18th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. J. S.Rosevear) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) agreed to-
That the House, at its rising, adjourn to Tuesday next, at 3 p.m.
– I have in my hand . a photostat copy of the New Zealand newspaper Dominion of the 11th March, in which appears an advertisement prepared and authorizedby the Department of Agriculture for the Famine Emer-. gency Committee. It is headed “The Job of the Wheat-grower”, and reads -
In normal times, the production of live- stock and crops in New Zealand Achieved a remarkably good balance … a balance that provided a sound farming economy, favourable . export markets and a well-supplied domestic market. The stress of war years inevitably distorted the farming pattern.
I t goes on to say -
The job of the regular wheat-grower to-day is to make every acre of wheat-growingland produce wheat. There is an assured market for every bushel of wheat harvested next reason -and a guaranteed price that will not be less than 7s. 4d. f.o.b. South Island. The greatest contribution that every farmer can make to the sound farming economy of New
Zealand - as well as to badly-needed world food stocks - is to dothe job thathe knows best and to do it as thoroughly ashe knows how.
For a guaranteed price
And an assured market
Does the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, or the Government, in the light of that advertisement, and with the Government of New Zealand guaranteeing to - New Zealand wheat-growers a price of 7s. 4d. a bushel for their wheat, regard itas fitting that the Australian taxpayer shouldbe called upon to subsidize’ the people of New Zealand to an amount of approximately £2,250,000 this year, being the differencebetween world parity price of approximately 16s. a bushel and the 5a. 9d. a bushel at which Australian wheat is being sold to that dominion?
– There is no foundation, in fact, for the statement that the Australian Government will subsidize New Zealand wheat-growers to anamount of over £2,000,000 during this year. As a matter of fact, the first consignment of wheat from Australia to New Zealand was shipped only recently. There will be a marginbetween. the price at which that wheat was sold to New Zealand and the current world export parity. The Australian Wheat Board will be recouped by the Australian Government to that extent. No man knows what the export parity price of wheat will be between now and the end of the year. Therefore, the statement that the Australian taxpayer “will be called upon to meet a payment of more than £2,000,000 is based entirely on hearsay, and on a judgment which to say the least, can be shown to be without any foundation in fact. As to the statement thatthe New Zealand Government is guaranteeing wheat-growers in that dominion 7s. 4d.a bushel for their wheat, the honorable member appears to have overlooked the fact that 5s. 9d. a bushel, the price at which Australian wheat has been sold to New Zealand, is equivalent to about 6s. 3d. a bushel bagged wheat and that if freight from Australia to New Zealand, amounting to about1s. 6d: a bushel, were added, a price in excess of 7s. 4d. a bushel for Australian wheat landed in New Zealand would be reached.
International Children’s Emergency Fund.
– In December 1946, the Social and Humanitarian Committee of the United Nations Assembly decided to set up the International Children’s Emergency Fund for the benefit of children and adolescents of countries which were either victims of aggression or are now receiving Unrra aid. Australia is represented on the executive board. I now ask the Minister for External Affairs - 1. What kind of assistance is it contemplated the International Children’s Emergency fund will offer to children? 2. What sum, if any, has Australia contributed to the. fund? 3. What general attitude to the activities of the fund has the Australian delegate been instructed to take? 4. How much has the fund so far spent in assistance to children?
– The objective of the fund is to assist the children of devastated countries, estimated to number 20,000,000, by providing them with food. It is hoped that sufficient food to meet their needs will be provided under the scheme. Australia’s representative has been instructed to support the scheme. Cabinet has decided that the balance of Australia’s contributions to Unrra, whose activities are approaching the final stages, amounting to about £400,000, will be devoted to this cause. The attitude of the Government towards this important relief scheme and other similar schemes is now engaging the attention of a special subcommittee of Cabinet with a view to ascertaining the maximum assistance which Australia can render. When the sub-committee’s report has been received and considered. I shall supply further particulars to the honorable member.
– In the West
Australian of the 18th April, the Minister for Immigration is reported to have said -
I came to Western Australia to see what could he done to make Fremantle a terminal port for any shipping that may be used in this enterprise . . . Fremantle, I believe, will play an ever-increasing role in the temporary reception of immigrants for all parts of the Commonwealth.
I now ask the Minister whether during his recent visit to Western Australia he investigated the proposal that Fremantle should be the terminal port for immigrant ships, and whether he interviewed either the Premier or the State Minister for Immigration; and, if not, why not? Has the Minister seen press reports of a statement by the State Minister complaining that migrants are being dumped in Western Australia at very short notice to the authorities in thatState, and that there is no prior consultation between State and Commonwealth immigration authorities, thus adding to local difficulties in connexion with housing and the shortage of consumer goods? If so, will he investigate the complaints, and should they be well founded, will he take steps to rectify the position?
– When I was in Western Australia I did make the statement which has been quoted by the honorable member for Swan. I believe that if Australia is to obtain the greatest advantage from the use of the few ships available for bringing migrants to this country we must get ships turned round as quickly as possible. It still seems to me to be right that we should use Fremantle as a terminal point when this can be done. We should put the immigrants down at Fremantle, and move them around the coast in our own interstate ships. We should also use the railways and perhaps air transport, for distributing them throughout Australia. The remarks of the State Minister for Immigration in Western Australia are not very helpful if he really complained that the immigrants should not be put down in Western Australia because there is a shortage of accommodation there.
– He complained that there had been no consultation.
– He also alleged that immigrants were being . dumped in Western Australia. He has not been long enough in office to know much about the position. This is the first I have heard about immigrants being dumped in Western Australia. The usual complaint from the States is that we are not bringing people here quickly enough. I expected from the Minister for Immigration in Western Australia a more Australian, and a less parochial outlook. The honorable member has asked me if I consulted the Premier of Western Australia and the Minister for Immigration there, and, if not, why not.My arrival in Western Australia was announced. In fact, I cannot move around Australia without people knowing days ahead.
– The penalty of fame !
– I thank the honorable member. I do not think that it was my duty to wait on the Premier and the Minister for Immigration in Western Australia. If they wanted to see me they could have got in touch with me. I consulted the immigration authorities there, the Department of the Army which controls certain military camps, and also the Commonwealth Disposals Commission authorities. I inspected some of the camps in. the company of officers of the State Department of Lands which deals with immigration matters. No doubt, those officers would report to their chief. If the complaint from Western Australia arises out of injured pride, I will take the opportunity to meet the new Premier and his Minister for Immigration at the earliest possible moment.
– In view of the desperate position of certain exservicemen who are relying on the War Service Homes Department to build houses for them - at very high cost - and in view of the great length of time that is taken in the building of these homes, will the Minister for Works and Housing arrange for temporary housing for the men and their families in the meantime? By way of explanation, let me point out that one such house was begun in 1944, and during the last eight weeks all that has been done is to fit the steel window frames, straighten the fences which were erected years ago, and pull down a chimney. What does the Minister propose to do to help ex-servicemen and their families?
– I shall look into the position. At the present time, temporary accommodation for ex-servicemen is provided by the State housing authorities. In addition, 60 per cent. of all houses built under the housing agreement with the States are made available to exservicemen, and the Commonwealth finances the construction of those houses. I shall further examine the aspect of providing temporary accommodation. However, I do not believe that we could improve the position by entering that field because the State authorities are. co-operating with the Commonwealth in the purchase of Army camps in order to provide as much temporary accommodation as possible. It is quite possible, as in the case cited by the honorable member, that a person had to wait eight weeks for a home to be finished. However, it appears that that case arose owing to an unfortunate occurrence in Victoria when, after the War Service Homes Commission let contracts on behalf of ex-service personnel to various companies, construction authorities and individual contractors, one of the firms went into liquidation with the result that houses which it was constructing were left only partly built. Not only the commission, but also many private individuals for whom that firm was constructing houses, were affected. The commission had to take over the work of completing those homes. It appears to me that the case cited by the honorable member was in respect of one of those homes. Another contractor had to be found to complete the job and that created certain difficulties. I hope to introduce an amending bill to enable the War Service Homes Commission to get over difficulties of that kind should they arise in the future, by providing that in such circumstances, the Department of Works and Housing may be called in as the constructing authority to complete unfinished houses.
Vacation of Temporary Buildings
– Early in the war period when the Government took over park lands in Melbourne and other capital cities for the purpose of erecting temporary office accommodation, an express promise was given that the buildings would be removed and the park lands made available to the citizens immediately after the war. I ask the Prime Minister what action has been taken to vacate the areas on which these temporary office buildings have been erected? Is it a fact that whilst the services are vacating premises erected in Fawkner Park, Melbourne, action is now being taken to instal other departmental officers in those premises?
– It is true that the Government promised that temporary buildings erected on public reserves would he removed as soon as possible after the war; and so far as Melbourne is concerned, that applied to Albert Park and Royal Park as well as Fawkner Park. However,* since the war ended we have been under great pressure by the original tenants to vacate business premises in the city which the Government took over temporarily. Every endeavour is being made by the Ministers concerned to vacate those premises, and this has prevented the Government from fulfilling its promise to remove temporary structures erected on public reserves. I have discussed the matter with the Ministers concerned in order to find out how soon we can remove those premises. In regard to Fawkner Park, it is true, as the honorable member says, that as the services move out the temporary huts will probably have to be used to provide accommodation for other departments. Every endeavour will, however, be made to redeem the promise made to the park authorities.
– Has the Minister for Repatriation ‘conferred with the Minister for “Works and Housing with regard to the removal of huts from Northfield to the Springbank Repatriation Hospital? Will he have “this work completed as quickly as possible in order to provide better accommodation during the .coming winter for the orderlies employed at the hospital?
– I visited South Australia during the Easter recess and inspected the accommodation provided for the attendants employed at and living in the Springbank Repatriation Hospital. It was most unsatisf actory. In some of the hutments the roofs and walls were in such bad condition that the sunlight penetrated through them. When I returned to Canberra I conferred with the Minister for Works and Housing .and I have since presented a’ report ,to him and asked him to do all he possibly can -to facilitate the transfer of huts from Northfield to Springbank and to provide the necessary additional facilities to enable the men employed at the Repatriation Hospital to be satisfactorily housed.
DARWIN Food Supply - Shipping Service.
– Will the Minister for the Interior inform the House what steps are being taken at Darwin to ration food supplies, particularly bread? Is it proposed to re-establish the monthly shipping service from eastern ports to Darwin so that the people there, particularly business men, may be able to budget for their supplies at known instead of uncertain intervals ?
– The honorable member was good enough to advise me that he intended asking these questions. On ‘the 15th April I received from the Administrator of the Northern Territory a telegram in the following terms: -
Stocktaking of flour supplies 11th April showed sufficient flour to carry through till Koolinda arrives 2nd May if bread baked only four days per week instead of six. This means two thirds rationing of bread supplies and will not affect average household seriously. This course considered best to avoid very costly flying up of approximately ten tons of flour. No outcry yet from citizens.
I am in daily contact with the Administrator in connexion with food supplies at Darwin. I am also negotiating with the Department of Supply and Shipping with a view to establishing a regular service of ships to the Northern Territory. The honorable member, I ,am sure, appreciates the fact that there is a shortage of ships not only on the coast of Western Australia but also on the whole of the Australian coast. Recently we received an assurance from the Director of Shipping that in the near future we could expect one ship from the eastern States ports to Darwin at least once every six weeks. That, in conjunction with
Koolinda and the State shipping service of Western Australia, should be sufficient to supply the needs of the Northern Terrritory.
– Last Tuesday the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) asked me for information regarding the Standing Orders Committee. The committee last met in February, 1943. It had been working for some years on drafting complete new Standing Orders. In 1943 it produced a complete report, which was printed as a Parliamentary Paper, and recommended its adoption by the House. The House considered the report, but as there was a good deal of opposition to any change, the consideration of the report did not get beyond the first paragraph and the motion for its adoption lapsed at the prorogation of the Parliament. I shall consult with other members of the committee’ as to whether another opportunity should be offered to the House to revise the Standing Orders. In the meantime, I suggest that the honorable member for Fawkner might ascertain from the last report whether the matters he now has in mind were the subject of a recommendation by the committee.
– Can the Prime Minister say whether it is a fact that the only semi-governmental borrower, with right of refinancing loans in the United States of America, that is unable to exercise its right is the Brisbane City Council, and that two New South Wales authorities - the County Council and the Metropolitan Water Sewerage and Drainage Board - are apparently being given every assistance to refinance their loans on better terms with consequent substantial savings ? Has the Prime Minister read the statement of the Vice-Mayor of Brisbane, Alderman Moon, that under the Commonwealth proposals for refinancing Brisbane’s three loans in one operation instead of three separate raisings would cost the council, and consequently the Brisbane ratepayers, £58,000? As public reports indicate conflicting statements and several allegations, will the Prime Minister table the correspondence that passed between the Commonwealth, the Queensland Premier, Mr. Hanlon, and the Brisbane City Council?
– As I informed the House previously, there has been some difficulty in regard to the flotation of loans on the New York market by State semi-governmental bodies. Naturally the Commonwealth Government, acting on behalf of the Loan Council, has endeavoured to float governmental loans at appropriate times, and to avoid a clash with loans sought by semi-governmental bodies at perhaps a higher rate of interest or discount, as the case maybe. This difficulty has been encounteredin connexion with loans sought by certain New South Wales instrumentalities, and by the Brisbane City Council. We have endeavoured to exercise fair judgment in regard to this matter, and to avoid giving an unfair advantage to any particular State, but of course the New South Wales applications were made some time before the Brisbane application. I do not know whether I shall be able to accede to the right honorable gentleman’s request that the correspondencethat passed between the Commonwealth Government, the Premier of Queensland, Mr. Hanlon, and the Brisbane City Council be tabled in this House, but I shall arrange for the right honorable member himself to see the documents. Actually the correspondence consists mainly of cables. There are few letters on the subject. Some of the cables from New York contain expressions of opinion, and I do not think that I would be justified in making them public as they are departmental communications, and, in certain cases, involve private firms that have been engaged in the work of negotiating loans.
News Session of the Australian Broadcasting Commission.
– Has the attention of the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral been drawn to the information given in the 7 o’clock news session of the Australian Broadcasting Commission last evening, in which a full account was given of the speech made on the formal adjournment motion yesterdayby the honorable member for New England, and which concluded by saying that the “ gag “ was then moved? In view of the considerable time that elapsed between the conclusion of the debate and the news session, will he inquire who was responsible for this one-sided comment being broadcast and have that person suitably reprimanded? Will he also give instructions that will ensure that such an occurrence should not again take place?
– This is the firstI have heard about the matter. I did not listen to the 7 o’clock news. I take it that the cause of the honorable member’s complaint is that the case made outby the mover of the formal adjournment motion was dealt with in the news.
– And no reply was given.
– No statement was made in the same news session in reply to the speech,
– That is correct.
– No report was gi ven of the speech madeby the AttorneyGeneral ?
– That is not surprising.
– If that is the allegation, I will certainly ask the PostmasterGeneral to consult with the chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission to learn why such a happening took place and to ensure against a recurrence. The purpose of the news service, as it relates to the Parliament, is to give both sides of a case presented. I think it is the desire of all honorable members that that should be so.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been drawn to a statement by the general manager of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, Mr. C. W. Rothe, that the whole Australian raw sugar industry is threatened with destruction under the tariff arid trade proposals being discussed at Geneva and that the proposed charter of the International Trade Organization unless vitally altered, will deprive Australian sugar producers of their home market?
In view of the importance of this industry to Australia, what assurance, if any, can the Prime Minister give that the interests of sugar producers and allied industries such as the canning industry, will be safeguarded ?
– I have not seen the statement made by Mr. Rothe. Before our representatives went to London to attend the preliminary conference, the Premier of Queensland,. Mr. Hanlon, was anxious that the sugar industryshould be safeguarded if any discussion on it arose. It was considered that the matter would not arise in the negotiations, but might arise in connexion with the commodity pool, which would be outside the discussions of the International Conference on Trade and Employment. However, in order that there should be a full representation of Australian interests, if such a discussion did take place, the Commonwealth Government arranged for Mr. Hayes, who is regarded as a sugar expert, to be present. We also asked the Queensland Government tomake available the services of Mr. Pike, the Queensland Agent-General in London; but we later found that he was returning to Australia, and, as the result of discussions with the Premier of Queensland, arrangementsweremade for a high officer of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, Mr. Watson, who, I think, is a member of the company’s executive to accompany the delegation as an official adviser should the matter of sugar arise. Every step is being taken to ensure that, should it be discussed, the case of the Australian sugar industry shall be fully presented. If it does arise, I will inform the honorable gentleman.
Services of Civilians
– During the war many Australian civilians rendered valuable assistance to the Government by serving on consultative advisory committees appointed under the National Security Regulations. At the termination of the war, the Prime Minister, in a. speech in this House, thanked those civilians. Has the Commonwealth Governmenttaken any other action in recognition of the services of members of those committees, for instance, by sending letters of commendation to them ?
– Many thousands of citizens representing all classes of political opinion who served the Commonwealth in this way during the war rendered very valuable service to the Government, and, in many instances, did so without receiving any form of remuneration, or even reimbursement for expenses incurred. I tried in a general way to express the appreciation of the Government, and, indeed, of the whole Parliament, for the help that they gave. I do not know whether I have been able to cover all of those who rendered assistance, but. in many cases I have, either as Prime Minister or as Treasurer, written and expressed the thanks of the Government and the country for the work done by such people. If there have been some omissions, I regret the fact and I shall he very glad to repair any such omissions that may be brought to my notice.
– When a call was made yesterday for wharf labourers to work on 61 ships at Sydney, was there a shortage of 2,500 men? If so, will the Prime Minister ascertain the cause of this’ shortage and make a report to this House?
– I am not aware of the report referred to by the honorable member, but I know that on some occasions it has not been possible to handle all the cargo waiting to be shifted. This has been due to a great back-lag of. shipping, and also, I think, to other troubles. For instance, the day before yesterday there was some disturbance created by ,the tally clerks and also by the weather conditions, and the position became worse. I am not aware that there was a shortage of 2,500 men yesterday, as the honorable member has said, but I shall communicate with the Minister of Supply and .Shipping and inform the honorable member of the position.
In committee: Consideration resumed from the 23rd. April (vide page 1587).
Clause 8 -
Part III. of the Principal Act is repealed and the following. Parts are inserted in its stead : -
Proposed new section 18- (1.) A Conciliation Commissioner may, whenever in his opinion it is desirable for the purpose of preventing or settling an industrial dispute, direct a person to attend, at a time and place specified in the summons, at a conference presided over by himself or by sui-ii other person as the Conciliation Commissioner directs. (4.) A person directed under sub-section (1.) of this section shall attend the conference and. continue his attendance at the conference as directed by the Conciliation Commissioner.
Penalty: Five hundred pounds. (5.) The conference may be held wholly or partly in public or in private, at the discretion of the Conciliation Commissioner.
– I move -
That, in proposed new sub-section (1), after the word “dispute,”, the following words be inserted: - “or upon application made by any party to the dispute,”.
The object of the amendment is to allow a party to a dispute to bring the matter to the conciliation commissioner with a view to the calling of a compulsory conference. It will not make a compulsory conference mandatory, but it will give any party to a dispute the opportunity to ask the commissioner to invoke that power if he so desires.
– I have some difficulty in understanding why this amendment is necessary. .After all, any party would, . without any particular authority, have the right to put it to a conciliation commissioner that some. person should be summoned to attend a conference. I rather prefer the proposed new sub-section in its present form. Itreads -
A Conciliation Commissioner may, whenever in his opinion it is desirable–1 -
The commissioner’s judgment must be the final test - for the purpose of preventing or settling an. industrial dispute, direct a person , to attend . . .
I assume that the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) does not have in mind that, on the application of a party, a conciliation commissioner must summon a person.
– Therefore, it must remain within the discretion of the conciliation commissioner, and he will not exercise that discretion unless he considers that it is desirable, for the purpose of preventing or settling a strike, to summon a person to attenda conference. Consequently, I do not understand what real change is made by the amendment.
– I do not believe that there is any operative change, but this proposed new sub-section, as amended, will give to a party to a dispute authority to apply. The conciliation commissioner’s discretion will remain. That is the sole purpose of the amendment.
Amendment agreed to.
– I move-
That, after proposed new sub-section (1), the following new sub-section be inserted: - “ (1a.) In determining the persons to whom directions are given under the last preceding sub-section, the Conciliation Commissioner shall take into consideration the persons having the highest degree of authority, on behalf of the parties to the industrial dispute, to negotiate for the settlement of that dispute.”.
This amendment is more important. It provides that in determining the persons to whom directions are given to attend a conference, a conciliation commissioner shall take into consideration the persons having the highest degree of authority on behalf of the parties to negotiate for the settlement of the dispute. It is directed to this position : The compulsory conference, from which a great deal was expected when the plan for such conferences was originally included in the statute, has, particularly in recent years, come to be attended not by the persons who can really negotiate with a view to a settlement, but simply their representatives or agents. In many instances, they are industrial officers or advocates. This provision does not interfere with the decision of the conciliation commissioner as to who should he summoned, but it does tell him that when he is calling a compulsory conference with a view to settling or preventing a dispute, he should have regard tothe fact that the people tocome before him should have some authority to discuss the matter and negotiate. That is all. I submit that that should be done, and that it should not be merely a means of defining a dispute or getting a dispute crystallized. In other words, there should be an attempt to get the matter settled at the conference. That is the purpose of this amendment, and I believe that it is a useful provision.
– I support the proposed new sub-section. I regard this as an excellent provision
– The right honorable gentleman mentioned it in an earlier speech.
– Yes, I agree entirely with the principle that underlies this matter. For many years, compulsory conferences have much more frequently failed than succeeded, very largely for the reason which the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) stated. They have been regarded as a preliminary clearing of the decks for action, and the people who attend them have, as a rule, not been prepared to agree to anything upon which, they consider, they might get a favorable decision from the court; so that the concessions made are merely obvious concessions and all real points of difficulty are reserved for the arbitrator. If conciliation is to succeed, and we all, hope that it will succeed in greater measure than it has in the past, that approach to compulsory conferences must be modified. Therefore, it is desirable indeed that those persons who are summoned to the conference should bo persons who, by reason of their own direct authority, whether as employers or employees, are in a position to make a real agreement, or arrive at a compromise. Consequently this proposed new sub-section gives, for the first time, a direction to the person summoning the conference that he is to select the appropriate and authoritative people on both sides. It may not succeed, of course, but I see no reason why it should not do a great deal to improve the present position. It is unnecessary to say that to the extent that we make conciliation more effective we reduce the area of dispute and relieve the process of arbitration and the calls made upon it. For these reasons I support the proposal.
Amendment agreed to.
. -I move-
That, in proposed new sub-section (4.), after the word “ Commissioner “ the following words be inserted: - “or other person presiding over the conference”.
This is purely a drafting alteration to bring sub-sections 4 and 5 of the proposed new section into conformity with sub-section 1 and the next amendment is of the same character.
Amendment agreed to.
Proposed new sub-section5 consequentially amended and as amended, agreed to.
Proposed new sectionas amended, agreed to.
Proposed new section 19 - (1.) An award or order of a Conciliation Commissioner shall not be challenged, appealed against, reviewed, quashed, or called in question, or be subject to prohibition, mandamus or injunction, in any Court on any account whatever. (2.) A Conciliation Commissioner may, if he thinks fit, at anystage of a matter before him, and upon such terms as he thinks fit, refer any questionof law arising in relation to that matter for the opinion of the Court. (3.) The Court shall hear and determine any question referred to it under this section. (4.) Notwithstanding the reference of a question of law to the Court under this section the Commissioner may make an order or award in the matter in which the question arose. (5.) Upon the determination by the Court ofa question of law referred under this section, the Commissioner may make an order or award, not inconsistent with the opinion of the Court, or may vary an existing order or award in such a way as will make it consistent with that opinion.
– I move -
That proposed new sub-section (1.) be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following sub-sections: - “ (1.) An appeal shall lie to the Court constituted by the Chief Judge and not less than two other Judges against any provision in any award or order of a Conciliation Commissioner affecting -
any condition of employment which in the opinion of the Court is likely to affect the public interest. “ (1a.) Any such appeal shall be made in the manner and within the time prescribed by the rules made in accordance with section forty-three of this Act. “ (1b.) On the hearing of an appeal under this section the Court may -
take fresh evidence;
confirm, quash or vary the award or order or part thereof which is under appeal;
refer the award or order, or any part thereof, back to the Conciliation Commissioner for reconsideration, and with or without such directions or suggestions as the Court thinks fit; or
make an award or order dealing with the matters under appeal.”
The proposed new sub-sections are extremely important. Sub-section 1 of proposed new section 19 prevents appeals against decisions of the concilia tion commissioners. There is one small technical exception to that in the case of an excess of jurisdiction, but I need not worry about that.I propose that sub-section 1 be omitted and that there be provision for an appeal against the decision of a conciliation commissioner.
I am not like the famous gentleman who thought it all out in his head ; I am merely incorporating, with some trifling amendments, the provisions of section 31a of the principal act. This provision will not operate under the billas drawn, because the bill excludes that section and also excludes any appeal by the specific terms of proposed new sub-section. Section 31a of the act is at present operating and provides for an appeal against a decision of a conciliation commissioner. There are one or two points that I want to make. In the first place, the need for this amendment would not have arisen had we not already adopted a system of conciliation commissions exercising arbitral functions independently of the judges. That argument has gone, the committee having disposed of it; consequently, we have to address ourselves to a position in which there will be conciliation commissioners exercising arbitral functions, and in which the judges will be confined to the four major matters with which they are to deal in the first instance. In that set-up my proposition is . that there shall -be an appeal, in order to secure uniformity of principle and the avoidance of anomalies which will otherwise arise, of the kind that we discussed a good deal last night. The appeal is not to be unlimited, but is to be an appeal in respect, of wages, hours, and any condition of employment which, in the opinion of the court, is likely to affect r,he public interest; so that the court would entertain an appeal on a condition which was of such -importance that, in its opinion, it affected the public interest. The curious feature is this: We have had for years, under the authority and “the legislative direction of the present Government, a system of conciliation commissioners exercising not merely conciliation but also arbitral powers. Throughout the period of the operation of the industrial peace regulations, this appeal provision in the act has stood ; so -that, for the last five or six years, we have had in Australia a system of judges exercising their authority, conciliation commissioners exercising arbitral authority in relation to disputes referred to them, and an appeal from those conciliation commissioners to the court. That system is now being terminated by the provisions of this bill ; because the appeal is to disappear. I remind honorable members opposite that it is not to be assumed that all the appeals that will be instituted if this amendment is carried will be appeals by employers. As a matter of fact, the greatest disturbance which’ the country has had for months, that in which the engineers have been involved, is a disturbance in which the appeal is one by the union and not by the employer. Let me remind the committee of the facts of that matter. I have had before me this morning ‘the transcript of the judgment delivered by the full Arbitration Court on the de-registration proceedings yesterday. In the course of that judgment, the court rehearsed some of the facts, and two of them are worth mentioning. The first is, that the proceedings for an award, the dispute in relation to what the marginal rates should be, came before Mr. Commissioner Mooney, ‘as a conciliation commissioner, in an appropriate way, on a reference under the regulations. He had authority to make an award, and he did so. His award, ais we know, provided’ for an increase of marginal rates varying from 5s. to 9s. a week. Up to that point, he had exercised his function as a conciliation commissioner, just as the conciliation commissioners under this legislation will exercise theirs. But under the bill, that would be the end of the matter. The award having been given, there would be no appeal from it, and it could not be challenged, or called in question in any other tribunal. But what has happened ? The union decided that it would like to have the view of another tribunal. So far as I can make out, it did not appeal under the existing section 31a, but went to the Minister; and in the language of the Full Court-
The consequent situation caused the Minister for Labour and National Service to refer the matter again to the court,, not to the Conciliation Commissioner. The first reference was made under the National Security (Industrial Peace) Regulations. It came before the court on the 10th April, 1047. The, Full Court, in an endeavour to facilitate a review of the commissioner’s decision and to encourage the use of the arbitral machinery of the act, decided to treat the reference as if it were an appeal made by the union against that decision.
That is very interesting. It shows that not only the union but also the court considered in these proceedings that, in the interests, of a final settlement and an exhaustive hearing of argument on this matter, it was desirable that the court should conduct a hearing, in addition to the hearing that had been conducted before the conciliation commissioner. I venture to say to honorable members opposite in particular, that had the union been told immediately Mr. Commissioner Mooney’.* award had been given, “ That is the end of it; you have no right of appeal; you cannot have this matter re-examined in the court “, the union, in the modern jargon, would have “ taken a very dim view of it “. That is a splendid example of the importance of having flexibility in these matters. The fact is that, had the organization not been so .foolish as to continue a strike, and ‘ultimately to invoke the de-registration authority of the court, all that it had to do, on the direction given originally by the court, was to resume work; and the court would then have proceeded at once to hear the claim, and to consider whether, in its opinion, the margins of from 5s. to 9s. a week were adequate or not. The union would have been delighted, subject to this aberration, to have the opportunity of having the matter re-investigated in that fashion. I do not want to discuss the merits of that case; they have been disposed of for the time being by the judgments that have been given. I refer to the matter only because it is an example of the basic truth that all appeals in’ connexion with such matters are not going to be by employers. Indeed, I venture to think that a very large number of them, particularly during the . next few years, would be appeals by employees; because, so long as restrictive measures operate in relation to wages, and so long as there is an economic condition in which there is an upward pressure on prices and therefore a downward pressure on the value of wages, for so long will there bc a much greater probability of dissatisfaction with an award by the union than by the employer. Therefore, it is in the interests of the trade unions to have an appeal, so long as it is not couched so widely - and on that I would be perfectly open to suggestions - as to involve automatically a re-hearing of everything that had come before a conciliation commissioner. The right of appeal has stood in the act for a substantial time - since 1930. It has not, so far as I know, led to a congestion of business, but it has provided that safety valve against a decision considered to be wrong or unjust which both parties in industry, in my opinion, are entitled to have.
– I remind the committee of the position which has been reached in relation to the functions of conciliation commissioners. After a lengthy debate the Committee decided to adhere to the system under which a conciliation commissioner shall be given power to conciliate and arbitrate in relation to two of the four matters which are usually incorporated in an award, namely, margins above the basic wage and conditions of employment in a particular industry, leaving it to the court to determine the fundamental questions of the basic wage and standard hours. I shall not repeat the arguments which preceded the committee’s decision, but I emphasize that that decision was to maintain as a principle of the bill that the conciliation commissioners shall be empowered to deal with margins and conditions which, under the existing law, are dealt with by a single judge. Under the present statute the position of a conciliation commissioner is a subordinate one. He is not advised of an industrial dispute by any automatic process. The court alone has cognizance of a dispute, and it remains for the court, or the judges, to use the conciliation commissioners as auxiliaries or agents of the court, either to report on a matter to the judge - in which event the report is merely a recommendation and may be rejected - or to determine the matter.
– I take it that the right honorable gentleman is now speaking of the existing act?
– Yes; I am not referring to the National Security (Industrial Peace) Regulations.
– I was dealing with them, as they have been in operation for some years.
– They are kept in operation only by the defence power, whichis diminishing. In this legislation we are dealing with the permanent machinery which will operate when the regulations are no longer in force. I was pointing out that the position of conciliation commissioners, under the present law, although important, is subordinate, and that one of the main alterations effected by the bill is that a conciliation commissioner will be used, as an arbitrator as well as a conciliator to determine the two matters to which I have referred, leaving it to the court to determine the basic wage and standard hours. The object of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) is to provide an appeal from, the decision of a conciliation commissioner to the court on three matters, namely, wages, hours and conditions of employment, which, in the opinion of the court, may affect the public interest. If such an appeal were provided for, the amendment would be contradictory to the whole purpose of the bill. I shall give an illustration. The Victorian case is peculiar in that it arose, not under the statutory power, but under the regulations. It reached the court through the industrial peace regulations, under which the court has powers which it does not possess under the statute. But leaving that aside, let us consider the position in an industry such as a portion of the railways industry. In an award dealing with the railways industry we find margins over and above the basic wage prescribed for about 350 various classifications of employment. Under the existing legislation the margin is fixed for each classification by a judge, unless there is a reference to a conciliation commissioner, but under the bill it will be fixed by a conciliation commissioner.
– Is there any appeal from a single judge?
– Not in relation to margins and conditions of employment. We are pro tanto substituting a conciliation commissioner for a judge in respect of those two matters. Why should we multiply the number of appeals when we should aim at diminishing them? There is no appeal from a judge to the Full Court, although a judge may refer a matter, and why should there be an appeal under this legislation from a conciliation commissioner who will exercise exactly the same functions? As I have said, provision for an appeal would be contrary to the general purpose of the bill. I do not think that the Leader of the Opposition would deny that. His proposal not to adopt the system on which the bill is based has already been defeated in substance, and, in my view, it would be a bad step in the light of that decision to provide for an appeal. Although I agree with the right honorable gentleman that the desire to appeal maybe as great on the part of unions as of employers, I do not think that provision should be made for an appeal; ex hypothesi, a conciliation commissioner will consider conditions which may be peculiar to an industry and may vary from industry to industry, and according to the duties performed by each worker; so why should there be an appeal from his determination to the court thereby causing delay? As that would cut across the purpose of the bill I ask the committee to reject the amendment.
.- I am sorry that the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) will not accept the amendment. He has not replied to the case presented by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) .
– He has not attempted to do so.
– Once we accept legislation providing that, instead of the existing statutory provisions, there shall be a galaxy of conciliation commissioners, each with the powers of an autocrat and acting independently of other commissioners, we lay the foundations for grave dissatisfaction in industry, that foundation being that the awards of the various conciliation commissioners may, and in all probability will, lack uniformity. Short of a direct injustice in fixing the minimum wage, nothing could be more provocative of industrial unrest than unbalanced decisions between various commissioners. There appear to be only two ways to avoid that situation. One,. whichI shall advance as an amendment later, is that the court itself should be empowered to propound certain principles for the guidance of commissioners, and to place a limit on their independence. Such a provision would, at least, give some uniformity, and the AttorneyGeneral might then argue that there was no need for an appeal. But in the absence of a statutory provision that commissioners must observe . uniformity, and of any authority in the court to prescribe uniform practices on the part of . commissioners, the only alternative, if we are to avoid the unrest which would result from unbalanced judgment, is to provide for appeals. It is the system of appeals from one court to another, inherent in our whole judicial system, which makes the people willing to accept the law, and even to accept the decisions of the inferior courts. They know that, if need be, there is an appeal to a higher authority. This Government is not prone to accept suggestions from the. Opposition, but I put it to the Attorney-General that . there is great. risk of industrial discontent among wage-earners because of unbalanced judgments arising out of the division of arbitration processes into watertight compartments. . Ministers and Government supporters, almost without exception, have stressed the advisability of appointing as conciliation commissioners men who have had experience in the industries concerned, who have worked in those industries themselves, or have had experience in the handling of disputes. Among Government supporters there is a general consensus of opinion that in the trade union movement can be found men possessing the necessary qualifications for appointment as commissioners. I do not know whether the Government proposes to follow the course outlined by its supporters, hut, if so, has any thought been given to recognizing the interests of the employing sections of industry? If the Government appoints as commissioners men who are drawn from the trade union movement, there will be no industrial contentment unless it also appoints some who are drawn from the employing section of the community. And where does this lead us? Does the Attorney-General expect the unions to be content with the judgment of a commissioner who has gained his experience while acting for the employers? In particular, does he expect such a judgment to be accepted with satisfaction by the unions if there is no appeal against it? The Attorney-General should reply to the case made out by the Leader of ‘ the Opposition in support of this amendment. For my part, I do not believe that there is any hope of willing acceptance of the determinations of commissioners unless provision is made for appeal. Or, alternatively, unless the court is given power to define the principles to which conciliation commissioners must adhere, and to lay down for them a standard of conduct.
– In his second-reading speech on this bill the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) said that one of its chief objects was to streamline the arbitration system, to make it more effective, and to ensure that decisions would be given more quickly. Therefore, proposed new section 19 was ineluded providing that an order or award of a conciliation commissioner should not be challenged, appealed against, reviewed or called in question in any way. That section will make the conciliation commissioners the dominant force in the field, as the judges of the Arbitration Court are under the existing system. The idea behind the bill is that the commissioners should- be on top, that they will give their decisions promptly, have power to bring the parties together, and act in such a way as to prevent the widening of disputes. If the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition is agreed to, the whole purpose of the bill will be destroyed. The .effect of the amendment, would be to restore the right of appeal against decisions by conciliation commissioners, and once more to make the judges of the court dominant in arbitration. The parties to a dispute would have to await the decisions of the judges on questions affecting marginal rates and working conditions. The amendment also provides that the appeal court may hear fresh evidence. Under that provision, it would be possible for the case to be practically reheard by the appeal court. The Government’s purpose is to shorten proceedings so that .quick decisions may be given. In regard to many matters that come before the. court? at the present time there is no appeal. No matter what court a case may be heard in, the losing party is generally ready to appeal if he has any ground for it, or thinks he has any chance of winning his appeal. Even when matters are heard by the High Court, the losing party sometimes asks leave to appeal to the -Privy Council. In all cases, the unsuccessful party is dissatisfied and wants to appeal. The proposed new section as drafted proposes to make the decision of the conciliation commissioners final. As the Leader of the Opposition has pointed out. that might not always suit the workers : they might want to appeal. Therefore, the provision is fair ; but the amendment would destroy this provision, which is one of the main principles of the bill, because the whole idea of this measure is to enable conciliation commissioners to settle disputes expeditiously and finally.
.- The Leader of the’ Opposition (Mr. Menzies) has established in the clearest possible terms the desirability of permitting appeals in the matters to which he referred. I strongly support the amendment. I am astonished that opposition to it should come from the AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt), who was formerly a member of our highest appellate tribunal, the highest court in the land, and from the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Williams), who is a lawyer. Those honorable gentlemen, surely, will admit from their own legal experience that if the argument which they apply now to these fundamental elements in our industrial law is sound, then it should apply to civil law as well. Why have any appeals on any matter at all which involves important questions of law ? One reason is in order to establish certain necessary conditions which are to apply not only to a given set of litigants but also to any which may be similarly placed in the future.
– And appeals in civil matters are not confined to questions of law.
– That is so; but, apart from having matters dealt with onappeal bythe highest judicial authority, one of the community advantages of such a system is that we then have laid down determinations which can be a guide to other people who may be similarly placed. We do not want to have the delays, which are often alleged to be associated with indiscriminate appeals brought merely for the purpose of delaying a determination. Consequently, the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition overcomes that difficulty by confining the right of appeal to matters involving wages, hours and those questions which the judge himself believes should be dealt with on appeal in the public interest. We are told that under this new system the right of appeal is to be abolished; but honorable members opposite uphold the right of the workers to strike against decisions of conciliation commissioners. What is the right to strike, if it is not an appeal to force against a decision given by a conciliation commissioner? I should like to hear the Attorney-General say, as other honorablemembers opposite have said, whether he endorses the right of the workers to strike; because if he accepts the principle of the right to strike, then he accepts the principle that there shall be a right of appeal from decisions of a conciliation commissioner on the part of unions affected, but not on the part of anybody else, that is, an appeal by those unions to the force they can muster. By rejecting this provision for the right of appeal in suitable cases, the Government once again shows how little it appreciates the necessity for uniformity in the treatment of industrial matters. I am certain that many honorable members opposite who have had active trade union experience realize how important it is to ensure uniformity between industrial groups doing comparable work. From the outset, I have felt that the grave trouble that has developed in the metal trades in Victoria has been due largely to the fact that union representatives involved in that dispute have seen other unions, who, probably, have been dealt with by the kind of commissioner that the Government now proposes to appoint, awarded wages and conditions in other industries far more favorable than those that apply in the metal trades group itself. We know what has happened in the. coal-mining industry under the Coal Reference Board, of which Mr. Willis was chairman, and under the Stevedoring Industry Commission. As the result of the concessions which have been granted by the men presiding over those tribunals, concessions which have not been related in any way to what is going on in the rest of industry, we find the absurd situation in Australia to-day that craftsmen, who, with six years apprenticeship behind them, have always been regarded as the top men in the industrial field, are placed unfavorably compared with men doing work in the coal mines or less skilled work on the waterfront. When we were debating the Stevedoring Industry Bill we showed that, for a working week of less than 40 hours, a man working on the waterfront received much higher wages than a skilled tradesman in the metal trades group. For this reason many employers in the metal trades group have felt a good deal of sympathy with the point of view of the engineering unions involved in the present dispute. I regret that those unions have become involved in the present serious stoppage in Victoria, which has spread to other States, because all of us appreciate the part which the engineering unions played during the war. When other unions would not abide by arbitration, they played the game and co-operated with governments of the day. Now, as the result of anomalies, involving such great disparity between what they are awarded and what is handed out to men with far less skill and far less responsibility, they have become discontented. By refusing the right of appeal, the Government will perpetuate anomalies as between different industrial groups, and so long as it permits those anomalies to remain we shall have no hope of obtaining industrial peace throughout the Commonwealth. The Government has shown no recognition of that fact. We do not say that the right of appeal should be granted in respect of any matters and we do not confine the right of appeal to any one group of persons. In the present dispute before the court, as the Leader of the Opposition has shown, the appeal has come from the representatives of the employees. The amendment limits the right of appeal to the highly important considerations of wages and hours and such other matters as the court may determine. In reply in part to that proposal, we are reminded that the Full Court of the Arbitration Court is to be given authority to deal with the basic wage. However, the determination of marginal rates to apply, say, to the metal trades group, is as important to the economy and industrial peace of the Commonwealth as . the determination of the basic wage itself. One of the least satisfactory developments over recent years has been the way in which, while the basic wage itself has steadily risen by adjustments to meet increases in the cost of living, the gap between the base rate and the highest marginal rate has been shrinking. That has put the skilled . man in a less favorable position than he formerly enjoyed. If we are to do justice there must be a fair relationship between the base rate and the marginal rates which are supposed to reflect the difference in skill, arduousness and, perhaps, unpleasantness, in the various classes of work which men are called upon to perform. We cannot hope to have a satisfactory solution of the problem of the base rate unless, at the same time, an opportunity is given to those who deter- mine the base rate, to determine also what marginal rates should operate on top of the base rate applying throughout industry generally. These are mere illustrations that come readily to my mind of the need for having the right of appeal sought by the Leader of the Opposition. It is astonishing to find men of the legal training and experience of those who have already spoken on the Government side resisting a proposal which is so obviously desirable.
Finally, we are told that this is an experiment upon which the Government has embarked. We concede that it is an experiment but we regard it as one of the greatest importance. Surely, in the first months in which the experiment is to operate, there should be a right of appeal. As our experience increases the need for this right of appeal may become less. As the conciliation commissioners become more familiar with the principles to be applied, and with the attitude of the court generally, cases on which an appeal will be sought will, perhaps, diminish. If there be any time at which the right of appeal should exist, surely it is in the early experimental stages of this new departure upon which the Government lias embarked. All of these things support the very strong case made by the Leader of the Opposition and I trust that the committee will accept his amendment.
– After listening to the galaxy of legal talent brought forward in this debate I am somewhat diffident about rising; but I am fortified by the fact that wide differences of opinion exist among our legal friends opposite. The proposal to appoint conciliation commissioners does not create a precedent; they will he placed precisely in the same position as judges already operating in the industrial sphere in the different parts of Australia. It has been pointed out on the question of classifications that the decisions of judges is final. I submit that by giving the conciliation commissioners the same right as is enjoyed by the judiciary in other spheres no precedent will be created. On the contrary this proposal will bring the Commonwealth Arbitration law into conformity with practices that are already followed in other spheres. That is one of the main objects of the bill.
As to the right of appeal, I submit that the proposal of the Leader of the Opposition would give rise to endless litigation. For instance, if the proposed amendment were accepted, after a determination had been made by a conciliation, commissioner one of the parties would then approach the court in an endeavour to prove that public interest had been adversely affected by it. If such a case were established to the satisfaction of the court, the court would then have to consider the whole of the merits of the dispute. . Thus, instead of expediting the settlement of industrial differences the proposal of the Leader of the Opposition would result in still further congestion in the courts, a matter which has given rise to so much dissatisfaction in the whole of the trade union movement. The amendment therefore would do nothing to improve the bill as it would take away from the conciliation commissioners powers which conciliation commissioners in other spheres already enjoy, and as it would make no useful contribution to industrial peace I shall oppose it.
.- I am sure the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) will admit that the amendment proposed by the Leader of the Opposition would improve the’ bill. In common justice a right of appeal should lie against the determinations of the conciliation commissioners. Many minor disputes will no doubt be settled effectively and conclusively by the conciliation commissioners, but there will be others of major importance in respect of which the right of appeal must be upheld. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) mentioned marginal rates. It would take years of experience, particularly in the metal trades, before a commissioner could gain the requisite experience to justify his being clothed with responsibility for making final decisions. I am afraid that the AttorneyGeneral implies that there is a degree of infallability in the paragons who he proposes to choose for appointment as conciliation commissioners. The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. 0’Connor) contended that the amendment would put these gentlemen in the same category as conciliation commis sioners operating in other spheres. To what spheres did the honorable member refer? Consider our experience in one sphere in which this Government has distinguished itself- prices control. There is no appeal against the decisions of the Prices Commissioner and it is well known that the whole business of prices control reeks with injustices.
– Consider another sphere - self-control.
– Members’ of the Government know what I think of them, by and large, in that respect. It was thought that control of prices would be relinquished at the end of the war, but we find that it has been clamped on for another period, and still no right of appeal against the arbitrary decision of the Prices Commissioner has been given. The right of appeal against the determinations of the conciliation commissioners is of great importance because they are to remain in office until they attain the age of sixty-five years unless they are removed for misbehaviour, and then only as the result of a vote of both Houses of the Parliament. If a determination is made by a commissioner which i3 regarded by one side or the other to be at variance with the facts and the evidence it may well lead to chaotic conditions. Such a determination may, as the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) has pointed out, upset the balance between skilled and unskilled rate’s of pay. The right of appeal against the determination of the conciliation commissioners is, therefore, a matter of common justice. If in British law there is a right of appeal above the decisions of the judiciary, above the verdicts of men skilled in the hearing of evidence, the making ‘of summaries and judgments, surely there should be a right of appeal against the decision of the conciliation commissioners to be appointed under this bill. I observe that the AttorneyGeneral is consulting with two of the shining lights of his party. After he has concluded his discussion perhaps he will admit that I am right. If it is fair that there should be a right of. appeal from decisions of the judiciary, provision should also be made for similar appeals under this legislation. Does the Attorney-General believe that there should not be a Privy Council? Does he believe that there should be no appeal from a police court to higher courts? In ordinary court cases usually only one individual is involved, ‘but the decisions of these conciliation commissioners may affect many thousands of workers and have a bearing upon our entire economic and industrial destiny. To deny the right of appeal is undemocratic and unBritish. It is a departure from traditional British practice over many centuries. No doubt Judge Jeffreys would have approved of a restriction of this type, but it comes very close to the German and Russian model. The Government intends to select from amongst its industrial and union friends - we canonly hope that the extremists at least will be excluded - the men who are to solve all. our industrial problems, apparently by magic, and nobody will have the right to sit in judgment upon them. I am amazed that the Attorney-General could introduce such a provision. I cannot believe that it is his own mind that is operating. Surely in this case he has sufficient moral courage to resist the demands of those militant unionists who’ endeavour to worry him into doing unnecessary things. The right honorable gentleman should insist upon the’ right of appeal.
.- T speak on this amendment only because it makes clear the difference of opinion between members of the Opposition and Government supporters i in matters of this kind. The Government proposes that the conciliation commissioners shall make final decisions upon questions of fact, reserving appeals for questions of law. The Opposition wants to give to litigants the right of appeal from the decisions of the conciliation commissioners. In other words, honorable members opposite would prefer to have decisions on what may be urgent industrial problems made by two men instead of only one. I see no reason why on questions of fact, the man on the spot should not make his decision and stick to it. There is no necessity for a right ‘of appeal. A question of law, however, may not be within the knowledge of a conciliation commissioner who has not. had legal training - I do not know whether the commissioners will be legal men or laymen - and it is quite clear thatthere should be a right of appeal to a judge. For that reason I believe that the amendment is unnecessary.
– As honorable members are aware, I am not naturally suspicious, but the more one listens to arguments advanced by honorable members opposite, the more suspicious one is inclined to be of the motives underlying the introduction of this measure. The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. O’Connor) said that the intention was merely to preserve the status quo, that is, to maintain the conditions now operating in regard to a single judge. We have also been told, however, that the bill is an attempt to streamline our arbitration system. I have also noticed a great deal of confusion among private members opposite as to the fundamental principles of arbitration. It appears that to supoprt his views on this measure, the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) is prepared to ‘ overlook the fundamental principles of- arbitration. What are these fundamental principles? First, the task of the. Arbitration Court is not merely to satisfy the demands of employers and employees in industry. It is interested also in the welfare of the consuming public. If public interest could be ignored, it would not matter to an employer if wages were increased because prices too would be increased. An employer could give way to every demand by employees knowing that the additional cost could be passed on to the public. In fact, his return might be greater if prices were increased, provided his percentage profit margin were retained. But the Arbitration Court has laid down the principle that the third party in arbitration matters, namely, the consuming -public, must be considered. Yet, some honorable members opposite are prepared to permit public interest to be ignored by conferring upon conciliation commissioners absolute power to make awards and determinations from which there cannot be an appeal. I am confident that we shall find these conciliation commissioners making such a variety of awards that only conflict and confusion can result amongst the unions themselves. Honorable members opposite should realize that costs of industry are not related solely to the basic wage, or standard hours. They are also related to matters that are entirely different from those fundamentals. It is the general cost of industry that determines the, price of a commodity. There must be a right of appeal if there is to be any uniformity in the conditions that will be laid down by this galaxy of conciliation commissioners. I realize, of course, that the real purpose of the bill is to vest full power in the conciliation commissioners. We all know that the Government’s intention is to appoint as conciliation commissioners men who have a definite bias towards the employees. Let us examine the position that has been revealed by no less a person than the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) himself. The right honorable gentleman said in effect that the conciliation commissioners would be biased if they were men who understood industry. And who else could be appointed but one who understands industry? If the approach to this prob lem is to be logical, only a man who has had some experience in industry, either on the employing side or on the side of the employees, can be appointed. The Prime Minister has admitted that a conciliation commissioner will take office with a definite bias. He said that we should have to put up with thatbias for a period until the conciliation commissioner eventually became intolerant of the insistent demands made upon him. Those may hot have been the right honorable gentleman’s words, but I have given the underlying sense of his remarks. I was not contradicted last night when I said this in the presence of the Prime Minister himself.
– He used different words.
– Well, suppose that by some strange twist two representatives of the employing class were appointed as conciliation commissioners, one liberal and the other conservative. The first would understand even better possibly than would a. representative of the workers their ideas and problems and the second would be conservative in his approach. The close interlocking of industry does not make for a big difference between marginal rates for skill in this industry and that. The decisions of the liberal conciliation commissioner and the conservative would widely differ Who would object? - not the employer, but the worker ! He would have no appeal to justice. His only course would be force. That is what we get under the present system. The honorable member for West Sydney said that the award of a single judge could not be appealed against. Of course not! The workers’ objection is expressed in strikes. The Government proposes to perpetuate that, because, if the men do not receive a . satisfactory award, and do not have the right of appeal, they will enforce what the Government considers to be their sacred right to strike, and, instead of having industrial peace, we shall have industrial turmoil.
Another thought that occurs to me is that, although there is to be no right of appeal to the Arbitration Court against an awardmade by a conciliation commissioner, another authority, much higher than the court, has interested itself in awards made by conciliation commissioners - the Commonwealth Government. It has given directions that have upset decisions made by conciliation commissioners. The Prime Minister reduced the amount of attendance money that the Stevedoring Industry Commission ordered to be paid to waterside workers. Interference with commissioners and commissions has resulted in resignations of commissioners who have refused to allow the Government to interfere with them. An award made by a conciliation commissioner under this legislation will amount to a decision, and, if his decision does not satisfy the union, it will bring pressure to bear on the Government, and, when pressure is exercised, the Government will interfere. That is not the just way of approaching matters of this kind. How much more just it would be if the Government said to the unions, “ You have your redress. If you object to an award made by a conciliation commissioner, you can appeal to the court and you have no need to resort to force or to come in by the back door to Ministers, asking them to intervene on your behalf. You have the open door appeal to the court.” In a democracy access to a civil or industrial court should be readily available to everybody. I had no great suspicions as to the Government’s motives in this regard earlier, but I am forming the gravest suspicions now. The Government says, in effect, that there is no need for an appeal against decisions by conciliation commissioners, because they will concede every demand made by the workers. The Government might as well say that openly, because it is saying itin effect. That causes us the gravest concern. The Attorney-General ought to give deep consideration to the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition, who is imbued with a great sense of justice where the workers are concerned and has a lively recognition of the need to preserve principles in awards in order that the public may receive a little consideration from the Government.
.- If there were some guarantee of uniformity of decisions of conciliation commissioners, I should probably have less enthusiasm for the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) than I have. I consider that the whole bill will make for anomalies in decisions with ill effect on industry as a whole. We shall have fifteen commissioners dealing with perhaps fifteen different industries at different times and in different places. Nothing can emerge from that but inconsistency that must sooner or later give rise to disputes for practical or psychological reasons. That seems to be the main defect of the measure. There must be some provision for ensuring that final decisions shall have a degree of uniformity. The Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt), replying to the Leader of the Opposition at the opening of the debate on these proposed new sub-sections, said that the existing system was similar to that provided for in the bill and that four or five judges of the Arbitration Court each gave decisions in the particular disputes in which they arbitrated.
– On margins and conditions.
– Yes. The right honorable gentleman said that their decisions were not subject to appeal. But that system has caused anomalies. The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) lastnight referred to a judge of the Arbitration Court in Western Australia who gave an award inconsistent with awards given for similar industries in the eastern States. The fact remains, however, that the judges of the Arbitration Court are constantly in touch with each other and know the principles of our industrial law. Though, at times, they may err they are less likely to do so than aare fifteen commissioners who will meet only once every four months. If this system is to be established, provision ought to bemade for some form of appeal against inconsistent awards.
Ministers and their supporters are obsessed with the speed craze that is effecting so many people in this country. On the roads speed-crazed motorists cause numerous accidents, including fatalities. The speed craze manifest in this bill may have similar unfortunate effects on industrial peace. There are other things more important than speed; The most important is that the principles on which industrial disputes are settled should be uniform throughout industry and throughout the country. One way to obtain some degree of uniformity is to accept the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition. As the bill stands, there is a grave danger that there will be lack of uniformity.
– At an earlier stage, one honorable member quoted the proverb. “‘Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all “. Another proverb is, “ It is better to be sure than sorry “. Therefore, I support the amendment. Honorable members opposite have freely admitted the fact, which must be evident to everybody with any knowledge of human nature, that the men who will be appointed as conciliation commissioners, no matter how capable they may be, will not be infallible. To use another proverb, “A chain is only as strong as its weakest link “. It is possible that, if only one conciliation commissioner makes a faulty decision which must be observed, there may be chaos even worse than we have had in the past. The honorable member for Watson (Mr. Falstein) said that it was not known whether the conciliation commissioners would be legal experts or otherwise. . In fact, they may have very little expert knowledge apart from the specific trade in which they have been engaged. I shall not engage in tedious repetition, by canvassing all ‘of the points in favour of the amendment. I support it.
.- The committee is indebted to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies), not only for submitting the amendment, which is very desirable, but also for stating the facts in relation to the metal trades dispute in Victoria. That dispute is an instance of the need for an amendment such as has been proposed. I was appalled when the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) failed to answer any of the arguments of the Leader of the Opposition. Judging by his attitude, he does not intend even to attempt to do so. When he rose to speak after the Leader of the Opposition had moved his amendment, he attempted to confuse the issue by stating the conditions which apply under the existing act, which, of course, is not operating at the moment. The cold fact is that the dispute has arisen under authorities set up under the industrial peace regulations. These regulations bear a greater resemblance to the bill now before the committee than to the existing Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act. I assume that the Government hopes that, by appointing conciliation commissioners and by emphasizing conciliation as distinct from arbitration, it will be able to end industrial unrest and to provide for satisfactory decisions upon matters which exercise the minds of the workers before they can reach the proportions of disputes. If that hope be fulfilled, cases that require determination by the Arbitration Court will be fewer than they have been in the past. The fact that, even in these circumstances, .the Government is not prepared to grant the right of appeal against decisions of the conciliation commissioners, suggests that it is not confident regarding the efficacy of the new system. In my second-reading speech, I remarked upon the deliberate intent, and. practice, of the Government to separate arbitration into watertight compartments. It has perpetuated the Joint Coal Board and the Stevedoring Industry Commission, and now it proposes to create a further division in the arbitration system. Appa- rently it intends to . continue with this practice. I agree with the Leader of the Opposition that, during the next few years, with inevitable’ price increases, dissatisfaction with arbitration judgments is much more likely to arise amongst employees than amongst’ employers. It is obvious, from experience that we have already had, that employees are more likely than employers to make applications to the court under the stress of rising costs. As far as I know, there have been no applications by employers to the Arbitration Court in recent years. Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that applications to the proposed conciliation commissioners will be made almost exclusively by employees, and that any dissatisfaction with determinations made ‘by the commissioners will most probably be on the part of the employees. I have a suspicion that this probability was not considered when the proposed new system of arbitration and conciliation was being discussed by members of the Cabinet and by the Labour party caucus. That is why provision is not made in the bill for appeals against decisions made by the commissioners. Honorable members opposite probably considered that appeals would come only from employers. Had they been aware of the probability that I have stated, I am confident that much more sympathetic consideration would have been given to the right of appeal. We have been told a great deal about the likely method of appointing conciliation commissioners and about the qualifications that they will be required to possess. No member of the committee has criticized the commissioners who have been appointed under the industrial peace regulations. Therefore, I assume that all honorable members consider that they have the qualifications needed for the performance of their duties.- That being the case, the dispute in Victoria affords an excellent example of an unsatisfactory’ decision having been given by a satisfactory commissioner. As the Leader of the Opposition pointed out, the applicants in the case dealt with by that commissioner could have appealed against his decision. Unfortunately they did not exercise their right to do so, and elected instead to take the course of direct action. We should not perpetuate a system under which a dissatisfied party can have no escape from the consequences of a decision made by a conciliation commissioner. Under this bill, employers will have no right of appeal and will have to abide by the awards that are made. They will have no right of appeal at all, that is, of course, assuming the validity of this proposed new section, about which there is some doubt. In addition, the employees will not have a legal right of appeal, unless we are prepared to admit that strikes are legal. Personally, I do not hold that view. Under this legislation, the employer will have no right of appeal, and employees, who also will have no such legal right, will have to resort to the strike weapon. Surely the Government will agree that the least “possible provocation should be given for the use of this ‘weapon, which some honorable members opposite evidently think is right, but which none would like to be employed too frequently. Recently, it has been all too frequently used. The whole purpose of the bill is to reduce the. number of strikes and remove their causes. If the Attorney-General will not accept the amendment, he should inform honorable . members of the basis of his objections. We are entitled to that information. The Leader of the Opposition has stated his case clearly and moderately, and his submissions require an answer. Before the committee reaches a decision, <the Attorney-General should explain frankly the reasons for his apposition to the proposed amendment.
– I propose to add a few remarks on this matter, having regard to the line which has been followed in the course of the discussion on my amendment. The honorable member for Watson (Mr. Falstein) appeared to be under the impression that provision was made’ for an appeal on questions of law. The actual position is that a conciliation commissioner may, if he thinks fit, refer any question of law to the opinion of the court. That is a mere power which he possesses. If he considers that he is the master of the whole problem, he will not refer questions of law to the court. He will give his own decision, and, against that decision, there can be no appeal. Knowing that by another provision a commissioner is denied specifically the assistance of any lawyer on these problems, we realize that he will be fully empowered to decide questions of law; and he will decide them without legal assistance, because the provision is specific on that matter. Against his decision, there will be no appeal. Every honorable member must find that state of affairs very disturbing. Yet that is the position, and not what the honorable member for Watson appeared to imagine existed.
Turning from that aspect, I desire to emphasize to honorable members what a conciliation commissioner has to determine without appeal. He will deal with three matters. First, he will determine his own jurisdiction - a problem which involves very frequently extremely difficult questions, of law. Secondly, he will determine all the questions of fact that come before him. Thirdly, he will determine all the questions of law that might arise in the course of deciding the facts. He is the complete master of all three. When, in those circumstances, wo suggest that a right of appeal against the decision of ‘ a commissioner should be allowed, the answer is made that, under present conditions, there is no provision for an appeal from a decision of a judge of the Arbitration Court. To that contention, I desire to make two answers. The first is that a judge is immeasurably better qualified than a conciliation commissioner to determine two out of those three matters, because they will be questions of law. If a lawyer is nor to be a competent person to determine questions of law, who will be?
Sitting suspended from 12.^5 to 2.15 p.m.
– Before the committee rose I was directing my argument to the proposition put forward that since there was no appeal from the decision of a single judge of the Arbitration Court there should not be any appeal from the determination of a single conciliation commissioner. With regard to that contention I want’ to say three things. The first is that in respect of two of the three matters which will be determinable by the conciliation commissioners, namely, jurisdiction, questions of law and questions of fact, a judge is an expert and is much less likely to be -wrong than some one unversed in legal problems. Secondly, the judges are limited in number and are in constant contact with each other. They meet quite regularly in the Full Court, where there are sometimes three, four or five of them sitting together. They occupy chambers in the same building and have a great deal of contact with each other. The result is that in practice there is much more probability of agreement among them than there would be among a number of conciliation commissioners. Thirdly - and this is a matter which we are apt to overlook - section ISa of the present act provides -
Subject to this Act the jurisdiction of the Court may be exercised by the Chief Judge or another .judge- that is to say, prima facie, in respect of the matters dealt with by a single judge, and - (2.) The Chief Judge or another Judge may, in any case in which he thinks it desirable so to do, invite one or more other Judges to sit with him for the hearing and determination of any matter.
So that if a judge feels that the question involved in a particular dispute is one which may have large general importance he can - to use an approximate expression - summon one or more of his brother judges to sit with him. In the result the equivalent of a Full Court is established. Those three matters are all highly relevant to the present position of the judges, hut, under the terms of this bill, completely irrelevant to the position of ‘the proposed conciliation commissioners.
It is a political commonplace that if the Leader of the Opposition moves an amendment and the Government does not approve of it, the amendment will be defeated in due course, and I recognize that fact. When, the AttorneyGeneral said, “ I will not have this amendment “, the amendment was lost. But the proposed amendment, as drafted, provides for an appeal as of right on the three groups of matters set out in it, namely, wages, hours and conditions of employment which in the opinion of the court are likely to affect the public interest. However, there is an alternative, and I should like the Government to consider it. If it is really feared that my amendment, as. it stands, will produce a crop of appeals and thereby increase delay in the industrial jurisdiction, there is a very simple remedy. The appeal can be conferred, not as of right, but by leave of the court itself. That could be done by substituting the words “ An appeal shall lie to the court constituted by the Chief Judge and not less than two other judges “ in the first sub-clause of my proposed amendment a provision that an appeal shall lie to such court against any decision in any matter of the three kinds mentioned.
The importance of my proposal can be explained in a few sentences. If the full bench of the Arbitration Court has power to grant leave to appeal from a decision of a conciliation commissioner then, having regard to long established judicial practice, it is not likely to grant leave to appeal on everything. In the majority of applications for leave the judges will say : “ No, this is a normal matter and the conciliation commissioner has dealt with it ‘’. But . if a party desires to have the full court determine any matter of profound general importance and can satisfy the Arbitration Court that it should be determined by the Full Court the court can grant leave to appeal and the matter will be determined by it. In regard to the engineers’ dispute, to which I referred earlier, I entirely agree with the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) that there is something tragic in the position in which the engineers find themselves, because their union is a fine one with a great history, and ite members have suffered for a long time from a sense of grievance because of the way in which margins for skill have deteriorated. A margin of 10s., which was thought to be adequate fifteen years ago, is grossly inadequate to-day. The basic wage has moved- but the margin has not moved with the same elasticity as the basic wage, and consequently the members of that union say: “This is. a very important question of principle to us. Should there not be a -bigger margin for skill now for the man who has served his time, the fitter and engineer ? “ The Conciliation Commissioner gave his decision - and it was a fair and honest determination - but the engineers say: “ This gives rise to. the whole problem of what the margin for the skilled worker should -be, and that is a problem which the Pull Court should inquire into and determine. This is not a matter that should go off on the determination of a single commissioner; we consider that it should be determined by the Ful Court “. The engineers could argue - and I would agree with them - that if the fixation of the Basic wage> standard hours and minimum female rates is sufficiently important to be determined by the Full Arbitration Court, ‘then margins for skill are important enough to be determined by that tribunal. I invite the AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt) to give serious consideration to this suggestion. He has made it perfectly clear that he does not like the idea of a general right of appeal, and that proposal passes out of debate. I accept that position, because the Minister has the numbers to defeat my original proposal, but I do strongly press him to consider whether there should not be an appeal by leave of the full Arbitration Court. This would afford an opportunity to parties - and it may frequently be the unions themselves - to go to the Full Court on any matter which they think is sufficiently substantial and farreaching in effect to be the subject of a general decision. This suggestion is put forward, not in any carping fashion, but because we all want to make this legislation as effective as possible. I emphasize that this is a constructive suggestion and, it is worthy of -serious consideration.
– There has been no need, for it previously.
– That is perfectly true. But we have not had the normal jurisdiction of the Arbitration Court conferred upon conciliation commissioners before. I point out that, under this bill, a very big departure is being made ; that is, that apart from the four matters that have been arbitrarily singled out, all questions are to go to the conciliation commissioner, and be dealt with by him at his own dis.cretion, without appeal and without control. If there are fifteen conciliation commissioners, one has only to think for five minutes to realize what may happen. Each commissioner may deal in a different way with the problem of mar gins to the skilled men, which constitutes one of the great problems in industry in Australia.
– Is there uniformity now ?
– There is a very great deal of uniformity in principle, >I can. say to the honorable member.
– That is, in cases dealt with by the judges.
– That is what I am talking about. The judges are very close to each other on matters of principle.
– The right honorable gentleman does not overlook that in many State jurisdictions the judges deal with precisely the same sort of matters as are dealt with by a single judge in the Commonwealth court.
– I do not overlook that. Nor do I overlook the historic fact that inconsistencies of treatment by the Commonwealth court and State courts have given rise to many of the most bitter disputes in the history of this country,, disputes which I should not want to seeperpetuated. There was a period when the time of this Parliament wasenormously occupied by arguments about the overlapping of Commonwealth and State jurisdictions. That overlapping diminished in importance from the time when the High Court decided that where the Commonwealth court occupied the field a State court could not come in on it. That decision was given in the Cowbum case, which the Attorney-General will’ remember. From that time, the overlapping diminished in importance. But it is still a real cause of trouble. Surely the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) can appreciate that what I am’ looking for is some way of eliminating as many causes of trouble as possible ! In order to do that, why not make it possible for the parties to industrial matters, if they can satisfy the Full Arbitration Court that there is a real question of principle which ought to be determined, to go to that court and say,. “ We ask for leave to appeal “ ? The court, having considered the application, would either grant it or refuse it. [Extension of time granted.] The Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) knows, from his .own very ,comprehensive: experience of these matters, that where- there’ is an appeal to a tribunal only by leave, such appeals are by no means a commonplace. In certain circumstances, one can appeal to the High Court by leave. In certain other circumstances, one cannot appeal to the High Court except, for example, by special leave. An appeal by leave means that the onus is on the proposed appellant to satisfy the court that there is a matter which the -appellate court ought to take up and deal with. If we can trust a single conciliation commissioner to exercise his discretion wisely, can we not trust three, four, or five judges of the Arbitration Court to exercise a discretion of that kind sensibly? Of course we can. I invite the AttorneyGeneral very seriously to give consideration to the possibility of meeting the substance of the objections that have been raised by providing that there shall not be an appeal except by leave, and that where leave has been given there can be an’ appeal on one or other, or all, of the three points referred to in the amendment already tabled.
,.- I do not wish to repeat the argument that I put to the committee earlier in the day in answer to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies). But I think that there may be some misapprehension in the minds of some members of the committee about what would be involved in the proposed appeal, or in the alternative suggestion of an application to the Full Court for leave to appeal. “First, let us remind ourselves of what the conciliation commissioner will have to do. Under the bill - and it is a fundamental principle of the measure - he would have to determine two matters: first, the margins in relation to each industry or portion of an industry with which he is dealing; and secondly, what conditions are just in relation to that industry. No more than that is to be given to him to determine. It is perfectly true in one sense - the Leader of the Opposition emphasized this - that it -can be said that he will have to determine the question of his own jurisdiction. But on questions of law, or on questions of his own jurisdiction which involve fact, he will have the right and the power to refer the matter to the court. It is very diffi cult to see what other questions of law could come before him for consideration. Broadly speaking, in reference to margins he will have to determine what is a just rate of remuneration for the work, and what is a reasonable margin to award ; and similarly, in reference to conditions, what conditions may justly be applied in settlement of the particular dispute. It is true, and the Leader of the Opposition has made a great deal of the point, that each of a number of commissioners may approach the problem differently. But, as I pointed out to the committee this morning, that is the position to-day when the problem is dealt with by a single judge. He can ask other judges to sit with him. But that seldom, if ever, occurs; he decides the matter for himself. Indeed, the original Arbitration Act enabled each judge to determine not only margins and conditions, but also the standard hours of work for an industry and the basic wage. It was only after Mr. Justice Higgins had reduced the standard hours from 48 to 44 a week in the Timber Workers case in 1920, that that power was taken away from a single judge and given to the Full Court, whilst leaving each judge fully in control of the questions of margins and industrial conditions. If a full appeal were given, as the Leader of the Opposition has suggested, there would be the right of appeal to the court on any matter affecting wages, hours, or any condition of . employment which, in the. opinion of the court, was likely to affect the public interest. If the alternative suggestion were adopted, and there was leave to appeal, there would be an application for leave to appeal to the Full -Court in the first instance, and subsequently, if the application were ‘ granted, another hearing of the appeal by the Full Court. Thus, there would be three hearings - the hearing before the conciliation commissioner, the application for leave to appeal, and, finally, the appeal proper.
– The right honorable gentleman is not serious when he says that ?
– I am serious.
– The right honorable gentleman staggers me. In his presence, I have made scores of applications for leave to appeal to the High. Court, and none of them took more than an hour or half an hour to determine.
-When the High Court is dealing mainly with questions of constitutional law, or questions involving some great principle, it may give leave to appeal quickly. But very seldom does the court, having given leave to appeal, proceed immediately to hear the appeal; there is a subsequent hearing.I repeat that, under this amendment, if accepted, there would be the right of appeal to the court. If that were acceptedby the committee, any party to an award would be able to appeal to the court as a matter of right, and have the case dealt with by the Chief Judge and two other judges. There might be thousands of parties to an award, all of whom might be satisfied with it except one or two. If there were no appeal as a right, and leave to apply had to be made, there would be, first, a hearing by the commissioner, then an application for leave to appeal, and, later, the appeal itself. The appeal would have to take its place on the court’s list and be dealt with by the Full Court, so that instead of proceedings being expedited, a multiplicity of appeals would cause delays and the situation would be worse than it now is. That would not be in conformity with the spirit of the bill, because the delays would cause industrial discontent.
– The craft unions will not thank the right honorable gentleman for that.
– The Leader of the Opposition has shown concern for the margins of craft workers, which I agree is a matter of great importance. I do not wish to discuss the merits of the Engineers case, or to say whether Mr. Mooney’s award was or was not right-
– Nor do I.
– Although I agree that the question of margins is, important, would that matter be dealt with any more justly by the Full Court than by a conciliation commissioner? Whatever body deals with it, the point to be decided is : What is a just margin? The point that conciliationcommissioners might confer is, in my opinion, not tenable, because I believe that they will confer frequently.
Under the bill they will be required to meet regularly to discuss matters of common interest. The right of appeal would lead to delays, and as that is opposed to the principles underlying the bill, I cannot accept the amendment. Moreover, the amendment would give a right of appeal in relation to matters concerning which there is now no right of appeal.
.- I move-
That, in proposed new sub-suction (2.), after the word “matter”, second occurring, the following words be inserted: - “ or any question as to whether he has jurisdiction under this Act in relation to that matter,”.
The purpose of the amendment is to enable a conciliation commissioner to refer to the court, not merely a question of law, but all questions as to whether an industrial dispute exists in relation to the matter before him. It may be a matter of mixed law and fact. It is desirable that the court’s guidance should be obtainable by a conciliation commissioner when be realizes the need for it.
– I do not wish to discuss this amendment at length because a similar situation will arise later, when I shall have something to say regarding it, but I take it from what the AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt) has said that, unless a conciliation commissioner refers a matter of jurisdiction to the Arbitration Court, he will determine that matter himself. If he has power to refer to the court any question as to whether or not he has jurisdiction under this legislation in relation to the matter it follows that if he does not choose to refer that matter to the court he will himself have power to decide it. From proposed new section 35, for the insertion of which the AttorneyGeneral will move later, I gather that the intention is that the commissioner’s determination upon that question shall in all courts and for all purposes, be conclusive and binding. If that be not so. I should be glad to be told. Is it the intention to make a. finding as to the jurisdiction by the court conclusive and binding, but not to make a finding by a conciliation commissioner conclusive and binding ?
There is an important reason for asking this question, which will be evident when the foreshadowed amendment is moved.
– The reason for the distinction is that the jurisdiction of the High Court in relation to conciliation commissioners is preserved. The way in which a commissioner’s jurisdiction may be questioned under the Constitution is by the exercise by the High Court of its right to issue aprohibition.
Amendment agreed to.
– I move-
That, in proposed new sub-section (4.), the words “ of law “ be left out.
The committee has already decided that a question which is not necessarily one of law may be referred to the Arbitration Court by a conciliation commissioner. The amendment is consequential on that decision.
Amendment agreed to.
– I move -
That proposed new subsection (5.) be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following sub-section: - “ (5.) Upon the determination by the Court of a question referred to it under this section -
if the Commissioner has not made an order or award in the matter in which the question arose, the Commissioner may make an order or award not inconsistent with the opinion of the Court; or
if the Commissioner has made an order’ or award in the matter in which the question arose, the Commissioner shall vary that order or award in such a way as will make it consistent with the opinion of the Court.” .
It was not clear in the bill as originally drafted that the decision of the court in relation to a question of law, given after reference by a commissioner to the court, would be binding on the commissioner. That defect or omission will be cured by the amendment, the purpose of which is to provide, not merely that a conciliation commissioner may mould any order or award which he makes so that it will conform with the determination of a question referred by him to the court, but that he shall do so.
.- I agree with the amendment because it meets a point that was raised during the second-reading debate, namely, that under the bill as originally drafted, it might appear that a conciliation commissioner had a discretion to give effect to the opinion of the court. Thatposition is covered by the amendment, but there is still a matter which I confess rather puzzles me. Subsection 4 of proposed new section 19, as just amended, reads -
Notwithstanding the reference of a question to the Court under this section, the Commissioner may make an order or award in the matter in which the question arose.
There may be good reasons for this, but I am not satisfied that it is very wise, when some question of law has been raised, including a question of jurisdiction, and the answer to that question in one direction may mean that no order can be made at all, to provide that, notwithstanding that fact, the commissioner may go ahead and make an order. Such a procedure amounts to making the worst of both worlds. The commissioner makes an order with the idea of settling a dispute. The order is found to be invalid when the question is referred to the court, with the result that the parties find themselves without an order, although a few, days before they thought they had one. I do not know whether circumstances of haste may sometimes justify such procedure, but normally it is well that any question of jurisdiction should be settled before an order is made. I have no very strong feeling on the matter, and perhaps the Attorney-General can assist us with an explanation.
– The purpose of the amendment is to leave it to the discretion of the commissioner to decide whether or not proceedings should be stayed pending determination of a reference to the court. The industrial situation may be such that it would be advisable that a commissioner should issue an order forthwith. On the contrary, I believe that it would be generally advisable for the commissioner to stay his hand pending the determination of a question that might go to the root of his jurisdiction. We merely wish to provide that there shall not be an automatic stay of proceedings pending the determination of the reference.
Amendment agreed to.
Proposed new section, as amended, agreed to.
Proposed new section 20 - ( 3. ) The Chief Judge and the other Judges of the Court holding office immediately prior to the commencement of this section shall continue to be the Chief Judge and Judges of the Court, respectively.
.- I move-
That proposed new sub-section (3) be left out.
Sub-section 3 of the proposed new section provides that the judges of the court shall continue to hold office. However, the point has already been dealt with in a previous amendment which provides that the court shall be continuous in its function. Thus the tenure will not depend on any provision in the statute.
Amendment agreed to.
Proposed new section, as amended, agreed to.
Proposed new sections 21 to 24 agreed to.
Proposed new section 25 (Pensions).
Mr. MENZIES (Kooyong- Leader of the Opposition [2.48]. - I do not rise to offer any criticism of proposed new section 25, but it seems that this is a convenient opportunity to suggest to the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt), that if these provisions about prior service in a judicial office in any State are appropriate and necessary in the case of appointments to the Arbitration Court, they may very well be considered appropriate in the case of appointments to other Commonwealth courts, including the High Court. We have here a formula designed to cover the case of a State judge who is afterwards appointed to a position on a federal industrial court, and it is provided that some portion of his State service shall be taken into account in assessing his Commonwealth pension. The Commonwealth ought never to disqualify itself from making use of the services of competent State industrial judges. I recognize that my suggestions have nothing to do with this bill. Indeed, my remarks are out of order, but I invite the AttorneyGeneral to consider what I have put forward.
– I am in general agreement with the Leader of the Opposition regarding this principle, but we cannot deal with the matter in this bill.
– I recognize that.
Proposed new section agreed to.
Proposed new section 26 agreed to.
Proposed new section 27 - (1.) The jurisdiction of the Court shall be exercised by not less than three Judges. (2.) Where the members of the Court are divided in opinion on any question, the question shall be decided according to the decision of the majority, if there is a majority, but if the members of the Court are equally divided in opinion the question shall be decided according to the opinion of the Chief Judge, or, in his absence or during a vacancy in the office of Chief Judge, according to the opinion of the next senior Judge present.
.- I move-
That, in proposed new sub-section (1.), after the word “ shall “, the following words be inserted: - “subject to the next succeeding sub-section,”.
The purpose of this amendment, and of the one that is to follow it, is to enable a court constituted, not by three judges or more but by a single judge, to deal with matters of practice and procedure which will be specified in the regulations.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendment (by Dr. Evatt) agreed to-
That, after sub-section (1.), the following new sub-section be inserted: - “ (1a.) The jurisdiction of the Court may be exercised by a single Judge with respect to any prescribed matter of practice or procedure.”.
– I move -
That, in proposed new sub-section (2), the words “in his absence or during” be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words : - “ if the Chief Judge is not a member of the Court or there is “.
The object of this amendment is to make it clear that when there is an equality of opinion on an occasion when the Chief Judge is absent for any reason - and not merely when he is absent on leave - the decision of the senior judge who is present shall prevail, as in similar circumstances in the High Court.
Amendment agreed to.
Proposed new section, as amended, agreed to.
Proposed new section 28 -
The Court may, for the purpose of preventing or settling an industrial dispute, make an order or award determining -
the standard hours of work in an industry;
the basic wage or the principles upon which it is computed;
the period which shall bo granted as annual leave with pay; or
the minimum rate of remuneration for adult females in an industry, and may also vary any such order or award.
– I move - .
That the word “ determining “ be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ altering “.
This amendment is consequential upon one which was agreed to last night defining the matters which a conciliation commissioner may not deal with.
Amendment agreed to.
– I move-
That the words “ and may also vary. any such order or award “ be left out.
In a later amendment it is proposed to insert a new section 43gb dealing with the setting aside and varying of awards.
Amendment agreed to.
Proposed new section, as amended, agreed to.
Proposed new sections, 29 to 31 agreed to.
Proposed new section 32 -
The Court shall have power -
to make such orders as the Court thinks just as to the. costs and expenses (including expenses of witnesses) of any proceedings be fore the Court other than costs and expenses to which paragraph (e) of section forty-three of this Act applies.
.- I move-
That, after paragraph (d), the following new paragraph be inserted: - “(da) to grant leave to appeal to the Court from any act or decision of the Registrar and to hear and determine any appeal in respect of which leave is so granted; and”.
Under section 17 of the principal act the court may review any act or decision of the Registrar in any manner in which it thinks fit. It does not appear to be desirable that there should be a general appeal to the court from every decision of the Registrar, but there may be cases where the court would be prepared to grant leave to appeal to itself from decisions. The amendment makes provision accordingly. Questions of registration and the like affect not only ministerial administration but also the whole industrial organization and as the court has power to deregister, or suspend, it should have power to give leave to hear an appeal from the Registrar.
– I am grateful even at this late hour to receive from the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) this valuable support for an earlier amendment. The committee will recall that I suggested as a way out of the problem of appeal that there should be an appeal to the court by leave. The arguments of the Attorney-General in reply were put as powerful arguments against that course - that it would mean three hearings instead of two, and so on. Every one will recall the rather plaintive terms in which the Attorney-General said that it was a horrible thought to give leave to appeal to the court from the commissioners; but this amendment proposes to grant power to the Arbitration Court to grant leave to appeal from a decision of the Registrar. I think that it is a very sensible provision. For a long time in the principal act there has been a provision that decisions of the Registrar are subject to appeal, as of right, to the Arbitration Court ; and of course, a great number of his decisions may be the merest matter of routine. Therefore, I have no quarrel with the amendment, that it is only by leave of the court that decisions of the Registrar can come up. I wish that the Attorney-General had appreciated his own arguments about ten minutes ago.
– I suggest that there is no inconsistency.
Amendment agreed to.
.- I move-
That, in paragraph (e), the words “costs and expenses to which “ be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words: - “an industrial dispute as to the costs and expenses of which an order may be made under “.
This is a drafting amendment to express more clearly the intention that the court may make orders as to the costs of proceedings before it, other than arbitral proceedings for the costs of which provision is made by paragraph e of proposed new section 43.
Amendment agreed to.
Proposed new section, as amended, agreed to.
Proposed new section 33 agred to.
Proposed new section 34 - (2.) Except as provided in the last preceding sub-section, there shall be no appeal ( whether to the High Court or to any other Court) from a judgment or order from which an appeal may be brought to the Court under that sub-section.
. -I move-
That, in proposed new sub-section (2.), the words “ (whether to the High Court or to any other Court) “ be left out.
The words proposed to be omitted are considered to be unnecessary, and their omission will not affect the operation of the proposed new section.
Amendment agreed to.
Proposednew section, as amended, agreed to.
Proposed new section 35 (Decisions of Court to be final).
– I move -
That the proposed new section be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following new section: - “ (1.) A judgment, order or award of the Court in any proceedings under this Act (in cludingan appeal under the last preceding section ) -
shall be final and conclusive;
shall not be subject to an appeal to the High Court;
shall not be challenged, appealed against, reviewed, quashed or called in question in any Court on any account whatever; and
shall not be subject to prohibition, mandamus or injunction in any Court on any account whatever. “ (2.) A determination or finding of the Court upon any question as to the existence of an industrial dispute shall, in all courts and for all purposes, be conclusive and binding on all persons affected by that question.”
It is thought that this section would be more easily understood if it is set out in four paragraphs as appears in the amendment. Further, special provision is con tained as to the effect of a determination, or finding, of the court upon any question as to the existence of an industrial dispute.
– Portion of this amendment is merely a matter of redrafting, but the second proposed subsection is very far from being a matter of mere drafting. The proposed new subsection 1, it is true, breaks up into four paragraphs what already substantially appears in the bill; but sub-section 2 of the proposed new section reads - (2.) A determination or finding of the Court upon any question as to the existence of an industrial dispute shall, ‘in all courts and for all purposes be conclusive and binding on all persons affected by that question.
When I saw these words my memory went back a few years, and I realized why they were here, because I have vivid recollections of hearing the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt), in another capacity, argue in the High Court that where the Arbitration Court has found that there is an interstate dispute that concludes the matter and the High Court cannot intervene. Now, the High Court is the guardian of the Constitution. It is the High Court’s responsibility to say whether anything done by the Arbitration Court goes beyond the constitutional power, and that is a duty it must discharge; but it has been argued occasionally that if Parliament conferred upon the Arbitration Court the power, itself, to determine all the facts conclusively which bear on the jurisdiction then those findings are not canvass able in the High Court. I made a reference yesterday in anotherconnexion to the decision of the High Court in Caledonian Collieries Limited v. Australasian Coal and Shale Employees’ Federation in 1930. That was a very remarkable case, or pair of cases, in which the learned Attorney-General and I were on opposite sides-
– That happens often.
– On opposite sides in our legal capacity. For example, the acceptance by me on some happier occasion of a brief from the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Barnard) would” be a fortunate thing for him but would in no way identify me with his political opinions. In the judgment of the High Court in that case, this was said by the majority of four judges -
Dr. Evatt, for the Commonwealth, contended that even if Judge Beeby had no’ jurisdiction in fact, yet his decision that he had jurisdiction was conclusive because he now exercised the judicial power of the Commonwealth. It is enough to say that, whether it could do so or not, the legislature litis not attempted to con- fer upon the Court of Conciliation and Arbitration judicial power conclusively to determine the matter upon which its jurisdiction depends.
So the matter did not fall for decision. When the Attorney-General drafted this amendment he remembered that case. He went back seventeen years and said to himself, “Perhaps this is a very good oportunity, after this interval of time, to get Parliament to attempt to confer upon the Court of Conciliation and Arbitration judicial power conclusively to determine the matter upon which its jurisdiction depends.” That is exactly what this amendment sets out to do. I do not say it will achieve its object, because I still have a feeling that the High Court’s jurisdiction to prohibit a court which goes beyond its jurisdiction will survive even this attack. The object of the amendment is to exclude the authority of the High Court; if that is not its purpose it has no purpose at all. So long as we have limited authority in this Parliament to deal with this problem I believe that the power of the High Court, as the guardian of the Constitution, should be preserved, and it should not be made possible for any other court, by making findings on fact, to exclude the High Court from exercising its jurisdiction, and saying, “ This comes within the constitutional power and that does not”. The Attorney-General will agree that this is related to the whole . problem.
– The position is that the High Court could grant a prohibition to the conciliation commissioner, but supposing a conciliation commissioner refers the question as to whether there is an industrial dispute to the very judges who constitute the Full Court of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, and they decide that there is an industrial dispute, should that finding be capable of review by the High Court? There should not be two references. In my view the decision by the arbitrator that there is an industrial dispute should be upheld. The Leader of the Opposition correctly points out that it is by no means certain that a provision such as this would be held valid. I believe it should be the object of the Parliament to enable finality to be reached on questions which come within the jurisdiction of the conciliation commissioners. The conciliation commissioner may be prohibited by the court by direct application for prohibition. If it he found that there is an interstate dispute and that the commissioner has jurisdiction, should that be canvassed again before the High Court? I do not believe it should, and it may well be that the Constitution does not permit that to be done.
.- It is with a great deal of trepidation that I embark upon the discussion of a question such as this. I do not understand the subtleties or niceties of forensic discussion; but I have been intensely interested in the duel that has been going on between my leader (Mr. Menzies) and the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt). It seems to have . relation to discussions which go back over the years. The Attorney-General now happens to he in power and seeks to administer the necessary thrust, but the right honorable gentleman apparently has some fear that the thrust may not be effective because he agrees that it is by no means certain that’ this amendment will do what he wants it to do. He says, “I am not too sure about it, but I shall take a chance “. It is interesting to see him in his position as Attorney-General willing to take a chance and at other times in his position as Minister for External Affairs insisting that everything must be factual. Dealing with the point made by the honorable member for “Wakefield (Mr. McBride), the right honorable gentleman said, “ This has nothing whatever to do with the obtaining of full powers “. I put it to the committee that by this amendment the Attorney-General is obviously trying to take a chance of getting what the people denied him by way of referendum. This is a blatant attempt to whittle away the constitutional rights of the people by means of an amendment sought to be introduced into a bill dealing with conciliation and arbitration. The right honorable gentleman says, in effect, “ We are going to try through the arbitration bill to prevent the High Court from making decisions relative to constitutional matters. If the Arbitration Court has no jurisdiction to make decisions relative to this matter on constitutional grounds, we shall not give to the High Court an opportunity to say that this practice is entirely unconstitutional.” I enter my emphatic protest against this blatant attempt to take away the constitutional rights of the people by this means. The appointees to the position of conciliation commissioner will be men untrained in legal matters who may or may not have experience in industry. From the experience we have had of past appointments of this kind made- by the Government I am more inclined than ever to believe that the new conciliation commissioners will be prepared to take directions from the Government. We have seen the way in which the Government has directed commissioners and interfered with their judgments in the past, and how some of them, rather than submit to such directions, resigned. If this amendment be accepted’ the Government will be able to put into practice its industrial policy without hindrance, not through the Parliament but by directions, relative to terms and conditions of employment, issued from behind the closed doors of the Cabinet room. As a matter of fact, from our experience df the past, we consider that it is not unlikely that the decisions of the Australasian Council of Trade Unions will first be conveyed to the Cabinet, and that the Cabinet in turn will convey, them to the conciliation commissioners.
– I ask the honorable member to discuss the proposed amendment.
– I am pointing out that the Minister is making an attempt to whittle away the constitutional rights of the people, and I draw particular attention to the fact .that the Government, by way of this amendment, is seeking to secure a power which was denied by the people. The Attorney-General has agreed that there is some substance in what was said by the Leader of the Opposition. He said, in effect, “ This does go back over the years, when I found that the High Court would not see eye to eye with me. I am prepared to take a chance. If the amendment is agreed to, it will give to the Government, through its conciliation commissioners, power to determine terms and conditions in industry.” I am not naturally suspiciously disposed, but the further I go in my analysis of this bill, the more convinced I am that there is matter for grave suspicion in it.
Amendment agreed to.
Proposed new section, as amended, agreed to.
Motion (by Dr. Evatt) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- Last week in this chamber I asked a question relating to shipping, but I have not yet received a reply. The position to-day is that at the three main ports on the eastern seaboard more than 30,000 tons of cargo is awaiting shipment to Western Australia.. That cargo includes various commodities for which there is urgent need in Western Australia, such as motor tyres, machinery of all descriptions, and foodstuffs. A telegram that I received only to-day informs me that baby foods are in short supply in Western Australia and are urgently required. The shipping hold-up is also causing grave concern to local governing bodies which have ordered from manufacturers in Sydney road-making machinery, costing approximately £3,000. This machinery was ordered some months ago, but owing to lack of shipping, it is still lying either on the wharfs at the eastern ports, or at the manufacturing works. Recently, the Prices Commissioner permitted machinery manufacturers to increase their prices by 20 per cent. In one case, an increase of 39 per cent. has been permitted. Had the local governing authorities to which I have referred been close to the manufacturing works they could have taken delivery of the machinery by road, but unfortunately as this has not been possible, they are now called upon to pay the higher prices. When we bear in mind the fact that these local governing bodies have prepared estimates of their expenditure, and raised loans to cover the purchase of this machinery, we realize that they are now placed in an awkward position by the price increases, which in some cases, may amount to £1,000. This matter is still more alarming when we find that to raise the extra money it has been necessary to cancel certain works programmes.
In reply to a question that I asked this morning, the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell) agreed that Fremantle would be an ideal temporary terminal for migrants to this country. These people could then be transported to the eastern States by coastal ships, trains, orby air. Icommend the Minister’s sympathetic approach to this proposal, and I suggest that the Government take early action to implement it. The scheme would serve a dual purpose. First, it would facilitate the transport to the eastern States of migrants for whom accommodation would be difficult to find in Western Australia, and secondly the coastal vessels returning to Fremantle could carry the urgently required cargoes now lying on the wharfs in the eastern States. I ask the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Johnson), whoI am certain appreciates the urgency of this matter, to ascertain whether the Government cando anything in the matter, whether it willdoanything, and if so, when we may expect to receive some definite indication that the shipping shortagebetween eastern States and Western Australia is to be relieved.
.- I shall take the first opportunity to place the matters that have been raised by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Hamilton) before the appropriate Ministers for early consideration.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determinations by the Arbitrator, &c. - 1947 -
No. 19 - Commonwealth Public Service Artisans’ Association.
No. 20 -Commonwealth Public Service Clerical Association.
No. 21 - Commonwealth Public Service Artisans’ Association.
House adjourned at 3.21 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
r asked the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping upon notice -
– The Minister for Supply and Shipping has supplied the following information: - 1 to 4. The matters raised by the honorable member were fully debated during the passage of the act. I may add, however, that it is not the intention of the Government to direct the unions as to whom they should admit to membership.
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping upon notice -
– The Minister for Supply and Shipping has supplied the following information : -
y. - On the 16th April, the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Beale) asked a question concerning the transfer of waterside workers from one ship to another. The Minister for Supply and Shipping has supplied the following information : -
There is no order of the Stevedoring Industry Commission which specifically provides that if there is not a full day’s work for a man on a particular ship he may be transferred to another vessel for the remainder of the working day. Various orders of the commission provide for mobility of labour and the matter of transferring from ship to ship is one for the Labour Superintendent at the port concerned. In the main, the power of labour superintendents to transfer men is freely exercised. The difficulty in regard to transfers in the port of Sydney is at present under discussion and there is every indication that this matter will be satisfactorily adjusted.
On the 27th March, the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) asked a question regarding attendance money for waterside workers. In reply to the honorable member the Minister for Supply and Shipping has advised that members of the Waterside Workers Federation who are unable to work because of stop-work meetings by waterside clerks and who make themselves available for work in accordance with the commission’s orders will be paid attendance money if no work is available.
d asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– Theanswers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1, 2 and 3. The latest figures available are incomplete but indications are that they closely approximate the survey figures taken as at the 1st January, 1947, which are as follows: -
Edible Beef Tallow. - Stocks, 3,340 tons. Estimated production for six months to 30th June. 1947, 7,319 tons; total, 10,659 tons. Estimated margarine requirements for six months to 30th June. 1947, 10,434 tons.
Edible Mutton Tallow. - Stocks, 1,332 tons. Estimated production for six months to 30th June, 1947, 1,560 tons; total, 2,892 tons. Estimated margarine requirements for six months to 30th June. 1947. 918 tons.
Inedible White Mutton Tallow. - Stocks,641 tons. Estimated production for six months to 30th June, 1947, 1,306 tons; total, 1,947 tons. All exportable to India for sizing in textile mills.
Other Mutton Tallow (used locally for soap making, &c. ). - Stocks, 100 tons. Estimated production for six months to 30th June, 1947, 196 tons. Total 296 tons.
Inedible Mixed Tallow (Soapmakers’ Graders). - Stocks, 14,956 tons. Estimated production for six months to 30th June, 1947, 2.1,478 tons; total, 36,434 tons. Soapmakers’ estimated requirements for six months to 30th June,1947, 28,369 tons.
d asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
What have been the monthly exports (in quantity) of (a) tallow, and (b) edible fats, in the past six months?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Leukaemia : Supplies of Radio- Active Phosphorus.
D. - On the 26th February, the honorable member for Werriwa. (Mr. Lazzarini) asked -
Would it be possible for the Department of Repatriation to make available supplies of radio-active phosphorus, as mentioned by the honorable member for Martin, for civilian purposes ? I have been approached by a young ex-airman whose wife has the same complaint as that from which an ex-serviceman in the 113th Australian General Hospital is suffering.
On the same day the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Daly) asked this question -
Some time ago I urged the Minister for Repatriation to obtain some rare radio-active phosphorus for the purpose of treating an unusual blood disease known as leukaemia, from which a serviceman is suffering in 113th Australian General Hospital at Concord: I understand that quantities of this drug have now arrived in Australia, and, following my representations, I ask the Minister to inform me what action was taken by the Repatriation Department, in view of the urgency of the case, to have this drug imported? As reports state that the supplies of this drug in Sydney are sufficient only for the requirements of the next five days, will the honorable gentleman issue instructions for urgent arrange- ments to be made to obtain adequate quantities from overseas in order that this serviceman may receive continued treatment until he is cured.
I have been able to arrange for the Repatriation Commission, through its Principal Medical Officer, to approach Professor Eedy of the Tracer Element Research Committee of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research who has supplied the following information : -
Only a small supply of the material is expected from America and it was also learned that radio-active isotopes, of which phosphorus is one and which are produced in the United States of America, are strictly controlled and supplies are only being released from the United States of America to accredited people who will submit full details of the use to which the material will be put. The Tracer Element Research Committee is the controlling body in Australia. Radio-active phosphorus is a by-product of atomic energy experiments and is not yet available commercially ineither Britain or the United States of America.. Its use at present is restricted to research and treatment of some human diseases of which chronic leukaemia is one. It is of no advantage to use radio-active phosphorus in the acute leukaemia. As the material loses half its potentcy within two weeks of preparation, it would be inadvisable to build up a reserve supply in Australia. Radio-active phosphorus is available to civilians and service personnel alike, but may only be issued by the Tracer Element Research Committee if the use of the material will be of advantage to the patient. The pioneer work on the use of radio-active phosphorus in Australia has been carried out by the Director of the Queensland Radium Institute in Brisbane, and the Repatriation Commission consults that authority in all cases referred to it. The use of radio-active phosphorus is not unattended with danger, as its action cannot ‘be controlled once it is injected into the body.
Governor-General : Aides-de-Camp.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
y. - The answers to the honorable members questions are as follows : -
Immigration : British Migrants.
y. - Further to my reply to the question by the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) on the18th April, regarding British migrants. I desire to inform the honorable member that the Minister for Immigration has advised me that Lord Iddesleigh’s suggestion concerning underprivileged children has been noted. These children will be welcomed provided they are up to our physical and mental standards. If a. child is merely undernourished but physically sound, he would be eligible for consideration, but it is not intended that our standards be relaxed.
y. - On the 17th April the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) asked a question regarding the shortage of 12-bore cartridges. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has supplied the following information : -
Owing to a variety of factors there is a shortage of lead shot cartridge and similar shortages obtain in other countries. An improving local position is expected. Importation of cartridges from the United Kingdom is under investigation, but the position is not hopeful as manufacturers in that country have indicated that they cannot assist unless Australia provides the lead shot.
Taxation Department: Administration.
y. - Following upon the question asked by the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) on the 17 th April, regarding the proposal to decentralize the Taxation Department by establishing offices in provincial centres outside the capital cities, I have, as promised, again discussed this matter with the Commissioner of Taxation.
The Commissioner has informed me that the staffing position of the department has not yet improved sufficiently to enable any active step to be taken towards decentralization of the department’s activities. Although considerable progress has been made in overtaking the arrears of work accumulated during the war, much still remains to be done in this connexion and until the arrears are cleared it is imperative that the department’s expert staffs be retained in the capital cities where the centralization of work enables a maximum output to be maintained. A further serious impediment to the establishment of branches of the department in provincial centres at the present time is the problem of securing the necessary accommodation in those centres. It will readily be appreciated, of course, that any such plan will involve the provision not only of considerable office space, but also of suitable housing accommodation for the personnel concerned. In view of the acute shortageof all classes of accommodation existing in practically every locality, any effective move in the direction of decentralization will be quite impracticable until conditions ease in this regard. At the same time, however, the importance of the question of decentralization of the department’s activities is fully appreciated by both the Commissioner and myself, and the honorable member may be assured that the claims of Newcastle and other large provincial centres will not be overlooked when conditions enable decentralization to be undertaken.
Commonwealth Bank: Renovation
y. - On the 14th March, the honorable member for Cook (Mr.’ Sheehan) asked a question relating to painting and. renovations of CommonwealthBank Buildings. I indicated that I would look into the matter and furnish a reply as soon as possible. I am now in a position to supply the following informotion : -
All major building and renovation works throughout Australia for the Commonwealth Bank of Australia are undertaken through the Department of Works and Housing, employing contractors on a, competitive basis. Certain minor building operations and renovations of a routine character are arranged by the bank through its ownorganization subject to conference with the Department of Works and Housing as necessary. These works are let to contractors on a competitive basis wherever possible. This arrangement is considered satisfactory both by the department and the bank.
Papua and New Guinea: Payments to relatives of Prisoners of War .
– On the 25th March, the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) asked a question relating to the payment of allotments to allottees of deceased servicemen and New Guinea government officials who diedwhile prisoners of war. I indicated that inquiries would be made and a reply furnished assoon as possible. I am now in a position to supply the following information: - 1, 3, and 4. Sealing firstly with allottees of deceased servicemen,’ payment of allotments to dependants us continued as a charge to public funds until the expiration of one month from the date of notification of the death of the member to the Repatriation Commission. This enables pension payments to be determined and paid. Under no circumstances are dependants of deceased servicemen required to refund any payments of allotment or dependants’ allowances made after thedateof the serviceman’s death..
With regard to allotments to persons other than dependants of the serviceman, and to institutions such as banks and trustee companies, it can be taken that in the majority of these cases the allotment was paid in trust for the serviceman, and in such circumstances a general decision approving of the charging of the overpayments to public funds would not be justified. Adjustment is not made, however, in any instance where the prescribed authority is satisfied that the allottee, although not in. receipt of dependant’s allowance, was to some extent dependent on the member or that repayment would create hardship. Special consideration. is being given to cases in which the allottee was a close relative of, although not dependent to any extent on, the member.
In cases where adjustment of overpayments is effected, the pay, deferred pay or other moneys comprising the member’s military estate are used as far as possible.
With regard to deceased New Guinea officials, payments at rates previously authorized by the officer or as determined according to circumstances were made to dependants from the date the officer became missing until some time after his fate was known. Superannuation allowances, where applicable, have been calculated from the date of death. The value of all leave credits as at the date the officer became missing have also been credited to dependants. Where the amounts paid to dependants subsequent to date of death exceeded available credits, no refunds have been Bought. The same principles have been applied to all dependants.
It might be noted that in addition to superannuation benefits, dependants of deceased New Guinea officials became eligible for the special New Guinea civilian war pension.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 24 April 1947, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1947/19470424_reps_18_191/>.