21st Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. A. M. McMullin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– by have. - Honorable senators will see that Senator Arnold, Senator Byrne and Senator Willesee are named in a contingent notice of motion, standing in my name. As I read the Standing Orders, the motion would not have been acceptable unless seven honorable senators were named, so I included the names of Senator Arnold, Senator Byrne and Senator “Willesee without consulting the honorable senators concerned. I apologize to them for using their names without their consent. I want the Senate to understand clearly that I did so with no intention other than to make the motion valid. I had no intention even of suggesting what Opposition senators should serve on the proposed committee to consider the development of Canberra..
I do not intend to submit the motion in the form in which it stands on the noticepaper. I shall move that the committee consist of the mover, Senator Hannaford, Senator Vincent, Senator Wood and three other honorable senators to be named in writing, or in whatever way the Senate at the time may think proper, by the Leader of the Opposition. In these circumstances, the selection of Opposition senators to serve on the committee would be left, as I intended originally, in the hands of the Opposition. It has been impossible for me to consult with the Leader of the Opposition because, until we know whether the Senate will agree to the motion I proposed some time ago, we cannot arrange the composition of the committee. If I have offended in any way against good taste or been in any way offensive to the Senate or any honorable senator, I apologize.
– I address a question to you, Mr. President. I crave your indulgence and that of the Senate to make an explanation, so that the question will be understood. I’ have read in reports of the proceedings of the Parliament that within the last few days a Whip in another place was called to order by the Speaker for going into the corridors and advising his colleagues that a division was about to take place. According to the reports, he was warned that he should not do so. In view of the highly contentious nature of the debates that take place in this House, I seek a ruling from the Chair, not only for my own safety, but also for the safety of any estimable colleague, Senator Annabelle Rankin, whom I have not consulted on this matter. If the Senate calls for a division, if Senator Annabelle Rankin presents herself at the door on the Government side of the chamber and informs her colleagues in the corridor that a division is to take place, and if yours truly, who always likes to keep out of trouble, presents himself at the door on the Opposition side of the chamber and advises his colleagues that a division is about to take place, would such action earn your displeasure, Mr. President? I have perused the Standing Orders to the best of my ability, but I can find no reference in them to this matter. You will readily understand that neither the Government Whip nor I wish to offend in any way. Your ruling on this matter would prevent Senator Annabelle Rankin and me from incurring the displeasure of the Acting Leader of the Government in the Senate and myself from incurring the displeasure of the Leader of the Opposition.
– I have not seen the reports to which the honorable senator has referred. What is done in the House of Representatives by Mr. Speaker is completely within his own province, and is done in the exercise of his own good judgment of the manner in which the affairs of the House should be conducted. Parliament House is very well provided with division bells which Ting distinctly throughout the building. In addition, coloured lights indicate in which House a division is being held. Generally speaking, I think it is agreed that honorable senators receive adequate warning of a division. I do not think it is necessary for the party Whips to hurry out into the corridors to call honorable senators into the chamber and I hope that they will not resort to such tactics.’
– The opening yesterday by His Excellency the GovernorGeneral of the Radium Hill uranium mine in South Australia has again focussed attention on the fact that the ore from that mine will have to be transported to the seaboard at Port Pirie along an ancient and honorable 3-f t. 6-in. gauge railway. Can the Minister for Shipping and Transport say what stage has been readied in the negotiations for the conversion of this line to standard gauge? I should like to know also what is being done about the purchase from the Silverton Tramway Company of the stretch of line between Silverton and Broken Hill Hill.
– Only preliminary negotiations have taken place, and in view of the shortage of men, materials and money, I think it may be some time before it will be possible for me to make n concrete recommendation to the Government.
– Has ‘the attention of the Minister acting for the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs been drawn to the serious allegation made in the House of Representatives by the honorable member for East Sydney about the black-marketing of Scotch whisky, imported duty-free for the Soviet Embassy ? Can the Minister say whether duty-free importations of Scotch whisky have been abnormal in recent years ? “Will the Minister have this matter investigated immediately and report back to the Senate ?
– I regret that I am not in a position to answer the honorable senator’s question as I have no knowledge of what has been said in the House of Representatives, nor have I heard previously of the allegations implied in the honorable senator’s question. If the honorable senator will frame his question in moderate terms and put it on the notice-paper, I shall obtain for him whatever information is available.
– Is the Government aware of the growing discontent that is being made manifest by the Premiers of the claimant States with the formula used by the Commonwealth Grants Commission to fix Commonwealth grants to those States? Will the Government consider the views that are being expressed, and take particular note of the opinions expressed by the Hobart Mercury on Tuesday the 9th November, with a view to improving the formula now used to assess the yearly grants made by the Australian Government to the claimant States ?
– I shall refer the matter that has been raised by the honorable senator to the Prime Minister, who is acting for the Treasurer. So far, the States have much to be thankful for in the way of grants that have been made to them. An improvement or revision of the formula under which the grants are made is a matter of Government policy. I assure the honorable senator that the matter will be examined.
asked the Minister acting for the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
What amount has been advanced each year to the Western Australian Government since the commencement of the States Grants (Encouragement of Meat Production ) Act for (a) stock routes and roads, and (6) bores and other waters ?
– The following information is supplied in. reply to the honorable senator’s question: -
Under the States Grants (Encouragement of Meat Production) Act 1940-1954, advances totalling £423,000 were made to the Government of Western Australia up to the 30th Tune, 1054. Out of these advances the State incurred expenditure as follows: -
Since the 30th June, 1954, a further £70.000 has been advanced to the State.
– During the debate upon the Estimates for the Department of the Army, I referred to compensation for death, invalidity, accidents and sickness of army trainees. The Minister representing the Minister for the Army stated then that he would secure from the Minister for the Army a report concerning the delay in meeting the compensation claim of a trainee named Luscombe in connexion with his treatment in the Dawes-road Repatriation General Hospital for an illness that was contracted at the Woodside Military Camp in South Australia. Will the Minister representing the Minister for the Army state whether he is able now to give further particulars with regard to that matter? If not, when can I expect to obtain further information from the Minister ?
– I remember the honorable senator referring to this matter during the debate on the Estimates. I thought that he would have the information by now. As he has not received it, I ask the honorable senator to put his question on the notice-paper, and I shall obtain a reply for him.
– Has the Minister acting for the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture read a statistical report on Pakistan which revealed a decline of milk production coupled with an increased civilian demand ? Has the Minister noted also that the Pakistan army is seeking a new source of supply of butter, and will require about 500 tons a month ? In view of the accumulation of dry whole milk in Australia, has the trade development section of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture fully explored the possibility of exporting that commodity to Pakistan where there is a growing demand for it?
– The matter to which the honorable senator has referred is under active consideration by the Department of Commerce and Agriculture and Australian trade representatives in Pakistan. One of our problems is to compete against what might be termed the dumping of surplus products that are highly subsidized from other countries. I assure the honorable senator that everything possible is being done in this matter.
– Some weeks ago, a statement was made in the Senate that £10,000,000 was being spent by the Australian Government in Queensland. Will the Minister for National Development inform the Senate upon what projects that money is being expended, and what projects are contemplated ?
– I am sorry that I have no recollection of the statement that the Australian Government was spending a specific amount of money in Queensland. I do not know from where the statement to which the honorable senator has referred emanated.
– I shall obtain it and supply it to the Minister.
– If the honorable senator would like a. dissertation on the amount of money that the Australian Go vernment is spending or making available to the Queensland Government for its developmental works, and would like me to compare the amount that is being made available by this Government with the sum that was provided by previous governments, I shall be happy to oblige him. However, such a dissertation would occupy more time than is availa.ble at question time.
– Some time ago, I addressed a question to the Minister for National Development regarding the practicability of importing softwood timbers from British East Africa. If the Minister has not had an opportunity to obtain a reply, will he give me an assurance that I shall receive a reply during the parliamentary recess?
– I shall be glad to accede to the honorable senator’s request.
– I wish to ask the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral whether the Government will consider the recommendation of the Broadcasting Control Board to speed up the introduction of frequency modulation services. The board has stated that frequency modulation broadcasting should supplement existing medium frequency broadcasting in order to provide more radio channels and better reception. As the national and B class stations have failed to give a service which is free from interference, will the Government treat the matter as urgent and give it priority over the provision of television?
– I noticed a report of the recommendation to which the honorable senator has referred. I shall bring the matter to the notice of the Postmaster-General, who is well-informed on these matters, and obtain a considered reply as soon as possible.
– Will the Minister representing the Prime Minister examine the assurance that was given to me by the Minister for Repatriation in the Senate on the 28th October to the effect that the possibility of allowing appeals from decisions under section 55 of the Public Service Act, under which penalties of £2 or less may be imposed, would be reviewed at a meeting of the Joint Council of Public Service Organizations with the Public Service Board in November of this year. Has that meeting yet taken place ? If so, when did it take place and where? Was the said question included in the agenda for the meeting? Has any decision been reached in the matter ?
– I shall bring that matter to the notice of the Prime Minister. I am not sure that I shall be able to obtain a reply before the Senate adjourns, but if I receive it later than that I shall have it posted to the honorable senator.
– On the 9th November, Senator Benn asked the following question : -
Is the Minister representing the Minister for Health aware that organizations known as the Commonwealth Health Benefits of Australia Limited, and the Commonwealth Hospital and Medical Benefits Limited operate in Queensland ? Will the Minister investigate the operations of these two companies in Queensland and inform me what health, medical and hospital benefits they lawfully are required to grant to their members?
The reply to the honorable senator’s question is as follows : -
The Minister for Health informs me that these two companies are actively engaged in health insurance in Queensland. They provide medical, hospital, dental and optical benefits to contributors. Neither of these companies is registered under the National Health Act and their members do not receive the medical benefits or the additional hospital benefits provided under the Government’s health scheme. The benefits that they do provide “are a matter of internal management. Criticism of these two companies was recently voiced in the Queensland State Parliament and I understand the State Government is at present investigating their activities.
– On the 20th October, Senator Anderson asked the following question : -
Has the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Health been directed to yet another report, which appeared in to-day’s
Sydney press, in which a veterinary surgeon has expressed some doubt about the efficacy of the tick serum ? Is the Minister aware that the veterinary surgeon concerned has suggested that the serum may be ineffective because it is produced improperly from non-potent ticks? Will the Minister ask the Department of Health to consider the criticisms that have been made of the serum and issue a considered statement on the matter?
The Minister for Health has furnished the following reply: -
The Minister for Health is having a considered statement prepared on this matter and -will furnish the statement to the honorable senator as soon as practicable.
– Can the Minister acting for the Minister for Trade and Customs say whether it is a fact that the Government of Ceylon increased the export duty on tea by 15 cents per lb., making a total of 75 cents per lb., effective from midnight on the 23rd September last, and that the Government of India announced that, as from the 1st October last, the export duty on tea would be increased from 4 annas to 7 annas per lb? Is it also a fact that these increases caused little or no surprise and that, in fact, it was thought that the increases would be even greater ? Is it true that the increased rates of duty did not operate in respect of orders which had been placed, and which would be shipped before the 31st October? If that is so, will the Minister ascertain the steps, if any, which the Tea Control Board took, through . its representatives abroad, to purchase tea for the Australian market, since it was common knowledge that those increases would take place I also wish to know the quantity of tea, if any, that was purchased on behalf of the Tea Control Board, and the manner in which it was disposed of.
– I am aware that there was an increase of the export tax on tea from Ceylon, which became operative comparatively recently. I had not heard previously that such an increase also had been made by India. The imposition of such a tax is a part of the policy of the exporting countries, to which we in Australia cannot object. In reply to the remainder of the honorable senator’s question, I have no reason to doubt the business acumen of the Tea Control Board and its agents. I think that, in the circumstances, they would have done what was the correct business thing to do.
– “Would the Minister kindly ascertain what they, in fact, did?
– Some time ago, the Government decided to appoint a committee of investigation into the beef air lift in Queensland. Can the Minister for National Development say whether that committee has been appointed and, if so, whether it has commenced its labours? If not, can the Minister inform me when it will commence its work, as this is a very important matter to the people of Queensland?
– The panel has been constituted and already has held its first sitting. It has also made arrangements for a series of further sittings immediately the Parliament rises.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The Minister for Health has now furnished the following reply:- 1 and 2. Reports received by my department from the Department of Public Health of Western Australia indicate that the incidence of trachoma in the native and white population of Western Australia is as stated by the honorable senator. A similar incidence in natives has been found by the Northern Territory Medical Service in areas adjacent to the Western Australian border.
asked the Minister acting for the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows : -
asked the Minister acting for the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable senator’s questions is as follows : -
I invite the attention of the honorable senator to the reply which I made on the 26th October, 1954, to a question asked by Senator Laught. The position “is still as stated in that reply. I may add that there are some, but not many, wool-growers who made contracts with dealers which provided that any profits accruing after the wool had been appraised would remain the property of the growers. The firm referred to in part 3 of the honorable senator’s question is known to me. I am not aware, however, that this firm has made statements in recent times regarding the attitude it will adopt towards holding the profits in question if the Poulton case is finally resolved in favour of the dealers. I have arranged for the Australian Wool Realization Commission to approach all dealers known to it as having made contracts of the type described in part .1 of the honorable senator’s question, and to endeavour to secure their agreement for the distribution of the profits concerned to wool -growers as soon as possible.
asked the Minister for National Development, upon notice -
Has the Western Australian Government made any request to his department, or through his department, to have steel plate, for use in the construction of the Western Australian comprehensive water scheme, accorded a priority over steel plate for other government works or private undertakings in Western Australia ?
– The answer to the honorable senator’s question is as follows : -
The Western Australian Government has not made a request to my department that steel plate for the Western Australian comprehensive water scheme Ira accorded a priority over steel plate required for other purposes in Western Australia. The Commonwealth, however, has no control over the distribution of materials within Australia and could not, therefore, accord a priority to a particular project even if requested to do so.
asked the Minister for National Development, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows : -
Manufacturers of steel in Australia are -
The quantities imported are set out in the reply to question 4.
Senator ARMSTRONG (through
SenatorCritchley) asked the Acting Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice -
Now that the Commonwealth no longer has any financial interest in Commonwealth Oil Refineries will the Minister inform the Senate what method is now used to allocate the Commonwealth’s petrol and oil requirements ?
In the contracts already placed, will the Minister provide the following information: -
what companies have received contracts for petrol and oil in each State; and (6) what are the overall Commonwealth percentage allocations to each company supplying petrol and oil?
The method of purchasing the Commonwealth’s petroleum requirements varies according to the type of product. The information requiredby the honorable senator is therefore given under the following main headings : -
Motor transport lubricating oils and greases ;
) Aviation gasoline, turbine fuel and lubricating oil; and
Other petroleum products.
Motor Transport Lubricating Oils and Greases.
Contracts for the supply of these products are arranged by the Contract Board of the Department of Supply. Competitive public tenders are invited and the allocation of the contracts is decided on the following basis: -
The lowest tender for products com plying with the standard required is accepted, or
If all tenders are equal, as is often the case, the tender of the present contractor is accepted providing he has given satisfaction; otherwise as a general rule the lowest tender is accepted, subject to the tenderer having satisfactorily performed previous contracts.
If all tenders are equal, but none of the tenderers has previously contracted with the Board, preference is given to the tender first opened, or should tenders be received in more than one State the acceptance is decided by ballot. 2. (a) and (b) The overall Commonwealth percentage in value of contracts allocated to each company supplying motor transport lubricating oils during the past two years is as follows : -
A considerable amount of work would be involved in extracting particulars of the requirements in each State separately. The broad position is as follows: - New South Wales, 44 per cent.; Victoria, 44 per cent.; all other States, 12 per cent. (ft) Aviation Gasoline, Turbine Fuel 100 and Lubricating Oil.
Aviation Gasoline. - The three major companies, which are still the only source of supply in Australia tendered the same price, and contracts were awarded them in equal proportions. The new contracts for 1954-56 were accepted on a tendered price basis, however, in place of the former cost-plus profit formula. Estimated total value of aviation gasoline contracts for the threeyear period is £3,500,000.
Aviation Turbine Fuel 100, and Aviation Lubricating Oils. - Due to the impossibility of completing new contract arrangements by the 1st January, 1954, the three major companies continued to supply these requirements during the first six months of 1954. For the remaining two and a half years of the period, however, the substantially lower tender of H. C. Sleigh Limited was accepted for the supply of aviation turbine fuel and lubricating oil in all States. The value of the contracts placed with this company is as follows: - Aviation turbine fuel 100, £2,750,000; aviation lubricating oil, £120,000. 2. (a) and (b) For aviation fuel and oil requirements the distribution between the States is broadly as follows: -
Other Petroleum Products.
Tender Board of the Department of the Treasury publicly invites tenders each year for the supply of petrol, power and illuminating kerosene, diesel fuel, diesel distillate, furnace oil, benzol, benzoline, range fuel and industrial solvent to all Commonwealth departments. The policy of the board is to accept the lowest suitable offer. On the last occasion on which tenders were invited the nine tenders which were lodged contained identical prices for all except a. few minor items. The quality of the products offered by all companies was comparable but after examining the tenders and fully considering all the factors, the board decided that it was not to the Commonwealth’s advantage to extend its contracts beyond five suppliers. 2. (a) -
New South Wales. - Shell Company (Australia) Proprietary Limited, Vacuum Oil Company Proprietary Limited, Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, Caltex Oil (Australia) Proprietary Limited, and Atlantic Union Oil Company Limited
Victoria. - Shell Company (Australia) Proprietary Limited, Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, Caltex Oil (Australia) Proprietary Limited, and Atlantic Union Oil Company Limited
Queensland. - Shell Company ( Australia ) Proprietary Limited, Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, and Caltex Oil (Australia) Proprietary Limited
South Australia. - Shell Company (Australia) Proprietary Limited, Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, and Caltex Oil (Australia) Proprietary Limited
Western Australia. - Shell Company (Australia) Proprietary Limited, and Vacuum Oil Company Proprietory Limited
Tasmania. - Shell Company (Australia) Proprietary Limited, Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, and Caltex Oil (Australia) Proprietary Limited
Northern Territory. - Shell Company (Australia) Proprietary Limited, and Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited
– I lay on the table the report of the Tariff Board on the following subject: -
The board’s report is a somewhat voluminous document. In the main, it traverses the question whether assistance should be accorded the production of basic copper in Australia. The board has found that there would appear to be no need, on the basis of evidence tendered at the inquiry, to impose duties or employ public funds in the form of bounty pay ments so long as producers of basic copper can obtain a price of £250 a ton or more for their copper. On unrefined copper, duty-free admission from all sources is recommended by the board. On refined copper, a duty of £4 a ton on copper from all sources is recommended. These coppers, whether refined or unrefined, have been admitted for some considerable time free of duty from all sources, under by-law provision of the tariff.
There are, however, several issues associated with this report which the Government feels warrant careful examination. That examination is being made, but there is not enough time to determine the issues before the close of the present sittings of the Parliament. Moreover, the industry is anxious to know the outcome of the board’s report as early as possible and is pressing for its release. In the light of those considerations, the Government has decided to table the report. The existing tariff position of copper and the existing practice in relation to exports of copper products from the Commonwealth, however, will not be disturbed until the issues arising from the board’s finding have been resolved by the Government.
Ordered to be printed.
– I present the following report of the Public Accounts Committee : -
Eighteenth Report - The form and content of the financial documents presented to the Parliament - Part I. - Budget Speech and Estimates.
– I present the first report of the Printing Committee.
Report read, and - by leave - adopted.
Debate resumed from the 10th November (vide page 1346), on motion by Senator McLeay -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– The circumstances of this debate are indeed of the utmost gravity. They illustrate the strategic position occupied by the Waterside Workers Federation, inasmuch as it is able to strangle the interstate and overseas trade of our ports. Nobody in the Commonwealth Parliament, I believe, will fail to realize the grave danger of the industrial disruption which threatens the country at the instance of an organization which has gone on strike in anticipation of amendments to the Australian Stevedoring Act. I believe that everybody on this side of the chamber is deeply conscious of the likely effects of this industrial trouble and of the misery and hardship that a prolonged strike would bring to the homes of thousands of Australians. There was no need for the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) to emphasize that last night. But it is deplorable indeed that whilst the leader of the Labour party in the lower House has actually incited and encouraged the strikers, the leader of the same party in the Senate should use the occasion to urge the Government to surrender to the claims of the strikers. I believe that such advocacy in this place on such an issue is completely mischievous. The issue is not an industrial issue, lt is solely a constitutional issue, and a constitutional issue of the highest importance.
One further comment I should like to make before I proceed to discuss the bill is this : Last night, Senator McKenna said that his information was that the executive of the Waterside Workers Federation consisted of 25 men, of whom only five were Communists. He also said that the federation had about 27,000 members, including approximately 4,000 ex-servicemen. The honorable senator said to the Senate, in effect, “ Surely, you do not believe that the executive of the federation is susceptible to Communist influence, or that the whole of the union is Communist”. Either by inadvertence or by design, the honorable senator revealed that he had not learned the elementary lesson of Communist tactics, because the fact is that wherever communism, holds power to-day, it holds that power through a minority. It is with the aid of the instruments of deception and duress that the Communists are able to win influence with the masses of the people and, in this instance, with members of the Waterside Workers Federation, many of whom are conscious of their responsibilities to their families and the nation and are earnestly anxious to resume work. It is because of .the key positions that the Communists hold in the federation, and the aid which those who find it easy to propagate the Communist philosophy have given to the executive, that we are in danger of seeing another great union fall to the Communists, and create industrial disruption throughout the Commonwealth, as did the Miners Federation in 1949.
It is remarkable how the course of events in the Commonwealth to-day parallels that of the coal strike of 1949. Yet the Leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition in the Senate counsels the Government to postpone urgent and overdue legislation so that we may escape the unjustified threat of the Waterside Workers Federation to bring the nation to a state of industrial chaos if Parliament proceeds to do what, in its judgment, should be done in the interests of the people. In 1949, the Coal Industry Tribunal indicated that it was about to make a determination upon an application by the miners for a 35-houT week. Before the determination was announced, the miners federation went on strike. I shall quote now from observations by the then Prime Minister, Mr. Chifley, on the 3rd July, 1949. He said-
The nation is to-night facing a grave crisis . . . The Coal Industry Tribunal was set up at the express wish of the miners federation to determine industrial disputes in the mining industry. At a later stage, other unions associated with the mining industry also requested that their industrial disputes should be determined by the Chairman of the Coal Industry Tribunal. In the face of these facts, it is a wholly unreasonable and unjustifiable repudiation of the arbitration system on the part of the miners’ unions.
Mr. McGirr and I have said ; and I repeat it to-night: This matter can be settled only by the proper arbitral tribunal - that is the Coal Industry Tribunal - and not in any other way . . .
The whole economic and social life of the nation is approaching complete disruption. Living conditions are for many becoming completely intolerable and unemployment will be - and indeed now is - widespread . . .
At the conclusion of the strike, on the 14th August, Mr. Chifley said these significant words -
I am sure that I speak for the people of Australia when I offer to the members of the defence services - particularly the Army - the nation’s thanks for their skill and efficiency in manning the open-cut mines and producing much-needed coal. Naval personnel have their services in carrying out important work and members of the Royal Australian Air Force played a very valuable part.
The people will naturally want to know what the future holds. The privations suffered during the period of this coal strike were keenly felt by many individuals. The loss suffered by the nation was severe. Australia’s future, her expansion and development about which I have spoken so often, depend largely on ample supplies of coal.
This is the significant paragraph that the Labour party to-day and recently has rejected -
I say to the members of the miners federation that they have now learned what the disruptive tactics of the Communist section of their leaders can mean. I ask miners to remember that, apart altogether from the attack this section made on Australia, these men were reckless about the welfare of the federation itself. It is in the hands of the rank and file of the federation to rid themselves of this influence. It in also in the hands of the rank and file to produce regularly the quantity of coal to which our country is entitled.
In that campaign the government of the day, seized with national responsibilities, had the unswerving support of the Opposition that was then led by the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). There is a marked contrast between the situations then and now. Whereas the Opposition on that occasion realized its national responsibility, the Labour Opposition to-day is exploiting this pending industrial chaos, simply for the purpose of embarrassing the Government. That has been proved by the failure of the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate last night to make any attempt to argue the proposition. The Opposition has failed completely to show that any industrial dispute has arisen with regard to this matter, or that there could be the slightest pretext or justification for the actions of the Waterside Workers Federation in challenging the actions of this Parliament.
Honorable senators will remember that the coal strike was brought upon this country in June, 1949. On the 19th May, 1949,, Messrs. Healy and Roach were sacked by the Chifley Labour Government from the Stevedoring Industry Commission. Not more than one month after that, the allies of those two men in the coal industry saw fit to produce the chaos to which I have referred. Those two men are now the general secretary and the assistant general secretary of the Waterside Workers Federation. They came into contempt of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration at that time, and suffered the penalties of that court during the coal strike itself. Therefore, one moment’s reflection upon the industrial chaos that hit this country during the coal strike should lead every member of this Parliament to discharge his national responsibilities and oppose industrial disruption with every influence at his command.
Last night, Senator McKenna claimed that the people rejected the Chifley Labour Government in the December following the coal strike because of its action in connexion with that dispute. That is not so. I have just reminded honorable senators how Healy and Roach had been members of the Stevedoring Industry Commission since 1947. That fact indicates what extensive influence the Communists were encouraged to exert throughout the country by the present Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) for many years preceding 1949. The coal strike exemplified the way in which that influence could culminate to destroy the nation. The people saw the significance of that gradual trend over a number of years on which Dr. Evatt had had an influence. They showed at the polls that they were alive to the significance of that growth, and they rejected the Labour Government.
The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) is being accused in some places of provocative action. Other sections are asking him to hold his hand. For a period of five years since this Government took office, the Minister has been in constant consultation with the Waterside Workers Federation and with other interests associated with the stevedoring industry. He has applied all his skill, and shown unexampled patience in dealing with the contesting elements in that industry. He has been made the victim of Communist tactics of promising and repudiating promises, and, in exasperation, has finally reached a determination to introduce one section of his programme of reform. Further delay of legislation affecting the recruitment of labour for the waterfront industry would be completely inexcusable, and would expose the whole community to the loss of effort that has been sadly displayed on the waterfront ever since the current system was instituted.
I turn now specifically to the issue raised by this bill. To make my approach clear, I wish to explain to the Senate my understanding of the structure that prevails now in the stevedoring industry. The cardinal fact is that a board was created by legislation passed through this Parliament. The board, known as the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board, had legal constitution by virtue of an act of the Parliament. Three members of the board are government nominees. The functions of the hoard are unique, extraordinary and anomalous when considered in relation to every other industry in Australia. The principle involved is a post-war continuance of an organization similar to the war-time man-power direction organization. It was retained by the socialist Labour Government at the conclusion of World War II. Some reference has been made during debates on these matters to a report that was prepared by the present Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia, Sir Owen Dixon, Sir Thomas Gordon and Mr. James Healy. That report was submitted to the Prime Minister of the day on the 6th March, 1942. I pause to emphasize the promptitude of the submission of the report on the 6th March, in response to a request that was made by the Prime Minister on the 3rd March.
The report stated that those concerned were requested, “ to recommend a plan for dealing with the emergency “. What emergency existed, when all our ports were being congested with American ships carrying servicemen and materials of war? The organization recommended in the report was referred to by the Attorney-
General (Senator Spicer) last night. It was constituted under national security regulations, and included representation of various interests. The organization, took charge of labour on the waterfront and of stores. So unfair and completely unworthy is it to quote this report asjustification for the functions and the methods that this bill seeks to amend, that I shall quote only one section from the report, which is truly characteristic of the perspicacity and wisdom of the chairman. After recommending the constitution of the organization, he proposed overriding provisions, one of which was the re-establishment at the end of hostilities of the conditions lawfully prevailing when the organization was established. That indicated that the proposal was a war-time measure which was not intended to operate during peacetime. The United Kingdom and New Zealand found it necessary, in the initial stage of the war, likewise to organize their waterfront industries. I wish that the Leader of the Opposition in another place would hearken to the words that he used with some sense of responsibility when, as Attorney-General, he introduced the Stevedoring Industry Bill in 1947. At page 123 of Ilansard of the 2lst February, 1947, the then AttorneyGeneral is reported as follows : -
Stevedoring operations constitute a vital part of sea transport and the costs of loading and unloading absorb a considerable proportion of freight charges. The costs of industrial dislocation in the conduct of stevedoring operations must inevitably be reflected in shipping freight charges.
At page 126 he is reported to have made the following statement : -
The commission will have the important power to determine quotas; that is, the number of waterside workers necessary for the working of any port, and to relate the number of registered workers to the quota which it determined. The importance of and the necessity for this power is evident when the effect of partial or total decasualization is considered.
Later on, the then Attorney-General said that provision for a rotary system of engagement was quite inconsistent with the refusal by employers to accept men allotted to them by employment bureaux under commission direction. According to the words of the then Attorney-General that I have quoted, the Stevedoring Industry Commission was constituted for the purpose of reducing stevedoring costs because he recognized that those costs were reflected in freight rates. The legislation that the Attorney-General introduced on that occasion constituted a commission consisting of two representatives of the Waterside Workers Federation, two representatives of management, and an independent chairman. The functions of that commission were arbitral as well as administrative. It had the jurisdiction to settle any disputes in the industry.
After the dismissal of Messrs. Roach and Healy in 1949, the present Leader of the Opposition in another place introduced another bill relating to the stevedoring industry. It is that legislation that the bill before the Senate seeks to amend. It was most significant that under the new legislation, a board took the place of the commission. Only administrative functions were left to the board under that legislation and the arbitral functions of the old commission were transferred back to the Arbitration Court. The new board had the power to regulate and control stevedoring operations. Its functions were to provide sufficient waterside workers for stevedoring operations in each port ; to ensure that the labour of waterside workers was used to the best advantage; and to establish and administer employment bureaux for waterside workers. Section 22 of that legislation gave the board power to determine quotas. Section 21 read as follows : -
Subject to the next preceding sub-section, the registration of a waterside worker under this Act shall be in the discretion of the Board.
But sub-section (7.), to which section 21 wag subject, read -
A waterside worker shall not be registered under this Act unless he is a member of the Federation.
No doubt Mr. Healy rejoiced in that novel provision, which I believe is unique in the industrial legislation of the world. Under it, the Government agency that was set up in order to regulate and control the industry was prohibited from recruiting labour that did not have membership in a particular organization.. In other words, the Waterside Workers Federation was given a complete monopoly of recruitment of waterside labour. The Stevedoring In dustry Board was set up at the instance of the federation, and for the purpose of benefiting the federation. Mr. Healy, Mr. Roach and their ilk were very conscious of the power that that gave them. Ostensibly, the Stevedoring Industry Board was in control of stevedoring operations, but, actually, if it were starved of labour by failure to recruit members to the federation it would be rendered completely impotent to fulfil its statutory functions. The slow squeeze could be applied by throttling operations in every port. The federation could refuse to permit the requisite number of men to be registered by the board.
This legislation was only administered for a few months during the term of office of the then Attorney-General because the new Government came to office in 1949. At the end of 1951, the present Government secured from Mr. Henry Basten a report on the whole matter. That report has been flaunted before this Parliament during the last week or two by Dr. Evatt as a splendid report. The only chastisement that the Government received by way of criticism was that the report had not been adopted. I am afraid that Dr. Evatt spoke too abruptly, perhaps having been briefed extempore by Mr. Healy on the night that he made his speech. I am sure that Dr. Evatt had not studied page 12 of the report, where Mr. Basten discussed very forcefully the organization of this industry and the effect of that organization on the efficiency of waterfront operations. Mr. Basten said -
The three elements concerned with stevedoring operations are the employers . . . the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board and the waterside workers. The employers direct, through supervisors and foremen, the work of the men and pay for it. Practical day-by-day functions of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board are to determine, by means of a roster, which men are to work each ship and to apply disciplinary measures to the men and to the employers when either, in the judgment of the board’s officers, may have offended against the performance of safe and speedy work. The men work the ships to which the board allocates them, under the direction of the employers and the disciplinary powers of the board. In Australia, as in any other democratic country, the fundamental relation between the employer and employed is one of contract. hie went on to say, with regard to recruitment -
The new recruit to the waterfront applies to a branch of the Waterside Workers Federation for membership of the branch. He is examined by the branch committee and, if he is considered suitable, his name is put forward for election by the whole branch. He also Has to undergo a medical examination which is arranged by the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board. Once he is elected a member of the federation, ho signs a document in which he undertakes to abide by the rules and objects of the federation and to submit to substantial pecuniary penalties if lie fails. His nunn; is then placed on a roster which is maintained by the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board and lie thereafter finds himself, when his turn on the roster crimes, in the hold of a ship working for a foreman whom he has probably never met. It is quite possible that he will not even know the name of the stevedoring company for which he is to work. When his first job is finished, he will find himself at another ship, very likely working for another foreman mid another stevedoring company. If at any time, lie is guilty of an offence for which he is to he punished, he will find that the punishment is meted out to him either by the Australian Stevedoring- Industry Board or by the Waterside Workers Federation. In these circumstances., it is not to be imagined that the man can feel he has any contractual relation with the succession of stevedoring companies who have been his employers and if he concludes that the employer in the industry is a legal fiction he may be very close to the truth. This is, indeed, casual employment and it is not surprising that the relations between employer and employee continue to be weak and mistrustful.
The report continued -
The organization of the industry thus permits the stevedore foremen to exercise little discipline and even less leadership in respect of the succession of men of whom they are in charge.
Mr. Basten said that the remnant of obedience which still remained was due to the fact that there was a substantial number of old habituees of the industry who were accustomed to taking the orders of the boss. He concluded with this arresting observation -
The men who have experience of this truism will, as the years go by, gradually retire from the industry and it is difficult to escape the conclusion that with their departure the authority of the foremen will diminish still further and the industry will reach a pass in which it will become all but impossible for management to carry out this important part of its functions. The picture is sombre, and it: is certain that action to prevent further deterioration ought not to be delayed.
That was Mr. Basten’s report in January, 1952. “We are asked to listen with respect to those who say that thislegislation in November, 1954, which is designed to remedy that situation, should be delayed, despite the fact that Mr. Basten said that the picture was a sombre one and that it was certain that action toprevent further deterioration ought not to be delayed.
I submit, therefore, that the situation is that we have a report which has been accepted by the Opposition. That report urged, nearly three years ago, that legislation of this character should be introduced. Now that the Minister is asking for the passage of legislation with regard’ to one item, members of the Opposition who can find it in their hearts to defend delay and procrastination at the expense of the community advocate the deferment of such legislation. They forget that the Minister has deferred the introduction of legislation concerning many other matters connected with the industry, in order to await the outcome of an inquiry which is to be held at the express request of an organization which takes a substantial and bona fide interest in the industry. I refer to the Australian Council of Trades Unions. I remind honorable senators that the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board, when reporting to this Parliament in June, 195i, stated, with regard to labour quotas, that the union enjoyed the unique privilege of a monopoly of waterside work. That is the expression which the board used. It went on to say that the act provided the board with no means of forcing the federation to recruit labour. It also said -
Thus, because the unions subverted the interlocking principles of the legislation and awards, the port quota, system virtually collapsed in a number of important ports during 1950 and 1051.
I propose to refer to the position at some of the most important ports, as far as port quotas are concerned. In the appendices of the various annual reports of the board, honorable senators will find statements concerning port quotas and the number of registered personnel which the federation has fed to the board, pursuant to this monopoly power. They will note a significant continuance of the frustrating action of the federation year after year in respect of quotas for a number of important ports. The number of men who have been prompted to apply for registration with the federation has been significantly below the port quotas which have been established and determined by the board as reasonable. I forbear to make further reference to Port Kembla, because the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) dealt with that port adequately last night. The Adelaide branch is still 9S short of the quota figure. That branch has a continuous record of resistance to quota orders, since the quota was first established in 1942.
– “Was labour available at that time?
– I suggest that the honorable senator should use his judgment. He should read Mr. Bishop’s report, which was made in 1950, the reports of the Australian .Stevedoring Industry Board, which are made year after year, and figures concerning the emoluments that may be earned on the waterfront. The Adelaide position has reached the stage where certain overseas vessels now by-pass the port, because the owners do not wish to sustain the expense involved in unloading and. loading there. In Newcastle, the branch membership is 150 short of the quota figure. The branch has taken no action to recruit new members, despite continual pressure on it to do so. The registered strength has been below the quota figure since March.. The Hobart branch has not honoured an undertaking that was given by Mr. Healy on the 14th June last, that membership would be brought up to the quota figure of 670. There is a deficiency of 76 in Hobart. I am informed that the deficiency in Fremantle is 117, and that no steps have been taken to correct that situation. In Melbourne, the deficiency is 62, and the annual leave roster has been cancelled three times this year because of the failure of the branch to. recruit the necessary labour. In the face of that series of despicable repudiations by the federation, in abuse of its monopoly right to recruit and make labour available for registration, in order that it can be employed on the waterfront, how could the Parliament defer this amendment any longer? The Minister, far from being hasty or precipitate with regard to this legislation, has exposed himself to a charge that he has been too tardy and too patient altogether, in the hope that industrial peace might come by his continued and undoubtedly skilful efforts at conciliation. Therefore, I believe that there will be a considerable body of conviction amongst honorable senators opposite, whatever arguments they advance, that the Government must stand firm on this legislation, so that it cannot be accused of timidity, on the one hand, or provocativeness on the other hand. As four or five years of strenuous efforts at conciliation have failed to redress that unworthy history, the Government is now obliged, in the interests of the community, to see that this aspect of the matter is remedied.
The trouble on the waterfront is not an industrial dispute. There is no industrial basis in the provision to say that a government board shall not register a man as qualified for waterfront employment until his application has been recommended by a prospective employer. There is nothing in the provision which can be regarded as the basis for an industrial dispute. This Parliament, which created the board by legislation, and gave it power, in its discretion, to register men, is the only authority that should have power to amend or repeal that legislation if it so wishes. If we reached the situation that the Leader of the Opposition referred to last night, in which a dispute between the federation and the Parliament with regard to the passage of legislation had to be submitted to arbitration, we would be recreant to the traditions of parliamentary government that we have come here to discharge.
Let us consider the sequence of events. An employer recommends to the board an application that has been submitted by a certain man for registration. The board then, in its discretion, after referring the application to the federation, and considering any objection that the federation may express, may register the man for employment. That registered man may never see that employer again throughout the whole of his working life. It depends on the accident of whether he is rostered by the Government board into a gang under the control of the foreman of that employer. Senator Byrne wags his head. If he disputes that proposition, it is better that his head should drop off, because the situation is quite obvious. The allocation of men to work under foremen of the various employers is made by the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board. Consequently, an employer who has recommended the recruitment of a certain applicant may never see him again during the whole of his stevedoring life.
It is, to me, a matter of sadness that there are members of the Senate who not only echo opposition to the measure, but also would foster the disruption that has been threatened by the federation. But they accept the proposal to institute an inquiry. Upon that matter, Mr. Holt declared in the House of Representatives last night that, although he was sufficiently informed on the industry, in view of doubts and differences that had arisen, he thought it desirable to establish an independent tribunal. This is another instance of the infinite patience that he is prepared to display with regard to this industry. It negatives the pretentious appeal that has been made to us by the other side to defer certain clauses of the legislation and allow the passage only of those which provide for the inquiry. I ask the Senate to believe that, in these circumstances, there is not created any industrial issue, in the real sense. The issue is a constitutional one of supreme importance, because an industrial organization is challenging the authority of the Parliament itself. I ask the Senate to recognize Communist tactics in that approach, and not to admit the propriety of Communist leadership in the unions. Honorable senators opposite should heed the advice that Mr. Chifley gave to the miners, at the conclusion of the coal strike, that they should avail themselves of the industrial legislation that Australia has provided in plenty in order to adjudicate on industrial disputes. Honorable senators opposite should give to industrial organized labour such leadership as will avoid misery and chaos, and they should not succumb to the temptation to sneak a contemptible political advantage by creating difficulty for the Government. They have a national duty to see that any threat to constituted authority is repulsed, as the previous Labour Government did in June of 1949, when it determined that the Coal Industry Tribunal would not be undermined by industrial disruption.
– If the opinions expressed by Senator Wright are shared by his colleagues, there is no longer any doubt that the Government represents the shipowners, or the shipping combine, of this country. Even in quoting from documents, the honorable senator would not give credit, no matter how slight, to the waterside workers. He refrained from mentioning an important statement in the foreword of the Basten report. Mr. Basten said -
The principal causes of delays to ships lie in the inadequacy of many berths in the ports, in the halting pace at which goods are removed from or brought to wharfs and in the industrial practices of the stevedoring industry. For the sake of clarity these matters are discussed separately, but it should not be overlooked that it is common for all three to be exercising their adverse influences simultaneously; equally common for two of them to be at work and less common for one to be the sole cause of slow turn-round.
We know that Senator Wright has a conservative mind, but having regard to his legal knowledge, it was to be expected that even he would be generous enough to make some reference to statements in reports that favour, however slightly, the waterside workers of this country. He went to some pains to make quotations in support of his arguments, but he failed to mention a most important factor in this turbulent industry. It is the most turbulent industry in this country. Turbulence on the waterfront is not limited to Australia, because there is continual disputation and disruption in the waterside industry of every country. There was a strike on the waterfront in Great Britain only a few weeks ago, and British goods destined for Australia were held up in Great Britain. The Basten report suggested some remedies for the turbulence of the industry. The waterside industry does not offer stable employment, nor does any other industry in which the workers are employed on. a casual basis. Mr. Basten stated -
It is important that the social status and security of the waterside worker should bp the equal of that of other workers in thu great Australian industries.
Senator Wright and his colleagues would deny that status and security to the waterside workers. Mr. Basten continued -
The waterside worker’s employment should, therefore, be rewarded in the same way as in the majority of those industries. He should, in particular, have the same kind of security in his earnings and should, therefore, be paid on a weekly basis. To achieve this in an industry subject to the fluctuations of work which characterize the stevedoring industry is not particularly easy. Those fluctuations, however, would be removed, as far as it itpossible to remove them, by the adoption of the proposal that when a stevedoring company lias more work than its average, it sh 0111. share the excess with those which happen, for the time being, to have less. The waterside worker himself should receive a guaranteed minimum weekly wage aud should attend for work daily. That is to say, whenever a man’s earnings in any week should fall below the guaranteed figure, because there has been insufficient work for htm, he should be paid the guaranteed figure.
Senator Wright, in a speech lasting for three-quarters of an hour, did not utter a single word about that proposal. He devoted most of his time to maligning the waterside workers.
It is evident that this legislation flows from a report on the alleged factors that influence stevedoring costs in Australia, issued by the Australian Overseas Transport Association on the 12th August, 1954. That document was sent to every member of the Parliament and was circulated throughout Australia. It was prepared with the object of supporting a point of view to be presented to the Menzies Government by the Australian and overseas shipping combine. It is completely misleading, because it endeavours to convey the impression that it represents the views of the producers, importers and exporters of this country. The practices employed by the shipowners are at least consistent, and in the technique used in this report they are running true to form. In their endeavours to find an answer to the justifiable public demand for a reduction of freight charges, the shipowners have no hesitation in attempting to place upon the workers in the waterfront industry the responsibility for the outrageous increases of freight charges that have taken place, particularly since the MenziesFadden coalition took office. They are endeavouring to place the responsibility for those increases solely on the workers in the industry. Honorable senators remember that only a short time ago a proposed 10 per cent, increase of freight charges was condemned even by members of this Government. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) condemned the increase and said it would impede the sale abroad of the primary products of this country. The attitude of the Minister for Commerce aud Agriculture was in direct conflict with that of the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay), who, until I heard Senator Wright’s speech to-day, I thought was the sole representative of the shipping combine in this chamber. The Minister for Shipping and Transport attempted to justify the increase. He had to do so, because he represents the wealthy shipping companies in this chamber.
The attitude of the Australian Overseas Transport Association is amazing. Its failure to authenticate any of the points raised by the shipowners is alarming. Its members admit that their lack of knowledge of the industry prevents them from making a determination on the suggestions and recommendations made by the shipping companies. The report issued by the association is the result of a conference that was convened in 1929 by the then Prime Minister, Mr. S. M. Bruce. Honorable senators will remember him. He was a conservative Prime Minister, famous for his spats. At the conference, leading representatives of Australian commerce, representatives of shipowers in Australia and some representatives of shipowners in London discussed ways and means to reduce shipowners’ costs in order to avoid the threatened increase of freight rates. As a result of the conference, the Australian Overseas Transport Association was formed. It consisted of representatives of exporters, importers, producers and shipowners. In January, 1954 - 25 years later - a meeting of the council of the association was held, at which a number of visiting
British and continental shipowners were present. They made a survey of the progress of the association over the years and considered its future. They passed the following resolution: -
Because the cost of stevedoring is of such importance in freight rates and because of the necessity of making the strongest representations to the Commonwealth, it is recommended that the executive prepare a documented case for consideration by this council for submission to the Prime Minister.
Those are the grounds on which I base my contention that the legislation before the Senate at present flows from the report issued by the Australian Overseas Transport Association on the 12th August, 1954. The report states in a very significant paragraph -
At its meeting on the 6th August, the council of this association received the report prepared by shipowners’ representatives.
The organization is supposed to represent producers, importers, exporters and shipowners. The council received the report prepared by the shipowners’ representatives and decided to forward the report - prepared, I repeat, by the shipowners’ representatives - to the Prime Minister and also to give it wide circulation in order to acquaint, to use the words of the report, “ responsible people in Australia of the trend in the industry “. The report stated further -
My council believes that wasteful practices disclosed in this report help to increase living costs and reduce the value to Australia of her exports.
On page 15 of the document, there are some recommendations that refer solely to waterfront activities. There are four recommendations and a note at the bottom of the page states -
Because some members of the Exporters’. Oversea Transport Committee felt they did not know enough about the functions of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board, the Council did not make any determination in regard to the foregoing recommendations.
What an admission! Here is a committee, allegedly representing the importers, exporters and the producers in this country saying that it has not sufficient knowledge to make any determination in connexion with the recommendations that are being sent on to the Government. What an outrageous position! That is the advice on which the Government has presented this legislation to the Parliament. The bill is in three parts. Part I. is headed “ Preliminary “, and Part II. contains the amendments to the Stevedoring Industry Act. Part III. provides for the committee of inquiry. That inquiry is most important. That committee is to be a fact-finding committee, so we are told, but the amazing point is that the committee is to be appointed only when the bill has been passed. That is one of the things which have provoked the strike. I sincerely trust that the hopes now held for an early settlement of the strike will be realized. I understand that the strike will probably terminate next week, and that the men will go back to work on Tuesday next. However, I draw attention to the fact that whereas Parts I. and II. of the bill occupy only two pages, Part III., which refers to the appointment of the committee of inquiry, occupies six pages. Apparently the Government, too, recognizes the importance of the inquiry. But what I should like to know, and what the people of Australia want to know, is why the Government has postponed the inquiry until the passing of this legislation which will alter the terms of employment of the waterside workers. I hope we have not reached the stage in this country when a government can be induced by financial support from outside organizations to supplant conciliation and arbitration by a return to the law of the jungle. I am sure that no member of this Parliament wants to see a return to the days of the “ bull “ gangs when the workers had to stand around in all weathers, rain or shine, waiting for jobs. Because of the casual nature of their employment, and the small wages they received, most of them had to live in the outer suburbs where rents were cheaper and had to travel long distances to present themselves for employment. Very often they travelled in, day after day, only to be sent back without being given an opportunity to work. There was no attendance money in those days. That has since been provided on the recommendation of Mr. Justice Poster. As I have said, the men had to stand around in all weathers, like cattle in a ring, to be selected by the representatives of the companies.
Victimization was easy and rife, as were graft and favoritism. If a man looked strong and fit lie was selected, but if be showed any sign of weakness he was passed over. At the end of the “ bull “ system days, Dr. McQueen, of Macquariestreet, was commissioned by the Stevedoring Board to examine the “ wharfies “ for malingerers. Dr. McQueen said in his report - 1 was under thc impression when commencing this survey, that its main object was the detection of malingerers. Having encountered only one of these crafty undesirables among the first 1 30 cases I examined, I realized that I was dealing with quite a unique collection of genuine and serious disabilities. i was forced into a real and surprised admiration for a body of men earning a more or less arduous living, handicapped by gross and serious physical abnormalities.
Most of the individuals examined were over the age of 40 and under Cio
I can only surmise with the most profound gloom, the condition of those over 60 years of age.
Prior to the establishment of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board, chaos was the order of the day and of the night on the waterfront. No member of this Senate will deny that under the authority of the board there has been some degree of stability in waterfront employment, and an improvement of working conditions on the waterfront. According to the second-reading speech of the Minister for Labour and National Service on this measure, and that of his representative in this chamber, the Minister for Shipping and Transport, it i3 not to be expected that there will not be a change in other provisions of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Act. Indeed, it is foreshadowed that if the will of the shipowners is obeyed, the board’s reward for bringing a degree of stability to, and improved conditions to the waterfront, will be its total abolition. According to the Government, the bill sets out to do two things. Although, as 1 have said, the Government obviously attaches considerable importance to the holding of an inquiry, it is sponsoring legislation which will alter conditions of employment on the waterfront.
In all other industrial disputes, the Government has eloquently and dogmatically refused to interfere in any way with conditions of employment, and has insisted that those conditions are matters for conciliation and arbitration. Why is it that, on this occasion, the rule which has been observed by this Government ever since it came into office five years ago, is now to be abandoned aud the Government is going to interfere with employment conditions on the waterfront? The Government has been content in the past to negotiate with the very Communists to whom it now raises objection - and perhaps valid objection. As the result of the changed attitude of the Menzies Government, a strike has been provoked on the waterfront. I understand that the Minister for Labour and National Service, in many of the interviews he has had with officials of the Waterside Workers Federation, agreed that no action would be taken prior to the holding of the inquiry that is now proposed under this legislation.
It is very difficult to understand the Government’s change of attitude, particularly in view of the fact that previous reports on the waterfront, and statements by some Ministers, have not attributed the slow turn-round of ships to the waterside workers. In that regard the report of the Australian Oversea Transport Association refers to a report made in 1948 by Sir Frederick Tout, who was then president of the organization. Increased freight charges are too frequently attributed to the workers in industry. But freight charges are determined by the shipowners themselves. They fix their charges on the basis of the maximum that the industry can bear. Then, when there is justifiable pressure for a reduction of freights, they seek to excuse their avaricious policy by saying that the high charges are due to the loss of time through strikes on the waterfront. It is surprising that the Australian Oversea Transport Association, which is supposed to look after the interests of the producer, should allow itself to be used in an attempt to attribute high freight charges to the waterside workers. Let us examine more carefully the reasons for the high freight charges. At the outbreak of World War II. in 1939, all overseas freights rose. The general merchandise rate between
Australia and the United Kingdom rose from 63s. a ton to 94s. 6d. a ton, an increase of 31s. 6d. a ton. In the September quarter of 1940, the general merchandise rate was increased by 12s. 6d. & ton to 107s. a ton, an increase of 44s. a ton approximately on the pre-war rate. The next increase was made in the March quarter of 1947 when the rate on general merchandise rose to 123s. a ton, making the increase on the prewar figure approximately 100 per cent. Honorable senators will observe that no increase took place between 1940 and 1947. I direct the attention of Senator Wright in particular to that fact. From 1941 until 1947, a Labour government was in office, and in those six years there was no increase of freight rates. While a government of a conservative character was in office in 1939 and 1940, the freights were increased by £2 4s. a ton. Is it any wonder that honorable senators on the Government side are charged with supporting the shipping combines and the shipowners? They have no interest in the workers in the waterfront industry.
It is true that the wages of waterside workers have risen steeply. On the basis of the shipowners’ figures, the increase of waterside workers’ wages does not justify the comparative increase of freight charges. Wages represent only a small percentage of freight charges. No one could argue soundly that the increase of £2 4s. a ton in freight rates that I have mentioned had any relation to the level of wages of waterside workers. To illustrate that fact, I remind honorable senators that the wages of waterside workers form only 4 per cent, of the freight charges on a bale of wool. That indicates the insignificance of wages compared with the enormous increase of freight charges. Clearly the Australian Overseas Transport Association was not well informed in making a report and recommendations to the Prime Minister.
In 1947, the shipowners reported that one of the main factors in high freight rates was the fact that the cost of building a skip was two and a half times as much as the cost in 1938, and three and a half times as much as the cost in 1935. The shipowners said that losses in the war were heavy and had to be made good.
They complained that operating costs had doubled, and that vessels spent more time in port. They also alleged that the output of the waterside workers for each man-hour had declined materially. Hours had been restricted, not only on the waterfront but in many industries. The shipowners also reported that another factor was unbalanced trade, as exports were twice as great as imports. That suggests that Australia is exporting large quantities of products, and that the ships are not being filled on the return voyage. It is significant that the features that were stressed by the shipping organizations in 1947 as being the main causes of high freight charges were not mentioned in the 1954 report. That is justification, in my opinion, for the statement that the report to the Government was supplied by the shipping combines of Australia and overseas.
I direct the attention of honorable senators to” the improvement that has taken place in some of the relevant sections of the industry. The fourth report of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board stated that in 1951, overseas vessels spent 11.3 days in port on an average in Sydney. In May, 1954, the time had been reduced to 5.3 days. Yet Senator Wright has maligned the workers in the waterfront industry. Had it not been for the work of those men, there would not have been an improvement in the time that the ships spent in port. The board’s report stated that in Melbourne in 1951, overseas ships spent 15.7 days in port on an average. By the middle of 1954, that time had been reduced by two-thirds. In Hobart, ships loading fruit spent an average time of 18.6 days in port in 1952. In 1953, the average stay in port had been reduced to 9.7 days.
– Give honorable senators a comparison with 1939.
– Senator Kendall will have an opportunity later to put his points of view. So far, the shipowners have not passed on to the public the savings they have made by that great reduction in the time that ships spend in port in Australia. The fourth report of the board also contains references to the output for each man-hour. It stated that in the port of Sydney, in 1951, the average number of tons of cargo handled daily was 262 tons. In the middle of 1954, that had been increased to an. average of 314 tons, an increase of 20 per cent. In Melbourne, in 1951, the average number of tons handled daily was 276 tons. In May, 1954, that had been increased to an average of 343 tons, an increase of 24 per cent. In Hobart, in 1952,. during the fruit season, an average of 364 tons was handled daily End in 1953, the tonnage was 471, an. increase of 29 per cent. I could go on enumerating the improvements that have taken place in the waterfront industry, but I have only limited time in which to. make my speech. I direct attention now to a portion of the second-reading speech of the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer). The Attorney-General stated -
Every senator will know personally of the happenings, in the principal ports of his State - in Melbourne, in Adelaide, in Fremantle and Hobart,, to. take some- only of current instances. At Port Kembla and Newcastle; vital steel ports of the Commonwealth, we have had special difficulties. Since Port Kembla has become the subject of some’ argument, let me quote from a. statement prepared by the Chairman of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board -
It is true that the Port Kembla quota was last increased on 20th October. But to put that statement in its proper perspective, it is necessary to examine the attitude of that branch towards quotas. And, although the record of the branch - in common with, most Branches of the Federation - has been one of resistance to quota orders through the years, the facts for this year speak for themselves.
From 1st January, .1.954, until 20th July,. 1054, the quota for Port Kembla was GOO. The registered strength was below that figure for the whole of the period until 20th May. It was maintained at the quota figure sporadically during Tune, hut fell below the figure on 2nd July, and remained below it thence forward.
On 20th. July, by which date the registered strength had fallen to 583, the quota figure was increased to 670, and the Port Kembla Branch was urged to to recruit 87 new members at once, so that some inroad, could be made on the huge accumulation- of steel products at the Port. The Branch was informed that the quota figure would1 bc reviewed in the light: of the steel position on 20th October. The Branch made no arrangements to meet the- new quota figure, and. on 20th. October, by which date the registered strength-, after some last minute admissions, has reached’ 653, the- quota figure was increased to 750. la the meantime, the back-lag of steel had increased to 73,000 tons.
A question was asked in the Senate on the 28th October, by Senator 0’Flaherty about the shipment of steel products to South Australia. Reference has been made to the question, and the answer to it, by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies),, the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) and the AttorneyGeneral in his second-reading speech. This is the question, that was asked by Senator O’Flaherty -
Did the Minister for Shipping and Transport read an article, in Wednesday’s Adelaide Advertiser, which stated that _ there was an acute shortage in South Australia of plain and corrugated iron,, reinforcing steel rods, and structural, steel? In view of the fact that the Minister recently stated that some thousands of tons of these materials were awaiting shipment on the- Australian seaboard, will he take action to have these materials transported to South. Australia by private shipping companies or as a special shipment by the Commonwealth line of ships?
The Minister for Shipping and. Transport gave the following reply: -
I have read the press report to which the. honorable senator has referred. Representations have been made to me from time to time from Western Australian and Queensland, as well as South Australia, to try to speed up the delivery of processed steel that is awaiting shipment at Port Kembla.
The development that has taken place at Port Kembla, recently is considerable, and I regret that the New South Wales authorities have not made adequate provision for the berthing of ships so that the increased output from the Port Kembla mills can be shifted more quickly. Often, ships are available, but they cannot get a. berth at Port Kembla. That is a major problem. I believe that the Premier of: New South Wales is inquiring into the’ matter, but I regret that lacie of action on the part of. the New South Wales Government is retarding the delivery of steel products, and is causing embarrassment in all parts of Australia.
Who is telling the lie? The Prime Minister, the Minister for Labour and National Service, the Attorney-General, or the Minister for Shipping and Transport? It is easy for the members of the- Government to- malign the waterside workers. Ministers should confer with one another in order to reach a- unanimous decision on this matter. The waterside workers should not be blamed for the failure to ship iron and steel- to South Australia or Queensland.
Let the Government tell the truth, which is that the difficulty is due to ‘the lack of berths. The loss of time and the dislocation that has taken place in the stevedoring industry has been due also to obsolete conditions on the wharfs. When I was Minister for Shipping and Fuel, the Sydney wharfs were cluttered up with cargo. I directed the officials of the department to give notice that cargo remaining on the wharfs after a certain time would be transferred to sheds at Maroubra, which were secured from the Department of Munitions. It was not long before the cargo was removed from the wharfs. Similar action could be taken now. If the obsolete conditions that exist on the waterfront were rectified and proper working conditions were given to employees, the result would be a better turn-round of ships. Despite the disadvantages, there has been an improvement on the waterfront. I ask those honorable senators opposite who may be fair minded to give credit to those who have improved the turn-round of ships. I sincerely hope that this strike will be terminated after next Monday and that this country will be saved a lot of inconvenience, distress and misery owing to the stupidity of the Menzies Government.
– I desire to support the bill before the Senate. From some of the remarks that I have previously made, it might be thought that I would be opposing this bill; but the experience to which this country has been subjected in the last few weeks is such that nobody with a sense of responsibility could do other than support thi3 bill unless he wished to aline himself with the Communists. That I would not do under any circumstances. No government could possibly refuse to accept the direct challenge that has been made to constituted authority by the action of the waterside workers in the last few weeks. The Government has deferred for too long action to bring a sense of responsibility to waterside workers. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) has been working incessantly and with inexhaustible patience during the last four years in order to achieve the co-operation of labour leaders in improving conditions on the waterfront. He has had periodical conferences with the leaders of the Australian Council of Trades Unions and the Waterside Workers Federation but they have achieved nothing. That Communistled union is opposed to any interference with its monopoly of waterfront labour.
I should like this bill to make provision for improved conditions on the waterfront. However. the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) has informed the Senate that the bill has been confined to one matter because the Government desires to obtain evidence on certain facts which it has not been able to secure from the interested parties. Senator Ashley quoted from a document that was issued by one of the interested parties. When negotiations have taken place between the Government and the interested parties they have been unable to agree on certain matters. Consequently, the Government has decided to appoint an authority for the purpose of securing authoritative information on the various matters with which it will have to deal later on. The Government will then be able to determine what action, if any, is desirable.
It has been stated that the strike on the waterfront has been caused by the action of the Government in introducing this legislation. That is quite wrong. This strike started before the bill was introduced.
– But the waterside workers knew that it would be introduced.
– Yes. The Waterside Workers Federation apparently decided that the bill would interfere with its monopoly and decided to stage a strike before it had authoritative information on the bill. So the responsibility for the tragic state of affairs on the waterfront rests on the Communist-led union.
I think that the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) said he did not believe that there were a great many Communists in the Waterside Workers Federation. I have no information on that point. If I had, I might be inclined to agree with him. But I know that Communists are involved in the strike, and, unfortunately, they wield great power. Either that is so or the members of the organization are so recreant in their duty that they allow these people to lead them into disastrous strikes. It is regrettable to find the leaders of the Australian Council of Trades Unions and the Labour party supporting the Communist-led move to oppose the bill before the Senate. The Leader of the Opposition said that if the Government persisted in its proposals and the bill became law, Australia would have the greatest industrial upheaval that it has ever seen. I hope that he is wrong and that sense will prevail. But if there is an industrial upheaval the blame will not lie on the Government. It will lie entirely on the Communist leaders who have precipitated this disastrous strike and the Opposition which has supported them. If the Opposition had opposed the action of the waterside workers and’ supported this bill, the strike would have collapsed. But the Opposition has given the waterside workers its support and encouraged them to continue the strike.
The Leader of the Opposition suggested that the Government should hold an inquiry into the industry and then confer with the parties concerned and draw, up a formula for better conditions on the wharfs. Surely the Leader of the Opposition was not sincere in making that suggestion. The Government has been endeavouring to do that for many years, but these people cannot be relied upon. What reliance can be placed on the word of Healy or Roach who have refused to carry out the agreement that they have already entered into ? Surely the Labour Government could have taken action to improve conditions on the waterfront but it did not do so. It has been left to the present Government to try to relieve the tragic position in which the exasperated people find themselves. I propose to read one or two of the comments of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board in order to illustrate to honorable senators opposite what is happening on the waterfront. On page 12 of the fourth report of the Stevedoring Industry Board, it is stated -
In ite decision the High Court held in favour of the Melbourne Stevedoring Co. Pty. Ltd. in proceedings which that Company brought to prevent the Board from proceeding with a disciplinary inquiry against it.
It appears that the Stevedoring Industry Board was trying to enforce discipline. The Melbourne Stevedoring Company Proprietary Limited took a case to the High Court which found against the company. The report of the board continues -
The subject inquiry had arisen out of incidents involving the company, in the course of which two waterside workers employed by the company had drunk themselves into a state of intoxication during working hours and had been maintained on the pay-roll.
Further on, the report states -
The stevedoring company which made the successful appeal to the High Court - in consequence of the inquiry that was proceeding against it on the grounds that it condoned the employment of drunken watersiders - has since the High Court case been the centrepiece of a series of episodes, involving drunken watersiders and cases of men urinating in the hold, pillaging and drinking on the job. The experience of this company, although more intense than other employers, is symptomatic of the degeneration in standards. The Board has, of course, continued the regulatory port inspections, but, so far as discipline is concerned, .they are to a large degree ineffectual. The Board, which cannot apply remedial or disciplinary measures to combat malpractices on the job, has been thwarted in this region of ite activities.
That is the position which exists on the waterfront at the present time. The Stevedoring Industry Board has been trying to enforce discipline and have the work performed as it should be performed, but unfortunately, the waterside workers will not listen to it. They simply do as they like, with the result that the board’s control over employment has disappeared. I have given instances of that lack of control, but perhaps it will be as well to remind the Senate of them. When I was at Darwin only a few weeks ago, the ship on which I travelled had 270 tons of cargo to discharge there, and it took four days to do the work. The waterside workers worked from half-past eight in the morning until half-past four in the afternoon.
– Were they members of the Waterside Workers Federation?
– They were, because Mr. Healy had been there and had made sure that they all joined up. He managed to get the Darwin men in, but he could not induce the waterside workers at Derby and Broome to join the federation. They belong to the Australian
Workers Union and would not have anything to do with the federation, with the result that there is no waterfront trouble at those ports. The position is so bad at Carnarvon and Darwin that some ships have refused to call at those ports. Honorable senators may remember that I referred previously in the Senate to an instance in Fremantle some years ago when waterside workers took from Thursday of one week to Friday of the following week to load 500 tons of cargo. That work cost the shipping company £3,000. A delegation from the Western Australian Parliament, consisting of an equal number of government and opposition members, investigated the position, and some of my Labour friends in the State Parliament said that the conditions beggared description. Senator Ashley referred this afternoon to the increasing cost of constructing ships. Of course, the cost of ship-building is increasing. For that reason, they must be turned round at a more rapid rate. The captain of the ship to which I last referred said to me, “ This boat cost £1,250,000 to build. From the time I sight Australia, unload, load and get away again, six weeks elapse, whereas between the time I sight Liverpool, unload, load and get away, only niue days elapse. I cannot really afford to call at Australian ports.”
I remember once going down to Fremantle to watch the unloading of a ship containing phosphatic rock. Two of the eight men employed on the unloading were in the ship, and the other six were behind a shed having a game of cards. The two men who were in the ship were engaged, for the most part, in throwing pieces of phosphatic rock at one another. The others were supposed to sweep the wharf where rock had been spilt when loading it into the truck, but the driver of the truck told me that if he had waited for the waterside workers to sweep it up, he would have been there for half a day. That is what was going on. We cannot shut our eyes to this matter. If honorable senators opposite care to go and have a look at the wharfs, they will see the causes of the trouble, and if they have any sense of responsibility to Australia, they will try to have the conditions altered.
The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) said that the Government should refer this matter to arbitration. Let us examine the way in which arbitration has worked in relation to this industry, by referring to the fourth report of the Stevedoring Industry Board. As I said earlier, it is not of much use to negotiate with people unless some reliance can be placed on their word. This is what the board had to say, in its report, concerning industrial disputes which arose at Hobart in connexion with transferring from hatch to hatch, which is provided for in the waterside workers’ award -
At Hobart, on Thursday, 13th November, 1952, 23 men refused to continue working when they were ordered to transfer from one hatch to another on the vessel Rhodesia Star. On the following day, Friday, 14th November, these men were suspended for one day, whereupon 4<i2 men refused to offer for engagement.
The report states that another 56 men walked off at 10 a.m., which had the effect of throwing the port into complete idleness. A total of 5,356 man-hours was lost because of that stoppage. The report continues -
This issue again developed into a stoppage at Hobart on Tuesday, 9th December, 1952, after five men, who had the previous day refused a hatch-to-hatch transfer on the vessel Talune had been suspended from work for three days. The. entire branch stopped work from 9th to 1.1th December inclusive, the three days on which the five men were suspended. With the issue still unresolved, work resumed on Friday, 12th December, after executives of the union branch had rejected a suggestion from the board that they should again confer with employers and attempt to settle the matter.
The report states that, during December, 1952, a total of 23,897 man-hours was lost in Hobart as a result of these stoppages. There was another stoppage on the 25th May, 1953, when 41,241 man-hours were lost.
– The honorable senator has not all the facts concerning that dispute.
– The facts are referred to in the report of the Stevedoring Industry Board, and can be read by the honorable senator. In yet another dispute at Hobart, 12j926 man-hours were lost. That means that, in those four strikes, a total of 83,420 man-hours was lost. I think that honorable senators who represent Tasmania will agree that the months of November an<3 December, when .some of those strikes occurred, are vital ones as far as Tasmanians ‘shipping services are concerned. What is the use of asking for arbitration for people who simply defy an award when it does not suit them, and who accept it only when it is in their favour?
Another matter which is in dispute in connexion with this industry is that of port quotas. As a matter of fact, that is the crux of the matter, and it is only from a desire to have those -quotas filled that this hill is now before the Senate. Let as see what Mr. Basten had to say on this matter. At page 13 of his report, honorable senators will see the following statement : -
The board is required to ‘provide sufficient waterside workers ,at each port-; to ensure that they are used to the best advantage; and to train, or arrange for the training of, persons in stevedoring operations. These functions have an obvious relation to one another and to the further duty of the board to determine the number of waterside workers .required in each port, described in Section 22 of the Act as the “ quota “ for “the port.
The following passage appears on page 14:-
The board has experienced difficulty, when it has raised a quota, in resisting the reluctance of the Waterside Workers Federation to comply with its orders … Of equal importance to the industry is the common practice nf .allowing the number of men who have left it to accumulate to a substantial figure before replacements .are sought. It means that the port’s labour strength dwindles and is then rectified by a single influx of many new men, most of whom require to be trained.
I think it was -Senator Wright who referred to a passage in the Basten report in which the author pointed out that the more responsible men in the industry were getting older and that younger men were not being trained in good habits, so that the task of management would become even more difficult. If the Stevedoring Industry Board could carry out its function and train men to fill positions as they became vacant, due to employees leaving the industry because of age, sickness, or even death, the quotas could be kept continually filled. The board is not able to do that, however. It is futile for the board to train men if they cannot be taken on in the industry. Quotas have been allowed to fall by as many as 123 men, as was the case in Fremantle on one occasion. I suggest that to place 123 untrained men in an industry at the one rime would mean that the work could not be done as it would be done if seasoned or experienced men were engaged.
I think it is time for the public to be told something of the trouble experienced on the wharfs, and the number of manhours lost through disputes. The following figures have .been taken from annual reports of the Stevedoring Industry Board.: -
What a dreadful load to place on industry !
– Do those figures take account of the times when no work was available for waterside workers?
– I thank the honorable senator for his interjection. I was interested to hear Senator Ashley suggest, this afternoon, that one of the troubles of this industry was the casual nature of the employment. I have spoken about the industry on several occasions in this chamber, and on each occasion I have suggested and recommended, as I do again, that the men on the wharfs should be permanently employed. I distinctly remember that, on one occasion, Senator Ashley interjected to the effect that that could not be done. Now that it suits him, however, he is prepared to advocate permanent employment. I agree that the permanent employment of waterside workers would be a much better thing for everybody concerned.
I sincerely hope that this bill will receive a speedy passage. After all, it does not propose any radical alteration. The federation will still have the right to employ whoever it pleases, with the single exception that, if no proper objection can be taken to the employment of a certain man, and provided .that there is room on the quota for him, he shall .be employed. It is obvious that the federation does not wish to have its present monopoly interfered with in any way. Its desire to protect that monopoly has brought about this strike, and it is to be hoped that the people of Australia will appreciate that fact and place the blame on this Communist-controlled union, where it properly belongs.
– We have an extraordinarily large number of super-optimists on the other side of the chamber. They have built up their case from little statements concerning this, that and the other, but have not considered the whole of the ramifications of the industry. Senator Seward, for instance, referred to the loss of thousands of man-hours. Surely he does not blame the waterside workers for the loss of all of those hours. I suggest that the question of management is largely involved in that matter. Indeed, it has practically nothing at all to do with the waterside workers. Honorable senators should know that, in many instances, waterside workers present themselves for work only to find that there is nothing for them to do ; but, of course, they have to be paid attendance money. Senator Seward, apparently, wishes to blame the waterside workers and their union for the loss of man-hours in that way.
Debate interrupted under sessional order.
Sittingsuspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.:
Debate resumed from the 4th November (vide page 1247), on motion by Senator McCallum -
1 ) That a select committee be appointed to inquire into and report upon the development of Canberra in relation to the original plan and subsequent modifications, and matters incidental thereto.
That the committee consist of seven senators to be appointed in a subsequent resolution.
That the committee have power to send for persons, papers and records, to move from place to place, and have leave to report from time to time its proceedings and the evidence taken.
That the committee report to the Senate on or before 1st October, 1955. -
Upon which Senator Mckenna had moved by way of amendment -
a ) Paragraph ( 1 ) , leave out the word “ select”, insert the words “ joint standing “.
Paragraph (2), leave out the paragraph, insert the following paragraph in lieu thereof - “ (2) That six members of the Senate be appointed to serve on such committee, such members to be nominated in a subsequent resolution.”.
Paragraph (4), leave out the paragraph, insert the following paragraphs in lieu thereof - “ (4) That the chairman of the committee have deliberative vote and, in the event of an equality of voting, have a casting vote.”. “ (5) That a message bo sent to the House of Representatives requesting its concurrence and asking that eight members of the House of Representatives be appointed to serve on such committee.”.
– I think it is desirable to appoint a select committee of the Senate to attend to the immediate task. If such a committee came to the conclusion that it was desirable for it to be replaced by a joint parliamentary standing committee, it could recommend accordingly. Despite the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna), in support of his contention that the proposed committee should consist of six members, I consider that we should conform to precedent by appointing a committee consisting of seven members of the Senate - four Government senators and three Opposition senators. As the Senate stands more apart than the House of Representatives from local and particular interests, I consider that a task of this kind should be entrusted to a committee of the Senate. I take this opportunity to thank the Leader of the Opposition for the reasonable manner in which he addressed himself to both the motion and his suggested amendments.
Question put -
That the amendments (Senator McKenna’s ) be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. A. M. McMullin.)
Majority . . 3
Question so resolved in the negative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Senator McCallum) - by leave - agreed to -
That Senator Benn, Senator Hannaford, Senator McCallum, Senator Ryan, Senator Tangney, Senator Vincent, and Senator Wood lie members of the committee.
Debate resumed (vide page 1378).
– Prior to the suspension of the sitting, I directed the attention of the Senate to the fact that Senator Seward, who preceded me in this debate, advanced a number of piffling contentions in support of the bill. During his diatribe against the waterside workers, lie stated that when he visited a wharf lie saw a couple of wharf labourers sitting down. As they were not working, he came to the conclusion that they were loafing. There could be a number of reasons why they were not actively working at the time. I do not think that he was justified in criticizing the length of time that it takes to turn round a ship at Darwin, because the Darwin jetty was damaged by bombing during the war and it is not now easy to berth a vessel there. I do not think that the honorable senator advanced a concrete reason why this bill should be passed. Many supporters of the Government, including the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay), always blame the Communists for any trouble that occurs on the water front, irrespective of the merits of the claims of the waterside workers. Senator Seward questioned the sincerity of the very conciliatory speech that was made by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna), who suggested a method of overcoming the present trouble.
– After five years.
– I do not care whether it is after 50 years. That does not make any difference. The point is that he was suggesting some method of overcoming the difficulty.
– Giving strength to the Communists and subverting the Government.
– There is a whole bunch of fascists on the other side of the House. Look at them !
– Order ! Remarks of that kind could cause considerable resentment, Senator O’Byrne. You must keep order.
– I rise to order. I am sick and tired of people on the other side of the chamber-
– That is not a point of order. Sit down, Senator O’Byrne.
– Thank you, Mr. President. I was saying that Senator Seward questioned the sincerity of the Leader of the Opposition in this chamber when he suggested that conciliation should be used to overcome the difficulty that has arisen as a result of the introduction of this bill by the Government. Senator Seward deliberately questioned the sincerity of a man who made a gesture of that kind. That sort of thing does us no credit. Although I have differed from honorable senators opposite on many occasions, I have never yet questioned the sincerity of any statements they have made. I think it behoves every honorable senator to give everybody else in the Senate credit for being sincere in the statements they make. Senator Wright, throughout his speech, displayed a fanatical hatred of the working class, particularly the waterside workers, apparently because one of the leaders of the waterside workers is a Communist.
– He hates his fellow men.
– Apparently that is- so. Vituperation and abuse of working people are very poor argumentsin support of this bill. Senator Wright did not deal with the merits or demerits of the clauses of the measure. His speech consisted almost entirely of abuse of the waterside workers. When the Minister made his second-reading speech, he said that the waterside workers were truculent and arrogant in their behaviour. Good heavens, the truculence and arrogance of the waterside workers cannot be compared with the truculence and arrogance of some of the honorable senators opposite who have spoken in support of the bill. I want it to be clearly understood that, if I were a waterside worker, I should stop work in protest against the Government’s proposals. I make no secret of that. I should protest against the bill by stopping work.
– The honorable senator stopped work 30 years ago.
– All the statements that Government supporters have made about the leaders of the waterside workers during recent years were made also about members of the Australian Labour party 40 years ago, when they were trying to improve the conditions of the workers.. Government supporters are only repeating the statements that were made about Labour men who were struggling to build our trade unions and get better conditions and better rates of pay for the workers. We still have not solved the problems of the waterfront industry. Working conditions and wages are unsatisfactory and there is still, no continuity of employment.
– We have not solved the problem because men cannot get into the union.
– There they go again! In the view oi Government supporters, the only people who are in the wrong are the waterside workers. The Minister for Shipping and Transport admits that . there are faults on the other side, too. Let us not forget that. The Basten report, and every other report made on the waterside industry over the years, have indicated that people other than the waterside workers axe at fault, yet Government supporter after Government supporter in this chamber puts the- whole of the blame for any trouble on the waterside workers.
– Is the Labour party supporting the strike?
– It is a protest. It is not a strike against certain conditions. It is a protest against the Government doing something that the shipowners of this country want.
– Why do not you come out in the open and answer the question ?
– Why do not you shut up and listen ?
– I am all ears.
– With nothing between them.
– Order ! I want honorable senators to understand clearly that I shall not allow the House to get out of hand. The remarks that have just been made across the chamber are juvenile. There is no point in them. You may take it from me that I shall keep order in the House to-night.
– Thank you again,. Mr. President. I am very sorry that this has happened, but I cannot help it. The shipowners want this legislation, and they want something further. They have been negotiating with the Government for years to try to get, not only this bill, but something more. That contention was proved by Senator Seward this afternoon, when he said he wanted something more than this bill. It is borne out by the statement made by Senator Wright, who said he wasopposed to the Australian Stevedoring’ Industry Board and wanted it to be abolished. Honorable senators opposite wanted to go back to the old days. Nobody can suggest seriously that the employers in the industry will be satisfied with only this bill. They have not provided the amenities suggested by the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board. On some occasions, waterside workers have had to go on strike in order to get clean drinking water on the wharfs. According to some documents which are flying around, and which were referred to in another place recently, the Government has made some arrangement with people connected with the shipping industry. I am not questioning the sincerity of any statements made on the matters by Ministers. I believe the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) spoke the truth when he said he had never made any arrangement with representatives of the shipping industry, and I believe the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) was right when he said he had only met them at various conferences, in the same way as he had met the employees. The shipping industry does not try to deal directly with the Government. Lt arranges for go-betweens to suggest certain things to Ministers. This Government guaranteed the shipping companies, which have a predominant interest in the coal-mining industry, 6s. profit on every ton of coal produced. That was not done openly. The arrangement was made outside the Parliament, so that any member of the Government could say that he had had no communication with a particular man connected with the industry. It was strange that the Government introduced a bill to guarantee the coal-owners a profit of 6s. on every ton of coal produced. The shipping companies have a predominant interest in the coal industry. There is no question about that.
– When did we introduce the bill?
– It was done under the lap.
– It was done by means of a regulation. I made a mistake when I referred to a. bill. The Minister for National Development (Senator ‘Spooner) knows what happened. The important thing is that it was done.
– Everything the honorable senator has said so far is untrue.
– It is not untrue. The Government appointed a committee of inquiry and took action on the report of the committee.
– When did we introduce the bill ?
– If the Minister has anything to say, let him stand up and say it. I did not interject when the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) made his second-reading speech.
– All I ask is that the honorable senator should speak the truth. He knows that what he has said is untrue.
– The predominant interest in the coal industry is the shipping combine. The shipping companies have a predominant interest in Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. The Government introduced a bill - there is no question about that - to guarantee a loan of £4,000,000 to that -company at a low rate of interest.
– I rise to order. I submit that Senator O’Flaherty is not discussing the Stevedoring Industry Bill at the moment. He is referring to airline companies and other matters of that kind.
– Senator O’Flaherty, it seems to me that you have been straying from the point. I shall be interested to 3ee whether you can relate your remarks to the bill.
– I am pointing out that the shipping interests are supporting the bill. I am explaining that they have received concessions from the Government in the past, and I make the point that the bill represents another concession to them. The Government gave Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited approximately £250,000 by remitting landing fees and air-route charges owed by the company. It remitted the sales tax that should have been paid by the company on certain aircraft.
– Order ! I ask the honorable senator to come back to the bill.
– Thank you, Mr. President. I submit that my remarks do relate to the bill because I have been speaking about the interests that are behind this measure. I remind the Senate, too, that the stevedoring industry charge was reduced by ‘5d. a man-hour to encourage a reduction of freight rates. But what happened? The shipowning gained approximately £850,000 out -of that concession, but there was no commensurate reduction of freight charges, and no improvement of amenities on the waterfront. Considerable sums of money have also been made available to the shipping companies for new and secondhand vessels that have been bought and transferred to them. The shipowners are being nursed all the time. The Government’s treatment of the shipping combine which controls overseas and coastal shipping has been extraordinarily generous. Now the employers are being given the right to select the men who are to work on the waterfront, and who are to become members of the Waterside Workers Federation. It is true that the Australian Stevedoring Industry Bill will have some say in this matter. It will have to deal with any objections that are made by the union, and presumably will examine the men. One can imagine the delay that will take place if the board has to deal with say 500 new recruits to the industry. The Government would have us believe that it is easy to get men to work on the waterfront, yet I have heard Ministers say in this chamber many times that there are practically no unemployed in Australia. If that is so, how could the port quotas have been filled? Apparently no consideration has been given to that difficulty. The union was told that it must fill a certain quota by a certain date, and if it was unable to do so, it was accused of disobeying the law.
The waterside worker is blamed for all our shipping trouble. Senator Ashley has mentioned a question that I asked of the Minister for Shipping and Transport about delays in the shipment of steel from the eastern seaboard. The Minister mentioned Port Kembla in his reply, although I have made no reference to that port. T had merely mentioned the stacks of steel on the eastern seaboard, and the need for steel in South Australia. The Minister blamed the New South Wales Government for the delays at Port Kembla. He said -
The development that has taken place at Port Kembla recently is considerable, and I regret that the New” South Wales authorities have not made adequate provision for the berthing of ships so that the increased output from the Port Kembla Mills can be shifted more quickly. Often ships are available, but they cannot get a berth at Port Kembla. That is a major problem. I believe that the Premier of New South Wales is inquiring into the matter, but I regret that lack of action on the part of the New South Wales’ Government is retarding the delivery of steel products, and is causing embarrassment in all parts of Australia.
On that occasion, the Minister did not say one word about the waterside workers being the cause of the delay in the shipment of steel.
– For once he told the truth.
– He said that the trouble was insufficient berths for ships. I know something of conditions on the waterfront in South Australia. There is a tremendous amount of work being carried out on the wharfs at Port Adelaide, and as a consequence, there are not sufficient berths for ships at certain times of the year. On one occasion the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board ordered that the employment quota at Port Adelaide be raised. The union demured, but started to fill the new quota. However, a few months later, attendance money was being paid to large numbers of wharf labourers because there were not enough ships in port to keep them employed. That indicates faulty management. Certainly it was not the fault of the waterside workers. I have no doubt that there have been similar happenings at other ports. The Basten report dealt with that matter in a special section. The report informed us also that considerable delay was caused at ports by inadequate storage and the failure of importers to remove their cargoes speedily. That is not the fault of the waterside workers. They take the goods out of the holds and dump them on the wharfs. If the goods are not removed from the wharfs immediately, the rate of unloading is slowed down, and the wharf labourers have to be paid for idle time. That is not the fault of the waterside workers. It is the fault of those who are responsible for the provision of wharf and storage facilities. The Basten report said that something should be done to force importers to remove goods as quickly as possible from wharf stores. In South Australia, something has been done in that connexion in the last few years. I think that storage fees were doubled, and free periods reduced. I do not know whether similar action was taken in other States.
I favour the holding of an inquiry, but I hope that it will not be a repetition of the Basten inquiry. Mr. Basten’s report was shelved and never implemented. What is the use of holding an inquiry unless the Government genuinely intends to act upon the results of that inquiry? Let us do first things first. The Australian Stevedoring Industry Board’s report indicates that there has been a speedingup of the turn-round of ships. One point that honorable senators opposite are inclined to overlook is that ships coming to Australian ports from overseas to-day are, generally speaking, bigger than they were in the pre-war years. Apparenty some people expect a 20,000-ton ship to be turned round as quickly as a vessel half as big. That is simply not possible. I have found in the course of my visits to the wharfs in South Australia that frequently they are cluttered up with hundreds of tons of cargo destined for the eastern States. The Adelaide cargo apparently has been loaded at the bottom of the holds. The Australian waterside workers cannot be blamed for that. Surely, it shows gross mismanagement on somebody’s part. Cargo consigned to Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane has to be unloaded, stacked on the wharfs, and then reloaded after the Adelaide cargo has been taken from the holds. That means double handling and a slower turnround of ships, and, as I have said, it is ,not the fault of the wharf labourers. I have no doubt that similar delays occur at other ports.
If honorable senators opposite believe that they can get a faster turn-round of ships simply by giving the employers the right to choose their men, they are superoptimists. Such a belief is the height of foolishness. The two speakers that we have heard from the Government side of the chamber to-day have given the game away. This measure is merely leading up to something else. It is of no use scouting the suggestion that the waterside workers are afraid of a return of the old “bull” gang days. That is a real fear. In those days favoured employees were given the best cargoes to handle and the best rates of pay. They had practically a continuity of work, while the other fellows were given a job now and again and had to do all the dirty work. The Australian Stevedoring Industry Board has altered that. Jobs on the waterfront are now rostered, and every man gets his share of good and bad work. The fear of a return to the old conditions on the waterfront is one reason why the waterside workers are protesting so strongly against this bill. If the Government thinks that it is going to get anywhere by this means it is making a mistake. It i3 provoking industrial upheavals throughout the country instead of adhering to arbitration. Once an award is made, it should be observed. There may be some difficulty, in getting amenities but if they are to be introduced, the work should be done within a reasonable time. Some remarkable person took away the reference committees that dealt with matters in the ports. Many little incidents could be settled by a port committee on the spot. The trouble occurs when the employers throw their weight about, and say that this or that must be done or the men will not be employed. The Government should assist the States to provide better port and berthing facilities. If facilities were improved, there would be some possibility of getting peace in the stevedoring industry. Arrogance will never get the Government or the shipowners anywhere. The Government should remember that conciliation will attain more than the tactics it is adopting now.
.- After listening to the debate on this bill and reading what has been said in the House of Representatives, I am amazed at the sob story that is produced by those who are playing up to the baser natures of certain people in Australia. The bill is very simple. It has two features. One is to give the right to the employers to select men whom they consider will be fit to work in the Waterside Workers Federation and handle goods on the waterfront. The second provision is that an inquiry shall be held to investigate the waterfront problem. While I agree with the first proposal,, I am not wholly in favour of an inquiry. I represent the State of Queensland, and that State has more ports than any other State in Australia. In Queensland, we have been so. hampered and hamstrung in the conduct of business and the transport of goods over many years that I have waited patiently for some action to be taken.. So much information is available and before- our eyes, that there- is no need for an inquiry into the waterfront industry.. However, I believe that, in view of the national emergency that has arisen over the introduction of this bill, I should forego that kind of objection. Unfortunately, because of the way that events have been played, up to the waterside workers and the other unions, there is general acceptance ‘of the idea that an inquiry should be held.
The purpose of an inquiry is to discover what is wrong. I worked in the shipping industry for a number of years, and I believe that the Government should know what is wrong. I am. confident that the people generally know what is wrong. The whole problem boils down to one basic fact. There may be small problems and difficulties arising from either side, but they are magnified by the side that is so much, at fault. The root trouble is communism in the Waterside Workers Federation. The waterside workers object to the first provision in the bill. If a man is running a business and engages a shop assistant, he does not insist that the man must be a member of a. union first. Usually the employee begins work and then joins a union. If it were not so, many people would have difficulty in getting work. This is a democracy; a free country. Surely we are not going to put difficulties in the way of men and women getting a job? Under this bill, the Government merely proposes to apply a generally accepted principle. It proposes to give the employers the right to pick men who are prepared to work on the waterfront to load and unload ships. That provision is to be placed in the legislation because the waterside workers have not complied with the conditions under which they operate. They have failed to fill the port quotas.
Senator O’Flaherty would have us believe that there is difficulty in getting men to> work on- the waterfront. There is no difficulty.. The Waterside Workers Federation is a closed shop. One of the reasons for the difficulties on the waterfront is the fact that men who seek to join the federation are gone over with a fine-tooth comb before: they are allowed to become members. Why does the federation adopt that attitude? It does so to discover whether the man seeking membership is a Communist or has Communist leanings. Any person who is not of that political bent has a. difficult job getting into the federation. In Brisbane recently, 100 men were wanted on the waterfront. Nine hundred men offered their services. Anybody who has any knowledge of the waterside industry knows that a long time elapses between the time the call is made for applications and final admission to membership. The Waterside Workers Federation has a closed front to men of decent character. Those who dominate it want every new member to have thoughts similar, to their own. I am not critical of every waterside worker. I was associated with many of them as an employee paymaster. I know many of .them well, and many of them are my good friends.
– They do not know the honorable senator.
– I expect that- 1 all better known and better respected in mcp State than Senator Sandford is in Victoria. Many of the men who work on the waterfront are fine men, but they are dominated and controlled by those who are not so fine or so good. Only last month, a waterside worker said to me, “ For goodness sake,, get the Government to do something about our union. The tactics of the Communists are such that, as a. minority, they control everything”. That waterside worker told me that the tactics of the union officers were to call a meeting. They would talk about everything under the sun until the lunch hour. Nothing of any moment would be discussed, and the decent men would go home to lunch. The Communists, although in a minority, would be there in force, and would make a decision about a stoppage. That waterside worker told me that the men did not want stoppages on the waterfront, but that was how their leaders brought -them about..
The Communists have a good friend in the man who really dominates and controls the waterside workers. Senator O’Flaherty and others seem to think that it is sacrilege to talk about the waterside workers critically. What tommy rot! Everybody knows that Jim Healy is a dyed-in-the-wool Communist. I remember when Healy was working on the waterfront in Mackay. He was not considered a good worker then. He persuaded the waterside workers to go around the city to make a collection of money to send him to Russia. He came back from Moscow a frilly fledged Communist. Honorable senators are supposed to exercise their common sense for the good of the nation. For Senator O’Flaherty and others to suggest that the Waterside Workers Federation should not be linked with communism is sheer nonsense. It implies failure to face up to the problems of the nation. It is shamming.
– What about Roach?
– He is in the same boat as Healy. Although many officers of the federation might not be Communists, the federation is dominated by Communists, and its tactics are those of Moscow.
– Was Healy democratically elected?
– The union has its ballots, but let me tell honorable senators about Englehart, who was secretary of the Waterside Workers Federation branch in Brisbane. He was a dyed-in-the-wool Communist. A Labour Premier of Queensland told me how Englehart was elected to the position. He said that during the war, men like Englehart made big demands upon the shipowners and others. They got certain concessions for the waterside workers because the war was in progress and people had to give way on some matters. By using unfair tactics, Englehart developed in the minds of many waterside workers the belief that he was of great benefit to them. Although he was a Communist, he was elected time and time again. The industrial groups had a terrific job getting rid of him.
– I asked the honorable senator about Jim Healy.
– The same thing applies to Healy. Men recording their votes do not always take a wide national view. They take the personal viewpoint, and it might be the selfish one; That fact does not detract from my statement that Healy is a Communist and dominates the Waterside Workers Federation. In Queensland, there are eight ports and a visit to them by Healy or Roach is marked by a series of stop-work meetings. That state of affairs makes the average Queenslander’s stomach turn over.
We should be ashamed that we have stood for the waterfront trouble as long as we have. Action should have been taken long ago, not only in the reign of this Government, but in the reign of the Chifley Government. At the termination of the war, this country should have built up a fine export trade with the Dutch and Indonesians, but the waterside workers took control of foreign affairs out of the hands of the Labour Government for a very long time. They would not load goods for shipment to the Dutch people in the islands, people who would have been our closest and best friends in an international situation such as can be foreseen now. That was a degrading affair for which this country is probably paying at present, because we are now looking for markets in those areas which have been exploited by other countries.
– Who protected Healy and Roach when the referendum on the Australian Communist party was held?
– The Labour party did. It is wrong- for honorable senators to applaud the action of a group of people who have been the enemies of this country. When the waterside workers play up and cost the shipping companies money, who pays for their conduct? The shipping companies have to pass on the additional expense. Consequently, the tactics of the waterside workers react to the detriment of the average man and woman who have to pay higher prices for goods. By supporting the strike of the waterside workers, the Labour party is selling millions of good, decent Australians down the river for a group of men who are Communist dominated, and who are doing untold damage to this country. The actions of the waterside workers have cost this country millions of pounds in past years.
The waterside workers in the ports of northern Queensland are not working at much more than half the rate at which they worked before the war. They have better equipment, better wharfs and better conditions than they had formerly, but what is the result? They are doing less work than they did before. It is idle for Senator O’Flaherty to say that they must be given better conditions. That does not result in one extra ton an hour being loaded into ships. At Mackay, a new harbour was completed a fortnight before peace was declared. New wharfs were built according to the latest ideas and they were considered to be a first-class engineering job. They were provided with good equipment and good rooms for smokos and a cafe was built on the harbour. Yet on that waterfront the rate of loading and unloading is now much slower than it was before the war. No matter who operated the cafe that was opened, it was not long before some fault was found in it and the waterside workers refused to have meals there. One returned soldier who had taken over the cafe was almost broke when he left it because of the treatment that he received. The waterside workers said that they wanted one of their number to operate the cafe. A waterside worker took it over and got so sick of it that he also left it. It does not matter whether waterside workers are provided with better conditions or not. Because of their political outlook and the Communist domination of their leaders, these men cannot and will not work any faster. Poor conditions on the waterfront are not the basic trouble. The basic trouble is the Communist domination of the Waterside Workers Federation.
The Leader of the Opposition in another place and those who have supported the waterside workers in his party must feel ashamed of the stand that they have taken. Among the moderate unions, there has been a reaction against the waterside workers. The Labour party has been hoist with its own petard. It has been caught out. Possibly the Labour party took its present stand for the purpose of trying to regain some popularity for its leader in another place. The only other reason for which it could have taken this line would be to try to embarrass the Government. Honorable senators should put the welfare of the people of Australia first instead of worrying about Jim Healy and his Communist comrades. I am convinced that many honorable senators opposite feel ashamed of the stand that has been taken by their party. A particularly refreshing aspect of the situation is the attitude of the moderate unions. The clerks union in Queensland took a nice stand on this matter. I know that various moderate unions are giving token support to the strike; but not one of them has announced that it wants to go on strike with the waterside workers. The clerks union did not do that and the tally clerks in Sydney said that they were prepared to work with other labour unless the Australian Council of Trades Unions supported the Waterside Workers Federation. The moderate unions do not want to side with the Communists as the Labour party is doing.
Away from the Federal Labour party, there is a different outlook on the strike. Yesterday the Courier-Mail published the following report: -
The Deputy Premier, Mr. Duggan, said in Toowoomba yesterday that industrial dislocation and the present tie-up on the Australian wharfs arose out of a certain selfishness in community life.
The Deputy Premier of the Queensland Labour Government should be complimented on that statement. When waterside workers cause a national hold-up, and when they work slowly on the wharfs, it does not react only against the shipowners but against the whole community. Everybody in Australia is affected by the slow turn-round of ships and the slow rate of work. If honorable senators opposite support the tactics of the waterside workers what is their opinion of other unionists, such as the members of the Australian Workers Union, who work in the sugar-fields and cane-mills and who stack sugar in the sugar-sheds? They work at a much faster rate than the wharf labourers do when they load and unload cargoes of sugar. How does the Opposition reconcile the actions of those men with the slow work of the waterside workers? The waterside workers work slowly because of Communist control. To support such tactics is degrading to a party which has been regarded as honorable in the past. This is a stigma that will stay with the Labour party for many years.
– That is soap box sophistry.
– Senator Brown engaged in soap box oratory ‘in the streets for many years so it would probably appeal to him. But during the years that I have been in public life I have always expressed my beliefs sincerely. I believe that sincerity in public life lasts longer than any form of display !
– That is why the honorable senator got the sack in Mackay.
– The people of Mackay did not sack me for insincerity. They failed to return me to the local governing body because the Labour party promised reduced rates and reduced electricity charges ; yet a record increase has now been made in both. I have now been asked to stand for re-election. The Labour party weaves many fairy stories and the people of Mackay fell for some of them. But when the leader of the Labour party produced six magnificent propositions during the last general election campaign, the people of Queensland did not swallow them, but gave a majority vote for the Liberal and Australian Country parties of over 80,000. There has been a continuous series of stoppages on the waterfront. That is a serious matter. The men stop work on the slightest provocation. Port Kembla, which is one of our most important ports, has not brought its work quota up to the required number of men. In February, 1953, the waterside workers at that port went on strike because a maid was dismissed from a local hotel. It is ridiculous that a port such as that should be tied up for a week on such an absurd pretext. Senator Brown, as a Queenslander, should know that in Queensland there is a great shortage of steel and other materials which come from Port Kembla. We have been fighting against such shortages for many years. Yet, thousands of tons of steel are held up on the wharfs at Port Kembla and
Newcastle. I suggest to honorable senators opposite that it would be no laughing matter if a cyclone were to strike the northern part of Queensland in the monsoonal season of January, February and March,, and unroof thousands of homes. It would certainly be no laughing matter for the people whose homes had been damaged in that way, particularly if they could not obtain roofing iron to repair their homes because of silly strikes such as that to which I have referred. The waterside workers of Port Kembla and Newcastle are preventing the farmers from repairing their fences and, in some instances, from getting on with their farming operations. What concern is it of the waterside workers if a girl is discharged from a hotel?
I turn now to a strike which occurred in the port of Sydney, the largest port in Australia, on the 20th July last. It is almost impossible to believe that, in the twentieth century, a group of men would be so silly and irresponsible as to strike and tie up the port because a drinking water bucket had been broken by a sling of cargo.
– Who told the honorable senator that?
– It was in the newspapers of Australia. Everybody knew about it. That was a most childish and irresponsible thing for the waterside workers to do. That kind of thing has ben going on because of the actions of Jim Healy and his colleagues. Honorable senators opposite, by their attitude to this bill, apparently support those actions.
On the 24th June last, wharf labourers at Cairns went out on strike for a day as a protest against suspensions by the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board, an organization which was set up by the Chifley Government, and which, I think, should be abolished. The board made the suspensions, and the men stopped work the following day. Then, on the 29th June, five days later, at Rockhampton and Port Alma, which is the outer port for Rockhampton, the waterside workers stopped work for a day in order to discuss certain matters.
They do that often. If other unionists wish to hold a meeting, they hold it in their spare time, hut not so the wharf labourers. It was a singular coincidence that, at the time three strikes occurred at Queensland ports, English football players were playing matches in the cities where the strikes occurred. What did the waterside workers care about the welfare of the nation, or the fact that the people of Queensland were short of steel and other materials? They stopped work for a football match.
– What a terrible crime !
– Of course, there are always people who are prepared to support law-breakers but who have no sympathy at all for the honest working people of the community, who often are required to make sacrifices because of the selfishness of others.
When I was in the north of Queensland recently, I found that the passenger liner Manunda had carried goods from Melbourne to Cairns and back four or five times, but could not unload its cargo because of the nonsense indulged in by the Cairns waterside workers. I spoke to a man on the Atherton Tableland who told me that he had ordered certain machinery in Melbourne, which was being transported by ship. However, because the machinery took so long to reach him, he was obliged to order a second lot to be sent by rail. When he received the machinery which came by rail, the other machinery was still in the boat. Do honorable senators opposite really believe that waterside workers who carry on in that fashion are doing a decent 30b of work and deserve the support of the Australian Labour party? I think that the Opposition should be ashamed to line itself up with this Communist-dominated union.
The story of the union is not only a disgraceful one, but also a tragic one. During the year which ended on the 31st December last, one port or another in Australia was completely idle on 152^ days of the year. Do honorable senators opposite think that that was a good thing? The number of days lost in respect of overseas ships was 494$. For every interstate cargo vessel trading around the
Australian coast, there are two ghost ships in port, because the time taken in loading and unloading interstate ships is so great. Overseas cargo ships used to clear their cargo, reload and leave the Australian coast, in 42 days from arrival in Australia. It now takes them -60 days to do so. That is a striking illustration of the way in which the costs of shipping companies have increased. The Australian people, of course, have to meet those increased costs by paying higher prices for the goods they purchase. Honorable senators opposite seem to forget that those increased costs have to be borne by the people, the majority of whom are employees.
The figures relating to lost time on the wharfs in Queensland are among ‘ the worst in the world. The fact that there is a red plan behind these stoppages is demonstrated by a Communist pamphlet which was circulated on the Brisbane wharfs recently. The pamphlet instructed workers that federation tactics were that they should report to work, after a statutory public holiday, and take a day off at a time most suitable to themselves and most inconvenient to the boss. They were informed, also, that the practice of the Brisbane branch of holding a stoppage on the day following a public holiday was wrong, because it allowed the employer to anticipate the stoppage and to -make certain arrangements. The pamphlet pointed out that, by allowing the employer to know that there would be a stoppage, foremen, tally clerks and others would not be called upon to work, so that the employer would save the cost of the time of those employees. If the employer knew that a stoppage would take place, he would not order foremen and tally clerks to report for duty. Apparently, the red tactics are that if the employer does not know when a stoppage is likely to take place, he will have to call on foremen, tally clerks and others to report for work and, accordingly, will have to pay their wages. He will thus be obliged to meet additional costs. I suggest that it is not only the employer who will have to meet those costs, but also the people of Australia.
In June last, an overseas liner was obliged to carry back to Melbourne cargo which should have been unloaded at Sydney. The ship was, inconsequence, not able to load cargo which had been booked from Sydney. That meant a loss of cargo earnings of approximately £30,000, plus the cost of returning the cargo to Sydney. Now let us look at the earnings of these waterside workers. In Brisbane, the average earnings during the year which ended in June last were £16 7s.11d. a week for an average of 30.33 hours, or £17 7s. 7d.including attendance money. The average hourly rate, including attendance money, was11s. 6d. In 1953-54, the total interstate and overseas cargo handled at the port of Sydney was 4,827,994 tons, compared with 5,648,678 tons in 1938-39. The greater tonnage of 1938-39 was handled by 3,800 men, compared with 6,400 as at present.
I do not share the Australian Labour party’s sympathy with Jim Healy and his Communist-dominated union. I stand for the decent working people of “the country, particularly for the men on the land, who experience so much difficulty in obtaining the materials they require for their farms. I have in my hand a little bottle of sugar which is in liquid form. During the monsoonal season and the hot summer months in Queensland, it is possible to see on the wharfs of north Queensland ports bags of sugar dissolving into liquid such as this. When the sugar reaches the southern States, the canegrowers of Queensland find that they have lost thousands of pounds because the waterside workers have adopted goslow tactics and want an allroundtheyear job loading sugar. Like the Australian Labour party, they have no thought at all for the farmers. The Liberal party and the Australian Country party stand for the majority of the people of Australia.
A gang of waterside workers at Lucinda, working on a contract rate, loads 25 tons an hour, and some of them say that they could load 40 tons an hour if their union did not prevent them from doing so. Slow working causes costs to rise. This bill does not strike at working conditions. It aims at obtaining men to do the work that needs to be done. Perhaps this is not the right remedy. I think that a better way would be to employ the waterside workers on a contract rate. They would then work faster and a greater tonnage of goods would be loaded in a given space of time. The only other way to improve the position is to form the watersiders into cooperative societies to do the loading and unloading at the various ports. They would then be the masters, and so be able to Tun their businesses properly. I commend this bill, particularly Part 11, which will help to improve the supply of menon the waterfront, and thus expedite the turnround of ships. I hope that, after an inquiry has been conducted into the waterfront industry, further legislation will be brought down to ensure that the ports will be worked on a decent, commonsense basis. The average Australian will then be able to live cheaper than at present. It is unfortunate that the costly tactics of Communist Jim Healy - not of the decent members of the Waterside Workers Federation - are supported by the Australian Labourparty.
Motion (by Senator Spooner) put -
That the question be now put.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. A. M. McMullin.)
Majority . . 4
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. A. M. McMullin.)
Majority . . 4
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Declaration of Urgency.
– I declare that the Stevedoring Industry Bill 1954 is an urgent bill.
Question put -
That the bill he considered an urgent bill.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid.)
Majority . . 4
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Senator McLeay) pro posed -
That the time allotted in connexion with the consideration of the bill he as follows: -
For the committee stage of the bill - until 10.15 p.m. this day.
For the remaining stages of the bill - until 10.20 p.m. this day.
.- The outrageous behaviour of the Government in this matter would lead one to believe that this bill is of no significance to the nation but, instead, it is a measure that has precipitated a nation-wide strike on the waterfront of this country - a strike which I and other honorable senators on this side fear may develop into a national disaster. What is the approach of the Government to the matter? Three Opposition senators and four Government senators were permitted to speak on the motion for the second reading of the bill. We witnessed the spectacle last night of the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) reading his second-reading speech at the slowest pace at which I have ever heard a document read in this chamber. He took half an hour to read it. We, knowing, the form of the Government;, decided that we would try to put up at least one speaker from each State. One Opposition senator from Tasmania, one from New South Wales and one from South Australia spoke during the second-reading debate, but not one representative of the other three States was able to raise his voice in the debate.
– We listened to an honorable senator from Queensland just now.
– I am speaking of the Opposition. On this side of the chamber, we have people like Senator Cooke, Senator Sheahan, Senator Cameron - who was a watersider himself and is a man with vast practical experience on the waterfront - Senator Benn and Senator Tangney, although she has not worked on the wharfs. I do not want to make invidious distinctions between my colleagues. The honorable senators I have mentioned could have made a practical contribution to the discussion of a measure of nation-wide importance.
– They can speak at the committee stage.
– The committee will be allowed about half an hour to discuss all the clauses of the bill. That is an outrage. We have an amendment to present, and the Government has circulated an amendment which we want to support. It was suggested by Dr. Evatt in another place and the Government has accepted it.
I do not want the debate on this motion to be extended unduly. I say, on behalf of the Opposition, that the Government’s action in moving a motion is a denial of the rights of the Opposition. It is more than that. It is a complete denial of the rights of the Senate. It is a complete repudiation of the principles of democracy when a bill of this importance, having already had the most serious con sequences, is dismissed so summarily, with such contempt and with such a ruthless and brutal disregard of the rights of the Opposition. We see in this motion the same ruthlessness and arrogance that has already characterized the conduct of the Government in relation to the legislation and its consequences. There has been extended to the Opposition to-night the same brutal treatment, the same ruthlessness and the same disregard of the ordinary decencies that has been extended to the waterside workers of this country. It has provoked the same kind of resentment. It could not do anything else. On behalf of the Opposition, I record our bitter resentment at the stifling of our speakers. We have not been permitted to present even one speaker from each State. If those who sit on the Government benches in this chamber are proud of that performance, they are proud of very little. But we are not surprised at what has happened. We understand that the members of the Government are ashamed of what they have done in relation to this legislation and that they want to silence the voice of the Opposition. They have the numbers to do so, and we cannot stop them, but we can at least record our protest against such outrageous behaviour.
– I record my protest against the action of the Government in curtailing the debate on this measure - a measure which may be the cause of one of the greatest catastrophes in this country. If a way out of the present difficulty is found, it will be found by those associated with the Labour movement. It will be the Labour movement that will determine whether there will be a general industrial upheaval or not. The action of the Government in preventing the Opposition from presenting its case on the bill will not be conducive to members of the Labour movement entering into discussions or negotiations in a tranquil frame of mind. It is likely to inflame the passions, when tranquility would be desirable. The action of the Government in curtailing the debate, especially after the tirade of abuse hurled at the Opposition by Senator Wood, is beyond description.
Senator Wood stated that he felt this was not the right way to do the job, hut lie went on to accuse members of the Opposition of supporting the Communist secretary and Communist officers of the Waterside Workers Federation. We were forced to listen in silence to such accusations made against members of our party. After Senator Wood had spoken, not one of us was given an opportunity to say what he thought about the measure or to offer any assistance to the Government to find the solution of the problem. If we ha.d been given an opportunity to place our case before the Senate, we could have shown the Government that this legislation will not remove the anomalies complained of by Senator Wood. The Minister, in his secondreading, speech, intimated that no alteration would be made of the set-up to the Waterside Workers Federation. There is nothing in the bill that will curtail the alleged activities of the elements mentioned by Senator Wood. We shall still have with us Mr. Healy and the other people of whom the honorable senator complained.
Because the Government has gagged the debate, we on this side of the chamber have been prevented, from pointing out that, despite the requests made by the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board, Senator Wood and those associated with him in Queensland ports have refused to improve facilities on the wharfs in the north of Queensland, although they gave a solemn promise to the board to do so. We have been prevented from explaining that, according to impartial reports, the turn-round of ships has improved. The board, in its reports to the Parliament, has been able to show a continued improvement. The decision of the Government to curtail the debate has prevented us from pointing out to those who keep their heads buried in the sand that, despite what has been said by Senator Wood, official records disclose that more time has been lost on the waterfront of this country through rain than through industrial disputes. That is true, despite the statements that Senator Wood made in his tirade of abuse of the Opposition. The action of the Government in preventing the Opposition from placing those facts before the Senate is beyond my comprehension. It will do nothing to help us to find a solution of the problem that faces us. Let me say to the Government, as one who has spent a life-time in the trade union movement, that the tactics it has used will not achieve what many of us desire, that is, more tranquility and better conditions on the waterfront. If there be a general conflagration and a repetition of what happened’ in years gone by. when Australian industry came to a standstill, that will be the fault of the Government, not of the Opposition.
– What reasoning !
– Senator Wright laughs and sniggers. The present turmoil on the waterfront must end one day. It will be brought to an end, not by coercive legislation sponsored by the Government, but by negotiations carried on by members of the Labour movement. The Government has, so to speak, taken the wrong tram, if it believes that, by curtailing the debate, it will achieve what we all desire.
.rWhat I have to say can be said, and will be said, in half a dozen sentences. There is before us a bill in which one clause only is the main subject of discussion. The Opposition has a chance to discuss that clause now, but is not doing so. Opposition speakers are talking about something else altogether. The time that has been given to them to discuss the bill is being wasted on a futile discussion, and one which they know to be futile. We may well draw the inference that honorable senators opposite, having been given an opportunity to discuss the contentious clause in this bill and to answer the arguments - not the abuse - of the last speaker, and having failed to take advantage of that opportunity, do not want to talk about this clause at all.
– It is not often that I address this chamber, but I am glad to have this opportunity to do so. I believe that, tonight, a very grave error has been committed by the Government. A serious industrial issue has arisen. The Senate has met for only a few weeks this year, and surely at this time of industrial unrest, an opportunity should be given to honorable senators to speak freely. To-night’s events, in my opinion, set the seal upon the activity of those who seek the abolition of the Senate. I say quite frankly that, if conduct of this kind is to continue, the Senate might as well be abolished. We are only a “ ditto “ house. Indeed, on this occasion, we have not been given an opportunity to be even that. This debate only started at a late hour last night. The country is faced with the possibility of a general strike. Honorable senators opposite who speak so glibly of communism gagged the debate on the second reading of this measure. They profess to believe in free speech, yet on an important question such as this, they deny to honorable senators an opportunity to speak at all. Senator Gorton has told us. that we have half an hour to discuss the bill if we do not waste time.. My colleague, Senator Sheehan, took the opportunity to say a few words that he would have said had he been given an hour to speak on the motion for the second reading, and I, too, propose to say something. I said by way of interjection that Senator Wood’s speech was mere soap box sophistry, and that is true.
Senator Wright interjecting,
– That great criminal lawyer, Senator Wright, who has kept so many criminals out of gaol, should keep quiet, Senator Wood is an earnest, serious, and noble man. I suppose that they are all noble men on the other side of the chamber. But here is the point: Senator Wood accused the Labour party of condoning the strike and assisting the waterside workers. I say to him that the Labour party was confronted by a fait accompli. We did not ask the waterside workers to go out on strike. Not one member of the Labour party said a word to encourage the waterside workers to go on strike. We were faced with the position that the waterside workers were already out on strike, and we resolved to do our best to solve the problem and get them back to work. Last night, the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) spoke in a most conciliatory way. Friend and foe alike admitted that he had made a statesmanlike speech, and a genuine endeavour to bring about peace in industry. What does it matter now ? We. have only a fewpaltry minutes to discuss the bill. Senator Gorton has said we are wasting time. I am not wasting time. So strongly do I feel about the low-down, dirty, filthy, rotten tactics: adopted by the Government to-night that I am prepared to walk out. Before I leave, however, I wish to say that you are nothing less than a lot of fascists and Hitlerites, trying to dominate honorable senators on this side of the chamber, and stop us from speaking on this measure. You should be completely ashamed of yourselves. You have done a great disservice to Australia by the stupid, silly tactics you have adopted to-night. I leave you now and say,” A jolly good night to you and I hope the Senate will be abolished after this”.
Motion (by Senator Spicer) agreed to.
That the question be now put.
Question put -
That the motion [vide page 1390) be agreed to.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 -
This act shall come into operation on the day on which it receives the Royal Assent.
– This clause provides that the act shall come into operation on the day on which it receives Royal assent. I move -
That clause 2 he left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following clause: - “2. - (1.) Save as to sections, six, seven and eight, this act shall come into operation on the day on which it receives the Royal Assent.. (2.) Sections six, seven and eight shall come into operation on a day to be fixed by proclamation but not before the expiration of fourteen days after the receipt by the Minister of the report made under section eleven of this act by the committee of inquiry.”.
The purpose of the amendment is clear. It is that the three clauses of the bill which will implement the Government’s new policy of recruitment on the waterfront shall not become operative until they are proclaimed and that such proclamation shall not be made until at least fourteen days after the report of the proposed committee of inquiry has been made. Last night in this chamber, I put to the Senate an argument in favour of this very proposal, and I do not propose now to attempt to repeat anything that I said then. I merely confirm every word that I uttered. When I made this proposal last night, the Government had some hours in which to seize the opportunity that I offered on behalf of the Opposition to secure an early settlement of the strike. The request of the Australian Council of Trades Unions, which is now in charge of the strike, on behalf of the trade union movement, is that these clauses be postponed until after the committee of inquiry has made its report. That is the one request that is made to the Government. It is the door that can open the way to an early settlement of this dispute. I warn the Government to-night that if that door is closed, the Government will be banging it on its opportunity to secure an early settlement of that strike. That is a very grave responsibility which the Government must accept. I shall take up no more time.
We have only a few minutes in which to debate my amendment. It will be followed by a Government amendment which, of course, we shall have no opportunity to debate. However, it was suggested by the Leader of the Opposition in the House or Representatives (Dr. Evatt), and the Government has had the good sense to adopt it. We shall support it, but there will be no time to argue it. I do not want to deprive my colleagues who have already been gagged, of an opportunity to speak in the few minutes remaining for this debate. I hope that Government supporters will have the decency not to rise so that an honorable senator on this side of the chamber will have a chance to speak.
– I support the amendment that has been moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna). I am not doing so from a party motive. From 1942, when the late Mr. John Curtin took over the Government of Australia when a government of the same political colour as this Government left the nation in dire need, I was president of the disputes committee associated with the Labour movement. The only way to settle industrial disputes is by negotiation.
– Order ! The time allotted for the committee stage has expired.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be left out (Senator McKenna’s amendment) be left out.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid.)
Majority . . . . 5
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause 11, and the circulated amendment of the Government, agreed to.
Circulated amendment -
Clause 11 - (1.) The Committee shall inquire into and report to the Minister upon the facts relating to
Amendment. - After paragraph (c), insert the following new paragraph: - “ (ca) the profits made from stevedoring operations by companies or other persons engaged exclusively or otherwise in the stevedoring industry, including profits so made by companies or other persons engaged in whole or in part in shipping operations and deriving profits either directly or indirectly from stevedoring operations; “,
Question put -
That the remaining clauses of the bill, and the Title, stand as printed.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid.)
Majority . . . . 6
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the bill be reported with an amendment.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid.)
Majority . . . . 5
Questionso resolved in the affirmative.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. A. M.McMullin) . - Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question -
That the Senate do nowadjourn.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. A. M. McMullin.)
Majority . . . . 5
Question so resolved in the negative.
Motion (by Senator Spicer) proposed -
That the report be adopted.
– Pursuant to Standing Order 212, I move -
By some strange mischance, when the bill was in committee there was no debate beyond clause ‘2. I suggest that the committee overlooked some important clauses, notably-
– I rise to order. At the committee stage amotion was carried which fixed the timefor the third reading of the bill as 10.20 p.m. I suggest, having regard to that motion, that it is not now competent for the Leader of the Opposition -to introduce this matter.
– Senator Spicer’s point of order is not upheld. A resolution of thecommittee cannot bind the Senate.
– There are many important clauses in this measure and I suggest that the committee might further address itself to a consideration of them. I refer, in particular., toclause 6 of the bill, which provides for the alteration of the basis of recruitment in the stevedoring industry. I notice that that clause proposes to omit sub-section (2.) of section 21 of the principal act and insert in its stead a new sub-section. The proposed new sub-section begins by stating that, except at such ports as the board determines, certain things shall happen. Under the Government’s policy, an. employer may select a prospective employee and make a recommendation to the board.. If the board finds that the man is fitted by age and physical qualifications, it may register him. . He may apply to the Waterside Workers Federation for admission to membership of that organization and thereafter may participate in the industry. I think the Senate should address its mind particularly to the opening words of the proposed new sub-section which are “except at such ports as the board determines “. If I understand them correctly, complete jurisdiction over the waterfront is vested in the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board under this bill because those opening words indicate that the board may determine in. which ports the Government’s policy applies. I hope that honorable senators appreciate the significance of. that provision. The Government has professed to have provided, as a matter of .Government policy, that future recruitment will take place in the way that I have indicated, yet it has preceded that provision with the words “ except at such ports as the board determines “. In other words, this bill will allow the Stevedoring Industry Board, to disregard the Government’s policy at any time.
I propose to compare this legislation with similar legislation which was introduced by the last Government and in which, the same words appear. Section 21 (2.) of the Stevedoring Industry Act 1949 reads as follows: -
Except at suck ports as the board determines, a waterside worker shall not be registered under this act unless he is a member of the federation but nothing in this sub-section shall affect the operation of paragraph (6) of sub’Section (3.) of section five of this act.
That sub-section had been inserted in the 1947 legislation and it was preserved in the legislation of 1949. It contains exactly the same words that appear in the proposed new sub-section (2.) of this bill. But when those words were inserted in the Labour legislation it was considered that it would probably be necessary, at some outlying ports, to have a different arrangement where people who were not members of the Waterside Workers Federation could be engaged. The Labour Government gave the federation an assurance that the words, “ except at such ports as the board determines “, would not be used so as to depart from the spirit and intention of the enactment. That has been honoured to date. The point that I make now is: What undertaking, if any, is given about those words ? I think the Senate should address its mind to the fact that those words govern the whole section. This bill reposes absolute power in the board to determine the method of recruitment. The whole thing is entirely at large. Under that provision, there would be nothing to prevent the board, on the day on which this hill becomes law, from saying, “ All these provisions which provide for recruitment through the employers shall not apply in the ports of Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne “. The whole scheme of the Government could then tumble to the ground. I ask the Minister wh.etb.eT that interpretation is correct, and whether he does not agree that the Senate should direct its mind to a consideration of the implication of those words.
– The board would not be so irresponsible.
– The board may have very good reasons for doing that, and it may not be irresponsible. Suppose, for instance, that the employers were recruiting or presenting to the board men who were obviously unfitted for the job. If the employers behaved irrationally, and if the board thought that the policy of the Government was wrong and should be reversed, with those words preceding the section, which implemented the Government’s policy, the board could pick, up this vaunted scheme and. throwit in the discard.
– That also applied to the Labour Government act.
– I know that. I have acknowledged it already, and I have explained why that was done by the Labour Government. I have- also explained how the provision was implemented. I do not think there is very much doubt about the interpretation of it, but I suggest that it is desirable for the matter to go back to the committee, so that the whole position may be recanvassed. We might then get from the Minister, not only an interpretation of those words in the view of the Government, and a statement whether the Government is prepared to direct the board, but also an indication whether, in fact, it could so direct the board. I think that the Australian Waterside Workers Federation, which is being pushed about quite enough so far as this bill is concerned, is entitled to some assurance by the Government concerning the construction which it places on those words and the use it proposes to make of them.
I feel that the Senate should address its mind to that matter and that it would be profitable for it to do so. With that should be bracketed consideration of a further section that is called immediately to mind. That is a provision that belonged to section 33 of the 1947 act, and now belongs to section 27 (2.) of the 1949 act. Since sub-section (2.) of section 27 refers to sub-section (1.) of that ‘section, perhaps it will be as well if I read sub-section (1.) first. It is in the following terms : -
Penalty: One hundred pounds.
Sub-section (2.), which I am considering, reads as follows: - (2.) Nothing in the last preceding subsuction shall prevent the engagement for employment of a person as a waterside worker at a port at which a sufficient number of registered waterside workers is not available.
That sub-section also merits consideration, because it too gives to the Stevedoring Industry Board a vast power and discretion. I think it would be wrong to let consideration of this matter pass by the Senate.
– But has not that stood as a part of the legislation since 1949?
– Yes, that is perfectly true. I think it was in the 1947 legislation as well.
– Does the Government seek to amend it to-day?
– My proposition, is that it might well be considered in the light of the policy which will be pursued by the Government under that section. It is clear that no responsible Government would hand over to a particular union utter and absolute power and monopoly, and the Labour Government, in framing this legislation, did not do that. Not only were there the words that preceded section 21, but also, there were the provisions of sub-section (2.) of section 27.
– Is the honorable senator advocating that the board and the Government should use the authority of sub-section (2.) when registered waterfront labour is not available? Be candid with the committee !
– I inform the honorable senator, first, that we are not in committee, and secondly, that I am advocating nothing at this moment in relation to sub-section (2.), nor do I think it proper that I should do so. I am merely advancing reasons why there should be further consideration of particular clauses of the bill. If Senator Wright wishes to cross-examine me, and will vote with the Opposition so that we are able to carry the amendment, I undertake to submit to as much questioning as the honorable senator likes to address to me, provided that the questions are properly asked through the President.
Other honorable senators on this side of the chamber would like to address themselves to the motion that is now before the Senate. I hope that something that happened in this chamber earlier will not be repeated. It is not competent for me to open up that matter at this stage, and I do not propose to do so, but I express the hope that an opportunity will be given to other honorable senators on this side of the chamber, who are concerned about other important clauses and who are ready to advance reasons why they should be re-committed and further considered, to state their views. I trust that such an opportunity will be given to at least one of my colleagues.
Motion (by Senator McLeay) put -
That the question be now put.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. A. M. McMullin.)
Majority . . 5
Question so resolvedin the affirmative.
Question put -
That the bill be recommitted.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. A. M. McMullin.)
Majority . . . . 5
Question so resolved in the negative.
Question put -
That the report be adopted.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. A. M. McMullin.)
Majority . . . . 5
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Senator Spicer) proposed -
That the bill be now read a third time.
Motion (by Senator McLeay) put -
That the question be now put.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. A. M. McMullin.)
Majority . . 5
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the bill be now read a third time.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. A. M. McMullin.)
Majority . . 5
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 10th November (vide page 1348), on motion by Senator Spooner -
That the bill be now read asecond time.
. -It seems fitting, in view of the debate that took place on the Stevedoring Industry Bill that we have just passed, to embark now on the consideration of a bill to provide for the payment of a bounty on sulphuric acid, with the object of increasing the production of that commodity. The main purpose of the bill is to stimulate, by the payment of a bounty, the production in this country of sulphuric acid from pyrites, but provision is made also for the payment, if necessary, of a bounty on acid produced from other materials of Australian origin. The Opposition has no objection to the bill. The payment of a bounty on sulphuric acid produced in Australia is nothing new. Provision was made for a bounty some years ago, and that provision is still in force. No bounty is being paid under the existing formula.
The object of the bounty now proposed is to protect manufacturers of sulphuric acid produced from Australian pyrites against competition from acid produced from imported brimstone. The price of imported brimstone now is as low as £20 10s. a ton. Because this Government did not take action to prevent runaway inflation, the costs of production of Australian acid manufacturers using pyrites have risen to such a degree that they find they cannot compete with manufacturers using brimstone. Hence, it has been decided that a bounty shall be paid on sulphuric acid produced from pyrites at a rate equivalent to £2 a ton of 100 per. cent, sulphuric acid when the landed cost of imported brimstone is £20 10s. a ton, the rate of bounty to rise or fall by the equivalent of ls. 9d. a ton of 100 per cent, sulphuric acid for each 5s. by whichthe landed cost of brimstone is below or above £20 10s. a ton. It is provided also that the bounty shall not exceed the equivalent of £4 a ton of 100 per cent, sulphuric acid., and that the bounty shall cease when the landed cost of imported brimstone is £25 10s. a ton or higher.
The bounty will cost £600,000 a year, but I understand from the Minister’s second-reading speech that, if it proves to be necessary to increase expenditure, that will be done. Previously, the bounty cost £180,000 a year, but, owing to runaway inflation, it has been necessary to increase it to £600,000. The old bounty was paid at the rate of £1 7s. to £1 16s. a ton, but now it will be increased to £2 a ton, subject variations in accordance with rises or falls of the landed cost of brimstone.
I turn to another matter. The Government has circulated an amendment of the bill. I do not quarrel with the amendment, which provides for the nonpayment of a bounty in certain circumstances, but I think it is wrong that the Government, having presented the bill to the Senate, almost immediately afterwards has proposed an amendment. Somebody is at fault. The draftsman prepares a bill, but it is necessary to amend it almost immediately. That has happened repeatedly while this Government has been in office. Bills are presented to the Parliament, but, because they have not been considered properly by theGovernment, a defect is discovered subsequently and an amendment is necessary. There is something wrong somewhere. Bills are not being considered properly before presentation to the Parliament, and they have to be amended after they have been introduced.
– This is a very complicated matter which involves no criticism of the draftsman.
– The amendment?
– No, the bill.
– Somebody is at fault. The amendment provides that, after sub-clause (2.) of clause 8, the words “ or that in such circumstances as are prescribed no bounty is payable “ he added. There must be something wrong when somebody leaves out of the bill a provision of that kind. The fact that the amendment is necessary shows either that the draftsman is inefficient or that inadequate instructions were given to him. If the instructions given to the draftsman had been adequate, probably no amendment would have been necessary. I do not know who is at fault, but somebody must be at fault, because this is happening continually. I leave the matter there.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 7 agreed to.
Clause 8 -
That, in clause 8, at the end of sub-clause (2.), the following words be added: - “or that, in such circumstances as arc prescribed, no bounty is payable “.
Amendment (by Senator Spooner) agreed to -
That, in clause 8, at the end of sub-clause (2.), the following words be added: - “or that, in such circumstances as are prescribed, no bounty is payable “.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Remainder of bill, agreed to.
Bill reported with an amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 10th November (vide page 1350), on motion by Senator Spooner -
That the bill be now read a second time.
, - The Opposition does not intend to oppose this bill, which provides for assistance to be given to the goldmining industry. We are conscious of the fact that such assistance was promised by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) during the last general election campaign and was mentioned in his policy speeches of 1949 and 1951. The assistance proposed by the bill is in excess of that which the Prime Minister indicated in his policy speeches. It is significant that, after investigating the industry, the Government has found it necessary to increase the degree of assistance which, in the first place, it thought would be fair to the industry.
The gold-mining industry is a most important industry for Australia. I suppose the discovery of payable gold in Australia in 1851 did more than any other single act to assist the development of the country. The production of gold assisted Western Australia in particular to recover from the depression. Of the £17,000,000 worth of gold produced in Australia and Papua and New Guinea last year, £13,000,000 was produced in Western Australia. The gold-mining industry, because of its scattered nature, has assisted the development of pastoral areas. In Western Australia, there are miles of railway lines connecting the gold-mining centres with the main centres of population. The development of those railways to serve gold-mining centres opened up districts for pastoral development.
The great problem facing the goldmining industry to-day - it is the necessity for this bill - is that gold-producers are being squeezed between the nether millstone of production costs and the upper millstone of a fixed price. The price of gold has been increased by 100 per cent., but costs of transport and labour have increased by considerably more than that, so the industry is in a parlous position. I think we sometimes make the mistake of referring to gold as a commodity. I envisage a commodity as something the value of which is affected by variations of supply and demand. Wool has been in great demand for some time because of the cold war, and also because it could not be distributed throughout the world to any degree during the last war. I regard a commodity as something which people use. I do not think it is correct to refer to gold as a commodity. I think it would be more accurate to say that it is a metal used for monetary purposes. The price paid for our gold depends finally on what one nation, the United States of America, is prepared to pay for it. There is no question of competition between buyers. Nothing that we can do will affect the decision of the United States on what it will pay for gold. The governments of Australia and South Africa have fought strenuously for an increase of gold prices. The argument advanced is that such an increase would enable gold-producing countries to earn more dollars and improve the balance of trade.
Sitting suspended from 11.30 p.m. to 18.15 a.m.
Friday, 12 November 195k
– We have always claimed that if the United States would increase its payment for gold above 35 dollars an ounce, gold.producing countries, particularly Australia, could obtain more dollars and so improve their balance of trade with the dollar area. We have always claimed, too, that an increase of the price of gold would enable us to carry prospecting into areas in which we can reasonably expect gold to be found, and so to lift the industry out of the doldrums into which it has drifted. So far, we have been unable to do that. On the other hand, America’s view has always been that an increase of the price of gold would benefit only goldproducing countries, and would not benefit other countries which share our dollar problems, but which have no gold to make up their balance of payments. In addition, of course, an increase of the price of gold would not benefit the United States itself. It would serve only to increase America’s hoard of gold, and make the sale of gold much more difficult should America want to unload some of its hoard on to the world’s markets. We are told also that to increase the price of gold would be inflationary because it would mean paying more dollars for the same quantity of gold. That would simply mean injecting more money into the economy without increasing the availability of goods to absorb that money. There is no need for the United States to stockpile gold. Of all the commodities that America has been endeavouring to stockpile since the end of the war, gold is the least essential. Those are the formidable obstacles in the way of Australia getting more money for this commodity that we produce in such large quantities. Of the £17,000,000 that was earned last year by the gold-mining industry throughout the Commonwealth and in Papua and New Guinea £13,000,000 was earned in Western Australia.
The other side of the picture is, of course, increasing costs. Gold-mining was one of the first industries to be hit by the war, because the young, healthy miner was readily assimilable in the armed forces, and was among the first to enlist. It was not long before the goldmines were depleted of man-power. Indeed, the effects of this depletion were so serious that the Curtin Government had to go to the aid of certain mines in Western Australia to ensure that, when the war ended, they would be ready to go back into full production. Grants were paid by the Commonwealth to enable dewatering and other necessary work to be carried out. . When the war ended, and men began to move back into the goldmining industry, conditions had changed entirely. The economy had passed from a period of unemployment when ample labour was available for gold-mining, to a. period of full employment when many other jobs were offering. In addition, many ex-servicemen returned from the war unfit to resume mining. Just as the industry began to get on its feet, it was hit by steeply rising costs. Inflation has a serious effect on the industry. There are no gold-mines in the cities. They are in outback areas where transport costs, wages and other charges are high. As costs of production have been pushed up, the industry has been ground against the upper stone of the fixed price. The price of gold has not yet increased by 100 per cent., whereas wages, freight charges, and other costs have increased by considerably more than that. One only has to see a dump of machinery used by a modern mine to realize the vast sums of money that have to be expended to get a mine into production. Large sums of money have already been paid to the industry in the form of straight-out subsidies. During the war, the Curtin Government made a grant of £100,000 to keep certain goldmines in a workable condition. In 1944-45, another £50,000 was put into the industry, and in 1948-49, a further £97,000 was paid. The first real approach to this problem was made in 1940 when legislation was passed to refund tax paid by the gold-mining industry, and of course the industry was freed from taxation in 1947.
Gold-mining is of tremendous importance to Western Australia. It is carried on in ‘ widely decentralized localities where it is almost the sole means of livelihood. I say “ almost “ because in most mining districts there are some pastoral properties, but usually they are of the kind that have to provide so many acres to the sheep rather than carry so many sheep to the acre. It is sparsely populated country, and it rests four-square on the gold-mining industry. If the mines in those areas were to he forced out of production, the loss of gold output would probably be only a secondary consideration as any one who has seen a ghost town will agree. It is depressing to see buildings that were public halls, modern hotels, schools, and homes - some of them still furnished - completely abandoned. An example of that is the small town of Youanmi While goods were being transported to establish that town, the gold mine cut out, and all the stuff had to be transported out again at tremendous loss.
The proposals contained in this legislation are welcomed by the Opposition and particularly by Western Australian senators. As I said earlier, the fact that the proposed assistance is more generous than that promised by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in his election speeches, indicates the parlous position in which the industry finds itself. Broadly, the bill proposes, in effect, to pay a maximumsubsidy of: £2 an ounce over the cost, of production, to the larger mines. If a mine is already returning that amount of money, of course, no subsidy will be paid. The smaller mines and prospectors are to receive 30s. an ounce on a flat-rate basis. The reason given for the difference in the method of payment, is that the larger companies- keep accurate books and records and are able to, prove their production costs, whereas the prospectors as a rule are not able to keep such accurate records. I believe however that there is some danger in this proposal. New mining fields are usually opened up by prospectors.. The modern prospector is vastly different from the prospector of fiction. He is usually a well-educated bright young man who has a wide knowledge of mining. Prospecting is not just a matter of going out and picking up gold. The prospector has to be able to recognize other metals, particularly those that have come into prominence with the advent of the jet engine. He must know a thousand and one things about mining if he is to make a success of this tough game. Therefore I believe that there is some danger in not paying to the prospector the same amount of money that is to be paid to the big companies. I realize that big mining organizations are essentia] because they are able to handle large bodies of ore that cannot possibly be treated without expensive machinery. However, I suggest seriously to the Minister that when this legislation again comes up for discussion, the question of paying to the prospector the same amount of money that is to be paid to the big companies, be given consideration.
The other aspect of the measure that causes me some concern is the limitation of the payments to a period of two years. A mine is not a farm which can produce year after year. When something is taken out of a mine, it cannot be put back again. A mine is a wasting asset. Our gold production will be maintained only if new gold-fields are opened up. The whole trend of financing industry, particularly by way of subsidy, is not to contract the period of time in which an industry can plan its development, but to extend that time so far as possible. I do not know of any good reason why this limit of two years should be imposed, unless, of course, it is believed that there may be an increase of the price of gold. In my view; there is no increase on the- horizon, and it may be from six to twelve years before the position improves. I invite the Minister therefore, if he is to reply to this debate, to explain the reason for paying the lesser amount to the prospector and for limiting the payments to two years. It must not be thought that because goldmines such as those at Kalgoorlie and Wiluna which have been in existence for many years, are still being worked, that there are not many other potential gold-mining districts throughout the Commonwealth. Therefore, it is of the utmost importance that encouragement should be given not only to people already in the gold-mining industry, but also to those who would come into it if it were sufficiently attractive. That can be done by extending, the time period of government assistance. The Opposition welcomes the bill and I cannot emphasize too strongly the importance of this industry to Australia. Almost all of the £17,000,000 worth of gold produced last year went into Australia’s overseas balances. A small portion was used by the jewellery trade. The rest was exported. Anything that can be done to build up overseas balances for a country like Australia should be done. Honorable senators will notice that the provisions of the bill will apply to the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. That Lsimportant. Anything that can. be done, to increase the population of the Territory is worthy of consideration.
– At this late hour, I do not propose to traverse the matters that have been so ably dealt with by Senator Willesee. The Opposition supports the measure, but there are other matters that I should like to discuss. The most significant part of the second-reading speech of the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) is contained in the words -
From the nations! viewpoint, the goldmining industry is highly important.
In the calm and objective language of the second-reading speech, those words are most significant. I wish to direct attention to the national importance of this measure. Gold is still the most important of the precious metals that we produce in Australia. It is even more important than metals like uranium. Without gold, Australia cannot, in simple terms, pay its debts. As economists put it, we cannot adjust our balances overseas without gold. Without increased gold production, we cannot hope to free sterling. The freeing of sterling, is directly connected with increased gold production. The American dollar remains a powerful influence in world trade and international finance only because it is backed by gold. Finally, without adequate supplies of gold, which means an increased production of gold from year to year, this country cannot retain a stable currency. Without a proper reserve of gold, this aud every other nation faces the possibility of national bankruptcy at some stage of its career. Those are not trite remarks. They are contested in some quarters. The doctrinaire socialist opposes that view, but, fortunately, this Government accepts the proposition that gold is highly important to the economy of Australia. In subsidizing this industry, the Government is not moved by any sentimental attachment towards gold, nor by any sentiment it may have towards gold-mining or Western Australia. It is for the wise, if oldfashioned, reason that gold is still one of the most important commodities Australia can produce.
There is a second reason why this bill has been introduced, and it concerns Western Australia in particular, because this industry, which has been the mort important in Western Australia for years, is still very important to Western Australia from an industrial point of view. There are more than 5,000 gold-miners employed on the gold-fields of Western Australia. There are 5,000 breadwinners, other than gold-miners, indirectly employed on the gold-fields, making a total of more than 10,000 breadwinners on the gold-fields, directly or indirectly relying upon that industry for employment, lt lias been reliably assessed that another 10,000 breadwinners in the rest of Western Australia are indirectly relying on the industry for their sustenance. Therefore, in the relatively small population of Western Australia, about 20,000 breadwinners are either directly or indirectly relying upon the gold-mining industry for support.
Last year, this industry produced about 42,000,000 dollars worth of gold. It is one of the few commodities that we can exchange for dollars. We should never forget the possibility that even the United States might refuse to buy our wool some day. We have not many products that the United States is prepared to buy, but we can always be sure that America will buy our gold. In one year, Australia can produce almost enough dollars to repay in gold, as specified, one of the international loans that have been negotiated by this Government during the last three years.
I direct attention to another illustration of the importance of the industry to Western Australia. Prior to 1939, the value of gold won in Western Austrlia exceeded the annual value of Western Australian exports of wheat and wool. I am prepared to admit that the picture is not quite the same to-day, but nobody would be prepared to say that the picture will remain as it is now. Nobody will be so bold as to suggest that, in the final analysis, gold might not again become the most valuable product of Western Australia.
I turn now to the reasons that are given in the Minister’s second-reading speech for the granting of the subsidy. They have been adequately expressed in that speech, but I wish to emphasize several points. The reason for the subsidy is to be found in the increased and increasing cost of production and its relation to the fixed price of gold. I propose to give several illustrations of the truth of that proposition. In 1936, the fixed price of gold was £8 14s. and the basic wage was £4 18s. 8d. To-day the fixed price of gold is £15 9s. lOd. and the basic wage in Kalgoorlie is £14 7s. In each case, the basic wage includes the industry allowance. Obviously, the basic wage has risen out of all proportion to the fixed price of gold. In addition to this incredibly large increase of the basic wage, there has been a correspondingly high increase of all other charges relating to gold-raining, such as railway freights, insurance and the cost of stores and machinery. It is well known that increases of costs in isolated areas often are far greater than in the metropolitan area. That applies to the gold-mining industry.
It must always be remembered also that gold is sold at a fixed price. In addition, the gold-producer is bound by law to sell his gold immediately it becomes bullion. The producer cannot hoard it. It is an offence to retain the product. What would primary producers say if they were in similar circumstances? Not only must a gold-miner sell his produce, but he must sell it to a specified buyer at a fixed price. The figures I have given in relation to the basic wage give an indication of the predicament the industry is facing. I take this opportunity of paying a tribute to the mining companies and executives and staffs for the manner in which they have endeavoured to keep costs down at all times. It is rather an alarming thought to people on the goldfields that once a mine ceases to pay its way, it closes down overnight. Mines do not carry on after they start losing money. The possibility, of closure has existed on some of the larger mines in Kalgoorlie for some time. But the mining companies have gone to extraordinary lengths to reduce costs. The industry is to be congratulated on the way it has concentrated on keeping down charges.
I wish to make a few brief comments upon the nature of the subsidy, because that is important. I believe it is correct to say that the gold-mining industry is generally opposed to subsidies. That statement is not difficult to understand. The larger companies do not plan from day to day, or even from year to year. Their economic planning extends over a period of years. Some companies on the Golden Mile in Kalgoorlie have been planning for 15 to 20 years ahead. Mining companies do not like to rely upon a subsidy from year to year to make the mines pay when they are actually planning for many years ahead. Having regard to that proposition, it is understandable that the mining industry welcomes any subsidy that will encourage the companies concerned to get into a financial position sufficiently sound to preclude the payment of a subsidy as soon as possible. In effect, the subsidy that honorable senators are discussing does that.
Many forms of subsidy could have been granted to the industry. This particular subsidy is based on the cost of production ratio so far as the large mines are concerned. A subsidy was payable on a profit basis through legislation passed by the Chifley Government. So far as the industry was concerned, that was a most unsatisfactory type of subsidy. It did not provide for the adequate development of reserves.
– By keeping profits low?
– The formula in relation to profits did not permit a proper programme of development. This formula does permit of an adequate programme of development.
Senator Willesee mentioned that this is a wasting industry. For every ton of ore that is taken out of a mine, another ton has to be discovered or the mine will stop. A subsidy must enable the mine to pay its way from month to month and must also enable it to carry out sufficient development to continue operations while there is gold in the area. As far as is known, large gold mine interests in Western Australia have indefinite supplies of ore available to them. So the great value of the proposed subsidy lies in the fact that it will encourage mineowners to maintain adequate ore reserves. There would be no virtue in any subsidy that merely prolonged the life of a mine for a year or two. This subsidy will enable Western Australian mines, if conditions remain as they are, to be worked indefinitely.
This bill provides two different kinds of subsidy, one for small producers and one for large producers. A subsidy is payable at the flat rate of 30s. an ounce to small miners, who are defined as miners who produce less than 500 ounces of gold a year. Senator Willesee suggested that the amount payable to small miners should have been raised to £2 an ounce, which will be the amount payable to large mines. Senator Willesee presented an incorrect picture of the situation to the
Senate.’ The fact is that every small miner will receive a flat rate subsidy of 30s. on every ounce of gold produced, irrespective of his cost of production. On the other hand, assistance is not being given to all large mines. It will only be received by a few of the larger mines. Even those that receive a subsidy will not all receive £2 an ounce. I do not know whether one mine will receive that amount.
In the Western Australian press recently, Mr. Kelly, the Minister for Mines in Western Australia, damned this measure with faint praise, saying that the small miner would not receive as much as the large miner. It ill becomes Mr. Kelly to criticize this scheme. He should have known that the large mining companies will not receive the maximum amount of £2 an ounce. Most of the large mines will not receive any subsidy and those few that receive a subsidy will receive a good deal less than £2 an ounce, although every small miner will receive a flat rate of 30s. an ounce, irrespective of the cost of production. The assistance of this industry is primarily the responsibility of the State governments. Has the Government of Western Australia given it any assistance ? Certainly not. But it has burdened the industry with some very heavy charges. Hundreds of thousands of pounds have been paid by this industry in the last year in freight charges because of the apathy of the Hawke Government towards the industry. It ill becomes Mr. Kelly to comment in the way that he did about this bill. Had it not been for the timely assistance of the Federal Government, the gold-mining industry in Western Australia would have gone hang as far as Mr. Kelly was concerned.
The introduction of this bill, which provides assistance for both small and large miners, is entirely due to the efforts of the Chamber of Mines in Western Australia, and particularly to the splendid efforts of Mr. Lindsay Clark, who made certain submissions to the Government. Without Mr. Clark’s splendid efforts, this bill would not be before the Senate, and small and large mine-owners would not be given assistance. The thanks of the industry are due to the fine work of the Chamber of Mines of Western Australia and Mr. Clark for their joint efforts in relation to this matter.
– Although the contribution that the Government has proposed to make to the gold-mining industry is very welcome, it is very small compared to its contribution towards the rise in prices which brought about the necessity for the bounty. I cannot see eye to eye with Senator Vincent on one or two matters. Perhaps that is because I am not one-eyed and I watch the interests of the man who is doing the work rather than the man who is getting the profits. None of the big companies that will derive the greatest benefit from this legislation will be doing the hard work. It is the shareholder in the large companies who draws the profits, not the man down the mine who will receive his fixed wages, regardless of the amount of profit.
The small mines which produce less than 500 oz. of gold a year are operated by individual prospectors, by a syndicate of two or three men, or by small companies. It has been proposed that they should receive 10s. an ounce less by way of subsidy than the amount payable to the large mine-owners. Apparently, the Government considers that the man ‘who is doing the hard work is not entitled to the same margin of profit as the shareholders.
– What an awful lot of nonsense.
– As Senator Vincent has not done any hard work he would not know what I am talking about. Having been fed with a silver spoon and educated in law at a university-
– Order ! If the honorable senator will keep to the bill we shall get through the’ business more quickly. He should not worry about what happened to Senator Vincent in other days.
– The man who has been taught in a university, who has not known adversity and who has never done physical work, would not appreciate the position of the small mine-owner. I am speaking from the point of view of a man who has been born to hard work. If the Government wants to develop Australia why does it continually deprive the small man of his rights? In what better way could the Government encourage the development of mining than by giving an adequate bonus to the small prospector who develops the mines in the first place ? I cannot agree with Senator Willesee that prospectors are highly educated. That may be so in Western Australia, but it is not so in other States.
– That is why we find all the gold in Western Australia.
– I dare say; but if the honorable senator examined his history he would find that those men who found the first big mines in Australia were brought up the hard way and did not have any education.
The Government is discriminating against the small miners. Why cannot the Government be fair? It has alleged that the small miner would not keep accurate accounts. Would a syndicate that was producing £8,500 of gold a year not keep accounts? Of course it would. It is unfair to the small miner to make his subsidy 10s. an ounce less than the rate payable to the big miners. Such a proposal will not provide initiative. It is a demonstration of class distinction. When two or three men work together they keep records of all expenditure and plant. Any syndicate could provide a statement of its expenses. The Government cannot justify its refusal to pay small miners the subsidy at the same rate as it will be payable to large miners by stating that the small miners would not have accurate accounts. In any industry other than gold-mining, theCommissioner of Taxation would ensure that people kept accurate accounts. The Commissioner of Taxation requires those who operate businesses to keep accounts. Even if the turnover is only £2,000 a year, accounts have to be kept and must be accurate. I support Senator Willesee’s plea for the smaller man in the industry. I consider, also, that even the larger gold-mining undertakings would have a better idea of where they stood if the subsidy were granted for a longer period. I suggest that the only miners who would not plan for more than two years ahead would be prospectors looking for a few ounces of gold here and there. I think that the Government is being foolish in not making the subsidy operative for a longer period.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
In committee: .
– Sub-clause (2.) of clause 5 proposes to do two things. First, it proposes to give the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) a discretion to approve of any person as a gold-producer, and, secondly, it gives the Treasurer the right to decide whether a property is a separate mining property or not. I am not concerned with the latter aspect of the sub-clause, but I am very much concerned with the first aspect. It, in fact, proposes to give the Treasurer an absolute discretion to approve any person as a producer. The point about this provision is that, already in the bill, a formula has been prescribed which applies to the large mines, and under that formula, I suggest that the policy of the Government has been set out fairly clearly. That, in effect, gives to any large mine the right to receive the subsidy. There is a second qualification envisaged by this sub-clause which worries me somewhat, because not only must the large miner qualify in regard to the costsofproduction formula, but he must also obtain this consent of the Treasurer. The discretion there is absolute, although I should say that the Treasurer would, in certain circumstances, be obliged to grant a subsidy. However, there is nothing in the bill to indicate the policy that the Treasurer might adopt in using that discretion.
I appreciate that some power must be vested in the Treasurer in relation to the granting of a subsidy such as this. I can easily imagine a set of circumstances in which the Treasurer, for a variety of reasons, would be justified in telling a producer that he was not entitled to the subsidy, irrespective of his costs of production. But I am a little fearful that the wording of this bill may be somewhat misunderstood by the industry, and I invite the Minister to tell me in which circumstances the Treasurer will use his discretion. In other words, is the Minister prepared to say that, in the case of a. bona fide miner, the application will be approved unless there are special circumstances or reasons which would justify the Minister refusing the subsidy?
– Sub-clause (1.) of clause 6 provides -
Subject to this section, the years to which this Act applies are the two years ending on the thirtieth day of June, One thousand nine hundred and fifty-five, and the thirtieth day of June, One thousand nine hundred and fifty-six, respectively.
I ask the Minister to consider making an early announcement to the industry that the application of this legislation will extend beyond the period stated, as in fact it will operate for only a little more than eighteen months. I do not criticize the Government for what it has done, because it has done more than it promised to do, but I consider that the term of the subsidy is too short. I also ask the Minister whether he is prepared to make a statement concerning the difference between the amount of subsidy in respect of small producers and large producers. Should a small producer be able to prove that his costs of production entitle him to the higher rate of subsidy, and that his profits were less than 10 per cent, per annum on the capital used, will the Government consider giving him the same treatment as the larger miner?
– I do not think that Senator Cooke has approached the matter with realism in asking for an extension of the period of the subsidy. This is very important legislation. It proposes the application of a formula which has been the subject of a good deal of discussion between the Government and the industry. Having embarked upon this decision to bring down legislation and to make it operative for two years, I think it is hardly realistic, on the morning when the legislation is being passed by the Government, to ask for an announcement to be made concerning an extension of the period of the subsidy. We have put out hands to the plough and have introduced this legislation. We shall see how it works and then consider the position of the industry. He would be a brave man indeed who would attempt to prophesy the conditions of the industry in two years’ time.
– It will be only seventeen months, really.
– The legislation covers gold-mining operations during two financial years.
I think there is a good deal of misunderstanding about the position of the small producers. By and large, those small producers will, if they are successful, produce gold at costs appreciably below those of the large mines. That being so, the reduced level of the subsidy might well be of greater advantage to them than it will be to the larger producers. I think that the practical point of view enters into this matter to a considerable degree. I very much doubt whether many small producers would give a “thank you” for a higher rate of subsidy, if they had to establish their right to that higher rate by keeping books of account and records of their transactions.
– The Minister should not insult their intelligence.
– It is not a matter of insulting their intelligence. If they are not producing in a large way and their transactions are small, it is not because of lack of intelligence. The Government has not approached this problem in a theoretical way. This is a bill which has been evolved after close consultation with the industry. I believe that the industry will support the approach of the Government in the matter, rather than that which honorable senators opposite have advocated.
The speeches that were made during the second-reading debate were very interesting from my point of view. Senator Vincent raised a point concerning clause 5 of the bill, which gives a certain discretionary power to the Treasurer. I think that, in any legislation of this kind, there must always be some reserve of power with the Government, so that it can deal with extraordinary circumstances that may arise from time to time and which it is not possible to foresee. These discretionary powers are aimed primarily at dealing with extreme cases. I am certain that no honorable senator would object to the Treasurer exercising discretionary power in circumstances in which the executives of a company were acting improperly, or doing something which no responsible person could approve. It sometimes happens that things of that kind cannot be brought exactly within the four corners of a formula which is capable of administration. The legislation does not specify the exact circumstances in which this discretionary power will be used. I think that when the honorable senator raised the matter he stated that such a discretionary power should not be exercised arbitrarily or capriciously. Perhaps those associated with the industry may be apprehensive that this reserve power of the Treasurer will be used to exclude gold-producers solely on the grounds that the mines which they operate are uneconomic. I assure Senator Vincent that the Government’s intention is that the discretionary power given in clause 5 shall not be used for that purpose. I think that I have dealt with all the matters that have been mentioned.
– I thank the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) for his comments in relation to clause 5 of the bill. I must admit that I agree with his explanation of the situation, and I am certain that the parties concerned in the industry, by and large, also will agree that the situation is as he has described it. I can assure the Minister that the men in the industry will be most pleased to hear that the policy of the Government in relation to the discretion to be exercised by the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) is as the Minister has stated it.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 10th November (vide page 1352), on motion by Senator Spooner -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– The purpose of this bill is to ratify an agreement between the Commonwealth and the States of New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia. It has been found necessary, owing to the development of the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric project, to store additional water in the Hume dam, and it is pleasing to see that the four governments concerned are in agreement on this proposal. The Opposition considers that the bill merits its support, and it therefore supports it.
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 Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Spooner) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This hill puts into effect one of the policies endorsed by the people of Australia at the recent general election when the Government was again returned to office. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) said, in his policy speech -
We will provide, on a £1 for £1 basis, money towards the capital costs incurred by churches and recognized charitable bodies and institutions for building homes for the aged, up to a total Commonwealth contribution of £1,500,000 a year.
Already £1,500,000 has been appropriated for the purpose in the 1954-55 budget. When the Social Services Bill 1954 was under consideration, the Senate had the opportunity to survey the fine record of the Government in the field of social services. To-day, we break new ground with a bill designed to place on the statute-book an act that establishes a new social service.
The payment of pensions to the aged is not enough, nor would an increase in pension rates alone make any valuable contribution to their housing problems. If resources are spread too thinly, they frequently are ineffective, and they fail to do good in those quarters most in need. Accommodation is to-day probably the most outstanding problem that many of our older people have to face. For various reasons, the family unity has tended to break up. I do not mean that ties of love and affection are necessarily less strong. But family life, with grandparents, parents and children living together in one home, shared by all members of the family, has tended to become a thing of the past. It is true that, in many cases, necessity in the form of the post-war housing shortage may prevent the setting up of separate homes. On the other hand, building costs are dictating smaller homes, so that the family unit that can be accommodated under one roof is inevitably smaller. Older people themselves probably seek a greater degree of independence.
All these factors combine to make housing for the aged a national problem, and in this national problem the Commonwealth has a leading role to play. To do otherwise would be to neglect our responsibilities. It is in no reluctant spirit that we approach this bill. Bather, it is with enthusiasm that we accept the opportunity to play our part and make a further contribution to the welfare of the Australian people. The bill provides for the making of grants to the churches and voluntary organizations. I should first like to pay a tribute to the work that these bodies have done. The churches have for centuries given of their effort and help, not only to older persons, but also to all those who turn to them for succour. Voluntary organizations, too, have played an important part. Their workers have given generously and have been tireless in seeking public support for those causes that are worthy and just. In many cases they have applied no test other than the need for their assistance.
By means of this bill, the Government proposes to work through the churches and voluntary bodies - to give them support, and in return to use the experience and kindliness that they have built up. To do this the bill provides that, on behalf of the Commonwealth, the directorgeneral - defined as the Director-General of Social Services - may make grants, on a £1 for £1 basis, towards the capital cost of approved homes for aged persons.
A wide provision is made for those organizations eligible for assistance and grants of Commonwealth funds. Churches and organizations, primarily charitable or benevolent, are included and also ex-servicemen’s organizations that are nation-wide. Organizations other than these may wish to join in this work. They may differ in pattern and type, and may be approved by the GovernorGeneral if they do not come within the categories mentioned. The trustee, or trustees under a trust or a corporation established by an eligible organization are included in the definition of eligible organization. If the Governor-General approves, a trustee or trustees under a trust established for charitable or benevolent purposes may be deemed to be an organization, and may become eligible for a grant. This latter provision will cover the case of an individual person, or, for example, a public company which establishes a charitable or benevolent trust, though that individual or company may not be itself an eligible organization.
Those seeking grants will probably be the churches and long established and soundly financed voluntary organizations, but the Government does not wish to dictate legal forms; it is to the intention that we intend to look. Where good work is being done, we want to be able to help. There must be reasonable protection of public moneys, and reason to believe that the purpose of the grant will be fulfilled.
Organizations that may be eligible for assistance are limited in two ways. First, they must be carried on otherwise than for the purpose of profit or gain to their individual members. This wording, which is taken from the Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Act, would exclude a commercial enterprise, as such, but would not prevent such an enterprise from setting up a trust for benevolent or charitable purposes. As some of the world’s great foundations have been set up by great profit-making companies, we wish to encourage establishment of such institutions. I have already explained that the trustee or trustees of such a trust could, with the approval of the Governor-General, be deemed to be an organization, and could become eligible for assistance. Another restriction requires that persons other than Government appointees should have the effective control of the organization. The whole purpose of the measure is to provide Commonwealth assistance for voluntary bodies. Persons appointed by the Government may belong to the controlling body of an eligible organization, but where these persons conduct or control it. so that it loses, substantially, its character as a voluntary agency, the organization will not be eligible to receive a grant. This legislation is not intended to establish machinery for grants between governments as would, in effect, be the case if government instrumentalities were eligible for assistance.
I now deal with the nature of homes which may be approved, and their capital cost. The director-general will administer the legislation, subject to any direction by the responsible Minister. On behalf of the Commonwealth, the director-general may make grants, and approve of a home if he is satisfied that it is intended to be used permanently as a home for the accommodation of the aged.
In the definitions clause, an aged person is defined as a woman who has attained the age of 60 years, or a man who has attained the age of 65 years. It also includes the wife or husband of an aged person, in .cases in which the couple wish to reside together in a home. In granting approval, the director-genera] will have regard to the real character and essential nature of the home. For example, a .building originally erected as a home may eventually be used for another purpose. The director-general is required to examine the purpose intended by the organization at the time approval is sought. The Government has no doubt that the voluntary organizations with which the director-general will be called upon to deal will, at all times, act in good faith, and we are sure that their charitable or benevolent intentions will be carried out.
Buildings purchased or to be purchased, and erected or to be erected, may be approved homes. Announcement of the Government’s proposals was made on the 4th May, 1954. Only buildings actually in course of erection at that date, those which were commenced or purchased after that date, or those which it is proposed to commence or purchase after the date of approval, may be approved. The purpose of this decision was to prevent homes completed before that date from coming within the scope of the bill. When a home, or proposed home has been approved, the director-general may, in his discretion, on behalf of the Commonwealth, make a grant to assist in meeting its capital cost. The capital cost is defined. For the purpose of the bill, it means the cost of erecting the home, including the cost of necessary fixtures. When existing premises are purchased, it means the cost of purchasing the home, making necessary alterations or additions, and installing necessary fixtures to make it suitable for the accommodation of the aged. The cost of the land required for the purpose of the home is included in this latter case, as it might not be practicable, in the circumstances, to sever the cost of an existing building from the cost of the land on which it stands. Where a home was in course of erection on the 4th May, 1954, the director-general will, in determining the capital cost, take into account only the cost of the part of the home erected on or after that date. A home must be vested -in a person who is able, legally, to own property, and payment of a grant may be made only to a corporation, or trustees, in whom the approved home is, or is to be, vested.
In order to provide adequate safeguards in relation to the expenditure of public moneys, and ensure the proper use of a grant, the bill empowers the directorgeneral, when making a grant, to impose terms and conditions. He may require an organization to enter into an agreement with him in that connexion. The agreement could require an eligible organization to repay the grant if the home ceased to be used as a home for aged persons, and to provide for the giving of security to carry out such an undertaking. Doubtless, this provision will be seldom needed. But, as public moneys are involved, the Commonwealth must be able to ensure that the purposes of the grant shall be fulfilled.
These are the main provisions of the bill relating to qualifications for grants. The amount that may be granted, instalments, and the timing of payments remain to be dealt with. The bill aims at providing Government help to voluntary effort, and for the matching, on a fi for £1 basis, of moneys actually raised by an eligible organization towards the cost of building the home. The capital cost of the home will be determined by the director-general, and a grant may not exceed one-half of that cost. In addition, a grant may not exceed the moneys actually raised by an eligible organization by donations or subscriptions, or from its own resources or investments. This intention is expressed negatively in the bill, and the amount of the grant is limited to moneys expended or available for expenditure which did not become available as the result of the borrowing of those moneys or the borrowing of other money or moneys received from a government source or authority. This is in keeping with the whole tenor of the bill.
Assistance given by this legislation will enable eligible organizations to extend their activities, and we know they desire to do so. It is sincerely hoped that State governments will make additional assistance available under the stimulus given by the bill. There could be a waste of public moneys and the Commonwealth’s intention to encourage the provision of homes for the aged could be defeated if, after projects were commenced, organizations found they were unable to raise the necessary funds for their completion. The director-general may not make or agree to make a grant unless he is satisfied that the moneys expended and those presently available, together with the grant, will be sufficient to meet the capital cost.
It should be emphasized that an eligible -organization is not restricted in the source of the moneys it may draw on for expenditure. Thus, an organization may raise £30,000 from subscriptions or donations, may receive £5,000 from a State govern- ment, and may raise £5,000 on mortgage or from other borrowings. The £30,000 raised by subscriptions or donations would be the amount matched by the Commonwealth. The amount available, however, to meet the capital costs of the home would be £70,000, of which the Commonwealth grant would constitute £30,000. It is provided that grants shall be payable out of moneys appropriated by the Parliament, and the Parliament has already appropriated £1,500,000 for grants in 1954-55. The bill contains the usual provision giving power to make regulations. This is a general outline of the bill.
We hope and expect that both sides of the chamber and all sections of the community will recognize in it a sincere and effective attempt to deal with a problem that is not limited to Australia but which is world wide. Already we have abundant evidence from many quarters of approval and appreciation. The principle of government assistance to selfhelp and voluntary effort is gaining acceptance as it is realized that the individual is given, scope to work with his fellow men for his own betterment and for a common ideal. I commend the bill to the Senate.
– The Opposition welcomes this bill and will support it because it represents to us, too, the beginning of a scheme which we have long had in mind. For many years, through the social services legislation that was enacted when we were in office, and through our efforts in the Social Security Committee and elsewhere, we have striven to provide more help for the deserving aged members of our community, not only by way of additional pension payments, but also by means of proper housing plans. I was greatly impressed during my visit to England in 1948 by the way in which new housing settlements had been built over the bombed ruins of that war-torn country. Modern houses were springing from the old slums. One extremely important feature of those housing settlements was the provision that was made for the accommodation of the aged poor, particularly those who had no income other than their pension. When I returned to Australia early in 1949, I brought with me, not only outlines of the scheme that had been introduced by the Attlee Government, but also actual plans and pictures of some of the settlements which had been established all over the English countryside and on the outskirts of the cities.
Members of the Social Security Committee, which investigated various social problems during World War II., were deeply impressed by the work that had been done by voluntary organizations to provide housing accommodation for aged people. I mention particularly the Chermside Homes, in Brisbane, which were equal to anything I saw on my trip abroad. We have in Western Australia, for example, organizations which have been working for many years in order to provide decent home conditions for aged persons who are no longer physically able to maintain large homes or who lack the financial means to do so. We have the Silver Chain Cottages, which have given excellent service to the aged for many years, and the McNess housing scheme, which provides homes for the aged and for widows who have been left with small children and whose only income is their pension. Church organizations, lodges and various other charitable bodies throughout Australia have done their utmost throughout the years to solve this pressing social problem, in which every right-thinking person sees a challenge.
The homes that I envisage as being constructed under this legislation fall into two categories. The thought that pleases me most is that people have rejected the conception that homes for the aged should be big, barracks-like institutions, such as we had in the years gone by, but in which, nevertheless, good work was done. The modern idea is to provide something more in the nature of the normal living conditions of ordinary folk. We think in terms of small cottages which old people can manage quite well, with a livingroom, a bedroom, a kitchen equipped with modern conveniences, and perhaps a garden and a workshop where the husband can still pursue his hobbies and get out of the way sometimes. That is the way to make the eventide of life happy for an elderly couple.
One of the tragedies of the past has been that we have segregated aged men and women and so made the ending of their lives unhappy. After they had spent most of the years of their lives together and were unable, through no fault of their own, to keep their home going, a man and wife would be forced to go into separate institutions. In Western Australia, the home for men is many miles away from the home for women. That is unnatural. It is cruel to force unfortunate citizens to spend their declining years in that way. We should remember that these aged people are not beggars. They do not demand charity. Anything that we give them, they have already earned by their work in the community during their active years.
Another great tragedy is that to-day young people appear to be losing their sense of responsibility towards aged members of their families. I know, because I visit homes for aged people frequently, that many parents unfortunately are obliged to spend their days in institutions, which their families rarely, or never, bother to visit. The children appear to think that their job has been done when they have managed to gain entrance for their parents into the established institutions, which is very difficult for them to do these days. In Western Australia there are over 500 women on the waitinglist for the Mount Henry Home. There are similar waiting-lists for admission to other homes in the various States. Many people come to us to ask for our help to get this or that person into a home for the aged, and we know how very difficult it is to comply with their requests. We find very often that homes for the aged are waiting for inmates to die so that their beds can be made available to other people. This assistance, although I do not think it is sufficient, will be a great incentive to charitable organizations to continue the work that they have done in this field over the years. It will help them considerably.
The grant will be £1,500,000, which sounds a great deal of money. Statistics are not available to show the exact number of people housed at present by the various charitable organizations, but we know there are about 200 organizations that could be registered to-morrow or that have registered already for assistance under this measure. When we divide £1,500,000 by the 200 organizations, we find that, on an average, about £’7,500 will go to each organization. It is obvious that, as time goes on, more claims for assistance will be made. In the years that lie ahead, the number of organizations seeking assistance will be considerably greater than the number at present. Although we are glad that £1,500,000 is to be made available now, we can see it will not be sufficent for the purpose and that, in a few years time, the grant will have to be increased considerably in order to serve its purpose. This is a Christian approach to the problem of the aged. We are recognizing the work that has been done and is being done in this field by the churches. One of their main labours of love has always been the care of people, ‘particularly aged people, in poor circumstances. This assistance will be an incentive to them to expand that work. In addition, the grant will help ex-servicemen’s associations to do something to assist aged people among their members.
I trust that all the homes erected will not be situated in metropolitan areas. One of the tragedies of our time is that we take our aged people away from the surroundings in which they have spent their lives. We take them away from gold-fields or farming areas, move them to the capital cities, put them into big barn-like institutions built in years gone by, and segregate the sexes. We have come to realize that the cottage idea is the best. I should like to see some of these small communities established in the larger country centres, so that old people can spend their declining years in the surroundings to which they have become accustomed.
There is one aspect of this problem which I regret to say is not covered by the bill, and I foreshadow an amendment that I shall move in the committee stage. The bill excludes proposed hospitals for the accommodation of chronically sick aged people. Those people present us with a very real problem. Elderly people who are well, but have no homes constitute a big problem, but elderly people who are sick and cannot be accommodated in hospitals present an even greater problem. I have tried on many occasions to get elderly sick people into either a hospital or a home, but it has been almost impossible to do so. The brave and good people who are prepared to establish hospitals or homes for chronically sick elderly people should be assisted to do so. Some of these elderly people are suffering from asthma and some from diabetes. They are allowed out of bed for a part of the day, but rest is a part of their treatment. It is very difficult to get them into ordinary hospitals. By assisting associations to provide homes for chronically sick old people, we should relieve the pressure on public hospitals. By building small homes for aged people, we should release homes for younger married couples. I know that quite a number of elderly folk would willingly give up their big homes to younger people if they could find somewhere else to live. This problem goes far beyond the provision of a few pounds here and there to help charitable organizations to build homes for the aged. The bill represents a step forward to the solution of a very important problem. I am pleased that it has been presented to the Parliament on the eve of Christmas, at the end of a period which has not been marked by the friendly spirit that is generally so evident here. It is rather a good idea that the bill should be presented now, to unite us once again in a feeling of goodwill towards one another. I support the measure, but I give notice that I shall move an amendment in the committee stage.
– I congratulate the Government on this measure, which I believe to be a very important piece of legislation. I agree most heartily with many of the remarks made by Senator Tangney. This is legislation of a kind for which I personally have longed for a considerable time. As my colleagues know, I have spoken on this subject on previous occasions. In my view, housing for aged people is one of the things that we require most. As Senator Tangney has said, in Queensland we have a very fine settlement known as the Chermside Homes for aged people. It is doing magnificent work, and I think it is perhaps almost the perfect project for housing the aged. In the settlement there are cottages where aged married couples can continue to live together, or which can he shared by two aged women. There are larger buildings to accommodate single men and widowers, and single women and widows. There is a central building where the old people have their meals. They have a very beautiful little chapel and they can be cared for under a most able matron when they are ill. There are other excellent centres in Queensland and in other parts of the Commonwealth, run on similar lines.
This bill is another excellent piece of social services legislation introduced by this Government. It proves how much the Government appreciates the needs of old people in the community. It is one more development in the field of social services, in which the Government is already doing so much for the Australian people. I am particularly interested in the clause which carries the marginal note, “ Purpose “, because I think it explains very well the work that the measure- is intended to do. The clause reads - (1.) The purpose of this Act is to encourage and assist the provision of suitable homes for aged persons, and in particular homes at which aged persons may reside in conditions approaching as nearly as possible normal domestic life, and, in the case of married people, with proper regard to the companionship of husband and wife.
That clause sums up the object of this measure and expresses the desire which all honorable senators would wish the bill to fulfil. Senator Tangney has foreshadowed an amendment with the object of widening the scope of the measure. I believe that it is unnecessary to do so. In my view, the clause that I have just cited covers fully the cases of aged persons who are constantly in indifferent health. Of course, aged persons who are inmates of hospitals are provided for under the national health scheme. In any event, persons in homes for the aged who do not enjoy the best of health are specially cared for in those homes.
This bill will give an impetus to the splendid work that is being carried out by religious and charitable organizations. Many of those bodies have been striving gallantly for years in this sphere, and one cannot pay too high a tribute to the voluntary efforts that they have made. The measure shows that the Government and the Parliament appreciate the work of those organizations in the interests of the community. They will be greatly assisted under this measure which will give them fresh heart as they will be enabled to care for an increasing number of aged persons. Senator Tangney also said that a large number of aged persons are waiting to obtain accommodation in homes of the type that will be provided under this bill. That observation is correct so far as Queensland is concerned. However, as a result of this assistance the building of homes for the aged will be greatly assisted. I trust that steps will be taken to ensure that adequate homes for the aged shall be provided in rural areas as well as in the cities so that old persons will be enabled to spend their declining years in the localities in which they have lived for the greater part of their lives and where they desire to remain in order to keep in touch with their friends and acquaintances. Perhaps, there could be nothing sadder than the cases of aged persons who have no alternative but to leave their home towns in order to enter an institution that may be situated over 1,000 miles away. I urge that consideration be given to that aspect of the matter, so that aged persons in country districts will be enabled to spend the twilight of their lives in the districts in which they have lived and which they know so well. Under such conditions, aged persons will be happier and will be spared much of the loneliness of old age. It is pleasing to all honorable senators to know that the aged, the pioneers of this country who have helped to make Australia what it is to-day, will be enabled to live under pleasant conditions and in reasonable comfort.
Finally, this bill represents the fulfilment of another of the promises that the Government made to the people. The Government has a proud record of achievement and this measure will add another piece to the pattern of its achievements in the social services field in the interests of both the young and the old. We are indeed proud of the fact that the men and women who helped to found this country are being remembered in this practical way. This bill will make the churches and various voluntary organizations still more eager to continue the good work that they have been doing on behalf of the aged people. At the same time, it will take from their shoulders a part of the heavy burdens they have been obliged to carry in the past. In introducing this measure the Government is expressing its appreciation of the work of those organizations. I again commend it for introducing the bill which I support wholeheartedly.
– The two women senators who have just addressed the Senate on this matter have dealt with the humanitarian aspect of the bill. I sincerely trust that the charity that has been dispensed by State governments in this sphere in the past will not be diminished in the future. I refer particularly to the help that the South Australian Government has been rendering in the provision of homes for the aged. I hope that it will not cease that work. In my view, the Senate should defer consideration of the amendment that Senator Tangney has foreshadowed. I understand that the sum of £1,500,000 has already been appropriated for this purpose and that applications which have been made for assistance under the measure would involve an expenditure far in excess of that amount. In those circumstances, it would be impracticable to widen the scope of the bill at this stage as Senator Tangney seeks to do. The passage of this measure as drafted will be another bold step forward in the social services field. Much will depend upon the regulations that will be promulgated under it and on the way in which those regulations are administered. I trust that the Government will not give preferential consideration to those applications which have already been lodged with the department in the various States. As they would involve an expenditure in excess of the sum of £1,500,000, which the Government has decided to appropriate for this purpose, the Government should fix a date in the near future for the receipt of applications and then consider all applications that are received, including those that have already been lodged on an equal footing. I should also like to know how it is proposed to distribute the £1,500,000 that is to be appropriated, amongst the States and the Territories. Will the division be made according to population? Speaking as a South Australian, I should like to think that that State could expect, say, one-eleventh of the £1,500,000. It is most important that the Government should give a definite expression of its intention on that matter. This is Commonwealth money. I consider that the old folk of this country may be regarded as being in the same proportion in every State, and that, therefore, the money should be spreadona population basis. I foresee immense difficulties in the administration of this legislation, but in any new and brilliant conception, there are bound to be difficulties. It is a bold and right step for the Government to take. The bill has my best wishes, and I do not think that it should be amended to-night. However, some amendment of the measure may be necessary after teething troubles are over.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I rise at this late hour to stress the handicap that one is under in attempting to give immediately to a measure that has just been placed in our hands, the consideration that it deserves. I am not unmindful of the worthy objectives of the bill. I support those objectives enthusiastically, but a casual perusalof the measure raises in my mind a doubt on whether its structure may not create some difficulties in achieving those objectives. I notice that the word “ organization “ is used, and I assume that it has some definite legal meaning. I should like the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) to tell us just what that legal meaning is. The word appears in the definitions clause in which “ eligible organization “ is defined. That definition seems to assume that the word “ organization “ has a definite legal meaning, and so does clause 5, which deals with eligible organization. Sub-clause (3.) of clause 7 provides thai: -
A payment under this act shall not be made except to a corporation in which, or to trustees in. whom, the approved home is or is to be vested.
I am intrigued also by the expression “ capital cost “. I notice that in clause 9a it is provided that the amount of any grant shall be an amount not exceeding one-half of the capital cost of the home as determined by the director-general. There is a difference between the cost of a thing and its value at a particular time, and I do not know whether there is anything in the bill to indicate definitely that this provision does not apply say to a home that has been providing charitable services for the aged over the last twenty years and wants to expand. The definitions clause refers to “ the capital cost “ -
The third matter that seems to me to invite some inquiry has relation to the fact that we are embarking on a new avalanche of appropriations in this scheme. Let us not underestimate its possibilities in the form of annual appropriations for capital cost. Consider the pressure that will come from organizations which are finding difficulty in maintaining themselves year by year and wish to seek succour from the Commonwealth. I mention these points because clause 4 seems to me to be unusual in that it commits the general administration of this legislation to an officer of the Department of Social Services - the Director-General of Social Services - subject to the direction of the Minister. I should like to know the par- ticular purpose of that provision and how usual it is to commit the administration of an appropriation measure - especially a measure appropriating money for capital costs - to an individual civil servant. I come now to my fourth point. Under clause 8, a grant to an eligible organization may be made under such terms and conditions, not inconsistent with the act, as the directorgeneral thinks fit. Is it the intention of the Government to take security for these grants? They are not expressed to be repayable; but let us suppose that provision is made for an organization in respect of which there is no actual guarantee that it will be able to continue in existence for more than two or three years. Prudence suggests that public money should be secured against the occurrence of what may be an unlikely contingency. I mention these matters in no spirit of criticism of the bill, but merely in the hope that the Minister will assure me that there is no substance in any of them. However, lest there should be some substance in them, precautions should be taken so that if such contingencies arise they may be remedied.
– Before I move the amendment that has been foreshadowed, I should like the Minister to give me some information about clause 2 of the measure. That clause reads, inter alia - “ the capital cost “, in relation to an approved home, means the amount which the Director-General is satisfied is -
in the case of an approved home erected or to be erected by an eligible organization - the cost of erecting the home, including the cost of necessary fixtures in the home, but not including the cost or value of any land; or
I desire to ask the Minister whether provision is made for allocations of government money to organizations for the purpose of altering or renovating buildings that have been in use for many years. I have visited many homes, occupied by aged persons, upon which vitally necessary improvements could not be effected. Many institutions which control homes for the aged have been carrying on their good work for many years, and their dwellings are in need of renovation and repair. Is there provision in the bill for consideration of such homes?
, - Honorable senators should be generous in their consideration of the provisions of the bill, because we are now entering into a new field of social services. The Government considers that there should be some elasticity in the provisions of the measure so that we can see how they work before we decide on hard and fast principles. In answer to Senator Tangney’s question, the measure covers homes which may be altered or renovated because the definition of buildings in clause 2 is - “ building “ includes a part of a building and an addition to a building;
– Are renovations covered ?
– I believe that a renovation is an addition to a building, but whether the Government will take that attitude remains to be seen. It might be said to be in the lap of the gods. “We shall wait to see the nature of the applications that we receive, and shall then make a decision about how we shall deal with them. Senator Wright asked whether the Government proposed to take security. There is power in the measure to take security, but whether the Government will do so or not remains to be seen. The bill is designed to deal with voluntary bodies of the type of church organizations, which are not likely to go out of existence. I believe that as a general rule we would not take security. I direct Senator Wright’s attention to the fact that the bill provides that the Director-General of Social Services will have the general administration of the measure, subject to the direction of the Minister. It seems to be quite correct procedure that the permanent administrating official should act in accordance with the Minister’s directions. Senator Wright also asked what was covered by the phrase “ capital cost “. Clause 2 provides that the capital cost means the amount which the Director-General is satisfied is the cost of a home erected by an eligible organization, and the cost of a home purchased by an eligible organization, and so on. There does not appear to be any ambiguity about the clause.
.- The South Australian Government has announced that it will introduce a scheme similar to the scheme of £1 for £1 subsidy as outlined in this measure. I should like to know what the attitude of the Commonwealth would be in a case where a building cost £30,000-
– That is a different set of circumstances from those dealt with in the second-reading speech on this bill.
– I remind the Minister that in his second-reading speech he referred to the cost of a building that might total £70,000 and he has shown that the Commonwealth in that case would subsidize the expenditure by £30,000. The remainder would be found by the institution itself. I wish to put another case to the Minister. Let us suppose that the cost of a building was to be £30,000 and the organization had raised £10,000. I presume that in that case, the Commonwealth would subsidize the organization to the extent of £10,000. Would it be an acceptable proposition still if the institution accepted another subsidy of £10,000 from the State Government on the basis of a £1 for £1 subsidy similar to that under discussion. The Minister in his second-reading speech stated -
It is sincerely hoped that State governments will make additional assistance available under the stimulus given by the bill.
Is there anything wrong with the proposition that I have put to the Minister? Would it make any difference to the Commonwealth where the last £10,000 came from ?
– Let us suppose the society found £10,000 itself and received two other amounts of £10,000 each in subsidy. That is too good to be true.
– I put it to the Minister, however, because both the Australian Government and the State government have entered into a similar undertaking with regard to subsidies for such institutions. Both are doing the same work. Will one of them vacate the field, or can an institution accept a subsidy from both governments ? I should like the Minister to answer my question, because I have been prompted to ask it by a case that has already come under my notice. It concerns an institution that would undoubtedly be approved for the purposes of the Commonwealth legislation. It intends to build a home. It is already wondering whether it can accept one subsidy from the State Government and another from the Australian Government. I cannot see why it should not be eligible to accept both subsidies.
– The principle inherent in the legislation is that the Commonwealth will match the money raised by an organization. If an organization raises £10,000, the Commonwealth will match it with £10,000. If the organization is fortunate enough to get some other authority to match the £10,000, that would not affect the Commonwealth’s position. But when the Commonwealth is spreading its butter thinly over the bread, and it finds an organization’s funds have already been matched by a State government, it might decide in those circumstances that it could provide its assistance more effectively elsewhere. I say that in a kind of experimental way. One thing is clear. We knew before we started on this legislation that the demands made under it would be more than could be encompassed on the funds available. In the circumstances that I have mentioned, and having that position in view, the Commonwealth might turn elsewhere. But let us examine the other side. The objective is to provide an effective home or series of homes for the aged. We might get better results by putting a lot of money into a comparatively small number of schemes than by putting smaller amounts into a large number of schemes. I believe that in many cases we shall do so. I am speaking in hypothetical terms.
– I refer to that part of clause 3 which reads - ( I.) The purpose of this ACt is to encourage and assist the provision of suitable homes for aged persons,……
I move -
That, after the word “ persons the following words be inserted: - “and aged sick persons “.
The reason for the amendment is that there are in the community some people who are willing to conduct, and are conducting, small homes for the aged sick. We know that the chronic sick do not require the same standard of nursing as the normally healthy person who undergoes an operation in a hospital. The nursing at that stage must be more intensive than the nursing of a chronically ill aged person. Therefore, when a chronically ill aged person is admitted to a hospital, if admittance can be obtained, the patient is occupying a bed that could be used to better advantage by another person. It is impossible simply to turn them out, and so some of the churches have shown an interest in this matter. Some letters written on behalf of the Church of England and the Methodist Church have been published in the press stating that they are particularly interested in this amendment, because the bill excludes proposed hospitals for disabled or chronic patients. Those are the very people who are now rejected from admission to public hospitals.
– Will the honorable senator give a reference to the clause of the bill that excludes the hospitals to which she has referred?
– The responsible Minister has given a reply in the House of Representatives to that effect. The homes for the aged are mainly of the cottage type. Clause 3 of the bill states -
The purpose of this Act is to encourage and assist the provision of suitable homes for aged persons, and in particular homes at which aged persons may reside in conditions approaching as nearly as possible normal domestic life, and, in the case of married people, with proper regard to the companionship of husband and wife.
– Unless there is pro-sg vision expressly excluding hospitals, the j amendment would add nothing by specify- f ing assistance for the aged sick. Provision for the aged in the bill does not preclude the aged sick person.
– It does in the case of a home that exists for the purpose to which I have referred. I do not know whether those concerned have made specific applications, or whether they have received notice of rejection of their applications. But from correspondence that I have received, I believe that the latter would be the case. If an institution that is already existing for the purpose of caring for the aged has a sick bay, it may receive assistance under the bill if it requires additions to the sick bay or to another part of its buildings. But that is only in the normal course of its work, because it caters for the inmates whether they are sick or well. However, if some people who are nurses or who belong to some organization, religious or otherwise, are willing to devote their lives to the chronically ill aged sick who. cannot get into hospitals, they cannot be covered by this bill although they may be willing to organize small homes with 20 to 30 beds. It might be said that they can be covered by hospital benefits under other legislation, and that there might be some difficulty about a double payment. I do not know. That is something that the relevant department will have to investigate, but I believe that people who are willing to do this work for the aged sick are not concerned only with money. The sick cannot be nursed only for money. The nursing of aged people, and those who are chronically ill, is a much more difficult task temperamentally, and requires a great deal more than the actual skill which can be given in public hospitals. It requires sympathy, tact and understanding. There are times when these chronically ill people may be able to enjoy a little normal life, which they are given in these homes.
I should like the provisions of this clause to be extended in the manner I have indicated. The cost would not be great. When all is said and done, the provision for this financial year is only £1,500,000. We see in some of the big cities, particularly in New South Wales, s homes which are run by church organiza-j. tions, and which are doing very fine work in catering for the chronically ill. I am sure that all honorable senators have met in the ambit of their experience chronically ill people whom they cannot get admitted to public hospitals for love or money. The matron of an aged women’s home in Western Australia said to me, when I approached her about an admission, “As soon as somebody dies I shall let you know, and we shall admit the person whom you nominate if there is no one else in a worse condition”. It is terrible to think that such is the position. It is much more important to look after the aged sick, who cannot look after themselves, and to do something to help them, than to look after the aged well, who at least can help themselves to some degree.
The amendment should not be brushed aside merely because it is being considered in the early hours of the morning. Like Senator Wright, I regret that this bill has been introduced at such a late hour, because it is so difficult for us to debate all the ramifications of it thoroughly in the early hours of the morning when the Parliament is about to go into recess. I hope the Minister can accept the amendment. We shall be happy to give our blessing to the rest of the bill.
– The Government is unable to accept the amendment. The issues were traversed in another place, when an amendment in precisely the same terms was moved. An aged person is defined as a man who has reached the age of 65 years, and a woman who has reached the age of 60 years. The definition does not refer to a healthy aged person, but merely an aged person, whether he is sick or whether he is well. The places to which the honorable senator has referred may or may not qualify under the bill in its present form. My information is that no application from that type of place has been refused.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be inserted (Senator Tangney’s amendment) be so inserted.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid.)
Majority . . . . 17
Question so resolved in the negative.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Bill received from House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Cooper) read a first time.
Senator COOPER (Queensland - Minister forRepatriation [2.46 a.m.]. - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to amend the Broadcasting Act 1942-1953 so as to provide for the increase in the number of members of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board from three to five, by the appointment of two additional parttime members, who, like the original members, will be appointed by the GovernorGeneral. There are also certain consequential provisions in the bill arising from the extension of the membership of the board.
As a result of the Television Act passed last year, and the regulations recently made under that act relating to applications for licences for commercial television stations, the functions and responsibilities of the board have been considerably extended. Honorable senators will recall that the Television Act, which confers on the Minister the power to grant licences for commercial television stations, provides that before exercising that power “the Minister shall take into consideration any recommendations that have been made by the board “. Under the regulations the board is required to hold public hearings for the consideration of applications for licences for commercial television stations. This is in accordance with a recommendation of the Royal Commission on Television, which stated in paragraph 354 of its report -
The decisions which will have to be made in relation to all aspects of the licensing of commercial television stations will be of great importance, affecting not only the development of commercial television and the standard of its service, but also the investments and businesses of large commercial undertakings. While the ultimate decisions will, if our recommendations are adopted, be made by the responsible Minister, the function of the Board in making recommendations as to the exercise of the Minister’s powers are of great significance, and it is important that these recommendations should be made after proper enquiry. In our opinion it is essential that the recommendations of the board in respect of certain aspects of licensing of commercial television stations . . . should be made to the Minister only after a public hearing at which parties with an interest in the proceedings should have a right to be represented.
The royal commission also referred at some length to the continuing responsibilities of the board in respect of the standards of television programmes. Paragraph 397 of the royal commission report reads -
We are conscious that the discharge by the board of the responsibilities in respect of programme standards which we have suggested above will throw a heavy burden on a body which hag already substantial functions. We have, therefore, given some consideration to the question of whether the additional responsibilities do not call for some addition to the membership of the board. We have come to the conclusion that it would be desirable to strengthen the board in this respect by the appointment, on a part-time basis, of two additional members, who should not, however, be representative of any sectional interest.
The bill now before the Senate is designed to give effect to this recommendation,, with which the Government is in agreement. While the general legislation arising from the report of the royal commission will not be introduced until the first sittings next year, we have come to the conclusion that it is important that the appointment of the additional part-time members of the board should be made before the board commences the public hearings of applications for licences, which will be heard early in the new year. The objective of the Government will, therefore, be to secure the services on a part-time basis, of members of the board who will be selected primarily to strengthen that body in the discharge of its important functions in respect both of licensing of commercial television stations and the maintenance of high standards of television programmes. I commend the bill to the Senate as an important step both in the implementation of the recommendations of the Royal Commission on Television and in the establishment of television services in this country.
– I think the speech that has been made by the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) adequately covers the scope and purpose of the bill. The measure presages the advent of television which opens up highly controversial issues upon which the Senate will be relieved to know that I do not propose to embark. I merely record the fact that we offer no opposition to the passage of the measure.
– The introduction of television has been a controversial subject. Although it is now 2.52 a.m. I consider that the Senate should give more consideration to this bill. Two States in Australia could be affected by television and great expenditure will have to be undertaken by the Commonwealth in those States. The Commonwealth will provide a service for those who are already well served. In Western Australia we have not yet got an adequate broadcasting service. We have not adequate telephone and other services. Will the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) inform us why the Senate is justified in allowing a bill which countenances great expenditure in well-developed States to be met from the revenue of the Commonwealth while the essential services of four other States are neglected? Alternatively, I should like the Minister to state whether it is the Government’s opinion that two States should have television whilst the other four States are neglected. Not only will those four States not have television but they will not be provided with comprehensive postal, telephone or radio services. In certain circumstances,, twothirds of Western Australia cannot receive radio programmes. I protest against the expenditure of Commonwealth revenue in two States whilst no provision is being made for services of any kind in the other four States.
– I should like to know why an additional two members are required for this board. The board seems to have worked as it is. Why does it now require two new members? Is it because the Government wants to give the commercial interests of this country a television licence? A frequency modulation programme is broadcast in this country every day but the manufacturers of radio sets have refused to build a set that would enable people to hear this programme. Is it proposed to appoint these part-time members so that a free service may be given to the commercial interests for frequency modulation broadcasts? There are available records of a committee that recommended long ago that certain metropolitan stations should be converted to frequency modulation. The appointment of the two part-time members is for the purpose of moving that along. It seems to me to be extraordinary. Another extraordinary aspect of the bill is that they are to be part-time members. Is it intended that they shall attend every meeting of the board ? What is the meaning of the term “ part-time “ ? Does it mean that they shall deliberate with the other members of the board for an hour and then be told by those other members that they may leave? Reference has been made to a balanced board, but will the appointment of these part-time members unsettle that balance ? Are they to be appointed so that they may upset the show, or so that they may further delay the introduction of television?
Television should have been introduced into Australia long ago. The only authority that is able to provide a television programme to. the people of Australia is the Australian Government. Those persons who have been to America, and who are honest, should give a true picture of the position in that country. Honest people state that the only worthwhile television programme in the world is provided by the British Broadcasting Corporation. There have been statements in the press to the effect that there are 104 or 105 commercial radio stations in Australia. A conference of representatives of those stations was held at Newcastle within the last fortnight. Those representatives wish to know the mean? by which they may obtain an independent television licence. The money required for the introduction of television must be found by the Australian Government. No other authority has sufficient money to provide the service. It would be unfair to introduce television in Sydney or Melbourne, and not give it to people who are resident in country districts of New South Wales or Victoria. What about the people of Western Australia and Queensland? Are the people of Western Australia and Queensland not entitled to television programmes? The provision of television programmes would cost at least £10,000,000 a year,
For years, commercial stations have provided amplitude modulation programmes, but they have not done very much with them. Television must be provided by the Government, because it has access to the facilities of the Postal Department, which uses the cable that would be required for the broadcasting of television programmes. The two parttime members whom it is proposed to appoint will be procrastinators. They will delay the introduction of television by recommending that it should be entrusted to commercial interests. Television programmes can be provided only by the Broadcasting Control Board, and the money must come from the coffers of the Australian Government.
– Let me say, in reply to Senator Cooke, that the bill relates to the appointment of two part-time members to the Broadcasting Control Board. In reply to Senator Amour, I point out that the Government is implementing the recommendations of the Royal Commission on Television.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Bill returned from the House of Representatives without amendment.
Messages Intimating Agreement by House of Representatives.
Messages received from the House of Representatives intimating that it had agreed to the amendments made by the Senate in the following bills : -
Stevedoring Industry KU 1054.
Sulphuric Acid Bounty Bill 1954.
Motion (by Senator McLeay) - by leave - agreed to -
That leave of absence be granted to every member of the Senate from the termination of the sitting this day to the day on which the Senate next meets.”
Motion (by Senator McLeay) agreed to -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn to a date and hour to be fixed by the President, which time of meeting shall be notified to each senator by telegram or letter.
– I move -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
On behalf of the members of the Government, I take this opportunity to extend our goodwill to you, Mr. President, until we meet again, and to express our appreciation of the manner in which you have conducted your high office during these sittings of the Parliament. As the hour is late, I do not propose to speak at length, but it is customary to make one or two comments at this time. I think that uppermost in our minds is the thought that the Clerk of the Senate, Mr. Edwards, has not been with us during this sessional period. He has not been enjoying good health. I ask the Acting Clerk, Mr. Loof, to convey to Mr. Edwards our best wishes, to tell him how much we have missed him, and to say that we hope he will be restored to health as quickly as possible. I think that honorable senators would like me to express to the Acting Clerk, his assistants, and all the attendants of the Senate, our appreciation of the manner in which they have helped in the conduct of the business of this chamber. We also express our goodwill and best wishes to Mr. Harney, who is resigning to seek new pastures. He has not yet reached retiring age. We wish him everything of the best.
We appreciate the work done by the hard-working Hansard staff and are sorry that we have kept them so late on this last day of the sessional period. I think they will appreciate the fact that we have offended only once in that direction during the current sittings of the Parliament, and that they will agree that that is not a bad performance.
I am sure that all honorable senators wish to send greetings to our esteemed colleague, Senator Neil O’Sullivan, who is fighting our battles in other parts of the world, and to express our goodwill to him. Finally, as Acting Leader of the Government, I wish to thank the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) for his co-operation in conducting the business of the Parliament. I think it can be said, with truth, that he has set an example which has raised the standard of the debates in this chamber to a level of which we should all be proud.
– I thank the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) for his references to me, which are quite undeserved and which, I am sure, he made out of the generosity of his heart. I express to you, Mr. President, on behalf of every member of the Opposition, our best wishes for the recess that lies ahead, and for the festive season. On behalf of my colleagues and myself, I express appreciation of your tolerant, but firm and courteous guidance of the Senate. I think that I can pay you no better tribute than to assure you that your conduct of the proceedings of the Senate has earned the respect and the personal regard of every member of the Opposition. On their behalf, particularly, I thank you, too, for the generous hospitality that you have extended to them without stint during your period of office.
To the Ministers of the Government, I convey festal good wishes for the season that lies ahead. I look forward to renewing the fray with them in the somewhat distant future, and I trust that we shall all return recovered from whatever bruises we have inflicted in the interim. I hope that the supporters of the Government will come back at least physically fit, if not otherwise equipped to do damage to the Opposition. I trust that they will have a very happy holiday and that their constituents will not burden them unduly.
I join with the Minister for Shipping and Transport in deploring, on behalf of the Opposition, the absence of our very worthy Clerk of the Senate, Mr. Edwards. We look forward to having him with us when we re-assemble. Thanks to his good training of the staff, we have not really missed him in an official sense, although we have done so in a personal way. The Acting Clerk and his assistants have rendered magnificent service to everybody in the chamber, and I should like them to know that we appreciate their efforts, as we do those of the other officers who serve us so unobtrusively in the Senate.
To our friends of Hansard, our most grateful thanks are due. I hope for the day when some misguided teller, appointed by you, sir, will do the fair thing and count them on our side. After all, they sit on our side, and they would make an appreciable difference, I imagine, when the divisions are running fairly close. We are very grateful to the Senate attendants who quietly attend to our every want, and who do so with great friendliness. We are also grateful to the staff who look after the precincts of the Senate. We of the Opposition will miss Mr. Harney very much. He has been a friend to every member of the Opposition. We wish him well in his new venture and trust that he will prosper, live long, and gain the reward of the conscientious service that he has given to every one in the Senate for almost twenty years.
Finally, I say to our friends of the press gallery that I wish them everything of the best for the Christmas season and the New Year. I may say that I rarely see them, because I face away from them as I speak. However, I think that they return the compliment, because they rarely see me and, I suggest, just as rarely hear me. If they see or hear me, they do very little about it; or if they do something about it, nothing ever comes of their efforts. I address these few remarks to them, through you, sir, in the hope that they will reform in the New Year and take far more notice of the Senate. If I am wrong in suggesting that any fault lies with them, I hope that they will direct their efforts towards persuading those who control their newspapers to give the Senate its proper due. I conclude by again thanking you, Mr. President, for your service, and for all the things for which we are beholden to you.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. A. M. McMullin). - I should not like to let the opportunity pass without expressing my thanks to Mr. Harney, who is resigning from the Senate staff, for the loyal service he has given to the Senate during the last nineteen years. As honorable senators know, Mr. Harney is a returned man from World War I. He entered the service of the Commonwealth and has done a fine job here in the Senate. I should like him to know that the officers of the Senate and I wish him well when he goes to that rather delightful State of Queensland.
I thank the Acting Leader of the Government (Senator McLeay), the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna), and other honorable senators for their good wishes. It has been very pleasant for me to work with you all. I feel that we have seen some important changes in the Senate. My good friends of the press, perhaps, do not say quite the things about the Senate that they should say, but I have hopes that they will see the light and will pay the Senate the compliment of agreeing that the standard of debate in this chamber has been raised considerably during the last few years. They may also agree that the Senate is worthy of being recognized as an institution in which the legislation which comes into it is very carefully considered.
There are many people on the staff of the Parliament whom few of us see, such as the electricians and those who work down below, perhaps in the boilerroom. They help to keep this big building going and the Parliament working. I wish to send to them, also, our good wishes for Christmas and the New Year, and to let them know that we are thinking of them, along with the officers whom we see frequently in moving about the House. I, also, regret that Mr. Edwards, the Clerk of the Senate, has been ill. I look forward to his resuming his onerous duties in this chamber in the New Year. As the Acting Leader of the Government (Senator McLeay) has said, Senator O’sullivan is doing an excellent job overseas. I heartily support Senator McLeay’s good wishes to him.
Question resolved in the affirmative
asked the Minister representing the Acting Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The Acting PostmasterGeneral has supplied the following answers: -
The following papers were presented : -
Conciliation and Arbitration Act - Seventh Annual Report by the Chief Conciliation Commissioner for year ended 7th October, 1954.
Public Service Arbitration Act - Determination by the Arbitrator, &c. - 1954 - No. 50 - Australian Workers’ Union.
Senate adjourned at 3.15 a.m. (Friday) to a date and hour to be fixed by the President.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 11 November 1954, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1954/19541111_senate_21_s4/>.