22nd Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. A. M. McMullin) took the chair at 10 a.m., and read prayers.
– I address a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. In view of the impact which the Commonwealth budget has on trade and commerce, and because of the natural slackening in trade while the nation awaits that budget, will the Minister urge upon Cabinet and the Treasurer a request that the 1956-57 budget be brought down as early as practicable and that an official announcement be made by the Government, as soon a3 it can do so, of the date on which the budget will be brought down ? This would obviate a recurrence of “kite flying” by the press, and should have a beneficial effect on trade and commerce.
– I shall be very pleased to put Senator Marriott’s views before my colleague, the Treasurer.
– I address a series of questions to the Minister for National Development. Is it not desirable, both for the Senate and the public, that speeches in this chamber should be most, informative? Is it not a fact that much political disputation occurs because of lack of knowledge of basic facts? Is it not true that research work for senators and others is handicapped because too much work is placed on the capable staff of the Parliamentary Library? Could officers of the Department of National Development be used for research work to help senators gain a true picture of Australia’s financial and economic sot-up? If so. would the Minister make a start, towards that desirable end by requesting such officers to investigate the facts concerning the progress being made towards h closer integration of our economic system, leading, as it apparently does, *o undesirable monopoly because of the tieup between the private banks, shipping combines, newspaper companies and broadcasting and television companies ‘. Could those officers look up, also, details of interlocking directorships?
– I was taking the honorable senator’s question quite seriously until he came to the last part oi it. Taking the early part of the question first, I agree with the view that we are handicapped to some extent in our work by lack of research facilities; and I was very intrigued to read in the report of the Clerk Assistant of the Senate, Mr. Odgers, about the research work thai is done by staffs of libraries in the American parliaments. I should not lightly approach the idea that officers of departments should carry out research work for members of the Parliament. In my view, officers of the various departments should be kept either completely independent, or completely loyal, as it were, to their Ministers.
– They should be kep: from becoming political.
– It should be our constant aim to prevent them from becoming completely political. There is always a. political angle to any great public question. If officers of departments were doing work for members of the Parliament, inevitably the conclusion would be reached that they were taking sides, one way or another. I do not believe that that applies to the library staff. It could be detached, as it is in the United States of America. I do not think that, the departmental staffs should be available. As to the last part of the honorable senator’s question, he should be very thankful for the contribution that is made to the welfare of Australia by the banks, the shipping companies and other great public companies which, after all. are only an amalgamation of Australian citizens who have their money invested in those companies.
– I preface a question to the Leader of the Government by reading the following short letter that I have received from the Department of Trade : -
I have fully examined this application but. in view of the necessity to conserve overseas exchange and the directions issued hy the
Federal Government to reduce import expenditure to a figure more in keeping with receipts from exports, it is regretted that the application for a licence to import the particular product must be refused.
That information was passed on to the interested firm, from which I have received an inquiry as to the reason for permission to import an aeroplane for pleasure purposes when the firm’s application, the granting of which would mean keeping men in employment, was refused. Yesterday, I asked a question on this matter and received a rebuking reply which will not satisfy my correspondent. I’ ask the Minister again to obtain a report why currency - it is immaterial whether it is hard or soft currency - wa’i made available for the special purpose 7 have mentioned, particularly in view of the fact that important requests for import licences are being refused?
– I nm not prepared to make available to the honorable senator communications between members of the public and the department concerned.
– I preface a question to the Minister for National Development by stating that South Australians are very worried about th” future distribution of water which is being diverted by the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric scheme. In the near future, the Murray River 13 to be deprived of 200,000 acre feet annually at its source when the Tooma River is diverted to the Tumut and, eventually, to the Murrumbidgee. The Snowy and the Eucumbene rivers will also eventually be diverted to the Murrumbidgee. If any of the water is allowed to reach the Murray, after irrigation requirements along the Murrumbidgee have been satisfied, that could compensate in 20 or 30 years’ time for the earlier depletion. “Will the Minister give an assurance that, in the signing of the agreement in the very near future. South Australia’s interests will be safeguarded ; that South Australia’s urgent need of water will be considered, and that the Snowy Mountains agreement will in no way cut across the
Murray River agreement, which allocated the percentage of water to reach South Australia.
– The rights of South Australia to water from the Murray River are set. out in the River Murray Waters Act. South Australia’s rights under that act will be maintained in the Snowy Mountains agreement.
– By way of preface to a question which I address to the Minister representing the Minister for Health, I point out that on Tuesday last, in London, a committee of medical experts and atomic scientists released an important report on the dangers to humanity from strontium, one of the constituents of fall-out which retains radio activity. The committee, which probed the whole field of radio activity, made a discovery which poses a new problem for medical science. It instanced X-ray examinations and medical diagnosis by radiology, and warned that the advisability of these practices should be reviewed. Will the Minister obtain a report for the Senate from the Minister for Health on the matters that have come forward from this London conference? I also ask whether the Minister, in his capacity as Minister for Repatriation, will pay particular attention to the bearing that that report has upon the treatment of ex-servicemen in repatriation hospitals.
– I saw that report in the newspapers and was very interested in it. As the honorable senator has asked for a report from the Minister for Health, I shall be very glad to obtain one for him. In regard to his remarks concerning the treatment of ex-servicemen in repatriation hospitals, I shall have the matter investigated at once.
– My question is addressed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, and concerns the pressure that is being placed on the accommodation in Parliament House for senators and members of the Parliament.
I understand that the press occupies a considerable number of rooms attached to the press gallery in the Senate, and a3 so little news appears in the newspapers concerning proceedings in the Senate, it would appear that the occupation of those rooms is of no value in press relations with the Senate. In view of the serious shortage of office accommodation for senators and members in Parliament House, will the Minister discuss with the appropriate authority the abolition of the Senate press rooms to enable more room to be made available for senators and members 1
– I shall be very happy to discuss that matter with the President.
– I direct the attention of the Leader of the Government in the Senate to the fact that, since the administration of import licensing has been transferred from the Department of Customs and Excise to the Department of Trade, there has been inordinate delay in answering representations made by members of the Parliament concerning this vexed question of import licensing. In addition, when members of the Parliament receive answers to such representations, very often they are signed by a parliamentary undersecretary. I consider that, if they can* not be signed by the Minister himself, they should be signed by the Minister acting for him. I ask the Leader of the Government to take cognizance of these matters so that w.e may have speedier action by the Department of Trade in answering representations.
– I suggest that the honorable senator take those matters up with the Minister in the Senate who represents the Minister for Trade.
– Then, I redirect my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade.
– Apparently, I take the ricochet. I shall be happy to take up the matter with Mr. McMahon, who is acting for Mr. McEwen while he is away. I think that honorable senators will appreciate that some administrative difficulties could be expected to present themselves during such a very large administrative change-over as was involved in the transfer to the Department of Trade of such major governmental activities as the Tariff Board, the Division of Industrial Development and the Import. Licensing Branch. I am sure that Mr. McMahon will take whatever action is possible to rectify the matter that has been mentioned by Senator Henty.
– 1 preface a question to you, Mr. President, by reminding you of your recent ruling to the effect that lengthy questions calling for detailed replies should be placed on the noticepaper. Do you consider, in view of the attitude of Ministers to questions asked upon notice, that that practice amounts to consigning important questions to the political graveyard? Answers have still not been supplied to questions that were placed on the notice-paper on the 9th, loth and 22nd May. As the Standing Orders provided that questions shall be restricted to matters of urgent public importance, do you consider that your ruling conformed with that requirement?
– In giving my ruling, I had in mind the desirability of presenting the proceedings at question time, both in Hansard and during the rebroadcast of questions, in the most presentable form possible. Despite my directions on the matter, I have noticed that honorable senators have continued - and, no doubt, will continue - to ask, without notice, long, involved questions which Ministers have little chance of answering offhand. I shall make no comment on Senator Cooke’s assertion in relation to the length of time that questions remain on the notice-paper.
– I desire to ask the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration a very important question. If, after listening to my question, he is not fully acquainted with the relevant facts, I suggest that he consult -with Senator McCallum-
– Order ! The honorable senator should ask his question.
– Senator McCallum attended a party meeting yesterday at which, I understand, there was a strong division-
– Order ! The honorable senator is making a statement. He must ask a question.
– My question relates to the effect that the present rate of intake of immigrants is having on the Australian economy, a matter that was discussed at the party meeting to which [ have referred. I believe that there was a serious division of opinion amongst supporters of the Government in relation to this important matter, and that the discussion was adjourned until to-morrow. Will the Minister assure honorable senators that an opportunity will be afforded for the discussion of this very important matter in both Houses of the Parliament before a decision is made on it?
– It would be quite contrary to practice for me, or any other Minister, to answer a question relating to a confidential party meeting.
– I preface a question to the Minister for the Navy by reminding him that attention has frequently been directed to the chaos that would arise in Canberra should the Commonwealthavenue bridge become unserviceable as a result, in times of flood, of all traffic which normally uses the three low-level crossings of the Molonglo River being diverted over that bridge. Will the Minister direct the attention of the Cabinet to the recommendation of the Public Works Committee that additional bridges should be constructed over the Molonglo River in Canberra as soon as practicable ?
– There is no doubt that the matter raised by the honorable senator is one of tremendous importance. I shall be very pleased to bring it before the notice of ray colleague, the Minister for the Interior.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Supply, upon notice -
– The Minister for Supply has supplied the following answers : -
– On the 6th June, Senator Robertson asked the following question : -
T ask the Minister representing the Prime Minister whether his attention has been directed to a report in to-day’s Sydney Morning Herald which states that the Premier of New South Wales, Mr. J. J. Cahill, will consider extending the retiring age, at present fixed at <55, in the State public service because this limit was fixed many years ago when life expectation was considerably shorter. Will the Minister have a review made of the Commonwealth Public Service Act with a view to extending the retiring age in the Commonwealth Public Service in the light of the fact that medical science has now been responsible for giving a longer lease of working life?
As T promised the honorable senator, I took this matter up with the Acting Prime Minister who has advised me that, as any variation in the compulsory retiring age in public employment would have social and economic implications of national importance, the Public Service Board feels that any examination made should not be confined to the Commonwealth Service, but considered in regard to its overall effects on the community. An interdepartmental committee established by the Minister for Social Services is at present examining problems associated with the employment of older persons. The effects of any possible alteration to the compulsory retiring age will be considered by this committee.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services, upon notice -
– The Minister for Social Services has supplied the following answer : -
The Government has kept a close and constant watch over the rate of pension in its relation to the cost of living, and has increased the pension on five occasions by amounts totalling 37s. (id. a week. The present pension of £4 per week represents an increase of 88 per cent, on the pension of 42s. fid. a week which was paid when the present Government first assumed office. In addition, the benefits of the Pensioner Medical Service have been made available to qualified pensioners. Furthermore, the Government has made a notable contribution, towards the solution of the accommodation problems of elderly people by means of the Aged Persons Homes Act 1954. A sum of £l.,fi00.000 was appropriated for grants under this act during the current financial year. The question of a further increase in the rate of pension is a matter of Government policy. The honorable senator may rest assured, however, that the Government will continue to maintain its interest in the welfare of pensioners when Social Services are reviewed in connexion with the budget.
– I understand that the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior has a reply to the following question which I asked on the 30th May last:-
By way of preface to my question to the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, I invite his attention to the state ments made by me in this chamber recently, concerning the inadequacy, and the dispersed nature, of Commonwealth Government freehold and leasehold properties in Adelaide. Considerable interest has been shown in those statements by architects and municipal authorities in Adelaide. Will the Minister bring to the notice of the Minister for the Interior my remarks and those of Senator Critchley? Will he invite the Minister for the Interior to cause the Public Works Committee of this Parliament to investigate the problem to -which I referred ?
– In reply to the honorable senator’s question, the Minister for the Interior advises that he regards the position in Adelaide as most unsatisfactory, and he is at the present moment reviewing the ownership and occupation of properties in Adelaide by government departments and properties purchased in recent years for the erection of government buildings. The aim will be to consolidate government activities, and to reduce the number of governmentheld properties. A site at the corner of Currie and Topham streets was acquired some years ago for the erection of a Commonwealth building, but it has not been possible to proceed with this project. Another site in Currie-street, about 100 yards west of that referred to above, is held for the erection of a taxation building, for which preliminary plans have been prepared by the Department of Works. These plans indicate that after providing for all taxation branches now located in the savings bank building, the Adelaide railway station and Balfour’s building, Rundle-street, a considerable area would be available for other Commonwealth purposes. In addition to the above sites, the Postmaster-General’s Department has land in Waymouth-street. which it has indicated could be made available for the erection of a building for the joint use of that department and for general Commonwealth purposes. As for the dispersed nature of the freehold properties of the Commonwealth in Adelaide, some of these were acquired for the PostmasterGeneral’s Department and were selected to provide postal and telephone facilities for the public and, consequently, their location is important. I understand that the Postmaster-General’s Department is investigating the possibility of securing land outside the City of Adelaide, on which some of its activities could be concentrated, thus freeing city properties for other purposes. The honorable senator may accept an assurance that this important matter in which he has shown such continued personal interest, is having the closest possible attention.
– For some time, I have had the following question on the notice-paper: -
I ask the Minister representing the Minister tor Labour and National Service to supply the latest figures and information relating to -
the number of vacant positions in each State, the names of the cities or towns in which the vacancies exist, the names of the firms or businesses in which the vacancies exist and the clues of work available; and
the numbers of persons receiving unemployment benefit in each State.
As a reply to that question has not yet. been furnished tome, I was wondering whether the Minister had forgotten to answer it. Will he give me some information about this matter ?
– I shall ascertain the position in regard to this question, and inform the honorable senator accordingly.
– Yesterday, Senator Critchley addressed’ a question to me regarding the rumour that it is proposed to close an institution for ex-servicemen in Adelaide known as Kapara. I have investigated the matter, and find that although the building referred to by the honorable senator is owned by the Repatriation Department, it is not as the honorable senator suggested, a home for burntout ex-servicemen, but has been conducted by the AustralianRed Cross Society for some years as a Red Cross convalescent home. Portion of the institution has been altered by the society to provide accommodation for elderly ex-servicemen-. The: control of the accommodation is in the hands of the Australian Red Cross Society, and does not come within the jurisdiction of the Repatriation Department. Convalescent repatriation patients are admitted to Kapara by the Red Cross Society as the need arises. The Repatria tion Department has not heard of any suggestion to close the institution. As I said before, the administration of Kapara is entirely a matter for the Australian Red Cross Society.
– The building is owned by the Repatriation Department?
– That is whatI understand.
Debate resumed from the 13th June (vide page 1514), on motion by Senator Spooner -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Upon which Senator Ashley had moved by way of amendment -
That all words after “ That “ be left out with a view to inserting in lieu thereof the following words: - “ in the opinion of the Senate the bill should be withdrawn to enable the agreement in the schedule to the bill to be redrafted to -
ensure the provision by the Commonwealth of all moneys required for the erection of dwellings by the States;
reduce interest rates payable on those moneys by the States;
include a system of rental rebates similar to that hitherto in operation; and
detail the size of deposit, period of repayment and rate of interest to be included in agreements contemplated by clause sixteen, subclause (3.), of the Agreement in the Schedule”.
– in reply> - I have always considered it a difficult task to wind up a debate on a bill such as this one, in which I have become so personally immersed. I usually try to base my comments on what honorable senators have said in the debate, but finish up by commenting on remarks hostile to the measure, and put on one side the favorable comments which have been made from my own side of the chamber. That is not always satisfactory.
Therefore, I now propose to deal with this bill not in accordance with the. remarks made by individual senators, but in accordance with the principles that have been the subject of criticism during the course of the debate. I propose to deal with five points - first, the position of building societies; secondly, the interest rate; thirdly, rental rebates; fourthly, the Commonwealth’s action in implementing its own policy in relation to housing- in the provisions of this bill; and lastly, the amendments put forward by the Opposition.
May I make the initial comment that there is a good deal of similarity in the principle in this bill, which I have introduced, and the bill introduced by my colleague, the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge). In his bill, he followed the principle of defining the spheres of activity of ships owned by the private companies and those owned by the Commonwealth. This bill follows the same principle in that it attempts to define the spheres of activity of government instrumentalities as distinct from those of private building societies, and I think the Senate might appreciate the fact that two of the present Government’s Ministers, in two major bills, are to some extent pioneering a new line of approach to what has been a vexed problem as between opposing political forces. I think we are apt to become too fixed in our political views. The tenor of political argument leads us at times to over-emphasize the particular point of view we hold. There is always room for varying points of view, and it is good that in both the bills to which I have referred there are opportunities for discussion of both lines of thought for they both have some influence on the question. It will be interesting to see how in each of these bills the two conflicting schools of thought work out in practice over the years.
Turning to building societies, the tenor of the debate indicates to me - and I say this with all respect - that there is not sufficient appreciation on either side of the Senate as to the great contribution building societies make to-day to the housing needs of Australia or of their potentialities for the future. One intriguing incident in the course of the negotiations leading up to this bill occurred when I went to Tasmania and there met representatives of the building societies in that
State. To my surprise, I found that there was a lack of acknowledgment on the part of the local housing Minister and his officials of the contribution that the Tasmanian building societies were making to housing there. The Minister was unaware of the fact that the Tasmanian building societies were contributing something like £850,000 by contrast with the £2,000,000 expended by the Government on this work. I mention that to illustrate how each can go one’s way without any knowledge of what is going on in other- spheres concurrently with what one is doing. The Tasmanian building societies are doing a magnificent job, and I suggest to Senator O’Byrne that he would do well to meet the people who are running those societies there. They are not profit-making concerns. They are groups of people who are doing a good job out of the desire to provide service to the community as a whole, and that spirit obtains throughout the building society movement generally.
The building society movement in Great Britain, the United. States of America and elsewhere is very much stronger than it is in Australia. In those countries they are more like what we in Australia call permanent building societies. They are not merely societies which, upon being formed, obtain a particular loan and then invest it. They have a series of continuing transactions varying from short-term deposits, the selling of shares, re-investing and the maintaining of continuity of operations. I have been trying to induce the British building societies to bring capital to Australia, establish themselves here and develop the movement into something bigger than it is at the present time. The building society movement in Great Britain is keen to come to Australia, but it is subject to certain disabilities in that the legislation under which it operates contains a provision that its funds must be used only within the boundaries of Great Britain. If that constitutional difficulty could be removed, the movement is confronted with a further problem in the fact that it would seem that in view of the present economic position of Great Britain, the Chancellor of the Exchequer would be very hesitant to allow funds to be taken out of Great Britain. la my opinion, it would be a great thing, indeed, if we could instil greatervigour into thepermanent building society movement in Australia, particularly if we can induce those who have the know-how and skill to come out here with their capital to develop it. I emphasize here that I do not say that because I wish to be disparaging of what is being done in Australia to-day. I acknowledge that great work is being done by the building societies of this country.
I gave Senator Anderson a letter which I received from the Association of Cooperative Building Societies in Australia in order that he might use it during the debate, and, while cogitating upon this matter during the week-end, I felt that one of the criticisms that might come from the Opposition was the suggestion that these building societies are catering for the needs of what might be termed the higher strata of society, those people who are in a position to pay higher deposits. It is true that these people are paying bigger deposits, but the view I hold is that because of that fact they are entitled to every encouragement.
– They are the thrifty people.
– Their large deposits come from their savings. I asked the building society movement in Sydney whether it could furnish proof of that to me because that was the view I held, and I now have the letter, portion of which was used during the debate by Senator Anderson. That letter states the localities in which the building societies are awaiting funds, the average amount of loans obtained, the average income of applicants for loans and the cash that they require. It was stated during the debate last night that the average income of applicants was seventeen guineas a week. According to this letter, the average income of borrowers from the railways, tramways and road transport co-operative building societies is £17 a week. It states further that in Newcastle 95 per cent. of the applicants are industrial workers. I have also been supplied with a tabulation listing particulars of 50 existing applications for loans, and I ask for the leave of the
Senate to incorporate the letter, together with that tabulation, in Hansard because I think they make a valuable contribution to the examination of this problem.
– I object to its merely being incorporated in Hansard. We cannot reply to its contents if we do not hear them read.
– Read it.
– If the Minister wants it incorporated in Hansard, I suggest that he read those parts which he considers relevant so that we may reply to them.
– Can it all be printed in Hansard if I read it ?
The ACTING PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid).- Yes.
– Have I to read the tabulation?
– I do not mind which portion the Minister uses so long as I know the trend of his argument.
Sena tor SPOONER.- I shall read the whole letter from the Association of Cooperative Building Societies, which is as follows : -
Finance for building societies is used mainly in the working and middle-class areas. This statement is borne out by the registration of societies in various districts. The least served district would be the North Shore line.
The districts principally served by cooperative building societies are:
Fairfield, Cabramatta,Rydalmere, Parramatta, Bankstown, Canterbury, Liverpool, St. George, Fivedock, Drummoyne,Ryde,East Hills line, Western Suburbs.
Attached hereto is a list of 50 applications received by one of the metropolitan co-operative building societies. This is a general cross section of applications received. For obvious reasons, the applicants’ names have been omitted. These are mostly new applications awaiting finance. This survey reveals -
Average loan, £2,335.
Average income, £17 17s. a week.
Average cash required, £087.
Localities - mostly Illawarra and
In addition to building societies serving persons in particular localities, there are a large number of occupational societies lending to employees in particular occupations such as theRailway Employees’ Co-operative Building Societies, The Road Transport and Tramways Employees’ Co-operative Building Societies, &c. The secretary of the Railways Co-operative Building Societies, with a waiting list of over 2,000 members, states -
Average income of applicants, £17 a week.
Average deposit, 10-20 per cent.; namely, £300-£400
General cost of houses : ( mostly fibro ) , £2,500-£3,200
The Newcastle district details are - 95 per cent. of the applicants are industrial workers - mainly husband and wife incomes.
Deposits: 10-20 per cent.
Cost of homes: £3,000.
District: Newcastle and suburbs.
I have obtained the following information from Melbourne: -
In other words, if I remember correctly the figures that were cited last night, the activities of the building societies in Victoria are comparable in volume with the activities of the housing commission in that State. The number of houses in course of completion - 4,900 - would be close enough to the figure for the Victorian Housing Commission. The schedule attached to the letter shows the occupations of the applicants.
– I suggest that the Minister have the table incorporated in Hansard.
– I am satisfied.
– With the leave of the Senate, I shall have the following table incorporated in Hansard: -
1 obtained that letter simply to confirm the opinion I had formed from my experience that members of the building societies are worthy of assistance and support. They are the average men of the community, who consider home-ownership a primary objective. They want to get homes from some source other than a government.
I turn now to the interest rate, which has been the subject of considerable criticism. I can do little more than repeat the arguments that were advanced in my second-reading speech. One can make tip a sentimental story in favour of a low rate of interest for government housing, but we have to ask ourselves whether that is a sound or a reasonable approach. I believe that there arc two classes in the community that are entitled to consideration and help. There are the exservicemen, who are able to obtain war service homes, and there are those in poor financial circumstances, particularly widows and those with families, who are entitled to assistance. However, it is wrong to approach this matter from the point of view that, because the scheme is a government scheme, the interest rate should hu low.
A government scheme cannot, or will not, provide more than about 14 per cent, of the houses that are built, and if we offer the most advantageous interest rates in respect of that minority, we shall penalize severely the great majority who. in the very nature of things, have to make arrangements for homes outside the- sphere of government activity. It would be very bad, indeed, if we reached a situation in which, by susidizing interest rates on houses for renting, we attracted, supported or encouraged a search for cheap rented houses from governments, and discouraged home-seekers from building their own homes under their own arrangements.
This is another variation of the conflict between the principles of homerenting and home-ownership. Of course, there must be a place for both in any housing scheme. What we are trying to do in this proposal is to provide a reasonable compromise supporting, on the one hand the home-ownership policy and, on the other hand, reserving the major proportion of the funds for the States, which can approach the matter in the way they think best.
There has been considerable criticism of the Commonwealth Government for withdrawing the rental rebate.. The Commonwealth has said, in effect, that housing is a field in which there is room for wide differences of opinion. We have said, in simple terms, “ We are providing a substantial proportion of money for housing. If we are taking the responsibility of raising it by taxation, surely we are morally entitled to have our views implemented in respect of, at least, a reasonable proportion of the money.. We are not entitled to dragoon the States, but we are entitled to do what we think is right, to some extent at least. The States, we believe, are doing the right thing in many directions “.
There is no doubt that this Government has observed the agreement that was made by the previous Labour Government, and the present Opposition will act similarly when this Government goes out of office. Australian governments do not go back on arrangements made by their predecessors. The Labour Government made an agreement in 1945, and we have honorably and properly carried it through to its completion, but no one could say that it has been perfect. I say, with respect, that the Opposition should be chary, indeed, of ever criticizing changes which we believe are going to improve housing conditions in Australia in the future. As I have said, there has been much criticism of the withdrawal of the rental rebate provisions* We are making a contribution of 1 per cent, in the interest rate, which is a very large contribution. We are leaving to the States the task of saying how they will use that percentage. It is entirely for each bailiwick in each State to> say how it will use the 1 per cent, interest discount. If a State wishes to give rentalrebates,, it may do- so. Some States wish to do that and some of them do not. Again, there is conflict of opinion on that matter. Some of the States say that there is no need to provide houses under the rental rebate system because they have a stock of government houses and can re-arrange that stock to provide houses, for people who are in indigent circumstances. South Australia, for instance,, has never operated the rental rebate system.
I do not know whether this matter was raised in the debate, but there is the further point that, within the limits of the present arrangements, there is no reason why any State government, if it considers that it is proper, should not continue to provide for rental rebates,, because all the rentals in respect of houses built under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement are assessed according to a formula which is designed, to establish an economic rentalOne of the constituents of that formula is a provision that 5 per cent, of therent from each house shall be set aside to cover bad debts due to tenants not paying their rent, and, secondly, cottages being: left vacant, with no rents accruingThat 5 per cent, provision applies to alt of the 90,000 houses- that have been erected, but because of the nature of the times, or perhaps for other reasons, all of the 5 per cent, has never been used. It has never been required. I think that the actual losses from bad debts, and from loss of rental due to vacancy, instead of being 5 per cent., as it was thought in 1945, have worked out at something like .2 per cent. Five per cent, of the £12,000,000 per annum that is being received from the rents of these houses would amount to £600,000 a year. The cost of the rental rebate scheme has been £300,000 a year.
An awful fuss is being made about the abolition of the rental rebate scheme,, but it is competent for any State,, without financial loss, to say, “ We will use the provision for vacant houses and bad debts to establish a rental rebate scheme “. In truth, of course, the States- are feeling that the rental rebate scheme, like so many other things that are good in theory and good in principle, is extraordinarily difficult to administer, because people are apt to take advantage of such things. I think that quite a number- of the States, despite what they may say to the’ contrary, will be rather glad te see the rental rebates scheme go out. My point,, however, i» that if they want to continue the scheme, there is provision for them to> do
I come now to a matter that I think merits a little examination, and that is the position of the States should they not sign the agreement. My view is that they will sign it, if they appreciate that it is a fair and reasonable proposal. All I can say is that, having regard to the proposals contained in the legislation, the Government has gone as far as it is prepared to go. We put certain proposals to the States last year. I have had two conferences with State Ministers, and I have given the Ministers and their staffs every opportunity to examine the proposals. Every explanation that they have wanted I have given them. I have genuinely done as much as I can, in respect of the proposals that are now before the Parliament, to meet the wishes of the States, and also to meet their objections. It is rather an ironic position that the Commonwealth is providing the finance, from its own share of loan moneys–
– Do I understand the Minister to say that the Commonwealth is doing that from loan moneys, not from revenue ?
– If the loan money was there, we should be finding the finance from loan money. It is rather like the saying, “ We would have bacon and eggs if we had the bacon “. I think that the honorable senator is partly correct in querying my statement that we are finding the money from loans.
– I found a similar conflict in the Minister’s second-reading speech. I could not follow the matter there, and that is why I have asked him about it now.
– The honorable senator is in order in doing so. It seems to me that this is a case of practice becoming mixed with theory. The practical position is that we have to supplement the loan moneys from revenue.
Housing Agreement Bill
– The Commonwealth does not compensate the States for the 5 per cent, that they spend in that respect, does it?
– No. We say to the States, “ We want 3 per cent, or 4 per cent, of your houses for the defence forces.
– That is for serving members of the forces, is it?
– For serving members of the defence forces. We say to the States, “ If you set aside that proportion, we will supplement your loan moneys by an equivalent amount “.
– But the Commonwealth does not. compensate the States for the amounts they allot from their allocations for that purpose, does it?
– They are not entitled to compensation. I think I made that matter clear to the honorable senator in reply to interjections earlier. Surely, there is no difference between a member of the 1st Battalion, or the 2nd Battalion, who lives in Queensland or New South Wales, and a member of the staff of the Post Office or the Department of Customs and Excise. They are citizens of the State, and the State is responsible to help them, just as it is responsible to help other citizens. The Commonwealth has a great problem in this respect, in that it moves members of the defence forces about in the course of their employment. We find that lack of housing is a great handicap to recruiting and to maintaining the strength of the forces. We have, therefore, said to the States, “ You have accepted, since 1945, the principle that 50 per cent, of the houses should be reserved for exservicemen. We ask you to give serving servicemen priority within the limits of that 50 per cent.”.
Before that digression, I was making the point that some of the States had been, quite frankly, obstructive in regard to these negotiations. They were unmoved by our approach to the matter and our desire to have a part of our policy written into the agreement. They were unmoved, too, by the fact that we said that, nationally and from the point of view of housing as a whole in Australia, there should be common agreement to write into the housing scheme provision for assistance to be made to those who have saved a deposit and are prepared to put that, deposit into a house, rather than that all of the assistance should be given, to those who merely look to the Government to find them a home. We have made every effort to be reasonable with the States. We have made every effort to reach agreement with the States as a result of which the people may enjoy the benefits of the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. The people of Australia will suffer if the State governments are not prepared finally to agree to it.
Under this agreement, the States will have an opportunity to receive a share of the proportion of loan moneys which the Commonwealth lias the right to retain for itself. The States will receive that proportion at an interest discount of 1 per cent. If any State fails to sign the agreement, it virtually will cut itself off from a certain source of housing finance. There can be no guarantee that the State concerned will be able to obtain the money from its ordinary allocation from the Australian Loan Council because, in the nature of things, the amount of money that the Australian Loan Council is able to allocate is limited. If the States do not complete the agreement, and decide to carry out their housing programmes with money allocated to them by the Australian Loan Council, they will have to pay 5 per cent, interest on that money. In the case of New South Wales, this would result in the payment by that State of additional interest amounting to £20.000,000 over the period of 53 years of the loan. The Commonwealth has gone as far as it is prepared to go in this matter. It has met the States on all points on which it was considered that it could fairly meet them. Expressed simply, the question now comes down whether the States will sign, or will not sign, the agreement. . Personally, I believe that they think that the agreement is a fair compromise all round, and that they will sign it.
As for the amendment that has been moved by the Opposition, the Commonwealth is not prepared to alter the draft agreement, which was framed as a result of two meetings with the States. It represents an honest and conscientious effort to meet the objections of the States, and I think that it is a very reasonable compromise between the views of the States and those of the Commonwealth. I think that, on such an important matter as this, it is bad to have an atmosphere of political conflict, but in this world that cannot be helped. One receives no commendations from his political adversaries for any arrangement that he seeks to make.
I believe that the provisions of the draft agreement are inherently good and sound, and that they will, if accepted, make a very valuable contribution, indeed, to the overcoming of the shortage of houses in Australia. I also believe that they represent an equitable compromise between the divergent views that are held in relation to housing.
As I said earlier, the Government is not prepared to accept the amendment that has been moved by the Opposition, which proposes to leave out all words after “ That “, and to insert the following in lieu thereof : -
In the opinion of the Senate the bill should be withdrawn to enable the agreement in the schedule to the bill to be redrafted to -
to ensure the provision by the Commonwealth of all moneys required for the erection of dwellings by the States ;
I suggest that the amendment has been advanced irresponsibly. If agreed ito, it would give carte blanche to the States in the matter of housing. They could ask the Commonwealth next year for £60,000,000 instead of £30,000,000, or for any other amount that they chose to nominate. No nation, in managing its finances, could incur an unlimited obligation in any particular direction without taking into ‘consideration its possible obligations in other directions. ‘The next paragraph of the amendment reads - (‘&) reduce interest rates payable on those moneys by the States;
I have already dealt wi.th. the subject of interest rates, -and with the matter of rental rebates, which is mentioned in the next paragraph -
The concluding paragraph of (he amendment reads - (d.) detail the .size .of deposit, period of repayment and rate of interest to be included in agreements contemplated by clause 16, sub-clause -3 of the agreement in the schedule. [ ‘think that the general remarks that T have made in relation to the correspondence with the co-operative building societies have indicated what the Government has in mind. lit is contemplated that the States will lend the money to the building societies, and that the -societies willi use that money in accordance with the pattern of their transactions within the borders of the various States. As honorable senators know, the pattern of the huilding societies varies, not only as between terminating and permanent building societies and (between cooperative and other societies, hut also in the way in which they conduct their affairs. Originally, we commenced by putting into the agreement the terms and conditions that would cover advances to .the .building societies in each State, but we found it impracticable to continue on that basis, because they change from time to time. For instance, what Western Australia does is not necessarily appropriate to New South Wales, and so on. Therefore, it was decided to leave the provision flexible. First, there is the principle that the money shall be provided for building societies, or other approved institutions if -the building societies cannot take up the money. Honori’ble senators should not -overlook that reservation. Having written that principle into the bill, we ‘leave the State Ministers to work out ‘how the principle will operate in their respective States.
It Must he remembered that all building societies ane registered under the law of the State in which they operate. They are subject to rules and conditions, which the State .governments themselves administer. Therefore, there is not wailable a wide field for argument in this connexion, and we ‘Cannot get far off the track in relation to the .rate of interest chargeable and the proportion of deposits. We have established the principle of encouraging building societies. If we can secure an atmosphere of goodwill in which the State governments will give the Commonwealth’s policy a fair trial, I believe that this bill will make a worthy contribution to the legislation of this country.
– Speaking to the amendment, I should like to -comment on certain statements that have been made by the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner). During this sessional period, particularly when a certain bill was recently under consideration in this chamber, the Opposition was chided for allegedly adopting a doctrinaire, political approach to certain matters. In that instance, the bill related to the control of shipping. In one breath, the Minister asked the Opposition not to make a doctrinaire, political approach to housing, .and in the next breath, he, himself, made political statements when discussing the provisions of the .proposed agreement.
The Minister said, during his secondreading speech, that the Commonwealth wanted to encourage building societies, and that the intention of the legislation was to -encourage home building. He said that the -bin would assist building societies, something of which the Government approved. I do not suppose I should blame the ‘Government for that, but the Government is departing from the intention of the legislation -when it .places such emphasis on the encouragement of building societies in a bill which is designed to increase home-wonership.
– Do not the building societies “build homes?
– I .’am not dealing with that aspect of the matter. What is the real intention -of the hill1? Is it to assist the growth of building societies, or to build more homes for home-ownership? As far as I could .see, the Minister did - no advance, during the course of the ‘debate anything that would indicate that the bill will result in getting more homes . built, by that method rather than under an alternative method where the State, or the State building authorities are doing the job themselves. After all, if that is «o, then the bill in its primary intent and purpose to build homes does not carry that purpose into execution, whatever it might do on the other hand to promote the growth and development of building societies. Therefore, on behalf of .the Opposition, I am entitled to resent the suggestion that we are tied to a doctrinaire political philosophy when that appears to be the intent and purpose advanced by the Minister for this measure.
Speaking more particularly to the amendment, we are asked to approve of a draft agreement which in its specific reference contemplates a further agreement, and a series of further agreements particularly relating to the circumstances in each State. I do not feel that the particular Tine on which the Minister has indicated this agreement might proceed is altogether adequate when we are asked to give legislative authority to the conclusion of an agreement in detail up to the point where it does not go into any particulars in relation to those further agreements. For example, the question that would occur to me would be this: IT the ‘Government makes money available to the States at a certain rate of interest in the only way that it constitutionally can, except under the Commonwealth’s defence power, will there be a mark-up of interest from the State to the building society, and will there be a further mark-up of interest from the building society to the borrower ? Ta those circumstances I ask : What will be the probable ultimate Tate of interest that the borrower will pay to the building societies? As I interjected last night when Senator O’Byrne was speaking, this intervention of a building society, or fiscal middleman, cannot have any other effect than ultimately to inject some interest rate additional to what would have been paid had the transaction been directly from, the Commonwealth ‘to the State -and then to the borrower. ‘I should like the Minister .to refer to that when speaking in reply to the motion for this amendment.
A disturbing feature of the whole of this .agreement is that when it is concluded with any ‘State, or if it is concluded “with all the States, nobody will be naive enough to suggest that it is a freely concluded agreement. I say that in spite of what ‘the Minister “has said, perhaps in the best of good faith, fiat he feels this is a fair offer -being made by the Commonwealth to the .States, and that the Commonwealth has compromised as far as it could and has ‘been as generous as it could.
– What about the position between mortgagor and mortgagee ?
– The fact remains that, ultimately, any of these agreements will be made under duress and the .duress i3 that the alternative for the States is that in order to proceed with a building programme they will be compelled to pay the full bond rates, a very much higher rate of interest, which, in the Minister’s delineation of the facts applying to New South Wales, would involve an additional interest charge of £20,000,000 during the term of the agreement. The position is slightly different because of this : A mortgagor and a mortgagee have a certain relationship, but ultimately the mortgagor has no particular responsibility or duty to deal with the mortgagee ; but here the States have a consitutional responsibility to develop their States. That is the tragedy that nas developed in Australia. The Commonwealth has the consitutional means to do these things, but not .the constitutional way ; it cannot do it. That is the constitutional position under uniform taxation. The Commonwealth has the means to do things, but under the Constitution, is deprived of the opportunity to do them. The Minister has said that, because of the deficiency in loan funds, this money will be ultimately provided from revenue. On the other hand, “the position with the ‘States is that they have the consitutional ways, but no longer have the fiscal means. Therefore, in trying to conclude any agreement between ‘t*he all-powerful Commonwealth and the now virtually mendicant and dependent States, it is almost impossible to get a freely concluded agreement where the States can measure up to their responsibilities and answer to their people for the duties which are imposed upon them. It is all very well for the Government and the Minister to say, “ We have been as generous as we can; we have gone the full distance “. I say that in the true spirit, of the Constitution the Government has not gone nearly far enough in this respect.
– Who made the Commonwealth all-powerful ?
– We know the constitutional history of the surrender of taxation powers by the States, and we know the subsequent interpretations of the High Court which have now highlighted the present situation which is becoming intolerable and virtually impossible. It is obvious, and I think this bill high-lights the necessity, that there should be a quick and drastic look at the Constitution. That is one of the obligations that must rest upon the constitutional committee that has been set up, because we are finding that the States are being constitutionally bludgeoned into a position where they have to do things in order to discharge the duties to their people imposed upon them by the Constitution.
– The honorable senator is suggesting that the States are frightened of their own Frankenstein monster.
– That may be so, but I am merely stating the position as I see it; I am not seeking to justify it. Every senator in this chamber who is primarily a representative of the States to protect the States, instead of disagreeing with me on this issue on political grounds should be prepared to acede to the proposition I am putting forward.
I, therefore, support the amendment, particularly paragraph (d). because I feel we are being asked to conclude an agreement without the full facts nf that agreement having been planed before us. I know it is a difficult position for the Minister. After all. these negotiations are taking place at the ministerial level and, even though legislation is being introduced here, there must be a certain area in which confidential information can be exchanged. However, I still think that the Minister, without transgressing those confidences, could have placed much more detailed information before the Senate in relation to these further agreements. In Queensland, for example, the State Housing Commission, as Senator Benn explained last night, has conducted, probably for two generations, an eflicient and most successful homebuilding programme. Building societies artnot strong in Queensland, but this legislation is going to inject, under the guise of effecting some other purpose, some stimulus to the creation of building societies. Apparently, there has been no autonomous move in Queensland for their creation the reason being, possibly, tha? the State housing commission has performed the service successfully and satisfactorily over many years. But the State is not being allowed to go on in that way. This system is to be legislatively imposed upon it.
If I understood the Minister aright last night, when he made a comment quite rapidly, he said that State housing commissions from their own funds were not building very freely now. I do not know whether I understood the Minister correctly. I interjected that last year the Queensland Housing Commission from its own funds had been able to build 6,000 unit dwellings demonstrating that a tremendous home-building programme is being carried on by the State Government, out of its own resources and through its own instrumentalities. Because that has gone on for many years, perhaps building societies have not found the need to operate and flourish in the Queensland home-building climate. Why then should this system be forced upon us? There has been no criticism of harshness against the Queensland Government in relation to its workers’ dwellings system. There has been no allegation that it has been building houses to a uniform pattern or that its building standards are not high. The programme has been carried on from the gradually diminishing financial resources of the State; yet, during the currency of the housing agreement, it built 6,288 homes as compared with the 3,919 built under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. The homebuilding policy of the Queensland State Housing Commission has been most successful. The number built under the agreement was not much greater than that built by the Queensland State housing authority. Housing in Queensland is in an extraordinarily satisfactory state, and this is most apparent when, the figures are compared with those for other States. In New South Wales, the shortage is 118,000 which, translated into terms of percentage, is 58 per cent. In Victoria, the shortage is 49,000, or 24 per cent., and in Queensland, 2,000, or 1 per cent. Honorable senators may be interested to know that the source of those figures is none other than the Commonwealth Minister for Immigration (Mr. Harold Holt), and they were given by him to a conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers for Immigration in December, 1954. 1 mention them to show that, over the years, a successful and efficient system of home construction has operated in the State of Queensland through its housing authority, and that is why we are entitled to resent the fact that this agreement will impose on. the State another system in order to implement the avowed and acknowledged political philosophy of this Government.
I hope that in his reply to the secondreading debate, or at the committee stage, the Minister will answer the queries 1 have raised as to the effect on interest rates of the injection of what I call the fiscal middleman, and what interest, ultimately, can reasonably be charged to the borrower. It would have been helpful if the Minister could have acquainted the Senate in greater detail of the effects of tins further agreement which will be concluded between the Commonwealth and the States in relation to the control of building authorities.
Apparently, the whole of the administrative burden of the supervision of building societies will fall on the State housing authorities. Under the agreement, certain standards will have to be maintained, and certain fiscal controls operated. I doubt, strongly, whether the State housing authorities will have either the personnel or the administrative means to control all building societies. Can the Minister intimate how extensive will be these controls, and how far that supervision will reach? If the States are to have an additional administrative burden imposed on them, some financial assistance should be given to them for the responsibilities and duties which they will have to assume. I ask the Minister, as an alternative, whether it would be possible, acknowledging that the Commonwealth can make this money available only to the .States and not directly to the building societies, to make the money available to the States for channelling back to the War Service Homes Division, which would act as a sub-agent of the Commonwealth and flan agent for the States? The constitutional requirements would be observed, the Commonwealth would have at hand t]ie State authority, experienced in the construction and supervision of houses, and, in addition, the administrative burden would be borne by a body that already has the experience and the staff to do the work. That would apply particularly to homes for members of the defence forces. For the reasons I have stated, I support the amendment moved on behalf of the Opposition by Senator Ashley, and I look forward to hearing the Minister’s reply, in which I hope he will give some information in reply to the specific queries that I have raised.
-31]- - I am moved to oppose the amendment, because if it were agreed to, the new agreement would be virtually the same as the old one. Over the past five years the Tasmanian Government has consistently refused to sign the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement.
– Will it sign thi? one?
– It has intimated that it will, and that reason alone impels me, as a Tasmanian, to oppose the amendment. Yesterday, during the debate, allegations were made against the permanent building societies in Tasmania. Tasmania asserts and maintains a. certain amount of rugged independence in every direction, and not only did the Tasmanian Government refuse to sign the previous agreement, but the building societies in that State also are not interested in it. Senator O’Byrne said that these permanent building societies were concerned only in profit-making. I assure the Senate that those societies have had a long run. and honorable record of service in that State. The honorable senator said, that under this proposed agreement, a proportion of public moneys wouldbe made available to the societies, which would use it to make further profits. That charge is answered by the fact that the permanent building societies in Tasmania are not interested in this agreement: The fact that they prefer to conduct their businesses without financial assistance from the Government proves that they consider if would he of no benefit to them. The amount of money allocated to Tasmania would be relatively small, and acceptance of that money would involve the setting up of an administrative system to run parallel with their own system, which’ has operated’ for many years. Because of the small advantage that would be gained, the societies do not think that would be worth while. The Tasmanian permanent mutual building societies were among the first to be started in the Commonwealth of Australia, and they have a long and honorable record. The Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner), in bringing down this bill has rendered them great service, because consideration of the activities of building societies and the proposal to assist them with funds has brought to the attention of the Tasmanian Minister in charge of housing the fact that, over a long period, the societies have played an important part in housing, of which that Minister and his department were in complete ignorance. They have constructed £900,000 worth of houses, which is equivalent to almost half of the £2,000,000 advanced by the State Housing Department of Tasmania. That is no mean effort. Therefore, I oppose the amendment and support the bill. In doing so, I commend the Minister for the able manner in which he has negotiated with the States and met many of their objections. If the Opposition cannot accept the compromise that has been so arrived at, no compromise will ever be acceptable to it.
– I rise to bring briefly to the attention of the Senate once again what I regard as the most significant basic principle of the Chifley Government’s housing agreement of 1945. I do so at this stage in order to underline the rabid approach made to this matter by Senator Byrne, because a report to which I shall refer defines the ideology for which the honorable senator was contending when he disputed the employment of building societies as housing agents under this proposal. The report to which I refer is that of the Commonwealth Housing. Commission, dated the 25th August, 1944. That report was submitted to the Chifley Government, and was undoubtedly the basis of the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement of 1945. Paragraph 308 of the report reads -
This Commission is also of the opinion that the only satisfactory method of dealing with the problems of land use and land values is forland to be nationalized, and held thereafter as leasehold; we feel, however, that the lease should be one in perpetuity with periodic re-appraisements of the capital value. We are not in agreement with the objections to nationalization as stated by the Uthwatt Committee. We realize that there are many difficulties to effect the conversion, but are of the opinion that serious consideration should be given as to whether it. is not possible for these to be equitably overcome. Commenting on the objections of the Uthwatt Committee in order, we consider that:
First: political controversy and delay are not valid objections to a desirable policy;
Second: the size of the financial operations required should not daunt those used to war-time finance; and
Third : the necessity to build up a complicated administrative machinery should not be a deterrent, particularly in view of war-time experience. (Note. - 94 per cent. of the land in Queensland and all the land in the Federal Capital are already held as leasehold tenure.)
There would, of course,be considerable public opposition to land, nationalization, both from existing land-owners and from many who would fear that such may be a prelude to other similar measures, but it seems to us that land nationalization is the only effective way to eliminate private profit-making from land and to reserve to the community the unearned increment.
I believe that it is most desirable that that statement should be placed on record as the unashamed and unqualified declaration of the objectives of those who espouse .the cause which Senator Byrne has supported.
Senator WEDGWOOD (Victoria ; (11. 39]- - I rise to reply to Senator Byrne, who said that the States would sign this agreement only under duress. In Victoria, the housing authority has been lagging seriously in the .building of homes, .particularly small homes; and, recently, when the Premier of that State was speaking about this matter he said that -5,0.00 home-seekers will be able to join the 77 new co-operative housing societies which will be established under this scheme. Therefore, it is quite wrong to say, as Senator Byrne said, that all the States will sign this agreement only under duress. Victoria will be most happy to sign it because the .Government of that State is definitely in favour of encouraging persons to buy their homes.
– Mr. Deputy President-
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - Order ! It has been the practice in the Senate in these circumstances to discuss together -the motion for the second reading and an amendment thereto. As the honor.abe senator has already spoken in this debate he may not do so a second time.
– I opposed the bill, and 1 now desire to speak to the amendment.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - Order ! The honorable senator has spoken once, and he is therefore deemed to have spoken on both questions. It is the practice to debate concurrently both questions in an instance of this kind.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be left out (Senator Ashley’s amendment) be left out..
The Senate divided. (The Deputy President - Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid.)
Majority . . . . 5
Question so resolved in the negative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Senator ASHLEY (New South Wales) [11.47]. - The Opposition objects to the bill being taken as a whole. We want further information on certain clauses.
The CHAIRMAN (Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid). - Although the bill is being taken as a whole, there is nothing to prevent the honorable senator from asking for information on or discussing any clause. If he wishes to speak to any part of the bill, now is the time for him to do so.
– I wish to discuss the provision relating to the allocation of finance to the States. When replying to the second-reading debate, the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) became a little party-political; but I do not blame him for that because the Opposition was guilty of the same practice.
My purpose is to emphasize that the representations I made on behalf of the States were to the effect that the allocations made- to the States for their housing programmes should not be reduced to the extent of the contributions to be made to building societies. The Opposition raises uo objection whatever to the Government’s making money available to building societies, but we strongly object to its making contributions to such societies at the expense of the allocation to be made to the States. That objection applies also to the contribution of 5 per cent, for the provision of homes for serving members of the defence forces. The Minister suggested that if the Government is to be required to provide housing for serving personnel it is equally logical to argue that it should also be responsible for housing the staff of the Postal Department and, indeed, the staff of every Commonwealth undertaking. I point out that the members of the defence forces are in an entirely different position. The defence of Australia is the sole responsibility of this Government, and it is important that service personnel be housed. If the Government accepted responsibility for the housing of the serving personnel, we should not have the waste of hundreds of thousands of pounds that is now taking place in advertising for recruits. If people could be assured that upon joining the services they would be provided with housing, I am confident we should have many more recruits.
The provision of 5 per cent, for housing for serving personnel and the 20 per cent, to be allocated to building societies represent a total reduction of the States’ allocations of 25 per cent, in the first two years of the agreement. In the following three years, the total reduction will be 35 per cent. That is too much. It has been said by the Minister that the building societies have done great service in providing homes for the people of this country. Nobody denies that, but when speaking to the amendment on the motion for the second reading, Senator Henty pointed out that building societies in Tasmania were entirely independent, that they did not want help from the Government; and my reason for asking the Minister to read the letter which he wished to have incorporated in Hansard was that I did not want to have incorporated in Hansard any statement about which the Opposition knew nothing and upon which we had not been given the opportunity to comment.
A further interesting point is that in referring to that letter the Minister did not tell us that he had requested the building societies to furnish the information contained in it. When dealing with that letter, the Minister mentioned many names and quoted the occupations of various applicants together with their incomes. The significant thing about it is that in the whole of the list of applicants there is only one labourer whose income is £15 a week. The whole purpose of allocating finance to the States is to enable them to provide homes for those who cannot afford the higher deposits required by the building societies. I notice from the list quoted by the Minister that the deposit required from the one labourer mentioned was £1,000. I should like to know how any man who has a young family and is earning only £15 a week could find a deposit of £1,000, especially in view of the present inflated condition of the economy.
The Minister also said that at present 20,000 fewer homes are being built by the States than previously. I do not quite see his point there. It may be that with the present unsettled conditions, there is not such a great call for homes. I wish to make it clear that the Opposition offers no objection to helping building societies. We believe that all possible financial assistance should be given to them if it will contribute to the construction of more homes, but we believe that they should use to the utmost, available materials and man-power, short of causing undue competition for them. That is our request on behalf of the States.
– I should like the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) to qualify a point relating to the lending of money to building societies. The building society movement is not very strong in South Australia, but I believe that about £300,000 has been lent by those societies for the purchase of existing homes. When the money is lent to societies under this agreement, is there any assurance that it will be used for the construction of new homes. and not merely for the purchase of existing homes? In the latter case, the purpose in making the money available would be defeated.
– I direct attention to clause 11 of the proposed agreement which states -
Except as otherwise provided in this agreement, dwellings erected with that part of the advances which, pursuant to clause ti of this agreement, are to be used for the erection of dwellings, shall be of reasonable size and standard, primarily for families of low or moderate means, and may be built in such localities and in accordance with such policy as the State deems fit.
That gives the Commonwealth very considerable authority to determine the standards of building and tenancy. Will the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) inform the committee exactly how that provision will be operated administratively? I take it that the words “ as the State deems fit “ apply to localities and policies, but if the State can determine a general policy, the State has to be ible to supervise the standard of housing and the type of tenancy. It is important for the States to know how this clause will be handled administratively. Otherwise, it might be found that the States have erected homes and committed part of their allocation, only to find ultimately that the Commonwealth has abandoned responsibility in relation to some dwelling or a group of dwellings because they do not meet the requirements set down in clause 11. Alternatively, it may be found that homes have been made available to tenants by the State in good faith but, ultimately, the Commonwealth may say that an occupant is not a person of moderate moans or something of that nature. Again, the Commonwealth might abandon its financial responsibility in relation to a housing group or project.
Will the Minister state how that is to operate administratively, and exactly how the Commonwealth interprets its powers under that clause? How will the clause be supervised? At what point will its powers be exercised - by general supervision oi- by prior approval of particular things? Will it be by reference to any particular standard of building, such as the Commonwealth Bureau of Building
Experimental Stations set up under the standards association? My other query is related to clause 13(4.), which states -
Unless and until the Minister informs the State that a dwelling erected pursuant to this clause is not required for allotment to serving members of the Naval, Military and Air Forces of the Commonwealth -
the rent payable in respect of the dwelling shall be determined by the State in accordance with the usual formula applied by the State in determining the rent of dwellings erected by it under this agreement.
There is reference in that clause to the “ usual formula . . . under this agreement “. I cannot see any -formula written into the agreement for the determination of rent. I am at a loss to understand also the meaning, in this context, of the word “ usual “. It seems that the reference is to the formula in the previous agreement. Will the Minister inform the committee of the meaning that is to be given to those words? What is the formula, and does the word “ usual “ have any particular connotation which gives it peculiar significance?
.- The Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) has not replied to my questions regarding the interpretation of the term “member of the forces “. Paragraph (h) of clause 3 of the agreement states that a member of the forces is - a person who during the war was engaged on continuous full-time service with any Nursing se’rvice or other Women’s Service auxiliary to the Naval, Military or Air Forces. . . .
Paragraphs (e) and (/) also refer to exservicewomen. Earlier in the agreement, there is reference to “ eligible persons “. Under the War Service Homes Act, an ex-servicewoman is not able to get a war service home unless she has a dependant. Therefore, I presume that the term “ eligible person “ in this agreement is applied only to the sale of a house under clause 15. I hope that a woman who has served in the forces, or has been attached to them, will be considered to be a member of the forces and entitled to a house under this agreement, whether she has a dependant or not. Many women who served in the forces are no longer young, and because they are unmarried, they have no dependants in the normal sense. They might have had to care for an aged parent, who. has now died. I hope that women who. have served the nation will be able to get a home under this agreement, whether- they have dependants or not.
.. - I do not think that there is much that I can add to my previous statement in reply to Senator Ashley, except that a conflict of principle is involved. I did. the best I could to answer the honorable senator’s comments in my second reading speech,,, and in my attempt to close the debate. Senator Ashley has said that he supports building societies, but he questions the way in., which funds are to be appropriated! for them. He has objected to the allocation of 5 per cent, for houses for defence1 personnel, and has made- the point that the housing policy of the States isi different from that of the Commonwealth. He said that the States were aiming to provide houses without deposits, but the Commonwealth proposed’ to- divert money to persons who could make a deposit.. I cannot say any more on those points than I have said’ already. There is: a- direct conflict of opinion between us. Senator Ashley prefers State housing commissions, and we prefer building societies. The honorable senator says that he does not object te money being made- available to building societies, but that it should not be allocated to them at the expense of State housing commissions. We say that we are aiming to get as- many houses as we can get. We believe that building societies will beable to produce more houses and better bowses than will bousing commissions. For that reason, we think that a portion of the funds should be diverted to- building societies. I do not think that any.thing more can be said on that point.
Senator- Buttfield asked whether the morney that is1 to be provided for building societies will’ be restricted entirely to the provision of new homes. I can only say that, iii principle, that is one of the1 matters1 that will be determined in the agreement between the Commonwealth and the States. A considerable proportion of building societies make some of their funds available for the purchase1 of existing homes, as distinct from the building of new homes. I think it is correct to say that when the Commonwealth Bank makes money available to building societies it does so on the basis that they must! use not more than 20 per cent, of the moneys that are given to them to finance the purchase of existing, homes. Honorable senators, no doubt,, appreciate thai this- has been one’ of the> contentious matters in connexion1, with housing. Then is a strong volume of thought that too much money is being diverted to the build ing of new homes and that if a proper proportion of that money were channelled to facilitate- the sale of existing homes, more houses would be put into circulation. Ft is held that that method’ would help to solve the housing- problem,, becausp houses that are too large for the requirements of the people who now Eve in them would be sold.
– That is on- fcl* 18 per cent -20 per cent, basis’, is it ?
– The thought, that I have in. mind’ is that,, in respect of the money lent to building, societies, thStates will have to look at, each case oi. its. merits-. One of the difficulties I have had in answering the. matters! raised *h Senator Byrne ham been due to the fact that the- agreement with the States, ha> not yet been completed. I am. willing that there should be a- little “come and go. “ in- relation to- the- agreement.. I should like to- think that, despite our political’ differences,, given, the, right, atmosphere we may be able, to sit down, and work qui these problems to- the best; advantage. 1 have been rather dodging the need to speak of the. detailed terms of the, agreement. My -thoughts, are running along the lines that if we lend money to build ing societies- we should place an embargo om. the loan to the effect’ that not mon than 20 per cent, of that money shall h* used’ to finance the purchase of existing homes. But, at the same time, we should be- philosophic about the matter, and if a building society says* “We want th* money for new homes. We do- not wmto use any of it for existing homes ‘* T do not think- that 20: per cent, of ft* Aon** bo used far that purpose! However, 1 think that events will have to sort themselves out.
Senator Byrne referred to paragraph 11 (1.) of the schedule,, which refers to the size and standard, amongst other things, of the houses that are to be built under the agreement. The old agreement provided that houses were to be built in a certain manner, and. that certain things were to be done in. connexion with them. En truth, those provisions have never worked. They have not Been satisfactory in operation.
– In what way?
– The old agreement provided that rooms’ were to be of a certain area, that ceilings were to be- of a certain’ height, and things of that kind, but m practice- those provisions did1 not work out. In the new agreement the underlying principle is that those matters should be the responsibility of the States. We have put in a kind of general declaration that houses are to be of a reasonable size and a reasonable standard; but there is no- formula for determining, those matters’. Contrary to Senator Byrne’s view, I should think, on the interpretation, of the- agreement, that if a conflict of views arose the- views of the States would prevail’.
– I did not express a point of view. I merely asked” what the position would be.
– We have set one, in second-reading speech style, as it were, what we are aiming at, and it will be for the States to carry the matter through in tne way that they think proper. My approach: to the matter is that the States should be the judges and decide whether they should build houses which cost 10,000 or whether they should build houses’ of a reasonable size and’ a reasonable standard. The same may be said of the provision of homes primarily for families of low or- moderate means. We have- no intention, to, step. in. and say, “‘£15 a week is low and £17 a week is tn odor ate”. The States can- take responsibility for- that.
Tn connexion with paragraph 13 (4.”) of the schedule,, which; refers, foi the assessment am rent of homes for the defence forces in accordance, with the usual formula applied, by the States, in determining the rent of dwellings- erected under this agreement,, I point out that, whilst there was provision for a formula under the old agreement, there will be no such provision under the. new agreement. That being so, perhaps the use of the word “ formula “ in the schedule: is not very fortunate.
– I should’ think not
– The States will build the houses, and I have no doubt thai each, State will lay down principles according to- which it will compute rents. The paragraph means that, in striking rents, the same basis will be used to determine the rents of houses for the defenceforces as that used to determine the rent of other houses
– Does the Minister propose- to leave those words in the schedule ?
– I see no objection to the words. I have no doubt thai each State, will evolve its own formula. 1 do not think that, the State authoritieswill assess the rents of houses- ki. one street on a different basis from that on which the rentals of houses- in another street will be assessed.
– But the paragraph states that the- rent payable in respect of the- dwelling concerned shall’ be determined by the State “ in accordance- with the usual formula applied by the State in determining the rent of dwellings erected by it under this agreement
– As I have said. I have no doubt that each State will have a formula, but there is- no formula laid d’own by the Commonwealth.,
As to the matter raised by Senate; Annabelle Rankin, I point out that there is a difference between- the eligibility al an ex-servicewoman for a home under, the War Service Homes Act and her eligibility under this agreement. Under the War Service Homes Act, apparently, an es.-servicewQrn.an is not eligible for a home unless she has one or more dependants., That being so, in respect of a house erected by State authorities; such a woman, would not be eligible to borrow money from the War Service Homes Division in order to buy that house from the State; but in respect of houses built by the States for sale or for letting, an ex-servicewoman is entitled to come into this order ‘ of priority, whether she has dependants or nut.
– Like other honorable senators, I do not disapprove of money being made available to building societies, or the release of money in the community, at a cheap rate of interest, for the purpose of building houses, but I do object to the fact that that allocation of money to building societies will take 30 per cent, of the total amount that is to be allocated to the States, and will make it available for a specific type of housing. At this stage, however, I wish to address my remarks to paragraph 15 of the schedule, which refers to the sale of dwellings. Foi at least three years, there has been very great agitation for the making of an agreement with the Commonwealth which would be satisfactory to the States, or which would make it possible for the States to sell on terms Commonwealth and State housing agreement homes, and enable people to use their equity in those homes as a deposit or to make subsequent payments in relation to purchase. The stumbling block, however, has been that the Commonwealth has said to the States, “ You can sell the houses, or do what you like with them, but as far as we are concerned, we want cash “. Of course, the States cannot carry such a burden, and it is as ridiculous and hypocritical to make that stipulation to the States as it would be to say to the States, “ If you sell a bouse, get cash for it “. I believe that if the Commonwealth sincerely desires to see a greater degree of homeownership, it will give consideration to allowing home seekers to buy homes from the Commonwealth and State housing authorities on low deposit and not demand payment in full, by cash, from the States for any home sold. What is the Commonwealth’s attitude towards accepting deposits from the States? After a reasonable period in occupation of a house, a tenant will, through the rent that he has paid, establish an equity in the house. What will be the basis of the payment required by the Commonwealth? How will the States amortize their debts to the Commonwealth ?
– That position does not arise under this agreement. A State may sell a house without requiring a deposit to be paid, or it may sell it for cash. Under the agreement, the amount borrowed by the State from the Commonwealth will be repayable to the Commonwealth over a period of 53 years.
– Will it be repayable on any terms whatever?
– Yes, we have got away from the old obligation.
– I refer to clause 7 of the agreement. Last year, when the States were considering the proposed new agreement, they were asked by the Commonwealth to set aside 10 per cent, of advances from the Commonwealth for the provision of dwellings for serving members of the forces, but ultimately, I understand, it was decided that the States would set aside only 5 per cent, of their housing allocations for this purpose, and that the Commonwealth would provide a like amount. As it is the responsibility of the Commonwealth to provide housing for serving members of the forces, I should like the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) to make it clear that the Commonwealth will give to the States an additional 5 per cent, of the allocation for that purpose. The agreement does not state specifically whether 5 per cent, of the States’ allocation will be retained by the Commonwealth and subsequently handed over to them for the provision of housing for serving personnel, or whether, initially, the States will be given only 95 per cent, of the loan money raised for housing.
Sub-clause (4.) of clause 13 of the agreement provides -
Unless and until the Minister informs the State that a dwelling erected pursuant to this clause is not required for allotment to serving members of the Naval, Military and Air Forces of the Commonwealth - (&) the rent payable in respect of the dwelling shall be determined by the State in accordance with the usual formula applied by the State in determining the rent of dwellings erected by it under this agreement. lt is a matter of the greatest disappointment to a serving member of the forces not to be able to take his family with him when transferred to another State, because of the unavailability of housing. I am glad that provision is being made for additional housing accommodation for serving members of the forces. Of necessity, rented houses must be provided for this purpose, as it would be inequitable to expect a serving member to purchase a house at each place to which he was transferred, and be burdened, subsequently, with reselling it.
Under the existing agreement, serving members of the forces are assisted by the rental rebate provision. The proposed new agreement makes no provision in this regard. Serving members of the forces, particularly those who are in receipt of the lower rates of pay, will find it extremely difficult to pay the high rentals that are now being asked by the States for houses constructed under the various housing schemes. I understand that all of the States would like the rental rebate provision to be retained. On the one’ hand, the proposed new agreement makes no provision for rental rebates, and on the other hand, it requires that 10 per cent, of the houses constructed with loan moneys shall be made available to serving members of the forces, whose rates of salary and allowances require that they shall get accommodation fairly cheaply. As accommodation for the serving members will be made available under this agreement, they will have no excuse for refusing to accept it, although they cannot afford the high rent payable. Therefore, due to the omission from the proposed new agreement of the old rental rebate provision, there will be a certain amount of pressure exerted on serving members of the forces to pay rents that they cannot afford and, in consequence, they will suffer a degree of hardship.
T should like the Minister to make a clear statement to the effect that, in addition to the total loan money allocations for housing, the Commonwealth will pay to the States 5 per cent, of the cost of providing housing accommodation for serving members of the forces. I should also like the Minister to consider retaining the rental rebate provision. Its reten tion would help to solve the problem that will be faced by serving members of the forces when, transferred from one State to another. They should not be penalized by being called upon to pay rents beyond their economic capacity.
– The reply that was given by the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) to the submission made by Senator Ashley indicates that the Government is departing from the purpose for which the housing agreement was entered into. I remind the Minister that it was introduced to assist the States to provide better homes for the people. In common with Senator Ashley, I have no objection to a certain amount of money being made available to building societies, but I object to that being done at the expense of State authorities. The State housing authorities endeavour to provide homes for people in the lower income groups. The authority decides where those homes shall be built. Usually, it seeks areas of suitable land on which a number of houses can be built as cheaply as possible. In effect, the houses are mass produced.
The building societies perform an entirely different function. A person contributes to a building society with the object of obtaining a housing loan from the society at a future date. He chooses the suburb in which he will live, and approves the design and construction of his home. The building societies are providing very useful services for those members of the community who are able to take advantage of them. Many of the building societies have been in existence for a long time. I have before me a very imposing list of building societies. In New South Wales they are called cooperative building societies, and in Victoria, co-operative housing societies. At present, there are 609 co-operative building societies in New South Wales and 266 co-operative housing societies in Victoria, lt is interesting to note the amount of finance that these societies have been able to obtain from the various financial institutions. I shall not enumerate all of the financial organizations that have assisted them, but I point out that, in New South Wales, the associated banks, the Commonwealth Trading Bank and the Commonwealth Savings Bank have provided the societies with £71,948,325.
– All guaranteed by the State of New South Wales?
– Yes, all guaranteed. Of the fire and general insurance companies, 115 societies nave been financed to the extent of £11,070,000. In the life insurance group, 204 societies have been financed to the extent of £20,401,500. In the case of friendly societies, fifteen have been financed to the extent of £2,010,000. Then, there is a miscellaneous section which includes certain corporations. In that section, 46 societies have been financed to the extent of £6,795,000. In Victoria, the banks, including the Commonwealth Bank, have 242 societies which are being financed to the extent of £41,253,000. In Victoria, the banking institutions have by far the greatest number of societies. Under the fi-re and general insurance section only 7 societies have been financed to the extent of £1,350,000. No figures appear for the life insurance section. Pour friendly societies were financed to the extent of £725,000 and in the- miscellaneous -group eleven societies were financed to the extent of £1,625,000.
I have cited ;the ‘source of finance and the amount of revenue which these building societies ‘have been able to secure in the past. Is there any reason why this source of finance is falling off? Is it at the ‘Government’s direction ‘to the ‘Commonwealth Trading Bank and Commonwealth Savings Bank in New South Wales that 256 societies of the Commonwealth Trading Bank have been financed to the extent of £26,918,000 and 185 societies of the Commonwealth Savings Bank have been financed to the extent of £30,845,000? In Victoria, the Commonwealth Savings Bank has financed 52 societies to the extent of £9,950,000 and the Commonwealth Trading Bank has financed 31 societies to the extent of £5,455,000.
I am not satisfied with what the Minister has said. Is it the intention of the Government, now that the old agreement is about to expire, that under the clauses that have been inserted in this bill it will depart from the specific terms under which housing was previously financed by the Australian Government? I do not think the Government is fulfilling its obligation to assist the States to build houses. How does the Government expect the building societies to reclaim slums? Honorable senators on the other side have spoken about the need for good-standard, hygenic homes. It is the function of State authorities to reclaim slums and to enable people, who, because of their economic circumstances, have been compelled to live in those surroundings over the years, to move to better areas. Projects such as that should be the ultimate aim of State authorities, yet this Government is deliberately setting out to retard State organizations in their efforts to fulfil thai great service to the people.
It is useless for the Minister or his supporters to support this measure. I suggest to Senator Wedgwood and other honorable senators opposite from Victoria that they go back to Victoria and -attempt to justify the action that has been taken by this Government against the Victorian Housing Commission. If they move around the Melbourne suburbs they will see people who are clamouring for homes. Let the honorable senators to whom I have referred tell those people that they are satisfied with what is contained in this bill. Let them try to justify themselves and see what ‘the result will be. They know perfectly well that this agreement will cripple the activities of the Victorian Housing Commission in its attempt to do the job that is expected df it. Honorable senators opposite know as well as I do that many hundreds of people in Victoria are endeavouring to obtain homes from that commission. Yet Victorian senators opposite are supporting this measure. They should speak to the Minister and tell him of the conditions which exist in Victoria; and senators from other States should tell him of ‘conditions that -exist in their States and urge that more suitable legislation be brought down. Honorable senators opposite, in their party room, should inform Ministers of the conditions which exist in their respective States. However, they sit smugly by and allow the ‘Government to alter entirely the conditions of an effective agreement that was introduced for the purpose of assisting people to obtain homes.
– I wish to reply to an interjection made by Senator Wright. When my colleague, Senator Sheehan, was speakingI interjected that the building societies in New South Wales were guaranteed by the State. My information came from a statement made by Mr. Landa,the New South Wales Minister for Housing, at a conference in Canberra. He said -
New South Wales has never suggested that more money should not be made available to co-operative building societies. The reverse has been the case. In fact, New South Wales has led Australia by guaranteeing the societies for over £110,000,000 and encouraging the extension of home ownership by this means.
Clause 12 lays down that the State must ensure that advances made by the Commonwealth will not be used for the building of shops. Many housing projects by State housing authorities involve the building of 50 or 60 houses, which is almost a new suburb. I have in mind : a settlement similar to the kind situated between Liverpool and Warwick Farm. The Minister may have noticed it on the right hand side of the Hume Highway when he has been travelling to Sydney. Such a settlement at once creates a need for shops to supply the necessaries of life, such as meat, groceries, fruit and vegetables. Clothing shops are not so essential because clothes can be obtained in the larger shopping centres or in the city. In an out-of-the-way settlement such as 1 have mentioned, and insimilar settlements elsewhere, the residents are isolated from necessary services unless shops are built. If this clause is agreed to those services can be provided only by private enterprise. It may not always be convenient for private enterprise to build shops, and I ask the Minister whether a State housing authority would be prevented from building them.
– Although that provision has been in the agreements since 1945, the States have had no objection to the authority building shops.
– I am pleased to hear that, because it is important to people living in areas such asI have mentioned.
Bill agreed to. “Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Sitting suspended from 12.40 to 2.15 p.m.
Debate resumed from the 12th June (vide page 1457), on motion by Senator Spicer -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Upon which Senator McKenna had moved by way of amendment -
That all the words after “That” be left out with a view to inserting in lieu thereof the following words: - “ (a) In the opinion of the Senate the bill should be withdrawn for reconsideration because of the following matters: -
The bill confirms rank injustice by continuing some of the worst features of the existing legislation, e.g., penalties enforceable by process of contempt of court. These should be eliminated. In practice they have been enforced only against trades unions, their officers and members and have caused grave industrial unrest.
The bill maintains and extends the present systems of appeal from decisions and reference of matters. These systems have caused frustration, delay and grave injustice to salary and wage earners within federal jurisdiction.
In relation not only to matters of penalty and contempt of court, but also to the legal interpretation of awards, the bill vests exclusive judicial power in a small group of the present Commonwealth arbitration judges who were originally appointed primarily because their main duty was to decide in a common sense and speedy manner practical problems affecting certain aspects of industrial disputes. The judicial power of the Commonwealth, so far as it is required to be exercised in industrial matters, should be vested in the existing courts of Commonwealth and State and not in a newly created court of judicature.
The present bill contributes nothing to the solution of the problem of industrial unrest and chaos arising from decisions under the present system and the manner in which it has been operated.
Therefore, in the opinion of the Senate, the bill should be reconsidered and, in order to avoid injustice and delays in the processes of conciliation and arbitration for the effective prevention and just settlement of industrial disputes, legislation should be passed so as to provide for the following matters: -
1 ) The grant of final and exclusive jurisdiction in relation to industrial disputes to officers (however styled) charged with the duties of conciliation and arbitration and specially conversant with the industry concerned, reserving for the determination of the judges or presidential commissioners ‘ final and exclusive jurisdiction limited to standard hours, basic wage and long service leave.
The making of special provisions strengthening the processes of conciliation including the appointment of additional conciliators charged exclusively with the function of mediation.
In all cases where agreement is reached between parties in dispute whether under the act or otherwise, the making of provisions whereby the agreement between the disputants shall be certified by the appropriate authority and shall he conclusive and binding on all parties to such agreement quite irrespective of the subject matters of the agreement or any part of it.
The correction of irregularities in union ballots by judicial procedures in accordance with the act of 1949.
The elimination of all unnecessary forms and technical legal formalities, orders for costs and professional legal advocacy.
And. in the further opinion of the Senate, an essential feature of an adequate and effective Australian industrial arbitration system should be to vest in the Parliament of the Commonwealth full powers both in relation to industrial matters generally and also to just fixation of prices and profits on an Australiawide basis “.
– It will be remembered that last Tuesday, when this debate was adjourned, I was referring to what the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Spicer) had said concerning political action that took place in Australia, compared with political action in the United States of America. Because of the lack of political action in America, the economic position there is far from what it should be, and is likely to become much worse. In that regard I desire to quote from a statement made by Mr. Clement D. Johnson, which has some bearing on my argument. He is the chairman of the board of directors of the Chamber of Commerce of the United States. Last year, he visited Australia on a goodwill tour, and in his farewell message to this country, which was delivered in October last, he said -
Our problem is still under-consumption. We don’t have too much beef or too many new houses. We need better beef and more and better houses at prices people can afford to pay - and our system will produce them if we only permit it to work.
According to Mr. Johnson, there are colossal surpluses of many goods in America, and he, for one, does not seem to know what to do about it. Therefore, honorable senators will perceive that at present there is an economic situation in America which is similar to that developing in Australia. Enormous surpluses of goods are accumulating in America, and the position of the workers there is going from bad to worse. The AttorneyGeneral, in his speech on this measure, seemed to indicate that there is a greater percentage of resistance among the workers in Australia, than there is in America. It is necessary that we should understand that the extent of resistance of the workers to exploitation and impoverishment by the owners of capital, will be the measure of their success. Where there is no resistance the workers will suffer, and that will happen in this country to the same degree as in other countries. The Attorney-General also referred to the economic position of England. In regard to that I shall quote from Sir Oscar Hobson, a leading economist, who has written about the development of the motor industry in England. He said -
So far as this country is concerned, I am bound to say that I cannot see how we can go for another year with the existing situation just developing. … I stick out my neck and I say that something drastic - call it a collapse or not, as you choose - is going to happen here in this year of grace 1950.
That quotation is taken from The Banker nf January, 1956. Sir Anthony Eden also directed attention to Great Britain’s economic position in a similar way. It is reported in the Sydney Morning Herald of the 13th June, as follows: -
Britain’s battle against inflation baa readied a critical stage, a Government statement said last night. This assessment of Britain’s economic position was given in a communique issued after the Prime Minister, Sir Anthony Eden, had conferred with employers in private industry. Sir Anthony had summoned Cabinet Ministers and the Government’s financial advisers to a conference with representatives of the British Employers’ Confederation and the Federation of British Industries at the House of Commons. The communique said the conference believed a critical stage had been reached in the Government’s struggle to curb inflation and preserve the country’s market. It had been decided that every effort should be made to keep down costs and prices of goods and services. The communique said the Government had decided to hold meetings soon with leaders of nationalized industries. The “ Daily Express “ says the nationalized industries will be called to peg prices and wages. Financial observers say the Prime Minister yesterday asked private industry chiefs to freeze wages and peg prices for a year.
That statement indicates how the present economic position is developing, and 1’ suggest that honorable senators have to view this bill in the light of that developing situation. I say, in the light nf my experience, that a desperate economic position, or an economic crisis, is imminent in this country, and that the object of this bill is to have legislation ready in order that the workers may be coerced, gaoled and fined if they resist impoverishment. All economic depressions are highly profitable to mortgagee and creditor groups, but are unprofitable to debtor interests who are rendered insolvent, and unprofitable to the workers who are rendered unemployed. Therefore, it may be taken that the legislation before us is required to coerce the workers during the economic situation that is developing.
If I am any judge of current affairs, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) will come back from his overseas trip and make a statement, similar to that made by other Prime Ministers in like circumstances, to the effect that drastic restrictions have to be imposed like those that were imposed in the 1930’s.
I am now speaking as one who is fully cognizant of what happened after the 1893 bank crash, after the slump in 1907, in the 1920’s and during the 1930’s. In each case a slump was deliberately engineered, with the help of parliaments, for the purpose of allowing mortgagee and creditor interests to accumulate capital which could not be accumulated in other circumstances. Therefore, I have come to the conclusion that as coercion was brought to bear on the workers of those days, this legislation is designed to bring it to bear on the workers in future days.
I remember the evictions which took place during past depressions, and the children who died of malnutrition. I also remember that humanitarianism does not enter into the economic question as far as the owners of capital are concerned, because the whole matter is one of profits, and of reducing the workers to the lowest possible level. And I say that that is the object of this bill. It is also the object of the further mechanization of industry in the form of automation, because that will bring about a similar state of affairs. With regard to automation, in his evidence before the United States Congress Committee on Automation and Technical Change, in October, 1955, Walter Reuther, of the United Automobile Workers, and a vice-president of the American Federation of LabourCommittee of Industrial Organization, pointed out that earlier developments of machinery had still required workers to control and operate it, but automation promised to take these jobs away, too. He declared that -
The revolutionary change produced by automation is its tendency to displace the workers entirely from the direct control of the machine, through the use of automatic control devices . . . The raw material is automatically fed in, the machine automatically processes it, the production is automatically taken away, often to be fed automatically into still another machine, and that carries it automatically through a further process.
That is the position that is developing, and the only step this Government can think of taking is ‘to bring down a bill of the kind we are now discussing. By this measure, it seeks to crush the trade unions. To the Government, trade unions are quite all right so long as they acquiesce in government policy, but die moment they resist and attempt, to do, anything that conflicts with government policy, they are to be penalised. Under the system of arbitration that has, operated since 19;04, the Arbitration Court has fixed- the rate, of wages but not the purchasing, power of those wages. The purchasing power is- fixed by those associations which control the manufacture and distribution of commodities, and such tilings as housing. The court, awards a certain wage, but the purchasing, power of that wag© is fixed! by other authorities outside the court, authorities which are not responsible to either the people or the Government.. Consequently,, when we examine it- from that angle, arbitration is merely a farce;, and this bill can serve only to make it even more farcical than it has been hitherto.
What are the workers to- do in those circumstances ?’ Are they to acquiesce and submit? Are they to agree to having in this country a state of affairs similar to chat obtaining, in America and in certain European countries, or are they to resist? The workers have to consider seriously the position that is developing. I Rave stated’ ou previous occasions that an unbalanced economy results in. either war or a depression. In my opinion.,, the Government fears depression more than it does war; but it would seem that certain honorable senators on. the Government side prefer war to a depression. Look at what happened overseas recently when 20,000 workers, were thrown on to the street. Those people are denied the right to- work or to exist; they are unemployed and not wanted, and there is no suggestion from the Government as to what may be done to relieve that position. The same thing is happening here. Under’ the present system, the employers have the right to dismiss the workers but the workers have no right to sack the employers. What right has any one man to deny to his fellow man the right to earn a living? He may have a legal right, but he certainly has no moral right, yet under the present system ha- can do it. with impunity; and the legislation now before us seeks to fine or imprison the worker because he resists being treated as if he were a mere animal.
Of course, that is the whole foundation of the capitalistic system that has been operating in this country since the- early part of the last century. It has noi respect for persons other than the privileged classes. To it, the workers are merely so many units of labour power that are available to be used for the building; up of. the bank balances of the privileged in- order that the privileged might enjoy the maximum while the workers must be content with the minimum. But, the workers are now awakening to the position, and there will be- a strong reaction By them to what it proposed by this. MIL Honorable senators on. the Government side, know, the position; that is developing-, and’ they are preparing- for it,, just as they prepared for the position that developed’ during the 1930’s, and just as they saw the signs, prior to- the’ Korean war’ and prepared for that. During, the survey of the Australian economic position last year, the Prime Minister referred to- the “Korean war boom! That was: something beneficial to this country, according to him, but he said not” one word about the unfortunate men and women who were being sacrificed. He merely mentioned the boom-, something’ that, reacted to the interests of tin: owners of capital. All these- things antagonize the workers more nowaday.’ than they did in earlier years.. For instance, the workers- now appreciate the motives’ behind the pegging of wages and margins’. They realize that to the. extent that wages and margins, are pegged1 profits are allowed to increases
To my mind, the Arbitration’ Court is merely a legal instrument that is- being used’ in the interests of the owners, of capital, and’ ite use in that way is approved by this Government. All 1’ can do at this, stage is. to repeat what 3 have said on many occasions - one can go a certain distance along those lines but not all the way. Arbitration can succeed1 only when it deals with sections of equal economic status and where consumption by the workers is allowed to keep pace with, production. Sb far, it. has not operated.-, m that way. At the moment, we have minimum consumption with maximum production and increased profits to the- owners of capital. As improved methods of production are brought into being, through automation) and other ways,, the minimum will be: reduced* ber cause less labour time will be required in production. To the extent that the time is reduced, wages will be reduced. II cannot conceive, therefore,, how any right-thinking man or woman can justify legislation of this sort. Those who attempt to justify it have no regard whatever for the workers. As I have said, they would treat the workers as units of labour, to be used as they think St, or discarded as they think fit. To all practical purposes, it could be said that what we call civilized society is run more in accordance with the ethics of the jungle than in accordance with humanitarian principles, which are advocated by so many persons, but which are so seldom applied.
The court is to decide, disputes- according, to public interest. Senator Wright was. rather, sceptical on that point. He questioned what was public interest, and I should like to pose the same question, ft is just, a term, used for the convenience of people, who have, in mind, wholly and solely’, private interests.. The public is made up principally of working, men and women, who form the. bulk, of the population. Can anybody point to a case in which the const has acted im the public interest? The Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) cited one example, but that involved only the opinion of the judges of the court. If you have interest in the public, you must lave, interest in all members of the. public., Where there is a section of the public, such as the workers., who are: demanding better treatment, obviously the public interest is not ad vanced in any way by suppressing them.
The Attorney-General directed his attention to two unions which are notorious, in Ms opinion - the transport workers and the- coal-miners. That is to be expected, because the more dangerous an occupation is the more audacious the workers in that industry become. They will not tolerate the- same treatment as will those who are engaged in lessdangerous occupations. Wot one word has been said in this debate about the captains- of ships who went on strike in September last. The chief engineers went on strike about 1928, and their assets were frozen. The recent dispute was settled behind the- scenes, because- the shipowners are so dependent on ships’ captains to do their work where seamen are concerned. Only they can do it The terms- of settlement were not published in the press, but judging from the silence of the captains, their- claims have been met. The AttorneyGeneral has implied that it is quite right for the ships’ captains to take action, but: it is wrong- for the watersiders: or the coal’-miners. to do> tlo same thing.
All these’ invidious distinctions! prove to me that a bill’ of this sort, and similar proposed legislation, is an effort to do exactly what was done in years gone by in England, and, if possible’, to- treat the workers* here as the English workers- were treated at Pate*100. Unless the- workers build, up resistance,, they will ba treated Eke. the. workers of other, countries.. This bill, might, become law,, but, power on paper, is one thing and. power, for practical purposes is another. That has been proved) in the. past, when certain coercive laws were placed on the statute-Book
I refuse to accept the statement in the preamble to the bill that its- purpose is to, promote, goodwill in industry. It will do, nothing of the sort.. It is designed to suppress- organize? labour, something that the. unions are not prepared; to accept. The objectives of the bill are also.- said to be- to: encourage conciliation with, a -view to amicable agreement, thereby preventing and settling industrial disputes.
The- bill will do- nothing of the sou!,. This, measure could be more properly described as a coercive measure. Itf third abject is said to be - te, provide means for preventing and settlingindustrial disputes.
It will mot do* that while the national economy is- operated on the principle of maximum production and maximum; profits for the owners of capital, and’ aminimum return for the workers. Strikes are1 inevitable.. They will be a natural reaction to the coercion that is implicit in the bill. The preamble states that one of the objectives is - to provide- for the observance and enforce ment of agreements and awards made, in settlement of industrial disputes.
Translated into simple language, it mean? it will prevent workers from going on strike o-r from’ assisting other worker? io go on strike. We are going back to the conditions of the middle ages. The language of this legislation indicates the lengths to which the Government i3 prepared to go in order to exploit and impoverish the workers. I advise the Government and its supporters to adopt a much more intelligent approach to these matters. Such an approach already has been adopted by the Prime Minister of Great Britain, and the leaders of other countries, because they appreciate the importance of establishing and maintaining a more workable relationship between employers and employees. All reforms are brought about, by modifications, but in this bill there is no modification of the conditions that exist at the present time.
I suggest that if the Government adopts a more intelligent approach, it will find that the representatives of the waterside workers and other groups of workers will be prepared to meet it as far as they possibly can. The Government will find, too, that a much better atmosphere will be created in the industrial sphere. The placing of this bill, and another measure that has been dealt with recently in the Souse of Representatives, on the statutebook will not help the Government to put an end to industrial unrest. Of course, if the supporters of the Government are not sufficiently intelligent to understand the need for a. different approach, they will be more to blame than any one else for the industrial trouble that occurs in the future: As one who has had long experience of organizations of workers in various occupations, I say that all industrial disputes and strikes are deliberately provoked. The worker has no desire to go out on strike, to get into debt and, perhaps, to be evicted from his home, but when workers are provoked sufficiently, and when there is no alternative, strikes and industrial disputes become the order of the day. If I were working on the waterfront, or as a seaman on board a ship, or in a trade, or anywhere else for that matter, I would be prepared to admit that the provoking that is being done today is of a much more scientific kind and is much, more subtle than it was in the past. Tn times gone by, employers deliberately challenged workers to do this, that or the other. Tn those days, the worker knew where he stood. But nowa days, the provocation is done through the medium of the law and is much more subtle.
The second-reading speech of the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) had a soporific quality. Perhaps it should be set to music. The old “ stand-over “ attitude of the employers has given way to a more subtle and scientific approach, but it will not succeed any more than the old approach of the employers succeeded. The Government would save itself a lot of trouble, and at the same time, do something in the public interest, if it adopted the amendment and withdrew the bill.
– I join in the general protest of the Opposition against this measure. I am of the opinion that the Government has not submitted a proper case in support of amendment of the existing legislation. In future contributions to the debate, I should like to hear honorable senators opposite give more definite reasons for the introduction of the measure than those that have been given already. According to the secondreading speech of the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer), the bill proposes to continue the legal technicalities that are at present associated with arbitration and conciliation. Indeed, it proposes to do nothing else but that. In no sense at all does it aim to ameliorate the conditions of the workers, to provide better conditions, or to introduce a better spirit in the field of conciliation and arbitration.
This legislation is of major importance in the economic life of our country. In my opinion, it is one of the most important pieces of legislation to be introduced in this Parliament, because associated with it are all the aspects and facets of our national life - economic, domestic and social. Without a satisfactory system for the determination of industrial matters, it is not possible to have the other aspects of the national economy functioning properly. As I have indicated, to the present we have heard much legal dissertation, particularly from the Attorney-General. That is perhaps natural, since he is in charge of a legal department, and since this bill is in the nature of a legal document. Other honorable senators opposite have dealt with the history of arbitration in Australia, and although their remarks have been educational, they have not added anything of importance to arbitration legislation. 1 do not intend to make invidious comparisons, and I content myself by saying that their contributions to the debate have been of inestimable value to honorable senators generally.
It has been said that there is no uniformity in the industrial jurisdiction, and that is true. There are many industrial jurisdictions in the States, and they conflict with the federal jurisdiction. I think that all honorable senators will agree that the parliamentary committee which is to consider the Constitution should concern itself seriously with the need for uniform industrial laws. In my opinion, if it were able to do something in this regard, that would be one of the most valuable contributions that the committee could make to the nation. Up to the present, no supporter of the Government has addressed his remarks to the crux of the problem. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) analysed every facet of the industrial life of Australia, and the impact of the Arbitration Act on workers in industry. The Minister did not explain why, in this bill, the emphasis is predominantly on arbitral processes. Why has no consideration been given to the fact that the bill, as drafted, will subjugate the workers? I should also like the Minister to explain why the appeals system has been retained in this legislation, because it is in relation to that system that most protests have been made by the trade union movement. Under the bill, industrial agreements, also, will be subject to approval by an arbitral authority.
– They always have been
– Thi-.y have always linen subject to approval by an authority in thi; sense that agreements between the parties have become operative as awards only after ratification by the court. But, in the past, as a result of conciliation, hundreds of industrial agreements affecting the industrial life of Australia have operated without the necessity for the parties to engage in litigation. In the main, those agreements have given satisfaction in their various fields. Under this bill, however, the spirit of conciliation will be dissipated, and agreements will now have to be approved by an arbitral commission. As the Leader of thi’ Opposition explicitly indicated, the lay members of the commission will be made to feel inferior in the presence of members of the legal fraternity.
I should like to know why the bill provides for the imposition of penalties only on union officials and members of unions. No provision is made for the imposition of penalties on employers who violate awards and determinations. I point out that, under the provisions of the bill, a prosecution can be launched against a delinquent member of a registered organization, despite the fact that he acted without its approval. Why should not employers who deliberately commit breaches of awards and determinations not be penalized? I point out that a responsibility rests on trade unions to discipline their members. Why should this legislation be framed so partially?
– Did I understand the honorable senator to say that the provisions of the bill will not be enforceable against employers?
– They will not be enforceable against employers’ organizations. The bill makes no provision in that regard.
– Surely the honorable senator misunderstands the position ?
– Oh, no! This provision is all right, apparently, when it applies to workers who are members of a registered organization, because an organization is held to be responsible for the actions of its members when they are in conflict with decisions of the executive. An employer who commits a deliberate breach of an award, such as underpaying his employees, or failing to observe prescribed holidays, is fined. I submit that, likewise, the employers’ organization should be fined for allowing one of it? members to commit the breach. Certain honorable senators will, doubtless, remember the position that arose at Mort’s
Dock. When certain employees struck, their mates took up a collection for their families. Subsequently, the organization to which ‘.they belonged was prosecuted, although it took no part, directly, in deciding that ‘course of action by its members, .and had no intimate knowledge of what they were doing. The organization was held to be responsible for the actions of its members, and was fined the maximum amount prescribed. I submit that this legislation should be equitable in all respects. If it is good enough for an employees’ organization to be so drastically penalized in respect of the actions of its members, it is good enough for an employers’ organization to be penalized if one of its members commits a breach of an award of the court.
– The provision applies to employers.
– Why should the trade union movement have to engage in costly arbitration procedures in connexion with matters that can be dealt with by conciliation? As this debate proceeds, I should like supporters of the Government to answer some of the questions that I have posed. I believe that this bill has been designed specifically to circumvent the decision of the High Court, which was to the effect that the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration did not have power to impose penalties. As a layman, it seems to me that, under this bill, the same judges, and the same arbitration machinery as has operated, will function in a rearranged form. Without professing to have any legal knowledge, I suggest that it is obvious that at the first opportunity the trade .union movement will challenge the validity of this new legislation. That, to my way of thinking, is the logical sequence to the passing of a piece of legislation such as that now before the Senate. It will then be for the legal fraternity to argue whether or not the legislation now proposed is legal or otherwisp.
The bill retains the amendments that were introduced into the act in 1952 and it also retains all the aspects of frustration, legal technicalities, verbosity and entire preference to employers and the legal fraternity. That is the ‘unequivocal opinion of the industrialists of this land. I hope, in the course of my contribution to this debate, to establish the opinions that I have submitted to the Senate. The Government, before retaining this legal atmosphere in the bill did not communicate with the trade union movement of Australia. The legislation has been brought in without soliciting the cooperation of the trade unions or of the Labour party although those bodies represent a substantial proportion of the population of Australia. If the Government considered the necessity existed for altering or amending the industrial laws of this country, then the bodies to which I have referred should have been consulted. The Australian Council of Trades Unions represents approximately 60 per cent, to 7.0 per cent, of the trade unions in Australia. Surely, the Government must have been conscious of the fact t’hat within the Australian Council of Trades Unions it could have found reputable and practical men who have given a lifetime to industrial matters. Those men know what they are talking about and what is beneficial, not only for the various sections of industry, but also for the overall good of the economic life of Australia. They have developed drive, initiative and administrative powers in matters concerned with the Australian economy.
We find that the Government bypassed the Australian Council of Trades Unions. When it was mooted that the Government intended to bring this legislation before the Parliament the Australian Council of Trades Unions endeavoured to meet the Government, and eventually did so. The Government has been prepared to get the best out of a bad bargain and give effect to some of their representations. Unfortunately, the Government has retained such matters as the appeals system and the subjugation of agreements to the jurisdiction of the commission. I do not know what occurred during the collaboration between the Government and the Australian Council of Trades Unions but, unfortunately, favorable consideration was not given to those matters. During the term of office of the Chifley Government the position was entirely different.
That government consulted with the Australian Council of Trades Unions on industrial matters. From time to time various amendments to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act were brought in. consequent upon industrial disturbances and dislocations that permeated the economy at that particular time. Those adjustments were made to suit the overall domestic and economic life of Australia..
Arbitration Court, and by the- Chief Conciliation Commissioner. With the cooperation of the Australian Council of Trades Unions, the post-war rehabilitation period was clarified.
But processes envisaged in the present bill are the antithesis of conciliation, and the measure is; likely to raise antagonism because it provides for too much legalism in dealing, with industrial matters. In 1953, when amendments to the arbitration legislation were being considered by the Senate, I suggested, that the appeal system would have repercussions in the industrial life of Australia which,, faa from fostering, industrial peace, would have the opposite effect. How true that prognostication has proved to- be. More delays and strikes have occurred in industry than ever before because, in the main-, the men are penalized, and prevented from receiving the benefits of decisions by conciliation commissioners who have been- called upon to determine- what industrial conditions they should enjoy..
– Does not the honorable senator believe in appeals from decisions of conciliation commissioners?
– No. A legitimate process is available in the field of arbitration to circumvent appeals by making a. fresh application for an award or a determination. My greatest concern, however, is that, while an appeal is pending, the workers are deprived of benefits to which they are legitimately entitled under the decision of the conciliation commissioner.
– How are they deprived of those benefits?
– Because the decision has no immediate application. Although the commissioner may have awarded increased rates, granted1 additional holidays, or varied the hours of work,, none of those benefits can be applied so long as the appeal is pending, although they are fully justified on all grounds, particularly that of practical common sense.. This legislation provides for further delays, more procrastination and the deprivation of legitimate benefits to the workers.
I shall- not weary the Senate by enumerating various appeals and. their consequences, hut I shall refer to one or two of an outstanding and specific nature. One is the case of the Adelaide tramway employees. These are a very moderate body of workers, controlled by sane, capable and reputable officials. In the past, they have had no major disturbances, and if they have been involved in any industrial trouble it is because they have been subjected to the iniquitous treatment which I am about to describe. Almost two years ago, these employees applied to the court for a variation of their award, including an alteration of hours. They asked for a ten-day fortnight. Honorable senators know the nature of the work they are called upon to perform in the public interest, and they have to work a certain proportion of their time on public holidays, Saturdays and Sundays. They asked for an increase of the rates for work performed on those days. All these were legitimate claims, and in accordance with standards of employment recognized by the court for that class of work. The matter was referred to Conciliation Commissioner Tonkin, who, since 1947, has given practical consideration to the duties he has had to discharge, and among other things has familiarized himself with transport workers’ duties and conditions. He went to the crux of the matter, and made a practical and common-sense determination. He applied the formula of a tenday fortnight, which is enjoyed by the majority of workers. Few work an 80-hour fortnight in eleven or twelve days, but those who do are appropriately compensated by penalty rates. He awarded time-and-a-half for Saturday work and double time for Sunday, which was in accordance with standards laid down by the court. The tramway employees did not receive those benefits immediately, as they would have done under the Labour Government’s legislation of 1947, because the Adelaide Tramway Trust appealed against the determination ; and as a result of the labyrinthine process of appeal, which was deliberately concocted by this Government, and included in the 1952 amending legislation, those tramway employees, after a wait of two years, are still deprived of their benefits. If, and when, the matter is brought to finality, the commissioner’s award will not be made retrospective. A few nights ago, the secretary of the tramway employees’ organization told me that thimatter was referred from the court of appeal back, to Conciliation Commissioner Tonkin to adjust his decision in accordance with the alterations made by thocourt. One alteration was to provide an eleven-day fortnight, and to reduce the penalty rates for holiday and Sunday work. Now the parties have to meet, and try to reach agreement on that adjustment, still involving further legal costs, which total over £6,000 to date. I know what the reaction of the average man in the street would be to treatment like that, after his reasonable efforts to avoid a threatened industrial dispute had been ignored and flouted.
– How long was it before it was re-submitted to the courtafter the decision of the conciliation commissioner ?
– I believe that it was six months. The last phase of this very legalistic case occurred last January, but now I understand that the parties have met and the commissioner has to report back to the court. The result of all that is that if a man works on a Saturday, Sunday or a holiday, he is paid pro rata. He receives pay for part of the day at ordinary time, and for the other part at time and a half or double time. Previously, when an employee was called upon to work on a Saturday or a Sunday in a five-day week, he was paid the full penalty rates in the same way as any other worker in industry was paid for week-end work. Now, when he works on a Saturday or a Sunday he is paid only part of the penalty rates prescribed in the first instance by Mr. Commissioner Tonkin.
The other case to which I desire to refer is the Public Service case that was heard by Mr. Castieau, the Public Service Arbitrator. In that matter the public servants applied three years before the final determination for an increase of their margins. Mr. Castieau referred the margins issue to the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. After that had been determined, the case went back to Mr. Castieau, and he followed the decision of the court and applied the two-and-a-half -times formula to the Public Service. I do not intend to canvass the merits of the twoandahalftimes formula, because although it has some advantages it has disadvantages also for the workers. Nevertheless, it has been accepted by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court as a standard. The immediate reaction of the Public Service Board to the application of the twoandahalftimes formula to public servants was to raise a legal technicality associated with the decisions of Mr. Castieau; and the public servants had to go again before the Public Service Arbitrator. For the second time, he followed the standards laid down by the court, and awarded margins of two and a half times the 1937 margins. Then, the Public Service Board moved again. Indirectly, it was a move by the Government, which has stated that it believes in arbitration but, nevertheless, took advantage of the law to discount arbitration. After that application had been made by the Public Service Board, two of the judges of the Arbitration Court were, unfortunately, afflicted with illness, and there was a further delay. Finally, the court granted not two and a half times but one and two thirds times the margins which applied in 1937.
Those facts indicate the irritation, frustration, delays and penalties which the workers are required to suffer as a result of the appeals system in our industrial arbitration set up. No wonder the employees are not favorable to the system. That system may lie contrasted with the expeditious system which was set up by a Labour government under which conciliation commissioners’ decisions were not subject to appeal. Under that system there was expeditious settlement of industrial disputes, and a true spirit of conciliation prevailed in industry. Much of the harmony brought to industry by the conciliation commissioner system was due to the fact that the commissioners themselves were appointed to administer relations in certain industries and familiarize themselves with those, industries, or were appointed directly from those industries. In other words, they knew exactly what they were doing. However, from 1952 the workers in industry have suffered from irritation and frustration and have been subject to heavy legal expenses. That has so affected them that at the last congress of the Australian Council of Trades Unions, delegates looked for a better system of conciliation and arbitration.
Nobody can say that the industrial movement, or the trade union movement, has not given practical support to our industrial arbitration system. In fact, we all believe in conciliation and arbitration, and, as I said in my introductory remarks, that system is bound up with the economic life of our country. However, we are now looking for a way to make conciliation and arbitration operate more equitably for the workers, who, after all, contribute greatly to our expanding economy. At the congress of the Australian Council of Trades Unions it was suggested that the Labour movement should sponsor the establishment of collective bargaining councils composed of employers and employees somewhat along the lines of the American system of collective bargaining. That suggestion was approved by the congress.
– The honorable senator does not want arbitration because the Labour movement cannot get what it wants from it.
– I would not say that at all; but I say that the Government wants the .present system because it operates favorably for the employer and unfavorably for the employee. I have already said that we of the Labour party believe in conciliation and arbitration, but we want it applied equitably to employers and employees. It cannot be suggested that Labour has not given the industrial arbitration system a fair, equitable and generous trial, and has not supported it for many years. We have gained quite a lot from the arbitration system, and in return we have given a lot to it. We have played our part through that system in contributing to the well-being and expansion of the national economy. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) pointed out that the Australian Council of Trades Unions had supplied him with statistics relating to appeals. Those statistics support my assertion that the present system under which appeals are heard engenders hostility .and ‘bitterness within the trade union movement and reacts against the promotion of industrial peace and .goodwill ;as between ‘employer and employee.
Since the introduction of the ‘appeals provision in 1952, there nave been 29 appeals .against ‘decisions of conciliation commissioners .and the Public Service Arbitrator. Whereas the old .system of appeals was conducive to the expeditious settlement <of industrial discord, and, in fact, exemplified the spirit of conciliation, the present system has antagonized the entire -trades union movement of Austra,1 ia. which is representative of ‘60 per cent, of ‘the “working classes of the .community, or over 1,000,000 workers. That number >of people should be given more direct and sympathetic consideration f or the part they play in the nation’s -affairs. T’he records to which I have referred disclose that ‘the present appeals provisions are loaded heavily in favour of the employer; and I emphasize that I am now putting forward the working man’s view of t’he position. I am ventilating his protest against t’he system. ‘Since 1.952, the employers lodged sixteen applications for leave to appeal and in fifteen of those cases, leave was granted ; and of those fifteen appeals nine were upheld.
– Does the honorable senator say the decisions were wrong?
– I am not a lawyer. [ would require .to know the whole of .t’he circumstances of each case before .expressing an opinion on that; but I say that the whole system is entirely wrong, that at least there should be some provision that once a commissioner makes a determination it shall apply immediately .and remain ‘effective during the period the appeal is going through the labyrinth of legal technicalities. Two of the appeals lodged by the employers were dismissed, another was withdrawn, and three are still a-waiting decision. One case lias been proceeding for over two years. In view of the fact that over that period only two appeals were lost by the employers, it is only to be expected that employers’ organizations’ will exploit the appeals provisions still further. They know that .under the .new .scheme any decision made by a conciliation commissioner may be appealed against, and, knowing that *he records disclose that preferential treatment is given to , the employers, they will -.exploit the position still further.
– That is an .unwarranted aspersion >on the court.
– I am simply .stating the opinion of the workers in industry. I come now to an examination of how the workers have fared under the appeals provisions. Since 195:2, -the workers have lodged thirteen applications for leave to appeal. Seven of that “number -were rejected and in .six cases leave was -granted. Of the six appeals lodged, two were dismissed, and -one was withdrawn because the hearing became so protracted that the union, being unable to stand the expense, accepted the inevitable. Of the remaining , three. one union withdrew and appealed to the High Count. ‘Of the other two, one was an appeal by the Federated Engine Drivers and Firemen’s Association, which lias been before the court for two years and is still in the process of being heard; and the second was an appeal by the Plumbers Union which has not been finalized even though ‘twelve months have elapsed since it was lodged. The final position is that of the thirteen appeals lodged by the employees, not one has been upheld by -.the court.
– That does not prove a thing.
– Let the honorable senator tell that to the workers in industry. Is it any wonder that the workers are resentful ? Such a situation contains all the ingredients of dissatisfaction and leads the workers to seels other ^channels in an endeavour to .secure adequate and equitable industrial compensation for their physical contribution to the everexpanding national economy. Every honorable senator is conversant with the w.ay in which our economy .is expanding. He knows that our national income is steadily increasing, that we are slowly but surely increasing out export of products from secondary industries, and he must realize that the workers have played no .mean part in bringing about this desirable state of affairs. At thi’s juncture, I take the .opportunity to pay tribute to the Government for the establishment of the Export Payments Insurance Corporation with the object of encouraging the opening up of export markets. When that corporation gets into full operation, I believe that a great fillip will ‘be given to our secondary industries in particular.
Another important consideration is that the workers’ wages have been pegged by the court and that the restoration of the C series index has not been considered. The present position is that the value of the basic wage is now 10s. below that set by the Harvester award as far back as 1907. That is a strong indictment of the instrument which is charged with the responsibility of determining a basic wage which will enable the worker to enjoy a reasonable standard of living while playing his part in developing the economy of the country. Further, the workers have been deprived of marginal increases with the result that the equations set during the Chifley Government’s regime are now deficient to the extent of approximately ’25s. a week. Although the basic wage has been pegged, the court has not the power to determine prices, margins of profit, or rates of interest. This Parliament should be able to establish its own instrument, clothed with the power to decide those matters. Any of those three important factors in our : eco.nom v could then be determined in relation to the existing basic wage, and the national economy would benefit accordingly. I hope that this suggestion will receive sympathetic and practical consideration by the proposed constitutional committee
I return now to a consideration of the contents of the bill that we are discussing. E suggest, however, that all of the remarks I have made have relation to the hill itself, ‘because they are concerned with industrial conditions and relations in Australia. Since 1952, we “have witnessed a widening of the ‘breach between employers ‘and ‘employees. The Government has ‘told us that one of the objects of this legislation is to promote goodwill in industry, nut the provisions >of *he ‘legislation -arn suein -as will tend to destroy any possibility ‘of ‘industrial ‘goodwill. The provision for appeals from awards of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, for instance, will be resented by the workers. While the employees have their wages pegged, and greater profits >are being earned by employers than ever before in our .history, the Government introduces legislation that will result in further subjugation of ‘the workers, and in further ‘benefit to .the ‘employers generally, and also to the legal fraternity. The deterioration in industrial relations that “will be Drought about .by this legislation will result in more strikes, more industrial dislocation and more lost time in industry, with resultant all-round detriment to the economy.
– More than in what period? Certainly not more than in the latter yea/rs of the Chifley regime.
– Any information that I give to the Senate can be substantiated by accurate figures. The statistics are available to all honorable senators who wish to satisfy their curiosity on the matter. I suggest that industrial relations have deteriorated .because of the introduction of the appeals system in our arbitration machinery. I shall give honorable senators some figures showing the number of persons who have participated in strikes in every year since 1945. It will be seen that in every year of office of the present Government the number is greater than in any year in which the Chifley government was in power. In 194’5, the number of persons who participated in strikes was 299,641; in 1946, the number was 331,865; in 1947, it was 280,718 ; in 1948, the number of persons who went on strike was 301,025. [‘Extension of time granted.] I appreciate the indulgence granted to me by honorable senators. In the last year of office of “the Chifley Government, 1949, there were 260,720 people on strike during the year. It will be noticed that the highest number of people on strike in any of those years was in 194’5, when the figure reached 331,865. When the Menzies-Fadden Administration commenced, we witnessed an immediate increase in the number of people on strike. In 1950, the number was ‘391,481; in 1951, it was 380,421; in the figure reached 4’88,1’78; in 1953, it fell slightly to 483,800; and in 1954, there were 355,580 persons on strike. During last year, 1955, the number of persons who participated in strikes was 424,340. The trade union movement claims that the deterioration shown by the figures I have cited is due to the policy of the present Government regarding industrial arbitration. I believe that the proposed legislation will do nothing to promote the goodwill and peace in industry that the Government hopes for.
. -I support this bill, which should receive our very deep and serious consideration. Let us consider the history of industrial arbitration. Before the arbitration system was introduced into this country, the employees, when they wanted an improvement in their conditions, approached the employers, and if their requests were not granted they went on strike. In the interests of law and order the arbitration system was introduced, and it should have been of very great advantage to the people of Australia. I believe that it has been, in many respects. [ can only believe that the present legislation is an attempt by the Government to perpetuate the principles underlying the arbitration legislation that was in existence in former times, that is, to make arbitration work more easily and more effectively. To me, those are logical reasons for’ the introduction of further arbitration legislation.
Tn my opinion, the principle behind this legislation should be the principle behind all arbitration legislation. That principle is enhancement of the happiness and prosperity of the people. The purpose of arbitration is a very good one, and the tendency during this debate, on the part of honorable senators opposite, to decry arbitration is to be deplored, because it is not in the interests of Australians ‘ generally. Arbitration wa3 initiated for the purpose of providing fair wages and good conditions for the workers. When we look back over the years, I think it can truly be said that the wages and conditions of employees in this country are of a much higher standard to-day than ever before. Mr. Albert Monk, the president of the Australian Council of Trades Unions, when he returned from a trip overseas a couple of years ago, said, during a talk broadcast by the Australian Broadcasting Commission, that he was satisfied that the conditions of Australian workers were possibly the best in the world. It is not so long ago that Mr. Percy Clarey, the honorable member for Bendigo in this Parliament, spoke similar words after he returned from an overseas visit. If they are to be believed, the system of arbitration in this country must have brought about improvement in the lot of employees. As the arbitration system in the federal sphere was sponsored and initiated by a non-Labour government, it is perhaps appropriate that the present Government, which is also a non-Labour government, should be attempting to improve that system. I know that many people think that the Australian Labour party initiated arbitration legislation in thicountry, but that is not so.
Another aspect of arbitration is the improvement of employer and employee relations. It seems logical that if employers and employees can be brought to an arbitration court to argue and thresh out the pros and cons in relation to conditions of employment, surely bettor relations between those two sections of the community must result. The system of arbitration would operate in a much better way than it operates at the present time had the unions not become involved in politics. I think that it is one of the great tragedies of trade unionism in thi? country that the unions should have attempted, in a political way, rather than in a purely industrial way, to fight for better conditions for- employees. While they continue to associate themselves in a political way we shall always have political partisans in the Australian Labour party playing up to them at times when strength should be shown.
I believe that the Commonwealth Arbitration Court provides the fairest and the best method of adjudicating upon and settling industrial matters. I cannot see why arbitration should not fulfil the promise that it held out when it was initiated. I still think that, provided that people go to the court with a readiness to accept its decisions, there is no reason why arbitration should not be as successful to-day as it was intended to be originally. Its success depends on the state of mind of the people. Therefore, it is necessary to appreciate that people cannot go to the court and, because they think that the decision of the court is unfavorable to them, proceed to go on strike or to do something else to show their opposition to the court’s findings. The court is supposed to adjudicate in a fair and impartial manner. If the judges of the court have the degree of openmindedness that we have come to expect of our federal judiciary, surely the decisions of the court will be given with openness of mind. That being so, whether we like a particular decision or not, we must accept it.
No doubt many people run up against the law at some time or other. There are laws which restrict our activities in many directions, and although we may not like those restrictions, we put up with them because the law of the land provides for them, and the law must be obeyed. The same position applies in respect of decisions of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. Employers and employees alike should abide by those decisions. If they do not like a decision that is given, they may appeal and have the matter to which they object reconsidered.
There is no place for strikes in this country of ours. There is no need for people to go about things in a rebellious way and say that, because they do not approve of a judicial decision, they will go on strike. Arbitration should have eliminated strikes, and I think that if we could get into the minds of the people who initiated arbitration we should find that that was the main reason for arbitration being introduced. In days gone by, men went on strike and remained on strike until the concession that they sought was granted, or they were forced to return to work by economic circumstances. In the process of fighting for that concession, they found that when the strike was over they were a great deal poorer. In many instances, it took them months, and sometimes years, to recover financially. That seems to me, as it probably did to the people who initiated arbitration, to be a savage way to go about securing better conditions and wages. Therefore, I say that the original purpose of arbitration must have been to eliminate strikes. In these days, strikes should be a thing of the past.
Of course, there are people who say that the right to strike is the only economic way in which the workers can achieve decent conditions. If we believe in the law of this country, and in the arbitration machinery that we have established, striking should not be the only way. An approach to the Arbitration Court is the fair, equitable and decent way to obtain better conditions for employees. In order to show that I am notalone in that view, I propose to read to the Senate an extract from a book entitled A New Province for Law and Order, written by the late Mr. Justice Higgins. His Honour said -
There should be no more necessity for strikes and stoppages in order to obtain just working conditions than there was need for the Chinaman of Charles Lamb to burn the house down wherever he wanted roast pork. The arbitration system is devised to provide a substitute for strikes and stoppages, to secure the reign of justice as against violence, of right as against might - to subdue Prussianism in industrial matters.
I believe that those words provide a great deal of food for thought for the legislators of this country and also for those who look after the affairs of the trade unions. I believe that strikes should be eliminated from the industrial field. If strikes must be eliminated, then it is necessary to see that the relevant legislation carries . some degree of force. I am totally in accord with the enforcement clauses in the bill that we have before us. It is not possible to have compulsory arbitration without enforcement. After all, “ compulsion “ means “ enforcement “, so that if we have compulsory arbitration, the administration of that arbitration must entail enforcement. All parties should be bound by the decisions of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. I know that honorable senators opposite have said that this legislation is loaded against the employees, but that is not so. Both sides to arbitration should be compelled to abide by the decisions of the court. Some honorable senators opposite have asked why, if certain workers go on strike, their union should be fined. Let us look at the other side of the picture. If an employer refuses to pay the award rates of wages/ an industrial inspector is soon on his tracks. The unionist submits particulars of the case to his union, and, in due course, the employer is prosecuted and so forced to observe arbitration awards. He is forced to comply with the conditions prescribed in awards. Therefore, the matter is not one-sided. Just as the employers are forced to do certain things, so should the trade unions be compelled to carry out their part of the arbitration system. I am firmly convinced of’ the necessity for the enforcement clauses in the legislation.
Let us consider the effects of a strike.. The workers are not merely individuals ; collectively, they make up the Australian, community. Therefore,, what each worker does can cause certain reactions far outside his own personal sphere. This applies particularly to unionists who strike. We all know the tragic circumstances that have arisen in domesticspheres as a result of strikes. Only a few years- ago, when the meat workers in. Queensland went on strike, there appeared in the press tragic stories of. how the workers’ savings intended for the purchase of homes and other things, had1 disappeared as the strike became protracted. Many of them had to start off again from scratch, and even from behind scratch, to save for the things they needed in order to enjoy a better standard of personal comfort.
There is also an humanitarian aspect of the matter. When a section of workers goes- out on strike, frequently thousands of innocent people engaged in other industries,, or different sections of the same industry, are thrown out of work. In addition to causing unhappiness to these workers and their families,, the strikers also adversely affect the national economy,, and it could take the nation several years to recover from the blow. Certain people, particularly union organizers, are all too. ready to encourage the workers to strike. It should be brought home to those people, particularly the leaders of the trade unions, that strikes cause distress to many people other than the immediate strikers.
I said earlier that arbitration awards should be equally binding on all parties., As far as I am, concerned, there should! be no departure from, that principle ;. all parties should abide by judicial decisions. In my opinion,, strikes- represent a rebellion against law and order, and- the survival in this country of the rule of the jungle. The sooner we all adopt a truly twentieth century humanitarian, outlook, the. better.. The union leaders should not wish- to see the members of their unions strike. I believe that we can best maintain’ peace and avoid- industrial turmoil by making, sure that we- enact strong industrial legislation, and. maintain the fair and judicial arbitration, system that, has operated in this country for so long. I think that this bill will do- that. If both, sides acknowledge- that this bill, will ensure that they shall be given a fair, hearing and a just, decision I cannot see any reason why rebellious thoughts should exist in the minds of the leaders of the trade unions.. It is not. always the unionists- themselves who want to go on. strike;, they are. encouraged, by their leaders to do so. There have been instances in New South Wales recently, particularly in the ranks of the storemen and packers, and the transport workers,, of. the rank and file, refusing, to strike at. the behest of their leaders. Having found strength, by standing- together, those men are still- at work enjoying, conditions which are at least the equal, of any in the world’.
After devoting a. great deal of thought to the subject of strikes,.! am convinced that the strike is a Communist weapon. The Communists love to have strikes, because they disturb the even running of a democracy such, as- ours. I believe that the work of Communists has been clearly seen in. connexion with, many of the- strikes that have occurred in thiscountry., Unfortunately;, a few Communists, by being, elected as leaders- of trade unions, can control many thousands of workers., Being strike minded, they lead their men to take- strike action.,, which, brings- about their own financial destruction. Communist, trade union, officials- have striven to bring about asmany strikes as possible in Australia with the object; of disturbing the prosperity and happiness of our people.. We should not be blind to the part that, the Communists have played- in forcing strikes upon this nation.. Honorable senators need not accept my opinion on this subject. I think that Ernest Thornton is acknowledged to be one of the leading Communists, if not the No. 1 Communist in this country. When he was the general secretary of the Federated Ironworkers Union, he issued a pamphlet shortly after Russia came into the war, in which this passage appeared -
Our union has deliberately and in a planned way been involved in more strikes than other unions in the last few years. They were not just the sporadic strikes that arc typical of the coal fields, but planned strikes, because we made strikes our business.
That passage indicates that the strike weapon is designed to further Communist aspirations. We know that it is the policy of the Communists to keep a democracy like Australia in a state of continual industrial turmoil, with the object of engendering in the minds of the people the idea that democracy is no good. They try to convert the people to a foreign economic philosophy that should not be tolerated by true believers in democracy.
I am very pleased that, in addition to the enforcement clauses, this legislation contains provision for the conducting of secret ballots. I believe that the secret ballot can be a valuable weapon for use by individual unionists against Communists in control of unions who advocate strikes. I am disappointed, however, that the bill does not go further, and make it mandatory for a compulsory secret ballot to be conducted before unions decide to strike. I know that certain reasons have been advanced why that cannot be done, but I do not subscribe to them. I believe that the average decent unionist would like a provision to that effect to be inserted in the bill, because every decent Australian wants to continue in his work, earning wages and enjoying contentment and happiness. I do not believe that the average employee wants to go on strike, but he does so because of the fear of what might be said to him at his union meeting if he opposed a strike. Communist members have carried out tactics of intimidation at union meetings to a very strong degree, and it is no use honorable senators opposite denying the fact. While men may have great, courage in the field of battle and various other spheres, in their union meetings they have a fear of being called a rat, a scab, or something else. That fear has been inculcated into them over a period of years and the result is that in an open meeting, although th, majority of the men are not in favour of a strike, they are not game to stand up and express their views.
If a secret ballot were held those men would be able to vote according to their clear conscience. I feel that Parliament should not only provide that a secret ballot may be taken but should also make it mandatory. When I express those sentiments, they are not merely my own views; they have been expressed by men not only in various ordinary Australian unions but also in the turbulent waterfront union. Men have frequently said, “ Why do you not give ns a secret ballot before we go on strike? I believe it is essential to do so, because it gives a man the right to vote without anybody knowing how he is expressing his innermost thoughts as to whether there should be a strike or not. An individual may know that if he goes on strike great distress will be caused to his wife and children for many months after the strike. Therefore every encouragement should be given to individual members of unions to say what they honestly think. I know that in politics men will often get up and say, “ Of course, men should have a right to strike “, and u Of course, they should be game to decide in an open meeting”, and so on. That is all right politically, but we should not talk like that when we are dealing with arbitration and human problems that concern men deeply and affect their livelihood, prosperity and happiness. Every encouragement should be given to ensure that men are able to arrive at the best decision as to what they wish. I believe that the secret ballot provision should be mandatory in this bill.
I do not intend to speak at great length on this bill, but I wish to mention one or two further points. I do not know whether it would be possible to include in the bill a provision that when consideration is being given to the making of an award the economy of the nation should be considered.
– What about the economy of the worker?
– The economy of the worker, the economy of the employer and the economy of the nation are all wrapped up in the progress and prosperity of this country. If the Arbitration Court does anything which affects the economy of the nation, in the long run it catches up with everybody. We do not live as individuals; we are all members of the nation and, therefore, our lives, our work and the things we do, affect every one of us. An award which adversely affects the economy of the nation could very well have a detrimental effect on the employees of this country. Let me cite an illustration of what I am trying to point out. Suppose the Arbitration Court awards extraordinarily high wages in a certain industry. Because of the high costs that industry has to bear, it is not able to sell its goods overseas in the manner it formerly could. What would happen? There would naturally be a recession in that industry.
– No worker would ask for such a thing to be done.
– I am not suggesting he would, but I am suggesting that there should be some provision for the Arbitration Court to take into consideration the effect of an award upon the economy of the nation. Such a thing as I have mentioned might not only mean a recession in the particular industry but it could also set up a chain reaction affecting other industries. Senator Hendrickson suggested that there is no fear of that happening. I believe there is a serious danger of its happening unless in this country the present system of arbitration is tackled by introducing some form of uniform legislation. I intend to conclude on this point. Unless we can introduce uniform legislation providing for one arbitration system, instead of one federal and six State systems, as at present, the economy of Australia is liable to be wrecked. I believe the time is overdue for steps to be taken to establish one arbitration system for Australia as a whole. I make the plea to- the Government that at the earliest possible moment it should confer with the State Premiers in an attempt to establish such uniformity. If the Premiers will not agree, the matter is so serious that this Government should initiate a referendum in an attempt to have one arbitration system established for the Commonwealth as a whole.
I support the bill and hope that when it becomes law it will make men on both sides of the industrial scene realize the great opportunity we have in this democracy to use arbitration for the benefit of us all. I hope that in the future when arbitration decisions are made they will be obeyed and that in cases in which it is necessary to invoke the provisions of this legislation they will be obeyed and so be a means of contributing to the industrial peace, prosperity and development of this country.
– I listened to the last speaker, Senator Wood, giving us his testimony of what he believes and does not believe and I waited in vain, as I have been waiting since 1949, to get some facts on this matter. Since that time, we have had in Australia the worst government that any parliament in the British Empire has ever known. By all kinds of trickery it has fooled the people into believing that they are living in a state of prosperity in this country. In 1949, of course, the election was fought on the issue of putting value back into the £1.
Senator Vincent interjecting.
– The honorable senator who has interjected would not understand. I do not mind his interjecting so long as he is prepared to take what is coming to him. The last time he interjected, I asked him to remain silent and he said that he was all ears. I replied, “ with nothing in between “. The honorable senator had better listen. As I was saying, the main issue in 1.949 was that of putting value back into the £1. To-day, we are discussing this arbitration bill, as it is called; but the main pivot of the whole of our economy has not been dealt with at all. The fact is that we have one of the most unstable economies in the British Empire, probably the most unstable. While the value of money is decreasing in terms of purchasing power, arbitration, of course, is a farce. There is no use my grinning friends opposite saying that that is not so. The fact is that every senator in the Liberal party knows in his heart of hearts that this Government hat: existed on fraud for the past seven years. It has had four elections in that time and won them all, but it has not attempted to solve one economic problem. On the subject of currency, I wish to quote a statement which appeared in a newspaper - not in the Workers’ Weekly or another newspaper published in Melbourne which Government senators read - but in the Sun-Herald on the 3rd Jun, last. This statement was made in New York and the opening paragraph reads -
The Australian pound lost 50% of its purchasing power between 19-lfi and 1950.
I did not say that. This Government said it would put value back into the fi, but the fact is that no value has been put back into the £1, and there is noi one Government senator who, in his heart, is not afraid of the future, because he knows that if the currency topples it is impossible to say what will happen to the economy of the country. I have been saying that ever since this Government was elected to office seven years ago.
– What about arbitration?
– I will come to that. While the currency has no stability, arbitration is a farce. If arbitration says that I should receive £5 a week indefinitely-
– The honorable senator is not worth that.
– I may not be, but anything intelligent that Senator Hannaford has said, he has heard mc say first. If Government senators would not interject, some of the few intelligent members of this House might be able to understand what I am saying. The Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) is one of the few men in the Government who. in his heart of hearts, knows that the Liberal party has no policy, either international or internal, and it does not know where it is going. If I were to be employed for £5 a week, and in one week’s time that £5 could buy only £4 19s. worth of goods, my standard of living would ba going down. Arbitration is useless unless the currency is stabilized. It is of no use trying, by a coercive bill like this, to stabilize industry.
When the value of the currency begins to fall, it means that workers lose their savings, and if that statement in the press is correct that the Australian £1 has been reduced in value by 50 per cent., it means that the workers have lost half their wages and savings, and workers on fixed incomes have lost half their salaries. Those who have retired on superannuation have lost half their means of support. If that is not the truth, what is ‘ I have read most of what was said on thi-, measure in another place. I have known something about arbitration, from the days of Mr. Justice Higgins until now, and it is now exceedingly doubtful, looking at the overall position, whether anything has been gained from arbitration.
– Does the honorable senator want to abolish arbitration?
– If this bill represents arbitration, certainly I want to abolish it. Honorable senators on this side have cited instances of what has happened in industry as a result of arbitration. Some Government senators have asked whether we think that judges are prejudiced. Of course, they are as prejudiced as any one else. None of them is sacrosanct. None of them has gone to the ragged school, or been on the dole; and consequently, consciously or subconsciously, they are prejudiced in favour of the class from which they came.
– How ridiculous!
– I know that Government senators do not like statements of that sort. Their attitude reminds me of the story of an old gentleman in a top-hat and frock coat who was present at the funeral of Charles Darwin. Incidentally, any one who doubts the Darwinian theory should look at honorable senators on the Government side. Professor Huxley, who was a confrere of Darwin, was present, and this old gentleman said to him, “ Do you think the Darwinian theory is correct?” Huxley replied, “Of course, I do “. The old gentleman said, “ Oh, my God, why did not he keep it to himself “. That is how Government senators feel when I speak about putting value into the £1. Their Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has been a humbug for seven years. Of course, he oan talk very nicely, but as I have said before, if I want to hear something that I can enjoy, because 1 have saved a few pounds and bought some records, I can listen to Beethoven, ov if I am in the mood I can listen to the boys play some jive, but I certainly dislike listening to a man talking humbug for an hour. The Prime Minister recently professed to give a talk about sending troops to Malaya. For 55 minutes he took his listeners all around the world, and devoted only about five minutes to sending troops to Malaya.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Anderson).- Order ! The honorable senator must confine his remarks to the bill.
– When I hear Government senators talking about communism, and sending troops to Malaya to fight it-
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT. Order !
– I am in order, Mr. Acting President. Government senators talk about sending troops to Malaya to fight communism, but they do nothing about paying margins for skill. They will never defeat communism that way. The Russians have more technicians than the rest of the world, and if we are to fight communism we must do something about giving the workers adequate margins for skill. The Government has done nothing about it in the past seven or eight years. Do Government senators think they are going to fight communism with arms? Khruschev knows what he is doing, but this Government does not. This peripatetic gentleman tells us to-day what Mr. John Foster Dulles told us last week - that our country, economically, is going down and down in its fight against communism, I will ask the learned Attorney-General a question. I call him learned, because that is the way in which lawyers are referred to. They are certainly too learned for me. I do not wish to be offensive, but I know that lawyers are not a bit interested in the welfare of the workers. When Senator Ryan was speaking he said that this bill would provide a feast for the lawyers. Percy Bysshe Shelley said, “ right or wrong will vindicate for gold “. It was not true, but he said it. I ask the AttorneyGeneral, in all seriousness, if he is not going to provide higher margins for skill, how will he fight against the Russian technicians? This Government does not know what it is trying to do in anything. In 1907, Mr. Justice Higgins fixed the basic wage on the basis of a man, wife and three children at a rate which should enable them to live on a civilized plane. For a long time after that wage was fixed, prices of all commodities continued to rise. The currency was not stable even then, but it is now amongst the worst in the world. Mr. Justice Higgins said that the worker should receive a living wage, irrespective of what industry could produce or pay. Because prices rose, however, workers received no benefit from the fixing of a basic wage. Subsequently, Mr. Justice Power dealt with the matter from another point of view, and said that the basic wage should have some relation to what industry could produce. From 1907 to 1920, the real wage - that is, the amount of money that would purchase a given quantity of goods - food, clothing and shelter - went down, and I think I am right in quoting Mr. Justice Piddington as saying that it declined by 23s. Then the great depression came. There was no question of raising the basic wage, and the 10 per cent, margin for skill was eliminated. No ballot of the workers was held to consider their needs. I should like the timber merchants or the Colonial Sugar Refinery, or General Motors-Holden’s Limited to conduct a ballot of the people of Australia to determine whether they should send the equivalent of 10,000,000 dollars out of Australia. People talk about justice, and justice is supposed to be blind. It is just as well, if the workers are receiving what is called justice. I recall a great economist called Keynes. He was what Marx would have called a vulgar economist. He wrote a book called The Economic Consequences of Peace, and I am quite satisfied that most of the honorable senators on the Government side would not know what he was writing about if they read that book.
– The honorable senator is under-rating us.
– I do not think so. Keynes suggested ways in which economic depressions could be prevented. Before Keynes wrote that book, Marx had stated that, under capitalism, depressions would come more frequently and would last longer. If the Australian Government had applied Keynes’ methods to the last depression, as Roosevelt applied them in America, it could have saved us. It should have poured money into the economy in order to get people back to work.
– The American Government did not save the United States from the depression.
– The American Government may have tried to prevent the depression, but it did not take any effective action until 13,000,000 people were out of work. This Government seems to be trying to apply Keynes’ methods in a time of full employment, but the only thing that it can do now is to control prices - although it is almost too late to do that.
I shall now tell honorable senators why our system of industrial arbitration is worth nothing. Unless money has relative stability, no system of arbitration will last for very long. We can pass all the legislation that we like, alter all the acts that we like, and change the names of arbitrators - decide whether a man should wear a wig or not, and whether he should be called a commissioner or judge - it will all be of no avail. Any arbitrator or conciliator will still have the same powers that he used to have before the recent High Court decision, no matter what he is called. Now the Government apparently believes that it can make up for its lack of economic action by introducing legislation like the Stevedoring Industry Bill 1956. Right down the ages, governments have tried to make up for their shortcomings in the economic field by passing laws. Senator McKenna referred to the anti-combination laws. Those laws are similar to the measure with which we are now dealing, and just as those laws did not prevent people from striking, so this measure will not prevent them.
The workers fought the anti-combina- lion laws for twenty years, and in the end they had to be repealed. We can even go back to the days of Queen Eliza beth I. Perhaps I may be a little confused by my Empire patriotism and my other narrow patriotism, but I believe that in the days of Queen Elizabeth, when the black plague swept over England, labourers were very few indeed. A book called Six Centuries of Work and Wages tells that in those days, when workers went on strike for the first time, they were branded with hot irons, and for a second offence they were sentenced to death. However, that did not stop them from seeking higher wages, because those laws were against the ordinary laws of economics. I believe that those days have also been called the golden age of English labour, because labourers could work for only thirteen weeks in the year and had a holiday for the rest of the time. Senator Brown, who is a member of the old school, knows that what I say is correct.
Now let us consider what this Government has done. The most outstanding of its achievements is to have got into office three or four times by fraudulent means. In the general election of 1949, the Government parties put forward, as their policy, the claim that they would put value back into the fi. Now, the Prime Minister is very nice to listen to - at least some people think that he is - but he is by no means an orator in the classical or even the Hitler sense. If the workers are referred to some people call them the rabble, and if those who are not of the workers are referred to they are called the elite. Nevertheless the Prime Minister can rouse the crowd. Tfe has talked and talked and talked, and yet every day value has gone out of the fi.
In the general election of 1951, not having put value back into the fi, the Prime Minister decided that he could not include that in his policy any longer. Consequently, he put it forth that wages were the cause of inflation, and the basic wage was pegged and has remained pegged for about three years. Now here is another point that should be considered. Wages are pegged, but the prices of commodities are not pegged. I suggest that we could get people from Callan Park to draw up better rules tuan that. “We cannot have industrial arbitration while wages are pegged and prices are not.
Honorable senators should remember that when the Chifley Government was in office, Australia had the soundest economy in the world. During part of that time I was abroad, and I can speak from experience when I say that our money was much sought after.
– That is why Mr. Chifley devalued the £1.
– Mr. Chifley had nothing to do with devaluation, and I believe that one of the worst things ever done to our currency was to devalue it. I opposed devaluation in this chamber, and I even spoke against it when some of my colleagues were supporting it. During the regime of the Chifley Government I was in Singapore. and the attitude of the people there was that the Australian £1 would do them ; they did not want the English £1, they wanted Australian money. Since this Government has been in office we have had glorious seasons, nature has provided, in almost miraculous abundance, and yet here we are frightened of what to-morrow will bring forth. After 1951, there was another general election, and the Government parties brought out the old bogy that the Communists were running the Labour party. The Government is so concerned about Communists that Lloyd Ross and Mr. Short-
– Two Trotskyites.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - I suggest that the honorable senator should link up his remarks with the bill at present before the Senate.
– .Senator “Wood has stated that the Government parties are the only parties that ever effectively dealt with Communists in this country, and that if we trusted the Government all would be well, and the lion would lie down with the lamb. The lion will lie down with the lamb all right, but the Iamb will bc? inside the lion. The Government has fought all recent elections on frauds, but the Labour party went to the coal-fields and fought the
Communists to a standstill. During the strikes on the coal-fields, Mr. Chifley said that we would go into the fight boots and all. The Government knows that its economic policy has failed, that value has steadily drained away out of the £1, and that it cannot approach the people on its record. When the Government parties were saying that the Labour party was run by Communists, Communists were telephoning me at night and threatening to kick me to death. Yet, when I went to political meetings of the non-Labour parties I was told that I was a Communist. With regard to the “ groupers “ in the Labour party, let me ask how it is that there are no groupers in any part of the British Empire except in Australia.
– It is because the Labour party in other parts of the Empire have fought the Communists.
– If that is so, then the Labour party in other parts of th, Empire has done so without the assistance of “ groupers “. There are no “ groupers “ in England, and quite recently Khruschev said that if he were living in England he would be a Conservative, because he knew that the Communists have no chance of achieving power unless they first break the social democrats. That has been proved in other countries where the Communists have come to power. “ Groupers “ are not needed in England.
When I was in Victoria, I saw how low the Prime Minister played the political game. I am sick of being branded a Communist by people who know that it is a lie. Every honorable senator on this side of the chamber is not only not a Communist but is actually antiCommunist, and yet time after time during general election campaigns the same old Communist bogy is raised against us. The Government does that sort of thing because it cannot fight elections on economic issues. I repeat that the provisions of this bill will not be worth anything unless the currency of the country is stabilized, and I am endeavouring to show that everything the Government does is calculated to make the currency position weaker rather than stronger. It must be stabilized. No deal can be satisfactory unless the value of money is st.able. Even if one wishes to buy a horse, one cannot make a satisfactory deal unless one knows what money is worth.
I was abroad before the Labour Government went out of office, and I know that in 1946 the Australian currency overseas had the highest value of that of any country. The Americans came over here with their dollars, went to King’s Cross and other places, bought some of the finest fruit in the world and were amazed at what money would buy in those days. I said a moment ago that in many ways the workers are worse off to-day than they were in 1907. At least, they could buy a bit of fruit in those days; but go to King’s Cross or anywhere else and try to buy fruit to-day. It is almost impossible to do so. The only reason why some workers are able to have fruit now is that their daughters, wives and sisters are also working. The man who has been married for only three, or four, years and who has a wife and one or two children and wants to keep his wife in the home, where she ought to be. finds it almost impossible to afford a little fruit. Where there are five or six members of the family at work and bringing in £50 a week between them, the position is certainly an improvement on what it was in the olden days; but that does not apply to the married man with a young family.
In my view, this bill and any other measure like it is simply a waste of time unless the currency of the country is stabilized ; and we cannot hope to stabilize our currency unless we pursue an economic policy that will serve to do that. It is impossible to come to agreements under present conditions. From time to time, we send huge sums overseas, and the way things are going it would seem to me that shortly there will have to be some form of repudiation. Only the other day we dealt with a bill that sought to help primary producers by setting up an organization for insuring certain cargoes. That was merely another of the many subsidies which are being paid at the moment; yet, when the Americans do that sort of thing the Government accuses them of undermining our economy. If it were not for the fact that nature has been bounteous in the last few years, we should now be in a very sorry plight indeed. Nature cannot continue to be bounteous for much longer, and all I can say is that if the Government has any way by which it can stabilize the currency I should like to hear of it.
Do honorable senators opposite deny that our currency has drifted? Do they deny that it is impossible to have arbitration without a stabilized currency? They know in their own hearts that it is impossible to carry on any business deals without stabilized currency. Senator Wright has pointed out that nothing contained in this or any other bill is of any use whatever without goodwill. I agree with that, but what is the use of talking about goodwill when it takes from £1G to £17 to buy as much to-day. as could be bought for £8 in former years? Thi Government’s great problem is to stabilize the currency.
– Honorable senators will have to stabilize their mind* first.
– I am sorry to have to disagree with the honorable senator. The minds of honorable members on the Government side are so stabilized that it is impossible to get them moving.
Unemployment is beginning to rear its head already, and there does not seem to be any way out of this problem except through unemployment, or a crisis and the cutting-down of the living standard!? of the workers. Of course, the workers are much better organized now than they were previously, and this Government will find it very difficult, indeed, to do what governments of the same political colour did in years gone by. That something very serious must happen, I have not the slightest doubt. Everybody know.s that for the last six or seven years I have been pointing out that basically we are unstable. If Australia goes down, we all go down. I am confident that not one honorable senator in this chamber is satisfied with either the economy or the financial position of Australia: and it is getting worse every minute. Honorable senators on the Government side know the position is getting worse, but they do not know what to do about it; and because they do not know what to do about it. they bring forward legislation such as this and tell the workers that the best the Government can do is to enforce arbitration upon them.
Senator Ryan cited certain figures and Several honorable senators on the Government side wanted to know where ha obtained them. Let me remind the Senate that those same figures were cited by th? honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) in another place the other day, and I am sure all honorable senators would agree that such a gentleman would not be likely to cite figures such as those unless he knew something about the subject. Every one knows that the present system of arbitration has been unfair, because under it, although the cost of living has been rising constantly, the worker has never been able to catch up with it. The best he has been able to do is to go some of the way towards regaining some of what he has lost. He i3 never able to catch up completely with the increasing cost of living. Ever since 1907, he has been endeavouring to regain what he has lost. The fact is that our economic position is not very sound, and clauses in bills even ten times more coercive than those contained in the present measure cannot solve our problem.
The first essential is to get the economy back, in some way or other, where it was when the present Government took over from Labour. I have not the slightest doubt that if there were an election to-morrow no attempt would be made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) or the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) to deal with economics. All they would do would be to talk about Communists. They would simply sidetrack the main issue. When the Labour government was in office it recognized that stabilized wages and prices were essential to a sound economy, and I make so bold as to say that if the Chifley Government had remained in power we should not have been in the position in which we are now. Honorable senators on the Government side talk about what Mr. Chifley did.
– Order! Will the honorable senator return to the bill before the Senate?
– During your absence, Mr. President, I have been trying to show that arbitration can be of no avail whatever unless our currency is stabilized. There can be no long-term agreements in connexion with wages unless it is stabilized. My point is that it is of no use stabilizing wages, as the Prime Minister seeks to do, unless all things are stabilized. That would have happened if the Chifley Government had remained in office. Honorable senators opposite often say how wonderful Mr. Chifley was as compared with Dr. Evatt, but I have heard those same gentlemen say that he was a wrecker. They said that when the nationalization of banking was at issue. They accused him of having his “ new guards “ at the polling booths, and they said worse things about Mr. Chifley than they ever said about Dr. Evatt. Honorable senators on the Government side take the point of view that no Labour man is any good until he is dead.
The Government is mistaken if it thinks that it can achieve prosperity by fixing wages without fixing prices. That is an absurd proposition. If that is not one-way traffic, I do not know what is. It seems to me that our economy can be stabilized without a great deal of suffering being caused to any section of our community, but the Government merely fiddles while Rome is burning. Our economic situation will not be improved by the introduction of a bill with penal clauses such as those contained in this measure. If the Government thinks that it can achieve any improvement in our industrial conditions and relations by the introduction of this bill, it is sadly mistaken. It will discover, after this bill becomes law, as it no doubt will, that there will be less economic stability, and more strikes and disorder, because the bill is indefensible. It cannot be defended in ethics or in morals, and it cannot be defended economically. It is not fair to the workers, who will be hamstrung by its provisions.
I think I have said enough on this matter. I intend to oppose the bill, although I know that it will be carried, nevertheless. I believe that nearly every honorable senator opposite realizes the truth of my assertions. This Government has won four elections. It has solved four political problems, but it has not solved one economic problem since it has been in office. The problems remain, but they are more difficult than they ever were before.
– The measure now before th:Senate, and the bill that is being considered in another place, are most important pieces of legislation, which can Lave a most profound effect upon our economy in the future. When a government is considering a matter such as this, it should consult experts in the particular field involved, and be advised on the provisions which should be included in bills that are brought forward.
Before proceeding to discuss the bill itself. I should like to make a few comments on remarks made this afternoon by Senator Wood. He said that the Communists were the cuase of all the trouble in the trade unions. How he arrived at that conclusion I do not know. I do know, however, that in the great trade union movement to-day there are many members who vote at elections for Liberal party candidates. If all trade unionists voted for Labour candidates, the Labour party would never be out of office. I remind the Senate that at the last elections for the position of general secretary of the Waterside Workers Federation, Mr. Jim Healy was returned unopposed. Where were the “groupers”? Where were the Liberal party supporters in the Waterside Workers Federation? Why did they not oppose this terrible man, Mr. Healy? Mr. Healy was returned unopposed as general secretary of the federation, and I say quite frankly that Mr. Healy has no more influence in bringing about a strike on the waterfront than any other member of the Waterside Workers Federation. I say this to honorable senators opposite.: Most of the waterside workers, as well as workers in other industries, would be quite satisfied with a system of fixation of wages and conditions that would be suitable to employers and employees.
Senator Wood suggested that if the. Arbitration Court granted an award in one industry that provided for execessive rates of pay, or unreasonably favorable conditions for the workers, applications would be made for similar awards by workers in other industries. 1 can tell Senator Wood that not one union secretary or advocate who appears in the courts on behalf of the trade unions would ask a judge to grant such an award, if it would adversely affect our economy.
Senator Wood said that we must takefrom the worker 3 the right to strike. That is what people of Senator Wood’s political colour said 100 years ago. They have always said : “ Leave it to us and we will give you everything you want. Do not strike or cause any industrial disturbance, and we will give you what; you want “. The only way in which the workers have gained the conditions that they enjoyed in the past, or enjoy at present, is by being prepared to refuse to sell to the employers the only thing that they have to sell, which is their labour.
– There was no arbitration court 100 years ago.
– The Arbitration Court, as first established, provided, to a certain extent, a very good method of dealing with the problems of employer and employee, just as in the days before the invention of the motor car the horse and dray constituted an important part of our transport system, being better than the wheelbarrow. But those days have passed. We are living in a different era, and the Arbitration Court to-day is not functioning in the interests of either employer or employee. It is causing chaos in industry. Therefore, I suggest that before this or any other government attempts to alter the method of fixation of wages and conditions in industrial awards, it should confer with the people who have been trained in this field all their lives.
When Senator Wood says that the Communists have control of the trade unions, I ask how they obtained that control. It was not because members of the Labour party wanted them to go into the trade union movement. As a matter of fact, I venture to say that every person on this side of the chamber who has had anything to do with the trade union movement has at all times fought strenuously the development of any kind of “ ism “ in the trade union movement.
Industrial arbitration is a very important matter, and any legislation to alter the arbitration procedure can have a profound effect on our economy. I believe that the Government should accept advice from the people who are most fitted to give it. Legislation introduced by a Labour government in the past provided that the judges of the Arbitration Court should fix wages and standard hours. Then, in the 1940’s, a Labour government appointed conciliation commissioners, whose duties were to conciliate when an industrial dispute occurred. Later, one of the leading conciliation commissioners had this to say -
I think it is quite wrong for the conciliation commissioners to do anything to interfere with the jurisdiction of the judges, because the jurisdiction of the judges over standard hours and basic wage is exclusive. [ think it is equally wrong for the court to interfere with the ‘jurisdiction of the commissioners.
– On what occasion was that said? Was it in a judgment or outside the court?
– It was in the court. It was probably on an appeal to the court from a decision of one of the conciliation commissioners.
– Oan the honorable senator let me see the document from which he has quoted?
– Yes, I 3hall do that. I believe, as I think every honorable senator on this side of the chamber believes, that we must have industrial arbitration, but if we give power to an authority to fix the wages that a worker shall receive, surely we must also give power to some authority to fix prices. If that is not done, the court may grant an increase of the basic wage, which will result in increased prices, and any benefit to the worker from the increase of the basic wage will thereby be nullified. We must have an authority which can deal with hours, wages and prices. We should leave to the conciliation commissioners the work that they were appointed to do. It may be of interest to honorable senators that, in 1947-48, the sixteen conciliation commis sioners dealt with 1,118 disputes, and in 194S-49, they dealt with 1,213 disputes, or a total of 2,330. People who were not closely associated with the industries concerned in those disputes would know nothing of the work done by the conciliation commissioners.
We know that, because of the decision given in the Boilermakers case, it has. become necessary to amend the legislation, but as I said previously, such legislation should be prepared by those who are expert in the industry. Although there ure many eminent legal men on the Government side of the Parliament, and although the Government also has eminent legal advisers, the High Court held, admittedly by a narrow majority, that the 1952 legislation could not do the things that the Government wanted it to do. That is the reason that this legislation has been brought on so hurriedly. I contend that the Government should amend the legislation to give to the judges of the court the right to fix hours, the basic wage, and prices. I emphasize “ prices “ because, if the court i3 to fix wages and hours, it must certainly fix prices also. If it did that. I think that everybody would be happy.
We do not know whether the Government proposes to appoint conciliation commissioners, but if they are appointed, provision is made for appeals from their decisions. In respect of the fixing of wage rates, I suggest that the worker has only one right of appeal, and that is the right to strike. On the other hand, if a decision is unfavorable to the employers, they may pass on to the consumers the additional costs of the decision. The employers are not asked to carry the burden ; the workers in industry are required to carry all of it. It is most unjust that penalty clauses, which provide for the imposition of fines because employees ask for their proper entitlement should have been included in th bill.
Honorable senators opposite have stated that the court must take great care, when fixing a wage, to ensure that the industry concerned will be able to afford that wage. That sounds very well, but, I point out that instrumentalities such as the Victorian railways and the State Rivers and Water Supply Commis- sion do not pay their way. There are many other government utilities that the community must have which do not pay, but which employ workers who work just as hard and efficiently as do workers in profitable industries. Therefore, the court should not say, as it has said in the past, that an industry cannot afford to pay the cost of wage increases. There has been a great deal of criticism of trade union secretaries and union organizers because they have organized strikes, but I venture to say that if the court were to give a decision which provided for a reasonable standard of living for the workers, and which gave them the opportunity to have a proper place in the community, the organizers and agitators would not have a chance to encourage people to go on strike. When the court fixes a wage it should consider not whether the industry is able to pay that wage but whether theindustry is necessary to the development and progress of the country, and whether the workers employed in it are doing work similar to that of workers in industries that are making huge profits. If the court did that, we should not have so much industrial trouble.
I should think that no honorable senator would be prepared to assert that the latest increase in the basic wage represents a just decision by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. I do not say that the court gave a biased decision, but f do say that, in increasing the basic wage by only 10s. a week, the court did not give a just decision. If honorable senators believe that that decision was unjust, they should be ashamed of themselves for having voted in this chamber last week for increased salaries for themselves. They must acknowledge that an increase of 10s. a week is far less than the increase to which the workers are entitled. As I shall explain later, the method of fixing the basic wage has always been loaded against the workers.
I come now to the matter of seasonal occupations. In deciding rates of pay for seasonal workers, the judges must take into consideration the fact that those workers are in and out of work, that they have to travel to and from their work, and that they are not employed, as public servants are, all the year round. The people of Australia are led by the press to believe that shearers make an enormous amount of money. I suggest that there is only one way to test that matter, and that is to go to the Taxation Branch and ask to see the tax returns of men employed in the shearing industry. I think that any one who did that would find that tha earnings of shearers were not nearly as high as some people have made out. Shearing is a seasonal occupation, and during the season the men engaged in the industry work very hard. As a matter of fact, I think that the wool-growers with whom I have had an opportunity to converse in Victoria would be quite prepared, having regard to the present price of wool, to pay the shearers the old award rates. If the Commonwealth Arbitration Court wants to see harmony in industry it must consider the matters to which I have referred. If we are to have harmony in the wool industry, which is a very important factor in our economy, the court must give proper consideration to the fact that the employees in that industry are only employed for part of the time.
The Senate will soon be dealing with stevedoring legislation, and perhaps I should not refer to it at this stage, but I point out that the remarks that I have just made apply with particular force to waterside workers. I have heard it said that waterside workers earn, on an average, £17 a week. I have been responsible for getting several men into the Waterside Workers Federation in Victoria, but all of them have left the industry because they could not even make the basic wage. Thousands of men have left the federation during the last ten years because their employment on the waterfront was not sufficiently profitable. They could not earn sufficient money to live.
– There are fairly obvious causes for that, in individual instances.
– That may be so. All I am saying is that it is an industry that is very hard to regulate. Nevertheless, that is the kind of task that the Arbitration Court must tackle. We often hear people advocating that the Waterside Workers Federation should increase its numbers. The Arbitration Court believes that that should be done, but what would be the benefit of having an additional 500 men in the union if there were no work for them to do? If waterside workers were paid and employed on the same basis as are public servants, then I should agree that more members could be taken in. I venture to say, too, that the executive officers of the Waterside Workers Federation would be glad to have more members if the pay of waterside workers were guaranteed as the pay of public servants, for instance, is guaranteed, but the union does not want to have the industry overcrowded. Yesterday, in Melbourne, 2,000 waterside workers were unemployed. They received £1 4s. for the day, and on that sum they were expected to live and bring harmony into the industry. Whether or not the arbitration legislation is amended by the insertion of penalty clauses, I remind supporters of the Government that industrial disputes in this country have never been settled by force. The Government should ensure that a better way of settling disputes is practised by the industrial authorities.
This is an important bill, because we must by arbitration, or some other means, protect the rights of the workers against the rapacity of the employers. The Government should have consulted the Australian Council of Trades Unions before bringing down this legislation, irrespective of the political views of the executive of that body. The advisability of consulting the top level people in industry is proved by the fact that the Government itself has found it necessary to move from 20 to 30 amendments to the bill in order to make it workable. I should like to say, in fairness to the executive officers of the Australian Council of Trades Unions and the delegates who make up the congresses of that body, that no other band of men in the world has striven harder than they have done to bring harmony to industry. Instead of employing legal minds, probably subservient to the interests of people who are making excessive profits to-day, the Government should first have consulted the executive officers of the Australian Council of Trades Unions and obtained their views. I emphasize that harmony cannot be maintained in industry unless the workers are assured of reasonable economic security. That is all the workers ask for. They are entitled to share in the prosperity of a nation, just as they bear their share of loss during adverse periods.
The trade union movement has waged many battles over the years in applications before the Arbitration Court. Such applications should be determined promptly. But I know of applications that have been before the court for a? long as seven years without decisions being announced. I venture to say that if it had taken the Richardson committee seven years to submit its recommendations in relation to members of this Parliament, there would have been some grumbling in this chamber and elsewhere. If the Government sincerely desires to maintain harmony in industry, it should adopt the suggestions that I have made.
At the outset, the arbitration system worked very well in this country. It was one of the many improvements that were introduced by Labour governments. In the main, the majority of workers have abided by decisions of the Arbitration Court. In my opinion, the reason why the Government is now amending the arbitration legislation is, that the workers have enjoyed an era in which they have been able to be selective in tinmatter of employment. If a worker fell like changing from one industry to another, he was able to do so. What the Government, is trying to do by mean.of this legislation is to force the workers to do what they do not want to do. Thai will not promote harmony in industry, because in any industry there are men of various temperaments, and different psychological and political outlooks Among them, are Communists,- abou whom we have heard so much from honorable senators opposite; supporters of t’>e Liberal party and the Australian Country party; and adherents to the cause of the Labour party. Recently, supporter.of the Government have been very critical of the shearers.
– Not of the shearers, but of the hierarchy of the Australian Workers Union.
– There i? one thing that Senator Maher cannot do, and that is, to point to one member of that organization who is a Communist i was about to deal with the subject of margins. It is important that we all should understand what is meant by the term “ (margins “. Marginal amounts above the basic wage are paid to workers who use special skill in their work, people who, in their youth, devoted considerable time to the learning of a trade or profession and who, during that time, received relatively low wages or allowances. After having served their apprenticeship, those people are entitled to an allowance in addition to the basic wage in recognition of the skill that they employ in their work. How can supporters of the Government expect the workers to be happy in view of the fact that marginal payments were frozen from 1947 to 1954’ and the basic wage has been frozen since 1953? If, in addition to that, the Government expects the workers, or the leaders of the trade unions, to put up with the kind of biased legislation that is now before us, the Government has another think coming to it. I submit quite frankly to the Government that, if it intends to introduce a new arbitration system, at least it should retain the portion of the old system under which conciliation commissioners dealt with disputes in industry. If this were done, and the conciliation commissioners were as successful in the future as they have been in the past, we should not have much to worry about. I believe that the main worry confronting the Government to-day stems from dissatisfaction about the freezing of the basic wage, working hours and the cost of living. In my opinion, as the Arbitration Court has the right to fix the basic wage, it should also adjudicate in relation to the cost of living. There would then be no growls from this side of the chamber. In the early years of arbitration in this country, there WAS no evidence of inflationary pressures such as have, been felt during the last few years. In those days, I cannot recall anybody as daring as the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) who, at a time when the people are fast moving towards economic destruction, stated that the country is passing through an c-a of prosperity. I say quite frankly that the Opposition would raise very little objection to an amendment of the arbitration legislation, provided the judges of the Arbitration Court were authorized to fix prices.
I come now to the subject of strikes. All my life, I have never believed in straightout strikes. I have always considered that thu best means of rectifying grievances was to resort to a regulation strike. By this means, the workers concerned stick rigidly to regulations, and draw their pay or salary at the end of each week. If a married worker with a family loses a day’s pay, it is very difficult for him to meet his commitments. I hope and trust that the Government realizes the seriouness of the industrial situation, and that it will so amend this measure as to provide that the workers shall receive a decent share of the profits of industry and that they shall be guaranteed economic security. I oppose the bill.
– I support the bill. I think it would be advisable to give some consideration to the bill and to the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna), because, although I listened rather patiently this afternoon to most diverse speeches, I can honestly say that most of the speakers paid very little attention to the bill itself. This measure envisages substantial changes in Commonwealth conciliation and arbitration legislation. Trenchant criticism has been made by Labour senators of a number of economic matters but only minor criticism of the main provisions of the bill. I invite the Senate to consider the proposition of withdrawing the bill altogether with a view to the Commonwealth completely vacating the field of compulsory arbitration. Would such a proposition satisfy honorable senators opposite? I do not think ii would.
– What about fixing the currency ?
– I am dealing with the bill. Let us examine thi complete vacuum that would be created if the Commonwealth went right out of the field of compulsory arbitration. It may be interesting to the Senate to recall the fate of a Prime Minister who made that proposal. The Prime Minister was Mr. Bruce and he made the proposal in 1929. At that time considerable agitation and learned discussion had taken place on the question of whether the Commonwealth should vacate the field of compulsory arbitration. It is interesting to recall that hi that year the Royal Commission on the Constitution rather favoured the Commonwealth vacating the arbitration field. Briefly, the royal commission said -
We do not recommend that the Commonwealth Parliament he empowered to legislate with respect to industrial matters generally. f.n our opinion, the masons which may he urged against the abolition of the Federal and the establishment of n unitary system in Australia may be urged against the transfer of this power to the Commonwealth. In our opinion, industrial legislation should be regarded as a function of the States.
Despite the report of that learned commission, the electorate in 1929 demonstrated its wishes in the matter by soundly defeating the Bruce Government when it went to the polls on that issue. In fact, Mr. Bruce, who, prior to the election, appeared to be in an unassailable position in his own electorate, was defeated. Nothing comparable to his defeat had happened before and has not happened since in the political history of the Commonwealth - a Prime Minister being defeated in his own electorate. The people of Australia clearly showed then, and possibly would clearly show to-day, that they regard compulsory arbitration as the right function of the Commonwealth. Therefore, it is not possible for the Commonwealth to vacate the industrial arbitration field or withdraw this bill and allow control of industrial matters to be taken exclusively by the States. After all, Australia has progressed enormously, and even since 1929 the industrialization of this country has gone on apace.
I agree with comments made by honorable senators on both sides as to the necessity for earnest consideration to be given to the introduction of a uniform arbitration system. At the present time it is well known, and there is no need for me to stress the fact, that frequently a federal award is set off against a State award, and vice versa. I suggest that scope exists for improvement in that respect. Dealing still with the question of scope for improvement, attention needs to be paid to the whole question of compulsory arbitration or the establishment of a process of direct negotiation. If direct negotiation were ever to be introduced many years of careful preparation would be needed before such a system could operate successfully. So, at the present moment, we are faced with the necessity of dealing with this legislation at once, and deal with it we shall.
Let us now examine the bill that is before us. I agree with the necessity to create the Commonwealth Industrial Court and I welcome the opportunity that is being afforded to some of the present judges of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration to become judges of the new court. I think also that the arrangement to create a conciliation and arbitration commission, comprised of both presidential and lay members, is satisfactory, and I shall say nothing further about that at this stage. However, I wish to comment in favour of the creation of conciliators. Over the years I have had some experience in legal matters and my experience is that a small percentage only of litigious matters ever bornes to the court in a well-regulated community. The secret, of course, is that solicitors practising in the country or capital cities have a very honorable habit of seeking to settle cases rather than take them to court. The negotiations for settlement are carried on under a system known in the legal sphere as “without prejudice “. The principle of this system is that one solicitor will submit a “without prejudice “ offer to the other. The distinct understanding, expressed in simple language, is that not a word of that suggested offer is allowed to be breathed in subsequent litigation if the offer fails. Tn other words, a genuine attempt is made to settle and no embarrassment is created if the settlement does not eventuate.
The great strength of the contemplated system of conciliators lies in the fact that the conciliators, if conciliation fails, will not then have to deal with the dispute in a full-dress way. The Minister in designing this bill and bringing it forward has done a service to the community by creating such a system of conciliators. Good judgment has been shown in that matter. I might mention that in South Australia an attempt was made, about 20 or 30 years ago, to clothe special magistrates with the power of conciliation. That power has rarely been used because the parties feel that if they fail to arrive at a settlement in the magistrate’s chambers, he will be the person who will deal with their case in open court and he will thus have some knowledge of their attempts at settlement. From my experience and observation of the South Australian law in the broad sense, I would say that the Government has shown great wisdom in keeping conciliators distinct from arbitrators. I hope that it will work out in the way which I expect. I mention, in passing, a comment I made concerning the report of the Select Committee on Canberra recently, because I can link it with arbitration. The committee in its wisdom recommended that the headquarters of the Conciliation and Arbitration Court should be established in the federal capital, but I say now, as I said then, that that would be wrong. In this most intimate process of conciliation and arbitration, the court should exercise its main functions at a place as close as possible to the place where the disputes are likely to occur; consequently either of the capital cities of Melbourne or Sydney would be the most desirable place for the head-quarters of the important organization envisaged in this bill.
– Rubbish! The honorable senator does not know what he is talking about.
– My friend, who is reading a newspaper, probably knows a great deal less about this matter than I. do. I wish to state in a simple way the advantages which will accrue from this legislation. It will provide definitely more flexible arrangements for hearings. To the dismay of honorable senators on this side of the House, under the present arbitration court machinery which this measure contemplates changing, long delays in hearings have occurred. With the division of functions as detailed in the hill, there will be a better chance of speedier hearings. Arbitrators and conciliators will be more readily available than under the present system. It is most important that penalities, if they have to be applied, should be enforced by a tribunal other than the one which has arbitrated in the case. I know that under a recent High Court judgment that must be so, unless that judgment is upset on appeal.
Honorable senators opposite have directed the main force of their speeches against the proposed sanctions. A court must have some authority or sanction to uphold its decisions, or another court must be empowered to do so. The Minister, in his second-reading speech, directed attention to the fact that a recent gallup poll on the question of whether the people approved these proposed sanctions disclosed that 71 persons out of 85 favoured them and fourteen opposed them. That showed that a broad stratum of Australian people favoured sanctions in such a matter as this. It should be remembered that all State arbitration or industrial courts have a most elaborate system of sanctions. I was interested to learn that in Queensland, on the 6th April last, Mr. R. J. Bukowski, the State president of the Australian Workers Union, and Mr. H. Boland, the State secretary of that organization, were each fined £100 by the Queensland Industrial Court. That tribunal was established by the Queensland Government, which has been Labour since about 1932, and apart from three’ years prior to that year, had been Labour for ten or fifteen years before that. The Labour Government of Queensland has seen fit to provide sanctions of a very considerable nature - not merely a fine of £5 or £10, but, in this case, a fine of £100. The contravention for which these two men were fined was of an order of the court restraining the union, its officers or members, from influencing members of the Australian Workers Union employed in the shearing industry to take part in or conduct an unauthorized strike. If it is good enough for the State Labour Government of Queensland to impose sanctions of a rather severe nature, as «« done in this case, there is surely warrant for sanctions to be included in this legislation. In 1947. the Commonwealth Attorney-General of the day, the present Leader of the Opposition in another place (Dr. Evatt), who drafted most important amendments to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, created the Commonwealth
Arbitration Court as a court of superior record and clothed it with most explicit power to commit for contempt. That provision was supported by a number of the senators now sitting in opposition, so that they are now rather late in complaining about the sanctions contained in the present measure. Would they not object if there were no sanctions? How would they react if sanctions were withdrawn? They would say that the Government had not the courage to provide sanctions to deal with breaches of the arbitration law.
Normally, people who do not break the law do not react badly to the inclusion of sanctions in the law. It is generally recognized that the best police officers in any community are not those who make arrests or bring many offenders before the magistrates, but those who are just and whom the public know will be diligent in enforcing observance of the law. The best police officers are those who, having the law on their side, do not necessarily use it. They see to it that the people are law-abiding. Thi’ people know there is justice in the law and that a just interpretation is given to it by the police officers. Consequently, I cannot understand the wingeing of honorable senators opposite in relation to penalties and sanctions in this measure. If people abide by the law they will not be penalized by it. If Mr. Bukowski and his colleague had not broken the law they would not have been fined £100 by the Queensland Industrial Court. That appears to be the answer to the points raised on this subject by honorable senators opposite.
Sitting suspended from 545 to S p.m.
– I shall now deal with the question of legal representation before the new judicial tribunals which will be set up under this bill. I express some regret that on the face of it there appears to be less use being made of legal assistance in matters before industrial tribunals to be established under the measure than there has been in the past. In the majority of cases I suggest that legal representation enables a more precise presentation to the court, and ultimately saves money in legal fees, witnesses’ fees and the time occupied by the courts. However, I have been encouraged by the fact that the measure will permit the arbitral bodies to recommend the appointment of lawyers to argue cases.
Of course there is no doubt at all about cases on the industrial court level itself, because there matters would be argued by lawyers. However, in proceedings before the commission the consent of the parties and the approval of the tribunal must be obtained before legal representation is allowed. If the consent of all the parties is not forthcoming, the commission itself may approve of the attendance of counsel if, in its opinion, the case warrants such an attendance. As the Minister said in his second-reading speech, in the judgment of the Government the provisions in the bill should cover all reasonable requirements.
One reason why I should be sorry to see a lessening of the practice of the law before these tribunals is that such practice provides training for men who, at a later date, may be appointed as judges of the tribunals. So I am glad that the Government in its wisdom has definitely provided for legal representation in certain matters, and made it possible in others. I suggest that it would be a very bad day for our industrial arbitration system if persons untrained in the special industrial jurisdiction were to be called upon to become judges.
I was much interested in the remark made by an honorable senator - Senator Hendrickson, I think - to the effect that the recent High Court decision in the Boilermakers** case had upset a certain amount of the law which the present Government had written into the arbitration system. Honorable senators should remember that the decision in the *Boiler.makers case has upset law that has been in existence since 1904, and it dealt a particularly heavy blow at certain of the 1947 amendments to the arbitration law which were inserted by Dr. Evatt when he wa; Attorney-General.
I now desire to deal shortly with the amendments put forward bv Senator MeKenna at the begiinning 0f hi speech in the second-reading debate. His first complaint was that the bill confirms rank injustice by continuing some of the worst features of the existing legislation, for example, penalties enforceable by process for contempt of court. As I have explained to the Senate before, some of these penalties were written into the legislation in 1947 by the then Attorney-General of the Commonwealth, Dr. Evatt, and it is most interesting to me to see that the first part of the amendments put forward by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) amounts to a complaint about the very things that a Labour government put into the arbitration law.
Senator McKenna complained, secondly, that the bill maintains and extends the present systems of appeal from decisions and reference of matters. It is very interesting to see the Opposition object to an appeal being made from one court to another. When the High Court gave a decision against the then Labour Attorney-General in the Banking case, in about the year 1947, it was that very Attorney-General who went hot-foot to the Privy Council to appeal against the decision. At that time the Labour party was all in favour of appeals, because it suited its plan for nationalization; but now the Labour party is against appeals on points of law with regard to arbitration matters.
I pass now to the third complaint of the Leader of the Opposition, which is embodied in the amendments he put before the Senate. He said that the judicial power of the Commonwealth, so far as it is required to be exercised in industrial matters, should be vested in the existing courts of the Commonwealth and State and not in a newly-created court of judicature. So the Opposition expects the existing courts of the Commonwealth and States to deal with these matters. Let us examine the existing courts of the Commonwealth which could deal with these, industrial matters. The only federal ono that I know of is the High Court itself. Do honorable senators opposite want all questions of punishment to go to the High Court, a court that meets occasionally in Melbourne, sometimes in Sydney, and then in Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide and Hobart ns required? Is that the Opposition’s idea of a convenient court? Surely the Opposition does not intend to convey that the High Court should be the only court required to deal with these important matters?
Let us now consider the existing State courts. What State courts are there? Well, there are, first, the State supreme courts, but they are fully occupied with the important civil, criminal and divorce work of the States. Those courts are already cluttered up with that litigation at the State level. Does the Opposition want to add more work to the work of those State courts? Below the level of the State supreme courts there are county courts and magistrates courts. Surely it is not the intention of the Opposition that important industrial matters should be dealt with by magistrates and county court judges, who could not possibly be expected to have the necessary training to equip them to deal with such matters. I think that the amendment cannot possibly be accepted, and the only thing to be done is to set up a special federal court as is contemplated by this measure.
Now I desire to pass to what may be called the positive reasons for the Opposition’s amendments. In the second subparagraph of these reasons the Leader of the Opposition indicated what he considered the amended bill should provide for. He said that the bill should contain special provisions for strengthening the processes of conciliation, including the appointment of additional conciliators charged exclusively with the function of conciliation. Well, I cannot see much difference between that suggestion and the contents of the bill before u.= which relate to conciliation.
The fourth sub-paragraph of the positive reasons for the Leader of the Opposition’s amendments intrigued mp immensely. It relates to the correction of irregularities in union ballots by judicial procedures in accordance with the act of 1949. That is where I cross swords with the Opposition. To accept its amendment , would be to re-introduce the chaos which raged everywhere in Australia about the year 1949. At thai time, high union offices were filled according tn the whims nf the Communist type of union bosses. It was not. until the 1951 legislation was passed that the rightful occupants of leading union position0 were re-installed in their offices. As my colleague and friend, Senator Wright, indicated, the 1951 amendments providing for the proper court control of ballots met with the approval of Mr. Justice Dunphy in the reports he furnished to the Parliament from time to time. I repeat that it would be a seriously retro.grade step to revert to the 1949 method of conducting union ballots. This bill is one worthy of the approval of the Senate whilst the amendments put forward and foreshadowed by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) are not worthy of either the consideration or approval of this chamber.
– This legislation can have a great effect upon the community either for good or for evil. There is no other field of law comparable with that of conciliation and arbitration in industry. The ethics of arbitration and conciliation have sprung from ‘a desire on the part of both sides of politics and certainly both sides of industry to obtain some means of achieving the most equitable settlement of disputes which must inevitably arise in industry. In the days when arbitration was most effective, it was administered in the main by a court of equity as well as law. Both parties submitted to it matters in which they were in disagreement and the court settled the differences with the least possible application of legal formulae. Over the years, our arbitration laws have become very involved and vastly different from the original enactments which provided mainly for the laying down of awards and industrial agreements prescribing minimum rates of wages and conditions of employment for workers. In the main, the employers, as parties to those various awards and agreements, have adhered to them over the years, as have the workers. With the passage of time, we have developed a complex set of laws relating to industrial arbitration and conciliation. We have now reached a stage at which nobody can -ay dogmatically that the passing of laws prescribing sanctions against workers or employers for disobeying awards or directions of the court will lead to industrial peace, harmony and good feeling in industry. The more we avoid legal processes, the more tolerant we are in the imposition of sanctions and penalties In connexion with industrial awards, agreements and determinations of industrial bodies, the more hope we shall have of maintaining industrial peace and arriving at some amicable understanding on the basis of which both employer and employee will work in that harmony which both sides of this chamber desire to see.
We are now dealing with that section of arbitration laws relating to the Commonwealth’s powers. In my view, the Government is attempting to go beyond its constitutional power, although this may be due solely to its anxiety to ensure industrial peace in the community. Under placitum xxxiv, section 51 of the Commonwealth Constitution, the Commonwealth Parliament is empowered to make laws in respect of conciliation and arbitration for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes extending beyond the limits of one State. This Parliament has made such laws. They are contained in the Conciliation and Arbitration Act which has been amended from time to time and which is under review at the moment. The act provides that where a State award or determination is inconsistent with an award issued by the Commonwealth authority, the latter shall prevail. The Commonwealth court can also restrain a. State authority from proceeding hi a matter already covered or being dealt with by the Commonwealth authority.
The Commonwealth powers were widened considerably and given more general application to Australian industry during the war period. During that time, the tolerance displayed by both employer and employee under the powers invoked by the Labour government of the day enabled us to enjoy industrial peace together with high production from a depleted labour pool. There were very few industrial disputes of long duration. During the period between 1939 and 1945, the powers of the court were considerably enlarged under national security industrial peace regulations to secure an early settlement of industrial disputes. The Defence Transition (Residual Provisions) Act of 1952 provides for the continuance of awards, orders, determinations and decisions made under the national security regulations unless revoked by the Commonwealth or State industrial authorities.
– That was under the Defence Transition (Residual Provisions) Act.
– Yes, and the powers that were invoked by Labour during that period were very effective and, in the main, very well received by all parties concerned with arbitration. By approximately 1952, the Commonwealth Government found it necessary to cast off many of the defence powers it had taken unto itself. At the earliest possible moment, Labour’s act of 1945 was re-invoked in order to retain industrial peace throughout the critical postwar rehabilitation period. The present state of confusion is due largely to the fact that when the Labour government was defeated all those things which it had done to give equity to the workers in industry were abolished. Not only did the Government lose certain powers because of war-time legislation becoming invalid, but the people rejected in referendums the suggestion that the Government should be clothed with powers to fix prices, rents and other charges. The situation then arose in which workers were compelled to work for wages, and under conditions, fixed by an arbitration authority, while prices were allowed to rise unchecked. At the present time, the Commonwealth Arbitration Court has the power to fix the price of the only commodity that the working man has to sell, which is his labour, and it fixes that price at the minimum. At the same time, no attempt is made to fix the prices of commodities and services for which a worker has to pay in order to live.
Industrial unrest has now reached such proportions that the Government is embarrassed, and is finding increasing difficulty in handling the situation. I have had a considerable amount of experience of industrial disputes. I was chairman of the Western Australian State Disputes Committee from the time when the late Mr. John Curtin became Prime
Minister until I entered this Senate, and I can tell the Government that, no matter how much pressure it puts upon workers, no industrial dispute will be settled except by the processes of negotiation and conciliation, with no threats being made by either party. I doubt whether the legislation that the Government has introduced will achieve any degree of industrial peace.
I return now to a comment that I made earlier, that the power of the Commonwealth in industrial matters is restricted to disputes extending beyond the borders of any one State. In my opinion, a Commonwealth industrial authority should not intrude in matters that do not concern more than one State. While this legislation provides for Commonwealth industrial machinery, we must remember that there are industrial authorities in each of the States. The Australian Government has been responsible for the enactment of a number of laws affecting industrial relations. There are the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act, the Public Service Arbitration Act, the Coal Industry Act, the Stevedoring Industry Act, the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Power Act and the Navigation Act, all of which will be amended to accord with the provisions of this legislation that we are considering. However, I invite honorable senators to consider the attitude and the powers of the States in relation to arbitration - and I may say that the States have mighty powers in this regard. I think that if the States decided to challenge the intrusion of the Commonwealth into industrial matters that concern the States only, they would have a reasonable chance of success. If this Government tries to interfere in industrial matters that are within the spheres of the States, it will be courting serious trouble. The vast majority of workers in Australia are covered by State awards, and enjoy the superior conditions afforded by those awards. Industrial legislation m force in New South Wales includes the Industrial Arbitration Act 1940-1953 and the Coal Industry Act 1946- 1951. In Victoria, there is the Factories and Shops Act 1948-1953, in Queensland, the Industrial Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1932-1953, in South Australia, the Industrial Code, in Western Australia, the Industrial Arbitration Act 1912-1955 and the Mining Act 1904-1952, and in Tasmania, the Tasmanian Wages Board Act 1920-1951. The vast majority of Australian workers are controlled by those various pieces of legislation.
In the period leading up to the economic depression of the 1930’s, when the Prime Minister of Australia said that he did not agree with arbitration, Commonwealth arbitration legislation and the decisions of Commonwealth arbitration authorities became so repugnant to the workers that the vast majority of them cast off the Commonwealth system, ensured that they could not be cited in the Commonwealth court, and secured industrial awards in the State courts. They have since then remained under State control for industrial purposes, and most of them desire to continue to remain there.
If this Government makes its arbitration legislation offensive to the trade unions and their members, the unions will revolt against the Commonwealth system. Workers who are not in the service of the Commonwealth Government will find some way of gaining the security of a State award. Unfortunately, however, there are Commonwealth public servants and others who cannot evade the industrial policy of this Government or the decisions made by the Commonwealth arbitration authorities at the suggestion of the Government. Those persons have suffered immeasurably. Their conditions have remained unaltered over the years, and when they were granted some relief by the Public Service Arbitrator the Government took the shameful course of appealing to the Arbitration Court. I hope the Government does not intend, by the use of the sanctions and penal provisions contained in this legislation, to try to force other sections of industry operating under Commonwealth awards into the same position as has been forced on Commonwealth public servants. If that is the Government’s intention, it is very foolish, because the great loss to the national economy caused by industrial disputes cannot be com puted. Therefore, I say that great caution should be exercised in relation to legislation of this kind.
To illustrate happenings that we on this side of the chamber believe to be wrong and socially unjust, I cite the case of the intervention of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, moving on its own authority, to prevent the passing on of increments in the basic wage, although those increments were due to the workers and had been calculated according to a mathematical formula and statistics. It had been determined that the base worker under each award was entitled to those increments by way of quarterly adjustments of the basic wage, but the workers were deprived of those increments because the Commonwealth Arbitration Court intruded.
I turn now to the seventh annual report of the Chief Judge of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, and I note that the members of the court themselves were in some doubt about the legality of the matter. It was a matter of argument whether they could interfere with awards which operated under the Commonwealth act and which had been achieved after years of struggle, awards which had written into them the right of workers to enjoy without question the rise and fall of the basic wage, as determined statistically and announced by the court quarter by quarter. That right was not easily gained. As each small section of industry succeeded in gaining it, other sections fought for it, until it became the general rule. Nobody can question the justice of an award which incorporates those conditions. Nevertheless, the court took the action that I have described. The Chief Judge, in the report to which I have referred, stated -
Following upon the decision of the Arbitration Court in the Basic Wage and Standard Hours case, which was a combined hearing of a number of disputes and applications for variation of awards - a decision to eliminate from current and new awards provisions pre scribing automatic adjustments of the basic wage portion of minimum rates of pay in accordance with retail price fluctuations - the Court had brought before it by its own motion for variation a large number of other awards not the subject of the aforesaid combined hearing. It did not wait for- applications foi variation orders to be made. Its purpose -wa? to bring all its current awards into conformity by cancelling the adjustment provisions thereof.
This has been one of the basic causes of wide industrial unrest and dissatisfaction. Let me analyse the injustice of the matter. There was no dispute. The employer was not quarrelling with the employee. The employee was performing his work satisfactorily, and although there was unchallengeable social justice on his side, the court, acting on its own motion, stepped in and said to him. “We are. going to cancel that provision without argument and without question “. For what reason ? Because a political atmosphere had been created to make it possible to say, economically, that something had to be adjusted. Of course there was no adjustment of profits, no action in relation to the profit-making section of the community. Instead, the base rate of the worker was altered, without argument, by a court in which the worker had been told to have confidence and to which he had been told he could go to ask for just conditions, lt is understandable, therefore, that the worker was very disappointed with that decision, and that industrial unrest followed.
The report of the Chief Judge continued -
Thereupon orders nisi for the prohibition were obtained in the High Court by certain organizations which claimed that there was no jurisdiction to make the variation orders in the absence of any disagreement between the parties bound by the awards concerning the continuance of the adjustment clauses. The ultimate reason submitted before the High Court, on the return of the orders nisi, for the prosecutors’ denial of the jurisdiction of the Arbitration Court was, as Dixon G.J. put it, that no industrial dispute existed at the relevant time for the settlement of which the order of variation could be made. It was argued that the absence of any difference or dispute upon the question of basic wage adjustments made it impossible to justify the proposed variation as lying within the constitutional purpose, mainly, arbitration for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes. Further it was claimed that the word? “’ for any reason “, appearing in section 40 of the Arbitration Act which confers the power to vary, could nut bc construed literally, but that their construction must be restricted to the purpose of preventing or settling industrial disputes. . The express or implied agreement of the parties, so it was said, had withdrawn the subject of the basic wage adjustment from the area of dispute as it might have existed before the original awards were made.
The report then referred to the case of Reg. v. Blackburn, which is reported al folio 835 of the Australian Law Report.* It went on -
The High Court held that the orders of variation were within the power of the Arbitration Court. In the first place, it wa3 decided thai the power conferred by section 49 applied equally to awards still in their specified period of operation as to those continuing in operation by virtue of section 48, sub-section (2) of the Act. Secondly, it held that the reason for reviewing or revising the terms of an award may be found in changing circumstanceas well as in a re-consideration of the wisdom or expediency of the provision independently of any changes brought by time.
Thirdly, pointing out that the provision i.valid which continues the operation of an award after the expiry of its fixed term, it held that it follows that the Arbitration Conn may be empowered to vary the terms of an award in order to give it a reasonable appplication to altered conditions.
Said Dixon C.J., with whom Fullagar and Kitto JJ. agreed in terms (other members of the Court, Webb and Taylor JJ. agreeing in the result in separate judgments) - “ It must be incidental to the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes by arbitration to empower the arbitral tribunal to vary a.ny of its awards so long as it is in operation, not only to correct or improve .upon the conditions it contains independently of change of circumstances but also to meet altered conditions “. “ It is true “, he went on to say, “ that the power must be exercised in respect of the subject constitutionally described as conciliation and arbitration for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes. But that subject includes all that is incidental thereto, and to maintain a settlement made by award of an industrial dispute in an expedient and satisfactory form adjusted to changed conditions must be incidental to the subject”.
Those statements, as I have said, come from the report of the Chief Judge of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court and relate to the Basic Wage and Standard Hours case. We find, therefore, that an absolutely different conception of arbitration and conciliation has been brought about by the decision of the court. In effect, it has placed in the hands of our arbitration authority the right, although no dispute exists, to interpret the economic conditions of the country and to move, on its own motion, to lower the conditions of the workers. That is a matter that we must consider very carefully.
– Those are dictatorial powers.
– As Senator O’Flaherty says, those are dictatorial powers. We have strayed far in the matter of conciliation and arbitration since those days. The Arbitration Court is now taking to itself authority to interpret the economic position of this country, just as the High Court and the supreme courts interpret statute and common law. That is wrong. At this stage, the court ceases to be an arbitrary or a conciliatory body. The court, acting on its own authority, will be able to move the court and, although there is no dispute, the court could proceed to vary wages in order to lower the conditions of persons who are working under awards issued by the court.
– How could the court make an award without considering the state of the economy?
– It could do so and, in fact, it has done so. The report of the Chief Judge continues -
Fourthly, whilst pointing out that the limits set by the scope and nature of the original industrial dispute cannot be transcended, the judgment went on to say that “ it would be absurd to suppose that the arbitral tribunal was to proceed blindly in its work of industrial arbitration and ignore the social and economic consequences of what it was invited to do or of what, subject to the power of variation, it had actually done”.
– Does the honorable senator dispute that?
– Senator Wright is interjecting again. A moment ago, he asked how the court could make an award withe u considering the state of the economy. I remind him that the court’s decision applied to every worker under its awards, irrespective of whether he worked for General Motors-Holden’s Limited, the big motor car manufacturing company which is making immense profits, or a local governing authority or railway service that was operating at a huge loss. Therefore, the court’s decision was not based on the ability of industry to pay, and there was a blanket application of the decision in order to cut down the conditions of workers in industry.
– That is not right.
– It is right. The decision applied equally to the Public Service, and no appeal from it was allowable. If this bill becomes law, the court could, by its own action, and without the existence of a dispute, interpret the state of the economy in a certain way, and then step in and break down conditions to obtain which the workers had fought hard and spent a considerable sum of money. Although the workers were justly entitled to those conditions, the court could, without hearing evidence, vary them to the disadvantage of the workers.
It has been my experience in the industrial field that, in a period of rising costs, when a trade union applies to the court for better conditions that it considers the industry can afford to provide, the operation of the arbitration machinery is very slow. Yet, in this instance, when it has been determined that the conditions of the workers should be broken down, the process was completed by the stroke of a pen. This time, the conditions of the workers are being broken down during a period of comparative prosperity, but we have vivid recollections of the same thing being done during the depression of the ‘thirties. I am not endeavouring to make political capital out of this matter, because it is far too serious a subject for that. On the occasion to which I have referred, the wages and salaries of the workers were cut by 22$ per cent.
– The Arbitration Court did not impose a cut of 22-£ per cent.; it was 10 per cent.
– The cut was applied after the State Premiers discussed the matter. Subsequently, the court applied the cut to its awards. In due course, the court ultimately wrote down the awards in which I was interested in Western Australia by applying the 22$ per cent, cut that was agreed to at that time. It is idle for honorable senators opposite to argue to the contrary. The workers who were affected by that cut did not recover their former conditions until the outbreak of World War II. The unions had to fight their way back. I consider that it is wrong of the Government to try to make of the Arbitration Court, not a court of equity - that kind of court is going out - but a court of law, and a court which has authority to interpret the state of the economy from time to time when considering applications from industry. I think that it is wrong of the Government to establish an Industrial Court, and vest it with power to impose penalties on any section of industry which uses such weapons as are at its disposal in order to direct attention to injustices. Some honorable senators opposite have stated that Labour is opposed to sanctions. That is not so. But there should not be a hotch-potch arrangement in relation to sanctions, and the position should not be so confused that arbitration law authorities would deal with points of law associated with conciliation and arbitration and the imposition of sanctions and penalties, against which no appeal can be made after the arbitral cum judicial authority established under this act has made its decision in relation to the matter.
– I thought that the honorable senator objected to appeals being permissible.
– Senator Wright has raised the subject of appeals. When Senator Laught was addressing the chamber, be referred to appeals to various tribunals against decisions on common law. He tried to create the impression that there was an analogy between those appeals and arbitration appeals. They cannot be compared. The honorable senator referred to the cost of administering an estate, and of endeavouring to recover money to which it was considered the estate was legally entitled. I remind him that, while the legal processes are taking place, the industry with which the estate is associated, continues. On the other hand, if the employers appeal against an award that confers certain benefits on the workers, those benefits are withheld until the appeal is decided, and the workers pay dearly because of the delay. The popular cry of persons who n-p opposed to trade unionism is that the workers in certain industries revel in -inking. I have seen nien on strike and 1 know that they suffer considerably because of lack of wages. Their families are on the breadline and committees have to be set up to supply them with bread and meat. It is no holiday for the workers, but a real sacrifice, made in an attempt to obtain proper conditions for themselves and other workers who join shoulders with them in protecting working conditions in this country. To apply sanctions and adopt punitive measures to force workers back to work is the greatest mistake that a Government can make. There is only one way to get them back to work and that is not by threats but by conciliation and by giving them a. just hearing of their claims. Then, if there is to be an appeal, industry must be kept moving. A position must not arise as arose when the Castieau award was made. In that instance the Government appealed in order to prevent the workers from gaining that increase. The matter dragged on month after month with the result - the whole thing being sub judice - that the workers had to wait eighteen months for their increase.
That sort of thing is unjustifiable. I can remember when arbitration was arbitration and not a mixture of arbitration and punitive threats. A union went to the court with a log of claims. It was slow enough, goodness knows, to get a log of claims heard and determined and it was a hard job for the advocates of the unions and the employees. However, when the award was made it remained in operation for a reasonable period and nobody wished to appeal against it. The court gave no encouragement for the repeal of the* award during the term of its currency unless something serious happened. What happens now, with workers living in an economy of rising costs, is that a union lodges a claim that will provide the workers with reasonable conditions at the time it is lodged. Then the union has to wait perhaps eighteen months to get a hearing in the court, and when its claim is heard, it is so much out of date that if is necessary to lodge an appeal against it. That is the situation that exists and the only remedy that the worker has is to stop work in industry. That is his only weapon. When a strike occurs there is a general rush to see that industry resumes. The activity is not because of the injustice the workers are suffering but because of the danger to the economy and embarrassment to the employers. Only after action like that is taken, are the employers prepared to pay a just wage.
I think that a mistake has been made in this legislation in not making more provision for conciliation. Conciliation is an easy matter. I can remember the time when the economy of this nation was stable. In those days a log of claims would he submitted to an employer by a union representative. The first action taken was always conciliation. In those days it was called a “ settlement of issues”. The employer and the union advocate both had a log of claims. The employer would consider the items in the union’s log and in regard to a particular item might say, “ I think that is reasonable, I will agree to that “. In the same way the union advocate would agree to matters raised by the employer. In that way the log of claims was dealt with and sometimes agreement was reached on all matters in dispute. If any matters remained on which agreement could not be reached they were then referred to the. court. That system has now gone by the board.
One good reason why it has gone by the board is because of the state of the economy with wages continually chasing prices. The longer the determination of a claim can be delayed the longer the worker is prevented from getting a legitimate increase in his wages. If, as every responsible worker in industry wants to do, he continues at his work and keeps industry going, the delay in the hearing of his claim goes on and on. I have previously mentioned in this Senate that delays in the hearing of claims have ranged from five years to eighteen months. During that time the workers concerned have kept on working.
However, what happens when there is a stoppage on the waterfront. It is not the good advocacy of the Waterside Workers Federation’s advocate, Jim Healy, that obtains for the waterside workers beneficial treatment from the Government. The moment they stop working the Government wants to know the reason and inquires what they want. It abuses them, but still they get results. If the Government wants peace in industry it can obtain it, not by making arbitration more complex and slower in its action but by dealing more directly with troubles that arise and allowing the workers to continue in industry. At present they are forced by obstruction in the arbitration machinery to stop work in order to have their dispute heard. The present arbitration machinery is much more complicated than it was in the days of which Senator O’Flaherty told us that a union could take a case to the court for a cost of not more than £30. The court would hear the evidence and make its determination upon the evidence placed before it. Under this proposal arbitration will be not only cumbersome but also unbearably expensive to the trade unions. I have no quarrel with the legal fraternity, but I say to Senator Laught that one of the biggest legal battles in arbitration was the basic hours and wages case. The hearing went on interminably. In that instance the lawyers probably got the best bit of bunce they ever got and they get some choice pieces. But the worst feature of that case was that law-abiding workers, with confidence in arbitration, had to wait for years and years for a decision. When the decision was given it was clear to those who have a properly trained industrial mind that it could have been arrived at in three or four weeks.
The Minister in his second-reading speech, said that in this bill, legal formalities are being removed. All that really means is that the legal fraternity will take off their wigs, and I do not think they are one whit different with their wigs on or off. Half of them always lose, anyway. If there is a solicitor on one side and another solicitor on the other, half the number will always be wrong. So, they are not such intelligent people. In an arbitration court of equity where the conditions of workers are to be determined, there is no need at all for legal representation.
– The honorable senator, as the discoverer of that truism, ought to rank with Einstein.
– If I were as clever as Senator Wright, I should be embarrassed, because the honorable senator has told me, many times and often, of his great capacity, and I bow to it. The position has now been reached when matters for arbitration can be settled in a court of equity, and there is no need for the intrusion of legal luminaries into the Arbitration Court. The judges, and those who preside in the Arbitration Court, have available to them the best legal knowledge and the cost of obtaining this should be provided for in the act. Claims for industrial awards by workers should not be so expensive that the smaller unions cannot afford the luxury of approaching the court.
I refer the Senate to the set-up of the arbitration authority in Western Australia. It consists of an arbitration court, industrial boards, conciliation committees and conciliation commissioners. Employers and employees are equally represented on board’s and committees. The Arbitration Court consists of a judge of the Supreme Court and two members. Commissioners may be appointed by the Minister for the settlement of particular disputes. Legal control dates back to 1900. No legal luminaries go into that court, but the advocates of the unions can go in and submit their log of claims and their evidence. There has been less congestion in that court than in any other arbitration tribunal in Australia. Western Australia also has a wonderful record for industrial peace, and of all the States has lost the least number of days through industrial disputes.
If a union wants an instruction on law it consults a Queen’s Counsel, and pays for his services. It then submits his opinion to the court to vindicate its arguments. If the court needs a direction on law it has the Crown Law Department and other authorities from which to obtain advice. This system removes from the processes of arbitration all that dead wood and excessive expenditure which is entailed in bringing highly qualified legal practitioners into the court to argue points of law, whereas the point in dispute is one of equity and of an industrial character. I say, sincerely, that the more arbitration becomes entangled with the law, and the more that authorities incline to the view that they should settle industrial disputes by punitive methods, the deeper will industry sink into the morass of disaffection between employer and employee and the heavier will be the loss to the nation through industrial stoppages and disputes.
The Government has had something to say about intervention in the public interest. This is not a new provision in arbitration legislation. It has been in the Western Australian act ever since it was written and became law, but it has been very jealously guarded and carefully used. Government senators have suggested the manner in which the Arbitration Court should move in the public interest, but their suggestions would prostitute the principle. They seem to think that the court can move in the public interest merely by stepping in and, without hearing evidence, saying thai, conditions shall be reduced or improved; or it may move on information supplied to it, or even by forming its opinion in an industrial atmosphere such as exists at the present time. They suggest that it may act without being moved by either employer or employee, but such a procedure would be entirely wrong.
I was pleased to be associated with one case - and probably the only one in Western Australia - in which the court was moved in the public interest. Western Australian representatives know of a railway tunnel in that State called the Swan View tunnel, which was built some time before the beginning of this century. It is too small to accommodate engines and rolling-stock of more recent design such as were operating in 1945. As a consequence, when trains passed through that tunnel the displacement of air created an air-lock behind the engine, and on occasions engine-drivers collapsed, and one died on the footplate. I was chairman of the State Disputes Committee of Western Australia at the time, and that committee moved in the Arbitration Court for a ruling that engine-drivers shoud not drive certain classes of engines through that tunnel, because of the danger to their health. It was realized that if an engine-driver and fireman taking a passenger train through that tunnel were to collapse, and the train remained in the tunnel, the passengers could smother.
The Arbitration Court was not able to make a satisfactory order and I approached the State Attorney-General to move the court in the public interest. He would not take action until he had conferred with legal authorities, and eventually he and the court agreed that it was a case in which the court could move in the public interest. That action was not taken either by the court or by myself as an industrial advocate, but by the Crown Solicitor on behalf of the Attorney-General and the Government of the State. The court was asked to make an order to prohibit the driving of trains through this tunnel because of the risk to human life. The court granted the order, and a deviation was built to circumvent the Swan View tunnel, and although the cost was some thousands of pounds, that action was fully justified.
That is an illustration, of proper intervention by the court in the public interest, but it should not be a prerogative of the court itself to move in the public interest. Only the Attorney-General and the Government should move, so that there should be no improper use of this sacred principle in British law.
– Should not the Western Australian Railways Commissioner have taken action in that case?
– I will not argue that point. I am merely illustrating the only way in which, in my opinion, the court should move in the public interest. No authority in the community, no matter how highly placed, should take advantage of a democratic principle, and use it in an undemocratic way without reference to the people who, through their elected representatives in Parliament, have made laws to protect the public interest. If the provision in this measure is interpreted in the way that Government senators suggest, it will be a great weakness in the legislation.
There is much more about this measure that I should like to put before the Senate, but perhaps it would be more appropriate to have those matters mentioned by myself or my colleagues when the bill is in the committee stage. Like most other bills of great importance that have been introduced into this chamber, it has come to us rather late in the session - and I do not blame anybody for that - when time for consideration has almost been exhausted. In those circumstances, the bill is now before us and there is hardly sufficient time to discuss it properly. I hope that in this particular case the business of the Senate will be so arranged as to enable honorable senators on both the Government side and the Opposition side to deal thoroughly with all aspects of the measure.
We on this side of the chamber have a very deep interest in the matter of conciliation and arbitration. We believe that if we fail to lay down proper conditions for conciliation and arbitration so that full justice is given to the workers in industry, we shall be failing in our duty. Quite often workers strike - and I do not blame them because in most cases such strikes are justified - for better conditions or to have their grievances investigated. When thai occurs, the conciliation and arbitration machinery should be ready to go into action immediately in order to effect a settlement of the dispute without the necessity for a stoppage of industry. When a matter goes to arbitration it should be settled just as quickly, having in mind that conciliation between the parties is a prime necessity. If the parties desire to have a conciliator to help them, it should be possible for that conciliator to go into action as soon as possible.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid) .-Order ! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– As I understand the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) has another important matter to introduce into the Senate, I shall make my remarks on this measure very brief. This bill has been made necessary primarily because of the consequences that have flowed from the decision of the High Court in the Boilermakers case. It is not only necessary that a bill of this nature should be introduced into the Parliament, but I suggest that every responsible person will agree also that some measure is urgently required to fill the gap that has been created by the decision in the Boilermakers case. At the moment there is a very serious situation in this country, because the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration now has no power to enforce its own awards. Consequently, the Government has taken this opportunity, in effect, to reorganize the whole of the federal industrial organization and tribunals.
The Opposition has objected to the Government’s measure, and has, in fact, put forward amendments to it. However, the Opposition has joined issue with the Government on only one important provision of the bill, namely the penal provision. It is worth noting that the penal provisions of the new legislation are similar to those of the existing legislation.
I shall now deal with the provisions of the measure which are designed to reorganize our industrial tribunals. This measure will do one or two very important things. For example, it proposes to abolish much of the formality that exists in relation to industrial court proceedings. For my part, I have a certain amount of regret that this is being done. The relevant provisions are in clause 40 of the bill, and in his second-reading speech the Attorney-General said -
But it is questionable whether those forms and procedures, and that atmosphere, are wholly appropriate to the exercise of the arbitral function in industrial matters, more particularly when, as will bc the case in the future, the tribunal dealing with them exercises no judicial function whatsoever. The Government thinks it would be desirable that in the sittings of the commission there should be less of the atmosphere of a law court.
I accept that new provision with a certain amount of concern, and I remain to be convinced that the innovation so far as the federal industrial court proceedings are concerned, will succeed. The Government intends to change the name of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration to the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. I think that that is rather a pity. I believe that although the tribunal will not be carrying out a strict judicial function, it will still be a court, and will be trying issues of facts and on law, and of mixed facts and law. To that extent it is at least a quasi- judicial body. As such, I believe that it should still be called a court. However, the Government, in. its wisdom, has decided, to call it a commission.
Other formalities are to go by the board. We ha ve been told, although I can gather no really authentic information on this point, that the existing rules, practice and procedure in regard to hearings in the court will be abolished. The judges will cease to wear their wigs, and there will be a restriction on the use of counsel. All those are matters of formality which are to be dispensed with.
I suggest that the Minister’s secondreading speech is lacking in one respect. It is one thing to dispense with these formalities, but I think that in his reply to this debate the Minister might inform us what the Government expects to gain through dispensing with them. I assume that these innovations are being made first, to save time and, secondly, to try to encourage a less hostile spirit between litigants. I do not know that it will go as far as Mr. Healy calling Mr. Justice Dunphy “ Ted “ and Mr. Justice Dunphy calling Mr. Healy “ Jim “, but certainly many formalities are going by the board.
– Maybe it is to see how the legal profession look without their wigs.
– Perhaps Senator Cooke would look better with a wig. However, I hope that the AttorneyGeneral will tell the Senate what the Government expects to gain by dispensing with these formalities. We tried out informality in Western Australia a long time ago. We have no formality there in our industrial tribunal. That body is composed of one judge, one representative from the employer class and one from the employee class. Over in Western Australia we consider that justice may be best carried out with partisan representatives sitting on the bench. We have also abolished other formalities in that court, and I shall mention the significance of that later on.
In Western Australia we also have a workers’ compensation board. Again we have departed from the ordinary course, and we have a gentleman in charge of the court, one man sitting with him from the employers, and also an employees’ representative. Both the latter gentlemen are partisan, but they are attempting to dispense British justice from the bench. I believe that we are getting down to a low level in our State with regard to the dispensation of justice.
I am afraid that this bill has that tendency also. Again, we in “Western Australia have a licensing court which purports to dispense justice. My friend, the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge), laughs, and he might well do io, because that is an unfortunate court, f.t is merely a place for broken-down politicians and good party men. It is limited by no rules of procedure. It is merely obliged, to use a modern phrase, to be guided by “ equity and good conscience “ in arriving at its decisions. Over there, we also have a betting control board, which is another monstrosity that purports to dispense justice. All these things have been tried in our State, and they do not work. They produce a sort of rough justice when one might expect real justice; and in. other cases they provide even justice. Certainly, there is a great deal of delay in the hearing of complicated issues. There is a very good reason why we are now getting a good measure of rough justice, injustice and delay. It is because these courts find it most difficult to define the real issues. They find it most difficult to get the proper evidence before them. Further, as we have also dispensed with the need for counsel to appear, it is very difficult to get cases properly argued before some of those tribunals. That is why I suggest that we should have another look at this particular part of the bill. I make that suggestion because I am. afraid we shall, under this bill, permit to happen the same tragedies as have happened already in “Western Australia and for which we are sorry.
Perhaps matters such as the taking away of the judges’ robes are regarded as small things by some. I do not look upon them lightly myself. I think that the abolition of anything that tends to create an atmosphere of respect merits the most profound consideration. Perhaps, the Government will argue that the abolition of these formalities will obviate the delays that are so often apparent in the Arbitration Court’s proceedings, and I should like to say something about this question of delays. When one examines the facts one is not quite satisfied that the oft-heard accusations levelled at the Arbitration Court have any foundation. Here are the times taken for some of the important hearings. In 1946-47, the 40- hour week case took 126 sitting days. In 1950, the basic wage case took 122 days. The basic wage hearing of 1952 took 100 days whilst the big margins case of 1954 took only 23 sitting days. In 1956, the basic wage case just concluded, took 30 sitting days. They may seem long periods to the layman, but if we examine the facts, we must appreciate that they are not unduly long. Take the 1950 basic wage case as an example. That, was a case involving an increase of £658,000,000 in the wages bill of Australia. That is a lot of money in anybody’s country. If an ordinary civil case involving that amount, of money took 122 clays to hear, I do not think anybody would consider it unduly protracted In that context, it is not an unduly long time.
For the sake of argument, however, let us assume that it is an unnecessarily long time. The facts in this matter are that sub-section (3.) of section 36 of the present act provides -
The Court or the Conciliation Commissioner shall determine the periods which are reasonably necessary for the fair and adequate presentation of the respective cases of the partiesto the industrial dispute and require that those cases be presented within the respective periods so determined.
That places the responsibility upon the court to determine the time that shall be taken. I have taken the trouble to investigate this matter and I have found that on only one occasion did the court, endeavour to fix a time. That was in connexion with the 1956 basic wage case. The court imposed a time limit and both counsel for the employers and the employees objected to it one after the other. In the light of those circumstances, the situation is that although there is provision in the legislation for the court to fix the time, it has never yet been able to do so because the litigants have not been able to provide the necessary evidence within the time suggested. Is it contended by the Government that the absence of formality will help to shorten the time that will be needed to hear these cases? I do not think it can be contended successfully that the time will be shortened in those circumstances. If it is accepted that it takes too long to hear these cases, the records of the court will show that in no case has either side desired a quicker hearing. If either side had required a quicker hearing, the records would show that one counsel or the other endeavoured to invoke the provision to which I have referred. They show that in no case has counsel for cither the employer or the employee sought to have it invoked.
– Docs the honorable senator refer to the hearing of the application or to the abbreviation of the time of hearing?
– I am endeavouring to show that never has counsel for either the employer or the employee requested that the provision of sub-section (8.) of section 36 be invoked in these long cases. Whilst we might think that these periods are inordinately long, the parties have never yet tried to shorten them. I ask the Minister whether it is contended that because this measure seeks to abolish formalities that will have the effect of reducing the time of hearing.
I now refer to another aspect of this matter with which I am concerned. The measure preserves a practice that I think is the cause of a certain amount of confusion regarding the two functions of conciliation and of arbitration. The Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) said, in his second-reading speech -
Associated with the Commission will be conciliators. They will, as their name indicates, be expected to exercise a conciliation function. This is not to say that members of the commission, presidential or otherwise, will lack opportunity for conciliation.
In other words, the presidential members of the commission will be conciliators on some occasions, and arbitrators on others, although I do not suggest that they would exercise both functions before the same parties. I suggest to the Government in all seriousness that the two functions should be separated. I quite agree with Senator McKenna that the two functions can and should be separated. The function of the conciliator is a very simple one to explain, although a much more difficult one, of course, to carry out. Briefly, a conciliator should endeavour to persuade the parties to reach a mutually amicable agreement. The function of the arbitrator is completely different. The arbitrator is a judge. Many arbitrations in the ordinary civil law are adjudications of fact or of law, or of mixed fact and law, and an arbitration under this legislation will be of the same nature. The arbitrator is an umpire. He has to impose his will and his judgment on the parties. That function, I suggest, is completely different; from that of a conciliator. This bill, up to a point, confuses the two functions, in that it provides that on some days members of the commission will sit as conciliators, and on others as arbitrators. I suggest that that is a wrong principle. The Government on this occasion should have taken the important step of making a definite cleavage between the two functions.
I do not think it is very desirable that litigants should become too familiar with their judges. We do not see the judges of Her Majesty’s courts playing darts in the back parlour of the local pub with the witnesses for the prosecution. There is a very important reason for that. They keep aloof, and it is very desirable that, the judges of Her Majesty’s courts should remain aloof. For the same reasons, 1 do not think it is desirable that the arbitrators who will be appointed under the provisions of this legislation should get. too close to the people upon whom they will finally have to sit in judgment. My argument in this respect is not affected by the fact that at a certain point of time an arbitrator may not have the power to impose his judgment upon the parties. Of course, it is the Industrial Court that will enforce the judgment, but, to all intents and purposes, that judgment will be made by the arbitrator. I feel that the Government has erred in not going much further with this measure, by trying to separate the two functions completely.
I now turn to another aspect of this legislation which was commented upon by honorable senators of the Opposition. I have listened to their speeches, and, although I may be wrong, I gained the impression that while at times they have asserted very vigorously that they believe in arbitration, they have at other times caused a strong inference to be drawn that they do not believe in it. Practically every speaker on the other side of the chamber has said at some time, “I believe in arbitration”, and afterwardshas criticized very severely the decisions of the Arbitration Court. We have heard some very silly references to the Arbitration Court by various Opposition speakers. Reference has been made, for instance, to appeals being lost. Why have an arbitration court at all if we do not intend to accept its decisions? I really feel that the members of the Australian Labour party have not yet reached the necessary stage of development in culture, if I may use that expression–
Opposition senators interjecting,
– I use the word in its proper sense, and I have come to that conclusion because of the evident unwillingness of the Australian Labour party to accept arbitration. But I admit that I may be wrong in forming that conclusion.
The main feature of the Opposition’s amendment to this bill concerns the penal provisions. In this connexion, I suggest again that the Australian Labour party has changed its policy to some extent. It seeks to reject the penal provisions in the present bill, although in 1947 a Labour government inserted many of those penal provisions in legislation that it introduced. Was the Australian Labour party wrong in 1947, or is it wrong to-day? It cannot have been right on both occasions, because it is well known that, in 1947, the Arbitration Court was made a superior court of record, which means that it was given powerto punish for contempt.
The Australian Labour party was under the impression for some years that that power of punishment for contempt, by committal to prison, was a lot wider than was actually the case. The High Court, of course, set out the legal position some years later. However, the Labour party could not have been right in . 1947 if its arguments are valid to-day. It now condemns the penal provisions in the bill. Opposition senators, however, use a rather silly argument when they say, “ We do not mind if our members are fined for contravention of the legislation, but we object to having them sent, to prison”. That is a very real weakness in the argument of Opposition senators.
I can understand an argument that there should be no penal provisions in arbitration legislation, that there should be provision only for conciliation, with no powers of enforcement. It is most illogical, however, for Oposition senators to say, on the one hand, “ We do not believe in penal provisions “, and on the other hand to consent to the retention of some very serious penalties, such as a fine of £500, with powers of enforcement of such penalties. I believe that this irresponsible attitude of the Opposition in regard to the most important element of its amendment amounts merely to flagwaving, because we all know that there are in the Labour party far too many people who want the Arbitration Court always to be on their side. The irresponsible attitude that I have illustrated is to be deplored.
In conclusion, I commend the Government for the promptitude with which it has introduced this measure. It is quite a commendable piece of legislation. It contains some very interesting provisions, although there are some with which I do not agree. Only time will tell whether they will work in the way that the Government wants them to work. Meanwhile, I have pleasure in supporting the bill.
– I oppose the bill, but at this stage I ask for leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Spices) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill is purely consequential upon the amendments that are being made by the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, and dovetails the arrangements under the coal industry legislation into the overall conciliation and arbitration scheme.
Pursuant to the arrangements that exist between the Commonwealth Government and the New South Wales Government for consultation on any legislation affecting the respective Commonwealth and State Coal Industry Acts, the New South Wales Government has now indicated its concurrence in the bill, but it has expressed the wish that the reference to the Coal Industry Act in the proposed section 41 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill should be deleted.
This reference was included in section 41 only because it was thought that, by so doing, any proceedings that ever arose under the Coal Industry Act would be faciliated, in that appeal procedures would be shortened. The matter is of no consequence to the Commonwealth. Indeed, it may very well be that there have never been any proceedings under the Coal Industry Act that were taken on appeal to any superior court. The matter may, therefore, be of academic interest only. In the circumstances, the Government is quite prepared to acquiesce in the desire of the New South Wales Government, and in due course, it will be proposed that the reference in section 41 be deleted.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator SPICER read a first time.
– I move -
XI] at the bill be now read a second time.
The stevedoring industry occupies a particularly significant place in the Australian economy. We live in an island continent of vast distances between the main ports of the various States. The island State of Tasmania is vitally concerned with the efficiency of maritime transport. Having a small population, we have not yet developed inland transport systems as effectively as have other older and more closely settled countries. In addition, we are dependent, in large measure, on overseas trade, on exports and imports. Our circumstances, therefore, demand of us that we develop the most efficient system of shipping services and waterfront operation that we can contrive. Nobody would, however, suggest that we have done this. It is a matter of unhappy notoriety that our waterfront performance is chronically bad. Industrial relations are not good. The stevedoring industry has been rightly described, more than once, as a turbulent industry. If we examine the incidence of industrial disputes in this industry, we find that, over recent years, they have caused an average loss of about 5 per cent, of working time. This is about 30 times the rate of loss experienced over Australian industry as a whole.
In saying this, I am not now seeking to apportion blame in one quarter or another. I am merely trying to state factually what I believe the position to be. Let mp illustrate what this means in terms of cost to the Australian community. The Australian Stevedoring Industry Board advises that, on an average day with the average amount of shipping in port, a one-day hold-up in the port of Sydney causes a loss to the shipping companies alone, on that day, of about £30,000. The total loss to the community is, of course, much greater. The economic losses and dislocation on the waterfront are very much more serious than in the case of most other industries. When shipping is held up for a day, a chain reaction of dislocation starts which tends to run right through the economic structure. So, Australia has paid dearly over recent years, and indeed for many years, for this unsatisfactory waterfront performance.
The industry is hampered by restrictive practices. If honorable senators study the judgment of Mr. Justice Ashburner in the sling loads case, they will find comments on the way in which the Waterside Workers Federation has introduced at various ports restrictive practices which hamper the efficient operation of the industry in those ports. The judge declared that in some ports sling loads are disgracefully low, and that in others, these restrictive practices have resulted in an unsatisfactory level. If time permitted, one could give many illustrations of this very character.
The relations between the representatives of management and men are unhappy, and at times have been bitter. Many Australians, accustomed - almost resigned - to waterfront trouble for so many years, tend to think of these things as inevitable. Many trade unionists view waterfront developments as elements in a continuing struggle between the shipowner and the waterside worker, but any talk of a psychology on the part of the waterside worker which impels him to strike, or on the part of the shipowner which make3 him utterly uncooperative, seems to be answered by the experience of New Zealand where, over the last two years, there has been virtually no loss of working time from industrial disputes on the waterfront.
It is clear that a big price is being paid by the Australian public for waterfront inefficiency. It is being paid by the Australian householder and the wage-earner. Transport costs are clearly basic costs, and to them are added other cost percentages before the goods reach the purchaser. The bigger the base cost is, the more the percentage cost added to it tends to swell the total charge made finally to the purchaser. Reduced freight costs, whether resulting from greater effort on the waterfront, better equipment, or better supervision would mean better living standards for us all.
We now have before us again, as a Parliament, the problem of waterfront organization. When a shortage of manpower developed during the war years, an organization was set up under war-time controls. It was followed in the subsequent period of peace by the Stevedoring Industry Commission, established by the legislation of 1947. That legislation did not succeed in its purpose. We need not go into the reasons at this stage, but honorable senators opposite, who were in government at that time and .repealed that legislation, are fully aware of the factors that made its repeal, in their judgment, essential. The 1947 legislation was replaced by legislation of 1949, which set up the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board. Some aspects of this legislation have been severely criticized by the Tait committee, to which I shall refer later.
There have, in the past, been strong differences of opinion about how an improvement of the position established by the 1949 legislation might best be brought about. Some have argued with conviction that, as far as practicable, we should restore a more normal employeremployee relationship in the industry. On the other hand, there have been those who have had misgivings about whether, having regard both to the industrial strength of the union and the differing interests of the very considerable body of employers in the industry, such a restoration would not produce even worse results. It may not be generally known that there are approximately 183 stevedoring companies on the Australian coast. Some are registered in more than one port, so, actually, there are 327 registrations of stevedoring companies as waterfront employers. There are approximately 40 shipping companies operating around the coast and, all told, some 160 registrations of shipping companies. In this situation, it is not easy to find a scheme that will produce what might be termed the normal employer-employee relationship. Even if the Government were to step out of this field entirely, there would have to be a body, run by the employers separately, or in conjunction with the union, with administrative functions comparable with those which the Government proposes to establish under this bill.
This Government did not rush into an immediate overhaul of the existing legislation following its assumption of office. It found many disagreements among the various elements in the industry. I do not confine that observation to the more obvious disagreements between the representatives of the union and those of management. I include the differing interests in the ranks of the employers themselves. However, in 1954 the Government took two important steps. Then a bill was presented to the. Parliament that varied the method of recruitment. It did this because the Waterside Workers Federation had repeatedly failed to supply labour up to quotas fixed for the various ports. Secondly because of the conflicting views and allegations as to what was wrong with the waterfront, it was thought desirable to constitute a committee of inquiry that would furnish to the Government an up-to-date picture of the industry which would guide the Government in the course that should be followed. That was the view, not only of the Government, but certainly, also, of the Australian Council of Trades Unions and, I believe, of the Waterside Workers Federation. There was a general feeling that, if such an inquiry could produce an objectively found body of information, it would be of great help to the Parliament in deciding what policy should be adopted for the future. So the Government set up the Tait committee, consisting of a chairman, in the person of Mr. Tait, Q.C., of the Victorian Bar, Mr. Gibson, a senior and respected representative of employers, and Mr. Shortell, a senior and respected member of the trade union movement.
It was our hope when we set up the committee, at the end of 1954, that we would have a report quite soon. The committee was asked to make its findings as soon as possible and, if practicable, by the 31st March, 1955. In the result, the report took much longer than anticipated. The waterfront troubles continued. There was a general stoppage following the legislation of 1954, and a general stoppage of three weeks arising out of the wage claims in January of this year.
Because it was undesirable to go on without a clear policy relating to the waterfront, and the views of the committee would be very relevant to the formulation of such a policy, the committee was asked to make an interim report on the conclusions it had reached on the matters already investigated, and to provide such additional material as it believed necessary to explain those findings. The committee, in due course, furnished a report which dealt with the organization of the labour force; some specific factors affecting the efficiency of stevedoring operations; the maintenance of discipline, disputes and stoppages; and the very important problem of regulation and control : in short, the organizational aspects of the industry.
It will, perhaps, be convenient if I indicate, very shortly, the principal find ings of the Tait committee. In the first place, it came to the clear and firm conclusion that there should be a statutory authority in this industry possessed, in the broad, of the powers of the present board. Its conclusions pointed to the need, in many instances, to clarify existing powers, generally, in the direction of defining the area and manner of their exercise. The committee also proposed the transference to the statutory authority of all, or alternatively some, of the functions now exercised by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. It found that there should be a bureau system, working substantially as at present; that recruitment should be left primarily with the union, but that the statutory authority should have power to recruit if the union failed to provide the labour. It found in favour of an extension of the system of transfers, and of a more extensive operation of the press and radio system of pick-up which, it believed, has advantages both for the men and for the employer. It found in favour of the use of short gangs to handle hatches and beams in preparation for the day’s work. It also found in favour of the use, under controlled conditions, of supplementary labour to meet emergencies - and the use of such a force, under conditions and in a manner specified by, and under the direction of, the statutory authority. I shall return to this matter later.
The committee thought that the statutory authority should have definite responsibilities to try to improve the efficiency of the industry and it instanced, as an example, the problem of rain. About 5 per cent. of paid working time is lost because of rain. I think that most people, in this day and age of mechanization, will find it hard to credit that management has not found a satisfactory manner of transferring cargo between ships and sheds under rainy conditions. The committee refused, and the Government refuses, to believe that a practical answer cannot be found to this problem. The Australian economy simply cannot afford to go on losing 5 per cent. of the paid working time on the waterfront.
The committee considered the present procedures for handling disputes were inadequate, partly because of over-lapping of functions between the arbitration tribunal and the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board. It reported quite strongly in favour of the board’s inspector system. The committee devoted a whole section of its report to the board’s power to regulate and control the performance of stevedoring operations. It thought that the statutory authority should have power to regulate the performance of work on the job, but without interfering more than might be essential with the authority of, and control by, the individual stevedoring employer. Again, I shall say a little more in detail on this very important aspect of the whole problem later on.
The committee was particularly critical of the overlapping functions of the court and of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board. It found that this had contributed to the present unsatisfactory statu of the industry. In its concluding paragraph, the committee raised the question of the advisability of vesting in the statutory authority the whole of the court’s arbitrary functions. As will be seen as 1 go along, the Government decided not to vest in the statutory authority the court’s arbitral functions but, instead, to maintain a division of functions as between the statutory authority and the arbitration tribunal, but under conditions which will avoid the difficulties and problems on which the committee reported so adversely.
The broad plan provided in this bill, it will be seen, follows very closely the findings of the committee of inquiry. It is along these lines. First, we are providing for a statutory authority to be known as the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority, composed of a chairman and two members - one from the management side of industry and one from the trade union side. The Tait committee, and before it Mr. Basten who, it will be recalled investigated the problem of the waterfront at an earlier stage, agreed that those members should not come from thi’ waterfront or shipping interests or from the unions directly involved. The Government believes that this is the proper course, at least at this stage of the history nf this industry. With the known unsatisfactory relationships existing between management and the union, I thi.uk it will be agreed almost universally that at thi; stage it would be fatal for the successful working of the new authority to have on it direct representation of the interests involved.
Secondly, the bill proposes to give the authority clear, but rather more limited, functions than the present board has. In certain directions, the functions of the authority are being stated more explicitly. The main differences .from the present functions of the board are that the present, power to control the performance of stevedoring operations will no longer apply except during emergencies declared by the Minister - which I should hope would be rare to the point of non-existence - and the present power to regulate is being limited, so that its exercise will avoid, as far as possible, impingement on the control by employers of their labour and their methods of working. The employers have strongly represented that the authority should have no power at all to regulate. Mr. Basten expressed concern about the power to “ control “, and his final suggestion was that the power of the board to “ regulate and control “ should be reexpressed. His dislike of “ control “ stemmed from his belief that it involved a direction of labour and management. The Tait committee concluded that the authority should have extensive powers of regulation, but added that these “ should be exercised without interfering more than is essential with the authority of, and control by, the individual stevedore employer “. In order to make the position as clear as possible, specific provisions to that end are included in the bill.
Subject to some re-arrangement, it is proposed to retain the other functions expressed in the present act, except the power to develop port facilities, which the Government regards as the affair of the State governments. Not that we abandon interest in that aspect; but the State? have clear responsibilities. The power to provide medical facilities, and certain amenities, is being qualified to apply only where employers and other authorities do not provide such facilities and amenities. This has not been done with any intention of limiting the amenities or the facilities tn be provided. On the contrary, the authority will, I hope, be vigilant to ensure that that is not the case. But many of the port authorities feel that they should be given the opportunity to link up the provision, of desired facilities with their own port development. The employers also see, in this field, an opportunity to extend what they are doing at present and to play their part in improving working conditions in the industry. The Government believes that their good faith should be tested, at least to the extent of providing this opportunity. Where standards fall below what is believed to be desirable, the authority will have the power to remedy the position.
In accordance with the findings of the Tait committee certain of the present functions are being spelt out more precisely. For example, specific provision is being made to cover : The organization of transfers of waterside workers from one job to another, and from one employer to another ; the extension of the press and radio system; the application of the principle of intermediate starts; the regulation of the conduct of waterside workers on the wharfs, and so on. Some of those matters are currently before the court, and it may be that, as a result of the court’s decision, there will be little for the authority to do in those fields. There have been arguments in the past as r,o whether the board could do certain of these things, so the matter is being put beyond doubt. Tn addition, in line with the Tait committee’s findings, the authority is being given the functions of investigating means of increasing efficiency generally. In particular, this will allow it to study means of overcoming such problems as working in the rain. Lt is also to have the function of investigating the causes of delays on the waterfront. Those frequently occur through faulty organization of movement of cargo to the port, insufficient storage provision, and so forth. Lastly, it is to have the function of encouraging safe working and, where necessary, providing industrial clothing such as gloves. I believe that this will prove a useful extension of the activities of the authority and one that should lead to some economies.
The bill provides that, as at present, the authority may make orders in exercise of its functions. However, qualifications are proposed, first, as already mentioned, for avoiding any unnecessary encroachment on management functions ; secondly -and this is an important aspect - by requiring prior consultation with both sides and providing for a proper hearing of both sides in appropriate cases; and, thirdly, by providing that orders cannot be given to particular employers or in respect of particular stevedoring operations.
It is proposed to vest in the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, which is being set up under the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, which is already before the Senate, the present powers of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court to settle industrial disputes affecting the waterfront. But we are making certain provisions designed to overcome the difficulties of overlap to which the Tait committee referred. It may be desirable to explain this in a little detail. The Tait committee was insistent that if the new authority were not to have the combined functions of the present board and the court, then the functions of the authority and the arbitral tribunal should be clearly defined. It reported adversely on the “ ill-considered scheme of the present act in the dichotomy of power as between the present board and the court “. It advanced the view that because the court was in the dominant position (i.e., ii-s orders now override any order of the board), the board refrained from doing things that were clearly its responsibility. It urged that “ promptness is a necessity in the regulation of stevedoring operations “ whereas “ the judge would not have a personal knowledge of the factors for and .against the making of any particular regulation, which would often be found only from a practical knowledge of day-to-day activities at the port level “. In addition, “ the procedure of the court has been extremely slow and lengthy”. The committee also found, as I have said,, that the statutory authority should have wide powers of regulation.
Clearly, the present overlap of functions between the court and the board must be eliminated. Against this background, the bill proposes the following arrangements : -
At first sight, and at first sound, this may appear to be a complicated arrangement. It is true that it could be avoided by giving all the power to the commission or to the authority; but the Government feels that there will be fairly widespread agreement that we should not remove from the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission the power to deal with wages, hours and other conditions of employment and, indeed, the whole range of matters now set out in the current act. On the other hand, there will be widespread agreement that the commission will not be equipped to deal with the day-to-day administration of the bureau system, recruitment of labour, and matters of that character. Indeed, judging by some of his recent decisions, thai is clearly the view that Mr. Justice Ashburner, the judge who deals with this particular industry, himself takes of the problems of the industry. In his recent decision in the sling loads case, he threw the responsibility for deciding what was a reasonable sling load on the employers, but added that, if they did not deal with the matter satisfactorily, it should be dealt with by the Stevedoring Industry Board. I think that decision indicates the judge’s attitude as to the appropriate range ofhis own function as a tribunal and that of the administrative authority.
We believe these arrangements will work, because, by and large, the areas of overlap between the functions of the authority and those of the commission will be reduced to a minimum. They are arrangements which will remove the grounds of objection that the Tait committee raised. They will fix responsibility for the discharge of functions, and they will obviate the possibility that either the authority or the commission may avoid dealing with a matter on the ground that it is the affair of the other body. We believe that what is needed in this industry is an operative link between the authority and the commission - the concept of the 1947 legislation amounted, of course, to a fusion of the two.
I said something earlier about the port inspectors. The Tait committee found in favour of the system, and Mr. Justice Ashburner has commented favorably on the value of inspectors in averting stoppages. But their position has been somewhat undefined. This is remedied by the bill’s defining their functions so as to make it clear that they act as conciliators and advisers. They will not be authorized to dictate how work should be done, or to give authoritative rulings. The bill sets out their functions, precisely and, I believe, conforms with the findings of the committee.
I come now to an important matter - labour recruitment. Before I proceed to describe the provisions relating to it, perhaps T should state shortly why the Parliament is called, upon to make special provision for this industry. The importance of it has already been emphasized. Shipping movements cannot all be co-ordinated to ensure that ships arrive and leave ports in a regular stream. There are many ships. They follow many different routes. They have different owners. Heavy rain at a port may add to difficulties. If it continues over a period of days, it may cause a bank-up of shipping at this port or that. If there were a regular stream of ships, the provision of labour to service them would be relatively simple. It would be possible to fix a labour force capable of keeping the ships constantly moving, one after the other, in circumstances which would avoid any idleness on the part of the workers. However, the fact is that there are peaks and flushes of shipping movement through our ports. If ships are delayed because labour is not available, there is necessarily an economic loss, because the cost of keeping ships idle in ports is great. Obviously, that has its influence on freight rates. On the other hand, we cannot contemplate, especially in a full-employment economy, having men sitting on the waterfront, ready and available to meet any call, just in order to keep the ships moving, but in circumstances which would mean that many waterside workers would he idle for long periods.
In short, the problem is to reconcile the interests of the community, which is directly affected by freight rates, which, in turn, are affected by losses resulting from idle ships, with a need to have proper regard for the interests of the waterside workers. What we, as a cornunity, cannot afford to do is to place the interests of the waterside workers above the interests of the community a3 a whole. We have to provide a labour- force which will be sufficient to cope with the normal run of shipping, even though that means that, on some occasions, some ships will be delayed for a short while, and we have to take other steps to cope with the unusual and unavoidable peaks and flushes. The Tait committee saw that problem very clearly, and it proposed certain measures to deal with it. We have adopted its proposals in the bill.
But there is yet another problem - that of the seasonal ports. There we have an unusually heavy run of ships over several months. The port of Hobart, in the fruit season, and the north Queensland ports, at the peak of the sugar season, are illustrations. It must be evident to all that it would be quite ridiculous to build up a labour force to meet .these conditions, only to have men idle for the rest of the year. Certainly, we cannot afford to hold up the ships. If we did, the Tasmanian fruit would not hit the market at the right time, and Queensland’s sugar and meat would not get away at the most favourable periods. We propose to meet these problems by the means provided in the bill.
I want, however, to emphasize that furthest from the Government’s mind is any return to the pre-war practice of having casual labour - men known as “ seagulls “, “ snipers “, or whatever they were called - sitting by the wharfs in the hope of getting a job, but not part of the work force normally engaged. To think in those terms would be to throw away all the advances made in the last fifteen years in the direction of de-casualizing work on the Australian waterfront. Accordingly, the bill adopts the present system of registering waterside workers and employers in the industry, with the statutory authority fixing quotas at each port. There has, nevertheless, been an extensive re-writing of the whole of the present provisions in order to cope with some constitutional problems which have manifested themselves.
The Government proposes to leave primary responsibility for recruitment where it is - with the union. In other words, once a quota has been fixed, it will be for the union to provide the labour. However, if the union fails to provide it, the statutory authority will, after giving the union a last opportunity, proceed to recruit the labour itself. But even in this event, the union and the employers will be given the opportunity to object to the registration of any recruit. Provision is made to enable men so recruited to become members of the union.
Let me say a word about the shortperiod registrations for which the bill provides. By that I mean registrations limited to a period not in excess of six months. In the Government’s view, provision should be made to deal with the problems of places like Hobart, in the fruit season, and the north Queensland ports, in the sugar season. With short-period registrations, the past objections of the union to the providing of labour up to the quota because of the likelihood of underemployment when the season has passed, would have no foundation. With short-period registrations, the normal labour force can be kept to the minimum required for the all the year round needs of the port. This means that the regular force can be assured of continuous employment and high wages before and after the season, as well as during its height. It means that problems of redundancy should never arise. Everything about this proposal should commend itself to the union. There is nothing to prevent the union supplying the names of those to be recruited for short periods. It is no valid criticism to say that the rules of the union do not allow the admission to membership of men who will be working on the wharfs for short periods. In plenty of other industries^ workers are content to take jobs for less than six months at a time and the unions are very pleased to admit those workers to their ranks. So the bill will permit short-period registrations, and will empower the union to alter its rules to admit to membership the waterside workers concerned. The authority will fix the number of shortperiod registrants needed at a port. It will be in the hands of the union to provide the men. If the union fails to do so, the authority will be able to recruit the labour required.
Let me now turn to supplementary labour. The problem of coping with unpredictable labour shortages after bad weather, and so on, or because of shipping flushes, has constantly faced us. The union has always opposed the use of occasional labour to relieve emergencies. It has never been very much concerned about ships standing idle because labour is not available. I have already said that the Government will not countenance the prewar idea of casual labour ; and its assurance on that score has already been given publicly to the union and other interested organizations. It is our belief that men could be found who would respond to 8 call to assist occasionally in the evenings and at week-ends if the arrangements were properly organized by the authority. This is no new thing in Australia. It has been done before, and it is a regular thing in New Zealand at present. Far from causing industrial trouble in New Zealand, the record of industrial peace there in recent years is something that we in Australia might well envy. It if done elsewhere, I believe.
The Tait committee reported that if supplementary labour was available when required, if it could be organized, trained and subjected to discipline, and if the circumstances and conditions for its use could be so precisely prescribed that it would be clear that it would not be used to the detriment of the legitimate interests of the regular labour, its use would contribute to a solution of the problem of peaks and flushes of shipping, particularly those of the abnormal type.
The bill proposes to do just those things. It provides that the authority may organize for the use of supplementary labour in the evenings and at weekends to meet emergencies - only emergencies - of the type mentioned, which seem likely to cause the performance of stevedoring to be prejudicially affected for at least five days. This labour will only be used if regular labour is not available. No one will be permitted to work under these conditions unless his name has been recorded with the authority and his engagement for the day has been approved by the authority. To meet the Tait committee’s point about not defeating the legitimate interests of the regular waterside workers, it is proposed that they will be guaranteed a minimum wage for the four weeks succeeding the last use of supplementary labour. The guarantee proposed is that, if, in any period of seven days in a total period of 28 days after supplementary labour ceases to be used, the regular waterside worker’s total earnings, including attendance money, are less than ten times the attendance money rate - that is, £12 - the difference between the earnings and £12 will be paid by the authority, provided that the waterside worker observes all the terms and conditions of employment applicable to him.
I should point out that the bill provides that the authority shall not exercise its powers in relation to supplementary labour until the Minister declares that it may and that no such declaration will be made before the 1st January next. This provision stems from representations made to the Minister by the Australian Council of Trades Unions which put the view that there were good reasons why the supplementary labour should not be implemented until the authority had got to grips with the tasks which will devolve on it under this legislation. It could be that the exercise of other powers given the authority or the decision of Mr. Justice Ashburner on the current matters before him might have the effect of reducing the need for, or the extent of the need for, supplementary labour.
I should also add that, in any case, in the Government’s view, the need for making use of supplementary labour should be rare. In some ports, it may never be needed. The occasion for its use could disappear if systems of transfer such as those that operate in Brisbane and Adelaide were applied to other ports, if the union were more disposed to work overtime when a flush of shipping occurred, and if other reforms of existing methods and practices were made. The point I am. making is that these provisions for supplementary labour are in the nature of a reserve power in the statutory authority, to be used only when the occasion really warrants, and when it seems to be the. only way to avoid cargo congestion and shipping hold-ups. I should say here that the bill enables the union to admit to membership men who 8.- [on] put their names down with the authority to work as supplementary labour.
It is desirable that I should emphasize that nothing in the bill is designed to provide for the constitution of a second labour force on the waterfront, outside the union. I think this deserves constant repetition, for many misleading and distorted accounts of this bill’s provisions have been given. The truth is that all the way through this bill, provision is made for the preservation of the position of the union. I can understand some not liking the bill on that account, but I cannot see how the union can possibly complain that it is not being fairly treated by this measure. So it is that provision is made for consultation by the authority with the union and the employers at all stages. So it is that the union is given the right to take short period registrants and supplementary labour into its ranks and to fix their fees and subscriptions. It is no use the union complaining about the so-called punitive provisions and forgetting the privileges that this bill gives it. These provisions are purely precautionary. They need never become operative.
If the union objects to the provisions I have described it can only be because the union wants to determine itself how many shall work on the waterfront, and who. Such an attitude cannot, of course, be accepted by the Government as being in any way consistent with the public interest.
I have already said something about redundancy. The bill contains proposals which, I believe, will improve the position so far as the union is concerned. The Tait committee proposed that the circumstances in which redundancy should be applied should be clarified. There is an understanding in the industry that the employers will not ask for the application, of the redundancy provisions for twelve months after a quota has been determined. The bill makes suitable provision to cover this. The new provisions are in several respects better from the union’s point of view. It is to be hoped that, in view of the other provisions I have described, we can think of redundancy as something unlikely to occur except in most unusual circumstances.
Now a word about discipline. The Tait committee dealt at length with the problem of discipline. It urged the introduction of a system of fines as an alternative to cancellation or suspension of registration. It argued that such a course would be preferable to the present system of suspension, which means frequently that a port is deprived of labour when it is most needed. It seems that no practicable system of fines can be evolved. The Tait committee also found that the present disciplinary provisions should be clarified. It is proposed, in the circumstances, to adhere to the present arrangements but to restate the circumstances in which cancellation or suspension should occur.
The bill provides that appeals against cancellation or suspension of registration of waterside workers shall lie to the Commonwealth Industrial Court. In the cas*1 of employers, it seems to the Government, that pecuniary penalties are more appropriate, at least in respect of some defaults. The bill provides, therefore, that in certain specified cases the authority may charge an employer before the Common wealth Industrial Court for failing to carry out obligations to be expected of employers in this industry. A minimum fine of £100, with a maximum of £1,000. is provided for. In addition - I stress this - the Industrial Court is given power to direct the authority to cancel or suspend the registration of an employer.
While I am on the subject of discipline. I should say that the Government thinks it quite inconsistent with the public interest that, on occasions when there has been misconduct or default of a group of waterside workers in a particular port, those waterside workers should be eligible immediately for the payment of attendance money. We propose, therefore, thai the authority may, under certain circumstances, suspend the operation of th<? attendance money order. I do not expect that that is a power that the authority will feel it necessary to use with any frequency. We go on to provide that the restoration of the attendance money order can be brought about by the union applying to the commission. We have provided that the commission may restore attendance money, if it thinks fit, back to the date of the suspension.
While I am on the subject of attendance money, I should mention that the Tait committee observed that one ground of objection by the union to the press and radio pick-up system was its fear that the introduction of the system on a wider scale would result in the loss of attendance money. The committee thought that it should be made clear that the use of press and radio would not lead to the loss of attendance money, and the bill provides for this quite specifically.
Certain stevedoring work is to be excluded from the operation of the act. Although this work is not considerable in scope, viewed against the total volume of stevedoring work, I think the desirability and importance of the Government’s decision in this regard will quickly become evident to honorable senators. At the present time, certain employers have exemption from the provisions of the act. Other exemptions, dating back many years, are provided for in awards of the Arbitration Court. The exemption granted to the Electrolytic Zinc Company of Australia Limited, at Risdon, in Tasmania, is a case in point. The circumstances are, usually, that the employer unloads or loads cargoes directly from or into ships at wharfs associated with the employer’s works. Tasmanian Senators will be aware of the problems that have emerged in relation to the Bell Bay aluminium works. Other industrial developments are afoot in this country, not the least of which are the plans now being implemented to handle sugar through bulk loading equipment which is being installed at a number of Queensland ports. Specific provision is also made in the bill which has the effect of excluding from its provisions persons employed, in relation to the handling of loose bulk cargo in certain circumstances. As to loose bulk cargo, the bill does not affect work which is now being done by waterside workers, nor their right, where they already work a bulk handling installation at a port and a new one of the same type to handle the same sort of cargo is provided there, to do on the new plant the same work they do on the present one.
One of the matters commented on by the Tait committee was the difficulty of ascertaining what are, in fact, the terms and conditions of employment applicable at any port. There are awards made by cbe Arbitration Court, there are orders made by the old Stevedoring Industry Commission, there are orders made by the Arbitration Court and the “Stevedoring Industry Board under the 1949 act, and in some instances there are the so-called customs of a particular port. It is the Government’s view that early action should be taken to codify for each port all awards and orders applicable to it, and it is intended, as soon as members of the new authority are appointed, to advise them that this is a task to which the authority should devote itself. As the Arbitration Court’s awards are involved, the co-operation of the commission in this work will be sought.
What I have said is enough to indicate what a complex of conditions awards, orders and so on - exists to govern employment in each port. This has faced the draftsman with a most difficult task in providing for the transitional provisions that are always necessary in a case like this. I admit that these provisions are not easy to follow. All I want to say is that, when the provisions of the bill are carefully studied, it will be seen that the commission and the authority each have power in their respective fields to produce between them a new code which will cover all current provisions at the port. In this respect, the bill avoids some difficulties which experience of the 1949 transitional provisions threw up. While the Tait committee saw no practicable plan in sight for permanent employment in the industry, the Government has not given up hope that some plan can be developed. The bill, therefore, provides that the authority will, in exercising its functions, have in mind the desirability of encouraging schemes of permanent employment.
– Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate I formally put the question -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the negative.
– To conclude, this bill is an important and comprehensive piece of legislation. Indeed, it has a particular significance for each of the various interested parties. They will now have before them the will of the Parliament as to the machinery that should govern the industry in future. It is the Government’s belief that one of the substantial gains from this legislation, in which each of the three principal elements, the statutory authority, the union and the employers, will share, is the bringing to an end of a long period of uncertainty as to what the future organization of the industry will be. That uncertainty has, undoubtedly, been unsettling. The Australian Stevedoring Industry Board has been under fire from many quarters for a long time. In these circumstances, effective administration, and the firm exercise of powers have been hampered. The employees, members of the union have been given their assured position and a number of improvements have come their way. The employers will have more precisely defined their rights and responsibilities.
The passage of this legislation should usher in a brighter era on the Australian waterfront. The public certainly hope for that and expect it as their due. There is, I believe, a more general realization by the Australian wage-earning unionist that what happens on the waterfront is not merely a sporadic, or frequent, brawl between the shipowner and the waterside worker, but a steady erosion of the standard of living in the household of every trade unionist. Therefore, both the unionist at large and the general public look for an improvement. We believe that this legislation provides a framework in which that improvement can take place. The bill will be a test of the good sense and goodwill of all those concerned in it. If all the parties are prepared to play their part under the legislation, the Australian people may get long-overdue relief from a waterfront performance which has. in the past, been a burden to us all.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Cooper) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill now be read a second time.
The national health service introduced by this Government in 1950 has operated with outstanding success. Honorable senators will recall that the objectives of the national health legislation are to provide for the community a wide range of life-saving and disease-preventing drugs, a free medical service and medicine for pensioners and their dependants and generous medical and hospital benefits based on the development of health insurance. These objectives are being achieved in full measure. With experience, however, it has been found that a number of minor alterations have to be made to the legislation in order to deal with contingencies that arise from time to time. There is scarcely any need to enlarge on the necessity for effecting minor procedural and machinery adjustments to legislation of such a comprehensive character as this. For example there are some 12,000,000 medical services per annum for which total Commonwealth and organization benefits amounting to £11,500,000 is being paid under the act. Transactions on this scale inevitably bring about numerous administrative problems.
Four machinery amendments are provided for in this bill. None of them alters any of the major principles on which the legislation is established, so it may be most convenient if I explain the purpose of the amendments to the Senate in the order in which the various clauses appear in the bill. Clause 3 of the bill is designed to give the Minister power to determine a rate of Commonwealth medical benefit, not exceeding the maximum benefit of £11 5s. in respect of medical services for which no amount of benefit is specified in the schedules to the act. Experience has shown that the determination of benefit for new medical procedures which come under notice from time to time cannot be satisfactorily achieved under the existing law. Honorable senators will have seen the schedules to the act which specify the amounts of Commonwealth benefit payable in respect of 931 individual medical procedures. The schedules are drawn up in the light of the best and most uptodate medical advice available, but of course it is never long after a schedule has been prepared and approved by Parliament before new medical techniques are developed and brought under notice. In the past it has been the practice for the benefit payable in respect of these new medical procedures to be arbitrarily calculated on the basis of the number of attendances by the doctor. This method of dealing with the problem has not proved entirely satisfactory, and it is believed that it will be much better if there is power for the Minister to determine the rate of benefit payable in the light of all the information available to him. The amounts of benefit determined under this provision will be submitted to Parliament for incorporation in the schedules by amendment to the act as soon as practicable after the determinations are made.
Clause 4 of the bill repeals sub-section 19 (2) of the existing act, which gives the Minister certain discretionary powers in relation to payment of benefit in respect of medical expenses charged for by public hospitals. Under the existing act, benefit is not payable when the fee for the medical service is payable to a public hospital, unless the Minister makes an exception under this discretionary power.
The Minister’s discretionary power has been used in the past to enable benefit to be paid in respect of charges for raliological and pathological services, and electroencephalograms rendered by public hospitals. Doubts have, however, arisen as to the technical validity of the declaration made by the Minister. It is proposed to remove these doubts by taking all discretionary powers in this matter out of the Minister’s hands, and specifying in the act the particular services for which benefit has in the past been paid and will continue to be paid. These services are those specified in items 201 to 218 inclusive, and 332 of the second schedule - (radiological and pathological services and electroencephalograms) - as referred to in clause 4 of the bill.
A further alteration being made by clause 4 of the bill is by amending the definition of “ public hospital “ in section 19 (3) of the existing Act. This definition is being changed to ensure that hospitals in the Northern Territory will not come within the scope of this particular section. With minor exceptions, medical attention is not available in the Northern Territory except at the hospitals maintained by the Commonwealth, and it would be inequitable if any changes which may be made in future by the Commonwealth for attention at these hospitals did not attract Commonwealth medical benefit under the National Health Act. This amendment to section 19 (3) will ensure that there is no possibility of this inequitable situation arising.
Clause 5 of the bill will give the Minister power to appoint a qualified person to serve temporarily on a committee of inquiry in the absence of one of the duly appointed regular members. At present there is no provision in the act for the appointment of a substitute in cases where a committee member is temporarily unable to take his place at committee meetings, for example, because of sickness or absence from Australia. The amendment being effected by clause 5 will enable this necessary step to be taken when required.
The remaining amendment is that in clause 6 of the bill. Section 134a of the act gives the Minister power to publish in the Gazette notification of disciplinary or court action he has taken against doctors or chemists for abuse of, or offences against, the act. It is believed that this power to publish notification of action is a valuable deterrent against abuse or malpractice. In order to strengthen the value of this deterrent provision it is proposed that power be given to the Minister to enable him to publish a statement of reasons why action was taken. This is the only change being effected by this clause.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator O’sullivan) read a first time.
.-! move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to provide for the payment of a bounty of lOd. per lb. in respect of cellulose acetate flake sold for use in the manufacture in Australia of cellulose acetate rayon yarn. The bill is based on a recommendation of the Tariff Board made on 7th October last, in which the board recommended that a bounty be paid in respect of flake produced for that use. This report has already been tabled in the Senate, and circulated to honorable senators.
Cellulose acetate flake is produced in Australia by only one company, Commonwealth Sugar Refining Chemicals Proprietary Limited, of Sydney. The rayon grade of this -flake is purchased by Courtaulds (Australia) Proprietary Limited, for the production of cellulose acetate rayon yarn. Assistance to this project forms the subject of another bill. Of the fixed and working capital employed in the cellulose acetate flake project of Commonwealth Sugar Refining Chemicals Proprietary Limited, more than £3,000,000 is attributed to flake of the grade suitable for the production of rayon yarn.
Honorable senators will recall that in an earlier report of the Tariff Board in connexion with the local production of cellulose acetate flake, the board recommended that no assistance be given. This earlier recommendation was based on the high level of assistance claimed to be necessary due to high costs of establishment and production. The Tariff Board considered that the industry was not at the time assured of sound opportunities of success. The Tariff Board has now found that the producing company has made substantial reductions in its costs. It has been able to obtain a lower price in respect of its main raw material, wood pulp. It has reduced very substantially its labour, maintenance and factory overhead costs. In addition, its royalty cost has been eliminated by the effluxion of time. However, despite these substantial cost reductions, the local manufacturer is still at a considerable disadvantage in relation to overseas competition. No criticism has been levelled at the quality of locally produced flake.
The Tariff Board came to the conclusion that, in view of the strenuous and rewarding efforts to reduce the cost of production of cellulose acetate flake, the stage has now been reached where assistance to this industry is justified. The efficiency and capacity of the local plant meets all required standards. The quality of the locally produced flake is completely satisfactory. It is evident, however, that the appropriate method of assistance in. this case is not by means of import duties. It is essential for the local industry to be able to make available flake at a price of about 35d. per lb. in order to be able to make sales to the local producer of rayon textile yarns in competition with imports.
The application for assistance is supported by the yarn-producer. This producer has stated that if, through .the imposition of duty, it were forced to use high-cost Australian flake, the market for acetate yarn would be taken over by overseas companies. In this event, both projects, namely, flake production and the spinning of yarn from it, would be in serious difficulty. The assistance requested i3 not outside the usual limits required to tide an industry over its initial developmental stages. Obviously, if assistance is to be given, it is preferable that it be by way of bounty and not through the tariff.
In deciding that this industry should be assisted by way of bounty, the Government has been influenced in no small measure by the substantial saving which such an industry can make in overseas exchange. This applies not only to cellulose acetate flake, but also to the essential chemicals produced in the process of manufacture, some of which have had to be imported from hardcurrency areas in the past. The bill makes available £142,000 for payment of the bounty each year. This provision is based on a yearly output of 3,400,000 lb. of rayon grade flake, which is the estimated maximum requirement of the local producer of rayon yarn. I commend the bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Arnold) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator O’Sullivan read a first time.
.- -I move -
That thi> bill be now read a second time.
This bill is designed to give effect to the decision of the Government to extend until the 30th June, 1959, the operation of the Rayon Yarn Bounty Act, which is due to expire on the 31st October, 1957. Honorable senators will recall that this bill was foreshadowed on the introduction of the customs tariff proposals dealing with the imposition of duties on imports of continuous filament acetate rayon yarn. Both measures are consequent upon recommendations made by the Tariff Board in its recent report which has been tabled in the Parliament and circulated to honorable senators.
The existing act has provided for the payment, since the 1st November, 1954,. of a bounty of 6d. per lb. on continuous filament acetate rayon yarn produced in Australia. This bounty was based on a recommendation of the Tariff Board made in a report of the 30th July, 1954. When the board’s report was published, the sole Australian manufacturer, Courtaulds (Australia) Proprietary Limited, claimed that the assistance given by the bounty did not provide conditions which would permit it to trade satisfactorily. The Tariff Board found, after re-examining this matter, that the whole prospect of success of the local manufacturer rests on ability to achieve the maximum attainable productivity, and that any appreciable inroad by imports must increase local unit costs and ultimately render local manufacture uneconomic.
The Tariff Board has recommended, therefore, and the Government accepts the recommendation, that a duty be imposed on imports of continuous filament acetate rayon yarn to discourage imports of that product. As the local manufacturer is forced by the competition of duty-free imported viscose yarn to maintain price relativity with that product, the operation of the import duty will not permit an increase in the price of the locally produced yarn. For this reason, it is necessary to continue the existing rate of bounty which would permit only a low rate of profit, and then only if a desired volume of production were achieved.
In order to give the local manufacturer an opportunity of consolidating and to avoid the necessity of a further review in a relatively short period, it is desirable to extend the operation of the Rayon Yarn Bounty Act, which is due to expire on the 31st October, 1957, until the 30th June, 1959. It is intended, of course, to have the Tariff Board review this matter before that date. Honorable senators supported the bill for the original act to give assistance to this industry, and I am sure that they will have no objection to the extension of its provisions for a period of a further twenty months, particularly as, if the local industry is able to attain its maximum productivity rate under the new conditions of duty and bounty, a very substantial net saving of overseas funds should result.
Apart from the extension of the period of operation of the bounty, this bill also provides for amendments to various sections of the Principal Act for administrative reasons, primarily to shift the emphasis for the payment of bounty from “ production “ to “ sales “. Honorable senators will know that the existing act provides for the payment of bounty on yarn produced and sold within a bountiable period. However, it was found in the application of the existing act that it was impossible to identify the yarn sold with that produced on any one particular day. The only administrative solution of this problem was to pay bounty on sales. The amendments proposed will give retrospective legal authority to this action. The amendments will mean that, while bounty will be legally payable on production on hand at the commencement of the bounty period, if it has been sold for use in Australia, bounty will not be payable on stocks on hand at the close of the bounty period.
The amount made available by the act for the payment of bounty each year is £100,000. Claims made covering the first year of operation of the bounty exceeded £39,000. On maximum productivity of the existing plant being attained, the level of claims per annum could be expected to rise to £87,000. I commend the bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Arnold) adjourned.
Message received from the House of Representatives intimating that it had agreed to the amendments made by the Senate to this bill.
Motion (by Senator O’sullivan) agreed to -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn to Tuesday next at 2.30 p.m.
Senate adjourned at 11.1 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 14 June 1956, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1956/19560614_senate_22_s8/>.