22nd Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. C. F. Adermann) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I preface my question, which is directed to the Minister for Primary Industry, by saying that a few years ago the Western Australian Government recommended to this Government that an area of about 500,000 acres in the Gairdner River district should be taken over by the Government and developed for purposes of war service land settlement. The Government agreed’ to the development of portion of the area, the remainder being left for survey and investigation. I now ask the Minister what progress has been made with respect to this survey and investigation, and whether finality is likely to be reached in the near future.
– I know of the great interest of the honorable member for Canning in the Gairdner River project. The matter has been carefully considered by the Australian Government, and final plans for the development of the project have been approved. lt is a large undertaking, involving about £2,500,000. More than 100 war service land settlers will be given allotments in the area. These facts indicate the Government’s great concern with the problem of settling people on the land, and members of the Government are delighted that this particular area has been chosen for settlement because, as the honorable member for Canning well knows, it has good soil, and a good and reliable rainfall. “We think it is an ideal area for the purpose of settling servicemen under favorable conditions.
– I direct a question to the Minister for External Affairs, arising from an answer that he gave to a question in this House some time ago, when he admitted that India had sent a note of protest to Australia about the attitude of this country, at the Seato conference held at Karachi, regarding the considera tion of the Kashmir dispute between Pakistan and India. At that time the right honorable gentleman undertook to ascertain whether he could make available the text of the note of protest from India. I ask him now whether it is a fact that the Prime Minister of India has sent a rejoinder to Australia’s answer, and whether the Minister himself, or his deputy in India, has stated that the Australian answer was not regarded by India as satisfactory. I remind the right honorable gentleman that matters such as this are really public, having received publicity in broadcasts by the British Broadcasting Corporation and through other channels., and I ask him whether, in cases such as this, he should not put the situation factually before the House, and give the various points of view. I also again ask the Minister whether he will try to arrange for a debate on international affairs generally, and not specifically confined to Asian affairs, before the conclusion of this sessional period. The international situation has changed considerably since the Minister made his statement a few months ago.
– The Leader of the Opposition said that I had “admitted” receiving an aide-memoire from the Government of India. With great respect, I must say it was a question not of admitting it, but of asserting it. I said that we had received such an aidememoire. I do not believe it to be in the general interest to make available to Parliament for public inspection aidememoires received from other governments. After all, an aide-memoire is written, designed or drafted not as a public document, but as a private communication, from one government to another. The terms of the Indian aidememoire were, of course, entirely proper. I think that our reply was equally proper. We re-asserted our belief that we acted not only in good faith, but properly, as one of the parties to the Seato communique, in mentioning the question of Kashmir. I do not believe - and this is not just a question of secrecy for secrecy’s sake - that it is in Australia’s international interest to make such documents public. The holding of a debate on international affairs during the remainder of this sitting depends on the ability of the Government to allocate time for that purpose. I will certainly discuss it with the Prime Minister or his deputy, to see whether this is possible.
– I ask the Minister for Civil Aviation whether the announcement that certain tenders are being called for the airport at Llanherne, Hobart, means that a firm conclusion has been reached to the protracted negotiations with regard to the responsibility and the final form of the necessary buildings at this aerodrome. If so, can the Minister say when it is expected that Llanherne airport will- be used for normal commercial flying?
– I know the interest that the honorable member has taken in the development of this airport in his electorate. He will be pleased to know that a great deal of progress has been made. I understand that two companies intend putting aircraft in there in the first- week in June. The Department of Civil Aviation and the Department of Works have already sought tenders for the erection of the terminal buildings and, as happened at the Adelaide Airport, the airline operators will put up their own buildings. I cannot say what they are doing at the moment, but our part of the work is certainly going ahead. Such matters as electricity supply, and reticulation plant for fuel, are in hand. Aircraft should be flying in and out of the airport in the next few weeks, but I do not think that the airport will be completed, as we understand the word, before the end of the year.
– I ask the Minister for External Affairs whether recently, on his way through Singapore, he was extended an invitation by, or on behalf of, the Government of that country for an Australian parliamentary delegation to visit Singapore and study its problems. If so, did the Minister accept the invitation? Has he received any report on Singapore from the Foreign Affairs Committee of this House for his guidance on Australia’s attitude in regard to the recent negotiations in London, or has the committee gone into smoke altogether ?
– I do not recollect ever having received such an invitation from any one acting on behalf of the Government of Singapore. Certainly, I discussed, at the instigation of Mr. David Marshall, the possibility of a parliamentary delegation visiting Singapore, amongst other places, but no definite invitation was issued or accepted. With regard to the second part of the question, I have, of course, told the Foreign Affairs Committee everything that I know about discussions on Singapore in London. It is amongst the subjects that are now under consideration by the Foreign Affairs Committee. I reject very definitely any suggestion that that committee has gone into smoke, as the honorable member termed it. The Foreign Affairs Committee is an active body constantly considering matters of high moment to Australia. I meet the committee myself at frequent intervals and I hope to-morrow to give the House evidence of the continued vitality of the committee as expressed, in this case, by an increase in its numbers made not only possible but necessary by reason of the defection of the Opposition from it.
– Is the PostmasterGeneral aware of the tremendous residential and industrial growth in the area served by the Dandenong telephone exchange? ls lie also aware that the present manual exchange is completely inadequate to serve the needs of the area? Can he indicate if and when an automatic exchange will be erected to serve the area?
– Some little while ago, the honorable member for Bruce indicated to me that he was concerned about the provision of exchange facilities in Dandenong, and as a result the Director-General visited that area. He has reported to me recently that he has been impressed by the enormous development in that area and in consequence, plans are in hand for the provision of a new automatic exchange there. I am sure the honorable member will be pleased to know that those plans have reached the point where a site has been acquired and the necessary automatic equipment for the equipment for the exchange has been ear-marked. It remains now to provide the building. The provision of that building will be given a high priority in the consideration of new building works in the next financial year.
– Will the Prime Minister confer withhis colleague, the Minister for Repatriation, with a view to having deferred until a conference has been held with the returned soldier organizations concerned,the announced decision of the Repatriation Department to close the Anzac Hospital at Brighton, Victoria?
– I will be very glad to have a talk to my colleague about that matter. I know nothing about it myself al, present.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Primary Industry. Will the Minister give the House the reasons for the Government not acceding to a recommendation by the South Australian Government for the establishment of an irrigation settlement at Lyrup; in South Australia? Does the honorable gentleman agree as to the desirability of further land settlement schemes, so that approved applicants for war service blocks may be placed in primary production ? Is the Minister’s decision final, or, in the event of improved prospects for the wine and dried fruits industries, will the Government proceed with the development of this very promising sector of the Murray?
– I have given careful consideration to the proposals of the South Australian Government for the development of the Lyrup area as a war service land settlement scheme. I should state that the Government looks at these problems from one point of view, and that is: Can the ex-servicemen settlers be placed on the land under such condi tions as will give a reasonable or a good prospect of seeing that they can look after themselves and their families and can, over a reasonable period of time, re-pay the mortgage on the properties ? In the case of the Lyrup settlement, the land could be developed under irrigation for horticultural, viticultural or vine purposes. The War Service Land Settlement Division has stated - and I agree with its comments - that the amount of capital expenditure would be large and that the risk factor for war service settlers would be high. The division has, therefore, taken the view, in which I have concurred, that as the risk factor would be too high, the write-down of capital would be much too great to favour settlement by ex-servicemen. On the second point raised, I can give the honorable gentleman my personal assurance that it is not a question of slowing up, because frequently I have to spend many hours on Saturdays and Sundays approving of applications for assistance in war service land settlement. Only this afternoon, I was able to inform the honorable member for Canning that the Government had, within the course of the last few weeks, approved of the Gairdner River settlement. An expenditure of £2,500,000 is involved in this one settlement, which, I think, is a clear indication of the Government’s great interest in this problem. The last part of the honorable member’s question is a matter of prophecy, and I shall not express an opinion on it. If the price of dried vine fruits did increase substantially, and long-term marketing prospects improved, I would be only too happy to have the matter raised again.
-I ask the Post master-General whether his report for the year ended the 3Qth June last, tabled a week ago, discloses that already at that date a record number of telephone applications was held up because of shortage of plant, and th at there had been, if I recollect, an increase of 2,500 in the number of deferred applications in the twelve months preceding that date. Has the number of applications for telephones increased in the tenand a half months which have since elapsed? If so, will the honorable gentleman rescind his instruction of last February that no new works should be put in hand before the next financial year begins in July, and also rescind his predecessor’s instruction of last November, that no new men should be engaged to replace those who resign or retire before that time?
– The question is really one which could best be replied to in writing, and if the reply that I now give the honorable gentleman does not cover all the ground of his question I shall see that he gets a further reply. Generally speaking, as I have already stated in this House, there has been an increase in the number of outstanding applications. Prom memory, I think it increased by some 13,000 in the previous twelve months’ period, and I also indicated the reason for that increase, pointing out that the number of applications in recent years has constituted a record for each year, and the number of installations also has constituted a record. However, his statement that an embargo has been imposed by me on any new works is not quite correct. Certainly, there was a slowing down on new works for reasons which have been given in this House previously, but there was not a complete cessation, and I can. assure him that that is a matter which I am watching constantly and which will be given proper attention when we are applying ourselves to the formulation of next year’s programme.
– Is the Minister for Primary Industry aware that the Queensland Cotton Marketing Board had a carry-over from last year’s crop of approximately 3,000 bales of cordage and bedding cotton which has not been sold? Only recently the board was able to negotiate the sale of cotton in those grades at prices ranging from 26d. to 30d. per lb., b.it. at present that is impossible because cotton is being imported into Australia at a price of approximately lid. per lb. “What action is being taken to- assist the Queensland Cotton Marketing Board to get rid of thi3 carry-over stock, and has any action vet h°en tal:er to restrict t1-e import of this cheap cotton from overseas countries?
– I am not aware of all the facts mentioned by the honorable gentleman, but I know that the Queensland Cotton Board was having some problems in relation to the disposal of cordage and, I think, second-grade bedding cotton. This matter is primarily the responsibility of the Queensland Government and, in my personal view, it should accept complete responsibility for the trading transactions of the Cotton Board. Nevertheless, this Government will do all in its power to help. I think that already the Commonwealth Bank of Australia has been approached and has made an advance to cover portion of the unsold cotton. I understand, too, that the problem is largely one of obtaining temporary finance until the cotton is disposed of. I think the solution of the problem could well be within the financial competence of the Queensland Government. The question of imports is at present under consideration. I am not quite certain what can be done, but 1 give the honorable member my assurance that the matter is being examined, and that, as soon as I am able to do so, I shall furnish him with an answer to that part of his question.
– I ask the PostmasterGeneral why Lieutenant-General Doolittle, of the United States Air Force, was not invited by the Australian Broadcasting Commission to broadcast to Australia in the Guest of Honour session during his recent visit to this country as the guest of the Australian Government on the occasion of the anniversary celebrations of the Coral Sea battle.
– I may be wrong, but, to the best of my recollection, I myself heard Lieutenant-General Doolittle speak during a Guest of Honour broadcast on one Sunday night. However, I shall investigate the matter and inform the honorable gentleman accordingly.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Immigration. Is it a fact that immigration from Medi.terranean or other European counts ici has been suspended for the remainder of this year? If so, is it because of a change of Government policy or because there i3 a large backlog of persons whose applications have been approved but -who are unable to obtain the necessary transportation?
– Immigration from southern European countries has not been suspended, nor has there been any change of Government policy. What has happened is that, over a period of years, there has been an accumulation of approvals in respect of persons in southern European countries to a point where, if we are to maintain our existing target, some restriction must be placed upon the rate of movement from those countries to Australia. It has been decided therefore, as a departmental administrative act - and this is not the first time that this kind of action has been taken - that, for the time being, we shall restrict the categories of persons who may be nominated for entry to Australia from those countries. That decision does not affect persons in respect of whom approval has already been granted, but, even in respect of them, we may have to regulate the time and rate of movement. Approval for their entry is not cancelled. Nor does the department’s action apply to close dependent relatives such as the wives and children or parents of persons already in Australia. In view of the explanation I have given, I think the position should be quite clear. In this way, we shall be able to cope with the backlog before considering whether an extension of the categories can be approved.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Health been directed to a statement made in New York, United States of America, to the effect that Americans are spending £50,000,000 a year on tranquilizer drugs, or to use their more popular name, mood pills, which fall into two categories? The pills in one category are used to calm over-tense people and those in the other category are used to pep up bored or listless people. As it 11ns been claimed that tests with these dmcs have been carried out with most satisfactory results on drug addicts, alcoholics and violent psychotics who are now leading useful lives in the community, will the Minister cause an investigation to be made into the effects of the drugs on users and will he inform the Australian people of the results of such investigation?
– I am afraid that the honorable gentleman must have been studying the Reader’s Digest. All new drugs which are produced and brought to the notice of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee are examined by that committee. I have no doubt that the range of drugs to which the honorable gentleman has referred will receive the attention of that committee in due course.
– Yesterday, the honorable member for Brisbane asked me a question concerning the supply of tetanus toxoid in Queensland. I wish to inform him that there has been a tremendous demand for tetanus toxoid throughout Australia in recent weeks. The demand has been so great that the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories have not been able to keep pace with it so that a distribution has been made to the various States on a population basis. It is not true that supplies have been deflected to any particular State. Every State has received its fair share of the production, and within a very short space of time, there will be ample to fill all demands. I should point out to the honorable gentleman that only one size of ampoule is made. His question related to a particular size of ampoule.
– I ask the Minister for Primary Industry whether a Minister from the Victorian State Government recently visited Canberra and, on behalf of the Victorian Premier, made a request for financial assistance for settlers in the mid-Murray Valley area covering Nyah. Nyah West, Woorinen and Koraleigh.” If so. Teas the request for assistance to pay a grant to settlers on a £l-for-£l basis or for an advance to make a loan to settlers? What answer did the Government give to this request?
– A week or more ago a deputation from the Victorian Government, representing the Premier of Victoria, did interview me, and suggested that a loan of money should be made available to permit rehabilitation, I think, in the area mentioned by the honorable gentleman. Nyah was one of the places mentioned. This matter has been under consideration by Treasury officials, by the Prime Minister’s Department, and by the Department of Primary Industry. Only to-day a recommendation was put in my tray so that I could make the appropriate recommendation to the Prime Minister. The matter will be considered this afternoon and I shall then be able to make a recommendation to the Prime Minister or the Acting Prime Minister and the honorable gentleman will be informed of the result.
– From time to time I have asked the Minister for Supply whether the Government will establish a treatment plant on the Cloncurry-Mt. Isa field for the treatment of uraniumbearing ores. The Minister stated that the Government would not build such a plant but that it would assist private enterprise in the establishment of such a plant. As a company is about to erect such a plant at what is known as the Mary Kathleen mine on this field, I ask the Minister whether arrangements have been made by the Government for this company to take customs ore. If no such arrangement has been made, will the Minister establish an ore-buying centre at this site or take any other action in order to stock-pile uranium ores amenable to treatment in the Mary Kathleen plant?
– In the first place, I did not say that the Government would assist private interests to build a treatment plant, in the sense of meaning that the Government would give financial assistance. That was not the sort of assistance I had in mind if I said what the honorable gentleman suggests I said. What happened was that a group of private interests decided to exploit the Mary Kathleen leases, and a contract - a very advantageous contract - hasbeen made for the sale of something over £40,000,000 worth of uranium oxide to the British atomic energy authorities. The making of that contract was announced in the House. It was made with the approval of the Government. One clause, which was inserted in the contract at the instance of the Government, provides for the treatment, where practicable, of a certain quantity of outside ores. I hope that that answers the honorable gentleman’s query as to whether ores coming from other places than the Mary Kathleen mine itself may be treated there. Whether or not they can be treated will, of course, depend on the grade of ore and the kind of ore; but we have taken steps to assist, as far as we can, producers in other districts.
Assent to the following bills reported : -
Fishing Industry Bill 1956.
Whaling Industry Act Repeal Bill1956.
Motion (by Sir Eric Harbison) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjournto to-morrow at 2.30 p.m.
.- I move-
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1913-1953, the following proposed work be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for investigation and report, namely: - Erection of Automatic Telephone Exchange Building at Haymarket, Sydney.
– Order ! The House will come to order, and honorable members will cease making audible conversation.
– The proposal provides for the erection of a buildingat Haymarket on a Commonwealth-owned sitebounded by Parker and Barlow streets on the east and south and Parkerlane on the west. The building is required to provide additional equipment area for extensions to the automatic telephone facilities serving the metropolitan area of Sydney. The proposed building, which will consist of a small basement, ground, part mezzanine, and five upper floors, will be a structural steel-framed unit with monolithic doors and light, prefabricated wall panels. The estimated cost of the project is £716,000. I table the plans of the proposed building.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from the 16th May (vide page 2097), on motion by Sir ARTHUR Fadden -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This bill, like the Appropriation Bill (No. 2) 1955-56, which the House considered yesterday, refers to what are called additional estimates.
-Order! E ask honorable members to refrain from making noise.
– The Additional Estimates concerned in this instance are those for capital works and services. The bill provides for a total additional expenditure of £3,783,000. That is not a very significant sum in itself, but, nevertheless, one or two of the items cali tor explanation by the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), who, in his secondreading speech on this measure, gave very little explanation of it. I think we are entitled to know, for instance, in some detail, the purpose of the expenditure provided for under Division 15, Department of Civil Aviation, “ Qantas Empire Airways Limited - Provision of additional share capital, £700,000”. This is one of the most significant items in the schedule to the bill. The Treasurer ought to have indicated in some detail the purpose of this additional capital.
– Order !, I have asked honorable members to remain silent. If the House will not maintain order, I shall take action to obtain it.
– Is this additional £700,000 required to develop new air routes, to purchase additional aircraft, or for capital expenditure generally? We should have been given more information of that kind. Qantas Empire Airways Limited, of course, is a Governmentowned undertaking, and we on this side of the House appreciate that it is developing. Apparently, it requires further funds for expansion. Another large item appears in Division 40, Department of National Development, in respect of the Snowy Mountains hydroelectric scheme, for which an additional amount of £746,000 is to be provided. When we recall that the original estimate given earlier in the financial year for this scheme was approximately £14,000,000, the sum of £746,000 does not seem great in itself. But the House should have been given more information about the expenditure envisaged.
Frequently, in measures of this kind, we find the vague item “ Acquisition of sites and buildings “. I suggest again that the Treasurer should be in the House on this occasion to answer inquiries about the new buildings and acquisitions envisaged in these items. In Division 11, Department of the Interior, for instance, appears the item “ Commonwealth offices and other buildings - Acquisition of sites and buildings, £120,000”. In Division 22, Department of Health, there appears the item “ Buildings, works, fittings, furniture and purchase of vessels, £186,000 “. In Division 54, Northern Territory, under the control of the Department of the Interior, there appears the item “ Acquisition of sites and buildings, £250,000”. In Division 55, Northern Territory, under the control of the Department of Works, there appears the item “ Buildings, works, fittings and furniture, £164,000 “. I suppose these items are not significant in terms of a budget of £1,000,000,000. Nevertheless, they represent considerable works for which buildings and sites are to be acquired by the Government, and- the purpose of such expenditure should be indicated to the House.
I suppose the Australian Government is to-day the only administration in Australia fortunate enough to be able freely to expand its works programme if it so desires, because it is the only government that can freely plan its own works within the limits of its own revenue and can pay for essential works out of revenue. The programmes of the States depend upon the. funds allocated through the machinery of the Australian Loan Council. We require a proper integration of the works programmes of the States and of the Commonwealth. I suggest that in the deliberations of the Loan Council the time has come when the emphasis should be shifted from the amount of money available to the works actually required by the nation. There should be an orderly scheme for giving priority to certain works in the programmes of both ‘.he Commonwealth and the States.
In the interest.! of national development, it is necessary that the States should undertake developmental works in connexion with power, transport, irrigation, education and health. The Commonwealth is charged with responsibility in fields such as postal services, the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric scheme and other similar schemes. But, at the moment, the Commonwealth, if it decides to build, let us say, a post office in a particular area, is in a more favorable position than would be a State government which wanted to build a school in a particular area. In certain circumstances, the building of a school might be more important from the viewpoint of the national welfare than the building of a post office, but, within our present governmental machinery, there is no authority which can decide that priority shall be given to one of the two projects. All that we have now are the, annual wrangles that occur when the Loan Council meets. The States present a programme for, let us say, £250,000,000 worth of works which they regard as important. The cost of the annual works programme of the Commonwealth alone is of the order of £100,000,000. Having regard to the number of powers which still reside in the States, the States’ works programme is not out of proportion in the national picture. But the programme which is cut most is the- State’s programme, not the Commonwealth’s programme. The States are told, “You must cut your programme from £250,000,000 to £180,000,000 because we- do not expect the loan market to yield enough money to finance a £250,000,000 programme “.
In the interests of national development, the emphasis in Loan Council discussions should be shifted from arguments about the amount of money available to arguments about our resources in terms of man-power, materials and technical skill. The programmes of both the Commonwealth and the States should be thrown into a pool, and then priorities should be allocated fairly. As I have said before in this House, the Commonwealth is in a luxurious position. It can choose to finance its capital works either with loan money or from revenue. T believe that as much finance as possible for capital works should be provided from revenue, but in a federal system, in which the States are co-operating partners with the Commonwealth, the opportunity to finance capital works from revenue should not be restricted to the Commonwealth. It should be open to the States as well. The only way in which that could be done would be to throw all the works programmes into a common pool. Then we could say that we should provide so much money from revenue and so much money from loan funds. The money from revenue sources could be allocated to the States and the Commonwealth on a pro rata basis, in the same way as loan moneys are allocated now. I suggest that that would be a move in the direction of a more orderly scheme of national development.
The measure before us now is comparatively small, but it contains various items in respect of which the Treasurer ought to have provided us with more information. I direct attention to Division 58, items 10 and 10a. Item 10 is, “ Australian Capital Territory Brickworks Trust Account - Working Advance, £23,029 “. Item 10a is, “ Less unrequired balance of the Interior Services Trust Account, £23,029 “. So the net result is nil. That is a mysterious piece of bookkeeping. Item 11 of Division 58 reads “Australian Capital Territory Forestry . Trust Account - Working Advance- £22,605 “. The next item is 11a, “Less unrequired balance of the Interior Services Trust Account - £22,605 “. The transactions represented by these items have been included in the bill, apparently, so that it may be said that at least they were placed before the Parliament for consideration. I suggest, however, that the ordinary layman in this House will find it difficult to understand these mysterious transactions. Apparently, there are in existence an Australian Capital Territory Brickworks Trust Account, an Australian Capital Territory Forestry Trust Account, and another account known as the Interior Services Trust Account. Apparently there is not enough money in two of these accounts, and too much in the third, and, therefore, the surplus from that account is being transferred to the others.
The matter of trust accounts generally, as they affect the public finances of Australia, is shrouded in a great deal of mystery. When we examine the budget papers each year we find that they contain two or three foolscap pages showing the various public trust accounts that are in existence. From time time these matters have been considered by the Public Accounts Committee, which has suggested that a more rational viewpoint should be adopted in regard to these trust accounts, and that they should be fully explained to the members of the Parliament. It has been found, for instance, that such undertakings as the brickworks conducted by the Department of the Interior, and the Forestry and Timber Bureau of the Department of the Interior, have been engaging in business for a considerable number of years, without any annual accounts being presented to the Parliament. The only times when the Parliament has heard anything about them have been when they ran short of funds in their working advance accounts, and they have had to ask the Parliament for additional appropriations to continue their operations. The Public Accounts Committee expressed the opinion that this was not a satisfactory way of conducting such enterprises, and it may be that these items in the bill now before the House represent an attempt to enlighten honorable members about the operations of these undertakings. The Treasurer, however, should have indicated why he has included these apparently mysterious transactions in the bill.
Because of the great activity in housing and other building work that is going on in the Australian Capital Territory, & brickworks is apparently necessary, and perhaps it is also necessary to conduct extensive forestry operations.- Those enterprises are in the nature of business undertakings, which are conducted by separate entities that do not usually present their accounts to the Parliament. In the present instance, apparently, both of these undertakings require additional capital, which is being provided from the ‘ Interior Services Trust Account, whatever that may be. Perhaps, at a later stage of this debate, the Treasurer will give the House some more detailed information about these mysterious operations.
This debate affords an opportunity for honorable members to comment upon various aspects of the capital works and services of Australia, which involve the expenditure of about £100,000,000 a year, and have important effects upon our standards of living and our general national development. We offer no opposition to the measure as such, but we welcome the opportunity to canvass some of the shortcomings of government administration.
.- The amount of money for which this measure seeks parliamentary approval is comparatively small, but the debate on the bill gives honorable members an opportunity to comment upon the proposals contained in the bill, having in mind the amounts of money that were granted by this Parliament for various purposes after the debate on the Estimates in this House in September of last year. One of the items in this bill that interests me particularly has reference to a matter that was discussed in this chamber at great length recently. I refer to the provision of equipment and the acquisition of sites and buildings for television purposes. I confess I was somewhat surprised to find in- this bill, under Division 51, an item, “Acquisition of sites and buildings for television purposes - £83,000”. We seem to be able to find money very readily for this television project, which, after a considerable lapse of time, will benefit only one small section of our community, comprising those who live on the eastern coast of Australia. In the original appropriations made by this Parliament in September last, no less than £1,400,000 was voted for television purposes. That amount included £850,000 for transmitting equipment and studio equipment. An amount of £50,000 -was included for the acquisition of sites and buildings, while building works, fittings and furniture for television purposes accounted for another £500,000. Now we find that an additional £83,000 is being sought in this bill for the acquisition of sites and buildings. I presume that the £50,000 that was asked for in September represented a sort of rough guess by the department that some such amount would be required for the acquisition of sites and buildings. Since that time the department has probably selected its sites and has found that it will need another £83,000 for their acquisition. This indicates to me an extension of the practice of coming to this Parliament and asking for funds before any definite plans are made. Departmental officers, realizing that they will need money for a certain purpose, include a round figure in the Estimates, thinking to themselves, “ Members of Parliament never worry about these things, so we are sure to obtain approval “. I am addressing my remarks particularly to the members of this Parliament, and I say that so long as they continue to take insufficient active interest in individual items in the Estimates submitted to this Parliament, and so long as they continue to make the Estimates debate a battlefield for party politics, then just so long will government departments be able to get away with almost murder so far as the country’s finances are concerned. I agree that the situation has been improved during recent years because of the activities of the Public Accounts Committee, but at a time when we are being called upon to exercise restraint in our expenditure, I am not at all happy to find that another £83,000 is being sought to provide this supreme luxury for a select few people.
I wish now to make a general reference to the accounts of the Postal Department. There is in existence in that department a Stores Trust Account. I think that the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) will agree with me that that is so. Each year a certain sum is made available by the Treasurer to the Postal Department for the purpose of acquiring stores. The stores are bought, the money is drawn from the trust account and then the stores are held as an asset - as good as cash one might say. They are a credit in the department. It is a very wise provision and I am not questioning it, but a certain position has now arisen. According to the Postmaster-General’s report, the department has in hand stores valued at more than £20,000,000. These stores are urgently required throughout the country. There is an urgent need for the extension of telephone and telegraphic facilities, especially telephones. Whereas hitherto the department’s inability to meet the demands that have been made upon it for an extension of its services has been attributed to a shortage of equipment and material such as copper wire, cable and switch gear, that excuse no longer holds (rood. The equipment is in store and recorded in the trust account.
Now, as a result of the Government’s decision that there shall be a scaling down of expenditure upon capital works and services, the Postal Department has been told that there is to be no extension of its works, and indeed that they might even have to be reduced. It is an overall policy, and no department is exempt. Therefore, although the Postal Department actually has goods in store and has spent the money on them - they are still shown as a credit, but once they are drawn they will become a debit - because it is not allowed to increase expenditure on capital goods and services, it cannot draw those stores out. Consequently, the department is not permitted to expand 30 as to meet ever-increasing public demand. This is merely a matter of departmental bookkeeping; it is an obstacle that should be overcome. I cannot see why there should not be this transfer in the books so that the department may proceed with its capital works programme. It is merely a matter of transferring £10,000,000, £12,000,000 or £20,000,000 from the stores trust account into the capital works and expenditure account. The money has been spent; the goods are there. For heaven’s sake, let us put them to use. The country is crying out for telephone services, for new exchanges and for expansion in every direction. Restrictions of this sort should not be placed upon this department, which, except for the Commonwealth Railways, is the only department that this Government conducts as a major business undertaking. Something should be done to separate it from the question of national policy.
If the Postal Department is to be regarded as a proper business undertaking - we insist that it shall pay interest on the moneys that we make available to it, originally from loans and in later years from revenue - let us conduct it as a business should be conducted. “We cannot have a half-and-half affair - half a government department and half a business undertaking. It must be a commercial undertaking, operating without government restriction. This is a revenue-earning public utility, and an extension of its services would fulfil one of our most pressing needs. It is an entirely different matter to set aside £4,000,000 for the construction of such buildings as the magnificent structure that we see staring at us every time we walk out of the front door of Parliament House. That building will produce nothing but a lot of paper. Surely, Government policy should distinguish between essential and non-essential works. 1 1 is not enough to say, “ Because of economic pressure all capital works and services must stand still “. There should be a sorting out process, so that such buildings as I have described may be marked down as non-essential. It does not make any difference whether wo complete that building this year or next year. It can afford to wait until finance is more readily available. Postal facilities are a different matter. They are urgently needed and could lower costs and contribute greatly to the winning of the additional production that is so urgently required in this country. Let us look at it in that light and say, “ We must not restrict this activity. It is too valuable and important to be kept within any overall policy of Government restriction “.
I am not questioning the decision of the Government on economic policy generally. It is, under the circumstances, inevitable, wise and necessary, but 1 suggest that a. wrong situation, which hae not been remedied down through the years, exists, lt is time that a remedy was found. This Government is not responsible for the present accounting practice. Indeed, no particular government can be said to have been responsible for it. It has just grown up with the Commonwealth as a result of procedures which wore comparatively unimportant when, only a little more than 50 years peo, this Commonwealth began to function. It then had a revenue of £8,000,000 or £9,000,000 a year. To-day, we have a Postal Department with assets worth about £300,000,000. Those assets must, produce payable results. The department is providing facilities that are absolutely indispensable. I am leaving aside the question of the provision of telephone, telegraphic and mail services as amenities of life and looking at the matter largely from the business aspect. Postal services have assumed such tremendous importance that to-day t.he cannot be classed in the same street, fis providing another building for a department or another playground for children or anything else like that. They are something separate and distinct.
That brings me to the final point, 1 want to make. If the policy T have outlined is adopted and something is done in connexion with it, the position could be reached where the, Postal Department could be responsible for raising its own money to meet its requirements for capital works and service.1-. That is done with all other kinds of public utilities such as the State electricity supplies. State water boards or State gas boards. They are all public utilities and because they are providing a tangible public service where something of value is obtained in return for the. money spent, the same as the Postal department, they have the right under the financial agreement to borrow money for their own purposes. They can go on to the loan market. If such an authority were; vested in the Postal Department, it would have no trouble in finding all of the money that it needs to meet the already belated programme that is on hand as a result of the delays that took place during the war years and the subsequent shortages of materials and man-power.
The Postal Department, as a result of good management by its officers, has keyed itself to the point where, given the opportunity, it can rapidly overtake the lag that undeniably exists. The departmental officers have done a stupendous job in that connexion. Their organization is good and their set up is excellent. But because of this national policy of regarding this huge undertaking as merely one of the departments of the Commonwealth, the Postal Department is being hamstrung. I appeal to the Postmaster-General and to the Cabinet to look at the position. It should be examined very carefully ;md, if necessary, it could be referred to the Crown Law officers for an opinion on the constitutional situation. If the idea that I have stated broadly is adopted, then the grounds for the scores of complaints received by honorable members every day that the postal services are nowhere near meeting thineeds of the country will be overcome in a comparatively short time. I wan: to express my complete confidence in the capacity and the ability of the departmental officers and the PostmasterGeneral to meet the situation if they are given the opportunity to do so. But to-day, because of the procedural strings, the departmental strings and the wrong tie up, they are not being given the opportunity.
If the financial procedures that require stores and equipment to be held under the trust account arrangement were removed, the Postmaster-General, because of his complete understanding of the needs and requirements of the outback, would be happy, I am sure, to meet the demands that are being made on him. The remedy is there. It might not be easy and may take some time, but a start has to be made on some of these reforms if this country is not to go deeper and deeper into a financial morn” because of procedures that were laid down by the people who framed the Constitution of this Commonwealth. The procedures then laid down wore quite pil rich t in those times, which might be termed the horse-and-bugg.y days, but they are now binding this country with red tape. This is the result of restrictive policies and restrictive practices. Some reform has to be started sooner or later and I believe that now is the time when it should be started. At least, some investigation should be made to find out what can be done to overcome this impossible and utterly ridiculous position with regard to the financial operations and set-up of the Postal Department.
.- This bill has for its purpose the appropriation of approximately £3,750,000. Yesterday, a similar bill appropriating an amount of approximately £21,000,000 was discussed. In the last two days, this House has been asked to discuss bills that appropriate a total of about £25,000,000, which is represented by amounts that were not provided in the original Estimates. That is to say, the figure is over and above the amount provided in the Estimates for 1955-56. Onn asks why it is necessary for such a largo sum of money to be appropriated, particularly in view of some of the reasons that are given. When some of the departments, the amount of money being appropriated for them and the character of the work or purpose are considered, it is hard to understand why these items were not included in the original Estimates that were before the Parliament when the last budget was discussed. I know perfectly well that there must be some degree of elasticity and flexibility in respect of the Estimates, but when this bill, and the one that was before the House yesterday are examined, it is very difficult to understand why these amounts were not provided for in th, original Estimates that were considered approximately nine months ago.
The House is indebted to the Public Accounts Committee for the work that it has done over the last two or three years. It is undoubtedly because of its investigations and the condition of mind that its members have brought to the problems that have been presented to it that a great, deal of interest is now being taken in these affairs. If the committee has done nothing else, it has stimulated interest in this kind of thing, which is all to the good. I could speak for quite a while about the work of the Public Accounts Committee, but I feel that I am justified in making that reference to the work that it has done on behalf of this Parliament.
I find it very difficult to reconcile myself to some of the items contained in this bill. First of all, I want to make some reference to the Department of External Affairs. Provision of £38,300 is made for buildings, works, equipment and furniture. It is not the amount that I am criticizing, but I consider that the department should have been in a position nine months ago to provide for those things when the original Estimates were under discussion. Speaking of th« Department of External Affairs, I am reminded of a recommendation of the Public Accounts Committee that there should be some inquiry into an accountamounting to about £500,000 that was spent by the department at New Delhi. The department acquired property at New Delhi, and that amount was spent. It was the subject of investigation by the Public Accounts Committee, which recommended that this matter should be inquired into further. It was suggested that the Public “Works Committee, or another committee, should have an inquiry on the spot. Up to date, nothing has been done. .We have heard nothing more of it, notwithstanding the inquiry of the Public Accounts Committee, and it is quite obvious that the department and the Government are not prepared to do anything about it at this juncture, but are hoping that it will be forgotten with the passing of time. It is up to the department to do something about this matter, and state just what it proposes to do about the recommendation.
I now direct attention to the proposed provision for the Department of the Interior. The expenditure of £120,000 on Commonwealth offices and other buildings, and the acquisition of sites and buildings is proposed. Might I say,
I before I proceed, that I join with other I honorable members in expressing my opposition and concern at the scanty and meagre information that is contained in the schedule before us, which is drafted in accordance with the custom which has prevailed down the years. Apparently it is taken for granted that once the Treasury has received approval to expend a certain amount of money, and the C. le11 t department in turn receives permission from the Treasury to proceed, those sanctions having been granted, that is all there is to it. I suggest that honorable members look through this schedule of proposed appropriations. The information that they may gain from it is virtually nil. I think that we have reached the stage where this Parliament is entitled to have estimates of expenditure presented to it in a better form than has been the case up to now. In this schedule we find nothing but items and amounts. It is completely lacking in detail. We have reached a stage where Parliament should insist that when estimates are before it a detailed statement conveying information additional to that to which we have been accustomed should be presented. The Department of the Interior proposes to expend £120,000 on, amongst other things, acquisition of nite3 and buildings. It would be interesting for the Parliament to know the precise sites in view and the purpose for which the buildings are required. On this subject of acquisition of sites and buildings, I am indeed very critical of the Government particularly in regard to its retention of sites. For the last ten years I have been trying to persuade governments, including the Chifley Government and this Government, to vacate parklands occupied by the Commonwealth at King George Park, Rozelle. In recent months an unfortuate fire occurred there which was responsible for the destruction of the major part of the buildings on these lands, and I wrote to the Minister for the Interior asking whether he would do something about having the Commonwealth vacate this parkland. This has been a live question in my electorate. The park is in a congested industrial area. Parklands are very scarce and as a consequence not only the parents’ and citizens’ organizations but also the. municipal authorities are very much concerned. It is not merely a question of asking the Government to vacate these parklands. When the lands were acquired the Government made a definite promise to vacate twelve months after the conclusion of hostilities. I think that but for that unfortunate fire the Commonwealth would not be contemplating vacating the land at all. The stage was reached some months ago where I and other persons interested were told that it was a matter of economics and that the tenant departments were not prepared to move out. The departmental heads were merely concerned with the matter of economics and not the rights of the people in the district who were being unjustly deprived of the park. We are now informed that the Commonwealth will move out, but because of the lack of funds it is not at present in a position to do so. It appears that every time the Government is asked to move in this matter it has a different kind of answer. Previously, I was told that it was not prepared to move because satisfactory alternative sites could not be obtained. Now, we are told that because of the cost involved - no one knows just what it is and I believe that only a small sum would be required to clear this area completely because of the devastation caused by the fire - the Government is not prepared to do anything at present, and we have to wait until it decides to move. First, we were told that the Government could not move from this land, then that it was a question of economics, and then that there were no other favorable sites. The municipal authorities, which have been pressing in this matter through the years, have been told that, they will receive the park back, but they cannot be told the precise date. I submit that it is not merely a question of economics or money, hut of the Government keeping good faith. We hear much talk of this kind from Government supporters, but here is a classic instance of a flat refusal by the Government to honour an undertaking, which refusal has resulted in detriment to the people of the district. I hope that it will not be very long before the Government allows this park to be enjoyed by the people in the district who have suffered its loss for so long, I believe quite unnecessarily.
I direct attention next to the proposed appropriation of £700,000 for the provision of additional sharp capital for Qantas Empire Airways Limited. Here again, absolutely no information is con tained in the schedule other than that the company requires this additional share capital, but the Parliament is asked to grant its requirements. I submit that we should have more information than is contained in the schedule. I should imagine that Qantas Empire Airways Limited requires this money for additional aircraft or for the construction of a building that the company is erecting in Sydney. I could be wrong in these assumptions. As far as I am concerned, it is just a matter of conjecture. Additional information should have been provided. I make the point that Qantas Empire Airways Limited is asking now for an additional £700,000, nine months after the original Estimate? were prepared. If the money is needed for expenditure on the building which is being constructed in Sydney, the plans for that building were well in existence twelve or eighteen months ago, and this provision should have been made in the original Estimates. T could be completely wrong about why the company needs this money. The House should be given further information about the matter.
An additional appropriation of £380,000 is sought by the Department of Shipping and Transport for ship construction. At least we should know what construction is proposed and where it is to take place. The electorate which I represent is very vitally interested in new Commonwealth ship-building, because, as a consequence of the Government’s policy over the last three or four years, shipbuilding yards in the Dalley electorate have been without government orders. I am not referring now to the naval shipbuilding yard at Cockatoo Island, which has a considerable amount of work served up to it by the Navy and which also does a lot of repair work for private interests. There are several - private shipbuilding yards in the division of Dalley, some of which have constructed ships of up to 7,000 tons. For some reason or other, the Government, as I have stated, has not placed orders in the port of Sydney over the last three or four years, and its failure to do so has had a very adverse effect on the industry in that area. I have absolutely no objection’ to its action in placing orders throughout the Commonwealth, because I believe that the shipbuilding yards of Australia, no matter where they are, should be kept geared to full employment. The point L am making is that the port of Sydney, which has the facilities for constructing some of the biggest ships used around the Australian coast, and which has made a valuable contribution to the industry, is now without orders from the Government. Over the past two or three years, the Government has been the only source of orders for the shipbuilding industry. I suggest that this Government should spread its orders more equitably and should take into consideration the potentialities of the port of Sydney. As I have indicated, the information that is contained in the Additional Estimates is so meagre that one can only guess at the real purpose of the various items. I am particularly interested in the appropriation for ship construction, but all that I am able to ascertain from the document is that a sum of £3S0,000 has been appropriated. No further information is supplied.
I conclude by saying that I support the remarks of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean). I believe that the Parliament is entitled to more information than the Estimates have contained for many years past. It seems to have become a tradition in the parliamentary life of this country for the Treasury and its client, departments to serve up figures to the Parliament, to obtain the sanction of the Parliament for the expenditure, and that is all there is to it. Consequently, members are left very much in the dark. What is to take place when the expenditure is made is a question of speculation as far as they personally are concerned. As I have indicated, the client departments set the sum, the Parliament approves it, and that is all there is to it. That is a tradition or practice which cannot be justified. I believe that the time is fast approaching when the Parliament ‘ should assert its authority and its rights. But that day will come only when honorable members take sufficient interest in the matter to bring about a state of affairs in which they will not need to be continually asking for information but will have it already furnished for them. Then they will be in a better position to address themselves to a bill such as the one now before the House. The Public Accounts Committee is to be commended for the work that it has done over the last two or three years in the discovery and correction of irregularities, and also the very prominent part that it has played in stimulating the interest of honorable members in such measures as this.
– The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. O’Connor) has complained about the paucity of information contained in the Additional Estimates, but I should be rather surprised if he and other Opposition members who have similarly complained do not know how to elicit the information they wanted bytaking advantage of the various parliamentary processes open to them. Of course, the whole purpose of this kind of debate is to give honorable members an opportunity to deal with such matters.
I am rather loth to take up time during this debate, because I know that private members are eager to criticize or question some of the items that are contained in the Additional Estimates. However, it seems to me that this is a golden opportunity to make one or two comments in explanation of matters raised by the honorable member for Dalley and the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean), and, perhaps, at the same time, to produce a better understanding of departmental needs and of the justification for the appropriation of certain sums for the acquisition of sites and buildings under the control of the Department of the Interior. I shall deal, first, with the sum of £250,000 which appears under Division 54. A question has been asked about the noninclusion of that sum in the Estimates nine months ago. If I may generalize, the Parliament is now being asked to approve a total sum of £3,783,000. I think that that is not an unreasonable margin for manoeuvre, having regard to the total sum of money that has to be dealt with, and having regard to the point, quite rightly taken by the honorable member for Dalley, that there must be a little flexibility. Strangely enough, this particular item flows from the action of a
Labour government in 1946, which, rightly or wrongly - I am not offering any criticism of the action - moved to acquire the Darwin works of the North Australian Meat Company. The acquisition of the greater part of the area in 1946, and a smaller part in 1947, became the subject of a claim before the High Court for compensation amounting te £1,750,000. This debate affords me an opportunity, first, to announce that the matter has been settled out of court for the sum shown in the Additional Estimates - £250,000 - and, secondly, to answer a question that was asked at question time yesterday by the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson). By being able to settle the matter out of court, we have been able to avoid the difficulties, ill feeling and the expenses of litigation associated with the hearing of such a claim. The necessity to include the item in the Additional Estimates arises from the fact that no definite date for the hearing of the claim had been fixed when the Estimates were prepared nine months ago.
I refer now to Division 11 - “ Commonwealth offices and other buildings - Acquisition of sites and buildings - £120,000 “. Here again, we must plead the need for flexibility in the handling of such matters, because the project covered by this item was not envisaged when the Estimates were prepared nine months ago. The item covers the very recent purchase by the Department of the Interior of a building known as “ Queen’s Gate “ in Queen’s-road, St. Kilda, Melbourne. It was a new building which had been designed originally as a block of flats. At the last moment, it was converted to office accommodation, and the department was fortunate in having the building offered to it before being offered at public auction. The justification of buying such a building may be questioned. At this point. T should like to make an explanation about the general position facing the Government in the provision of office accommodation. An answer to a question asked recently by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), with his customary industry, set out the amount of office space that was rented throughout Aus tralia, and the rental that was paid. The figures disclosed that, in Sydney, the Government rents more than 466,000 square feet of office space, for an annual rental of £225,000. In Melbourne, the position is even worse. In that city, government departments rent 518,850 square feet of office space for a total annual rental of £190,884. Of course, the figures are available for the other capital cities.
This highlights a particularly unfortunate set of circumstances on which we are making an attack at the present moment. Since federation, the Commonwealth Government has inherited one or two buildings of very minor consequence. Apart from that, it has not provided one decent building for the accommodation of government administration. We have, in fact, relied on the old government process of moving in on space which has been provided by private entrepreneurs for their own use, particularly during war years when considerable areas of office accommodation were acquired by the government. In many cases we are still in occupation of those areas, but our occupancy is being more and more heatedly disputed by the owners of the properties who now want them for their own normal business extensions. I merely draw the inference that the Government has failed to provide for the needs of its own expanding administration through some sort of inverted fear of public opinion. But if we are to be asked to expand government administration and government services in this country, it stands to reason that, side by side with that action, must go a demand for more office accommodation.
I am happy to say that we now have, not only on the drafting hoard, but committed to construction, a major project in Melbourne which will provide considerable space for the amalgamation of government offices, and we have the same sort of thing under consideration in other capital city areas. So at least we are in sight, even if some distance away, of the provision by the Government of adequate accommodation for its own administration. At the present moment, in Sydney and in Melbourne particularly, government departments are scattered. One government department may be operating in three pieces, in three different corners of the city. This leads to higher costs of administration and to inefficiency in administration. I believe that we have to take these steps, expensive though they are going to be, in order to overcome the problem.
I hope that members of the Opposition who have complained, rather bitterly, that the Government is not looking after these matters will not be equally bitter in their complaint when the time comes to appropriate the considerable funds which will be necessary to provide this sort of accommodation. But I make no apology for the fact that the demand from the Department of “Works in the coming years is going to be higher, if I have anything to do with it. Naturally, it will have to be fitted into the broad background of the Government’s financial commitments, but I hope that we shall be able to do something towards amalgamating this split administration, in the capital cities particularly, and provide accommodation for our own administration; and we shall be able to move out and, therefore, surrender to those people who have made provision for themselves office accommodation that we are now holding under duress.
The problem that was raised by the honorable member for Dalley concerning the clearing of Government installations out of park areas has given considerable worry, not only to myself and the department, but to my predecessors in office. It has been pointed out to the honorable member that there are very great difficulties in clearing these installations out. I am bound to point out that, in many cases, the councils concerned have not particularly asked the department to move. Not that I cite that as any justification at all for Commonwealth departments staying in public parks. But there are these great problems of the provision of alternative areas, the provision of funds to construct the replacement buildings, and the constant pressure coming on, for the reasons I have tried to illustrate. I can assure the honorable member for Dalley, and other honorable members, that that sort of problem has departmental, sympathy and it will have the best possible action that we can produce towards clearing these areas as soon as possible.
– What about Albert Park, in Melbourne?
– I should like notice of that question, because it is slightly bigger than, and in slightly different context from, the matter on which I have been speaking. I shall look into that, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and we shall have words on it privately. I hope that the words that I have injected into this debate, short though they may have been, have given some appreciation of why the items concerned appear in the Supplementary Estimates and why they tend to be so big. I can assure the House that there is more than ample justification for them in the cases that I have mentioned.
Mr. THOMPSON (Port Adelaide) [4.10 . - I had not intended taking part in this debate, but I now think that this is an opportune time for me to have something to say. I feel sure that had the chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Bland), been here, bc would have thought this a good opportunity to speak in the House on some of the things that we have had to say in the reports that the committee has issued from time to time. I take full responsibility for the remarks that I am making, and I do not intend that the chairman should take it. As honorable members know, I am vice-chairman of the Public Accounts Committee. A report of that body, dealing with Supplementary Estimates, was laid on the table of the House yesterday. If honorable members examine that report very carefully, they will see that it refers to a number of matters in which the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. O’Connor) has been specially interested to-day.
It all banks up on the method of the presentation of financial papers to Parliament and the way in which we deal with the Estimates when they are before us in a budget session. I happened to be addressing a gathering of departmental officers recently and I dwelt at length upon the difficulties connected with the preparation of the Estimates. If one examines the Additional Estimates in the Appropriation (Works and Services) Bill (No. 2) 1955-56 now before the
House, one has a job to understand their purpose. The same difficulty would be experienced in connexion with the general Estimates that were presented to this Parliament last year. Again, it would be found that only round figures had been given, together with a few brief words setting out the purpose of the expenditure, in many cases, of many millions of pounds. It would be impossible for honorable members to understand why all that money was to be spent.
When I make that statement, I do not say that we debate the Estimates in a slipshod manner, but I do say that it would be almost impossible to go line by line, through the whole of the Estimates, totalling £1,000,000,000, and get a satisfactory explanation of each item. For years, I had experience of the practice in a small State parliament, and when I came to this House and saw the Estimates for the first time, I was rather amazed at ihe little information that was given concerning them. In the State Parliament, after the general budget debate, we came to the individual items, and the responsible Minister would be in his place with a bundle of papers, containing an explanation of each item on the Estimates for the department that he administered. When a member inquired about r.he purpose for which a specific vote was intended, the Minister would immediately consult his papers and explain the position. In that way, we had an opportunity to ascertain how the money was to be spent. When I came to this House, I was surprised at the little information that was available about individual items. When we increased our numbers here, as we did in 1949, to 123 members I began to appreciate how impossible it was, under our system, for members to have a detailed knowledge of the Estimates.
If honorable members will look at the reports of the Public Accounts Committee, they will see that, from time to time, the committee has explained how these matters are dealt with in the House of Commons. The House of Commons has a. special committee. It does not wait for twelve months to hold a postmortem, as we do in this Parliament. Even the debate on these Additional
Estimates will make very little contribution to our understanding of government expenditure.. In a few days’ time, the Supplementary “Estimates for 1954-55 will be presented and we shall hold a post-mortem on them. When the Public Accounts Committee examined the Supplementary Estimates for the year ended the 30th June, 1955, it was able to question departmental officers as to why certain amounts were spent, although they were not in the original Estimates. In that way, the committee can get a complete explanation of why expenditure has been incurred. But we cannot do that with these Additional Estimates of expenditure. We cannot touch these until the financial year is finished and the Government brings down the Supplementary Estimates.
– It is a case of trying to close the stable door after the horse has gone.
– We cannot even close the door. We can only have a postmortem on what has happened, and report to the Parliament our opinion of what has been done. The British House of Commons has a committee system which enables this problem to be dealt with. Before the Estimates are finally approved by the British Parliament that committee has an opportunity to go fully into the accounts of the different departments, and can then report to the House on them. So, in contradistinction to the position here, the British House of Commons is fully informed of the facts when it is considering the Estimates.
I do not intend to be critical, in that I do not intend to, as it were, lambaste the departments which have prepared these Additional Estimates. We of the Public Accounts Committee have dealt with the matter very strongly in our reports to the Parliament, and have therein informed the Treasury and the various departments that we want correct estimating, and do not want the over-estimating that has been a feature of the past presentation of the nation’s accounts. We have told the departments that it is the intention of the Public Accounts Committee to inquire, not only into under-estimating - which is really the core of the matter we are discussing now - but also to probe very deeply into the question of overestimating. If honorable members will read the report of the Public Accounts Committee that was presented yesterday they will see therein some very strong comments on the subject of over-estimating in the financial year which ended on the 30th June, 1955. I can appreciate the care now being taken by the various departments to avoid overestimating, in view of the strictures of the Public Accounts Committee on that matter. It is admitted that, as the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Fairhall) has pointed out, from time to time unforeseen expenditures have to be met and it is necessary to prepare and present Additional Estimates to cover them. The Public Accounts Committee found, in its examination of the General Estimates for the financial year 1954-55, that amounts had been asked for, then transferred to other heads of expenditure under section 37 of the Audit Act, then extra amounts had been asked for in the Additional Estimates which, in the end, had remained unexpended at the end of the financial year. That position clearly indicates that some action should be taken in regard to such matters. I stress to the Minister for the Interior, who is now at the table, and to the Government generally, the need for definite action to improve our system of accounts if this Parliament is to have a proper knowledge of the expenditure of public moneys.
In voicing criticisms and making suggestions in respect of this matter T do not speak merely from the standpoint of a member of the official Opposition in this House. I speak as a member of the Public Accounts Committee, which has been empowered by the Parliament to examine the accounts of the nation. So, I speak as one of the members of this Parliament who act, to a degree, as custodians, representing the Parliament, of the financial affairs of government. Honorable members in general are not able to examine all the items in the Estimates line by line. They have appointed the Public Accounts Committee to do that work on their behalf. Tn doing its appointed work the Public Accounts Committee is endeavouring to impress on the Parliament, and on the Government, the necessity to have a system of accounts, and a system of pre sentation of accounts, which will enable clearer and more detailed information to be given to the Parliament. We read statements in the press, and hear statements in the lobbies, about Government back-benchers and members of the Opposition harrying the Government; but the Government is, to a great degree, only carrying on the system that other governments have used for many years. If the Labour party were in office now its back-benchers, too, would sometimes be asking why they and the House were not given more information about the Government’s accounts and about how the public moneys were being expended. 1 appreciate that it, is difficult for every Minister to explain accounts in detail; The Minister for the Interior has given us details of some of the expenditures provided for in this bill. Yesterday, the House approved estimated expenditure of £21,000,000 on general items, and to-day we are asked for our approval of an estimated expenditure of considerably more than £3,000,000 on capital works and services.
In these estimates there is a recurring item, “ buildings, fittings and furniture “. Under Department of the Interior we find the item, “Commonwealth offices and other buildings - Acquisition of sites and buildings, £120,000 “. Again, under Department of Civil Aviation we find “ Buildings and works, including shore bases and marine facilities, fittings and. furniture, £75,000 “. Under Department of Health we find “ Buildings, works, fittings, furniture and purchase of vessels, £186,000”. Under Department of Trade we find “ Residential buildings, works, equipment and furniture, Indonesia, £31,000”. Under Department of Shipping and Transport we find “Marine Branch - Buildings, works, fittings and furniture, £2,500 “ besides other amounts. Under Department of Territories we have “ Building works, fittings and furniture, £1,000”. Under Department of Immigration there are the items “Reception, training and holding centres for the accommodation of migrants, £46,400 “, and “ Hostels for migrant workers, £23,700 “. Under Broadcasting Services we find ‘” Acquisition of sites and buildings for sound broadcasting studios, £8,000 “ and “ Acquisition of sites and buildings for television purposes, £83,000 “. Under Northern Territory we find, “ Loans for housing, £73,000 and another item which reads “Buildings, works, fittings and furniture, £164,000”. We find under Australian Capital Territory, “ Loans tor Housing, £±9,000 “, and “Buildings, fittings and furniture, £426,000”. Under Territory of Cocos (Keeling) Islands we find “ Buildings, works, fittings and furniture, £16,900 “.
The same item is repeated over and over again. Figure after figure is set down totalling tremendous sums of money. I am not questioning the right or wisdom of any one of those items, but we must ask why more detail is not given. No doubt it is the absence of such detail that gives rise to bad estimating, of which we heard so much during inquiries by the Public Accounts Committee, and about which we asked so many questions. The common reply was, “ We cannot get suitable labour to do the job and suitable men in the departments to work out what is required “. We heard that answer so often that finally we were unable to place much value on it as an explanation. I warn the Minister for the Interior that unless more detail is provided in future in regard to the item “Buildings, fittings and furniture “, the kind of question I am raising now will be raised more frequently. The Public Accounts Committee asks the Government to go into this matter in order to see whether it is not possible for somebody to evolve a system - and even to present legislation to the House, if necessary - so that the House will be able to consider items of expenditure within a period of less than twelve months or nine months of the ending of the financial year.
I had no desire to detain the House, but I thought that this was an opportune time to express some of the views held by the Public Accounts Committee about action that should be taken to provide the Parliament with more information. I know very well that, “tv:’ a-‘v honorable member goes to a department for information, he is told that the Minister has it and can give it to him. There is no doubt that the Minister could do so, but our estimates of expenditure are so large that it is not practicable for a member to obtain detailed information: in the House in that way. Indeed, it is usually considered necessary to impose’ a time-table and to use the “guillotine” during the consideration of the Estimates with the result that honorable members have to consider the Estimates for four or five departments together, and do not have an opportunity to deal with any particular item or subject. The most an honorable member can do is to discuss the Estimates of one department asa whole, without reference to the detailed, items. I bring to the notice of the Government the need for a better system to enable members of the Parliament to obtain information of the kind that has been asked for this afternoon.
Mr. DRUMMOND (New England> [4.26]. - In the very brief time at my disposal, I wish to direct attention to a particular aspect of this measure which I have not heard mentioned. The title describes the bill in the following words : -
A bill for an act to grant and apply an additional sum out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund . . . for the purposes of Additions,. New Works and other Services involving Capital Expenditure. . . .
In other words, this is a bill to provide, out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund,, money for capital works and undertakings, and the significance of this should not be lost upon the Hon«e. In the General Estimates originally approved: by the Parliament for the current financial year, something like £200,000,000 was provided for the States for this purpose, in addition to other large sums. The Commonwealth is providing, out of taxation, for expenditure on what are normally looked upon as works to bc financed out of loan funds. The fact of the matter is that the Commonwealth cannot finance these works from loan fund’s, hf cause it has allocated to the States for their works programmes a great deal more than it has been able to raise from loans.
I wish to mention also, in the short time left to me, the funds provided for the Commonwealth Railways. I just want to say that the most important thin?, from the stand-point of relations between the Commonwealth and the
States, is the relationship between the financial dependence of the States on the Commonwealth and the losses that are being incurred upon the railways. One factor that vitally affects the finances of both the Commonwealth and the States is the loss of production from land in consequence of the tremendously high freight charges for the carriage of fertilizer and lime, which are vital to primary production. It now costs nearly £3 a ton for the carriage of these commodities over the same distance for which a charge of 10s. a ton used to be made by the New South Wales railways. Fertilizer costs £22 a ton to place on the land, and, therefore, the cost of applying fertilizer to a property at the rate of a hundredweight to an acre is tremendous. In the net result, the State does not receive from rail freights the indirect benefit that it would receive from higher production if the land were adequately fertilized and it collected the increased income tax payable on the income from the increased production. It therefore has to increase the freight charges paid by primary producers. The Commonwealth must have regard to this fact and must do its best to ensure that the producer does not fall between the two stools of the Commonwealth and the States.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I shouldjust like to express the appreciation of the Opposition for the courteous answers given by the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Fairhall) to a number of questions asked by Opposition members at the second-reading stage. ‘I take the opportunity, also, to ask the VicePresident of the Executive Council (Sir Eric Harrison), who is now at the table, to take up with other Ministers the suggestion that perhaps they might supply written answers to some of the questions that were asked at the second-reading stage. I learned to-day that a building in my electorate had been acquired by the Government for certain purposes, but I am happy to say that it is in a nonLabour area.
– I regret that the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) is not at present in the chamber, because I wish to refer to Division 4, Department of External Affairs, item 11, under which £31,900 is to be provided for buildings, works, equipment and furniture in Singapore and Malaya. This is the first time the item to which I refer has appeared in any estimates. Honorable members will recall that, as a result of a recommendation made by the Public Accounts Committee, the General Estimates for the current financial year included footnotes indicating the total estimated expenditure for the project, the relationship of the amount currently being voted to the total, the amount of previous expenditure on the project, and the estimated future expenditure. Similar information has not been included in these Additional Estimates. That may be all right where the additional expenditure relates to a proposal that was mentioned in the General Estimate?. However, in an item such as this, which ha; not previously appeared, we have no explanation. I remind the committee that it has been established that, once the Parliament approves expenditure on a project, although the amount approved may be only £1 of an ultimate expenditure of £1,000,000 or more, the Parliament has, in effect, approved the whole project, perhaps without being aware of it. This proposed expenditure of £31,900 in Singapore and Malaya may be avery small moiety of a project there, or it may be the total expenditure.
I suggest that, in future, these Additional Estimates should contain, in respect of new projects, information similar to that included in the General Estimates, so that Parliament will not be asked, as it has been asked in the past, blindly to vote money for projects about which it has no information. I make this suggestion so that members of the Parliament may know exactly what they are doing when they vote the people’s money for expenditure. When all is said and done, this expenditure is made out of the pockets of the people, because the funds for it are raised by taxation. I ask the VicePresident of the Executive Council (Sir Eric Harrison) to convey to the Minister for External Affairs the suggestion that, at this stage, the Parliament should be informed exactly what is the purpose of this proposed expenditure in Singapore and Malaya.
– The honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie) has, quite rightly, sought information about an item in these Additional Estimates detailed in the schedule to the bill. I am informed that the proposed expenditure of £31,900 in Malaya and Singapore to which he has referred is for the housing of the Australian High Commissioner and his staff, the purchase of furniture, and the provision of motor cars, and is needed in consequence of the added representation that Australia has undertaken to provide in both Singapore and Malaya. That is the sole purpose of this proposed expenditure.
– Does that figure represent the total amount proposed to be expended for this purpose?
– This is not likely to be, as the honorable member suggests it may be, just the beginning of an enormous expenditure. It is purely for the provision of a home for the High Commissioner, the housing of his staff, and the purchase of the necessary furnishings.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 22nd May (vide page 2363), on motion by Mr. Haroldholt -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Upon which Dr. Evatt had moved by way of amendment -
That all words after “That” be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: - “(a) In the opinion of this House the bill should be withdrawn for reconsideration because - ( 1 )The bill confirms rank injustice by continuing some of the worst features of the existing legislation, e.g., penalties enforceable by process of contempt of court. These should be eliminated. In practice they have been enforced only against trades unions, their officers and members and have caused grave industrial unrest;
The bill maintains and extends the present systems of appealfrom decisions and reference of matters. These systems have caused frustration, delay and grave injustice to salary and wage earners within federal jurisdiction ;
In relation not only to matters of penalty and contempt of court, but also to the legal interpretation of awards, the bill vests exclusive judicial power in a small group of the present Commonwealth arbitration judges who were originally appointed primarily because their main duty was to decide in a common-sense and speedy manner practical problems affecting certain aspects of industrial disputes. The judicial power of the Commonwealth, so far as it is required to be exercised in industrial matters, should be vested in the existing courts of Commonwealth and State and not in a newly created court of judicature; and
The present bill contributes nothing to the solution of the problem of industrial unrest and chaos arising from decisions under the present system and the manner in which it has been operated.
Therefore, in the opinion of this House, the bill should be reconsidered and, in order to avoid injustice and delays in the processes of conciliationand arbitration for the effective prevention and just settlement of industrial disputes, legislation should be passed so as to provide for -
The grant of final and exclusive jurisdiction in relation to industrial disputes to officers (however styled) charged with the duties of conciliation and arbitration and specially conversant with the industry concerned, reserving for the determination of the judges or ‘ presidential commissioners ‘ final and exclusive jurisdiction limited to standard hours, basic wage and long service leave ;
The making of special provisions strengthening the processes of conciliation including theappointment of additional conciliators charged exclusively with the function of mediation ;
In all cases where agreement is reached between parties in dispute whether under the act or otherwise, the making of provisions whereby theagreement between the disputants shall be certified by the appropriate authority and shall be conclusive and binding on all parties to such agreement quite irrespective of the subject matters of the agreement or any part of it; <4) The correction of irregularities in union ballots by judicial procedures in accordance with the act of 104a ; and
The elimination of all unnecessary forms and technical legal formalities, orders foi- costs and professional legal advocacy.
And, in the further opinion of this House, au essential feature of an adequate and effective Australian industrial arbitration system should be to vest in the Parliament of the Commonwealth full powers both in relation to industrial matters generally and also to just fixation of prices and profits on an Australia-wide basis.”
.- The notion of conciliation and arbitration for the settlement and prevention of industrial disputes has won general acceptance throughout Australia. The operation of the conciliation and arbitration system in Australia has won widespread admiration throughout the world. Whatever defects may have appeared in the system in the course of its working have been due, in great part, to the greed of human nature, and also to the fact that the system has been made the sport of politics. £>o tar as the greed of human nature is concerned, there are many people who are willing to accept benefits but who decline absolutely to accept burdens. No better evidence of the fact that the system has been made the sport of politics could be produced than the proceedings of this House last night. Speaker after speaker rose from the Opposition benches and, purely for political benefit, as he thought, abused the manner in which the judges of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court had performed their duties. I have said that the system has won general acceptance in Australia, but if we needed an advocate to uphold those judges, there is such an advocate at hand. I think the House will agree with me that there could be no better advocate for that purpose than the Attorney-General of the Commonwealth in a Labour Government. There could be no better advocate than the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt). As the Attorney-General of the Commonwealth, he introduced a bill on this subject in 1947. He stated then that he could say with confidence that the Australian worker, the Australian employer and the Australian community generally had done much better with the court than it would have done if the court had never existed. I throw those words back into his teeth now. T am amazed that a man who, when he held such a responsible position and spoke with all the authority of that position, spoke so truthfully, nevertheless rose in this House last night and, with the uttermost irresponsibility, in a pitiful exhibition, abused the judges of the court for the way in which they had done their work.
Let us see what the court has been doing. It has brought about a great deal of material progress, from which the community has benefited. That is a direct result of the work of the court. The workers now, through the work of the court, share much more in the nation’s material prosperity than they ever did in the past. The court was established in 1904. I am reminded that in those days there were in the community antisweating leagues, composed of humanitarian persons whose sole desire was to put an end to the sweating which existed then. To-day we do not hear of sweating in the community. That is a thing of the past. The court has raised industrial standards. In substantial measure, it has brought about a great deal of industrial peace. But, over and above that, it has produced a unique system of national wage justice. By its methods, it can cause to be embodied in all arbitration agreements and awards common provisions which operate throughout Australia. In other countries, individual unions bargain with individual employers in individual cases, and it is quite impossible to get anything in the nature of uniformity throughout the community. But in Australia we have, been able to get a uniformity of benefit for workers in industry throughout the country. That is something quite unique.
Let us consider the 1950 basic wage ease. Much ill-informed criticism has been made of the length of time which the court took to hear that case - a matter of 122 days. At first sight, 122 days might appear to be a longish period. But what did the case involve? It involved the payment by the community of the collosal sum of £658,000,000 a year. Surely very mature consideration should be given to a case when a sum of that magnitude is involved. A great deal of time has to be spent in preparing the case. In addition, the court must ensure that every possible point of view is put before it and is thoroughly weighed and considered. 1 am reminded of some lines from a legal verse that is well known to the Victorian bar. It begins as follows : -
Behold ideal justice, fair and fast!
That line sounds magnificent, but there is a warning in the following line.” -
But less fast were more fair.
When people talk about speeding up arbitration cases, let them remember that less fast may often be more fair. What happened when the decision in the basic wage case was given? Within a few hours, by reason of the methods of the court, the decision was embodied in numerous awards and agreements. Workers throughout Australia instantly became entitled to the basic wage which the court had decided was fair and proper.
Let us turn to another case which the court took a considerable time to hear. The 40-hour week case was of tremendous importance to industry. That case also received mature consideration by the court, but, when the decision had been given, the 40-hour week became, practically overnight, the basic working week throughout Australia. That is the sort of thing that can be done under our system. In no other country can the decision of an arbitration court or an agreement that has been reached be so quickly applied throughout the industrial life of the community. There is no such thing in England or in America as a national basic wage or a uniform margins system. A system of individual or collective bargaining operates in those countries, and it is quite impossible to achieve the uniformity that is achieved so readily and so quickly in Australia because of the operations of the arbitration court.
I turn now to an examination of the system that it is proposed to introduce by means of this bill. The system provides for a separation of the functions of conciliation and arbitration, and for the establishment of an arbitration court as a superior court of record. In 1947, the arbitration laws were amended to provide for the appointment of a number of conciliation commissioners. That system failed, for various reasons. One was the lack of uniformity in decisions of the commissioners, which resulted in different sets of conditions prevailing in different industries, giving rise to a great deal of industrial unrest and dissatisfaction. A second reason was that there was no provision for appeal from decisions of the commissioners. It was obvious that such a provision was needed, and this Government subsequently provided for those appeals, and in that way removed one of the difficulties inherent in the 1947 legislation. Another problem was posed by the 1947 legislation because it provided that each conciliator was also an arbitrator. As was pointed out by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) last night, people who appeared before, a commissioner knew that although he might be acting as a conciliator for the time being, it was quite possible that before long he would act as an arbitrator, and sit in judgment on them. In those circumstances they would not give very much away. They would not give away before the conciliator what they thought they could get from the arbitrator. Because of these difficulties the system was breaking down. It was breaking down for another important reason also. As soon as a commissioner saw that it would be difficult to bring the parties together and exercise his function of conciliation, and that it would be difficult to inculcate in them a frame of mind in which they would work in harmony together, he decided not to exercise his function of conciliation but to arbitrate immediately.
– The honorable member has no foundation whatsoever for that statement. There is nothing anywhere in the records to support it.
– Mr. Deputy Speaker, I seem to hear a noise from somewhere in this chamber. There is an honorable member of this House who was formerly a Minister for Labour in a government of Victoria. During his term of office there was a strike in Victoria. The
Labour Premier of the day was not in sympathy with the strikers, and he did not hesitate to say so, but the Minister for Labour appeared before a conciliation commissioner on behalf of the strikers. As all honorable members know, I am speaking of the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey). Opinions are divided on whether he should have adopted an attitude contrary to that of his leader, but that is a matter for his own conscience. I mention the incident only to recall the circumstances to the minds of honorable members in this House. The conciliation commissioner was Mr. Mooney, who was described in 1947 by the present Leader of the Opposition in this House as having been a very useful commissioner, and one who had done useful service for the Commonwealth. Let us see how Mr. Mooney reacted to the suggestions of the present honorable member for Bendigo. A report of the debate on this matter appears in Volume 191 of Hansard, at pages 1311 to 1313. Extracts from the proceedings before the commissioner were quoted during the debate, and they show that the honorable member for Bendigo almost went on his hands and knees to induce the conciliation commissioner to conciliate. The commissioner, however, said that he intended to arbitrate. At one stage of the proceedings before the commissioner the following exchange occurred : -
– I was hopeful that as conciliation commissioner you would be willing to exercise the functions of conciliation even at this lute hour.
The Commissioner. - There is no chance of conciliation apparently - that is the determination of the authority, good, bad or indifferent, that is the determination and it would not be altered by me because I would not alter it. [ mention these matters because of the interjection of the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison), who challenged me when I stated that conciliation commissioners have refrained from exercising the functions of conciliation in cases that seemed to present some difficulty. I merely wish to demonstrate that I can quote chapter and verse in a very important case to show that such an attitude has been adopted by commissioner. That is not the only case that could be cited. There are many others, and they indicate one reason why the preset* arbitration system is so weak.
The bill before the House provides that a conciliator shall be a conciliator and nothing more. The honorable member for Bendigo has frequently told this House about the activities of wages boards in Victoria. He has pointed out that their procedure is simple, that they are not costly, that they are easily accessible, and that the parties who appear before them are prepared to meet one another in a harmonious atmosphere and to try to understand each other’s point of view. Those are the sort of advantages that will be obtained from the use of the conciliation machinery provided for in this bill. I was amazed last night to hear honorable members opposite arguing that the Government should pay more attention to conciliation, and that it should put conciliation in the vanguard of its considerations. That is the very thing that has happened. Conciliation has been put into the vanguard. The system of conciliation that it is proposed to introduce is purely conciliation and nothing else. For that reason alone, this is probably one of the finest pieces of legislation that this country has ever seen.
I pass now to the second part of the proposed system, which involves arbitration alone, without conciliation. The proposed system will result in greater simplicity of procedure. One of the weaknesses of the old arbitration court was that it was supposed to possess judicial power. I say “ supposed to possess “, in view of the latest legal pronouncement on the matter. For many years it was believed that it possessed judicial powers, and consequently it always acted as a court acts. Parties who appear before courts are anxious to win every point, and a most bitter conflict is often carried on. Whether a court is an arbitration court or a court of common law, the same kind of fight occurs. There is the same pugnacity on both sides, the same unwillingness to meet one another. There is no question of appeasement or compromise. Once we get rid of the idea of a judicial tribunal, before which is carried on the kind of cross-examination of witnesses that lawyers indulge in, and whir-h can result in matters being hard-fought indeed, then we will have an atmosphere in which there are greater possibilities of peaceful settlement. Each of the parties will be more willing to see the other point of view. For that reason, and because the arbitration tribunal will no longer have power to impose penalties, I believe that a much happier atmosphere will he induced.
I now refer to the power to impose penalties. No one likes the man who gives him six months’ impurisonment. For the same reason, if an arbitration court judge imposes a penalty on a man or a union, and within a short time that union has to go before the same judge in connexion with another matter, the union officials will say, “ We are not very keen on Mr. Justice so-and-so because of what he did to us on a previous occasion “. In the new commission, there will be an entire absence of the atmosphere of bitterness towards those deciding a case that has been inevitable in the past because the tribunal arbitrating has also had the task of imposing penalties.
I wish now to deal with the other portion of the bill, which relates to the industrial court. That has been attacked by the Opposition from the point of view that it is a court which will impose penalties. Of course, the Opposition i3 not game to say that there ought to be no penalties at all. Labour’s own legislation, both Federal and State, has provided for penalties. The Labour party quite properly believes - and acts upon the belief - that penalties must be provided if an award is to be obeyed. There is nothing very surprising in that. Only a sanction compelling obedience will ensure that awards shall be obeyed. That principle has existed through the ages. Labour spokesmen say, therefore, as they did last night, “ The penalties now are terribly severe. That is what we are complaining about “. In the Labour legislation of 1947 the present Leader. of the Opposition made provision for the granting of an injunction, and the penalty for disobedience of an injunction is gaol for contempt of court. So, he provided not a monetary penalty hut a gaol sentence. I wonder whether he regards that as a severe penalty.
Last night the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) told us how frightfully severe were the penalties set out in the act. In his usual manner, he flung his arms about and breathed fury, but the expected colossal explosion turned out to be a damp squib. He set out to tell the House how much had been paid in penalties since 1950. I have no doubt that honorable members expected him to mention a figure running into hundreds pf thousands, if not millions, of pounds, but we were told that since 1950 the fines imposed throughout Australia amounted to a mere £5,000. Does that indicate severity on the part of the court ? On the contrary, if one cared to he critical one might say that the court had been surprisingly lenient.
From time to time honorable members opposite tell us that our industrial legislation is causing disturbance, industrial unrest and so on. In 1952 the honorable member for Bendigo said that this Government’s legislation would cause industrial unrest. We see the same sort of nonsense in this amendment. “ Rank injustice “, “ grave industrial unrest “, “ chaos “ and other wild phrases are used. This Government has, since it came into office, enjoyed a greater period of industrial peace than Australia has ever known. That is attributable entirely to the fact that the Government has had a more complete understanding with th» leaders of industry on both sides than has any previous government. When I say that I must pay a great tribute to the magnificent work that has been done by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt).
.- The honorable member for Balaclava” (Mr. Joske), who is usually mild in manner, endeavoured to work himself into a fury this afternoon in supporting the Government’s case for this measure, but did not succeed. His argument was so flimsy that he could not put into his speech sufficient, interest and influence to produce the desired effect. The plain fact is that in his endeavour of defend the Government he made a series ‘of mis-statements that ought to be refuted at once. First, he stated that many benefits had been derived from the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. That has never been disputed, but it is safe to say that a number of those benefits were obtained in spite of the court. For instance, it is commonly recognized that the court granted a 40-hour week mainly because of the action of the New South Wales Government in bringing down legislation to that effect. It was also influenced by the intention of other State Labour governments to follow suit at an early date. The Arbitration Court realized that it could not expect industrial harmony while State instrumentalities enjoyed a 40-hour week and federal workers a 44-hour week. That is the inside story of the granting of a 40- hour week by the Arbitration Court. In a number of other matters, also, decisions given in favour of the workers and die trade unions have been dictated by force of circumstances. On numerous occasions it was shown that the wealth of the community had increased, and when employers’ representatives were unable to refute this the court had no alternative to granting an increase. If it had not done so there would have been a public outcry. Such benefits as have been obtained from the court have largely resulted from the presentation by the trade union movement of undeniable and unanswerable cases.
On occasions the court has given very adverse judgments against the trade union movement. I recall that in 1931 the court took practically no time to decide upon a 10 per cent, cut in wages. There was not then a lengthy delay before a hearing could take place. Almost in the wink of an eye we found that wages had been reduced. As is the case with any human institution, the court had its periods of light and shade. It did good things and bad things. Suffice it to say that such industrial improvements as we have gained during its tenure would, in any event, have been gained from State instrumentalities set up by Labour governments. As a, matter of fact, at present, State instrumentalities under Labour governments are giving better conditions than can be obtained from the federal Arbitration Court. In Victoria, workers under State wages boards are receiving 21s. a week more than workers under federal awards. I know of numerous places in Victoria where, of employees working within a yard of each other, one is getting 21s. a week more than the other because he happens to come under the aegis of the State instrumentality. To say that the federal Arbitration Court is responsible for the entire improvement of working conditions in this country is a mere chimera, and is totally untrue. I cannot imagine any one in his right mind saying that every improvement has been obtained by the judgment of the Full Arbitration Court.
The arbitration system is of such supreme importance in Australia that any proposed major amendments ought to be very- closely considered. The powers that have to be exercised by the Arbitration Court are of such a nature that any breakdown in the system caused by the exercise of powers will have a. deleterious effect on the economic stability of the nation. One of the supreme tasks of the Parliament is to e”nsure that confidence in the Arbitration Court system is not undermined because of discontent brought about by ill-considered changes. This bill will undermine that confidence. This Government made, ill-considered changes in 1952 and to-day it proposes to extend those changes. Therefore, I suggest that the House should consider the proposals very closely. If the so-called champions and protagonists of the arbitration system opposite stand for a strong arbitration system - and the passage of this bill will undermine that system - and if they really believe in what they say, they should very seriously reconsider the implementation of this measure. It will definitely weaken the Australian arbitration system.
The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) made a long second-reading speech which was full of pious statements, if I might be permitted to use these words. Tt was certainly full of sophistry, and anomalies and inaccuracies that will be corrected during this debate. Personally, I think his statement was full of humour, although I do not think he so intended when he made it. He said -
Industrial relations and just settlement of industrial disputes have become more controversial and more complicated than probably in any other country.
I suggest to the Minister and to the Government that the proposals in this bill will accentuate controversy, and that the complications will be multiplied. In other words, this bill will worsen the position that the Minister states is already in existence in this country. Prior to 1947, serious criticism was voiced of certain features in the arbitration system. Unionists were rightly indignant at the vexatious delays. I remember, as one who took part in the metal trades dispute in 1947 in Victoria, that for eighteen months the Amalgamated Engineering Union ‘had fruitlessly requested the Arbitration Court to consider an increase in wage rates, and the court resolutely refused to deal with the matter at all. The court delayed the matter by a series of decisions, and the union got nowhere. In 1947, the Federal Labour Government, being a progressive working-class government, recognized that something had to be done, and introduced legislation to amend the act. The 1947 amendment, in my opinion, and in the opinion of the trade union movement, was certainly the high.light of the many amendments that have been made from time to time by successive governments since the inception of arbitration in ]904. It appointed conciliation commissioners with unchecked powers, which included the power to intervene quickly in any threatened or impending dispute.
Here. I should like to answer the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Joske), who made great play of the fact that the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison) had said something in relation to conciliation and the powers nf conciliation commissioners, and quoted remarks that were made by the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) about a conciliation commissioner. What he did not say was that the conciliation commissioner exercised powers given to him prior to 1 947. It was an entirely different set of circumstances. To suggest that a conciliation commissioner sitting before the amendment had the same powers as a conciliation commissioner sitting after the amendment shows that the honorable member for Balaclava just did not know his subject.
The powers given to conciliation commissioners as a result of the act of 1947 were altogether different from what they were prior to 1947. In 1947, the Chifley
Government gave the conciliation commissioners powers of a nature equivalent to those of a judge, except on major matters which were le’ft to the Full Court itself. A conciliation commissioner had power to make orders and awards from which there was no appeal. As a unionist in industry, I considered at great length the results that were obtained by conciliation commissioners after 1947, and I feel that the system gave general satisfaction.
– What about the Victorian Engineers case, where there was no appeal?
– I should like to point out to the honorable member for Gippsland that the Victorian Engineers case occurred before conciliation commissioners were appointed. It was in 1946-47. It was as a result of the Victorian Engineers case that the Chifley Government amended the legislation. The Victorian Engineers case had nothing at all to do with the new conciliation set-up. The Engineers case showed conclusively to the Chifley Government that the system of arbitration operating prior to 1947 did not make industrial peace.
In 1952, this Government was under distinct pressure from employers’ organizations. All over the Commonwealth, at a preconceived time, tho-e. bodies started to pass resolutions in late 1951 and early 1952 urging that the law be amended to provide for an appeal from the decisions bf conciliation commissioners. When such appeal* vere allowed, the whole arbitration structure was weakened. The ill-considered legislation passed in 1932 has had the result of making the arbitration procedure to-day more involved and certainly far more expensive. The purpose of the 1947 legislation was to make it less involved and less expensive, but this Government in .1952 went back to the bad old days of arbitration because it waited the arbitration system to favour the employer. From 11)52, it certainly favoured the employer, whichever way ons likes to look at.
I suggest for the consideration of honorable members opposite that the primary purpose of the arbitration system is to ensure peaceful and smooth working relations amongst the partners in industry. The spirit of co-operation must be pursued at all times. I think honorable members opposite will agree that if that is to be the central theme of our arbitration system, surely such a theme should be considered when legislation to amend the act is under consideration. But we find that this Government at all times has given scant consideration to the requests of the trade union movement. It falls over backwards in acquiescing in the requests or demands from employers, but when the trade unions make requests, they are looked upon as just a necessary adjunct to the arbitration system - to be seen but not to be heard. The trade, union movement requested that this legislation be postponed until the result of the appeal to the Privy Council in the Boilermakers case was known, but the Government refused to do that. If, on the other hand, tie employers had suggested the postponement of some legislation, the Government would have acceded to that request with alacrity. But, of course, the Government, which at all times and in all circumstances supports the interests of the employing class, naturally did not accede to the request of the trade unions. I have stated quite unequivocally that the Australian wage-earner has no confidence in the arbitration system as it now functions. There is not the slightest doubt about that. If honorable members opposite had moved amongst trade unionists all their lives, as I have done, they would acknowledge the truth of that assertion. If the Government desires to do the right thing, and to foster the spirit of conciliation in all spheres of industry, if it is genuine in its efforts to evolve a system which emphasizes the importance of conciliation in settling disputes, it should, when proposing to introduce industrial legislation, receive the considered views of the trade union movement. I suggest that the confidence of those sections of the community which use conciliation and arbitration is vital to the success of peaceful bargaining. The Australian Council of Trades Unions has always shown a sense of responsibility and sobriety of judgment when dealing with matters of this nature. and the Government, because of its refusal to consider seriously the representations of this organization, has missed a splendid opportunity of re-establishing confidence in our arbitration system, with a marked emphasis upon conciliation.
Labour, on the other hand, reflecting as always the viewpoint of the Australian trade union movement, regards conciliation as a matter of prime importance. “We suggest that mutual agreements reached at a round-table conference have more lasting qualities than awards of an unsatisfactory pittance by a judge whose mind is completely divorced from economic reality. I contend that the present arbitration system, as varied by this Government in 1952, fails to meet the basic requirements of industrial legislation.
When the act was inaugurated in 1904, section 2 stated the objectives of the legislation to be the establishment of an expeditious system of preventing and settling industrial disputes by methods of conciliation and arbitration, and the promotion of goodwill in industry. Surely no honorable member can suggest that those two desirable objectives are being attained at present. The possibility of their being attained in the near future will be worsened by the passage of this legislation. In accordance with this Government’s policy, the act is to be amended so that the court will no longer dispense wage justice, but will act rather as a watchdog to discipline recalcitrant Workers. To put the matter bluntly, the court which is to exercise greater powers is being used effectively by the employers to frustrate any attempt by trade union organizations to maintain living standards. The federal basic wage was frozen in 1953 and in Victoria it is now 21s. less than the basic wage fixed by State wages boards. This, and the continued denial of marginal increases in a period of rising living costs, are two examples of the use of the court as an instrument of the employing class. The Government’s policy has been to combat inflation by pegging wages. That attack has been concentrated on the under-privileged section of the community, the wage-earners, and this policy has been put into effect through the agency of the arbitration court.
I submit for the examination of honorable members that Labour’s policy of conciliation, in contrast to the policy of the Government, has proved very successful over the last three or four years. It is a matter of great interest, which might highlight the way to further agreements, that over the last three or four years American firms that have operated in Australia have studiously avoided the entanglements of our arbitration system. They do not share the enthusiasm of Australian employers for the irritating delays inherent in court procedure, and they have said so publicly without apology on a number of occasions. When engaged on big projects they have asked unions for round-table conferences. The method employed has been to negotiate round the conference table, and to reach an agreement which is respected by all parties. It is significant that such agreements have been honoured by both parties without the aid of the penal provisions of our industrial arbitration legislation. No fines have been imposed on unions, and no applications for de-registration have been made. In other words, the system has been an unqualified success. Wages have been based upon the ability of the employer to pay a rate which ensured a good labour return for his outlay.
Another refreshing aspect of these round-table conferences is a general acknowledgment by the Americans engaged on these projects of the capacity of the Australian worker when given reasonable rates of pay and working conditions. The manager of a construction company, which recently completed the Altona oil refinery, stated that the construction schedule fixed by his company was reduced by three months on a project where safety measures were nearly perfect, and the standard of workmanship was high. He was particularly pleased with the sense of responsibility of Australian workers. These agreements have demonstrated in practical fashion the most effective way of increasing production ; yet the Government is steadfastly adhering to an outmoded policy, retaining penal provisions which must antagonize workers and result not in increased, but in decreased, production. The Minister gave only qualified support to such agreements.
Any Minister who had at heart the interests of unity in industry would have tried to obtain an expansion of this system of reaching agreements. He said that agreements could be regarded as legal only if they were later sanctioned by the court. He cited the case of the building industry in Victoria, for which the court refused, in the public interest, to register an agreement. That is undoubtedly a denial of justice to workers in the building trade of Victoria. The denial of justice to any section, whether it he in the building trade in Victoria or elsewhere, has an effect that is not confined to that section. Its ramifications are felt throughout the community, and an impression is created which is not in the best interests of harmony in industry.
The bill proposes the establishment of two courts. The Commonwealth Industrial Court is to exercise judicial functions. It will have to inflict upon the workers the penal provisions of the act if they refuse to abide by an award. It will be very difficult to apply penal provisions to employers, because if they do not like an award they can merely close down an industry, and it cannot be proved that they are flouting the award. They will merely contend that to run the industry would not be profitable. It , is absolutely impossible to obtain a judgment against an employer. It is easy to obtain a decision against an employee. In an era of industrial unrest, it is as well to reaffirm the fundamental right of free men to refuse to sell their labour when the price is unsatisfactory, and all avenues of negotiation have been traversed. This is the line that divides free men from slaves, and as long as Australian trade unionists are free men they will refuse to sell their labour if the price offered is not sufficient, just as a retailer will not sell a commodity if the buying public is not prepared to pay his price. If it is good enough for a retailer to withhold a commodity because he cannot obtain a sufficiently high price, it is good enough for the trade union movement to withhold the only commodity that it has to sell - its labour. Penal measures will never subjugate the trade union movement of Australia. Such measures were tried 100 years ago in
England, and they were tried in this country in the ‘nineties; but the history of Australia proves inexorably that penal measures will never ensure a peaceful settlement of an industrial dispute. Rather will they lead to a continuation of bitterness. The Government ought to note the Victorian legislation which vests in the Minister for Labour, and not in a court, the power to apply penal measures for failure to abide by a decision of the Wages Board.
The second phase of the Government’s policy is the establishment of a Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, in relation to which the bill provides for two methods of procedure. The Minister has stated that the new system will streamline procedure; but, far from streamlining procedure, it will only accentuate delays. The new procedure may, and probably will, be retarded by tortuous methods. The retention of the right to appeal could lead to cases being prolonged almost indefinitely. I shall quote a case which emphasizes the stupidity of the appeal system, and which shows how it works against the trade union movement. I refer to the case Municipal Tramways Trust, Adelaide v. The Australian Tramway and Motor Omnibus Employees Association, to which passing reference was made last night, but to which I shall now refer in detail. On the 2nd May, 1955, the conciliation commissioner, Mr. Tonkin, made an award covering wages and working conditions of tramway employees in South Australia. It provided for, in addition to certain other general conditions, time-and-a-half for Saturday work, double time for Sunday work, a ten-shift fortnight, double pay or another day off for work on holidays, and single pay for shift workers when off duty on public holidays. There was nothing revolutionary about those provisions. The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Joske) has referred to the lack of uniformity in judgments delivered by conciliation commissioners, but this decision by Mr. Tonkin was in line with the decisions of other conciliation commissioners in relation to other Australian transport industries. He adopted principles that were embodied in federal awards covering railwaymen in South Australia, and in awards covering railwaymen and tramwaymen in other States.
The Municipal Tramways Trust of Adelaide appealed immediately against the award. The appeal was heard, after a delay of seven months, in December, 1955. On the last day of the hearing, the court, through Mr. Justice Wright, indicated its attitude by reducing the rate for Sunday work from double time to time-and-a-half and for Saturday work from time-and-a-half to timeandaquarter, and by prescribing an elevenshift fortnight instead of a ten-shift fortnight. In other words, they got back to the bad old days of the transport industry, despite the fact that the conditions awarded by the conciliation commissioner applied to every other transport corporation in Australia. Is it any wonder that the trade union movement is dissatisfied with the present appeals system? The court not only did that, but also followed the most unusual course of referring the matter back to the conciliation commissioner. The court, in its judgment, said- - lt seems that that might give the parties an opportunity to confer as they propose, and as far as they are not able to agree the Conciliation Commissioner might report to the Court, which will not he in session for some weeks.
In other words, the court said that the conciliation commissioner would discuss with the parties any matters that were still in doubt, and that, if they failed to agree, they could go back to the court in another three or four months’ time.
The case to which I have referred is a warning of things to come under the proposed legislation. It is safe to say that two, if not all, of the three judges who delivered that judgment - they were Justices Kirby, Dunphy and Wright - will be members of the new commission, which henceforth will determine the principles to be adopted in the making of awards as well as dealing with standard hours and the basic wage. I repeat that the Adelaide tramways case is a warning to unions about what will happen under the proposed legislation. There is not the slightest doubt that its real purpose is to regain for the court its penal powers so that it can fine and possibly gaol workers who contravene awards, and also to set up machinery to make attacks upon the Australian trade union movement. If the three judges to whom I have referred are appointed as members of the proposed commission, it is only reasonable to assume that they will be consistent and that they will deliver similar judgments in the future.
The bill also provides for the appointment of conciliators. I think the Minister was speaking with his tongue in his cheek when he spoke about the appointment of conciliators. A perusal of his second-reading speech indicates that thin provision is only a sugar coating to conceal the real purpose of the bill. Unfortunately, the bill provides that any agreement that is reached following a conference between the. conciliator and the parties must be certified by the commission.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman’s time ha3 expired.
.- I rise to support the bill, because I believe that it is one of the most constructive measures that have been introduced in the history of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. I agree whole-heartedly with the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Joske) in the tribute that he has paid to the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) for the magnificent work that he has done in preparing and introducing the bill. The policy that has been followed by this Government over the last seven years has resulted in great freedom from industrial unrest.
I listened with interest to the remarks of the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird), but I was unable to discern whether or not he was in favour of the arbitration system. Early in his speech he said that the benefits that have accrued to the workers of Australia would have accrued in any case, and that we need not have had an arbitration system. I am not quite certain whether his statement was meant to include relief from sweating conditions in 1904. At any rate, early in his speech he led us to believe that there was no need for an arbitration system in this country, but & little later he praised the work of the Arbitration Court between 1947 and 1950. All I can say is that that was the period of the greatest industrial unrest in recent Australian history. It was difficult to determine when he said that the court was useful and when it was not. He seemed to suggest that, when it was acting in the interests of employees but against the interests of the community as a whole, it was a useful body. In another stage in the history of Australia it was doing no good, according to him, and therefore should not be continued.
– What is the honorable member speaking of?
– I am speaking, at the moment of the £1 a week loading to the basic wage which came into operation while the 1947 act was in force. I think that nearly every one in Australia will realize now that that judgment has been against the beat interests of the whole community.
– The honorable member is not serious, is he?
– I am. It has been one of the great causes of the inflation through which we have passed in the last six years. However, it seems that we are getting away from the subject, and, therefore, I shall get hack to the main points at issue. The honorable member for Batman stated that, in introducing this bill, the Minister for Labour and National Service was adopting a number of pious resolutions. He prophesied that after this legislation had been passed Australia would experience another period of industrial unrest and a. series of difficulties. All I can say is that the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) made the same prophecy in 1952, yet we have had the greatest freedom from industrial unrest during the last four years that we have had in the whole of our history. I prophesy that the same thing is likely to occur again, despite the evil warnings of the honorable member for Batman.
But dealing with the main question, I assert that we on this side of the House believe fundamentally in the arbitration system. We believe that it has acted in the best interests of the whole of the Australian community in the last 50 years. As honorable members know, the
Constitution provides that the Commonwealth Parliament shall have power to make laws in regard to arbitration and conciliation. This bill represents another step towards the evolution of a satisfactory arbitration system in this Commonwealth. I believe that we have to make it work until we can achieve something better than the present system. Members on the opposite side have talked, at times, in favour of collective bargaining, and at other times they have talked in favour of compulsory arbitration, lt is difficult to know which they prefer. 1 believe, from the experience of overseas countries, that some process of collective bargaining may eventually be applicable to our community. But at present, as I shall show later on in this speech, the time is not yet ripe for the adoption of such a system. Training will be needed on both sides of industry in order to make collective bargaining effective. Until such a time has arrived, the system of arbitration must be the most sensible form of industrial organisation that is applicable to our community. Therefore, we have to make it work as successfully as possible.
In the debate as it has proceeded so far, the Opposition has missed the three main points of the bill. They were stressed in the admirable speech of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) last evening in which he said that, first of all, the need, in an arbitration system, is for a judicial power. Under the Constitution, it is the responsibility of the Commonwealth Parliament to attend to this matter, and we must exercise that responsibility. If there is to be judicial power, surely the judges who exercise that power should have industrial experience. Either that is so, or the present power should be retained in the High Court. But from the result of the Boilermakers case, it appears that it would be difficult to leave that power in the High Court and that it would be very much better for a separate industrial court to be established. That is to be done.
The Leader of the Opposition asked why this action was being taken before the Boilermakers case had been heard by the Privy Council. The answer is that there are reasons for that appeal apart from the matter of arbitration.
The Boilermakers case will affect many acts of this Parliament. Therefore, whatever action is taken in connexion with this particular arbitration case, it must be important, surely, that the issue of the Boilermakers case should be taken to the Privy Council so that the im plications of that judgment as they affect other functions of government may be determined. I would say that, whatever the answer to the Boilermakers case may be. we, need an industrial court. [f, following the judgment in the Boilermakers case, we need an industrial court, there will also be a need for arbitrators. . Whatever the court may have said, I still believe that it is important that wo should segregate the judicial power from the arbitration system. There is a very clear case for the need for arbitrators who do not have judicial power. There is also a. need for conciliators. That need has been conceded by every speaker of the Opposition so far. Their only comment has -been that possibly, in our case for conciliators, we have not gone far enough. As I think 1 shall show in a moment, we have gone very much farther i”i this task of conciliation than the Opposition has admitted. Those are the three main points that we are dealing with in this bill. As I have said, the Australian Constitution gives this Parliament responsibility for making arbitration work. Under this bill, we shall exercise that responsibility.
Several criticisms have been voiced by the Leader of the Opposition. First, he criticized the power of the court to enforce judgments.
– He referred to criminal enforcement.
– It relates to the subject of injunctions to which the honorable member for Balaclava has referred and the ability to gaol anybody for contempt, of court.
– Surely it is sufficient to enforce a judgment civilly - to get the amount of the claim?
– Apparently the Leader of the Opposition did not think so when he included these powers in the 1947 act. All I can say is that, in 50 years’ record of the arbitration system, certain powers have been in the act all the time. Have they prejudiced wage gains throughout this Commonwealth to any extent?
– Where it concerns award breaches we still accept it.
– Surely the need for the power of enforcement has always been obvious. Evidence of the extent to which the public support this principle was provided by a recent gallup poll in which 85 per cent, of the people who were approached expressed an opinion, and 71 per cent, were in favour of some form of sanctions, and only 14 per - cent, were against them. This bill will put the responsibility upon the authority which is the most impartial. What greater toughness has ever been exhibited during a period of industrial trouble than the Labour government exhibited in 1949 during the general coal strike?
The Opposition’s next criticism is based on the Labour party’s contention that arbitral judgments should he final, and that there should be no right of appeal to a judicial court on questions of hours, the basic wage and so on. Honorable members opposite wish to make the Commonwealth Arbitration Court and its judgments on economic issues fit in with the Labour party’s old idea of having an economic council, lt wants the court’s judgments to be final. It wants the court to be in a position to dictate the economic policy of the nation.
The Opposition’s third criticism arises fi om its contention that the conciliator should also be an arbitrator. That contention was advanced in the speech of thu honorable member for Stirling (Mr. Webb) last night.
– He did not say that.
– That is what 1. understood him to say. I have not a copy of the daily Hansard by me at the moment, but possibly I shall be able to deal with the honorable member’s interjection at a later stage. My experience of conciliation, particularly in the textile industry, leads me to the opinion that the first objective of conciliation should be to bring the disputing parties together and to narrow, as far as possible, the areas of disagreement. If it becomes obvious that complete agreement cannot be reached, the conciliator should be able to refer the matter to an arbitrator; but the functions of the conciliator and of the arbitrator should be separate.
The Opposition’s next criticism of the measure is that it does nothing to streamline the existing legislation. I believe that honorable members opposite have not read closely enough the statements in regard to this matter in the Minister’s second-reading speech, in which he explained how the process of conciliation, which I have just outlined, should work; and also how, when it is obvious that conciliation will fail, the commissioner can be brought in so that the evidence already heard by the conciliator does not have to be reheard, as is the case at present. There will be much less likelihood of delays caused by the nonavailability of arbitrators, and proceedings will be expedited because a second hearing of the evidence will no longer be necessary.
The fifth criticism of the Opposition is that the present courts operate well enough. This was stated by the Leader of the Opposition. Surely a great deal of time has been wasted under the present system in the briefing of people over and over again, and in the rehearing of evidence. That waste of time will be avoided under the new system. I believe that if we have done nothing else by this hill we have certainly defined more exactly the functions of the various bodies concerned with conciliation and arbitration. No longer will it be possible tor the various bodies to pass the buck between one another, thus delaying judgments. It will also be possible for the people concerned with various phases of conciliation and arbitration to concentrate on, and specialize in. their particular tasks. Thus, the judges of the court will be able to concentrate on the legal questions, and the arbitrators on the more detailed problems of the economy, on hours, the basic wage, margins, and female rates of pay. It will be also easier for the deputy commissioners to concentrate on individual industries. The judicial and lay members of the commission will be able to co-operate to a much greater degree than in the past, and to exchange views on arbitration in a way that has not been possible under the existing legislation. The conciliators will be able to bring parties together before a dispute exists, rather than having to wait until a dispute has occurred.
– Has the honorable member not read section 14 of the act, or does he not know what it means?
– I have it in front of me. 1 have gone through it in detail. The parties to arbitration must realize their responsibilities. I have dealt so far with the functions of the arbitration system ; now I wish to deal briefly with the functions of the people who are parties to arbitration processes. As the Minister said in his second-reading speech, there is still a tremendous need for the recognition by employers and employees of their mutual interests. We have heard a great deal from the Opposition about the rights and duties of the workers. I feel that honorable members on both sides of the House must realize that there is a tremendous amount in common between employers and employees in industry. Any system of arbitration must be designed to increase awareness among employers and employees of the interests that they have in common. There will be a need, under the new system, for more detailed training of individuals on both the managerial and the labour sides. On the employers’ side there will be a need for management to realize the importance of the arbitration system, and to delegate responsible officers to concentrate on arbitration matters. There is now also a need for employers to work together in trade associations. This is already recognized in the United States and the United Kingdom. We in Australia must also recognize it if we are to improve the present system.
– Is there compulsory arbitration in the United Kingdom ?
– No. I am trying to deal with the general question of industrial relations between employers and employees.
– I asked you whether there was a compulsory arbitration system in operation in the United Kingdom.
– Order !
– No, there is no compulsory arbitration system in the United Kingdom.
The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird) said that he felt that at no time were the trade unions consulted in connexion with the preparation of industrial legislation. I remind him of the existence of the Ministry of Labour Advisory Council, on which the Australian Council of Trades Unions is fully represented. That body was consulted at all stages of the preparation of the measure. The Opposition has supported the Ministry of Labour Advisory Council and, indeed, has helped the Minister. The council has been consulted at every stage during the past few months. So the trade unions cannot justly claim that they have not been consulted in this matter. I should like to see an extension of this advisory system to lower levels of industry, because it is one way of getting management and labour together before disputes have actually arisen. Only when the process of widening the scope of the ideas of the parties to arbitration has taken place for a period of years shall we graduate to the system of collective bargaining, which may be the ultimate answer.
The honorable member for Stirling wondered whether this bill would make conciliation and arbitration proceedings less legalistic. He seemed rather worried about the members of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission not wearing wigs. I am not surprised that the honorable member should deplore the absence of wigs. He might do well to wear one himself. I believe it will be in the best interests of all concerned to remove the court atmosphere from conciliation and arbitration proceedings. But, in spite of this, there may be times when the presence of counsel would help rather than hinder, and would expedite rather than delay, proceedings. I think that, in the interests of both the smaller industries and the smaller trade unions, we should carefully consider whether the absence of counsel will or will not make conciliation and arbitration proceedings more effective than they have been so far.
Finally, I believe that the Australian people realize that the arbitration system is impinging more and more on the everyday life of the entire community. Eventually, the time may come when we shall graduate to a different system, but, as I have already tried to indicate, that time has not yet arrived. I believe that, until then, we must make the conciliation and arbitration procedure work as effectively as possible. I am convinced that this bill is a tremendously constructive step, and, indeed, probably the most constructive step that has been taken in the 50 years of conciliation and arbitration in Australia.
Sitting suspended from 5.58 to 8 p.m.
fS.0”): - This debate hinges on a. piece of legislation which affects conciliation and arbitration in Australia. I and other honorable members on this side expected that when the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) spoke yesterday evening, after the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) had spoken, he would explain the approach of the Government parties to conciliation and arbitration. We believed that we should hear from him something about the policy of the Government with respect to the things that matter in that field. We had an admission from he Prime Minister that this measure is one of the most important measures that have been introduced during this session of the Parliament. In my view, it is one of the most important pieces of legislation that have come before this Parliament since the end of World War II. Because I believe that to be so, I was astounded, as were most other honorable members, to find that the Prime Minister of thi? country, instead of dealing with the main issue, attempted to burlesque it and to write “down the case that his party is presenting on behalf of the workers of Australia.
There is only one point upon which I agree with the Prime Minister - that is, that there are three main issues involved here. This bill, which is equally as important to the future welfare of Australia as any other bill presented to the
Parliament since World War II., is designed to regulate industrial conditions in Australia. We should not lose sight of that fact. No good purpose will be served if honorable members on the Government side of the House try to burke that issue. The bill is important, first, because it is designed to regulate working conditions in industry in this country, and, secondly, because there is an urgent need to bring managements and workers closer together within the frameworks of industrial relations. That is fi matter which affects the future of this nation, because now we depend, to a largo degree, upon the production of secondary industry to balance our trade.
The Prime Minister said that then- were three main questions involved. The first question was: Should we have a court of judges to exercise industrial judicial power? Having answered that question to his own satisfaction, but certainly not to ours, he proceeded to deal in a very cursory way with another very important question : Should there be arbitration and conciliation in Australia? He chided us for, as he said, not believing in conciliation and arbitration, and he suggested that we had not dealt with the issues involved. I propose to deal with them right now. I was surprised that the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt), who is a legal man himself, should present to this Parliament a bill which, according to him, has for its purpose the cutting down of legal technicalities in conciliation and arbitration. Who has spoken so far from the Government side of the House? The first Government sneaker was the Minister for Labour and National Service, a legal man. The next Government speaker was the Prime Minister, another legal man. Then came a farmer, who knew nothing at all about conciliation and arbitration. He was followed by another legal man. Finally, there came a very hard-working, new Liberal party member, who obviously did not know the first thing about conciliation and arbitration in Australia.
So it is in the light of those facts that I commence to examine what the Prime Minister has suggested is the first issue. In answer to the first question posed by the right honorable gentleman, we on this side of the House say, “ No, there should not be a court to exercise judicial power in this matter Section 59 of the existing legislation provides for the imposition and recovery of penalties for a breach or non-observance of an award. The section hinds equally employers’ organizations mid employees’ organizations, as well as all members of those organizations. It provides that a penalty may be imposed by any district, county or local court or by a court of summary jurisdiction. T. nsk the legal men in this chamber : How much further does the Government want to go in regard to penalties for breaches of awards? Our view is that there is sufficient penal protection in the existing legislation to meet all the conditions that arise in a free country and amongst free private enterprise organizations which, I think, want to engage free employees. I liken this proposed legislation almost to legislation passed in the days when the master drove his slaves with a lash, caring only for the profits to be made from their physical efforts. The only difference is that in this instance the lash will consist of sanctions, fines and evan sentences of imprisonment inflicted upon the trade unions and the members thereof, without regard for the human right of an individual in a free country to sell his labour as he will. I say now that I believe that this Government will fall as a result of this legislation, because an outstanding characteristic of the Australian in industry, as on the battlefield, is that, although he can be led, he cannot be driven. That is something that the Government does not understand.
Having said that about the first question, J. turn to the second question, which is: Should there- lie conciliation and arbitration? To that question, our answer is. “ Yes, but not of the type outlined in this measure “. We believe that we should not depart from the principles of the 1947 legislation, which separated the judicial authority dealing with the basic wage, standard hours and long-service leave from the authority making awards and dealing with conditions separate from those which were, the responsibility of the judicial authority. A clearly defined line should be drawn there. I am sorry that the Minister for Labour and National Service is not in the chamber now, because I wish to invite him, if he can, to challenge what I am about to say. The Government’s proposals, if carried into effect, will put the industrial clock back 30 years on the award-making level and will reenact principles that have failed dismally.
– Who wrote that?
– The person who wrote it knows something about industrial arbitration, because he has just completed twenty years of service in the industrial arbitration field in Australia. I invito the Minister to look at what the position was under the 1926-34 legislation. Section 18c _ of that legislation provided for the appoint ment of conciliation commissioners, and sub-section (8.) of ‘ the section gave to a’ conciliation commissioner the same powers as had been given to a single judge of the court. The conciliation commissioner was given power to hear and determine disputes, to make awards or orders, to fix penalties for breaches or non-observance of awards, to enjoin any organization or person, and so on. Those were the powers given to conciliation commissioners under the 1934 act, aa consolidated. I challenge the Govern, ment to compare these so-called net* proposals of 1956 with the provisions of the 1926-34 legislation. I suggest strongly to the House that all that the Government proposes is that there shall be re-established the machinery which was available for smashing, and which, in fact, did smash, every award condition operating during the years from 1929 to J 934. I believe that that is being done deliberately. I charge the Government that in this legislation it is following the pattern that I have indicated, and that consultation has taken place between the Government and the members of the court. Somebody has said that they are friends of the Prime Minister. I agree that they are friends in respect of this issue. The Arbitration Court that existed in earlier years was a court of reductions in standards. That was the kind of court that we had in the depression years, and the only difference under the proposed legislation is that there will also be the enforcement authority which has been rightly described by the Leader of the
Opposition as a “ court of pains and penalties “. In times of full employment a court of the kind proposed fails. Proof of that is found in the fight that occurred between Mr. Conciliation Commissioner Mooney, who was appointed to that position in the year 1(J41 under the legislation to which I have referred, and the Full Court of the Arbitration Court in regard to the Metal Trades case of 1947, when action was taken under the National Security (Industrial Peace) Regulations. Under the provisions of those regulations - a concilation commissioner had the same powers of assignment as he had under the 1934 legislation. Time does not permit me to recount the full details of this case, but I invite those who are interested in the matter to examine volume 2 of the Industrial Arbitration Bulletin,, January to December, ]947. At page 95 of that publication mention is made of Mr. Mooney receiving from M.r. Justice Sugerman the reference to hear and determine the Metal Trades case. At page 223 there is a reference to the matter being referred to the Full Court on appeal. At page 363 there is mention of the decision thereon being given by the Full Court. At page 861 reference is made to Mr. Mooney, who was then Chief Conciliation Commissioner, at a time after the 1947 legislation was enacted by the Chifley Government, having to take up this very question again because of growing industrial unrest throughout Australia. That was after the Full Court had played with the matter and meddled with it. It was on the 17th November, 1947, that Mr. Mooney gave his decision, and I would like that fact to sink into the minds of honorable members opposite, because that is the last occasion on which increases in margins were granted to 60 per cent, of the workers in this country - and Government supporters wonder why there is no peace in industry ! That is the last occasion on which margins were increased for 60 per cent, of Australian workers. There has been no increase for them since then, and there is not likely to be any if the Government passes the legislation that we are considering to-night. Mr. Mooney gave reasons for the decision that he arrived at. at that time, and which resulted in what has become known in the industrial field as the second Mooney formula. Of course, most Government supporters have never heard of it, and in this connexion I invite them again to examine page 865 of the document to which I have referred. Mr. Mooney, who was appointed during the term of office of a Labour government, and who, upon his retirement, was lauded by the court for the work that hn had done, quoted some remarks of Mr. Justice Foster, in which His Honour said -
I have never felt at any moment during the course of this case that I was restrained by any consideration whatever, and that I was completely at large to deal with this matter justly or whatever other word you like.
Those are the words used by a member of the court in settling an important industrial dispute, and this Government now invites us to revert to such a situation. Mr. Mooney then went on to ?a.y -
Clearly then Mr. Justice Foster had at that eta-re determined tb:,t he was not bound to implement an agreement ti pun which he hud congratulated the parties, und which he had termed “ something more than an agreement “. Whatever any one could think of the agreement, no one could think it was an agreement that after altering the tradesmen’s rates all other rates should be altered proportionately, yet that is what the award of the Full Court did. The result of adopting the proportionate method was that a great number of persons in the lower classifications received no increases on the “Mooney Award ‘: and some few a reduction.
The court actually had the audacity in 1947 to interfere with a decision of a conciliation commissioner, who had the full power of a. single judge, and effect reductions in the margins of employees on the lower marginal scale. Mr. Mooney then went on to say -
I know of nothing more likely to prolong a dispute, or create a further dispute, than for an industrial authority to fail to implement a settlement arrived at by the parties when the terms of the settlement are not opposed to the national interest, and ure otherwise unobjectionable.
There lies the real basis of the Opposition’s amendment to this legislation as moved by the Leader of the Opposition. The Government proposes to return to. a kind of administration of industrial law that will produce chaos in industry from one end of this country to the other. Surely no one can wish to return to that kind of conciliation and arbitration in this stage of the development of our nation. The judges who were members of the court prior to 1947 have become, in principle, presidential commissioners, and the conciliation commissioners have achieved status scarcely different from that of Mr. Mooney between 1941 and 1947. All that the proposed legislation will do is to take us back to the depressing type of conciliation and arbitration that was carried on from 1926 until the legislation was amended in 1947.
– That is the honorable member’s idea!
– I invite the honorable member to refute my suggestion. I suggest that he cannot do so. The history of this matter shows that what I am saying is accurate. i now turn my attention to the third section of this legislation, as it has been subdivided by the Prime Minister. I refer to the suggested appointment of conciliators. In my view, this part of the legislation is mere window dressing. The best that can be hoped for is the development of a policy of negotiation, which can never succeed. On this matter I shall quote some remarks from an English publication, Joint, Consultation on British Industry. lt is an approved authority, and it has something to say regarding the settlement of industrial disputes by negotiation. The compulsory arbitration system in Great Britain was abolished. The system of negotiation was tried and failed. The publication that I have mentioned contains these remarks -
Any method of reaching a decision which is coloured by dictation invites a challenge, a fact which is only too well illustrated by the relationship between the employers and the workers throughout the growth of our industrial system. Where such a challenge is strong enough to demand meetings, a relationship of competitive rivalry for domination is created which is characteristic of the negotiatory meeting. In such a climate, the usual method of reaching a decision is that of “ compromise “. Authority is derived from the relative -strength of the parties involved and the problem is again set in terms of conflicting interests. Even where the holding of such meetings is an accepted procedure, the results may he unsatisfactory for a number of reasons. Tn the first place, a compromise seldom provides a solution to the real problem. It tends, rather, to provide a middle course which appears to justify a postponement of the fundamental point at issue. In the second place, negotiation encourages rigid attitudes which detract from true discussion. In the third place, compromise decisions made under these conditions seldom fully satisfy any of the parties taking part. People come away with the sense that “ lt was decided “ rather than “” we decided “, and if the solution fails, responsibility will be attributed to the other party. Negotiatory meetings thus involve a trial of strength, and the satisfactory compromise from this point of view is that which leaves both parties looking impressive.
How true that is. I read further from the quotation -
In the case of deputation and negotiation, the risk of failure to reach agreement and the possibility of the conflict being carried to violent lengths outside the committee room lead the dominant group to limit very strictly the topics on which it is prepared to meet other parties.
That is the English viewpoint after 150 years of arbitration and conciliation. I reject this Government’s claim that compulsory arbitration should be retained. At the very beginning of this century, Great Britain, after a trial period of almost 150 years, concluded that compulsory arbitration widened the gap between worker and management, destroyed incentive and reduced efficiency. I believe that that is the position in Australia to-day, and that our secondary industries - especially those upon which the nation depends for help in the overseas markets - must now be developed on new lines. English management is right when it accepts the dictum that production and efficiency are at their highest levels when the employee is educated to understand that the amount in his pay envelope increases with the momentum of his production. In other words, until we face the reality that the worker must be satisfied that the master is not making undue profit from his labour, we shall not have the degree of efficiency that is essential for the future development of this country.
The policy of the Australian Labour party - and on this we come right down to earth - provides for progressively increased wage standards as industrial productivity expands. Will any honorable member dare suggest that such a policy is not correct? If not, all honorable members should oppose this measure, because it does everything possible to prevent such a policy from becoming operative in Australia.
– That is your opinion.
– Of course, it is my opinion - after twenty years’ experience, and with a knowledge of what is going on in the Government in relation to the future of the Australian worker. The amendment before the House in the name of the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) provides for a return to the 1947 principles of conciliation and arbitration, and a recognition of incentive payments by agreements duly registered. I invite my young friend, the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Howson), if he believes in the future of the textile industry, to say now that he stands for the registration of the incentive payments agreements that are operating in that industry. Not one of them is registered at the present time, because, apparently, that is outside the court’s function in regard to standard hours and wage adjustments.
We believe that a return to the 1947 principles should be followed by incentive payments which will unite, by common thought, management and worker in the pursuit of increased productivity. They will then recognize that they are producing, not only for themselves, but for the future of our nation. The real basis of the English change from compulsory arbitration to negotiation was the need to train workers and employers in the belief that instead of working for themselves alone, they were working for England also. We are doing the very reverse in this country. We are dividing workers and management. There is no incentive for the worker to give of his best, and management takes out all the profit that it can get. Let us be frank about it. If we are to control workers’ standards we should also control the distribution of his product. We must keep before us the picture of English management and English trade unionism working together. Ihope that the Minister will not say that in Britain the percentage is 60 and in Australia only 40. In the steel and shipbuilding industries of Great Britain, where the Amalgamated Engineering Union is just as powerful as it is in Australia, they have accepted standards of negotiation laid down in 1922 and have not since had either arbitration or a stoppage worthmentioning. That is very different from compulsory arbitration of the type that the Government is attempting to ram down our throats now. The workers should be shown that, every day, they are producing not only for themselves but for the future of this country. To achieve this let us extend Labour’s 1947 principles in the direction of consultation committees. It is useless for the Minister to say that it cannot be done or that because we have had compulsory arbitration in this country for 50 years we cannot now do what was done in England 50 years ago. As one who has for many years played a leading part in the trade union movement, I discount the Minister’s opinion and tell him that if that is the kind of advice he is getting it is time he changed his administrative officers. Let us extend Labour’s 1947 principles in the direction of consultation committees and embody in cur settlement of dispute proposals the six principles under this heading which maintain industrial peace in England. I shall now enumerate these principles for the information of honorable members. Theyare as follows : -
Will any one deny that? -
That is a fundamental requirement for peace in industry. (3.) Joint consultation provides a means of getting workers’ suggestions on production.
Every worthwhile management looks for these because he knows that the tradesman, especially, knows more about the finer points of production than does the manager who walks the floor.
In England a common purpose is created by the employer putting his cards on the table and saying, “ Those are the profits that we are making. This is how we propose to use them in expanding our business to give more work to your brothers and sisters as they grow up.” What a difference between that system and the system that the Minister says we must follow here! The fifth principle is -
If ever there was a time when we should be improving relationships instead of setting up another authority to drive a wedge between management and the unions it is now, when wheat production is falling and we are looking to secondary industries to help us with our overseas trade. The final principle is - (ti) Joint consultation provides a means of riving every group in the firm the opportunity to participate intelligently in the solution of both the major and minor problem; of the firm.
Under our present system of arbitration none of those desirable things could be done. The friends of the Prime Minister have their own views on the matter. The Prime Minister made a mistake last night when he referred to them. They sit in judgment over workers’ conditions and believe that they alone can determine what is in the public interest. They do not realize the overhead that is associated with everything touched by management : that if a job can be done more quickly, it does not matter whether hours are reduced or wages increased, because management costs will be saved. Until that sort of understanding is achieved in Australia, and the Australian Labour party comes to office under the leadership of the present Leader of the Opposition and gives this country the type of legislation that it should have had since 1947, T say to the Australian worker, “ Watch what is being done by this Government because it is fighting to undermine every decent condition we hold at the present time “.
.- The honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. .Tames Harrison) is known to all of us as a moderate trade unionist, and though he may speak very fast and very violently, he is known to be a moderate and to have reasonable ideas. The speech that he has just addressed to the House would have been more usefully employed if he had addressed it to trade union leaders. He: is about the only trade union leader that I have heard in this country who has ever spoken on those lines, and if he thinks very carefully he will realize that the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) has identical views. Not one of the speakers on the Opposition side has ever spoken on those lines. How many times have we heard Opposition members say in this House, on the hustings and everywhere else that this Government does not understand the worker and wants to. destroy him? The whole approach of the Labour party to this bill has been on those lines, except the last speaker.
Let us look at the emotional issues that have been raised. What is Labour’s approach to this question of arbitration? Speaker after speaker has said that he believes in arbitration or partly believe? in arbitration. The first man to say thai he really believes in arbitration is the honorable member for Blaxland. What have other Labour members said? They have said that they want a just system of arbitration that favours the workers. Ti must always favour ‘the workers ! How can there be a just system of arbitration, if it always favours the workers ? If any honorable member cares to read through the speeches made so far by Opposition members, he will see that my words are correct and that I am repeating what has been said, not by one member, but by every member of the Labour party who has spoken. Every one has said that arbitration must favour the worker.
When I start to examine the amendment, I like to consider the atmosphere in which it was drafted. The right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt), when he introduced his amendment, said in effect, “ This is the Labour view and the trade union view “. Presumably he has gone into consultation with the Australian Council of Trades Unions, and the amendment shows that, because there have been a large number of Communists in the trade union movement. It is no use members of the Opposition saying, “ Ah “, when I make that statement, because there is quite a chance of their losing control of the Australian’ trade union movement, one day. That amendment is drafted in concert with fi number of ‘ Communists and Mr. Healy has placed his imprimatur on it. The most important part of the amendment is that the Labour party and the trades union movement do not like penalties. That is the theme adopted by all Opposition members who have spoken so far.
Last night the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) made an impassioned speech. He pointed to all parts of the chamber, and talked about the shocking position and called it a ravage imposition of taxes. An honorable member who spoke before the suspension of the sitting pointed out that the total amount collected by this savage imposition of penalties was £5,000 in six years. It is on that result that the Labour party claims that the imposition of penalties is against the interests of the workers. Opposition members are doing nothing but sti»- up hate by their inflammatory speeches What is £5,000 to 1 ,500,000 workers ? Over six years it has cost each individual worker threefarthings. What an extraordinary point of debate! That is the savage imposition of the courts supported by the Liberal-Australian Country party !
We know that the courts must have power. Every court in the world has power to enforce its decisions. In addition, the honorable member for Lawson (Mr. Failes) pointed out last night that when the Labour party was in office it introduced bills that imposed penalties. There was a penalty in the banking bill. The right honorable member for Barton brought in a banking bill which provided for the imposition of a penalty, not on a trade union, but on the individual banker, of a fine up to £1,000, or one year’s imprisonment. His 194.7 arbitration legislation also contained penalty clauses. The other day I spoke about a technique - if we say one thing, the Labour party says the opposite. Honorable members will remember the story of the two men, the dirty man and the clean man and who has the hath. Here again if the Labour party propounds a thing, it is right; but if we propound it, we are wrong. Every time the right honorable member for Barton speaks he uses that technique.
The trade unions object to penalties, but every trade union constitution and book of rules gives the trade union the right to discipline its members, to fine them or to expel them. The trade unions have that right, but they deny it to the courts of law. This is the big difference. The trade unions judge their own members. They are an interested party; yet they aTe prepared to fine their members, though they are contravening their own laws. What sort of justice is that? After all, I presume trade unionists are Australians first, and trade unionists next.
Then there is the curious approach of the Labour party. Labour members always say that anything that goes against them, naturally, is unjust. The twelve conciliation commissioners appointed under the Chifley legislation were all trade union leaders, with one exception. Once they were put in a position to judge who was right and who was wrong, they all gave reasonable judgments. What was the result? They were immediately torn apart by their own people.
Mention was also made that all the penalties that had been imposed so far had been imposed upon the employees and never upon the employers. That argument would probably be sound if Opposition members were able to produce one case in which employers failed to curry out an award. Is there one case re their knowledge in which employers I’m i icd to carry out an award? Not a single case! That illustrates some of the reasoning that is taking place in the Labour party in dealing with this bill.
This is a most important bill ; it is the most important bill that has come before this House for many years. The Lender of the Opposition, in criticizing it, said that, the judges of the Arbitration Court or those who were responsible for conciliation should have no regard to the state of the economy. Opposition speakers have stressed the injustice of delays that occur in the making of awards, but the reason they are using that argument is that they want to create a sense of grievance and injustice in the minds of trade union leaders. They want to saddle the Menzies-Fadden Administration with the responsibility of inflation. They are trying to prove that the responsibility lies on the shoulders of the Liberal-Australian Country party Government.
Three main things started the inflationary spiral during the regime of this Government. The first was the premature introduction of the 40-hour week towards the end of Labour’s rule. A Government member raised this matter before the suspension, lt was not brought in by the judges, but was introduced by the former Premier of New South Wales, Mr. McGirr, so that Labour could win an election. It was introduced before the country had recovered from the war and it was brought in during a rehabilitation period. The effects of the 40-hour week started to be felt when the LiberalAustralian Country party came into office. The next important item, was the increase in the basic wage of £1 a week. I believe in high wages, but the £1. increase at that time had a disastrous effect on the economy. The third reason for inflation was the re-arming of the Western world. The Menzies-Fadden Administration had no control over any of those matters, but they were the reasons for inflation. When Opposition members try to criticize the Government, they should look at the reasons and stick to facts. Subsequent increases in the cost of living were due to the marginal increases which were granted. The pegging of the basic wage by the arbitration court is 11Ot the injustice which it is claimed to be, because the workers were awarded marginal increases. Recently, for political purposes, the State governments lifted the restriction on basic-wage adjustments in State arbitration circles, and that is the reason for the continuous spiral of rising costs, ls not New South Wales in trouble with its railways, bus services, transport services generally, hospitals, schools, and all other services, because Mr. Cahill and Mr. McGirr took the basic wage out of the hands of the court? Now we are suffering for that action. Every institution in Now South Wales is suffering, because these persons have used wages and hours of work for political purposes. It is said that during the last six years the worker has been more and more impoverished. What an extraordinary statement ! Have all the new motor cars been registered by capitalists? Has no worker a car? Have capitalists bought the 1.500,000 refrigerators which have been sold since the Chifley Government left office? From where did the money for those purchases come? The arbitration court must take cognizance of the effect of wages on the cost of living. Yesterday the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) said that he wished for a. court which would study the interests of the workers. I would rather call them wage-earners. The court has to study the interests of not only the workers but also the community. Further, it has to study the interests of worker versus worker.
The big trade unions, which represent unskilled workers have, by the use of their force, done irreparable harm to the interests of those men who have taken the trouble to learn a skilled job, and the skilled worker has my sympathy. The great masses of the bigger unions have been able to force their will on the skilled men who are in the minority. We have continually heard Opposition members in this chamber canvas the matter of company profits. Opposition members in this way try to draw a red herring across the trail. Every < time that the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) makes a statement supported by figures, I examine the figures most carefully. He made some most misleading statements during a debate last week, but because of the lateness of the hour I did not then seek to correct them. He cited a number of companies, the dividends they declared, and i,he tax they had paid. He tried to prove that the. current inflation was a profit inflation. Who has ever heard of a. profit inflation? Dividends have uo relation at all to inflation. The selling price of goods and commodities has a relation to inflation. The honorable mem ber for Yarra has continually cited these figures to try to convince the ignorant that what he says is right. The dividend paid by a company has no effect upon inflation. If the selling price of commodities is high, the result could be inflationary, but there is no proof thai selling prices are high in Australia. Dividends are entirely related to turnover. Any distortion of the economic facts may mislead, not only intelligent persons, but also ignorant persons or those who have not been blessed with education. It is said that the Arbitration Court refused marginal increases and basic wage adjustments, but that companies are making big profits. There is no relation between company dividends and inflation. The honorable member for Yarra is quite well aware of that, because the selling price of the article provides the profit. In Australia, about
SO per cent, of the selling price of commodities is made up of wages. The other 20 per cent, is composed of rent, advertising, bank charges, interest, State taxes, rates, insurance, directors’ fees, audit fees, legal fees and profit.
– What about General Motors-Holden’s Limited?
– Never mind about General Motors-Holden’s Limited. That is one company, and we are considering the average of all companies. Honorable members opposite introduce the question of profit in order to deceive men in whom they are trying to foster a grievance to antagonize them against the arbitration system. I believe in unionism, but my unionism is based on free brotherhood and high ideals, which were the basis of trade unionism originally. The day of high ideals in unionism, however, has gone. There are “560 trade unions in Australia, but we never hear of most of them. They are quietly carrying out their work in the interests of the workers in accordance with the traditions of trade unions. We hear only of the few militant unions. The foolish leaders of the trade union movement have created monsters which they cannot control, and many of these monsters are under the control of the Communist party. Honorable members opposite know that to be so as well as I do. One of the causes of this state of affairs is compulsory unionism. The Australian Workers Union was formerly :i moderate trade union, hut now it is not. How many Communists have got into the Australian Workers Union since compulsory unionism was introduced?
– Who are they?
– The honorable member might give me the opportunity to finish my remarks. We know that fear keeps most members away from meetings of these militant trade unions. The election expenses of nearly all Opposition members have been paid by members of the Australian Country party and the Liberal party in the form of contributions by unions which they have been compelled to join. Opposition supporters say that they represent the worker, hut I invite them to look through the rolls for the electoral division which
I represent, and explain to me how they can claim to represent the worker when so many persons who are designated workers voted for me. I desire to refer now to the current shearing strike, because the shearers are ordered to take direct action in defiance of an award made under the existing arbitration law. I have an extract from The Worker of the 18th April, 1956, headed “ Scab “, which records a description of a scab by Jack London.
Mr. Curtin interjecting ,
– Order! The honorable member for Watson will cease interjecting.
– I shall not read the whole of it, because some of it is blasphemous and disgusting. It reads, in part -
After God had finished with the rattle-snake . . He made a scab . . . Judas Iscariot was a gentleman compared with the scab.
This is material published in the official journal of the Australian Workers Union which has forced into its ranks supporters of the Australian Country party and the Liberal party. The extract ends on this note -
When a man has descended so low as to deserve this title, it is as eternal as though graven on marble tablets or plates of brass. It never deserts him. It even descends with him to the grave.
That was published in a reputable journal during a strike directed against a legal award. I do not know whether the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) stands for that sort of thing. It is about the ugliest thing I have ever seen in a free country. I do not think the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Edmonds) or anybody on his side of the House would support it.
– What did I do?
– I do not believe that the honorable member supports it. There are hundreds of families which want to earn money in this way. They have a legal right to work, but it is denied to them, not because of an industrial grievance, hut because two men, drunk with power, are working against the “ groupers “ with the Evatt-ites.
– The honorable member should not talk rot.
– Why is that in the newspaper? That newspaper was published by a. trade union. Every trade unionist has a right to his own conscience, but this article brands a man as being a scab for life. I remind honorable members opposite that, when reciting the Lord’s Prayer every day, they use the words, “ Forgive ns our trespasses “. This kind of thing to which I have referred has come into trade unionism, and Opposition members are responsible for it.
– The honorable member does not sound very forgiving.
– -I believe in freedom. I fought for freedom; I did not fight for this type of thing. When seeking the benefits of arbitration, surely we must do so from ‘ the point of view of obtaining justice for both sides. Last night, the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt) said that the conciliator was essential to the success of the arbitration system. He said that the conciliator had a big job to do, that the success or otherwise of arbitration was in his hands. I do not agree. If both sides approach the question of arbitration with the idea of achieving a certain result, they will succeed. Do honorable members opposite think that a trade union which publishes articles like the one I have quoted is approaching the question of arbitration in the right attitude of mind? Of course it. is not.
The future of Australia depends largely on the success of the proposals contained in the bill. As honorable members know, Australia is trying to find overseas markets for its secondary products. Secondary industries are dependent for their success upon good industrial relations. We hope that the bill will succeed in achieving such relations, but, as the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison) has said, it is necessary for management and labour to approach the question of arbitration by working, r.ot only for the interests of their respective sides, but also for the future of the country. What is the position of the Communist-led trade unions? How do Opposition members think they
W]11 approach the question of arbitration? I have been amazed as I have noted that, with the exception of the honorable member for Blaxland, no Labour member has stated categorically that he believes in the arbitration system. Last night, the honorable member for Stirling (Mr. Webb) said that he thought there was some good in collective bargaining. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) has told the House that conditions in Australia are quite different from those overseas. Australia is a highly unionized country, whereas only 40 per cent, of employees in England and only 27 per cent, in America belong to trade unions. Consequently, we cannot employ the same methods that are used in those countries.
I ask Opposition members to what degree the Communist party, through Communist trade union leaders, has influenced their thinking. Is not the Arbitration Court anathema to the Communists? Are they not trying to destroy it? Are they not trying to sell collective bargaining to the Australian Labour party? Collective bargaining may work in America where a large number of firms in different parts of the country are engaged in similar operations. However, the bargaining is not conducted with all such firms, but only with individual firms. The collective bargaining system will not work in this country, because Australia is still not sufficiently developed. I remind Opposition members of the following words of old man Lenin : -
We must agree to each and every sacrifice; to resort to various stratagems, artifices, illegal methods; to evasion and subterfuges, only so as to get into trade unions.
That is what Lenin said. How has Mr. Healy managed to get a throttle-hold on this country? Why has not the trade union movement, under moderate leadership, not been able to . oust Mr. Healy from control? Look at the condition of the miners to-day. Look at the recent tragic spectacle of hundreds of decent, people coming here, duped by the leaders of communism. Why cannot the Labour party get rid of Communist control? The Communists are influencing Opposition members towards destroying the arbitration system.
I believe that the proposed system will work. 1 am not au fait with such matters, but I do not agree with the High Court of Australia. I believe that the Arbitration Court should have penal powers. This bill will provide all the necessary powers, but they need never be employed if the trade union leaders and management approach the question of arbitration in the interests of their own members and in the interests of the country as a whole. I do not think that suggestions about the existence of industrial unrest are true. The Ministry of Labour Advisory Council has made no such suggestion. But there is unrest in the minds of some people who are trying to sow certain thoughts in the minds of honorable members opposite. I believe if Opposition members really want a just system of arbitration, that it is possible to make the proposed system work by honest endeavour on both sides and by obtaining a new kind of trade union leadership. There are men in the Labour movement who are first-class men. I think the honorable member for Blaxland is a moderate man, and has good ideas. I am a great admirer of the honorable member for Bendigo too, but not all trade union leaders are to be admired. I believe also that management must have regard to new ideas about industrial relations in exactly the same way that the trade union movement must work in the interests of its members.
.- We have listened to one of the most narrowminded addresses about the part that is played by trade unions and the Labour movement as a whole that I have ever had the displeasure to listen to. The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson) is very narrow-minded, and takes his own limited code of values as being universal. He tests other people, irrespective of their experience, in the light of his own limited experience. The only kind of trade unions that appeal to him are those that existed in the nineteenth century. He believes that the only thing that has caused inflation in Australia, which is subject to Government policy, is the increase of wages. He has tried to argue that profit increases have nothing to do with inflation. He said that some figures that I quoted recently were inaccurate, but did he deal with those figures? Did he furnish the House with evidence that any of the figures that I quoted were inaccurate? No, he did not. As he has done on so many other occasions, he simply made “a bald statement. I suggest that the honorable member is very lucky that to-night’s proceedings are not being broadcast, because, if any of the workers in his electorate voted for him in the past, they would scarcely want to vote for him again after having listened to his speech.
I think it has been shown fairly conclusively, during various debates in this sessional period, by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean), the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) and myself and others that the degree to which company profits have risen is at present the main cause of inflation. We have pointed out that it has-been estimated by the Commonwealth Statistician that company profits amount to £505,000,000, and we know, from previous experience, that that estimate is probably £40,000,000 or £50,000,000 too low. We know quite well also that the large industrial concerns have complete and unrestricted power to fix the prices of their commodities and that, by following their impulse to maximize their profits, they have pushed the level of prices to its present height and are continuing to push it up. What has happened to wages, on the other hand? Last night, the Leader of the Opposition showed very clearly what has happened in regard to wages. Through the instrumentality of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, wages have substantially been pegged.
– Will the honorable member tell us something about average weekly earnings ?
– They have not risen nearly as rapidly as have company profits. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) knows that very well. Now I shall deal with the measure before the House. I do not intend to be diverted from the real point at issue by the harangue of the honorable member for Hume. The Opposition objects to the bill because the Arbitration Court has become an instrument to help, industry, to strengthen the control of the employers over industrial relations, and to control wages. This measure will lead to a worsening of the present situation. There are three main ways in which the court has become the instrument of the employers. .First of all there is the appellate system - the appeal system. The delay that results from appeals was shown in detail by the Leader of the Opposition in opening his case last night.’ He showed how the decisions in appeals have favoured the employer. The second way it operates is through the penal powers and. as I pointed out, the employers are always in a different position in regard to this. All the employers have to do is sit tight and’ wait for the situation to develop, but if the workers have to do anything for themselves in the industrial sphere it means open organization, collecting funds, picketing and those kinds of activity which are so easily and invariably brought within the scope of the penal system. Thirdly, thereis the question of costs. Last night we heard of the extreme case of £6,000 in costs imposed on the South Australian Tramways Union in a recent case. Tn England. on the other hand, most of the trade unions have never incurred a penny in legal costs in this field for a greatmany years.
This amending bill, as has been pointed out quite clearly, retains the appellate system. It increases the significance of that by placing on the arbitration and conciliation tribunals one judge as a presidential member and the result will be a situation in which a conciliation commissioner will sit to hear a case along with a man to whom an appeal can be made. It will give that person a position of great significance in the preliminary hearing.
Secondly, this bill increases the significance of penal powers by creating a special court, a court of pains and penalties as it was so aptly described - a. court whose business it is to do nothing but impose penalties. If this court does not impose penalties and does not do its job, it will have nothing to do. I think it is clear that, in this situation, the costs borne by the trade unions will continue to be a..« great, or will be greater, than ever. The result of this, I suggest, will be that wages will be controlled effectively and, at the same time, profits will soar and inflation will be encouraged. That is the network of cause and effect. I think that the court will become, even more as a result of the bill, an instrument of this sort of thing in the immediate future than it has been in the past.
The court is the Commonwealth wagefixing branch and it must at least be off-set, if justice is to be required, by a Commonwealth price-fixing branch. 1 suggest, that in times of full employment, the function of the court is to delay increases in wages or impose reduction. In times of unemployment or deflation, the function of the court is to lead or impose reductions in wages. I propose to trace for a few moments the evolution of the court in respect of the basic wage in order to test this proposition and to show how the court has become, over the years, an instrument of industry, a supplement to the powers of the employers and a Commonwealth wage-fixing branch.
There are conflicting interpretations in regard to this matter and, at the outset, I should like to raise the question of which interpretation is correct. The first one is that of the Minister himself. In the course of his speech in introducing this bill, he said -
During the period of its operation there has been, as a direct outcome of the decisions made under it, a steady and progressive improvement in real wages and conditions of employment. It has been a strong shield for the wage-earner when, because of the existence of unemployment, his bargaining power has been much weaker than it is to-day.
The opposing interpretation is: The system has not caused any increase in the real wages and conditions of workers than would have come without it. The system was not a shield for the wageearner in time of unemployment. I propose to look for a few minutes through the history of the court to test those propositions-
– Does the honorable member want to do away with arbitration ?
– If the Minister will listen to me for a few minutes, I shall tell him. The problem of the functions of the court was first raised in 1907. In the Harvester case the report on which appears in volumes 1 and 2 of Commonwealth Arbitration Reports, the late Mr. Justice Higgins said -
The provision for fair and reasonable remuneration is obviously designed for the benefit of the employees in the industry; and it must be meant to secure to them something which they cannot get by the ordinary system of individual bargaining with employers . . Fair and reasonable remuneration is a condition precedent to exemption from the duty-, and the remuneration of the employee is not made to depend on the profits of the’ employer. If the profits are nil, the fair and reasonable remuneration must be paid; and if the profits are 100 per cent., it must bc paid.
The second president was enunciating his view - the principle upon which the wage was to be determined had nothing to do with the profitability of the industry. But, of course, X do not think that the second president of the court lived up to that. What did he do? Dr. Foenander, one of the few recognized authorities upon arbitration in the academic field, in his book Industrial Regulation in Australia, at pages S3 and 84 draws this conclusion about what, Mr. Justice Higgins did. He said -
Mr. Justice Higgins might speak of this basic wage as sacrosanct and hold that, irrespective of its financial condition, an industry might pay it. Yet, no other member of the Court has displayed a greater solicitude for industry, and maintained a more constant vigilance to see that the industrial structure of the country should not suffer from his decisions tha:i the learned second President of the Court.
That is Dr. Foenander’s conclusion - that even when setting out from this principle and trying to have regard primarily to the interests of the worker in establishing a wage which wa3 based upon something other than the profitability of industry, Mr. Justice Higgins did not succeed. And the extent to which the court had refrained from imposing any burden on industry from 1907 to 1920 can be seen in the relationship which the actual basic wage in 1920 bore to the results of the Piddington Royal Commission of that year. The commission determined that if a basic wage was to be paid in Australia in 1920 which would meet something like the normal needs of an average employee, regarded as a human lie ing living in a civilized community it would amount to £5 16s. 6d. in Melbourne where the actual wage was £4 13s.; it would be £5 17s. Id. in Sydney where the actual wage was also £4 13s.; it would have been £5 16s. lid. in Hobart where the actual wage was £4 13s.; it would have been £5 16s. Id. in Adelaide where it was actually £4 9s. 6d. ; it would have been £5 6s. 2d. in Brisbane where it was actually £4 0s. 6d. ; it would have been £5 13s. lid. in Perth and was actually £4s. 0s. 6d. Mr. Justice Powers held in that year that the findings of the commission were beyond the capacity of the industry to pay. How can the Minister argue that in this case the functions of the court had been to raise the basicwage above what it might otherwise have been. There is no evidence up to 1920 that the court’s decisions had raised the real wage above -what it would have been paid by industry in the ordinary way, having full regard to profits and maximizing those profits, and there is no evidence that the court had imposed in any way a wage upon industry which industry would not otherwise have paid and still have made its profit. But in the 1920’s I suggest that the arbitration system, far from remaining an instrument which merely refrained from touching profits became an instrument of coercion for the worker. In 1930, when unemployment was experienced in Australia in large volume, did the court aci to protect the worker, as the Minister said? Did it become a shield for the wage-earner in times of unemployment? The answer i3 quite clearly “No”. I refer again to Dr. Foenander who, at page 97 of his book, Towards Industrial Peace in Australia, has said - . . the overhaul to which Austral in subjected herself was drastic, and in the process of’ this studied re-organization the lead was taken by the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration … By its general discussion of economic conditions, and by its decision in January, 1931, as to the wage rates, it paved the way for the preparation and enforcement of Australia’s method to solve her problem - the Premiers’ Reconstruction Plan of June, 1.931. The Court has been able tn play a part peculiarly decisive in the depression policy of Australia.
And the Minister suggests that the arbitration court was a. shield for the workers in times of unemployment. The depression policy of Australia to which Dr. Foenander referred was not only to cut wages and increase unemployment but to cut pensions and to cut the market for goods generally. This had the effect, among other effects, of causing thousands of farmers all over the country to go bankrupt. The foremost authority whom I have just quoted has pointed out that the court paved the way, gave the lead, and was “ peculiarily decisive “ in die preparation and enforcement of that policy. Does this look like a court that acted as a shield for the workers? At page 107 of the book from which I have just quoted Dr. Foenander says -
By its order of 1931, in Court waa laying the first stone of national reconstruction. lt was the first stone of cut wages and more unemployment. I refer to another authority, Professor Copland who was in a position to judge intimately the nature of the Australian depression policy. In International, Affairs, volume XII., No. 1, at page S3, he concluded as follows : -
The example of the Court in reducing wages . . had important consequences beyond effects upon wages generally and costs of industry.
He means that other deductions of incomes which followed on that were founded, and justified, upon the decision of the court. What happened? It was decisive in imposing the aims and policy of the financial and industrial corporations upon the wage-earning classes of the time. The late Professor H. E. Irvine of Sydney University, in evidence to the court, said -
Tt is practically a question of life and death to stop deflation and initiate a movement in the other direction. . . primary producers, manufacturers and commercial businesses must (be enabled) to get going again. . . Men must he put to work again.
This was common-sense advice, the kind of view that any man who knew life and who saw the experience of these times realized was the thing which should have been foremost in government policy, and in the policy of the court. And -while this, I suggest, was clear to the court, it still chose to be the instrument of conservatism and reaction and to cut wages and impose further deflation upon the hundreds of thousands of unemployed workers and bankrupt farmers. Whom did the court shield at this time, if it was art the shield of the workers? I refer here to Professor Giblin, another gentle man who was in a position which allowed him to judge intimately what was going on. Professor Giblin is quoted in the Australian Quarterly of December, 1933. as saying -
We are near the end of the fourth year of the depression . . . we have tried to maintain in all essentials the old structure of industry and trade. Our policy hae been directed towards mitigating the internal effects of the world depression as far as that could be clone, without offending the conservative instincts of the business world.
The Commonwealth Aribtration Court, no more than anybody else in authority at that time, offended the conservative instincts of the business world. It is rubbish to talk about it as acting as a shield for the workers in time of unemployment. When the conservative instincts of the business world allowed it to outlay a little more - and those instincts are just as conservative in the representation they possess in this House in the honorable member for Petrie (Mr. Hulme) - and when demand had risen just a little, the court was asked in 1932 if it would consent to a slight adjustment of the wage. But it made the position clear by saying -
The real question to be considered here is that (the) wage must be within the capacity of industry.
No increase was granted. In 1934, the court adjusted the basic wage to what was said to be the Harvester equivalent, but it removed the so-called Powers 3s., which meant that in 1934 the basic wage was 4£ per cent, less than the amount judged in 1907 to be the minimum required by an “ average employee regarded as a human being living in a civilized community “. That is to say, after 27 year? of development, the basic wage was 4i per cent, less than was judged in 1907 as a minimum for a human being in a civilized community. Is that evidence that the court acted as a shield for the workers in time of unemployment or at any other time?
The court, of course, had not raised the real wage. Instead, I suggest that it had imposed, or allowed the imposition qf, deflation. This resulted in the number of unemployed rising, on a conservative estimate, to over 350,000 men and women. It had imposed a basic wage reduction of 10 per cent., which took the wage below the standard required by a human being living in a civilized community “. In 1937, the court announced that “ after grave consideration “ it had arrived at the conclusion that “ the present degree of prosperity in the Commonwealth, and the existing circumstances of industry made desirable appreciable increases in the basic wage “. But the appreciable increase in 1937, 30 years after the Harvester award had been handed down, added not Id. more than the Harvester equivalent. In 1940, the court unanimously refused to grant any increase in the basic wage, and stressed that “ more than ever before wage fixation is controlled by the economic outlook “. In this judgment the court said -
There appears to be an erroneous impression in some quarters that the guiding principle on which the basic wage is now fixed by this Court is . . . the minimum amount required to provide the reasonable necessities of life. … Up to 1930 this belief was well founded because the basic wage was adjusted to the standard laid down in the Harvester ease of 1907 . . . but now, the dominant factor in fixing the basic wage by this Court must be the highest that industry as a whole can pay.
I suggest that the conclusion the court said was well founded was not well founded, even up to 1931. In the basic wage judgment of 1953 the court said -
Economic possibilities have always been the determining factor, at least since 1931.
Foster J. said -
It is my view that this Court has long since abandoned “ needs “ as the basis.
I suggest that the court, in this situation, is coming to a position where it can, and will, justify reductions in the basic wage on the “ what industry can afford “ basis without having any regard whatsoever, and being free to have no regard, to the living conditions of the worker. This is not to the advantage of the wage earner. I think that, underlying the position of the court, as well as these other matters, there has been a tendency for the court to use outmoded economic theories to decide whether an industry can afford to pay. When the court is turning to a discussion of whether an industry can afford to pay something or other it is not a matter of accountancy to decide the question - it is a matter at critical times of economics alone.
In 1953, the court decided to remove the cost of living adjustments from the basic wage, and to freeze margins for the reason that industry could not afford to pay. But it used a particular type of economic theory to come to this conclusion. Now, as a result, the real basic wage is, on average, 16s. a week less than it would be if the “ needs “ standard still applied. In 60 per cent, of cases margins are also less than they should be. How did the court arrive at its decision? Just as in the 1930’s it used an outmoded economic theory which even honorable members who support the Government would to-day agree is wrong, the court is now using an economic theory which stemmed from a famous English economist, J. M. Keynes. I should like to remind the House that people who do not agree politically with me regard the Keynesian theory as a faulty theory.
At page 23 of his book International Trade and Economic Development, Viner wrote -
I am prepared to concede, though with qualifications, that the Keynesian analysis was well-designed to direct attention to the possibilities of bringing about or speedingup recovery from a severe and abnormal depression through governmental action. It has won the convictions, however, of a large part of the economics profession and of the lay public as a “ general theory “ applicable to all circumstances. This seems to me seriously wrong and seriously dangerous lt seems to me, also, seriously wrong and seriously dangerous. I would add to that the observation that, by the time the Keynesian theory became accepted by the authorities, it was too late ; the depression was already over. When the Keynesian approach was needed for the depression, the authorities which the court accepted, and the court itself, were still in the earlier stages of the understanding of economic theory. So I suggest that, when the court turns to this productivity approach, , and tests the capacity of industry, to pay, it does not perform an accounting function or a function which can be discharged in terms of statistics. It carries out the function of applying economic theory to the existing situation. But it invariably applies an outmoded economic theory.
When the court reasons that an increase of wages would increase prices, that this would contribute to inflation, and, therefore, that industry could not afford to pay increased wages, it takes a particularly one-sided view. Its refusal to apply the institution of the court as an institution of wage justice is a refusal in the pattern of a community which does not properly discharge full responsibility with regard to inflation. I think the court would be justified in using itself as an institution to control wages only if the government in office used itself as an institution to control inflation. But this Government has not done that. I should like to say, for the information of the honorable member for Hume, that I would agree that the trade unions should at all times exercise their full responsibility in support of a. policy of money wage stabilization if we had in office a government which discharged its responsibility to control inflation.
If the court is to be transformed, as it will be transformed by this bill, into a more effective instrument to control wages, and to force the wage-earning classes to bear the cost of inflation, it must be matched by a prices control authority of the Commonwealth, and bv a policy which will control inflation. The court becomes openly an instrument of the employers, openly an instrument for the protection and preservation of profits, and openly an instrument for the strengthening of employers in the whole field of industry, if it accepts the predominance of this principle of the capacity of industry to pay, as it has continually tended to accept it, until it almost completely accepted it in 1956. On the other hand, if it adopted a needs principle, or a principle of comparative wage justice, irrespective of profits, in a given situation, it would operate fairly and justly for the community. But, in this respect, since 193]. and even before tha”t, in the main, the court has almost exclusively displayed a great solicitude for industry, for the dictates of conservative economic theory, and for the conservative instincts of the business world. I suggest that this bill is not likely to make a change for the better. Bather will it strengthen those influences.
Despite conclusions of this kind, insofar as they are shared, the Labour movement does not adopt a destructive attitude to the arbitration system. The Opposition has proposed an amendment to this bill. A short time ago, the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison) outlined the advantages of joint consultation. The Opposition, by proposing a specific amendment, does not merely state the question in black and white, and say, as Government supporters continually say, “Do you stand for or against arbitration?” It is a matter of the kind of arbitration we stand for or against. The Opposition opposes the kind of arbitration for which the Government stands. The Leader of the Opposition last evening summed up, in several main propositions, the constructive proposals of the Opposition for the kind of arbitration for which we stand. Amendments designed to give effect to those proposals will be moved at a later stage. The two main propositions in which our proposals are summed up are, first, that we desire the grant of final and exclusive powers to conciliation and arbitration commissioners and we want agreements reached by the parties to be constructive.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns), who has just resumed his seat, has given the House his usual mixture of socialist bigotry and academic certitude, infused with his usual touch of venom. As he spoke, I tried to arrive at the drift of his remarks. I believe that, despite his few words at the close suggesting that the approach of the Australian Labour party, which he purported to represent, was constructive, the real drift of his remark* was an elaborate and sustained attack upon the. whole arbitration system. That was the purport of his remarks, and it cannot be covered by the few words with which he concluded. Most elaborately, he traced the whole history of wage fixation by the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. Tie represented the court as the instrument of capitalist oppression. Of course, it is part and parcel of the stock-in-trade of socialists to represent all institutions, including the Commonwealth Arbitration
Court and the Parliament itself, as merely the instruments of the capitalist system. As I have said, the honorable member traced the whole history of wage fixation by the court. He was completely inconsistent, as I shall show in a moment. The honorable member pointed out that, as we all know, because it is quite elementary, Mr. Justice Higgins fixed a wage on the basis of needs, and that the court later adopted a different principle - the capacity of industry to pay. It is quite true, as we all know, that the wage policy that was followed during the depression has been severely criticized.
Conversation being audible,
Mr. ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr. Lawrence). - Order! There is too much noise in the chamber.
– Of course, the co url has had to cope with the situation existing in times of financial crisis, in times of peace, and in times of war, and it has had to do the best it could do as a body of practical men. It has not been the instrument of some kind of disembodied capitalist monster. It has, simply and quite obviously, consisted of a number of practical men struggling to deal in a. practical way with the situation with which we were confronted from time to time.
I stated that the honorable member for Yarra was completely inconsistent. Having painted the court as an instrument of the capitalist employers, he then treated us to a. dissertation - I think that is the correct word for it - on the various economic theories which were false economic doctrines in his own opinion, which he sets above all other opinions. He himself, as the House knows, is greatly superior to that trivial economist, Keynes, and to many others. In dealing with the theories of these economists, all of which he claims to bc false, except the theory that he himself holds, whatever that theory may be, he stated that the court, in fixing wages, was not guided by the dictates of the capitalists in the background whose instrument it was supposed to be, but was misguided - I almost said “guided” - by the advise of false economists. I think that we have all had enough experience of economists in recent years to know that their views vary immensely.
Therefore, it is not surprising that courts, following the views expressed by economists from time to time, do quite contradictory things. After all, we must remember that, whatever wage policy the Commonwealth Arbitration Court followed in the depression, the court was guided very largely by the people behind the Premiers’ plan - people like Sir Douglas Copland and the economists. So much for our friend, the economist opposite.
He followed another good socialist line. The first line was that the court had been only the wicked instrument of the employers and of capitalism. The second line was that all the evils that had befallen us through inflation were due to high profits. It is a part of the stock-in-trade of the socialist always to attack profits. I suppose that if the honorable gentleman wanted a splendid model, he could take the transport system of New South . Wales - that socialist system which succeeds in piling up a deficit of roughly £10,000,000 a year. Presumably that is the kind of socialist institution that he would uphold as being all that is righteous, noble and proper. The fact is that if socialists such as the honorable gentleman pursued their theories to a logical conclusion, they would know that all that they have to put in the place of the capitalist system, with its wicked profits, is the socialist system that exists in Russia, with a few things that are a little more wicked than profits.
Before I leave the question of profits, let me deal with the case of a person who is receiving a small income of, let us say, £300 a year. Let us assume that that is tainted money - a part of the profits of a company that has been efficient. That money has already been taxed at the rate of 9s. in the £1, because the company is taxed at that rate to begin with. So the person with this relative pittance of £300 a year is paying tax at the rate of 9s. in the £1 in company tax alone. If he happens to draw larger dividends, he will pay, in addition, income tax at a very steeply graded rate. The point that I am trying to make is that if it is true that profits have risen, it is also true that company tax and the steeply graded income tax have taken a very large share of the proceeds, which has gone into the coffers of the State for the purpose of assisting people who need social services benefits, for the purpose of assisting State governments which need money for public works, and so forth. Therefore, I am not entirely convinced that profits are as wicked as the honorable gentleman - who reveals himself to be a doctrinaire, bigoted socialist every time he rises to his feet in this House - would have us believe.
If the Commonwealth Arbitration Court has, in fact, . been forcing wages lower and lower - that is the kind of picture that he has painted - then the worker to-day should be in a parlous condition. But the fact is that, wherever I look - I am not an economist - the worker appears to have more appliances in his home, to be better clothed and to enjoy better conditions in every aspect of his daily life than, in my memory, he has ever enjoyed before. I do not know under what theories, false or true, the court fixes wages, but I cannot come to the con elusion, as did the honorable gentleman, that the worker is being pressed down by this monster or instrument of capitalism, as. he claimed it to be.
What is the policy of the Labour party in regard to arbitration? This honorable gentleman joined with his own name, the names of the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) and the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell). He spoke, apparently, as the mouthpiece of the Labour movement. It may be that he is a part of that triumvirate which dictates the policy of the Labour party - I do not know. But if he is a spokesman for the Labour party, I can conclude from his speech only that the Labour party is against the arbitration system. The whole of his analysis of the wages policy of the court, if we accept it, shows that the worker has never derived any benefit from the court. On his argument, the court has never been a shield for the worker in times of depression or an advantage to the worker in times of prosperity. ‘The only conclusion to be drawn from that argument is that it would be to the advantage of the worker to abolish the court. Therefore, although the honorable gentleman uttered a few words at the end of his speech, suggesting that the Labour party had adopted a constructive attitude to this measure, one can say only that those few words were in complete contradiction of the whole basis of his argument.
I pass now to a consideration of the measure before the House. It has been precipitated by the decision in the Boilermakers case that the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, as at present constituted, cannot perform specifically judicial functions. So a change of the system has been forced upon the Government, whether the Government likes it or not. The Minister, very wisely, has taken advantage of this opportunity to reform and improve the whole system. What he is proposing to do now might well have been done quite independently of the decision in the Boilermakers’ case. I believe that the bill that he has presented to the House deserves the support, and indeed the applause, of all honorable members, lt proposes real improvements of the existing system. I believe that the divorce of the judicial function of the court - particularly in relation to the imposition and enforcement of sanctions in connection with awards - from the arbitral function will be very much to the good. A court must always be placed in a difficult position if, having made an award, it is also the unpopular instrument that has to enforce the award. Enforcement never makes a court, a police force or any other body charged with that duty a popular body. So the divorce of the instrument of enforcement from the instrument that makes awards will be, I think, entirely to the good. Although it may have been forced upon the Government by accidental circumstances, nevertheless
– That argument was never advanced before the decision of the High Court in the Boilermakers’ case.
– That may be so, but it has nothing to do with the validity of my argument. If the honorable member for East Sydney wishes to address himself to the matter later, he may argue that it would not be a good thing for those two functions to be divorced, but I believe that it would be.
The second great advantage that will 1)0 achieved by this legislation is that the conciliator will be divorced from the arbitrator. The conciliator, whose duty it is to bring the parties together, will not, in future, be the man who, if the parties fail to agree, must impose an arbitral decision upon them. It is the common experience of people who have practised in arbitration courts that the parties to a dispute are not prepared to go beyond a certain point in attempting to reach a decision by conciliation because they believe that, if the matter goes to arbitration, the arbitrator will start from the point at which the parties arrived in the process of conciliation. This divorce will be all to the good, because in future there will be a much better chance of the conciliator effecting a settlement than there is under the existing system.
I suggest, finally, that the proposed legislation will have the effect of breaking down the growing legalism of the existing arbitration system. That is a matter of no small importance. I have heard honorable members on the other side of the House, and, indeed, on this side, and also members of the public, with one accord deploring the legalism that has increasingly crept into our arbitration system over recent years. Under the system that will be introduced as a result of this bill, the second branch of the court, the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, will not be clothed with all the habilaments of the law. Even the presidential members will discard their wigs, except, of course, when they are hearing major matters, such as those affecting the basic wage or standard hours. Opportunities for barristers to appear before the commission will be greatly reduced. The Minister has explained the provisions of the bill in that regard.
The matters that I have mentioned constitute great improvements in our arbitration machinery. I have been at pains to examine the proposed legislation again, because it has been constantly alleged by honorable members opposite that this bill merely continues the old system, and that the provisions of the proposed legislation have been couched in such a manner as to suggest that the new system will not materially differ from the old, whereas this in fact is not the case. Quite clearly that is not a true statement of the facts regarding this proposed legislation.
A great deal has been said during this debate about the relative advantages of collective bargaining and the arbitration system. Our arbitration system is by no means perfect. No other country has adopted our system. Men have come to Australia from other countries and studied our method of settling industrial disputes, but the countries from which they came have not seen fit to adopt our system. It might Be argued, therefore, that if other countries have not wished to introduce the system, it should not commend itself very strongly to us. However, tradition is bound up in these matters. Different countries conduct their affairs in traditionally different ways. We cannot lightly discard tradition. In Australia we have become accustomed to this method of dealing with industrial matters, and for that reason alone we should be loath to depart from it unless some other system is plainly likely to be a better one. With regard to collective bargaining, one should not draw clear conclusions from the fact that it has been successful in the United States, and also, in considerable measure, in the United Kingdom. It is quite clear that the conditions in those countries are very different from our conditions. The percentage of workers who belong to trade unions is much smaller in the United States than it is in Australia. In the United States there is very keen competition within certain industries. In that country a situation has grown up in which the workers and management realize that they have a common interest in making the particular factory in which the bargain is concluded as efficient as possible, because the fruits of that efficiency are shared in accordance with the collective bargains made between the management and the workers. That is, perhaps, the ideal relationship, and one might hope that it could some day be established here. However, it does not exist here at present. The strength of the workers in this country is in their unions, to which 60 per cent, of them belong. There is not the same degree of national industrial responsibility in trade unions here as is found among trade union leaders in the United Kingdom. That, coupled with the absence of the management-employee relationship that I have said exists in the United States, causes us to conclude that a system that has operated successfully in those other countries would not be likely to be successful here.
I shall conclude by referring to one other matter which I think is tremendously important in regard to Australia’s industrial peace. In this debate honorable members have been concentrating very largely on the details of the bill, but if one looks to the immediate future one realizes that the greatest disturbances that are likely to occur in the industrial sphere will be as a result of the movement towards automation. In the United Kingdom strikes have already developed because of the displacement of workers following the introduction of this new method of control that goes far beyond automatic operation. We should tackle this problem with foresight. It will prove to be a serious cause of industrial disturbances unless it is given grave consideration by those who will be charged with the duty of dealing with industrial matters. I suggest that the Government should send officers abroad for the purpose of informing the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) about developments that have already occurred in the United States and in Western Germany, and are now occurring in Great Britain. Particular attention should be given to means whereby displaced workers can be found employment, either by training and placing them in the electronics industry, or by some other means. It would be a tragedy if, in an undeveloped country such as ours we decided to take the whole fruits of automation in the form of increased leisure. Of course, some part of those fruits will be taken out in that way, but I think that every patriotic Australian will agree that we should use the benefits conferred by automation in further developing our country. The Government can do a great deal by studying developments that have taken place abroad and means of avoiding the dis locations that can occur if serious consideration is not given to the problem before it develops major proportions. I conclude by drawing attention to this matter, because I believe that it is germane to the question of arbitration and the settlement of industrial disputes in the immediately foreseeable future.
.- I think I can put the mind of the honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Turner) at rest in regard to the Labour party’s policy on conciliation and arbitration. I refer him to the constitution and platform of the Australian Labour party, which is published in book form and is procurable from any bookstall or any office of the Labour party. If the honorable member cares to read that publication he will find that the Labour party stands four square for conciliation and arbitration. Our concern is that it should be made to work in the best interests of the people for whom it was designed, the workers of Australia.
The honorable member, of course, took the opportunity to sneer at socialism, when he referred to remarks by the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns), and said that he had advanced bigoted socialist doctrinaire theories. The honorable member for Bradfield made an attack on the transport system of Australia, but I suggest that any one who reads the history of our transport system will realize that we should all be proud of it. He referred to the New South Wales railways, and claimed that it was a socialist enterprise. If he reads the history of the New South Wales railway system he will discover that it was first developed as a private enterprise. When the State found that private enterprise had failed to develop the railways in the interests of the people it stepped in and finished the job. It has a proud record. The crippling influence of capitalism is to-day holding back the State railways, which are saddled each year with a payment of about £10,000,000 in interest on money borrowed under peculiar circumstances early in our history. We must also take into account the inroads that modern means of transport have made upon the railways. Every third person has a motor car. In the days when almost no one had a motor car the railways were the exclusive means of transport and were correspondingly successful. That happy state of affairs would return if we could unsaddle the railways of the terrific interest burden that they bear to-day. The honorable member for Bradfield spoke especially of New South Wales but the same thing is true of the transport systems of other States. Naturally, he did not like to refer to such socialistic national institutions as the Commonwealth Bank, of which the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) spoke last night. The Commonwealth Bank is our greatest national institution. It belongs to the people and last year it made a profit of £11,000,00U. Those profits go not to private shareholders but to the people, all of whom have a share in the bank. Half of the profit goes into consolidated revenue to help pay for pensions and improve social services. The other half is devoted to reducing the national debt which, because of this Government’s borrowings overseas, is reaching colossal proportions. The honorable member for Bradfield did not mention Trans-Australia. Airlines or Labour’s very successful whaling industry, which the present Government has just given away to private enterprise. The Government also gave away it share of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited and its interest in Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited. If one is to indulge in criticism one should look at the whole field. All loyal Australians can be truly proud of their national institutions.
The bill springs from section 51 of our Constitution, which provides that the Parliament has power to set up machinery for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes extending beyond the limits of any one State. I emphasize the word “ prevention “ because we all know that prevention is better than euro, or in this case, settlement. That is the Labour party’s attitude to conciliation and arbitration. We la v-stress on the need to avoid the things that cause discontent, bring about disputes is industry and disturb the peace of the nation. That is why we are attempting to amend the bill along those lines. Unfortunately, time and time again, it has been shown that under the Constitution this National Parliament has not adequate power to deal with problems that arise in industry. ‘ Our Constitution is supposed to have been framed by Australians for Australians, but every one who has been prominent in our arbitration system has declared at some time or other that the powers under which this very important instrument for the settlement of industrial disputes has been established are quite inadequate. Every judge who has been in charge of our arbitration system, including Judge O’Connor, Judge Higgins, Judge Beeby, Judge Powers and Judge Dethridge, has said, upon competing his term of office, that lie could have done a better job had fuller powers been given him under the Constitution. This Parliament should have made provision enabling the court to carry out its work properly. Counsel w.’io. have appeared in cases before the court - I refer to such persons as Sir John Latham, Sir Isaac Isaacs, the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the present Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) - have all had vast experience of the arbitration system of Australia and have all said that the powers granted are inadequate if the court is to do the work that it should for the people of Australia.
We believe, as I have said, that prevention is better than cure and that first we should have fuller powers. Then, if disputes and discontent arc to be avoided, a, proper wage should be paid to those in industry. I have in mind a wage that will not merely provide the fullest sustenance for the worker, but which, if he is a family man, will enable him to buy a home. There is no more contented or valuable worker than the married nian who is in the process of paying off his home and providing security against his days of retirement. That should be one of the things provided for in a fair wage. It would certainly help to prevent disputes. Then, too, there should be a fair hours proviso. We believe that the 40-hour week, which was won for the workers by Labour, is fair and reasonable, and that the worker is entitled to enjoy for the rest of his time the leisure that he has earned. There should be a proper and suitable environment in every work place. .Power to ensure this should he contained in the act. The work place is of socia 1 importance. A worker spends us much time there as he spends in leisure “or in sleeping. He spends eight hours in sleeping, eight hours in taking his leisure and eight hours in his work place, so environment is very important. These are all ways of preventing disputes.
Employer-employee consultation should he possible on matters likely to affect the worker on the job. Men like to be respected in the place where they work and that relationship should be encouraged. New schemes of work should not be introduced without the men first being taken into the confidence of the management. They should be encouraged to share the responsibility. There should be proper health, schemes and family security in the form of pensions and superannuation. There should be a proper recognition of the practical advantages that flow from a policy of consultation between workers and management. We must remember that men are not merely machines; that when we engage them we do not merely engage their muscles, arms and legs, but also their minds. We should ask them what they think -about things, for they respond to humane treatment and to approaches seeking the settlement of disputes. Disputes must not be settled by the imposition of penalties. That o not the answer. A penalty is often effective only because the worker has not the resistance to fight it. What this Parliament should strive to do is to fulfil its obligation under the Constitution, which is to give good government, because by so doing it will ensure peace in industry, as it is expected to do. As I say, the Constitution does not contain the power to enable the Parliament to do certain essential things. The Government is putting the cart before the horse. The logical first step is to see that Parliament gets the full and correct powers that it needs to be able to adjudicate in industry to bring about the peace that is necessary. There have been six referendums on this matter since the Constitution was framed, but all of them have been defeated. That is a pity. 1 am glad that we are to get a Constitution committee. I hope that this matter will be one of the first questions that it will examine. The Government - whatever its political colour may be - and the Opposition should get together and put this matter to the people in the way that it should be put. Then the people will, I believe, accept the advice of the Government and the Opposition and vote to give this National Parliament the power that it really needs to do the important work that is required in the field of conciliation and arbitration.
One of the lessons of history is that, m order to enlist the co-operation and develop the capacities and obedience of human beings, suasion is a more effective method than force. That is why I say that penal clauses will not succeed. The Minister believes in the policy of treating them rough. He believes in the mailed fist. That policy will never survive. I believe that it is a short-sighted policy to inflict penalties, and that in the long run, such a policy inevitably evokes violent reactions without good results. The iron fist and heavy driving methods that did succeed once, are not the answer. Figures have been quoted in this debate showing that the cost to the trade union movement of penalties that have been imposed amounts to £6,000. The unionists smart very much under these fines. In the case of the ironworkers and boilermakers, mentioned last night by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), nien went on strike because they thought they had a just reason for doing so, and that they had the right to strike. One of the sections that stepped in to assist the families of those men who were striking for a just cause was, in my opinion, improperly penalized for doing so.
The imposition of penalties is not the answer. The workers will not accept these penalties, [n some instances they will accept this kind of treatment from their own union. The wharf labourers’ union, which is castigated from time to time, has penal clauses in its rules. When the rules are not respected by members of the union, the penal provisions are applied, and they are respected. The system under this act is supposed to be conciliation, and we place the emphasis on conciliation. We believe that this act is being altered mainly because of the decision of the
High Court in upholding the boilermakers’ union in regard to the penalties imposed on it. A re-arrangement of the court as proposed by this bill is only another way of getting around to the reimposition of the penalties, and I believe that eventually the High Court will say it is still unconstitutional.
It is quite wrong for the Government to take this matter to the Privy Council. The High Court was set up by Australians for Australians and the decision of our own court in these matters should be accepted as the last word. I hope that when the case is dealt with by the Privy Council, the Government will get the answer that it really deserves.
Another matter that I should like to comment upon is strike action. Workers should have the right to strike. I know that some strikes are not justified, and T believe that a strike should be held only when everything else has failed. Some strikes, of course, have been justified. When a strike has been called as a result of a properly controlled ballot, and the majority of workers in the industry have decided that they have a just reason for striking, it should not be declared illegal. The worker should have the same right to withhold the goods that he has to sell - that is, his labour - as the producer or the employer has to withhold the goods he has to sell. That happens daily. Examples can be seen at the markets from time to time. If the right price is not offered, those who have goods withhold them from sale. If it is illegal for a worker to strike because he thinks he is not getting the right price for his labour, he should not be penalized any more than those who withhold goods from sale. We have the instance of the 1930 lockout on the coalfields during the depression when the demand for coal had fallen. The mineowners took the opportunity at that time to make some economic adjustments to that they could preserve their profits. What did they do? They closed down the mines and said to the miners, “ We intend to reduce your wages by 12£ per cent. When you are prepared to accept that reduction, we are prepared to open the mines and let you go back to work “. If a mine-owner has the right to do that,
I believe that the worker has the same human right and freedom to do the same thing.
I should like to refer also to that section of the act which refers to preference to unionists. That section should bo honoured more than it is and there should be a preference to unionists. It is apparently not the practice of this Government to observe such a preference, although it is granted in the arbitration act. T.n respect of its own employees in the Commonwealth Public Service, the Government denies that section and does not give any preference. During the war when the Labour party was in power, preference was extended to unionists within the Public Service. As a result, every man in the Public Service joined a union. There has not since been the same harmony within the ranks of public servants as existed at that time. The Government should restore that preference, because if a man is not prepared to contribute to benefits, he should not be entitled to receive them.
Then there is the matter of appeals. The appeals system i3 of no use to worker* in industry. From my own experience J find that it only represents delays and, as the Leader of the Opposition said last night, justice delayed is justice denied. That is really true. When the Public Service Arbitrator made an award for Commonwealth public servants, they did not receive their rights for over twelve months. An appeal was upheld, and, as a result, their margins were reduced. In my opinion, the delay is one of the irritations which should be eliminated. It3 only effect is to defer justice to the workers. If there must be an appeal, it should be as an automatic right. I do not think that there should be provision for application to a court to decide first whether there can be an appeal. That system results only in further delay.
Although this Government croaks about what it did in regard to elections of union officers by court-controlled ballots, it was the Labour party which first introduced the provision for such ballots into the act, in 1949. As a result of that amendment, the Federated Ironworkers Association was able to clear out the Communist element. That provision was very different from the provisions that exist to-day. We provided that where it was clearly shown that some irregularity or misdemeanour occurred in connexion with a ballot, a new one should be ordered. That was done in the case of the Federated Ironworkers Association. Now it is mandatory upon a union to have a ballot whether or not the majority of members require it. In my opinion, the act should be restored to the terms it contained when we left office in 1949. I think that too much legalism and technicality have been involved since this Government amended the act. Arbitration has become expensive for the unions. The president of the Australian Council of Trades Unions, Mr. Monk, has stated that because of technicalities that arose from legalisms, the basic wage case cost the Australian Council of Trades Unions no less than £18,000. Those legalisms should be eliminated, and matters in dispute should be discussed at round-table conferences. The emphasis should be on conciliation rather than n arbitration.
When making an award, a judge considers the effect on the national economy. That function rightly belongs to this Parliament. It should not be relegated to an arbitrator or conciliator. The honorable member for Yarra mentioned that matter. The provision that enables a judge to take such a matter into consideration is based on wrong economic theories. It is impossible for a judge to make a proper decision on whether or not industry can afford to pay. The court is established to decide just wages and conditions. The assessment of whether the wage awarded can or cannot be afforded should not be the responsibility of the judge. The Parliament should determine that very important matter. Another subject which iso n01 receiving much consideration by the Government is equal pay for equal work. A woman who works in industry and does the same work as a mafi should receive the same pay. Nature patterned woman, of course, as her masterpiece. In respect of looks and the work of which woman was capable nature was very successful. There should not be any differential treatment in wages as between man and woman. To leave the situation as it stands is dangerous. We arc approaching a period when women will be serious contenders in industry, and they should be put on the same footing as men in work that results from the development of automation or mechanization. The time is coming when we shall be performing functions in industry merely by pressing a button. A woman can press a button as easily as a man can, and it is therefore important that she should receive the same rate of pay as a man.
Labour believes in conciliation as a method of handling disputes. The opportunities for conciliation to-day are fewer than they were when we streamlined the act in 1947. We made provision then for fifteen conciliation commissioners, but to-day there are only eight. As a result of the long delays in having cases heard by conciliation commissioners, disappointment and irritation is felt by workers in industry, and that- is one of the reasons why disputes occur from time to time. The Waterside Workers Federation has been trying for six years to have a case heard, but because of the inadequate number of conciliators the case has never been completed. Small sections of it have been heard from time to time, but the main section still remains unheard. The Government should not reduce the number of conciliation commissioners. It is time that it restored the former number and made provision for all the conciliation commissioners we need.
The last matter that I should like to mention is the amendment which was introduced by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt). I support every word of it, but in particular I support paragraph o, which reads -
And, in the further opinion of this House, an essential feature of an adequate and effective system of Australian industrial arbitration system should be to vest in the Parliament of the Commonwealth full powers both in relation to industrial matters generally and also to just fixation of prices and profits on an Australia-wide basis.
I believe that we shall never have peace in industry while on the one hand we have a court which rigidly, fixes wages, and on the other hand prices are allowed to go unchecked. Our present economic position is serious because the Government has not controlled prices.
– Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
– Considerable play has been made in this debate by honorable members opposite on the allegedly grossly inflated profits made by companies in Australia. The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns), in particular, this evening used throughout his speech a phrase which he had evidently dug out of one of his socialist text-books. He said that profit inflation was raging in Australia. I should like to bring the honorable member for Yarra back to earth, in case some of his colleagues are carried away by similar ideas. I shall quote from the latest edition of Facts and Figures, issued by the Australian News and Information Bureau. At page 25 of this document it is stated that wholesale and retail profits in Australia rose last year by .2 per cent.
– That is on their inflated capital. Tell us what the capital was and the amount of watered stock.
– “Wages rose on their inflated figure from £16.86 to £18.04. That is revealed on the next page of the same document. Farm production income dropped from an average of £428 last year to £406 this year. In effect, profits rose by .2 per cent., wages rose sharply, and farm income dropped steeply. In spite of that, it was only recently that the Opposition argued that inflation was due to inflated farm incomes.
This bill represents the thirty-second amendment of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act. Although I am not a lawyer or union secretary, and therefore not an expert in this field, I believe that no system of arbitration can work without good faith between the parties and confidence in the tribunals. By good faith I mean a sincere desire on the part of the disputants to come before the tribunal in an effort to find a workable and realistic solution to each particular problem. In my opinion, a weakness of the bill is that it does nothing to increase the sum of good faith on the part of unions or employers. The reluctance of unions to permit rates of pay to be downgraded has been a notorious feature of the arbitration system over the years, and it is my opinion that that attitude has been brought about by the political affiliations of the industrial movement. The unions, instead of being led by capable men who are determined to raise the real wealth of the mcn they represent and to increase their security by bringing into being cooperative agreements between management and labour on the lines suggested to-night by the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison), are led in far too many cases by political glamour boys who use their positions to carry out political stunting. It is this stunting by men who are using the industrial movement as a means to achieve their personal ambitions that is at the root of most of the delays that occur in the arbitration system, and most frivilous strikes occur for the very same reason.
I do not deny that the unions have a perfect right to support a political party, just as employers’ organizations have, provided such affiliation is acceptable to their members. If an organization gives such support, it has an obligation to respect the views of the minority of its members who do not subscribe to its political objectives. This is an old problem both in Australia and overseas, and it is of considerable importance to those persons who desire to see the arbitration system improved. I suggest to the Government that it should insert in the bill a clause to ensure that any moneys that are contributed to a political party by a union or organization should have the express authority of each member. The British Trade Disputes and Trade Union Act covers this point in the following provision : -
It shall not be lawful to require any member of a trade union to make any contribution to the political fund of a trade union unless he has at some time after the commencement of this Act . . . given notice in writing in the form set out in the .First Schedule to this Act of his willingness to contribute to that fund and has not withdrawn the notice . .
I believe that a similar clause should be inserted in the bill in order to remove political posturing and acting by certain union leaders, and in order to assist the court to perform its work in the atmosphere in which it should be done.
In the light of the practice in the United Kingdom, the Government should also consider an extension of section 91 of the act in order to compel all unions to submit each financial year a full and detailed balance-sheet, properly audited. I understand that that is not done at the present time by the majority of unions.
– Under the act, it is necessary for an audited balance-sheet to be filed each year.
– Many do not do so. The section merely provides that certification by statutory declaration by the secretary or other prescribed officer of the organization is sufficient. Accounts should be audited by a proper auditor. A statutory declaration is insufficient. In any event, as I have stated, I believe that the provision is not being complied with. The books of a great number of unions are in a very poor condition. It seems quite wrong that a corporate body such as a union should not be compelled by law to keep comprehensive and accurate records of its financial transactions, and that those records should not be audited and perhaps made freely available to members. What I have said regarding the stunting of union leaders does not apply, as my colleague the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson) has pointed out, to the majority but only to the few. Unfortunately, it is those few who have been able to weaken the hold of arbitration as a system on the minds of most Australians, and they now seem to be determined to wreck it entirely.
I believe that arbitration is worth while and necessary, and I deplore all the attempts that have been made to weaken the prestige and authority of the arbitration courts. In this connexion, I direct the attention of the House to the position that exists in the States. State award rates tend to be higher these days than those in the federal sphere. New South Wales introduced the 40- hour week and forced the hand of the federal Arbitration Court, and Queensland refused to accept a fall of ls. in the cost of living. More recently, the States have returned to the system of adding cost-of-living adjustments in defiance of the judgment of the federal body. I believe that this competition will be intensified as economic pressures mount in this country. There is no doubt that the process will continue, because . australia is getting increasingly out of step with world costs. Competition from the States will become more intense, chiefly because they have lost the duty to raise their own finances and as a consequence do not care about the manner in which costs are allowed to rise. I regret that the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) did not mention this aspect of the matter in his second-reading speech, because in New South Wales we already have the absurd position of two men, who are doing identical work, and perhaps working side by side, but receiving different rates of pay because one is working under a State award and the other under a federal award. That state of affairs should not be allowed to drift, because the gap between the two systems is continually widening, and it must inevitably lead to a feeling of hostility towards the federal arbitration authority. Because it is important that this authority should always be respected and should not be placed in a position where it has to defend its stand against the weight of opinion of a majority of trade unionists, I suggest that action should be taken to remedy the present situation. If it is not possible to come to an agreement with the States, I believe that the only remedy lies in taking a course of action that is eminently desirable but which normally would be approached more gradually. This course of action is the removal of the federal court entirely from the field where it has to compete with the State tribunals and governments. According to my view, all wages set by the federal body should have a fluctuating component, an allowance that varies with the capacity of the particular industry involved to pay. This is a conception which I have attempted to express in various forms in several speeches in this chamber. Rather than strive for the moon and try to discover a figure which represents the capacity of all industry in Australia to pay as a minimum wage, as the courts have attempted to do in the past, it would be better to abandon a generalized wage and settle for one confined to individual business houses or industries.
As one example of what I mean, the wool value allowance, in spite of the disgrace that it has brought upon the Australian Workers Union, represented an endeavour to set a wage which would go up and down as the prosperity of the wool industry rose and fell. The lead bonus at Broken Hill is another instance of this principle. If this principle were applied throughout the federal sphere in this form, or in some other form, T believe it would lead to a spirit of cooperation between management and labour out of which would rise higher wages or more Teal wealth, or both, than have ever been sought or gained under the old system for the reason that productivity would increase. Furthermore, the doctrine of personal responsibility would be restored to industry generally so that men would recognize once again the value and virtue of useful work and management and labour would achieve the sense of common purpose - to use the term of the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison) - which is lacking under the present system. The court would gain in prestige and authority and a new dignity would be bestowed on industrial powers.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Mokoan) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Osborne) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- The matter which I desire to bring to the attention of the Minister for Air (Mr. Townley) is deserving of very serious consideration by this Government. I understand - in fact I know - that for a considerable period the greatest difficulty has been experienced in keeping air force units up to strength. 1 know that to be a fact by virtue of the knowledge that I have obtained from friends of young airmen who have come to me for assistance to get their period of service in the Royal Australian Air Force curtailed in order that they may leave the service. I know the reluctance of the Minister and the Government to allow these men to quit their jobs in the Air Force.
The case that I propose to raise highlights one of the reasons why men are anxious to quit the service. In this instance, a young man who is serving at one of the air force stations adjacent to Melbourne is under notice to leave on the 27th of this month - in a few days’ time - for a posting at Darwin. He is now accommodated in quarters at the Air Force station with his wife and his two children. Under the regulations, immediately he leaves the Air Force station to go to Darwin, his wife has to quit those quarters.
I ask this Government to consider the problem that a woman with two children encounters in trying to get accommodation in the City of Melbourne, or its suburbs, in a period of fourteen days or, for that matter, within six months. This airman has been informed that there is no accommodation for his wife and children at Darwin. When I wrote to the Minister for Air concerning this problem, he was full of sorrow, of course, but he did not solve the problem. He pointed out to me that there are already quite a number of serving air force men at Darwin who have been waiting for accommodation for their wives at the station for a long time. In those circumstances, I suggest that urgent steps should be taken by the Government to see that when men are posted from stations where their wives and families have quarters, those wives and families shall not be given fourteen days’ notice to quit until such time as they can be posted to a station that has accommodation for wives and children. This is an outrageous state of affairs.
– The Government could send single men.
– Single men possibly are not available. This situation becomes all the more outrageous when one considers that the Government has sent to Malaya men who have taken their wives and families with them and accommodation is provided for them. But when men are posted to an outlandish place such as Darwin, they can take their wives and families with them, I suppose, and live in a humpy, and if the servicemen can not take their families, the wives and children are literally booted out of the quarters that they previously occupied in a station adjacent to a city. I say that this is barbarous. It is no wonder to me that’ men no longer desire to join the Royal Australian Air Force. It is no wonder to me that they periodically ask me to help them to get out of the services before the expiration of the period for which they enlisted. I am afraid that my words will fall on deaf ears, but I say this : If I were the airman concerned, I would see to it that in no circumstances were my wife and family thrown out of their quarters unless I were assured that quarters would be found for them at the station at which I was to serve. I would stay put until they threw me out physically. You can take that how you like. Of course, it would be a serious position for any one else to take up.
The Minister for the Interior (Mr. Fairhall), who is at the table, has some say in providing works and housing and I strongly plead with him to do what he can iii this case. No man should be posted to a station such as Darwin unless accommodation is found for him and for his wife and family. Fancy this man leaving Melbourne in three or four day’s time! His unfortunate wife and two children are in Air Force quarters and he has been politely told that, under the regulations, she has to get out. “Where can she go? She cannot go to Darwin. There are no quarters for her at Darwin. Anybody who imagines that they could get accommodation at a reasonable rate in the City of Melbourne at three or four days’ notice has another think coming to him.
I heard of a case the other day in which a home had been purchased for £5,000 or £6,000. For the front bedroom the purchaser of the house is getting £4 a week; and for the kitchen and another bedroom that person is getting £6 10s. a week. What airman is able to pay £4 a week for a bedroom for his wife, or £6 10s. a week for a bedroom and the right to use a kitchen? This is a deplorable state of affairs. Where can this unfortunate woman go ? This is not a laughing matter. It is serious. I do not raise it in a political sense. Men are going as far away as Malaya. We are going to solve the world’s problems in Malaya with a few squadrons of airmen. In Malaya the men have accommodation for their wives and families. I want to say - and I make no secret of it - that I would raise merry hell if I were concerned, and I would be prepared to do a stretch in the clink.
– Order! The honorable member should moderate his language.
– Well, I would make a pretty decent sort of a row and would be prepared to do durance vile in circumstances of that sort. It is inhuman and wrong and not conducive to a decent state of living. Here is a man who is to be landed at Darwin in peace-time while his wife is in Melbourne. He cannot take her to Darwin. How long will he be there? She is in Melbourne with two little children to fend for herself and for them - to get accommodation at a reasonable rate, and it is not obtainable. Can she go to a home or a hotel or a boarding house? If she does seek to live in a boarding house or an hotel she will find that such establishments always have an excuse, adequate from their own point of view, for not providing accommodation for women and children. I say that unless the Government acts in this case its inactivity will be a very grave reflection on it, as disclosing its attitude to serving members of the forces. Is it suggested that the Government is incapable, with all the resources at its disposal, of providing accommodation in Darwin for this man and his wife and children? The Government has, or had, a £9,000,000 surplus in the defence vote. If the Government is incapable of finding acommodation for this man and his family, it it time it was scraped off the treasury bench so that a government which had some feeling in such matters, and would rake some action in them, could take its place.
– Why did not your (Government do it when it was in office?
– We did everything
I hat we could in the circumstances that existed when we were in office. The Government cannot dodge its responsibilities by asking what we did as a government. Honorable members opposite are in office now. They form the Government, and I arn asking them to shoulder their responsibilities. When we were in office no young wives with families were ever evicted by us. If this woman is not out of her house in fourteen days she will bc evicted by the Royal Australian Air Force. That is the provision of the regulation that applies in such cases, which the commanding officer has ordered to be implemented.
– What notice was the nian given of his posting?
– What notice! What difference does the length of notice given make? If the serviceman had two mouths’ notice he would still be in a hopeless position as regards finding accommodation in Melbourne for his wife and children. Even if he were able to get accommodation for them,- what sort of. unnatural life is that to live in peacetime, with an airman away in Darwin aud his wife and two young children in Melbourne? Such a separation is not conducive to decent life. Honorable members opposite may make fun of this matter, and ask questions as much as they like, hut here is the documentary evidence.
– -What: -notice was he given (
– About a month. Does the honorable member for Maribyrnong know what prices are charged in his electorate for a front bedroom? If he does not know I will give him all the evidence he wants on that subject. The honorable member is in that kind of business, and should know what rents are being charged. I know of one modest house in Essendon, in the honorable gentleman’s electorate, for a front bedroom of which a rent of £4 a week is charged, while a rent of £6 10s. a week is charged for a kitchen and other rooms. That is the sort of thing this man is confronted with in obtaining accommodation for his wife and children. Honorable members opposite who think that this is a joke would not appreciate the joke if they were in the same position. ! ask the Minister to look into this matter and see what can be done about it.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- [ support the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) in relation to this matter. I agree with the honorable member that if this is the way the Government intends to treat airmen, all the money that it spends on trying to attract recruits to the services is wasted.
– We shall advise them not to join, and honorable members opposite can take that as they like. I would be prepared to do a stretch in prison over this case.
– Order ! The honorable member for Lalor has spoken, and I ask him to give some one else a chance to speak.
– The honorable member for Lalor did not mention the rank of the person concerned in this case, but I should imagine that the injustice he has described would not happen to a “ brasshat “. The member of the Air Force concerned in this matter is probably a leading aircraftman or one of the other lower ranks. Therefore, I heartily support the honorable member in his protest. What a ridiculous situation! Here we have a government that goes to all sorts of pains to provide accommodation for new settlers, many of them former enemies of Australia in World
War U.j but it cannot provide accommodation for its own servicemen, and evicts their families when the servicemen are sent to distant posts. That is an absolutely scandalous situation, and the Government ought to be ashamed of permitting it to exist one moment longer.
The honorable member for Lalor referred to the case of an airman. I shall refer to the cases of two ex-servicemen and to their treatment by this Government through its instrument, the Repatriation Department. These men have tried, by all means, to obtain, justice from tin.: Government. One of them is an unfortunate fellow who is now in the Royal Ryde Homes for Incurables in. Sydney. He suffers from shocking ailments. Both of his legs are crippled; his hands have become calcified ; his eyes were eventually affected, one of them being removed in 1951 and the other in 1953. And the Government gives him a 25 per cent, war pension ! Let us examine his case, about which I wrote to the Deputy Director of Repatriation. I am not blaming the repatriation authorities so much as the Government, because the Government must accept the responsibility. In correspondence with the Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer) and the repatriation authorities, I got a most amazing conflict of statements. Mr. Carswell, the Deputy Director of Repatriation in New South Wales, said that this man enlisted on the 9th December, 1941, and was passed as being medically fit, Class I., ana that on the 16th April, 1942, he was examined by an orthopaedic surgeon and declared to be unfit. There was no mention of this examination, or the decision of the orthopaedic surgeon in the letter that was sent to me by the Minister for the Army on the 10th May this year. In that letter the Minister said that this man had been sent, to a medical board on the 24th April, 1942, some time after he had enlisted, and was declared to be unfit for service because he was suffering from chronicrheumatism. He added that the board had noted that this complaint had been existent prior to enlistment, and had not been disclosed. The board said he was suffering a 15 per cent, disability, and recommended a review of the case in three months’ time. That examination is not mentioned in Mr. Carswell’s letter.
The matter was then referred to the Deputy Director of Medical Services at Base Head-quarters, Eastern Command, Sydney, and head-quarters altered the finding to “ temporarily unfit “. The man was then admitted to hospital for treatment. There was no reference to this incident in Mr. Carswell’s letter.
Mr. Carswell’s letter goes on to sa.y that on the 6th June, 1942, a radiologist reported that appearances suggested chronic arthritis. This is not mentioned in the letter of the Minister for the Army. The Minister stated that on the 1st August, 1942, Lieutenant-Colonel Anderson - I take it, of the Army Medical Service - declared the man to be permanently unfit for service. This was also mentioned in Mr. Carswell’s letter. The Minister went on to say that on the 14th August of the same year the exserviceman was sent to a. further medical board, which disagreed with Lieutenant-Colonel Anderson’s opinion aud declared the disability to be a 10 per cent, disability and classed the man as medical class Bl. On the 11th January, 1945, about two and a half years later, he was declared to he medical class B2, and on the 23rd February, 1945, he was again declared medical cla.ss B2 and unfit for service. He was discharged, on the 3rd March, 1945, as medically unfit.
After all that evidence had been submitted to the Minister and the Deputy Director of Repatriation the Minister for the Army had the audacity to write to me and say -
It will be appreciated, therefore, having regard to the foregoing, that the man concerned was not at any time between his enlistment in 1941 and the 23rd February, 1945, officially recorded as being medically unfit for service.
As a result, the man has been to the Repatriation Board, to the Repatriation Commission, and to the various repatriation tribunals, all of which contend that these are pre-enlistment disabilities. They further state that the exserviceman, at the time of his enlistment, made some reference to those disabilities. But the man has made a sworn declaration that at no time did he admit he was suffering from any of these disabilities at the time of enlistment. He lias sworn he was in good health at that time. The amazing feature of this case is that the Army accepted him into its ranks; but when he was declared to be 10 per cent, unfit, and after he had been declared by various medical authorities to be suffering from chronic rheumatism and arthritis, between the 14th December, 1942, and the 11th January, 1945, nothing was done about securing his discharge from the forces. During that two and a half years, he served in the Australian Water Craft Workshops Section, sometimes working up to his waist in mud and water, although he had been declared to be suffering from chronic rheumatism and arthritis. Yet the Government refuses to accept responsibility for this man’s condition!
Even if the disability were in evidence prior to his enlistment, he was passed medically fit. If previous disabilities were aggravated by war service, that factshould be recognized. I remind the House that, after Army doctors had declared him to be suffering from chronic rheumatism and arthritis, the Army sent him. into the Pacific area, where he was required to remain for two and a half years, and where he many times worked up to his waist in mud and water. Although this ex-serviceman gave such service to his country, his claims are denied. This unfortunate man is now in the Royal Ryde Homes for Incurables. I repeat the disabilities from which he. suffers : Both legs are crippled, his hands have become calcified, and both his eyes have been removed because they have been affected by the arthritis. Yet this Government, which is always talking about the number of ex-servicemen in its ranks, and the consideration it shows for ex-servicemen, has given this unfortunate ex-serviceman only a paltry 25 per cent, pension, upon which he is expected to exist! He cannot return to his parents’ home in the country to live, because they are not well-to-do and cannot care for him. This unfortunate ex-serviceman is left to wait for his death in a home for incur ables, dependent on a 25 per cent, pension, and the Government fights every appeal he makes to the various authorities for justice. I hope that it will reconsider his case.
I wish now to mention briefly another case. It is no wonder the Government is not getting the number of recruits it requires for the armed services. It amazes me that so many recruits offer in the circumstances. In the short time left to me, I propose to mention the insulting letter that was sent to me regarding the man whose case I shall now raise.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I shall detain the House for only a very short time in order to mention a matter which I think is of urgent importance to our overseas trade. Recently, I placed on the notice-paper a question addressed to the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) , in which I asked -
Art; there companies in Australia which are branches of, or associated with, companies established in the United States of America and/or Great Britain, that are subject to agreements, franchises or other circumstances which have the effect of restricting or preventing the export to overseas markets of goods produced by these Australian branches or associates ?
I received a reply in the following terms : -
Some companies in Australia are understood to operate under arrangements with overseas companies which affect in varying degrees the freedom of the Australian company to export.
I think this is the first time we have received official confirmation of a fairly commonly held belief that what are called franchises, or agreements between companies established in Australia and their parent organization or companies with which they are associated overseas, prevent the Australian companies from exporting their products to markets in the Pacific area, Africa, India and South America. It is believed that this is of some significance, but the Minister for
Trade, in the answer to my question, stated also -
This is not an uncommon practice in international trade. No official list of such companies or of such arrangements in Australia is available.
It seems to me to be rather serious that the Minister, on the one hand, recognizes the existence of these franchises, or agreements, which, in varying degrees, affect the freedom of Australian companies to export, and that, on the other hand, no official information about these companies, or the effect on our trade, is available. It has been suggested that among the industries concerned are the chemicals, motor vehicles, paper, and iron and steel industries. These are important industries to Australia, and it is a most serious matter if exports by those industries are restricted. If there is some validity in the suggestion that companies in these industries are concerned, the matter is particularly serious, because these companies conduct operations on a very large scale. This means that Australian companies of this kind, established on a large scale, will leave no room, for new companies to develop in Australia at all. That being so, the overseas markets to which the exports of these industries might go, will be permanently closed to Australia. If, for example, exports of motor cars from Australia are restricted because Australian manufacturers of motor vehicles are closely associated with American companies which export to the markets that would be available to Australia, it is unlikely that, in the foreseeable future, another company that could export to those markets would establish itself in Australia. If these things are true, our earnings of overseas funds by such exports will undoubtedly be severely restricted.
I suggest that this matter is of considerable importance and that the Government should take steps to discover which industries are affected by the franchises it acknowledges to exist, and the degree to which our overseas trade is influenced. If the position is serious, as it may well be, the Government, which has concerned itself with our overseas trade and our balance of payments, should ensure that these franchises do not restrict our exports. I raise the matter on the motion for the adjournment of the House, instead of by way of a further question directed to the Minister for Trade, because the Minister if now absent, and because 1 1 think the matter is of some urgency. The Government should immediately obtain the information which the answer to my question reveals is not at present in its possession.
is in the House, as he represents in this chamber the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner), who administers the War Service Homes Division. It will be recalled, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that, on the 19th April last, I directed attention to the fact that a blinded ex-serviceman in South Australia had recently been refused a loan by the division, which would not lend money on the home he already occupied because such a transaction would have involved its taking over a mortgage. I stated in the House that officers of the division in Adelaide had told the ex-serviceman that, if he would sell his present home, he would be given a loan to discharge the mortgage in order that he might buy another home. I pointed out the absurdity of asking a blinded ex-serviceman to sell a home close to a tram service that enabled him to travel to and from the blind institution where he worked daily, and to buy a home in a strange locality where he would have to familiarize himself with strange streets and with the general lie of the land.
– Did the War Service Homes Division suggest that?
– He was told that, if he wanted a loan, he would have to take that course.
– Absolutely shocking!
– I agree. I related these circumstances to the House on the 19th April last, as I have already said. The Minister for Social
Services, who is not Listening to me, but is trying to look wise, and is apparently either asleep or reading - I cannot tell which- said, in reply, that the War Services Homes Division must have “taken the view that the ex-serviceman did -Hot have sufficient collateral. Does the Minister think the Bank of New South” -Wales would have been silly enough to accept the mortgage that he wishes to discharge if he had not had the necessary collateral? The Minister said also that the circumstances I related could not possibly be correct. But, to-day, I received a letter from his colleague, the Minister for National Development, admitting that the ex-serviceman to whom ] refer had applied for an advance and that his application had been rejected. He admitted that an officer of the War Service Homes Division may have told the ex-serviceman that, if he sold his home, he could get a loan then. There has been no denial of that. I venture to say thai the division would have made a straightout, categorical denial of my assertion if it could have done so.
– Is the Minister listening?
– I do nol. think the Minister is listening to me.
– Order ! The honorable member must address the Chair.
– I want the Minister to listen to what I am saying about a blinded ex-serviceman who only wants an opportunity to pay off a mortgage which he now has with the Bank of New South Wales. Why should a man who fought for his country, a man who is now a blinded ex-serviceman, be compelled to pay interest at the rate of oi per cent, to the Bank of New South Wales? This Government claims that it has the interests of ex-servicemen at heart. We are asking the Government only to act in accordance with a law passed during the regime of the Chifley Government, which stated that ex-servicemen should be provided with finance at an interest rate of 3 J *per cent. The man does not want the Government to pay his loan. He is asking the Government only to lend him the money necessary to discharge it, and he is prepared to pay the rate of interest specified by the act.
That is not the only case of this kind that has been brought ‘ to my notice. I know of another ex-serviceman who is in a somewhat similar position. He purchased a home, which was found to have been built on a bad foundation. I have discovered that the home was purchased with the concurrence of the War Service Homes Division, after it had been inspected by one of the division’s inspectors. Since then, it has been ascertained that the home, the purchase of which was authorized by the division, was built on faulty foundations and requires costly repairs. The ex-serviceman has asked the War Service Homes Division to permit him to sell the home and to lend him enough money to build another home in a place where the likelihood of damage will not be so great.
If this were only an ordinary case, I should say that the division might be excused for what it has done, in view of the Government’s decision to reduce the finance available for war service homes. But this man is suffering from war neurosis. He has been in the Dawes-road Military Hospital for eight months. He has had three operations on his brain, to remedy his neurotic condition. Furthermore, because of the dampness of the home, one of his children has been taken away to live with his mother-in-law, and another child, also because of the damp condition of the home, is in the early stages of tuberculosis. His doctor at the Dawes-road Military Hospital has stated that a continuation of the anxiety and worry due to his housing troubles will certainly cause a break-down of his” health to such a degree that he will probably finish up in an asylum.. Surely to God, the Government, where necessary, could be decent enough to cut through red tape, treat such a case as this on its merits and give it special consideration! But the Government takes the view that here is a cast-iron rule that cannot be broken, whatever the circumstances may be. Is it any wonder that the Government is finding that young men are not prepared to enlist in the Defence Forces when they see the treatment that is meted out to men who fought for their country a little more than ten years ago?
But, to cap it all - this shows just how stupid it is possible to he - the War Service Homes Division has now told this man that it will lend him £500 to build another room to his house - a house which has been condemned by this man’s doctor, and the damp condition of which has caused his child to contract tuberculosis. The attitude of the division appears to be, “ We will lend you £500 so i hat you can extend this house, but, if you sell it, we will not lend you £500 to add to the difference between the cost of discharging the mortgage and the price you will get for the house on the open market.” I cannot see any real difference between lending the man £500 to add to the sum that he would have if he discharged the mortgage after he sold his house, and lending bini £500 to extend the house.
Those are only two of many cases that reveal the great need for some decision by this Parliament about the Government’s administration of the War Service Homes Division. I want to say - the Government ought to listen to what I have to say on this matter - that some of the back-bench members on the Government side of the House are no more happy about the present administration of the War Service Homes Division that we arc. This Government docs not recognize a member on either side of the House unless he sits on the ministerial front bench. It does not matter whether a member belongs to the Liberal party or the Labour party. If he is a back bencher, he has no more say in the administration of the .affairs of the country than has a person who is out on the streets sweep” ng up horse dung. We have reached the stage when Government members, too, are on the point of revolt against the cavalier manner in which they are treated by the Ministers who sit on the front bench occasionally. There is only one Minister there now, and he is half asleep, although the matter (hat I am talking about concerns the department for which he. is responsible, i hat is indicative of the kind of treat-. i:.,ent that honorable members on both sides of the House receive from the Government when matters of this kind are raised.
Joi: WIGHT (Lilley) [11.6].- I listened with attention to the remarks of the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron), because I, too am particularly interested in war service homes. Before I deal generally with the subject of war service homes, I should like to say that honorable members are unable to’ give an informed opinion on the first of the two cases mentioned by the honorable gentleman, because he did not give us all the details. But I am quite certain that every honorable member on this side of the House will agree with, me that, while there is such a terrific demand for finance for war service homes, it would not be right for the Government, to allow a person already in possession of a home to be given finance to assist him to buy another home. Every day new names are being added to the long list of people who are waiting for finance from the War Service Homes Division.
I suggest that the honorable member for Hindmarsh exaggerated the second case that he mentioned. Under no circumstances would the War Service Homes Division even consider offering £500, or any other sum, to an individual to extend his home, if that home had been condemned. The honorable member said that the home to which he referred had been condemned. The War Service Homes Division insists that, before it can accept a house for the purposes of making a loan, the house must be of a good structural standard. If a house does not comply with the highest structural standards, the division will not consider making an advance in respect of it. Therefore, if the division intimated to this ex-serviceman that it was prepared to advance £500 to him for the purposes of additions, the house cannot have been condemned, nor can the foundations ho sinking. Ti- must be a house that U structurally of a very high standard. lt is true that in the past it would ba-e Iven bad policy for the Government to make available for war service homes finance in addition to the £30,000,000 that it was making available each year for that purpose. But the situation has changed now - and I emphasize that point. I make the further point that it is not right that the Government should determine whether the building industry is capable of absorbing more finance solely on the basis of returns made available by the Master Builders Association. There are a great many small builders in Australia - nien who build two. three, or even up to eight houses a year. They are the people who normally submit tenders to the War Service Homes Division. They find that they cannot obtain finance to continue their operations in the building industry. They are gradually going out of business and their resources are being employed in the larger construction companies. The result is that fewer and fewer small builders are available to construct homes for ex-servicemen, because of limitations of finance. At the same time, we have the anomalous position that although, in the la3t financial year, the building programme cost about £280,000,000, in this year there is an amount of £350,000,000 available to the industry. That represents an increase of £70,000,000, but the extra money is being absorbed by the big construction companies which have large amounts of capital at their disposal. Those companies can engage in large projects involving the construction of hundreds of houses, or they turn to the construction of commercial and industrial buildings, rather than residential buildings. The situation is developing in the industry in which the construction potential is being transferred from homes to commercial and industrial buildings. I believe that steps should be taken as a matter of urgency to prevent any further transfer of labour or materia! in this direction. One of the first things to be done is to make more money available to the War Service Homes Division when the next budget is brought down. I make no criticism of the Government for not having done it in the past, because T believe that if more money had been made available in the past the price of homes to ex-servicemen would have been further inflated. We must not forget, however, that it is the small builder who constructs war service homes, and he is gradually drifting out of the business. I make that statement despite the statistics that have been made available by the Master Builders Association, which purport to show that the same number of contractors and an increasing number of men are engaged in the industry. The small “spec” builders do not belong to that association. We must look farther afield for information. I suggest that if my statements require confirmation, inquiries should be made of the deputy directors of war service homes in the various States.
Every government has a moral obligation to ensure that ex-servicemen have an opportunity to obtain assistance under the provisions of the W ar Service Homes Act. It is morally wrong to suggest that ox-servicemen must ‘ wait for fifteen months for this assistance, if that situation can be rectified. I feel that it can be rectified. I suggest that if the Government cannot make more money available to the building industry without causing an inflation in prices, it should reduce the amount of money that is to be made available to the States under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, and transfer some of it to the funds of the War Sei vice Homes Division. This is a sound suggestion. During the last fewmonths the Commonwealth has given the States an opportunity to join with it in concluding a new agreement, which would have the effect of making available to the States a sum which we presume would be in the vicinity of £30,000,000 a year- for housing projects. The States have not agreed to accept this offer, which clearly indicates either that they are not particularly concerned about housing the people, or that they are not short of finance. It is high time that the Australian Government ceased taking all the criticism regarding the amount of money that is made available to the War Service Homes Division while, on the other hand, making available to the States abundant funds for their construction programme.-. Our first responsibility should be to provide war service homes. T therefore urge the Government to consider two basic matters. The first is that ex-servicemen are waiting too long to obtain assistance under the War Service Homes Act. The second matter is that small builders are leaving the industry or are being absorbed by the larger construction companies, so that fewer and fewer of them are available to build houses for ex-servicemen.
Finally, I suggest that if the money is not available from any other source, it should be taken from the amounts allocated to the States under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. The old agreement has terminated, and the new one has not yet been signed. That clearly indicates that the States are not interested, and it demonstrates that there is available a source from which the Government could obtain finance to give ex-servicemen the treatment to which they are entitled, and to fulfil the moral obligation that rests fairly and squarely on the shoulders of this Government.
.- 1 wish that T had the time to answer the submissions of the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight). Unfortunately, I have not, and I shall he content to say that if this Government would provide sufficient funds to overcome the delay in the provision of loans for war service homes, it would contribute greatly to a solution of Australia’s housing problem. It has not done that, and it has no intention of doing it, and I therefore take it. that the Government is not sincere in its efforts to provide homes for ex-servicemen.
There are two matters to which I wish to refer, and they both have connexion with imports. The first matter concerns a firm known as Johnston’s Northern Tile Service, which is situated at Ryan-street, North Ward, Townsville. The Government has acted disgracefully in connexion with this matter. This firm has been doing very important work in the building industry in north Queensland, lt has been doing the tile work for most of the building activities that are being carried out in that area. It has been unable to obtain local tiles, and must import them, but the department concerned has consistently refused to grant this firm an import licence. I received a letter only last week from Mr. Johnston. He pointed out that he visited Sydney in an endeavour to obtain tiles, and although he was unable to do so, he saw at least £10,000 worth of imported jams, biscuits and chocolates on store shelves in Sydney, although he is unable to obtain a licence to import tiles for the important building industry in north Queensland. I received a letter on this subject” to-day from the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen), and I strongly resent the statements contained in it. The letter says that the Government has had to act to restrict imports because of our adverse overseas balances. We know, of course, that our overseas balances are in a bad position because of the ineptitude of this Government and its inability to govern as it should. For that reason such firms as Johnston’s Northern Tile Service must suffer. The people whom Government supporters represent are in the box seat, and they suffer no inconvenience at all. I put it to the Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron), who is now in charge of the House, that he should do his utmost to ensure that this firm is given a fair go. It has been established for a long time and is trying to do a worthwhile job for the community. It cannot do so because it cannot get an import licence. It is incorrect - I will not say dishonest - of the Minister to say that it can get the tiles that it needs to finish the job for which it has contracted. If the Government wishes to help these people it could refrain from bringing biscuits, chocolates, jam, marmalade, beer and similar luxuries into this country and instead bring in something that will help the building, industry.
Some members of this Parliament may not have heard of a tablet called “ Roter “, which is brought from Holland and has proved almost 100 per cent, effective in curing stomach ulcers. I have not used them, but honorable members on both sides of the House will know what I am saying is correct. The Minister for Health, who is at the table, may laugh at what I have said, but I refer him to an article in the British Medical Association Journal recommending the tablets. Many people in Canberra, including some members of this Parliament, have been cured of ulcers by “ Roter “ tablets. They must, of course, strictly observe a diet chart, but diet alone would not have achieved these results.
– Oh !
– The Vice-President of the Executive Council (Sir Eric Harrison), who insists on interjecting, should take seriously what I am saying. He is going to London shortly, and might be able to carry withhima recommendation on the subject from a humble member of this House.
– Has the honorable member any shares in the company that produces “Roter” tablets?
– I have not. If you will not keep order, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I will have to shout down the interjectors.
– Order ! Honorable members must allow the honorable member for Herbert to speak without interruption.
– People who have been taking a course of “ Roter “ tablets cannot now get them because this tolerant and generous Government will not allow them to be imported. They will not be obtainable until the end of July. This is uot a joking matter. I have not had stomach ulcers, but I have seen people suffering from them. The Government should not treat “ Roter “ as if it were a phony medicine; it is not. I and other honorable members can provide ample proof that “ Roter “ tablets are essential for the treatment of ulcers. With all sincerity, I put it to the Government that it should remove “ Roter “ from the list of restricted items. If Ministers present have any concern for the sufferings of others they should make inquiries and confirm what I have said. If they do, they too, I am sure, will urge the removal of restrictions on the importation of “ Roter “ tablets. I have tried without success to get them in Sydney and Brisbane. They are unprocurable except from two or three chemists in Melbourne. It is no joke, as the Vice-President of the Executive Council may himself learn very shortly. I would not wish him to suffer from ulcers, but he should consider those who are suffering from them and remove “ Roter ‘”’ from the list of restricted imports.
.-First of all, I should like to express my appreciation of the fact that the VicePresident of the Executive Council (Sir Eric Harrison) is not to-night as “ guillotine “ happy as he usually is. The matter that I want to bring before the House relates to the treatment that aged pensioners receive in public hospitals. I have before me a communication from the Department of Social Services which reads -
I refer to your further representations on behalf of Mr. and Mrs.-concerning their eligibility for participation in the Pensioner Medical Scheme.
The effect of an amendment to the National Health Act passed last year is that a person to whom a pension is granted from a date subsequent to the 31st October, 1955, is not eligible lor the pensioner medical services, if, by reason of income, he or she would not have been eligible for the maximum rate of pension under the income means test in force on the 31st December, 1953.
Mrs.- earns at approximately £65s. per week and although this income allows payment of maximum pensions to Mr. and Mrs.- , it would have precluded payment at maximum rate as at the 31st December, 1953.
Accordingly it will be seen that Mr. and Mrs.- are not eligible for participation in the Pensioner Medical Service Scheme.
Thu point of that communication is that pensioners who are receiving the maximum pension do not receive free hospital or medical services under this Governments’ health scheme. That, of course, is a lamentable condition of affairs, especially in Victoria. In that State, the British Medical Association met and decided that honorary medical practitioners would not operate at certain new hospitals, such as the Box Hill and Footscray hospitals. As a result, the British Medical Association and the Victorian Hospitals Commission held a. conference. The Hospitals Commission - in effect, the Government of Victoriadecided to submit to the British Medical Association an alternative to the payment of honoraries operating at hospitals. It was that the number of intermediate wards should be increased and that n new category of hospital accommodation knownas “ sub-intermediate “ ‘ wards would be created. The sub-intermediate wards and the intermedin te wards would be paid for at the exorbitant rates ordinarily charged for hospital accommodation, and a means test would be applied for beds in the public, section. Worse than that, the additional intermediate, and the new sub-intermediate, beds would be withdrawn from the existing beds in the public section of the hospital. The result is that there are fewer public beds, a means test is ‘applied in respect of them, and pensioners cannot get them unless they comply with this absurd and ridiculous provision that at some time in the dim distant past their income, irrespective of what it is at the present time, was not above a certain amount, [n these circumstances, abnormal difficulties are inflicted upon aged pensioners in this community. They cannot get into public wards and have to go into the categories known as sub-intermediate or intermediate wards where they have to pay money that they cannot possibly afford. Of course, that is only one of the disabilities from which pensioners are suffering to-day. Adjacent to the district in which I live is a beautiful home, the Mount Royal Home for the Aged. It is set in sylvan surroundings, but unfortunately already on the waiting list of that one home there are over SOO applicants. There are other homes for the aged - some in the electorate in which I live, and some in adjoining electorates - run by church organizations and by government, instrumentalities. All of them have immense waiting lists of aged people who desire admission because they are unable to care for themselves and have no one who will care for them. But, df course, this Government is absolutely immune to the disabilities from which these people suffer. Nothing is done in order to make their lot more tolerable.
Before my time expires, 1 should like to bring to the notice of this House a communication that I have received from a most important governing body in this country. It is from the Brunswick City Council and it reads -
Thu Council hu.s learned that the Footscray Council has requested the Commonwealth Government to review the amounts paid to Old Age and Invalid Pensioners. My Council agrees with Footscray that an increase in pensions’ is an urgent necessity ami has agree 1 ti. co-operate with that Council in the matter and accordingly it would be pleased if you could submit representations on it to the Hon. the Federal Treasurer and in such other quarters as you may deem appropriate, seeking an early review of the matter.
I hope that the Government will pay heed to that letter and give favorable and early consideration to this request of a most important and powerful representative organization.
.- I want to say a few things in reply to the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Edmonds). The “ Roter “ tablets that he mentioned are apparently a. proprietary line. The name that he mentioned is not the name of a drug. The fact is that the active principal of tablets used in the treatment of peptic ulcers is, I am sure, very much the same in most of the different proprietary preparations. T should be extremely surprised if almost identical tablets could not be obtained in Australia under a different name. However, the part played by any tablet in the treatment of ulcers is small and only a more or less minor incident in the whole regime of treatment.
The only other thing I want to say about these tablets is that, as far as I know, no representations have been made to the Department of Health for their admission. If the honorable member likes to make representations,’! will have a look at the matter; but, as I say, I should be extremely surprised to find that almost identical preparations, were not obtainable in Australia.
In regard to what the honorable member for Scullin (Mr. Peters) has been saying and the letter that he produced in the House-
– That he produced by proxy.
– lt may be by proxy. He. produced a letter which referred to the payment of -pensioner medical benefits to pensioners who do not satisfy the conditions of the. 1.953 act. It is not a new provision. Tt aro.s.e from hh amendment of the National Health Act which was passed last year by this Parliament and which was subsequently endorsed by an overwhelming vote of confidence in the Government at the last election. The provisions of the pensioner medical service are liberal enough to cover in Australia 600,000 pensioners and their dependants. Those who fall outside the means test can, for a very small sum, insure themselves in hospital and medical benefit associations. The question of intermediate beds in a Victorian hospital is a matter entirely beyond the control of the Commonwealth Government. The honorable member went on to speak of the necessity for providing more accommodation in homes for old people. Let me point out that this Government has made very significant contributions to this problem by heavily subsidizing these homes, and I believe it is the first Commonwealth Government ever to have done so.
Question put -
That the Bouse do now adjourn.
The House divided. (Mb. Deputy Speaker - Mr. C. F. Adermann.)
Majority . . 32
Mr.Pollard. - Does any Minister intend to reply to my complaints ?What sort of a ministry is this ? Do not we get the courtesy of a reply to our representations here? Surely we are entitled to the courtesy of an answer.
Honorable members continuing to interject,
Mr.Pollard. - It could not matter less.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.43 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
Mr.Menzies. - On the 8th May, the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr.
Wentworth) asked whether I would lay on the table of the House a memorandum concerning the recent disarmament talks in London.
The report of the United Nation.? Disarmament Sub-committee which met in London from the 19th March to the 4th May, has now been released, and I have arranged for copies to be made available in the library for study by honorable members. This report contains the text of the proposals submitted to the sub-committee by France, and the United Kingdom, by the United States of America and by the Soviet Union. The Government is now studying the sub-committee proceedings with a view to formulating the attitude which it will take in the disarmament commission when that body meets shortly. Meanwhile, I would make the following comments on the current proposals. It will be seen that the two Western plans are in accord with the United Nations General Assembly directive to the Disarmament Commission and its sub-committee in that they set out practicable and feasible measures to guard against surprise attacks, achieve reductions in conventional forces and attempt, under appropriate safeguards, to ensure that nuclear production will be put to peaceful and not warlike uses. The Soviet plan is devoted exclusively to one aspect of disarmament, the reduction of conventional forces, which it suggests can be dealt with in isolation from other aspects. The Soviet plan does not deal at all with the vital question of diminishing the nuclear threat, to which the Western members of the sub-committee have addressed themselves, though it suggests as a supplementary measure an unsupervised ban on thermo-nuclear tests. It deals inadequately with the equally vital aspect of control and inspection, and in particular seeks to minimize the importance of aerial surveys which are an important part of the control system suggested by the Western Powers. It will he seen that there is still a wide gap between the positions of the Soviet Union and of the Western members. It is very much to be hoped that it will prove possible to narrow this difference and progress toward agreement on properly safeguarded disarmament. The Western members of the sub-committee have announced that they will actively pursue the search for such an agreement, which they regard as possible and necessary. I agree with this aspiration and this assessment. Any satisfactory agreement must make provision for an effective inspection and control system, it must not deal in isolation with one or other of the various aspects of the problem, and it must link disarmament action realistically with progress toward political settlements. The Soviet Union has not, as yet, shown itself willing to accept these necessary conditions, but the search for agreement must be continued.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Australian residents restricted to British subjects?
Mr.Menzies.-The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as f ollows : -
Victoria Cross Winners.
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1 and 2. My department has no knowledge of any Victoria Cross recipient being unable to attend the centenary celebrations in London because of the allegedlackof assistance being provided by the Commonwealth Government. In fact, the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia, which has accepted the responsibility for receiving all the applications, states thatmanyVictora
Cross winners have expressed their appreciation and delight with the assistance the Com- monwealth has given them. Several cases have been brought to the notice of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia by its subbranches because of the rather straitened circumstances of the relative of the Victoria Cross winner. The Commonwealth Government has had no hesitation in approving recommendations by the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia that greater financial assistance be provided in six cases in all. In three cases the £75 sterling assistance has been increased by £100 sterling each, and in three other cases by £75, £00 and £50 sterling respectively. The Government has also agreed to a recommendation by the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia that assistance be granted to those Victoria Cross winners and their relatives who wish to go to France on a pilgrimage to the war cemeteries. We are defraying transport and accommodation costs covering the period of the pilgrimage which is being organized by Australia. House, London. I am advised that the Victoria Cross winners are most happy with this assistance. A further recommendation by the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia that a number of Victoria Cross winners and their wives be provided with air passages to the United Kingdom for varying reasons met with the approval of the Government. As far as I can ascertain the assistance rendered by the Commonwealth Government to our Victoria Cross winners and relatives exceeds that being given by any of the other Commonwealth countries. In all it is estimated that the amount spent by the Commonwealth Government on this worthy cause will not fall far short of £50,000. We are happy to do this as it is fitting that we should help the Victoria Cross winners and the widows and mothers of deceased Victoria Cross winners to attend the Victoria Cross celebrations.
t asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
As many officers of the Postal Department join the service at an early age that allows them to have more than 50 years service before retirement, will the Fostmaster-General consider the repeal of that portion of section 9 of the Commonwealth Employees’ Furlough Act which limits the amount of leave or pay in lieu of leave to twelve months? The present provision means, in effect, that service after 40 years is not recognized for purposes of leave. I understand that, at least in some departments, leaveaccrues for the full term of service, and that employees in the Postal Department feel a sense of injustice because of the limit of twelve months imposed by the act.
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
The Commonwealth Employees’ Furlough Act, which is administered by the Treasury and which covers the grant of furlough to ail temporary employees in the Commonwealth Public Service and other Commonwealth instrumentalities, limits to twelve months the amount of leave which may be authorized for any employee. After a minimum period of service, credits accumulate on the basis of three-tenths of a month for each year of full-time employment and no further recognition is given after 40 years of service. I am not aware of any employees of my department who have received different treatment from other Commonwealth employees nor am T able to understand how this could have occurred seeing that applications for all Commonwealth employees must be submitted to the Treasury for approval. Similar furlough conditions are also prescribed for permanent officers who receive their benefits under the provisions of the Public Service Act which is administered by the Public Service Board. I understand that the question of removing the twelve months limitation on the maximum entitlement has been examined on a number of occasions by the Treasury, Public Service Board and the Joint Council which consists of senior administrative officers of the Public Service and representatives of the stall’ associations, but the existing entitlements have been considered to be adequate. However, the extension of the benefits came before the joint Council again at the last meeting but no decision has yet been reached.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 23 May 1956, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1956/19560523_reps_22_hor10/>.