22nd Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Deputy SPEAKER (Mr. C. F. Adermann) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr. MAKIN presented a petition from .certain members and friends of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union of South Australia praying that, as an expression of Christian principle, further testing of nuclear weapons in Australia be prohibited, and that Australia, as a member of the United Nations, use its influence to ban the use of nuclear weapons for war purposes, seek agreement on disarmament and support the elimination of war.
Petition received and read.
– I address a question to the Minister for Labour and National Service. The committee of inquiry into the stevedoring industry has referred, in its report, to a letter from the Minister to the chairman of the committee in February last, concerning the expedition of portion of the inquiry. Will the Minister make the letter, or a copy of it, available ?
– Yes, I shall try to secure the letter and make its contents known to the right honorable gentleman., and to others who may he interested.
– I address my question to the Leader of the Opposition. In view of the statement of the federal president of the Australian Labour party that “the time was not far off when Australian Labour party leaders would have to go out and say that the Labour party was a socialist party”, does the right honorable gentleman propose to change the name of the Opposition party to “Australian Socialist party”?
– The Leader of the Opposition is not obliged to answer that question, but he may do so if he wishes.
– I prefer to answer it. I do not often have an opportunity such as this to deal with the matter, and I shall try to deal with it in the way Ministers usually answer questions. The name of Labour’s political party, unlike that of the party to which the honorable gentleman belongs, does not change every five or ten years. It has always been the “ Australian Labour party “. The objectives of the Australian Labour party are stated in its platform and if I had to sum it up in a phrase - although one should read it all - I would say to all Australians, and especially to the honorable gentleman who has sought this information, that Labour’s policy is clearly one of democratic socialism, or social democracy, which is exactly the same thing. That is substantially the policy of the British Labour party and of the New Zealand Labour party, and it is gradually becoming the policy of all the new democracies of the world.
– Can the PostmasterGeneral inform honorable members by what procedure a letter addressed only to “ The Householder “ and marked “Postage Paid 3*d. at Sydney”- not even the Postal Department’s stamp - was delivered to the Baptist Manse, at 6 Cardiff-street, Woodville West, in my electorate? The envelope contained publicity for Arthur Drysdale’s Tasmanian lottery. Is it the policy of the Postal Department to undertake the mass distribution of any kind of literature? Why was this letter accepted with such a meagre address by the department in Sydney? If permission was granted to the promoter of the Tasmanian lottery to post the letters in this way - as apparently it was - under what regulation was it given ? Is it the policy of this Government to permit any one to use the Postal Department to distribute to the people electoral matter, or matter such as this, which is directed to furthering the condemned and contemptible lottery system that we have in this country? Can any one use the Postal Department to have letters such as these, bearing neither name nor address, sent to decent, reasonable people who object to the department being used to distribute such literature?
– I have tried to take down a few notes of the honorable gentleman’s question so that I might give him an answer now, but it is obviously a question which requires an answer in detail. I shall give such an answer at an early date. However, I would mention that the matter had already been brought to my attention by my colleague, the Minister for Territories, who expressed sentiments similar to those voiced by the honorable gentleman. Consequently, I had some inquiries made about it. This system has been designed to aid large business houses which are anxious to distribute a considerable volume of postal matter, such as catalogues and other advertising material. It is a system which not only materially assists business houses, but also assists the Postal Department to handle great volumes of mail. That is the general purpose of the system. I shall obtain in detail the information for which the honorable member has asked and supply it to him.
– Will the Minister for External Affairs inform the House whether there have been any further developments of the situation in Singapore?
– After the breakdown of the talks held in London a little while ago, Mr. David Marshall, before he left London, made a last-minute series of proposals to the British Colonial Secretary, the most important of which were, first, that the right or power of the United Kingdom Government to intervene in matters relating to the domestic security or the internal security of Singapore! should be made dependent on a resolution, or the like, of the House of Commons; secondly, that there should be an Asian GovernorGeneral of Singapore; and thirdly, that the affairs of Singapore should be moved from the Colonial Office to the Commonwealth Relations Office. In reply to the proposal that intervention by the United Kingdom in matters affecting the internal security of Singapore should be dependent on a resolution by the House of Commons, the British Colonial Secretary said that that had possibilities and might resolve the major difficulty on which the London conference on Singapore broke down. With regard to the proposals for the appointment of an Asian GovernorGeneral and a move from the Colonial Office to the Commonwealth Relations Office, Mr. Lennox-Boyd said that those did not appear to be matters that could be pursued with advantage in the present or immediately prospective constitutional situation in Singapore, but they were relevant to a later phase. That is the position at the moment. The Singapore Assembly will meet to-morrow. Unfortunately, I believe, Mr. Marshall said that if he did not get a positive and satisfactory reply to the three proposals that he had put forward he would resign. I believe that the principal party in hia government, the Labour Front, has endorsed the proposal that he should resign. There has been a suggestion that one of the Ministers in Mr. Marshall’s government, the present Minister for Labour, should endeavour to form a new government. I presume that those matters will be resolved in the Singapore Assembly to-morrow. One can only hope that some solution will be found of the rather grievous situation in Singapore.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Supply been drawn to a report that radio-active rain fell in South Australia last week, and to a further report that the radio-activity was due to the recent atomic tests at Monte Bello? As some people in South Australia collect rain in tanks and other containers for drinking purposes and other domestic purposes, radio-active rain could be a grave danger to them. Will the Minister cause an inquiry to be made into this matter, because the reports must have an effect on the minds of those people in South Australia who collect rain water? It appears that the reports emanated from someone in the University of Adelaide, who clearly detected radio-activity in the rain.
– I did see a report suggesting that there had been some radioactive rain in South Australia, but I do not believe that is correct. I am pretty sure that the rain was not caused by tests that took place at Monte Bello some weeks ago.
– The scientists say that the tests had something to do with it.
– They might say so, but professors are a bit like lawyers and politicians, in that they have a variety of opinions. The fact of the matter is that the Commonwealth scientific safety committee, which consists of very distinguished Australian scientists who were present at the Monte Bello tests, has made a report to the Government - indeed, I made a public statement about it - that every safeguard was exercised with respect to the tests, that the tests were completed as expected, that there was no danger to life or property arising from the tests at all. I think, indeed, that the prevailing winds were such that it would not be possible for the alleged radio-activity in the rain which fell over South Australia to have been caused by the tests.
– The rain to which I referred fell only late last week.
– I shall have an inquiry made about the matter, and when I have a reply perhaps the honorable gentleman will let me give it in the House.
– Can the Minister for Supply inform the House of the progress, if any, that is being made on the construction of the atomic research reactor at Lucas Heights, near Sydney?
– I do not like the implication contained in the words “ if any “ in the honorable gentleman’s question. In fact, we have made very great progress at Lucas Heights, notwithstanding an unfortunate labour stoppage which is now over and of which I hope we shall hear no more. The contractors and the Australian Atomic Energy Commission have pushed forward very vigorously with the work and we are able to say that we have made better progress in Australia during the last six months or so than has been made with a comparable project which was commenced about the same time in England. Part of the core of the reactor is already in Sydney, and the rest of it will be there soon; as soon as the buildings are completed the core will be installed, and we shall be then well on the way to having our reactor in position. I propose to make an official visit to the site on the morning of the 11th June, and I say now, for the benefit of honorable members, particularly those living in Sydney, that if any of them wishes to accompany me on that visit and so advises me, I shall be glad to make appropriate arrangements.
– I direct a question to the Postmaster-General. Have employees of the food services division of the Postmaster-General’s Department been employed under the conditions of Determination No. 15 of 1944 of the Federated Ironworkers Association as varied ? Did Determination No. 15 of 1944 provide for two increments of 5s. a week each for all personnel covered by this award since 1951? Is it a fact that the Public Service Board and the Postmaster-General’s Department have decided to apply these two increments of 5s. a week each only from the 16th February, 1956? Is the Minister aware that the secretary of the Public Service Board, in a letter dated the 10th June, 1955, to the general secretary of the Amalgamated Postal Workers Union, stated that employees in the food services division of the Postal Department have had their rates of pay and conditions related to Determination No. 15 of 1944 as varied? In view of this fact, does hp think it fair and reasonable that Postal Department employees should receive increases in the form of incremental advances only from the 16th February. 1956, when employees of other Commonwealth departments performing the same duties have received the same increments since 1951 ? Is he aware that the profits of the Brisbane General Post Office cafeteria, earned over a period of years and amounting to over £16,000, were frozen by the Department of the Treasury and paid into Consolidated Revenue ?
Will he make representations to the Department of the Treasury to release portionof these profits to pay general post office cafeteria employees in all States the increments of 5s. a week, to which they have been entitled since 1951 ?
– Order ! Honorable members should put lengthy questions on the notice-paper. It is obviously impossible for a Minister to retain all the details of such a question in his mind.
– I must concede to the honorable member for Brisbane that he obviously knowsmore about this particular matter than I do, and I thank him very much indeed for the detailed information that he has furnished to me. If he places his question on the noticepaper, I shall study it and give him a considered reply.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Health. Has the World Health Organization considered and reported on the development, of atomic energy in the field of medicine and public health? What would be the primary responsibility of the World Health Organization in this regard, and to what degree could the organization assist member countries with expert ad vice and training?.
– I do not know whether the World Health Organization has made a formal report on this matter, but it has given a lot of consideration to it. At the international conference on the peaceful uses of atomic energy held last year, officials of the organization presented two papers - one on protection against radiation, and another on the medical uses of atomic energy. This year, an international conference, attended by representatives of twelve member nations, has considered the means to be adopted for protection against radio activity. The Australian representative at the conference was chairman of the meeting. The World Health Organization is collaborating with the committee to which I have just referred, and will continue to do so. In addition, it has taken every possible action to disseminate information about radio activity, its uses and dangers.
– I ask the Treasurer whether he has analysed the recent basic wage judgment of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, particularly that section of it which indicates that, in the view of the court, if an increase of 18s. a week had been granted, it possibly would have shattered the present national economy. An increase of 18s. a week would have represented the total of the normal cost of living adjustments for the six capital cities since the freezing of the adjustments, and would have been payable to all employees working under federal awards and Commonwealth employees. Does the right honorable gentleman consider that wage levels in Australia are within 8s. a week of the point at which they would shatter the Australian economy? If that is so, will he have the facts placed before the House immediately so that it can consider the matter rather than leave Cabinet and its advisers to deal with it after the House goes into recess? If wage levels are within 8s. a week of the point at which the economy would be shattered, does he not think it is necessary for the Prime Minister to be brought back immediately to deal with the question?
– I shall answer the latter part of the question first. The answer to that part, of course, is “ No “.
– I am against it, too.
– But for different reasons.. I shall have a look at the remainder of the honorable member’s question. My first reaction is that his observations are based upon false premises and that, upon proper analysis, they will be shattered.
– My question is directed to the Minister for External Affairs and it follows upon a question that I asked the Prime Minister some time ago. In view of the sincere efforts of the Free World, including particularly the
Governments of the United Kingdom, the United States of America and Australia, to achieve world disarmament and the effective control of nuclear weapons, and in view of the misrepresentations of the position which are being deliberately fathered and fostered by the Soviet Union, which is the. chief opponent: of such disarmament, and nuclear control, will the Minister afford the House before it rises an opportunity to discuss the recent proceedings at the London Disarmament Conference ?
– I am hoping that it may be possible for me, before the House rises, to make a further, statement on international affairs in view of the developments of the last month or two. If that can be arranged, then I would certainly include the views of the Government on the present disarmament situation, which would then be capableof being debated.
– And there will be a debate ?
– I ask the Minister for Defence whether it is a fact that the Eyre Highway linking Port Augusta on the South Australian side with Norseman in Western Australia is designated a strategic defence road. If it is, will the Minister confer with the, Governments of Western Australia and South Australia with a view to making the necessary finance available from defence funds so that a bitumenized surface can bo constructed and so provide a reliable trafficable road from. State to. State in all. weather conditions?
– It is a fact that the part of the Eyre Highway that has been mentioned by the honorable member is regarded as a strategic road’ under the Commonwealth Aid Roads Act and funds are contributed by the Commonwealth each year to enable the road to be maintained to a standard required by the Commonwealth; Strategic roads under the Commonwealth Aid Roads Act are not regarded as defence roads entirely but are in the same category as other main roads to which the Commonwealth contributes from funds raised by the petrol tax and which are maintained by the States. Although the main responsibility for the maintenance of this road’ rests with the Governments of Western Australia and South Australia, the Commonwealth each year makes certain contributions to its maintenance. If it is of any interest to the honorable member I shall give the amounts contributed by the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth has contributed to South Australia for the section from Penong to the West Australian border the following amounts : -
In respect of the section from. Norseman, in Western Australia, to the South Australian border, the Commonwealth has contributed the following amounts.: -
The latest figures thatI have indicate that during the period of six years ending the 30th June, 1956, the total expenditure will amount to £116,400 for the maintenance of this road.
-I direct a question to the Minister for Immigration, which I preface by saying that at the recent annual conference of the Associated Chambers of Commerce of Australia a resolution was passed regarding the giving of greater encouragement in respect of “youth migration and the education and absorption of such immigrants into primary industries “. Will the Minister indicate whether any special attention is now being given to the immigration of youths and whether he is in agreement with the opinions expressed in the resolution to which I have referred?
– The Government has always encouraged the immigration of youths but we have found, in practice, that the numbers of youths available for emigration to this country, other than those sent here under the sponsorship of various organizations, such as church organizations, are not so great as most people would, I think, imagine. At one stage we thought that there would be scope for the immigration into this country of large numbers of children from Europe, for example, after the last war, when there were many orphan children in Europe who would have welcomed the opportunity to settle in another land. However, we found that the communities in which these children had been brought up were themselves anxious to look after them, with the result that the numbers of such children available for emigration to Australia was not very great. Nevertheless, there has been a useful movement to Australia of child immigrants, particularly from the United Kingdom. The honorable gentleman will be well aware, from the activities in his own State which, I think, has done more in this direction than any other State, of how satisfactorily those schemes have worked out. The Department of Immigration has assisted financially and in various other ways in respect of this matter. I should be very glad to discuss with the honorable member for Swan any ideas that he may have on the matter that he thinks we might usefully consider. He will find us very receptive.
– In addressing a question to the Acting Prime Minister I desire to know whether it is a fact that a shortage of potatoes now existing on the mainland of Australia, particularly in Sydney and Melbourne, has caused a rise in price which puts this basic foodstuff beyond the reach of a great number of Australian working-class families. Is it a fact that large supplies of Tasmanian ‘ potatoes available for shipment are deteriorating in quality because shipping is not being made available by the shipping combine to bring them to the mainland? Is it further a fact that men prominent in potato marketing activities attribute the present unsatisfactory position to the bungling, inefficiency and indifference of the shipping interests? If these are facts, of what value are the assurances of the shipping combine to the Government to maintain an efficient sea transport system on the Australian coast in return for the
Government’s action in limiting competition with them of the Commonwealthowned ships ? In view of the position as outlined, will the Government undertake to cancel its decision to hand the Australian community over for exploitation by the rapacious shipping combine?
– Thu answer to the question raised by the honorable gentleman is “ No “.
– I direct a question to the Postmaster-General. In view of complaints by the residents of Pascoe Vale South in respect to the “ barn-like “ structure now being erected to contain the new post office for that district, will the Minister explain the advantages of this contemporary type of building - for example, from the point of view of economy, lighting, ventilation and attractive appearance - as against the orthodox type of government construction which has usually been associated with buildings previously erected to accommodate post offices?
– The honorable member for Maribyrnong drew my attention a week or so ago to the fact that certain adverse comments were being voiced regarding the type of construction being erected for the post office at Pascoe Vale South. I therefore made some inquiries and I think I am correct in saying that if the residents will await the completion of the building they will find there is no cause for any complaint or for any such adverse criticism. It is true that in this instance there has been a departure from conventional design. The designing of this building was carried out by the Department of Works, and the main features of the design being used are intended, first, to provide better facilities for the staff of the post office and, secondly, to ensure greater provision for the public, for whom more room will be available. Such things as lighting and ventilation will also be an improvement on those provided in the old designs. Another very important factor in the adoption of this design is the cost. It is well known that the Postal Department has a great volume of work ahead of it and that the finance available is not unlimited. Therefore, any kind of building which would enable us to proceed with the necessary construction at a reduced cost without in any way reducing efficiency or the standard of accommodation should be adopted. The honorable member will be interested to know that this kind of building will cost about 30 per cent, less than conventional designs and will enable very efficient service to be provided.
– In view of the hardship imposed on many thousands of people by increased charges made by public hospitals, can the Minister for Health say whether consideration will soon be given to increasing the Commonwealth allowance to patients of Ss. a bedday, which was fixed in 1948, so that increased hospital costs, which are said to have risen from 25s. a bed-day in 1.948 to 75s. a bed-day in 1956, can be off<<pt as much as possible?
– The level of payments made by the Commonwealth in respect of public hospital beds was fixed by an agreement with the States which, I think, has about another eighteen months still to run. I should point out that hospital charges are entirely a question for the State governments, and they vary widely, from very high charges in New South Wales to none at all in Queensland.
– I address to the PostmasterGeneral a question which refers to the Victoria Cross centenary celebrations shortly to be held in London. Will the Minister consider having the Postal Department issue a special stamp to commemorate in this country the centenary of the Victoria Cross?
– I have to inform the honorable member that, I think last week or the week before, I received from the federal secretary of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia in Canberra a communication forwarding to me a .resolution of the Queensland branch of the league which asked me to investigate the possibility of issuing a Victoria Cross commemorative stamp in conjunction with the centenary of the striking of the Victoria Cross which is to be commemorated in London shortly. 1 replied to the effect that, as had already been stated,, the designing, planning and final issuing of a commemorative stamp takes about nitid months and, therefore, it would not be possible to accede to the request to make the issue in conjunction with a function which is due to take place shortly. I also directed the league’s attention to the fact that the Victoria Cross is awarded essentially by the United Kingdom Government, and I stated that, although we are of course proud to be among those who may receive this award, I considered it would therefore be advisable to confer with the British authorities, before taking the action proposed, in order to see whether they contemplated similar action. Accordingly, I suggested that such inquiries be made, and I assured the league that, if the British authorities contemplated a commemorative stamp issue, we in Australia should be very glad to co-operate.
– I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service: Does he recognize that there is in the Australian community a very considerable body of people who, because of their religious beliefs, are impelled by conscience neither to join industrial associations or organizations nor to enter into agreements which could compel other people to become members of such organizations? Will the Minister consider incorporating in the arbitration machinery some provision which will protect this undoubted right of conscience whilst, at the same time, safeguarding the benefits that have been won, either by industrial action or by agreement, by parties in industry?
– As I indicated when we reached the committee stage of the debate on the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill 1956, the Government has had this very important matter under consideration. I intimated then that 1 would put before the committee an amendment which would be, broadly, for the (purpose that the honorable member has indicated. I do not know whether it will cover entirely or satisfactorily all the ^aspects which he and others may have in mind At least, it will provide .an opportunity for discussion by the committee, and I think will go substantially as far as one can go without cutting across rights and beliefs held in other directions. The honorable gentleman will see it at a later stage of the committee discussion.
– Can the Minister for External Affairs inform the House how many people from Communist countries are likely to compete this year in the Olympic Games? Are they being encouraged to do so in an effort towards trying to improve the international atmosphere, and as one of many steps towards achieving some degree of coexistence ?
– I cannot give the honorable gentleman any completely up-to-date figures on that matter. The last time I saw the figures, it looked as if there would be at least 1,000 athletes competing in the Olympic Games from the seven, .eight, or nine Communist countries that would be participating. As to the second part of the honorable gentleman’s question, the Australian Olympic organizing commit.mee invites those countries that are members of the international ‘Olympic association. As long as they are members, they are invited and the Government does not “have a hand in it. I think that the figure of 1,000 which I cited relates only to athletes. In addition, at least several hundred other people are likely to come here from Communist countries as camp followers, such as trainers and the like. It has not been the practice in respect of Olympic Games in any country for the government of the host country to take a hand in the selection of the countries invited to send athletes to the Olympic Games. It is purely a matter for the international Olympic association.
– I have the honour to advise the House, in accordance with its resolution constituting the Foreign Affairs Committee, that the Minister having requested the committee to furnish him a report on the extradition arrangements between Australia and Communist-controlled countries, the committee has this day submitted its report to the Minister.
Assent reported. ‘
The following bills were returned from the Senate: -
Without amendment -
Parliamentary Allowances Bill 1956.
Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Assessment Bill (No. 2) 1956.
With amendments -
Broadcasting and Television Bill 1956.
– As Chairman, I present the second report of the Printing Committee.
Report read by the Clerk, and - by leave - adopted.
– I have received from the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr. J. R. Fraser) an intimation that he desires to submit a definite matter of urgent public importance to the House for discussion., namely -
The proposed transfer of the Royal Australian Naval College from Flinders, Victoria, to Jervis Bay, in the Australian Capital Territory.
Is the proposal .supported ?
Eight honorable members having risen
Mr.. J. E. FRASER (Australian Capital Territory) [3.1SJ.- The Government’s decision to transfer the Royal Australian Naval College from Flinders, in Victoria, to Jervis Bay, in the Australian Capital Territory, is, in my view, a bad decision, [t is a decision that should not have been made. It is a decision which cannot be justified. It is a decision which, even now, should be revoked, or, at the very least, deferred so that it can be properly investigated.
I should like to say at the outset that the people of Jervis Bay, and committees which have acted on their behalf from time to time, have always maintained that if it could be proved that it was essential for the successful working of the Royal Australian Navy that the Naval College should be transferred from Flinders to Jervis Bay, no objection could be made. But no- such proof has been forthcoming. No valid reasons have been given for the proposal to transfer the college. In fact, the weight of evidence available is completely against the proposal to transfer.
Recently, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) honoured an undertaking given -some years ago by receiving a deputation of residents of Jervis Bay, who wished to put their views to the Prime Minister and, through him, to the Cabinet. That deputation put before the Prime Minister, and subsequently before the Cabinet, very substantial reasons why the college should not be transferred from Flinders to Jervis Bay. Those reasons were based on economic and other grounds. The arguments of that deputation have not been answered. All that we have had from the Cabinet, and from the Acting Prime Minister (Sir Arthur Fadden), is a blunt announcement that the college will be transferred. The very valid arguments put forward by that deputation demand, L suggest, an answer, and they should be given an answer. If there are reasons to support the proposal for the transfer, they should be made known. If the arguments put forward by. the people of Jervis Bay in deputation are not valid, they should be rebutted. In plain fact, they have not been so rebutted, nor has any evidence to support the proposal been forthcoming.
– It is a very costly proposal too, is it not?
– It is a very costly proposal indeed, and it was the argument as to cost that caused the transfer of the college from Jervis Bay to Flinders 2$ years ago. Honorable members will recall that the college was established at Jervis Bay in 1915, and was maintained there until 1930-, but, during the whole of that! time’, as the Naval Board reported, there was continuous criticism of the per capita cost of training cadets at Jervis Bay. In fact, only seven years after the college had been established at Jervis Bay, when economies were being considered, the then Commandant of the College, Captain Walters, recommended that the college should be transferred south, either to its former home at Geelong or to Hobart. That recommendation was not adopted, but throughout the ‘twenties further economies were considered, and, indeed,, at one stage it was suggested that the naval college and the Royal Military College should be combined in one institution. In .1929 and 1930 economies were again considered, and the Naval Board made a very strong recommendation to the then government that the college should Bc. transferred from Jervis Bay to Flinders, on the- grounds that it could be maintained at Flinders for a fraction of the cost of maintaining it at that time at Jervis Bay, and that at Flinders there would be the added advantage of having all naval training concentrated in the one area. The college at that time at. Jervis Bay was costing some £65,000 a year, and I think it was training twelve cadets in each year’s class. Tho information that I am giving to the House now has been obtained from the publication, History of the Naval College.
On the 22nd April, 1930, the Naval Board recommended that the college should be transferred to Flinders, to concentrate all naval training in one centre at a greatly reduced expenditure. It was then estimated that the college could bo maintained at Flinders for £15,000 a year, which is substantially less than a quarter of what it was then costing at Jervis Bay. The Melbourne Argus of the 8th May of that year reported that, because of intense political pressure, that, recommendation was not a don ted. However, the Naval Board pressed its point that the college should be transferred from Jervis Bay to Flinders, and on the 29th May, 1930, the First Naval Member, in a memorandum to the then Minister, pointed out that the isolation of Jervis Bay rendered the most economical administration impossible. The Naval Board urged on the Government that, approval should be given for the transfer to Flinders, where the college could function effectively for half the cost necessary to maintain it at Jervis Bay. The college moved in mid- July and opened at Flinders in August of that year. It had been at Jervis Bay for fifteen years, and during the whole of that time it had been subjected to criticism on the ground of cost. It has now been at Flinders for 26 years. It has operated effectively at that, location for over a quarter of a century, and during that time the officers «”ho led our naval forces in World War II. were trained at Flinders.
– And there has been no criticism of it.
– -There has been no criticism of its operation at Flinders. In fact, when, from time to time, senior officers of the Navy, who have happy recollections of their days at Jervis Bay, have sought to have the college transferred, government after government has rejected the proposal on the ground that the cost could not be justified. The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon) stated, in 1953, when this proposal was successfully combated, that the cost of transferring the college from Flinders to Jervis Bay could not be justified at a time when defence expenditure could not be increased. I suggest that those conditions hold good to-day, and that we should not at this time spend vast sums of money on such a proposal. The cost of transferring the college would be immense, lt would involve not merely the cost of the physical transfer- and the temporary occupation of the buildings in existence at, Jervis Bay, but also that of providing at Jervis Bay what already exists in the college, and for the use of the college, at the Flinders Naval Depot. The expenditure would run into millions of pounds of the taxpayers’ money. Of that, there is no doubt at all.
– That is not so.
– Let the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride) give us the answers to these questions - if there be answers. These arguments cannot be rebutted merely by the Minister for Primary Industry, the Minister for Defence, or any Government supporter attempting to deride or belittle them. It will be necessary to justify the arguments put forward by the Navy in favour of the transfer. Expenditure of this kind should not be lightly undertaken. Certainly, it should not be undertaken in the absence of strong justification at a time like this, when the Prime Minister and the Government are asking the people to economize.
– It is a lovely holiday resort !
– It is a magnificent place. To transfer the college, and establish at Jervis Bay what already exists at Flinders, would cost millions of pounds.
– It does not warrant any expenditure.
– That is so. The buildings that the Navy proposes to occupy at Jervis Bay are 40 years old. They are weatherboard and are built on wooden piles. They will require not merely substantial alteration, but replacement. If the Navy is permitted to transfer the college to Jervis Bay, it will, within a matter of months, seek, and obtain, a vote to enable it to construct permanent buildings there. It will not. for any length of time, occupy the buildings that are already there. They could not possibly be made fit for naval occupation. The transfer would involve the expenditure of vast sums of money, and also the complete destruction of the Jervis Bay resort that has existed for the last 26 years. It would mean that the scores of thousands of Australians who have, over the years, enjoyed the right to have their holidays at the most beautiful tourist resort on the east coast of New South Wales will be deprived of that right. It would mean that every one at Jervis Bay - and some 350 or 400 people are directly affected by this decision - would lose their businesses and their jobs, and would have to vacate their homes. The announcement simply says, “All buildings and homes must be vacated by the 31st March, 1957 “. Those are the curt terms of the Government’s announcement. They have been confirmed by the Minister’s statement, and by a letter from the Acting Prime Minister in similarly blunt terms. If there are arguments in support of the desire of some Navy chiefs to effect this transfer, they should be given. Very strong reasons have been given why it should not be carried out, and when a proposal involves the expenditure of millions of pounds of public money and the destruction of something that has existed for a quarter of a century, I suggest that very sound reasons for doing so should be provided. If the Navy’s case can be substantiated, then let it be substantiated.
I suggest that an inquiry be held into this matter so that the Navy may bring forward evidence in support of its claim, and so that those who object to the transfer may similarly bring forward evidence to support their claims. The inquiring body should present its report to this Parliament. If it were possible, I would suggest that the inquiry should be made by the Public Accounts Committee, but admittedly that body acts only after expenditure has been incurred. However, the matter could be referred to it by a joint resolution of both Houses of this Parliament. If that course cannot be followed, I suggest most seriously that the matter be referred to a select committee of the Parliament. Let there be no subterfuge about it. If a transfer is justified, let it take place. If it is not, let the Government not spend that money. Let the Navy substantiate its case. -Let those who oppose it put their views before the Parliament. I know, with absolute certainty, that this is a bad move.
– Who is sponsoring it?
– It is being sponsored by people, now in command, who trained at Jervis Bay in the early years. There is ample evidence that there is no more behind this move than a desire to get back to the lovely sylvan setting at Jervis Bay. The argument that expansion cannot take place at Flinders does not hold water. There is ample evidence - and I hold it - to show that expansion can take place, if not within the existing depot, on areas adjoining it. If the Navy has an argument on that ground let it put it forward. Not one of these arguments has been announced by the Minister, or given in the releases from Cabinet following its decision. The matter should go before a body which can assess the merits of the Navy’s proposal and the weight of the objections to it. No one could cavil at that. It would be only reasonable and fair. The committee of inquiry could report its conclusions to Parliament. I repeat that, on the evidence available, there is nothing to justify the transfer and the complete destruction of Jervis Bay as it exists to-day. There is nothing to justify forcing all these people to vacate their homes, destroying their jobs and taking away their businesses.
-Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– If we carefully analyse the arguments of the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr. J. R. Fraser) we find that in most respects he manages to contradict himself. I shall be glad to point out three instances in which he has contradicted the recommendations that have been made by the residents of Jervis Bay. I think that his arguments can be divided into two sections. The first relates to the desirability of returning the Australian Naval College to Jervis Bay. In that respect, he said that if it could be proved that this was needed for the success of the college, the residents of Jervis Bay would offer no objection. I shall leave that particular point to my honorable colleague, the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Howse), who is an officer of the Royal Australian Naval Reserve and is anxious to maintain the traditions of that service.
Opposition members interjecting,
– Time does not permit me to deal with every aspect of the matter, but if honorable members opposite will wait for a little while they will get all the answers they want. I shall content myself with .answering .the arguments that have been put forward against -the return of the college to Jervis Bay. In other words my colleague, the honorable member for Calare, will look at the positive part of it, and I shall answer the arguments that have been put forward by the honorable mem’ber for the Australian Capital Territory.
In the first place, let us look at this question historically. The first part of the honorable member’s argument was based upon the transfer, many years ago, of the Royal Australian Naval College from Jervis Bay to Flinders. That took place, first, because at the time there were only 24 cadets at the naval college, compared with 117 to-day, and secondly, because of the isolation of Jervis Bay from any naval establishment. Today, however, one of the largest naval establishments in Australia, if not the largest, is situated at Nowra, close handy to Jervis Bay, so isolation is no longer a Factor to be considered. Therefore, the historical reasons no longer apply. Because conditions nave changed, the cost of maintenance at Jervis Bay will ‘he reduced considerably.
The second point mentioned by the honorable gentleman is one which, frankly, I just cannot understand. I cannot .understand why he got up in this House and made a statement so divorced from fact .and reality. He said that the cost , of the transfer would run into millions of pounds. The simple fact is that there will be .a saving .on capital -cost - -and it waa capital cost to which the honorable .gentleman referred.
– Hell that to .the Marines.
– I wish the honor.able ‘member for Melbourne (Mr. -Calwell) would go -somewhere with the Marines so that we would not have to put up -with Kim here. If he will not listen to me when I state the facts, he should get somebody else to take his placePrimarily, .the Flinders depot is a recruit training depot. It was built for that purpose, and its main responsibility io-day is to train recruits. It must ‘be expanded considerably if it is to train effectively the increased number of recruits “now necessary. We sha’ll be com pelled, within a very short time, to replace much of the temporary accommodation in which recruits are being trained at present. So it does not matter what .comes or what goes. It will be essential to spend something like £265,000 . ‘at Flinders if the Naval College stays (there, and a sum amounting to £535,000 if (both the Naval College amd -the recruit training centre stay .there,
– That would still ‘be less than the expenditure a*t Jervis Bay.
– Wait a minute. I am giving the facts. ‘The “honorable member for Adelaide .(Mr. Chambers) does not know the facts. Therefore, prudence would demand that he hold his tongue. I ask honorable members to keep in mind that figure of £515,000. The initial capital cost of a move to Jervis Bay would he £172,000. In addition, over a period of five years,. a sum of the order of £150.^000 would have to be spent on construction, together with £18,600 on small craft and motor transport. So the total cost of .the move, over that period, -would toe £340,000. I ;am trying to -make the position clear. If honorable members ‘Opposite do not understand me, at least the fact? wim he -on the record. If the college were moved to Jervis Bay, the total capital -cost would be £34.0,l600, whereas the total cost of keeping the college and depot at Minders would be £515,000. Where are the mythical millions about which the honorable mem’ber for the Australian Capital Territory spoke? ‘The fact is that, in terms of capital outlay, it -would be cheaper to move the Naval College to Jervis Bay than to keep it at the present site at Flinders.
There ‘aTe some other facts that I think Should bc mentioned to the House. I have mentioned them to the ‘honorable gentleman on previous occasions when lie has raised this subject with me. It should not be though -f or one moment that the people who live at Jervis Bay have suffered great hardship a% the hands of the Commonwealth or that they rare paying exorbitant rentals. Tire fact is that during the last financial year rental receipts amounted to £3.’5,400, but maintenance charges paid by the. Commonwealth, in total, were £15,700. In other words, the residents of Jervis Bay, in general terms, are there now as the guests of the Commonwealth. I point out that the Commonwealth also pays for the services provided by the Department of the Interior, for police and for schools, t do not want to put this matter extravagantly. The people there have been living under very reasonable .conditions.
– That is the fault of ihe Government’s bad management.
– There has been no bad management. In many cases, there were long leases, and we could not get the people out. They have been put under notice.
May I deal, now, with the question of the value of Jervis Bay to tourists ? The honorable gentleman used the phrase - this is one of the ways in -which his arguments can he turned against him - ‘ Expansion can take place”. He said that there was plenty of room there foiexpansion. If the honorable gentleman argues that the Commonwealth should move from its own buildings and from its own territory to another area where expansion can take place, surely “we are entitled >to argue, and to argue strenuously, that it is private interests which should go to another area to erect the ‘accommodation that they need. ‘There is plenty of land available. It can be used, .and there is no intention on the part .of the Commonwealth to exclude others from areas such as those around Huskisson. Should people desire to .do ,so, they could obtain leases and .erect buildings.
I want to make two other points, because I do not wish the impression to be gained that in this matter the Commonwealth is acting hasrshly. We have to ask ourselves : Has the Commonwealth given reasonable notice to its tenants that it desires to put the Naval College back into its traditional (home-? As early as 1’952, I warned the honora’ble member and the residents that the Naval College would -be moved back to Jervis Bay. As it became practicable to do so, the leases held by residents were terminated, and <they -were given tenancies determinable at one (month’s notice. Therefore, ample notice has been .’given. The honorable gentleman shakes ‘his head, but he knows very well that ‘during most >of the time that I was Minister for tie Navy - I was proud to hold that office - I told him and the residents .of Jervis Bay repeatedly that, as soon as it was practicable to do so, the Royal Australian Naval College would be returned to its home.
– What persuaded the Minister to change his mind in 19541
– I did not change my mind. The paper was prepared by me, and it was never changed. It was always my intention to get the Royal Australian Naval College back there, if it was practicable to do so and if that were required.
I think that it is in the interests of the Royal Australian Naval College, which has a lot of tradition behind it, that it be returned to its original home, but I shall not touch on that problem further because, as I have said, the honorable member for Calare will deal with it. I want to state positively that the Commonwealth has acted with a proper sense of responsibility.. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has discussed the matter with me on at least two occasions and has made it clear that he has no intention to permit hardship to be inflicted on any resident of Jervis Bay. We gave ample notice to residents, and we made our intentions perfectly clear. On one occasion when the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory raised the matter, the Prime Minister made certain that it would be discussed fully by Cabinet, which reaffirmed the previous decision of one of its committees that it was appropriate that the Royal Australian Naval College should be returned to Jervis Bay.
To sum up: Is it appropriate and right that the Royal Australian Naval College should go Dack to its home on Federal Capital Territory? To that question, I .say that the answer is undoubtedly “Yes”. People can hold different opinions about some matters, but whenever a concrete effort is made to achieve something of value we find that many voices -are raised in an -attempt to prevent it. Jervis Bay is Commonwealth territory, and I shall be glad to see the Royal Australian Naval College restored to its proper (home there. With regard to the finance involved, I have cited figures, which prove conclusively that a capital saving will be achieved by moving the college to Jervis Bay rather than by keeping it at Flinders. Finally, on the subject of hardship to residents, the honorable member himself has admitted that the residents are prepared to move if a satisfactory case can be made out, which therefore proves that no great hardship will be caused to the residents. I make these two points clear: The residents have been given ample notice and - this is a very important points - if business people suffer any undue hardship or loss of business activity, the Commonwealth is willing to consider the question of compensation. So for all those reasons, I say that this move is justified and is in the best interests of the Navy itself. I conclude on this point. The return of the Naval College to Jervis Bay does not mean that all business activity there will cease. All it means is that there will be some reduction. In fact, the residents of Nowra favour the basing of the Fleet Air Arm on Nowra. They and the Chamber of Commerce have personally told me that they are glad that the naval air station is located at Nowra at the present time because, amongst other things, of the income being earned from it in the district. Therefore, for all these reasons, I say that the Government’s decision should be affirmed, and that the Government is not prepared to permit this problem to go to a select committee.
.- The reasons advanced by the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon) are not a reply, nor are they even an attempted reply, to the case put by the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr. J. R. Fraser). The reasons given by the Minister simply prove that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) was right when he removed him from the post of Minister for the Navy, and they are good reasons for removing the present occupant from that post. If at this time of difficulty, when the Government is slugging the people of Australia with heavy taxes, when it is doing nothing for the growing army of unemployed, it can find nothing to do except shift the Royal Australian Naval College from Flinders to Jervis Bay, it is presenting a pathetic picture to the Australian people.
– The Minister hasbeen misinformed.
– I know that he has been misinformed, or that he is uninformed. The honorable gentleman does not know any of the facts. There has been a move for years past to bring the Naval College back to Jervis Bay, not the recruiting centre, not the training ground for the rank and file, but the establishment, for the staff and the naval cadets. Our Cabinet rejected that proposal in 1948-49. The position has not suddenly arisen. This argument about effecting improvements and spending this or that sum of money was advanced in our time. It is no wonder that the Minister is struggling to make a case, leaning on the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Howse) and saying that that honorable member will put the position. I think that the honorable member for Calare will put a reasoned case, but even the case to be put by him will not get rid of this fact, that the Jervis Bay establishment was a second creation. The first naval college was at Geelong. Then there was the transfer to Jervis Bay, and then, on the recommendation of the Naval Board itself, in 1930, 26 years ago, it was shifted to Flinders, and it stayed there right throughout the war period, at the time of our greatest emergency. If there was a valid argument for transferring the college, it surely should have applied then. If the college is to be transferred, why not transfer it to some new site, and build from the ground up? If it is desired that it be along the salubrious coastline of eastern New South Wales, why not pick a spot near Nowra, or at Balmoral, in Sydney Harbour? If it is desired that it be somewhere else, where perhaps there will be some advantage from a strategic point of view, St. Vincent Gulf or Spencer’s Gulf, in South Australia, would be suitable, and if there is anything in the argument that Cockburn Sound, in Western Australia, is to be the naval base for the British Commonwealth of Nations in the Indian Ocean in the proximate, or even distant future, why not establish the Naval College there ?
There seem to be social reasons for this transfer, to which this Government is prepared to give weight and attention, but to which a Labour government would not pay any attention at all. It has been said by the deputation which waited on the Minister that the anchorage is not as good at Jervis Bay as is to be found elsewhere, and it is probably not as good as at Westernport Bay, Flinders. It is also true that persons who have been using Jervis Bay for the past 26 years are being treated very harshly and in cavalier fashion. The Minister has stated that they are not being treated harshly. The Government is acting foolishly in treating them harshly. If it desires to make transfers of service personnel, let it use some of the money voted for defence - it has some which it will not spend - to bring the head-quarters of the Navy, Army and Air Force from Melbourne to Canberra. Let it spend the money usefully and effectively. All it proposes to do is to push certain persons out of J Jervis Bay in order to let the Navy in again. The Minister says in a most magnificent fashion - he is most magnanimous about it, too - that the Government will consider the matter of paying compensation in certain cases of hardship.
– How long will the Government consider it?
– I do not know how long it will consider the matter, but if it does not deal with that problem any better than it has dealt with our economic problems, it will be dealing with the matter for a very long time. Let me remind the House of this fact: It was a Labour government that established the Royal Australian Navy, and established the Naval College at Jervis Bay, in the first instance, when the tories of other times, the prototypes of the members of the present Government parties, were wanting to present a dreadnought to Great Britain. We, at least, can talk authoritatively and with knowledge of the establishment of the Royal Australian Navy and of Jervis Bay.
In addition, there are 33,000 persons living in Canberra, and Jervis Bay is as much Australian Capital Territory as is Canberra. Those persons living here have a right to a place where they can go in their holiday periods and enjoy something of the sea at Jervis Bay, which is now to be reserved for somebody else. The people of Canberra have their rights, but those rights are to be extinguished by the action of the Government in this particular matter. Canberra will grow. We -must build roads to Jervis Bay and at least have a modern outlet for this Australian Capital Territory. Of course, it may well be that the next Labour government will have to shift the Naval College again, because we shall not deny to the residents of Canberra and to all the other persons who have been using Jervis Bay for holiday purposes over the years, what they have been enjoying, just because this limpid Government accedes to the pressure that is being placed upon it now.
There were 13,500 accommodation bookings last year at Jervis Bay; these excluded casuals, overnight visitors, and day trippers. Last year was one of uncertainty, and the potential for Jervis Bay is 20,000 bookings a year. If the persons who live there had any certainty that they would remain there, the number of visitors could be at least doubled. What is to happen to this place, which is so close to Sydney and not so far removed from Canberra? Are the persons who have been using it to be told to go somewhere else? The only argument that the Minister has advanced is that Jervis Bay is part of the Australian Capital Territory. We can acquire other territory if we need a new base somewhere near Jervis Bay, and the Government could extend the establishment at Nowra, if it desired to do so. Perhaps the officers of the Naval College do not desire to be associated too closely with the air arm. I do not know what it is all about. The Minister has given no effective reason and has advanced no argument in answer to the case put by the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory. The Minister says that the initial cost will be only £172,000. That will be for painting and carpentering and a few other jobs. Then, he says, £150,000 will be spent over five years on the development of the establishment. Imagine it, £30,000 a year to be expended on a naval base or a naval college! The Government is determined that the Naval College shall be restored to Jervis Bay. It will get a toehold, and then, as the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory has stated, millions and millions of pounds will be spent on building it up. That would be wasteful expenditure. It will be necessary to recondition old buildings and to rehabilitate a centre, the use of which has been changed. If the Flinders area is not satisfactory, the right thing to do, as I said originally, is to build elsewhere. But there is plenty of room at Flinders. Do any Ministers ever visit the Flinders naval depot? Probably they would not even know where it was. I assure them that there is plenty of land in that area if they want more land, and that Westernport Bay has just as good an anchorage as has Jervis Bay.
Mr. Buchanan interjecting,
– The honorable member for Macmillan (Mr. Buchanan) represents part of that area.
– The college has been there for too long.
– It has been there for 26 years. The honorable member, with his gallant record, is one of the first to- suggest that the college ought to be moved. Well, we do not believe that.it should be moved.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr. J.. R. Fraser) and the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) have made very heavy weather in presenting their case. Indeed, they have not a leg to stand on.’ It is natural to expect the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory to oppose the transfer. He is acting as a perfectly good member, and is representing, the residents of the Territory. He is doing his best, but is presenting his case under very difficult circumstances. We have her rd from the honorable member for Melbourne this nonsense about the anchorage at Westernport being just asgood as the anchorage at Jervis Bay. An anchorage in the Yarra River would probably be better than either! What ships can be used at Flinders? It has been proven time and time again that the Flinders naval base is most unsuitable. Successive governments have spent money on it without being able to make a proper base of it. After listening to the honorable member for Melbourne, one would think that the only seaside place to which the residents of Canberra can go is Jervis Bay. He asked, “ What are you going to do with the poor holidaymakers ? Where are they to go ? “ There are many other places along the coast of New South Wales to which they can go.
What are the real needs of a naval college? First, it must be properly equipped in order to train men. Secondly - and the Opposition may scoff at the suggestion - it must be able to maintain the naval tradition. The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon), who was Minister for the Navy for some years, has been able to advance some very strong arguments in favour of the transfer. My criticism is that the Government did not make up its mind years ago to transfer the college. I believe that there was a strong case for moving the college back to Jervis Bay years ago, yet this Government postponed a decision on the matter. The honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory has put forward the specious argument that the college has been at the Flinders naval depot since 1930, that it trained officers who acquitted themselves well during the war, and that therefore it should remain at its present site. I suggest that the college has trained those men at Flinders despite the inconveniences and lack of facilities there. How can we train officers adequately on a mud flat? That is exactly the kind of land on which the depot is established.
– There is no reason why the college could not be at Orange.
– That might be quite a good idea, too. In view of what he has said to-day,. I think it is fair to say that the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory obviously hap not been through the college at the Flinders naval depot recently. If he were to visit the college, he would see quite clearly how unsuitable it is. Admittedly, the Parliament cannot lightly set aside the financial aspect of this matter; indeed, it must expend the defence vote with great care and caution. The Minister for Primary Industry has quoted figures to show what it would cost to rebuild the college at its present site. It has been argued that there is plenty of land at the Flinders naval depot. Of course there is, but to rebuild the Naval College there would cost approximately ten times as much as it will cost to transfer it from Flinders to Jervis Bay. 1 point out that the Royal Military College at Duntroon was also closed during the depression years ; but does the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory suggest that training should not have been restored there?
– I agree that it should have been restored. The college plays its part in the community.
– It plays a very important part, and has other great assets too. I think the same argument can bo applied with equal force to the restoration of the Naval College nt Jervis Bay, where the best training facilities and conditions are to be found.
– And where there will be no community.
– There are communities at Nowra, Huskisson, and, I think, at other places. Another community will grow up around the naval base. What advantages are to be gained from the transfer? The Flinders naval depot is required for recruit training. It is a training centre. If it is to be cluttered up by the presence of a naval college, its effectiveness will be reduced. If the Naval College were to be retained in that area, it would be necessary to spend a great deal of money in completely restoring or rebuilding it. It has reached such a stage of decay and disgrace that it cannot he used any longer.
– It will be necessary completely to rebuild at Jervis Bay.
– Jervis Bay is the traditional home of the Naval College. Let us not forget that it was built with public subscriptions and Commonwealth funds.
Public subscriptions were generously made so that the college could be established there. It has a magnificent anchorage, and the fleet is able to exercise on its large waters. It has the further advantage of being adjacent to the fleet air arm base at Nowra. Those two advantages are not available at the Flinders naval depot. No fleet exercises are held near the Flinders naval depot. If the fleet enters Westernport Bay it can only remain for a few hours, because as soon as the tide starts to ebb, it must race out. to avoid becoming grounded on the mud banks.
– How often do the cadets go on cruises?
– They should do so more often and for longer periods. When they move to Jervis Bay, they will be in close contact with the ships. Jervis Bay is an ideal place for training cadets. As the Minister for Primary Industry pointed out, the residents and the Chamber of Commerce at Nowra will welcome the transfer of the college to Jervis Bay. So, there will he a community adjacent to the college, just as there is a community adjacent to the Duntroon Military College.
This matter of urgency completely falls to the ground for a number of reasons, which I shall state Briefly. It has been shown with transparent clarity, that a considerable amount of money would be saved by moving the Naval College back to its traditional home. Any one who has considered this problem seriously has no doubt at all that Flinders Naval Depot is not a suitable place for training. We have been saddled with it, but there is no reason why we should remain there any longer than necessary. The present area, can continue to he used to the best advantage, and this is a wonderful opportunity that should have been seized years ago to move the Naval College. Do not let ns forget that the Navy is our first line of defence and that we must have an efficient navy, because by having it at a high standard of efficiency we will have a safe Australia. Do not let us lose this opportunity bv allowing the Naval College to remain on the mud flats of Flinders,
-Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Motion (by Sir ERIC Harrison) put -
That the business of the day he called on.
The House divided. (Mr. DEPUTY Speaker - Mr. C. F. Adermann.)
– Order ! The honorable member is not entitled to vote.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
In committee: Consideration resumed from the 31st May (vide page 2729).
Proposed new section 16p - (1.) A Commissioner may, if, in his opinion, it may assist the parties to an industrial dispute to settle the dispute by amicable agreement, and shall, if the parties to an industrial dispute so request, arrange with the Senior Commissioner for a Conciliator to be made available for the purpose of assisting the parties to reach an amicable agreement.
.- 3 move -
That proposed section ]6v (1.) be omitted with a view to inserting the following subsection in place thereof: - “ (1.) A Commissioner shall, when he becomes aware of an industrial dispute, arrange with the Senior Commissioner for a Conciliator to be made available for the purpose of assisting the parties to make an amicable agreement.”.
This proposed new sub-section makes a fairly substantial difference to the proposed section as it appears in the bill. The proposed sub-section as it stands provides that -
A commissioner may, if, in his opinion, it may assist the parties to an industrial dispute to settle that dispute by amicable agreement
It is not mandatory but discretionary - and shall, if the parties to an industrial dispute so request, arrange with the Senior Commissioner for a Conciliator to be made available for the purpose of assisting the parties to reach an amicable agreement.
The Opposition’s amendment proposes that, instead of leaving it to the discretion of the commissioner, or leaving it to the parties, to ask for a conciliator, when the commissioner becomes aware of the existence of an industrial dispute he shall immediately arrange for a conciliator to be made available. From the Opposition’s stand-point, if conciliation is to be effected, then immediately a dispute becomes known the necessary steps should be taken by the appropriate officer - the commissioner - to endeavour to get the parties together in order to bridge their differences. With that object in view it is essential that the provision relating to this matter shall be simple and clear, and shall make it mandatory on the commissioner to take action in a definite direction. The Opposition is of the opinion that the replacement provision which we propose is superior in every way to the present provision, and is more likely to make conciliation work effectively. It will certainly ensure that the principal objective of exploring conciliation before resort is had to arbitration shall be attained. I suggest that the Minister might well accept the amendment that we propose. It is simple, it is clear and it will bring about the result which, I believe, the bill is designed to achieve - that is, the maximum utilization of conciliation before arbitration is resorted to.
, - The amendment moved by the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) on behalf of the Opposition really raises no new point that has not already arisen from the debate during the second-reading stage and at the present stage. He and other members of the Opposition have pressed the Government to make the conciliation process mandatory, in a number of places where the possibility occurs in the form of the bill. Now, we have made it quite clear, both at the second-reading stage of the debate and in the present discussion in committee, that we favour a wider extension of the conciliation process. I have pointed out that although we are setting up conciliators whose function it will be to exercise the process of conciliation, we have not excluded that process on the part of either the presidential members or the lay members of the commission. In other words, conciliation is a process which can be usefully employed where opportunity offers and in the judgment of the person concerned, not only at the first stage where conciliation may be attempted by the conciliator himself, but also at the various other stages of the arbitral process. There is not, I think, a great deal of difference between the Opposition and ourselves as to the objective we seek to attain. Members of the
Opposition believe, as we believe, that if parties to an industrial dispute can be
Drought together, if they can reach conclusions by way of an amicable agreement and these conclusions are such as to make them capable of being extended in the public interest, then that is all to the good. But there will be many occasions on which, with the best will in the world, the process of conciliation will not produce the desired result. Indeed, there may be occasions on which an attempt to impose the process of conciliation compulsorily on one or other of the parties may defeat the possibility of reaching a reasonable and satisfactory settlement of the matter in dispute. That, at least, is the judgment of the Government, and, I believe, of all who have had practical experience in the working of this jurisdiction. So we say that to impose in this rigid way an obligation on the parties to conciliate may, because of the compulsion aspect, defeat its own object, or may at least make that object more difficult to achieve. The Government has no need to go on repeating its own conviction of the desirability of a wider use, in this jurisdiction, of the conciliation process. We have not merely made provision for it in this amending bill ; in one or two places we have pointed up the references in the section so as to throw the emphasis even more clearly in that direction. For those reasons, we believe the Opposition’s amendment is , undesirable. It is not more likely to get results that we all want to achieve than is the Government’s provision already in the bill. The amendment, therefore, is unacceptable.
– I think the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) misunderstands the point regarding conciliation as it will apply under the bill as it stands. Let us look first at the functions of conciliators. It is the Government’s intention, if I understand things clearly, to provide conciliators for a certain purpose. That purpose is to try to get parties to an industrial dispute together so that they may resolve their difficulties and come to an amicable settlement and then, at that point, agree to ;he form of a report to go back to the commissioner to whom the dispute was originally delegated. I think I am clear in my understanding of .the Government’s view on that matter. So, if we believe that that is :a worthwhile function we must look at the way the Government proposes to make arrangements for the conciliator to take up his function - and I think that this is the point the Minister is missingIn tire first instance, the conciliator knows lie is .going into a matter bound only to report on those .things that the parties agree he shall report on. Above him is a commissioner who delegates authority to him. I think the Minister completely loses sight of what this bill really provides to .cover .this point of the operation of conciliation because the hill provides -
The commissioner may, if in his opinion it may assist the parties to an industrial dispute -
Now let us look at that. First of all, the measure imposes on the conciliation commissioner the responsibility of having an opinion in respect of a dispute. The commissioner has to he of the opinion that :i conciliator may he able to help. How does he reach that opinion? Nobody can tell me, after all the .years I have appeared before conciliation commissioners and Arbitration Court judges, that these gentlemen v/’ill form an opinion without first examining the dispute to some degree. If, in point of fact, the responsibility is imposed on a commissioner of forming an opinion about an industrial dispute before he refers it to a conciliator, the first step which is really necessary to achieve conciliation between the parties is thereby destroyed, “because the commissioner will be saddled with the responsibility of arriving at an opinion in respect of the dispute. 1 want to put it to the Minister that no arbitral .authority that is worthwhile will form an .opinion ion .a matter such as an industrial dispute without first examining, fo some extent, the gravamen .of the dispute. The Mi mister says that before .a conciliation commissioner, be he ,a presidential member of the commission or a lay member, can refer a dispute. he must have some opinion in relation to Lt, because ti] ere may he some way round it if he puts a conciliator on to the job of solving it. What does that call for;? It requires, first, a determination whether the dispute is one that, in the opinion of the conciliation commissioner, should be settled by arbitration. If a commissioner is forced *te arrive at such a conclusion, the first .ground necessary for conciliation will be completely destroyed. It would not have been so had if the Minister had left the provision wide enough for a matter to be referred without the commissioner having to gather to himself sufficient information to form an opinion that something might be done by conciliation. But, as I have already said, if there is imposed upon the commissioner the responsibility of forming an opinion in relation to a dispute before he refers it, the first step to conciliation will be destroyed. What would .happen then? A conciliator would approach a dispute in the knowledge that the authority to whom he must report back had formed an opinion about the matter.
– The honorable member’s argument is quite “unrealistic. Things Trill not work out that way in practice, as he knows.
– I know that, whether or not we like it, they will work out that way in practice as between an authority that has power and one that has not.
– This conciliation commissioner system operated before 1947. If a judge had brought to his notice the likelihood, or the .existence, of a dispute he would arrange for a conciliation commission to ;ge to the .spot and do what could be done. That hae happened time .and again.
– But with a difference. Under the act as it stood between 1926 and 1934, a conciliation commissioner had delegated to him a,ll the powers of a single judge. Section 7 .of the act of 1936-34 gave conciliation commissioners the powers ‘of a judge under section 1>6 and ‘section 16a. The commissioners had ‘power also, as prescribed, to heaT and determine disputes, ito make an order or award, .and even to fix maximum penalties. That has been my point fiver ;si»ce this measure came before the Parliament. If the Minister has been advised that conciliators <will have. minder the previsions *>f this “bill, powers .and functions similar to those’ .of conciliation commissioners between 1926 and 1947,I put it to him frankly thathe has been misled. Letus consider the functions prescribed in the 1926-34 act, which remained until 1947. I , am testing my memory now, but I think it was in 1941 that the firstconciliation commissioner, Mr. Mooney, was appointed, and ConciliationCommissioner Rowlands was appointed in Adelaide. The late Chief Judge Drake-Brockman, in addition, had power to appoint, and, in point of fact, did appoint, boards of reference to hear and report, but, in no instance,under the provisions ofthe principal act between 1926 and 1947, was he required to form an opinion in relation to a dispute before he referred it. I put it to the Minister quite strongly that, when he refers to the 1934 consolidated act and the powers of conciliation commissioners, he comes back to the argument that I have used against this hill.
I support my friend the honorable member for Bendigo. If these conciliators are to work in a compartment designed by the Government, they should go into it as free agents, mot under the authority of some one who will judge the dispute and who has already formed an opinion in relation to it. The Minister does not base his argument on sound premises when he talks about the provisions in relation to conciliators in the principal act as it stood before 1947, because we have never before had conciliators whoseonly powerwas to hear the parties and,to the extent that they agreed,report back to an authoritywhich had delegated the hearing of the dispute tothe conciliator. In such circumstances, the conciliators will be in a worse position than were boards of reference in the days of Chief Judge Drake-Brockman. I refer, in particular, to Mr. Vivian Hall, who was later a conciliationcommissioner. When he was delegated authority to hear and determine a case, he dealt with it as a judge, and referred his judgment back to the court for endorsement. When he had power to hear and report, he went into the matter without thechief judge having formed any conclusions about the dispute. I do not thinkthe commissioners willbe happyabout the position ofconciliators, and, in our view, the amendment of the honorable member for Bendigo will at least make some attempt to streamline the system of conciliation.
– Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
Question put -
That the sub-section proposed to be left out (Mr. Clarey’s amendment) stand part of the proposed section.
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. G. J. Bowden..)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Proposed section agreed to.
Proposed section 16q - (1.) If an agreement between all or any of the parties as toan industrial dispute is arrived at, a memorandum of its terms shall be made in writing. (2.) Unless otherwise ordered, and subject to any direction of the Commission, the memorandum, if certified by the Commission, shall, as between the parties to the agreement or any successor to, or any assignee or transmittee of, the business of a party bound by the agreement, including any corporation which has acquired or taken over the business of such a party, have the same effect as, and be deemed to be, an award for all the purposes of this Act. (3.) The Commission may refuse to certify such a memorandum if it is of opinion that -
– Order ! Only one amendment can be moved at a time.
.- I move -
That, in proposed section 16q (2.), the words “ unless otherwise ordered, and subject to any direction of the Commission,” be omitted.
The desire of the Opposition is to have amendments made to proposed section 16q which has relationship to industrial agreements. This provision lays down the means by which an agreement contained in a memorandum in settlement of an industrial dispute can be accepted by the court. There are certain aspects of this proposal to which the Opposition raises very strong objection. We object to any proposal that an agreement which is reached between the parties in settlement of an industrial dispute should not be certified by the commission on the grounds that it is not in the public interest that the agreement should be certified. Proposed section 16q has relationship to industrial agreements generally, and the Opposition desires to amend it in certain respects. The particular amendment which will be dealt with by the committee first concerns subsection (2.), which reads as follows: - (2.) Unless otherwise ordered, and subject to any direction of the Commission, the memorandum, if certified by the Commission, shall, as between the parties to the agreement or any successor to, or any assignee or transmittee of, the business of a party bound by the agreement, including any corporation which has acquired or taken over the business of such a party, have the same effect as, and be deemed to be, an award for all purposes of this act.
The Opposition proposes that the commencing words “Unless otherwise ordered and subject to any direction of the Commission” should be deleted. Those words would enable the commission, under the provisions of this proposed section, to refuse to certify a memorandum, and we think that such a proposal is wrong. One of the purposes of the bill is to enable parties who are in dispute to meet and, if it is at all possible, to settle the differences between them. In the course of negotiations which take place in these circumstances, the parties give way on some matters and, finally, an agreement is reached which is satisfactory to them and which represents a complete settlement of their dispute. They desire that it shall be certified so that it will become a legal document, binding upon the parties or upon the particular occupation concerned.
The proposed section gives power to the commission to refuse to certify such a memorandum. This means that, after all the trouble has been taken by the parties, and probably by a conciliator, the result is that an agreement is reached, but for reasons that may not be stated but which are covered in this provision, the memorandum can be refected, and there is no legal or binding document that is satisfactory to the parties.
We suggest that such a proposal, when it is inserted in a bill of this description, is not in the best interests of concilation and it certainly is not in the best interests of industrial peace. Once the parties have made an agreement, the document in which it is incorporated concerns only themselves. If it is certified by the court, and if it becomes legal and binding upon the parties, it has no effect whatever upon anybody else in the industry. If other organizations of employers or employees have quoted an agreement as a reason why, in their particular industry, a conciliator, a conciliation commissioner, or a judge, should give them certain conditions, the court, right along the line throughout the whole of its history, has refused to accept as evidence or as a reason why it should grant a certain condition or a certain rate of pay the fact that it is contained in an agreement between two parties. So, whatever the terms may be, they are a matter between the parties themselves and have no effect on industrial decisions made by a court anywhere else. The agreement is satisfactory to the parties and for that reason it is essential that it should be given the force of law.
The only reason that I have heard as to why the power contained in this proposed section should be exercised is that it is felt that employers and employees may gang up against the community as a whole. Whilst that statement has been made on many occasions, so far no convincing evidence has ever been given to me or to the committee that such is the case. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt), in hi3 second-reading speech, did mention an agreement between the building industry and the building industry unions. That agreement was designed to bring about continuity of operations in the building industry. Both sides were prepared to accept it and put it into operation, and the mere fact that the agreement was not certified resulted in industrial trouble in that industry. That is bound to happen when a situation arises in which 95 per cent, of employers agree upon certain terms and conditions of employment, and the other 5 per cent, will not agree to them. If those terms and conditions are made law, they are binding upon all employers. If they are not made law, it means that those employers who do not. agree to them, and who are on the fringe or rim of the industry, are constantly in conflict, with the trade unions and with their fellow employers, and instead of having peace in industry we will have unrest, strife and strikes that hold up industry. From whatever angle one looks at this question, there is no sound and just reason why agreements that are made should not be certified, and why the parties who have reached agreement should not be given the security and protection of a legal document. It is for those reasons that I have moved this amendment.
– The amendment moved by the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) raises a very important question of industrial policy. In case there is any contrary impression in the minds of persons who have been listening to the honorable member, I hasten to say that there is nothing novel about the provision in question. Although the honorable member may not have intended to convey this impression, his arguments were put forward in such a manner as to suggest that this was a new provision that we were inserting in the legislation. It is true that the provision has been inserted in this bill which we have brought before the Parliament, but it is a provision of very long standing. In fact, my researches indicate that it was first introduced into the arbitration legislation in about 1928, and that it has remained unchanged in substance ever since. Indeed, even when honorable members opposite had the responsibility of government, they did not overlook what I believe to be a very important requirement of the arbitration system, that is, that it should take into account the public interest. That requirement has become traditional in Australia, and it is accepted that in the great issues that arise between representatives of management and the organizations that speak for working men and women, there should be an authority able to take into account the public interest. I think that principle has commended itself to the Australian people as a whole.
This requirement is particularly necessary, I believe, in an economy that is not so highly competitive or so highly developed as are the economies of more densely populated and more closely settled countries of longer industrial experience than ours. It may well, be that in the United States of America, for example, where there is’ a very highly developed competitive- system, there is- less need for atn authority to step in and, in effect, determine what should be the public interest in relation to a particular dispute or a; particular agreement that may have been reached. But in Australia we have not the same safeguards,, or if they ure present they certainly do nOt apply to the same extent. So, this Parliament has accepted, as I believe the community has accepted over the years, a situation m which our arbitration tribunals are charged with the duty of protecting the public interest on these issues as they arise. That does not mean that, because an agreement provides something more than is provided as an award minimum, the tribunal will necessarily discard that agreement as being contrary to the public interest. It may well be that the parties to the agreement can show that, taking into consideration all the relevant factors, it is fo the public benefit that the provisions of their agreement should apply. In the particular instance that the honorable member for Bendigo has mentioned, which concerned an agreement between building trades employers and employees, the appropriate judge or commissioner may well have taken into account all the pros and cons that could be argued in connexion with the agreement, and have considered them in relation to the public interest. It may be chat, although what is presented to a commissioner is in the form of an agreement, he has some background knowledge which’ suggests to him. that it has been arrived at by some process of industrial coercion. He may consider that the pattern thus established, if adopted generally throughout the industry, would have serious repercussions upon the economy as a whole. A wide variety of circumstances will be weighed by the commissioner When he decides whether or not an agreement should be adopted.
This provision has stood the test of lime, and it is rather astonishing that honorable members opposite now attack it, as a matter of great policy and concern in their eyes, because when they were in a position of power in this place and able to legislate to eliminate this provision from the act they did not choose to do so. I believe that their judgment was sounder then than it is on this occasion when they present to us this amendment. “We believe that we must maintain the element of public interest. The High Court of Australia has indicated that that is a proper matter for arbitrators to bring into their calculations when making determinations I believe that the good sense of the Australian people would lead them to agree that such a provision as this should be continued.
Ml-. CAIRNS (Yarra) [4.52].- It is undoubtedly the policy of the Labour movement to have agreements that are freely entered into by the parties made completely effective. A pretty clear argument in favour of that policy is that if the parties know that their agreement will be effective, their attitude towards the discussions which result in an agreement, and towards the eventual agreement, will be vastly different from what it will be if they think that the agreement may not have binding effect. It seems to me that when Government supporters have appealed for the acceptance of greater responsibility by workers in industry, they have failed to realize that one of the ways in which that result can be obtained is to make the participation of workers in the determination of agreements more substantial. I believe that one of the most necessary reforms of our arbitration system is a requirement that the workers should have greater opportunities to participate directly in the determination of the conditions that will bind them, and that will influence not only their living standards but also their working standards. There is a retrograde tendency in Australia’s arbitration system to centralize authority, to strengthen the powers of authority, and to give to centralized officials, whether they be of the court, the employers or the trade unions, increasing power to determine workers’ conditions.
The Minister for Labour arid National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) has said that this provision has been included in the arbitration legislation for many years. I do not care how long it has been there. I think there is a very strong argument that agreements, once made, should .be made elective, because if the workers cannot rightly and properly feel that they have a substantial say in determining their conditions, we will not achieve the .conditions in industry that are necessary for the greatest productivity. If this kind of agreement is effective we can see ahead to a time when the workers will participate in the determination not only of agreements, but of profits and prices as as well. From my own point of view, and I think from that of the Labour movement also, this would be very desirable, but I am sure that it would not be desirable from the point of view of the Government or those who support it. If the Opposition’s proposal to allow these agreements to have full effect is approved we can look forward to increasing participation by the workers in the determination of conditions in industry. Against this great gain - this great advantage - the Minister poses the public interest. He says that it is necessary that these agreements be subject to the test of public interest.
What is public interest? I think the Minister recognizes that it is a .complex thing. I remind the committee that public interest is determined on .the ground of an assumed - very often, an unassumed - theory which is, usually, an economic theory. As I pointed out the other night, 25 years ago the court, in determining the public interest used, and the government of the day accepted, a thoroughly outmoded economic theory. The court held that when the incomes of a great many members of the community fell, the incomes of all other members of the community must also fall; that when unemployment had been increasing, the public interest demanded that it should increase still further. Those who then determined what was in the public interest were so muddle-headed, or biased, in .economic ways that they accepted that kind of test. Let us now look at the situation in more recent years, when such agreements as that reached in the metal trades in 1952 or 1953 were subjected to the test of public interest. The conciliation commissioners and the court said, “ We are suffering to-day from inflation, and inflation consists of too much spending. If too much spending occurs because incomes .are too high, it is in the public interest not to increase margins in the applications ‘before ns “.
– Order ! The honorable member is a little wide of the amendment that is before us.
– I am trying to discuss public interest and the kind of things that determine public interest. I think it is very relevant.
– Amendment No. 12 on the .list circulated by the Opposition is under discussion.
– That relates to the question whether agreements entered into by the parties should be binding. The test of public interest which I have described would be perfectly valid if it did not result in .the workers, to whom the test waa applied, being required to carry a substantial part of the burden of meeting inflationary pressures.
– Why not apply it to profits ?
– Why not ? The public interest cannot be determined in a onesided -way.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! The matter of public interest is mentioned under proposed amendment No. 13. We are now dealing with No. 12 alone. Each amendment must be debated separately.
– The honorable member for Bendigo raised the question of public interest in moving the amendment and I replied to “him. I was under the impression that we were taking the two aspects together.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The honorable member for Bendigo had no such impression. He moved amendment No. 12.
– But in moving it he did raise the question of public interest. I replied to it but, if I may say so, I do not think that the honorable member for Yarra would be in order in elaborating upon some aspects of public interest.
– I was continuing tindebate along the lines that had been followed hitherto.
– lt might meet the convenience of the committee if we voted on the amendments separately but considered them together.
– They are quite separate. The honorable member for Yarra should direct his remarks to amendment No. 12 of the list circulated by the Opposition.
– If it is your ruling chat this question should not be discussed now, I shall reserve my remarks upon it until we come to amendment No. 13.
.- The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey), in moving his amendment, once more raised the question of the building industry. He mentioned it the other day as illustrating that the amendment would bring peace in industry. He said that when the two sides made an agreement and it was turned down by the Arbitration Court, this led to incessant trouble. Both the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison) and the honorable member for Bendigo described the freezing of the basic wage as a source of irritation to those working in the building industry. I took out the figures of the weekly average earnings in that industry in order to examine the effect that the freezing of the basic wage had had upon it. In the year 1950, the average earnings of the worker engaged in building or construction work were £11.15. The figures for the following years were £13.85, £15.30 and £16.20, respectively. At this point the basic wage was frozen, but for the following year the figure was £17.75, and for the first nine months of the current year it was £18.67. Those figures reveal that, despite the freezing of the basic wage, building workers have received a continually increasing wage.
As I have said, the practice of not allowing agreements to operate without certification by the court is dangerous, but the figures that I have given illustrate that in this case the workers have received a continually increasing wage. The other day, the honorable member for Bendigo mentioned the agreement with Utah Construction Limited. It provided for rates above those ordinarily obtaining in the industry, and proved very successful. The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) said that there were numerous other examples. They merely show that the safeguard provided in the bill is not excessive. If the increase is reasonable, the Arbitration Court will approve it. The real trouble in the industry is the approach to arbitration. If the worker is not satisfied until he gets more than sufficient, and the public interest is thereby jeopardized, such a safeguard is needed. Strikes and other stoppages only cause losses. If higher wages are required, the only way in which they can be paid without an increase of costs is by increasing output. For so long as trade union leaders refuse to approach the problem from the viewpoint that if people want higher wages they must earn them., a safeguard against decisions by conciliation commissioners will be very wise.
Experience has shown that some agreements have provided for a considerable margin over what is regarded as normal in industry. If the margin becomes too great, the public interest may be affected adversely. In the building industry, agreements may increase the cost of workers’ homes. So I believe that a safeguard is required, and I do not like the amendment proposed by the honorable member for Bendigo.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.I want to apologize to the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns). I had forgotten that he was entitled to discuss the whole of proposed section 16q, and that he was not required to confine his remarks to the amendment. I am sorry.
– I think that the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson) has really made out a case for us. I should like to have before the committee the opinions of the individual members of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court on this matter. One factor which is worrying the trade union movement and the court to-day is the unwritten agreements which are being negotiated every day of the year between employers and employees. There has been no increase recently of the wages prescribed for workers in the building industry other than the increase given as a result of the metal trades case. It is probably correct to say that no more overtime has been worked in the building industry during the last three years than was worked in the previous three years. But the wages of building workers have risen. Day by day and week by week, employers in the industry are entering into agreements with their employees to pay £1, £l 10s. and £2 over the award rates. That is so in other industries.
But what happens then? We get a decision such as that given recently, when the authority responsible for the basic wage stated that it could not restore the purchasing power of the basic wage to the previous level because the economy had been worn threadbare, mainly as a result of the wages that were being paid and the co3t level that prevailed in the community. If there could be registered with the court to-morrow, without any regard for the public interest, all the agreements that have been arrived at between employers and employees throughout Australia, we should have a complete picture of what is happening to industrial wage levels. But, at the moment, our hands are tied. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) said that an agreement entered into between an employer and an employee, if registered with the court, might be contrary to the national interest, because once the conditions specified in it became standard conditions as a result of registration by the court, the benefits would flow in all directions. However, under present arrangements, although employers are not entering into, so to speak, official agreements with their employees, they are, for their own purposes, entering into agreements that are not signed.
Let us take the matter to the next stage. Is any member of the committee opposed to incentive payments as a means of increasing production? I think the Minister knows that every day incentive payment arrangements are being negotiated which, in many respects, depart from the hours and wages prescribed in the awards, and that not one of those arrangements is written into an agreement. Employers are engaging hun dreds - I say that advisedly - of time and motion study engineers whose only job is to study production times. But the Government refuses to face reality. This nation is developing fast, but the Government says that what was good enough for the horse and buggy days is good enough for 1956. It is not good enough for the Labour party or for the trade unionists of this country.
We on this side of the chamber believe in full employment, and the Government says that it, too, believes in full employment. We know that a great deal of racketeering is going on among employers who, in a period of full employment, are gambling to obtain the labour they need to make higher profits. I was surprised to hear the Minister say that the competitive conditions in America might well be the reason for the non-existence of this type of control in that country. We have got to start to compete with the Americans. The only way in which we can do so is to produce on the same lines as they do and, if possible, at a lower cost. There is only one way in which we can do that. The Government believes that what was done in the horse and buggy days is good enough now, but we do not share that view. We believe that, in order to compete with other nations, we must recognize agreements between Australian employers and employees of the type that are entered into between employers and employees overseas. Even if such an agreement, although originally affecting only one industry, would ultimately affect other industries, if registered, it should be registered with the court so that the workers on the job and managements will know where they are going.
Let us be honest about this matter. We want that to be done because we know there are thousands of employees in Australia who are prepared now to engage in incentive payment schemes, but we know also that on the very first day when there were two men looking for one job. what was previously the incentive rate of production would become the norm. We know that, under such conditions, the good employer would go to the wall. He would become the Aunt Sally, so to speak, of bad employers and proprietors of backyard sweat-shops.
– It is- the old, old story. We heard that 50 years ago.
– Of course we heard it 50 years ago.
– But that has never happened.
– Many members of the committee know what is’ happening in industry to-day. Already, an. organization, of time and motion study engineers has. been established with a membership of over 200. It is doing nothing, but write incentive payments agreements, not one of which is registered..
I finish on the note on which- 1 started. Ob this- matter,, I should like- to’ have the opinion of those who will administer the industrial laws of Australia. They know that, unless Chey are freed from thos obligation, they will be unable to- bring into the field of production, those- real contracts between- employer and employee which will give to the; employee an assurance that he will get something for his. increased efficiency. But the authority established by this legislation’ will not register any agreement contrary to, let us say, the principles embodied: in. standard hours decisions. We say that what was good enough in 1936 is not good enough in 1956. We believe that the face of our industrial production is changing. We believe that it must change to enable us to compete, with the secondary industries of other countries. For those reasons,, we press strongly the amendment that we have- proposed.
– The honorable member for- Blaxland’ (Mr. E. James Harrison), who has just stated his views- on this particular clause-, was remarkable for one piece of inconsistency when, he advocated that we emulate American methods, at the same time as he attacked the practice of making incentive payments.
– I did not a 1.tack it.
– The honorable member said that the first day that two’ persons were- looking for the same job the employer- would make the incentive rate of output the norm. As a matter of fact, it is common knowledge that there hm been, some; degree of unemployment, perhaps not a high degree,, virtually throughout the whole history of the United States’ economy, but incentive schemes operate there, and operate very extensively. However, I do not propose to. be led. off. info a discussion,, however interesting and useful’ it might be at this point of time, on. the. merits of incentive payment- schemes-, in the Australian economy. I do,, however, desire to bring the discussion on the public interest back to two particular points. I should like, since mention has been made of an’ agreement made by master builders, to give the committee a little more detail, on that matter, because it demonstrates how the situation in Australia, in which we have a federal system of arbitration, a State system of arbitration,, and a long-standing practice among industrial tribunals of protecting the public interest, differs so remarkably from that in certain other countries. I believe that the facts, if. they can be presented fully, in relation to th,recent agreement made by master builders, shows how necessary some, such safeguard is.
Jin that case,, the commissioner was- not prepared to certify to an. agreement between the building trades’ unions and metropolitan, members of the- Master Builders Association of Victoria, at a time- when the Builder* and Allied Trades Association,, and the- Master Builders Associations of Geelong, Bendigo’ and Ballarat, and others were opposed to- it. So- it was not just an. agreement between) the employers and the- unions. Therewere very considerable sections of employers in the same field of industry who< were themselves opposing what another group of. employers proposed te do-. An. interesting feature is that the Industrial Appeals Court upheld the appeal against the State Wages Board’s determination in respect of builders’’ labourers. Thus1, in respect of a most important area of industrial activity - the building trades, which affect the prices of homes of trade unionists and wage-earners generally - the federal tribunal’ and the State tribunal were in line. Let us carry the matter a stage1 further in order to show that the thinking of honorable gentlemen opposite on this matter has been, to put it quite mildly, superficial. They know that a certified agreement has’ the effect of an award.
– That is right.
– And. we’ intend it, to have: that: effect.
Me. HAROLD HOLT. - They intend iti to have that effect,, and. they know that a Commonwealth award overrides State law.
– Only as it affects the parties to the* agreement.
– There could be this extraordinary situation - that a private agreement between parties, because it was automatically certified By the Commonwealth tribunal, would override State law on exactly the same subject-matter.
– Only in respect of the? parties- to the agreement.
– At least theparties could get together and agree on* something which was* contrary to the law m prescribed by the State. We in the1 Commonwealth Parliament would then’ say,, in effect, to our opposite- numbers in State parliaments!: “ It is all very well for you to prescribe this, or that, but as far as we are concerned Tom and Dick cam come to an agreement, with Harry and. Joe, and we do not have any regard to whether or not it is in the public interest. Despite, the fact that: you have legislated in such and such, a way, we wash our hands of the whole matter”. I do not think that that would make for improved! Commonwealth-State’ relations. The example I have cited, illustrate* the danger of attempting to apply the practices of other countries to Australian conditions’. Australian practice should be viewed only against the background of our traditional: industrial system, of which we have had long experience. As I said when I spoke- earlier on this matter, the requirement that industrial tribunals’ should take heed of the public interest is of very long standing, and has become firmly established in the1 industrial arbitration system of this country.
.- The contribution which has been made by the Minister for Immigration. (Mr. Harold Holt) is an exceedingly interesting one, but one feel’s that it has not helped us, on this side of the House at any rate, in respect of the question which is now being considered. He has referred at length to the agreement made by master builders, and he has also suggested thar if the Opposition’s proposals are put into effect relations’ between the Commonwealth and the States- on industrial matters will be adversely affected. The whole- history of such relations between the Commonwealth and the States is a record1 of the- transfer from State jurisdiction to- federal jurisdiction of quit, a large number of industries which originally operated under awards of wages boards and State courts. The determination- of wages and working conditions in those industries was transferred from State- to Federal control By the choice1 of the parties. That tendency has1 been evident right throughout the history of the Arbitration Court, and to the extent that our industry and population grow so that tendency will become stronger. I cannot see why, if a body of master Builders in Melbourne! meets employees in conference, comes, to an agreement and says, “We want thi* agreement registered.”,, that should in any way upset the relations between the Commonwealth, and the States, particularly when one bears, in mind the fact that onmore than one occasion, the Arbitration. Court has made extensive awards covering the building, industry. I call, to the Minister’s mind the award which, was made by the late Chief Judge DrakeBrockman during the war period in regard to- the. building industry,, when, he’ prescribed, considerably improved conditions, much better than: those awarded by State courts for persons doing construction work.. The1 fact that building employers in Ballarat, Geelong and else where disapproved of the agreement is nothing new.. There was an agreement between a section of master builders in. Melbourne who were- engaged on entirely different construction work from that on. which master builders at Geelong,. Ballarat or Bendigo were1 engaged. In; Melbourne, the master builders were* building extremely large factories and large warehouses,, and doing substantial construction work the- like of which is not done in Ballarat, Bendigo or Geelong. They were doing work of a special character, and because they desired continuity of employment and good industrial relations, they made an agreement. That agreement should have been certified and registered, because it was made between parties who hoped to obtain by it better industrial relations and continuity of employment in Melbourne. The court did not register it and, instead of continuity of employment being achieved, the master builders who were not prepared to put the new rates into operation unless the court certified the agreement, found themselves confronted with all sorts of difficulties.
It must be borne in mind that we are living in a rapidly changing era. The Minister has suggested that, because this provision has been part of the arbitration law for many years, it should be retained. [ speak now as one who has had considerable experience in industrial matters, and I can say to the committee sincerely and conscientiously that the pressure from the trade union movement for the court to certify agreements is stronger to-day than I have ever known it to be in the past. It is stronger because in the trade union movement there is a desire to have differences with employers settled by means of conferences - by collective bargaining. If we are to try collective bargaining as a means of overcoming our difficulties, then the machinery must be provided to enable the parties to have their decisions registered and become law. To say that, because we did not worry about it in 1924, we should not worry about it to-day is an indication that we are not keeping pace with the changing thought of the community, which must occur as the economy becomes more complex and expands in every direction.
– Would the honorable member take the same view if unemployment developed and State governments continued to operate the quarterly adjustment process, and if by private agreement - not certified as being in the public interest, but simply a private agreement between employers and employees - it was agreed that those adjustments should be abolished and the reduced wage accepted?
– -The Minister is putting up a hypothetical case.
– I am putting forward a case that operates the other way.
– 1 know that in the past agreements have been made. As a matter of fact, the adjustment of wages started by agreement between the employers and employees in 1918 and 1919 before the court itself put into operation such a scheme. I know that at the end of 1918 I negotiated with the wool brokers a half-yearly adjustment of wages in accordance with the statistician’s figures. The trade union movement - and I point out that agreements are made between unions and employers, because the employers are ‘ not prepared to negotiate with individuals - would never agree to the abolition of the adjustment of wages. The unions may be forced to accept it following a decision by the court, but they believe that by the adjustment of wages we get a static standard of living, as far as it can be made static, when prices are changing either upwards or downwards.
I do not wish to cover the ground that is being covered by the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) and I hope that at a later stage he will continue to advance to the committee his views on these matters. But I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service how the Arbitration Court determines what is in the public interest. So far as the builders’ agreement is concerned, we know that, because the wages agreed to were higher, the agreement was deemed not to be in the public interest. If a trade union official were able to meet a group of employers in conference and they agreed upon the adoption of the 38-hour week instead of a 40-hour week, would the court, although the employer and the employees know the condition of their industry, say that because the agreement was opposed to the practice of the court it was not in the public interest and would not be registered ?
– Would the same thing apply if they agreed to adopt a 44-hour week?
– The court has determined that a 40-hour week shall bc worked. As the Minister knows, if one makes a legal award, which has all the force of legislation, one will not let people make decisions or come to agreements that will make conditions inferior to the award conditions.
– The honorable member has confirmed my point about State legislation.
– Is the Minister suggesting that, in the society in which we live to-day, employers and employees should not improve the conditions of industry by agreement? If one says that conditions of industry cannot be improved by individual agreement between employer and employee, one is saying, in effect, that what the court says is to be the minimum wage shall be the maximum wage.
– I am not saying that.
– One is saying, in effect, that what the court says is to be the greatest number of hours worked in each week is to be regarded as the minimum number of hours, because-
– Let us be clear, t am saying that we could have a situation at a time when the bargaining strength was in the hands of the employer whereby the employee would accept conditions inferior to those prescribed by State legislation by simply going through the process of entering into a private agreement which had the effect of an overriding award.
– That is not a clear example, because employees cannot enter into agreements. The unions make the agreements.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I am amazed at the attitude that has been adopted by honorable members opposite in regard to this matter. It seems to me that there is nothing whatever to prevent a group of employers and employees coming to some agreement ; but, putting it quite baldly, the point of view of honorable members opposite is that, no matter to what degree the agreement might be contrary to public interest, and irrespective of whether the agreement conditions are superior or inferior to existing award conditions, they insist that it must be registered in the court and have the court’s full blessing, and that the full machinery of the court must be utilized to enforce it as an award. That seems to me to be an amazing proposition.
– That is not our proposition at all.
– Opposition members are saying, in effect, that where employers or employees wish to enter into a bargaining process, they are entitled to do so without any regard for national interest. If there is one thing that affects every trade unionist in this country, and, in the long term, industrial peace, it is the over-all economic position - the overall public interest. To suggest that public interest should not be regarded by the court when it comes to a question of registering an agreement is to expose the whole of our economic system to pressures from individual groups of employers or employees. I suggest that their views are quite contrary to what would be expected of any normal trade unionist. Indeed, the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) stated that their idea should be persisted with, because there was a tendency for Commonwealth legislation to override State legislation in the arbitration field. If that reason is to be accepted, the court should be more vigilant than ever in guarding the public interest. There is no restriction on employers and employees agreeing to incentive payment schemes or anything else, provided they keep the agreement
– To themselves.
– Provided they limit them to the scope of the agreement. “Why should the court be forced to give its blessing to, and to employ all its machinery to enforce, such an agreement when it is inclined to the view that the agreement is not in the interest of the country?
– How does it arrive at that decision?
– The court is an impartial body, and it is far better to have an impartial body reviewing what is in the national interest than to have a body of people who are completely irresponsible, or who could ‘be completely irresponsible, insisting on having registered an agreement that they know is not in the national interest, but in the interest of only a particular section of the society. I do not agree with the suggestion of honorable members opposite that the public interest should not be regarded when agreements are brought before the court.
.- I disagree most heartily with the comments of the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Freeth) in which he put forward the proposition that the judges should determine just what is the public interest. The whole history of arbitration since it was inaugurated in this country some 50 years ago has demonstrated beyond any reasonable doubt that the learned judges themselves differ very violently on what constitutes public interest, incontrovertible facts show that the judges themselves have entirely different conceptions of what the phrase “ public interest “ means. Therefore, the Labour party does not accept the proposition that they are ‘he alpha and omega on what constitutes public interest.
All over the world to-day, there is a trend towards round-table conferences. In passing, I point out that this bill provides for the appointment of conciliators. Is this Parliament to say, on the one hand, “ We stand for conciliation so far as it is possible “, and then, on the other hand, say, “ We will utilize other machinery contained in the bill to stop an agreement which might have been arrived at unanimously between conflicting parties”? After all, are we to be humbugged ? If we believe in conciliation and in the partners in industry getting round the conference table and thrashing out their problems, the Opposition’s amendment should be accepted. I cannot imagine hard-headed businessmen giving anything away if they think the industry cannot afford it. If they did, they would not be hard-headed business men. They should have the opportunity to come to an agreement with the workers on an amount that the section of industry they represent can afford. They have firsthand knowledge of what the industry can afford. I say in all seriousness that it the committee disagrees with the proposition of the Labour party, a blow will definitely be dealt at the conciliation processes contained in this bill.
If w-e wish to advance the national interest, we should adopt the proposition of the Opposition. The agreement between the authorities who built the refinery at Altona and the workers engaged in that project shows beyond any doubt that it was in the public interest to agree to that proposition. I recall that when the wage rates were announced in the paper, certain people who support honorable members opposite said to me, “ The rates are too high ; industry cannot afford them”. Yet, as a result of the adoption of those rates, that project was finished three months before the scheduled time, proving conclusively that it is in the national interest to get the men in the frame of mind where they are prepared to give their best. Their minds were not agitated by feelings of injustice and it was in the national interest to increase the wage rate. What was reasonable in the case of the Eildon Weir and in the case of the Altona refinery could be multiplied a thousand times if the machinery for such .agreements were allowed to exist
At the present time all that is being done is that unofficial agreements between the parties are being condoned. I know of a hundred cases in the .engineering industry, in which I worked before I came to this chamber, where employees and employers got together and the employers decided to pay fi, or 30s. or even £2 over the award rate. In some cases the parties did not have to get together because the employers came to the employees and said., “We will give you £2 over the award rate “. These things have created a most friendly state of mind in the workshops concerned. But are we to declare now that because some judge says the .system is not in the public interest, these agreements are not to be allowed? It is important to see that a friendly feeling exists in industry. We want industry run smoothly, with a contented rank and file and a satisfied management. A satisfied management and a contented rank and file should be able to conclude an agreement that is mutually acceptable to them.
This Parliament should not pass legislation that will jeopardize industrial peace in the industries concerned. Wo should advance with the times and take a leaf out of the book of other countries. Wo should say, “ While the system has worked fairly satisfactorily up to u point, we think that the proposition submitted by the Labour party is a definite improvement in the Australian arbitration system and should be adopted by this chamber “.
– I should like to refer first to a statement made by the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Freeth). He mentioned normal trade unionists. During the war if an overcoat given to a man in the “ Q “ store fitted him, somebody said, “ You cannot be normal “. That applies to the trade unionist who fits the honorable member’s idea of normality. There is a very serious conflict between the views expressed on this occasion by honorable members on the other side and the views they have expressed in previous instances. They are advocates of private enterprise and of freedom of enterprise, yet they want to apply sanctions and checks to stop private bargaining and to prevent people arriving at agreements which might be . satisfactory to themselves but which apparently are against this much-quoted business of the public interest.
What is public interest? The public interest on all these occasions is against the interests of the workers and the people represented by members of the Labour party. The public interest, when it is interpreted by the courts, is always towards a lowering of wage standards or maintaining the status quo. There are very few instances in which that is not so. We oppose putting into the hands of a court the power to interpret on behalf of 9,000,000 Australians just what is the public interest. After all, one of the serious features of the arbitration system is the handing over of an important part of the economics of the country - almost the ruling of the country -to a body outside the control of the Parliament. That is serious departure from parliamentary responsibility. The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson), by interjection, said, “Where should this sort of decision rest ? “ Of course, it should rest here. The constitutional position makes it difficult for us to make that sort of decision at the moment, although there are very few instances in which a concrete attempt has been made by the Parliament to decide this sort of issue.
– There have been six referendums.
– “ Referenda “ is the plural. We oppose the attempt to limit the right of bodies of employers and employees to arrive at a conclusion satisfactory to themselves. We oppose the attempt to apply sanctions to these agreements. If public interest is interpreted to mean that a group of employees shall not have higher wages, then public interest demands that the same sort of sanction be applied against the people who are making profits. There is a clear conflict of principle here between the things that honorable members opposite have been espousing in respect of the freedom of enterprise and private enterprise, and the application of limitations on these agreements. I should like to hear an honorable member opposite explain exactly how he reconciles what are to me apparent contradictions.
.- When this debate started I was inclined to support the view of the Opposition. Pome honorable members opposite laugh at that statement, but they may not be inclined to laugh in a few moments. After hearing the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison), I could sec the purpose of this amendment, and that view has been confirmed by the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant). If I heard him aright, the honorable member for Wills said a few moments ago that the Labour party was opposed to employers and employees making these private arrangements.
– I did not say anything of the sort.
– It sounded very much like it to me, and I checked with my colleagues on my right.
– The honorable member heard noises.
– The honorable member for Kingsford-Smith makes noises, and recently he has got a bit worse.
– Order ! The honorable member for Kingsford-Smith will remain silent.
– If management and labour are to be prevented from making private arrangements which provide that the wage rates to be paid are above the minimum rates in the award, then the people who will be disadvantageous^ affected will be the workers themselves.
The honorable member for Blaxland made some reference to rackets in connexion with employers seeking the labour that they require, and then moved very smartly on to the subject of incentive payments. He implied that men who were prepared to work for higher wages were something akin to scabs. If that is the Labour party’s attitude to men working for higher wages the workers will be the ones who will finally suffer.
– In the public interest.
– It is all very well for the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) to talk about the public interest. He will start to tell us something that he learned at Oxford or somewhere else, but it will not cut any ice. The point is that if some workers are prepared to accept arrangements with employers, and there is complete understanding between them, there is nothing wrong with that. But if the Labour party, through its representatives in this Parliament, wants such arrangements written into an award, the workers will be at a disadvantage finally, because other workers will ask for these wages, and industry will find that it will not be able to pay them all round.
Last week, the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird) praised the activities of American companies in Australia. To-day, I heard him talk about the Eildon Weir and the refinery at Altona. There is already a big refinery at Kwinana, in Western Australia, lt is a well-known fact that the employers engaged in building these projects were paying far above the basic wage and the normal level of margins. If the employers are prepared to pay extra to have such jobs completed more quickly, who benefits? The worker benefits. The employer certainly gets his share of the benefit, too, but so long as the worker is not penalized, that is a good thing. The Labour party should realize that, as the honorable member for Bendigo has said, we are living in a rapidly changing era with rapidly changing ideas in the industrial field. -I know that the honorable member for Batman has been associated with the Amalgamated Engineers Union. I was a member of the’ same union when it was the Amalgamated Society of Engineers.
– Where did the honorable member serve his time?
– I served my time in the Midland Junction workshops in Western Australia.
– I thought it was in Long Bay.
– That is where the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith went.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order ! The honorable member for Kingsford-Smith will maintain order.
– As both the Minister and the honorable member for Batman have pointed out, the words of which the Opposition complains have been in the legislation since about 1928. If those words are deleted, the result will be that the memorandum will be taken as an award. Then where will we finish up? A company which is prepared to pay a few pounds over the award rate because it has the ability to do so may have a host of things in mind when it does that. If the higher payment made by one company to its workers is held to be the level of payment which should apply to other workers engaged in the same industry, we will find thai the public interest will be very adversely served, because it is probable that other companies will not be able to pay thai higher wage and still operate profitably. Then where would we find ourselves? Honorable members opposite, who are supposed to be the mouthpiece of the workers in this Parliament, would bp doing the workers the greatest disservice if they forced such a principle on industry.
Having listened to honorable members opposite expounding what they claim to be the views of the trade unions outside - a claim that I emphatically repudiate - I think they are talking only for talking’s sake, because we have had no complaints generally from workers at the Eildon Weir or anywhere else about the legislation. I defy any honorable member to find a group of trade unionists who will throw their bread and butter away because some men are getting a few shillings a week more than other mcn. We are in a rapidly changing era. A provision that an agreement to pay higher rates should form part of an award would finally be disadvantageous to the workers, and therefore I oppose the amendment most strongly.
.- It is unusual to hear a member of the Australian Country party speaking so authoritatively on what the members of trade unions think about legislation, it is particularly unusual to hear a member of that party advancing the argument that a trade unionist who gets an extra £2 a week as a result of an agreement with his employer, is somehow doing himself an injury. I had considerable difficulty in following the honorable member’s line of reasoning, and T think that members of trade unions would also have considerable difficulty in following his kind of reasoning. But, of course, trade unionists would find the explanation for such tangled reasoning once they knew that it came from a member of the Australian Country party. They would then be able to put it in its right perspective.
I have mentioned before the question of the determination of what is the public interest in cases when, as the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) put it, the bargaining power is in the hands of the employee - the situation that we have seen in recent years. In such cases the decision of the court has been that wages should be stabilized in the public interest. In cases on appeal, the court has ruled that, in order that inflation might be controlled, wage increases should not take place. That is the kind of reasoning that we have had when the court has determined what the public interest is in such cases. The honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Ereeth), in his contribution to the debate, implied that it was in the public interest to prevent employers from granting wage increases to their employees, and then passing the additional cost of production on in the form of increased prices for their products which would yield them increased profits. I remind the honorable member for Forrest that the element of profit incentive always exists in industry, and if it is possible for any employer to raise his prices arbitrarily he will raise them in order to make more profit out of his product. The effect of an agreement to pay the employees higher wages is that, the profit which the employer is already making from the prices fixed by him, which will be the maximum prices that the market will stand, will be shared by flu: employees. Such increases are not general increases but are specific increases, and it is much more likely thai the process of passing the increase on in the form of higher prices will occur in the case of a general increase than in the case of a particular employer or industry paying increased wages.
I should like to refer now to the point raised by the Minister in an interjection when the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) was speaking. The Minister referred to the bargaining power being, as he put it, in the hands of the employer. Of course, that is a situation which the Government has promised will not occur, because the Government has committed itself to the principle of full employment, and does not look forward in the near future to the possibility that the bargaining power will go from the employees to the employers, placing the employers in a dominating position. The Government has never regarded such a situation as a possibility, but I think it is one that we could well afford to look at, because it may well arise. What has the court defined- as’ the public interest cn occasions when employers have been in the’ dominating position ? I submit that when there is unemployment and when prices are falling the court is likely to say that it is in the public interest for wages to fall.
I do not think a court would act at the present time as a shield for the workers in such circumstances, as the Minister put it the other night, any more than the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration did in the 1930’s. I think that, on the whole, the court, in coming to its conclusions about what is in. the public interest, has accepted the kind of reasoning which has imposed a burden upon the workers. I do not suggest that that alone is the result of any particular bias on the part of the judges. It is just the way things work out.
Finally, I suggest that it is in the public interest to create a situation in which the employees in industry can participate in, and accept responsibility for, the determination of wages and working conditions. I believe that, if the amendment were accepted, so that agreements entered into willingly by the parties could be given effect, we should encourage direct participation in, and responsibility for, the determination of those conditions by employees, and I think we could look forward to improved conditions and greater responsibility - the very thing that the Government says it wishes to obtain. But I believe that objective is inconsistent with the present process of taking away the power of employers and employees to determine these very conditions.
.- Mr. Temporary Chairman–
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) agreed to -
That the question he now put.
Amendment (by Mr. Clarey) negatived -
That, in proposed section l6Q (3.), the words “ if it is of opinion that “ be left out with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: - “only if”.
Amendment (by Mr. Clarey) proposed -
That, in proposed section16Q (3.), paragraph (c) be omitted.
Question put -
That the paragraph proposed to be omitted (Mr. ClArey’s amendment) stand part of the proposed section.
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. G. J.BOW den.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Proposed section agreed to.
Sitting suspended from 6.5 to 8 p.m.
Debate resumed from the 29th May (vide page 2563), on motion by Mr. Harold Holt -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Suspension of Standing ORDERS
Motion (by Sir Eric ‘Harrison) - by leave - agreed to -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) from making his speech without limitation of time.
– Mr. Deputy Speaker, T am obliged to the House for giving me the opportunity of speaking without restriction because, in my opinion, this is an extremely important piece of legislation. In the view of the Opposition - and I think it can be established beyond any doubt - this bill represents, not an impartial and just way of dealing with the difficulties of the waterfront in Australia, but a partisan way. Undoubtedly, as will be proved by instance after instance that will be given, if not by myself, then by my colleagues, the bill discriminates against the trade unionists because of its treatment, on the one hand, of the stevedores who are the shipping companies a3 contrasted with its treatment of trade unionists. The bill shows partisanship in favour of the shipowners and against the trade unionists which I can hardly believe that the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) who is in charge of the bill can excuse, let alone justify.
In coming to this great topic of the waterfront and the problem of stevedoring, the Minister pointed out in his speech that the record of the industry was one of turbulence, and that is true. But he must be careful before using phrases like that because that is not a phrase which has been applied only recently to the industry. It is a phrase that was applied by Mr. Justice Higgins, who, more than 40 years ago, made the first award in this industry.
– What about talking to the House instead of to the Opposition?
– Will the right honorable gentleman who is going to take a public position overseas try to behave himself? I know that he will have to behave himself later, but he should try to do so now. I want the opportunity to put my case in my own way and I am going to do it. The right honorable gentleman will not stop me.
– Order !
– I was merely pointing out that the history of the waterfront was such that certain events led to the introduction; first of all, by the Curtin Government, of regulations under the national security legislation in relation to the waterfront and in connexion with stevedoring in Australia; and later to the legislation that was passed by the Chifley Government. The act of 1949 has remained on the statute-book, through all the years of office of the present Government until the commencement of last year, with only one amendment. No other amendments were made. That law has stood unchallenged by the Parliament or the Government during all that period.
When I was interrupted a moment ago, I was referring to the fact that the history of the waterfront is one of great struggle by the trade union in this industry, as in so many other industries in Australia. Mr. Justice Higgins, way back in 1914, in making the first award for the waterfront referred to these features of this difficult industry. I should like to read two or three sentences from his judgment. He said -
The vital facts of the position are that the work is casual, uncertain; that the jobs are short; that the men have to wait often fruitlessly and that the necessities of the man and his dependants are certain, continuous, incessant. Under existing circumstances, with the lack of organization among the employers as to the times for arrival and departure of vessels and as to the employment of men, each employer naturally endeavours to have at his wharf as many men as he may require on his busiest days and there is on nearly every day a surplus of men seeking employment at most wharves.
That is the background of the problem and, to some extent, the problem is still with us. Mr. Justice Higgins there referred to the lack of organization in the industry affecting the organization by the shipping companies and the stevedores as to the times of arrival of their vessels. That is one of the great problems of this industry. Mr. Justice Higgins pointed to the legal principle to be applied to the waterside workers. Mr. Justice Higgins was probably the greatest industrial arbitration judge in the history of this country, and possibly in the history of the world. That is recognized throughout the world by all scholars in this difficult and important subject. He said of the employees -
Their service to the public is not confined to the actual physical exertion. They serve the public by waiting and in readiness for ships to come. They are entitled at the least to food, clothes aud shelter for themselves and their dependants during the whole time of this service. If a man keeps a horse he has to feed the horse on days when he does not use him as well as when he does.
That was rather a graphic way of putting a truth which is so often denied. He went on -
If he keeps two or more horses and uses them in rotation they must be fed all the time.
Then he gave reasons for making the fu sv award. But the award, in those days, was made under conditions of turbulence. Right from the 18909 to 1914 there were struggles in the industry and there was the turbulence to which the judge referred. At that time reference was often made to turbulence in relation to the Waterside Workers Federation when it was led by a gentleman who became famous, not only in this country, but throughout the world. I refer to the late Right Honorable W. M. Hughes, who was then president of the federation. If ever there was a turbulent leader of a union - not in a bad sense but in a true sense - who was determined to see that the men got justice, it was Hughes. That has been characteristic of the industry ever since.
Mr. Justice Foster was appointed to inquire into this very industry by the Chifley Government in 1946. He referred to its long history. Trade unionism in Australia, not merely on the waterfront, owes a great deal to the solidarity and loyalty of the men working on the waterfront, just as they themselves owe a great deal to other unions. They had struggles, just as the Australian Workers Union had struggles, against attempts by employers to form unions for the purpose of dividing and destroying the bona fide trade unions. In the pastoral industry in New South Wales an attempt was made to. form what was called a machine shearers’ union, which was financed by the employers in an attempt to destroy the registered trade union. Similarly, in the waterfront industry in some States, an attempt was made, years later, to form a bogus union. By “ bogus union “, .1 mean that it did not represent the views of the majority. Its purpose was to destroy the Waterside Workers Federation. In my opinion, this bill is aimed at the trade unions. My friend, the Minister for Labour and National Service, talked about the monopoly of the trade unions. Apparently, according to him, if there is one union covering a calling, that is a monopoly. It is a strange thing to call it a “ monopoly “. lt is not a “ monopoly “ in any real sense of the word. It is not the “ monopoly “ of the shipowners or the stevedores who have no competition in their trade and who have eliminated rivalries so that no other person can come into the field ! It is a very different type of monopoly from that. I think it is a misuse of the term, although I understand how often it if used. Perhaps it is convenient to use it.
What do we find with regard to the problem on the waterfront? A case wen to the High Court in connexion with the award. We must consider the history of the trade unions and the employers in relation to each industry with which the Parliament has to deal. I remind honorable members of the formation, in about 1924, of what was called the Shipping Bureau. That bureau was set up as an employer of labour, but Mr. Justice Isaacs, of the High Court of Australia, said, in his judgment -
The evidence leads … to the conclusion that “The Shipping Bureau”-
Which is the body established by the shipowners and the stevedoring companies - was no independent persona and was never intended to he more than an instrument operated by and at the will of the various real persons who had combined for the purpose. It is a mere labour concentration camp from which supplies can be drawn by the parties interested as and when they need them . . . All the complications . . . are machinery and part of the method for doing indirectly and in association what each could not do directly and singly.
That means, of course, that in order to circumvent the award of the Commonwealth court a body called the Shipping bureau was formed. It was not directly bound by the award. The stevedoring companies were so bound, and the formation of the bureau was a device .to defeat die purpose of the court’s decision.
Mr. Justice Piddington, another great arbitration judge, referred to the formation of the rival union in this very industry. He said -
The objecting union was formed at a time, mid in a spirit, of sharp antagonism to the applicant branch. It co-operated . . . with the Shipping Labour Bureau,-
Which is the body that was denounced in r he High Court judgment. Mr. Justice Piddington described it in these words -
The recognized citadel of those shipowners who sought the destruction of the Waterside Workers Federation’s influence.
That was the situation in 1924, according to Mr. Justice Piddington, who had heard the relevant evidence. The shipowners and the stevedores, who were the agents and servants of the shipowners, were acting together, with the object of getting rid of a union that was fighting for the interests of its members in the industry. Mr. Justice Piddington went on to say This citadel turned out … to be a thing of mere cardboard walls and painted battlements. It fell to pieces after the decision if the High Court.
That is the decision of Mr. Justice Isaacs that I have already mentioned.
That was the situation in the twenties. The conditions on the waterfront during the depression were so unsatisfactory, and so disgraceful from the point of view of wage justice, that they t i e no doubt well remembered to-day by those connected with the industry. Later, as I have told the House, Mr. Justice Foster had to consider all that history of the industry, and to decide whether a stevedoring organization that had operated during the war should be re-established in the post-war period. He dealt with the operation of the first stevedoring industry commission, and said that there were certain features about it which he criticized. Then he went on to «ay that conditions, so far as the Australian war effort was concerned, would have been indeed much worse had that organization not existed, and he recommended that a similar body be established. The important point is this:
He recommended, when speaking of this organization, that there was room for only one union in the various ports. Subject to the exceptions of one or two ports in distant parts of Australia, where either the Australian Workers Union or the North Australian Workers Union does the stevedoring work, he gave it as his opinion that the Waterside Workers Federation should be, not the favoured body but the responsible body to provide thu necessary labour to perform the stevedoring operations. Mr. Justice Foster had this to say -
It needs no argument to suggest that the practical administration of industrial relations can most conveniently be served by the recognition of one and not several unions.
Then he recommended the appointment of the body that subsequently came into existence, and later certain changes were made and the 1949 legislation was passed, f have before me copies of many portions of his judgment. Of course the shipowners and stevedoring companies had said that everything that was done during the war period under the administration of the organization then existing had been a failure. The then Opposition parties in this House also put forward that view, but it is interesting to note that Sir Thomas Gordon, who was Director of Shipping and who represented the British Ministry of Shipping in this country, gave praise to that wartime organization, and it was revealed, during the activities of the commission or board, that there was an appalling lack of decent facilities on the Australian waterfront. The governments led by Mr. Curtin and Mr. Chifley spent nearly £200,000 in contributing towards the improvement of that position and the provision of amenities on the waterfront. [ mention these matters, but I know that they do not cover the whole field- ‘
– I rise to order. I am wondering whether the right honorable gentleman is quite in order in speaking to this bill. The House will recall that some time ago he took money as a paid advocate for the Waterside Workers Federation to defend the Communists in that federation, and his Communist paymaster is now sitting in the House, beaming benign approval on the performance of the right honorable gentleman, who is addressing himself, not to this bill, but to making good the Communist cause. It will be recalled-
Opposition members interjecting,
– Older ! I cannot hear the honorable member.
– It will be recalled that on a previous occasion when the right honorable gentleman was speaking on the Communist legislation, having taken money in the courts in regard to it, the House passed a motion for the suspension of Standing Orders in order to allow him to continue his speech. I am wondering whether, in order to put this matter in order, we should now move for the suspension of the Standing Orders to enable the right honorable gentleman to continue his remarks, which, I think, in view of rulings in the House of Commons, are now out of order. He Ls speaking here, holding a brief for the Communist paymaster-
Opposition members interjecting,
– Order I On the point of order, I rule that the Leader of the Opposition is quite entitled to speak on this measure.
– Why did you not say so earlier, Mr. Deputy Speaker?
– If the honorable member for Parkes is interested be must declare himself on this matter. He has not declared himself in relation to the point of order taken by the honorable member for Mackellar against the Leader of the Opposition.
– Action should have been taken by the Chair.
– Mr. Deputy Speaker, I object very strongly to the words ll S.0 by the honorable member for Mackellar.
– Order !
– Your ruling enables me to continue, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but I should say, I think, that the insinuation made by the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) that I am in any way, directly or indirectly, the servant of the Waterside Workers Federation, or that I have a paymaster in a Communist member or any member of that union, is completely false and *is ** complete invention. I say that this insinuation has been made only for the purpose of interrupting my speech.
– The right honorable gentleman has himself admitted-
– If the honorable member merely intends to repeat what he has said in speaking to his so-called point of order, he will be out of order.
– The bill refers to the “ stevedoring industry “ and honorable members may ask how the Commonwealth can legislate on this matter at all. lt can do so because this Parliament has power to make laws in respect of trade and commerce among the States, and with other countries. That was the ground upon which the 1949 legislation was brought in by the Chifley Government. In order to understand the bill before us it is necessary to be generally familiar with the 1949 act. That act provided for the prevention or settlement, by conciliation or arbitration, of industrial disputes extending beyond the limits of any one State. That was one head of power. The other was the power to regulate industrial matters in connexion with the performance of stevedoring operations in the course of trade and commerce with other countries, or among the States. Ordinarily, the State legislature has power to deal with the subject of stevedoring, for the operation takes place within its limits. However, as stevedoring is related to interstate trade, this Parliament has power to deal with it. That’ is the way in which the Chifley Government approached this problem.
We brought down an act which imposed duties upon, and gave rights to, not merely the Waterside Workers Federation and the other unions in the distant ports to which I have referred, but also the stevedores themselves. That is to say, the objective of the act was to assist the effective operation of stevedoring by registering not merely the members of the unions involved, but the duties of the stevedores as well. The act was impartial and set up a system of organization designed at making goods flow more quickly. There is a clear contrast between the functions of the 1949 board and those of the authority set up under section 17 of the bill before us, though the two are similar in structure. I shall demonstrate the contrast between them in order to show honorable members the completely different approach of the two bills.
Under section 13 of the 1949 legislation, the functions of the board were -
to regulate, and control the performance of stevedoring operations, insofar as operations ure performed in the course of trade and commerce with other countries or among the States . . .
Therefore, the purpose of the board was to regulate the physical despatch of the goods on and off the ship. That involved the provision of plant, its control and operation, and like incisures. That purpose was emphasized in section 13 and substantially, though not, of course, fully, the objective was achieved.
The third objective was to provide sufficient waterside workers for stevedoring operations, to ensure that the In hour nf waterside workers was used to the best advantage; to pay attendance money to waterside workers; to provide first aid equipment, medical attendance, canteens and the like on the wharfs; and to train persons in stevedoring operations. That is a short description of what the act did. To give effect to it, a registration system, under which waterside workers on the one hand, and stevedores on the other, would be subject to the general control and regulation of the board, was established. The shipping companies objected to any suggestion that they should be regulated. According to them, it was a perfectly good thing for the workers to be regulated, but they wished to be completely immune from regulation.
An important objective of the proposed authority - and this is made perfectly plain from some of the documents that 1m ve been referred to already - is that nf undertaking or controlling, until the Minister ntherwi.ee directs, the performance of stevedoring operations at. a port in respect of which there is for the time being in force a declaration in writing by the Minister that an emergency exists. lt will be seen that the authority is to have power only in time of emergency. Therefore, during such periods only will there be any attempt to control the actual operations of the stevedores. I think a perusal of the bill will show that clearly.
The power to pay attendance money is. also given, lt is an old power. The authority may make arrangements for allotting waterside workers to certain work, irrespective of whether the change involves a change of employer. Further, and I think that this 13 an important, discretion, it may regulate the conduct of waterside workers in and about employment bureaux, wharfs and ships. This ii an intrusion into the field of police work - the control of behaviour and other things which could hardly be regarded as Commonwealth matters at all.
– That was in the 1949 act.
– It is not the same thing at all ; nor were those words used. Further, the authority may provide, or assist in providing, at places where satisfactory provision is not made by employers, or any other person or authority, such things as first aid equipment, and similar amenities. That is neither a direct power nor a duty to provide these things. It merely envisages the authority giving an ancillary assistance to other authorities concerned in the same matters.
We come now to that portion of clause 17 which relates to stevedoring operations. It shows that what I have said about the stevedores is true. Sub-clause (1.) (?) provides - (1.) to investigate means of improving, anil tn encourage employers to introduce methods ami practices that will improve, the expedition, safety and efficiency with which stevedoring operations arc performed;
If the Commonwealth is determined that stevedoring operations shall be accompanied by proper machinery, it has further powers to investigate and encourage-
– T rise to order. T desire your nil me. Mr. Deputy Sneaker, on whether the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition is showing proper respect to the Chair, and to the House, by turning his back upon you, and upon us, and addressing a private lecture to honorable members of his own party.
– Substantially, the point of order is correct, but I am reluctant to interrupt any speaker in respect of a matter such as this. The Leader of the Opposition knows that he should direct his remarks to the Chair.
– I am pointing out that the definitions of the functions of the authority show that it is not the intention of the Government or of the shipowners to permit any action to be taken by regulation or by statutory order to require the introduction of good practices in stevedoring. All that will be permitted will be investigation and encouragement of good practices. In the case of the employers, there is to be no exercise of the law-making power, whereas in the case of the employees, the whole of their working lives will be affected by the powers contained elsewhere in the legislation. I submit that that contrast runs throughout the bill. Paragraph (m) states that another function of the authority shall be -
To investigate the causes of delays in the performance of stevedoring operations and, in particular, delays in the arrival of cargo at, and the removal of cargo from, wharves.
What is the point of investigating? Suppose that, due to neglect by the stevedores, there is delay in discharging cargo from a ship. There will be no power to deal with that neglect by some disciplinary action of the kind for which provision is made in other clauses of the bill. Investigation will be the limit of the power of the authority. Similarly, with regard to safe working in stevedoring operations, the power of the authority will be confined to encouragement. Safe working in stevedoring operations should be a sine qua non. The authority should be empowered to make regulations for that purpose,but that has not been done. Under this legislation, it will have no power in that regard, whereas under the earlier legislation power was given in wide terms. Sub-clause (2.) of the clause states -
In regulating the performance of stevedoring operations under this Act. the Authority shallexporttosuch extent as in the opinion of the Authority, is essential for the proper performance of that function, avoid imposing limitations upon employers with respect to their control of waterside workers engaged by them and their manner of performance of stevedoring operations.
That is the key to the powers of the authority in relation to stevedoring operations. It means that the authority is to keep its hands off the employers. It means that the performance of stevedoring operations is a matter which, as a. general rule, must not. be touched at all by the authority. The other provisions in that group prove beyond doubt that that is the purpose of this approach to the matter.
But that is only a part of the scheme contained in the bill. There are provisions, which will be referred to in detail, dealing with the powers of the authority in relation to registered waterside workers who are members of the union. The determination of port quotas is dealt with in clause 24, clause 25’ and clause 26. Honorable members know that a port quota is the number of workers needed to meet the requirements of the port, looked at over a substantial or fairly long period. Provision is made for the fixing of port quotas, but it is clear that, without altering a quota in the appropriate way, stevedores may employ extra men, who need not be members of the union. That, of course, is a threat to trade unionism. The most striking illustration is clause 40. I regard that clause as so important that I shall read several of its main provisions. Subclause (1.) states -
Where the Authority is of the opinion - (a.) that by reason of the sudden occurrence of an unusually heavy demand for the performance of stevedoring operations at a port or by reason of interruptions in stevedoring operations . . . the expeditious . . performance of stevedoring operations … is likely to be prejudicially effected fora period of at least five days; and
Then provision is made for the employment of such men during certain hours. The evenings and week-ends are referred to specifically.It is obvious that the purpose of that provision is to enable stevedores, in such cases, without altering the basic quota, to bring in additional labour, regardless of whether the additional labour required could be provided by the union. No opportunity will be given to the union to fill the gap. Certain other provisions are contained in this very lengthy clause. The whole of the plan is in accord with the statements that were made in the evidence given before the committee by one of the leaders of the interstate shipowners. The authority may call for applications from persons who are prepared to accept employment, under these provisions. That is not the ordinary method. The authority may specify to whom the application shall be made. There is provision that a person shall not, in his application, make a statement which is misleading. The authority will have power to revoke a declaration made under this clause if the emergency or the circumstances which gave rise to the making of the declaration no longer exist. Then it is provided that when a declaration is made by the authority, notice shall be given to the union. There is a further provision which states -
Subject to any order of the Authority or award of the Commission, a person who is not a registered waterside worker and is engaged for employment as a waterside worker by virtue of this section is, in respect of the work on which he is employed and the period of his engagement as approved by the Authority, entitled to the same remuneration and subject to the same terms and conditions of employment as would be applicable to him if he were a registered waterside worker.
Provision is made, directly and openly, for the stevedores to recruit labour for this industry, although the proper and just course, if an emergency arose, would be to give the union itself an opportunity to meet the situation. But that is not what is wanted. A register is to be kept. People who are not members of the union will be able to work in the industry at nights or at week-ends, at extra rates of pay, thus disturbing the balance of the industry. The object should be to spread payments for both ordinary time and overtime fairly amongst all members of the recognized union.
These provisions for the employment of persons who are not members of the union, without altering the quota, are almost provocative. If persisted in, they are likely to cause, if they are not intended to cause, clash after clash, because the livelihood of the waterside workers is involved. We have here something like the shipping bureau that was referred to by Mr. Justice Piddington and other judges. That is coming in again. There are clauses which suggest that if the waterside workers will not work with these additional men, action can be taken to deregister them and deprive them of their livelihoods. Under certain clauses of the bill, if that tragic situation were to arise in a port, the ultimate sanction could well be that an association of persons, not a union at all, would be recognized as a union. All those provisions of a like character, are contained in this legislation. But the matter does not end there, because the case I am trying to make is that there is differential treatment, and I think that this is clear from the bill. For instance, certain obligations are cast upon a registered employer by clause 33 of the bill. His registration may in certain circumstances be cancelled, but the conditions imposed upon him are so unlike those which are imposed upon the registered waterside worker that they demand a few minutes’ consideration. All that the registered employer is debarred from doing is contained substantially in clause 33. He, in the words of the clause - shall not act in a manner whereby the expeditious, safe and efficient performance of steve- doring operations is prejudiced or interfered with.
That would be substantially a charge, but it is not the type of thing that is likely to occur. Then, he- shall provide proper supervision of the performance of stevedoring operations by waterside workers engaged by him.
He fulfils that duty by employing a skilful foreman. Then, he - shall ensure that, as far as is practicable -
If he fails to comply with these provisions he is subjected to the heavy penalty, upon conviction, of a fine of notless than £100 and not more than £1,000. But the obligation is an obligation of which one could never prove the breach. If a stevedore acted in the ordinary course of his business and employed skilful persons he could not possibly be held to be guilty of a breach of these provisions. The punishment of offences by employers is referred to in the next clause. An employer goes before the new court of arbitration, which imposes penalties, but those proceedings must be instituted by the authority. First, the obligation is vague and general. I cannot imagine a case in which its breach could be proved. It is not the kind of matter in which a stevedore would be at fault. If he were at fault at all it would be in not organizing his work and in matters of that character, but not in such matters as are referred to in that clause. Provision is made for the cancellation or suspension of the registration of employers. Before such action can be taken it must be shown that the employer does not have the means of carrying out stevedoring operations in an expeditious manner, and so on, that is to say, that he has not the equipment. In the ordinary course of events, that could never be shown. It would have to be shown that the employer failed to comply with an order or award or had been convicted of an offence under the act under such provisions as I have cited. Those are the provisions in relation to the employer. Although they look imposing, they do not amount to obligations which really affect the organization of the work to the best advantage, and having the work done in an efficient manner, necessarily by co-operation with the other persons engaged on the waterfront.
Let us now consider the case of the waterside worker. The authority has to be satisfied that a registered waterside worker - is, by reason of misconduct in or about an employment bureau, or a wharf or ship, unfit to be a registered waterside worker.
What does that mean? That provision could apply to some isolated case of misbehaviour which, if dealt with at all, would normally be dealt with by an ordinary police case. For that miscon duct his registration may be suspended. Such a provision should not be left in its present form. If he has failed -
I have referred to clause 40, which provides for the introduction of nonunion labour. I have indicated the provisions under which labour which is not union labour may be introduced without increasing the port quota. I now desire to refer to clause 44. That is the boycott clause, and it is taken in substance from the Crimes Act. The provision in the Crimes Act in regard to the waterfront was included originally because the power of the Commonwealth in relation to interstate trade was thought to enable such a law to be validly passed during the period of a declared emergency. During a limited period the Crimes Act is proclaimed, as honorable members know, and provisions like this operate, but the provisions in this bill, which reproduce almost exactly those of the Crimes Act, will operate as a general rule in connexion with workers in this industry. The clause reads -
A person shall not, by violence to the person or property of a person, by threat, intimidation or incitement of any kind to any person, or, without reasonable cause or excuse …
Let us assume that that is the relevant part. It provides that a person shall not, without reasonable cause or excuse - by boycott or threat of boycott of a person or property or discriminatory action, prevent, hinder or dissuade -
I shall not go through the list of prohibitions. Honorable members can see what is involved in that provision. It means that if there were a dispute between the union and the employers, and if members of the union were required to handle certain cargo, which in the opinion of the recognized trade union, or its council, should not be handled by union labour, and they refused to handle it, their refusal would constitute an offence under that clause. Indeed, it has been so held under similar provisions of the Crimes Act. Clause 44 (2.) also provides for a separate offence.It reads -
A registered waterside worker shall not, without reasonable cause or excuse, refuse to accept employment or perform work in stevedoring operations with another person who is a registered waterside worker or is employed as a waterside worker by virtue of section forty of this Act.
If a registered waterside worker, without reasonable cause or excuse, refuses to accept employment with a person who is not registered and who is not a member of the union, he commits an offence also. The provision relating to reasonable cause or excuse has never been interpreted in this kind of case in favour of the workers. Sub-clause (3.) provides -
In proceedings for an offence arising under either of the last to preceding sub-sections, proof of reasonable cause or excuse lies upon the person charged.
The old onus of proof device is brought in to make a person prove positively that he has reasonable cause for excuse. Where the offence is committed by a body corporate, the penalty is £500. The bill there refers clearly, not to a shipping company or stevedoring company, but to the union which, for the purposes of the clause, would no doubt be treated as a body corporate. In other cases the penalty is £50. A waterside worker’s conviction under the legislation would also probably endanger his registration. Proof of an offence would automatically destroy his registered status. How is it intended to proceed in order to obtain evidence of these things? Perhaps the most serious aspect of all lies in clause 54, which covers the furnishing of information. The clause reads - (1.) The Authority–
That is, the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority - may require a person -
Then comes the penal provision - (3.) A person shall not -
Apparently the penalty for that is £50 - or
Then comes the crowning injustice in the administration of this provision - (4.) Where a person is obliged to answer a question orally by virtue of this section, he shall not refuse to answer the question on the ground that the answer might tend to incriminate him or make him liable to a penalty, but the answer given by him shall not be admissible in any proceedings against him other than proceedings in respect of the falsity of the answer in respect of his refusal or failure to answer.
So, he is liable to a penalty if he answers falsely. But he cannot refuse to answer on the ground that the answer might incriminate him, which is a basis of refusal that is recognized . I think in even the most searching of inquiries by royal commissions. It is generally recognized that a man has a right to refuse to answer under those circumstances. So, if a man says, “I am not going to incriminate myself “ it does not matter, but it is all right if he incriminates his mates. That is what it boils down to; that is the substance of the provision. I know of no comparable provision in other industrial legislation.
There are other provisions to which I could refer, but I need refer to only one. A provision relating to attendance money is included in a Government amendment to the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill which has reached the committee stage in this chamber. It provides that if there is a concerted failure by waterside workers registered at a port under the bill we are now discussing, to comply with a provision of this measure, an order of the authority, or an award or order under the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission - that is a judge who will act as a commission in respect of industrial matters in this industry - the authority may suspend the operation of an order in relation to waterside workers at the port. That is in relation to attendance money. The commission will be empowered to revoke the suspension, but only as from a date not earlier than the date of the application to the commission. So, to some degree, even where there is a successful appeal to the Stevedoring Industry Authority, there will probably be a loss of attendance’ money.
The matters to which I have referred are illustrations, which could be multiplied, of the fact that this bill has nothing like the balance of the 1949 act, which contains provisions that could hardly be applied to the conduct nf waterside workers. I suggest that this measure should provide that the stevedore or his foreman shall not act provocatively or in a manner calculated to cause a stoppage. It is always assumed that stoppages are due to the employees, but they are not one-sided. There are hundreds, and possibly thousands, of cases in which provocative action by a foreman or a stevedore has led to a stoppage that could have been prevented. If the question of penalty is involved, such conduct should be brought to the relevant tribunal in a proper and fair-minded way.
– Is that not covered by the earlier provision?
– I do not think it is.
– I should say it is.
– The Minister will not decide the matter. I do not think it is covered, and I do not think that it is intended that it should be so covered. ] am referring to provocative action, such as an insult, by a foreman at the point where the cargo is being dealt with. The registered stevedore probably would not be there. The stevedore may be identical with the shipping company and mav not be even registered as a company al the port where the operation is taking place. The real conflict, the real clash, the real turbulence - if one may use that phrase - occurs when some hasty or improper action is taken. Such action i> just as often taken against waterside workers as it is taken by them. I am not advocating the imposition of more penalties; I am just pointing out that the serious matter of a man’s livelihood is. involved. The legislation should contain provisions which make it obligatory on both sides to observe towards each other the conduct that apparently is required under this bill. Penalties should be avoided if possible.
I direct the attention of the House to an analysis of the employers’ comments on the efficiency of labour which appears at page 38 of the fourth report of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board for the year ended June, 1953. The position in the following year was much the same. The percentages of favorable and unfavorable comments are as follow: -
The notation at the foot of the analysis states-
These comments are the views of employers, not of the Board. Some employers habitually register unfavorable comments about the efficiency of workers on ships which they stevedore. Hobart employers’ comments are barely more favorable than in the previous year, despite a general improvement in efficiency.
So the board says that there has been an improvement of efficiency. The percentile of favorable reports at Newcastle was 95.7 and at Townsville 49.9 per cent.. I am only pointing out what I think is clear from the report of the committee presided over by Mr. Tait, namely, that it is impossible to infer from the fact that there are stoppages that those stoppages are due to the waterside workers, and the committee does not find that they are due to the conduct of the registered employers. That matter is to be dealt with at a later stage of the inquiry. I think it can be fairly stated that, so far as the report has been completed, that is a matter about which it is silent. I do not know whether the Minister claims that that report justifies the introduction of this measure. If he does, I challenge the claim. He certainly referred very shortly to certain matters in it. The committee of inquiry, which was presided over by Mr. Tait, Q.C., in its interim report, takes a very detached view of most of these matters and in connexion with stoppages refrains from passing judgment. The report says that that matter will be dealt with later. I am referring now to page? IS and 19 of that very important document. The committee expressly says that the matter of disputes and stoppages is to be dealt with. This is one of the reasons given on page 19. Mention is made that in the Arbitration Court certain remedies are available, and t’ e committee points out the long delay in the making of a new award. The report of the special committee of inquiry says - The award under which the industry is working was made in .1030, and although various orders varying or adding to its provisions have since been made, many of them dealing with the conditions of work are in m.my respects out of date and completely unreal. We include for this purpose as part nf the award very numerous orders which wi’re made by the statutory Stevedoring Industry Commission set1 up in wax- time and continued from 1047 to 1049. . . Many of them have long ceased to be applied, and some are unsuitable.
They have never been wiped off th<; list of orders -
The result has been that the award and these orders are in a state of utmost confusion. . . . No one was in a position to tell us with any certainty what was the operative provision of the award plus the orders as to numerous matters.
In this industry nobody knows what the obligation is so far as the employees are concerned -
In course of our Inquiry the Board caused to be prepared a consolidation of the award and the orders which entailed a great deal of research, . . . but which is acknowledged to be not necessarily authoritative nor complete
Reference is made to Mr. Justice Kirby and the 1947 act when he said that the most urgent need in the industry was the preparation and promulgation of :i new code or award -
The Committee agrees with this view anil rinds that the fact that nothing tangible has resulted up to the present time is a very serious source of trouble and inefficiency in the industry, and in particular of disputes and stoppages.
How can there be any law in it unless the provision is known? The report continues as follows: -
In the absence of such a code setting out the conditions for the use of registered labour on the waterfront, the Federation and its members have to found a measure of justification for all sort of demands and refusals which have led to stoppages and disputes. Ona example of this is that at many ports practices and customs have grown up and have either been accepted or alleged to have been accepted, and if they are departed from, although not authorized by the award or even contrary to its terms, the men have insisted that they are entitled to continue. … In many cases it has been impossible to ascertain with any certainty whether an alleged practice or custom is based upon agreement and the position Iia* led to much difficulty and many disputes. -As long ago as the middle <>f 1050,–
And I emphasize this - both the employers’ organizations and the Federation filed logs of claims with the Arbitration Court. In both cases the log wm* most comprehensive and claimed the laying down of conditions of employment and of work on the waterfront which covered a very wide area. Since then, both logs have beni amended and added to from time to time. The Arbitration Court has not yet, six years later, really come to the actual hearing of these logs although it has heard numerous applications with regard to them, and as tn particular matters which it has treated as urgent has entered upon a hearing, and in some cases made orders. We do not propose to attempt to allocate the blame for this sorry state of affairs. No doubt the parties are both to binnie to some extent, and indeed an inference should lie drawn that, for its own purposes, one or other of them has not bee, al way.* willing to expedite the hearing of thi’ loss and the making of a new award.
That state of affairs has existed from 1950 until to-day. The report then mentions the Government. That is this Government, of which the right honorable gentleman is the Minister for Labour and National Service, lt continues -
The Government and the Arbitration Court cannot lie regarded as free from responsibility fur this long delay in the hearing of the logs and the laying down of a new award and a comprehensive code for the industry. This delay accounts, we lind, in no small measure for the chaotic conditions we find existing in thu industry. The Arbitration Court h is, no doubt, been handicapped in that Judges who have accepted the task of hearing matters in respect of this industry have found themselves, by reason of urgent matters and other duties claiming their attention, unable’ to complete this very necessary work.
All I can say is that that is a very strong condemnation of the position in this industry. It is not due to employers or to employees but to the absence of any law in the industry declared and made known. For six years the Government and the Arbitration Court have let that position go on, until it has been revealed by the very clear expression of opinion of this committee.
– The Government ought to be sacked !
– The position is not so much that, but how can people be regarded as breaking rules in the industry and, therefore, subject to penalties and possible loss of registration when the practices at various ports are not known and not defined ? If there is no clear law in these matters, then thee must be sheer chaos. An agreement should bc reached in this House, irrespective of politics, to look at the facts of this ca.=e ii nd see if conditions can be improved. That is simply one illustration.
No’ cause for the disputes is assigned by the committee, but it refers to the long delay in the making of an award and to other matters. The position is one of the utmost seriousness. Why is it that this legislation has been brought down now? After all, the Parliament, and not the Minister, appointed the board under a statute, No. 75 of 19.”>4. This Parliament appointed the committee to inquire, not merely into the functioning of the stevedoring industry and the arrangements for its regulation and control, but into the cn–f of or connected with stevedoring operations and the extent to which these costs have affected rates of freight for the transport of goods by sea. The Minister wants everybody to believe that the position is due entirely to the waterside workers in the industry. That is completely untrue; it is not so due. There has been no inquiry into the problems.
– I have never said that.
– If the Minister has net said it, he has admitted, at any rate, that it is possible that profiteering in the industry has contributed to the problem. The Labour party in its manifestoes over the years has always declared that it 19 due to the profits of the shipping combines. What happened in this case was that there was apparently very slow progress. On one occasion the Minister blamed the union for the delay, but Mr. Tait, the chairman of the committee, said that the union concerned was not responsible for any delay in the hearing.
– The right honorable gentleman will remember that I also included the shipowners.
– The Minister said, first of all, the trade union and the union said the shipowners. Perhaps he said both.
– I made the same comment.
– 1 do not know whether the Minister made the same comment, but what he did is revealed in a letter of the Sth February, 1D56, that is referred to in the report. It is not set out in full in thireport. What happened on the Sth February, 1956? That was the last day of the dispute in which Mr. Justice Ashburner was endeavouring to conciliate between the parties on the basis of an increase of Dd. an hour or an alternative of 6d. an hour. Honorable members will recall that matter, and the attempt that was made bv the shipowners then to get altered conditions in the industry, including some of the matters mentioned in this legislation - for instance, summoning themen in the manner that George Orwell describes in his book 1984. They wanted to summon the men to a pick-up bv a number announced over the radio. Th.it type of communication would prevent the members of the union going to their pickup. If a mistake had been made or something wrong was being done, they could go to the pick-up and it would be corrected. They could not get it corrected if they were merely summoned to a particular wharf. I do not say anything further about the merits of that. I know that some case can be made for it. But that was one of the matters asked for by the shipowners at the time that the Waterside Workers federation was endeavouring to get something in the nature of an award regarding margins. And, of course, the point was taken that margins were not for the waterside workers, and that the decision of the Full Court of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court meant that the only people who could get increases of margins were fully skilled people. As a result, 60 per cent, of the workers employed under federal awards did not get the marginal increases. That was the contention in relation to the waterside workers. The result was that a great dispute arose throughout Australia and reached a point at which the matter looked most serious. At any rate, the dispute was settled and the waterside workers returned to work. On the following day, the 8th February, the Minister wrote to the chairman of committee. I want the House to understand that, stevedoring profits, of which the Opposition made such a feature during the debate on the bill, had not been pronounced upon, nor have they yet been pronounced upon. The Minister’s letter said -
Dear Mr. Tait, lt is a matter nf public knowledge that your committee was established to report on the facts of the stevedoring industry, not only to guide the Government in formulating its own policy, but to n id the public in an understanding of the problem5! of the industry, and any legislative measures the Government might decide on.
That is news to me. I thought that the committee had been established by this Parliament so that we could get the report irrespective of what the Government wanted. The Minister went on in his letter - lt would, of course, have much assisted the Government in it” study of the issues involved in the current dispute, if the views of your committee had been available. It is by no means certain that the dispute ran be regarded as at an end, nor that the Government may not still be called upon to bring down special legislation.
That is the very dispute about which the salary and wage earners are convulsed. I repeat, the Minister wrote -
It is by no means certain that the dispute can be regarded as at an end nor that the Government may not still be called upon to bring down special legislation.
It was threatened by the Minister, during the dispute, that unless the waterside workers went back to work there would be a declaration of emergency and the provisions of the Crimes Act would be invoked. That was the special legislation referred to, at any rate, in the columns of the press which mentioned the Minister as the authority for the report.
– nas the right honorable gentleman forgotten the Chifley Government’s act in 1949 to break the coal strike?
– I am referring to 1950. I have almost finished reading the letter, which is very important, because I think that the proper solution of this problem is evident from the Minister’s interjections and from this letter. The Minister, in writing to the chairman of the committee, which was supposed to deal with this matter according to what its members thought of it, said -
Putting aside, however, this possibility, I. as Minister, desire to he in a position to beginwithout further delay an examination of a number of broad issues relating to the industry, which may become the subject of recommendations by me to the Cabinet for legislative action. These all involve matters which 1 know have already been investigated by your committee.
– We followed the transcript.
– T suppose you did. Did you follow the evidence as to the profits?
– If the right honorable gentleman wants me to answer that question I will answer it.
– I will answer it, too.
– We have our own shipping line, and we have made it much more profitable than when Labour was running it.
– T am not speaking of the profits of the stevedores. I am sneaking of the general question of profits in the industry which, of course, includes the profits of shipowners. The Minister’s letter continued -
A yu ins t this background I ask that your committee-
Listen to the tone and the terms of this letter to an independent committee !
I ask that your committee let me have, within the next fortnight or so, its findings on the subject-matters which it has already investigated, together with such additional material it believes necessary to explain the findings.
I send this letter with the endorsement of Cabinet.
So they are all in it ! I say that that is a shocking letter to send to an independent body. I say that the purpose of that inquiry was to report not merely on two matters, but on six matters which had been defined by this Parliament. The Labour party insisted that profits should he included in the scope of the committee’s inquiry. In relation to profits we said -
The shipping combine has caused Australian primary producers and exporters to lose a considerable amount of trade with South-Bast Asia and Asia. The Melbourne Herald reported last February-
That was February, 1954 - that the turn-round time for ships had improved, but that the overseas shipping combine had made no compensating cut in shippingcharges. The combine had benefited by £700,000 from’ the reduction of the stevedoring charge a,* a result of a bill introduced by the Minister for Labour and National Service. The Herald also stated that the shipping combine charged far more than the reasonable costs of services, and always fixed toe maximum that the traffic would bear. To use an Americanism, that statement means the maximum that can be extorted from the consumers, primary producers and businessmen of this country.
The same newspaper, on the 12th June last, completely contradicted the main reason that is given by the shipping combine for high shipping freights. The newspaper said that there has been an increase of efficiency in the ports, the average turn-round time of ships in some ports had been halved, and - this is the important point - the output per man on the wharfs had increased appreciably. Those facts have been published hy an anti-Labour newspaper. We ask that this inquiry be not limited to stevedoring costs as is at present proposed. The profits of the stevedoring companies should be examined, and the investigation should not be limited to stevedoring operations, because stevedoring operations ore usually conducted by separate companies and the great shareholding in the companies is often possessed, controlled or owned hy the shipping companies.
We referred also to the Basten report, which, in 1951, told the Government what to do with the waterfront - to clean it up, to see that the proper facilities were provided on the wharfs. That report has been lying in a pigeon-hole for years. The Government has done nothing with respect to amenities and the provision of proper facilities. We get back always to the question of the recruitment of waterside workers. I will tell the House, and I think it is correct, that I think that the majority of those who are listening to my remarks, who have no previously formed prejudices, will agree that what was done in connexion with the recruitment of labour for this vital industry was wrong. On the 17th February, 1955, at a conference presided over by the Minister and attended by representatives of the employers, the Australian Council of Trades Unions, the< Waterside Workers Federation, and the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board, an agreement was reached with regard to the very matter on which this House spent so much time in altering the law. What were the basic facts? There was a strike, and amending legislation came into force on the 16th November, 1954. There was a conference between the employers and the Australian Council of Trades Unions, and the employers agreed to give favorable consideration to all men nominated by the union up to the 27th November, 1954. Large numbers of nominations were received from various branches of the union and forwarded to the employers. In nearly all cases registration was recommended.
The agreement of the 17th February, 1955, set out in the sixth report of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board, was made “ pending the completion of the investigation by the committee of inquiry “.
I ask the House to note that fact. That statement is shown at page 10 of the report. And the committee is still investigating! It has not completed its job. The report reads -
The arrangements agreed upon were expressed in the following terms: -
The Waterside Workers Federation acknowledges that once the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board, which has the statutory responsibility for determining port quotas, has fixed a quota, waterside workers must be registered by the board with a minimum of delay to the number from time to time desired by the employers (but not exceeding the quota) and that the Waterside Workers Federation will do everything possible to facilitate the registration and admission to membership of such waterside workers.
In furtherance of this the Waterside Workers Federation agrees that with the quickest possible despatch after the General Secretary receives any notification that the employers desire to have registered the number of waterside workers advised, it will supply to the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board for consideration by the employers for recommendation to the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board a sufficient number of names of prospective waterside workers to meet the required number.
The employers will not refuse to recommend any applicant whose name is thus submitted by the W.W.F. except for bona fide reasons. If the W.W.F. challenge any such refusal the merits will be considered by the local representative of the A.S.I.B. whose decision (taken after such joint discussion with the representatives of employers and the W.W.F. as may be necessary) is to be accepted as final.
If the W.W.F. complies with paragraph 2 the employers will not recommend to the A.S.I.B. the names of any persons whose names have not been submitted by the W.W.F.
If that agreement were given effect, the union would register men as required. The report continues -
I hope honorable members see the importance of this. The very purpose of the1954 bill was to do by the coercive processes of law what was done subsequently purely by agreement between the Waterside Workers Federation and the authorities without their proceeding to any new step. The board states in its report -
The agreement was followed by an improvement in the functioning of the recruitment system, as is indicated by the fact that at the close of the year under review, i.e., on the 30th June, 1955, the total number of water side workers registered at ports where quotas were set stood at 26,568, which was only 846 below the total of quota figures for these ports.
Those were the official figures of the board. The report continues -
At some ports, including Brisbane and New castle, the deficiency was in process of being made good . . . The response by the various branches of the Union following the agreement was generally satisfactory. The Sydney branch, . . . adopted a rule pro viding for fortnightly admissions to keep registrations abreast of the quota figure. It is to be hoped that the practice of continuous recruitment will become universal throughout the union.
If that is the position; is it not the practical answer to nine-tenths of the arguments about getting more men for the industry? The Waterside Workers Federation made these agreements with the authorities concerned. Yet this Government brings in a measure for the very purpose of getting men to do the work without having to join the union.
– That is not correct.
– Clause 40 of this bill makes provision for it.
– Provision is made for men engaged to join the union.
– If they do not want to join, they need not do so. Provisionis made for what shall happen if they do not join. They will receive the same wage as is paid to union members.I shall not read the provision again. What does Mr. Tait think about this matter? The agreement to which I have just referred was made only a little more than twelve months ago. Mr. Tait asks, in substance: “If it is being carried out. what is all the fuss about?” As I interpret his observations, he takes that view. Is that not a common-sense, practical approach to the problem? Why can the Minister not make such an approach? Why does he want to get this measure through before the committee of inquiry reports about the profits of the stevedoring and shipping companies? Is it because it will be shown that the freights mentioned by him are not due to the activities of the Waterside Workers Federation? As a matter of fact, it is not sufficient to end the comment even there. Our case is that the report should come to the
House for full consideration. This measure and the Conciliation and Arbitratration Bill 1956 are two of the most complicated measures that have been considered by this House for a generation. Honorable members, and especially those who are experienced in these matters, know that, and consider that they should not be pushed through in this way but should be properly considered. Can it be that the Minister would rush legislation through in this way simply because there may be a change in another House after the 30th June next? One cannot resist that inference. The Minister has hurried the committee and ordered, “ Give me a report within a fortnight”. It is shocking that such a demand should be made. The Tait report shows the effects of it. I beg honorable members to read the whole report. I do not think the Minister’s demand is justified. In his secondreading speech, he skated over a lot of these things by saying that the bill goes along with the Tait report. Does he say now that the provisions of this measure are in accordance with the recommendations made by the Tait committee?
– Yes, substantially.
– How can the Minister say that, in view of my quotations from the report? He is being reckless, and he should not have said it. I ask the House to study the recommendations of the report and to contrast them with the provisions of the bill. I ask honorable members also to consider the livelihood of the men concerned and the importance of the great industries involved. The Minister should not at this time join the forces arraigned against labour in this country. Turbulent though the industry is, he shouud see that the employees receive the same justice as is given to the stevedoring companies. Above all, let us have a full report about the other relevant matters such as profits, which have been arbitrarily excluded from the present report, and which are now under consideration by the Tait committee.
I apologize to the House for having taken so long. I feel very deeply over this subject. I have spent every day since the bill, was introduced trying to ascertain its precise meaning, and examining all the relevant documents I could find. I know it is almost impossible for many honorable members to examine the measure as thoroughly as they would wish to do, because of the many other matters to which they must attend. I have discharged this task to the very best of my ability. I consider that the bill is very bad and that it discriminates against trade unionism. The Minister himself may not be responsible for the attack on the trade unions, but the Government of which he is a Minister is controlled by the dark forces represented by the interstate and overseas shipping combines.
– I cannot guarantee to take as long as the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) took. One and a half hours of the right honorable gentleman is difficult for the human frame to withstand. I cannot guarantee to take as long as he took, but I guarantee to compare more than favorably with him for accuracy. If I may begin by nailing one falsehood that he uttered, among others, I would refer to his statement early in his very long speech in relation to clause 54 of the bill. The right honorable gentleman denounced that clause, under which the proposed Australian stevedoring industry authority may require a person to supply information. He stated that that is a wicked provision and that there is nothing like it in any other legislation. Indeed, I noted the right honorable gentleman’s words, which were, “ I know of no other such legislation “. Yet, clause 54, with the exception of the substitution of the word “ Authority “ for the word “ Board “ is identical, almost word for word, with section 53 of the Stevedoring Industry Act 1949, which was introduced by the Labour Government. Sub-clause (1.) of clause 54 provides -
The Authority may require a person -
to furnish to the Authority such information as the Authority requires, in such form as the Authority requires; and
to attend to give evidence before the Authority, or before such other person as the Authority directs, with respect to any matter to which this Act applies and may require that person to produce all hooks, documents, papers and things whatever in his custody or control relating to any such matter.
Sub-section (1.) of section 53 of the 1949 act reads -
The Board may require a person -
to furnish to the Board such information as the Board requires, in such form as the Board requires; and
to attend to give evidence before the Board, or before such other person as the Board directs, with respect to any matter to which this Act applies and may require that person to produce all books, documents and other papers whatever in his custody or control relating to any such matter.
And so on. I do not know whether the House requires any more of this comparison. The provision in this bill is comparable, word for word, with that of the 1949 act. Yet the Leader of the Opposition has the temerity and the gall to denounce clause 54 and to say, “I know of no other such legislation “ ! He said that he had done his best to tell the House what was the true position. If that is his best, it is a pretty poor best. I know that the right honorable gentleman is too well informed and too intelligent a person to miss a point such as I have mentioned. So I say that he has engaged in deliberate distortion with respect to clause 54 of the bill which can be matched again and again in other allegations he has made. I have never heard from the lips of a gentleman of his experience and eminence a speech which so distorted the truefacts and was so misleading to this House.
The Leader of the Opposition fulminated against the provision of supplementary labour. He would have led honorable members to suppose, had not the Minister interjected and forced him to correct himself, that the provisions concerning supplementary labour were designed to prevent those who were called in on holidays and in the evenings as supplementary labour from being able to join the union. But two clauses of the bill are very relevant to this matter. First, there is clause 43 (2.), which provides - (2.) A person registered as a waterside worker at a port by virtue of sub-section (2.) of section thirty of this Act, or a person whose name appears in a record maintained at a port by the Authority under sub-section (4.) of section forty of this Act, may, not withstanding anything contained in the rules of the Union in relation to the port, be admitted to the membership of the Union for the period of his registration or for the period during which his name so appears, as the case may be.
Turning back to clause 40 (4.) of the bill, I find that it is provided -
The Authority may, at any port, establish and maintain a record of persons who are prepared to accept employment as waterside workers at the port under this section.
Those are the people referred to in the first-mentioned sub-clause of clause 43 who may make application to join the union. If they wish to join the union and there is a vacancy for them and there is work for them, why should they not, join the union? Why should anybody object to their joining the union because, once they do join the union, they become normal waterside workers to whom these supplementary labour provisions do not apply? So what injury is there to the regular waterside workers in a provision of that sort?
In the early part of the speech of the Leader of the Opposition we were also misled as to the true facts of the so-called provision about boycott in clause 44, against which the right honorable gentleman fulminated. It is, in fact, the commonest provision in legislation of this sort, and appears in a dozen different statutes. It is the provision under which an offence is created and then a defence is provided - the defence of “reasonable cause “. As to that defence, the normal provision concerning establishing reasonable cause is that the onus must be on the person alleging reasonable cause. There is nothing magic or tyrannical about that. If the honorable gentleman suggests that that is an anomalous, unfair and unusual piece of legislation, he is not truthful, because he knows full well that it has been placed in dozens and dozens of pieces of Commonwealth legislation, and State legislation, too, for that matter.
There is a more important matter to which attention should be directed. For exactly one hour the Leader of the Opposition went on his way with an historical review of all the injuries and wrongs of the waterside workers, way back to the 1890’s. Nobody denies that theirs was a struggle for rights, if you like, and later on for privileges - whatever side of the fence you are on, and according to the way in which you look at it. This was the usual, normal, continuing, struggle for increasing rights by workers. With the extension and development of social conscience in the community, those rights have been granted more and more by governments of all political complexions. Nobody denies that, and nobody will say that there were not tyrannies and injustices in the past.
– And there still are.
– And maybe there still are - but not in this bill. On the contrary, this bill represents an attempt to bring some order, peace and fairness into the stevedoring industry. But for exactly one hour the right honorable gentleman went on in this way, with an historical survey of what Mr. Justice Foster said, suggesting, for instance, that there should be one union. The Government does not deny that principle. In fact, the principle is supported in this bill because there is to be one union only. Yet it was not until 9 o’clock that the right honorable gentleman mentioned the Tait report. He engaged in one hour of denunciation and then gave a fleeting glance at the Tait report. And yet he said at the outset, of his speech - I took down hi? words - “ This is a partisan bill . . . this is a partisan way of approaching the problem . . . this is not impartial . . this is repressive . . . this is discriminatory “. These are the adjectives and nouns that he used with respect to this legislation; yet the fact is that, with quite minor and trifling executions, this hill represents an acceptance by the Government of the recommendation? made in the Tait report.
Let us look at the Tait report. I say that any honest or fair-minded person, reading the recommendations in the Tait report, will recognize that the Government has faithfully attempted to implement, in this legislation, the recommendations of that, committee.
– The Tait report is not complete.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman will cease interrupting. ,
– What was the TaiT committee? It was set up by this Parliament. Here is the act which set it up - Act No. 75 of 1954. It -was set up by a vote of this Parliament, a vote in which the Leader of the Opposition and hi,party concurred.
– I did not ask the Minister to pick the eyes out of it.
– The right honorable gentleman agreed with the setting up of committee which was to make, in effect, the first real, impartial examination of the stevedoring industry in its history.
– That is not true.
– Does the Leader of th.Opposition say that the report is not impartial? Indeed he did, at the opening of his speech, because he said that thi.legislation which follows the recommendation of the Tait committee was partial and discriminatory. Three persons were- appointed to this committee - Mr.. Tait, an independent chairman; Mr. Gibson, representative of the employers, but noconnected with the shipping industry; and Mr. Shortell, a very prominent- trad” unionist, president of the Labour Council of New South Wales and one of the most experienced and responsible trade unionists in Australia. That committee sat for a long time, heard a great deal of evidence and brought in a unanimous report in respect of those matters which are now the subject of this legislation.
The position, therefore, is this: The Leader of the Opposition wants and get? tin impartial committee; he wants and gets upon it a trade union representative : now, the unanimous report of the committee comes out, but. because he and hi.’ bedfellow, Mr. Healy, do not agree with the report of the Tait committee, they denounce the whole thine, root and branch. That, is the sort of principle, or lack of principle, which we are facing in this debate. This, coupled with the sort of misrepresentation that occurred earlier in the debate, will make the public wonder what faith and trust can be put in the words of the Labour party when it. puts forward its propositions in this debate.
There is another aspect of this matter which will make the public wonder. It is this: On the night the Minister for
Labour and National Service made bis second-reading speech on this bill, the Leader of the Opposition denounced it. On the same night, Mr. Healy, the Communist leader of the waterside workers also denounced it. The Australian Council of Trades Unions had not met. The Leader of the Opposition has said that he represents the Australian Council of Trades Unions in this House. But at. that time the council had not met and he did not consult them. [Quorum formed^ I’ am obliged to the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr. Curtin), who called attention to the state of the House, because it has been revealed that the Australian Labour party, which is carrying on a sham war about this bill, shows so little interest in it that only nine of its members bother to remain in the House while it is being debated. This is the bill that Opposition members say will have world-shaking consequences, and brings Labour to the cross-roads, but only nine of them bother to stay in the House during the debate.
Mr. Curtin interjecting,
– Order ! The honorable member for KingsfordSmith will be quiet or I will have him removed.
Opposition members interjecting,
– Order 1 The Leader of the Opposition was heard without provocation-
Mr. Haylen interjecting,
– Order ! The honorable member for Parkes will <>bey the Chair or I will name him. The Leader of the Opposition was heard without provocation through a speech lasting an hour and a half. I expect the same courtesy to be extended to the Munster for Supply.
– I was trying to say to the House that the Australian public will also wonder how it comes about that, automatically, so to speak, the Leader of the Opposition lines up with the Communist head of the Waterside Workers Federation in denouncing this bill root and branch, without, even having had an opportunity of carefully considering it or. consulting the trade unions. One won ders all the more, when one remembers the previous association and the previous experience that the Labour government had of the same gentleman in the years after 1947. The House will remember that when the Chifley Government was in power it enacted the Stevedoring Industry Act of 1947, which it called a bold legislative experiment. Under that 1947 legislation Mr. Healy and Mr. Roach were appointed members of the Stevedoring Industry Commission of the day, yet within two years the government of the day was compelled to admit that its so-called bold legislative experiment had become a howling failure because of Mr. Healy. The mouthpiece of the government in that admission was the former honorable member for Corio, Mr. Dedman, who moved the second reading of the 1949 bill. Mr. Healy and Mr. Roach had been members of the Stevedoring Industry Commission, and after two years’ experience of their activities Mr. Dedman had this to say -
The representatives of the Waterside Workers Federation on the commission indicated in a clear and unmistakable manner that the round-table method could not succeed so long as they were members of the Commission. Mr. Healy and Mr. Roach, the federation’s representatives, on two different occasions, incited waterside workers to strike against their own Commission’s orders. The strikes had nothing whatever to do with conditions of employment of waterside workers, but followed court proceedings against Sharkey and Phillips, neither of whom had any connexion with this industry. As a result of those incitements, stoppages occurred in various ports, and a state of affairs was brought about which neither the chairman of the Commission nor the Government could tolerate. . . . The Government had no alternative but to dissolve the Stevedoring Industry Commission.
Those were the admissions made by Mr. Dedman in 1949, after two years’ experience of Mr. Healy’s activities on the commission that was then in existence. Yet now. notwithstanding Mr. Healy’s actions in relation to the Labour government and his treachery, one might say, towards the commission of which he was a sworn member - and notwithstanding the sorry tale of stoppages and strikes that have occurred ever since, we see Opposition members automatically lining up with this publicity-avowed Communist leader of the Waterside Workers Federation in opposing the recommendations of the Tait committee, whose members included Mr. Shortell, the president of the Labour Council of New South Wales.
Let us now pass to more constructive matters. I ask the House: What is the disease that we are trying to cure by means of this bill? Surely it is one thing only, the running sore that is draining our economic strength, in the form of slow turn-round of ships. Mr. Basten, an Englishman of great experience, was brought to Australia in 1951 to investigate this industry, and he made an admirable and a model report. After having interviewed hundreds of people connected with the industry, he was able to say this -
Not a single person lias suggested that the turn-round of ships waa other than bad.
– The Prime Minister held up a ship for three hours in Ceylon the other day, so that he could attend a piano recital.
– It was a very good piano recital, however.
Australia, of all countries, cannot afford luxuries of this kind - if we can cai! them luxuries. It is a country that depends on trade to an even greater extent than do other countries. We have long coastlines, great distances between cities, and inadequate road and rail transport, and we need, perhaps, more than any other country does, quick and efficient shipping transport. We are not getting it. No one pretends that that ?tat.e of affairs has all been due to the waterside workers. Mr. Basten pointed out that it is also due to inadequate wharfage facilities, and to the slowness with which goods are brought on to and taken away from wharfs. But. no one can escape the conclusion that a great deal nf our difficulties is due to industrial relations in the industry, and it is that, problem that we have attempted to solve by means of this bill. il/r. Chambers interjecting,
-Order ! The honorable member for Adelaide must cease interjecting.
– A day’s wharf stoppage in Sydney costs £30.000. That is passed on tn the community bv way of increased costs to industry. How can this country, which is already saddled with a high cost structure, continue to bear a burden of that kind? If the burden is not removed, it will ultimately help to bring us down in economic disaster.
There is another aspect of this problem. I agree that all faults are not on one side. Wo have never said that they are. We have said time and time again that we deplore some aspects of the management of this industry.
– But the Government will do nothing about it.
– We are doing a great deal about it in this very bill. Mr. Basten said, when speaking of the impossibility of management being able to manage its own affairs under the then existing organizational set-up -
The picture is sombre, and it is certain that action to prevent other deterioration ought not to be delayed.
That is a warning that cannot be ignored, and we have attempted to deal with that matter, among others, in this bill.
One of the recommendations of the Tait committee that we did not follow had reference to relations between the proposed new authority and the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. We have preferred to follow the pattern that we established in the conciliation and arbitration legislation, having an arbitral body, the industrial commission, with the authority as a separate body to deal with other matters. Subject to that exception, the bill has followed the recommendations of the Tait committee. Tt provides for an independent authority, consisting of an independent chairman, a representative of management who will, however, not be connected with the management of the shipping industry, and a representative of the unions who will not be a member of the stevedoring unions. We have dealt with the question of recruitment and hove rather put the matter back to where it was before. The Waterside Workers Federation now decides its own recruitment. If it failsto do so the authority has power to act. We have provided for short gangs to supplement the f,111 gangs. We have provided for supplementary labour, very much along the lines of the system which has been in force for years in New Zealand, under both Labour and non-Labour governments. We have rather modified the provisions and made them more favorable to the Waterside Workers Federation. We have very largely followed the previous disciplinary provisions, but the Labour party wants, not discipline over the waterside workers, but discipline over the employers only.
Opposition members interjecting,
– Oddly enough, under our bill, the employers can be fined but the unions cannot. Labour supporters, as is the case with the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill,. want this bill to be onesided. That is impossible. In an industry like this there must be some form of order and discipline. We have appointed this separate and independent authority for that purpose.
We do not pretend, any more than we did when we introduced the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, that this legislation will be the last of its type. The subject with which it deals is one which is constantly developing. What we have tried to do is establish a new type of tribunal - independent and fairminded. We intend, and hope, that it will be temperate. We hope that, by this means, one step will be taken towards the achievement of peace on the waterfront - to enable management to earn its way, to enable labour to earn its way and, gradually, to enable Australia to benefit economically as a result.
.- Members of the Government have often twitted Opposition members with advocating class warfare. If ever there were an instrument of class warfare, it is the legislation now before this Parliament. It is so vicious that I wonder at the motive of the Government in introducing it. Surely the Government does not expect that any responsible trade union in this country will be persuaded to accept legislation of this type. I believe that the Government is deliberately playing for a head-on collision with the trade union movement. No other motive could justify its action - if the word “ justify “ is appropriate - in introducing legislation of this kind.
The Minister has given the bill the wrong title. It should have been called the “ Shipowners Bill “. It could nol have been more favorable towards the shipowners if Mr. daddy himself had prepared it. The bill provides for the control, of waterside workers only. I defy any Government supporter to show mc one provision in it under which there is to be control of the stevedoring operators or the shipping interests. Why have we before us an interim report? Was there any suggestion, in either the legislation to establish this committee of inquiry or the speech of the Minister upon it, to suggest that we would be given an interim report ? . Of course, there was not. How can there be a satisfactory conclusion to the committee’s work if it produces only an interim report on two items instead of the sis that were referred to it? There is no doubt in the world that if the truth were divulged it would be seen that the shipowners had demanded of this Government. - their Government - that it produce this legislation now. What is to happen to the Waterside Workers Federation if the industrial and political Labour movement of this country accepts this legislation? Instead of a militant organization standing up for the rights of its members, it will become what the late Mr. Ben Chifley warned us about just before his death - a “ tame cat union “. That is what this Government is trying to make out of the Waterside Workers Federation. I am sure that, because of the efforts of the trade union movement and the political Labour party, the Government will fail. Its intentions will be plain to every one.
If ever we have had a fascist authority it will be that which is to control the stevedoring industry under this bill. There is nothing that it will not be able to do. I ask the Minister whether, in speaking to another measure, he described arbitration as a “ shield for the workers “. Under this bill the Authority will be given the power even to get around an award. Merely by conferring with the proposed arbitration commission it will be able to force new provisions into an award without first giving the matter proper consideration or investigation.
Lt need not confer with union representatives at all. It will be able to alter any provision of the present waterfront award, which, as the Leader of the Opposition has pointed out, dates right back to 1936. The waterside workers have been striving for a new set of working conditions throughout Australia.
Let us pass on now to some of the powers that are to be given to the authority under this legislation, which 1 have inadequately described as “ vicious “. . I have already mentioned That originally no provision was made for the production of an interim report. The Leader of the Opposition, by quoting from the Minister’s letter, made it apparent that the committee was obliged ii bring down that report because the Government demanded it of them. The Minister on one occasion accused the Waterside Workers Federation of delaying the investigation. Who told him that they were doing so? Mr. Tait, the chairman, denied that he had told the Minister. It could only have been the shipowners.
Why ha 3 not any Minister referred to the tactics adopted by the shipowners, who have refused to divulge their profits t.o the committee of inquiry? How can <ni investigation into the other four terms >f reference be completed’ while the shipowners continue to adopt that attitude? They were first requested to divulge their profits in March, 1955. and they still stubbornly refuse to answer the questionnaires sent them, or produce their books. The Minister said on one occasion that the shipowners were the worst employers in this country - indicating that they were not co-operating with the committee. A requisition seeking information has been sent to 39 of the stevedoring operators, but so far only fourteen have replied. Mr. Tait, the chairman, has id that sufficient time has elapsed to enable this information to be supplied That reveals clearly that the stevedoring operators do not intend to assist the investigation. Honorable members may bc interested to hear some of the conditions that were accepted by the committee from the stevedoring operators and the shipowners. They decided that their records, if placed before the committee, should be strictly confidential, and that trade union representatives should not even be present when they were examined. Moreover, they could be examined only by officers appointed by the committee itself. When witnesses are being examined before the committee at a timewhen trade union representatives are present, they refer to the stevedoring operators by symbols, so that the union representatives do not know the particular company to which the information applies. That is what the Government terms an investigation into stevedoring operations in this country. There is no doubt at all that we should never have had any provision for an inquiry into profits by the committee established by the legislation that was passed in 1954 if it had not been for the insistence of the Opposition. The Government accepted that provision, but never intended to carry it into effect.
Let me pass to the question of strikes. - The Minister said that this was a turbulent industry. In view of what the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale) hasstated to be the conditions that have prevailed in this industry over the years, all that I can say is that the people responsible for the turbulence in the industry are the people who exercised their tyrannical control of- the waterfrontnot the union. The committee said that there had been some strikes which could not be justified. It referred to petty disputes about frivolous matters, refusal? to accept award provisions and political strikes. But the committee said that only some strikes could not be justified. Does not that statement- imply that, in the “opinion of the committee, a great number of the strikes on the waterfront were justified ?
According to the Minister, the Waterside Workers Federation is to be the prime source of labour for the waterfront throughout the country. In my opinion, that is being done merely to mislead, because when we examine the provisions of the legislation we find that the Government - or this authority, which will represent the Government - will be able to force the Waterside Workers Federation to take into its ranks any person whom the authority determines shall he admitted. So the union will lose control over the admission of members. Therefore, no matter what kind of men the employers or the Government will want to be admitted to the Waterside Workers Federation, when this legislation becomes effective the federation will have no power to prevent the entry of ;,hose men to its ranks. The Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer) asks, “Why should it?” Not so very long ago, the honorable gentleman and his colleagues were protesting about what they termed compulsory unionism, but now, because it -ii.i its them to do so, in order to destroy the effectiveness of the Waterside Workers Federation, they want any individual recruited by the authority to become a fully fledged member of the federation. I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service whether it is the intention of the Government that these parttime waterside workers who are to be admitted to membership for periods of six months or less - these people who are to be forced upon the union - are to have full voting rights in the organization. There is no doubt that the Government, by flooding the ranks of the federation with part-time members, intends to try to destroy its effectiveness.
Let us have a look at the position on the waterfront at the moment. It is intended that the authority shall fix quotas. Everybody knows that there is not full employment on the Australian waterfront to-day. In the port of Sydney, during the last week, 1,800 to 2,000 men, on an average, have been unemployed each day. Is there anything in the legislation, or is there any undertaking by the Minister, to suggest that the quota for the port of Sydney will be kept even at its present level? 1 understand that the quota is 6,500 men. N~o doubt the shipowners, who have been urging a reduction of the quota, will nsk the new authority - the new authority will be their authority, representing them - to reduce the figure to 5,000. The authority will be able to do that by the use of supplementary labour. It is going to depend upon the people who will register for week-end work or for night work- the people who will be the strikebreakers, the people who will be put there to make sure that the waterside workers by economic pressure are compelled to obey the rulings and the dictates of the authority.
The Minister for Supply said that the Government had followed the recommendations of the Tait committee in drafting this legislation. But the Tait committee reported against the use of supplementary labour. On page 11 of its report it stated -
The evidence on behalf of the Board is that, in general, the use of supplementary labour is unsatisfactory. This is based to a large extent on the Board’s experience of the few occasion* when the Board has attempted to use supplementary labour in some of the main ports Some of the objections referred to in evidence are the difficulty of obtaining it when required, its inexperience and lack of discipline.
The Waterside Workers Federation, naturally, is opposed to the use of such labour. When Mr. Haddy was giving evidence for the shipowners before the Tait committee, he was asked from where the supplementary labour was to be obtained. He replied, “ Well, there are the newsboys and the men who work the turnstiles at the various sporting arenas “. That is the type of labour that Mr. Haddy suggested would be recruited to do the most arduous toil possible on the waterfront.
Further, the Government proposes to give this authority the right to alter the rules of the Waterside Workers Federation. The authority will be able to demand that the rules of the federation be altered so that its orders can he complied with. Let us take, for example, overtime on the waterfront. It is interesting to note that many of the matters upon which the Government is passing judgment in this legislation are matters which at present are before the arbitration authority. They are contained in the log of claims submitted by the employers - the shipowners. This Government, which claims to believe in arbitration, has taken those matters out of the hands of the arbitration authority and, by legislation, proposes to give effect to all that the shipowners have asked in the log of claims that they have submitted to the court.
The court has already rejected an application to extend the eleven-hour shift.
According to my reading and interpretation of the legislation, the authority will have power to lengthen the working day - to extend overtime - without reference to the court. “Why should not the union oppose the extension of overtime? From what has been said, anybody would imagine that the waterside workers are employed full-time, but, on an average, only 31 hours are worked each week by waterside workers in Australian ports. Of that period, approximately one-third represents overtime. In New Zealand, however, the average working week for a waterside worker is 40 hours. So we see that, by proper regulation of work by the stevedoring operators themselves, overtime can be largely eliminated and employment at regular hours provided for the men. In New Zealand the ports are compelled to cease operations at 10 p.m. from Mondays to Fridays, and at 5 p.m. on Saturdays. There is no work on Sundays. In Australia, because of the lack of proper regulation of employment on the waterfront, waterside workers are required to be available for work 24 hours a day on every day of the year.
The Tait committee dealt with the question of transfer. This authority will have power to order transfers, without reference to an arbitration tribunal. The Tait committee - I criticize it for this, despite what has been said about its impartiality - recommended that transfers from one job to another and from one employer to another be permitted. The union had certain objections to the adoption of that principle, but, because it had been operating in Adelaide and Brisbane, the committee said that it ought to operate in every port in Australia, although conditions vary from port to port. So we see that the committee did not make a realistic approach to that matter.
Let me turn to the question of the press and radio pick-up which the shipowners for so very long have wanted to be adopted generally in Australia. It has been said that the waterside workers are afraid that the adoption of that principle would mean the elimination of attendance money. I refer honorable gentlemen opposite to what Mr. Haddy had to say about this matter.’- When he was giving evidence to the committee he was asked, directly, whether the adoption of the principle generally in Australia would mean that the shipowners’ attitude to’ the payment of attendance money would change. Mr.. Haddy said he believed that if there were no obligation for the waterside workers to report, there ought to be no obligation to pay them attendance money. That is the attitude of the shipowners. It is useless for the Government to say it does not believe that the shipowners would cease to pay attendance money, because, when this legislation has been passed, the authority will do whatever the shipowners desire.
Let me pass to one or two other matters which I regard as of great importance. What is the Government doing in this legislation to ensure efficient stevedoring operations on the waterfront? The union has been trying for many years to have adopted chances which would mean more efficient working and operation in the discharge and loading of vessels, but the report makes only passing reference to the matter of rain and interference with operations on the waterfront. Yet this is a very substantial factor in bringing about a slow turn-round of shipping. If the Government, the committee and the shipowners were particularly anxious to speed the turn-round of ships, they would do something to overcome the difficulty associated with cessation of activities when rain occurs during the course of employment of waterside workers. According to the records, 4^ per cent, of working time, that is, paid labour time, is lost because of the occurrence of rain. The committee merely directed the attention of stevedoring operators to this important matter, and in doing so it made a most strange pronouncement. The committee said - ,
Associated with the problem of ceasing work during rain is that of covering hatches. The extraordinary position operates at present that the foremen have to anticipate whether it is going to rain or not, and if they consider it is, call on the men to cover the hatches before rain commences because otherwise the men would cease work and leave the hatches uncovered 06 soon as rain commenced.
That is what the committee had to say, but in actual fact the Sydney branch of the Waterside Workers Federation has entered into an arrangement whereby the men are prepared to cover hatches, and have covered hatches after rain commenced in instances where the stevedore or shipowner has provided suitable protective clothing. Let me now .refer to what are called restrictive practices. The Minister made reference to the subject of sling loads, and he applauded Mr. Justice Ashburner, who said that these restrictive provisions were imposed merely at the whim of the waterside workers, without any uniformity as between ports. The waterside workers asked the court to determine the sling loads for the various ports, but instead of Mr. Justice Ashburner so deciding, he rejected the union’s application, and it is now possible for the shipowners themselves to determine virtually by their own action the sling load to be applicable at a particular port.
The committee stated that there had been go-slow activities, that workers had extended their smoko period and that they had been spelling unnecessarily. The federation has admitted that in certain circumstances there has been laxity on the waterfront throughout Australia, but who is responsible for the laxity? It is not the Waterside Workers Federation. In any great organization, where there is lax supervision and lax control by the operator, it is possible that such things do occur, but the Waterside Workers Federation has always set its face against such practices and has established its own system for disciplining its members when they defy its authority. Let me make one or two references to the damaging provisions of this legislation. The Government and the Arbitration Court cannot be regarded as free from responsibility for the long delay which has occurred in respect of the inquiry which I have mentioned. The committee goes on to deal with the subject of discipline, and disregards entirely what the federation has itself done to penalize members for being late in reporting for work, for being drunk on the job and for being abusive. All such matters arn dealt with by the federation. The committee and the Minister said something about the time lost waiting for cargo and the congestion which occurs continually on the wharfs because cargo is not taken expeditiously to its destination. The legislation does not contain provision to compel a stevedoring operator to do anything about this problem. The legislation provides in this regard only that the authority shall - investigate means of improving, and . . . encourage employers to introduce methods and practices that will improve the expedition, safety and efficiency with which stevedoring operations are performed.
Why is the authority not vested with power to direct stevedoring operators to do something about the changes that are necessary on the waterfront to eliminate this great waste of labour, that is adding to the slow turn-round of shipping? The committee reported -
A substantial item was the time lost wait ing for cargo to arrive at the wharfs and, at times, congestion of cargo on the wharfs. . In the view of the committee these are matters for thu attention of the management, and in the report we do no more than record the fact that there has been a considerable loss of efficiency in stevedoring operations by reason of these matters.
The statutory authority is to be restricted to directing attention to the matter of those responsible for this wastage in manpower. That is all that the Government proposes to do about it. Let me give one or two illustrations of the tremendous powers over the workers which are contained in this legislation. No provision is made for any consultation with the trade unions. If one looks through the bill, one finds that the authority is given power to confer with anybody associated with the industry of whom it approves, but not particularly the officials of the union; they can be completely disregarded. As a matter of fact, if the authority does not wish to confer at all with the union, it may refrain from doing so, because clause 55 of the bill provides -
Where, under this Act, the Authority is, in relation to any act or tiling to be performed or done by the Authority, required to consult with any representative, association. Union, branch of a Union or any other person, body or authority, and the Authority performs or does that act or thing without so consulting, that failure does not invalidate theact or tiling performed or done.
That means that the authority need not confer with any representative of the union at all. Let me give only one other illustration, because time will not permit me to give any more, of the great power of the proposed authority. Mention has been made in the Minister’s speech of attendance money, and we assume that he knows something about it. Later, ho -aid that if an offence is committed by a section of waterside workers in a port,, maybe in operating one vessel, the authority may immediately cancel the payment of attendance money for every waterside worker at that port, although i>nly .a minority may be involved in the particular dispute, and if the union desires that’ the payment of attendance money be restored, it must make application and the authority may, at its discretion, restore the payment of attendance money, not from the date when it was discontinued, but from the date when application was made for its restoration. This is the sort of legislation which the Government wishes these men to accept. Let me say finally to the Government: r.he Waterside Workers Federation is a powerful trade union, but it does not. stand alone in this particular fight because T feel certain that the trade unions -generally will, realize that all that is happening at the moment is that the Waterside Workers Federation has been -.selected for the immediate attention of this Government, but if the Government succeeds in creating a tame-cat union where a militant organization exists on the waterfront to-day it will turn its attention to other trade unions in the country. That is why the Australian Labour party rejects this legislation. We -say that it is totalitarian in character. We believe that it is designed to smash the trade union movement, to destroy -the effectiveness of trade unionism, and r.he Australian Labour party politically stands with the trade union movement in (ejecting it. If the Government desires a head-on collision, not with one industrial union but with the industrial movement generally backed and supported by the political Labour movement; - if that is the type of conflict it desires - the Opposition will welcome it.
.- I rise to support the bill, which has been introduced, after much thought, as a constructive and reasonable set of proposals for improving the efficiency of the waterfront industry. 1 think we should all realize the tremendous importance of this industry to Australia. I have spoken in this House on many occasions about the importance of increasing our overseas trade, but that objective cannot oe achieved while waterfront costs remain at their present high level. Every effort must be made to achieve a greater degree of efficiency. As the Minister for Supply (Air. Beale) has already stated, Australia, as an island continent, depend.more than does any other country on efficient shipping operations between the various capital cities. Therefore, waterfront costs occupy a key position in on: cost structure. As I have indicated, this bill has been designed to increase efficiency on the waterfront.
As the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) indicated in his second-reading speech, the bill has not been introduced hastily or without du” consideration. There has been a long period of investigation into the industry dating back to the Basten report, of 1952. Legislation was introduced in 1954, and later, at the request of the Au> tralian Council of Trades Unions, a coin i nit tee presided over by Mr. Tait wa.appointed. That committee has worker! solidly for twelve months, and has pro du(:ed a. unanimous interim report. Mem hers of the committee included nominee of the shipowners and the Australian Council of Trades Unions. The bill now before the House is based to a great degree on the report of the committee. Lt has the support, therefore, of the committee and, by implication, of the Australian Council of Trades Unions. In principle, it also has the support of th,shipowners, and I am certain that it should be supported by the mass of right thinking people in this country. The bill also, as the Minister has stated, represents an important step towards the provision of permanent employment, and in that respect is in line with the report, oi Mr. Basten. The Minister has also stated that, during the inquiries of the Tan committee, the shipowners have learned a number of lessons and that they artworking together with a view to providing, in due course, a scheme for permanent employment on the waterfront.
Until such a scheme is formulated, we shall not have on the waterfront that intimate employer-employee relationship which is the basis of friendly operations in any industry.
In spite of what Opposition members have said to-night, the powers of control that have been exercised by the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board in the past have been reduced, and a greater onus has been thrown onto the employers to perform their duties and to increase their efficiency. An opportunity is provided, therefore, to shipowners and stevedoring companies to shoulder the obligations and responsibilities that fall upon them. We have heard a lot of criticism from Opposition members to-night, but so far they have not dealt with any of the constructive proposals that are contained in the bill. All that Opposition speakers have done <o far has been to read, in certain detail, the brief that was prepared for them, by Mr. Healy, the secretary of the Waterside Workers Federation, an avowed Communist and a member of the executive of the Communist party. I have before me a report, signed by Jim Healy, which was circulated to every member >f the federal parliamentary Labour party. In it are passages that have been lu.oled verbatim by both the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) and the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward). So it will be noted that without doubt Opposition members have been told what to do by that avowed Communist, Mr. Healy. We have also listened to threats of strikes in the near future if the legislation is implemented. How much longer is a body of people dominated by a handful of Communists to hold the people of Australia up to ransom ?
Let us contrast the views of the Australian Council of Trades Unions as impressed by Mr. Shortell, one of the members of the Tait committee, with the views that have been expressed to-night by leading members of the Australian Labour party. Each member of the committee subscribed to the report, and I feel certain that the large majority of moderate trade unionists will agree with its findings. The Leader of the Opposi tion stated that the committee’s report did not furnish sufficient evidence on which to base such a measure as the one now before the .House. I point out that the committee set out a list of matters with which it would deal in its report, and that every person who gave evidence was given an opportunity to state a case on those issues. Surely we can assume, therefore, that all the evidence that was needed was furnished, and that the committee had every reason to submit a report on those matters. A properly constituted committee would not submit a unanimous report unless each member of it was satisfied that he had heard sufficient evidence on the matters in question.
It has been stated that, to a degree, the bill discriminates against the trade unions. Again, surely, we have evidence that an impartially constituted committee was. submitting a unanimous report dealing with each of the matters that had been brought forward. No one on either side of the House wants to return to the con ditions that existed on the waterfront in 1939, and this bill is designed to improve employer-employee relations and to throw the obligations and responsibilities on to those people whose duty it is to bear them.
I turn now to the parts of the bill which have not yet been touched to any great extent by members of the Opposition to-night. The first point is the setting up of the statutory authority. The chief powers of that authority are the recruiting of waterfront labour if the Waterside Workers Federation is unable or unwilling to do so, the registering of waterside workers, and their allocation to definite tasks. The powers of the authority are limited and defined. There will be a commission, part of the conciliation and arbitration commission, whose powers also are defined to a great extent. Now there will be. as there has not been in the past, a clear definition of the powers and responsibilities of these two bodies. No longer should there be the opportunities for passing the buck between one and the other that have occurred in the past, and the period that has been taken to deal with industrial disputes should be shortened. That is one of the chief ways of reducing the waste of time that has occurred on the waterfront during the past few years on industrial disputes.
The second point that needs detailed consideration is the recruitment of shortterm labour in ports such as Hobart during the fruit season and in Queensland ports during the sugar season, and the provision for supplementary labour during times of peaks and flushes. The bill makes perfectly clear that supplementary labour is needed only at a time when an emergency exists. It is not to be used permanently throughout the industry. Already in certain details it bas had the support of various sections of the Australian Council of Trades Unions. Everybody is anxious to see a greater degree of rationalization and efficiency in the handling of peak demands and surely every effort should be made to make this supplementary labour scheme work.
The honorable member for East Sydney referred to this scheme and stated that the Tait Committee had found against such supplementary labour in regard to its efficiency. He read only the first part of section 33 of the Tait report. lIe did not read a later passage where it is stated that it would be efficient so long as certain safeguards were provided. Those very safeguards have been placed in the bill, so that supplementary labour which has not worked for various reasons in the past will now be able to be made to work in the future. The proper safeguards that are necessary have been incorporated in the bill. As I see it, here is a means of providing permanent employment for members of the Waterside Workers Federation who are normally employed throughout the year on stevedoring operation, with a supplementary labour force to deal with peaks and flushes in times of emergency. This is one way of taking another step towards the eventual aim of permanent employment, which surely is desired by the majority of workers in this industry and also by a majority of employers.
The next matter that has been dealt with is transfers. Again, this was referred to by the honorable member for East Sydney who stated that this scheme had been found to be efficient only in Brisbane and Adelaide and would not work in any other port in the Common wealth. I refer him’ to section 41 on page 12 of the Tait report, which states -
The Committee finds that a use of such transfers generally would contribute to the efficiency of stevedoring operations.
Surely there is every indication that everything possible should bo done to encourage this system of transfers, which has proved so desirable in Adelaide and Brisbane and which, if properly safeguarded and carried out in the terms of the bill, will achieve a substantial improvement in efficiency in many other ports of the Commonwealth.
The next matter is the question of press and radio pick-ups, which was referred to by the Leader of the Opposition. All I can say, first of all, is that this system has worked with tremendous efficiency in Melbourne and Newcastle and that the great majority of waterfront workers in Melbourne desire to sec it continued. As an example of that, I challenge any member of the Opposition to state that it is not so desired. Opposition members know perfectly well that office-bearers of the Waterside Workers Federation would lose their jobs at the next election if they removed the press and radio pick-up system from the Melbourne waterfront. Not one person is prepared to answer me on that one.
– We are not allowed.
– I am glad that the honorable member is listening for once to the ruling of Mr. Deputy Speaker. The press and radio pick-up system is desired by the great majority of those people who have operated under such a system, and it should receive the wholehearted support of the great majority of waterside workers when it is extended to other ports of the Commonwealth. There has been no reference by members of the Opposition to the terms of the bill dealing with short gangs for beams and hatches and for the rotation of hatches. They are generally constructive efforts towards making the most use of the labour available on the waterfront. Opposition members have not given thought to, or discussed the constructive measures in this bill, yet these are the things that are designed to get at the very root of the problem of increasing efficiency and of lowering costs throughout the whole industry. There are many items in this bill that are designed to that end.
The question of discipline on the waterfront has received a certain amount of consideration to-night. Some essential powers have been vested in the authority to suspend waterside workers. Yet, it is interesting that in this brief of Mr. Healy’s, which has not been referred to, it is at one place implied that he is in agreement with the principle of suspension because he says that even if there should not be suspensions at a time of demand, it would possibly be of assistance to defer suspensions, and that that would be acceptable to the union. Therefore he agrees, to a great degree, with the principle of suspensions.
The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) mentioned the matter of attendance money, which is also to be dealt with in an amendment to a clause of the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill. The provision is that attendance money can be withheld in certain periods, if the activities of the waterside workers justifies such withholding. Surely, if there are conditions such as rolling strikes, which have been a feature of the waterfront industry at various times, there should be provision that attendance money may be withheld. The clause is being inserted only to deal with such emergency and unusual conditions.
Under the measure the authority is charged with investigating means for improving efficiency on the waterfront. As the Minister said when he was dealing with time lost through rain, our intention is to get the authority to direct the thoughts of shipowners and stevedoring companies towards solving this problem, to re-designing ships so that certain cargoes can be discharged from the side instead of from the top of the hold, and so that new forms of mechanical equipment will be designed which can be operated in wet weather. Another important feature ti the bill is that the authority will now be responsible for the allocation of protective clothing. The authority will have the job of seeing that the thoughts of the employers are directed towards those matters. As we saw in the judgment of Mr. Justice Ashburner on sling loads, the whole object of this authority should be to throw the responsibility for improvements onto the shipowners and the stevedoring companies; but, if that responsibility is not met by these people, the measure gives the authority the final responsibility to see that it is met. Already we have seen that the shipowners have asked that the provision of amenities be their responsibility. They are prepared to play their part in the provision of improved amenities and they will be, as we have seen in connexion with sling loads, prepared to carry out the improvements recommended in the Ashburner judgment. So, again, here is a responsibility thrown on them of devising, and spending money on, increased mechanical means for improving efficiency on the waterfront.
In conclusion, I would say that here, after many years of investigation into this industry, we have a bill which states the Government’s intentions clearly. This bill is designed to let us progress to a future of permanent employment in this industry. It offers every encouragement to employers and shipowners to plan ahead for a period of stability in which they can spend money in order to reduce the costs of their operations. I believe that, as a result of the clearly defined powers in the legislation, there can be, and will be, a period of freedom from turbulence in this industry, a period in which we can look towards better employer-employee relationships than have existed for many years on the Australian waterfront. With the clearly defined powers laid down the authorities can, and will, act with the necessary firmness to see that the provisions of the measure are carried out. I am convinced that if that is done this bill will, in large measure, achieve that reduction of costs so necessary in the industry, and will therefore benefit trade both between the States and between Australia and other parts of the world. It will thereby materially aid every citizen of this Commonwealth. I support the bill wholeheartedly.
Debate (on motion by Mr. 0’CONNOR’ adjourned.
In committee: Consideration resumed (vide page 2 768).
Clause 7 -
Proposed section 16b agreed to.
Proposed section 16s - (1.) The powers of the Commission to make an award, or to certify an agreement under section sixteen q of this Act -
making provision for, or in relation to, long service leave with pay; or are exercisable by the Commission in Presidential Session and not otherwise.
– I move -
That, in proposed section 16s (1.), paragraph (c) be omitted with a view to inserting the following paragraph in place thereof: - “(c) making provision for or in relation to, or altering a provision for or in relation to, long service leave with pay; or “.
It will be found that there was omitted in the first printing of the bill some words which need now to be inserted, and if honorable gentlemen look at the provision they will find that it is designed purely to correct that inadvertent omission.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment agreed to.
Proposed section, as amended, agreed to.
Proposed section 16t - (1.) In this section, unless the contrary intention appears, “ the Commission “ means the Commission constituted by not less than three members of the Commission, at least one of whom is a presidential member of the Commission and one is, where practicable, the Commissioner concerned.
– I move -
That, in proposed section ICt, after the word “ Commission “, third occurring, the following words be inserted “nominated by the President “.
It will be seen that the effect of the amendment is to enable the president to determine who will sit on a full commission. If we did not have some provision of that sort the situation could conceivably arise where any member of the commission being entitled to sit on the full commission might choose to sit, and there might be more commissioners intimating their desire to sit than would be desirable in the best interests of the machinery’s functioning.
– Or there might not be enough.
– Or there might, in some circumstances, not be enough commissioners sitting. I am informed that the provision is based on a comparable provision in the New South Wales legislation, and I think honorable members will see the wisdom of it. I may say at this point, in order to avoid unnecessarily repetitive explanation later, that we shall propose an amendment to proposed section 16u adopting the same sort of principle.
– The Opposition has no objection to the amendment, which fits in with proposed section 16k (1.). However, we object to the matter which will be dealt with after this particular amendment.
Amendment agreed to.
– We oppose the whole of this, proposed section because here we find the very situation that we dealt with earlier when we asked that certain alterations be made. We have been told that this measure is intended to streamline the processes of arbitration, but I invite the committee to consider just how the proposed section now under consideration will operate in practice. A proposed section to which we referred earlier will give a commissioner power to appoint a conciliator if he thinks that a conciliator can do something to bring about the settlement of a dispute. Now, having decided that a conciliator might be of use in a dispute, the matter goes from the parties to a commissioner. Subsection (2.) of proposed section 16t reads, inter alia -
A Commissioner (in this section referred to as “the Commissioner concerned”) shall, upon application by a party to an industrial dispute which is being dealt with by him, on the ground that the industrial dispute is of such importance that, in the public interest, it should be dealt with as provided by this section, consult with the President as to whether the industrial dispute should be so dealt with.
The next step is that the request shall go to the president. I cannot imagine that a person holding the important position of president of the commission will blindly take the word of anybody about a matter referred back to him by a party in a dispute, without paying some attention to the reasons why some party, in its opinion in the public interest, suggests that it should not be dealt with by a commissioner. If the president so desires, he may direct that this particular dispute, again in the public interest or for any other reason, shall go back to the commission. So, we reach the third phase of the industrial dispute. When it gets to the commission this proposed section provides that the commission may refer the industrial dispute, so far as it relates to a matter in dispute, back to the commissioner concerned. Then the commission constituted by that commissioner shall hear and determine the industrial dispute so far as it relates to that matter, and the commission shall hear and determine the industrial dispute in so far as it relates to matters’ not so referred back. En the fourth phase of the dispute the commission may settle part of the dispute and refer part back to the commissioner or conciliator to furnish a report. I have never before seen legislation of such a character dealing with important industrial matters before this National Parliament. Finally, the commissioner may for the purposes of this section direct a commissioner or a conciliator to furnish a report with respect to a specified matter, and the commissioner or conciliator to whom the direction is given shall, after making such investigation, if any, as is necessary, furnish a report accordingly.
I do not know how all that fits in with sub-section (3.) of proposed section 16p, which reads -
A conciliator shall not furnish a report unless the parties to the industrial dispute consent and agree upon its terms.
I put it that if the conciliator pays any regard at all to that sub-section of proposed section 16p he will find himself in great difficulty in giving effect to the provisions of sub-section (6.) of proposed section 16t, under which, in fact, the commission may call upon him for a report and it is mandatory upon him to present it.
Tremendous confusion could arise out of these provisions. For example, a dispute may be split into two, three or four parts, and in view of my experience in arbitration over a long period of years I say to the Minister that this will bring about complete dislocation in industry because it will allow for the division of authority in award making.
Let me outline a particular case that might be before the commission. If the union with which I have the honour to be associated were in the process of presenting a log of claims, the matter would come before the commission. A commissioner might feel that a conciliator could do something about the matter, and so refer it to him. Then, one of the parties in what is perhaps a four-State award - because there are politics in awardmaking as in many other things - might ask for the matter to be taken from the conciliator back to the commission. When it gets back to a commissioner the same authority might say “We want it now to come before the full commission because this log of claims has something to do with margins, and we believe that a full court decision on margins would be binding in respect of the whole of this industry”. In such a case the commission might retain the question of margins for itself and refer conditions of employment back to a commissioner.
I believe that is the sort of thing that will happen as a result of the application of the reference machinery laid down in the bill. Indeed, I believe that this machinery will completely destroy the proper functioning of conciliation and arbitration as it has been developed in
Australia over the years. The machinery will finally divide awards into sections, and I am intensely opposed to the centralization of authority in regard to margins or any other parts of awards that are of importance to the workers. I say that particularly in view of the fact that since the Metal Trades case there is a tendency on the part of the court to put margins apart in a pocket, and regard the metal trades decision as a principle to be followed by the court in determining margins, whereas the real basis of determination should be skill and responsibility. I should like to know what the conciliator will do. “What will be his powers, under sub-section (3.) of proposed section 16p, in relation to subsection (6.) of proposed 16t? How far does the Minister think we can tolerate, in award-making, a situation in which a reference is made through this series of steps, and in which portion of a dispute can be held back. while part is referred back to the commissioner by the proposed Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, and then an attempt made finally to bring the two parts together ?
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I feel that the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison) has created all sorts of hypothetical difficulties which he thinks may develop in. this jurisdiction. Of course, if we assume that we are dealing with completely unreasonable men, we can get quite unreasonable results. But I think we can rely upon the good sense of the men who will be appointed to the proposed Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission to see to it that these things work out quite satisfactorily in practice. I do not see any inconsistency between the responsibilities thrown upon a conciliator under proposed section 16p, to which the honorable member has referred, and his responsibilities under other provisions. It is true that, under subsection (3.) of proposed section 16p, a conciliator will not furnish a report un less the parties to the industrial dispute consent and agree upon its terms, but surely we must relate that to the preceding sub-sections of the proposed section. I do not find any inconsistency, if that is done, with the role to be given to a conciliator under proposed section 16t, under which the commission may, for the purposes of that proposed section, which relates to the reference process, direct a commissioner or a conciliator to make a report.
– But the commission can direct him only in accordance with the function allocated to him under proposed section 16p. That is his only function. His function is clearly defined in that proposed section, but proposed section 16t makes different provision.
– The function provided for in proposed section 16p will not by any means be a conciliator’s exclusive function. I shall consider the point, but I personally cannot see any inconsistency. Since the honorable gentleman has raised it, I shall discuss it with the draftsman to see how the matter will work out. We can recommit the clause later, if need be.
The honorable member has made a general criticism of the system of reference in practice, and I take it that the matter to which I have just referred is a substantial part of the case made by the Opposition against proposed section 16t. I do not intend to labour the discussion on this point.
We have included the provision quite deliberately, with our eyes open, as being, at any rate in our view, a useful one. Although it may operate in a cumbersome manner in a particular case, we believe it should have the effect of shortcircuiting some of the processes that have operated in the past. Instead of having a full hearing by a commissioner, and, later, an appeal to the commission, we shall be able to short-circuit the procedure where it is reasonably obvious that the matter is a more important one than should be dealt with by a commissioner, that it raises some industrial principle, or that its influence will extend well beyond the range of the particular industry in which the point arises. The reference provision might very usefully avoid some of the more protracted hearings and subsequent appeal processes that have arisen in the past. We can judge only by the working of the system whether the experiment proves a success. We believe it is worth h trial, and we present the proposal to the committee for its endorsement.
.- The Opposition is opposed to proposed section 16t, and will certainly vote against it. T hoped that the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) would indicate why he considers this system of reference necessary. So far as the Commonwealth arbitration system is concerned, until the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act was amended in 1951, there was no provision in respect of either references or appeals. From 1904 to 1951, the act functioned on the basis that once a decision was made it was effective, and that the only appeal against it was on a question of law. But, for some reason or other, the act was amended in 1951 and an appeal system and a system somewhat akin to references were put into operation. I can find no justification for them. I listened very carefully to the Minister’s remarks, but he gave no indication of past experience or even probable future events which might justify this system of reference. One must bear in mind that, as th& bill is drafted, it provides for, first, a Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission in presidential session, which will deal with hours, wages and long-service leave. These matters, which are the three major matters that affect all industry, will be taken entirely out of the hands of the senior commissioner and the other commissioners, and will be dealt with solely by the commission in what is called presidential session. The relatively minor matters in industry, such as times of starting and finishing work, overtime rates, the number of boys, juniors or apprentices that may be employed, the rates to be paid to men doing a particular class of work, sick pay, and annual leave, all can, and very often do, vary according to the industry concerned.
From 1947, until the act was amended in 1951, the commissioners, who, in the Minister’s own words, we assume are per sons of good sense, made decisions, which, so far as I can learn, sometimes failed to satisfy employers and at other times failed to satisfy employees. At the appropriate time, if one side or the other wanted an award altered, it applied for a variation and had the matter re-heard on that application. This system gave satisfaction. It at least settled disputes and gave the parties a decision on the matter about which they were at variance. But it is proposed now that, instead of a commissioner being able to go ahead and make decisions on these minor matters, one party will be able to delay proceedings by the simple process of requesting that a reference be made to the commission.
One of the extraordinary features of this measure is the various kinds of members of the commission. There will be, first, the presidential members, who will sit in presidential session. Proposed section. 16t will create a new kind of commission which will consist, as provided in sub-section (1.), of not less than three members of the commission, at least one of whom will be a presidential member, and one of whom will be, where practicable, the commissioner concerned with the reference. I shall refer later to a third kind of commission that is to be created.
– I am sure the honorable member will agree ‘that the provision in sub-section (1.) will be very useful.
– No, I do not think it is a useful arrangement. I think it is a time-wasting arrangement. It causes delay and frustration, and it does not help the parties to get a matter determined quickly.
When we were discussing this subject of delay the other night - and I suggest that delays will occur under the proposed procedure - I can well remember that the Opposition asked that a conciliation commissioner, as a matter of right, should be brought into every dispute, and my good friend the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Freeth) objected to the proposal on the grounds that it would mean delay. I am sure that if the honorable member looks at the report of the speech that he made on Thursday night, he will find that he was emphatic that there should be no delay in settling disputes and that the sooner a settlement was reached the better. J can understand perfectly well why big matters such. as the basic wage for males and females, hours and long service leave, should be in the hands of a commission of three. The reason is that every industry will ultimately be affected by them. But in relatively minor matters of industry, to require that a case should be referred from one person to another person who may send part of a dispute back to the commissioner himself, would result in the making of two awards instead of one. One award would be made by the commission concerning part of the problem and the other by a commissioner, separately from the commission itself. This would result in further confusion in the settlement of a dispute. On top of that, delay would result if the matter went from one person to another. When three people hear a case, a longer period of time elapses before it is decided than when one person hears it. This delay and frustration are not good for industry, and this legislation should not include any provision that will bring about that sort of thing.
I suggest that our main objective in regard to this legislation should be to find out how we can achieve a speedy settlement of disputes between employer and employee. It is not our aim to try to find ways and means whereby the dispute may be kept alive and passed from one hand to another with varying decisions being made, perhaps, and with two judgments being given to the parties instead of one judgment. I suggest that because those factors are contained in this proposed section, it is not desirable to adopt it. The Opposition will certainly vote against the provision because it is not in the best interests of industrial peace.
.- I had not intended to intervene in this debate, but I was provoked by the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey). The honorable member referred to my idea that delay should be cut out, as far as possible, in arbitration procedures. I repeat that I am wholly in favour of that principle but, as far as I am aware, nobody has yet mentioned that part of the effect of this proposed section, as I see it, will be to prevent delay in connexion with a system of appeals. If a short cut can be made in connexion with a knotty problem, which concerns a matter of public interest and which will almost certainly be the subject of appeal by one party or the other, then a considerable amount of time could be saved by having it referred directly to a commission of three members.
– Then the honorable member would be in favour of the omission of appeals from the bill if proposed section 16t were adopted?
– No. I shall come to that argument. I say that this is a short cut in connexion with a system of appeals. I realize that, from that statement, the honorable member for Bendigo can draw the inference that I would favour the abolition of appeals. I do not favour that.
– The honorable member is in favour of delays?
– Let the honorable member be fair. I listened to him in silence. There are the two conflicting principles with which I dealt the other night. Provision is made for a system giving some uniformity, again in the public interest, which I place very high in regard to the objectives of conciliation and arbitration. Here we have a system of pseudo-law and the parties should know where they stand before they embark on a case before any commissioner. In the absence of a system of appeals and in the absence of the application of some general principles by a commission, there, would be no uniformity. There would be a tendency for the parties to have a shot at something because a conciliation commissioner might give them what they want, and they would hope for the best.
I believe that there should be a system of appeals. I believe that that is necessary in the public interest for the prevention of industrial disputes. Having arrived at that conclusion, I support this proposed section which will prevent an undue multiplicity of appeals and enable a short cut to be taken because the commissioners who would normally constitute the appeal body would hear the important part of the problem which would be likely to become the subject of an appeal.
– If the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) intends to have another look at this question of whether or not there is a cleavage between the two sections, I do ask him to examine the whole matter and at least prevent the division of authority in award-making. I know that the Minister has the numbers to force his proposals through the committee, but I put this proposition to him : Under proposed subsection (2.) it is only necessary for one of the parties to make a request for the matter to go to the commission. In an interstate award to which there are four or five parties, one party may not be prepared to conciliate and may demand arbitration. Then, under this bill, a conciliator can do nothing but report back to the commissioner. In the Margins case, a classic example occurred of one party out of four requesting that the case should go back to the court, which would be the equivalent of the commission under this bill. The bill provides that, merely on the “ say-so “ of one of four applicants, the case shall go to the full commission. If the case went there and stopped at that point, that would be bad enough.
– It does not have to go to the commission.
– It has to go to the president.
– It is within his discretion whether it goes to the commission or not.
– That is right. But as a consequence of his opinion as to what may be in the public interest he will decide whether the case should be considered by the commission
– Or not.
– Yes, but let us short-circuit the procedure, and provide that once the president has decided that there is an ingredient of public interest in the award, the whole award must be dealt with by the com mission. If we do not insert such a condition as this, when a case concerning an interstate award to which there arc three or four parties is being heard, the argument will be put forward which the employers have put forward in almost every hearing in which I have been concerned over a long period of years, and that is that, in malting an award, margins must be considered at the same time as conditions. I put it to the Minister, that this division of power will create untold difficulties because, if .the presidential commission is going to take unto itself, as I believe it will, the right to determine margins on a national basis, as in the metal trades award, it will mean that we will have a division of award making as between margins and conditions. If the Minister himself, and those advising him, had had any experience at all of awards making in difficult situations, they would understand that there could not be a more difficult set of conditions than will obtain as a result of this division of power. I ask the Minister to agree to postpone consideration of the clause, and to have a look at it from that angle. If the president decides that there is something in the claim which is related to the public interest. - although I do not know how he will determine public interest - he will have to have particular regard to the recent decision of the Full Court in the Basic Wage case. To take a concrete instance, a submission may be made to him by the South Austraiian Railways Commissioner, at the instigation of the Playford Government, and it may be held that the new log of claims is related to the public interest. Let us have only one authority to make the award. Do not let the union be placed in the position of having to present one set of arguments in relation to margins, and then have to go back to another authority and argue a case in respect of conditions. I have never seen anything more likely to bring about confusion than is this provision of the bill.
Leaving aside individual disputes, let us consider the position in relation to new logs of claims and new awards. If the present situation is allowed to develop, there will be untold confusion. It may be that the Government wants confusion, and that it wants to tie down the trade union movement to one common standard in respect of margins, without regard to skill and degree of responsibility. The bill provides for the adoption of a common rule by the commission in respect of margins, and no union will be able to get past it if the president holds that, because there is a margins ingredient in the case, it has a public interest content. If the Minister allows this clause to stand, he will live to realize the truth of what I have been telling him.
.- I think it is becoming apparent that, in relation to appeals from the decisions of the commissioner, the Government’s attitude is that it wants to see a pattern for the division of authority applied from the top, and imposed throughout the system. Here, again, the term “public interest” occurs. This division of authority applied from the top within the arbitration system is, in respect of this clause, to depend upon public interest. Several times in the history of arbitration, the Parliament has imposed upon the court, or a section of the court, the duty of deciding the meaning of particular words in the act. One of those cases was a very early one, in which Mr. Justice Higgins was asked to determine the meaning of the term “ fair and reasonable “. In giving his decision in connexion with the Harvester award, he pointed out that it was not fair and reasonable to impose upon the court the duty of deciding the meaning of terms used in the act.
The phrase “ public interest “ has occurred several times this evening, and it occurs in this clause. As so much might turn on the meaning of the phrase in an application before the court, the Government should consider including in the legislation a guide as to what should be taken into consideration by the commission or by the court when it is endeavouring to determine the question of public interest.
– This Government has followed the course that was adopted by the Labour government.
– Surely it is time that Ministers ceased to make that kind of answer.
– It is a very embarrassing one..
– The Minister says, in effect, that the Government is doing what Labour did when it was in office. Perhaps the Labour government did make mistakes from time to time, but honorable members on this side have been a good deal more ready to admit those mistakes than is the Government to admit its shortcomings. It is not sufficient for the Minister, in answer to a reasonable question, simply to toss over the table the retort, “We are doing the same as you did”. I think it is about time that the words “ public interest “ were given a definite meaning, so that the court can he guided in this critical matter by the Parliament, which is responsible to the people. I again urge the Minister to consider this matter, and to make clear in the bill the intention of the Parliament.
Question put -
That proposed section 16T, as amended, be agreed to.
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. g.j. bowden.)
Majority . . 20
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Proposed section 16u - (1.) In this section, unless the contrary intention appears, “ the Commission “ means the Commission constituted by not less than three members, of whom at least two are presidential members of the Commission.
– I move -
That, in proposed section16u (1.), after the words “three members’”’ the following words be inserted : - “ of the Commission nominated by the President’”.
I have already intimated that this amendment has a similar effect to that which I moved regarding proposed section 16t.
.- We have no objection to proposed section 16u (1.) being amended in accordance with the Minister’s amendment, but after it has been so amended we propose to offer opposition to the proposed section.
Amendment agreed to.
.- The Opposition adopts the same attitude with regard to proposed section 16u as it adopted regarding proposed section 16t. The latter section deals with the reference of disputes to the commission, whereas 16u deals with appeals from awards. The first matter to which I direct attention is the absurd position that is reached when it is found that under this proposed section a third kind of commission is to be created. There is, firstly, the Commission in Presidential Session, which deals with questions of hours, basic wage and long-service leave, and which consists of a president and two deputy presidents. That is the supreme commission. Proposed section 16t deals with another kind of commission, of not less than three members, one being a presidential member of the commission, and one other being, if possible, the commissioner concerned. When we consider proposed section 16u, dealing with appeals, we find that another kind of commission is proposed to be created. This commission shall have not less than three members, of whom at least two must be presidential members of the commission. In this measure, so far as we have dealt with it, it is proposed to create three different kinds of commissions, all of which apparently are to have different functions. If that does not bring the whole matter of the commission into absurdity, I should like to know what would. It is obvious that when the second kind of commission, envisaged by proposed section 16t, is sitting, there can be no sitting of the Commission in Presidential Session. Likewise, when the appeals commission is constituted, neither the first nor the second kind of commission can sit. It seems to me to be difficult to explain why it is necessary to establish this kind of commission to deal with minor matters that may be the subject of appeal. I suggest that with legislation of this kind the Government is bringing the whole matter of federal conciliation and arbitration into disrepute.
Proposed section 16t provides that the commission may refer back to a commissioner a certain section of an industrial dispute. Under the proposed section now before the committee it will be possible for the award then made by the commissioner to be the subject of appeal to the appeals commission. Legislation of that kind will have the effect of causing longer and longer delays.
Until 1951 there was no provision for an appeal in the Commonwealth Concilialion and Arbitration Act. The arbitration machinery worked very satisfactorily in those days. Since provision has been made for appeals, employers and employees have lodged them. A number of those lodged by the employers have been upheld, but on every occasion when a unon has sought to lodge an appeal, either leave to appeal has been refused or the appeal itself has been rejected. “When the decisions of the court are found to favour the employers so overwhelmingly, it is obvious that the employees can have no faith in the court or in the legislation.
We have recently had some debate in this place on the question of providing permanent employment for those persons now engaged in industry in a casual capacity. I shall repeat to the committee some remarks that I made during the second-reading stage of this bill, concerning a union that had tried for years to change a system under which hundreds of men and women had to hang around the doors of canning factories during the fruit season in the hope of obtaining a few hours’ work, for which they were paid by the hour. Finally, after a good deal of struggling, we were successful in having the weekly wage introduced. Eventually, we got rid of the obnoxious spectacle of men and women hanging around factory doors day after day, morning and afternoon, seeking a few hours’ work. Then, a newly appointed commissioner who had very little experience in industry introduced a provision for casual work to be done at a low rate of pay giving an inducement to enable certain types of operations to be carried out in fruit-preserving factories on hourly labour. Both the employers and the employees objected to it and the union appealed. Although one of the grounds of appeal was that it was desirable that permanent rather than, casual work should obtain in industry, the judge before whom the application was made refused the union the right to appeal.
When we see that type of thing happening, we ask what useful purpose these appeal provisions serve in industry. The right of appeal serves no real purpose. It merely causes delay both in the hearing of cases and in the giving of decisions, with consequent promotion of a feeling of frustration and discontent among the workers in industry. I say quite candidly to the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) that this type of legislation damages the whole system of conciliation and arbitration. It causes resentment in industry and can only result in embittering industrial relations. A provision such as this can convert a measure designed to bring about industrial peace into one calculated to create greater unrest in industry. The Opposition is not prepared to have anything to do with this clause, and we shall vote against it.
– I do not propose to enter into any lengthy discussion of the basis for the appeal provisions in our arbitration legislation. Those honorable members who care to take the time to study the views of the Government on this matter can readily ascertain them because we indicated them in detail when the appeals system was first introduced. I find it a little hard to be persuaded that honorable members opposite sincerely object to the appeal system, because I recall that although it was attacked in no less vehement terms by honorable members opposite when we introduced it in or about 1951, it was first made use of by the Labour Government, of Queensland. That being so, I cannot be convinced that honorable members opposite have any deep-seated objection to it. on principle.
– 1 can assure the Minister that the trade union movement has a very strong objection to it.
– The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) has not always faithfully represented, although he may have intended to do so, the thinking of the trade union movement, about industrial legislation brought down by this Government. I can remember the most stringent and strident attack ho made on our secret ballots legislation. I remember how he spoke about what it was going to do to the trade union movement, about how it would lead to the creation of the “ tame cat “ unions about which we have heard to-night. In point of fact, the trade union movement generally welcomed the provisions we inserted then and has made very extensive use of them.
I suggest that, again, we are demonstrating in this legislation that we artmore in touch at least with the rank and file trade union opinion if not with some of the official opinion of the movement than are some honorable members opposite who claim to be the spokesmen for it. We believe that this will be a practical system provided the parties come to it in a spirit of goodwill and work together. The appeal phase is an important oni because nothing is more creative of industrial trouble than differing decisions on virtually the same issues in various parts of industry. Awards which give differing rulings on the same matters without some system of co-ordination on important questions of industrial principle are themselves productive of trouble as time goes on. I have already indicated that on other occasions we have stated in more detail our reasons for introducing the appeal system. The manner in which it has worked has done nothing to shake our confidence in it, and we are maintaining it in the legislation before the committee.
.- I think the words uttered by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) in respect of the secret ballot fall very lightly from the lips of members of the Liberal party who are more inclined not to give people votes at all if they can help it. Turning to this bill and its relation to the trade union movement and the average worker, the question is really a simple one. There are two parties to what is, in effect, a struggle for higher living standards. They are the active and inactive parties. In the ordinary course of events, the people who own things are the inactive parties. They have only to stand fast and look as if they are in the right and they can put up what looks like a good case ; and they have adequate opportunities under this measure to put up a case. On the active side we have the men who actually have to struggle for their conditions. Consistently during these debates, honorable members on the Government side have admitted that those who have had to struggle over the last 50 or 60 years have been the workers, the ordinary members of the trade union movement.
The question of an appeal with relation to any increase or improvement in wages is important to trade union members and their families. Whereas we can say ordinarily that justice delayed is justice denied, we can. say that in industrial matters justice delayed means suffering and want on the part of the workers, their wives and families. We oppose the appeals provision because, statistically, it is quite apparent that it reacts against members of the trade union movement. It just cannot be coincidence that the cases put by the trade union movement are always wrong. It cannot be just accident that union advocates who fight the cases for the workers have always lost. Furthermore, the Government cannot say in this instance that this is what the Labour party did when it was in office.
– These are serious reflections upon the impartiality of the tribunals.
– The Minister has demonstrated a capacity for thought in these matters, and he should be able to see that it is simply a question of the struggle between the owners and the people who ordinarily work in industry. It is simply a question of the continual struggle throughout the whole of society, and I do not think. that this legislation will in any way relieve the burden upon those people who do not happen to own the means of production, distribution and so on. It is not a matter of impartiality; it is simply a matter of interpretation and of the duty that is consistently imposed upon arbitrators in these matters by use of the term “ public interest “. Every time an arbitrator or conciliator makes a decision, he has laid upon him the burden of not making a decision which may react unfavorably to the whole nation. That is written into the whole structure of the bill. Every time he makes a decision, he has to accept this responsibility, which lays heavily upon him. The final result is that he acts with caution, and just as delayed justice reacts unfavorably upon the workers and their dependants, so does caution produce the same result in the living standards of the worker. “Where an appeal delays an increase or improvement in the living standards of the members of the trade union movement it causes frustration and incites further agitation by trade union members. We on this side have been accused of being inflamatory to the trade union movement, but we speak as we do because we are firmly convinced that an attack is being made upon the living conditions and rights of the workers. I wain the Government that it is on the way to a head-on collision with the trade union movement. That movement, and the Labour party, will not be denied justice. If the Government accepts our advice, it will treat this matter with the caution with which its arbitrators ordinarily treat the demands of the workers for better living conditions.
– I would like to point out to the Minister that the primary purpose of our arbitration system is to ensure peaceful and smooth-working conditions amongst the partners in industry, but that the experience of the appeal system over thu last three or four years has shown that it has achieved anything but this. Honorable members, during the secondreading debate, cited a number of cases to show that the appeal system has caused tremendous disappointment and frustration among members of trade unions. There have been inordinate delays. Trade unions have been saddled with very heavy legal expenses and, altogether, it cannot be said that the system has brought the results that were prophesied by Government supporters. Under the proposed system the conciliation commissioners will have cases taken from them by varying authorities. This will lead, as it has in the last three or four years, to a state of perpetual uncertainty on the part of the conciliation commissioners. They will just not know where they are. A continuation of that system will mean not only a diminution of confidence in the arbitration system on the part of the trade onion movement, but will also have a deleterious effect upon the conciliation commissioners themselves. Apparently the Government is not amenable to reason, and if this system is to be perpetuated the courts will become clogged with disputes. Ceaseless interruptions in hearings will occur and there will be heavy legal costs and all the other evil characteristics of the system which operated bofore 1947.
I point out that though one can cite a number of cases showing that before the introduction of the appeal system in 1952 both employer and employee expressed disapproval of verdicts, the right of appeal has not caused any abatement of that dissatisfaction. Appeals frequently go against those who have lodged them. The Government apparently reasoned that because there had been a number of disputes over conciliation commissioners’ decisions this could he remedied by a right of appeal. That has not worked out in actual practice; Though the original decisions of conciliation commissioners have often caused perturbation in the ranks of one side or the other, the appeals system has not caused any lessening of dissatisfaction. Indeed, it ha? increased it. That is especially so in the case of the trade unions because a lengthy period lapses before an appeal is determined.
– I rise mainly because the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt), by inference, and I think intention also, indicated that the Government was more in touch with the workers’ point of view than was the Labour party. I reminded him that when the appeal legislation first came before this House a good deal of capital was made out of the suggestion that the conciliation commissioners were not really doing their job. It was said that there should be a right of appeal against their decisions, and that this would help to maintain uniformity. In point of fact, the appeal system was made part of out industrial legislation. If the Government wishes to continue that type of legislation it should make out a case in support of it. It should show that the legislation has had the effect that was intended. I propose to put the opposite view.
What the Minister said regarding the first appeal taken was right. In the first fifteen months of the operation of the right of appeal not one was lodged in respect of wages or conditions fixed by conciliation commissioners. Moreover, there has never been an appeal on the ground of lack of uniformity against an award made by a conciliation commissioner. Then we got the reverse position. We have been speaking about speeding up decisions. Let us recall the case of the South Australian tramways, which is becoming well known. On the 2nd May, 1955, Mr. Tonkin, one of the conciliation commissioners, made a decision in regard to the South Australian tramway employees and an appeal was lodged. Three judges took it upon themselves to hear the case again. They sat for two weeks - after the whole field of the award had been covered by the conciliation commissioner - and then, without handing down a judgment, they announced in court that they would refer the matter back to the conciliation commissioner. This is where I throw this matter of uniformity right back at the Minister. All the railway and tramway awards of Australia have until now been uniform in providing double time for Sundays, time and a half for Saturdays, and a day off in lieu, or double pay, for holidays. The court reduced double time for Sundays to time and a half, and reduced time and a half for Saturdays to time and a quarter. It thereby created, for the first time in many years, a lack of uniformity in award-making in Australia. Further, it reduced the day off in lieu, or double pay, for work on holidays, to time and a half. As I have said, the court did not follow the usual practice of making the award, but referred the matter back to the conciliation commissioner so that he could get the parties together and ascertain whether they would agree to the new principles laid down. The matter was then to be referred back to the. court for a final decision.
The case has already cost the unions almost £6,000 in legal expenses. Although the conciliation commissioner gave his original decision on the 2nd May, 1955, finality has not yet been reached. This bill will perpetuate situations of that kind. An analysis of the bill reveals that an appeal will lie to the commission from an award made by a commissioner. That was the position in the award of which I am speaking. Then the bill provides that the appeal shall not lie unless, in the opinion of the commission, the matter is of such importance as to warrant it in the public interest.
– We have had more appeals under the State Wages Board system in Victoria than under this system.
– That is right, but we have reached the point now when this Government is trying to centralize control of margins and all the other factors that go to make up the workers’ pay. The appeals system that is operating at present is intended to serve the public interest, but, despite that, in the South Australian case the court has suggested something that is the reverse of the conditions prescribed in awards of a similar character made by courts in every other State of Australia.
Let me be quite frank. We believe that this is being done deliberately. The South Australian case, when it comes bask from Mr. Commissioner Tonkin, possibly will be the first matter to come before the new presidential commission that is to be established under this measure. The new commission - which will operate under a system that provides for appeals and other matters that we oppose - will lay down principles. The South Australian case will be referred back to that commission. That case has been dealt with already by three of the judges who will constitute the new presidential commission. Their suggestion was that double time for Sundays should be reduced to time and a half, that Saturday time should be reduced from time and a half to time and a quarter, and ‘that what has been the recognized standard for holiday pay in Australia, for at least 50 years should be cut down. If the new commission adopts that decision, will the Minister contend that this Government is in touch with the workers of Australia ? If that is to be the norm for the standards that will be set by the presidential commission in appeals under this ‘legislation, I say that the Government has lost, touch completely with “the workers.
Wednesday, 6 June 1956
Question put -
That proposed section16u, as amended, be agreed to.
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. G. J. Bowden.)
Majority . . . . 21
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Sitting suspended from 12.7 to 12.37 a.m.
Proposed sections 16v to 16z - by leave - considered together and agreed to.
Proposed section 16aa -
The Commission may, in relation to an industrial dispute or other proceedings before it-
– I move -
That, in proposed section16aa, paragraph
be omitted with a view to inserting the following paragraph in place thereof: - “(d) dismiss a matter or part of a matter or refrain from further hearing or from determining the dispute or part of the dispute if it appears: -
that the dispute is trivial; or
that the dispute or part has been dealt with, is being dealt with or is proper to be dealt with by a State Industrial Authority, but in no case shall the Commission in relation to any industrial dispute refuse to hear the dispute or any part thereof merely because of a stoppage, a cessation or reduction of work in the industry or any part thereof;”.
The Opposition is of the opinion that it is extremely dangerous to provide in the bill, under the powers of the commission, power for the commission to hold that further proceedings are not necessary or desirable in the public interest. The Opposition wants that provision to be eliminated and replaced by the provision to which I have referred. Power to decide that further proceedings are neither necessary nor desirable in the public interest confers a wide discretion that may be used disadvantageously in the settling of industrial disputes. As has been pointed out repeatedly during this debate, the words “ in the public interest “ are capable of different interpretations. For an industrial dispute not to be settled because it was held by the person hearing the dispute that it was not necessary or desirable in the public interest to settle the dispute would seem to me to be in contravention of the very principles on which the commission is being constituted.
If a dispute occurs and it comes to the notice of the commission, it is the duty of the commission, as is laid down in this measure, to see that that dispute is either prevented or settled. To provide that no further proceedings need take place, and thus leave disputes unsettled, seems to be a denial of the very principles upon which the whole system of arbitration is founded. One has to bear in mind that the powers of the commission are exercisable because of the provision in the Constitution for the making of laws for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes which extend beyond the limits of any one State. That being so, there should be no power in this legislation to enable a person charged with responsibility either to prevent or settle a dispute, to escape the obligations of his office by merely stating that, in his opinion, it is not in the public interest for the dispute to be settled.
The deletion of sub-paragraph (iii) of paragraph (d) is therefore desired. The Opposition believes that the insertion of the words “ but in no case shall the Commission in relation to any industrial dispute refuse to hear the dispute or any part thereof merely because of a stoppage, a cessation or reduction of work in the industry or any part thereof “ is essential if the real functions of the commission are to be carried out. I know of various occasions when the court has decided that a dispute has taken place during the hearing of a case, and the commissioners have said that, while there is a dispute in progress, they will not permit any proceedings to take place before the court. They seem to be unmindful of the fact that their task - which is laid down in the act, and in the Constitution itself through which the court is constituted - is to prevent or settle disputes. By adopting the attitude that they will not permit further proceedings because an industrial dispute is in progress, they wash their hands of all responsibility for public inconvenience and loss of production, whether the dispute be large or small. They disregard the stoppage in industry, and the unemployment of people who are innocent parties, and they do so for this reason alone: They believe there has been some affront to their prestige.
What is the result? The dispute goes on, the court no longer discharges its functions, the industry concerned is hampered for the time being, at least, and some portion of it is stopped, and the responsibility is thrown upon other parties, who are not equipped with appropriate powers, to do all they can, in the interests of the community, to ensure that a settlement is reached. I know that in such cases the disputes committees of the various trades and labour councils and the Australian Council of Trades Unions, and other persons get to work to try to find a settlement. In the end, although the persons concerned are on strike, a round table conference has to take place, and then some terms of settlement are reached.
There is no reason why the arbitration court should not use its powers of conciliation and arbitration to keep control of the dispute in the court itself, instead of allowing control to be assumed by the organized forces of the Associated Chambers of Manufactures, the Employers Federation or the trade union movement. Therefore, the Opposition asks that these words should go into the hill, because it is essential that the court should not be able to escape the responsibilities and the obligations that are placed upon it, first, by the Constitution and, secondly, by the legislation which the Parliament has passed.
The settlement of a dispute should receive the attention of the commission, as it will be called, immediately the dispute takes place. It should be the function of the president of the court to take steps immediately to bring about a settlement by assigning either a commissioner or a conciliator to bring the parties together. If a case is before the court, there is no reason why conciliation should not proceed. The general argument is that the court “ is not going to be overawed “. The court is never over-awed by a dispute. It may be very annoyed, but I have never known a court to change its judgment or its views merely because a dispute has taken place.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I wish to comment upon the point that was raised by the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey). The honorable member used slightly exaggerated language when he spoke about this proposal being dangerous in its present form, because I have found that the provision is an exact copy of section 40 of the act of 1947.
– Section 40 of the act of 1947 was wrong, and should not have been in it. We want to get it out of the measure.
– This is a change of heart.
– No, it is recognition of the foolishness of the section.
– We consider it undesirable to make it mandatory that the commission shall exercise its powers, notwithstanding the fact that there may be a strike in progress. There is nothing to prevent the commission from exercising its powers should it, in its judgment, so decide, but we do not think that it helps the system to make it mandatory to adopt this line when the commission believes that it is not necessary in the public interest. The honorable member for Bendigo has said that, although this provision was in the legislation of 1947, it could have been wrong. Despite his statement, we believe that it was more probably right, and that it should be retained in this bill.
– I believe that the Minister for .Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) will recall a particular case which has led the Opposition to believe that the 1947 legislation was wrong, as has been stated by the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey). I remind the Minister of a dispute that took place in Victoria. Complete agreement had been reached between the railways commissioners in Victoria and the union concerned in connexion with what was known as “ passive time “. It related to payment for a period that actually was not worked in the framework of a shift by men who were principally in the running staff. The conciliation commissioner, Mr. Hall, who has since retired, took the firm view that he would dismiss the matter because it was, in his opinion, against the public interest. Running through the discussions was the same idea that the Minister has expressed to-day: That there might be all sorts of undesirable results if the conciliation commissioner agreed to the proposition upon which agreement had been reached by the parties.
The unions then prepared an agreement within the framework of the act, and took it back to the commissioner. Again he said, at that point, that it was against the public interest and, so far as he was concerned, if anybody was going to endorse the agreement, it would be some other authority than he as conciliation commissioner. We then took legal advice on the matter - and this is why the 1947 legislation is wrong - and had a memorandum of agreement properly drawn up by legal officers, which carried the seal of the railway commissioners as well as the seal of the unions. The reference was accepted by the registrar, and it went before the Full Court of the Arbitration Court. At that stage, the Full Court, with the agreement before it, took the view that it had no authority to deal with the matter because “it came rightly within the functions of the conciliation commissioner. Arising out of that disagreement between the authorities as to what was meant by public interest and the like, there was a stoppage of almost two months in the Victorian railways. Neither the conciliation commissioner nor the court would hear argument because they said the men were on strike. That is why we say that this matter should be corrected now. That experience, has taught us, and most, people, that the situation that arose between the Victorian railways commissioners, the unions concerned, the conciliation commissioner and the Arbitration Court should no longer be possible.
On the second phase of this matter, what happens when the point is reached where the disputants decide that the only way for the workers to achieve their object is to stop work? Somebody has to do something about it and who could do something better than the authority in charge of the industry? Some provision is made in the Stevedoring Industry Bill 1956 to permit an approach to be made to the court, or to the commission as it now is, for the restoration of appearance money if the appearance money is stopped by the authority because of a dispute at a port. We believe that the time has arrived when the best and quickest way of settling a dispute, even if there has been a stoppage of work, is to get the parties together before those who control the industry.
.- I want to raise the point briefly, in support of the amendment that the insistence in many cases on the parties returning to work before a dispute is heard reacts against the union. A stoppage of work is usually a strike against the status quo. and it is very exasperating to see the sort of struggle that went on in the case quoted by the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison) where neither party will surrender until the financial means of one are exhausted. That is reacting unfavorably on the union. The union is expected to surrender its position before the arbitration proceedings take place. I recommend to the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) that he accept this amendment because of the frustration that is caused and the challenge to the trade union movement to use all its strength to achieve its point. The actual return to work means that the union has conceded the point in the first place and surrendered the position for which it was fighting. The status quo favours the employers, and conciliation cannot be achieved in that atmosphere. Arbitration ought to proceed whether there is a strike or not.
Question put -
That the paragraph proposed to be omitted (Mr. Clarey’s amendment) stand part of the section.
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. T.F. Timson.)
Majority . . . . 18
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That, in proposed section 16aa, paragraph (e) be omitted.
This amendment has the effect of removing the provision for the payment of costs in arbitration proceedings. There will still be provision for costs in the section dealing with the Industrial Court ; the court will award costs in cases where it deems that to be proper. We have met the view put to us by the trade union movement on this matter and omitted any provision for costs in arbitral proceedings.
– We do not oppose the amendment.
Amendment agreed to.
Proposed section, as amended, agreed to.
Proposed sections 16ab and 16ac agreed to.
Proposed section 16ad (Reference of dispute to a Local Board for a report).
.We do not propose to proceed with the amendment that we foreshadowed in connexion with this proposed sub-section.
Proposed section agreed to.
Proposed section 16 ae -
– I move -
That, in proposed section 16ae, paragraph (b ) , after the word “ members “, the following words be inserted : - “ nominated by the President “.
The principle here is the same as in amendments to proposed sections 16t (1.) and 16u (1.) which I moved earlier. I have already explained the purpose of this provision.
Amendment agreed to.
Proposed section, as amended, agreed to.
Proposed section 16af agreed to.
Proposed section 16ag - (2.) Whenever, in the opinion of the Commission, it is necessary, for the prevention or settlement of an industrial dispute, for the maintenance of industrial peace or for the welfare of society to direct that preference shall be given to members of organizations as provided by the last preceding sub-section, the Commission shall so direct.
– I move -
That, in proposed section 16 ag (2.), after the word “ dispute “, the following words be inserted : - “ for ensuring that effect will be given to the purposes and objectives of an award,”.
This is another of the provisions which we have accepted following discussions with the representatives of the trade union movement, and which, I understand, is supported by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt).
.I point out that the amendment to this proposed sub-section foreshadowed by the Opposition aims at achieving the same end. We accept the amendment moved by the Minister as satisfying the objectives of the amendment we had proposed to move.
Amendment agreed to.
– I have circulated another amendment to proposed section 16ag, consideration of which I propose the committee should defer for the time being. I understand that honorable gentlemen opposite wish to have an opportunity to consider the amendment at a later hour this morning.
Further consideration of proposed section, as amended, postponed.
Proposed sections 16ah to 16am - by leave - considered together and agreed to.
Proposed section 16an -
In determining an industrial dispute, the Commission shall take into consideration the provisions of any law of a State or Territory of the Commonwealth relating to the safety, health and welfare of employees (including children) in relation to their employment, and shall, insofar as the Commission thinks proper, not include in its award provisions precluding the operation of that law.
– I move -
That, in proposed section 16 an all words after the word “ employment “ be omitted.
The effect of the amendment is to restore the section to the form in which it now appears in the present act. There is a rather complicated explanation of why we intended to make the alteration proposed, but, on reflection, we prefer the form that appears in the present act.
Amendment agreed to.
Proposed section, as amended, agreed to.
Proposed sections 16ap to 16ab - by leave - considered together and agreed to.
Proposed section 16 as -
An award of the Commission constituted by a Commissioner shall not, unless all parties to the industrial dispute who appear or are represented before the Commission consent or the Commission otherwise directs, have effect until after the expiration of twenty-one days from the date of the award.
– [ move -
That proposed section Idas be omitted with a view to inserting in place thereof the following section: - “ An award of the Commission constituted by u Commissioner shall, unless all parties to the industrial dispute who appear or are represented before the Commission consent or the Commission otherwise directs, have effect from the date of the award.
The proposed section as it appears in the bill makes it mandatory, under certain circumstances, that the award shall not have effect until 21 days after it has been made. In the opinion of the Opposition it is unwise to bind the commission, when constituted by a commissioner, by an express provision that the award shall have effect only after the expiration of 21 days from the date of its making. In view of the delay which is inevitable as a consequence of proceedings before a commissioner, which involves the possibility of reference to a commission and of further references or appeals to another commission, and, after the hearing of a case, which has probably involved visits to one or more States for inspections and in order to take evidence, and after a general inquiry that may last some weeks or months, we feel that it is unfair when the award is finally made, for its operation to be delayed for a period of 21 days. Our amendment is framed so that the latest date upon which an award will come into operation is the date on which it is made. It will be possible for the parties to consent to its coming into operation from an earlier date. It will be possible for a commissioner to decide that it shall come into operation at an earlier date; but we feel that, in the interests of fairness to the employees and in justice to their claims, the latest date from which an award should commence to operate is the date on which it is made. For that reason we have moved the amendment.
– I think that the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) will agree that there is not a great deal of difference, in substance, if there is any difference at all, between the present provision and what he proposes. There is only a change of emphasis, and he is laying the emphasis on the immediate operation of the award whereas in the provision as it stands the award would normally come into operation 21 days after the decision in relation to it, subject to some variation with the consent of the parties or by direction of the commission. But there is a practical problem here, that once a decision is given, then, in a- case of any consequence affecting a number of respondents, notification is to go out through the length and breadth of the Commonwealth. It has been found in practice that the 21 days is a reasonable working interval for the people to be suitably circularized, and so on; and in view of the fact that a discretion is left to the commission to reduce that waiting time, and the consent of the parties can also have the effect of reducing it, we do not feel that anything of consequence would be gained by accepting the amendment. Indeed, it might make it far less reasonably practicable to get these notifications to the respondents so that they would be aware of what had been provided.
Question put -
That the section proposed to be omitted (Mr. Claret’s amendment) stand part of the clause.
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. T. F. Timson.)
Majority . . . . 19
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Proposed section agreed to.
Proposed sections 16at to 16ax - by leave - considered together and agreed to.
Proposed section 16ay - (1.) In proceedings before the Commission, h party or intervener - may bo represented by - but, subject to the next succeeding sub-section, a party or intervener shall not be represented by counsel, solicitor or paid agent except - (//.) by leave of the Commission, granted upon application made by a party, on the ground that, having regard to the subject-matter of the proceedings, there are special circumstances which make it desirable that the parties and interveners may be so represented.
.I move -
That, in proposed section 16AY (1.), paragraph (d) be omitted.
This proposal deals with representation in proceedings before the. commission, and sub-section (1.) provides that in proceedings before the commission a party may be represented by a member or officer of an organization or, not being an organization, by an employee of that party or intervener, or a member or officer of an organization of which that party or intervener is a member. These are crucial words so far as we are concerned - but, subject to- the next succeeding subsection, a party or intervener shall not be represented by counsel, solicitor or paid agent except by leave of the Commission mid with the consent of all parties; or by leave of the Commission, granted on title ground that having regard to the subject-matter of the proceedings, there are special circumstances which make it desirable that the parties and interveners may be so represented.
The Opposition is entirely opposed to representation by counsel or a solicitor in proceedings before the commission. This proposed section does not make it clear which kind of commission is concerned. The various kinds of commission, to which I referred earlier, are so interwoven that, when the word “ Commission “ is used in this proposed section, one does not know whether it refers to the commission in presidential session, the commission as constituted to hear references, the commission as constituted to hear appeals, or the commission sitting ordinarily. Whichever it is, provision is made for legal representation in certain circumstances.
The trade union movement has had unsatisfactory experience of legal representation before the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, lt has considerably increased the costs of arbitration and prolonged proceedings, and has not assisted generally towards a better understanding between the parties. In any event, when one side is represented by solicitor or counsel, it becomes necessary for the other side to be so represented. The consequence is that the parties, instead of putting their own case and being brought together, find it more difficult than ever to understand one another properly. I suppose the’ best illustrations of the way in which cases are drawn out in consequence of the appearance of barristers or solicitors are the Rasic Wage case and the Bouts case. Since 1920, hours have been determined by a court of three. In 1930, for the first time, the court began to hear a basic wage case with a full court of three. Between 1930 and 1937, basic wage cases were conducted, with the parties represented by officers of the Associated Chambers of Manufactures of Australia, other employers’ organizations, and officers of the Australian Council of Trades Unions. Throughout that period, only one barrister appeared before the court in those cases.
I think it will be agreed that just as close a review of the Australian economy was placed before the court between 1930 and 1937 as is placed before it in similar cases to-day. Yet, in none of the cases between 1930 and 1937 did the actual hearing in respect of either the basic wage or any other matter exceed five weeks. Representatives of the employers’ organizations who participated in those cases, and who know what I am saying is correct, are present in the chamber to-night. They know that the economic reviews placed before the court in 1930, 1931, 1932, 1933, 1934, and 1937 were just as full and complete as were those placed before the court in 1940 and subsequently. That clearly indicates that it is possible for the parties which appear in court in dispute over any matter affecting wages and working conditions to place their case before the court without the appearance of counsel or solicitors, which considerably increases the costs of both sides, prolongs proceedings, and is of no material advantage in bringing about better industrial relations. Therefore, in the opinion of the Opposition, it would be very wise for the committee to omit paragraph, (d) from sub-section (1.) of the proposed section. When all is said and done, when we have arbitration machinery, we must make it. as speedy and as simple as possible. We all have had experience of what happens when solicitors and counsel enter into proceedings before the court. Instead of the proceedings being confined solely to the particular matter before the court, whether we like it or not, all sorts of legal questions are raised and more time is spent in debating those than is spent on the actual taking of evidence about the work and the conditions in industry. The amendment is sound. It will help to make the arbitration machinery speedy and simple, and I suggest that, in the interests of better industrial relations, it would be wise for the committee to agree to it.
.I support the amendment, because I arn opposed to the introduction of more legalisms into Australia’s arbitration machinery. The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) made his points very well indeed. Anything we can do to reduce the appearances of lawyers and their like in the courts in industrial matters will be for the good of the workers generally. When the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration was established, it was never intended that it should become the great legalistic machine that it has become to-day.
– It is a gold-mine.
– It is certainly a goldmine for industrial lawyers. It has driven the parties further apart. They now hammer out their differences in the court through the services of paid agents. The two parties concerned may not even be present in the court. The legal giants on both sides are left to fight out the case for them. I recall an occasion not long ago when a union fighting a very big case in Melbourne had to pay £300 a day for legal representation. The more legalistic the arbitration machinery becomes, the sooner the unions will be smashed by the heavy financial burden. They cannot stand the constantly increasing costs of litigation.
I oppose proposed section 16ay as it is drafted, first, because, aa I remarked at the outset, it merely increases the legalisms which are crippling and slowing down arbitration to-day. Secondly, legalisms of this kind are driving the parties further apart, and they are now fighting out their cases through their legal representatives instead of by their own direct participation as they used to do. Thirdly, the crippling costs weaken. and perhaps will even destroy, many of the unions in Australia. The heavy costs of this legalistic system frighten them away from going into the court at all. I oppose the proposed section as drafted, fourthly, because court proceedings are prolonged when the legal giants battle it, out day after day. In fact, the whole system of arbitration, in my humble opinion, has arrived at a stage at which we could very well consider abolishing the federal arbitration system altogether and handing arbitration over entirely to the States. One system is opposed to the other. Men who are working side by side and doing the same type of work are earning different wages. If the framers of the arbitration system had envisaged the system that exists to-day, with Federal and State systems at variance, they would never have considered a federal arbitration system at all. They would have left arbitration in the hands of the States. “We must decide either to bring arbitration into the federal sphere and have no State system of arbitration, or abolish federal arbitration, and bring arbitration into the State sphere where it would be simpler for the workers to see what was happening and the present variations in wages and awards would not occur. In my opinion, every industrial bill that comes into this Parliament does nothing at all to streamline arbitration.
I compare the situation with a ship that has barnacles on it. Every alteration of the arbitration legislation that has been made since I have been in this Parliament has only added another barnacle to arbitration. That is my candid and humble opinion about the Commonwealth system. We have spent many hours in dragging and grinding through this Parliament bills which have only added more barnacles to the ship of arbitration.
– The Government has given very careful consideration to this problem of representation. We believe that what has been presented to the Parliament in this provision represents a fair balance of judgment between the conflicting pressures which arise in relation to this issue. The provisions herein contained do not go as far as some employers and employers’ organizations would wish them to go. Then again, they go further than some, or perhaps most, trade unionists and trade union officials desire them to go. But undoubtedly the working of the system can be assisted by the presence of counsel in suitable cases. We do leave some discretion in the commission to determine which are suitable cases for the presence of counsel, and the Government believes that this provision represents a fair judgment between the conflicting claims which arise in relation to this problem.
Question put -
That the paragraph proposed to be omitted (Mr. Claret’s amendment) stand part of the section.
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. W. R. Lawrence.)
Majority . . . . 17
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Proposed section agreed to.
Proposed sections 16az to 16bf - by leave - considered together and agreed to.
Proposed section 16bg.
Division 2. - Industrial Matters - Maritime Industries. “ 16bg. In this Division, unless the contrary intention appears - “ industrial question “ means -
– I move -
That, in proposed section16bg, after the definition of “ industrial question “, the following definition be inserted: - “ ‘ masters ‘, pilots ‘ and ‘ seamen ‘ have the same meaning as in the Navigation Act 1912-1956.”
This amendment is purely of a drafting nature, and is designed to lift the industrial provisions out of the Navigation Act. The definition of masters, pilots and seamen was overlooked in drafting.
Amendment agreed to.
Proposed section, as amended, agreed to.
Proposed sections 16bh to 16bl - by leave - considered together and agreed to.
Proposed sections 16bm to 16br - by leave - considered together.
– This division refers to industrial matters in the Snowy Mountains area. If ever this Government should keep its nose out of anything, it should keep it out of the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric scheme. I mean that. Let us first look at the authority that has been established by the Government to do something about federal awards. Away back in 1951, the Government decided to move in on this scheme, which underlines what I have said consistently during this debate, that all that this Government wants to do is to centralize wages control in Australia. The success of schemes such as the Snowy Mountains scheme clearly demonstrates the futility and the danger of adopting such a policy in a growing country. The Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Power Act 1951 received the Royal Assent on the 8th December, 1951, and came into operation as from the 5th January, 1952. It amended the 1949 legislation by, amongst other things, inserting section 24c, which provided that the court had power to prevent or settle, by conciliation or arbitration, disputes in relation to the salaries, wages, rates of pay or other terms or conditions of service or employment of employees, and to determine matters relating to the employment of employees.
That provision is interesting because the rate of progress of the Snowy Mountains scheme” has demonstrated to the world that, given proper conditions of employment, Australian workmen arc equal to, if not better than, any other workmen in the world. On this project, they have broken world records. Indeed, after breaking a world record for tunnelling through solid granite, they then broke their own record. When we realize that the Commonwealth administration has kept out of that scheme, we understand why it has been so successful. The court has had authority to deal with matters connected with the Snowy Mountains scheme - matters relating to wages and. conditions - since the date I have mentioned in 1951.
It is interesting to look back over what has happened. The court did not visit the project at all in 1951-52. It appeared there for two days in 1952-53, seven days in 1953-54, and one day in 1955. It is evident, therefore, that so long as the court kept away and matters relating to wages and conditions were arranged between the employers and the employees, watched over by a New South Wales conciliation commissioner, great progress was made with the project. Honorable members on this side of the chamber know that, during the course of the next few weeks, great progress will probably be made with the laying of concrete. Prior to the introduction of what might be regarded as an incentive scheme, the maximum rate of tunnelling on this project in the deep tunnel was 153 feet a week. The company then decided - and I think that this is worthy of note - that if a better performance could be achieved, it would be worth its while to pay an additional £6 per foot beyond 114 feet in a week, to be divided between the 31 workers inside and approximately twenty outside. The management itself worked out this arrangement, which has operated very well. As a result of that agreement, which was completely contrary to federal wage principles and contrary to the way that the court has operated down the years, the men broke their own record in tunnelling through solid granite. Now, the Australian Workers Union and the management are in the process of working out a scheme that will result in retaining their best artisans on the concreting work.
I am prepared to say this : The moment that this Government attempts to bring the Snowy Mountains scheme under a central authority controlled by the Government, there will be nothing but strikes and stoppages on the project. This is -a special organization, built around a special project, and it underlines, let me repeat, the danger that will arise from this legislation. As soon as the Government centralizes control, it will destroy first, the value of wage levels, and secondly, it will destroy responsibility, initiative, and incentive. Finally, it will destroy the understanding that goes to make a job really efficient. As the principle that has operated from 1951 to the present time has been successful, why should the Government interfere with it ? During the next few weeks, this company proposes to start work on a tunnel extending for 30 miles, and it has worked out a programme on. the basis of arrangements which have worked very successfully during the time that it has been left alone. I remind honorable members opposite that the Snowy Mountains scheme was commenced by a Labour government, and we want to see it brought to a successful conclusion. Therefore, the Opposition contends that the Government should not proceed with this provision. Mr. BowDEN - Why not?
– -For the reasons that I have just mentioned. By this measure, the Government is try ing to centralize the control of wages and conditions in Australia. It will fail to do so, because the court had a look at this matter at one stage and suggested that some of the conditions provided in federal awards might well be applied to a great section of the workers. We know, and the Australian Workers Union knows, that the hour that the Government attempts to apply this condition, not one workman will be left on the Snowy Mountains scheme. As I have said, since 1951, the court has devoted a total of only about twelve days to the project. Why should the Government persist in introducing in a great project like this, something that it has been shown cannot function? Since we on this side of the chamber were the founders of the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric scheme, we believe that it should be proceeded with. We agree with management that it should be carried out with the least overhead expense possible. We know that under the present arrangement, with the Electricity Commission of New South Wales merely watching the agreements between employees and management, the scheme will go through to completion. We, therefore, ask the Minister to examine carefully the probable results of the Government’s actions in this regard. If the Government believes that the Snowy Mountains scheme should be stultified or written down, then it should go ahead with this proposal. But if the Government is nationally minded and believes that the scheme should be finished at the earliest possible moment, and that the work should be performed in such a way as to give satisfaction to workers as well as management, then it will withdraw the proposed sections.
Mr. HAROLD HOLT (HigginsMinister for Labour and National Service and Minister for Immigration) 11.56 a.m.]. - Much of what the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison) has put to the committee has been most enthusiastically received by honorable members on this side of the chamber. His encouragement of enterprise, initiative and efficient performance of work, and of incentive payments in order to obtain good results, the praise that he bestowed on the administrators of the Snowy Mountains scheme, and, by implication, on the department administered by my colleague, the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner), all made very welcome hearing for honorable members on this side of the chamber, even at this’ late hour. But when the honorable member proposes that we should exclude from the ambit of industrial arbitrament in this project our own federal authorities, I really wonder whether I am listening to a spokesman for the Labour party. I always thought that the Labour party stood for the strengthening of federal powers. I assumed that it believed that the Federal Parliament should have some responsibility in relation to the employment of its own employees. But here we are told that we should reject any responsibility for our own employees who are working on our own great national project. That suggestion may appear logical to the honorable member for Blaxland and those who sit behind him, but to honorable members on this side of the chamber it does not make sense. We believe that the provisions in the bill should stand. I cannot imagine that those who have managed to negotiate successful arrangements between employer and employee on this project will not continue to be able to do so. It is hardly credible that an experienced commissioner, whether he be one of the presidential members or one of the lay members, who may be assigned to this industry in the federal sphere, would in any way interfere, in a restrictive sense, with the splendid record of performance that is being achieved on the Snowy Mountains project at present. We ask the committee to accept what is a proper responsibility for a federal parliament in relation to its own employees, that is, the creation of arbitral jurisdiction over ‘their industrial problems.
.- I wish to answer a comment made by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt).
– Let us report progress.
– How can one make progress with this Government? The situation seems to me to be completely different from that outlined by the Minister. The people under federal authority are subject to our sovereign powers, and there is no need for us to be concerning ourselves with the kind of administration that is being created under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, which provides restrictive powers, as we all know. It is quite proper and possible for this Parliament to lay down conditions of employment and wages for the people under its authority, and, as far as I can see, the people in the Commonwealth territories and in Commonwealth employment are in an entirely different, position from those to whom it is sought to apply federal awards that result from disputes extending beyond the bounds of any one State. Therefore, the Minister’s remarks in that connexion seem to be irrelevant to the points raised by the honorable member for Blaxland.
– The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) has placed on record what he interprets to.be the viewpoint expressed by me on behalf of the Labour party. He suggested that the Labour party was opposed to federal control of its own employees. That was a completely incorrect interpretation to place on my speech.
– That is what it sounded like.
– What we have said all along, -with regard to thi? legislation, which we have consistently opposed, is that control of wages and conditions of employment in Australia cannot be centralized. That is where the difference lies between the Minister’s point of view and ours. I suggest quite frankly that if the 1947 legislation were in force, and a conciliation commissioner with unfettered powers were given control of industrial conditions applying to the Snowy Mountains scheme, the position would be entirely different. But in this legislation the Government is trying to establish a commission vested with powers to consider the public interest and other things. Having done that, it will say to the commission, “ One portion of thi= commission shall consider this special piece of work known as the Snowy Mountains scheme, and shall bring it, within the framework of the common policy laid down by the whole commission “. We say quite frankly that when the proposed sections are considered in relation to the Snowy Mountains scheme, the stupidity of this legislation will be readily recognized.
Question put -
That the proposed sections be agreed to.
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. W. R. Lawrence.)
Majority . . . . 17
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 2.8 a.m. (Wednesday).
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
d asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
What saving in taxation to the persons or organizations concerned has been made since the agreements between the United States of America and the United Kingdom, respectively, and Australia, for the elimination of double taxation became effective, with respect to
American investments in Australia,
United Kingdom investments in Australia,
Australian investments in America and
Australian investments in the United
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
The taxation agreements which Australia concluded with the United Kingdom and the United States of America are mutual agreements between nations and were designed to relieve double taxation which was imposed on income derived in one country by residents of the other country. The relief from this double taxation is achieved in relation to some classes of income by one of the countries agreeing to exempt the income from tax and thereby avoiding the double imposition of taxation. In other instances the income remains liable for tax, perhaps at a reduced rate, in both countries, but the detrimental effect of the double imposition is removed by a tax credit which is allowed by the country in which the recipient of the income resides.Where an agreement results in a reduction of the tax payable in one of the countries, there is, generally, an adjustment in the tax payable to the other country which is a party to the agreement. In these circumstances, the effect of the agreement is not to be judged from the variation in tax which occurs in only one of the countries. The true picture can be seen only if the quantum of tax payable in both countries can be compared with the tax which would have been paid in both countries if the agreement had not been concluded. Statistics have not been compiled which would enable the information requested by the honorable member to be supplied. The information necessary to compile such statistics would involve not only knowledge of the tax payable by the investors concerned but also particulars of the tax which would have been charged if the agreements had not been negotiated. In addition to details of Australian tax, it would also be necessary to ascertain the additional amount of United Kingdom and United States taxes payable as a result of the agreements and the amount of the credits allowed in those countries consequent upon the operation of the agreements. This latter information would not be available because details of the United
Kingdom and United States taxes payable by individuals and companies affected by the agreements could not be ascertained.
4;Ward asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n asked the Minister acting for the Minister for Trade, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
The honorable member will appreciate that to give detailed answers to his questions would mean divulging information furnished by the companies solely for purposes associated with the conduct of their business and would be a breach of commercial confidence. I can assure the honorable member, however, that it is not a fact that the two companies have received annual import quotas to the values mentioned. Although the companies did not initially receive quotas based on imports in their own name in the year ended the 30th June, 1951, their claims, as with those of many other applicants, were sufficiently strong to justify the grant of quotas during the period when import restrictions were being relaxed. The amount granted, however, is very much less than the figure quoted by the honorable member.
s asked the Minister acting for the Minister for Trade, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
No. The printed comments, as appearing In. certain newspapers, were not subscribed to by the Tariff Board.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice -
n. - The Minister for National Development has supplied the following answers to the honorable member’s questions:^ -
n asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
What are the names of all. commentators, other than full-time employees, employed by the Australian Broadcasting Commission since the 1st January, 1950?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
The following are the names of speakers who have broadcast news commentaries for the Australian Broadcasting Commission since the 1st January, 1950: -
Dr. Emery Bares.
H. D. Black.
J. G. Starke.
Dr. John Andrews.
Professor A. H. McDonald. 1
Dr. Lloyd Ross;
Professor Julius Stone.
Professor Geoffrey Sawer.
Professor W. Macmahon Ball.
Dr. Peter Russo
Dr. W. E. H. Stanner.
W. D. Forsyth.
Sir Frederic Eggleston.
Sir Raphael Cilento.
Professor Fred Alexander.
Professor C. K. Wheare
Professor S. F. NadeL
David de Krassell
Professor 0. H. K. Spate.
Sir Douglas Copland.
Sir John Harding.
Major-General ‘ M. A. R. West.
Lieutenant-Colonel E. T. Cakobau
Colin D. Edwards.
H. L. Wheelwright.
Monsieur A. Sourdin.
Sir Douglas Mawson.
Dr. C. Barnard.
T. J. Massey..
Mrs. Lintott Pemberton.
T. C. M. Robinson.
Professor Gordon Greenwood.
Mrs. Nancy Robson.
Professor George Catlin.
G. Ward Price.
Professor C. P. Fitzgerald.
Dr. E. J. Ojala.
Professor H. W. Arndt.
Esther van Wagoner Tufty.
Dr. Tan Clunies Ross.
Dr. Frank Louat.
Dr. Maurice L. Perlzweig.
Dr. Paul White.
Professor Marcus Oliphant.
W. D. Borrie.
D. G. Anderson.
Professor E. W. Titterton.
Dr. J. Stanley White.
Derek van Abbe.
Professor R. N. Spann.
Reverend F. Hambley.
Professor J. P. Baxter.
A. W. Edwards.
Dr. Charles Price.
Dr. J. O. N. Perkins.
Lieutenant-Colonel J. B. Ferguson.
Eric A. Johnstone.
W. S. Kelly.
Dr. Lewis Bauer.
Brigadier T. J. Daly.
Sir Brian Freestone.
Professor Zelman Cowen.
E. E. Bond.
Sir Gerald Templar.
Professor Nathaniel Peiffer.
R. C. Gates.
Melville de Mellow.
Dr. H. Narain.
Major Samuel Weiser.
N. J. Smith.
John R. Minter.
J. L. Shute.
Mrs. E. A. Jansen.
H. B. Newman and E. Ghorra.
J. R. Wilson.
Professor Lorimer Dodds.
Reverend R. Gregor Smith.
P. G. Law.
Right Honorable Kenneth Younger.
Dr. B. Geddes.
Professor E. J. Underwood.
W. A. Gunn.
Professor H. C. Webster.
Judge Roberto Regala.
Professor Harry Messell.
E. J. Donath.
Professor R. Woolley.
B. M. Butcher.
Major-General C. A. Osborne.
A. M. Ramsay.
Sir Horace Robertson.
Right Honorable Michael Blundell.
Reverend Alan Walker.
Air Vice-Marshal F. R. W. Scherzer.
Mrs. Grace Bok Holmes.
Reverend Frank Coaldrake.
Dr. Luther Evans.
Sir John Latham.
Sir John Allison,
Professor L. Still.
Professor E. Milner.
C. P. Dowsett.
Dr. D. F. Martyn.
Mr. Justice Dovey.
H. C. Freeman.
V. J. Brain.
Dr. Charles Price.
K. W. Robinson.
Reverend B. P. Horsley.
P. T. Kirkpatrick.
Lieutenant-General Gordon Bennett.
Miss Cherry Gertzel.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 5 June 1956, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1956/19560605_reps_22_hor11/>.