17th Parliament · 3rd Session
The President (Senator the Hon. Gordon Brown) took the chair at. 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– Will the Leader of the Senate state whether the Emergency Committee of the Australasian Council of Trade Unions decided in Melbourne yesterday to send urgent telegrams to the Prime Minister and the, Minister, for .Labour and National Service urging that legislation should be introduced, before the end of the present session, providing for the extension of child endowment to .’cover the first child of each family? If so, does the Government intend to introduce the required legislation ?
– I read in the press a reference to a telegram that had been sent to the Prime Minister with regard to child endowment. ‘ That ‘‘does not interest me so much as the fact that the Leader of the Opposition is somewhat wavering in his political affiliations by being concerned about the affairs of the Australasian Council of Trade Unions. I am delighted to know that he has changed over; but I can assure him that the Government does not intend to introduce legislation with regard to child endowment during this session.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer the following questions : -
– The honorable senator informed me that he intended to ask those questions. The Treasurer has supplied the following answers: -
– Is the Leader of the Senate aware that, during the ten years prior to the last war, private enterprise built 61,202 homes in Victoria, in addition to thousands of others erected by the State Savings Bank of Victoria with money provided by the Commonwealth Government? As this official figure represents about one-third of the total number of houses built in the Commonwealth during the same period, how does the Minister reconcile his statement yesterday that 90,000 homes built by the Commonwealth Housing Commission in the last two years was greater than the number built at any time in’ the history of the Commonwealth? Would it not be better for the Commonwealth Government to seek the co-operation of, and give encouragement to, private enterprise builders in an all-in effort to solve the important problem of providing homes for the people?
– The figures given by the honorable senator as to the number of houses built in Victoria in the pre-war period may or may not be correct; I am not in a position to verify them. I reiterate the statement that I made yesterday that every endeavour is being made by the Commonwealth Government to provide housing accommodation for the people. The Government has done everything possible to provide materials for the building of homes, and there has been full co-operation between it and the State governments in regard to building programmes and the allocation to exservicemen of a proportion of the houses built. At first, it was proposed that 50 per cent. of the houses built should be allocated to ex-servicemen, but the proportion has in fact been 60 per cent. Regardless of State boundaries, the Commonwealth Government will continue to provide materials and render other assistance to enable the housing programme of the Commonwealth and the States to be proceeded with speedily.
– In view of the historical character of the portrait of Senator Tangney, who is the first woman to be elected to the Senate and to have her portrait hung in King’s Hall, will the Leader of the Senate endeavour to make arrangements with the Historical Memorials Committee to have Senator Tangney’s portrait loaned to the Art Gallery of Western Australia during the forthcoming recess ? It would beof tremendous interest to the people of that State.
– I shall have inquiries made with a view to ascertaining whether the honorable senator’s request can be complied with.
– In view of the statement made by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture on the 6th August, that the price of Australian butter sold to the United Kingdom Government had been increased to £8 13s. 6d. sterling per cwt., will the Minister representing that Minister inform the Senate of the equivalent price in Australian currency? Will he say whether it is correct that that price represents JE5 16s. 10½d. per cwt. or ls. 11.2d. per lb. f.o.b. Australian ports?
– The honorable senator raised the same question yesterday and I am now in a position to say that the price of Australian butter sold under the long-term contract to the British Ministry of Food is £8 13s. 6d. sterling per cwt. f.o.b. Australian ports. This represents £10 16s. 10-Jd. Australian currency per cwt., or ls. ll-6/7d. per lb. f.o.b. Australian ports.
– In view of the Minister’s statement that the price now being received for butter sold to the United Kingdom is ls. 11.6/7d. per lb. f.o.b. Australian ports, can he inform the Senate what action is to be taken to ensure that the increase of price will be passed on to dairy-farmers?
– The honorable senator’s question refers to a matter of government policy, and it is not usual to deal with such matters in answers to questions. I shall bring the matter to the notice of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. I have no doubt that the Government will announce its policy in this matter in the near future.
– Has the Minister for Health seen a report in yesterday’s press that the maternity section of the Women’s Hospital, Melbourne, is so overcrowded that mothers will soon have to be sent home on the fourth day after childbirth, and that in the labour ward some women have to sit up at night in chairs whilst awaiting attention? Does i he Government propose to take immediate action to remedy this position? .
– I have not seen the report to which the Leader of the Opposition refers. I recognize, however, that there is a shortage of maternity accommodation throughout Australia today; but the responsibility for providing that accommodation plainly does not rest upon the Commonwealth Government. It is definitely a function of the States, and I have intimated on several occasions in this chamber that as soon as the States are in a position to proceed with the erection of additional maternity accom’modation this Government will help in every possible way, including the provision of the necessary finance. The position may be altered in the event of an affirmative vote at the forthcoming referendum upon the proposed alteration of the Constitution in regard to social services. The Commonwealth Government would then have much wider scope in the field of health, and, as I indicated only yesterday, would be closely interested in the question of maternal welfare.
– In view of the acute shortage of galvanized roofing iron, which is causing delay in the completion of homes, is the Minister for Supply and Shipping in a position to say when the production of this material will be within measurable distance of the great demand for it?
– I ask. honorable senators not to ask questions of such, a general character. I have no wish to be evasive in my reply; but I point out that frequent complaints have been made in this chamber that materials such as roofing iron have been accumulating on the wharfs awaiting transport. Now I am asked a question in relation to the production of this material. The conditions implied by these questions cannot be reconciled. If Senator Herbert Hays will specify the locality in which there is a shortage of this material, I shall ascertain what steps can be taken to relieve it.
– Are we to accept the Minister’s reply as an indication that adequate supplies of roofing iron are available for distribution and that the only difficulties are those of shipping ?
– As I. said, many questions have been asked on this subject by honorable senators opposite. . Senator A. J. .Fraser has been particularly persistent; in fact, he asked three questions in one day about supplies of housing materials, including roofing iron, stacked on the wharfs at Newcastle. Senator Herbert Hays now asks whether production is inadequate; and, if so, whether the Government will take steps to remedy the “position. If the honorable gentleman can point to definite shortages of galvanized iron in any State [ shall have inquiries made to ascertain whether the position can be relieved.
– I ask the Minister for Supply and Shipping whether it is a fact that nine coal mines were idle in New South Wales yesterday? Does the Government propose to take any action in the matter, and, if so, what action is contemplated ?
– It is true that nine coal mines were idle yesterday. I have not yet ascertained the reasons for those stoppages. These matters are examined from day to day; and the Government takes all possible action to avoid stoppages. I point out that all of the mines on the western and southern coalfields were working yesterday. Some of the stoppages which occurred yesterday may have been due to mechanical breakdowns. It must not be thought that because seven, or eight, mines stop on the one day, such stoppages are the result of disputes between the miners and the owners. I repeat that many stoppages are attributable to breakdowns of machinery. [ shall examine the honorable senator’s question further, and supply the information he seeks.
– With a view to the urgent necessity of preserving unity in the British Empire, and with a view to paying a well-deserved tribute on behalf of the Australian people to the British people, will the Leader of the Senate announce to the Senate before Parliament goes into recess whether the Government intends to follow the good example of the late Mr. Curtin and urge the appointment of an outstanding dignitary from the United Kingdom as Governor-General of Australia in; preference to the appointment of a political stooge with partisan views?
– I rise “to order. Is it in order for an honorable senator to say that this Government has in mind the appointment of a political stooge to the high office of Governor-General?
– I shall not allow the question, because I regard it as contemptible to speak in that manner concerning the appointment of a GovernorGeneral.
– In view of your ruling, Mr. President, I desire your direction as to whether I am at liberty to ask the Minister that important question, if the words which are offensive to some honorable senators are deleted?
The -PRESIDENT.- Certainly.
– I ask the Leader of the Senate whether, in view of the importance of Empire unity at this stage in our history, the Government will take into consideration, and announce before the general elections, whether it proposes to appoint a distinguished person from Great Britain to the high office of Governor-General of the Commonwealth in preference to an Australian?
– I am not in’ a position to indicate the present intention of the Government with regard to that matter, but I point out that the appointment of a Governor-General, or of the Governor of a State, is in just as capable hands when a Labour government is in office as when any other government is in power. Only a few weeks ago, a distinguished military officer, Lieutenant. General Northcott, was appointed by the Labour Government of New South Wales to be Governor of that State. I hope that the Leader of the Opposition will not infer that the new Governor of New South Wales is a political stooge.
– Will the Minister’ say whether it is not a fact that drowning men usually clutch at straws?
Question not answered.
– I direct a question to you, Mr. President, relating to the point of order raised by
Senator Collings. If it he infra dig. for the Leader of the Opposition to use the expression “ political stooge “, is it not just as improper for the Leader of the Senate to use it?
– Perhaps it would have been advisable for the Minister to have avoided the- expression, but, the words having been used, no good can be done by any further reference to the matter.
Land Settlement of ex-Servicemen.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation whether he is now able to reply to my question of Tuesday last when I asked why, in view of information given .on the 31st July that 412 single unit farms had been purchased, not one ex-serviceman from the last war has yet been settled on the land ?
– The honorablesenator’s question has been brought to thenotice of the Minister for Repatriation,, and I am now awaiting a reply. ‘
– On the 26tb July, Senator Arnold asked the following question : -
During the war the Government implemented a policy nf decentralization of industries and established a number of munitions factories in country areas. I ask ‘ the Minister representing the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction whether those factories have been’ acquired by private enterprise? If so, how many of them are now in use? What are the possibilities of the remainder being used by private, enterprise?
The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction has now supplied . the following information : -
Of the munitions factories erected in country centres the following factories have actually been made available to private industry: -
Of the remaining factories in country towns, a certain number will be- retained for defence production. The munitions factory at Ballarat is at present subject to negotiations by the Secondary Industries Commission; and a successful outcome is .anticipated. There remain then five small factories at Clare, South Australia, Cowra and Hay, New South Wales, and Horsham and Swan Hill, Victoria. These are available for use by private enterprise. The St. Mary’s explosives factory, New South Wales, is a particularly large unit comprising many factory buildings. It will be seen that negotiations with at least 34 firms have been completed in respect of the transfer of certain buildings at the St. Mary’s factory. Negotiations in respect of the remaining buildings at St. Mary’s are daily being carried on by the Secondary Industries Commission and the Secondary Industries Division of the Department of Post-war Reconstruction. Not only is it anticipated that they will ultimately be transferred to private industry, but also it is expected that at St. Mary’s there will be developed in consequence a new modern industrial town of importance and economic significance.
– Is the Minister for Supply and Shipping in a position to confirm the statement published in the Melbourne Herald yesterday that he is about to make an announcement that the control of all rubber tyres will be removed as from .the 1st September ?
– I am not disturbed or concerned about the statement in the press regarding the’ control of rubber tyres. I have received representations form all quarters in that regard, and I have repeatedly pointed out in this chamber that the removal of control from rubber tyres is dependent on the volume of pro1duction. When there is ample production to meet the needs of the community, the restrictions will be removed, but noi until the tyres produced are distributed throughout Australia in such a manner that every person in the community is able to obtain them on an equitable basis.
– As it appears that, through unfavorable weather conditions, many ‘ wheat-farmers will have small returns this year from their harvest, will the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture say whether, if they require financial relief, the money which they have con tributed in respect of the 1945-46 crop at the rate of 2s. 2d. a bushel to the Wheat Industry Stabilization Fund will be available to assist them?
– I draw the attention of the honorable senator to what the* Government, has done in the interests of the primary producers during its term of office. No honorable senator opposite can truthfully say that the Government has not treated the wheatfarmers sympathetically. I have no doubt, that should the need arise, sympathetic consideration will be given to producers suffering from drought or other causes beyond their control.
– On the 26th July, Senator Finlay asked me as representing the Minister for Labour and National Service, a question regarding a review of the regimen used in the calculation of the basic wage. I now point out to the honorable senator that a similar question was directed to the Prime Minister in the House of Representatives recently, and he replied that a review of the items in the “ C “ series index had been considered from time to time, and that the setting up of an authority to conduct an inquiry is now under consideration.
– Will the Minister for Supply and Shipping inform the Senate whether it is a fact that the governments of New South Wales and Queensland, because of the absence of shipping facilities and other suitable transport, have lifted all. restrictions on road transport to enable steel products to be despatched from Newcastle to Brisbane by road ? If so,- will the Minister endeavour to make similar arrangements with respect to the other States?
– I am not aware that the governments of New South Wales and Queensland have lifted the restrictions on road transport. I shall have inquiries made concerning the matter, but I am riot in a position to direct the Governments of Victoria, South Australia or Western Australia as to the manner in which their transport system shall be conducted, or as to what control shall be applied to them. The Commonwealth Government is reluctant to interfere with the governments of the States in matters that do not concern it.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– =-The Minister for the Army has supplied the following answers: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
-The Minister for the Army has supplied the following answers : -
The unit referred to is the 8th Advanced Workshop, which is mainly occupied in the preservative treatment of all types of technical Army stores returned from the islands te Sydney. The workshop still has a considerable commitment, and the allegation that there is little work to be done is untrue. In actual1 fact, 159 Italian prisoners of war are being employed, and this has enabled the release of many high point personnel who would otherwise be retained. If the workshop is closed down, equipment stored without preservative treatment would deteriorate rapidly,, with heavy loss to the taxpayer. In, regard to specific statements made, the position is -
It is alleged that the commanding officer ordered the men to spread the work around’ the workshop and appear as busy as possiblewhile being inspected: The officer commanding the unit has denied this allegation and theDirector of Mechanical Engineering, who isthe inspecting officer referred to in the newspaper report, states that he saw no evidenceof it when he visited the unit on Tuesday,. 6th August. This is the third occasion on which the workshop has been inspected by a senior officer during the past five -months.
Defence of Rabaul
asked the Minister representing the Acting Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The Acting Minister for Defence has advised that the following information has been furnished by the service authorities: - 1 and 2. (a) The anti-aircraft defence at Rabaul was entrusted to two 3-in. guns with no predictor or height and range finder. The reasons for this were that at the time the 3-in. anti-aircraft gun constituted the main heavy anti-aircraft weapon in Australia. The available 3-in. guns, together with a very few 3.7-in. guns, were quite inadequate to meet the over-all anti-aircraft requirements of the Army. The number of 3-in. predictors available at the time was totally insufficient to meet all requirements. The situation with regard to height and range finders was even worse than that of predictors. Available anti-aircraft equipments were distributed in accordance with the priorities laid down at that time.
Adequate ammunition for use by 2 pounder guns was sent toRabaul. The 2 pounder anti-tank gun was the only anti-tank gun in general use in the Army at that time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator McKenna) read a first time.
– I move - That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill is intended to carry out undertakings given to trade unions and employers when dilution of labour agreements were made between the Commonwealth Government, employers’ organizations, and trade unions in the early days of the war, and also to assist in the rehabilitation of ex-servicemen. Dilution of labour necessarily involved a lowering of trade union standards to meet war requirements, and the agreements provided that the normal standards of the trades were to be- restored as soon as dilution was no longer essential. The then Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) was a party to those agreements. Both Labour ministries since then accepted fully the terms of the agreements insofar as the preservation of trade standards and the protection of recognized tradesmen were concerned. Nevertheless, the present Government believed that the agreements would unduly prejudice the rehabilitation prospects of a number of returning servicemen, and therefore, it undertook further negotiations with employers and unions. As a result of those negotiations, the scheme provided for in this bill was evolved, and whilst it adequately fulfils the earlier agreement in regard to the protection of recognized tradesmen, it will also make a material contribution to the rehabilitation of exservicemen by making it possible for a number of them to enter the skilled metal trades.
Early in 3940 it became obvious that the huge munitions programme contemplated could not be carried out without a considerable increase of the number of tradesmen in the engineering and related trades. The Menzies Government approached the trade unions and employers’ organizations, and agreement was reached on a scheme of dilution to meet those exceptional needs. Under the dilution agreement the unions assented to the relaxation of existing trade customs and practices in order to enable semi-skilled and partly trained workers to perform, work normally carried out by fully qualified tradesmen. It was, * however, fully understood that action would not be permitted to prejudice the ultimate rights of the recognized tradesmen. The dilution regulations subsequently made under the National Security Act give clear expression to those principles. Subsequently, the extension of the war to the Pacific called for a further tremendous increase of the munitions programme, and the skilled metal trades were diluted to a far greater degree than had been planned originally. Approximately 50,000 men were added to the diluted trades, and of these some 24,000 still remain in employment as added tradesmen. As the result of war-time industrial developments in Australia, the engineering industries are likely to be maintained on a permanently expanded scale, and it is only right . and proper that these new avenues of employment should not be closed to men who have been absent in the armed forces. The bill, therefore, makes provision for the admission to the engineering, boilermaking, blacksmithing, electrical and sheet metal trades of ex-servicemen who have had sufficient training and experience in those trades whilst in the forces to enable them, after a reasonable period of probation or training in employment, to reach the standard of skilled tradesmen. Honorable senators will be aware that many thousands of servicemen were trained in special technical work. Naturally, many of these- men will have- other occupations to return to, and will not wish to use this technical skill in civil life, but others will wish to use the skill acquired in the services, and the opportunities provided by this bill as a means of rehabilitation. The Australian engineering industry, despite its expansion since 1939, has not unlimited absorptive capacity,. : and could not possibly provide regular employment for all the many thousands who have been trained, or had trade experience, while in the services. Successful rehabilitation of the servicemen concerned would be hindered rather than helped if a scheme were introduced which allowed so many to enter a trade as to result in ultimate unemployment of exservicemen and recognized tradesmen. Therefore, some limitation of the number to be allowed to enter these trades was essential.
In order to terminate the war-time dilution arrangements, to protect the position of recognized tradesmen, to facilitate the entry of ex-servicemen, and, at the same time, to avoid overloading with more men . than can be regularly employed, some portion of the dilution structure must be retained in the interests of all. Following upon conferences which were held with representatives of the appropriate employers’ organizations and unions, the provisions of the engineering, boilermaking, blacksmithing, electrical and sheetmetal trades dilution regulations were revised and amended in March of this year to meet the new situation, and the substance of this bill is, for all practical purposes, identical with that of the amended regulations.
Thebill provides for administrative machinery to control the scheme by central and local trades committees, similar in composition and functions to the committees which administered the dilution scheme during the war, and which were composed of representatives of the Government, and the appropriate employers’ and workers’ organizations. These committees will have the additional duty of settling matters concerning the employment of the different categories of tradesmen, and will also be deemed to be industrial committees in respect of these trades for the purpose of Part III. of the Re-establishment and Employment Act 1945, which provides for the organization of the Commonwealth Reconstruction training scheme. First priority in employment is accorded to “recognized tradesmen” -
Provision is made for ex-servicemen with training and experience in the trade acquired in the forces to become “ recognized tradesmen “ in three ways - (1.) Ex-servicemen who have served in the forces for a long period in a trade capacity and have so acquired the full skill of a tradesman may be certified immediately as recognized tradesmen by a local committee. (2.) Ex-servicemen needing a period of employment at the trade - not exceeding twelve months - to attain full trade skill may be authorized as “ probationary tradesmen” bya local committee and upon successfully completing the probationary period, be certified as “ recognized tradesmen “. (3.) Ex-servicemen who have gained some trade skill in the forces, and who are eligible for training benefits under the Commonwealth reconstruction training scheme, may be authorized as “ trainee-tradesmen “ by a local committee, and, after a reasonable period oftraining on the job, may be certified as “ recognized tradesmen “.
It will be noted that both “ probationary tradesmen “ and “ traineetradesmen “ will receive the full tradesman’s rate of wages, but in the case of “ traineetradesmen “, part of the wage will be paid by way of training benefit under the Commonwealth reconstruction training scheme. I commend this bill to honorable senators and hope that it will be passed unanimously. All honorable senators will wish to redeem the definite pledge given to our bona fide tradesmen by successive governments, representative of all parties, and I have no doubt will also desire to support a measure which will make a further important contribution to the satisfactory rehabilitation of men who have served in the forces.
Debate (on motion by Senator Leckie) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 7th August (vide page 3S44), ou motion by Senator Ashley -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– The coal-mining industry has been fully discussed in this chamber on many occasions. We, on this side of the chamber, are often taken to task by honorable senators opposite for failing to offer constructive suggestions in regard to legislation that comes before us. . We are accused of indulging only in carping criticism. That point was emphasized by Senator Arnold last night. We all know, of course, that Government supporters are speaking with their tongues in their cheeks when they make those charges. I challenge any honorable senator opposite to cite one Opposition amendment that has been accepted by the Government in any legislation brought before this chamber in- the two years that have elapsed since the newest members of the Senate were sworn in. Obviously, it is of little use for us to offer constructive suggestions, because no fi Mention is paid to them. Therefore, criticism is all that is left to us.
Usually when a discussion of the coal mining industry takes place in this chamber, honorable senators opposite engage in a diatribe against the Opposition for the failure of past governments to secure peace on the coal-fields. It is claimed, for instance, that the Menzies administration was responsible for the loss of coal’ stocks amounting to 900,000 tons, and that that was the start of our present troubles. Whenever honorable senators opposite discuss the coal-mining industry they delve’ into its history not only in Australia but also in other countries, including Great Britain. Senator Arnold described present conditions in the industry, and emphasized that miners were abandoning it in large- numbers. His argument up to that stage of his speech was quite logical. Miners who establish their homes in mining towns do not want to leave the industry. But the honorable senator then gave a picture of shocking conditions which he said “existed at a mine in a suburb of
Newcastle. The mine employed 30 miners, and conditions were so bad that when the men wanted to have a drink they were practically forced to go to the ‘horse-trough.
– What are the mine inspectors doing?
– Senator Arnold said that usually when the inspectors made an inspection they simply said they would come back in six months. If conditions are so bad as the honorable senator says that they are, I’ cannot understand why the inspectors do not do .something about them.-
– That is -what the miners also cannot understand.
Senator JAMES McLACHLAN Senator Large delved into the ancient history of the industry in England when children of ten years of age, and even mothers carrying their babies, were employed in the mines. We know that Suck conditions did exist in the industry in England in the very early days, but no one will suggest for a moment that anything like those conditions exist in the industry in this country. Senator Large, then said that, consequently, the miners to-day were militant-and cynical and were out to take revenge on the class’ of people who had oppressed them for so long. Such an. attitude cannot be justified on the part of Australian coal-miners, because even their parents or grandparents had no experience’ of the conditions that existed in the bad old ‘ days. Therefore, on that score the miner to-day has no reason to be militant. Even if it could be said that he is out to take revenge upon the capitalist, it is clear that his attitude penalises not the capitalist but his fellow working men. Of course, a Minister is able to travel in a luxurious motor car; but the average citizen, when he travels, is obliged to sit up all night in a railway carriage with, a rug wrapped round him in order to keep warm. When the coal-miner fails to produce sufficient coal to meet the needs of the people he deprives them of their means of livelihood. Shortages of coal affect the housewife severely. Whilst the capitalist may have his larder well stocked, the average housewife is obliged to do her shopping under very great inconvenience ; and when the bread win.ner loses his employment, his children are the greatest sufferers: Thus, shortages of coal have a most cruel effect upon- the average citizen. They are felt only to h minor degree by people who are welltodo. Honorable senators opposite continually tell us that if the Government attempts to discipline the coal-miners they will not produce any coal at all. All sections of the community must, be disciplined under the law. I am certain that if the miner were disciplined, coal production would he improved, although f do not suggest that by that means we should obtain maximum production. If the argument of honorable senators opposite in this respect be justified, one could say with equal logic that murderers should not be punished because the penalties imposed by a law will not prevent murder. Similarly, it could be argued that the penalties of the law do not stop theft, burglary and other crimes. However, we know that the punishments prescribed by the law minimize crime. The miner should be subject to the law just as is any other individual. However, the Government prefers to appease the co air-miners. I commend, the Minister for Supply and Shipping_ (Senator Ashley) upon his speech. I believe that had the Government taken more notice of his views, it would have framed a far more workable and effective measure. Reference has been made by the Minister to the Davidson report, but, in fact, the Government has entirely ignored the recommendations contained in it. Mr. Justice Davidson shows that the allegations of honorable senators opposite that coal is being wasted by the coal-owners and that we cannot produce sufficient coal to meet the needs of the community, are nott correct. He points out that whilst our requirements of coal for 1949-50 will total 13,500,000 tons our present output on the basis of one shift is 12,750,000 tons. However, he estimates that with only partial mechanization of the mines production could be increased to 14,500,000 tons with’ the man-power now engaged in the industry. That would’ provide 1,000,000 tons more than we shall require in 1949-50; Furthermore, there is no reason why double shifts should not be worked in order- to increase production. Mr. Justice Davidson’s report contains many valuable recommendations that should havebeen embodied in the bill. We all know what opinions were expressed by the lateMr. John Curtin about the miners, and therefore- I shall not -weary the Senate - by quoting his statements again. I hopethat the bill will have the effect desired by the Government, although 1 am afraid that it will not do so. It represents - nationalization of the industry in a modified form. Nationalization has already been tried with one or two coalminesand experience has proved that it only makes confusion worse confounded. Throughout my political life I have been, a strong supporter of the party to which I1 belong, but my outlook has always been broad enough to- enable- me- to- place - the welfare of my country above party considerations. If I were a bigoted party man, I should be pleased at the way in which the miners are behaving, becausethey are doing the Labour party a. great deal of harm. However, the welfare of the nation- is1- of first importance to me, and I am anxious to- support any action that will induce the miners to work. I hope that the bill will do. this, though I am very doubtful of its chances of success.
– [12.71. - This bill is. of great importance not only to the coal-mining industry but alsoto’ the whole nation. Coal is the lifeblood of industry. Without it, industry will cease to operate and- the people will lose amenities which are an integral part of civilized living. Therefore, every in- ‘ dividual in Australia is- greatly interested in the production of adequate coal stocks - instead . of the present meagre daily ration. Lack of coal is impeding the reestablishment of the nation after the hardships of war. For example it is causing delay’ in the construction and equipping- of homes, and the rehabilitation- of many primary industries which are badly in need of newmachinery and equipment. The shortage of many materials can be attributed, directly to lack of coal. I have listened.carefully to- the speeches- made by honorable senators opposite, who imply that the miners are a class of men unto themselves and are suffering untold hardships- under working and living conditions to which other people are not subjected. To use a common expression, those speeches were just so much “ sob stuff “. I believe that many miners will resent the sorry picture that has been painted by Ministers and their supporters. I took a great deal of interest in the speech made by Senator Arnold, who lives in the coal-mining area of Newcastle and is probably very conversant with the conditions of the miners. He said that the outlook of the miners was drab and dreary, and that therefore they could not be expected to have much interest in the production of coal. I have visited Newcastle on many occasions. It is one of the most beautiful cities in .Australia. Situated on the sea coast, it has wonderful surfing and bathing facilities, and its public buildings are a source of pride’ to its citizens. Beyond the city limits, in the lakes district where many mines are situated, there are some of the finest tourist resorts in New South Wales. Thus, when considering natural beauty features and facilities for enjoyment,. the coal-fields districts of New South Wales are in a. very good position. I have played bowls with miners on various howling greens in the Newcastle district. I enjoyed playing with them, and found them to he decent, jovial men. There is no doubt that there are good and bad employers in every industry.
– They are mostly had. ‘
– On the contrary, most of them are good. A good employer realizes that, in order to secure the best results from his employees, he must make Their working conditions as good as possible arid endeavour to make them conrented. It. is to his advantage to do so, just as it is to the advantage of the employees. It should be the aim not only of the employers but also of the community generally to improve conditions in industry to the highest possible degree. The impression has been created by Ministers and their supporters that strikes on the coal-fields are caused by bad working conditions in the mines. However, Senator- A. J. Eraser mentioned two mines, the John Darling and the Burwood mines, which honorable senators opposite admit to- be very well equipped and supplied with all of the amenities that the workers could desire. They have attractive approaches, and I understand that there are lawns and flower gardens near the pit heads. Bathrooms, showers and other amenities are considered to be good. I ‘ can speak from experience of the John Darling mine, where I found the arrangements generally to be excellent. I also went down what was considered to be one of the worst mines in the Newcastle area. I admit that the conditions there are not good, but I did not find the miners to be of the type one would have been led to believe, after listening to the speeches of honorable senators opposite. The miners were interested in their work, and were keen on producing coal. They did not complain to me of the .conditions under which they were employed. Unfortunately, there is a serious chance of coalminers, contracting lung trouble, and it is essential to do everything possible to prevent the development of that disease. Of course, it is not confined to coal-miners. The number df persons in Australia at present suffering from tubercular trouble is 30,000. Had preventive measures been adopted in the early stages of the disease, most of the patients would now have been, restored to health, or would have been well on the way towards recovery.
One must ask whe’ther the coal-miners are paid sufficient for their labour. The report of Mr. Justice Davidson states that . the present high income tax is responsible for much of the absenteeism in the industry and the reduction of production. I quote the following extract from that report : - .
The hurden of taxation is the most active of all causes of absenteeism. Both the amount of the fortnightly deductions and the uncertainty as to their extent undoubtedly reduce the incentive of contract miners to continue their work for the full number of shifts.
So it cannot be said fairly- that the miners are not paid a sufficiently high rate to induce them to carry on the industry. In my opinion, the factor mainly responsible for the lack of production is the militant leadership. Strikes are being engineered continuously, not only in the coal-mining industry, but also in other key industries. I. allude to the action of the coaL-miners, particularly their leaders in New South Wales, in endeavouring to engineer an extensive strike of the workers in the meat industry in Queensland and other States, [n Queensland, the miners’ federation experienced a reverse. The coal-miners in that State have worked for many years without industrial troubles. ‘ During the war years they had no industrial disputes, but eventually they were induced to take the unwise step of going on strike in sympathy with the workers in the meat industry. Mr. Wells, the President of the miners’ federation, proceeded to . Queensland with one of his henchmen, and took a certain amount of money with him to induce the coal-miners in that State to remain on strike. All credit is due to them for having told Mr. Wells “where to get off”. They returned to work, Mr. Wells went back to Sydney, and there, has been no trouble since.
It has been said that’ fewer men are employed in the coal-mining industry now than previously. It is stated that, in L945, the number of employees was about 17,000, and we have been informed that only 15,000 men now remain in the industry. The reason advanced for the reduction is that probably the men who left did not care for coal-mining, but I have been reliably . informed that they have become sick and tired of the disruptions and strikes in the industry, and are finding work in other avenues. Their action has nothing to do with the conditions of work or the rates of pay in the coal mines. In Western Australia the coal-miners have given loyal service. Strikes in that State have been of rare occurrence and of short duration. At one time the employees broke away from the’ miners’ federation, but they are now members of it.
– They have recently increased their output.
Senator -Ashley. - Since they have rejoined the federation.
– That shows that coal production can be increased. It has been said that nationalization of the mines would prove a cure for the industrial troubles of the industry, but Government control has already been tried and found unsatisfactory. There is a State coal mine at Lithgow and the Coal cliff Colliery is conducted on a national basis, but neither has been proved successful.
– Coal is produced at those mines.
– Yes, but both have experienced strikes and loss of output. Senator A. J. Eraser admitted that the output of both the Burwood and theJohn Darling mines has been reduced by strikes. At Burwood, the employees have already lost sixteen days’ work this. year, and there has been a loss of output of 55,200 tons. Even a mine with all the facilities and amenities asked for by theworkers has suffered- a loss of output. From March 1944 to March 1946, coal to the value of £70,000 was lost at the Coalcliff Colliery. The annual output has fallen from. 174,565 tons at the 31st March, 1939, to- 127,445 tons at the 31sl March, 1946. The Balmain mine in New South Wales was formerly operated on a co-operative .basis. It was thought that theminers, by sharing in the management and also in the profits, would have secureda maximum output, but the scheme wasnot successful. I doubt whether this bill will result in the solution of the problem presented on the coal-fields of New South Wales. No radical alteration is to be made of the methods which havebeen adopted throughout the war years.
– The honorable senator has a wrong conception of the bill.
– It has some new provisions, but the conditions generally will not be unlike those experienced during the war period. At that time, when the country was liable to be invaded onewould have thought that coal would havebeen produced to the maximum extent, but that expectation was not realized. If there was trouble in the industry during the war J it is reasonable to assumethat there will be further trouble now that peace has been restored and the danger to the nation has been removed. The bill provides for the setting up of a new authority to control the coal industry, but the actual management of themines will still be in the hands of the coal-owners.. They will be subject todirections as to the work to be done, but they will still be responsible for theactual working of the pits. ‘ In other words,.they will have to bear the expenses associated with the working of the mines although they will be subject to direction as to the high policy to be followed. Effect should be given to many of the recommendations contained in the Davidson report. In the past, an appeasement policy has been followed without success; nationalization has been attempted on a small scale, with similar results; co-operative mining has been undertaken, but not with particularly satisfactory results. The present shortage of coal is not the result of low wages being paid in the industry. The Government would do well to give effect to the recommendations of Mr. Justice Davidson, especially those relating to the mechanization of certain types of coalmines and the disciplining of miners. The first step towards disciplining the miners would be the removal from the industry of the militant minority which has caused, and is causing, so much trouble. I have reason to believe that a majority of miners would favour such action.
-Would the honorable senator shoot the minority ?
– No. If I had more time, I could show how, by more conciliatory methods, better results could be obtained in the industry, and a material increase of coal production effected.
– I support the bill. The Government has been charged with not doing anything to stabilize the coal-mining industry, but those who complain of a shortage of coal seem to forget that industries generally throughout Australia are on the upgrade, and that more and more power is required to keep the wheels of industry moving. That, of course, means that a greater output of coal is needed. The coal produced in the years before the war would not suffice to meet the needs of industry to-day. Before the outbreak of war Australian industries required 9,000,000 tons of coal a year; to-day the demand has risen to 14,000,000 tons. Another factor, which is conveniently overlooked by those who criticize the Government, is that there are fewer miners to-day than before the war. Senator Cooper said that the recommendations of Mr. Justice Davidson should be given effect by the Government. In other words, the honorable senator’ wants the Government to mechanize the coal-mines. The Government proposes to give effect to that recommendation of the Davidson report by other means ; it intends that a board shall be set up, and that it shall have authority to do what is necessary to control the industry. On other occasions Senator Cooper has criticized the Government on its control of mining ; surely he does not now expect it to. undertake the task of mechanizing the mines? It is entirely incorrect to say that the Government wants to control the coal-mines. On the contrary, it wishes to hand over the control to an independent body which will have the power to discipline both miners and mine-owners if they do not play the game. Senator Arnold referred to the deplorable conditions which exist at some coal-mines in New South Wales. The Joint Control Board which is to be set up under this bill will have the power to assist mine-owners, or to take complete charge of a mine and mechanize it, should it think fit to do so.
– Power to do those things has existed during the last five years.
– Yes, under war time control by the Government, but the Government now wants to get away from war-time control.
Senator A. J. Fraser interjecting,
– I rise to order.
Senator Aylett is continually being heckled by Senator A. J. Fraser .That is most unfair.
– The conduct of the Senate is in my hands. There is no point of order.
– We must get away from the system under which every detail associated with coal-mining is governed by regulations. It is for that reason that the Government proposes to place the control of coal-mining in the hands of an independent body.
Sitting suspended from 12.40 to 2.15 p.m.
– Senator Mattner said that everybody was asking why the Commonwealth , Government had failed to ensure the production of adequate supplies of coal; hut the Government does not own . all the mines. Certainly, it owns one or two, and the State governments also own some, but by far the greater proportion of them are owned by private enterprise. Strangely enough, when private enterprise fails it always endeavours to show that the blame lies with the Government. Taking into consideration the number of men in the industry, the quantity of coal being mined to-day compares favorably with the average tonnage mined in normal years. Apparently, Senator Mattner wishes to lay the blame upon the Commonwealth Government for the fact that coal production has not increased sufficiently in recent years to keep pace with the everwidening demands of industry. When any individual or an organization decides to engage in an industry, the first considerations are the supply of materials, the supply .of power, and the availability of markets. Anybody who undertakes an industrial venture without first ascertaining that a supply of power will be assured is acting blindly; but that is exactly what has happened to-day. Private enterprise producing coal has fallen down on the’ job of supplying industrial undertakings with coal. It is no fault of the Commonwealth Government that there is insufficient coal being produced to meet industrial needs. If certain States would do -something to help themselves instead of depending upon others, the people who live in those States would not be suffering from chilblains and other discomforts ‘ mentioned by Senator Leckie. The State governments are to blame largely for the present state of affairs because of their lack of foresight and initiative in developing their own resources.
– Where could coal be produced economically in South Australia? .
– As soon as South Australia found itself in difficulties, ways and means of developing a coal-mine in that State were devised; but until the position became serious, South Australia showed no spirit of self reliance whatever. Most of the “ squeal “ about lack of coal is coming from Victoria, where deposits of brown coal are almost immeasurable.
The use of this fuel could have been extended tenfold had successive governments of that State shown some foresight and willingness to safeguard its own interests. Senator A. J. Fraser attempted to blame the Commonwealth Government for industrial trouble at the Wonthaggi coal-mine in Victoria. I find, however, that many of the “ troubles “ to which he referred were merely requests for an improvement of working conditions. They did not reach the stage of disputes. If he is interested in the record of Labour governments in the handling of the coalmining industry, let him acquaint himself with conditions on the Western Australian coal-fields, where, during the war, there was only one minor,, stoppage. The honorable senator would also do well to consider conditions in Tasmania, which has been ‘under the administration of a Labour government for many’ years. During the war, and right up to the present day, only one day has been lost in the Tasmanian mines because of stoppages.
The only remedy for the present position that Senator Mattner could suggest was to “ take on the miners “ and have a complete stoppage of production in the coal-fields. He was supported in that view by his colleague, Senator Sampson, who, apparently, is prepared to run the risk of an economic depression or even a revolution in order that the miners may be forced to produce c’oal. Surely, those_ honorable gentlemen can see some good in this measure. At least it will not lead to a depression or a revolution. I am confident that those honorable senators do not believe that we should permit a complete paralysis of Australian industry by precipitating a general strike on the coal-fields. Surely they have more constructive suggestions to offer. They say “ take on the miners “ ; but I point out that open industrial warfare on the coal-fields would involve miners in other States, and in some parts of New South Wales, who made a 100 per cent, war effort and are working well to-day. Honorable senators opposite have criticized the Government for its alleged failure to increase production of coal; but let us compare the constructive provisions of this measure which has been introduced with the full co-operation of the ‘Government of New South Wales, with the suggestion of Senator Sampson and Senator Mattner that we should be prepared to run the risk of a depression and even a revolution to bring the miners to heel. The whole idea is so fantastic that I do not believe for one moment that the honorable senators have voiced their honest opinions. I ‘congratulate Senator Cooper upon his courage in saying honestly and- plainly to his colleagues that the talk by some Opposition speakers in regard to coal is 11Ot in any way helpful to the Government in its efforts to solve the problems of this industry.
-I did not say that.
– The honorable senator said that the remarks of many speakers would have been better left unsaid, because they would not help the production of coal in any way. 1 think it will be generally agreed that the remarks of at least some honorable senators opposite, far from being helpful, have been most destructive indeed; It has been claimed that high taxes are a -major cause of unrest on the coal-fields, but the fact it that a married man with three or four children can receive up to approximately £500 a year before he is called upon to pay any income tax at all. The reduction of tax already made by the Government, and the reduction which will take effect . during the current financial year will overcome the objections of the coal-miners in that respect. Honorable senators opposite allege that the leaders of the miners engineer strikes and . are mainly responsible for disruption in the industry. All I can say is that honorable senators opposite should be sure of their facts before -they make allegations tff that kind. I have already mentioned two States in which stoppages have not occurred. In Tasmania, not one single stoppage occurred in the mines during the war. Yet the same .men who led the miners during the war continue to lead them. They proved themselves and the miners to be patriotic, and they are still giving 100 per cent, service to the community. Therefore, how can honorable senators opposite say that such men engineer strikes, and are allied with the Communists. Honorable senators opposite slander the miners’ leaders in a most cowardly way. From the -facts I. have given it is :clear that their charges are without foundation. They would render a better service to the community by maintaining silence so far as the coal-miners are concerned instead of slandering the miners, the great majority of whom are playing the game by the community. I admit that among both employees and employers, a few .are not acting fairly. The .great majority of those interested in the industry, however, realize that maximum coal p’roduction is essential for the development of this country in order to enable our industries to expand. The bill is designed to discipline or punish both employees and employers who >refuse to obey the law. In addition, it provides assistance -to mine-owners who are in need of financial aid in order to develop their mines. “Penalties involving suspension for various periods, and, if necessary, expulsion from the industry, are provided. Those penalties will be applied to offenders whether they be employees or coal-owners. Those penalties will cut both ways.
– So long as coal will be cut it will be all right.
– I am one of the few honorable senators who have had experience in cutting coal, and know the actual conditions under which the coal-miners are obliged to work. It is foolish for honorable senators opposite to say that coal-mining is a pleasant job, and that miners work under very good conditions. Senator A. J. Fraser, for instance, said that dust did not have a deleterious effect upon the miners’ health. -He said that meD who contracted lung trouble from that cause were ‘disposed hereditarily to such complaints, and, most likely, were weaklings when they entered the industry. When the honorable senator makes statements of that kind he does not know what he is talking about. The honorable senator and some of his colleagues also said that so far as temperatures were concerned it was easier to work underground than on the surface. That, of course, is not correct. In some places the temperature underground is stifling and the air is dust-ridden, whilst in other places the “ temperature is almost at freezing point. Many miners not only contract lung trouble owing to dust, but also pleurisy and pneumonia owing to low temperatures. The Government would welcome the co-operation of the Opposition parties in an endeavour to solve the problem of the coal-mining industry. Surely, honorable senators opposite do .not suppose that the people give credence to the false statements which they make about the coal-miners. One honorable senator opposite said that the Government fell down on its job during the war when it failed to draft strikers into the Army. Such a statement is absurd ; because most miners would have preferred to serve in the forces.
– Why did they not enlist?
– Because they were man-powered. Many young miners approached me during the Avar and asked me to obtain their release from the industry in order to enable them to enlist. However, the Government was wise enough to ensure the maximum output of coal for use in the production of arms, munitions and supplies for the armed services. Had it allowed miners to leave the industry, we should not have been able to keep up essential supplies to the armed forces. However, many miners would have preferred to have been allowed, to serve in the forces. I have pointed out on previous occasions that thousands of men who wore uniform, particularly those who were stationed at bases in the capital cities, had much easier jobs than the coal-miners had during the war. *
– The criticism which the honorable senator himself has voiced on various occasions because many men were retained at Victoria Barracks, Melbourne, where they had nothing to do, answers his own question, f give all credit to those who saw active service.
– The honorable senator expressed a different view last night.
– I challenge Senator Mattner to prove that. I have said one word derogatory of any man. who served in the last war. If he can answer that challenge, I am prepared immediately to’ resign my seat in the Senate. I have never said one word derogatory of any man: who saw active service. When- I interjected while the honorable senator was speaking last night, he asked me where was I when he was away fighting;’ and I replied that my youngest son had done a job in the armed forces equal to that performed by .the honorable senator. From what I have, been told. I believe that the honorable senator was . an outstanding soldier; and I can pay n. similar tribute to Senator Sampson. Nevertheless, neither of those honorable’ senators is entitled to cast slurs upon coal-miners because they did not enlist in the armed forces, when as a matter- of fact, many of them wished to do so, but were compelled by the Government to remain in the industry in order that, sufficient coal could be produced for factories’ engaged in turning out supplies for the armed forces. The miners were cogs in the wheel that kept industry going, and thus, enabled industry to keep up adequate ( supplies to the fighting services. Therefore, it illbecomes any honorable senator, whether he be an ex-serviceman or not, to cast any slur upon coal-miners because they did not enlist in the armed forces. , I advise those honorable senators to realize that, regardless of whatever rank they may have held in the armed forces, they are to-day privates in an. army upon which the nation relies, under the leadership of the Prime Minister, to fight the problems of -peace.
.- The problem of the coal-mining industry has been discussed in Parliament on many occasions during the last six years. It interesting to listen to honorable senators opposite trying to make excuses for continued strikes. Invariably, they advance the argument that the coalminers are working under very poor conditions, injurious to health. Since Labour governments assumed office in this Parliament and in New South Wales those governments have had complete power to improve conditions in the industry. If those conditions have not been improved t,ho?e governments must accept full responsibility for failure in that respect. It is apparent that this legislation is designed as a smoke screen behind which the Government intends to shelter during the forthcoming general election campaign.
I propose, briefly, to remind the Senate’ of various promises made by this Government, and also to state the views expressed by tribunals which have been charged with handling the problem’s of the industry. Not one honorable senator will oppose any proposal to give the best possible working conditions to the coalminers. All of us realize the arduous nature of their work. However, if the miner to-day . does not enjoy fair .and reasonable conditions Labour governments must accept full responsibility for that fact. Whenever we discuss this problem, honorable senators on this side are invariably met with the question, “What did your governments do about it when they were in office ? “ We have reached the stage when we should take to heart the lessons of experience, and tackle this problem forgetting party politics, and disregarding entirely any risk of losing votes. For five years at least the Labour party has been telling us the same melancholy story about the coal-miners. Certain war-time powers were taken by means of National Security Regulation?, and legislation was enacted giving the Government power to control certain mines. However, the Government failed to discharge its responsibilities. The late Prime Minister, Mr. Curtin, said of the miners : “ These men will have to work or fight. If they are not prepared to do either, the law of the land will be enforced against them.” Nevertheless, although the Government had. power to take action against the extremists who were causing’ all the trouble, when writs were issued, it interfered with the ordi-‘ nary processes of the law in pursuance of its policy of political appeasement. This spineless appeasement policy is one of the main causes of the trouble that we are experiencing to-day. The Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) has said that he will not be a party to crucifying the. workers.- But the Government has been a party to the policy of allowing Communists and other extremists to make the position of many workers very dim. cult and prevent Australia from making the progress of which it is capable, which would enable everybody to enjoy a high standard of security and comfort. I shall not trace the full history of unrest in the coal-mining industry. I ‘ shall merely place on record some of the facts. Furthermore, I shall not rely on the opinions of honorable senators on this side of the chamber; I shall refer to the views of independent men who have extensive knowledge of conditions in the coal-mining industry, including Mr. Justice, Davidson who was appointed by this Government to inquire into the industry and make recommendations. A peculiar fact is that whilst this Government has allowed the extremists to have their own way it has gone out of its way to do injustice to. the employers. It w a part- of the Labour party’s policy to socialize industry, and in order to achieve this end and appease its supporters, it will waste time, money and energy in destroying successful enterprises whilst it neglects other matters that call for immediate action. The Minister for Postwar Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) has said that the bill will provide a “ new deal “ for the coal-mining industry. It is merely a rehash of the worst features of the Coal Production (War-time) Act and of National Security Regulations, which failed lamentably to achieve their purpose of increasing coal production. The Commonwealth Government lacks constitutional power to nationalize industry, but in order to overcome this disability it has made an agreement with the Labour Government of New South Wales. This bill arises from the agreement. Its effects will be worse than outright nationalization. It will legalize unethical appropriation of the right to assume control over private property. I hope that the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Senator Ashley), in closing the debate will deal with’ the subject of compensating owners of mines which are acquired under the bill. Senator Leckie recently referred to this Government as a “Government of robbers”. It is confiscating the farmers’ wheat, it has confiscated £7,000,000 from the wool-growers, and now, in order to implement its policy, it proposes to take away the assets of people who have invested a great deal of money in the coal-mining industry. The owners of the ‘ property will have to pay the costs of government mismanagement. The hill will- enable the Govern- . ment to ta-ke control of any colliery. In the event of such action the owners will have no part in the management of the colliery, but will have to pay operating expenses and the extra expense caused by government inefficiency. This is tantamount to conscription of capital, and may cause complete financial rum to some shareholders. The term “ confiscation without obligation “ sums up the position very fairly. I do not ask honorable senators opposite to accept the views of their political opponents. I direct their attention to comments made by Mr. Justice Davidson, who has extensive knowledge of the coal-mining industry. He was appointed by this Government to make a full investigation of the industry and to recommend methods of improving conditions in it. I have read his lengthy report, which contains valuable recommendations. The inquiry lasted for more than twelve months. The report states -
A stage has been reached iri the industry which borders on disaster. A prerequisite in retrieving the present perilous situation and averting threatening crisis, is discipline.
The Government is afraid to enforce discipline. Probably it hopes to gain support at the elections as the result of its indulgent treatment of the workers. The major conclusions reached by Mr. Justice Davidson are as follows: -
An almost complete lack of .discipline among mine-workers has played a very big part in increasing costs, decreasing output.
Communist intrigue has been an additional cause of unrest and loss of production.
By working to capacity, utilizing mechanization to the full (if the existing State law were relaxed) and working open cuts, production could be increased from just over 11,000,000 to 14,5.00,000 tons a year. The coal industry cannot operate efficiently while individual employees or small groups can bring about unjustifiable stoppages with impunity. The steeply rising costs of workers compensation constitute a burden that sections, at least, of the coal industry cannot carry; and these costs are, in part, due to the trickery by claimants for compensation. The holding of compulsory secret ballots to determine whether or not strikes should be called or, if in progress, continued, is urged, and emphasis is placed on the fact that although penalties against strikes and lock-outs exist, governments have failed to enforce them. Lack of support by governments for their tribunals is stated by the report to be “ the most paralysing defect “ in the .arbitration system.
Those are very pertinent comments by a distinguished and unbiased judge. .Nevertheless, the Government still muddles along, pandering to a few men who are holding the country to ransom. The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction made the following interesting statement on the 24th July -
Coal-mining is at best a strenuous, thankless means of earning a livelihood. It is at worst an avenue of fitful employment, constant fear of disease, and the ever-present possibility of death or disablement by accident.
On the same subject, Mr. Justice Davidson made this statement -
The time has arrived when a note of realism should be struck in order to dissipate the cloud of maudlin sentimentality that is everlastingly spread over the industry, with very bad effect.
I accept the view of the independent investigator in preference to that of the Minister. The Government and its supporters should stop repeating all this “ tomfoolery “ that they voice in Parliament and from soap-boxes on the Yarra Bank and elsewhere. If they took courage they could within 24 hours commence to remove any unreasonable conditions that may exist in the coal-mining industry. Wild talk by Labour party members has done more than anything else to bring about the present situation. The Prime Minister has said from time to time that the Government stands for the principle of arbitration. But the people are entitled to expect deeds instead of words. I have had extensive inquiries made concerning disputes in the coal-mining industry, and I shall cite a number of instances in which strikes have occurred without the causes having been first referred to arbitration. Obviously, unless the government of the day, whether it be Liberal or Labour, supports the system of arbitration there will be a state of chaos and near-anarchy in industry,- which may lead, as Senator Sampson said, to revolution. At best this, disruption will retard development and create an eco_nomic depression. I refer now to the following instances of strikes in the coalmining industry: -
Stockton Borehole. - Claim for standing time when men had entered the mine but are called out again.
North Wallarah - Dispute over lorry drivers.
Hebburn No. 1. - Men demand a guaranteed daily wage when skips are short.
Bellbird - Protest against daylight saving.
SeahamNo. 2 - Men joined in search for woman lost near Swansea.
Bulli and Keira - Local disputes.
– How long ago was that?
– All of these strikes have occur red since this Government has been in office.
Such petty matters as the loss of a pair of trousers should notcause hold-ups in industry. The Government should make a realistic approach to the problem of coal production.
Under this bill a form of control is to be introduced which amounts to nationalization without compensation. Some members of the Labour party have contended that if the ownership of the mines were vested in the government, the people would have cheaper coal and peace would prevail in the industry. I shall remind honorable senators opposite of some of the losses resulting from the operations of State-owned mines.
The following figures are extracted . from the Queensland Auditor-General’s report for 1944-45 -
Coal ex Bowen - Cost 23s. 7d. per ton; sold at 20s. 2d. per ton.
Coal ex Styx - Cost 30s. 8d. per ton; sold at 24s. per ton.
Loss for year - Bowen, £40,000; Styx, f 16,000.
Total losses on State mining, £413,000.
Bowen coke works £9,030 loss for year.
Aggregate logs, £54,000.
Yet honorable senators opposite suggest that even at this stage Commonwealth or State ownership or confiscation of the mines would offer a solution of the problem.
– No other interpretation could be placed on it.We recall the glowing speeches of Ministers in this chamber, including the late Senator Keane, when the Government decided to take over the control of the Coalcliff colliery. On the 9th March, 1944, the control of Coalcliff colliery, on the south coast of New South Wales, was taken over by the Commonwealth Coal Commissioner under provisions of the Coal Production (War-time) Act 1944. The colliery is owned by a public company the Coalcliff CollieriesLimited, with an authorized capital of £250,000. The company’s thirty-seventh annual balancesheet, as at 31st March, 1946, the end of the company’s financial year, shows as assets the following: -
Those heavy losses do not seem to have any effect upon honorable senators opposite. Have Ministers no sense of responsibility?
This deficiency, caused by governmental mismanagement, will be the subject of a claim against the Commonwealth Coal Commissioner in clue course. Since Commonwealth control, the Company has found it necessary to inform the commissioner from time to time of shortages of funds for paying the wages of employees and meeting other direct expenses of working the colliery. In this connexion, a total of £61,300 has been made available by the commissioner to the 31st March, 1946. Needless to say, the company never had recourse to outside funds in all the years of its operation under private ownership. If it had had need to adopt such action, it would,” of course, have speedily become .bankrupt.
– Will the Leader of the Opposition return to the bill?
– The matter I am discussing has a bearing upon the bill, under which it is proposed to adopt methods similar to those followed by the Curtin Government with regard to the Coalcliff colliery. I am afraid that the taxpayers will be faced with huge. losses, and that we shall again have to listen to the melancholy story of reduced coal production.
The figures showing the’ saleable output of coal from the colliery are -
On the 20th June, 1946, the Minister for Supply and Shipping said that the net losses at Coalcliff were
The Minister also provided the following figures: -
Here is an opportunity to examine the practical results attained in the two years when the Government had control- of that colliery. It is interesting to note the losses of production due to strikes and absenteeism since the advent of a Labour administration. The figures for the years from 1942 to 1945 are as follows:-
This Government has been in office for five years and what is the position with regard to coal supplies throughout Australia? In South Australia, 2S,000 people were out of work last week. It is forecast in New South Wales to-day that many thousands of citizens will soon be out of employment in that State. Nine mines were idle yesterday, yet the Government muddles along and suggests that the introduction of this bill on the eve of the elections, providing for conditions similar to those introduced at Coalcliff colliery, will solve the problems of the industry. Ministers are either deceiving themselves or are attempting to hoodwink the electors.
Senator -Nash.- What would the honorable senator do ?
– I have stated previously that the first function of a government is to enforce the laws of the land. When, under a democratic system of government, a ministry finds that it cannot govern, the time is not far distant when it cannot live politically. The spineless attitude of the present Government towards the Labour extremists will do more than anything else to bring about its defeat at the elections.
In New South Wales, from 1935 to 1946, the quantity of coal mechanically filled rose from 13,692- tons to 2,168,000 tons. Over the same period there- was an increase of the number of employees from 13,337 to 17,427. Yet honorable senators opposite would explain away the loss of coal production by saying that there are fewer employees in the industry at present. That is not a correct statement, according to the official figures which I have cited. But in spite of the increase of . mechanization and of the number of employees, the output per man shift fell from 3.33 to 2.98, and the average number of days lost per employee per year through strikes rose from 11.7 to 36.2. If honorable senators opposite were sincere they would admit that the reason for the present disruption of the coal-mining industry is that the miners have not been prepared to do a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay, and that the Government is not determined to enforce the law. On the 23rd February, 1944, the late Prime Minister, Mr. Curtin, in introducing the Coal (Wartime) Production Bill, declared -
Whatever may be the real reason for past occurrences, one thing is obvious, and that is that in a democracy no group of workers just as no group of employers, can be permitted to arrogate to themselves the right to dictate to the Parliament, and so to the Government, as to the means of conducting the defences of the Commonwealth, and of carrying on to their maximum capacity all those services and industries that are incidental to that purpose. Were it otherwise, there would he an abdication of the functions of government.
– Australia had a record coal production in 1942.
– Although more men are now employed in the industry, the average production of each man has fallen. There is a law oh the statutebook which could be invoked to deal with the present trouble in the industry, and it will be enforced ruthlessly when the Opposition is returned to power. What can be expected of . the present Government when the promises made by a former leader in this Parliament are not carried out? The miners’ leaders have made Ministers look ridiculous. A few extremists practically control the industrial situation. This gang of fanatics wishes to destroy the present industrial system and substitute another. During the last five years the position has become so chaotic that, if the Government does not, even at this late stage, take action to correct it, matters will go from bad to’ worse. A further interesting comment was made by the right honorable gentleman on the 31st August, 1944 -
I venture to say, however, that the men who go on strike under the present management of a mine would go on strike under any other kind of management. Therefore, strikes must be stamped out. I say to the union that it will be ‘destroyed if it cannot exercise discipline over its members, and I accept also as logical the fact that the Government will be destroyed unless it also can enforce discipline.
– That is our worry.
– The people of Australia are worried because the Government is spineless, and because- its supporters will not even ask it to do what it said would be done.
– What does the bill propose ?
– It proposes only to do what was promised two years ago. In presenting a statement to the Parliament on the coal-mining industry, on the 14th October, 1943, the late Mr. Curtin said -
As a result of inquiries which I have made, it is the opinion of the Government that the removal of minority . malcontents and irresponsibles in the industry will go a long way towards maintaining increased coal production.
In the main, the irresponsibles comprise youths of military age and men engaged in other occupations as well as mining - taxi drivers, starting-price bookmakers, billiard - room proprietors, dog trainers and the like1. These nien have engaged as miners in order to obtain protection. Generally, they readily agree to strike, sometimes themselves openly addressing the men, or making the first move from the .mine, thus bringing on a general exodus because of the miners’ traditional policy of “ one out,, all out “. The malcontents and ‘ irresponsibles are indicated by bad attendance records. It is the opinion of th* Government that they should be weeded out of the industry.. They have a record of chronic absenteeism, and their removal from the industry would’ leave no reasonable grounds for complaint on the grounds of victimization. I am directing that experienced officers shall make a thorough investigation at each colliery with a- view to identifying this element individually and recommending its exclusion from the industry. This action should have the support of federation officers, lodge officers, and reputable members of the rank and file, who have voiced strong antagonism to these irresponsibles.
What has the Government to say about those promises? Its supporters are afraid to be other than “ Yes “ men who sneer whenever this problem, which is bringing disaster to many thousands of Australians, is mentioned. The late Prime Minister described as malcontents and irresponsibles those who are causing trouble in the coal-mining industry, but neither his Government nor the present Government has had the courage to deal with them. When I have been asked what I would do, I have answered that” the law should be put into operation. First, I point to the provision of various Commonwealth acts. Section 60 of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act provides that the court may cancel the registration of any industrial organization. Sufficient reason for such action would be that a trade union had consistently resorted to direct action as a means of determining industrial issues. Section 7 (a) of the Commonwealth Crimes Act provides a penalty of £100,, or twelve months’ imprisonment, or both, for any person found guilty of inciting, or encouraging the commission of, offences against any law of. the Commonwealth. This is probably the speediest and most effective of all legislation. The National Security (Coal Control) Regulations 27 (&) to’ 27 (/) make it an offence: (a) for miners or other persons usually employed at a mine to fail to attend work at the usual time each day; (Jj) for any person to strike or do anything in the nature of a strike ; (c) for any person to encourage or instigate strikes. Those provisions were not abrogated under the Coal Production (War-time) Act.
The New South Wales Parliament also has placed on the statute-book legislation in respect of coal. Under a State Indus.- trial Arbitration Act, if an illegal strike occurs in any industry, any trade union whose executive or ‘ members take part is liable to a penalty of £500. If the union can show that it endeavoured to prevent such a strike, that is sufficient defence. Under section 103 of the same act, a penalty of £50 or imprisonment for six months is provided for instigators of strikes. Similar penalties . exist with respect to newspapers which foster strikes. The Industrial Commission has power to cancel the registration of any union for any reasons which appear to the commission to warrant such action.
Surely Ministers realize that hitherto there has been too. much talk . and not enough action? The present unsatisfactory state of affairs cannot continue. I have tried to condense my remarks and now, in conclusion, I quote the words of the late Prime Minister, Mr. Curtin, as reported ‘in Mansard, volume 176, page 561. Speaking in the House of Representatives on the 14th October, 1943, the right honorable gentleman said -
I leave that message with the Govern.ment
.- I shall not oppose the bill as a whole, but I am opposed to some of its clauses. As a spectator, I am rather amazed at the pathetic attempt by the Government to rehabilitate itself in the eyes of the people before a general election. For five years the Government has had before it the problems associated with the coal-mining industry. At last it has done something. Apparently, the Government now realizes that coal is the life-blood of Australian industry. That is the position at the moment, but we may be forced to seek other means of obtaining power for heat and lighting purposes. Unfortunately, that time is not yet within measurable distance, and in the meantime our industries have to rely on ‘coal.. Knowing that, the Government at last, realizes that something must be done. It is aware that industries are closing down, that men are being thrown out of employment, and that many of the commodities necessary or desirable for the health and comfort of the people are in short supply. The Government knows that its record will not impress the people favorably, and so it is making this last-minute attempt to re-establish itself- in the opinion of the electors. Having introduced this bill, it will be able to say to them that it has produced a plan to remedy the unsatisfactory state of affairs that has existed for so long in the coal industry. Let us recall what the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Senator Ashley) said when introducing the bill to this chamber. After referring to the difficulties in the way he said -
It is safe to say that if miners and mineowners worked in perfect harmony, and there was a continual effort on the part of all en- gaged in the industry, Australia would still be short of coal.
– Owing to the increased demand.
– This bill has been acclaimed as one which will overcome the shortage of coal. We have been told that it will work wonders. But,, despite those claims, the Minister has said that Australia will still be short of coal.
– The Government has always been candid and honest.
– It may be wise to tell people plainly that in the years to come there will be a shortage of coal,’ which is the life-blood of Australian industry. That is a pathetic admission by a Government that is helpless. It may be, as Senator Large says, candid and honest, but it is not satisfactory. After speaking of the effect of this legislation, the Minister went on to say -
The process will not be completed in any short-term period;, it will not be done without great expenditure of public fluids. It willcall for the exercise of much devotion, much study, much great judgment and hard work.
The Minister did not say that there will have to be hard work on the part of those who cut the coal, but rather that the proposed’ board will have to work hard. The bill confers certain powers and functions upon the board which, significantly enough, is to be placed above the Parliament, despite the fact that in other legislation that has been passed recently, similar authorities have been made subservient to the Parliament. It is provided that regulations issued by the board shall not be subject to disallowance by the Parliament. Clause 55 states that orders made under this legislation shall not be deemed to be statutory rules within the meaning of the Rules Publication Aft 1903-1939, and that sections 48 and 49 of the Acts Interpretation Act 3901-1941 shall not apply to any orders so made’.
We have been informed on many occasions by honorable senators opposite, that coal-miners are difficult people to work with: that they have brought the traditions of their calling from the old world, and that traditions in “Wales may vary greatly from those in, say, Cumberland or in Scotland. I had a good deal of sympathy with the claim that it %vas difficult to reconcile these traditions; but there is one tradition that seems to be lacking on all our coal-fields, and that is the tradition of hard work.
– It is unfair to make such a general statement. For instance, very few stoppages have occurred on the western coal-fields.
– Coal-miners are most loyal to one another, and we all admire them for that quality; but it can be carried to extremes. When I bear statements that the number of coal-miners is decreasing rapidly over the years, 3 cannot help thinking that one reason for that trend is the fact that men who are anxious to do a fair day’s work, not only for their bosses but also for the nation, and to be in constant employment, are severing their association with this industry and seeking employment elsewhere; but there is always this pathetic cry from honorable senators opposite, “ Come to Macedonia and help us “. I should like to know whether certain possible remedies for existing conditions have been tried by the Government in its . endeavour to increase the production of coal. The Minister for Supply and Shipping has said, that even if this legislation came up to expectations, sufficient coal would still not be produced to meet demands. I have always been under the impression that the coal seams of New South Wales were almost inexhaustible, at least in our time and in in the time of the next generation. There is ample coal to be -won in New South Wales. It is true that we can only have coal if -the coal-miners are prepared to mine it, and that is the reason for the abject surrender of the Government to the coal-miners; but the Australian miners are ‘ not the only people in the world who can mine coal, and if the people of this country are to be deprived of adequate supplies for any length of time, they will very soon see to it that someone else is given an opportunity. Coalmining is not a closed industry. Anybody can engage in it. The only defence that honorable senators opposite have been able to put up for the failure of their Government to increase coal production is the question, “ What did you do when you were a government ? “ I ask them if they have . tried the introduction, even temporarily, of a second shift, until the present shortage of coal is overcome and reserves are built up?
– Man-power would be required to do that.
– There is man-‘ power everywhere; but how many men are prepared to engage in an industry knowing that for half, the time they will be out of work because of strikes? Has the Government ever thought of offering inducements to miners to. work a second shift? Has it thought of reducing taxes on overtime and other payments in excess of ordinary rates? Has the Government ever tried buying a coal mine and allowing the coal-miners themselves to work it under their own conditions? The fact of the matter’ is that the followers of this Government, like the Government itself, are absolutely barren of ideas in connexion with the coal-mining industry. The Minister for Supply and Shipping, after attempting to convince the people in this country that in” this legislation the Government had brought forth a wonder child, that would do marvels for the coal-mining industry, admitted that even if the .bill proved workable, it would not ensure the production of adequate coal to meet our demands and that many men throughput industry would have to lose their employment. The Minister has not said anything about putting the miners to work or about strikes or absenteeism. He has merely waved a magic wand in the faces of the people of this country, and produced this measure which he claims will open a new era of prosperity; hut he finished on a note of pessimism by warning the people of a continuance of the coal shortage for some years. The Ministry is’ bankrupt of ideas and can offer to the people of this country nothing better than a poor measure such as this.
– in, reply - The major complaint voiced by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) was that the Government had introduced this measure as a smoke screen to shield it during the’ forthcoming general elections. The Government will not require a smoke screen during the elections. It has a record of achievements which I am sure must dis- turb the Opposition, the members of which have been driven to making the charge that this measure has been introduced only because there is a general election, in the offing.- On the contrary, this bill is a genuine and sincere attempt to solve the problems of the” coal-mining industry. Honorable senators opposite have laid much stress upon the loss of production due to absenteeism and industrial disputes. They omitted to say anything about losses due to breakdowns of machinery. However, the loss of production, due to absenteeism in Australia is 10 per cent, whereas the average loss due to that cause in the United Kingdom is 20 per cent. Honorable senators opposite also said that there has been a continued loss of production since this Government assumed office in 1941. It is true that in 1944 production was 11,042,939 tons, the average number of days worked was 213, and that the loss in that year owing to absenteeism, industrial disputes and mechanical breakdowns totalled 2,800,000 tons. However, the losses of production for the preceding three years were: 2,393,000 in 1941, 2,000,000 in 1942 and 2,500,000 in 1943. Whilst honorable senators opposite emphasized these figures they ignored entirely the corresponding figures for the years prior to this Government takingoffice. In 1942, production was 12,205,935 tons, the average number of days lost was 168 days, and the total loss of production was 2,000,000 tons. Senator Mattner was obviously under a misapprehension when he said that I had stated that the loss of production for that year was only 900,000 tons. That was the loss which resulted from the strike which occurred in that year on the northern coal-fields when 10,000 miners were out of work for nine weeks. In passing, I should explain that figures with respect to losses of production for each of the years mentioned are approximate only, being based on man-hours and man-days lost. The peak pre-war production was recorded in . 1924 when 23,000 miners produced 11,600,000 tons. I ask honorable senators to contrast those figures with the figures for 1942 when 17.101 miners produced 12,205;935 tons. The peak year of employment in the industry was 1927, when 24,494 miners were engaged; and production in that year was 11,126,000 tons. However, in that year the loss of production was 5,100,000 tons as the result of absenteeism’, industrial disputes and mechanical breakdowns. An examination of these figures .shows that, by and large, the industry has had a far better record under the present Government than at any time during its history. Honorable senators opposite ask why no attempt has been made to step-up the production of coal by employing more modern methods. However, only Senator Leckie made any practical suggestion in that respect. He suggested the working of a second shift, but his contention was immediately answered by an honorable senator on this side who. asked where the necessary man-power could be obtained to enable the industry to work a second shift. Lack of man-power is one of the fundamental causes of trouble in the industry. Recent investigations have disclosed a serious drift from the industry. To-day, parents are reluctant to allow their sons to enter the industry. In fact, they forbid their sons to work in the mines. This represents a complete break with the age-old tradition in the industry that the son invariably followed his father into the mine. However, in the early days that practice was encouraged because there was always a surplus of manpower owing largely to the fact that the mines offered practically the sole source of employment in mining centres, and young people could not obtain other employment unless they -migrated elsewhere. . These conditions, however, no longer exist. Honorable senators opposite also contend that coal-mining is congenial work. Senator A. J. Fraser, for instance, described the beautiful lawns at some mines and Senator Cooper the modern surfing facilities available to miners” at Newcastle. I inform him that he will not see the real conditions under which the miners work and live unless he visits coal-fields such as those at Maitland and Cessnock. Furthermore, it is not correct to say that the provision made for the housing of miners is adequate. Honorable senators also contended that the Government, after appointing a. board of inquiry to investi- gate the problems of the industry, refuses to implement the recommendations made by Mr. Justice Davidson as the result of that inquiry. The Government is implementing those recommendations insofar as it has power, under the Constitution ‘to do so. Immediately Mr. Justice Davidson presented his report it was examined by officers of the Crown Law Department, who were of opinion that his recommendations could not be’ implemented by the Commonwealth alone. Consequently, the Government, following negotiations extending over many months, reached agreement with the New South Wales Government for joint action. Therefore, the statement by honorable senators opposite that the Government does not desire to implement the recommendations of the Davidson report is not correct. The following quotation, which I . take from that report, supports the approach which the Government is making to the problem under this measure : -
Numerous remedial measures have been prtposed in Great Britain and in New South Wales in order to overcome at least the most irksome’ and destructive of the troublesummarized above, which ave not all peculiar to this State. But no experiment so far attempted appears to have reached the radical causes that have as their foundation ‘the unreasoning hostility and distrust on the pan of too many pf the mine workers in relation to their employers. It must be admitted that in the distant past there was good reason for this attitude. Large profits we’re made from coal-mining without a fair return in the form of advances in the low wage rate.and of amelioration of notoriously harsh working and living conditions. Also, even in more recent periods when labour gained the strength through their unions to insist upon their rights, fierce struggles were necessary before material reforms were introduced which should have been granted voluntarily.
Honorable senators . opposite also criticized the Government in respect of its expenditure at the Coalcliff colliery. The Opposition has ignored such portions of the report as would modify its criticism of the bill. Referring to operations at Coalcliff, Mr. Justice Davidson said -
Substantial monetary ‘ assistance by way of subsidy would have been essential in any event to have enabled the company to carry on itf operations at the mine without governmental control.
Equipment and mining methods in the mine were greatly improved by the Commissioner without benefit to the output until late in 1945.
There wag evidence then of some progress.
The output that was obtained was urgently needed for defence purposes.
The assumption of control and conduct of the mine were justified, if for no other reason than the successful experiment and ensuing practice in control of dust in pillar workings.
This means that the money lost by the Government in operating the Coalcliff colliery would have been lost by the private company had it continued to operate the mine. However, the company would not have continued operations, because private enterprise will not carry on business at a loss. The Government was actuated by the desire to secure every possible ton of coal for the nation. Also, it carried out experiments at the mine for the eradication of dust. The experiments were costly but highly effective. They were so successful that the method devised has been adopted in British mines. The operation is a simple one. It involves drilling a hole in the coal face and saturating it with water under pressure. This greatly minimizes dust, which may. save the lives of many miners. I have here a statement issued by the miners’ federation which shows that, of 3,000 miners on the south’ coast last year, 120 were put off work suffering total incapacity from “ dusting “. Those men will never work again. They ‘include a man and two of his sons. What a tragedy that is! There are three sons in the family, and only one pf them is able to work. Two of them were disabled when they should have been in the prime of their lives.. I lived in an industrial and coal-mining area for many years, and I know the tragedy of men with “ dusted “ lungs. I have seen them struggling to walk along a street, and being forced to stop and grasp a railing while they tried to regain their breath. The only way of increasing production in the industry is to change the psychological atmosphere which surrounds the workers. For many years, not merely since this Government has been in office, there has been mutual distrust between miners and mine-owners. The presence. of this feeling can be traced back to the evil days when women and children worked in the mines. That atmosphere must be dispelled. This can be done only by creating more humane conditions of work in the mines and by fostering .tolerance between the miners and owners. I shall not attempt to apportion the blame for industrial stoppages, because parties on both sides have been at fault. However, the time has arrived for the owners, and the miners and members of craft unions associated with mining, to accept a far greater degree of responsibility to the nation for providing coal, which is essential to economic prosperity and the welfare of the nation. One would imagine, from the speeches of honorable senators opposite, that the coal “ barons “ are not in a position to improve conditions in the industry. Senator A. J. Fraser referred to men being transported to their work at the coal face. That may happen in some mines ; it does not happen in all mines. I have here a report of the operations of the Vale of Clwydd coal mine showing that the owners have derived enormous profits from the labour of the miners. It states -
Some indication of the amazing wealth pulled out of the ground by the Vale of Clwydd Coal and Brick Company is given by the fact that its original capital of £30,000 was increased by the issue of bonus shares to £90;000 over a period of thirteen years.
In 191.0 the first issue of bonus script to the value of £15,000 was made. Between that date and 1913, when another issue of bonus shares worth £15,000 took place,- steady biyearly dividends of 10 per cent, were paid.
In 1914, after the payment of two more 10 per cent, dividends, a cash bonus of £7,500 was made from special profits. In 1915 after a further two 10 per cent, dividends; another cash bonus of £7,500, or. 12£ per cent., was made. 1919 saw another special cash bonus, this time of £1,500, dividends remaining at 10 per cent., twice . a year. Later on in the same year, after a further dividend of .15 per cent., more bonus script to the value of £15.000 was issued. This brought the capital up to £75,000.
Dividends paid in 1920 were again 10 per cent., and the following year another free’ issue of script took place, bringing the capital of the, company up to £90,000.
Dividends between June, 1921, and December, 1923, ranged between 30 and 35 per cent, per year. Paid, of course, on the inflated capital, they represented a return of from 90 to 105 per cent, of actual cash invested. “
The miners examine the financial statements of the mining companies just as we do. Is it to be wondered at that they are disgruntled and dissatisfied when they read such reports whilst they work under bad conditions which ruin their health and threaten their lives? As Senator Arnold has said, all they ask is that some of these’ huge profits be used to improve their working conditions. The purpose of the bill is to give to the Joint Coal Board the right to improve the miner’s conditions. Honorable senators opposite have referred to opposition by miners and other mine employees to mechanization of the mines. There is no general opposition to mechanization. The miners demand only that mechanization be complete. They do not want mechanization only at the coal’ face, where they work, whilst they have to walk through dust to reach the face. The only way of achieving satisfaction is to introduce mechanization in all mining operations. The Kandos mine in the western district of New South Wales is an example of the success of mechanical operations. Production at that mine has been greatly increased’ since mechanization was introduced a few years ago, and there has been scarcely a stoppage there since that time. There is virtually no dust in the mine. This system of coalmining is in vivid contrast to that which has been followed by many owners over the years. Some mines have been operated with the sole purpose of building up huge profits for private companies, and no consideration has been given to the welfare of the miners. Some of the mines have been developed in such a way, as the result of the owners’ greed for profits, as to make it impossible to mechanize them now. Those mines which can be mechanized will be mechanized under the directions of the Joint Coal Board’. I thank the Opposition for the reception which it has given to the bill. There has been criticism, not of the objectives of the measure, but of the methods proposed to achieve those objectives. In any case, this is a season when all of us indulge in criticism of our political opponents in order to secure advantages. 1
– Order ! The Minister’s time has expired.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to.
Clause 4: -
In this Act, unless the contrary intention appears - “ coal “ includes coke mid such other byproducts and derivatives of coal as are prescribed ;
– This clause will, give very wide powers to the Joint Coal Board. ‘The proposed definition of coal ‘ including “ coke and other by-products “ will enable the board to control the manufacture of coke by industries which use coke for their own operations, such as the production of gas. The by-products of coal are numerous* As the definition -goes too far, I move -
That the definition of “ coal “ be left out.
– -It is necessary that the definition should be left wide. It will be noted that all by-products are not specified in the definition, but that the definition states that “ coal “ includes “ coke and such other by-products and derivatives of coal as are prescribed “. There may be many developments in the use of coal which are not at present available in Australia. It may be possible to gassify coal underground, and develop a new use of it in that way. The definition needs to be wide enough for that, and also sufficiently wide to cover the derivation of oil fuel from coal. It is necessary that there should be complete control of coal and its derivatives in the national interest, and the definition is not so wide as it would appear to be at first sight.
– Has consideration been given to the extension of the .control of coal to States other than New South Wales? Representations have been made to me that Victoria should be brought within the scope of the bill. I see no, reason why the measure should- not apply to Victoria as well as to New South Wales.
.- The explanation given by the Minister for Health (Senator McKenna) apparently does not cover the objection raised by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay). The bill deals mainly with the production of coal, but-what happens to it after it has been sold is not of much concern to the Government. The gas companies manufacture coke. As New South Wales coal is transported to South Australia and Victoria, will the Joint Coal Board exercise jurisdiction over it when it reaches those States, or will the board merely determine what quantities of coal shall go to those States? Is it proposed that the board shall follow the coal to another State?
– It is conceivable that Victoria may wish to participate in the control. In that case brown coal might be brought under control. Does “ derivatives “ mean “ direct derivatives “ ? Electricity and briquettes are derivatives of brown coal in Victoria. In New South Wales, I suppose, electricity is a derivative of black coal. The definition “ should be. carefully worded. The special function of the board will probably be to control the mining of coal, and the direction may extend to its distribution, but what is the abject of following the coal further? There can be only one object, namely, that the board shall ration, not only coal, but also coke and other derivatives. Would it not be wise to state in the definition that “ coal “ means “ coal in the process of beingprocured and sold “ ?
– It is not proposed to control coal beyond the point at which it is distributed. Its allocation will be determined on the basis of production, and
I hope that one of the effects of thebill will be to remove the necessity for having to determine whether sufficient coal has been allotted to Victoria.. Most of the coke produced from coal is manufactured in New South Wales: The definition is sufficiently flexible ‘to enable provision to, be made for the gassification of coal or the production of coke.
Question put -
That the definition proposed to be left out (Senator McLeay’s amendment) be left out.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Senator B. Courtice.)
Majority . . 8.
Question so resolved in the negative.
.- The definition of “ industrial matter “ reads - “ industrial matter “ means any industrial matter in relation to the wages, rates of pay or terms or conditions of employment of members of the federation in the coalmining industry, other than members of the federation accepted by the board by order.
Does that definition refer only to coalminers, or does it include other mineworkers such as engine-drivers, mechanics, and the ordinary staff of a colliery?
– It does not apply to other employees.
– How are they controlled ?
– They come under the jurisdiction of tribunals appointed under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act.
– It would appear that this bill provides for divided control and that the Joint Coal Board will control only a portion of the industry.
– It will control the section about which the honorable senator complains.
– It would seem that the board will not control the whole business of coal-mining. Coal-miners cannot work if the engine-drivers refuse to drive the engines. What is the good of controlling only one section of mineworkers, and not other sections? From the second-reading speech of the Minister one would have thought that the Government was adopting a strong, bold attitude towards the industry, but it now appears that this is only a half-hearted measure, and that essential sections of the industry are not to be controlled at all. The Minister will not say that other mine-workers are never likely to engage in a strike, because he knows that there is simmering discontent among them. If there is to be a board to control the industry, let it have complete control. If the definition of “ industrial matters “ does not cover other than members of the miners’ federation, the task of the board will be more difficult than I expected.
– The bill contains provisions to cover every person associated with coalmining. There is power to discipline all persons, including engine-drivers, shotfirers, and others. I draw the honorable senator’s attention to paragraph,k of sub-clause 3 of clause 14, which provides that the board shall have authority - to suspend or exclude from employment in the. coal industry, subject to appeal as prescribed, any superintendent, manager or other person employed in the industry who acts in a manner prejudicial to the effective working of the industry.
It will be seen that the bill contains provisions for the disciplining of not only miners but also all others connected with coal-mining.
– There is no definition of “ industry “ but there is a definition of “ industrial matter “.
-In addition to the Joint Coal Board, there will be a separate judicial authority to deal with industrial disputes. It would not be right for the board tobe the employer and also the authority to deal with disputes. The tribunal will be presided over by a judge of the Arbitration Court.
.- In this bill the Government has attempted to deal with separate sections of the industry. As I have pointed out, the definition of “industrial matter” relates only to members of the miners’ federation, and there is no definition of “ industry “. Where is power given to any authority set up under the hill to deal with any dispute affecting persons other than members of the miners’ federation?
Clause agreed to.
Clause 5 agreed to.
Cl ause 6 -
Amendment (by Senator McLeay) negatived-
That, in sub-clause (1.) the following words be added : - “ or any union, association or organization of employers or employees engaged in the coal industry “.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 7 to 13 agreed to.
Clause 14 - ( 1 . ) The powers and functions of the Board are to include the taking of such action as, in the opinion of the Board, is necessary or desirable -
. -I have three suggestions to make regarding this clause, but it seems that the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Senator Ashley) will not even consider amendments moved by the Opposition, however important they may be. In this bill every consideration is given to employees in coal mines, but the owners of the mines are given a raw deal indeed. When people put money into an industry it is not right that any government should ride roughshod over them. I therefore move -
That, in sub-clause (1.), the following new paragraph be added: - “(e) to ensure to owners engaged in the coal industry a fair profit on capital invested, and for this purpose, where necessary, to pay bounties on coal produced, to make grants, and to pay subsidies “.
– This bill relates only to coal mines in New South Wales, and, as under the Constitution the payment of a bounty must have general application throughout the Commonwealth, the amendment is unconstitutional. That was one of the difficulties associated with giving effect to some of the recommendations in the Davidson report.
– In the control of coal-mining in New South Wales there will he a combination of Commonwealth and State powers. I assume that the State Government ha3 power to acquire property. I now ask the Minister for Health, who is a lawyer, whether that means that the State can acquire property on any terms it chooses to impose. As the Minister knows, the ‘Constitution provides that the Commonwealth Government may acquire property only on just terms. Will the proposed linking of the Governments of the Commonwealth and New South Wales enable property to be acquired without any regard to the justice of the terms offered?
– The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) will find that provision for acquisition is made in paragraph e of sub-clause 2, which includes the words -
The effective and economical distribution of coal, including its purchase, sale, marketing, Acquisition, ….
The Commonwealth Government is not avoiding the issue of acquisition. Powers are conferred upon the Joint Coal Board by both the Commonwealth and the State. Clause 13 provides that’ powers are conferred upon the board under this legislation only to the degree to which they are not in excess of the legislative power of the Commonwealth. It will be for the” State, by virtue of its agreement with the Commonwealth to. confer the same, and may be in some instances, wider powers on the hoard. What powers of acquisition the board will have, will probably be derived directly from the State. I have no doubt that the board, , with the authority vested in it by both the Commonwealth and the State, will have authority to acquire, and that that power will be exercised in a way that will entitle dispossessed persons to adequate compensation.
– I ask the Minister for Supply and ‘Shipping (Senator Ashley), if he is prepared to agree to the insertion of. the words “ to the Court or a Judge thereof “ after the word “ appeal,” in paragraph k subclause 3? This is a very technical and complicated bill. The point I wish to make is that as paragraph h stands at. present, the appeal may be to a nonjudicial authority, or to a magistrate. Either of these would be an unsatisfactory authority to deal with an appeal by a manager or a superintendent. The amendment that I have suggested provides for an appeal to the Commonwealth Court of Arbitration and Conciliation, or to a judge of that court. I have a horror of some of the things that this Government has done, and I fear that further injustices may be perpetrated under the measure. I have not quite recovered - and I am sure that many other people have not recovered - from the Government’s action in appointing an ex-secretary of the miners’ federation, and a former president of. the Australian Labour party, to a position of authority over State laws and over the Commonwealth and State arbitration courts. That action greatly weakened the authority of the Commonwealth Court of Arbitration and Conciliation, and created great suspicion amongst fair-minded people, because it savoured too much of partisanship. I urge the Minister to accept the amendment that I have suggested.
– It is, of course, desirable that provision should be made for an appeal in a matter such as this, drastically affecting the welfare of people employed in the industry, but I believe that the amendment suggested by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) would not be appropriate. It would involve the right of appeal to the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, because the word “ Court “ is defined in clause 4 as the “ Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration “. An appeal to that court would cut right across a fundamental principle as set out elsewhere in the bill, because it is proposed to set up a tribunal, at the head of which will be a person who will have the qualifications of a judge of the Commonwealth Court’ of Conciliation and Arbitration. The
Government considers it desirable to take industrial matters relating to the miners’ federation away from the Arbitration Court and place them in an entirely separate category. If, the amendment were accepted, it would mean throwing back into the arena of the Arbitration Court the right of appeal, which I suggest is not constitutionally within the scope . of the court. The court deals only with interstate disputes; we are dealing now with a matter, that is confined to New South “Wales’.
– Would there be any objection to a judge of some other court?
– It is highly’ probable that a judicial body will be set up, with an independent chairman, and possibly including a representative of both employers and employees. The Government has not fully resolved its mind as to how that tribunal shall be constituted, but the committee may rest assured that the well-established practice observed in relation to the Commonwealth Public Service and other, bodies that have been mentioned in this chamber recently, will be followed. I assure the committee that the body appointed will be above all suspicion of bias.
– In view of the stubborn attitude adopted by Ministers I cannot see any worthwhile reason for persisting with my suggested amendment.
– The Government is not being stubborn in this matter. This bill is the result of long and difficult negotiations with the Premier of New South Wales, Cabinet Ministers, and officials. The measure comes before us now more or less as a proposition agreed upon by the State and the Commonwealth. I assure the committee that every detail of this bill has been the subject of most careful consideration by competent State and Commonwealth officers. The Government is not being stubborn; it is tied by constitutional difficulties and agreements that are the product of considerable discussion and consideration.
– I move -
That, at the end of the clause, the following new sub-clause be added: - “ (5.) Any- owner of a coal mine or other person .engaged in the coal industry who considers himself aggrieved by any determination ‘or order of the Board regulating prices for the sale, purchase or re-sale of coal, the ‘ values at which coal is recorded in the accounts of any business, or the regulation of profits in the coal industry or by the refusal of the Board to pay a bounty or subsidy or make a grant, may appeal in manner prescribed to the Supreme Court of the State against such determination, order or refusal and the Supreme Court may annul, modify or vary ‘ any such order, determination ot refusal and make such determination or order in the matter as to it seems fit and proper and the Board shall take all steps necessary to carry into effect the decision of the Supreme Court.”
Without this right of appeal, colliery proprietors will be entirely at the mercy of the board, which could deprive .them of profits, or reduce profits to such a nominal figure that the owners would be ruined. The bill does not lay down any standard of profits to be allowed to owners, and gives them no legal rights to price increases, subsidies or bounties. ‘ In the hands of a biased board, the existing powers of this measure could be used as a means of complete expropriation without compensation. We have had hitter experience of the Government harassing ‘ mine-owners under its war-time controls. There is conclusive proof that coal has been sold at less than the cost of production. Surely all sense of British justice has not departed from the Government. All individuals are entitled to appeal against what they consider to be a grave injustice.
– Again I point out that this bill does not present the whole picture. There is to be a State bill which will vest in the Joint Coal Board powers that are not- provided in this measure. The committee has been assured that the board to.be appointed will be completely independent, and may be relied upon to do justice. Unfortunately we have not before us, at present, the terms of the proposed New South Wales legislation; hut if the Joint Coal Board is to do justice, it must be armed with ample powers. There is no reason to suspect, for one moment, that the board will be unfair or harsh. I think we can rely upon the New South Wales Government, in preparing its legislation, to have regard to the views put forward by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay). I can assure the honorable gentleman that the Government will convey his views on the matter to those responsible for the preparation of the State bill.
– The amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) has a good deal of merit. That is emphasized by the reply that has been given by the Minister for Health (Senator McKenna) who has pointed out that Sew South Wales has still to introduce a bill, and has given an assurance that the importance of. the Leader of the Opposition’s amendment will be brought to the notice of the Government of New South Wales so that it may be incorporated in the bill.
– I said that it would be considered.
– That is so. We have a responsibility in this chamber to ensure that the long-established principles of British justice shall be observed in all legislation. I agree with the Minister that the board will probably be fair, but, on the other hand, it will be called upon to determine many questions upon which there. will be a diversity of op’inion. It is necessary, therefore, that great care be exercised to ensure that an aggrieved party shall have the right of appeal to some authority. I support the amendment and suggest that it be further considered by the Government.
.- I cannot understand the Minister’s objection to the amendment. It is apparent that, in spite of what he has said, sufficient care has not been given to thismatter, because, in the House of Representatives, the Government deleted Part IV. of the bill as originally drafted) including the following provision: -
The owner of a controlled mine who suffers loss (including loss of profits) or damage, by reason of anything done in pursuance of an order under the last preceding section in respect of the mine, shall be entitled to such compensation as is determined by agreement between the Board and the owner of the coal mine, or, in the ‘absence of agreement, as is determined by an action by the owner against the Board in any Court of competent jurisdiction.
That provision, in substance, is what is proposed in the amendment. However, after deleting that provision the Government refuses to agree to the amendment which is designed to protect mine-owners.
– The provision to which Senator Leckie refers was deleted because it was redundant: So far as the industry itself is concerned, there is no need whatever to make a specific provision in this bill for compensation in respect of the effect “on cost of the board’s directions, or in respect of its assumption of control of any mine. Sub-clause 2 (g) gives to the board complete powers over prices and profits in the coal industry, and under sub-clause 3 (c) the board is given power tei incur expenditure arid make advances. So far as capital costs are concerned, the board will assist where necessary by providing finance. So far as running costs are concerned, the effect of the board’s directions and control will enter into the cost of production of coal and will be taken into account by the board in .fixing the return to each ton of coal to be received by each mine in the form of prices, . and, if necessary, subsidies. This implies a system of differential returns to the various mines which is already operating and will continue to operate. The principle applies equally to the effects of directions given by the board, and to loss, or damage suffered while a mine is completely under the board’s control. It is meaningless to speak of compensation in regard to the actions of a board which possesses, and will exercise in a responsible manner) full power over prices and profit. The only exception is the case where the board interferes with a contract or agreement in such a way as to cause loss or damage to some one outside the industry, and in this respect provision for compensation is made in clause 49.
– The Minister for Supply and Shipping (Senator Ashley) brushes aside the real point of the amendment. The board is to be given wide powers over the industry. It will be able not only to fix prices of coal, but also to close certain mines. It is desirable that that power be given to the board; but, in those circumstances, the price fixed will ‘have to be uniform, and under such conditions one or more mines may be closed because they are uneconomic. In such cases, the owner should have the right to appeal. Whether or not he exercises that right is beside the point. As the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) has pointed out, he should be given that right as a matter of British justice. It is important that that principle be” recognized in the bill. I should like the Minister to deal with the case of an owner whoso mine is closed, because he is unable to operate it economically.
. - The amendment is unnecessary in view of the fact that the board will exercise power over prices. Provision’ is made that where an agreement is broken as the result of some action by the board, generous compensation will be paid to those affected. Therefore, the amendment is redundant.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 15 to 54 agreed to.
Clause 55 (Orders and by-laws not Statutory Rules).
.- The provision in this clause that orders made under the bill shall not be deemed to be statutory rules departs from custom, andI should like the Government to agree to omit the clause. It will deprive the Parliament of the right to disallow any order or regulation made under the bill. This is a radical departure from practice. Every regulation, whether made under war-time powers or not, has been subject to disallowance by either House of the Parliament. The Minister did not refer to this clause in his second-reading speech, and I wonder whether this was intentional in the hope that the Opposition would not notice the provision. If the Minister has cogent reasons for this break from custom, he should state them. In the absence of any explanation, I must oppose the clause.
. -I appreciate very much the assistance given by honorable senators opposite in securing the speedy passage of this measure, and I am anxious to explain any points on which they have doubts. Reference to this clause was not intentionally omitted from my secondreading speech. The reason for this provision is the joint character of the legislation. Unless this clause be included, it will be necessary to table regulations made under the bill in both the Commonwealth Parliament and the Parliament of New South Wales. If the orders are deemed not to be statutory rules, they will not have to be tabled, thus avoiding cumbersome procedure. Regulations in regard to the activities of the Joint Coal Board issued by the Governor-General or by the Governor of New South Wales will be subject to disallowance by the appropriate Parliament. This procedure is advisable, because such regulations will be concerned, in the main, with major legislative matters. It will be necessary for both the Governor-General and the State Governor to issue regulations on the recommendation of the Prime Minister and the Premier of New South Wales in agreement, although, from a formal point of view, each will act on the advice of his. Executive Council. I hope that this explanation will satisfy Senator Leckie.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 56 agreed to.
Preamble and Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Billread a third time.
Silting suspended from 5.21 to 8 p.m.
Debate resumed(vide page 3965).
.- I am cognizant of the events leading up to what is called the dilution agreement, and I have the highest admiration for the engineering and other trade unions, because of the concessions which they made in the early stages of the war. They entered into an agreement which involved the acceptanceof conditions contrary to all their traditions by allowing certain men to work with them who had not acquired sufficient skill to be regarded as tradesmen. I pay tribute to the patriotism of the members of those unions because of the way in which they responded to the needs of the nation at a time of dire peril, and I express my appreciation of the efforts of Mr. Cranwell and Mr. Roberts, who took a leading part in the negotiations at that time. Largely because of their influence, the trade unions concerned were induced to enter into the agreement. Japan had not then come into the war, and it was not anticipated that hostilities would be continued for a further four years, but it was found afterwards that there were more dilutees, upgraders and trainees in the unions concerned than the original number of unionists. The object of the unions was to protect the rights of recognized tradesmen, and they naturally asked that certain conditions be observed. The most important condition was that the recognized tradesmen should havethe first right to employment in their old trades after the war. Clauses 6 and 7 of the agreement provided -
The number of trainees who were admitted into the unions was, as I have indicated, greater than had been anticipated. It was arranged that they were not to be accepted by the unions as tradesmen, but were to be trained largely on one or two machines, such as lathes for shell-making, automatic lathes, shapers and grinders. They became extraordinarily adept at that work, but it could not be justly claimed that they were qualified engineers. They were employed in protected trades, and they had to be paid the full wages of tradesmen. If they were not competent to dothe work immediately, an allowance had to be paid to them to bring their wages up to the tradesmen’s rates’. If they finally have to lose their jobs on the ground of incompetence, or for any other reason, they will have no special grievance.
This bill protects the interests of the engineers and other tradesmen in the six trades involved. It is described as a’ measure “to make provision in relation to the regulation of tradesmen’s rights of employment in certain trades, and employment of members of the forces in those trades, and for other purposes “. It seems that the Government is doing its best to carry out a pledge to re-train members of the forces, and give to them the first chance of employment; hut, on examination of the bill, one finds that it departs considerably from that principle in vital respects. I have no objection to the original engineers or other tradesmen getting the first chance of employment, . because they made a big sacrifice in serving with the armed forces, but the othermen who were taken into the unions under certain conditions are in an entirely different position. There is a clause in the bill requiring that before any man is trained under the provisions of the bill he must have acquired the necessary skill during his service in the forces.Whether he has acquired that skill is to be determined, I assume, by certain expert tribunals, but there are other men who have not acquired the full skill of a tradesman during the period served in the fighting forces. If a man has served in a technical unit he will be eligible to receive the benefits for which the bill provides. He will be allowed to take advantage of the training scheme, and receive a tradesman’s pay while being trained.When he obtains the necessary certificate of competence he will become a recognized tradesman. Then, no doubt, be will receive preference in employment.
There is another class of men, about whom I am most concerned. They spent a year .or two before the war in amechanical trade, and perhaps served for two- or three years as apprentices. They were not allowed to enlist as apprentices, and therefore they took all possible measures to have, their indentures cancelled. The reasons they gave were both numerous and humorous. Hundreds of them managed to get into the fighting forces. I do not blame them for having done that, in the full flush of manhood. They did not enlist in a technical unit, but joined some infantry, artillery or other fighting unit; but, as they did not serve in a technical ‘ unit, they are debarred from receiving the ^benefits of the bill. Those who joined a technical unit will be . assumed to have acquired further skill, but those who did not will be debarred from enjoying the advantages for which the bill provides. I should say that those who served in the technical units had a much easier and a less unpleasant and dangerous time, than those who found their way into the front-line. Whilst I admire all of the men who went into uniform, those who risked their lives in .the front-line should receive first consideration. For that reason I object strongly to the feature of the bill to which J. have directed attention. I propose to move an amendment in committee, but I should prefer that the Minister should recognize the justice of my claim on behalf of these men, and move it himself. However, I now indicate my intention to move that, in clause 41 (1) (i) the words “during the period of the war, acquired, by reason of his service in the Forces “ be left out and that the word “acquired” be inserted in lieu thereof. The paragraph would then read -
A member of the Forces who has acquired the skill necessary for the performance of work ordinarily performed by a recognized tradesman.
That would entitle a returned serviceman to be- trained whether he acquired the skill of” a tradesman before - or during the war. Another class of case which ought to be covered is that of a young man, eighteen or nineteen years of age, with a natural bent for engineering and mechanics, who had scarcely started in. a. trade when he enlisted. It would be a. pity to debar him from training in a trade in which he shows promise. There is also the case- of a lad who has not yet started work, but whose father is willing to train him in the trade in. which he himself is engaged. Under this bill, that lad could not receive training, because in the definition clause “ employment” means remunerative employment. Probably a man could train his son if he did not pay him. That appears to be a weakness in the bill. However, as 1 have said, the outstanding weakness of the measure is that a man who served, in the front line would be debarred from its advantages if he did not serve in a technical unit. One would think that such men would be covered by thebill, and that they would be most capable of taking some part in: industry, but although various committees are to be set up, and will be authorized to exercise drastic powers, including the power -of dismissal, thereis no provision for ex-servicemen to be appointed to them. When the bill was in the other chamber an amendment to provide that one of the employers and one of the employees on the central committee should be returned servicemen was submitted, but it was rejected by the* Government. I do not suppose that a similar amendment would have any better fate in this chamber, and so I shall not waste my time, or the time of other honorable senators by submitting one, but I put it to the Minister that the clause should be amended to give effect to that suggestion. The bill, although affecting employers and employees directly, also is of great concern to returned servicemen. Indeed, they are more concerned with it than are other persons in the community. I, therefore, ask the Minister to give consideration to this suggestion in respect of the central committees particularly, but also in connexion with the various other committees. I have no quarrel with the main purpose of the bill, which is the protection of the rights of workers in various trades at the outbreak of war, but I am confident that those workers would have no objection to returned servicemen being represented on the central, committees.
There are other aspects of the hill that [ do not like. For instance, there is the time in which a returned serviceman may apply to take’advantage of its provisions. That time is set down as six months after discharge or after the 22nd March of this year, whichever is the later.- I point out that although the bill has hot yet become law the time in which applications may be made will expire within a few weeks from now. Probably the explanation is that the. bill was drafted some time ago. I suggest that the date should be six months from the passing of this bill or from the 1st January next, whichever is the earlier. It is amazing how few applications have been made up to date. Probably the explanation is that the men who will be affected by this legislation do not know anything about it. In committee I shall move -
That in sub-clause (4.) of clause 41 the words “ six months after the date of discharge of the member of the Forces, or after the 22nd day of March, One thousand nine hundred and forty-six (being the date of commencement of the National Security (Trades Dilution) Regu-Pat inn: (No. 2) “ be left out with a view to inserting in lieu thereof the words “twelve months after the date of discharge of the member of the Forces or after the 30th day of June One thousand, nine hundred and forty-seven “.
That would give a member of the forces additional time in which to submit an application.
Clause 50 is an extraordinary provision. Had the war still continued I could have understood it, but I cannot understand such a restriction being placed on the liberty of a subject at this stage. The clause reads -
A recognized tradesman or added tradesman or an apprentice to any of the trades to which this Part applies shall not be appointed to or enlisted in the Defence Force unless it is intended that his trade skill is to be fully utilized in that Force, and any such recognized tradesman, added tradesman or apprentice appointed to or enlisted in that Force whose trade skill is not being fully utilized therein shall be released from that Force.
That is conscription in reverse, and it is an interference with the liberty of the subject. I cannot understand why a trained engineer, for instance, is not to be allowed to enlist in the forces, but it is the kind of restriction that the present Government likes to impose. I agree that it was right to retain men with certain qualifications in various trades, but the war is now over and conditions have changed. I understand that the Minister proposes to delete from the clause the words “ or added tradesman “.
– That is so.
– That will improve the clause, but I still cannot understand why a tradesman -should not be allowed to enlist in the Navy, Army or Air Force, unless he will, in that capacity, use his technical skill to the limit. The wastage among unionists during the war must have been considerable, so that there cannot be much fear of competent tradesmen being out of work for some time. I do not know what percentage of deaths occurred among unionists, but many thousands of tradesmen at the outbreak of war are no longer members of the unions of which they were then members. That being so, there should be more room for trainees. I hope that I have not appeared to be unduly antagonistic to the scheme; that was not my intention. I am concerned first of all with keeping my word to the engineering and other unions which stood up to the test so well during the war. I am concerned, too, about those members of the forces who seem not to be getting fair treatment under this measure. Considering the amount of wastage that there must have been in the unions during the war, I do not think that there is the slightest need for these restrictions, but they were promised, and we must keep that promise. I do not wish to be misrepresented. “We promised that protection would be given to the fully qualified tradesman, and I wish, to see that promise kept. My only other criticism of the bill is that there appears to have been some lack of foresight in its preparation although I do not suggest for a moment that whatever shortcomings the measure may have are due to any lack of sympathy on the part of the Government for the men who fought for this country in its hour of peril. Provision has been made for certain classes of ex-servicemen, but it .appears to me that those most deserving of assistance have been neglected. Why that has been done, I do not know. If I knew the reason I might be inclined to revise my estimate of the Government’s goodwill towards exservicemen, and I should not like to do that. I hope that the Minister will see the reasonableness of my comments, and will realize that we on this side of thechamber are endeavouring to improve the measure to the best of our ability.- We agree with the bill in principle-
I ii this bill there is no restriction on the number of war-time dilutees in the trades set out in clause 14, who may register for further training in order to become recognized tradesmen, neither is there any restriction on ex-servicemen who, during their war service- acquired some knowledge of a trade in which they now hope to engage as a means of livelihood. There, are, however, no such facilities for exservicemen who, prior to enlistment, began a tradesman’s career, and were then posted to units in which there were no opportunities to acquire further knowledge and experience. Under this bill these men are prevented from becoming skilled tradesmen. It seems that home-front workers are to gain an advantage over men who elected to serve their country in a front-line fighting unit such as the infantry, as sailors, or in a Royal Australian Air Force aircrew.
Why debar these men from becoming skilled tradesmen? Are they to be relegated to the unskilled labourers group all their lives? It is grossly unfair that a semi-skilled tradesman, who gave up his trade to serve in the forces, should not have the same rights as a man who was fortunate enough to practise his trade while on service. The Government is showing a partiality towards the homefront workers. No” one belittles the good work done by them during the war years. Many of them “honestly endeavoured to enlist in the fighting services, but were prevented from doing so. Many were unable to pass the necessary medical examination, and so decided to serve their country in workmen’s overalls. On the other hand, many, who called those who voluntarily enlisted “ mugs “, sought a safe refuge from the rigours of active. service. In this bill those in the latter category are given preferential treatment over certain types of returned servicemen. In justice to these men, could not their applications for training to become skilled craftsmen be considered on their merits? Their number would be small compared with the total registrations. The danger of overloading of industry is appreciated.
It would lead to unemployment of exservicemen and recognized ‘ tradesmen ‘r but there is such a thing as honoring a promise - a promise made by the Government that ex-servicemen would be looked after when the war was over. An amendment of the clause 41 (1) (6) would meet their case.
This Government has isued a booklet. Australia and Your Future, for the guidance of migrants from- Britain. According to the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell), British ex-servicemen’ will be welcomed to this country. What happens if they were engaged as semiskilled, tradesmen before enlisting, and were not employed in that trade during their war service? There is no hope in this bill of them being given an opportunity to become skilled tradesmen.
– Senator Leckie unquestionably, has a very good grip of this subject, and understands its background. I was delighted, therefore, to hear him pay a generous tribute to the unions for their co-operation with the Government - it was the Menzies Government with which they co-operated - in permitting the dilution of skilled trades in the five categories set out in this bill. I heartily support the tribute so generously paid by Senator Leckie, but I believe that the unions are entitled to a further mead of praise. They might have rested entirely upon the’ agreement made in 1940 - before we were faced with the grave emergency of a war with Japanbut, when in 1944, it was suggested to the unions that it would be desirable to take a further generous step and to include certain ex-servicemen, they welcomed the suggestion, and, hy agreement with the employers and the Government, undertook to admit those ex-servicemen who, in the course of their duties in the armed forces, had become . fully skilled or very nearly fully skilled in the particular trades with which we are dealing. Therefore, the proper approach to this question would be to pay a further tribute to the unions,- who at this late stage, when they were under no obligation to do so, and when the war was drawing to an end, were prepared to accept what is, after all, a further dilution of labour in the industries in which they are employed. I place on record my own keen appreciation, and the Government’s appreciation of this further instance of generosity on the part of the unions, and their recognition of the excellent part played, by men serving as skilled tradesmen in the armed forces. C agree that it would be very desirable :if further ex-servicemen, irrespective of whether they carried on their trades in the forces or not, could be em-‘ braced within the provisions of this measure, but I am sure that honorable senators will recognize that there are four important factors in the situation to which the Government must pay regard. Not only is the Government concerned with the re-instatement of pre-war tradesmen, but also there are still left some 24,000 civilian dilutees in these skilled trades. There are recognized tradesmen with re-instatement rights, and also there are apprentices, including those who served with the armed forces. “We must he realistic and face the fact that the skilled trades now under consideration have a limited absorbtive capacity. It is impossible ‘for them to absorb all the men offering. It is ‘necessary, too, that the numbers of men from the armed forces who are to come under the. provisions of this measure, shall be determined in a reasonably short period. ‘ With that approach to the bill, I think that the objections raised by Senator Leckie and Senator Brand, fall into their proper perspective. It will be recognized that having regard to the realities of the situation, the unions have been particularly generous in admitting any exservicemen.
– When were the pledges given to the 20,000 trainees ?
– I did not speak of pledges to them.
– Why should they get preference over ex-servicemen?
– That is not putting the position correctly. No dilutee will have preference over exservicemen. Any ex-serviceman who wants to come back into the skilled or unskilled section of an industry shall be entitled to preference over any dilutee.
That is unquestionable. Their right to re-instatement cannot be denied, irrespective of whether they served abroad or not. ,
– I am thinking o? the trainees and not the skilled men.
– If there were unskilled men in the industry who gave up their employment to go into the armed forces and now desire to come back, they unquestionably are entitled to reinstatement rights, and they have preference over any dilutee who may have succeeded them in industry.
Senator Leckie referred to the plight of men who enlisted at the age of about eighteen years, after being apprenticed to trades. He pointed out that in some cases the articles of apprenticeship were cancelled so that they could enlist. These men will not be in any difficulty. ‘ If their articles were cancelled, the Apprenticeship Commission may revive them under the provisions of the Reestablishment and Employment Act. It is quite certain that the local committees set up under that legislation will be sympathetic to them, and will ensure their reinstatement. If any man can establish any element of apprenticeship, whether it is shown by intention, or expressed in articles, he shall be afforded protection. Further, not only does the Government take this attitude regarding differentiation between servicemen who acquired their skilled training in the armed forces, and those who did not; but that is the view also of the local committee set up comprising representatives of the employees and employers, and the central committee ‘which’ comprises representatives of the Government, employers and employees. They unanimously agreed that that is the proper principle to ‘apply having regard to all the circumstances. With respect to boys under 21 who were not apprenticed, if they wish to go back into industry they are entitled to reinstatement and preference and the benefits of the position which they would have attained had they not enlisted. All that is unquestioned.
– That is different from the Minister’s explanation.
– I am not aware of the particular statement to which Senator Leckie adverts. The honorable senator also referred to the representation of ex-servicemen on the local and .central committees. There is some virtue in that suggestion. However, before one makes a decision, on the point it is necessary to know how many ex-servicemen relatively are involved so that the degree of their ir-presentation might be determined.
– There would be very few.
– I realize that there would not be a great number; but, admitting that there is merit in the honorable senator’s suggestion, I shall pass it on for consideration when the local and central committees are being appointed. Due regard must be paid to the proportion of ex-servicemen to the rest of those engaged in the industry. Surely that is reasonable. The honorable senator’s suggestion will be considered at the appropriate time. He also adverted to die time limitation. The provision we ure now considering was, in almost exactly the same terms, put in National Security Regulations dated the 22nd March last. They have been known since that date, and the six months period will run from that date. If a man is later discharged, the six months will run from the date of his discharge. That provision is not peremptory. The local committee has power to extend the period of six months. There is no rigidity regarding the matter. I assure the honorable senator that the local committee will give very sympathetic consideration to that matter.
Senator Leckie, in his concluding remarks, referred to clause 50, in. respect of which he voiced some rather severe criticism. That clause provides that a recognized tradesman, or apprentice, in the skilled trades only, not in the industry generally, shall not be appointed to or enlisted in the defence forces, unless it is intended that his trade skill is to be fully utilized. If he is enlisted dr appointed to the forces, he has to be released from the forces if .his trade skill is not being fully utilized. Senator Leckie’s excellent recollection of the original arrangement was not so accurate when he criticized that clause. He quoted the original agreement, dated the 8th May, 1940, made between the Commonwealth, the Amalgamated Engineering Union, and the Employers Federation Clause 4 of that agreement reads -
No skilled man ‘or apprentice will be called up for service in the Armed Forces unless hisskill as an engineer is fully availed of, and. those now engaged and not required for skilledwork will be discharged.
That is a matter of agreement made at’ that time between the Menzies Government and the two other parties concerned. That was enshrined in National Security Regulations, made also by the MenziesGovernment, dated the 15th May, 1941. It is a matter of obligation upon this Government to carry out the terms of that agreement made by the Government which the honorable senator supported. The criticism- of Senator Leckie on that point is not justified. It is a matter of honouring an obligation which he assisted to impose upon the Government of this country; and the purpose of this provision is reasonably obvious. War is dependent upon industry, and, particularly, upon these skilled trades. It is desirable that men skilled in the metal trades should be available either to manufacture munitions of war, or give of their skill in the forces themselves. . It would be quite wrong, as was recognized by the Menzies Government, and is recognized by this Government, that a man possessing that particular skill should be retained in forces where his skill is not availed of. If I were able, I should be very happy to make some concession on the point raised by Senator Leckie, because, in view of events that may happen, I may not have another opportunity to do so.
Senator Brand referred to British exservicemen, and suggested their inclusion in the provisions extended to exservicemen. I have explained why some of our own ex-servicemen are not included, and. having put that matter to the Senate. I need not argue as to why British exservicemen should not be included. I appreciate the reception which honorable senators have given to the measure, and again express thanks to Senator Leckie for the well-deserved tribute he paid to the unions concerned.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 5 agreed to.
Clause 6 (Definitions).
.- I dealt with this clause in my secondreading speech, when I asked for an explanation of the definition of “ employment “ which is as follows : - “ ‘ employment ‘ means remunerative employment and ‘ employed ‘ has a corresponding meaning”. I pointed out that a man whose sons enlisted at the age of eighteen could not train them in his own establishment unless they were employed in a technical unit in the army, and that he could not employ them and pay them wages because such employment would constituteremunerative employment. How he would get on if he did not pay them I do not know. I should like the Minister to explain the effect of this provision in a case of that kind. A father should not be precluded from training his sons in a trade in which, probably, they had gained a considerable aptitude although they had not actually been engaged in the business. This definition seems to shut the gate upon certain deserving classes of persons.
. -I take it that “ employment “, under the definition, means employment in respect of which payment is made. It would not apply in circumstances where an employer had a member of his family working and was not paying to him payments strictly in the sense of remuneration. A similar provision is contained in theReestablishment and Employment Act.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 7 to 11 agreed to.
Clause 12- (1.) There shall be a Central. (Engineering Trades) Committee consisting of -
.- I move -
That, in sub-clause (1.), the following paragraph be added: - “and (d) and two representatives of re turned servicemen “.
This is the first provision of consequence in the measure. I dealt with it at length in my second-reading speech when I emphasized the significance of the bill.I also pointed out that no provision was made for the appointment on these committees of representatives of ex-members of the forces in the trades concerned. There will be many local and central committees set up in respect of the different trades in each State; but in no case is provision made for an ex-serviceman to be elected to any of those committees. The Minister’s explanation did not go far enough. He pointed out that at present the majority of those who will be affected by the bill are employers and tradesmen, but he overlooked the future, when the interest? of ex-servicemen trainees must be safeguarded.
– What about youngsters sixteen years of age who enter the industry as trainees ?
– I do not want to have such lads on the committees. That is a silly suggestion. I want mature men with knowledge of the problems of exservicemen to be appointed to the committees. The Minister’s statement that very few men are being trained at present has little force, because we hope that, eventually, large numbers of men will be trained.Fully trained men have nothing to fear, but ex-servicemen who want to be trained must be safeguarded. The employees, most of whom did not serve in World War II., are not likely to appoint representatives who will have special interest in the welfare of exservicemen. I shall be satisfied if provision be made for the appointment of even one ex-serviceman to each committee. TheMinister said, in his secondreading speech, that he was sympathetic to the needs of ex-servicemen. Therefore, I hope that he will agree to my amendment.
Senator McKENNA (Tasmania - Minister for Health and Minister for
Social Services) [9.3]. - The primary purpose of the bill is to carry out an agreement which was made in 1940. That agreement has been implemented by means of regulations, and the provisions of the measure merely repeat the substance of the agreement and of the regulations subsequently promulgated. If we impose an obligation on the Minister to appoint ex-servicemen to the committees, we may encounter the difficulty which Senator Leckie has envisaged. Suitable persons may not be available. Further- more, it would not be proper, in implementing the agreement, to direct employees in a skilled trade to appoint certain persons to the committees. The men engaged in the trade should be allowed to select their own representatives, whether they be exservicemen or not. I regret that I am not able to agree to the proposed amendment.
– I support the amendment. A principle of democracy is that every section of the people shall have adequate representation. In this instance, we must take care to preserve the interests of that section of the community which is composed of ex-servicemen. We should provide that they have representation on the committees.
– The amendment is reasonable. If agreed to, it will do much to assist men who will be affected by the decisions of the State committees. We must consider not only the present but also the future, and it is only fair that the interests of ex-servicemen, who may wish to ‘ enter certain trades, should be safeguarded. Senator Leckie has said that he would be agreeable to the appointment of only one ex-serviceman to each committee. He is willing to co-operate with the Govern-, ment, and his proposal is fair and reasonable.
– I support the amendment. I believe that the Minister does not fully understand its import. Senator Leckie proposes to add a further paragraph providing for the appointment of two ex-servicemen to each local com mittee. He has not suggested that there should be any dictation to employers and employees as to whom they should appoint.
– They could all be ex-servicemen.
– That is so. Fully trained tradesmen will be protected under the provisions of the hill, the purpose of which is to provide for certain youths and ex-servicemen to betaken into trades and trained. Exservicemen, therefore, should have special representation on the committees, particularly as many of them may require special, sympathetic treatment as the result of disabilities caused by war service. They would he more confident if Senator Leckie’s proposal were agreed to, and would believe that the committees would appreciate their own special needs. In the main, the bill has a great deal of merit, but it can be greatly improved by the acceptance of Senator Leckie’s amendment.
That the paragraph proposed to be added (Senator Leckie’s amendment) be added.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Senator B. Courtice.)
Majority . . 9
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 13 to 40 agreed to.
Clause 41 - (1.) If a Local Committee is satisfied, upon application, by any person, that that person is -
Amendment (by Senator Brand) proposed -
That, in sub-clause (1.), paragraph (b), the following words be left out: - “during the period of the war, acquired, by reason of his service in the Forces,” with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ acquired “.
.- Does the Minister still intend to oppose the amendment?
– I have already explained my attitude.
– The Minister told us that an ex-serviceman was not debarred from training under the scheme provided in the bill, but this clause means that unless he has acquired his skill during the time when he served with the forces in a technical unit, lie will be debarred. The object of the amendment is to ensure that a man who served his country at the front shall be entitled to be trained in the trade which he elects to follow. An ex-serviceman might have acquired skill prior to the war, but if he did not serve in a technical unit his technical training would have been neglected. I cannot understand the Minister making the claim that an exserviceman will not be debarred from training under the scheme, when this clause gives the lie to that statement. If the Minister has made up his mind on the matter, and will not alter the bill, no matter how great an injustice it may do to men who fought for Australia, it will be of no use to prolong the discussion.
– I mean no dis courtesy to the honorable senator in saying that I do not propose to traverse again what I said in my second-reading speech on the bill, in my reply to the debate and in committee. I have already explained the degree of generosity that the inclusion of many ex-servicemen involves on the part of the trade unions concerned.
Amendment negatived. .
Question put -
That the clause stand as printed.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Senator B. Courtice.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
.- A misunderstanding appears to have occurred. A further proposed amendment to clause 41 has been circulated.
– I have not a copy of it before me.
– In the circumstances I suggest that the Minister in charge of the bill might agree to its recommittal for the purpose of reconsidering clause 41.
– That could be done after the remaining clauses have been considered.
Clauses 42 to 44 agreed to.
Clause 45 (Certain .proceeding under Re-establishment and Employment Act).
Amendment (by Senator McKenna) agreed .to -
That, at the end of the clause, the following new sub-clause be added: - “ (3.) Where an application is made under sub-section (2.) of section fifty-one of this Act for a declaration that “the Crown in right of the Commonwealth or a State has contravened section forty-three of this Act, the declaration shall not be made if it is proved that the act or omission which is alleged to constitute the contravention was- duly directed, approved or consented to by a Local Committee or, on review or appeal, by the Central Committee or a court, and that the decision of the Local Committee or Central Committee, as the case may be, does not stand reversed as the result of review or appeal.”.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 46 agreed to.
Clause 47 (Changes of address or employment to be notified).
.- Lt seems that the Government is incurring a great deal of unnecessary expensein requiring employers and employees to notify the department when they change their address or their place of employment. If a person has a three weeks’ holiday, and decides on his return to change his “ boss “ and has not notified his change of address he will have acted contrary to the provisions of this clause.
– This clause repeats aprovision which has always been included in the National Security Regulations, and which is found in those regulations as revised last March.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 48 and 49 agreed to.
Clause 50 -
A recognized tradesman, or added tradesman or an apprentice . . . shall not be appointed to or enlisted in the Defence Force unless it is intended that his trade skill is to be fully utilized in that Force, and any such recognized tradesman, added tradesman or apprentice appointed to or enlisted in that Force whose trade skill is not being fully utilized therein shall be released from that Force.
Amendments (by Senator McKenna) agreed to -
That the words “ or added tradesman “ be left out. .
That the words “ added tradesman “ be. left out.
– I am astonished that the Minister has not seen the force of the argument that , 1 advanced at an earlier stage. His- reasons for retaining this clause are so unlike the arguments of a logical, legally trained man, that I cannot understand his attitude. He said, that, because the Menzies Government agreed in 1940 that tradesmen should not be allowed to enlist, thaT was an undertaking that should operate indefinitely. It was. nothing of the kind. It was an arrangement . entered into because of the exigencies of war, and both- employers and employees understood that it would last only for the duration, of the war. Eoe some reason, the Government wishes to place these tradesmen in a protected class; they may not go to New Guinea or. elsewhere as members of the defence force except as fully trained and fully occupied tradesmen. Why should these men be singled out for special treatment? Why should their liberty be taken from them merely because they are engineers, or boilermakers or electricians; Now that the war is over, these men should have their liberty.. Highly trained men are necessary in the defence force, and I suppose that it is for that- reason that they may join the force under certain conditions, but should they wish to join it for a year or two after completing, their .training, they will not be free- to do so. I ask the Minister to reconsider his decision.
– Apart from the rea- sons that I have given in support of this, clause,. I have learned that both employers and employees desire its retention because if provides for the release of skilled, tradesmen from the armed forces. The provision which was enshrined in thi’ original agreement entered into when the Menzies Government was in office, and. which was preserved in the regulations, is to- be retained at the request of those most vitally concerned, mainly in order to accelerate the’ release of skilled men ‘ from the armed forces- so that they can . take their place- in industry, where they arc urgently needed.
– The views expressed by Senator Leckie have greater force when we consider the definition of “ recognized tradesman “. Paragraph a of that definition reads - “ Recognized tradesman “ means a person who, in relation to any trade …
May, one thousand nine hundred and forty, as a tradesman.
The clause should be redrafted, because in. its present form it is redundant, and oven stupid. Many of the tradesmen of that time are no longer employed in the industries inwhichthey were then working, but they will be debarred from enlisting in the defence forces.
.- The clause does not mean that recognized tradesmen will be debarred from joining the defences forces. They will not be debarred if their services as skilled tradesmen will be used fully in the defence forces. For the reasons that I have given, I do not propose to give further consideration to the clause.
Clause, as amended, agreed to
Clause 51 (Offences).
Amendment (by Senator McKenna.) agreed to -
That the clause be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following clause: - “51. - (1.) If any person (not being the Crown in right of the Commonwealth or a State) contravenes, or fails to comply with, any provision of this Act, or fails to comply with any order of a court or direction of a Committee made or given under this Act, that person shall be guilty of an offence punishable, upon conviction, by a fine not exceeding One hundred pounds or imprisonment for a period not exceeding six months, or both. “ (2.) Where a person considers that the Crown in right of the Commonwealth or a’ State has contravened, or failed to comply with, any provision of this Act, or failed to comply with any order of a court or direction of a Committee made or given under this Act, that person may make an application to a court of summary jurisdiction constituted by a Police, Stipendiary or Special Magistrate for a declaration accordingly. “ (3.) The court shall hear the application a nd, if the court is satisfied that there has been any such contravention or failure, make a declaration accordingly. “ (4.) The Governor-General may make regulations, not inconsistent with this Act, prescribing the procedure to be observed with respect to the making and hearing Of applications under sub-section (2.) of this section.”.
Clause as amended, agreed to.
Clause 52 agreed to.
First, second, and third schedules agreed to.
Amendment (by Senator McKenna ) agreed to -
That after the words “ Refrigeration mechanic or serviceman “, the following words be inserted: - “Shift electrician”.
Schedule, as amended, agreed to.
Fifth schedule agreed to.
Preamble and Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; reportadopted.
Bill read athird time.
– I present the ninth, report of the War Expenditure Committee.
Ordered to be printed.
Debate resumed from the 26th July (vide page 3184), on motion by Senator J. M. Fraser -
That the bill benow read a second time.
– Honorable senators will remember the discussion that took place some months ago when, under National Security Regulations, the Minister for Commerce and. Agriculture (Mr. Scully), set up the Australian Meat Board. The debate followed the extraordinary selection of men to control the meat industry of this country. On that occasion the Senate disallowed the regulation, whereupon the Minister decided that the committee should function in an advisory capacity. The previous board, which had functioned since 1935, was relegated to the background; no advantage was taken of the experience of itsmembers and norecognition was given to their good work. At that time, I offered some criticism of the persons selected to act, first, as members of the Australian Meat Board and, after the disallowance of the regulation, as members of the advisory body. The honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark), who had years of practical experience as a tailor, was made chairman of the Australian Meat Board. I have nothing personal against the’ honorable member, but I believe that his appointment was a retrograde step. In addition, we found that the Minister had decided to select the whole of the team to control the meat industry of Australia from New. South Wales, with the exception, perhaps, of. Mr. Boyer, who was selected to represent the lamb industry. The National Security Regulations will cease to operate at the. end of the year, and the advisory body will cease to function. It has been decided, therefore, to amend the Meat Export Control Act. If honorable senators will turn to clause 4 of this measure and examine the method of selecting members of the board, they will find that the wrong done in the selection of the advisory committee is to he perpetuated. It will be almost impossible for Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania to secure representation on the board. ‘Anybody who has had experience of the meat industry in this country knows that with its large area and varying climatic conditions, problems in Queensland are entirely different from those in Western Australia or Tasmania, arid I enter a most emphatic protest against this method of selecting a board to represent this very important, industry. This measure was under discussion in the House of Representatives for some time, and frequent pleas were made by members of the Australian Country party and the Liberal party to the Minister to alter the provisions relating to the constitution of the board ; but because of stupidity added to obstinacy, their pleas were ignored. I ask the Minister for Trade and Customs whether the Government’s attitude in the House of Representatives will be maintained in this chamber-?
The second objection that ‘ I have to this proposal is the extraordinary provision contained in clause 7, which gives to the chairman of the. board, who is to be appointed by the Minister, power to veto any decision of the board. I do not know whether the methods of voting favoured in certain other countries appeal to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, but this certainly is an extraordinary provision to be included in any measure. There is to be a board of twelve members, but although a decision may be reached hy a substantial majority, the chairman may still exercise the right of veto and refer the matter to the Minister.
– The board will represent every section of the meat industry.
– Yes; but surely the Minister realizes that a State like New South Wales, in which 40 per cent, of the people of this country reside, will be able to swamp the other States when a vote is taken on any matter.. From time to time we have heard the argument that because of Western Australia’s, geographical isolation it cannot be represented on this or that body. That is most unfair, and I protest against this portion of the bill. I pay a tribute to members of the Australian Meat Board with whom I was associated for some time in the early days of the war. ‘ They have done a splendid job, and I think that to dismiss them as they will be dismissed when this measure becomes law, is a scurvy trick.
– Representations have been made to- me in regard to this measure by ‘ the Australian Producers Union which claims to have the largest membership of meat producers of any similar organization in the ‘Commonwealth. The union believes that it has a right to nominate a representative for membership of the Australian Meat Board. It also takes strong exception to the fact that the chairman of the board who will have both a casting vote and a deliberative vote, will also have the power of veto. The union believes that this proposal gives too much authority to one person. The bill provides that the board shall include representatives of the Graziers Federal Council of Australia, or the Australian Wool and Meat Producers Federation or any other body approved by the Minister. . The Australian Producers Union believes that as it is a federated body with members all over the Commonwealth, it should have an opportunity to nominate a representative for appointment to the board. I shall be glad if the Minister for Trade and Customs will give consideration to these representations.
– in reply - In regard to the matters raised by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) I point out that clause 4 (4) provides - . .
Each member appointed to represent the lamb producers of Australia shall be a lamb producer . . . appointed from persons nominated by the Graziers Federal Council of Australia or the Australian Wool and Meat Producers Federation or any other body appointed by the Minister. [ emphasize the concluding words .” or any other body appointed by the Minister “. It does not follow that all members of the board shall be from New South Wales.
– Will the Minister do his best to have a Western Australian appointed to the board?
– I promise the Leader of the Opposition that I shall. An examination of the membership of various boards appointed by this Government will show that all States concerned are represented so far as possible. For instance, on the Apple and Pear Marketing Board, the hulk of the representation is from Tasmania which is the source of a large proportion of our crop of apples and pears. In regard to the right of veto to be exercised by the. chairman of the board, I remind honorable senators that £20,000,000 of Commonwealth money is involved in this proposal, ft does not necessarily follow that because^ the chairman vetos a proposal, the. Minister also will reject it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from the 7th August (vide page 3823), on motion by Senator J. M. Fraser -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Question, resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read’ a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from the 7th August (vide page 3823), on motion by Senator McKenna -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- 1 do not propose to say very much about the bill, except to express my sincere disappointment at the limited scope of the measure. When I learned that the Government intended to introduce a Patents Bill I thought that it had in mind the long awaited measure for which patent attorneys and others had been asking for many years. . They have been fobbed off time and again. They were led to believe that on this occasion the Government was considering’ the introduction of a comprehensive measure. The bill is of very little use to any one. It provides a limited degree of relief in the Patent Office where, as the result of war conditions, examiners have fallen so far in arrears in many cases twelve months elapse before applications can be dealt with. I have no objection to the bil] as a whole. I regret that it does not deal in a comprehensive way with all the complicated sidelights of patents. I understand that in the House of Representatives the Acting . Attorney-General (Mr. Holloway) agreed to give consideration to technical suggestions made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies). In these circumstances I support the bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Ashley) read a first time.
– I move-
That the bill be now read a second time. .
The purpose of the bill is to provide for the application of certain moneys which had accumulated in the hands of the Central Wool Committee during the war in respect of activities outside the provisions of the wool purchase .arrangement with the United Kingdom Government. The subject was dealt with at some length in a statement by the Minister for Postwar Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) on the 11th April last. The Minister, after explaining how the moneys had accumulated, announced that the Government had decided they would not be taken into Consolidated Revenue and would not be distributed to the individual growers, fellmongers, topmakers and manufacturers concerned. They would, however, be ‘ used for the benefit of the wool industry, particularly for research and promotion in the use of wool. Proposals had at the time been drawn up to use the fund, in these directions and it was announced that these proposals would be discussed with representatives of wool-growers. I shall mention briefly some of the main points of that statement.
Under the wool purchase arrangement, i he United Kingdom Government agreed to purchase the Australian wool clip for the period of the war and one clip therefitter. The arrangement covered the whole of the clip’ with the exception of wool used by Australian manufacturers. For three years the contract price was a flat rate of 13.4375d. (Australian) per lb. Later in 1942 as the result of representations by the Commonwealth Government the United Kingdom Government agreed to an increase of 15 per cent, which brought the price up to the satisfactory figure of 15.4533 25d. per lb. Growers have been paid the contract price in respect of wool bought by the United Kingdom Government, and a similar price in respect of wool sold to Australian manufacturers. Each grower received initially the appraised price according to “ table of limits”, which recognized a price differential as between various qualities, and at the end of each season he also re’ceived a supplementary payment to bring the average appraised price up to the flat rate contract price. As .between the United Kingdom Government and the Commonwealth Government it was agreed that any final profit made by the United Kingdom Government on sales of raw wool for use outside the United Kingdom should be divided equally between the two Governments.
The Central Wool Committee, in addition to handling the wool purchase arrangement for the United Kingdom Government, has carried out other activi- ties which have resulted in certain moneys being collected on behalf of the Commonwealth Government. These moneys have mainly arisen from the following sources: -
These are provisional figures and other transactions will probably bring the net accumulation to over £7,000,000.
When the wool purchase arrangement was commenced in 1939, it was announced by the then Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) that wool derived from sheepskins would not participate in any adjustment over and above the appraised price which was to be the final and only price paid for such wool. This was necessary in order tq ‘enable the fellmonger, when purchasing wooled sheepskins, to fix a firm price for the wool on such sheepskins. This was confirmed each season to all concerned bv the Central Wool Committee. The amount of £2,400,000 represents the difference between the appraised price paid to fellmongera, and the purchase price received from the United Kingdom Government and covers transactions of six seasons.
The control of. the export of wool tops, noils and waste was vested in the Central Wool Committee under National Security Regulations. The overseas market in wool tops to be supplied from Australia increased mainly because of the inability of the United Kingdom to supply India during the war. Topmakers were paid the cost of raw wool plus other charges, and profit and the excess price obtained front overseas buyers was collectedby the Central Wool Committee. Although this- involved exports the United’ Kingdom Government intimated that any moneys derived from these operations were for the account of the Commonwealth Government. As already mentioned, raw wool usedby Australian manufacturers was excluded fromthe wool purchase agreement, and the manufacturers obtained their wool at a price lower than the “ export issue price “. However, the growers wore paid the United Kingdom contract price. When woollen goods were exported the exporter was not allowed to retain the benefit of the price concession, and was required to pay to the Central Wool Committee a deferred payment representing the difference between the amount actually paid for wool and the “export issue price”. Although this transaction related to exports, the United Kingdom Government stated that it was agreeable to the whole of this deferred payment being retained by the Commonwealth Government.
I come now to the discussions which recently took place between the governments and the growers. The representatives of both “grower” organizations put forward the request that the moneys should be distributed to the growers who had supplied wool under the war-time purchase plan from 1939 to 1946. For the reasons already outlined, the Government indicated that it was not prepared to accede to that request. Other representations were made that the moneys should be used as capital inthe finance of the new wool disposal plan, subject to the recognition of ownership by the wool suppliers of 1939-46. The Government was not prepared to accept this suggestion. I wish to make it clear to all concerned that, under the wool purchase arrangement with the United Kingdom Government, the growers received the full contract price each season. The money? now in question arose from activities on behalf of the Commonwealth Government quite outside that arrangement. A; government moneys, they must, under the Constitution, be paid in the first place to Consolidated Revenue. The Government cannot, after full consideration of all the facts, see any justification for distribution to the growers or for recognition of the claim for ownership by growers. As a matter of interest, a good case could have been made for the payment of the moneys in question to Consolidated Revenue; as they accrued, for use in war finance. In that event, there would have been no accumulation in the hands of the CentralWool Committee, and the present claim by growers would probably not have arisen. However, the Government is prepared to adhere to itsearlier decision not to retain the moneys in Consolidated Revenue, but to ask the Parliament to appropriate them to a trust fund for the benefit of the industry, and the bill contains proposals to that end.
The bill sets out the purposes to which the fund may be applied. This follows generally the lines recommended by a departmental committee, on which there was a representative of the “Wool Consultative Council and representatives of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. The fund may be invested in Commonwealth or State securities, and the capital and income of the fund may be applied for purposes associated with the wool industry, including, in particular -
The bill also contains a provision that some part of the moneys referred to may be applied in meeting, wholly or partly, any ultimate loss the Commonwealth may incur under the wool disposals plan. Any decision under this clause would, of course, be subject to full consideration of the needs for research and promotion of the use of wool. The application of moneys in these directions will be made by the Treasurer after consultation with other Ministers who are concerned with the wool industry.In response to a request from growers at the recent conference, their representatives will be given the opportunity to make representations to Ministers through the Wool Consultative Council. I commend the hill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator McLeay) adjourned.
The following papers were pre sented:-
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determination by the Arbitrator, &c. -No. 23 of 1946- Amalgamated Postal Workers’ Union of Australia.
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appointments -
Department of External Affairs - H. D Anderson, B. D.Beddie, A. H. Body. A. H. Borthwick. F. B. Hall; R. N. Hancock, B. C. Hill; D. M. Hodgkinson, G. A. Jockel, K. I. Jones. W. A. G. Landale, J: D. Petherbridge. A. P. Renouf,G. A. Richardson. J. R. Rowland, R. P. Throssell, L. D Tilbury, H.N. Truscott.
Disposal of Service Stores and EquipmentReport of inquiry by Mr. H. G. Conde.
Financial Assistance to States - Reports of the Commonwealth Grants Commission upon the application submitted for additional financial assistance in 1945-46 under the States Grants (Income Tax Reimbursement) Act 1942 from the Governments of the States of -
Lands Acquisition Act -Landacquired for. Defence purposes - Eagle Farm, Queensland.
Northern Territory - Report on Administration for year 1944-45.
Senate adjourned at 10.22 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 8 August 1946, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1946/19460808_senate_17_188/>.