16th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon, J. Cunningham) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Payment of Interest: Statement by the Minister for Labour and National Service.
– Has the Leader of the Senate read two statements which appeared in the Adelaide News of the 2nd March last, in one of which the Minister for Munitions made an appeal in connexionwith the £35,000,000 Liberty Loans? The other statement was made by the Minister for Labour and National Service, who said that the people of Australia should not be asked to pay for the war afterwards by paying interest on any loans that were raised now. If so, will the Leader of the Senate inform the Senate whether the views expressed by the Minister in this matter are shared by other members of the Common wealth Government; whether he will give to the Senate, for the benefit of the people of Australia, an assurance that the undertaking of the Government in connexion with interest on this loan, as announced by the Prime Minister, will be observed ; and whether an assurance will be given that the Government will not bo influenced by the statement by the Minister that interest should not be paid ?
SenatorCOLLINGS. - I have not seen the particular newspaper paragraphs to which the Leader of the Opposition has referred,but I have read the statements in other newspapers. I presume, also, that the Leader of the Opposition has seen the definite statement by the Prime Minister on the matter. There is therefore no- ‘occasion for any further comment by me.
– In view of the answer given by the Leader of the Senate, I now ask him whether he has seen a statement in the Sydney Morning Herald, of the 5th March, in which the Minister for Aircraft Production agrees with the Minister for Labour and National Service, and states that the Minister was merely expressing a view which has been voiced countless times by the Labour party? If the Leader of the Senate has read this press report, does the Government intend to issue a statement disclaiming the opinions of both Ministers referred to, and assuring the people of Australia that subscribers to Government loans will be entitled to interest, as has always been the case?
– I have already answered the Leader of the Opposition in replying to his first question. The Prime Minister is responsible for the policy of his Cabinet, and has declared that policy. The Leader of the Opposition knows that perfectly well. I shall answer no further questions of the same nature.
-Will the Leader of the Senate state whether the Prime Minister intends to discipline the Minister for Labour and National Service for his most outrageous statement which the Leader of the Senate admits is contrary to Government policy?
– The conduct of she Prime Minister on any question is a matter for himself to decide.
Will the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce state whether the Government has received a report from Senator Clothier and the honorable member for Wimmera regarding the alleged depredations by weevil in stored wheat in Western Australia ? If so, when may the representatives of Western Australia in this chamber see the report?
– The Government has received the report, and the matter is receiving attention.
– In- view, of the urgency of granting an advance to the producers of peas, will the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce consider the withdrawal from the Prices Commissioner of the responsibility for fixing the price of peas, and declare the price promised to the growers when asked to grow peas last year? Payment has been delayed by referring the matter to the Prices Commissioner.
SenatorFRASER. - The Government will give consideration to the request of the honorable senator.
Defence Head-qharters Employees.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for the Army say what action has been taken following the Prime Minister’s public statement on the 16th February last that eligible men between the ages of 18 and 45 years employed on the head-quarters staff of the defence services were to be drafted into field units and their places taken by women, or men not of military age, an exception, of course, being made in the case of men possessing special technical qualifications ?
– I should say that effect is now being given to the policy announced by the Prime Minister, having regard to the interests of the Army. The honorable senator will realize that time must necessarily be occupied in giving effect to such a policy, in order that the action taken willnot drastically affect the administration of the fighting cervices.
– Will the Minister for Information inform the Senate as to the number of casualties caused in the air raid on Darwin a few days ago?
– I have already given details of casualties among postal officials at Darwin, but I am not in a position to give information relating to other effects of the raid there.
– Can the Minister say that the published statement dealing with the casualties at Darwin is authentic?
– Darwin is under military control, and apart from the information which I have already published regarding casualties among officers of the Postal Department, I am not in a position to’ supply the further details asked for by the honorable senator.
” SHOUTING “ IN HOTELS.
– Will the Government prohibit by regulation what is known as “shouting.” in hotels ?
– The intentions of the Government regarding the more effective control of the liquor traffic will be disclosed’ in good time.
, - ~by leave - I move -
That the time for bringing up the report of the Joint Committee on Wireless Broadcasting, appointed on the 3rd July, 1941, be extended for one month front the Srd April, 1942.
The committee has finished the preparation of its report, but some details require to be attended to before the report is presented to the Parliament.
– I should like the Postmaster-General (Senator Ashley) to state the reasons for the frequent extensions of time for the presentation of the report of this committee, as it has had a long time in which to make its investigation. I regret exceedingly that the committee did not visit Western Australia, particularly as the representatives of that State have been insistent that its broadcasting service, particularly in respect of technical matters associated with the telephone line from South Australia to Western Australia, should be improved. Apparently, the committee has not had time to visit Western Australia to investigate this and other matters; but should the period for the presentation of its report be prolonged I suggest that the committee should pay a visit to Western Australia before submitting its report.
.- Obviously^ Senator Allan MacDonald has no ‘ conception of the magnitude of the work which the Broadcasting Committee has done, otherwise he would not have made the suggestions which he has voiced this afternoon. It is true that the committee did not visit Western Australia, but it is equally true that the whole committee did not visit any of the other States. Nevertheless the committee heard a lot of evidence on behalf of Western Australia, and when its report is presented the honorable senator will see that that State has not been overlooked. The committee has completed its investigations, and had the Parliament not assembled until the 11th March, as was intended, its report would have been ready to table on that date. The earlier meeting of the “ Parliament has meant that the committee has not had sufficient time to present its report, even in typewritten form. The report, which is long and comprehensive, is really a compendium on broadcasting from the time that I convened the first meeting of the committee in Melbourne until the present day.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
In view of the present war situation, wlm I. are the proposals of the Government in respect of pensions and repatriation benefits for members of the fighting services stationed within the S tx tes and Territories of the Commonwealth 1
– The Minister for Repatriation states that the question of pensions and repatriation benefits for members of the fighting services stationed . within the States and Territories of the Commonwealth is at present under consideration by the Government, and an announcement will he made as early as possible.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Army. upon notice -
Queensland to be held in the Domain, Brisbane, on Saturday, the 21st February, at 11 a.m. to discuss the necessity of urging the Federal Government to intern all aliens?
– The Minister for the Armyhas supplied the following answers : -
Acreage Restriction - Advances - Payments for 1940-41 Crop
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
In view of the desire of wheat-growers to proceed with their normal seasonal operations, can the Minister state what further restrictions on acreage will be imposed, particularly in Western Australia?
– The Minister for Commerce has supplied the following answer : -
This matter is now being considered, and an announcement of the Government’s policy will be made in the immediate future.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
When is it anticipated that a further advance will be made to wheat-growers on their 194 1 -42 harvest?
– The Minister for Commerce has supplied the following a nswer : -
A further advance will bo made in connexion with the 1941-42 wheat crop when the financial position of the pool justifies payment.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
SenatorFRASER.- The Minister for Commerce has supplied the following answers : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
– The Minister for Commerce has supplied the following answers : -
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
Can an assurance be given to the Senate that the Income Tax Assessment Act 1936-1941 will be altered to make provision for the allowance as a deduction for federal income tax purposes of expenditure incurred in providing air raid shelters and other air raid precautionary measures?
– The Treasurer has supplied the following answer: -
The question of amending the Income Tax Assessment Act 1936-1941 to allow deductions of expenditure by taxpayers on air raid precautions will receive the consideration of the Government and, if it is decided that the deduction should be allowed, the necessary amendment will be included with other amendments to be made to the act in the next budgetary session of Parliament.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
Is it true that the Army Department proposes to allow conscientious objectors freedom from non-combatant duties, whilst married men with children included in the call-up groups are obliged to perform combatant as well as non-combatant duties?
SenatorFRASER. - The Minister for theArmy has supplied the following answer : -
Persons who claim ‘ that their conscientious beliefs will not permit them to perform either combatant or non-combatant military service are required to establish such claims before a Court of Summary Jurisdiction.
The court may order that the claimant - (a)be enrolled for military service in a non-combatant unit, or
be registered in the register of conscientious objectors, either conditionally or unconditionally.
If such registration is conditional, the condition is that he shall undertake such work of a civil character and under civilian control and at such pay as the Minister for Labour and National Servicemay direct.
Married men with children, without conscientious beliefs will be called up for military service as required, but every consideration is being given to calling up unmarried men and married men without families first.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
-The Treasurer has supplied the following answers: -
Wireless Transmission of Information
asked the Minister for Information, upon notice -
Is there any truth in a press statement that in the home of the Japanese Consul in Sydney there is a transmitting wireless set which is being used to transmit information to our enemies?
– The answer to the honorable senator’s question is as follows : - 1 have made inquiries from the Security Services and ‘ they report that there is no truth whatever in the suggestion. Every precaution has been taken by the present Government in relation to such establishments.
– 1 move -
That Regulation No. 27b of the National Security (Coal Control) Regulations, issued under the National Security Act 1939-1940, and included in Statutory Rule No.,10of 1942, be disallowed.
I take this opportunity to remind the Senate once again of the enormous powers which have been given by Parliament to the Executive since the outbreak of thewar, and also to emphasize the duty devolving upon all honorable senators in considering the regulation issued under the National Security Act. Since the 1st January approximately 100 statutory rules have been gazetted, and many of those rules contain a number of regulations. I have been advised on sound legal authority that, whilst the Senate may disallow a regulation under a statutory rule, it cannot disallow part of a regulation under a statutory rule. In view of the wide powers now possessed by the Executive, and having regard to the number of regulations which arc being gazetted, every opportunity should be afforded the Senate to give full consideration to these regulations. I personally intend to oppose strenuously any regulation which I think will not help our war effort or will do serious injustice to the people as a whole. Of course, it is the duty of every honorable senator to approach these regulations in that way/ Parliament should meet as regularly as possible in order to give us the opportunity to consider these regulations most carefully. Some regulations have been in operation for a considerable time, yet we have not had an opportunity to pass judgment on them. Evenhonorable senators opposite will admit that many regulations gazetted recently were prepared rather hurriedly. I protest also against the action of certain Ministers, or who ever is responsible, in not laying on the table of the Senate at the earliest possible moment certain important regulations promulgated in the Commonwealth Gazette.
In moving that regulation 27B be disallowed, I draw the attention of the Senate in the first place to the objectionable nature of that regulation, which, to me, savours of vicious discrimination between employer and employee. Regulation 27A provides first of all that -
The owner of a coal-mine -
In a recent amendment, the word “ Commission “ was substituted far Commissioner “. I have no objection to the placing of that power in the hands of the commission. I do not propose to read the regulation any farther, but honoraible senators will realize thai, should an employer refuse to observe the conditions laid down in the regulation, he is subject to a fine and certain other penalties. However, regulation 27b provides that when a coal-mine is open for the purpose of its operation in the manner in which it is usually operated, and the committee of . management of any organization of employees in the coal-mining industry has directed members of the organization to work at the mine, any person who refuses to attend shall be dealt with by the management committee of the union concerned. Surely, if it is right that the commission should have power over the owners, it is also right t hat it should have control over the employees. I cannot remember any regulation such a? this having been passed through Parliament in recent years. I cannot understand how responsible people canthinkit fit and. proper to place such authorityinthehands of the president, secretary and committee of management of a union, these officers having been appointed by the coal-miners themselves. It is too ludicrous for words. It is quite obvious that if such a committee ordered the coal-miners back to work, or ordered them to do anything not acceptable to them, the coal-miners would see that member? of the committee were disciplined when they came up for re-election. Those of us who have had an opportunity of watching the course of events in various coal-mining unions realize how jealously the president,secretary and committee members have to guard their statements and actions, because they depend on the votes of the miners if they wish to be re-elected upon the expiration of their term of office.
– What is wrong with that?
– First of all, it displays vicious discrimination. The regulation provides that the commission shall deal with the employers, but that the unions themselves shall deal with the employees. The union committee of managementhas power to direct men to soback to work, and if they refuse to obey. they may be expelled from the organization in accordance with section 2 of the regulation.
My second objection to regulation 27b is that it smells of political pandering to union executives who are supporters of the Labour party and of the Labour Government. There can be no doubt about that. I suggest to the Government that the people of Australia are becoming tired of reading day after day, following statements by responsible Ministers about alleged total mobilization, that it is necessary to consult the Australasian Council of Trade Unions or some other outside body of unionists in. order to see whether or not the action proposed by the Government is acceptable to such bodies. The people are quite right in claiming that in times such as these the Government should govern and should not be dictated to by outside interests. I have no hesitation in saying that if one looks at these regulations carefully and fairly, one can come to no other conclusion about them.
Mythird objection to this regulation is that it means’ political interference with the work of the Arbitration Court, lt is an attempt on the part of the Government to appease the extremists in the trade union movement and to undermine the power vested in the Arbitration Court. All political parties favour arbitration, and I suggest that the umpire’s decision should be taken as final. I warn the Government that if it continues this policy of appeasement and political interference, those whom it tries to appease will bite the hand that feeds them. There is ample evidence of that in the reports appearing in the press from day to day.
– Industry has never worked more smoothly than it is working to-day.
– The honorable Senator knows better than that. He knows that a strike occurred on the Melbourne waterfront just after Darwin was bombed. The policy of interfering with matters which have been fully considered by the Arbitration Court is getting this Government into a serious position. I was horrified to read in the Melbourne Sun of the 4th March, the following report : -
Judge Orders Use op Machine Unit.
Sydney, Tuesday. “1 will ask the Minister for Labour (Mr.
Ward ) to intervene “, the general secretary of the Miners’ Federation (Mr. C. W. Grant) declared when Judge Drake Brockman gave a ruling before the Central Coal Reference Board to-day.
The judge had dismissed the union’s protest against introduction of a mechanical unit on the afternoon shift at Richmond Main colliery.
There was a danger of stoppages in the industry if the mechanical unit was allowed to operate, Mr. Grant said in an interview after the case.
After the Arbitration Court had given its judgment, and the secretary of the union had conferred with Ministers on numerous occasions, and had promised the Prime Minister to do all in his power to increase production of coal in this national emergency, he made a public statement that he would refer the matter to the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward). Regulation 27b encourages that sort of thing and tends to undermine the authority of the Arbitration Court.
The fourth objection to the regulation is that it has failed to prevent strikes. This unsatisfactory regulation was promulgated on the 9th January. 1942. On the 8th January, the Prime Minister threatened that the Government would take drastic action unless the mines were re-opened at once. On the 9th January, he made his now famous statement, “ The coal-miners must work or fight”. “We all know that many young men, who were formerly outside the coal-mining industry and who should be fighting for their country, have taken the opportunity to secure employment in the mines in order to shelter themselves, and that they are doing the work which married men and older men have been called upon by the Government to do. On the 17th February, the Prime Minister said, “All resources, human and material, will be mobilized”. On tinsame day, five coal-mines, were idle in spite of the provision of regulation 27n. What action did the union committer take on that occasion? On the 25th February, it was reported that the Prime Minister had telephoned Mr. Scanlon, the Northern Miners’ president, thai immediate action must be taken to secure continuity of production. That wa.= merely a repetition of what he had said on the 8th January. Then, despite bhp fact that the Prime Minister’s threats had been ignored and that the regulation promulgated on the 9th January had been laughed at by the miners’ executive and ridiculed by the extremists, it was reported that an absenteeism regulation would be introduced so that nobody would have discretionary power to shield strikers from the consequences of their actions. That absenteeism regulation has been promulgated. I am not aware whether it overrides regulation 27b, but, in any case, we have been forced to the conclusion that regulation 27b has failed, and that, therefore, the Prime Minister has failed to carry out his threat. Thi.= unsatisfactory position has existed for over two months in spite of the fact that we are at war. I hope that, when it has considered the points which. I have mentioned, the Senate will decide, that it would be justified in ‘ disallowing regulation 27n.
.- It is unnecessary to draw attention to the fact that it is quite competent for any honorable senator to move for the disallowance of a regulation. Therefore, the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) need not have occupied any time in apologizing for the action which he has taken. It would be advisable for me to read regulation 27b at this stage, because that is the only regulation involved in the motion now before the Chair- If I may do so with due deference to you, Mr. President, I suggest that it is distinctly out of order for any body to attempt, as the Leader of the Opposition did at various stages of his remarks, to refer to matters other than those concerned by regulation 27b.
– Order! The Leader of the Opposition connected his remarks with the’ motion for the disallowance of regulation 27B.
– I am glad to have that assurance, but I considered that his reference to the waterside workers could not, by any suggestion of expediency, have been related to regulation 27b, which deals with coal-miners. Apparently the Leader of the Opposition took legal advice on this subject, but he came here very ill prepared. In order that there may be no misapprehension about the subject of this debate, I shall road regulation 27b, which is as follows : - 27b. - ( 1.) When a coal mine is open for the purpose of its operation in the manner in which it is usually operated and the duly constituted committee of management of any organization of employees in the coal-mining industry has directed, instructed, counselled or otherwise advised the members of the organization, who are, or were, prior to the giving of the direction, instruction, counsel or advice, actually or usually employed at the coal mine, to work at the coal mine, any person who is or was so employed shall not, without reasonable excuse (proof whereof shall lie upon him), refuse or fail to attend for work at the coal mine at the customary place and at the customary times or to work at the coal mine during the hours for which he is required or for which it is usual for employees of his classification, to work at the coal mine. (2.) If any person commits a contravention of the provisions of the last preceding subregulation then, in addition to any penalty which may be imposed on him in respect of that contravention, the duly constitutedcommitteeof management of any organization to which he belongs may expel him from membership of the organization.
– What is wrong with “shall expel”, instead of “ may expel “ ?
– If the honorable senator will move an amendment to the regulation in order to substitute the word “ shall “ for the word “ may “, he will not be without support in this chamber. I am giving the honorable senator a chance to prove his worth and stand up to his challenge.
I ask the Leader of the Opposition what he objects to in regulation 27b. He did not tell us. In his wordy ramblings he spoke of other regulations, and told us what had not been done and what ought to be done, but he did not state what portion of regulation 27b he opposed. What would happen if this motion were agreed to in the Senate? Nothing whatever would happen, except that regulation 27B would be no longer in operation, provided that the disallowance could be carried in the House of Representatives.
– If a regulation be disallowed by one branch of the legislature, it ceases to operate.
– The honorable senator knows what we could do if the motion were carried. I know that the honorable gentleman is a compendium of wisdom, but I have some knowledge, and I am expressing as much as I have. All that would happen would be that the power conferred by this regulation on the organization of the coal-miners, with its pains and penalties, would be no longer in existence. Is that what honorable senators opposite want?
– Then it is the first time in the history of this country that Ihave seen a body of gentlemen, constituted as the Opposition is constituted, uphold itself as a champion for the removal of restrictions imposed upon people whom we on this side of the chamber represent. The parties, to which honorable senators opposite belong have, down the ages, sought to clamp down regulations on the workers, and only to the extent that the Labour party has had power has it been possible to prevent them from carrying all ot their vicious designs into practice. Let us ask ourselves what regulation 27n seeks to accomplish.. It seeks to accomplish, a most desirable thing - >a greater and more continuous production of coal. To the degree that the Primo Minister has used his influence with the miners, he has .been so successful that I am able to declare to the Senate and to the people of this country that the greatest output of coal in the history of coal-mining in Australia has been achieved this year.
– Over what period?
– For the whole period of the war. This year we have had the greatest production of coal and the greatest continuity of production. Why have we clamped down ‘ heavily on all those industries that are unnecessarily consuming coal? Why have we ‘asked motorists to fix producer-gas unite to their oars? Why has the Government taken a lead in this matter by providing as many producer-gas units as possible for departmental cars? The answer is that the use of petrol, where its use can be avoided, operates against the war effort. The Opposition asks that this regulation be disallowed, although that would mean that the Government would have less control over the coal industry, and then would be a return to the bad old days when - there was little control except the capitalist rule of “ work or starve “.
– Has the Minister heard of the Arbitration Court?
– -When the Leader of the Opposition was stating his case, I made a note of the fact that, despite the opposition of the party to which honorable senators opposite belong, the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration was established. Honorable senators opposite never mention the word “conciliation”. I suspect that the reason they want this regulation disallowed is that they have no faith in arbitration or in any of the things which the Labour . Government does at the moment to re.sru.late industry.
Why has, the Government promulgated the various regulations to which the Leader of the Opposition has referred? It is became there is a war in progress. 1 wish honorable senators opposite would at all times remember, in these dark and distressful days, that the present Ministry has had to resort to regulations to a greater degree than any previous administration. As the days have lately become more dark and distressful, it has become more necessary than ever for the Government to promulgate regulations to meet new situations as they arise; but the Senate has never been deprived of its right to review them. On listening to the Leader of the Opposition, one would imagine that the Government had done something of an unprecedented nature which was little short of a crime. It should be realized that events of the utmost significance occur overnight. In this fearful war, which is now being brought right into the homes of the people, and right into the departments of some of the members of the Government in this chamber, it is sometimes necessary to promulgate regulations at a moment’s notice, in order to prevent disaster succeeding disaster. The Leader of the Opposition has assured us that he has taken legal advice as though it i.= possible, under war conditions, for the Senate to proceed calmly with the discussion of a. motion of this kind. Cannot the Opposition realize that everything being done by the Government is designed to make the wheels of industry run smoothly. Ministers desire so to lubricate the industrial machinery that it will operate more continuously and effectively than ever before, yet the greatest contribution that the Opposition is able to make in the direction of assisting the Government is to throw sand into the works. -I regret to have to say this, hut the kind of speech made by the Leader of the Opposition in introducing the motion is the most effective fifth column work of which I can -conceive, at a time when all of us ought to be devoting every ounce of the energy at our disposal to the task of achieving victory. I remember what the Leader of the Opposition said last week, and I noted then the same shameful indifference to the facts of war that we have witnessed to-day.
Regulation 27n is one of the simplest provisions that I can imagine.
– It is so simple that it is silly.
– Oh, no ! There might have been something to be said in favour of the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition, had he said, “ We understand the intention behind this regulation, and we know the seriousness of the position. We realize that one of Australia’s greatest needs is a continuous production of coal. We do not ask that the regulation be disallowed, but suggest that another clause be added in order to make it more effective for the purpose for which it is designed. Yet the Opposition contends that all that is necessary to bring about maximum production in the coal industry is to disallow the regulation. The Leader of the Opposition has referred to a number of newspaper reports.I also have a number of clippings from newspapers. One states that when a workman was killed in the Bulli mine his mates stopped work! The Leader of the Opposition does not know much about the coal industry, but I have lived amongst coal-miners, and I understand their conditions. It has always been a traditional procedure in connexion with coal-mining activities for the employees to cease work for the day as a mark of respect to their dead mate, in the event of a fatality occurring in a mine. Members of this chamber stand in their places for a few moments when invited to do so by you, Mr. President, as a mark: of respect tothe memory of a deceased senator or ex-senator, but the miners are vilified in the press for a similar action.
It is of not the slightest use for honorable senators opposite to try to buttress their claims by cuttings from the press, because it is possible to provide other newspaper extracts in rebuttal of all such claims. The Leader of the Opposition knows that I am sincere in this matter. Although we are political opponents we have never had hard words. I am sorry for him in having submitted this motion, which is of vital importance and which he is perfectly entitled to submit. Yet he did notmention one part of the regulation in question or give one sound argument why it should be disallowed. He did not show that greater coal production would result if the regulation were disallowed. He closed his eyes to the fact that greater production had followed as a result of the operation of the regulation. I suggest, with all respect, that if the Leader of the Opposition has any abler debaters than himself, he should call on them to support the motion and attempt to supply reasons why the regulation should be disallowed.
. - I stand almost aghast at the ferocity with which the Leader of the Senate (Senator Collings) has attacked the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay). I should have thought that regulation 27b contained in itself sufficient reason for the Opposition to take certain steps, because it must be obvious to all what the Government desires to accomplish and also the objectionable means by which it seeks to achieve its objective. In the earlier part of this statutory rule, the Government has imposed certain obligations upon owners of coal-mines. I hold no brief for them, but I point out that in their case the consent of an officer of high standing is necessary before they may do certain things. In respect of the employees in the coal-mining industry, however, the Government has placed the control in the hands of an organization to which it refers in guarded terms. There is reference to the “ duly constituted committee of management of any organization of employees inthe coalmining industry”.
– There is nothing ambiguous about that.
– Had the committee of management in the clothing trade in Melbourne, with which some honorable members are so familiar, determined that certain employees should go back to work, we know what the position would have been. The appointment of this committee of management is the outcome of the Government’s determination that the control of coalmining shall be handed over to persons who are dependent for their positions upon the votes of the miners whom they control.
– On what does the honorable senator base that statement?
– The regulation itself refers to a “ committee of management of any organization of employees in the coal-mining industry ‘’.
When I. was a member of a former Government, Mr. Justice Davidson made a full investigation of the coal-mining industry. I regret the trouble that both mine-owners and employees in the coalmining industry have caused in this country, and am astounded to think that they should have no proper realization of their duty to the nation, particularly at such a time as the present. When dealing with the owners of coal-mines, the Government has quite properly provided that they shall not do certain things without the consent of the Commissioner. The. whole regulation is loaded against the owners. What organization of. employees would dare to take such a step as is contemplated in this regulation?
– They have done it.
– It is unfairthat men who have been elected to responsible positions should be placed in such . a, situation, but it is an easy way out. politically for the Government. The Leader , of the Senate, with that subt lety which characterizes him in debute,-.. asked the Leader of the Opposition.with, what he would replace regulation 27b. In the circumstances referred to by. ..the Leader of the Senate, ought we now to be engaged in “poker play” and Wicks which will not get us anywhere]?!.: The substitution of some other provision for regulation 27b is a matter, notforthe Leader of the Opposition, but for the Government. The duty of replacing that regulation with something thatisjust and consistent with our arbitration legislation, rests on the. Governments . Are we to hand over to some section..of. private enterprise-for that is’ what a. ‘ trade union is - the power to act judicially? Clause 2 of regulation 27 b provides -
If any person commitsa contravention of the provisions of the last preceding subregulation then, in addition to any penalty which’:may be imposed on him in respect of that contravention, the duly constituted committee:of management of any organization to which he belongs may expel him from membership of the organization.
I.ask,.,honorable senators to visualize the position of members of a committee of management who dared to give effect to the . regulation, and the chaos which would,f ollow in the industry.
The Leader of the Senate has asked for suggestions, thereby displaying a proper spirit, which I welcome.
– The honorable senator referred just now to the ferocity of the Leader of the Senate.
– The ferocity of the Leader of the Senate is simulated. I once had a Scotch terrier which barked savagely when visitors approached the house, but he was in fact the most kindly disposed of all Scotch terriers - and all Scotch terriers are kind. If the Leader of the Senate be sincere in asking for suggestions, it would be well if members of the Opposition were to accept his offer. I cannot think that any government should deliberately stand for one law for one class and another law for another class of the community. I now ask the Government to agree to confer with the Leader of the Opposition and some of his supporters, in regard to these matters. I realize the difficulties associated with the control of the coal-mining industry in this country. I know that it was without propercontrolling tribunals for a number of years, and that there was a lamentable lack of understanding on the part of many members of my own profession of matters associated with coal-mining. But if control is to be placed in the hands of persons who are familiar with the industry, those persons should not be dependent on the votes of those whom they control. Whatever tribunal is set up should be quasi-judicial. I make that suggestion in response to the appeal of the Leader of the Senate. Unfortunately trouble in the coal-mining industry in Australia is no new thing, but I cannot congratulate the Government on the way in which it has set out to act firmly in’ connexion with this industry. The Leader of the Senate spoke of the Government’s action towards arbitration.
– I did nothing of the kind.
– I wrote down what the honorable gentleman said. He asked the Leader of the Opposition what he would substitute for the regulation, but, as I have pointed out, the replacing of this regulation is a matter for the Government. If some cushion is necessary in order to get the coalmine rs back to work-
– They are at work and have never worked better.
– Obviously, the Government is uneasy about the coal-mining industry, as other governments have been. Should some cushion be thought necessary to meet this situation, I implore the Government not to intrude into the legal life of this country.
– A government of which the honorable senator was a member appointed reference boards to control the industry.
– Those bodies were quasi-judicial tribunals, whereas in this regulation the Government proposes to hand over the control of the mines to a committee of management representing an organization of employees. There is nothing of firmness or fairness in the proposal; indeed, there is no judicial atmosphere about it at all. because it is proposed that the control should be in the hands of people whom the Government desires to control. The Government’s proposal is wrong.
– The honorable senator has not shown us what is wrong.
– If the honorable senator cannot distinguish between what is proposed in respect of the owners of coal-mines and the proposals in respect of employees in the coalmining industry, I cannot help him. But I see in this regulation an intrusion upon our political faith which is most undesirable. On other occasions I have seen regulations which have left in the public mind a feeling of uneasiness, because of the belief that by means of regulations the Government of the day was seeking to give effect to its own party platform. I do not accuse the present Government of doing that, although I find fault with some of. its regulations. However, when there is a belief that theunderlying principles . of our legislation and of our understanding of justice are in danger, it is time for. the parties to come together. The’ Leader of . the Senate has pointed out the urgency of these regulations. It is not . reasonable to allow a man to be judge in. his own cause, particularly if he be dependent for his livelihood on the votes of the people with whom he has to deal. It is extraordinary that that view did not occur to some of the advisers of the Government. Any power which the Government requires in order to enable the coal-mining industry to function 100 per cent should be given to it; but nothing can justify lopsided control of this kind. I regret to have to say it, but it seems to me that this regulation is the price demanded by the miners. If we have reached a stage when legislation can be demanded as the price to satisfy any section of industry, it is time that democratic government in this country was ended. I shall not be a party to such legislation. There must be no bargaining of this kind on the part of the Government with any section of industry. Men who will not return to work should be spoken to in the terms used by the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) when he told both the owners and the miners that they must get back to work. The public and, I am sure, Parliament as a whole, were behind the Prime Minister when he uttered those words; but the public would not support this legislation if they fully understood it.
– What abouttesting it?
– Probably it will be tested; and if mob rule should win the day, it will be all the worse for Australia. I sincerely urge the Government to devise fairer means to overcome the difficulties existing in the industry. Short of control of’ this kind, I have not the slightest doubt that every member of tie Opposition will : wholeheartedly support any effort by the Government to deal with the problems of the industry. The Government, must realize that the Opposition has no desire to hamper it in any way. We have not objected to many other regulations although they violate every . political principle for which we stand. Recently a regulation, which was drafted hurriedly, was referred by the Government to a joint committee. Cannot a similar course be followed in respect of this regulation, with a view to devising a fairer means of control? This regulation is valueless from a judicial point of view, and it is a. disgrace to any legislature.
-Why debate it if it be valueless?
– It embodies a vicious principle. If the need should ever arise to apply it, the Government will soon find out how use- less it is to make men the judges of their own actions. That is the effect of this regulation. If the Government declines to reconsider it, I shall certainly vote for its disallowance.
– We know that.
– That interjection is puny. Does the honorable senator forget the numerous occasions on which members of the Opposition have swallowed their political principles in order to stand behind the Government in the present emergency? It is time that the Government adopted a firm attitude, and declared that irrespective of the wishes of parties it shall do the right thing in the interests of the nation. I could not help but admire the Leader of the Senate (Senator Collings) when he introduced this strain into the debate; and I appreciate very much his gesture in holding out the olive branch to the Leader of the Opposition which I think the latter, in the light of existing circumstances, should accept, with a view to securing the withdrawal of this regulation in order to permit of a fairer means of control being devised.
– I have listened with interest to the speeches of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) and Senator A. J. McLachlan ; butI have yet to learn that this regulation is of sufficient importance to take precedence over other urgent business which should now be occupying the attention of all of us. Almost down the ages, one might say, trouble has occurred in the coal-mining industry. In bringing down this regulation the Government has, in effect, sought to grease the skids for the more effective working of the industry. Regulation 27a provides certain penalties in respect of breaches by the employers. The Leader of the Opposition has objected to regulation 27b on the ground that it treats the employees leniently. I point out that regulation 27b provides for two penalties in respect of employees. One of those is most severe as any honorable senator who knows anything at all about trade unionism will recognize. As members of a trade union, the men elect a committee of management to deal- with the operations of the colliery in which they work. If no such committee existed, with whom would the management confer in the event of a hold-up in any mine? Obviously, in drafting this regulation, the Government has been guided by the scheme actually in operation in the mines, so far as dealings between the miners and the owners are concerned. In addition to incurring the penalties prescribed by the act, any miner who commits a breach of this regulation becomes liable to the greatest degradation that can be placed upon a trade unionist, namely, expulsion from his union. Those who declare that the regulation is unfair have not examined it. As all of us know, the coal industry is a troublesome industry. Recently we have effected some improvements in it, but the history of the industry is, to say the least, malodorous.
– Has this regulation been gazetted in order to enable the union to get rid of certain undesirable? in the industry?
– I do not know; but it has been enacted in order to place some effective check on people who hold up the industry unnecessarily. Honorable senators generally know that I stand 100 per cent, for unionism. At the same time I have invariably preached and practised efficiency in trade unionism. In war-time the trade unionists are prepared to stand beside the nation. The ex-Ministers for Munitions and Aircraft Production will agree with that statement. The coal industry to-day is contributing more than its normal share to the welfare of this country. We realize that fact when we remember that the miners are working longer hours than they have ever worked before. That, of course, applies to the workers in many industries, of the majority of whom we hear nothing. We hear very little, for instance, about the efforts of our railway men ; but they are probably doing more than any other section for the success of our war effort. As the Leader of the Opposition and his colleagues are represented on a body which is assisting the Government to prosecute the war, it is wrong for them to intrude this matter in this way. When I and my colleagues were in opposition, we gave full support ro every measure brought down by the government of the day. I was going to =ay that the Opposition, apparently, does not want any regulations; but I do not really believe that that is so. However, I remind the Leader of the Opposition in reply to his advocacy that every regulation should be fully considered by this Parliament, that when we made the same request to the Government of which he was o member, no notice was taken of ns. At that time, Parliament did not meet regularly, because Ministers had a full-time joh in attending to their respective departmental duties. At the same lime, hundreds of regulations were enacted without Parliament being given mi opportunity to consider them. This regulation was gazetted on the 9 th January last. I urge the Leader of the Opposition to allow it to stand. Should the position in the industry worsen, we shall then consider the framing of a more effective regulation. This regulation was il rafted with the sole intention of enabling the industry to work more smoothly. Probably it has not, been so successful as we had hoped ; but in those circumstances I take the human point of view. Any honorable senator who has studied the industry realizes that it has many, annoying hold-ups. That is the experience of the industry throughout the world. At the same time, it is difficult to find a more courageous class of men than coal-miners. That fact is demonstrated in every mine disaster. T do not know of better Australians who have a dirtier or a harder job. I say that, not as a coal-miner, but from my general industrial experience. Indeed, if any one wanted me to dig for coal, they would have to pay me five times as much as coal-miners now receive. Experience has shown that any legislation which prescribes penalties, whether it be enacted hy a Labour or a non-Labour government, i.s never effective. Penalties aire prescribed in this regulation, but the direst penalty is placed not on the owner, but on the miner. Any miner who absents himself from work renders himself liable to expulsion from his union. The Leader of the Opposition declared, and, to my amazement, Senator A- J- McLachlan supported his statement, that this regulation runs counter to our arbitration law. I have heard nothing in this debate to show that this is the case. Honorable senators must be aware that the committees prescribed do not have the final say; that disputes may ultimately be referred to a tribunal. This regulation consequently does not run counter to our arbitration law. I challenge contradiction on that point. In the first place, the coal-miners at no time came under the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act. They have a special tribunal dating back to the last war. The Hibble tribunal was formed in 1918 to fix wages and conditions in the coal-mining industry, but it was not on the same lines as the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. It was found inadequate to deal with disputes in war-time. To-day both Federal and State machinery exists for dealing with disputes, and there is no warrant for any hold-up in production. Let us retain the arbitration machinery now in operation in the mining industry. To my mind, regulations such as this do not interfere with any principle of arbitration. The trade union movement has made huge concessions m the past two years to me> the pressing needs of the war. On that point I challenge any contradiction. Never for a moment did I think that I should live to see the day when there would be dilution of labour and other such tremendous changes, but these things have come to pass, and rightly so because they are necessary in the interests of the people.
In conclusion, I strongly urge that this regulation be not interfered with. It is one of a series of regulations and there has been no complaint from the coalowners. In fact the production of coal is on the increase, and I believe that difficulties in the mining industry will solve themselves in the face of the deplorable prospect now confronting us. Probably in the near future the Leader of the Opposition and myself will not be talking of industrial disputes, but rather of going the whole hog, and seeing that this country is protected 100 per cent, by means of co-operation between employers and employees in this industry.
– I assure the Senate that I have a very real sense of responsibility in supporting the motion for the disallowance of this regulation. I realize, as does every other honorable senator, the critical position that faces this country. Consequently I give an. assurance that this motion has not been moved in any flippant mood, but because we believe that the regulation complained of constitutes a real injustice and does not preserve equity between various classes of the community. 1 was interested to hear the reply by the Leader of the Senate (Senator Collings) to the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) and to note the points which the Minister raised in rebuttal of the case placed before the Senate by my leader. At no time did the Minister touch upon the crux of the objection to this regulation.’ He tried to justify it by saying that it had been successful, but I suggest that he pays no tribute to the patriotism of the coal-miners if he considers that it was the influence of this regulation which enabled him to state, as he did, that all the coal-mines in Australia were working to-day. Surely the Leader of the Senate will admit that the coal-miners too, have a sense of responsibility. Indeed, I have no hesitation in faying that at least 98 per cent, and probably 99 per cent, of them have a very full sense of responsibility, and had they been permitted to express it by carrying out their wishes, there would have been fewer strikes. The real point about this regulation is this: I agree that under the stress and urgency of war-time conditions when Ministers are striving to the utmost to carry out their administrative work it is quite possible that, without any deliberate intention to injure any particularsection of the community, for a regulation, to bo issued which does create an anomalous situation. Therefore, I do not think we need consider this regulation in any heated spirit. We merely wish to point out to the Government that it is completely wrong for one tribunal to adjudicate for one section of an industry, and an entirely different body to adjudicate for another section. Quite frankly, I admit that I am not nearly so conversant with all the . ramifications of the coal-mining industry as are many hon orable senators, but during my brief term as Minister for Supply and Development, the first coal commission to be constituted since the war began was set up. In doing that, we did what we thought was the proper thing; we consulted both owners and miners, and 3 should like to pay a tribute to the helpful attitude which was displayed by the miners’ representatives on any occasion on which I met them. I say also that with my lack of general knowledge of coalmining, conditions which I found to exist in that industry appalled me. Consequently, I was not surprised at the frequency of disturbances and disputes. However, the Menzies Government also recognized that fact, and, in consultation with various interests, it set up local reference boards and a central reference board which, in addition to the Arbitration Court, would be on the spot to settle disputes as they arose. I have no quarrel with this Government if it feels that some additional tribunal is necessary. . I assure the Leader of the Senate that with regulation 27a, providing for control over the coal-owners, I have no dispute at all, and if the Government considers that some authority should be set up to consider whether or not disputes in the coal-mining industry are of sufficient substance to cause a strike, I still have no quarrel, but I agree with Senator A. j. McLachlan that to use a committee which is composed of partisans representing one section only is completely’ improper. I am sure that the people of this country will agree that with the tribunals already . in existence for the immediate consideration of disputes, at this critical time in our history there is no dispute of sufficient magnitude to cause a strike in the coal-mining industry. If the Leader of the Government is in a conciliatory frame of mind with regard to this’ regulation, and the Government feels that, this power should be given ‘to some authority-
– Regulation 27b is our authority.
– Honorable senators opposite have asked what alternative we propose, and I am merely suggesting that the Leader of the, Senate may’be in a conciliatory frame of mind. I remind him that lie did not touch upon the equity of these two tribunals during the whole of his remarks.
– There is nothing about two tribunals in regulation 27b.
– No, but a tribunal specified in regulation 27a deals with the coal-owners.
– The honorable senator has not moved for the disallowance of regulation 27a.
– No, because we do not object to it. We contend that a tribunal consisting of one representative of the coal-miners, one representative of the owners, and an independent chairman should be a competent body, and if it is reasonable for that body to control the coal-owners surely it is only equitable that the same authority control the coal-miners.
SenatorFraser. - It does.
– It does not. By implication, the committee of management of a union is given power to sanction . a strike.
– The Leader of the Senate, who apparently has had voluble legal advice on this matter, should realize that that power is given by implication. The regulation provides, in effect, that the miners are not running counter to the National Security Act if they go on strike, unless this tribunal has ordered them back to work. So, by implication, if the tribunal does not order the miners back to work they are not contravening the regulations if they go on strike. I appeal to the Government to realize that, whether by intention or otherwise, the effect of this regulation is inequitable. If that discrimination ‘were not intended, then honorable senators opposite should support the motion for the disallowance of the regulation, and should substitute one which carries out their intentions. So farI have heard nobody on the Government side of the chamber say that that was the intention.
– The intention is to provide for disciplining the miners.
– There is power under the union rules to discipline the miners, and I have yet to learn that this additional power has been used since this regulation was promulgated.
Finally, the Leader of the Senate told us that coal production was at its highest level in the history of the industry.I am very pleased to hear that, because we have heard reports which indicated the contrary. I know from my own personal knowledge that supplies of coal in South Australia have not been the best in the history of the industry, and, in fact, have been considerably smaller than they shouldhave been in this time of emergency. There is no need for us to become heated on this subject. The Opposition has made its position clear. I appeal to the Government, since it did not intend to conferupon the committees of management the powers that are conferred upon them by this regulation, to agree to the motion for the disallowance of regulation 27b, and to promulgate a regulation which does carry out its intention.
– Apparently, there is some confusion about the meaning of regulation 27b. Honorable senators opposite have endeavoured to read into it some threat of interference with our arbitration system, which is entirely wrong. Why did the Government promulgate this regulation? In the first place, it wantedto bring about the maximum production of coal, which is the desire of all parties represented in this chamber. We have not had a 100 per cent, production in the industry, although I say to Senator McBride that stocks of coal in South Australia to-day are higher than they have ever been.
– That is not so; I deny it. The statement is completely inaccurate.
– It is . a, statement of fact. But still we consider that our stocks are not high enough.
– They are not higher than they have ever been. I have the figures.
– Order ! The honorable senator is not in order in continually interjecting.
– The motion now before the Senate represents, a political attack upon the Government because of its standing in the public estimation, and an attempt to throw a spanner in the wheels of industry. Ever since this Government has been in power endeavours have been made by some members of the Opposition, in spite of their protestations that they wish to associate themselves with the Government in order to achieve a 100 per cent, war effort, to drive a wedge between the Government and the Opposition parties.
– Has the honorable senator anything to say about the regulation?
SenatorFRASER. - I am coming to that, and I shall give the honorable senator some information of which he is not aware. I cannot see that regulation 27b interferes in any way with regulation 27a. It merely gives to a committee of management certain powers to discipline its own members. The Opposition wishes to see a 100 per cent, production in the coal industry. Therefore, I ask whether it will be prepared to support the regulation if it has achieved that objective. For that is what the regulation has done. Every coal-mine in the Commonwealth is working to-day. In this connexion, I pay a tribute to the Minister for Supply and Development (Mr. Beasley), whose energy and determination played a great part in achieving full production.
– How many strikes have there been in the industry since the regulation was promulgated ?
– There were more strikes when the previous Government was in office than there have been since this Government has been in power.
– They were engineered to embarrass us.
– The Opposition is endeavouring to embarrass this Government. It says that it wishes to disallow this regulation in order to achieve the very purpose . which the regulation has effected. What would have happened if this regulation had not been introduced? If the Government had taken the recalcitrant miners to court, and fined them or put them into prison for failing to work, would’ that have brought about, a 100 per cent, production in the industry? Of course, it would not have done so. Yesterday the Miners Federation, using the powers conferred upon it by regulation 27b. fined some of its members £5 each.
If these men offend again they will be expelled from the organization.
– That has nothing to do with this regulation.
– The honorable senator has . asked what this regulation has done. I shall tell him the facts. It has empowered the Miners Federation to discipline its own members, and even to expel them.
– Nothing of the kind.
– If they are expelled they are removed from a sheltered industry and rendered liable for military service.
– The honorable senator has not read the regulation properly or he would not make such statements.
– I have read it thoroughly. . It does not interfere with the provisions of regulation 27a, and it does not interfere with our conciliation and arbitration system. , But it has done what Opposition senators do not want - it has caused every coal-mine in the Commonwealth to be open to-day.
– I take strong exception to that statement, and I ask for its withdrawal.
– I ask the Minister to withdraw the statement to which exception has been taken.
-I withdraw it. and say that if, prior to the introduction of this regulation, there was not a 100 per cent, production of coal in this country, and if the regulation has brought about a 100 per cent, production, the Opposition should withdraw any objection to it. Despite any suggestions that the Government has been intimidated by “ the big stick “ and forced to temporize over the manner in which the regulation should be applied, the fact that it has brought about a 100 per cent production justifies its existence. We all admit that industrial upheavals occur from time to time in the coal-mining industry. That state of affairs is not foreign’ to other countries even in war-time. The regulation simply empowers the Miners Federation to fine its members for failing to work and, in the event of a second offence, to expel them from membership. The Leader of the Opposition has said that he wants peace in the industry and a 100 per cent, production. In the light of the facts as I have stated them, I ask him to withdraw his motion.
– Two hours having elapsed since the meeting of the Senate, Standing Order No. 127 requires that t he debate be interrupted.
Motion (by Senator Collings) agreed to -
That the consideration of order of the day be postponed until after the disposal of Notices of Motion Nos. 1 and 2.
Motion to Disallow Regulation
.-I make no apology for indulging in an attack upon regulation 27b. The Senate, in days such as these, has a very important and responsible job to perform in supervising regulations which the Government enacts. The Government has been given the widest possible powers in order to enable it effectively and rapidly to enact laws for the prosecution of the war effort. Any regulation which it introduces and which, in my opinion, is designed for that purpose, will always have my support. But when I find that the Government’s power is being exercised unjustly or in circumstances which suggest that it is being used for political purposes, I shall oppose such regulations. The Leader of the Senate must excuse me if I am a little suspicious of this particular regulation. I am suspicious as to the reason which actuated the form which it takes. The suspicion arises from the fact that this statutory rule deals with two offences of an exactly similar character. Regulation 27a says to the owners, “ You shall not, without the consent of the commission, fail to keep the mine open “.
– The Opposition has not moved for the disallowance of that regulation.
– I do not object to that. This regulation does not provide that an employer shall keep a mine open if the Employers Federation or the directors of a mining company say that he shall do so. The obligation is upon him to keep the mine open, and the only way in which he can escape that obligation is by obtaining the consent of the commission. I do not disagree with that. All i suggest is that what is to be found in regulation 27a applied to the owners should also be found in 27B applied to the employees.
– It is.
– I disagree. The honorable gentleman says that it provides exactly the same thing.
– No. Both regulations discipline the respective parties to the industry.
– The Leader of the Senate asked us to make suggestions;I shall take him at his word. I am prepared to make a tangible suggestion for an. amendment of this regulation, and. if it be adopted, to withdraw my opposition to it. We want a provision along these lines : “ When a coal-mine is open for the purpose of its operation in the manner in which it is usually operated and the commission has directed, instructed, counselled or otherwise advised the members of the organization to work then they shall he liable to a penalty if they do not work “. What is wrong with that?
– A great deal.
– If it be wrong for the employees, then it is also wrong for the employers. The regulation merely sets out the offence that the Government has created in the case of the employer.
– How could the commission instruct 300 men to remain at work ?
– What nonsense! That is an absolute quibble. Does the honorable senator mean to say that it is beyond the power of this Government to devise some means whereby the commission could instruct men to remainat work? If the Government has reached such a pass, the sooner it gives up control of the treasury bench, the better.
– That is the objective behind thismotion.
– - Anowner who is required by the commission to open his mine should do so, and, if he does not keep it open, he should be subject to all the penalties.
– We are in agreement on that matter. That is provided in regulation 27a.
– I invite any member of the Government to give me a tangible reason why the same test should not be applied in the case of the employees.
– Regulation 27B has done the job, and we have secured continuous production.
– How could the commission be empowered to expel a member of an organization?
– That is quite a separate matter. Regulation 27B creates a new offence under the National Security Act, and the penalty for that offence is by way of fine or imprisonment. If a coal-mine owner does not keep his mine open, he is liable to a penalty. In that set of circumstances, it is only just that precisely the same offence should be created in the case of the employee.
– This regulation has done the job.
– I must be pardoned for being suspicious of it.
– Because it has been issued by this Government.
– No. I am suspicious of it because its terms suggest that the Government was not game to introduce the same offence for the employees as for the employers. I deplore the fact that, under war conditions, I find that for some political reason not yet fully explained the Government has created a different kind of offence in the case of. employers from that provided in the case of employees. It has been suggested by the Minister for External Territories that, as the result of these regulations,’ employee organizations are imposing fines on their members. There is nothing in these regulations which gives power to the committee of management’ of any trade union to impose fines on its members.
– The unions already have that power, and the honorable senator knows it.
– Of course they have. It has nothing to do with the operation of this regulation.
SenatorFraser. - I contend that the regulations give to the Miners Federation power todiscipline its members.
– All I am concerned with is that a regulation which deals with employees in a manner different from that in which it deals with employers should not be allowed to pass without discussion. In view of its injustice, I believe that it should be disallowed. Although I do not suggest that the whole regulation should be disallowed, the Opposition has no remedy but to move for its disallowance. There is a way out of the difficulty if the Ministry is prepared to meet the Opposition, but as long as the Government promulgate? regulations which are open to the criticism that they give effect to its political policy rather than to the advancement of the war effort, those regulations will meet with my opposition. I suspect that the form of regulation 27b is dictated by political considerations, and that the only reason why the Government will not make the commission a body which is to direct members of unions to go back to work is that it sees difficulties with its own. supporters.
– The commission would not have power to expel a member of the Miners Federation.
– That is another matter.
– That is the substance of the whole dispute.
– I am not much concerned about the power of expulsion. That was not the main reason for the introduction of this regulation. It was not brought in so that trade union committees of management should have thepower of expulsion. They already have that power under their own rules.
– They have no power to expel for not working, and that has made regulation 27b necessary.
– This regulation, was not introduced to give to committees of management the power to expel.
– It was introduced to bring about a 100 per centcoal production.
– Exactly, the object was to ensure continuous . production. Cessation of work should in each case be with the consent of the commission.I have the strongest objection to a regulation which, in effect, puts into the hands of the committee of management of a union, the power to determine whether a strike shall be legal or not. Let us assume that a number of men are on strike. The committee of management meets and can do one of two things. It can direct the members of the union to go back to work - if it does so, regulation 27.il will operate; but it may not direct the men to return to work. The regulation provides that there shall be an offence for not working if the committee of management says that the men must work, but there is no offence under the regulation in the case where the men are on strike and the committee of management refuses to direct them to go back to work.
– Non-sense. There are penalties for not working.
– There is a penalty for not working only where a committee of management directs the men to work. The plain objection to that is that the committee of management is largely controlled by the large body of unionists. For the purpose of this argument, I am assuming that the men are not working, and it is plain that they can continue to refuse to work without being liable to a penalty unless the committee of management says that they must work.
– Legal sophistry!
– I am sorry if a member of the Government cannot understand plain language. I am prepared to have my argument submitted to any lawyer. I see no reason why a government at this tragic time should object to imposing the same conditions on a worker, who will not work when he is directed by the commission to do so, as those imposed on an employer. For those reasons, I shall support the motion for the disallowance of this regulation.
– I propose to introduce a fresh point into the discussion in order to show that the position is not exactly what Senator Spicer would have us believe. Theoretically, the commission is based upon the principle of equity - there are representatives of the mine-owners and of employees in the coal-mining industry, with a chairman who is supposed to be impartial. When a decision is arrived at .by that tribunal, it would appear from what has been said by some honorable senators that that is all that can be done. But the Opposition has not told us that the management of the mine has the sole right to say in what way effect shall be given to the decision of the tribunal That is where the tribunal is unbalanced and one-sided, and obviously in favour of the mine-owners, to the detriment of the employees in the industry. It is because of the ways in which awards of the court and decisions of tribunals similar to the coal-mining tribunal have been administered that so many industrial disputes have arisen in this country. We shall never have equity unless the miners working in the industry have rights similar to those enjoyed by the owners, who are now able to say in what way effect shall be given to the decisions of the tribunal. The mine-owner never consults the miners as to who shall be “ hired and fired “ or as to whether this or that shall he done. There are managements which are provocative and whose one desire is to defeat the decisions of the tribunal. On paper, it would seem that such managements are always right and the employees always wrong. In the belief that the management of the coal-mines is always right lies the cause of 95 per cent, of the disputes in the coal-mining industry. .1 admit that some managements are tolerant and will listen to representations by employees, but there are other managements which are uncompromising and will not listen to the workers. On the contrary, they seize every opportunity to force their views on the employees, and to pursue a provocative policy, and then to make it appear that the miners have disregarded a decision of the tribunal. Ye legal gentlemen opposite eloquently, plausibly and speciously plead that everything in the industry is based upon the principle of justice and equity. I say to Senator Spicer that if the coal-miners be given the same rights as the management now has in determining how effect shall be given to the decisions of the tribunal, there will be fewer disputes in the coalmining industry.
– Is that right not conferred by regulation 27a?
– No. That regulation deals with the owners of coalmines, and, as Senator Spicer correctly pointed out, they decidehow the deter- mination of the tribunal shall be given effect. 1 begin where the honorable senator left off; I claim that the employees have- as much right to say how effect shall be given to that decision as the management now has.Under existing conditions, that right reposes solely in the management, and the employees have no say in the matter whatever. In t he circumstances, it is unreasonable to claim that the existing method of controlling the industry is fair. The coalowner does not confer with the coal- miners as to the location in which operations shall be conducted, or whether machines shall or shall not be employed in taking down pillars, and so on.
– The owners have to carry out the direction of the commission.
– The commission does not go into those details. The removal of pillars has long been a contentious matter in the coal-mining industry. As the work proceeds and coal is hewed out of the ground, pillars are left to support the ceiling. Then as the men work back to the point of commencement, the pillars are removed. In the past the decision as to whether the work of removing the pillars shall be done by m a chines or by hand has been decided by the management; and should its deci- sion be challenged by the miners in the only way possible to them, the men are blamed for going on strike, and the management has its way. On paper the management has the right to say whether a miner shall be deprived of his means of livelihood, but the miner has no right to come to a similar decision in respect of the owner of the mines. Obviously, the present system of management in the coal-mining industry is unbalanced and one-sided, but that fact is not recognized by the Arbitration Court. Special pleaders among the Opposition argue entirely on the wording of the regulation, without taking into consideration the conditions under which the men work. They reason that the coal-miners are always wrong and the owners of the mines always right; but although honorable senators may continue to reasonin that way and try to discredit and embarrass the Government, they will not convince the majority of the people of this country, who are watching closely with an intelligent understanding to see bow industry is being manipulated behind the scenes to the detriment of the workers. They will not easily be deceived by references to the war-time situation made with a view to capitalizing the existing state of affairs for party political purposes. All that regulation 27B provides is that, so far as ‘is humanly possible, the committee of management shall maintain continuity of operations. The implication behind the action of the Opposition to-day is that it does not want continuity of operations, except on its own terms. Both Senator A. J. McLachlan and Senator Spicer spoke of even-handed justice, but. they cannot point to one industry in which it exists. The absence of that even-handed justice in industry is the cause of dissatisfaction leading to disputes. Even Senator McBride has admitted’ that the present Government is doing all that is humanly possible to maintain and increase production in this the most serious period in the history of this country. It lias allowed its policy to be ruthlessly interfered with in order that there may be no interference with production. On many occasions I have told workers in New South Wales and Victoria that according to the Labour party’s policy they are not receiving what they are entitled to get, but that I would rather take a risk with Australian employers than with the enemy. I am prepared to go to the utmost limit in giving away things that I hold clear in order that production may be increased. That the Government has taken the same view I defy the Opposition to deny. Yet some honorable senators indulge in specious pleading, saying that the committee of management will be dependent on the votes of the men whom it seeks to control, and on that ground they ask for the disallowance of this regulation. At the same time they say to the people of Australia that they stand for an all-in war effort and are willing to co-operate 100 per cent with the Government so that industry may be organized and the maximum effort obtained. I say to such honorable senators that they may win in this chamber when’ the vote is taken, but they will not win outside. Their power does not begin and end in this place, . because there are men outside the Parliament who will not allow them to do what they want to do. However, if honorable senators opposite are willing to take the risk, the responsibility is theirs, not the Government’s.
I agree with Senator McBride that 99 per cent, of the miners represented by the members of the committees of management have a proper sense of their responsibility. Yet by implication the honorable senator said that as they are dependent on the votes of others they could not properly discharge their duties. The honorable senator cannot have it both ways. I and my colleagues have had many years of experience of industrial disputes; and, in many instances, we said as members of a management committee that we did not agree that the workers* claims were justified. But in the past we had no power similar to this to deal with disputes. The objective of regulation 27B is to give to the union management committees power to maintain continuity of operations under an obviously one-sided management. That is proof of the degree to which the management committees are prepared to go in order to assist the war effort. The Leader of the Opposition declared that the Government had consulted outside unions upon this regulation. “What is wrong with that? When he and his colleagues were in office their government conferred ‘with outside organizations over an over again. By implication he says today that it is wrong for this Government to do the same thing.
– It is wrong to allow the unions to control the Government.
– The honorable senator said that because we consulted outside unions we were pandering to the unions. The, logic of his statement is that what was right for his government, to do is wrong for this Government to do.
– What did the Prime Minister say to the coal-miners in January?
– The Prime Minister made several statements; but, if I understand his attitude correctly, it was that rather than have, as we could easily have had, a general stoppage in the industry, he would almost plead on hit knees to the miners, as I would also, that while we are at war, and while the enemy is on our doorstep, they should put up with difficulties and fight them out afterwards. That is the implication of the statements made by the Prime Minister ; and that is what we are asking the Opposition to do to-day. We could make political capital out of many issues that arise from day to day just as the Leader of the Opposition has done to-day in respect of this matter. He is trying to take an unfair advantage of the Government for political purposes. If we were not at war, and the position was not so desperate as it is, I should use much stronger language, but I do not propose to do so. I simply say that should the Senate carry the motion to disallow this regulation, and, as the result, strikes should increase, let honorable senators opposite remember that the responsibility rests on them and not on the Government. We have done all that is humanly possible to maintain production in the coal-mining, aircraft and the munitions industries. In a workshop in North Melbourne which I visited a couple of weeks ago I met men and women who were working twelve hours a day for seven days a week, with no let-up at all. They have been doing so for months, and are employed manufacturing mountings on which will be placed the engines of Beaufort bombers, and also rangefinders. They are working almost to exhaustion rather than challenge the unfairness of having to do so. because they realize that what they are making is indispensable; they are making sacrifices in the workshops. We ask the Opposition to do nothing to impede the war effort, as it evidently intends to do, but to allow theGovernment to continue the job which it has been doing and hones to do even more successfully in the future.
– I have listened with interest to the debate. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) set out a request, with which I agree in part, namely, that Parliament should meet more frequently during the war. I hoped that the Leader of the Senate (Senator
Collings) would say “yes” to that request. But the Leader of the Opposition suggested that we should meet more frequently for the purpose of reviewing the numerous regulations that are coming forward. I sincerely hope that the remarks of the honorable senator, who has proved a very good Leader of the Opposition, and did good work in the past as Leader of the Senate, do not foreshadow a. state of affairs in which this Government, whose hands are now full with one great battle and which is striving to preserve the existence of this nation, will be forced to fight on a second front a battle over regulations - some of them obscure regulations discovered by clever legal luminaries who build up bogies about them. The dangers which exist in the coal industry are not caused by the regulation which is now attacked. On the contrary, the industry has now succeeded in establishing tin all-time production record. Parliament was called together at the request of the opposition parties. I agreed with that request; hut I did not think it was for a performance of the kind we have witnessed in this chamber this afternoon. We have been/ called together to review the war position, and the ever-increasing dangers to the people of Australia. We met on the 20th February, the day after Darwin was first attacked. On that day, a secret meeting was held, and all members of the Parliament were taken fully and frankly into the Government’s confidence. I take this opportunity to thank the Service Ministers and the Prime Minister for the fact that, for the first time since the war began, private members of this chamber were taken into the complete confidence of the Government in respect of the war. Personally, I found little comfort in what was told to us; I cannot say more than that. We met again last week to discuss in public the important and valuable statement made in the House of Representatives by the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) and repeated in this chamber by the Minister for Information (Senator Ashley). That statement is now open for discussion; and I have no doubt that the people expected that our discussion of it would be continued here this afternoon. However, it has been interrupted by the consideration of this motion. The action of the Government in calling Parliament together, and arranging a secret meeting, and placing the statement of the Minister for External Affairs before us, reflects a commendable desire on its part to work in the closest co-operation and harmony with all the people’s representatives in this Parliament. We have not a national government. That is not the fault of honorable senators on this side. However, this Government has given us the opportunity to have a nationally minded Parliament in order to assist it during this time of stress and crisis. Consequently, the present is most inopportune for the consideration of anything other than the war effort. The Government is faced with a tremendous job and is carrying a heavy hurden, and so long as it remains the Government, it deserves the help and assistance of not only the people of Australia, but also every member of this Parliament in its prosecution of the war. Nothing else matters. So much for the consideration of regulations ! At such a time as the present, every effort of Ministers should be devoted to the defence of our native land. When I say defence, I use the term in its widest sense. I want to see the Ministers directing the war effort of this country adopt a more aggressive policy. I want to see the Government hit back at the enemy, in accordance with the traditions of the Australian Imperial Force. Their time, thought and energy and the efforts of this Parliament should he entirely devoted to that end and nothing else. Many people in Australia will be surprised to learn that this debate has occupied the attention of the Australian Senate this afternoon in this time of crisis. Look at the notice-paper - an attack on regulations concerning the coalmining industry, and an attack on regulations concerning waterside employment. Coal and transport are the life-blood of Australian industry, particularly in time of war. I should hesitate to throw a spanner into the economic working of either of those industries. What will be the reaction of the industry if this motion be carried? If the Leader of the Opposition can show me that its passage will result in the production of more coal and greater effort on the part of miners, I shall give it my support; but 1 think, that it is more likely to have the opposite effect. 1 know something about coal-miners, and I should hate to see a day’s strike at this time of crisis as a protest against the interference of tho Senate in the affairs of the industry. I also know something of the urgent demand for the highest possible output of coal for our war effort, and the demand to build up reserves of coal. We all know that it would be much better if those reserves were much greater. All of us must realize the intense anxiety of this Government and of its predecessor to keep the coal-miners at work. Those efforts are now meeting with success, belated though it is, because we are assured that to-day all of the coal-miners are at work. Unfortunately, that was not the case last week.
Senator Leckie. What about tomorrow?
– I think that production will he greater to-morrow if this motion is defeated than if it is carried. We are told by these learned gentlemen that this regulation is not entirely conventional. Does this Government alone stand accused of adopting unconventional methods in order to keep the coal-mining industry going? Let us go back only a few months and review the innocent flirtations which its predecessor carried on with Mr. Winkler and Mr. Nelson. At least they show that a government supported by honorable senators on this side of the chamber adopted methods which could not be considered conventional, in an endeavour to keep this great industry going at full production. Every one agreed that that Government’s negotiations with Winkler and Nelson were honest, and no attempt was made to disallow regulations at that time. In fact, there was no attempt to disallow the £300 of Government funds which found its way into some one’s pocket.
– This regulation was not in operation then.
– Of course not. I am merely pointing out that the Government now in office is not the only one which has adopted unconventional methods in its desire to keep up the coal Output in war time. A royal commission spent a great -deal of time and, no doubt, a considerable amount of money, in an endeavour to find out who did get the £300. That ‘money was paid out in an honest endeavour to keep the coal-mining industry in operation, and I believe that this Government is similarly actuated in its efforts to keep coal production at its highest level. At any rate, I cannot believe that the carrying of this motion would put more miners to work, produce more coal, or further our war effort in any way. I received no objection to the regulation. In fact, <I have not even heard of it until I was informed that a motion for its disallowance was bo be moved. I point out that since the war broke out at least S14 statutory rules have been laid on the table of the Senate. In 1939. from. September onwards, 111 statutory rules were tabled, each containing numbers of regulations. In 1940, statutoryrules tabled in Parliament totalled 296, and in 1941, 327. Most of those were brought down during the term of office of the Menzies Government. This year SO statutory (rules have been tabled, making a total of S14. In view of the menace with which we are confronted, there Gan he no justification for the action which has been taken in this chamber to-day. In the early days of the war. when the previous government was in office, the then Opposition did not start a campaign for the disallowance of regulations.
Regulation 27b recognizes the authority of committees of management of organizations of employees associated with coal-mining. When I was a very young man, a battle was fought in Western Australia for the recognition of trade unions by the State Government. A certain Commissioner of Railways resigned from his post rather than ‘give recognition to trade unions, which was done by the Forrest Government prior to federation. That battle was fought and won. I do not think that it will ever he repeated in Australia, but if it is to be repeated, then this is a singularly bad time to choose. Also on the notice-paper is a motion for the disallowance of certain regulations with respect to employment on the waterfront. That motion has an old familiar ring to those of us who were here ten years or more ago, and I should not like the Leader of the Opposition,, who has done much to restore the prestige and dignity of the Senate during his terms of leadership on both sides of the chamber, to relapse i«to the’ habits of those bad old days. When the debate on that second motion rakes place, perhaps something should b« said about the attitude of the Country party and the Nationalist party in disallowing certain waterside workers regulations, in framing new regulations entirely as they wanted them, but not as the waterside workers wanted them, and t hen repealing them all. The “ Vicar of Bray “, who had so much to do with i hu framing of the amended regulations, iiic! not resign from the Government when they were repealed. If peace in the coal-mining industry and on the waterfront was ever of vital importance to this nation, it is now. I resent the threats that have appeared in sections of the press, indicating the attitude which I and other members of Parliament were going to take with regard to the Government’s economic plan. “We have been told day after day that it is the intention of the Senate majority to disallow these regulations. I was never consulted about it. I contend that the limitation of profits is a proper corollary 10 the fixing of prices. The fixing of prices can be evaded by unscrupulous traders, but the limitation of profits finally decides the issue.
I commend the Government for the remits that it has attained by means of conferences between both parties in the coal-mining industry. There appears to he a. lack of co-ordination between the Leader of the Opposition in the House of .Representatives (Mr. Fadden) and the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, because at the very time when notice of a motion for the disallowance of this regulation was given in this chamber, Mr. Fadden is reported to have said in the House of Representatives that three minutes of the day devoted to our war effort by Ministers was better than three hours devoted’ to a debate such as this. We have already had about three hours of debate on thi? motion. Perhaps Mr. Fadden was a prophet when he mentioned that period, but T agree entirely with his view, and I am sorry that Ministers in this chamber have not been able to devote the last three hours to their departmental activities and our war effort.-
– That would not have killed any more Japanese.
– No, and neither would the carrying of this motion, but at least the Ministers would have been on their real job. To-day this nation is confronted with the greatest emergency in its history, and is fighting for its very existence. The foe is hammering at our doors, not only at Darwin, but also in. the north of Western Australia, where Australian citizens are in great danger. In these circumstances, Ministers should be able to give their full and undivided attention to the defence of Australia, particularly those portions where we are most gravely menaced, namely, the Northern Territory and the north of Western Australia. I am opposed to this motion, but I shall support the Government in any action which will assist the war effort. That is the only thing that matters to-day.
– I am in complete accord with the remarks made by Senator Johnston in regard to the motion now before the Senate. The honorable senator’s speech has had a remarkable effect on honorable senators opposite. They all look as though a powerful anaesthetic had been administered to them. They were quite silent during the whole of Senator Johnston’s speech, and -no attempt was made to interject. When moving the motion, the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) took objection to the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) holding conferences with the miners’ executive, but I remember many conferences taking place between the miners’ executive, the former Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the former Minister for Labour and Industry (Mr. Holt). No objection was taken then. Like the present Prime Minister, the former Prime Minister was trying to bring about full production in the mining industry. It is not right for the Leader of the Opposition in this chamber or any one else to suggest that, while the con- ferences between the former Prime Minister and. the miners’ executive were held in an atmosphere of purity, conferences between the same executive and the present Prime Minister have some sinister significance. The result of the many conferences between representatives of the previous Government and the miners’ executive was the setting up of the Central Reference Board, and local reference boards in an endeavour to bring about peace in the coal-mining industry and to increase production. Those boards were appointed because it was believed to be necessary to deal with industrial disputes at their source. This Government has gone a little farther, and [ appreciate the statements made by Senator McBri.de this afternoon in regard to the loyalty of the miners and their desire to bring about full production. However, I should like to point out that, although Senator A. J. McLachlan and other legal luminaries in thi? chamber have endeavoured to pull this regulation to pieces, the use of the management committees of unions provided for in this regulation is merely an extension of the present practice. I admit that only the miners are represented, hut there may be a reason for that. I point out that there are several .raft unions connected with the coalmining industry. There is the Engineers Union, the Blacksmiths Union, and so on. All the trouble does not emanate from the miners. One of those craft unions may be concerned in a dispute that will stop the operations at a pit. When the men arrive at work something may occur to prevent them from getting on with their jobs. For instance, there may be an inspection, and the miners’ representative may deem that certain portions of the mine are unsafe - there can be many different opinions regarding safety in a mine - or the boys on, the skips, or the engineers, may have a grievance. The powers granted to a management committee allow it to deal with such grievances on the spot, and they even go further and give it authority to discipline members. Therefore, if a minority of members are unwilling to go to work, the management committee has authority to tell them that they must work. I see nothing wrong with such a power if it has the effect of keeping the wheels of industry turning, and that is the only intention of the regulation. Much time has already been wasted in this debate, and I shall not delay the Senate longer. I only wish to make it clear that the purpose of the regulation is to give the management committee power to discipline the men.
.- At the outset of this debate I intended to support, the motion submitted by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay), but, after listening to the discussion and giving the matter further consideration, I have decided to oppose it. I consider that clause 1 of regulation 27b departs from a very good principle, in that it has handed over a great measure of control to a management committee. However, I should be sorry to see the regulation go out of existence, because it gives power to the executive of the federation to take drastic action against any of its members who are not prepared to carry on with the production of coal in this time of national danger. I am hopeful that, as the result of the frequent conferences that have been held between representatives of successive governments and the leaders of the Miners Federation, there will be more peace in the industry in future than there has been up to the present. Senator McBride said that, in his view, approximately 99 per cent, of the men engaged in the coal-mining industry -were loyal and anxious to work, and that the remainder were often anxious to cause trouble. I do not accept those figures, but I believe that a small minority of miners has-been responsible for most of the disputes that have occurred. I believe the same to be true of the disputes that have occurred in other industries. I am prepared to allow this regulation to remain in force for a little longer in order to see whether the management committees will take strong action to deal with those men whose only purpose is to reduce production. I am willing to give the federation a little more opportunity to expel those members. If, as the result of the additional concessions that have undoubtedly been given by the Government to the federation, these trouble makers are not expelled, I shall be prepared to take any action in this chamber that is within my power to bring the organization to heel. The leaders of the federation have given assurances to the Government, and we must accept those assurances-. We should give this regulation a further trial in order to see whether the committees of management will make full use of the powers conferred upon them in order to maintain peace in the industry and continued production.
.-1 have not very much to say about this matter, but I give to the Government due credit for its good intentions. I believe, that it introduced this regulation with the laudable object of increasing coal production. However, the road to hell is paved with good intentions, and all that the Government has done is to make strikes legal oh the coal-fields.
– Nonsense ! The regulation has proved effective because every mine is working, and the federation has taken advantage of it by inflicting fines on certain employees who refused to work.
– That is one of the strangest things that I have ever heard. The federation may have fined some of its members yesterday, but it did not do so under regulation 27b. That regulation does not give the management committee any power to fine its members. I do not dispute the fact that the men were fined, but the fines were imposed under the federation’s own rules, which have nothing to do with this regulation. The claim that all miners- are back at work now merely as the result of the promulgation of this regulation is the biggest slur on the coal-miners that has ever been uttered. I believe that the coal-miners arc as loyal as anybody else, and I believe that they have been thoroughly aroused to the seriousness of our position. They have gone back to work because they consider it to be their national duty to do so. I do not believe for one moment that they have returned to work, either temporarily or permanently, because certain regulations were enacted that gave management committees power to expel them if they did not work when they were told to do so.
– Es the honorable senator disappointed because they went back? :
– No, but I am disappointed because the Government has made it legal for coal-miners to go on strike if they decide to do so.
– That is a wrong interpretation of the regulation. .
– That is nonsense. One only has to read the regulation to see its meaning.
– Senator Johnston dealt with that phase of the mattter in his speech.
– The honorable gentleman is prepared to throw bouquets to any body who votes as he wishes him to vote. I imagine that he is well satisfied with the speech made by Senator Johnston. In a case of this kind, when we . point out in the kindliest possible way that the Government has made a mistake and has opened up the possibility, and the probability, of greater stoppages than ever in the coal-mining industry, it ought to take notice of us. Senator Spicer suggested an alteration of the regulation which would have given effect to our wishes. Why not be an ordinary, sensible, everyday, giveandtake Ministry and agree to that suggestion?
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.a
– I prefer to think that the coal-miners are back at work for much more creditable reasons than those attributed to them by the Government, which says that they have returned to the pits because of fear of punishment. I should like to believe that they went back because they find their country in the throes of a great tragedy and because they realize that the product of their labour is necessary for the safety of Australia. I do not believe that tinregulation to which exception is taken has had the effect that the Government supposes. In my opinion, Ministers have totally misconceived its effect. It provides that, if a duly constituted committee of management of any organization of workers in the coal-mining industry directs that the men must go back to work, they must do so, hut if it is decided that a strike is legal they need not return to work. That provision is not at all simple, but is complicated by the fact that there are a number of industrial organizations in the coalmining industry. There is no committee of management for the whole of the employees. Each trade union will decide for itself whether its members shall or shall not return to work.
Are Ministers aware of the existence of Statutory Rule No. 77, under which a Minister, or any other person authorized by a Minister, may direct any person resident in Australia to perform such duties as are specified in the direction, and to perform such duties in relation to his trade, business calling or profession as are so specified? Is that regulation to be applied to all members of the community except the coal-miners? All other persons are required to act on the orders of a Minister or his deputy, whether given orally or in writing, but apparently the coal-miners need not go back to work unless they decide for themselves to do so. Are we to set up an aristocracy of labour in the special interests of coal-miners? I suggest that the Ministers who have been dealing with this matter have deliberately favoured the coal-miners at the expense of every other craft union and every other class in the community.
– So long as we getresults, what does it matter?
– The miners were not working yesterday, or the day before.
– But they are to-day.
– Will the Minister promise that they will continue to work to-morrow, and until the war is over?
– I hope so.
– We should accept the suggestion of Senator Spicer that the commission would be as good a judge as the men themselves as to whether they were legally out of work. This regulation conflicts with all our preconceived ideas of British justice.
– Does not the honorable senator believe in peace in industry?
– Yes. Those engaged in industry should be properly recompensed for all of their work, but it seems to me that this regulation will prevent peace in industry, because the
Government is setting up class against class, and is giving privileges to the coal-miners which are denied to every other section of the workers. I give to the Government all credit for the best of intentions in this matter, but, when it has been shown that by a simple amendment the regulation could be made satisfactory to the Opposition and to the community at large, the Government should be sufficiently generous to meet the Opposition’s request. I appeal to honorable senators opposite, in a spirit of reasonableness, to admit that proper thought has not been given to the effect of this regulation.
– Judging by the speeches of members of the Opposition, very few of them have a clear conception of conditions in the coalmining industry, and they are not prepared to accept the advice of those who have a first-hand knowledge of the industry. I am surprised that some members of the Opposition are apparently not in favour of a maximum production of coal in the interests of the war effort. The regulations under consideration were promulgated for the purpose of bringing about a maximum production, and were introduced by men who understand the coal-miners and the industry. That is shown by the fact that they have provided for the appointment of committees selected from men who have a first-hand knowledge of the industry. The miners on whom some honorable senators opposite have attempted to cast a stigma are as loyal as any member of this Senate. The implication that the miners have been taking advantage of their position as employees in a sheltered industry is unworthy of those responsible for it. Those who level that charge against the miners have not the courage to do it on the coalfields, but have used the cloak of parliamentary privilege. The members of the management committees on the coal-fields are loyal men who have much at stake. They desire to see production accelerated and are most anxious to have peace* in industry. They would not hesitate to inflict the severest penalties on miners who refuse to accept the decisions of the committee. The heaviest penalty that could be imposed on a miner would be that of expulsion from his industrial organization, for he would then be regarded as a “ scab “ throughout the Commonwealth. No unionist who thought anything of his country would willingly become an outcast among his fellow workers. Members of a management committee would not hesitate to punish unionists who would sabotage the industry. The regulation was framed in order to preserve peace in industry, and it has achieved a great deal of success. Its disallowance would mean that there would be no penalty in the case of a person who adopted subversive activities. As one who for three or four years worked in a coal-mine, and understands the miners and the conditions under which they work, I appreciate the tribute which some honorable senators opposite have paid to the coal-miners.
– What work did the honorable senator perform in the mine?
– I did the same work as thousands of coal-miners are doing to-day. On one occasion I was ordered by the management to lie on my stomach in cold water under hanging rock which was likely to fall at any moment, and scrape out the mullock which had accumulated there. I did not do so, and for that reason I twas sent out of the mine: but because my action had the support of the genuine coal-miners, who understood conditions in the industry, 1 was back, at work the next day. Not infrequently miners are called upon to hew coal all day long in confined spaces at contract rates. Those honorable senators who do not know of the conditions under which miners work - and that certainly applies to the Leader of the Opposition, who has not the slightest conception of conditions in the industry - would do well to organize a party to inspect a coal-mine and see for themselves the conditions under which men have to work. Having worked as a miner among miners, I say without fear of successful contradiction that they are just as honest, sincere and loyal as are any honorable senators in this chamber.
– Tn what coal-mine did the honorable senator work?
– T worked in the Stat* coal-mine in Victoria., among men of all nationalities, including many good Australians, and I was engaged in all sorts of work on seams extending from 2 feet to 15 feet. I did all classes of work in that mine, as the honorable senator may prove for himself by inquiring from the old tory mine manager, Mr. McLeish, who is at the mine to-day, and has caused no end- of trouble since he has been there.
A good deal has been said, about strikes in the coal-mining industry. As a miner, I have experienced a number of lockouts, but on no occasion was the lock-out provoked by the employees. Nevertheless, such disputes were invariably referred to by the newspapers as strikes on the part of the miners. The truth is that the men were deliberately locked out by the owners, in some instances because they wanted to do some special work, in others because the railways department wanted the trucks for carting wheat. Whatever the reason, the fact remains that every time we were out of work it was as the result, of having been locked out by the employers. I say unhesitatingly that when I was engaged in the industry, the greatest loyalty to the nation was shown, not by the employers, but by the employees.
Honorable senators opposite who have objected to regulation 27b have not shown that it contains any unjust provisions. Nor ‘has any Opposition senator drawn attention to regulation 27c, which provides that the commissioner shall have power to inflict penalties upon employees. The whole of the forces of the Opposition have been directed against regulation 27b, but their real reason is that they want no control over any disruptive elements which might creep into the coalmining industry. In its present state, the regulation has a deterrent effect on disruptive tendencies, because any person who tried to cause trouble in a mine could be dealt with effectively by a committee of management. The men on that committee would act promptly if they found any one endeavouring to create trouble which might lead to a weakening of the war effort. When the vote on the motion is taken, the people of this country will be able to see clearly how many honorable senators are really in earnest about a maximum war effort. Should the regulation be disallowed, the miners will be denied the right to deal with any disruptive element in the industry which might retard the production of coal. I ask honorable senators not to vote for the disallowance of the regulation until it has proved ineffective; and I assure them that should it fail, the Government will take other steps to achieve its purpose. The regulation has not yet failed, and therefore there is no ground for its disallowance. If honorable senators favour the enemy they should vote for the disallowance of the regulation, but if they want to see the greatest possible war effort in this country, they should allow the regulation to remain operative, because it has been framed by people who understand not only the framing of regulations but also the class of men to whom it applies. Finally, I remind the Senate that the employees in the coalmining industry have proved their loyalty in no unmistakeable way.
this afternoon reminded me of the words of Shakespeare that “a little knowledge is a dangerous thing”. The honorable senator made it clear that he knows no more about the coal-mining industry than is known by the man in the moon. Like Senator Aylett, I have a practical knowledge of coal-mining, because for some time I worked in the Rhondda colliery. It may interest those honorable senators who obviously know little or nothing about the industry to learn that there may be many reasons for a stoppage of work in a coal mine. Work may cease because of some failure on the part of an endless belt, a tumbler, an endless chain, because some of the skips have become derailed, because trouble has arisen in the drive, or because the wheelers have not taken the skips to the miners. Perhaps the greatest cause of trouble is a shortage of trucks. A company which controls five or six coalmines may decide to concentrate its trucks at certain mines, leaving other mines temporarily idle. Should there be no trucks to receive the coal from the endless belt, the pit must stop working because it would be useless to bring the skips up if they cannot be tipped into the tumbler or shaker, where the fine coal is removed from the coal which goes on the endless belt. There may be numerous reasons why certain pits are not working on a particular day. I regard the newspaper paragraph that certain mines were not working yesterday not only as political propaganda but also as enemy propaganda of the most despicable character. I believe that every mine-owner should keep his mine working, but he can do so only if he is able to supply the necessary trucks and to keep the machinery working. Should any of the breakdowns which I have enumerated occur, the mine could not be kept clear, and a pit mav have to be closed temporarily. These things are not, made public. When I worked in a mine, we travelled for three miles, and when we arrived at the three mile Peg, we had to wait to see if the red flag was flying. The red flag was a signal that the mine would work the next day.
Honorable senators opposite have protested against regulation 27b but their real desire is that the ‘whole of the regulation be disallowed because it cannot be amended. Their object is to prevent the issue of a regulation compelling mineowners to keep their mines open. I cannot imagine that the Leader of the Opposition would want the miners not to work. From my experience among the miners, I know that they want to work. In fact, the difficulty in the coal-mining industry is to obtain eleven days work in a fortnight. I know that the miners get in their eleven days a fortnight in the John Brown pits, where the coal is good ; but that is not the case on the Maitland and Newcastle fields. Yet the latter miners undoubtedly want to work eleven days a fortnight. They are just as anxious as anybody else to earn all they can for their wives and children. ‘Coalminers as a class aire just as honest as any other section of workers. I urge the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) to investigate the figures relating to the number of wagons available for the removal of coal from the mines. That information is readily obtainable, and I feel sure that it will convince the honorable senator that the number of wagons available is deplorably insufficient. That is the cause of many stoppages. As the honorable senator appears to have no knowledge of that aspect of the industry, I must conclude that the object of his motion is not to disallow regulation 27b, but regulation 27a. Coal- miners as a body, I repeat, are anxious to work. I admit that recently an irresponsible element has crept into the industry. This consists mainly of young fellows who do not want to work. However, the Government has that matter in hand, and I have no doubt that it will treat those individuals as they should be treated. At the same time, we must not judge the coal-miners on the actions of that element. It is worthwhile once again to place on record the fact that, during the last war, the proportion of enlistments of coal-miners exceeded that of those engaged in any other industry. I agree with Senator Aylett that no worker is more loyal to this country than the coal-miner. I congratulate the Prime Minister upon giving effect to this regulation. Such action called for considerable courage on the part of a Labour Prime Minister. However, that courage is typical of John Cur tin, who has proved himself to be a fearless leader. He has shown that he has no desire to do anything that will injure any section of the community. On the one hand, he has told the investor that interest rates must be cut, and on the other, he has told the miner that he must stay at work. The loyalty of the coalminer to his mate and his organization is a by-word in the industrial life of this country. Nothing could cause him greater disgrace than to be expelled from his union. Those men will die for their organization. Recently, the PostmasterGeneral (Senator Ashley) and the Minister for Home Security (Mr. Lazzarini) addressed meetings on the coal-fields, and told the miners that they would either have to work or get into a military uniform. Both of those honorable gentlemen secured election to this Parliament mainly on the votes of the coal-miners.
– Surely it is not a penalty to get into a uniform ; it is a privilege.
– I did not say that it is a penalty; but what would happen to our war effort if all miners were to step into uniforms? I again suggest to the Leader of the Opposition that he secure information dealing with the number of wagons owned by the companies, the capacity of each mine, and its daily output. He will find that sufficient wagons are not available to move the coal from the mines; and I am confident that he will admit that he was wrong in moving this motion.
– After listening to the speech of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay), the Leader of the Senate (Senator Collings) can now have no doubt at all as to the reasons why we ask that this regulation be disallowed. We are quite satisfied with regulation 27a but we object to regulation 27b because it confers preferential treatment on the miner as compared with that applied to the mine-owner. Whilst the mine-owner is placed under the control of the commission, the miner is placed under the control of a committee of management. Such a system is obviously unfair.
– The miners have been managed by the owners long enough, and it is time that they had a change.
Senator JAMES McLACHLAN.That is certainly an admission. Particularly at a time like the present we should not allow any section of industry to dictate the policy of the Government. When the Government makes regulation in respect of the coal industry it is only reasonable to assume that it will treat both the owners and the miners on the same footing, and that the Government itself will be the only authority to ensure that the regulations are carried out. Senator Amour eulogized the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) for giving effect to this regulation. Our complaint is that effect has not been given to it. It was gazetted on the 9th January, but no action ha? yet been taken under it.
– Well, why worry about it?
Senator JAMES McLACHLAN.Because there is not peace in the industry. Every Australian is aware that strikes are constantly occurring.
– And lock-outs.
– I have not heard of any lock-outs. The Leader of the Senate waved a sheaf of press extracts which he said would show what had happened and why stoppages had occurred; but he cited only one instance. A miner had died, and his mates had knocked off for the rest of the day out of respect to his memory.
– That is the custom in the industry.
– We have been told that the object of this regulation is the maintenance of peace in the industry in order to ensure a continuous supply ofcoal, which is essential to our war effort. Several honorable senators opposite have spoken of the output of coal since the present Government assumed office. At the same time every Australian knows that practically every other day during the last two months a strike has occurred in the industry. As a sample of these stoppages, I quote the following press report: -
Sydney, Tuesday. “1 will ask the Minister for Labour (Mr. Ward) to intervene” the general secretary of the Miners Federation (Mr. C. W. Grant) declared when Judge Drake-Brockman gave a ruling before the Central Coal Reference Board to-day.
The Northern Miners Management Board will consider to-morrow penalizing eight youths responsible for a hold-up involving 200 men at Maitland Main colliery to-day. Decrease incoal production at the colliery for the day was 700 tons.
About 350 men also were idle, and 1,100 tons of production were last, at Old Bulli, on the South Coast, when miners objected to working in dust at a mechanical loader.
Sena torFraser. - Those men were fined under this regulation.
Senator JAMES McLACHLAN.We have not heard of any one being fined under this regulation. The Government has not taken action under it in any one instance.
Senator JAMES McLACHLAN.That is not so. Some of the remarks which have been made about production are “ hooey “. In the same case to which I have referred, Judge Drake-Brockman said that the production of coal should be 13,000,000 tons a year, instead of which it was only 10,000,000 tons. Yet a Minister said this afternoon that the production of coal was satisfactory.
– Order! I cannot permit Senator James McLachlan to carry on a conversation with the Minister for External Territories.
Senator JAMES McLACHLAN.The Minister and other speakers said this afternoon that the production of coal in Australia was satisfactory.
– The statement made by Senator James McLachlan is inaccurate. I did not say that stocks of coal in Australia were satisfactory, and I ask that those words be withdrawn.
– If Senator James McLachlan used the words to which objection is taken I ask him to withdraw them.
– If they are objectionable I withdraw them. It has been said from the other side of this chamber during this debate, that the production of coal in Australia is most satisfactory. In fact the Leader of the Senate said that it was a record.
– I have been in this chamber the whole afternoon and I did not hear those words used by a speaker on this side of the chamber.
Senator JAMES McLACHLAN.Several Government spokesmen said that the coal position in this country was satisfactory. One honorable senator opposite went so far as to say that stocks in South Australia were satisfactory.
– He said they were the highest ever reached.
– Yes; that is absolutely untrue.
– I rise to a point of order. I said that the stocks of coal in South Australia to-day were the highest since the outbreak of war, but were still not satisfactory.
– A point of order can be raised only if there is a breach of the Standing Orders. Any explanation which the honorable senator desires to make in rebuttal of Senator James McLachlan’s statement may be given at the appropriate time.
– I know something about the coal supplies in South Australia, and they are very low. Every honorable member of this chamber knows quite well that they are low. Recently a responsible Minister gave the stocks held in every State, and there was nothing to boast about.
The Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane) said that the miners were amongst the most loyal men in Australia. Nobody has ever doubted that, nor has anything to the contrary been said in the course of this debate. The Minister went so far as to say that their loyalty would be demonstrated when “ the acid “ was put on them. If “ the acid “ is not being put on them now, when will it be?
– It is on every body.
– -In the course of this discussion, no reflection has been cast upon the loyalty of the miners. The Leader of the Senate went to a great deal of trouble to explain why we should not waste coal. We are not discussing the wastage of coal; we are discussing the production of coal. The Minister for Trade and Customs also was at great pains to assure us that this regulation does not interfere with the powers of the Arbitration Court, but I am inclined to think that it does. It sets up a tribunal amongst the miners themselves. If the miners do not conform to the provisions of this regulation, the management committee can exercise authority over them. To ray mind, such action cuts right across arbitration awards. We on this side of the chamber desire only to bring about peace in the industry, and I feel sure that if this regulation were amended along the lines suggested, putting the miners under the same control as the mine-owners, the whole difficulty would be overcome.
SenatorFraser. - I desire to make a personal explanation. A few moments ago Senator James McLachlan misrepresented me. I should like to make it quite clear that I made no reference to South Australia having an ample supply of coal. I said that, although the stocks were higher now than at any time during the war, we were still not satisfied with the position in that State.
– I have listened closely to the debate on this motion, and the remarks made by certain honorable senators opposite display a lamentable ignorance of the subject. Obviously, they do not know anything about the industry. I feel confident that, in moving the motion for the disallowance of regulation 27b, the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) is not acting entirely on his own initiative. It is more likely that this matter has been thoroughly discussed by the Opposition parties. The disallowance of this regulation would have a very important effect upon our war effort. The coal-mining industry is a key industry. Many people are inclined to blame the coal-miners for everything, but that is hardly a fair attitude. I believe that the Government’s sole object is to expedite the settlement of disputes. How many honorable senators opposite who are supporting the disallowance of this regulation know what it is to work at the face in a mine? In New South Wales, before a man is regarded as a practical coal-miner he must work for two years at the pit face alongside a practicalminer. To become a mine manager, a man must work in or around a mine for at least five years. However, by means of a little bit of study at a technical college, and the passing of examinations, it is possible for a man who has been a clerical worker at a mine to get a mine manager’s certificate without practical experience at the pit face. The result is that some mine managers know very little about the actual work in the pits, and when they give orders to practical miners who have been years in the job disputes frequently arise.For instance, a man in a mine might be working with a. horse whose shoulders had been rubbed raw. Next morning the mine manager might instruct the man to take the horse into the pit. The man, being a humanitarian and totally different from members of the Opposition, might refuse to do so. A discussion would follow, such as I have witnessed repeatedly, and the mine manager might direct that the whistle be blown and that no work be done. The regulation provides for nothing different from what has been done in coal-mines for years past. If a dispute occurs in a mine, the matter is discussed by the miners’ lodge committee. If that body cannot reach a decision, it refers the dispute to the executive officers, who have been appointed by their organization. That procedure has been followed for many years. The Opposition wants to do away with this system and allow the mine managers to refer disputes to the commissioner mentioned by Senator Spicer.
– Senator Spicer referred to the commission.
– In the regulation the word “ commissioner “ is used.
– That has been altered by the present Government, which has appointed a commission.
– Thecommissioner is supposed to be impartial; a commission is composed of representatives of both parties to the industry.Regulation 27b states -
When a coal mine is open for the purpose of its operation in the manner in which it is usually operated . . .
At starting time one morning, one of the bookworms who calls himself a manager may say that a man shall be transferred to some particular operation.
– Does not a manager have to have a certificate?
– Yes. I have a first-class certificate, and I know what I am talking about. If a dispute arose as the result of a manager’s decision to transfer a man from one operation to another, the committee of the miners would discuss the matter, and afterwards would refer it to the district executive or board of management of the district. The law provides for that procedure, and this regulation goes further and provides for the imposition of penalties if men refuse to work. Apparently the Opposition wishes to do away with this provision. It has no desire to penalize men who impede the war effort. Whether it wants the war effort to be held up or not is another matter. The Government did the right thing when it issued the regulation. I believe that its action has the approval of 90 per cent. of the coal-miners of Australia. The regulation provides a means of dealing with recalcitrant workers. For instance, a young boy working on a mine ventilation system might not be doing his job efficiently. The brattice might not be held up properly and therefore not carrying the air into the mines. The boy might be reprimanded and might thereupon refuse to work, with the result that the operations of the entire mine would be held up. This Government has rightly said that such employees must be penalized for their actions. Apparently the Opposition wants to prevent that.
– If this provision is so beneficial, why was it not introduced before?
– Because the present Government, which is composed of practical men, has only recently come into office. It had to clean out the stable before it could get to work properly.
– The coalminers have never recommended this system.
– The miners have not objected to it.We do not know exactly where the objection which the Leader of the Opposition is voicing originated. I believe that disputes in the industry arise from the operations of interlocked monopolies which virtually control this country. What will happen if this regulation is disallowed ? Does the Opposition suggest that something should be put in its place? Senator Spicer and Senator A. J. McLachlan suggested this afternoon that the commission should direct the men whether they should work or not. Under that system, disputes would have to be referred to the commission. Why should this be necessary when there is in existence machinery that has been operating for years? The coal-miners arejust as anxious to produce coal for the war effort as others are to assist in other ways; in fact, they are probably more concerned about the war effort than those persons whose chief interest lies in profits. The men will do their job. They know what they are doing, and they are anxious to help the nation. But if they should refuse to do their job, they should be compelled to work. This regulation provides for the imposition of fines, and, in certain circumstances, expulsion is provided for. It operates in the best interests of the nation, and it should be allowed to continue.
– in reply - I have followed with great interest the various speakers in this debate, and I repeat what I said in submitting the motion, that in these times, when the laws of the land are being made in great num bers by the Executive, this Parliament has a great responsibility. I do not hold the view expressed by some honorable senatorsthat, because we are engaged in a war, the Senate must pass unchallenged class legislation that will not help the war effort, but which will increase class hatred as regulation 27b is liable to do. I remind the Government that when the economic organization regulations were promulgated, a great number of its supporters objected to them, with the result that the Prime Minister (Mr.Cur tin) called upon a legal luminary who has been sneered at this afternoon, Senator Spicer, to assist the Government to make them workable. It ill becomes supporters of the Government, in their ignorance of the law, to refer to my colleagues, Senator A. J. McLachlan and Senator Spicer, in a sneering way as “ legal luminaries”. They placed the facts of the case fairly before the Senate to-day and stated the intentions of the legal men who framed these regulations. I object to the criticism of these gentlemen that was expressed by some honorable senators on the Government side of the chamber. I repeat, for the benefit of certain members of the Opposition, that it is wrong to say that we must not take a stand against any of these regulations simply because we are engaged in a war. I consider that we have a duty to this country. If we are to allow regulations of far-reaching importance to pass unchallenged, what is the good of Parliament meeting at all ?I have stated that the Opposition would be satisfied to have the objectionable clause of this regulation removed.
SenatorKeane. - A regulation cannot be amended.
– It can be repealed, and a new regulation can be issued providing that the commission appointed by the Government, not a committee of management, shall have power to say whether the men shall or shall not go to work. I do not propose to waste further time in an endeavour to educate Senator Arthur on the differencebetween a commissioner and a commission. The commission was appointed by the present Government, and it consists of an independent chairman, a representative of the owners, and a representative of the miners. If the Government repealed regulation27b and promulgated a new regulation giving authority over the miners to the commission, the one body would control both the owners and the miners in order to keep the industry operating at full capacity. That would do justice to both sections and would create unity. It is ridiculous for honorable senators opposite to say, after hearing the Prime Minister’s famous statement to the miners, “You must work or fight “, that regulation 27b has been the means of creating peace in the coal industry. From the 9th January, when that statement was made, until this week the miners have defied the Prime Minister. I said at the outset of the debate that to give a committee of management authority to say whether the miners should or should not work was simple. Senator A. J. McLachlan interjected and said, quite rightly, that it was just as silly as it was simple. That was the reason why I moved for the disallowance of regulation 27b. The owners are controlled by the commission. We want the miners also to be controlled by the commission. If the Government is prepared to meet the Opposition in the matter we are. willing to assist it in the repeal of this regulation and the substitution of another on the lines I have indicated.
Question put -
That Regulation No.27b of the National Security (Coal Control) Regulations, issued under the National Security Act 1939-1940, and included in Statutory Rule No. 10 of 1942, be disallowed.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. J. Cunningham.)
Majority . . 2
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I move -
That regulations numbered 5 and 15 of the National Security (Waterside Employment) Regulations, issued under the National Security Act1939-1940, and included in Statutory Rule No. 19 of 1942, be disallowed.
StatutoryRule No. 19 contains 17 regulations; but I draw particular attention to clause 2 of regulation 5 which consists of 16 clauses. The Opposition particularly objects to clause 2 of regulation 5 which states -
Each committee shall consist of three representatives of employers and three representatives of waterside workers who are members of the federation, together with a representative of the Minister who shall be chairman of the committee.
I t will be found from the definitions that the federation “ means the Waterside Workers Federation of Australia. The Opposition objects to such a drastic alteration of the personnel of a committee controlling operations on the waterfront in Victoria as has been provided for by this regulation.Regulation 4 provides that these regulations shall apply in relation to waterside workers at the Port of Melbourne, and at such ports in the Commonwealth as are specified by the Minister by notice in the Gazette, and to those ports. The Minister proposes to set up a new committee under the powers given under the National Security Act to control and regulate employment on the waterfront in Victoria. Previously, the committee appointed to control operations on the waterfront in Melbourne under the Transport Workers Act consisted of a chairman appointed by the Minister, one representative of the Waterside Workers Federation, and one representative of the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union.
– “ Scabs ‘”’ !
– The honorable senator ought to withdraw that remark, because 130 members of the Australian Imperial Force are members of that organization, and 70 of them are at present, fighting with the Australian Imperial Force. Prior to the promulgation of the present regulation, the Waterside Workers Federation and the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union each had one representative on that committee. Ever since the passage of the Transport Workers Act there has been peace on the waterfront in Victoria. I strongly object to the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward), under the guise of war emergency, using the powers given under the National Security Act to set up a new committee on the waterfront in Victoria. Under this regulation he proposes to appoint three members from the Waterside Workers Federation and three representatives of the ship-owners, and the Minister also proposes to appoint the chairman. This means that the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union, with a. membership of over 1,100, will have no representation on the new committee. I understand that the membership of the Waterside Workers Federation in Victoria is about 1,800. I now inform, the Leader of the Senate (Senator Collings) that I am prepared not to go onwith the disallo wance of regulation 5 if the Government is willing to recognize the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union and to give it representation on the committee.
This matter was discussed when the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) was Minister for Labour and National Service. A conference was held between the Waterside Workers Federation, the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union and representatives of the owners, and it was requested that representation should be given to the members of the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union in Victoria. When Mr. Ward became Minister for Labour and National Service he, by means of this regulation, took advantage of war conditions in order to show the most vicious and vindictive discrimination that could be imagined. I remind the Senate of the reason for the formation of the organization known as the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union. In 1928, when there was trouble on the waterfront, the Beeby award was given, and, despite the fact that the executive of the Waterside Workers Federation and representatives of the Australasian Council of Trade Unions advised the union leaders in Melbourne to obey the award, they were not prepared to do so. Honorable senators will remember the introduction of the Transport Workers Bill and what followed. The members of the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union said on that occasion, “ We are prepared to observe the umpire’s decision. We agree to abide by the award of the Arbitration Court. But, in order not to be controlled by the extremists, we shall set up our own organization “. That body was established in Sydney, and it also functions in Melbourne. I believe that the membership in Melbourne is larger than in any other Australian port. Now the Minister proposes to set up a new committee and refuses to give representation to the members of the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union. I know that honorable senators are anxious to reach a decision regarding this matter. Is the Leader of the Senate willing to consider my suggestion that the Permanent and Casual
Wharf Labourers Union is entitled to representation, or is the Government prepared to back up the Minister for Labour and National Service, notwithstanding the fact that Japan is bombing various ports in Australia? Last Saturday week, members of the Waterside Workers Federation were not prepared to work on the wharfs in Melbourne in loading goods required for Darwin. Members of the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union were the only men who turned up to do the job. I urge the Government to treat this matter with the seriousness that it deserves.
I turn now to regulation 15, which reads -
The committee shall not -
refuse to register; or
cancel or suspend the registration of, any waterside worker who is, at the date of commencement of these regulations, a member of the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union of Australia by reason of the fact that the waterside worker is a member of that organization.
A careful reading of that regulation shows that there is no hope for any new member of that union.
– He is not guaranteed employment.
– He can get into the other organization immediately.
– Obviously the Government is prepared to take advantage of the war situation in order to strangle an organization which is prepared to abide by the decisions of the Arbitration Court. From conversations that I have had with members of the two unions, I know that since 1928 they have been prepared to work together amicably. If the Leader of the Senate makes inquiries, he will find that the old committee, on which there was one representative of the Waterside Workers Federation of Australia and one representative of the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union of Australia, worked successfully with very little friction. My reason for moving that regulations 5 and 15 be disallowed is to give to the Government an opportunity to amend those regulations in order that justice may be done to a deserving section of the people.
– Is the organization to which the honorable senator refers affiliated with the United Australia party ?
– No; but it is registered in the Federal Arbitration Court. Should these regulations be not disallowed and the Waterside Workers Federation be given the power to strangle the other organization, there will be disunity instead of unity, and industrial trouble where there should be peace, whilst the members of the Government can lay this flattering unction to their souls that they have done a great injustice to a large number of men who have rendered valuable service to Australia.
– I remind the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane) of what I said earlier about the number of members of this union who served with the Australian Imperial Force. Members of this union have as much right to live as have the political supporters of the Government and the lawbreakers whom the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward) is trying to protect.
– I shall have little to say on this subject because I have come to the conclusion that the less encouragement that is given to the Opposition to prolong debates of this unsatisfactory nature, the better it will be for the people of Australia and the greater the credit to the Senate as a component part of the Parliament of this country. When the war broke out, the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) who was then in opposition, issued a declaration to the effect that he conceived it to be the duty of all of us to show that democracy and democratic institutions, as well as the British way of parliamentary government, could prove effective in times of emergency. Since then the Labour partyhas endeavoured to show its bona fides in this connexion; it has done its utmost to make democracy workable. Now that the war has assumed more serious proportions, and Australia is being attacked, the Labour Government feels it more than ever to be its duty to show not only that our democratic parliamentary institutions can be made to function in the British way, but also that as few obstacles as possible should be allowed to stand in the way of the smooth working of our industrial organization. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) knows well that we never have had, and never will have, harmony in. industry while a small section of that industry, which has broken away from the parent body controlling it, is recognized.
– We have had harmony on the waterfront for many years in Melbourne.
– It was a clever ruse, if not altogether a fair one, to suggest, as the Leader of the Opposition did, that this regulation was drafted by a particular individual. The honorable senator must know that however keen a Cabinet Minister may be on a particular reform connected with the work which, for the moment,, he controls, and irrespective of his Cabinet rank, he must make submissions to Cabinet and must get the approval of Cabinet before effect is given to his proposals.
– He also knows that Cabinet Ministers are supposed to abide by the decision of Cabinet, although, apparently, that is not the position at the present time.
– The honorable senator has a wonderful capacity for suggesting that things are not what they really are. I do not know that I should take up the time of the Senate to stress this point, but I repeat that we never have had, and never will have, harmony in industry while a refractory organization, which has broken away from the parent body and is determined to destroy the parent body if it can obtain sufficient support, is recognized.
– Then the Minister admits the design of the regulation?
– The regulation is designed to increase harmony on the waterfront.
– By eliminating one organization.
– Regulation 15 definitely protects one organization.
– Which one?
– The honorable senator knows the answer to his own question. Does the Leader of the Oppo sition understand the immensity of the job confronting the Government and tintremendous responsibility which it has to carry at the present time? Does he realize that, great as was thu responsibility of the Government of which he was a member a few months ago, that responsibility has increased enormously since the present Government came into office because of the turn that this tragic war has taken in the interim? Does he know that His Majesty the King, and his Queen, are constantly visiting industrial areas in Great Britain, accepting risks in so doing, because of their desire to establish and maintain industrial harmony in that country? Is he prepared to sanction, on behalf of His Majesty’s Opposition in this chamber, tactics which, to say the least, are not wise at this stage? Does he think that it will increase the dignity of this chamber to waste time in discussions of this kind ?
– The present Government created the situation which ha.s arisen.
– A govern men! would be supine, indeed, and unworthy of the support of the people of this country, particularly at a time like this, if it were afraid to move in the direction of increased production and the smooth working of the industrial machine because it might offend some members of a spineless Opposition. The present Government is not prepared to submit to any proposal which suggests that it must not move until it has consulted every member of the Opposition, or at least its Leader. The present Government will at least give its proposals a “ go “. Should the Opposition defeat the Government by tactics of this kind how much credit will it gain, and where will its action lead ?
– Stick to the merits of the case.
– I am. I am not objecting to the interjections of honorable senators opposite. I expect them. Those honorable gentlemen have always championed “ scab “ organizations, and now they expect this Government to swallow a cardinal principle of the party which it represents.
– Party principle!
– Exactly, and a party to which I am pledged. We are giving to the friends of honorable senators opposite, on whose behalf they have accepted this brief, an opportunity to come within the Waterside Workers Federation; but honorable senators opposite desire the present division in the industry to continue. They want to be able to pose as the particular champions of this particular section of workers. They hope to prevent the Government from going on with its immense work of bringing about harmony and 100 per cent, production in industry. This matter relates to only one of the difficulties which we have experienced in clearing the wharfs in not only Victoria, but also the other States. All that wo ask honorable senators opposite now is that they cease this unnecessary opposition at a time like the present, because it can neither redound to their credit nor help the Government to achieve a greater war effort. That is all we ask of honorable senators opposite in this matter, and it is all that should be at stake at the present time. The retention of all that we have depends upon a more intense war effort and we believe that by this means we can produce greater harmony, or at least reduce disharmony.
– We do not believe it.
– The honorable senator may not do so; but I ask him to accept the Government’s action as evidence of its earnestness to get on with the job of doing everything it possibly can to help those who stand beside us in this struggle. If the Government’s action does not happen to please honorable senators opposite, or fit in with their ideas, is it not fair for the Government to ask them at least to stop pin-pricking and putting up “ Aunt Sallies “ simply in order to have the pleasure of knocking them over ?
– Honorable senators opposite adopted those tactics when they were in opposition, but we do not propose to adopt them.
– I have no cause to feel ashamed of anything I did when I was in opposition. If I have occasion to regret anything I did as a member of the Opposition, I am atoning for it now by appealing to the good sense and better nature of honorable senators opposite not to persist in these futile tactics.
.- If any honorable senator had any doubt as to how he should vote on this motion, I think that the speech of the Leader of the Senate (Senator Collings) has dispelled that doubt. He pleaded to us to stand by the Government in these difficult times. This Opposition has shown it is prepared to stand behind the Government in any action it may take in relation to our war effort. However, on the honorable senator’s own admission, the Government is taking this opportunity to apply a party political principle against a certain section of workers engaged on the wharfs.
– I did not say anything of the kind.
– T. have no doubt as to what the honorable senator said. He referred to the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union men as a “ scab “ organization, and a break-away organization.
– I object to the honorable senator’s remark that I said that the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union was a “ scab “ organization. I did not say that.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Brown). - I ask the honorable senator to withdraw the remark to which exception has been taken.
– If the Leader of the Senate says that the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union is not a “ scab “ organization, I accept his statement and withdraw my assertion that he said it was a “scab” organization. However, I heard some honorable senator opposite describe that organization as a “ scab “ organization.
– I did.
– Do honorable senators opposite remember the circumstances which brought that organization into being in Melbourne and in other Australian ports? It was brought into being because it was the only body at that time which was prepared to abide by an award of the Arbitration Court in relation to waterside work. At that time, the Waterside Workers Federation was not prepared to abide by the award, with the result that shipping in this country, which the Leader of the Senate realizes is the life-blood of our transport in normal times, and particularly in & time of war, was held up. An appeal was made for men to come forward and work the ships under the award of the court. These men, who subsequently formed the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union, responded to that appeal. As th<Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) pointed out, the majority of them served with the Australian Imperial Force in the last war, whilst a large number of them are now serving with the defence forces in this war.
– Members of both organizations served in the Army.
– I am aware of that; but the bulk of the members of the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union are returned soldiers. At no time did they seek to break down award conditions.
– They went off the waterfront years ago.
– The honorable senator knows that they came forward and worked the ships under an award of the Arbitration Court. They have been recognized as members of a body which has been carrying out work under award conditions on the waterfront for the last 25 years.
– It is a shame.
– That is not so. These men have not broken down any award conditions. They have abided by every award ; but under this regulation these men, who have done their duty faithfully in the loading and unloading of vessels, are not to be represented on the committee. I say frankly that certain Ministers, among whom I do not include the Leader of the Senate, have waited for nearly a quarter of a century to “ get “ these men ; and they think they have got them under this regulation. That is why these men are to be denied representation on the committee. Regulation 15 prescribes that the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union cannot enrol new members. That means that the organization can never expand. At the same time, no restriction is placed upon the Waterside Workers
Federation. Because these men came to the aid of industry and of their country in a time of stress, their organization is to he banned. Let me say to the Government that I shall support every proposition it puts forward with a view to improving our war effort, but, irrespective of existing circumstances, I shall not support propositions which are not designed to further our war effort. This proposition is merely advanced under the cloak of the war effort with a view to gaining a party political advantage. I shall object to any proposition advanced in this way with a view to penalizing an organization of this kind which has been fighting for its existence during the last 25 years. In respect of any proposition which directly relates to the furtherance of our war effort, the Government can count upon the whole-hearted support of the Opposition. I say definitely that this regulation has been framed by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward) for the purpose of getting square in an old vendetta which has existed -between the Waterside Workers Federation and the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union for a long time. This is not the time to bring in a regulation of this kind. These men have done a good job. The Leader of the Senate has appealed for unity. I ask him why he does not endeavour to establish unity between these two organizations.
– That is what we are trying to do.
– No. If the honorable senator really believes in unity, why does he not give to both of these organizations representation on the committee, or at least representation in proportion to their numerical strength? Under this regulation, the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union is made subservient to the other organization. If the Leader of the Senate will give an assurance that representation on the committee shall be given to the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union in proportion to its membership I shall oppose the motion. Under the guise of a war effort, I am not going to permit men who came forward to help their country in time of need to be sacrificed merely in order to further a party political vendetta that has been going for years.
– If there is one State of the Commonwealth that is indebted to the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union, it is Queensland. That is not an empty statement. Honorable senators will recall that some three years ago I made an investigation of the work on the waterfront in Queensland, which is just as liable to come within the provisions of this regulation as the Port of Melbourne, of which we have heard so much. [ found that, at many Queensland ports from Port Douglas to Brisbane, membership of the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union was practically equal to that of the Waterside Workers Federation. Therefore, at these ports, at least, it cannot be said that the former organization is a minority movement of a break-away union. The Queensland sugarcane-growers have a proper appreciation of what that union meant to the prosperity of that State in the dark days of 192S. Had it not been for the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union many primary producers in north Queensland would have been ruined, because, owing to a dispute on the waterfront, the Waterside Workers Federation would not handle sugar and other commodities. I made a thorough examination of conditions at the Queensland ports, and 1 found that in many instances the majority of members of the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union were returned soldiers of the war of 1914-18. I found also that there was complete harmony in most ports where members of the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union were working side by side with members of the Waterside Workers Federation. As a matter of fact, judging by the evidence which I heard, it would have been a good thing if these two unions did not have head-quarters in the capital cities. I found that the local branches of the unions were working in perfect harmony and quite capable of managing their affairs. It was often the intrusion of the secretaries of the unions from the main ports which created disorganization. I found quite a number of purely local complaints which were quite easily solved. In fact, I solved many of them with the assistance of the local secretaries of both unions and a representative of the employers. To say that the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union is a scab organization or is just a minority union is inviting trouble on the waterfront. This is not the time to strike a discordant note. If there is one thing that is required on the Australian waterfront to-day, it is complete unity. I contend that a continuance of this regulation will cause trouble because the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union is a virile body of men. As I have said, its members are mostly returned soldiers and they will not be bull-dozed into doing something that they do not want to do. They will take this as a direct insult to their organization. Furthermore, it is base ingratitude for the work that these men performed at some risk to themselves in 1928 when they cleared the wharfs in north Queensland of the cargoes which members of the Waterside Workers Federation refused to handle. Like Senator Foll, I shall endeavour to assist the Government as far as possible, but I refuse to support a move which strikes at the present harmony in the northern Queensland ports. I have kept in touch with many of these people and so far as I have heard, there is no disunity in the union ranks under the Transport Workers Act. When making an inspection of these places, I did not interview only members of the various unions. I took evidence from cane-farmers and cutters, from the mill-owners and many others, and they were unanimous that members of the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union were deserving of the highest gratitude for their stand in 1928, and that they were competent in the job. Therefore, I propose to support the motion for the disallowance of this regulation, which I claim will result in disorder.
– I desire to correct one or two misconceptions of honorable senators opposite in regard to these regulations. It is suggested that the men who are affected to-day are those who came to the assistance of the nation on the waterfront in 1928. That statement is absurd. The main feature of the “ dog-collar “ regulation of the Latham Administration was that it applied not only to men registered to help the Government at that time, but also to men who were surreptitiously brought into the organization by the thousand. I challenge any honorable senator opposite to check the books of the organization which is now under discussion to ascertain the service that its members have had on the waterfront at any port of Australia. The fact is that the men who are on the books to-day are not those who came to the assistance of the nation at all. Those men went off the waterfront years ago. I remind honorable senators opposite that 1928 is fourteen years ago. The Minister for Aircraft Production (Senator Cameron) and I, in the course of our industrial activities at that time, took part in the dispute and did our best to see that men were not sacrificed. I suggested recently, as I did during the regime of the Scullin Government to the then Attorney-General (Mr. Brennan), that to settle the trouble on the waterfront permanently, a list should be obtained of the original registrations of men who came to the aid of the Government. These men could then be given whatever special treatment was considered fitting. My suggestion was not accepted. What Senator McBride has said is not correct. These men have a federal registration and a federal award. Under this regulation none of these rights are to be violated. Regulation 15 pro vides -
The committee shall not -
refuse to register; or
cancel or suspend the registration of, any waterside worker who is, at the date of commencement of these regulations, a member of the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union of Australia by reason of the fact that the waterside worker is a member of that organization.
It is definite therefore that their membership cannot be interfered with. Regulation 17 provides -
Except as otherwise provided in these regulations, nothing in these regulations shall be construed as depriving any employer or waterside worker of any rights under any industrial award, agreement or determination.
Therefore it is clear that their industrial conditions are not in danger.
– What about new men ?
– Regulation 15 does not prevent new members from joining or obtaining employment in the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union of Australia,
– I rise to a point of order. Under Standing Order 423 an honorable senator may demand that any statement made by another honorable senator be taken clown by the Clerk of the Senate. I should like the Clerk to record the statement by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane) that regulation 15 does not prevent new members from joining or obtaining employment in the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union of Australia.
– I direct the Clerk to take down the words.
The Clerk having taken down and read the following words: -
Regulation15 does not prevent new members from joining or obtaining employment in the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union of Australia.
– Does the Minister for Trade and Customs make that statement ?
– Definitely, and I shall make many others. In the course of my duties as Minister for Trade and Customs, I have made an endeavour to see that congestion on the waterfront is alleviated. In the course of that job I visited the depot of the Waterside Workers Federation and that of the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union in Melbourne. In fact I did more than that; I obtained extracts from their books showing the number of men registered and the average wages in these organizations. I found that the average wage was £58s. a week for members of the Waterside Workers Federation and £5 5s. a week for members of the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union. The numbers in each organization are not in my possession, but they definitely indicate that, although the Waterside Workers Federation hasa huge nominal registration, actually it has not as many members as I thought it had. The other organization was in practically the same position, but, the vast majority were members of the Waterside Worker.
Federation. These men have their own registered unions. They are registered in the Arbitration Court. Without reflecting on that jurisdiction I am of the opinion that it is calamitous to have two unions registered in one industry. However, returning to the main point in my argument I contend that to say that to try to “ ring-in “ these men as returned soldiers as a reason why industrial justice should be done to them is quite wrong. I point out to the Leader of the Opposition and Senator Allan MacDonald that in 1928 a government of the same political colour as the one which they supported until recently put 980 “ diggers “ on the sidewalks of Australia because they held the wrong political views. There was no talk in those days of loyalty to men who went overseas. I should like also to raise another point. The Transport, Workers Act was suspended with the acquiescence of every party represented in this chamber in an endeavour to ensure that the increasing tonnage of goods on the waterfront of Australia should be handled expeditiously. I do not believe that this regulation will interfere with that one iota. I say to the Leader of the Opposition, who always assumes an air of superiority, that his action is on a par with that which he took earlier to-day. He is not helping industrial peace by raising these matters. Does he think that the Government called together its Ministers, its officers and representatives of the employers and the union in order to frame these regulations merely for the good of its health?
– What about the
– The casual worker has to take his rightful place in the industrial machinery of the nation. If the original members of the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union still retained their membership of that organization, the honorable gentleman might havea sound argument. But the members of that union to-day are not the men who took the places of the members of the Waterside Workers Federation in 1928.
– Will the honorable senator say that these regulations came before the Advisory War Council?
– I have not said that. The Transport Workers Act, under which waterside workers had to be licensed in Melbourne, Adelaide and the northern ports of Queensland, was suspended with the acquiescence of the Advisory War Council, in the definite hope of achieving an all-in industrial effort and with the object of ensuring that shipping movements should not be held up.
The points thatI make are that regulation . 15 does not, allow the federation to interfere with the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union’s membership, and that regulation 17 provides for the industrial conditions of that union’s members to be left untouched. Even without regulation 17 these men are already protected by a Federal Arbitration Court award, which grants them the same rights as the members of the Waterside Workers Federation. A third point is that the present members of the union are not those men about whom all this noise is being made. The regulation has been in operation since the 28th January, but I have not heard of any trouble on any waterfront in Australia. Why is objection raised now? Have the employers complained to the Opposition? The members of the Waterside Workers Federation have not complained, and the members of the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union have not complained. Who has complained? Had these men complained, the Government would have taken immediate action.
– It can do so now.
– Does the honorable senator think that the Government, which is fully occupied in conducting this shocking struggle in which we are engaged, has time to go about asking people what they want? We shall give the people what they want so far as that is practicable, provided that we are not obliged to waste time in this chamber and are allowed to get down to our real job. The best job on the waterfront will necessarily be done by the members of the federation, who have spent practically a. lifetime in this industry. Honorable senators know what happened in 1928, when certain parts of Port Adelaide and Port Melbourne were deserted because the jobs of the federa tion members were taken away from them and given to men who, I suggest, do not belong to the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union to-day. I ask the Leader of the Opposition to take the first opportunity to check the statements which I have made to-night in order to see whether they are not correct. There would be some grounds for the Opposition’s argument if there were in the union to-day the men who showed this alleged loyalty in 1928.
– The loyalists must have left the union in the last three years because they were members when I was in office.
– There must be some record in the Attorney-General’s Department of the names of the men who wore registered on the occasion of the unfortunate hold-up of 1928. That holdup ceased at a certain date, and the Government then, . passed legislation giving first priority in employment to nonunionists and second priority to union men. That was fourteen years ago.
I refer now to regulation 15. It gives protection to existing members of the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union. That is beyond doubt. It does not provide that future members of that, union shall not be registered. The question of future registrations is left to the discretion of the committee.
– A committee composed entirely of officials of another union.
– The provisions of regulation 15 are augmented by regulation 17, which guards their industrial conditions, and by a federal arbitration award under which the members of the union have the same rights in industrial law as the members of the Waterside Workers Federation. The members of the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union have been treated very liberally, having regard to the history of their organization, which does not now contain any of the men who originally volunteered for work in 1928.
– On two occasions this afternoon the Leader of the Senate (Senator Collings) chided the Opposition with obstructing Ministers in their administra tive affairs. He has made it clear to us that he resents the Opposition exercising the rights that it has in this chamber. He has told us, and I agree entirely with his statement, that the work of a Minister in these extraordinary times is very onerous. I assure the Senate that the Opposition does not wish to obstruct the Government or interfere with its administrative duties. On the contrary, we on this side of the chamber have a sincere desire to help the Government in these most difficult days. The Government should do in this instance what it did on another occasion, when the Opposition showed its bona fides by helping the Government to make workable a completely unworkable regulation. The Opposition is prepared, at this stage, to withdraw the motion before the Senate, provided that the Government will undertake to submit the regulation to us so that we can assist the Government to make it workable. A great deal has been said regarding the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union. One would imagine, from the speech of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane) that this union had sprung into existence as the result of the 3trike of 1928. As a matter of fact, the union was established in 1917, and was registered in the State Court of New South Wales in that year. Furthermore, it was given federal registration a year before the strike referred to took place. The members of this union came to the assistance of the Government when the members of the Waterside Workers Federation, in defiance of the recommendations of their committee of management, refused to comply with the award of the Arbitration Court. The members of the union, which had then been in existence in one State for eleven years, came to the assistance of the country and observed the award of the court. The Minister has the temerity to suggest that, because men who were members of the union in 1928 are not members of the union to-day - and I cannot accept that statement-
– Those men had no federal award in 1928.
– They had an award in 1927. My information is that, on the 6th July, 1927, federal registration was granted to the Permanent and Casual
Wharf Labourers Union, and that was over a year prior to the strike of 1928.
The real point to which we take exception is the fact, which has been admitted by the Leader of the Senate, that the Government has put into practice, in the guise of a measure of war-time necessity, what the honorable senator called one of the “ cardinal principles “ of the Labour party, in order to eliminate a union with which it does not agree.
– I did not say anything of the kind. The existence of two unions in one industry is always a disturbing factor.
– Why was not the Waterside Workers Federation eliminated? I repeat that the Government, has, on the admission nf the Leader of the Senate, used the National Security Act and the exigencies of our war-time situation to implement what he has called one of the cardinal principles of the Labour party. It is well for the people to know that this Government is capable of implementing planks of the Labour party’s policy in the guise of war-time measures. We resent and resist this action of the Government. If it is genuinely desirous of bringing about peace on the waterfront it will do as we ask and give to the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union representation on this committee of employment. We realize that, on a proportionate basis, the federation should be represented by two of the three members of the committee^ Surely that would give to the federation the protection to which it is entitled. Although the Minister for Trade and Customs has glibly said that there is nothing in these regulations to jeopardize the position of the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union, I draw attention to the name of this committee - the Waterside Employment Committee. That is the body which will decide upon the employment of those who apply for work on the waterfront. To suggest that, under these conditions, the members of the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union can be assured of equal opportunities for employment on the waterfront with members of the federation is to ask us to stretch our imaginations further than I am prepared to stretch mine. As to regulation 15, I am not in a position to say whether the present membership of the two organizations is sufficient to carry out the work now required on the waterfront. If that be the fact, I suggest that, owing to the urgent demand for manpower, it may be necessary for the Government to prevent any further increase of the membership of those organizations. If the Government considers that the men now registered as members of the organizations are sufficient to carry out the work required on the waterfront, I have no objection to the prevention of additions to the membership, provided the restriction applies to both the Waterside Workers Federation and to the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union ; but to suggest that this regulation would not handicap the latter organization is an insult to one’s intelligence. Regulation 15 states that the committee shall not refuse to register or cancel or suspend the registration of any waterside worker who is, at the date of commencement of these regulations, a member of the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union of Australia by reason of the fact that the waterside worker is a member of that organization. In my opinion, this regulation was designed - and the Leader of the Senate has admitted it in his speech - to annihilate and eliminate the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union.
– I take exception to the remark of the honorable senator and ask that it be withdrawn.
– As the words used by Senator McBride have been objected to, I ask that they be withdrawn.
– I withdraw them, but I maintain that the only inference to be drawn from the Minister’s words was that regulation 15 was designed to prevent the organization referred to from expanding. If it had no representation on the committee, it would obviously have to pass out of existence. If the Government declines to accept my suggestion, I shall support the motion for the disallowance of the regulations.
– These regulations propose something that is very desirable at the present time.
They provide for a departure from the principle of “ divide and conquer “, a principle on which the legislation known as the Transport Workers Act was based. In 1928, prices began to fall, and the supply of labour on the waterfront greatly exceeded the demand. To the degree that the supply of labour exceeds the demand, advantage is always taken by employers of the opportunity to reduce the price of labour power known as wages. Action of that kind invariably leads to industrial disputes. I have worked on the waterfront and am still a member of the Fremantle Lumpers Union. Week after week, month after month, and year after year, the principle adopted by the employers is to discriminate, divide and conquer. There is no continuity of work at all. The award may provide for the payment of 10s. an hour, but, if there is no work, the 10s. means nothing. That happens in this age of civilization, among people who talk about equality and justice and the desire to do by their fellows what they desire to be done by. On the waterfront there is no right of access to the means by which the workers live. They stand before the representatives of the ship-owners who select the men they need. Day after day, they are submitted to this treatment, and they are reduced finally to living under conditions of semi-starvation. That is the background of what led up to the industrial dispute of 1928, and the Beeby award which provided for a deterioration of the conditions. The men who were prepared to accept a. reduction at the expense of their fellow workers received preference, were registered in the arbitration court and still have to be registered. That sort of thing can go on almost indefinitely while labour power is considerably in excess of the demand. We see the contemptible, cowardly and vicious practice of advantage being taken of the workers in the name of arbitration and British justice, by pitting one group against another for the purpose of reducing the price of their labour to the lowest level and increasing profits to the maximum. Then, when the war comes and man-power becomes more and more indispensable, the men who were denied employment prior to the war are wail ted to help in the defence of their country. Even while those men are defending us, honorable senators opposite us still say that we should give effect to the vicious and cowardly principle to which I have directed attention.
I say dispassionately, and I trust convincingly, that this will not be done to the degree which honorable senators anticipate, because, as pointed out by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane), the relations between the men on the waterfront have much improved, and they will not allow themselves to be used in the same way as in the past. The relations between the ‘two organizations have improved because there is more workto be done and their labour power is essential. The members of the organizations do what honorable senators opposite would do if they were in their places. When a worker is indispensable he insists on what he has a right to ask for. He demands the consideration, remuneration and treatment generally to which he is entitled. If the great desire of most of us were given effect overnight, and peace were declared, and if all the waterside workers came back, causing labour power to be greatly in excess of the demand, the employers would attempt to do precisely as they did before the war, that is, reduce as many as possible down to the level of working in return for the dole. That cannot be done now, because the present situation makes it necessary to extend a measure of justice to men to whom it was previously denied ; but, unfortunately, the facts are never brought as frequently and as prominently to the notice of the public as they should be. The object of the amended regulations is -to establish a better state of affairs on the waterfront than obtained previously. It is an attempt to prevent the ship-owners from using the Permanent and Casual “Wharf Labourers Union against the members of the other union, and to remove the things which lead to industrial disputes and bacl feeling, and possibly to something even more serious after the war. “We want the best relations possible between man and man in this country. I should not be averse from discussing the pros and cons of this subject if the nation were not at war: but the fact is that honorable senators opposite are attempting to take advantage of the Government’s effort to establish better relations on the waterfront.
– The Government is taking advantage of the present situation.
– It is all very well for Senator Spicer, who poses as a legal luminary, to speak of even-handed justice, but he is losing sight of what is happening in the background and is ignoring entirely the causes which led to the industrial dispute of 1928 and to other disputes that have occurred since then. If -the honorable senator were to tell men on the waterfront that they must go back to the old conditions they would tell him to take off his coat and do the work himself.
– Are not the wharf labourers working under Arbitration Court awards?
– I have already pointed out that where there are more men than jobs the Arbitration Court awards makes no provision for the men without jobs. Its awards provide only for the men who are privileged to be employed. As the number of men either unemployed or without sufficient employment increases, a dispute becomes inevitable. All the arbitration systems that have ever been established will noi prevent industrial disputes so long as no provision is made to deal effectively with the cause of such disputes. Denial of freedom of access to the means by -which men live is the cause of disputes. If honorable senators who do not know what it is to feel want were to try t.f> understand the position from the other fellow’s point of view, their approach to these questions would be vastly different. I am convinced that, if, by a turn of the wheel of fortune, Senator Spicer and other honorable senators opposite were forced to work on the wharfs, they would be no more prepared to put, up with the conditions that were protested against than were the men then employed on th” wharfs. The Minister for Trade and Customs has pointed out that whereever possible honorable senators opposite use returned soldiers to bolster up a weak case; but they have not referred to the returned soldiers, numbering more ‘than 900, who were reduced to the breadline and below it as a result of the passing’ of the Transport Workers Act. Is that fair reasoning? Representatives of the people in this Parliament should try to take all of the circumstances into consideration, and when they condemn men for going on strike they should try to see what lies behind their action. If they did that, I believe that industrial disputes would be less frequent. In submitting his case the Leader of the Opposition did not say that the ship-owners or the members of the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union had objected to these regulations.
– Some months ago members of that union asked me to approach the Prime Minister on their behalf with a view to their being given representation on the committee.
– I thought that if the Leader of the Opposition were submitting a case on behalf of a section of workers or on behalf of employers, as he now claims, he would have said so. In the absence of any such statement, I was justified in assuming that he had no brief for them. So far as I know, the shipowners have never objected to these regulations. It must be remembered that the Government found it necessary to take action against a section of shipowners who refused to guarantee to the seamen anything in the nature of compensation to either themselves or their dependants for injury or death due to enemy action. Honorable senators opposite who complained of waterside workers holding up ships, made no mention of the fact that supplies for troops at Darwin were held up by certain shipowners, that Sir Owen Dixon and others had to intervene, and that the Government had to take steps to remedy the situation in the interests of the troops.
– What has that to do with these regulations?
– In stating his case, the Leader of the Opposition threw all of the blame for what has happened on to the members of the Transport Workers Federation.
– The blame is attributable to the dirty tactics adopted by one member of the Cabinet.
– That is the honorable senator’s way of expressing his view. My view is that all industrial disputes have their origin in action taken by the employers, who are accessories both before and after the fact. Had it not been for employers, through the medium of- the Arbitration Court and otherwise, attempting to reduce wages and conditions, there would have been no industrial dispute. When the Leader of the Opposition attributes to a Minister dirty tactics, I say, as one with some knowledge of psychology, that he is attributing to another person the despicable traits which he himself possesses. I have no desire to indulge in personalities-
– But the honorable senator is doing so.
SenatorCAMERON.- When I am provoked and put on my defence by an offensive remark, I think that I am justified in defending myself, but no honorable senator has ever known me to take the initiative and attribute to another honorable senator ulterior motives or to call him by an offensive name. In a deliberative assembly like this, we should try to rise above personalities.
– The Minister should set us an example.
– One of the most offensive speeches that I have ever heard was that in which Senator Crawford attacked Senator Foll in this chamber.
– I had complete documentary justification.
– I do not deny that the honorable senator had a good case, but he spoiled it by indulging in personalities. I do not call the members of the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union “ scabs “, nor do I wish to. do anything which would make their position worse. In all the years that I have been privileged to organize on behalf of the trade union movement my appeal has been to the finer instincts of my hearers. I have appealed to their reason, but, of course, such an appeal does not, succeed where people have never culti-. vated the habit of reasoning, and are more or less controlled by prejudice. Ostensibly, the Opposition wants to assist the Government to win the war and officially it makes that claim; but in reality it takes every opportunity to embarrass the Go- vernment, not in respect of major principles or things which mean a great deal to the people, hut in relation to minor and petty matters. There is no serious trouble in either the coal-mining industry or on the waterfront at the present time. On the contrary, conditions there are immeasurably better than they were. The Government is certain that it can do a great deal to remove the antagonism that has existed between two competing groups of men for jobs and for the favour of employers - a system under which one group gets more than it needs and the other group gets insufficient for its needs. Where we can prevent effect being given to the policy of “ divide and conquer “, we shall do so, knowing that to the degree that we are successful we are assisting the nation’s war effort. To the degree that we can do that, we shall build up unity in the widest and broadest sense for the time being among all sections of the community. The trade unions are sacrificing privileges which they should not be called upon to sacrifice; but they are prepared to do so. Only a couple of weeks ago I attended a meeting of the Trades Hall Council when it proposed to hold the Labour Day procession as usual. I then made the same appeal to the delegates as I make to honorable senators opposite to-night. I appealed to them to forget everything in a united effort to win the war. I told them that their processions could go on after the war. They agreed, and abandoned the procession. The trade unions have also agreed to the reduction of wages all along the line through the medium of the dilution of labour, which means a reduction of the average rate of pay. I appeal to honorable senators not to raise petty issues which only irritate people who are trying to do a better job than they did in the past. Do not try to open up old wounds with the intention of rubbing salt into them. If you do that you will not help to win the war.
.- I paraphrase some of the remarks which have just been made by the Minister for Aircraft Production (Senator Cameron) by saying that if the Government would forget everything else and devote itself to a united effort to win the war, we should not be engaged in this discussion to-night. It comes ill from the honorable senator to tell this chamber that it should not be concerned with petty issues, and that we should not open up old wounds. Who opened this wound? Who opened up this issue?
– Honorable senators opposite.
– The Government opened up this issue by the gazettal of these regulations. We were told by the honorable senator in the course of his speech, in various phrases which meant the same thing, that the position on the waterfront, and I agree with him, has improved immeasurably. He also told us that relationships on the waterfront were much better than previously. I agree with him on that point also. In that set of circumstances, when the relationship between these two bodies of men was improving, the Government introduced regulations designed to slowly murder one of those organizations. The regulations are in no way associated with the task of winning the war. We had a long speech from the Leader of the Senate (Senator Collings) on this subject, when he had much to say about democracy but little to say about these regulations. I believe that if we are to preserve our democracy in Australia it is essential that this chamber should see that this kind of thing does not take place. The Ministry is charged with a tremendous responsibility. Parliament has given to it enormous powers for one purpose and one purpose only, namely, to enable it to take any action which it thinks necessary for the defence of this Commonwealth. It is a distinct abuse of those powers to use them for other purposes. So long as I find a government doing that, I shall resist it to the utmost. The strongest condemnation of these regulations was provided in the speech of the Leader of the Senate when he opposed the motion. He did not attempt to show that the regulations are necessary for the defence of Australia. That is what he should have done. He told us frankly that they are for the purpose of giving effect to a cardinal principle of Labour’s policy. Can any one imagine a greater abuse of the powers vested in the Ministry for the defence of the Commonwealth than to use them deliberately to give effect to some petty theory of a party policy? The
Leader of the Senate said that this matter involved a cardinal principle of the party to which he belonged, that there should not be two organizations on the waterfront.
– There should not be two organizations working in the one industry because such a position always leads to friction and trouble.
– No evidence has been given to the Senate that it has led to friction and trouble in this case. Indeed, the Minister for Aircraft Production has stated that conditions were improving prior to the promulgation of the regulation on the 28th January. Any one who knows anything about conditions on the waterfront in Melbourne knows that they have been highly satisfactory during the last few years.
– And still more satisfactory during the last few months.
– How can it possibly contribute to harmony on the waterfront to say to members of a lawful organization of men carrying on their occupation in accordance with the law of the land, that the Government is going to slowly murder them, and that it is going to create a committee to control their activities upon which they are to be given no representation at all.
– Where have we mentioned slow murder?
– It is clearly set out in regulation 15, which prescribes that the committee shall not refuse to register, or cancel or suspend the registration of a man who is at present a member of the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union. But the Government takes jolly fine care that no more members will be allowed to join that organization.
– Where have we said that?
– Regulation 15, which prescribes that the committee shall not refuse ‘to register, or cancel or suspend the registration of a present member of the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union by reason of the fact that he happens to be a member of the present organization.
– Does the honorable senator want anything fairer than that?
– If the Government wishes to be fair in the matter itwill provide that at no time shall the committee refuse to register, or cancel or suspend the registration of any present, or future, member of the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union. But the Government is not prepared to do that. If it did so, that organization might secure new members and thereby retain its strength of 1,100 members. It prefers to tie up the organization by ensuring that no new members shall be enrolled in it.
– Who said that the membership of that organization was 1,100?
– I am informed that the membership of the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union is 1,100, and that that of the Waterside Workers Federation is 1,800. All that we ask is that these 1,100 men be given one representative, and the 1,800 members of the Waterside Workers Federation, two representatives on the committee. What could be fairer than that?
– Has the honorable senator read regulation 17?
– Regulation 17 does nothing to ensure that a person shall be entitled to register as a member of the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union, and if he secures registration, to ensure that his registration cannot be cancelled just because he happens to be a member of that union. If the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union were an illegal organization the Government could not treat it more unfairly. If it had been guilty of the commission of the most heinous crime, the Government could hardly deal with its members more unjustly.
– How many organizations are there in the honorable senator’s profession ?
– I do not propose to discuss irrelevant matters. The honorable senator asked us to have some regard for the other fellow’s point, of view. Has he had any regard for the point of view of a member of the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union ?
– Yes, we are trying to improve his position.
– We are only asking that the Government shall have some regard to his point of view. He has been- working on the wharfs for years in accordance with the law of the land. He belongs to an organization which is recognized by the Arbitration Court, and is a perfectly lawful organization. Consequently, the Government is not justified in putting that organization upon a different basis from that of the Waterside Workers Federation. We do not raise these issues for the purpose of making political capital. I remind the Leader of the Senate that the Opposition has done much to assist the Government to put its most atrocious regulations into some kind of order. Regulation 76 was most outrageous; and when the honorable senator sees the revised version he will see the value of consulting the Opposition in such matters. We now give to the Government an opportunity to follow a similar course in respect of these regulations. In the interests of our war effort and the community as a whole, and in the interests of justice to these men, the Government should consult with honorable senators on this side of the chamber, and agree upon an amendment of these regulations which will ensure a reasonable, sensible and workable scheme. I urge the Government to amend regulation 5 by giving one representative out of the three to the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union.
– Have they asked for it?
– Yes, they asked me to do what I could.
– Not one honorable senator on the Government side of the chamber has had a letter from any of them.
– I assure the Leader of the Senate that I was approached by representatives of the organization weeks before the regulations came into being, and I was urged to make an endeavour to get some such representation on this committee as there would have been on the committee proposed by the Menzies Government.
– Who did the honorable senator see about it?
– I saw the secretary of the union.
– Did the honorable senator see the Minister?
– What a waste of time it would have been for me to see the Minister. We have been discussing this matter now for six hours in an endeavour to get some modification, but the Government apparently is not prepared to do anything about it. All that is necessary is to amend these two regulations in the way indicated, and I believe that by so doing we shall be contributing to harmony on the waterfront. If these regulations are persisted with, far from assisting our war effort, they will create disharmony and put a serious brake on the war effort on the waterfront at least.
Question put -
That regulations numbered 5 and 15 of the National Security (Waterside Employment) Regulations issued under the National Security Act 1939-1940, and included in Statutory Rule No. 19 of 1942, he disallowed.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. J. Cunningham.)
Majority . . Nil
Gold-mining Industry - Taxation of
Members of Military Forces : ALLOWANCES of Soldiers’ Dependants - Royal Australian Air. Force: Enlistment - National Government - ECONOMICORGANIZATIONREGULATIONS - Enlistment of Women in Army - -Excise on Beer - . Search, for Petroleum - Administrative Officers : M i li t ar y SERV ice.
Motion (by Senator Collings) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
. - I should like to have a few words to say in regard to the gold-mining industry in Western Australia., and I take this opportunity to direct a few questions to the Minister representing the Treasurer. My questions are as follows: -
Great confusion has been caused in the industry by rumours and press reports, and if the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) could elucidate those points I am sure he would be conferring some benefit on this harassed industry. Already, Western Australian members of Parliament, have’ interviewed the Treasurer on the question of the preservation of reasonable conditions in the gold-mining industry. I am confident that if anything were to happen to that industry, especially in view of the fact that wheat production in Western Australia is to be curtailed by 60 per cent. , as against 30 per cent, in Victoria and New South Wales, the results will be disastrous, and a premature “ scorched earth ‘”’ policy will be applied to that State. In other words, our hinterland will become empty, leaving a thin coastal belt occupied by few people. I hope that in replying to my question, the Treasurer will give due regard to the gold-mining industry, which we in Western Australia look upon with the same reverence as the sugar industry is looked upon in Queensland. It has the same relative economic value to our State, and I urge that its continuance be facilitated to the greatest possible degree.
– After listening to the debate which took place in this chamber to-day, one would never have thought Australia was at war. I have a real grievance which I would like to bring to the notice of honorable senators. It relates to taxation payments by our soldiers, many of whom have been overseas for two years. The following memorandum was prepared by the Taxpayers Association of New South Wales: -
Re TAXATION OF THE MILITARY FORCES.
Income tax assessments which are now issuing for the financial year 1941 -42 are based upon the income derived by taxpayers during the year ended 30th June, 1941. The principle of assessing a person’s tax liability for one financial year on the basis of what that person earned during the preceding year is firmly established in the Australian tax system and causes little concern where there is relative stability in the income from year to year. Where there is a serious drop in the income as between one year and the next difficulties inevitably arise and such difficulties are aggravated where, as has occurred during the last few years, there are sudden and severe increases in the rates of tax.
At the present time thousands of men are being called up for military service or arc volunteering. A large number are leaving profitable civilian occupations. In some cases private incomes will continue and in other cases will cease. Most will have income tax liabilities to meet in respect of the last financial year. Assessments of this -year’s liability will issue during the next few months. In the case of salary-earners complications will arise from the fact that tax instalments will have been levied up to the termination of the civilian occupation and will continue or not depending upon the rate of army pay. In practically every case the enlisted person will have to face heavy tax liabilities out of seriously depleted means. Several cases have been reported in the press recently of persons facing acute difficulties because of enlistment with the forces.
It is readily admitted that the Taxation Department has shown considerable leniency in dealing with cases of hardship. The department will either hold arrears of tax in abey- ance or with the concurrence of the Relief Hoard will grant statutory relief under the “ hardship “ provisions.
It is submitted with respect that the lenient administration of the department is not sufficient for the following reasons: -
the granting of relief should be under a statutory formula and not dependent on the discretion of the departmental administration; some relief should be accorded as a “ right “ and not as a “ concession “ for which the soldier must apply with a certain amount of humiliation.
many members of the forces are unaware of their rights of access to the Relief Board and as a result meagre savings are drained or members of a soldier’s family make greater sacrifices so that “ default “ will not occur.
without professional assistance or the opportunity of visiting the Taxation Department personally, a soldier on active service has great difficulty in furnishing the information of his financial position which is requisite in a relief application. Since relief applications are, in most cases, dealt with on the written statements of the applicant, the faulty presentation of facts may jeopardize the decision of the board from which there is no appeal.
The association suggests the following alternative remedies: -
the granting of relief according to a statutory formula where there is a serious drop in income because of enlistment. This course is followed in England and has the advantage that relief is automatic and is not dependent on the “ discretion “ of the departmental administration.
that the Government should grant as a gratuity on enlistment the amount due for tax on last year’s income. It is suggested that it is as reasonable to pay compensation for the loss of an office of employment as to pay compensation for the impressment of property of a more tangible nature.
that all taxes owed by men enlisting in the military forces under commissioned rank be wiped out.
To meet the problems suggested in paragraphs (ii) and (iii) of 4. above, it is suggested that a special officer or officers be appointed to the military forces to act impartially between the taxation authorities of members of the forces. Such a person could deal with individual cases on the spot, could elucidate the intricacies of the taxation laws to members of the forces, could examine applications for relief and submit recommendation* to the Relief Board, could supervise the collection of tax instalments from current military pay, &c. The functions of such a person should not, in the opinion of the Association, beeither that of tax collector nor advocate for the. soldier taxpayer; his function should be to hold the scales equitably between the requirements of the taxing authorities and the legitimate difficulties of individual cases.
In regard to the taxation of military pay itself, the Association suggests that -
i ) the existing provisions of the Commonwealth Act should be simplified and the States persuaded to bring their acts into uniformity;
the Government should consider the exemption of all military pay received by members of the forces below commissioned rank.
N.B. - It will be understood that the references to “ military “ used herein is intended to cover all branches of the defence forces, viz.: Army, Naval and Air Force.
Only yesterday, it was brought to my notice that persons who enlisted at Canberra and who occupy houses owned by the Government are granted a reduction of 20 per cent, or 25 per cent, of their rent. I know a man with a wife and six children who enlisted as a private and, by hard work and interest in his job, reached the rank of sergeant. Recently, the authorities issued a notice that, in consequence of his promotion, the amount of rent reduction granted to him would be discontinued. That seems to me to be a grave injustice. I do not think that the men who go overseas to fight should be called upon to pay one penny in. taxation. Many of them have given up good positions, as I and other honorable senators well know. They are suffering, or may have to suffer, the horrors of war in the front line and they should not be called upon to pay taxes as were the soldiers in the last war. On that occasion, the men who served subsequently had to pay. Widows and orphan children also were called upon to pay taxes. That situation should receive the immediate attention of members of the Parliament with a view to the prevention of .a similar happening during or after this war.
.- I” bring to the notice of the Minister representing the Minister for the Army the subject of the reduction or cancellation of dependants’ allowances. I have in mind the case of a widowed mother to whom her soldier son originally allotted 3s. 6d. a day. She was then in employment and earning £3 5s. a week. In due course, her wages were increased to £4 a week. She helps to keep her father, an old-age pensioner. The Army Pay Office became aware of her circumstances, and cancelled the son’s allotment. The official view was that the mother could not he regarded as dependent upon the son for her support. No exception can be taken to that ruling. But I ask whether the Army Pay Office makes similar inquiries in all like cases? It would be a big contract, admittedly, since there must be thousands of persons in receipt of dependants’ allowances. A start might be made with young wives in munitions and other establishments. They are earning, I venture to say, far more a week, including overtime, than the mother whose case I cited. In addition, they are probably living with their parents while their soldier husbands are overseas.
Another matter - email, I admit - indicates lack of co-ordination between the Army and the Royal Australian Air Force and might- have serious consequences in bigger questions if the liaison between the two services be not closer. A father wrote to me as follows : -
The younger son evidently has no special qualifications to justify his retention in the Army, for he is doing a normal infantryman’s duty on a battle station. I hope that the Minister concerned will give instructions for closer liaison in such matters. There must be no watertight departments in the present crisis.
When the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) advocated last week in this chamber that a national government should be formed, the Minister for External Territories interjected, “ The majority of electors were opposed to such a government”. The only time the question was put to the electors was at the federal elections in 1940. Foremost in Mr. Menzies’s policy speech was the necessity for a national government. The United Australia party and United Country party candidates on every platform urged that this was a vital question as a national government was the best during war-time. In Mr. Curtin’s policy speech no mention was made of a national government. He and the other Labour candidates did not favour the proposal. Labour conferences also opposed it. Shortly after the new Parliament met, Mr. Menzies offered Mr. Curtin one-half of the portfolios of the Cabinet and even went so far as to suggest that Mr. Curtin should be Prime Minister. Still the Labour caucus would not come into line. It flouted the wishes of the majority of electors who supported the formation of a national government during the present crisis. An analysis of the Senate returns for the federal elections in 1940 shows that 3,632,817 formal votes were recorded. Omitting 443,219 votes obtained by independents, non-official Labour candidates, Communists, and other candidate.?, the straight-out advocates of a national government secured a majority of 472,660 votes over Labour Senate candidates, who opposed such a proposition. The official figures were - United Australia party and United Country- party Senate candidates, 1,831,129 votes; Labour candidates, 1,358,469 votes. That was a clear mandate to Parliament from the people of Australia to drop party politics. and’ an instruction to form a national government. Since the Curtin Government came into power five months ago, with the aid of two so-called independents, it has done well in helping the nation’s war effort, chiefly because of the foundation laid by the Menzies Government. The war situation, since the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour on the 7th December last, has been responsible for the Opposition’s acquiescence in many of the Government’s decisions. “We have a keen appreciation of the great responsibility resting on the shoulders of the Prime Minister and his colleagues - hence the absence of serious criticism. The chief charge levelled against the Government; is that some ministers are prone to play party politics and to put the former Government in the wrong whenever possible. The public was prepared to overlook such indiscretions, but when the Curtin Government besmirched its short career by giving effect to a far-reaching socialistic plank of its platform, in the midst of a life and death struggle, their indignation was aroused. Electors generally never dreamed that the Governmentwould use the National Security Act to introduce legislation by means of regulations to strike a blow at our economic system. In doing so it has made a grave mistake. Though these emergency regulations have been modified under pressure from the Opposition, there is still, in the minds of a majority of electors, an air of suspicion and distrust. The proposed regulations have done, or are likely to do, to our war effort exactly what Hit ler desires. It is part of the axis technique to divide a nation, and to create dissension amongst sections of the community. There is no time in the middle of a war for socialistic and dangerous f i n a nci a.l ex periments.
Almost daily, over the air and in “ hand-outs “ to press representatives, there is a plea by Cabinet Ministers to all sections of the people to refrain from controversies likely to retard the nation’s war effort. Yet the Government had no hesitation in bringing forward a most, controversial economic proposal, the object of which could have been achieved more equitably by an enlargement of the field for taxation. That is not the way to obtain co-operation in this most serious period of Australia’s history. Mr. Curtin, in opening the Liberty Loan recently, said -
Everywhere there is demanded of us a degree of co-operative citizenship such as never in our history have we yet attained. Acts, not words, are needed, now.
The Prime Minister should address thenext Labour- Conference on the same linesand urge co-operation with the representatives of the majority of electors. Tocarry on without a national government i–” to flout the wishes of the majority. That isagainst all democratic principles. It is not too late now to rectify this omission. A. national! government would bringabout a more united war effort since it would put into cold storage party ambitions and pet socialistic schemes until the war is won. The discussion in this chamber to-night has demonstrated theneed for a national government. The public desires to know how much longer the brains and energies of Opposition senators and members with extensive administrative experience are to remain unemployed?
SenatorFRASER (Western Australia - Minister for External Territories) [11.46]. - I shall give consideration to the points raised by Senator Brand. Of course, he is aware that, when a married soldier is serving overseas, his wife receives the allotment, made to him whether she works or not. As to the honorable senator’s comments about theneed for a national government I thought that that matter had met with a natural death. We have had a political display in this chamber to-night which does not do credit to the Senate. For some hour; we have been discussing the disallowance of certain regulations, and it might be- said that our time could have been spent to some purpose more directly associated with the war. Despite the efforts of members of the Opposition to havethe regulations disallowed, they were unable to convince even some of their own followers that the Government had acted wrongly in the matter. The Government and its supporters recognize the futility of the debate that, has taken place this evening. It was political from the commencements yet the Opposition raised the well-worn cry that its object was to assist the Government. It is true that the last elections were fought on the issue of a national government, but I venture to suggest to Senator Brand that, had the Menzies Government been returned with u majority of half a dozen members in the House of Representatives, there would not have been any talk of a national government either then or now. The Menzies Government failed to secure the number of followers it had prior to the election, therefore it could hardly be claimed that it received a mandate to form a national government. Labour increased the number of seats held by it in the House of Representatives and obtained a majority of one. The formation of a national government would be contrary to the democratic system of government. I invite Senator Brand to point to one thing that the present Government has failed to do in order to assist in the prosecution of the war. Can he mention one thing that was humanly possible that the Government has not done during the last five months? Not one suggestion has been made by him. I remind the honorable senator that he voted against a regulation that was designed to secure a 100 per cent, production of coal in the interests of the war effort. Fortunately, some of his own colleagues, did not see eye to eye with him, and thoi motion for the disallowance of a. regulation dealing with the coal industry was not agreed to. The matters that the honorable senator has raised on the adjournment do not convince me that a. national government would have been sought by his own party had it been returned at the last elections with a larger majority than it obtained. The honorable senator has admitted that the present Government has done a good job. I am hopeful, that the response to the appeal for support of the Liberty Loan will’ show that the public believes that this Government has done all that is possible for the defence of Australia and the winning of the war.
Senator ARTHUR (New South Wales) 1 11. 52]. - I draw the attention of the Government to a decree that has been issued in connexion with the District
Records Office in Sydney where the female employees were notified yesterday that they must join the Army. They have been given eight or ten days in which to do this. If they refrain from joining within the time specified they are threatened with dismissal. At least 20 or 30 of these employees are withdrawing from their employment to-day because they arc advised that if they join the Army they will receive only 4s. a day. I wish to know from whom that decree has emanated, and whether widows and girU who support their parents are to be required to work for 4s. a day. This matter should receive the attention of the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde). If these employees are to be forced into this position, some means should be devised whereby they could be protected.
I direct the attention of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane) to certain excise duties recently imposed on beer. I am informed by accountant? that in Melbourne beer is being sold in 4-oz. glasses whereby the liquor trade passes on to the consumers the excise, plus 22+ per cent. I also understand that by means of the 7-oz. glasses the excise is passed on, plus 9 per cent, and on the 11-oz. glasses the excise is passed on, plus 2i per cent. The excise on bottled beer is 2s. a dozen, but the trade has actually passed on 3s. a dozen. One man who has recently retired informed me that he sold 16,000 dozen bottles of beer last year. The matter should engage the attention of the Government.
I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Development whether it is a fact that the Commonwealth Government has decided, in conjunction with the Government of Victoria, to make a search for petroleum oil in this country? Is it drilling at Nelson near the border of South Australia and Victoria, and utilizing a plant weighing 300 tons? Is the selected site 50 feet from another site, where a bore was sunk 1,500 feet by a man named Steinbuchel, whom a member of the Opposition when a Minister a couple of years ago, refused permission to remain in this country ? Has boring, been carried to a depth of 2,700 feet on this site, and is water being obtained from Steinbuchel’s bore for use in the boilers? Does the Commonwealth propose to defray one-half of the cost of the drilling and the casing? Does it refuse to allow this gentleman to return to Australia, with his money and plant. when he has guaranteed to provide 1,000 barrels of oil a day?
Has any consideration been given to the newer retorts that are now obtainable, such as that of Mr. A. W. Dye, of Sydney? These can be made available without cost to the Government, for the production of the petrol that is needed in this country. Is it to be said that nothing can be done? I contend that we should move as quickly as possible. There should be no red tape. No official should be permitted to place obstacles in the way of the production of oil.
The Minister for the Army should take steps to have withdrawn from administrative positions men of military age who are in class 1, and who have had neither experience nor training, but have been appointed solely because of their social associations. Victoria Barracks, Sydney, contains some of the greatest nitwits that this country has ever produced. They have pips on their shoulders merely because they are associated with members of the Imperial Service Club or the Automobile Club. I hope that the Government will realize that they should be put into the Army to be trained as privates, and should graduate from that stage, instead of being allotted to instructional duties in the Militia, as is proposed. In Major-General Wynter and MajorGeneralFewtrell we have two firstclass men, but the men who hold positions under them have no military knowledge whatever.
.- I have noted the remarks of Senator Allan MacDonald, which I have already submitted to the officer concerned. I hope to have in the morning the information that he requires. The particulars furnished by Senator Darcey will be submitted to my officers, and I hope to have a reply at an early date.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determinations by the Arbitrator, &c. -
No. 8 of 1942 - Arms, Explosives and Munition Workers’ Federation of Australia.
No. 9 of 1942 - Australian Postal Electricians’ Union.
Customs Act - Proclamation, dated 11th February. 1942, prohibiting the exportation (except under certain conditions) of - Cotton boot and shoe laces; Cotton piece goods; Hair - cattle tail; Tallow.
Defence Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1942, Nos. 84, 85.
Excise Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1941, No. 313.
Gift Duty Assessment Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1941, No. 312.
Lands Acquisition Act- Land acquired at - Albury, New South Wales - For Defence purposes.
Albury, New South Wales - For Postal purposes.
Chermside, Queensland - For Postal purposes.
Currie, King Island, Tasmania - For Defence purposes.
Darwin, Northern Territory - For Administrative purposes.
Geraldton, Western Australia - For Defence purposes.
Hobart, Tasmania - For Postal, telegraphic, telephonic and other like services.
Kensington, Victoria - For Defence purposes.
North Bourke.. New South Wales - For Defence purposes.
Point Cook, Victoria - For Defence purposes.
National Security Act -
National Security (General) Regulations - Orders -
Control of lights.
Taking possession of land, &c. (47).
Use of land (14).
National Security (Internment Camps) Regulations -
Internment Camp (No. 5).
Internment Camp (No. 6).
R ul es - Cam p ( 4 ) .
National Security (Man Power) Regulations - Orders -
Protected undertakings (11).
National Security (Prisoners of War) Regulations - Orders -
Prisoners of War Camp (No. 3).
Prisoners of War Correspondence (No. 1).
Regulations - Statutory Rules 1942. Nos. 63. 64, 68. 69, 70, 71, 77, 80, 82, 83, 86, 87, 88.
Science and Industry Endowment Act -
Auditor-General’s Report on the Science and Industry Endowment Fund, for year 1.940-41.
Senate adjourned at 12 midnight.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 5 March 1942, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1942/19420305_senate_16_170/>.