facilities are restricted. The Postal Department would not be justified in including ordinary civilian letter mails in the air despatches,but an exception should be made in respect of letters addressed to newspaper correspondents and other persons care of General Headquarters. Prom the remarks mode by the honorable member, it would seem that the correct procedure has not been observed in some, instances, and I have taken steps to ensure that the proper course is followed in future.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 23 April 1947, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1947/19470423_reps_18_191/>.