21st Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Archie Cameron) took the chair at S.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– Varying reports have1 ‘been made on that subject by different scientists throughout the worM. As yet, there is jio unanimity an She matter.
Mr. -CALWELL. - I address a -question to the Prime Minister who is acting for the Treasurer. Can he give to the .Parliament an assurance that the Australian £1 will .-net be devalued -within the next twelve months ?
– I say nothing about such a matter - and that will not surprise the .honorable member.
– I point out to the Minister -for Civil Aviation that -there is no airport at Port Augusta, which is a most important centre whose population is growing rapidly.
– -What is the honorable, member’s question?
– With the exception of one area of land in the district jio other land suitable for airport purpose is available for a distance of many mi ins. Will he institute inquiries to ascertain whether it is not possible for the Electricity Trust to divert its power line so that the land could be used for an airport to facilitate air services .to -this very important centre?
Mar. TOWNLEY.- If I remember correctly, there is a small airfield at Port Augusta, but it is suitable only for light aircraft. Officers of the Department of Civil Aviation have investigated it And have discovered that it is not suitable for -expansion and development. However, they reported that the land referred to by the honorable member is situated in the area, and has been taken over by the Electricity Trust of South Australia. An approach to that trust will have to be made by the local authorities, because that is not a matter for the Department of Civil Aviation.
– In view of the fact” .that the Minister for Air feels that be is unable to table the report which has been made .following the crash of the Canberra jet -bomber, is ho prepared to make .that report available privately to ^honorable members ?
– -I do snot know that I would. I -shall give it though t to ascertain whether I think any good would come from it. For/the life of me, I cannot see of what good it would be to .make available to non-technical .members of the House a report on an aircraft accident, which is very, very -highly technical in every respect. No good could come of -making the details known.
– Some honorable members may know a .lot about it.
– Some may know something about it. iBr. EVATT. - 1 direct to the Minister Tot Air a question which is supplementary to the question that be has just answered. Lt is perfectly true that .some honorable members may .not be interested in the technical -side of the report to which he referred, hut will he please let honorable members gee it so that they may study it, examine the technical information in light of the whole report and perhaps make suggestions to the Minister, and to the House, .in relation to it? I assure the honorable gentleman that that has often ‘been done in the past.’
– If I ‘thought that any good would come from making this report available, I would do so, but I can assure the right honorable gentleman -that no good would come of it.
– - Why should ibo Minister be the censor of it ?
– Because. I happen to be the Minister for Civil Aviation at this .stage.
– -Order !
– The right honorable gentleman should make a statement about it on the .Australian Broadcasting -Commission’s network.
– Order !
– My question to the Minister for the .Interior concerns the proposed sale of land in the Soldiers Point area at Port Stephens, which was formerly used “by the Royal Australian Navy. Has the Minister received submissions adopted by a ‘.public meeting of leaseholders which was held recently, and if he has not yet received those submissions will he defer making any decision on the matter until they have reached him?
– I have a very large file about the land at Soldiers Point. Originally it was under offer to the New South Wales Government, but when, after three years, that Government did not seem to want it, the local council made an offer for it that I thought was very fair. Consequently, the Commonwealth agreed to ,go into the question of terms of sale with that authority. My officers in New South Wales have been discussing those terms with the local council, in order to ensure that any rights that the leaseholders had under their leases with the Commonwealth, and -which will be transferred under the sale, will be retained by them. E have given that assurance. I do not know whether I have the actual document that the honorable member referred to, but I shall examine the file to see whether I have it or not. I have a thick file of letters from people who ‘believe that they should have many more rights after “the sale has been effected than they had under their original Commonwealth leases. If they had those additional rights they could interfere with the improvement and betterment schemes of the local council. I assure the honorable member, as I have assured gentlemen in another place, and also the member of Parliament for the district who is at present overseas on United Nations business, that all the rights that were granted to leaseholders under their Commonwealth leases will be safeguarded .in the arrangements now being made with the local council.
– By way of explanation of my question to you, Mr. Speaker, may I refer to a statement that you made from the chair a few days ago to the effect that I was out of order in calling “ Division “ in corridors-
– Order ! The honorable member cannot raise that matter at question time.
– I desire to direct your attention, Mr. Speaker-
– If I am out of order now, at what time may I raise this matter?
– Order ! I think that the honorable member, for once in his life, has missed his opportunity.
– I rise to a point of order. Apparently I missed my opportunity because you said that I should not have that opportunity.
– Order !
– I desire to ask you a question about procedure in the House of Commons. I ask you whether, as a student of the procedure in the House of Commons, you are aware that it has been the practice for generations for the whips to call “ Division “ when the bells ring, and also that the calling of “ Division “ by the whips through the corridors is one of the oldest traditions of the House of Commons. If you are aware of those facts, for what reason do you depart from the House of Commons procedure in this Parliament? Furthermore, if I am not to be allowed to call “ Division “ in the corridors, when necessary, shall I be permitted to send forth the message by courier, sign language, or smoke signals.
– The procedure adopted in the House of Commons of shouting of “ Division “ in the corridors and lobbies is unnecessary here. There are division bells and green lights in this building to call members of this House to a division. Therefore, calling is a form of disorder that I do not intend to permit.
– I rise to a point of order. Apparently you, Mr. Speaker, do not object to ruling immediately on a point of procedure such as that raised by the honorable member for Grayndler, with regard to the substance of the matter. How can that procedure be followed? One cannot take objection to your ruling now, as the matter has not immediately arisen. It is a practice which, as far as I know, has been in force for years, regardless of the political party that has set in government or in opposition. Will you please examine the House of Commons procedure, and do you think it possible that you may be mistaken?
– Order! I am quite unlike the honorable gentleman, who is never mistaken. I have examined the House of Commons procedure, and I do not propose to allow that unseemly noise in the lobbies of this place. If the House wishes to overrule my decision, it can do so.
– Can the Minister for Health inform me whether the quarantine authorities have had to refuse the admission to Australia of eggs, seed and semen from overseas for fear of disease? Can the right honorable gentleman say whether Australian production is daily meeting such competition that it is becoming increasingly urgent to review the restrictions? Will he have available to his officers the best possible scientific advice before the admission of these highly desirable strains is refused? Will he alao ensure that decisions will not be delayed in any way so that we miss getting the advantage of parcels which are offering for only a short time?
– Australia would lose very much more by admitting articles, seeds and so on which should be quarantined, than by taking the most extreme precautions to keep the whole range of articles as pure as possible. The position at the present time is that the quarantine service of the Commonwealth is in active consultation with the quarantine services of all sister nations, with which we trade and from which we accept such parcels, and no decision is made until the whole matter has been fully weighed on its merits.
Mr. Fuller having asked a question,
– I shall convey the question to the Minister-
– I rise to order. The honorable member for Hume has addressed his question to the Minister representing the Minister acting for the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. You will remember, Mr. Speaker, that you ruled out of order a question which I attempted to address to a Minister representing a Minister acting for a Minister. I submit that the question of the honorable member for Hume should be ruled out of order on the same ground.
– Order ! The question is out of order.
– I ask the Prime Minister as Minister acting for the Treasurer whether the delivery of new season’s wheat to silos and depots-
-Order ! The honorable gentleman is trying to get over a ruling that I have given, and I shall not permit him to do so.
– Can the Prime Minister inform the House what the first advance on new season’s wheat will be?
– Order! That matter does not come within the jurisdiction of the Prime Minister.
– Has the Minister for Air had an opportunity to peruse the recent remarks of the distinguished Field Marshal, who is Deputy Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe, about the operative role of vertical lift aircraft in relation to changes in the technique of warfare? Can the Minister inform the House of the steps being taken to study and apply these principles in the Royal Australian Air Force?
– I read the remarks and comments of the Field Marshal who referred to those matters. This particular form of aircraft is in its initial stages and most of the details pertaining to it, fortunately for me perhaps, are very secret, and it is not possible for me to give a complete answer to the honorable gentleman. However, we have research and technical . officers in the United States of America and the United Kingdom who are keeping their eyes on these developments, examining them, and sending back quite full reports to the research unit in Australia.
– I ask the Minister for Immigration whether it is a fact that, when a new Australian wishes to be naturalized, he must make his application in two stages - first, by a declaration of intention and, secondly, by an application for naturalization after five years’ residence in Australia. Does that procedure cause unnecessary complications? If so, could the declaration of intention and the request for naturalization be made at the same time?
– The procedure required for naturalization purposes, which does include the aspects mentioned by the honorable member, was examined at the last Australian Citizenship Convention, and subsequently by the Commonwealth Immigration Advisory Council. As a result of that consideration, recommendations were made to me. I am considering those recommendations, and I hope to submit some proposals to Cabinet for its determination.
– Is the Minister for Immigration aware that in respect of applications for naturalization from a number of persons within the one family, approval very often is notified to each member of the family at different times? For instance, the husband may receive his notification first, and the wife may receive her notification some time later. The result is that each member of the family goes through the naturalization ceremony separately, and receives the certificate of naturalization separately. “Will the right honorable gentleman look into this matter and see if it is possible to arrange for all members of the one family who apply for naturalization to receive their certificates at the same ceremony? Such a practice, in itself, would provide a good advertisement for naturalization among new Australians.
– I am certain that it would be the wish of the Immigration Department, and, I know, of honorable members generally, that as far as practicable we should enable all members of a family who apply for naturalization to go through the significant ceremony of this kind at the same time. I shall ascertain how the practice is working out in respect of cases of the kind to which the honorable member has referred, and if it is not as he has suggested it should be, I shall see what can be done to meet his very sensible suggestion.
– The question that I direct to the Minister for Health is of the utmost importance and urgency to patients recovering from tuberculosis. I ask the Minister whether he is aware that very great hardship is being endured by people whose tubercular condition has been arrested. Has the right honorable gentleman been informed that patients requiring bed rest and receiving streptomycin have had their tuberculosis allowance discontinued as a result of the activities of Commonwealth medical officers? Finally, will the Minister review the cases of patients at the Randwick auxiliary hospital, and elsewhere, who have been informed that their tuberculosis allowances have been discontinued because they are no longer regarded as public health risks?
– The honorable member is quite astray on the facts. The question of the continuance of tuberculosis allowances in every State is determined by directors of tuberculosis who are appointed by the State-
– Under Commonwealth instructions.
– And who are paid by the Commonwealth, but whose instructions are received entirely from the State governments. I should also like to give the lie to the suggestion that there is the least amount of hardship in relation to the handling of these cases, because every effort is made to ensure that, in those infections cases in which there is no possibility of the patients returning to work, the same degree of assistance is given to them, and that their allowance is continued.
– Can the Minister for Labour and National Service inform the House of the amount of shipping that can be expected to arrive in Australian ports during the next four weeks? Will the recent general waterfront strike in Great Britain have any effect on the arrival of ships with cargo from that country ? If so, can the Minister intimate approximately the amount of money that would have been paid in appearance money during the next four weeks to the 27,000 waterside workers of Australia ?
– Quite obviously, I cannot give precise answers to matters that involve detail such as the question presents to me. It might be assumed that because of the long and costly interruption to shipping from the United Kingdom some rearrangement of labour on the waterfront of Australia would be necessary. On the other hand, in the ports of Australia there are accumulations of important cargoes that could have been cleared in a useful way during a period of relative lull in overseas shipping, and we were not expecting any decline in the demand for labour during the period to which the honorable member has referred.
– When does the Minister for Labour and National Service expect to be in a position to table the fifth report of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board? Is the Minister aware of the contents of the report, and, if so, will he state whether it supports the trenchant criticism of the employers and the strong commendation of the Waterside Workers Federation of Australia which characterized the fourth report of the board?
– I have not yet seen the report. I do not know when it will be presented, but I shall make inquiries. As to comment in the fourth report, I have always held the view that that report set out to give detached and objective comment, but I cannot recall that its detachment and objectivity relieved any section of the stevedoring industry of unfavorable comment.
– I desire to ask a question of the Prime Minister, who is acting for the Treasurer. Has the Government considered extending the period of operation of the 20 Der cent, initial depreciation allowance which was granted to primary producers by this Government and expires on the 30th June next?
– The Prime Minister, on a. matter of policy.
– The matter has not been considered by the Cabinet.
– I address a question to the Prime Minister. I preface it by stating that I recently endeavoured, by means of a question on notice, to obtain from the right honorable gentleman’s colleague, the Minister for Trade and Customs, information about the quantities of spirituous liquors imported into Australia in each of the last five years by the various ‘ foreign legations, as I understand that huge quantities of spirits have come into Australia duty free for a certain legation, much beyond its-
-Order ! The honorable member is going outside the scope of a question now.
– As quantities of liquor much beyond the legation’s normal requirements have come into Australia, I ask the Prime Minister why secrecy is observed in relation to information of this type, and whether he will endeavour, per medium of the Minister for Trade and Customs, to obtain the information that I seek.
– Australian diplomatic establishments in other countries and the establishments of other nations in Australia are exempt from customs charges. In other words, each diplomatic post is regarded, for the purpose of imports of this kind, as being outside the law of the country in which the post is established.
– Does that apply to Petrov?
– That would apply to the Russian Embassy and to all those-
– To Bialoguski and to all the friends of the Government!
– And to all the friends of the Leader of the Opposition. That concession applies to Communist posts all over the world, and the right honorable gentleman should know all about them. But this is a novelty. I am interested to hear the Leader of the Opposition intervene, because he established a great number of diplomatic posts. Did he not establish them, on the footing that they were free of these laws?
– If so, for what purpose could au investigation be made, except for purposes reflecting personally upon those who conduct these posts? I am not going to be a party to any Suck statement. Somebody may say they arc abusing their privileges. That is a matter with which the departments are well able to deal.
– I am saying that huge quantities of whisky are coming into the country.
– What the honorable member for East Sydney does not know about diplomacy would fill volumes of the Almanac de Ootha.
– Is the Minister for Labour and National Service in a position to give an estimate of the money value to wage and salary earners of the judgment of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court in the margins case? Will the judgment mean an addition of between 8-j and 10 per cent, to the salaries and wages of those who will receive increases under the judgment? Finally, can the Minister give an estimate of the percentage of workers in receipt of margins who will not receive increases as a result of the judgment? .
– I shall see what information I can obtain for the honorable gentleman along the lines which he has indicated.
– As water conservation will ultimately prove to be of greater value to the nation than electric power, according to the considered opinion of the Commissioner of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority, Mr. Hudson, will the Prime Minister give urgent consideration to the taking over of the construction of the Blowering Dam from the New South Wales Government so as to permit the completion of the dam to proceed without further delay and make valuable water available for the production of increased food supplies in the unwatered areas of the Riverina?
– I have never been able to understand why the States - the largest of which in this sense is New South Wales - which receive the whole of the loan moneys raised in this country should constantly find it impossible to carry out their programmes, notwithstanding this monopoly of loan funds, and must therefore put up members like the honorable member for Hume to make further applications to the Commonwealth to pay for such works out of revenue received from the taxpayers. I repeat that I have never been able to understand it. It ought to be well known in Australia that, ever since this Government came into office, every penny of the loan moneys raised year by year, both here and abroad, has gone to the States - the major share to New South Wales.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether the salaries, retainers or fee3 paid by the Commonwealth security service to its agents are subject to income tax..
– Well, I hope so indeed, but I shall find out. I know of no law under which such persons are exempt from taxes, and, of course, of no law under which they are exempt from keeping an eye on certain people.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been directed to the parlous condition of a large number of tin-producers in New South Wales? If so, in view of the fact that a measure has been passed to assist the gold-mining industry - I entirely concur with that measure - has consideration been given to providing similar assistance to this basic metal industry which has been suffering for a long time in the face of many difficulties?
– I shall have investigations made into the matter that the honorable member has raised.
– On behalf of the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) and myself, I lay on the table the following paper : -
International Labour Organization - Thirtyseventh Session, Geneva, June, 1054 - Reports of the Australian Government. Employers’ and Workers’ Delegates.
The paper consists of the reports of the delegates who represented the Australian Government, employers and workers at the thirty-seventh session of the International Labour Conference held in Geneva last June. In the interests of economy, I do not propose to move that these reports be printed; but copies of them will be available to honorable members from the appropriate parliamentary officer. Following my recent practice, I shall at a later date inform the House of the action taken or proposed to be taken in respect of the recommendations adopted by the conference. In view of questions which have been asked in the House on previous occasions and of the interest taken generally on the admission to the conference of representatives of employers and workers from the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and Eastern European countries, I direct attention to pages 16 and 17, and pages 21 to 25 of the Government delegates’ report where the issues involved are set out in detail.
– I desire to move -
That the paper be printed.
– Order ! The right honorable gentleman will require to give notice of such a motion.
– On a matter suddenly arising, will the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) move in this direction, not for the purpose of incurring the expense of printing the paper but in order to enable debate on the subject to be resumed? The Minister has mentioned several matters and the opportunity should, be afforded to the House to debate them in the light of these reports.
– I have no objection to moving for the printing of the paper. I did not do so for the reasons that I mentioned. However, it may well be that honorable gentlemen who may wish to discuss these matters may find it more convenient to have no such motion appearing on the noticepaper. No opportunity will be available for a broad debate on these matters during the current sessional period. However, honorable members who may wish to refer to such matters would be precluded from doing so if notice of such a motion appeared on the notice-paper.
– I shall not proceed with my proposal. Will the Minister make the further statement that he has indicated as soon as possible?
– The other day I asked the Prime Minister about a case in which the defendant holds the official position of police prosecutor and in which a public impression had been created, rightly or wrongly, that he had by virtue of his official position obtained some preferential treatment. Has the right honorable gentleman yet completed the inquiry which he promised to make into this matter? Is he in a position to make a statement on it to the House?
– I have made such an inquiry. The answer runs to a little longer than the normal answer to a question without notice and rather than encroach upon question-time, perhaps after questions are concluded I should ask for leave to. answer it.
– by leave - On the 26th October I promised the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) that I would examine the circumstances of the recent hearing at the Court of Petty Sessions, Canberra, of police charges against a Commonwealth officer. I have made full inquiries, and am glad to be able to assure the honorable member that the public servant concerned did not obtain, by virtue’ of his official position, any special treatment that would not have been available to other members of the public. The charges did not in any way arise out of the officer’s conduct of his official duties. Neither the Attorney-General’s Department to which the officer belongs, nor the Department of the Interior, which is responsible for police administration in the Australian Capital Territory, secured or attempted to secure, directly or indirectly, any special treatment for him.
Four charges were originally laid against the officer. He pleaded guilty to the main charge which was a charge of driving under the influence of liquor.
– With what result?
– I shall come to that matter. On the instructions of the Acting Commissioner of Police the remaining charges were withdrawn. The Acting Commissioner of Police has reported that he acted on ordinary police grounds in directing the withdrawal of these three charges. One was of negligent driving, in the circumstances which gave rise to the main charge ; and if the main charge is established it is the usual practice not to proceed on the secondary charge. I ma.y say from my own experience some years ago in this field that that is undoubtedly right. That was always the practice. The remaining two charges - offensive behaviour and using insulting words - were merely incidental to the main charge, being, indeed, other aspects of the same conduct. In other words the gentleman was drunk, and he used rude words about the police. He was drunk, and, although he was, I think, in the bantamweight division, he offered violence to a 15-stone policeman.
– He must have been drunk !
– The honorable member is quite right. The normal practice was followed. The serious charge was that of driving a motor vehicle under the influence of liquor. On that charge a conviction was recorded and a substantial penalty imposed. The other charges, which arose out of the same unfortunate state of affairs, were withdrawn. The arrangement of the court’s business is entirely in the magistrate’s hands, in consultation, of course, with the parties concerned. It is not a matter of departmental administration. No undue departmental pressure of any kind was exercised or attempted. The honorable member, and the public of this city, need have no fear that any special law exists here for public servants. It is fair ‘to the officer concerned to say that in view of these charges, he himself agreed with the head of his department that it would not be desirable for him to retain a position in which he would be responsible for prosecuting on police instructions. He is an efficient officer, apart from this unhappy event, and with his own consent has now been transferred to other duties. With reference to what has been said by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), my recollection of this case is that the officer was convicted of the charge of driving under the influence of liquor. Indeed, he pleaded guilty to that charge. He was fined £25, in default 25 days hard labour, and his driving licence was cancelled. I believe that honorable members with some experience of these matters - of course of a theoretical kind - will agree that it is quite a common practice that where the major offence is established, the minor ones which arise out of the same circumstances and which would not have arisen but for the major offence, are usually withdrawn.
Assent to the following bills reported : -
Income Tax and Social Services Contribution
Assessment Bill 1954. Income Tax and Social Services Contribution
Sales Tax (Exemptions and Classifications)
Bill 1954. Sales Tax Bills (Nos. 1 to 9) 1954. Distillation Bill 1954.. States Grants Bill 1954. Commonwealth Aid Roads Bill 1954. Flags Bill 1954.
Northern Territory (Lessees’ Loans Guarantee) Bill 1954.
Loan (Housing) Bill 1954.
Loan (War Service Land Settlement) Bill 1954.
Hide and Leather Industries Act Suspension
Bill 1954. Public Service Bill 1954. Commonwealth Railways Bill 1954. Sugar Agreement Bill 1954.
Motion (by Sir Eric Harrison) proposed -
That order of the day No. 1 (Cocos (Keeling) Islands (Bequest and Consent) Bill 1954) bc postponed until after consideration of order of the day No. 2 (Stevedoring Industry Bill 1954).
No. 1, which deals with the Cocos Islands, should not occupy more than a few minutes of the time of the House. In those circumstances is there any point in postponing it?
Motion - by leave - withdrawn.
Debate resumed from the 2nd November (vide page’ 2514), on motion by Mr. Casey -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Dr. EVATT (Barton- Leader of the Opposition [3.14]. - This is a measure in which the consent of the Parliament is requested to the enactment by the United Kingdom of a measure to enable the owner of the islands to place them under the authority of the Commonwealth. The procedure adopted by the Government in bringing forth this measure is in accord with section 122 of the Constitution, and it is analogous to the measure by which the Heard Island territory was brought under the control of the Commonwealth. The Opposition considers that it is desirable that the Commonwealth should control the Cocos or Keeling islands, both from the viewpoint of defence and also for other reasons. Therefore, the measure has the full support of the Opposition.
– I desire to make one or two observations in support of this very important measure. As one privileged to visit Cocos Island only a few weeks ago, might I be permitted to refresh the memory of honorable members by restating the fact that the Cocos Islands group embraces no less than 25 islands. The group is situated 1,800 miles from Perth, and whereas there was a time, when the British battle fleet was in the
Indian Ocean, that distance was of no importance to our security, it now has some bearing upon it. The Cocos Islands group is 1,778” miles from Colombo and 1,050 miles from Singapore. Those distances may seem comparatively unimportant, until honorable members remember that the Cocos Islands group is only 803 miles from Djakarta, the capital of the Indonesian Republic. Because of that it is most important that we should understand the importance of this island group to our own immediate security.
The islands have a fantastic history, and if the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) who appears to be laughing about the matter, is not interested in Australian history, he should leave the House. These islands were discovered by William Keeling in the year 1690 and at that time they were uninhabited. It is common for honorable members opposite to talk in terms of derision about colonialism, but these islands were then uninhabited. During the nineteenth century, John Clunies Ross arrived on the scene and developed the islands until they became fertile. He established the coconut industry, the vegetable-growing industry and other industries, and brought people from the United Kingdom, Malaya and Java, to work the islands. Those people have remained there ever since. John Clunies Ross and his family have been in possession of the Cocos Islands group for more than 120 years, the original member of the family having arrived there in 1802. In 1857 that intrepid Scot agreed that the islands should he incorporated in the British dominions, and if honorable members opposite are not interested in these historical facts, they might, in all decency, remember that there are other people in this House and outside of it who are interested.
Opposition members interjecting.
– Order ! These unseemly exhibitions must cease. The honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Roberton) has a perfect right to state his case on this matter.
– I shall not delay the House longer than is necessary, but some one should remind honorable members of our immediate history. The administration of the islands passed to Ceylon as far back as 1878. Had there been a Commonwealth of Australia at that date, some steps might have been taken by it to accept the responsibility of the administration of the islands. Then, in 1903, the administration passed to the government of the Straits Settlement, and again we missed an opportunity to assume responsibility for their administration. Now it is proposed that the administration of the Cocos Islands group should pass to the Government and the people of this country. Therefore, this measure is a very important piece of legislation, and a very important historical event.
– We all know that. We have all agreed to the measure.
– That is of no consequence. It is necessary that honorable members should understand all the facts when a bill of this nature is put before them. An air strip was built on Cocos Island in 1945, and had it been left to honorable members opposite, Cocos Island might have become .another Manus Island and been completely lost to, and forgotten by, the people of this country. This Government took a view opposite to the view that would have been taken by a Labour government, and in 1951 the air strip was reconstructed. Immediately af terwards an air route was pioneered between Australia and South Africa. During the last two years, that airstrip and that route have been in con,stant use. I travelled over the route a few days ago, and I should like to tell the House that the Cocos Islands group can only be described as an earthly paradise. There is no want or crime, and none of the hates’ and envies that are in evidence even in this place this afternoon. It is a splendid thing for the people of this country that we should pass this bill, and seek the sanction of Her Majesty the Queen to assume the responsibility for the administration of the Cocos Islands group.
– Before I put the question, I may remind the House that, unless my memory is play ing me tricks, this is the fortieth anniversary of the defeat of the German cruiser Emden at Cocos Island by the Australian cruiser Sydney.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 4th November (vide page 2683), on motion by Mr. Holt: -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- Despite the heat that has been engendered by this debate, and the very vexed questions which have arisen, there is a good deal of common ground. We all agree in this House, and I think that everybody outside it also agrees, that all is not well with the Australian stevedoring industry and the Australian waterfront. It is quite proper, in view of the magnitude of the effects of this industry on the whole of Australia, that this Parliament should take action to try to remedy the situation. The efficiency or otherwise of the waterfront industry has a tremendous effect on the whole Australian economy. It affects our foreign and local trade. It affects all our primary and secondary industries. It affects the distribution of goods within the country. It has a big effect on the policy of centralization or decentralization, because shipping is not able to use the smaller ports as fully as it might.
The common ground does not end at that point. The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), the Australian Council of Trades Unions and, apparently, the Waterside Workers Federation concur with the Government in the setting up of a committee of inquiry into the functioning of this industry. In fact the inquiry was demanded by a resolution of the Australian Council of Trades Unions. That body stated that there could be no lasting peace in the waterfront industry until a complete public inquiry had been conducted. Apparently, we all agree on that point, but I suggest that there may be different motives behind the agreement. Since 1914, many inquiries into this troublesome industry have been held, and many reports have been made on it by men of great capacity and ability. Those investigators have been nominated by this Parliament, or by the government of the day, and some of their recommendations have been implemented, and others have not been implemented. But after all those inquiries our present position, by common agreement is highly unsatisfactory. We are now asked to believe that an inquiry at this time may have some special magic about it that previous inquiries have not possessed. We are asked to believe that, arising from this investigation, the perfect formula for peace on the waterfront will be found. Quite frankly, I do not believe it. I do not believe that the Leader of the Opposition thinks so. I do not believe that Mr. Healy, who has briefed the Leader of the Opposition, thinks so. I do not believe that anything approaching a perfect solution can emerge from such an inquiry. But the Waterside Workers Federation and the Labour party choose to support it for two reasons. First, the federation does not want any real improvement on the waterfront.
– That is rot.
– That view has not always been held by honorable members opposite. The waterside workers do not want any real action by this Government to improve the position. Honorable members opposite may take the view of the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Joshua) now, but I propose to read a passage from the report of a speech by the honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson) in 1949 during the debate on the Stevedoring Industry Bill. He then made the following statement : -
The two representatives of the federation of the Stevedoring Industry Commission are Communists, and they have endeavoured to apply their Communist ideology to the Australian waterfront.
A government supporter did not make that statement. I emphasize that the remark was made by a member of the Labour party in 1949 in this House. It is interesting to notice the change of atti tude of honorable members opposite under their present leader. The honorable member for Port Adelaide proceeded -
The Communist ideology is to cause chaos and dissatisfaction, and to destroy our present social conditions,-
I wonder whether or not honorable members opposite agree with that statement now. The honorable member continued as follows: - because the Communists hope to seize that opportunity to substitute their form of rule. Years ago, the Communist preached the philosophy of dictatorship by the militant minority, They no longer do so. They have been educated to use other expressions in an endeavour to lead people to think that they have altered their views. Rut, in my opinion, the real philosophy of the Communists is to bring about the dictatorship of the militant minority. The conduct of the Communist leaders of the Waterside Workers Federation, when they were members of the Stevedoring Industry Commission, was evidence of that dictatorship. We have similar evidence in the coal-mining industry and other industries,
Yet honorable members opposite now ask us to believe that it is absolute rot to suggest that Healy, the same man who was a member of the Stevedoring Industry Commission in 1949, now desires peace and efficiency on the waterfront. A few minutes ago, the honorable member for Ballarat implied, by interjection, that it was rot to suggest that Healy wanted chaos and dissatisfaction, flow does he reconcile his view with the statements of the honorable member for Port Adelaide in 1940? Healy and others support this inquiry as a delaying measure to postpone still further, legislative action to clean up the very sorry mess on the Australian waterfront - a mess of confused thinking, mixed with idealistic philantropy, practical socialism and actual co-operation with militant communism which characterized all the labour legislation during the post-war years.
I have said that the waterside workers use the demand for an exhaustive public inquiry as a means of frustrating legislative action. I shall illustrate quite simply how this can be done. In the first place, no one knows how long such an inquiry would take. A royal commission that was appointed in New Zealand in 1950 to study conditions on the New Zealand waterfront deliberated for two years, and finally it produced a voluminous report of approximately 200 pages which had no real effect, because during that period of two years a huge upheaval was caused by the strike of 1951, the repercussions of which were felt widely, even in Australia. Partly as a result of that upheaval, and for various other reasons, the whole pattern of the New Zealand waterfront changed while the commission was sitting. Legislation was introduced, and the evolution of a changed waterfront system proceeded without any real influence having been exercised by the findings of the commission. The same thing could well happen in Australia.
The Waterside Workers Federation could use the time so gained to remedy the present defect in the filling of quotas. That is exactly what it did in 1951. At that particular stage, attention had been directed by the people who were affected by the shipping industry to the very serious obstructive tactics that were offered by the federation to the filling of quotas, which had been going on for years and years. At that time, the Government was contemplating legislation to overcome the difficulties. I refer now to the second report of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board. At -page 23, these words appear -
Thus, because the Union subverted the interlocking principles of the legislation and awards, the port quota system virtually collapsed in a. number of important ports during 1950-51. The Board was in the extraordinary position of being able to adjust the quotas according to the barometer of requirements, but unable to get the extra workers. The position neared a climax in June, 1951, when, following discussions between the Board and the Minister, the Federal Government drafted amending legislation in order to remedy the unsatisfactory recruitment system. Immediately afterwards there was a softening in the attitude of the Union, which indicated that the necessary steps would be taken to fill several of the outstanding quota deficiencies. That was the position ait the. close of the year. However, the labour forces at several major ports were still well below quota at June 30th, 1951.
The position is that the federation, in pressing for the inquiry, is simply stalling for time so that, at this late hour, it may fill the quotas temporarily, and postpone further action that will bring up to scratch the efficiency of the ports. There is no doubt that that is the idea behind its welcoming of the proposed inquiry.
The Leader of the Opposition suggested that the federation should be given an opportunity to fill quotas. It has been given countless opportunities, and to give it a particular opportunity at this stage would only be a sign of weakness on the part of the Government. Time and time again since 1944, there have been references to the failure of the federation to fill port quotas. Indeed, in the first report of the Stevedoring Industry Board in 1949, there is a reference to the registration lag in Sydney, where there was a shortage of 314 men in a quota of 7,000. The report stated -
The labour deficiency appeared likely to become critical and, if the Union’s intentions to meet its obligations had previously been of doubtful assurance, by March they were clarified . . . the Union continued to actively resist the enrolment of further watersiders.
That was in 1949. A similar situation arose in 1951, and a similar one has arisen again. Can there be any doubt in the minds of honorable members that the union intends to continue to obstruct, if it can, the bringing of port quotas up to an efficient level?
– Read the latest report.
– The honorable member knows very well that the latest report is not available.
– From what report is the honorable member quoting?
– If the honorable member for Ballarat looks at the fourth report of the Stevedoring Industry Board, and if he studies the list of quotas and the shortages of men in each of the ports, he will be amazed. He will discover that in nearly every port, starting at Cairns and going to Bowen, Bundaberg and Brisbane, and right around the Australian coast, there is a discrepancy between the number of registrations and the port quota. The request of the Leader of the Opposition to delay the legislation until after an inquiry is conducted is playing right into the hands of the Communists. It also gives him a second excuse, and I suggest that that is why he has adopted that attitude. It gives to him an appearance of reasonableness, because no member of the Opposition, including the right honorable gentleman, is going to rise and state that conditions on the waterfront are satisfactory, and that there should not he any change. The Leader of the Opposition, instead of actually defending the Waterside Workers Federation. asks the Government to postpone the legislation for a little while, and, with an air of sweet reasonableness about him, asks that these poor unfortunate people should be given a chance to make good the deficiencies in the port quotas. He supposes, apparently, that the federation will be found not to be obstructive.
But even the Australian Council of Trades Unions is more realistic than the Leader of the Opposition. That body, which is clamouring for this inquiry into the waterfront industry,- has passed the following resolution: -
We express our disappointment at the failure of the same branches of the W.W.F. in the past to fill the port quotas at an early date when requested to do so, as determined by the S.I.B., and we now call on the Biennial Conference of the W.W.F., now sitting, to ensure that such branches in future will not procrastinate in this direction.
If the Government, as the Leader of the Opposition has suggested, has prejudged the position in trying to remedy the defect, it has prejudged it in exactly the same way as the Australian Council of Trades Unions has done, and it is doing something that that organization recognizes to be absolutely necessary. The Government is taking action to ensure that the Waterside Workers Federation, which is led by an avowed Communist, by a man whom some honorable members opposite have had the courage to characterize as being completely unallied to any Australian interests and completely anxious to cause chaos on the waterfront, will be forced to remedy the defects. The Government is now in a position to’ take some action, and I imagine that the Australian Council of Trades Unions could only agree with such action to overcome the defects in the existing employment situation on the waterfront.
– Were Mr. Healy and the Minister for Labour and National Service drinking beer until. 1 o’clock last Thursday morning?
– -There is abundant evidence, quite apart from the resolution of the Australian Council of Trades Unions, and the reports of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board, from the first report to the fourth report, of shortages and the continual neglect of the Waterside Workers Federation, after making protests that it desires to cooperate with the Government and the Stevedoring Industry Board, to fill the quotas. With all that evidence available, is there any need now for an inquiry into that aspect of the industry? Of course there is not, and the Leader of the Opposition and other honorable members opposite know that an inquiry into that matter is not needed. The one clear and obvious fact - it blazes out like a neon sign - is that the Waterside Workers Federation of Australia is abusing its power and is failing to provide adequate labour. That is the problem that must be attacked first. There remains the equally obvious conclusion that the federation’s monopoly of the engagement of labour must be broken. Some members of the Opposition have suggested that the federation has not a monopoly of the engagement of labour, but I cannot imagine any organization that has a more complete monopoly than has the federation, its power must be curbed. That is a completely logical and inescapable conclusion from the evidence that has accumulated since the war.
It is no answer for any one to suggest that the stevedoring industry is a special case. It is no answer to state that hardships have occurred iri the industry in the past. We all know that hardships have been experienced. It is no answer to say that the industry is a casual one, and needs special, treatment. We all are aware of that. It is no answer, I might say, to talk about shipping combines and their monopolies and huge profits, as the Leader of the Opposition has talked of them. That is another issue altogether and would properly be the subject of inquiry. I understand that it will be inquired into. The Leader of the Opposition has not considered the problem as it should have been considered. He has raised the question of the combines and monopolies of shipping interests, and has thrown those issues lightly ‘into the debate to create a diversion, as is his custom.
The right honorable gentleman recently raised a sectarian issue to divert attention from other matters that were bothering him, and he has now attempted to divert attention from the real problems at issue in relation to this measure. If the Leader of the Opposition objects so much to monopolies, why does he not object to the complete and absolute monopoly of the Waterside Workers Federation in relation to the engaging of labour? In the final analysis, an employee is engaged under a simple contract of service between employer and employee. Any student of the law will agree that, as far as possible, to preserve fairness in contracts, each party should be on an equal basis for bargaining. No one can pretend that in the post-war years equality of bargaining between employees and employers on the waterfront has existed. This position was acknowledged by the Stevedoring Industry Board, in one of its reports.
– I trust that the honorable member intends to read from the fourth report of the board.
– The report to which I refer is the board’s first report, for the year ended the 30th June, 1950. I can assure the honorable member that the position has been preserved since. The board stated - . . the industry tins slumped so far in efficiency, because of the emergence of unjustifiable customs and practices, that, with the swing of balance of power to labour, it would be idle to suggest that rehabilitation will be easy or speedy.
– The present position i3 the complete reverse.
– The honorable member may think so, but the facts do not confirm his conclusions. The waterside workers now object to a reversion to the conditions that govern the engaging of labour in all other Australian industries, in which the employer chooses his men. The employees may be unionists and they may be organized or unorganized, but the employer has the right to make his choice. In practice, where there are strong organizations of employers, strong organizations of employees are opposed to them, and the bargaining power is reasonably well balanced. The
Stevedoring Industry Board, as I have just pointed out, stated in its first report that the rehabilitation of the waterfront would be a long and difficult task. It is a long and difficult task to increase labour efficiency in the industry.
A study of the present position on the waterfront makes two things completely clear. First - and this is the problem that the Government now attempts to solve - the available labour is inadequate and inefficient. We can conclude only that the present situation is the result of a deliberate design of the Waterside Workers Federation, because it has been solely within the federation’s control. In support of that statement, I quote the words of Mr. J. T. Lang, uttered in this House in 1949, and recorded at page 1979, volume 203, of Hansard, as follows : -
The “ dog-collar “–
He was referring to the compulsory registration of waterside workers, which was provided for in the Stevedoring Industry Act 1949- can lead to the permanent loss of the right to make a living in the industry as the result of a fight on industrial principles. It can be perverted so that admission into the industry can be governed by the Communist controllers of the union. By permitting the acceptance of only Communists into the union, the “ dogcollar “ can .become a means of drafting potential members of the Communist party. It can be used as an instrument of industrial victimization, as it was used against Freeman, a Labour man on the Sydney waterfront. By expelling a Labour stalwart from the union, the Communists can not only deprive him of a living, but also put an end to his opposition. That is why the Communists favour the “ dog-collar “. In that fight, the Government
That was a former government - sided with the Communists, not with the members of the Labour movement fighting the Communists on the wharfs.
That was the opinion of Mr. Lang, who at one time was a staunch Labour man. The position to-day is exactly as he forecast. The Australian Labour party in this House is not fighting alongside those members of the party outside this chamber who are trying to get rid of the Communists. By some strange, cruel stroke of luck, once again they are fighting the battle of the Communists. The Leader of the Opposition and most other members of the Opposition protest vehemently and vigorously when they are told that they are pro-Communist. I do not believe that many of them are. But what a dreadful position they always seem to find themselves in ! They always fight the battles of the Communists on the floor of this House.
The second thing that is clear in relation to the existing situation on the Australian waterfront is that the passage of this bill will be only the beginning of an attack on the problem that must be solved. While labour in the stevedoring industry is inadequate and inefficient, we cannot begin to solve the problem. An equally great problem is the lack of inducement to the waterside labour already available to work hard and efficiently. The Government must give attention to these matters. This measure is only the beginning of legislation to try to solve that problem. Permanent employment might be one solution of the problem of providing an inducement to waterfront labour to be efficient, but, probably for that very reason, the Waterside Workers Federation has refused to accept offers of permanent employment in the industry. It may be that the offers made were not satisfactory. But I remind the House that an arbitration system exists. Surely it would be possible to introduce an adequately safeguarded system of permanent employment on the Australian waterfront. Piece-work rates of pay, which would encourage men to work harder, are refused by the union in Australia, but 90 per cent, of English dock labour is done at piece-work rates. I point out that in England the system of arbitration is not as strong as is the Australian system. It is not the policy of the Waterside Workers Federation to accept incentive payments, because it pretends to be afraid of sweated labour. Sweated labour does not exist in Australia under our system of conciliation and arbitration. Why do the waterside workers not accept offers by the employers that would enable them to better their position by working harder and more efficiently?
There is a co-operative stevedoring system in New Zealand. It is not working entirely satisfactorily because, although it does create dividends for the workers, those dividends are rather remote and un- connected with the actual work by the time they reach the hands of the waterside worker. It is known that Mr. Healy is quite keen on this system, and it is also known that, while there have not been any actual major stoppages in the New Zealand industry, yet the work there is slow and these incentives have not operated satisfactorily. There is no doubt that, even if there were a satisfactory supply of labour, an improvement of the rate of handling cargo is both desirable and within the normal capacity of the men. That is not only my opinion, or the opinion of the employers. It is the opinion of the Stevedoring Industry Board itself. Therefore, we must find some way both of inducing the men to work efficiently and of making it worth their while to do so, and we must find,, too, some stronger deterrent to inefficiency. Discipline on the waterfront now is most difficult because there is an intervening body between the employers and their employees - again because the industry ison an entirely different footing from every other industry.
The union has job delegates who, it says, are merely used to enforce union rules in regard to labour. But the presence of those job delegates on the waterfront, and their activities, result in pin-pricking stoppages, and the fact that there is an intervening body between the employers and the employees, which may take disciplinary action but must go through a sort of judicial process in determining the rights and wrongs of any dispute, simply causes greater delay than ever. It involves delay which, in fact, leads employers to ignore breaches of discipline because they know that, when a breach of discipline is alleged, there must be all sorts of inquiries, reports and evidence taken in order to establish this sort of judicial finding on the l’ights and wrongs of any particular argument. I make these observations in regard to the subsequent problems that this Government will have to face because I point out that this legislation is mild and moderate in view of the many known and obvious evils that exist on the labour side of the stevedoring industry. It is but the preliminary approach to the problem - almost, we might say, a tentative approach. It does give an opportunity for the union to rid itself of Communist domination eventually, and it is the only such opportunity that has been given to it in post-war years because, until now, it has been quite apparent that the Communists by the actual provisions of the act have retained their hold on the union.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I understand, though I may be wrong, that the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Freeth) is the chairman of a government committee that has had something to do with the legislation now before this House or, at any rate, that he has been closely associated with such a committee. Having listened to him, I can understand why the Government has introduced legislation of this character instead of following the line that was suggested to it by the Australian Council of Trades Unions. I need not discuss many of the honorable gentleman’s remarks on the bill, because he started off by talking about 1914 and later quoted from the first report of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board, although the second, third and fourth reports of that body are also available. There can be only one reason why he should resort to tactics of that description. It is that the honorable gentleman, as chairman of the committee that I have mentioned, had something to hide. He referred to the Australian Council of Trades Unions in order to support one line of argument that he pursued. Therefore, I propose to state the attitude of that organization at the outset.
Only this morning, the interstate executive of the council, and representatives of thirteen maritime unions, met to consider the Government’s proposed legislation in relation to waterfront employment. The conference adopted the following resolution : -
This conference considers the action of the Commonwealth Government in including in its amending stevedoring industry legislation the clause dealing with recruitment, allowing the shipowners the right of sole selection of labour in future, is a retrograde and provocative one and deliberately designed to break down past practice and weaken union organization on the waterfront as a whole. Whilst appreciating the Government action in agreeing to the request of the Australian Council of Trades Unions that a public inquiry be held into the functioning of the stevedoring industry, we nevertheless strongly condemn their action in not allowing the committee of inquiry to proceed untrammelled by another aspect of legislation which can only be construed as prejudging of one issue that should have been considered by the tribunal to be set up under the legislation without prejudice. We support the Waterside Workers Federation in their opposition to the Government’s proposal for sole selection of labour by shipowners, believing that the Federal Government is affording political patronage to vested overseas and Australian shipping interests. We ca;ll upon the Federal Government, even at this stage, to withdraw the objectionable clause from the bill and permit the inquiry to proceed to examine all aspects of the industry without being influenced by a decision of Parliament instigated by the Government at the request of the shipping pressure group. We therefore support the Waterside Workers Federation in a continuance of their stoppage of work as a protest against the Government’s actions and proposed legislation and resolve that this conference stand adjourned until Friday afternoon next.
– Sheer bluff!
– That is not sheer bluff. It is the considered decision of a body of men who are not Communists and who understand the industrial requirements of Australian workers. My speech will be devoted solely to support of that decision. One purpose of this bill is to establish a committee of inquiry to examine the organization and operation of the waterfront industry and such other matters as are specified in the bill. However, in order to understand the objects of the measure precisely, it is necessary to examine the Stevedoring Industry Act 1949, which it is designed to amend.
The bill provides that section 20 of the act shall be amended by adding a provision that a person shall not, in an application for registration as an employer or a waterside worker, make a statement or furnish information which is false or misleading. But the existing provision of section 20 will not be altered. Therefore, the Stevedoring Industry Board will still control applications for registration and will still continue to take the initial, responsibility in respect of the number of men required at any port. It will keep a register of employers. Who are the employers?
They are not a set of Australian employers, such as the various railways commissioners. As the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) has said, there are 450 different employers, many of them united in organizations that fight against one another. These people, who in the future are to nominate the workers who may he employed in the industry, are not Australian employers. When the honorable member for Forrest said that the Government ‘proposed to prescribe for waterside workers the same conditions as .apply to other Australian workers when they apply for a job he knew that his statement was incorrect. No other class of workers in Australia is required to submit to the conditions of engagement for which provision has been made in this measure. I repeat that the employers in this industry are, in the main, international in character. They number over 450, and they have their head-quarters throughout the world. In respect of the engagement of labour, the bill seeks to provide as one of several conditions, that a person shall not be registered ‘ as a waterside worker at a port unless -
The application of the person for registration is lodged with the Board by an employer regis tered at the port and there is endorsed on the application a recommendation by the employer that the application be accepted.
Government supporters expect the members of the Waterside Workers Federation to accept as members persons who, in the vast majority of instances, will be recommended by employers who reside outside Australia.
– That is absolute nonsense.
– It is not nonsense. The Minister, himself, said that there were over 4’50 employers and that they were scattered throughout the world.
– The stevedoring companies will engage the labour.
– The stevedoring organization as a whole is controlled by the shipping interests. I join with the Australian Council of Trades Unions in its declaration that trade unionists will not tolerate such a proposal. If the bill, as drafted, is passed it will mean that before a man can be engaged on the waterfront he must be recommended by one of those 450 employers to the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board. A similar situation does not exist in any other industry in this country.
– What happens then?
– I shall proceed to examine the provisions of the bill. I could not understand why the honorable member for Forrest quoted so freely from the first report of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board. Let us examine the type of employers who will be empowered to select labour for the waterfront. I do not agree with Healy, nor do I think that he should have received a salary of £l,i00 a year between 1947 and 1949 as a member of the Stevedoring Industry Commission.
– What about Healy making the choice?
– Healy does not make the choice at present. I shall refer to one port which requires, on quota, an additional 350 men. whom the federation was supplying before this bill was drafted.
– Just in time !
– No. The Australian Stevedoring Industry Board has available 750 men to fill those 350 vacancies. From time to time, the Minister- for Labour and National Service has informed the House that thousands of vacancies are registered with Commonwealth employment offices. Having regard to that shortage of manpower generally, how does he stand up to the situation that prevails in the waterfront industry? Between June of last year, and June of this year, wharf labourers in South Australia worked, on the average, only 31 hours a week. That is a significant fact, and that position should be thoroughly investigated. i repeat that the 27,000 workers employed in this industry will not agree to the registration of additional workers as is proposed under this measure when, at some ports, wharf labourers now work on the average only 31 hours a week. That is the sorry position that exists in. the industry in South Australia. That State, in which an anti-Labour government is in office, depends upon new Australian labour to man its transport system and at the same time, as I have already pointed out, the waterside workers in that State on the average work less than 31 hours a week. I, as a representative of a body of men in the transport industry who work on the average 50 hours a week, protest against the provision in this bill to register more workers in the waterside industry so long as those at present in the industry are employed, on the average, for only 31 hours a week. Having regard to those facts, the Government is putting the cart before the horse.
Let us examine the type of employer who is Ito be given power to select, in the great majority of instances, labour for this industry. Dealing with the provision of welfare facilities and amenities on the wharves, the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board, in its fourth report, states -
The imperative need for lavatory accommodation was not so obvious that it did not have to be impressed upon some wharf-owners and employers. There was also a wide belief that a garden tap, plugged into a water pipe on a shed wall, constituted a satisfactory washing facility.
That position existed in the industry as at the 30th June last, that is four years after the board was established. That is the type of irresponsible employer to whom the Government proposes under this measure to hand over the selection of labour in this industry. That report continued -
If the status of wharf employment is to be raised, some re-education may be necessary to coincide with improvements in working conditions. From the obstinate opposition which is displayed by some employers, it is clear that this re-education is equally necessary amongst managers as it is amongst employees. . . .
In August, September and October of 1952, the board made an exhaustive survey of welfare facilities and amenities in ports throughout Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia. The purpose of this survey was twofold: Firstly, to list the facilities already in existence; to determine their suitability, adequacy, and quality; and to investigate the calibre of cleaning and maintenance. . . .
It. was well known at the time this survey was put under way that the patience of the Waterside Workers Federation had worn thin, and there was no disputing that conditions on the wharves lagged unreasonably behind those in similar occupations. Notwithstanding this fact, the attitude of officials of the union was, with few exceptions, commendably restrained.
Those are not my words but the words of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board. The report continued -
Whatever criticism may be levelled at the union in other matters, no criticism is justified in respect of the attitude which the union has displayed while waiting for employers to provide the facilities and amenities which are its due. …
In view of the attitude of the Waterside Workers Federation, should the union ultimately have to apply to the Arbitration Court for amenities and facilities at any ports where employers and/or wharf-owners refuse to accept the responsibility, the board will fully support the applications to at least the extent of the list of minimum requirements.
– Was that report signed by Mr. Healy?
– No ; it is the fourth report of . the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board. Incidentally, the Minister, in his second-reading speech, did not criticize that board in any respect. The quotations that I have made indicate the type of employers this Government now proposes to empower to engage labour on the waterfront. It is because of that fact that I wholeheartedly support the decision that was reached to-day by the Australian Council of Trades Unions.
If, in fact, a case could be made out against the Waterside Workers Federation one would expect that it would be made out by Government supporters on the floor of this House. If the honorable member for Forrest had known the full facts about the position in the industry, he would not have quoted as freely as he did from the first report of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board. It is common knowledge that following the Government’s horror budget, under which it restricted imports, the employers on the waterfront, who are now squealing that the Waterside Workers Federation will not make available adequate labour in the industry, wanted to dismiss 750 men in . Melbourne and 750 men in Sydney. That was the attitude which those employers adopted when the Government imposed restrictions on imports in 1953. Naturally, the workers in this industry do not forget things of that kind.
I was astounded when the Minister, instead of giving factual details of the position that exists in the industry, declared that if the Opposition resisted this measure it would virtually challenge the principle of democratic government. Nothing could he further from the truth. As the Minister failed to put a case before the House on this matter, I listened intently to the broadcast which the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) made on the subject last Sunday night. The right honorable gentleman, in an endeavour to make out a case against the Waterside Workers Federation, mentioned four ports at which he said there was a shortage of labour. There are 56 ports in Australia and these employ over 27,000 men in the waterfront industry. Yet the Prime Minister - the No. 1 man in this country - in supporting this measure, which I do not think he could really support if he examined it carefully, put over the story that there was a shortage of men on the waterfront. First, he cited the position at Port Kembla. Those who have read the reports of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board will have followed closely the plea that the board has made year after year for the provision of improved facilities and amenities on the waterfront. Officials of the branch of the federation at Port Kembla state frankly that if an attempt were made to employ more than 600 men at that port, and even if they worked round the clock, it would be impossible to carry on waterfront operations efficiently because, having regard to the facilities that now exist there, the men would not be able to get out of each other’s way.
The fourth report of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board shows that as at the 30th June, 1952, the quota for Port Kembla was from 325 to 350 men and that at that date 308 men were registered. As at the 30th June, 1953, that is twelve months later, the quota at that port was 440 and at that date the Waterside Workers Federation had registered 3S2 men. Those facts are set out in the ‘board’s fourth report. As at the 30th June last, at Port Kembla, the first port to which the Prime Minister referred in his broadcast, the quota was 760 men and the federation had 766 men on its register. The additional 800 men to whom the Prime Minister referred were asked for only on the 20th October last. Yet, in the first week of November, the right honorable gentleman cited the position at that port to support the Government’s action in introducing this measure on the ground that the federation was not making adequate labour available in the industry. He cited those figures either with a view to misleading the public, or because he had not been properly informed of the actual position by the members of this ragtail committee upon which he relies. The right honorable gentleman also said that 75,000 tons of steel was lying on the wharfs at Port Kembla awaiting shipment. Obviously, it would not be possible to accumulate that quantity of steel between the 20th October and last Sunday night when the right honorable gentleman made his broadcast. Yet, up to June last, the Waterside Workers Federation had provided more men at Port Kembla than the quota fixed for that port. Why did not the Prime Minister say that the application for the additional men had been made only last month, and also that the federation was actually in process of meeting this demand? Wharf labourers at Port Kembla work, on the average, only 36 hours a week, whereas at Wollongong and Thirroul, from which towns the federation will draw men to meet this application, members of other transport unions are working, on the average, 50 hours a week. Both the Australian Council of Trades Unions and I advocate the holding of an inquiry into these matters, so that we can ascertain how to use all our Australian man-power to the best advantage.
There is room for complaint at Newcastle, but an increased quota of men was asked for on the 20th October, and the Prime Minister made his broadcast to the electors during the first week of November. At Port Adelaide, the quota was increased from the 12th October of this year, but I do not think that any details about that increase or, indeed, about the other matters that I have put before honorable members, were brought to the attention of the members of the Government. In April of this year the
Waterside Workers Federation had registered 200 men in excess of the quota for the port of Hobart. Those figures indicate that further investigation such as that suggested by the Australian Council of Trades Unions should be made by this Government. The Australian Council of Trades Unions, and the unions associated with it, are not in the habit of backing Healy or other people of his type, but we are certainly not going to stand by and see other industries go short of man-power while additional men are diverted for use by foreign interests. That is particularly so when it has been shown that wharf labourers work only 31 hours a week. I suggest that if man-power is diverted from other essential industries to the waterfront industry this country will suffer. I invite the Government to consider the figures put forward by the Stevedoring Industry Board in June, 1954. The report of that body, which is just about to be published, will show that the average time worked by waterside workers to the 30th June this year was only 31 hours a week.
– What has been their average rate of pay ?
– Sixteen pounds a week.
– And yet the honorable member believes that they have been hardly used.
– No, the honorable member should not misunderstand me. My case against this measure is not based on a belief that waterside workers have been hardly used. I say that Australia is a growing nation, and that it is short of workers in its transport industries - including a shortage of locomotive engine-drivers - and that it is wrong to allow English shippers and overseas controlled stevedoring companies to obtain additional men for their industries at the expense of other essential industries. That is why we object strongly to the Government’s action in bringing down this measure.
Clause 11 reads inter alia -
The committee shall inquire into and report upon -
The arrangements for the regulation and control of stevedoring operations and of persons employed in the stevedoring industry and for the settlement of disputes, and the maintenance of discipline in the stevedoring industry;
I have never heard anything so stupid as to bring a measure before honorable members about a matter that will be inquired into by an outside body. Therefore, the Australian trade union movement believes that this measure is illadvised and is not in conformity with the provisions of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. This Government has stated that it believes in conciliation and arbitration. If it really does believe in the principles of conciliation and arbitration, then it should realize that an existing practice in an industry should not be altered without proper judicial inquiry. Some of the objects of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, as shown in section 2 of the act, are -
I suggest that those objects apply equally to judicial determinations, and to determinations by this Parliament. If the Government does not follow the principles of conciliation and arbitration that I have just read from the act, then it will not achieve peace and harmony in Australian industry. The Waterside Workers Federation has been engaged in many activities for quite a long period of time under the charter of its registered rules, and if the shipowners have a good case against the way the federation has conducted its affairs they can apply to the court to have the rules of the union altered. In that regard I shall quote to honorable members from section 83 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, which reads -
If it appears to the Court on the application of any organization or person interested or of the Registrar -
that the rules of a registered organization or their administration do not provide reasonable facilities for the admission of new members or impose unreasonable conditions upon the continuance of their membership or are in any way tyrannical or oppressive . . . the Court may, if in its discretion it thinks fit, order the registration of the organization to be cancelled . . .
It has been open for many years for employers of labour on the waterfront to take advantage of that provision of the act, if they wish to do so. Indeed, any interested person could take action under that provision if he considered that the rules of the union were oppressive. But the employers obviously did not want to take action under that provision, nor did this Government, and so the Government has put forward this measure. Therefore, I support wholeheartedly the stand of the Australian Council of Trades Unions. The Government has forgotten the principles of conciliation and arbitration. Apparently it now believes that the time has arrived for a showdown with the federation about something that even the chairman of the Stevedoring Industry Board does not seem to understand. Therefore, the Australian Council of Trades Unions says to the Government, and I say to the Government, that if it wants to deal with the Waterside Workers Federation in this fashion, it should divide up the proposals in the measure and immediately set up an inquiry into the whole position on the waterfront.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I believe that the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Freeth) acted quite correctly when he drew the attention of the House to those points on which there is agreement in regard to the amending legislation now before us, and those points on which the Government and the Opposition differ. Further to his remarks I desire to say that honorable members opposite seem to regard the Waterside Workers Federation as having committed very few sins of omission and none at all of commission, and that its members are almost pure innocents whereas the employers are due for a great deal of criticism. I suggest that many honorable members on this side of the House realize that there have been faults on both sides, and that this measure is designed to bring about some good and to alter the organization of labour on the waterfront to the benefit of the industry as a whole.
I listened with interest to the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) when he once again made charges of conspiracy against honorable members of this House, by saying that under the leadership of the honorable member for Evans (Mr. Osborne) a committee consisting of a number of honorable members on this side of the House has conspired with the right wing of the Cabinet to force legislation on the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) that he did not want to introduce. Of course, that is a completely false charge. The committee to which the Leader of the Opposition referred, and to which the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison) has also referred, does not happen to be led by the honorable member for Evans. It is led by the honorable member for Forrest. Perhaps the Leader of the Opposition made his accusations because this committee, of which I also am a member, invited the representatives of the overseas shipowners and the Australian shipowners to appear before it and put their case. Of course it is true that we did that. But the right honorable gentleman omitted to tell the House that we also invited representatives of the independent shipowners to appear before us, and he also omitted to tell honorable members that we invited the secretary of the Waterside Workers Federation and the president of the Australian Council of Trades Unions to put their cases to us. Moreover, they all came and presented certain evidence to us and we gave them all the same kind of hearing. We believe that it is right and democratic to hear both sides of any case before making a recommendation. However, it is no new thing for the Leader of the Opposition to put forward half-truths, and to set up a smoke-screen in order to cover his own actions. The Leader of the Opposition, having previously allied himself with the right wing of the Australian Labour party, has now jumped over to the left wing; and to cover that action, he is attempting to set up a smoke-screen by making charges of conspiracy against honorable members on this side of the House. ‘
This is not the first time that I have had an opportunity of following the honorable member for Blaxland in a debate, and I believe that on the last occasion I did so I mentioned that I always enjoyed listening to his remarks because I believed that he was sincere, and because I appreciated the moderation with which his remarks were delivered. However, on this occasion I believe that his heart is not in the case that he has put before the House. In order to prove the truth of what I have said, I desire to mention one or two examples from his speech. He said that if this measure becomes law, employers will be the sole authority for engaging labour on the waterfront. I ask him what is wrong with that principle, because in most industries it is quite the normal procedure for employers to engage their employees. It has not been the normal procedure in the stevedoring industry since 1947, because in that year the Chifley Labour Government made certain concessions to the Waterside Workers Federation, one being that the federation would have the right to admit men to the industry. The Stevedoring Industry Board was to set up port quotas, and the federation was to have the right of admitting new members. The honorable member for Blaxland quoted proposed new subsection (2.) of section 20 of the Stevedoring Industry Act, which reads -
A person shall not, in an application for registration as an employer or waterside worker, make a statement or furnish information which is false or misleading.
The honorable member did not object to that proposed new sub-section. Then he mentioned the proposed amendment of section 21 of the Stevedoring Industry Act, and said that if those provisions were carried the employer would be the sole authority to recruit labour. In referring to the arrangement for the filling of port quotas under proposed new section 21 (2), the honorable member refrained from drawing the attention of the House to the opening words of the proposed new sub-section which read -
Except at such ports as the board determines, a person shall not be registered as a waterside worker at a port unless -
Then the proposed amendment continues -
Therefore, the House will see that the claim of the honorable member for Blaxland that the employer will be the sole authority to recruit labour without reference to the board or the federation, is not correct. The honorable member also said that it was bad for Australia that, in many instances, the employers represented overseas interests. In actual fact, the employers are Australian stevedoring companies, and some overseas capital has been invested in them. I cannot recall that a similar objection has been taken to any other industry on the ground that overseas capital has been invested in it. Indeed, we welcome it. I do not know of any section of Labour, whether on the parliamentary side or the trade union side, which objects to overseas investments in Australia which assist to develop this country. For the past seven years, the sole authority to determine the recruitment of labour on the waterfront has been the Waterside Workers Federation. Even the Opposition admits that the federation is Communistled. Goodness knows, communism is an overseas interest - the kind of overseas interest that we do not wish to have in this country! The honorable member for Blaxland said that he did not agree with Mr. Healy, the federal secretary of the Waterside Workers Federation.
The honorable member also referred to port facilities. I have a knowledge of the conditions at Port Kembla and Newcastle, where many thousands of tons of steel products, which are urgently required in many parts of Australia, are awaiting shipment. I know that the companies concerned have made application after application for years to the New South Wales Government to start work on the enlargement of the port areas, so that more ships may be handled simultaneously and additional men employed.
I think that a hill now before the New South Wales Parliament makes provision for extensions to the wharfs at Wickham. But for years, those applications were met with the excuse that the State Government had not sufficient money to enable the work to be undertaken. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) pointed out, in answer to a question this afternoon, that all the loan moneys raised in Australia during the past few years had been allotted to the States. New South Wales has had the bulk of the loan raisings, and, in the last two or three years, has not been able to expend all the money that has been made available to it. In those circumstances, it is futile for the honorable member for Blaxland to attempt to blame this Government for the lack of facilities on wharfs, especially in New South Wales.
A few minutes ago, I stated in reply to the honorable gentleman, that the Waterside Workers Federation is controlled by overseas interests. We have only to look back to the unhappy time when the federation set itself up” as the arbiter of our foreign policy, and refused to supply labour to load ships of Dutch origin bound for ports in the Netherlands East Indies. I believe that honorable members on both sides of the House recall that unhappy phase in Australian history.
I should now like to offer some praise to the Minister for Labour and National Service, not only for the lead that he has given and the good work that he has done on behalf of the Government and the country recently, but also for the continuing good work that he has done on the labour front since he assumed office in 1949. Without going into any detail, I think that it is a true summary to say that we have had more industrial peace in Australia- since the advent of this Government than we had known for many years, and certainly far more than we experienced during the regime of the preceding Labour Government. I believe that the Minister has played a great part in achieving that state of industrial peace.
I have had a good deal of experience on the waterfront, and of the loading and unloading of ships. I truly believe that the majority of the members of the Waterside Workers Federation are not Communists. It is easy to say, in a general way, that they are Communists. Sometimes one hears it loosely stated, collectively of the waterside workers, that they are Communists. That is not correct. In the ports of which I have had personal experience, I know it not to be so ; but it is a fact that their leaders are avowed Communists. When one asks a waterside worker why he votes for Comm unists who seek election to the executive of the federation, the reply is given, in effect, “ Well, we know that they are Communists, but they are able men. They are clever, and they get things for us”. We know that to be all too true. One of the ways in which the Communist party works is to select capable and clever men to infiltrate the ranks of unions, and have them elected to responsible positions in those organizations. This bill is not designed to alter the mode of employment of the individual waterside worker, and is not directed against him. The purpose of this bill is to break the whole Communist executive of the Waterside Workers Federation, and to try to step-up activity on the Australian waterfront. The Australian economy, and the people themselves, can no longer afford to have Communists in charge of the waterfront.
A little while ago, I mentioned that the privilege of recruiting labour was given to the Waterside Workers Federation by the Chifley Government in 1947. The federation, when it was granted that privilege, was also expected to shoulder certain responsibilities. It has been adequately proved by speakers on this side of the House that the executive of the federation has not accepted those responsibilities in full, and has not provided the number of men necessary to fill the quotas determined by the Stevedoring Industry Board. Because those responsibilities have not been carried out, the privilege granted to the federation must now be withdrawn. The purpose of this bill is to withdraw that privilege.
While I am dealing with this matter, I point out that this strike was called last Tuesday to begin on Wednesday, or more than 24 hours before this bill was introduced into the House and its provisions were made public. Therefore, I suggest that we have in the present waterside strike an example of the international rolling strike. I have no doubt that if this bill had not been seized upon, something else would have been used in a very short while as an excuse to launch an international rolling strike. We have had other examples of the technique in various ports. The dockers’ strike in the United Kingdom has ended, and the international rolling strike has extended to the Australian waterfront. It is only right that the people of Australia should realize the effect that this stoppage is having on the national economy, on the average citizen, and on the cost of goods in every-day use. A little while ago, I had occasion to take out some figures with relation to Newcastle, and I have found that it takes just over three times as long to turn-round a ship in that port now as it took in 1938-39. I remind the House that in 1938-39, ships ran to schedule. For example, one knew that a ship left Newcastle every Saturday morning for Queensland ports, that a ship with steel products sailed from Newcastle every Friday night, and that a ship from Adelaide came to the port every second Thursday. Now, a person who goes to Newcastle or another port cannot forecast when ships will sail. The time of loading is longer, expenses in port are greater, and freight charges are higher. The combined increase of costs is passed on to the Australian consumer, and is reflected in the prices of our goods. The housewife is feeling the effect. She knows that her household costs have increased, and a large factor in that increase is the increase of shipping costs. While this strike is in progress, costs will rise. It costs £400 a day to keep a small ship in port, and about £1,000 a day to keep an overseas liner in port.
I ask the Minister for Social Services (Mr. McMahon), who is in charge of the House, to ascertain whether the authorities concerned in our two major steel ports could determine whether the products which are now coming off the line could ‘be allocated to waiting consumers in New South Wales or adjacent States, and conveyed to them by surface transport. We all know that deliveries are behind schedule, and that such items as corrugated iron, fencing posts, steel products, and wire netting are greatly in demand. Supplies of those materials have been allocated to the more distant States, but cannot be conveyed there by sea while the waterfront strike continues. Perhaps the suggestion could be made to the authorities concerned to allocate the production which is now coming off the line to consumers who could receive it by road or rail transport. In making that suggestion, I realize that it will be necessary to ask the New South Wales Government to suspend the road tax while the waterfront strike continues. However, such an allocation would be of great assistance to consumers, including primary producers in New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria, because they would be able to get at least some of the steel products that they urgently require. I use that as an example unless it is suggested, by any means, that the supply should be limited to the primary producer.
In conclusion, I return to my opening remarks, in which I directed attention to the difference between the approach of Government supporters and that of some honorable members opposite. One of the main ingredients of peace of any industry is for each side to have respect for and confidence in the other. There should be respect and confidence between employer and employee. The Government believes that the employee should receive a fair wage for his labour, but, at the same time, it believes that the employer should receive a fair return for his investment and for his administration. That, in other words, is a brief description of private enterprise, which the Government believes is still the best basis that man has devised upon which a progressive and economic society may be built. The Government has taken cognizance of that fact by introducing this bill. I have referred to Part II. of the bill, because that is the contentious part. I think all honorable members are in agreement upon Part III., which relates to the appointment of a committee of inquiry. When speaking about the harmony and democracy of private enterprise, it is necessary to remember that the will of Parliament should prevail. I hope that the Government, in appointing this committee of inquiry which, I assume from its description, must be a fact finding committee, will follow the democratic lines to which the Minister for Labour and National Service referred when he introduced the bill. The committee is to consist of three persons, one of whom will be an independent chairman. The second appointee should have a knowledge of the waterfront industry, and, at the same time, have the respect of both parties in the present dispute, and the third member should have some knowledge of costing, so that the full facts may be made known, not only to the Government, but also to the people of Australia as a whole, and so that they may be able to support the Government in attaining its objective of improving tb« waterfront industry.
.- The two main characteristics of Government supporters who have spoken on this measure to-day have been the fervour with which they have approached the debate and the lack of fact in their arguments, which prove that fervour is not, of necessity, related to truth. The Opposition has adopted its present attitude because it believes that the Government has been precipitate in its action, and that the present state of affairs is a direct result of the Government’s untimely action. No trade union movement, or no trade union in particular, will give up lightly the concessions that it has won over the years. The history of the trade union movement has shown that such concessions are not easily won. Tn view of the fight that the trade union movement has had to put up over the years, it is not unreasonable to think that, when action such as that which is envisaged in the bill is taken, it will be opposed. The lack of fact that has characterised the presentation of the Government’s case has been replaced purely by propaganda.
The reaction of the trade union movement, which has been outlined by the Australian Council of Trades Unions, is quite easily understandable. Why is the Government pushing on with an inquiry and, at the same time, introducing a state of affairs that completely cuts across a privilege that the union has enjoyed since 1947? The method of the recruitment of labour, which has been described by Government supporters from the Prime Minister down to the last speaker on behalf of the Government, is not peculiar to the Waterside Workers Federation, but applies also to many other maritime industries. The attempt of Government supporters, both inside and outside of this chamber, to create, in the mind of the public, the psychological reaction that the waterside workers are enjoying a privilege that is not enjoyed by other trade . unionists, will not stand up to examination. It is noticeable that Government supporters have attempted to direct their criticism against the actions of the waterside workers. There may have been times when criticism was justified, but there can be no justification, for the action of the Government on this occasion.
It is interesting to contrast the attitude of honorable members opposite when they are dealing with matters that affect the federation and their attitude when other matters affect the employers. Over the last twelve months or more, there has been a sustained campaign, both inside and outside the chamber, in an attempt to prove that the difficulties that beset the waterfront industry lie at the door of the waterside workers. One who has only a meagre knowledge of the industry knows full well how blatantly untrue that allegation is, and I shall refer to the statements of authorities such as the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board, which will demolish and completely destroy such arguments. One cannot help but comment upon the alacrity with which the Government moves in against a trade union. It is beyond dispute that the overseas shipping organization, together with the interstate shipowners, have exploited this situation to the full. The Government has acknowledged that position, but it has not been prepared to move against the organization. It is not beyond the point to ask why it is moving against one section of the industry, but i3 doing nothing against the other section. Just a few examples will prove my statement to be correct. Some few months ago, the Government introduced a bill to provide that the levy on man-hours worked in the industry should be reduced from lid. to 6d. an hour. It was from that levy that the Stevedoring Industry Board obtained the revenue that enabled it to carry out its functions. When the bill was introduced, the Government stated that the reduction would make a substantial contribution to the economy, because it would result in reduced freights, the effect of which would be felt throughout Australia. But what happened? After the Government reduced the levy from lid. to 6d. a manhour, both the interstate and the overseas combines pocketed the profits.
– No, that is not true.
– That is correct, because the overseas shipowners have not reduced their freights by id. There has been a small reduction of interstate freights, which is not in any way comparable with the benefit that the interstate shipowners received. Although the interstate shipowners have made a small reduction, there has been absolutely no reduction of overseas shipping freights. If the honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Luck) can prove otherwise, he will be the first person who has been able to do so. The overseas shipping representatives in this country stated that they were not willing to make a reduction. They used the plausible pretext that they were bound by their contracts, but, when their contracts expired in September, they made the forthright statement that they were not prepared to pass on the reduction. What does the Government intend to do about the shipowners? When I posed that question before, the Minister for Labour and National Service, who was sitting at the table, asked, in a rather plaintive voice, “What can we do?” Although the Government is not prepared to enforce the benefit that should result from a reduction of the levy, it moves in against the union. One cannot help contrasting the different attitude it has adopted in relation to each of those matters. It is quite obvious to everybody that the influence of the overseas shipowners, as it affects the economy of this country, is something that should be faced up to. The people of Australia are suffering a very great disadvantage while the overseas shipowners are prepared to, and are allowed to, continue as they are doing.
A few months ago, the overseas shipowners increased the freight on fruit that is exported. While wages are pegged, there can be no justification for an increase of shipping freights on fruit.
Not only are the shipowners exploiting the position to the full, but they have also declared war, in effect, on the Australian economy by their determination to increase freight rates, with the result that we are finding it impossible to compete in overseas markets. Moreover, they are withholding from the Australian public the reduction of the levy on manhours for which the Government legislated. Moreover, they are directing their full attack towards breaking down the conditions of the trade union movement in this country. Government supporters have always attempted to make out a case against the condition of the industry, but, in doing so, they have merely reechoed sentiments that have been expressed ad lib and ad infinitum by the shipowners. I shall refer to, and take as my authority, the latest report of the Stevedoring Industry Board, which should satisfy any impartial person of the falsity of the charges that have been levelled ad nauseam in relation to the alleged slow turn-round of ships.
– What is the date of the report?
– It is the report for the year ended the 30th June, 1953, and it was presented to the Parliament this year. It is the latest report that is available.
– That was twelve months ago.
– It is the latest report that is available.
– Nevertheless, that was twelve months ago.
– The Minister will not got the other report for us.
– It is the latest report that is available to honorable members, and I submit that, if there is a later report, the Government should have placed it before the House before it brought up this matter for consideration. The covering letter to the report contains the following statement: -
Tie acceleration in shipping turn-round, which we reported last year, continued. In several trades the improvement is outstanding. Bates of work have also increased, and in some of the major ports the increases are extensive. The board gave its assistance during the year to the distribution of an unprecedented volume of steel production. Steps were also taken to aid the shipment of the fruit crop and the record sugar harvest.
Faster turn-round improved the overseas reputation of Australia’s ports.
That is interesting and refreshing, after listening to some of the comments of Government supporters. The letter continues -
During the year, some overseas interest was evinced in the board’s press and radio systems of labour engagement - although in Australia the advantage of these systems is still confined to a few ports because of union executive opposition.
This industry is one that has always been marked hy the poor standard of amenities that has been provided over the years. No one has ever attempted to face up to the problem. Although the Stevedoring Industry Board, during the last couple of years, has made some contribution towards solving the problem, the industry, because of neglect, has got into a deplorable condition. No one will deny that fact. As a consequence, the conditions under which the waterside workers are compelled to work, as I have said before, are a disgrace.
It was only with the advent of the Stevedoring Industry Board that any progress was made. In fact, the standard of amenities in the industry is still very poor. In this matter again there is a case against the employers. Why have they, throughout the years, failed to live up to their obligations in this respect as other employers have lived up to them? I have mentioned the improvement in recent years in the turnround of ships in Australia. Apparently some people are always ready to deny credit where credit is due. I think it will be of interest to the House for me to read a further extract from the fourth report of the Stevedoring Industry Board, as follows : -
In the principal ports, Sydney and Melbourne, the striking improvement in shipping turn-round continued, and in 1953 ships were spending approximately half the time spent in port in 1061. Apart from the return to smaller sized cargoes, the real acceleration in turn-round was brought about by higher rates of work, an increase in the amount of labour supplied to each ship, and the gradual improvements which were made during the preceding years and which became effective under the more favourable conditions. Iti the port of Sydney, interstate ships were spending an average of 5.5 days per visit in early 1953, as against 10.3 days in .1951. For overseas ships in Sydney, the comparison was 7.G days in 1953, as against 11.3 days in 1951. In Melbourne, interstate ships were spending 7.5 days in port in 1!)53, as against 11.4 days in 1951. Overseas ships in Melbourne were spending 0.1 days in port in 1953, as against 15.7 days in 1951. The turn-round of overseas shipping in Melbourne shows the greatest individual improvement, the average number of tons handled per ship per day having risen to 410 tons in 1953, as compared with 27 ti tons in 1951.
Though Government supporters now attempt to discredit that report, they were very silent when it was tabled.
It is obvious that the Government has determined on a course of action that cannot by any stretch of the imagination be justified. Its case fails lamentably. If the Government were concerned that a judicial approach to the problem should be made, and if it had any regard for the principles of conciliation and arbitration, it would not have moved in the precipitate manner that it has moved. Its actions prove conclusively that it is determined to achieve a certain end, come what may. It has decided to appoint a committee to inquire into all the ramifications of the stevedoring industry. An interesting point arises. Should the committee recommend that the recruiting of labour be left in the control of the Waterside Workers Federation, what will be the Government’s attitude? Has it determined that the recruiting of labour shall be kept outside the scope of the proposed committee’s inquiry? If it intends to allow that question to be investigated by the committee and to abide by the committee’s decision, why has it hastily introduced a bill to take away from the union the right that it has had since 1947? All reasoning people will refuse to be stampeded by the propaganda that has arisen as a result of the Government’s actions.
I cannot help contrasting the approach of certain newspapers to this matter with the attitude adopted by other sections of the press. The Sydney metropolitan newspapers, which do not enjoy a good reputation., not only in Australia, but also among visitors from abroad, for propaganda purposes have decided that the minds of the public should be inflamed against the Waterside Workers Federation, and therefore they have displayed on their billboards headlines alleging that because of the waterfront strike they have been forced to restrict the size and the circulation of issues. It is odd that the Sydney newspapers are the only section of the Australian press that has acted in that manner. The Melbourne metropolitan daily newspapers and the Brisbane newspapers have not restricted the size or the circulation of their issues. Why has the restriction been applied only in Sydney? Let us consider the history of the Sydney Morning Herald, which strenuously opposed rationing in war-time. I well remember that the attitude of that newspaper during the war was that, because it had been able to accumulate supplies of newsprint over the years and was in a position to publish, in conformity with its traditions, issues of the normal size, it should not be compelled to suffer rationing. In war-time that newspaper argued that it had sufficient stocks of newsprint on hand to publish without restriction, but we find now that after a strike has been in progress for only two or three days it and the other Sydney newspapers have restricted publication and adopted an attitude that is intended to inflame the minds of the public on this issue.
– The Sydney newspapers did not lower the price when they restricted the size.
– Strangely enough, they did not. A strong case can be made out in support of the views of the Waterside Workers Federation and of the entire trade union movement of Australia. That fact is demonstrated by the attitude and the decision of the Australian Council of Trades Unions in this dispute. Long before this bill was introduced, the council had asked the Government to give effect to the principles of conciliation and arbitration, and had suggested that a royal commission be appointed to inquire into all aspects of the stevedoring industry. The Government refused to adopt that suggestion, and I suggest that, because of its failure to adopt that course and its determination to follow a predetermined course, it alone is responsible for the present state of affairs.
Mr. DAVIDSON (Dawson) (5.8].- Some months ago in this House I directed attention to the fact that the position on the Australian waterfront, was giving rise to a terrific increase in costs throughout industry, and I stated that it was essential that something be done to deal with the situation on the waterfront if we were to avoid serious consequences to Australia’s economy. The Government, in this bill, has set out to deal with the situation, but the Labour Opposition in this Parliament objects to the Government’s action and counsels delay. In thi present circumstances, such counsel is ridiculous. In my opinion and that of many hundreds of thousands of people throughout Australia, the Government already has delayed too long in getting to grips with the situation on the waterfront. Instead of counselling further delay, the Opposition, if it were in any way fair, should concede that the Government has been extremely patient, to say the least of it, with the Waterside Workers Federation in attempting to resolve the matter reasonably and without undue disruption of industry. The fact is that the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) has always acknowledged that there, are two sides to the issue and that a certain amount of blame is attributable to both the shipowners and the waterside workers. He has done his utmost to get down to the basic facts of the industry and to cause the Parliament to legislate in such a way as to satisfy all the proper claims of both sides in the industry. It is well known that the Minister from time to time has had conferences and discussions with representatives of the Waterside Workers Federation, members of the Australian Council of Trades Unions, and representatives of the shipowners. Consequently, it cannot be said that he has not done his utmost to resolve the matter reasonably, sensibly and soundly.
The Minister has set out to evolve a formula that would enable transport facilities throughout Australia to continue to function properly without recourse to somewhat drastic action that might incur the risk of throwing the nation’s economy into chaos* During the time that the Government has been attempting to deal with the problems on the waterfront, the Minister and this Government have been largely responsible for considerable improvements in the working conditions on the waterfront. For instance, over the last four years the equipment used on the wharfs has been improved considerably. The Waterside Workers Federation has enjoyed a virtual monopoly in the selection of labour on the waterfront. That privilege was given to the federation by the Labour Government. Despite what Opposition members have said, such a privilege is not enjoyed by any other union. The accommodation available to waterside workers has improved considerably, particularly at out-ports. The payment of attendance money has been introduced. This Government, and previous administrations, realizing that employment in the stevedoring industry is not permanent, have made provision for improvements such as the payment of attendance money, in order to ensure that the conditions under which the employees work shall be fair and reasonable. At the same time, we demand a fair and reasonable return to the community from the workers for the enjoyment of those privileges.
The Government has introduced this bill because it realizes that the stevedoring industry is of national importance. It is of concern not only to the shipowners and the waterside workers. It is of vital importance to the entire economy of Australia. Unfortunately, though the Government has demonstrated its realization of that fact by exhibiting extreme patience in its actions in relation to the industry, it has now become obvious that co-operation from the leaders of the Waterside Workers Federation is completely lacking.
– That statement is rubbish.
– It is not rubbish. The fact that I have stated is perfectly obvious. If a gallup poll of the Australian people as to the correctness or otherwise of my statement were taken, I should be supported by at least 90 per cent, of Australians. The Communist ing and maintaining Australia’s national leaders of the Waterside Workers- Federation have completely failed to co-operate and to play their proper part in promotwellbeing. Instead of co-operating, the leaders of the federation have consistently refused to accept any responsibility in return for the monopoly over the provision of labour on the waterfront that was given to them by the Chifley Government. That monopoly has imposed on them a responsibility to ensure that the labour available to the stevedores shall be effective, not only in quantity, but also in quality. But it has been effective neither in quantity nor in quality. There have been shortages at various ports which have delayed the distribution of essential materials, and anybody who has gone round any of our ports to examine the labour situation knows that there has been a serious decline in the quality of the labour offering in the last few years.
Thus, the leaders of the Waterside Workers Federation have refused to accept the responsibilitity which goes with the privilege that was accorded to them by the Chifley Government. It is interesting to note in the Hansard reports that Mr. Chifley, as the Prime Minister, and the present Leader of the Opposition, as one of his Ministers, acknowledged that such a responsibility was placed onthe federation’s leaders under the stevedoring industry legislation. The new system was described as an experiment, which placed a responsibility on the federation, and the Labour Government declared that, if the responsibility were not properly discharged, the question of the elimination of the monopoly granted to the union would arise. That question has arisen now. The leaders of the Waterside Workers Federation have refused entirely also to recognize the widespread impact of their actions on the whole community. Apparently it does not matter to them that every man, woman and child in the community has suffered as a result of their go-slow tactics and the consequent delay in the turn-round of ships and the increase of freight rates. The essential costs of the workers and their families have been seriously and adversely affected by. those tactics. But that does not matter one whit to the union leaders!
They have refused entirely to acknowledge the consequences of their actions. In fact, it has become evident ‘that these Communist leaders, instead of setting out to match the co-operation extended by the Government, have interpreted it as a policy of weakness and have thought to themselves, “ Let us play the cunning Communist game with these people. These privileges which they have given to us spring, not from any desire to improve conditions generally in Australia, but from weakness. We can play on that and take advantage of every opportunity which comes our way to disrupt the whole national economy “. That is a fair summing up of the attitude of the federation towards the Government during the last few years. And that attitude has caused the Government to move at last. I remind the House that, not long after the present Government parties came into power, we gave evidence of the fact that we would not permit Communists to do as they liked in industry. We took certain action, for instance, against Mr. Healy when he did something of a disruptive nature. We actually put bini in gaol. We had fines imposed on Communist unions that were disobeying our laws. The result was that the Communist tactics changed. This applied particularly on the waterfront.
– Ah !
– It is of no use for the honorable member to say “ Ah ! “, because I know what I am talking about, and the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin) knows that I do. He is merely trying to disrupt my speech by using those tactics but he will not succeed.
The tactics of the Communists changed, as I have said, as a result of the attitude adopted by this Government. The word went out that there was to be no overt action by any Communist union leader which would be of a disruptive -character and would give the Government an opportunity to deal with him; nor was there to be liny concerted action by a union that would enable it to be dealt with under the law. Nevertheless, the disruptive tactics were to be continued by means of a series of small rolling strikes, in which it was to be made apparent that .action was taken as a result of rank-and-file decisions.
Nobody was to be pinned down as being responsible for such trouble. Apparently, to the general public, the strikes were to be evidence of a feeling welling up within the body of the trade union movement. Of course that was not so, but that was the impression to be created and those were the tactics to be followed. Another instruction that went out was that, wherever possible, industrial trouble was to be based on relatively minor issues and not pursued for any considerable length of time. The leaders were told to pick on minor issues, such as whether men were to be stopped at this chalk mark, or at that chalk mark a few yards further on, when they halted for a smoke-o. These disturbances were to result in delays of only a few days, or perhaps a week, at various ports.
It is evident to anybody who has studied this matter properly that, behind all these stoppages, there was a master mind which planned the whole strategy. Whenever Healy or Roach travelled down the Queensland coast, for instance, pinpricking troubles developed a week or two later. Port delays were inevitable as a result of such visits. Anybody who is acquainted with the situation in Queensland knows that that is true, and I am certain that the situation was similar everywhere else in Australia. Those were the tactics adopted by the Communists, and the Government has now found it necessary to tackle them. There has been, in fact, a steady white-anting of the whole industrial life of Australia, and the results of the process are evident everywhere. Industry still cannot obtain all the basic materials that it requires. Many costs which could be brought down are not coming down because our entire system of transportation and distribution is being interfered with and slowed down. As a result of these tactics, the leaders of the Waterside Workers Federation have come perilously close to the fulfilment of the basic Communist plan of disruption, and therefore I say it is high time that the Government moved in the matter.
The economy of Australia has been held to ransom. The costs of industry .are rising because of the difficulty of obtaining steel. When steel is manufactured, it cannot be shifted to our outports. The slow turn-round of ships has increased freight rates. All these factors cause costs of industry to rise when they should not he rising. There is no other reason why they should rise. Because of increasing industrial costs, our domestic living costs are higher than they need be. Is it not tragic to realize, after studying the Comwealth Statistician’s figures, that living costs would not have increased during the last year or two but for the effect of the waterfront situation on our economy, and that, if such a situation had not developed, our people could enjoy reduced living costs without in any way reducing wage levels? Australia’s economy could support such an improvement if only we could remove this last remaining blot from our economy.
Another result of the tactics adopted by the leaders of the Waterside Workers Federation is that our export industries are being steadily costed out of overseas markets, and, if that trend goes on for very long, the results will be extremely serious, not only to those industries, but to the national economy as a whole. Well, the Government has at last - I might well say, no doubt in company with other honorable members on this side of the House, “ at long last “ - accepted this challenge, and it proposes to do its utmost to remedy the situation. The proposal before us - and I hope it will not be the last one - is rather innocuous in my opinion. Certainly it does not merit the terrific outcry that we have heard from our Labour friends on the opposite side of the House. Naturally, the Communist-controlled Waterside Workers Federation will object to it, but it does not deserve the criticism and the outcry that has arisen amongst members of the Opposition.
You may remember, Mr. Speaker, that I said in this House some time ago, when I was discussing an allied proposal, that the basic remedy for the condition of the waterside industry was the return to the employers of the right to hire and fire. I repeat that statement now. Until that right is returned to the employers, we shall not have proper security or satisfactory work on the waterfront. It is a right which applies in every other industry in Australia. The proposal now before the House, I remind the Opposition emphatically, does not contemplate the return of that right to the employers, and, therefore, I believe it will not be successful until further action is taken. Let us be quite clear about the purpose of the bill. The main proposal simply provides that, in any port where the labour quota has not been filled, the employers shall have the right to submit a panel of names to the Stevedoring Industry Board. They do not have that right at present. To that degree, this proposal will restore a part of their former right to the employers. Under the procedure outlined in the measure, when a panel of names has been submitted to tie board - only if the port quota has not been filled, of course - it will refer the list to the Waterside Workers Federation. Any objection by the federation will be considered, and, if it can be upheld, it will receive appropriate attention. If such objections cannot be upheld, the board will proceed to register the names on the panel as a part of the port strength.
Wherein lies the justification for the extravagant statements against that proposal which have been made in the last few weeks, commencing with the denunciation uttered by the so-called Leader of the Opposition? The Government’s plan does not go to the length of providing for the return to the employers of the right to hire and fire, which has proved to be very effective, for both employers and decent employees, in other industries. The proposal, of course, it” to take away from the federation the monopoly under which it is allowed to choose the’ work force to operate in the industry. That privilege is to be withdrawn, and I say that it is high time the change was made, because of the abuses that have occurred.
One of the most interesting features of the present situation is that, now that the Government has at last joined issue with the federation on this matter, the familiar Communist tactics are again being pursued. Within the last few days, there has been a pretence of a lastminute repentance by the federation, which is declaring all over the country, “ We will fill the quotas in ports where labour is short. We are doing it already.
Look how we have built up the quotas here, there and everywhere. It is obvious that we have now repented and are going to do exactly what the board and the Government want us to do. Therefore, there is no need for the new legislation, and the Government should withdraw it “. That, in brief, describes the tactics being pursued by the federation, and, of course, they are basically Communist tactics. As soon as any person in authority, or any Government, sets out to challenge Communist action, the Communists withdraw on the theory that he who fights and runs away will live to fight another day.
The Communists, in this instance, want to mislead the Government. They hope that, if they can persuade the people that there is really no justification for the Government’s claim that the federation refuses to fill port quotas, the Government will say, “ Very well. The bill will be unpopular, so we had better withdraw it “. Then, after a few weeks, exactly the same old position would prevail on the waterfront again and the Communists would have had a victory. I hope that I can speak for the Government when I say that we have not the slightest intention of falling for that cheap and childish trick. We base our belief not on the statements which the federation has made within the last few days about what it is prepared to do but on the actual performances of the federation during the last seven years.
I have devoted most of my time to a consideration of the first proposal contained in the bill. There is really not much need to discuss the second proposal contained in the measure which seeks to provide for the setting up of an inquiry into the industry. The Government has decided to set up such an inquiry, and both the Opposition and the Waterside Workers Federation say that they agree with that proposal. Of course, the reasons for those three decisions are different. Whilst the Government does not need to set up an inquiry to enable it to inform itself about what the federation has been doing, it believes that such an inquiry will bring to light additional information about the position that has existed on the waterfront over a period of years and will also inform the mind of the people on this matter. Such an inquiry also will reveal facts in respect of freight rates that are charged by shipping companies. All of this information will be of value to the Government although, already, it has in its possession a substantial volume of information on this subject. The Waterside Workers Federation supports the setting up of an inquiry simply and solely because it believes the inquiry will be so much more time wasted. The longer it takes to bring the federation to book, the longer it will be able to continue its disruptive tactics to the detriment of the national economy. That is the federation’s plan and, for that reason, it says that it is prepared to allow the proposed inquiry to proceed. But the Government is resolved not to play further into the hands of the federation by waiting until that inquiry is concluded before grasping this nettle.
During the last three years, I have spoken on this subject on many occasions not only in this House but also in other places. Like other honorable members, I have received telegrams and letters protesting against the proposals contained in this bill. Therefore, I say plainly that my attitude is simply that issue should have been joined on this matter long ago and that now the Government has taken action in this direction it should not back down in any way whatsoever.
.- I oppose the bill. The proposals contained in it point a dagger right at the heart of the trade union movement in this country. In support of that statement I cite the telegram in which the Australian Council of Trades Unions conveyed its decision to-day to the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt). After considering this matter, the council stated -
We therefore support the Waterside Workers Federation in their continuance of their stoppage of work, their protest against the Government’s actions and proposed legislation and resolve that the conference stand adjourned until to-morrow afternoon.
– Did a Communist send that telegram?
– That telegram did not come from a Communist. Possibly, it came from an old, dear friend of the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) in the person of Mr. Albert Monk. This attack is the fore-runner of many more that will be made by the Government upon the trade union movement. The wealthy friends of the Government,, on whose behalf it has made depredations on the public purse since it assumed office, have again cracked the whip and forced it to make this attack on the trade union movement. Of course, the Government is opposed to any form of trade union organization and it has willingly set out to destroy the movement through the Minister for Labour and National Service who, ironically enough, is a member of the legal profession. As the right honorable gentleman aspires to cut an impressive figure in top-hatted society, he is only too happy, at the command of the overseas shipowners, to present a distorted and malicious picture of conditions on the Australian waterfront. The only occasions on which he has been on the waterfront have been when he has embarked on trips abroad. Obviously, his purpose was to convey the idea that the waterside workers are always to blame. Then, he proceeded, to shed salty tears for the outraged members of the Australian and Overseas Ship Owners Association. Those interests control most of the shipping that uses Australian ports ; and they are really responsible for the huge increases in freight charges that have been imposed during the last few years with the concurrence of this beneficent Government.
It was heart-rending to hear the honorable member for Dawson (Mr. Davidson) talk about the Government’s attitude in this matter. The Government has helped overseas shipping interests to control all our trade and commerce with the outside world, and this monopoly control has resulted in increasing costs in our over-all economy. “Why has the Government been so favorably disposed towards the overseas shipping interests? Why is it always so anxious to accede to their demands at all times even to the extent of plundering the public purse? Recently, it introduced a measure to guarantee the sum of £3,000,000 of the taxpayers’ money to a subsidiary of the overseas shipping interests. I refer to Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, which operates within Australia. The
Government also granted to the same com- ]i;.ny thu Mini, of £397,000 by way of remission of sales tax that was incurred by that organization over a period of eight years. The Government did not hesitate to effect a special amendment of the sales tax legislation in order to give retrospective effect to that concession. This beneficent Government also remitted to the overseas shipping interests the sum of £300,000, which represented 50 per cent, of the levy for attendance money payable to waterside workers. Having regard to those facts honorable members will realize how advantageous it is to be a wealthy supporter of this Government. I emphasize the term “ wealthy supporter “. In view of these facts, Government supporters should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves.
-Order! I ask the honorable member to deal with the bill.
– It will be noted that associated with the Minister for Labour and National Service in the attack that he has made upon the waterside workers is the honorable member for Evans (Mr. Osborne), who, also, is. a member of the legal profession. For the last twelve months that honorable member has engaged in a campaign against the waterside workers. That was a softening-up process which the honorable gentleman undertook on behalf of the shipowners in preparation for this attack upon the waterside workers. The honorable member is a member of the firm of Sydney solicitors, Messrs. Ebsworth and Ebsworth. which, strangely enough, is retained by the overseas shipping interests to do their work, other than legal work, in this country. What a coincidence ! That fact gives some indication of the sinister forces that are at work in this country against organized labour.. I am concerned about organized labour. I am a product of it.
The Minister, in his second-reading speech, characteristically resorted to smear tactics. Indiscriminately, he applied the term “ Communists “ to members of the Waterside Workers Federation,, among whom is a preponderance of ex-servicemen, including a winner of the Victoria Cross. Those men were prepared to fight and die for this country.
It ill becomes a Minister of the Crown who, himself, has no record of military achievement, to use insulting–
– Get off that line.
– Apparently, the cap fits Government supporters. The Minister, who has no military record himself, has seen fit to smear these ex-servicemen. The Australian Labour party’s opposition to this measure is supported by the Australian Council of Trades Unions and is endorsed by every section of the trade union movement. That fact gives the lie direct to the Minister who implied that there is a growing body of trade unionists throughout Australia to-da,y who look to this Government rather than to the Australian Labour party to express their viewpoint. That was, indeed, a humorous claim for the Minister to make. He went on to say that trade unionists and their families, who comprise two-thirds of the total voting strength in Australia, put this Government into office in 1949 and re-endorsed it in 1951 and this year. That statement shows that the Minister is quite irresponsible and is prepared to resort to inaccuracies in order to further his attempt to destroy the Australian worker’s standard of living. He failed to tell the people that the Australian Labour party polled 51.7 per cent, of the total number of votes whilst the calamitous party to which he belongs polled only 47.8 per cent, of the total number of votes cast at the last general election. That nails another of the inaccurate statements that the Minister made.
Buried among the 30 clauses contained in the bill are two important provisions. Under clause 6, it is proposed that a person, as one of several conditions, shall not be registered as a waterside worker at a port unless -
That provision is one of the most iniquitous that has ever been included in any bill that has been introduced into this Parliament. It will give the sole right to the employer to decide whether a man who desires work is acceptable or not. It will leave the door open to the pimp; the informer and the whisperer, who go about their deadly work of character assassination for purposes best known to themselves, and who could deprive any honest hard-working citizen of the right to work and so maintain his family. I am concerned about the possibility of depriving any man of his livelihood simply because bosses do not like the look of him. A boss might look at a man and say to himself, “ I don’t like the look of his physique, he will not be strong enough for my purposes “. Or a man might be a little older than the usual workman, and the boss might decide to wait until somebody else who was younger applied. That sort of thing has happened in the past, and it will happen again.
The legislation will also result in the establishment of tame cat unions, as they were so aptly described by the one-time leader of the Australian Labour party, the late Ben Chifley, who foresaw assaults such as these on the trade union movement. This measure is an attempt by the Government to set up company unions on the American pattern, and, if successful, it will mean the abolition of the right to strike which is a principle that was fought for by the workers of Australia for 60 or 70 years, and is dear to the Australian trade unionists. The legislation will foster the setting up of strike breaking organizations of men with criminal instincts - thugs and plug uglies - whose one aim. would be to destroy, at a price, our system of conciliation and arbitration. This country is gradually turning to the American way of life in industrial matters, and men such as the strike-breakers that I have just mentioned roam the great industrial cities of America seeking employment against the unions. This bill will bring about a system under which the employer will collect around himself a body of creeping, crawling stooges, who will be prepared to do his bidding for 30 pieces of silver. It will finally cause a state of continual strife and chaos on the waterfront throughout Australia.
Proposed new sub-section (2.) of section 6 requires that an applicant for employment shall satisfy any requirement of the Stevedoring Industry Board as to his age and physical condition. That is a very sinister provision which will bring the waterfront industry back to the bad old days - the days of the jungle. I have very clear memories of those days. As will be seen in paragraph (b) of this proposed new sub-section, the application of a person for registration must be lodged by the employer. Therefore, it should be obvious, even to the simple mind of the Minister for Labour and National Service, that there will be much consternation among waterside workers who are up in years. The employer will ask himself whether a man is over 40 years of age, and, if he believes the man to be over that age that man will not be needed in the industry irrespective of his family commitments.
– Is that in the bill?
– If the honorable member reads the bill he will see that such a discrimination may be exercised by the employer.
– It is certainly not in the bill.
– There will be much consternation among workers who are up in years, and whose physical condition is not as good as it was in previous years because of the laborious work that they have done on the waterfront. Moreover, the terms of employment of waterside workers do not involve provision for a retiring allowance when they are laid off, and therefore the prospects of older workers will be very grim. But honorable members on the Government side do not care how such men, perhaps among them fathers of families, will have to drift along looking for jobs here and there. No sympathy will be given to them by the Government, and there will be no gratitude for their work over past years, especially during the war years when they were called upon at all hours of the day and night to carry out their arduous duties. During the war the much-maligned waterside workers earned the gratitude of the nation for the way in which they did their work. They also earned the gratitude and commendation of no less a celebrity than the Com mander-in-Chief of the allied forces in the Pacific, General MacArthur.
Let us consider the state of mind of ex-servicemen members of the Waterside Workers Federation who, because of their advancing years, are now feeling the effects of their war service in the defence of their native land. Despite all these considerations, the smug Minister for Labour and National Service said in his speech that this bill did not touch in one degree any aspect of the employment of the 27,000 men now registered as members of the industry. He said that those men will be picked up and will work under precisely the same conditions as they work under at present. Does he expect any one over the age of 45 years to believe him? Does the Minister believe that the grasping, hardhearted shipowner who has worked unceasingly for this proposed amendment of the Stevedoring Industry Act will alter his hostility to the waterside workers? I suggest that honorable members would be very stupid to believe that he does. The Minister pointed out the time lost through industrial disputes on the waterfront, and brought to the House a list of figures to support his argument. He said that, in 1953, 133,000 working-days were lost on the waterfront, but that in 1954 there was a serious deterioration of the position and 209,000 working-days were lost. He also said that between 4 per cent, and 5 per cent, of the total number of days lost were lost as a result of industrial disputes. Well, well ! Let us analyse those figures. Five per cent, of 209,000 days is 10,450 days. Then we must take into consideration that at present there are 23,832 waterside workers in the industry. By making a simple calculation, we find that approximately three and a half hours - not days but hours - were lost by each waterside worker in 1954. That completely demolishes the Minister’s argument, and defeats his attack on the waterside worker. So much for the scare figures of ^ the Minister, and the scare articles printed in the yellow press, which will print anything to the detriment of the waterside workers or any trade unionists.
The Minister should ensure that he is provided with accurate information by his advisers. He should make some attempt to tell the truth, and he should look for the real cause of the slow turnround of ships in Australian ports. Does the Minister take into account the slow removal of cargo from the wharfs to the warehouses? Does he know that cargo is left on the wharfs by the importers until it is sold ? Honorable members can see in Sussex-street and on the waterfront in Sydney at any time large quantities of cargo lying about and occupying valuable space. Does the Government know that importers fill up all available spaces with their goods, and leave them there until they are sold, thereby preventing other ships from discharging their cargoes ? Does the Government know that our port installations which are years out of date should be brought up to modern standards? Let us have modern installations on the waterfront, so that cargo can be more expeditiously discharged and so that the waterside workers can work in some sort of safety. Does the Government realize that ships which require repair are tied up to the wharfs for periods up to eight weeks, thus using wharf space that could be better used for unloading cargo? The Minister has not told us any of these things. I can tell the Minister of one celebrated case in which a ship that needed repairing was tied up in Sydney at the Union Steamship Company’s wharf at the bottom of Sussex-street for eighteen months.
The Minister also said, and this statement was repeated by the Prime Minister in his broadcast on the 7th November, that the Waterside Workers Federation was the only waterfront body with the right to supply labour. That was, as were most of his other statements on this matter, untrue. All other maritime unions enjoy the same rights, so why was there any necessity for deception to bolster the case of the shipowners? Most of the unions in Australia have the right to supply labour. Indeed, twenty years ago when an employer wanted to employ a member of my union, he telephoned the union and asked for a man. A man did not get the job that an employer offered unless he was found to be satisfactory by the union. Our pompous Prime Minister mentioned in his provocative broadcast that this matter was not an industrial issue. What does he think it is, a Christmas greeting? Does he believe that the attempted organizing of scab unions - I repeat scab unions - is not an industrial issue? Does this petty dictator believe that in imposing harsh conditions, before an inquiry is held, is not a deliberate act of provocation against decent trade unionists? Would not that be an industrial issue? Our Prime Minister of course, is also a member of the legal profession; and it is strange how the legal profession is so active in this particular matter. I wonder why that is, and I wonder about the nature of the tie-up with the legal profession and the shipowners. I suggest that the knowledge of labour conditions possessed by these .legal gentlemen is extremely limited, and that they are merely giving voice to the sentiments of their masters, the overseas shipowners.
Much stress has been laid by honorable members on the Government side on the slow turn-round of ships. The implication has been that that is the cause of the high costs prevailing in our community. That claim, of course, is, like most other claims of those honorable members, inaccurate and untrue. To prove my argument I refer honorable members to page 10 of the fourth report of the Stevedoring Industry Board, which indicates that there has been a great improvement in the turn-round of ships. The figures show that in 1951 the average time spent in port by each interstate ship was 10.3 days, but that in 1953 that time was reduced by 50 per cent, to 5.5 days. In 1951, the average time spent in port by each overseas vessel was 11.3 days, but in 1953 that had been reduced to 7.6 days. Therefore, what is the reason for inaccurate statements by the Prime Minister, the Minister for Labour and National Service and other members of the Government? Surely we can expect the truth from the Prime Minister, if not from other members of the Government! Surely we can expect the No. 1 citizen of Australia at least to tell the truth ! My summing up of this bill is that it is a malicious and provocative attack by this Government, not only on the waterside workers but also on the whole of the Australian industrial movement. This attack is merely the forerunner of many more attacks which will be made later on the great Australian trade union movement, of which I am proud of having been a member for so many years. I oppose the bill.
Sitting suspended from 6.1 to 8 p.m.
– My colleague, the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt), moved the second reading of this bill last Thursday, and he was at once followed by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt). Since then, there has been a series of statements made both in and out of this House, and we have also had to encounter the resistance of the Waterside Workers Federation, which has called on a strike. Therefore, it is important, I think, not that I should intervene in matters already competently handled by my colleague, but also that I, on behalf of the Government, should state one or two things quite plainly. The Parliament is being invited, and will be invited, to pass this bill through both Houses. We shall proceed with the bill. If both Houses pass this bill, it will be an act, and will be the law of the land. I hardly need to point out to honorable members that when it is the law of the land, this strike will then not be a strike against employers. Indeed, it never has been a strike against employers, since it does not proceed from any demand made upon them. It will not be a strike against the Government, but it will be a strike against the law made by the Parliament of Australia. If I dwell for a moment on so obvious a fact, it is merely to emphasize, not only to this House but also to all the Australian people, that this is a strike of a singular and, indeed, a novel kind. It is a strike against the law of the land made by the Parliament only recently elected by the people.
– What did the coal-owners do in 1929 ?
– - The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) can go on blurbing away about coal-owners-
– But it is true.
– Order !
– We shall deal with one thing at a time. At the moment, I am dealing with a strike on the water front, and I am emphasizing, with all the responsibility that attaches to my position in this country, that when this bill has become an act, this strike will be a strike against the law of the land. Therefore, it is for every honorable member who believes in parliamentary democracy to say to himself, “Am I to lend any aid or comfort to a strike against the law of the land?”
– Franco said that.
– So did Mephistopheles.
– Not even the Leader of the Opposition should quote Mephistopheles. I am not aware that Mephistopheles was the head of a democratically elected government. I am also not aware that Franco was, or is, the head of a democratically elected government; but then, the familiarity of the honorable member for Watson (Mr. -Curtin) with Franco is so much closer than mine, both having a common addiction to shellfish.
No Australian government and no democratically elected government or parliament, can yield to such a challenge. Let us be perfectly clear about it. I do not care what government is in office, or what the party constitution of the Parliament may be. When the Parliament has made a law, it is the duty of the democrat to give it instant obedience, though he may, in his own fashion, set about agitating to change that law by the normal constitutional processes. Therefore, the leader of a constitutional party is never to be heard to say to people, “Defy the law. Break the law “. What he has to say to people is, “ Vote for us, and we shall alter the law “.
I have stated, in a few sentences, the whole function of a parliament in a community like this. But in this case, we have been compelled to listen to the leader of a party with a long and reputable career as a constitutional party-
– The Prime Minister has never agreed with it.
– I have never been able to agree with it, but I have never advocated defiance of the law.
– On one occasion, the Prime Minister said that .some one should smash me.
-Order! I ask the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) “to cease interjecting.
– Keep out of that. The honorable member must balance against the one or two harsh things I have said about him the many kind things I have said about lim.
– Not publicly.
– Both publicly and privately. Any action which is calculated to persuade other unions to sustain this strike, or to persuade this union to continue this strike, is persuading people to defy what I anticipate, and I may be quite wrong, will be the law of this land in the next two or three days. If it is not the law of the land, all right - the whole question fails.
– Not yet, anyway!
– I agree, but if and when it becomes the law of the land, I hope, from that mumbled interjection, that the right honorable gentleman will then say to these people, “ It is the law. Obey it ! “ He cannot have it both ways. There is only one party in Australia, and it is not represented in this House-
– The fascist party?
– There is only one party, and that is the Communist party, which pursues the unconstitutional course, and says quite openly to its members, “Defy the law, because by direct action and by defiance, you may secure a result that the soft democratic processes will never give to you “. Now, Mr. Speaker, all that I have said is a truism, if you like. I would apologize to the House for having stated matters which are so obvious, if it were not for the melancholy fact that the leader of the alternaive government of this country has committed himself to an incitement to defy the law. This incitement has rested on some very, very curious grounds. For example, the right honorable gentleman last night made a broadcast, to which I listened with close attention. In that broadcast, he undertook to make, among other things - I cannot deal with all of them - three major points. He said, in the first place, that a monopoly of employment, which this bill is seeking to modify, and to modify on terms by no means unfavorable to the Waterside Workers Federation, applies to every branch of the maritime industry. The terms require that every man who isselected for employment shall either be a member of the union, or have applied for membership of it. That provision can hardly be called harsh. But the right honorable gentleman said that this monopoly applies to every branch of the maritime industry.
– Hear, hear!
– That is simply not true.
– It is true.
– If I had the time, I would go through the rules which have been laid down for the Seamen’s Union of Australasia, the Marine Stewards Union, and the Marine Cooks, Bakers and Butchers Association of Australasia. The fact is that the employer has, in the rules of those organizations, the right to reject the person presented for employment. Under the existing Stevedoring Industry Act, the employer has no such right. In all the cases I have mentioned, the employer has the right to reject, and, if he rejects, the union concerned finds and suggests another man. In short, the position with the Waterside Workers Federation, under the Stevedoring Industry Act 1947 is, as I said a few nights ago, unique.
– It is not.
– It is unique in that it creates an absolute monopoly, but that brings the right honorable gentleman, who is not lacking in versatility, to his second point. He says, in effect, “ Ah yes, but you are overlooking section 27 of the Stevedoring Industry Act 1949. That prevents this from being a monopoly in favour of the Waterside “Workers Federation”. Mr. Speaker, may I read to the House, because this is not a newspaper and so I may quote it freely, section 27 (2.) of the act, honoured by a reference by the right honorable gentleman only yesterday? It is as follows.: -
Nothing in the last preceding sub-section shall prevent the engagement for employment of a person as a waterside worker at a port at which a sufficient number of registered waterside workers is not available.
– The Prime Minister is making it up.
– I shall be glad to show it to the honorable member, and to lend him, if necessary, some reading glasses with which to peruse it. The whole point about section 27 (2.) is that if it turns out that the union does not provide the necessary number of men, then non-union labour may be employed. Have I lived long enough to hear the Leader of the Opposition ask, “Why do you not use that power ? “
– It is not a monopoly, is it?
– Exactly; but the right honorable gentleman cannot have it both ways. He always wants to have it both ways. Counsel and witness, accused and accuser, he wants it every way. But he cannot have it every way on this matter. He has said, in effect, “ This is no monopoly, because of section 27 (2.) “. I point out to him that the sub-section, of course, prevents it from being a monopoly, but only by the engagement of nonunion labour. Is that what he is advocating? Is this something which he is throwing into the ring?
Finally, the right honorable gentleman, standing up or sitting down before the microphone, said, in effect, “This is not a monopoly, because, after all, you can engage non-union labour “. If the slightest movement had been made to engage non-union labour, what would he have said?
– He would have said, “ Of course, this is a conspiracy to break down the trade union movement in Australia “. Therefore, the right honorable gentleman can make what he likes of it. I daresay he will have another three or four statements in the next 24 hours, developing for us the benefit of his answer. The third point that he made, and indeed he made it not only in a broadcast, but also in this chamber last Thursday night, was, and is, that this bill is a proposal for forcing members into a union. He grew quite eloquent on that subject. He stated, “ These are to be tame cat “ - I think that was the expression - “members of the union “. He became des perately exercised about the idea of a union having members forced upon it. I hope I shall be allowed to state that that is something that he ought to take up very actively with the Labour Premier of New South Wales, because, under the New South Wales Industrial Arbitration Amendment Act of 1953, which provides for compulsory unionism, no option is given to a union to refuse as a member anybody working in the industry or in the calling covered by that union. That legislation was introduced by the right honorable gentleman’s own people, if they are his own people. I am becoming a little doubtful about that matter, but if I may, I assume, without being offensive, that the Labour party of New South Wales is the Labour party to which the right honorable gentleman belongs. All I want to point out to the House, and to everybody else concerned, is that, under the compulsory unionism law of that State, all of the tame cats, as they are now described, are forced willy-nilly into a union, and the union cannot refuse them. It is a singular misfortune for the right honorable gentleman that this great point that he was concerned about making - that this was an attack upon unionism because it compelled a union, by implication, to receive members - is a complete mare’s nest, because his own people in the greatest State of Australia - I do not make a concession on behalf of Victoria, but the greatest in terms of population and of political significance in this House - has compelled everybody, wild cats and tame cats, whatever they may be, to join a union whether the union likes it or not.
The outline of this bill is extremely simple. For seven years, these monopoly rights have been enjoyed by the Waterside Workers Federation - monopoly, unless somebody cares to compel nonunion labour to be employed. Those rights have been enjoyed for seven years, and with what result? Here is something that ought to be very carefully considered by everybody. Has anybody, in the course of this debate, even claimed that the position on the waterfront is what it ought to be ? Does not everybody in Australia know that on the waterfront we have had a rate of turn-round of ships, and a growing rate of cost, that has exercised the minds of thoughtful men of all parties and of all kinds? “We do not write off this problem by picturing, on the one hand, as the Communists always do, the wild and wicked shipowner, who is a frail human being, I admit, and, on the other hand, the virtuous Waterside Workers Federation demanding only the simple rights of simple men. We do not solve the problem by talking in that manner. This problem has been looked at, I agree, more than once. If the right honorable gentleman had stated, “ It has been looked at by Mr. Basten. It has been looked at by Mr. Justice Foster. Why not have it looked at again ? “, I would have understood the argument. As a piece of debating, it would have been admirable, but he has not made that statement. He approves the investigation, but, in the course of approving it, he ventures into some reference to the investigations of the past. Last Thursday night, in this chamber, the right honorable gentleman made a speech in which he made some carefully selected references to the Basten report, to which he has referred subsequently in other public statements. Therefore, I think it is due to the House that I should state, not in my own words but in the words of Mr. Basten, because if he is to be quoted, let him be quoted-
– In full.
– And let him be quoted precisely. Let him be quoted so that we may get the true tenor of his remarks. My friend, the honorable member for Banks (Mr. Costa) must not complain if, as some portions of the report were quoted last Thursday night, I now venture to trespass upon his patience by referring to some of the statements that were not quoted on that occasion. Nothing could be fairer. Therefore, I propose to occupy no more than a few minutes of the time of the House by saying something about the Basten report, because I venture to suggest that anybody who listened to the right honorable, gentleman last week would have thought that that report was quite inconsistent with our doing something to restore some freedom for the employer on the waterfront for the first time in seven years. Mr. Basten, in his report, and I agree that it is an objective report and a report made by a man of great ability, made the following statement : -
That is, the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board - has experienced difficulty, when it has raised a quota, in resisting the reluctance of the Waterside Workers’ Federation to comply with its orders. It is true that the industrial strength of the Federation is great and the powers of enforcement are weak, but Section 27 (2.)- which is the section that I cited - of the Act permits the engagement of unregistered persons, that is to say, persons who are not members of .the Federation, when a sufficiency of registered persons is not available.
So Mr. Basten pointed out that there was a weapon under the act, an act forged by a Labour government. The only weapon it provided was the employment of nonunion labour ! In the following paragraph, Mr. Basten observed -
Of equal importance to the industry is the common practice of allowing the number of men who have left it to accumulate to a substantial figure before replacements are sought. It means that the port’s labour strength dwindles and is then rectified by a single influx of many new men, most of whom require to be trained. It is obvious that the practice injures efficiency. The Board should arrange that a replacement is sought as soon as each vacancy arises.
At page 17 of the report, he stated -
Most branches of the Federation resist an increase in the numbers of waterside workers, even in a port where the need for it is obvious. They have not a “ statutory monopoly “ of recruitment; the Stevedoring Industry Act of 1!)40 provides that unregistered workers may be engaged when the supply of registered workers is insufficient. But they use their industrial strength to delay recruitment into the industry by delaying election of candidates for admission to the Federation.
Those are pretty clear and, I venture to state, powerful statements. I venture to state also that nobody who has given himself the trouble of reading the Basten report as a whole, or any of the other reports on this industry, could have the slightest doubt that the Waterside Workers Federation, enjoying a position of immense privilege, has consistently abused it, and that it has used that position to keep the industry short handed, To keep the waterfront industry short handed is to impose intolerable costs, delays and sacrifices on the Australian people.
That, in reality, is the whole of this matter. The Government is supposed to have been flogged on by the shipowners. Well, they must have flogged me on by remote control, because I have not seen them from beginning to end in this matter. My distinguished colleague, the Minister for Labour and National Service, whose patience in relation to these matters and whose constant sympathetic contact with the trade union, movement are very well known in this country, is now accused by the right honorable gentleman of promoting a bill in which he does not believe. He is accused, in other words, of the ultimate in hypocrisy. What an allegation to make against a responsible Minister - that he should, against his own judgment and against his own will but because of some sinister influences in the background, be willing to introduce legislation, which has already produced a major industrial stoppage in Australia! The whole thing is quite monstrous. The truth is that the Government introduced the bill after great thought. It has introduced a bill that deals with what it believes to be the immediate requirement of this position and, having introduced it, it proposes to use all its influence to have the Parliament pass it. When the bill becomes an act, and becomes the law of the land, every one will have to determine whether he is going to travel with those who are against the Parliament and against the law of the land, or with those who believe that it is the function of the Parliament, a free parliament and a parliament freely elected, to make the laws; and that it is a monstrous perversion of democracy for people to go out saying to any section of the people, to the immense cost of hundreds of thousands of other people, “ Do not obey the law. Let us have, in effect, a riot. Let us have, in effect, a mutiny against the law.” As long as I have the honour to be the Prime Minister of this country, no mutiny against the law is going to succeed.
.- Australia is undoubtedly facing a very serious situation, but it is a situation that is the creation of this Government.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) prefers to call it a strike, but let us get the position straight. The waterside workers are not striking to-day for improved conditions in relation to either wages or other industrial matters. They have ceased work as a protest against a deliberate, provocative act on the part of the Government to alter conditions that have prevailed on the Australian waterfront for the past twelve years. Why does the Government now act in the manner in which it is acting? To-night, the Prime Minister was not speaking as the Prime Minister of Australia, but as the representative of the monopolies, the combines of this country. He was speaking on behalf of the shipping combine, as I hope to satisfy even the most sceptical member before I conclude my speech, because the Prime Minister is a past master at misrepresentation. To give an illustration of the manner in which the right honorable gentleman misrepresented the position to the Australian community, let me remind honorable members that he took a great deal of time in quoting extracts from the document that is now called the Basten report. He quoted all of paragraph 7 on page 17 of the Basten report, with the exception of one. sentence, which entirely alters the construction to be put upon his statement. Honorable members will recall the remarks of the Prime Minister about ‘Mr. Basten’s report. The right honorable gentleman omitted to quote this sentence -
Behind the policy lies the same fear of the effects which casual employment may have in a. period of too little employment.
That is the sentence that the Prime Minister omitted in a deliberate attempt to mislead the Australian people about the exact situation. The Prime Minister and Government supporters generally have attempted to use their old stock-in-trade method of picking out a union and stating that it has one or two Communist officials and that obviously that fact makes it a party to a Communist conspiracy to disrupt industry in Australia.
The Prime Minister was very hopeful that the Australian Council of Trades Unions - and I am sure that the right honorable gentleman would not make a charge that that body was in any way influenced by Communist policy - would support the Government and try to achieve some compromise acceptable to the Government and the shipowners. But the Australian Council of Trades Unions has decided to support the Waterside Workers Federation of Australia, because it acknowledges that the federation, in this struggle, has justice and right on its side. The federation is supported, not only by the Australian Council of Trades Unions, but also by thirteen maritime unions. I shall not occupy much of my time by quoting in full the telegram that the council sent to the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt). Here is the accusation that the council made against the Government - allowing the shipowners the right of sole selection of labour in future is retrograde :ind provocative and deliberately designed to break down past practice and weaken union organization of the waterfront as a whole . We support the Waterside Workers Federation in their opposition to the Government’s proposal for sole selection of labour by shipowners believing that the Federal Government is affording political patronage to vested overseas and Australian shipping interests . . We therefore support the Waterside Workers Federation in a continuance of their stoppage of work as a protest against the Government’s actions and proposed legislation and resolve that this conference stand adjourned until Friday afternoon next
The Australian Workers Union, which is the one important union that is not affiliated with the Australian Council of Trades Unions, also has declared its support of the waterside workers in the present struggle. On this occasion both the industrial and political wings of the united Labour movement support the waterside workers because all Labour supporters believe that the watersiders have right on their side in the stand that they have taken.
Let us consider whether there is any justification for this bill. In 1942, the Chifley Labour Government, in which I was Minister for Labour and National Service, negotiated with the Waterside Workers Federation an agreement, which I claim, despite the remarks of the Prime Minister and the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt), has operated successfully for the last twelve years. It has been claimed that the Leader of the Opposition, in his capacity as Attor ney-General, stated then that if the scheme were not successful it would have to be submitted to Parliament again for review. That is perfectly true, but the Leader of the Opposition did not mean to imply that the Parliament was a body of experts competent to examine the industry and to judge whether the agreement had in fact failed. The statement of the right honorable gentleman on behalf of the Labour Government was that if, after a period of trial, there was criticism of the agreement, a thorough and proper investigation into its operation would be made before the Parliament was asked to make a further decision upon it. That was the intention of the Labour Government.
A ridiculous position has now arisen. Evidently the Prime Minister, to judge by the scoffing manner in which he twitted the Leader of the Opposition, does not believe that the inquiry that the Government now proposes to hold is warranted, because he said, in effect, that he could understand the attitude of the Opposition if it had stated that at least two inquiries had already been held in recent years and had asked why there should now be a third inquiry. Is the Government not merely trying to fool the Australian people into believing that there will be a thorough and proper investigation, when it believes that such an inquiry is not warranted? I suggest that any reasonable Australian citizen will ask himself why the country’s industries - not only the waterfront industry, but also industry generally - should be thrown into turmoil at this time if the Government proposes to have an investigation of the stevedoring industry made. Surely the action that it now takes should not precede the inquiry and the determination of those who make it. Action, if it is necessary, should be taken only after the inquiries have been completed.. But here is the strange part about it all. The Minister for Labour and National Service has repeatedly assured the trade union movement that legislative action would not be taken until a conference upon the matter had been held and an investigation had been made. Mr. A. E. Monk, the president of the Australian Council of Trades Unions, has assured the Opposition that that undertaking was given first in 1952 and was later repeated to himself. If the Minister has now departed from the undertaking that he gave-
– He has not.
– If the Minister has departed from the undertaking, he is admitting by his act that he has been influenced by outside forces. Those who have influenced him are the shipowners, with whom he has been in constant conference over the last few months. The Prime Minister said that all the benefits that the workers had received were the result of conciliation and arbitration. If the Government wants to change the industrial conditions of the waterside workers, why has it departed from its policy of conciliation and arbitration? Why does it not permit the present issue to go to arbitration? In the manner of the dictator it seeks, by legislative enactment and not after proper investigation or by conciliation and arbitration, to change industrial conditions that have applied in the stevedoring industry for the last twelve years. How was the Waterside Workers Federation’s decision made? The Minister, in his second-reading speech on Thursday evening last, stated that the waterside workers had left their employment in the present dispute only because they were directed to do so by a few Communist officials of their union. The Minister is aware that he was not telling the truth when he made that statement. Approximately 25,000 members of the Waterside Workers Federation throughout Australia, by democratic vote at meetings, voted overwhelmingly to support the action that has now been taken by the federation.
Let me now deal a little further with the misrepresentation of the Prime Minister. I deny his statement that the turnround of snipping has deteriorated seriously and that the amount of work done by the waterside workers in recent years has fallen off decisively. The Prime Minister wants the Australian people to believe that the waterside workers have deliberately refused to supply the labour necessary to work the ports to their full capacity. Let us examine the situation. The right honorable gentleman mentioned Port Kembla as an instance. He stated that at Port Kembla, where the quota is
SOO wharf labourers, there is a shortage of 124 men, and that this shortage has resulted in 75,000 tons of steel being piled up awaiting shipment. What is the situation at Port Kembla ? Any one who seeks to judge the matter fairly will realize that that accumulation of steel was attributable largely to the lack of railway rolling-stock and to the fact that a strike of crane-drivers at Port Kembla had occurred in recent months. The accumulation was not due to the shortage of waterfront labour. In fact, the quota of waterside workers at Port Kembla, determined by the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board, was, until a few weeks ago, 670 men.
– It has been since July.
– The number of members of the branch of the Waterside Workers Federation at that port was 676.
– It was above the quota.
– Until a few weeks ago the number of members of the branch of the federation at Port Kembla was actually six men in excess of the quota determined by the Stevedoring Industry Board. Why does the Minister for Labour and National Service now try to suggest to the Australian community that over a lengthy period the “ wicked “ waterside workers have refused to supply the labour needed at Port Kembla, when he, as the Minister, must know that until a few weeks ago the labour offered by the federation was actually six men in excess of the quota fixed for the port? Since the quota at Port Kembla has been increased to 800 men, the branch of the federation at that port has set out to obtain the additional members required. Any one would imagine, if he believed the Minister, that all the labour required at any time at any port could be obtained merely by a snap of the fingers. Has the Minister not told us repeatedly in this House that there is a shortage of labour and that there are vacant throughout Australia 30,000 or 40,000 positions for which men cannot be found. What is the situation? If additional men are to be taken into the waterfront industry, is it not reasonable, on the Minister’s own statement, to suppose that they can be obtained only from other industries that are already undermanned? I remind the
Minister that it is not an easy matter in an industry to obtain suitable labour within the matter of a few weeks. However, the waterside workers at Port Kembla have set out to obtain it.
The arguments of the Government and its supporters are merely a put-up job as a result of co-operation between the shipowners and the Government in an attempt to arouse dissatisfaction throughout Australia and to make people believe that high shipping freights are deliberately and directly caused by the waterside workers because they will not work hard enough. In 1952, the shipowners wanted to reduce the labour quota on the Sydney waterfront by 750 men, but the waterside workers resisted the proposal because they realized that in such an industry it is possible at one time to have an abundance of labour and at another time to suffer from an acute shortage of men. They knew that, as a result of the retirements and resignations that occur in the industry, owing to its arduous nature, the position would eventually rectify itself. As a result the labour force for the port of Sydney was reduced to a little more than 6,100 men. It is interesting to note that no application was made by the shipowners for an increase of the supply of waterside labour for the port of Sydney until late in August last - about two months ago. Since that time, the Sydney branch of the Waterside Workers Federation has admitted 500 new members. Is that an indication of delay on the part of the waterside workers in providing the labour required? The quota for the port of Sydney is now 7,500 men. That quota was fixed before the import restrictions were introduced. When those restrictions caused a decline in the need for labour, the quota became excessive. The membership of the Sydney branch of the federation to-day is 6,800 men - 700 fewer than the quota.
In March of this year, without any application from the shipowners, who did not apply for an increase in the supply of labour until late in August last, the Sydney branch of the Waterside Workers Federation admitted the 500 new members to whom I have referred. In 1951 the branch admitted 2,393 new members ; in 1952, 2,733 ; in 1953, the year of the severe import restrictions, 484 ; in 1954, 2,600. Six hundred more members are to be admitted by the end of this year. Are those increases in membership an indication to any reasonable person of failure on the part of the Waterside Workers Federation to provide the labour needed in this industry? Any one would imagine that if labour on the Australian waterfront were short, the waterside workers would be working night and day on overtime as well as ordinary time to keep pace with the work offering. But what is the truth? Throughout Australia, including overtime, the average employment each week for each waterside worker has been 31 hours. That is all the work that has been provided for the men. Does that indicate a shortage of labour? It is true that, on an hourly basis, waterside workers may be better paid than employees in some other industries, but, on the basis of the average hours worked over the year, their pay is not high.
Let me deal briefly with the claim by the Prime Minister that there has been o improvement of the rate of turn-round of ships in Australia in recent years. The Melbourne Herald of the 5th February last announced that the rate of turnround had been probably cut in half. The last report of the Stevedoring Industry Board also recorded the fact that the turn-round of ships had been accelerated. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen), when he criticized the overseas shipping combine and the interstate shipping combine for having raised freight charges, talked of discrimination exercised by the shipowners. He did not argue on that occasion that the high freight rates were due to the slow turn-round of ships. In fact, on the contrary, he disagreed with the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) and declared that, in his opinion, the higher charges were unwarranted and unjustified.
The shipowners, of course, want to blame the waterside workers for increased freight charges. But what about the inefficient methods and the waste of labour on the waterfront? I shall give one or two illustrations of inefficiency and wastefulness. If a proper investigation were held, the waterside workers, who are the practical men in the industry, would be able to disclose instance after instance of inefficiency. There have been numerous cases where cargo has been loaded into the wrong hatch so that, when the ship arrives at another port, the cargo has to be moved. On other occasions, cargo has not been placed on the wharf convient to the hatch in which it has had to be loaded, and cargo has not been loaded into the holds in the proper order. There have been innumerable examples of such bad management. When a ship arrived at Melbourne to discharge cargo, it was found that, in order to reach that cargo, a quantity of other cargo destined for Tasmania had to be moved. Why does not the Minister for Labour and National Service refer to the examples of speeding up in the despatch of ships ? For example, the Port Nelson was due at Melbourne n the 16th October last, but, because of the quick discharge and loading of cargo, the vessel left Melbourne for Sydney two days before that date.
The fourth report of the Stevedoring Industry Board deals with the delay of overseas ships in Australian ports. The report states that in 1951 the average time of overseas vessels in the port of Sydney was 11.3 days. By mid-1954 the average had been reduced to 5.8 days. In 1951, the average stay of overseas vessels in Melbourne was 15.7 days, as compared with an average of 5.3 days in the middle of 1954. Consider the situation in the port of Townsville, with which some honorable members from Queensland are familiar. At that port, if two ships are loading sugar and two others are loading meat, the facilities of the port are fully occupied, but, because of bad management on the part of the shipping companies, there have been many occasions on which numbers of ships have had to wait at anchor in the stream for days before they could discharge or take cargo aboard. I refer to another set of figures in relation to the rate of loading ships. In 1951, at Sydney, the loading rate for overseas vessels was 262 tons a day. Now the rate is 314 tons a day. In 1951, in Melbourne, the rate was 276 tons a day. The present rate there is 343 tons a day. Does that indicate that the waterside workers have refused to co-operate in the efficient working of Australian ports?
Anybody would imagine, after listening to the Government claquers opposite, that high freight rates were entirely attributable to labour costs. How many men on the Government side of the House know that the cost of loading a bale of wool on to a ship at Sydney represent* only 4 per cent, of the freight charged on that bale? I could give numberless examples of mismanagement that havecaused shipping delays and, consequently, have added to costs. The Minister for Labour and National Service talked of the cost of £500 a day involved in keeping a Commonwealth ship in port. But the Minister does not worry about that, because, ever since this Government has been in office, it has been deliberately sabotaging the Commonwealth line of ships in the hope that it can display the line to the Australian community in an adverse light. Therefore, the Minister and his colleagues welcome delays in the discharge or loading of cargoes into those ships. Let me give the Minister an illustration so that he can check the facts if he wants to do so. Recently, the Commonwealth ship Daylesford developed a mechanical defect, and its cargo had to be transferred to another ship. Five gangs of waterside workers were engaged for a 9 a.m. start on Friday, the 15th October. There was no week-end work and, because of a shortage of labour, there was no night shift available on the succeeding Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Under the award, the waterside workers who were engaged could have continued until 7 pAn. each day, but the Government did not worry about that and they were not asked to work until that hour. The Government did not care how long this Commonwealth ship was delayed. But now the Minister complains of the cost of £500 a day for keeping a Commonwealth ship in port !
Here is another example of bad management, which concerns Cardross, a ship belonging to the Patrick line. On one occasion, 130 waterside workers were engaged for an 8 a.m. start on that ship, but it had not arrived by midday, and so they were paid off and discharged. According to the Stevedoring Industry
Board, 9,000,000 of the 34,000,000 manhours paid for in 1952.-53 were unproductive. That was not because of strikes. The statement referred, to hours in which the men were on the job and being paid but were not engaged productively because of. bad management. The time allowed for me to speak has almost expired, and I want to deal with an extremely important aspect of this subject. I said earlier that the bill was a put-up job between the shipowners and the Government, and I believe that to be true. In fact, I have evidence to support the statement.
I want the Minister to tell the Parliament whether it is not a fact that, just prior to the last general election, a Mr. Haddy, of the Commonwealth Ship Owners Association, and a Mr. Graham, of the Overseas Shipping Representatives Association, discussed with members of the Government the amendments of the Stevedoring Industry Act for which the bill now before the House provides, and also whether it is not a fact that the shipowners made it a condition of their support, both financial and otherwise, of the Government parties at the election that an undertaking should be given by those parties to support the shipowners as soon as was convenient after the election in amending the legislation in the way that the owners desired. I have here a letter which has come into the possession of the Waterside Workers Federation. Time will not permit me to read all of it, but I shall read a significant passage. I invite the Minister for Labour and National Service, if he thinks there is something wrong with this communication, to investigate it and find out whether or not its statements are true. The truth of the accusation that I make against the shipowners and the Government is established by this letter, which was signed by Mr. A. van Bookove, general manager for Australia and New Zealand of Royal Inter-Ocean Lines, and addressed to the head office of that company. The letter states -
We gather from your abovementioned letter that we may not have been quite clear on this matter and will therefore give hereunder again briefly the position.
If agreement by all parties concerned is reached that a strong stand must be taken by shipowners against the breaking down tactics of the W.W.F. then a test of strength with the W.W.F. will be made.
Meantime, the Principals in the U.K. and the Continent (H.A.L. included) have confirmed that the Lines-‘ representative in Australia should indeed go ahead provided of course the Federal G Government support this action. Talks are now going on with responsible Government officials hereon and should we obtain the backing from the Federal Government then the test of strength will actually be made.
It is essential that the Government’s backing should be firm. Such firm attitude on the part of the Government can only be prevailing if the Government knows beforehand that they in their turn have again the backing ot the” A.C.T.U. and A.W.U. We feel sure that without guarantees of support from these powerful labour groups, the Federal Government will not give the O.K. to Shipowners’ Representatives in Australia.
As to paragraph 5 of our letter No. 286, the formula mentioned does not refer to the policy of the case but to the method which will be applied, by shipowners. If the Government and shipowners stand firm in a dispute, then the results will be favourable.
As you have already rightly indicated, it is therefore not purely a matter of shipowner? versus W.W.F. but of the Federal Government/ shipowners, against the W.W.F.
I suggest that the Minister make an examination of this situation.
I have only about a minute left to me and I want to refer to another important matter before I end my speech. The Waterside Workers Federation to-day is experiencing the concentrated opposition, of the Government and the monopolistic shipping combine of Australia as well as the overseas shipping combine. But this is only a prelude to a general attack upon the trade unions of Australia because, despite anything that the Prime Minister may say, he is no friend of the workers and the trade unions. When he traverses the country in his periodical tours, he endeavours to convince the workers that they have his great sympathy. I remember when he went to the northern coalfields and told the miners that his grandfather had worked in. the mines. He also went to Victoria and said that his grandfather had painted the first harvester. 1 have no doubt that, if he went to Iceland, he would tell the Eskimos that his grandfather had made the first icepick. He wants to convince the Australian public that he is in sympathy with the workers, but he has always been an anti-unionist. Who forgets him in the days of the dog collar act, when the organized workers attached to him the name of “ Pig Iron Bob “ ? He has a hatred of the waterside workers because they gave him that name during a dispute at Port Kembla, and it has stuck to him ever since.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– It was rather interesting to listen to the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), particularly when he made a quotation from a letter - or perhaps I should say a part quotation, because the letter from which he made it is a circular that has been sent out by Mr. Healy, the federal secretary of the Waterside Workers Federation, who is a great friend of the honorable member. The honorable gentleman stopped conveniently before he had finished reading the letter, if you remember, Mr. Speaker. He ended with this sentence -
As you have already rightly indicated, it is therefore not purely a matter of shipowners versus the W.W.F. but of the Federal Government/shipowners against the W.W.F
Had he continued with the quotation, this is what he would have read to the House -
The W.W.F., being one of the extreme Communistdominated unions, will always try to hit at the Government which they can do only through the shipowners.
Whenever the honorable gentleman is likely to betray some indication that he is communistically inspired, he drops the subject. That is characteristic of him. When the Stevedoring Industry Bill was introduced into this House in February, 1947, he was a member of the Chifley Government. On that occasion, we had a visit from the ubiquitous Mr. Healy and he applied pressure on that Government. It was effective so far as the honorable member was concerned because when clause 23 of that measure, which dealt with quotas, went to a division in committee he scuttled out of the chamber and let down his cobbers in the Chifley Government. He succumbed to the wiles of Mr. Healy and scuttled away. He has a habit of scuttling away. He has scuttled away from royal commissions.
In order to show the House the worth of the honorable member’s speech, I remind honorable members of his attitude towards the question of quotas. He said that it was a lot of nonsense to say that quotas were not being filled on the waterfront, and he went to some trouble topoint out that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in the broadcast that he made on Sunday night last has misquoted the figures with respect to labour available at Port Kembla. I point out that the quota of 670 at that port was fixed in July and that it was not filled until October - that is last month - by which time the quota had been increased because, all the time, the Waterside Workers Federation was dragging on the quota. It did not suit the honorable member to give those facts to the House because he was accusing the Prime Minister of misrepresenting the position. Ifthere is need -to produce any further evidence to the House to show that what the honorable member sought to put across has no foundation in fact, I remind honorable members of the motion, that was passed by the interstate executive of the Australian Council of Trades Unions on the 20th October of this year, that is, last month. That resolution reads -
We express our disappointment at the failure of some branches of the W.W.F. in the past to fill the port quotas at an early date when requested, the date as determined by the A.S.I.B., and call upon the biennial conference of the W.W.F. now sitting to ensure that suchbranches in future will not procrastinate in this direction.
The honorable member for East Sydney sought to convey the impression that the Australian Council of Trades Unions is solidly behind the Labour movement in this matter - he said behind the united Labour movement. But the council has criticized the Waterside Workers Federation to the extent of passing a special resolution calling upon all its branches to fill their quotas. Where does all the nonsense spoken by the honorable member get us? There is no need for me to say anything more with regard to his remarks because, in the light of the two statements that I have cited, they cannot stand up under criticism.
After I deal with the bill, I propose to show the reasons why the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) has felt so kindly disposed towards the Communist Waterside Workers Federation and towards the Communists generally. As he should stand up to his record in this respect, I shall say something about it. This bill falls into two parts. On the first part, there would seem to be no disagreement. It deals with the proposal to set up an inquiry into conditions in the industry. Honorable members opposite say that the clauses which deal with the recruitment of labour should not be passed until after the proposed inquiry has been held. I believe that even if the proposed committee of inquiry recommended that the existing provision in respect of recruitment of labour should be altered, honorable members opposite would adopt an attitude different from that which they are adopting now in respect of that matter. When the Stevedoring Industry Bill was being considered in this chamber in 1947 the ubiquitous Mr. Healy came to Canberra and submitted a draft bill which he proposed for the stevedoring industry to the Chifley Government which was then in office. It is strangely significant that the bill that was subsequently introduced into this chamber was almost an exact replica of Mr. Healy’s draft bill. And it is also rather significant that the AttorneyGeneral who drafted that bill was the present Leader of the Opposition. That was the first time that the Waterside Workers Federation was given a complete monopoly over the control of labour on the waterfront. Such a position had never previously existed in this country, but the Chifley Government gave to the federation sole and complete control over employment in the waterfront industry.
The present Leader of the Opposition referred to that proposal as an experiment and said that if it failed it would have to be reconsidered by the Parliament. That fact has been stated previously in the course of this debate, but it is of sufficient significance to bear repetition. This was an experiment. It involved giving to the Waterside Workers Federation, a Communist-controlled union, complete control over the whole labour force on the waterfront. Evidence has been produced to show that that experiment has failed miserably, because the federation has consistently refused to fill quotas on the waterfront. Consequently, as I have already said, the Australian Council of Trades Unions passed a special resolution deploring that fact. The loss that has thereby been caused to the national economy, involving the slow turn-round of ships, cannot be computed in pounds, shillings and pence, but it must run into scores of millions of pounds. From December, 1953, to April, 1954, disputes on the waterfront in Sydney involved the loss of 188,288 man-hours. The average monthly rate of loss then was 91 per cent, higher than the loss in the preceding seventeen months in Sydney and 378 per cent, higher in Melbourne. In Sydney, in December, 1953, the net hours worked on the waterfront were 32.7 a week and the average hours worked in the June quarter of this year was 30.8 hours a week. Those figures indicate the tremendous loss that the present state of affairs on the waterfront has caused to the Australian economy. The loss has been due to the abuse by the federation of the special privileges that the Chifley Government granted to it and which this Government is now seeking to adjust.
What is this bill designed to do ? It is designed to bring democratic control once again to the waterfront. In effect, it seeks to substitute the rule of law for the law of the jungle which, at present, operates on the waterfront. It is designed to end the Communist grip of this vital key union by withdrawing the federation’s exclusive privilege of deciding who shall work on the wharfs. Therefore, it is not surprising that the Communists have called a general strike. This is a part of the cold war that is aimed against the economy of this democratic country. So, is it surprising that the Australian Labour party, which is already split in every direction on internal policies, allows itself to be used as the stooge of the Communists in this manner? This leaderless legion opposite has been taken over by the Communists as their mouthpiece in the Parliament. The present strike is being supported by the Opposition. There can be no doubt whatsoever about that because the Leader of the Opposition has, over the air and in this House, made statements in an endeavour to incite the workers generally to extend this strike.
– The right honorable gentleman is not even making his own speech.
– Order !
– The Leader of the Opposition should not he impatient. I shall deal with him in a moment. The present strike is a challenge to democratic control of the waterfront. It is a challenge to industry and to the stability of this country. It is a challenge to the very authority of the elected government of the people and to the people themselves. In short, it is a complete example of the Communist challenge to the rule of law and to our democratic institutions.
– In short, it is a challenge.
– There is a challenge and a challenge. For instance, if I were to challenge the honorable member across the table, I should do so in a gentle way. But a challenge to constituted authority is a different matter entirely. Where does the Leader of the Opposition stand in the light of these facts? He has said that the bill is sponsored by the wretched shipping combine. He has not said a word about the wretched Communists, because he has so often sponsored their cause. Let us look at his record in that respect. I shall read an extract from the Commonwealth Law Reports 1932-33. I take it from a judgment which the Leader of the Opposition gave when he was a justice of the High Court, in the case of the King v. Rush, ex parte Devanny. The right honorable gentleman, after he indulged in a tirade against capitalism, stated his beliefs with regard to communism. He said -
In order to determine the bearing of all these matters, reference would have to be made to the leading exponents of more modern Socialist thought, from Marx and Engels onwards. It is a subject upon which every student of history, political science, sociology and philosophy should be tolerably well informed. Even the averments in the present case include a historical reference to the three Internationals. In the ultimate ideal of a classless society, the Communist movement has much in common with the Socialist and working class movement throughout the world.
That is a very interesting observation which the right honorable gentleman made when he occupied a more elevated position. He continued -
They all profess to welcome a revolutonary change from the present economic system, which conveniently enough, is called Capitalism, and the more violent protagonists of which are now called Fascists.
– The Vice-President of the Executive Council would understand that term.
– Yes. And I understand even better still the following statement which the Leader of the Opposition made in the course of the same judgment : -
The history of the attempts and failures of Communism to gain control of other political movements of the working classes may tend, upon close analysis, to show that, to turn the phrase, Communism illustrates the gradualness, the extreme gradualness, of inevitability.
The right honorable gentleman, when he occupied his elevated position in the High Court, recognized communism as being inevitable in this country. He said that communism was inevitable ; and he has adapted himself to that belief ever since .he made that statement. Every action that he has taken in the meantime has led him along that path. He has trimmed his ‘sails to the Communist breeze from the time he gave that judgment. Then, realizing, if communism were inevitable, how necessary it was for him to be in the box seat, he stepped down from the High Court Bench, where be would have been obliged to exercise a judicial approach to the subject, and came into the hurly-burly of politics in order that he could give practical effect to his belief. How did he give effect to that belief? On the 15th June, 1940, the year in which he stepped down from the High Court Bench, the Menzies Government had declared the Communist party to be an illegal organization.
– I rise to order. Can you, Mr. Speaker, inform the House what this tirade of abuse from the VicePresident of the Executive Council has to do with the measure before the House ?
– Order ! It has as much to do with the bill as most of the debate that I have heard on the measure.
– No sooner had the Leader of the Opposition become
Attorney-General, than the ban on communism was lifted by the Labour Government. Then followed in quick succession the release of Ratliff and Thomas. Those men were two Communists who had been interned by an internment tribunal. They had not been interned by a government, but by a tribunal which had heard their evidence, judged them, convicted them and interned them. I well remember when the Chifley Government of that time, in which the right honorable member was Attorney-General-
– It was the Curtin Government.
– Yes, I well remember when the Curtin Government, in which the right honorable gentleman was Attorney-General, decided to release Ratliff and Thomas. Not only to release them, but also to release them in style. At that time the Communist party had not regained its legality, and the Leader of the Opposition, as Attorney-General, sent a motor cyclist to Liverpool to bring these two men, whom a tribunal had interned because of their subversive activities against Australia in time of war, down to the Town Hall in Sydney where the Communists gave them a great welcome. That is the Leader of the Opposition’s record with regard to Ratliff and Thomas. The next move by the right honorable gentleman was to exchange diplomatic representatives with Russia. Let me remind the House of what he said about Russia at that time. The Leader of the Opposition said, according to the Hansard report in volume 172 at pages 81 and 82-
Australia regards Russia not only as a great world power, but as a great Pacific power.
– I rise to order. The Vice-President of the Executive Council has discussed the Leader of the Opposition for about ten minutes. I ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether the right honorable member is in order, and whether you will be good enough to inform the House of the clause of the bill in which the name of the Leader of the Opposition is mentioned.
– Order ! I have yet to learn that this debate is limited to any clause of the bill. During the twenty years that I have been a member of this Parliament it has not been the practice in a second-reading debate to limit a speaker to a clause of a bill.
– I propose to show how closely the Leader of the Opposition is tied up with the Waterside Workers Federation
– I rise to order. On three separate occasions you, Mr. Speaker, have compelled me to speak to the contents of the measure then before the House. You have threatened me that I would be put out if I did not stick to the contents of the measure under consideration. Now you say that in your twenty years’ membership of this House you have never heard anybody speak to the contents of a bill. Why should there be one law for one honorable member and a second law for another.
– Order ! I have not one rule for one and a different rule for another. If the honorable member persists with his attitude towards the Chair he will be promptly put out of the House. In my view the very essence of this bill is communism.
– On the occasion of again opening up diplomatic relations with Russia, the Leader of the Opposition said, according to the report in Hansard, volume 172, at pages 81 and 82 -
Australia regards Russia not only as a great world power but as a great Pacific power. It is essential to the future of the Pacific that Australia should always remain on the closest terms of friendship with Russia.
But it has been proved conclusively, in the light of what has been said elsewhere, that we should have no truck with Russia because Russia has been shown to have established an espionage system in Australia.
– Order ! The right honorable gentleman must not deal with that matter.
– Shortly after the right honorable member made his statement, a Prime Minister’s advisory panel was appointed. That panel included in the munitions group Bob Yates, Communist Thornton’s bosom pal, in the sea transport section T. Healy of the central committee of the Communist party, in the base metals section E. Thornton, a well-known Communist
– I rise to order. I do not mind the Vice-President of the Executive Council being humorous, but I believe that it is far beyond a joke when for more than half the time that he has been speaking he has failed to touch on the bill before the House, and has dealt with matters quite extraneous to the bill. You recently said that this measure was a bill to deal with Communists, but, as I understand it, it is to deal with the stevedoring industry and the waterfront, and not with any of the matter that the honorable member has referred to.
-Order! In my judgment, if it were not for the existence of the Communist party in Australia, this bill would not have appeared before us.
Mr. Pollard interjecting,
-Order ! The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) will be named if he continues to call out. I have no hesitation in saying that there have been quite sufficient interjections in this debate. If it were not for the existence of the Communist party in Australia, this legislation would not be before us. Therefore, the essence of this debate must of necessity concern the existence of communism and its activities.
– What are you doing, making a committee speech?
– Order ! The Standing Orders provide that the Speaker shall be heard in silence on any matter. I warn the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) and the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) not to interrupt. I have no wish to take up the time of the Vice-President of the Executive Council, but communism i3 obviously the foundation on which this bill rests.
– If I am wringing the withers of honorable members opposite too greatly, I shall refrain from mentioning names, and say that there were six principal Communists appointed to the then Prime Minister’s trade union advisory panel, at the time when Mr. Curtin was Prime Minister and the present Leader of the Opposition was Attorney-General. A convening committee was appointed under the direction of the present Leader of the Opposition and the late Mr. Chifley during the campaign when the Leader of the Opposition’s fourteen points referendum was put to the people in 1944. Three other Communists were included in that particular advisory committee, and they were sitting cheek by jowl with other Labour appointees on the convening committee connected with the fourteen points referendum.
– The Minister is just a fascist and nothing else.
– Order ! The honorable member for East Sydney will refrain from interjecting.
– In April, 1950, this Government introduced its antiCommunist legislation, and then the Leader of the Opposition went to town completely. He spoke of it as the most tyrannous legislation that had ever been introduced into this House, and six months later accepted a brief in the High Court of Australia from the Waterside Workers Federation. Honorable members should note that that is the same Waterside Workers Federation that is concerned in this legislation.
– I rise to a point of order. The Vice-President of the Executive Council is dealing with matters that obviously have no bearing upon this measure. Having regard to the fact that while the Waterside Workers Federation might have officials who are members of the Communist party, the great majority of waterside workers are not Communists, and their interests should be safeguarded during the progress of this bill.
-Order ! I am afraid that the union will be judged by the officials that it elects.
– The Leader of the Opposition accepted a brief from the Waterside Workers Federation, which was the same federation that he is now defending in this House. He has never been able to tell us how much he got from the Waterside Workers Federation for that brief. I do not know how much it was, but I suggest that he should tell us how much he was paid for defending the federation in court. In February, 1951, the Leader of the Opposition again appeared as a Communist advocate, this time on behalf of two Communist miners’ leaders who were being charged with contempt in the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. The contempt alleged was the failure to honour their undertaking, following the 1949 coal strike, to obey the law as a condition of their release from gaol. Again there were two Communists arraigned for contempt of court, and again the Leader of the Opposition appeared to defend them.
– And they were acquitted.
– Apparently the right honorable gentleman takes pride in the fact that these Communists were acquitted.
Honorable members interjecting,
– Order ! The unseemly conduct of honorable members must cease.
– I rise to order. Is it not a fact that for many years in this Parliament when the Speaker has desired to express a political opinion he has vacated the Chair, handed over to the Deputy Speaker and expressed his view from the floor of the House as a representative of the political party to which he has belonged? Is it further a fact that you have continually departed from that practice ?
– Order ! In my twenty years as a member of this House I have seen the so-called custom, to which the honorable member has referred, carried out by only one of my predecessors. I have no intention of following him.
– I rise to order and suggest that you have expressed a party political opinion from the Chair.
– Order ! I have expressed no opinion about the measure before the House. I have simply said that if it were not for the existence of communism and its activities in this country, this legislation would not have been introduced here.
– I rise to a further point of order. Would an honorable member be in order in saying that were it not for the inequities of capitalism there would be no communism in Australia ?
– Order ! When the honorable member for Lalor gets the call he will be able to develop his argument.
– I am now drawing to the close of my remarks, so no doubt honorable members opposite will be pleased. I appreciate the interest that they are taking in the record of their leader, but I do not think that it will give them any feeling of warmth around their hearts to know that he has a record like the one that I have put before them. I therefore have no doubt that they will seek to cover his record. Apparently they fail to appreciate the record that I have put before them, but let me tell them how the Communist newspaper Tribune appreciates his record. His first appearance in court on behalf of the Communists was commented on by the Tribune, but on the 23rd March, 1951, the Victorian Labour party’s Easter conference carried a motion of censure against it. On the 21st March, 1951, the Tribune reported -
What is Dr. Evatt’s position?
– Order ! . The right honorable member must not refer to another honorable member by name.
– Very well, Mr. Speaker. The Tribune stated -
What is Dr.- position? In the deep split that has developed in the Australian Labour party Dr.- is an outstanding representative of the trend that is taking a progressive stand on many questions.
Is it a stand that he is taking because he believes that communism is inevitable in this country? I wonder about the Judas pieces of silver that he has taken.
– Order ! The right honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I have just witnessed the most degrading spectacle that I have seen in this House during my eleven years as a member of it. This country is on the verge of a disastrous strike, and we are discussing legislation that may have very farreaching effects. The festive Christmas season will be on us in a few weeks, and yet all that the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Sir Eric Harrison) has been able to doj baa been to rant and rave about ancient history and to smear the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt). His only contribution to the debate is that of undignified smearing. He has brought forward old-fashioned arguments about communism and about the Russian society, but he was also cheering when the Russians were battling at Stalingrad. He was cheering just as much as the Leader of the Opposition when the Russians were our gallant allies. But what has he done about the problem that is facing us at present? He has merely tried to draw a red herring across the trail because the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has funked the job.
The Prime Minister gave us a bit of fustian. He minutely split three or four hairs and made some observations of an allegedly witty nature, and then, punctured, he left the House. “What followed? This new guard monstrosity, who came here made no contribution towards the solution of our problems but merely criticized the Leader of the Opposition. Safe in the shady groves of Vaucluse, with money and privilege behind him, he attacks the wharf labourers because they want to work under fair conditions. He has little sense of history and even less sense of decency.
-Order ! The honorable member must withdraw the last statement.
– “Well, it is right.
– The Vice-President of the Executive Council has so many other deficiencies that perhaps he may accidentally have a sense of decency.
– Order !
– At your request, Mr. Speaker, I most certainly withdraw the remark to which you have taken exception. Concurrent with this smear of the Leader of the Opposition, and the smear which has always been directed against the Labour movement, is an even more grevious one. I refer to the smear of the wharf labourer. How is he depicted at work? He is depicted in the cartoons in the press, in radio broadcasts, and by speakers such as the Vice-President of the Executive Council, as a chap with a cigarette dangling from his lips, and wearing a hammer and sickle badge. He is frequenting the pubs, where he drinks great flagons of beer. He turns the country upside down. Nothing of the sort! He is like the rest of us. He is a member of one section of the community, and, as such, has been greatly maligned.
How does the Government expect to get full co-operation from that section if it does not cut out those fairy tales and get a true estimate of what this man is? He works for a maximum of £16 a week. He handles cargoes, the mere thought of which makes our minds recoil in horror. He has only casual employment ; he works about 31 hours a week spread over seven days attendance. All those matters have to be taken into consideration when we are discussing his conditions of employment. He has an oppressive employer, an absentee owner, who does not care a tinker’s cuss what becomes of him. The honorable member for East Sydney has read a most interesting letter about the attitude of those gentlemen overseas. Their attitude may be summed up thus, “ If we can get the Government in it, let us do so by all means. But we are a bitworried about the attitude of the Australian Council of Trades Unions and other strong unions “. The letter gives a good indication to the bosses overseas that this “ show “ has been put on by the Government. The waterside worker also advances that contention.
I return to the consideration of the wharf labourer as a human being. He contributes most generously to charitable organizations. If a spastic centre is required, an approach is made to the wharfies. If a clinic for sufferers from tuberculosis is needed, the chap who works hard on the docks will put in his shilling quite cheerfully as he leaves the job. The Red Cross will tell you that the contribution of the waterside workers, as a body, to the blood bank is one of the best in the community. So why malign this man, and make him appear in the caricatures to be a grotesque character, as the Vice-President of the Executive Council has done? Hatred will not settle this dispute.
The Prime Minister, in his usual role of the Voice of the Nation, told us a few. things on Sunday night about the waterfront situation. This evening he came forward as the old sea captain. He paced the quarter-deck and said, “ This is mutiny “. If his naval experience is as good as his military experience, he is due for an early sinking. He will be scuttled and sunk, and he will disappear without trace in whatever political ocean he is voyaging.
This strike is not Communistcontrolled. The federal executive of the Waterside Workers Federation, which includes many members of the Labour party, made this decision. The reasons can be traced home again and again to this Government, and to those backbenchers who fomented this crisis, as we can prove, and forced an unwilling Minister and a most unwilling Prime Minister, at the point of the political sword, to do their bidding. We know that there have been troubles on the waterfront, but the responsibility for them does not rest entirely on the waterside worker or the Stevedoring Industry Board. Government speakers have produced reports prepared by the now ancient Stevedoring Industry Commission. I desire to refer them to the judgment of Mr. Justice Ashburner on the Reference Boards, following what could be described as an inquiry into the management. Doubtless the Minis’ter for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) has read that document. Unquestionably, the shipowners are inefficient, and incapable of handling their own industry. If that were not so, why did they come on their hands and knees to the Curtin Labour Government in the war years and ask it to take over? They always want the thick end of the stick. They thought during World War II, that by approaching the Labour Government, they would get some efficiency. On every side on the waterfront one hears stories of inefficiency.
It is alleged that the waterside workers through their federation are getting a special privilege of the right to recruit labour. That condition is incorporated in legislation. Despite the statement of the Prime Minister, everybody knows that the seamen, the shipping clerks, the foremen stevedores, the marine stewards and the painters and dockers all have the same condition incorporated in agreements. The total number of men on the waterfront, whose unions have the right to recruit their own labour is higher than the total membership of the Waterside Workers Federation. So why should this argument about privilege be rolled up to the people?
It is said, in order to whip up support, that this legislation is necessary to strengthen the national economy. Only two weeks ago we heard that Australia had reached the apex of the pyramid of prosperity. This evening, the VicePresident of the Executive Council has informed us that the national economy is being crushed because of the demands of the waterside workers. The conclusions of Mr. Justice Ashburner, which I hope the Minister has read, are that the waterfront industry cannot be successfully conducted without three ingredients. The paramount one is the Waterside Workers Federation. The second one is the Stevedoring Industry Board, which was established, and continued, despite difficulties, by Labour administrations. The third ingredient is the shipowners, and this is the weakest link, according to the implied opinion of Mr. Basten, Mr. Justice Ashburner and others. You must read into these reports, that the owners are woefully and completely incompetent. If there was not this concern on the part of the Government, the union and the people themselves to hold the industry together, those people who make money so easily and whose administration and trading methods are beneath contempt, would have crashed long ago.
The owners cannot handle the industry. They admitted that fact when they asked the Labour Government to establish the Stevedoring Industry Commission after the most disastrous mismanagement in history. They were obsessed by fear in those days, because they were likely to lose their ships and, consequently, their profits. Rather than sustain those losses they asked the Labour Government to organize the waterfront industry. All that they have contributed to this problem is a callous, cold-blooded and dividend-hungry attitude, and nothing else. The Government misrepresents them here.
I shall give an example of the manner in which the shipowners squeal unnecessarily for man-power in a labour-hungry economy. This does no service to the
Minister who is. alleged to he a brilliant administrator. Approximately 42 columns a day, and 65’ columns at the weekend in the Sydney Morning Herald alone almost plead for labour. Applications for employment are invited from architects, technicians and professors downs to the worker in the most menial occupation. There is an urge, a demand for labour. The immigrant ships dipping over the rim of the ocean come to this country almost laden to the gunwales with new labour, yet the Government has the temerity to say that the purpose of this bill is to force the union to accept additional quotas of labour. How can legislation force quotas upon the iron industry and the mining industry, which are also short of labour? This is a trick, and a cheap and shabby trick at that. Efficiency cannot be obtained on the waterfront with new quotas of labour. It has been proven by previous speakers that quotas have been filled in some ports, and have not been filled in other ports for various reasons. I think that the secretary of the federation has made out a pretty reasonable case, unless one wishes to pillory him, or treat him in a tyrannical way. In short, labour is short on the waterfront because labour is short everywhere.
Let us examine some of the examples of slackness, incompetence and don’tcareadamn attitude of the shipowners. The Union Steamship Company had the ship Waikawa recently tied up at Glebe. I understand that 130 men were sent to the job by the Stevedoring Industry Board. Inspectors employed by the board were obliged to go to court to obtain the right to return to the ship, because the Government had allowed a board of reference to slip between them and their duties. Eventually, the port inspectors were back on the job, and they made a check on the way in which the shipowners used the labour for which the owners in general had been squealing. What did the inspectors find on their arrival? One hundred and thirty men had been sent to the ship that morning, but 54 men were missing. The ship, was worked for three days, and those 54 men had been paid. Who talks of man-power quotas now? The owners were incompetent. Ships loading timber have not been fully manned. The companies have no method of discipline and no common policy. Shocking inefficiency is in evidence. But those forces will 3et all those things on one side, because they have a hatred of the Opposition, and can manipulate the present Government.
I have another matter which the Minister may be able to answer. Last July 2,130 man-hours were lost in respect of work on five ships. What was the reason for that loss? The Government constantly claims that it is eager to obtain men for work on the waterfront. The owners refused a request to supply the men with gloves when they were handling what was considered to be noxious cargo. After a wrangle with the union, the owners changed their minds and gloves were supplied to the men. In the meantime, 2,130 man-hours had been lost. Those matters have to be considered when efficiency on the waterfront is being discussed.
This bill has been debated at considerable length. The Government has not made out a good case for it because it relies on a caricature of a good unionist, the wharf labourer. The Government has obviously subscribed to the comiccuts attitude, and forgets that the waterside worker is a fellow who, during the difficult days of the last war, did a good job. There are as many exservicemen in the Waterside Workers Federation as there are in any other union. If * the Government berates the waterside worker, discredits him and writes him down, is it any wonder that he has a Communist-controlled union? If the Government wishes to raise him up and do something constructive, it must begin at least to understand his problem.
The second point made by the Leader of the Opposition and other speakers on this side of the House, including the honorable member for East Sydney, arose from a letter signed by Mr. A. Van Bookove. in which he spilled the beans in a most dramatic fashion. The letter reads, in part, as follows: -
If agreement by all parties concerned reached that a strong stand must be taken by shipowners against the breaking down tactics of the W.W.F. then a test of strength with the W.W.F. will be made.
In order to discount the statements of the honorable member for East Sydney the Vice-President of the Executive Council read a part of the letter and, with his usual lack of logic, stopped short of a vital part. In effect, he fell over his own jack-boots. He omitted to read the paragraph that would prove the accuracy of the statement of the honorable member for East Sydney. I shall now read that missing and relevant section of the letter -
It is indeed an unpleasant situation for us asR.I.L. when any stoppage would occur. We have far more tonnage engaged upon the Australian berthan than the H.A.L. On the other hand, we have no alternative but to fall in with the decision of all lines and it is our opinion that once the W.W.F. knows that we have the firm backing of the Government and the A.C.T.U. and A.W.U. they would give in quickly.
– And the Australian Council of Trades Unions?
– Of course, they have not the backing of the Australian Council of Trades Unions. Government supporters are always saying, “ You are quoting from Communist documents “, but they have been reading them most avidly to-night, because that is one from right under the counter that they cannot answer. We hear a lot about this undisciplined union. We hear, on the one hand, about the Stevedoring Industry Board and, on the other hand, about the union and the fact that there is soft discipline on the waterfront. But men must accept the jobs that are given to them, whether they are good or bad. We are not living in the old days when, if there was an obnoxious cargo such as carbon black or soda ash or sulphur, they decided to give it the go by. They go to the window, they put in their number, they get a job, and they are paid on a number. They work under that system and, if they are unlucky, they are rostered again on obnoxious cargoes. If they refuse duty, there is a 24-hour lay-off. One would think, after listening to the broadcasts and the propaganda of the Government, that the waterside workers were completely devoid of a sense of responsibility, and that nobody was applying discipline. Discipline on the waterfront is hard and tough. I propose to cite figures in relation to fines that were imposed during the four months from July to October. In July, the total was £142 10s. ; in August, £88 ; in September. £74; and in October, £171. Those figures do not include total fines of £75, £21, £23 and £43 inflicted upon men who were on duty while under the influence of liquor. There is discipline in every way. In every way, the union strikes hard in relation to refusal of duty, drunkenness on the waterfront, or any other offence against the standards of the union.
The question that arises is this : What is the Government looking for? It is looking only for the right to pay off an old score. Let us remind ourselves of the manner in which all these things have happened. Before the last general election, it was the firm policy of the Government to sell the Commonwealth line of ships, but, because the Leader of the Opposition went up and down the country, and across it, and up and down again, telling the people of Australian what was contemplated, the project was dropped, and a miserable statement was published in the press to the effect that it was not the policy of the Government to sell the ships. Thwarted in its efforts to get its prey, the international shipping combine looked around for a victim. It has been alleged - and the Government has not denied the allegation - that an arrangement was made with a high officer of the Department of Labour and National Service at a conference in Tasmania, and that later decisions were made. Can the Minister for Labour and National Service tell me how much study of the position on the waterfront he made during the four months that he was in Africa?
– I received very full and regular reports.
– Is it not a fact that, during the Minister’s absence, the honorable member for Evans (Mr. Osborne), several senators, and other honorable members formed themselves into a shipping committee, hoping, by that means, to get some sort of platform in space for the Senate and a bill like the one before the House ?
– No, it is not a fact.
– It is well known also - and it is not a matter for the honor rable member for Evans to smirk at; he would be shouting about acts of conspiracy and degradation if it happened to members of the Opposition - that he belongs to a legal firm that conducts most of the legal business of the shipping interests in this community. We know that he belongs to that firm. Anybody who goes along and checks on the matter knows that that is so. During the last twelve months, the honorable member has been needling the Minister. Honorable members may read through Hansard and see the little questions that have been asked about the Stevedoring Industry Board - little pin pricks to keep the Minister up to his task; little pin pricks, gentle pin pricks, because he is terrified of his leader. He has made just little asides to his leader to this effect: “Can we. not do something about the Communists on the waterfront? Can we not do something about my clients, in effect? “ Now here is the bill. We are all aware of the chaos that could ensue if the measure were not exposed.
The bill simply provides for punitive legislation against the waterside workers, and then for an inquiry. If the Government wants to be fair, if it wants to be decent about this thing, why not call the inquiry a post-mortem, because it will have destroyed the effectiveness of the union. From the very outset, the whole matter has been phoney. There was no reason for the bill, from the very outset. Can the Government produce figures to 3how that the position in relation to the turn-round of ships has deteriorated? It states that there has not been efficiency on the waterfront. If honorable members opposite were to take up Mr. Justice Ashburner’s report, and if they .were to read the figures that are released from month to month by the Stevedoring Industry Board, they would find that there has been an improvement. Because of the casual nature of the industry, the figures are up and down, and they do not always give a reliable picture. We must go deeper than that. There has not been a worsening to a degree that would require the introduction of such dramatic legislation. For many years the Minister for Labour and National Service has pretended to be as good as a Labour man.
He has pretended that the unions were his friends, and that he wanted to get on with them. When the act did not come off, he changed his attitude, and this legislation is the result. It does not gain any validity from the condition of the economy. The Vice-President of the Executive Council thought so little of the case that has been presented by the Government that he did not say a word about the bill. He was protected by Mr. Speaker, I believe.
– Order !
– You have protected him, Mr. Speaker.
– The honorable gentleman may have the same protection, if he wants it.
– I am just mentioning how lucky both of us are. The right honorable gentleman had the protection of Mr. Speaker in relation to his diatribe against the Leader of the Opposition. It was to be expected that, as this is a moment of crisis, which will deepen and worsen as the days go by, the Government would have something positive to put forward. There has been bitter disappointment with the remarks of the VicePresident of the Executive Council who, after a few words of patter, devoted the remainder of his time to abuse of the Leader of the Opposition. How completely absurd ! How it proved that the Government has no case at all ! The Prime Minister, of course, did the same thing. Shakespeare has a term for him. The right honorable gentleman went on the air. He has the honeyed, dulcet voice that appeals to certain people. To use words from the play Henry V., he may be described, if cut to size, as follows : -
The air, a charter’d libertine, is still, and the mute wonder lurketh in men’s ears.
The mute wonder did not lurk in our ears, because it was a case of vacant possession ! There was nothing to understand. There was nothing to get from itexcept, as I stated before, a piece of fustian law, which he pursued as an earnest child might pursue a butterfly into the distance, tire of the pursuit, and then come back and sit down.
The conclusion of the right honorable gentleman’s remarks was as it usually is.
He changed his role. He became the captain at the helm and stated, in effect, “ We will surge through the thunderous seas of opposition “. Perhaps that was because the waterfront was concerned. I had not thought of it in that connexion. Of course, the right honorable gentleman is concerned now with his fighting on the waterfront, and naturally he wants a ship. The Minister for the Navy (Mr. Francis) is here to ensure that he is provided with one. So the right honorable gentleman states - and the Minister for the Navy should remember this - that there shall be no mutiny. I do not suppose the Minister knows, and I do not suppose we know, what are the Standing Orders that apply to mutiny. You, Mr. Speaker, would certainly know. To get back to a sober conclusion to what, indeed, should he a sober debate, the Government has given no indication to the Opposition, or to the nation, of the reasons for this drastic legislation. The Prime Minister states, in effect, “ We are a democracy and, being a democracy, we can be as brutal as we like. If you do not obey the law, it is mutiny.” Complete with his new braid, his new epaulets, and his new dignity as captain on the waterfront, he intends to suppress mutiny! He ought to look at the cause of the mutiny. He is no Captain Bligh or, if he is, he will discover that he may be on the broad waters of mutiny for many days to come.
The simple fact is that the waterside workers themselves have a case. Here is something that the Government should ponder. The unionists of this country, the vast majority of the people of this country, the men whom the Minister has described as comprising 85 per cent, of the voters, some of whom support him, have decided to strike because an ethical principle, and a point of unionism and solidarity, are involved. So the pied pipers of the back benches, the little fellows who are hungry for office and who cannot get it, have needled the Government into making a desperately bad move, which may do a great deal of injury to the whole community. The Prime Minister is crashing into this thing; he does not know what he is doing. The Minister for Labour and National Service does not know what he is doing. He has been frightened by pressure from the back benches. As a result, there has been submitted to the House a case that cannot stand up to analysis. The position on the waterfront has not been a grave danger to the economy. The quotas have not been dangerously under-manned. The turn-round of ships has been good. The position was as good as it has been for very many years. But, as a result of a pact made in relation to election funds, and for other considerations, the Government has been taken by the scruff of the neck, and forced into this chamber with this bill just as the House is about to adjourn and as Christmas draws near.
– I rise to a point of order. As one who supports the Government, I take exception to the statement that money that was paid to the Government at election time was a bribe to bring about this state of affairs. I think the honorable member should be asked to withdraw such an accusation.
– Order ! Such payments are common to both sides.
– If the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull), as usual, failed to participate in the handout, he has my sympathy, but I assure him that the cash was in.
– I rise to a point of order.
– What is the point of order?
– The honorable member stated that we could be assured, and that he knows, that the cash was in.
– That is right.
– Order !
– The honorable member for Mallee did not get his cut. That is all that is wrong about it.
– Order ! I do not propose to ask the honorable member for Parkes to withdraw the words, because I do not know, and I do not think he knows either what sums have been paid to political parties.
– The Government stands arraigned before the bar of publicopinion for causing this strike at such a time. On the feeble and visible evidence that is provided in the bill, it has shown that it is out after the waterside workers. that it wants to take punitive action, and that then it wants an inquiry to ascertain the cause of the victim’s death. That is typical of its actions in the past. Towards the end of a long, weary sessional period, during which we ‘ have been tinkering around for days and have been unable to get quorums, and after waiting week by week for something to happen, this bomb has been exploded under our feet, and adequate time has not been given to debate so important a measure.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) has made certain allegations about the action of the Government in bringing down this measure at this particular time. He has stated that the profits of the shipping companies are excessive. That is not true, because very few of the shipping companies in Australia rely on shipping alone for their income. Most of them have other interests, and it is from those other interests that much of their profit is derived. We have only to take the example of the Commonwealth line of ships to ascertain that only a very small margin of profit is obtained. That fact is not taken into consideration when many of the accusations against the ordinary shipping companies are made. The honorable member also stated that thousands of advertisements calling for labour are inserted in the press each day. He suggested that that fact indicates that the number of labourers available is inadequate. It is true that Australia is short of labourers, but it is not true that there is a shortage of labour on the waterfront, unless that shortage is definitely engineered by the union. How many times have the Australian people seen a big advertisement in an- Australian newspaper calling for labour for the waterfront ? I do not recollect having seen any. I have heard of labour being required and of thousands of applications being received long before small notices have been inserted in the press.
It is quite true that some obnoxious cargoes are handled on the waterfront, but it is quite true, also, that some particularly good cargoes are handled. But, in my opinion, the system of the so-called rostering around of workers is not a reasonable and a fair way of obtaining the best work on the waterfront. It is not practicable for plasterers to undertake carpenters’ work, or for bricklayers to do plumbing work. The same principle applies on the waterfront, where certain men could be available to do specific jobs for which they could be moved from place to place. The honorable member for Parkes seems to think that the roster system should be adopted, but I do not consider that it is the correct system. That honorable member and other honorable members, this evening, have read from a letter that the Waterside Workers Federation of Australia has sent to every member of this House. In that communication the federal secretary of the federation quoted a letter signed by Mr. A. Van Bookove. General Manager for Australia and New Zealand of Royal Inter-Ocean Lines. How that letter came into the possession of the union, I do not. know. The letter from the federation begins -
The Waterside Workers’ Federation has repeatedly stated that the Amendments to the Stevedoring Industry Act now before the Parliament is the result of a conspiracy. This conspiracy takes the form of acceptance by the Commonwealth Government of proposals made to it by the shipowners for the purpose of attacking the Waterside Workers’ Federation.
– Who signed that letter ?
– It is signed by the federal secretary of the Waterside Workers Federation, J. Healy. The letter from Mr. Van Bookove must have been purloined by the federation, because otherwise it would not have fallen into its hands. Paragraph 4 of Mr. Van Bookove’s letter reads, in part -
It is essential that the Government’s backing should be firm. Such firm attitude on the part of the Government can only be prevailing if the Government knows beforehand that they in their turn have again the backing of the A.C.T.U. and A.W.U.
It is certain now that in this instance the Government has not the backing of the Australian Council of Trades Unions or of the Australian Workers Union.
– That is where it has slipped.
– Those two bodies have slipped. The honorable member for Parkes quoted paragraph 7 of Mr. Van Bookove’s letter, which reads, in part -
On the other hand, we have no alternative but to fall in with the decision of all Lines and it is our opinion that once the W.W.F. knows that we have the firm backing of the Government and the A.C.T.U. and A.W.U., they would give in quickly.
This afternoon the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison) stated that in April waterfront labour at the port of Hobart was 200 men in excess of the quota for the port. That statement was probably correct, because 300 men were transferred from other ports in Australia to Hobart during February, March and April, to meet the demands of the fruit season.
– An effective piece of co-operation !
– That was an excellentexample of co-operation. It cannot be truthfully said that labour at the port of Hobart was in excess of the quota. In such ports, where heavy seasonal demands occur, quotas must vary. If enough labour were not available at Hobart in the fruit season, the fruit would rot if it were not shipped, or else labour would have to be obtained locally to make up the deficiency of watersiders and enable the fruit to be shipped. I have no objection to the transfer of men from the mainland to Hobart, but it was incorrect for the honorable member for Blaxland to claim that 200 men in excess of the quota were available at that port in April last.
What happened during the 1954 season at Hobart? Compared with the 1953 season, the number of cases loaded by each gang in every hour declined by 4-J pei” cent., and the average tonnage loaded each day decreased by 10.3 per cent. That sort of thing has been happening in other ports. The loading rate varies. It depends partly on the number of men available, and on the conditions under which, in many instances, they consider they can extend the job over the season, and on the amount of cargo offering. The honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Dean) stated this evening that while the present shipping hold-up continues the steel industries at Newcastle and Port Kembla could distribute their products by road or by rail to the near districts of New South Wales and Victoria, so that those areas might be able to obtain more galvanized iron and steel products than they would normally receive. That would be particularly beneficial in those districts. If that happens, the more distant parts of Australia, notably Western Australia, Queensland, and particularly Tasmania, should later have the opportunity to make up the lag in the shipments that they would normally have received, and, if necessary, New South Wales and Victoria should temporarily go without. There is a grave shortage of steel and galvanized iron products. I have a sound knowledge of the situation in Tasmania. I have no doubt that some people think that Tasmanians will be happy to do without some of those products for a while, but that is not so.
The present strike on the waterfront should not have occurred. The Waterside Workers Federation called a stopwork meeting immediately it was suggested that legislation be introduced to deal with the position on the waterfront. Next, and again before the legislation had been introduced and before the waterside workers knew the provision that it would make, they immediately stopped work. That happened about a week ago, and the stoppage has continued since. In addition, the waterside workers up to a point have succeeded in enlisting the sympathy and support of other unions. The Waterside Workers Federation is in rather a peculiar position. It has the right to nominate the men who offer to work, and to charge them a fee for union membership, which varies from port to port.
No mention has been made this evening of the shortages of labour at particular ports, and especially at Melbourne. I have considerable knowledge of events on the waterfront at Melbourne, because it is a principal port for the shipping of cargoes to the north-western ports of Tasmania. I remember particularly the shortage of labour that existed on the Melbourne wharfs some months ago. It is only within the last couple of months, after a long delay of approximately six months, that an additional 350 men were provided by the Waterside Workers Federation to make up the shortage of labour. The procedure for filling the quotas and making up shortages is simple. It will not be changed when this measure becomes law, except that the nomination of labour will be taken out of the hands of the Waterside Workers Federation and placed in the hands of the employers. The Stevedoring Industry Board will continue to act as a buffer between the two. At present, the men are nominated by the federation and approved by the board, and the employers have no opportunity to say yea or nay. They are merely the galahs who pay the men’s wages each week. Under the proposed new arrangement, the men will be nominated by the shipowners or the stevedoring companies, whichever the case may be. There will not be 450 different bodies and persons nominating employees. One organization will be established in each port to nominate labour. That is as it should be, and I can see nothing wrong with it. The nominations will be submitted to the Stevedoring Industry Board, and the men nominated will undergo a medical examination to ensure that they are fit for the work. They will still have to be accepted by the union, which will have the right to object to accepting any person as a member. That right is given in the bill, and there is no reason why the union should not have it. I do not know what fees the Waterside Workers Federation charges in all the ports. At Melbourne it charges £5 for what is termed an initiation fee, and £6 15s. for membership, and it makes a special levy of £1 10s., which is payable immediately on admission to the union.
– Those charges are moderate in relation to the benefits that the employees receive from membership of the federation.
– ‘In one sense they may be moderate. They might easily be more at other ports. The Australian Council of Trades Unions expressed disappointment at the failure of some branches of the Waterside Workers Federation in the past to fill the port quotas at an early date when requested to do so, and called upon the biennial conference of the federation not to procrastinate in the future. That matter was mentioned by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in his broadcast address on Sunday evening. It is merely another indication that the Waterside Workers Federation has not been doing its job for Australia.
Shipping freight rates to Tasmania from the mainland have increased about six and a half times since 1939. In that year the charge was 19s. 6d. a ton and it is now £6 lis. 6d. a ton. That impost places a heavy burden on Tasmania. It is often said that the charge is added to the retail price and that the consumer pays. But in many instances, the producer pays. Tasmanian producers are paying about £10 a ton to market their produce on the main Sydney market. That is a crippling burden on the industry. The Government has assisted materially by providing ships to move cargoes of such commodities as timber and cement, which accumulated in Tasmania because other ships could not move them, and it cannot be expected to do much more. The seriousness of the situation is indicated by the fact that the subsidy paid by the Commonwealth in order to maintain the passenger and mail service by Taroona across Bass Strait has amounted, in the last four years, to nearly £450,000. The Minister for Shipping and Transport recently stated -
Because the Government considers it essential that a seawise passenger service between Tasmania and the mainland should be maintained, and because of the increasing cost to the Government of continuing the subsidy payments for Taroona, every possible avenue is being explored in an effort to find an alternative and a more economic arrangement.
The maintenance of this service across the strait has imposed a terrific drain upon the Government funds.
The situation that I have described should indicate clearly to all honorable members that shipping is not a business that would attract many investors at the present time. The small freighters which formerly provided a service between various ports on the coast of New South Wales and .Queensland, and between the mainland and Bass Strait island port* and Tasmania, have gradually been crippled and forced out of business because of the demands made by the Waterside Workers Federation in relation to the employment of men for the loading and unloading of cargoes. I have in mind, for example, a vessel which traded between South Australia and Tasmania. The crew normally handled its cargoes, which ranged usually from 50 tons to 80 tons. The crew would unload perhaps 20 tons of cargo at one port, and then the vessel would move on to the next port. Although it was only a small coaster, it provided a useful service to Tasmania. The Waterside Workers Federation insisted that its members should handle the vessel’s cargoes. First, it demanded the employment of three men. Then the number was increased progressively to six, nine, and finally twelve men. Members of the crew were not permitted to handle cargo unless they were selected as casual workers when members of the federation were not available. The ship was sold and taken to another part of the world, and so it was lost to Australian shipping. That has been the fate of many small craft which formerly traded in Australian waters, but we have had no means of stopping the process which has been caused by the Waterside Workers Federation.
The inquiry that will be undertaken when this bill has been passed will disclose many anomalies, difficulties and problems, and therefore I hope that it will begin in the very near future. There have been many inquiries into waterfront employment in the past, but they have led to little result. I am hopeful that the outcome of this investigation will be beneficial to the whole of Australia. Obviously, the bill does not provide for any alteration of conditions of employment on the waterfront, and, therefore, there is no reason why the waterside workers should be on strike. There will not be any variation of the present system in ports where the federation has filled its quotas, and I remind the House that most quotas have been filled. I am sure that there will be little difficulty in filling quotas in those ports where the totals are 50 or 100 men below the prescribed level. I welcome this mea sure, because it will give employers an opportunity to have some say in the selection of their labour force. The proposal is one which, I am certain, will commend itself to the Australian people and which, therefore, should have the approval of the House.
.- It would be a waste of time for me to recapitulate the details of the losses caused to the business people, the workers and the primary producers of Australia by the present stoppage in our ports because the press has widely and justly reported the facts. Unfortunately, however, the press has jumped to the hasty conclusion that the waterside workers alone are responsible for the situation. I intend later to prove, to the best of my ability, that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and his colleagues are responsible for this situation. Every member and supporter of the Government who has spoken in this debate has been obsessed by the idea that the waterside workers, and the waterside workers alone, are responsible for the hold-up. It is a very old saying that there are two sides to every question, and there are definitely two sides to the question that we are now debating.
I was very disappointed with the Prime Minister’s speech earlier this evening. The right honorable gentleman said, more or less in an indirect fashion, that, if members of the Opposition opposed the bill, they would be classed as Communists. That is an old threat. In fact, of course, the bill has not been passed yet. The right honorable gentleman spoke as though it had already become law. With all his supposed knowledge, he overlooked the fact that the House was debating proposed legislation instead of an act already in force. It is for us to decide whether the bill shall become law, and, if we on this side of the House are overbalanced by numbers, the fault will not be ours. The Prime Minister’s speech was a very poor effort. Apparently, in his eagerness to influence the people who were listening to him on the radio, he forgot the facts of the case that he was supposed to be debating, and therefore I am sure that his effort will not carry much weight in this discussion.
The right honorable gentleman was elected to this Parliament, of course, to represent big business. He would not deny that. In fact, when a member of the Opposition recently referred to the profit of £7,000,000 made by General Motors-Holdens Limited, his comment was, in effect, “Excellent business! A great thing for Australia “. That represents his attitude in this House. In fact, he has done his job very well. He has done it so well that the business people, not only of Australia but also of the rest of the world, must look upon him as a veritable Father Christmas. There is no doubt whatever that he is carrying out the job that he was elected to do in this House. He was elected, as I have said, to represent big business. I was elected to represent the people of Australia. I shall not be perturbed if the catch-cry of “ communism “ is invoked against me, because it was used freely during the last general election campaign and the electors of Leichhardt replied to it so effectively at the polling booths that no reply from me was required. I intend, in the limited time at my disposal, to inform the public of both sides of the question that is now at issue - a task that the press of Australia has deliberately failed to do.
For a period prior to the last Senate election, River Mitta was lying idle for seven months at a wharf in Brisbane, and the owners were paying all the wharfage charges and other expenses that Government supporters are worrying about to-day, and causing the hardship to business people, primary producers and workers that they claim the present waterfront stoppage is causing. The ship remained idle although people were waiting for urgently needed goods. When I raised the matter in this House, the Minister who replied to me proved that my knowledge of shipping movements was very limited indeed, because he gave me the further information that two other ships of the same tonnage as River Mitta and a number of smaller vessels were also held up. This, of course, meant loss to the shipping companies and loss to the people of Australia, including business people and primary producers. One might logically ask why the shipping companies held up those vessels at a loss to themselves. The reason is that the Prime Minister had indicated the Government’s intention to sell the Com monwealth line of ships. By immobilizing the ships and incurring heavy charges, the shipping companies depreciated the value of their assets. Their purpose was to obtain a much greater return to themselves through the purchase of the Commonwealth ships than the loss they suffered by the hold-up.
Did the Prime Minister worry about the ships being out of action? Did he worry about the workers being unemployed ? Did he worry about the business people and the primary producers who were seriously inconvenienced ? Not at all. That was just the shipping companies’ little joke, and he would not call them to book. The purpose of the Government’s activities should be obvious to any average person. The shipping companies held up a whole fleet of vessels and caused great hardship, but the Prime Minister took no action because he represents big business and he is always satisfied with anything that big business does.
Government supporters claim that the shipping companies operate primarily in the interests of the country as a whole and that they are guidedby this principle in the fixation of freights. The fact is that galvanized iron, which is urgenly required in Australia, is being shipped to other countries where it is branded and then re-shipped at a much higher cost to Australia. In that way, the manufacturer obtains additional profit and, at the same time, shipping companies increase their earnings. . Companies which engage in practices of that kind are not concerned about industrial expansion in this country. Under those conditions, the supply of urgently required materials is held up and the cost of such materials to the people, including home builders and primary producers who wish to effect improvements on their properties, is substantially increased. The Government could remedy that state of affairs, but it is not surprising that it does not do so because it represents big business. The Government is content to stand aside and permit that state of affairs to continue. Australian timber is being exported to various countries but, at the same time, timber is being exported from Bulolo to this country. Again, the shipping companies obtain additional freights under that system which operates to the detriment of the national economy. The shipping companies, so long as they can obtain additional income from freights in that way, do not care two hoots about the national economy. Steel that is urgently required in Australia is being exported to the United States of America, and pig iron and scrap iron, which are equally in demand, are being exported to Japan. Those materials are urgently required for developmental works in Australia. Do the shipping companies worry about that so long as they can increase their earnings? I have seen boat after boat leave Cairns loaded with pig iron and scrap iron for Japan. Under those conditions costs are increased not only to private enterprise but also to governments in undertaking public works. In view of these facts, the shipping companies are not the lily-whites that the Government would have us believe. They will pay for anything provided they can make a profit on the deal. Whether they have made any payment for the concession which is to be made to them under this measure, I shall leave to the judgment of the people as a whole.
– The electors of Leichhardt will not thank the honorable member for defending Healy.
– The honorable member rnakes me laugh. The Prime Minister said, in effect, that General MotorsHoldens Limited is quite entitled to charge whatever price it likes for the cars that it manufactures, and that that was good business.
– He did not say that.
– Well, let us accept the proposition that any organization has the right to charge the highest price that it can obtain for its products. The worker has only his labour to sell. Has he not the right to try to obtain the highest price that he can for his labour? Are private organizations to be permitted to charge whatever prices they can obtain for their commodities while, at the same time, the worker is to be denied the right to sell his labour on the highest market? Until recently, the Government subsidized the cost of the provision of amenities for wharf labourers. That subsidy was re duced on the understanding that the shipping companies would reduce freights. Did those companies reduce their freights? No. They got all that they wanted from the Government and then ignored their part of the bargain. Of course, the shipping companies do not need to worry about what the Government may think because instead of the Government running them they run it.
The Labour Government sponsored legislation which gave to the Waterside Workers Federation control over the engagement of labour on the waterfront on the understanding that if that arrangement did not work satisfactorily the matter would be reviewed by the Parliament. However, that did not mean that the government of the day would immediately introduce drastic legislation of this kind without the inquiring into the causes of inefficiency on the wharfs. Shipping hold-ups may be due to inefficiency on the part of the shipping company or the waterside workers or to the lack of wharfage facilities for the efficient handling of cargo and the expeditious turn-round of ships. If the Government is dissatisfied with conditions on the waterfront, the logical thing for it to do is to have an investigation made with the object of ascertaining the causes of such inefficiency. If it followed that course on this occasion, no protest would be made from any quarter. Any sensible government would follow that course if it really desired to serve the best interests of the country as a whole. Then, after such an inquiry had been held and the causes of inefficiency ascertained, the Government could have introduced a measure with a view to remedying the position. Such action would have met with approval of all parties in the Parliament. From time to time, the Waterside Workers Federation has submitted lists of names of men for engagement on the waterfront with a view to filling quotas at various ports but on many occasions even as many as half of the names submitted by the federation have been rejected by the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board. Whilst at times there can be a shortage of waterfront labour at any port, at other times there can be a surplus of labour. Honorable members opposite have claimed that high wages, are paid to wharf labourers. However, when allowance is made for the actual earnings of wharf labourers during flat periods of employment their wages as a whole are not comparatively high. Very often, the shipping companies deliberately stir up trouble with the waterside workers. For over twenty years there was in operation an agreement whereby a certain time was allowed to wharf labourers for smokos. That privilege had been enjoyed for 25 years by the men and by their fathers before them. I do not think it was embodied in an award because it had become so much a part of their normal conditions that it was generally accepted. But the shipping companies, without any warning except a notice pasted on the walls, announced suddenly that the privilege was to be withdrawn. They knew that the sudden withdrawal of a privilege that had been enjoyed by the waterside workers for 25 years would cause a hold-up on the waterfront throughout Australia, and they deliberately took that privilege away with the object of causing industrial trouble.
A couple of months ago, a boat arrived in Cairns which had passed through the area in which the Americans had exploded a hydrogen bomb, and the waterside workers asked for the boat to be tested for radio activity. The press was inclined to be somewhat facetious about the matter but, in . view of what happened to Japanese sailors who passed through the same area, the request was not made as a joke. The boat was held up for a week, but the matter could have been settled within half an hour by sending up to the town for a geiger counter to test the boat for radio activity. The shipping company refused to do that, and stated that the waterside workers had caused industrial trouble by asking that the boat be tested for radio activity. As I have said, it could have been tested within half an hour.
Another boat that arrived in Cairns was flying a South American flag. The gear was so rotten that it could not be used to unload the cargo, so it had to be repaired and temporary equipment put in. That caused the boat to be held up, but the waterside workers were blamed. The delay was due to the shipping company chartering a boat, flying a South
American flag, that was not fit to be sent, to sea and which did not have proper gearto unload its cargo. The gear had to be repaired or replaced, and naturally the boat was delayed. That was described asanother hold-up by the waterside workers. According to the Government, all the shipping companies are lily white and the waterside workers are dark, dangerous men. The Minister must know the facts of the cases I have stated.
There is another aspect of this matter. We want to develop Australia and ensure that it will go ahead. Raw sugar is shipped from Cairns to Brisbane, and refined sugar from Brisbane to Cairns. That could be obviated by the establishment of a small refinery at Townsville, but if that were done the shipping company would lose freights. Under present circumstances, a boat goes up and a boat comes down and the shipping company gets extra freights. Of course, the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited controls both the refineries and the shipping company, so it will not build ti refinery at Townsville that would affect the earnings of the shipping company.
I suggest to the Government that, in the interests of Australia and also in the interests of fair play and justice, this legislation be withdrawn and a full investigation be made of the three matters I have mentioned - the activities of the shipping companies, the activities of the waterside workers, and the equipment available on the wharfs for loading and unloading cargo. I , am very sorry to note that the Minister for Labour and National Service is reported in the press to have said -
The majority of the leaders of the Waterside Workers Federation are members of the Communist party. This would not be so if the waterside workers’ union were not composed chiefly of Communists.
– When does the honorable member say that statement appeared ?
– In the press.
– If it is wrong-
– I invite the honorable member to say in which paper the statement appeared and when it was attributed to me.
– I do not know the paper.
– The honorable member has claimed that it appeared in the press.
– I hope, Mr. Speaker, you will call the Minister to order. Let us deal with the question whether it is fair to say that the waterside workers as a whole are Communists because certain Communists are officers of the Waterside Workers Federation.
– -Where did that report appear ?
– According to a- wandering commission in Australia, apparently there are more Communists in the Public Service in Canberra than there are in the whole of Cairns. I want to say that most of the waterside workers are men who could hold their own with the Minister in any public activity. They are men who take part in sport. They are men with families. They are men of the highest character. They have supplied men who have been outstanding in sporting activities in Australia. They are men who have their own homes. They are men who do not have any association with the Communist party. I have a long experience of the waterside workers in Cairns. In the 500 waterside workers there, there may be six Communists and a half a dozen or so “ fellow travellers “. I say that when the Minister made the statement that I have referred to he did an injustice to the members of the Waterside Workers Federation.
Mi-. Holt. - When did I make that statement?
– Order ! The Minister has spoken already.
– I cannot understand the action of the Government in making a violent and vicious attack on this section of the people. The Prime Minister said that the Government did not believe in compulsory unionism, but in almost the next breath he went on to say that under this measure men will be selected by the employers’ organization and must become members of the Waterside Workers Federation. He argued against compulsory unionism, but in almost the next breath he said that the Government intended to enforce compulsory unionism on the waterfront.
– The honorable member has missed the point.
– I have not missed the point. The point is that the members of the Australian Country party are so thick in the head that they follow the Prime Minister like sheep. They are just dumb. It is remarkable that, although people in country areas probably will suffer more than any other people as a result of the industrial trouble to which this, legislation will give rise, the members of the Australian Country party in this House have failed to blame the. Prime Minister for hasty action, lack of consideration, and lack of judgment in relation to a matter so important as this. One after another they have blamed the Waterside Workers Federation. I do not say that some of the blame should not fall on the federation, but I certainly say that much more of the blame for the present trouble lies with the shipping companies.
– I rise to make a persona: explanation. The honorable member for Leichhardt (Mr. Bruce) attributed to me a statement that the majority of the members of the Waterside Workers Federation are Communists. I emphatically deny ever having made any such statement. I believe the overwhelming majority of the members of the Waterside Workers Federation to be loyal Australians. I believe them to be under Communist leadership at this time, and I have said so. The honorable member, in attributing any statement to me that the majority, or any considerable number, of the members of the Waterside Workers Federation are Communists, is attributing to me something that I have never said and that I do not believe.
– I rise also to make a personal explanation. Earlier to-day, the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Sir Eric Harrison) made a speech in which he quoted from a judgment that I delivered in a matter that appeared before me in the High Court of Australia about twenty years ago. The right honorable gentleman completely misrepresented the nature of that judgment, and suggested that I believed that communism was inevitable in this country. That is a wicked invention. I hate to mention the matter, and I do not suppose that many people would make such a suggestion. The judgment that I delivered, and which was mentioned, corresponded with other judgments of the court at that time, and I make this explanation to have it on record. I also wish to place on record my view that such a statement, made in the Parliament of a civilized country by a person who obviously has not read the judgment, is scandalous. The Vice-President of the Executive Council also misrepresented other things; in fact the whole of his speech was a misrepresentation of me. He mentioned legal cases in which I had appeared as counsel, in order to suggest that counsel so appearing in such cases must believe in the views of the individuals for whom he was appearing. If that were the position, no liberty would be left in this country. It is perfectly correct that every member of the bar is under a duty to appear for his clients, but his appearance does not identify him with their views.
– Order ! The Leader of the Opposition must confine himself to a personal explanation.
– I was also misrepresented by the Vice-President of the Executive Council when he purported to deal with acts of the Government of which I was a member. Every instance that he gave was either distorted or misrepresented in some way, so much so that his speech was obviously written by some one other than himself. I say that anybody in this country who imputes to me sympathy for communism is misrepresenting me.
– Mr. Speaker-
Mr. Gullett interjecting,
– Put that yahoo out.
– The honorable member for Werriwa will withdraw his remark.
– I withdraw it.
– Seeing that personal explanations are the order of the day, I should like to add mine. The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) has objected to having imputed to him the opinion of his clients-
– Order ! In what way has the honorable member been misrepresented ?
– The Leader of the Opposition has said repeatedly in the House, and in radio broadcasts-
– Order ! The honorable member must not refer to broadcast speeches.
– The Leader of the Opposition has said in this House that I am the lawyer for the shipping combine. He was completely wrong. That statement is false, and was made either with a knowledge of its falsity or with complete carelessness. I am a member of the legal profession, and a member of a firm of solicitors. My firm of solicitors numbers among its clients some shipping companies. There are 25 overseas shipping companies with representatives of their own in this country, and a large number of others who have not their own representatives but who are represented by others. Those companies have several organizations. There are also a large number of Australian shipping companies operating around our coasts. Therefore, the honorable member will perceive that shipping companies in this country are very numerous, but their associations are few.
– Order ! The honorable member must confine himself to misrepresentation.
– The Leader of the Opposition has repeatedly said that I am the lawyer for the shipping combine, and that is completely untrue. I had not intended to take this point, but I do so because of the extraordinary behaviour of the Leader of the Opposition. He leapt to his feet and said that he was not going to have the opinions of his clients imputed to him. He has gone to the court and defended Communists, but apparently for him what is sauce for the goose is not sauce for the gander.
.- Mr. Speaker-
Motion (by Mr. Holt) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Majority . . 10
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Majority . . . . 11
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and committed pro forma; progress reported.
Motion (by Sir Eric Harrison) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- Mr. Speaker-
Motion (by Sir Eric Harrison) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Majority . . 11
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Canned Fruits Export Control Act - Australian Canned Fruits Board - Twentyeighth Annual Report, for year 1953-54, together with Statement by the Minister regarding the operation of the Act.
Dried Fruits Export Control Act - Dried Fruits Control Board - Thirtieth Annual Report for year 1953-54, together with Statement by Minister regarding the operation of the Act.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for - Defence purposes - Lincoln Park, South Australia.
Postal purposes -
City Beach, Western Australia.
Lucindale, South Australia.
Public Service Act - Appointments - Department -
Health- W. V. Foster.
Labour and National Service - A. R. Console.
Repatriation - B. J. Ireland, J. A. S. Robertson.
Social Services - B. A. Jackson.
Territories - H. B. Clarke.
Works - D. S. McLagan.
Representation Act -
Certificate of the Chief Electoral Officer of the Numbers of the People of the Commonwealth and of the several States as at 30th June, 1954.
Determination, made by the Chief Electoral Officer, of the Representation of the States in the House of Representatives, dated 4th November, 1954.
Services Trust Funds Act - Royal Australian Air Force Welfare Trust Fund - Annual Report for year 1952-53.
Wine Overseas Marketing Act - Australian Wine Board - Twenty-sixth Annual Report, for year 1953-54, together with Statement by the Minister regarding the operation of the Act.
House adjourned at 11.16 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
b asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– :The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1 and 2. There have been various estimates as to the future population of the township of Kwinana and therefore of the requirements in that locality for housing and other facilities. I also understand that the Western Australian Government has made certain estimates as to the expenditure it will have to undertake in connexion with the Kwinana project.
s. - On the 20th October, the honorable member for Phillip (Mr. Fitzgerald) asked the following question : -
Will the Prime Minister confer with taxation officials with a view to allowing taxation rebates to members of families who have to pay medical, hospital and funeral expenses on behalf of parents in receipt of age, invalid or widows’ pensions?
The law allows a deduction to a taxpayer of the medical and hospital expenses paid by him in respect of himself or a dependant who is a resident, subject to the maximum allowance of £150 in respect of any one person. Funeral expenses arising out of the death of a dependant are also allowable, subject to a maximum of £30 in respect of any one dependant. The amount of the allowable deduction is reduced by the amount the taxpayer i3 entitled to be recouped these expenses by a government, public authority, society or association. The deduction in respect of medical, hospital and funeral expenses paid by a taxpayer in respect of his parent is allowable only if the parent is a dependant of the taxpayer and having a separate net income during the year of income of less than £130. Accordingly, in those cases where the parent is in receipt of a full age, invalid or widows’ pension, no deduction for the medical, hospital or funeral expenses would be allowable to the taxpayer for the reason that the amount of the pension would exceed £130. I would remind the honorable member that it is this Government which has increased the maximum allowance for medical and hospital expenses from £50 to £150 in respect of each dependant and for funeral expenses from £20 to £30. It has also enlarged the range of dependants in respect of whom the allowance may be claimed. This is as much as the current revenue needs will allow but the question of extending the field of concessional allowances is one that the Government has constantly in mind.
Australian Prisoners of “War.
asked the Minister acting for the Treasurer, upon notice -
s. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1 and 2. The Government has accepted the view that, if any compensation is to bc made to former prisoners of war of Japan in connexion with their period of captivity, it should rightly be made by the Japanese. The honorable member will know that an announcement has already been made to the effect that, should further moneys be received from the Japanese, arising out of the disposal of Japanese assets in neutral countries or from other sources, consideration would be given to their distribution. I am unable to indicate when further moneys will be received from the Japanese authorities. A distribution of £32 per head has already been made to former prisoners of war of the Japanese or to the dependants of those who died whilst captive. This distribution was made from funds arising from the disposal of certain Japanese assets in Australia, together with an advance from Consolidated Revenue of an amount equivalent to the estimated realization value of the assets which have not been disposed of.
The trustees may make payments from the income and capital of the Fund of such amounts and in such manner as they in their absolute discretion see fit to any person (whether resident in Australia or elsewhere ) who was a member of the Forces during the war which commenced on the third day of September, 1939, and became a Prisoner of War and who in the opinion of the trustees (which shall be final and conclusive) (a) suffers distress or hardship as a result of any major disability (physical or mental) directly referable to the conditions of his captivity, or as a result of any material prejudice directly referable to such conditions; and (6) is in need of such payments to overcome such distress or hardship.
d asked the Minister representing the Minister forRepatriation, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
e asked the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Department of Immigration, that permanent departures of non-British settlers would not be in excess of 2 per cent.
L asked the Minister representing the Minister acting for the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
-the following information has been supplied by the Minister acting for the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture: -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 9 November 1954, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1954/19541109_reps_21_hor5/>.