22nd Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. A. M. McMullin) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation aware of the serious dissatisfaction among residents of Leigh ‘Creek, South Australia, because of cuts in (the air service to and from Adelaide from six to three aircraft each week? “Will the Minister discuss the matter with the manager of Trans-Australia Airlines with a view to having the service improved to five trips a week in each direction, .thus removing any cause for complaint ?
– 1 was not aware that Leigh Creek had suffered any diminution of air services, but I shall refer the matter to the Minister for Civil Aviation and ask him to discuss it with the manager of Trans-Australia. Airlines.
– I preface a question to the Leader of -the Government by stating that I believe a meeting of the Australian Loan Council and a Premiers conference will be held in Canberra, beginning next week. At those meetings, will the Government put to the Premiers of the States, in the strongest possible terms, the case for rationalization of Australia’s loan expenditure by introducing a system of loan expenditure priority?
– I shall have much pleasure in putting the honorable senator’s suggestion before the Treasurer.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Trade aware that many small .importers have been forced out of .business .because of import restrictions ? Is it .a fact that a flat rate percentage reduction of imports is imposed on :all’? If that .is so, are not the small importers unduly and unfairly penalized? If a small importer is forced out of business, is his share of the total pool of imports transferred? If so, in what manner is it done? Has the Government done anything to bring relief to the small importers, and if not, why not?
– I doubt very much whether the facts are as the honorable senator has suggested. I think the procedure in any reduction of imports is to relate the reduction to the volume of goods imported in the base year. It would be best for the honorable senator to put his question upon notice, as thi* is a matter of no little importance. 1 shall ask the Minister acting for the Minister for Trade to furnish a reply.
– I desire to ask n question of the Minister representing the Treasurer.. Will the Treasurer give consideration to the replacement of >th* present :one-penny piece and the halfpenny piece by much smaller copper coins, on the ground of convenience to the public, and economy of material in the minting process?
– There is obvious merit in the proposal advanced by Senator Maher. I shall bring the question to the attention of the Treasurer and let the honorable senator know the Treasurer^ reaction to it.
– Ha3 the attention of the Minister representing the Treasurer been directed to the fact that the French Government, in order to hart increasing costs, has introduced control of prices ? Is the Minister a.ware that the United Kingdom ‘Government proposed to control profits, dividends and costs, as well as wages, in order to protect the economy of Great Britain? Has the Australian ‘Government any plans to arrest inflation, which h fast “bringing th’ economy of Australia to disaster ?
– I have not seen the proposal that the French .Government intends to introduce .prices control, nor have I seen any proposal that the United
Kingdom Government proposes to control dividends, profits and costs as well as wages. I did see a somewhat incidental statement made, I think, by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, to the effect that some such course might receive consideration. I point out to the honorable senator that the problems we face are not the same as those faced by the United Kingdom. For instance, only quite recently we sharply increased rates of company taxation. Those increased rates of taxation were superimposed upon other proposals brought in at that time. As to the third part of the honorable senator’s question, which is in the nature of an omnibus question, I remind the honorable senator that only a few weeks ago this Government brought down fiscal proposals with the object of reducing the pressures of inflation. It is only fair to state that the effect of that action is at the present time making itself felt and is yielding results in the desired direction in the same way as did the measures the Government took a few years ago, when the results achieved proved that it had the right answer.
– I ask the Leader of the Government whether he has found time to read the interesting syndicated articles being published in Australian newspapers dealing with China, as well as a series of similar articles published last months in the London Times. If so, does he agree with the strong views expressed by one Australian newspaper that has consistently, but quite erroneously, supported the Government, and now demands that Australia can no longer ignore China, and contends that our close proximity to Asia demands a special approach to Asian questions? What are the views of the Government in regard to the suggestion that the gesture of recognition by Australia would be, from, all points of view, a piece of political realism? Would it be possible for the Minister to submit to the Senate, before it adjourns this week, a considered, uptotheminute statement by the Government in regard to this urgent and most important problem, bearing in mind that the United States presidential elections are not altogether our “tea party”? In view of the Government’s pleadings regarding balance of payments and the need to increase our exports, is the Government aware that there is a great shortage of coal in China, that all its power plants have used millions of tons of coal of sub-standard quality, and it is estimated that this year the proportion of poor-quality coal used by power plants throughout China will be nearly 50 per cent.?
– I have read some articles of the kind referred to. by the honorable senator, but I do not know whether they are the precise ones to which his question relates.
– They appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald.
– I assure the honorable senator that Australia’s relations in these particular matters are being continually and constantly studied by people much better informed than I am, and more competent to give an assessment of what Australia’s attitude is or should be. I assure the honorable senator thai Australia’s position, vis-a-vis all these matters, is being kept under close observation and study by very alert and able persons.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, and preface it by saying that it is on similar lines to a question asked, I think, last week by Senator Buttfield in connexion with the distribution of lottery mail throughout South Australia. I believe that the honorable senator’s question was based on a letter similar to one which I, in common with other senators, received from the heads of the various churches in South Australia. It was signed by the Bishop of Adelaide, the Archbishop of Adelaide, the President of the Baptist Union, the President of the Methodist Conference, the President of the Congregational Union, the Moderator of the Presbyterian Church, the President of the Churches of Christ Union, the President of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, the Divisional Commander of the Salvation Army and the President of the United Churches
Social Reform Board. These organizations all protested against the distribution of lottery mail throughout South Australia in a way which not only infringes the law of that State, but is also undesirable. Will the Minister give immediate consideration to this matter, and indicate what steps have been taken, or are likely to be taken, to stop this practice in South Australia?
– I assure the honorable senator that I shall bring his question to the notice of my colleague, the Postmaster-General, and ask him to supply a full statement in reply before the parliamentary recess.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government, and is on similar lines to that asked by Senator Hendrickson. I appreciated the answer which the Minister gave to that question. I now ask him whether the Government is satisfied with Australia’s trade policy, which is seriously lagging behind the policies of various other British Commonwealth countries in connexion with exploring new markets for Australian primary products in Europe and Asia, in both the eastern and western zones, where a majority of the world’s population is concentrated? Is the Minister aware that Canada has recently sold 44,000,000 bushels of wheat and vast quantities of butter to Czechoslovakia and Russia, and that the New Zealand Prime Minister has just completed a useful trade visit to these zones? Will the Government consider sending an all-party trade and goodwill mission to visit any important c untry. such as China, Czechoslovakia or Russia, where Australian trade could be improved, and obtain for Australia a share of these markets, which are now being developed by our sister members of the British Commonwealth?
– Although governments are sometimes gratified, they are rarely satisfied; there is always room for improvement. In -regard to the development of the areas of trade referred to bv the honorable senator, I am aware th pt the Department of Trade is very much alive in not only developing and furthering trade with areas open to us but also finding and developing new areas for trade. Concerning the parliamentary delegation suggested by the honorable senator, I shall refer his suggestion to my colleagues and ascertain whether they view it favourably. In any event, I shall get their views on the proposition that has been put forward by the honorable senator.
– My question to the Minister for the Navy follows the question asked by Senator Hendrickson and his suggestion that there is a market for our coal in China. Will the Minister state whether there is any impediment whatsoever to the selling of coal by this country to China at the present time, provided the Chinese are prepared to pay for it ? Is it also true to say that there is no impediment at all to trade between this country and China except in strategic materials, and that those matters have nothing to do with the diplomatic recognition of China ?
– It is _ perfectly correct to say that there is no restriction at all on trade between Australia and Communist countries, except that there is, as the honorable senator has suggested, a restriction on dealing and trading in commodities which may be described as strategic. We have no objection to China buying our sugar, our coal or any other commodities except those on the restricted list.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for the Army supply the following information relative to representations made by Senator Critchley and myself concerning the compensation claim of E. Luxton of Moonta, South Australia, for physical disabilities occasioned during his national service training : - Has court action been invoked by F. Luxton in furtherance of the determination of the validity of the claim, as requested by the Minister? Is it true that the court hearing which was set down in Adelaide for the 17th January last was postponed because- o£ Commonwealth’ Crown Law Office’ representations that the Commonwealth was-, not ready to defend’ the claim.? Has. any further action or interest whatsoever been forthcoming, or’ has. in fact, a complete indifference to the feelings of the claimant- been evidenced by the- department?’ Can the Minister- indicate when the Crown Law authorities will be in a position to defend the compensation claims of F. Luxton in regard to injuries occasioned during his national service training in 1952 ?
– I cannot be expected. to answer a question like that offhand, because I have not the knowledge or. the details before me.. If. the honorable senator had put his question on. the notice-paper I would have been able to reply to it. I invite him to put it on the notice-paper now.
– Has the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Health been directed to a statement which appeared in. a. daily newspaper to the- effect that Dutch radiologists consider it dangerous for untrained persons to operate X-ray apparatus in shoe shops because of radiation? Dr. J. Spaander, Director of the Dutch S’tate Institute for- Public Health,, told a press conference that Dutch health experts were seeking legal means to have X-ray apparatus banned1 from shoe shops-. Will the Minister investigate the position and ensure that the Australian public is protected in. similar circumstances?
– I have seen the press report that has been referred to by the honorable senator to the effect that X-ray apparatus used in shoe shops may have, dangerous effects. In order to obtain a concise reply, I shall bring the question to the notice of the Minister far Health himself and get a reply for the honorable senator.
– -I ask the Minister representing the Minister for- Immigration, whether it is- a fa.ct, as reported in a San Francisco, newspaper,, that, the Commonwealth Government,, in conjunction with the United Nations organization and a manufacturer of girdles- and brassieres recently sponsored a “Miss New Australia” beauty contest..’ Is the Minister aware o£ the- type of publicity given in the United States of America to Australia- by the winner of the contest? If so, can the Minister indicate any manner in which such contest winners can be briefed in regard to> Australia so that such damaging propaganda is- not promulgated overseas-?’ Is any check kept by- the Government on such commercial stunts to ensure- that only, the best advertisement for Australia and its girls is given overseas?
– There may be very real difficulties- in: the- way of the Government’s supervising the kind of publicity which may be indulged, in. by commercial’ firms that undertake this kind of activity. I have no personal knowledge whatsoever of the matter referred to by Senator Tangney, but I shall direct her. question to- the Minister for Immigration, and. obtain his comments! in relation, to it.,
– In addressing a question to the Minister for Shipping and Transport, I refer to the judgment of the Arbitration Court as pronounced by His Honour; Mr: Justice Ashburner, yesterday increasing the wages cost in the waterfront industry. I ask the Minister whether any assessment has- been made of the probable increase in shipping freights that these increased wages will involve and whether the figure of £2,500,000 as given out by the shipping companies is a responsible estimate.
– This morning, I asked, as a matter of urgency, that I be provided by my department with an assessment of the. probable effect, on the total cost of this latest judgment, of the Arbitration Court. I have not. yet received that assessment, but I expect to do so some time to-day. It- should be. stated that at the same- time as considering this- most recent judgment together with the increases in attendance-money and the basic wage, consideration should be given to the possible savings that may result from the greater sling-load order and from the operations of the new Stevedoring Industry Bill. All these things must be taken into consideration before any accurate assessment of the total variation in cost can be made.
– In addressing nay question to the Minister representing the Acting Prime Minister, I point out that it was recently announced that the grant to the Australian Travel Association had been increased to £50,000 annually, and at that time I asked the Minister what steps were being taken to ensure that some of this grant would be spent on attracting tourists to Australia from hard currency areas. The answer was that no steps had been taken, in spite of the fact that Qantas air lines had offered to share ground floor accommodation with an Australian tourist organization in the Bank of New York building on Fifth-avenue, New York, which would undoubtedly be of advantage to our Australian airline companies and to tourist promotion in Australia generally. The managing director of the Australian Travel Association will shortly be in America attending the Pacific Area Travel Association conference, of which he is president, and will at that time probably endeavour to find cheaper but less-accessible accommodation in New York or San Francisco for a tourist organization. Will the Minister take steps to ensure that the generous offer of the Qantas organization to share accommodation in the mo3t suitable position is not turned down through lack of adequate finance?
– I shall be pleased to’ direct the attention of ray colleague, the Acting Prime Minister, to the honorable senator’s question.
– In view of the reply of the Minister for Shipping and Transport to Senator Wright’s question, and- the fact that the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission Bill 1956, which was recently passed by this chamber and has gone- to- another place, will soon become law, will the Minister assure the Senate that, during the forthcoming recess of the Parliament, the freight rates charged on ships operating under his control will not be increased?
– It would be quite impossible for me to give the assurance sought by Senator Sheehan. Freight rates are continually under examination and, as I indicated in my answer to Senator Wright,, the effect of these latest variations on costs will, be most closely assessed before any variation is approved in relation to the Commonwealth shipping line as, may I add, they always have been, in the past.
– I should like to ask another question, this time of the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service. Will the Minister inform, the Senate of the approximate date upon which the Waterside Workers Federation filed the log on which Mr. Justice Ashburner delivered judgment yesterday? Can a copy of the judgment be made available to the Senate before consideration of the Stevedoring Industry Bill 1956 is completed by this chamber ?’
– Although I have not yet seen the reasons for the judgment, I think that they should be available. I shall make inquiries and endeavour to obtain copies of the judgment for all honorable senators who desire them. As for the log with which His Honour dealt, I am afraid that I cannot, from memory, give the honorable senator the exact date upon which it was filed. However, I think it is important to point out that it was a relatively recent log and that, if I remember rightly, it was filed in 1955. It is quite wrong to proceed upon the assumption that the log that Mr. Justice Ashburner dealt with on this occasion was the one that was filed in- 1951. The truth is, that the logs that were filed in 1951 were withdrawn in 1954, and new logs were filed on the lines of the log with which His Honour has just dealt.
– Will the Leader of the Government inform the Senate why it was necessary to divert the liner Arcadia to the port of Malta in order to disembark the Prime Minister last week?
– The right honorable gentleman wanted to get off there.
– Apparently, we now have in this chamber a new Leader of the Government in tha person of Senator Gorton. Can the Minister say whether it is a fact that the diversion of that liner from its normal course cost the shipping company £2,000 ? Was that diversion necessary? Is it true that the diversion caused considerable inconvenience to a number of Londonbound passengers on the vessel? If the Minister is not in possession of the facts, will he ascertain them immediately, and make a statement on this matter before the Senate rises for the winter recess?
– I do not think that I can add much to the answer given by Senator Gorton. The ship was diverted to enable the Prime Minister to alight. I direct the attention of the Senate to the lack of integrity in the question. How can the honorable senator be in a position to know, since the Arcadia has not yet arrived in London, that people on board were put to great inconvenience? How could he be capable of knowing whether the cost involved was £20, £20,000, or £200.000? As I say, the question completely lacks integrity.
– I, too, direct to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, a question concerning the coal shortage. Is it not a fact that the greatest impediment to the sale of surplus coal in this country to China or other countries is the high price of this product as a result of the outrageous increase granted by the Menzies Government within two years of its taking office? Is the Government aware that this high price has been shown to be totally unjustified because of the recent reduction of 6s. a. ton for New South Wales coal sold interstate, despite the serious inflationary state of the economy since the rise was granted? Is the Government aware that the excessive increases of shipping freights also have been a contributing factor in preventing the sale of coal abroad?
– I shall answer the question, if I may. I think that the honorable senator is misinformed. There have been continual efforts to sell Australian coal overseas. Our difficulty, however, is the length of freight haul and the difference in the freight charges in respect of coal produced in Australia and coal produced closer to the points where it is consumed. A previous question has been asked about the sale of coal to China. A great deal of time and effort have been put into making sales of coal to that country, but we are faced with the position that China can buy its coal closer at hand, with lower shipping freights. In relation to the honorable senator’s second point, concerning reduction of the price of coal in respect of interstate markets, I point out that, contrary to his view, the reductions of the price of coal that are now taking place are a logical sequence of the increases of the price that were made some time ago. The fact is that during the regime of Senator Ashley the colliery proprietors could not trade profitably, and since they could not do that they had no incentive to bring their mines up to date. Since the advent of this Government they have been given reasonable prices for their product. They are now tackling the task of modernizing the industry and of installing new plant and machinery, as is evidenced by the statement in the reports of the Joint Coal Board that some £3,000,000 to £4,000,000 is being spent each year in New South Wales on the purchase of new plant and equipment. I am sure that the honorable senator would be the first to admit that it is not possible to revitalize the industry unless it is brought up to date and supplied with modern plant and equipment.
– Can the Minister for National Development say whether it is a fact that during its last year of operation the Australian Whaling Commission again made a profit of approximately £200,000? In view of the fact that this is the last year of trading of the commission, will the report of last year’s activities be tabled in the Senate before we rise for the winter recess?
– I cannot say that the Australian Whaling Commission made the profit referred to by the honorable senator, although I do know that it has traded profitably. There are statutory obligations. The commission has to make its report to the Minister and must have its accounts certified by the AuditorGeneral. Those statutory obligations still prevail, and the report will be made and tabled in the Parliament in the ordinary way.
– Will the Minister for National Development inform the Senate whether or not it is a fact that Caledonian Collieries Limited made a profit of more than 160 per cent. in the first year of the rise in coal prices given by the Government; that it was able to pay off four years of arrears of preference dividends; and that it transferred two-thirds of profits to reserves? Is it not a fact that other collieries increased their profits up to 500 per cent. as a. result of the outrageous rise in coal prices granted by this Government?
– A short answer to the honorable senator’s question is : It is not a fact.
– I say it is a fact, and I shall prove it.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– I have received from the Minister for the Army the following reply to the honorable senator’s questions : -
Matters affecting the pay, allowances and conditions of service of Army personnel are regularly under consideration. The service pay code was reviewed in December, 1954, when substantial marginal increases were granted. The pay of officers was recently adjusted with retrospective effect to December, 1954, following the decision of the Arbitration Court in the Public Service case. The service basicwage is being increased to bring it up to the new wage fixed by the Arbitration Court. Pension rates under the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Scheme have also been increased.
Steps to overcome the shortage of married quarters and to provide for better barracks accommodation are currently under consideration. It is hoped that under the amended Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, the housing position of Army personnel will be substantially improved.
An effective recruiting organization is being maintained for which increased financial provision was made this year.
The Regular Army is being maintained at a high standard of efficiency, and it cun bc said that it is a potent factor in the fabric nf national defence.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Supply, upon notice -
In view of the obvious benefits which will accrue in the saving of overseas payments both in dollars and sterling as a result of the production of aluminium ingots at Bell Bay in Tasmania, will the Minister inform the Senate what progress, if any, is being made in the development of the Wessel Island bauxite deposits, off the coast of the Northern Territory, so that a further improvement of our overseas balance can be made by using thisraw material from Australian sources?
– The Minister for Supply has furnished the following reply to the honorable senator’s question : -
The use of the Wessel Island bauxite deposits in the production of aluminium ingot at Bell Bay is not contemplated at present owing to several factors, including the grade of this ore in relation to .the Bell Bay plant, and the large capital costs which would be involved in exploiting the deposits. As soon as practicable, however, having regard t<> economic and other factors, consideration willbe given to the question of the use of this ore for Australian aluminium production.
asked thu Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -
Will the Minister supply the latest figures and information relating to - (a) 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 class of work available; and (6) the number of persons receiving unemployment benefit in each State ?
– The following information has been supplied by the Minister for Labour and National Service in reply to the honorable senator : -
asked the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
– I have the following information in reply to the honorable senator’s questions : -
Where a member of the forces has died or dies, after the date of his discharge, from causes other than the result of an occurrence that happened during his war service and the member, immediately prior to his death, was in receipt of -
an amountin respect of a disability described in any of the first eight items in column 1 of the table in paragraph one of the Fifth Schedule to this act, the dependants of that member shall, subject to this act, be entitled to receive, as from the death of the member, such pensions as would have been payable to them if the member’s death had resulted from an occurrence that happened during his war service.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The Minister for the Interior has supplied the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions : -
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General. upon notice -
By way of preface I point out that when one searches the telephone directory for a subscriber’s number one frequently dials the wrong number because it is on the other side of the column from the subscriber’s name. I ask that in the setting up of the new telephone directory, the Postmaster-General might give consideration to the placing of telephone numbers on the left side instead of on the right side of the subscriber’s name, as a means of reducing the possibility of dialling a wrong number.
– The PostmasterGeneral has supplied the following answer : -
The arrangement suggested by the honorable senator of placing the numbers to the left of subscribers’ names in the telephone directory was given a trial about thirty years ago in the . telephone directories for Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania. The system proved unsuccessful and was soon abandoned as experience showed that it led to an increase in wrong number troubles due mainly to the fact that where the surname of the person to be called was common to several entries many callers selected the number without reading the whole of the entry. This feature would apply even more strongly to-day when there is an infinitely greater number of subscribers listed in the directory with a consequent increase in the number of entries having the same surname. The set-up adopted in Australia is followed by the leading telephone administrations in other parts of the world, including Great Britain, New Zealand and South Africa, where the telephone directories were once published with the entries arranged in the manner suggested by the honorable senator. In the circumstances it is considered that it would be retrogressive to change from the existing practice under which the reading of the subscribers’ name, occupation (where shown), address and telephone number in that order is encouraged and the telephone number is fresh in the caller’s mind when he makes the call.
– On the 13th June, Senator Seward asked a question concerning the exclusion of the University of “Western Australia from the award of research contracts to Australian universities by the Australian Atomic Energy Commission. The Minister for Supply has furnished the following answers : -
Reports on Items.
– I lay on the table reports of the Tariff Board on the following subjects: -
Artificial silk piece goods - By-law admission.
Colours and dyes.
Passionfruit juice and pulp.
Portable electric hand tools.
Record changing devices.
Synthetic paint resins.
Toys classified under Tariff Item 310 (b).
Tractors and rotary hoes, up to and including 10 belt-pulley-horse-power.
Debate resumed from the 14th June (vide page 1586), 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: - . . . (vide page 1541).
– The bill before the chamber amends the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. I understand that there have been 33 different amendments made to this act since it was first introduced in 1904. Considering the present functions of the court, it appears as though each successive amendment has reduced the effectiveness of the main purpose of the act. The chief objects of the measure are set out in clause 5 as follows: -
to promote goodwill in industry;
During his second-reading speech the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) .more or less repeated what the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) had already said in another place concerning the strength of the trade union movement in Australia. I might say that the present strength of the trade union movement has been the result of a very long struggle going back to the last century and the early days of the history of Australia. The seeds of the movement are to be found in the truism that unity is strength. By united action the ills and injustices of the last century were prevented from being perpetuated. The story of Eureka is a story of man-made laws being imposed upon people who were unwilling to abide by those laws. The laws of England and of this colony at that time, placed full power in the hands of their administrators. That was in accordance with the lights of those in authority at that time. The miners on five gold-fie’lds were the men who were doing the actual work of colonizing and developing the natural resources of this country. They were winning the gold from the soil of this new land and were thus actually producing the wealth of the country. But they were on the receiving end of the unpalatable laws that were then in operation. They protested against those laws. The result was that the redcoats of the day, the Queen’s soldiers, were sent to Eureka to ensure that the law was carried out. The miners adopted the only means at their disposal. They took an open stand against the law and eventually their rights were recognized and justice; to some extent, again prevailed on the gold-field at Eureka, and on other fields throughout Victoria
In this bill we have the application of that same principle by the extension of penalties to the law that is being imposed upon the people who produce the wealth of this country. The workers are still the pioneers of Australia. They rise before daybreak, to go into the factories or fields and work all day, and then come home after dark tired out and go to bed. The same routine goes on day after day. The best part of their lives is spent, either voluntarily or compulso.rily in producing the wealth of this country. The AttorneyGeneral (Senator Spicer), in his second - reading speech, conceded that they have certain rights, .and he added that the Government did not adopt ‘a critical attitude toward the trade unions. However, as Senator Wright pointed out, this legislation springs, pardy, from a decision of the High Court in the Boilermaker.” case that it was unconstitutional for certain penalties to be imposed on the boilermakers’ union. That decision was given in accordance with the provision? of the Constitution, hut this Governmnent, which has assumed the guardianship of the people’s welfare and of th’1 public interest - instead of accepting the finding of the highest court in this country, -went to the highest court of appeal in the Empire, the Privy Council. This Government which, on the ‘basis of the last election figures, ‘represent less than half of the -public interest, would not accept the judgment of the High Court, and appealed to the Privy Council, as it was entitled to do under t,h,law, and then -introduced this legislation before that’ appeal was determined.
Honorable senators should ask themselves whether the Government is justified, at this stage of these constitutional proceedings, in brushing aside the ordinary process of law and taking dire action. If it is entitled to do :so, and to write its own will into the laws of thi.country, then the producers of the wealth of this country - the trade unionists - must retain the right which the Government is exercising at the moment - thiright of direct action when necessary. That is the right of -an employee to strike, or the right of an employer to lock out, when either feels the law has weighed unjustly against him.
The bill alters the accepted form of the old Arbitration Court and established two bodies, one being the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission and the other the ‘Commonwealth Industrial Court. The commission will “have power to make and to vary awards, as conciliation commissioners have now. The proposed court is something new, and ‘brings into the field of arbitration power toexercise judicial authority in the interpretation .and enforcement of awards. Thi? is an interesting departure from past -procedure, but it does not overcome any of the basic defects of the arbitration system which have developed as a result of continual tinkering at the act. This measure represents the thirty-third amendment to it. Through the years, alterations ha ve been made to the original idea -of arbitration as a means of settling differences or clashes of interest “between employer and employee, and the court ha3 become a ponderous, long-winded legalistic institution which has become notorious for frustrating delays in its hearings. Questions were asked in the Senate to-day relating to the inordinate delays in these hearings, which have tended to destroy the confidence of those who look to the democratic process of arbitration to .give them industrial justice. No arbitration court or industrial tribunal or conciliation set-up can function without that confidence, and this bill will destroy confidence rather than restore it. The penal provisions of this measure confirm so many of the injustices that workers have suffered in the past at the hands of the court, thai in the present troubled times, and in the future, that lack -of confidence will be responsible for grave industrial unrest.
Delays in the .hearing of appeals from conciliators have been discussed during this debate. “Whereas originally the court was the last resort of employers and employees, it is now recognized as the only means of reaching a settlement. Lt is amy opinion thai when two parties representing different interests come together to discuss their affairs, they can reach agreement more ‘quickly if .a third party, armed with power to inflict penalities, is absent from .their discussions.
I suggest that *he “worst features of ou: –arbitration system aire the penalties which are enforceable <by process ‘of contempt of court. On .the lace of things - although Government supporters nave contradicted this - such penalties seem to nave beet inflicted only upon trade unions., anc officers and members of the trade union movement. That matter ha3 not been publicized very greatly in the daily pres.or .in certain circles, but it has caused deep resentment among trade unions and their officers and members. The penalties inflicted cause great financialloss to those who have to suffer them, and after all unions, from their highest officers to their most humble members, have a prim’ objective to strive to improve the general standard .of living ‘and the dignity of labour. Their efforts in that regard never stop. If the Arbitration Court has the confidence of the trade union movement, and is flexible enough to deal wit), disputes and other matters as they arise, the fears that many people have about our arbitration system will be allayed.
Now let us consider the industrial situation in Great Britain and the United States of America. The Attorney-General in his second-reading speech, .said thai Australia has become the most highly unionized industrial country in the freiworld. He also said -
We find the wore widespread use of th, collective ‘bargaining , process .both -in the United Kingdom .and in America. In the United Kingdom a well disciplined, .rather more respondsible trade union leadership lias developed thai is “to be found, with quite commendable excel tions, generally in this country.
The Minister said that his statement ti. the effect- that Australia had become the most highly unionized industrial country in the free world was not made in an; spirit of criticism, but I point out to him that recently automation ‘of industry ha.’ been developing both in the United States and Great Britain. For example, in England the ‘Standard Motor CompanyLimited was recently affected by an extensive strike of its employees, because of its policy of .automation. In .another pan of the United Kingdom, in Derby, a com pletely automatic factory to produce mica has recently been opened. Thar, fact err works seven days a week three shifts h day, .and employs only seventeen people to control the whole factory by pushbutton methods. Previously 50 people were employed in that concern.
The same circumstances may be found in America, where automation has already caused such high production levels to be reached in the automobile industry that recently 400,000 people were dismissed in Detroit alone. I have had the good fortune to see the American automobile Industry in operation, and I was amazed at its efficiency and at the ease with which engines and complete automobiles could 1)0 mass produced.
In view of these new processes, one’s mind turns to their effect on human standards. We shall soon have to face a similar position in this country, and we must consider who is to benefit from automation. Is it to be the man who invents the machine in the first place? Should he have the right to everything produced following the introduction of his ideas and inventions to reduce human effort? Should the company which has the capital to buy his inventions and install the machines get the benefit of them? Should the employer and the employee in the industries obtain the benefit, or should the benefit be given to the whole of the community? They are questions which can be answered only by the best minds of this country.
The problems involved in automation could make or break the whole industrial and economic system of this country, and unless we have a flexible arbitration system, or a system of defining a just share of the proceeds of automation for employees and employers, the repercussions of automation may overthrow many of our traditional institutions like the Arbitration Court. Therefore, at a time like the present, we must be particularly careful about the type of legislation that we give to the judges and the courts to administer on behalf of the whole of the people of the Commonwealth.
The main, function of the courts is to interpret the laws made by this Parliament, and that interpretation is carried out according to the spirit behind the words in which the laws are embodied. The Opposition contends that this particular piece of arbitration legislation will have a retrograde effect, because it will not give to the judicial part of the system powers which can assist it to bring about better relations between employers and employees, and it will weigh the scales of justice down in favour of one section of industry. Senator Laught said that honorable senators on this side had reflected upon the judges by comparing the number of appeals decided in favour of the employees with, the number decided against the employees. The point I make is that this bill perpetuates the state of affairs under which reflections can be cast upon judges who are merely carrying out the letter of the law. Although governments and their advisers are merely transitory, they write into our legislation provisions which remain permanent until changed at some later date; and the judges are not being criticized on this occasion for what they are doing. They are merely doing their duty in interpretin the various amendments according to the letter of the legislation passed by the Purlliament
It is important to remember that we in this Parliament are the custodians of the public interest, but by this bill the Government seeks more or less to delegate to other instrumentalities responsibilities which are really ours. I remind the Senate that during the 1946 referendum campaign members of the present Government bitterly opposed transferring to the Commonwealth certain powers relating to terms and conditions of employment. We on this side took the long-range view. We believe that if industrial peace is ever to come to the Commonwealth it is essential that there be a central authority to adjudicate upon the terms and conditions of employment. I point out that in Tasmania, for instance, we have a grievous anomaly. There, the awards of State authorities recognize the justice of continuing to apply cost of living adjustments, which are neither extravagant nor overgenerous. Those State authorities recognize that the greatest asset to business and industry is the man who comes through the door wishing to buy something and who is in a position to pay for it. They recognize that no matter how great a businessman’s reputation may be, no matter how dynamic his personality may be, unless the working man is in a position to buy his commodities, no business can continue to operate. In Tasmania, the anomaly to which I refer is the fact that certain persons working under State awards are receiving up to 26s. a week more than other people doing similar work under federal awards. I know of no greater cause of industrial discontent than that anomaly. That such a state of affairs should exist is absolute proof of the short-sightedness of those, who, for political purposes, oppose giving to the Commonwealth certain powers which are essential to the good order and government of Australia. I hope that as a result of the appointment of an allparty committee to review the Constitution we shall streamline our approach to the whole question of industrial conciliation and arbitration. I hope that by the appointment of that committee we shall put an end to the vexed problems that arise from the fact that the Commonwealth Arbitration Court and the numerous State authorities interpret the phrase “ public interest “ according to the prevailing political viewpoint. During (lis second-reading speech, the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) spoke of the importance of promoting goodwill in industry. Goodwill can be established only if there is mutual trust on both sides. But instead of generating that feeling of mutual trust, this bill, which not only continues the existing penal provisions but also extends them, will have the opposite effect.
Both in another place and here, it has been pointed out that the various court awards set out the minimum rates of pay, but we often hear honorable senators on the Government side expressing the opinion that these minimums should be the order of the day. I hold the view that employees are entitled to a figure above that minimum if they are doing a good job. If the minimum is to be applied compulsorily as the maximum, then the fundamental rights of the individual vanish, especially if it is _ to be lawful to impose penalties upon him for refusing to accept that minimum. Employers generally throughout Australia have been sadly lacking in their approach to this question of the estab lishment of proper public relations within their own organizations. Over the years, there has existed a cat-and-dog arrangement under which both sides, instead of trying to find a level of co-operation, have been prepared to fight out every issue through the courts. That system has created an air of mistrust between the two essential parts of our industrial community. Unfortunately, in the past, the court has been inclined to adopt the attitude, “It is not our business to consider this aspect until a dispute extends interstate and, when it does so extend, we are concerned only with fixing a minimum wage that we consider to be reasonable “. That approach does not get to the basic cause of the original disagreement between an employer and his employees. The court sets a minimum. As every one of us knows, the persons employed in an industry are able to produce more as techniques improve.
Therefore, there should be a general agreement within the industry that wages will be increased as production increases. I do not agree with the contention that industry should be allowed to apply, figuratively, a hypodermic syringe to the ringers or the big guns who are able, from sheer physical strength, to set a norm to which the rest of the industry must keep up without receiving a corresponding increase of wages. That is known as the piece-work system, lt should not be encouraged at all. The trade unions, over the years, have resisted many such attacks on their basic principles. The point is, that a minimum wage is set down by the court. Frequently, the court sits at a distance from the particular industry concerned, and has no personal knowledge of the conditions in the industry or in the homes of the individual workers who, collectively, make np the industry. My complaint against the present arbitration set-up is that the court is not in close enough touch with the needs of individual workers in industry. Furthermore, legislation such as the bill now under consideration, which is designed not in the general interest, but for the benefit of certain sections of the community, has to be interpreted by the judges. Just as Senator Laught accused us on this side of criticizing the judges, we have a right to criticize the Government and thus show our contempt for its- legislation, which will make more difficult the task of the jud’ges in administering the law in the public interest.
I believe that the most urgent task confronting society to-day is to reduce the possible field of disagreement in industry, in the homes of the workers, and between nations. Every effort should be made to reduce the- field of possible clashes of interests before the flash-point is reached in relation to industrial disputes, or war-like action, as the case might be. In such an enlightened country as Australia, we should be striving continuously to obviate these flash-points; This bill to amend’ the arbitration law turns back the clock, and extends the possible field of friction and grievance: Indeed, it will aggravate the clashes of various interests.
– In what way has the honorable senator’s comment any relation to the bill?
– The hill provides for the. infliction of penalties on workers in industry who participate in a demonstration against anything that they believe to be unjust.
– The appeals system has. been operating for some time.
– It has operated 3ince 1952 when this Government amended the 1947 act, and so ruined it. I believe that this Government’s meddling with the arbitration law is bringing it into discredit. By continually tinkering with that law and making it less effective, the Government has undermined the confidence of the people for whom arbitration was introduced. In future, the majority of employees will be less confident when appealing to the court than they are at present, and far less confident than they were under the 1947 legislation.
I believe that there are many other aspects of arbitration than a worker’s concern about what he gets out of it. After all, certain persons engage in industry in order to provide for themselves and advantage their shareholder.0. Collectively, the employers wield certain powers. On the other hand,, the responsibility of the workers- is to provide food, clothing and shelter for their wives and families. Those are the two sections of the community which comprise industry, which is the basis of the economy. I might be accused of being either unduly idealistic or sentimental in these matters. I contend that, while this dog-eat-dog system prevails there can be no real progress. By measures such as the bill now before the chamber, the Government is cultivating conditions similar to those in which revolutions have occurred in the past.
To speak of sympathy and helpfulness in relation to industry may, perhaps, lead to an accusation of preaching, but I suggest that- those are attributes required by the people who are in authority and who have the good fortune to control the means of production. I sincerely hope that, while they have control, they will make the best use of it, because they have control only temporarily. The span of a human life, in relation to the span of history, is a very short one. It is incumbent on the people who have the authority and who wield power over the means of production, distribution and exchange to use their power properly, because on their use of it history will judge them. If history is not to speak of them harshly, as it speaks of those in the last century who imposed conditions which brought about vast changes in human relations in various parts of the world, they must, forego many of the traditional privileges conferred by control of the means of production, and they roust also forego a lot of the self-interest which has been the yard.stick of success.
If they are to survive, they must appreciate that the most important answer that we can make to foreign ideologies and changing– economic systems- throughout the world,, is that our production, our industry, our arbitration courts and. indeed, all our activities are directed towards promoting the welfare, the happiness and the contentment of the people. Those who are employed in industry must be enabled to put away a reserve for the generation that is to follow. I believe that that is the only way to withstand this challenge to our Australian way of life. The responsibility is that of those who control the means of production. The fight will continue until the employees achieve justice. It does not matter what kind of penalties are imposed, or how the workers are treated; the fight- will go on until justice prevails. Until that happens, the ordinary processes of democracy will not work.
I support the amendments that have been foreshadowed from this side of the chamber. I have no doubt that the measure will be considered very closely at the committee stage. I hope that the Government will realize the nature of the power that it is placing in the hands of the- judges, and that it will appreciate that such power is a two-edged sword. The Government may think that it is making provision for disciplinary measures to be taken against a certain section of the community, but it may find that the result is exactly the opposite.
– At this late stage of the debate, I do not intend to go- over ground that has been covered efficiently by honorable senators on both sides of the chamber. I feel that the way in which the legislation will work has been very well dealt with already. The first of the two points that. I wish to make is concerned with the effect that this measure will have on industrial relations in the Commonwealth. Probably, it was necessary for something to- be done about the arbitration system, but I suggest that the methods referred to in the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) would have, been preferable.
The remarks that I propose to make concerning the appeals and punitive provisions of the bill have been prompted by the rather sweeping Comments o£ Senator Laught. The history of punitive action in the industrial field is not, as he claims, that Labour provided for such action in the 1947 legislation. I remind the honorable senator that the original act of 1904 provided for punitive action in the event of contravention of its provisions. Over the years, those powers were increased- until the vital year, 1930, when punitive provisions in respect of contravention of the act and contempt of the court were removed by the Labour government.. I thought that Senator Wright would have adverted to that matter when, he spoke during the debate recently. Quite properly, the honorable senator quoted Sir John Latham, who has been making public utterances on this matter over the years in a completely unbiased manner. Because of his wide experience in so many fields related to arbitration, he is peculiarly suited to discuss, this subject. However, when Sir John Latham was leading the parties in opposition to Labour in 1930, he said -
The one part of the present bill I approve is repealing the sections imposing fines. These penalties are, as a general rule, ineffective, as. experience has shown. I have always been’, doubtful of the principle they embody.
We reverted to such provisions in 1951, when we allowed severe penalties to be imposed for contempt. As Senator Laught has pointed out, there were contempt provisions in the 1947 act, but they referred to contempt of the court itself. After all, there must be some discipline at a hearing. You cannot have people disobeying the adjudicator. I remember a case in England in which some one threw an inkwell at the judge. Misconduct such as that must be punished. This Government,, however, has widened the scope of the penal provision to provide that an order or an award of the court may not be disobeyed.
I do not think that the Commonwealth Arbitration Court is the kind of court that should be run in the atmosphere of a criminal court. I am afraid that that is where lawyers are apt to go somewhat astray. A person who is brought before a criminal court is there to answer a specific charge, and if he cannot answer it satisfactorilyhe must pay the penalty provided by the law; but people who appear before an Arbitration Court are there to try to better their conditions, which is a perfectly legitimate objective. The examination, cross-examination and re-examinaion are directed to discovering whether or not their claims should be granted. I thought that Senator Wright argued powerfully when he pointed out that we had reversed the true position by placing the word “conciliation “ last, whereas since 1-904, even in the name of the court itself, “ conciliation “ lias always come first. I think that honorable senators will agree that the adoption of the amendment of the Opposition would mean that the conciliation commissioners, in the final analysis, would be the arbitrators.
I repeat what 1 said in respect of the 1951 legislation: that it is not much use having a conciliator going to the farms and the factories to decide the conditions that should operate, if the advocates who appear before him know very well that, after his finding is given, all they have to do is to appeal to another body, no matter what it is called, which, in all probability, will disagree with the finding of the conciliation commissioner. Such a system would lead to a breakdown of the whole spirit of conciliation. Those who have experience of conferences between employers and employees, whether compulsory or otherwise, will know that this phrase comes up time and time again : “ You can try if you like, but we know the court will not give it to you “. They know the position and they will not negotiate. The ground is cut away from the feet of the conciliators. That is r.he wrong way to drive the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. Sir John Latham was correct when he said that the experience up to 1930 had shown that the punitive sections should not be in the act. Ever since new provisions were inserted in the measure in 1951, unfortunate circumstances have arisen and the result has not been what the Government claims it to be. Those provisions are cutting the ground from under the feet of conciliation.
The Government will not establish satisfactory industrial relations in Australia until it decides, once and for all, what it is going to do about the basic wage. There has never been a proper assessment of the basie wage that has been paid to the workers. When Mr. Justice Higgins introduced the basic wage in 1907, he hedged it around with ifs and buts. He said it was merely a guess, and he hoped that some day it would be properly examined. When Mr. Justice Piddington made an examination of the basic wage and suggested an increase of £1 a week, his proposal was not accepted
– Mr. Justice Higgins repudiated the basic wage, did he not?
– Not to my knowledge. He said that there had never been a proper inquiry and when, subsequently, a proper inquiry was held, the finding was never accepted. There will be trouble while this matter is left in the air. What is the position to-day? Canberra has a basic wage lower than the rates for Sydney and Melbourne. One does not have to be a mathematical genius to know that that arrangementis cockeyed. Because of the geographical situation of Canberra, goods sold in this city must be more expensive than they are elsewhere. The cost structure in Canberra must be higher than the levels in Sydney, Melbourne, Perth or Hobart, yet the workers in those cities are receiving a higher basic wage than are the workers in Canberra.
Recently, the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration granted an increase of 10s. a week in the basic wage. That is the sort of result that we obtain to-day from this peculiar industrial economic set-up as it is applied to the court. The workers are not satisfied and they cannot be expected to welcome an arrangement which provides for a difference in wages of £1 a week between persons working alongside each other. The employers are not satisfied either. I refer particularly to the Commonwealth Public Service, which cannot go out into the labour market and bargain for employees. The Commonwealth Public Service now has to pay 10s. a. week more to its employees, but it is still at a disadvantage compared with those employers who are paying the State basic wage when it competes for staff. The best workers are drawn away from the ‘Commonwealth Public Service and the increase of 10s. a week in the basic wage is being poured down the drain. Had that increase been applied to the State basic wage rates, the Commonwealth Public Service would not have been in the race to compete for labour.
– Has the honorable senator read the judgment?
– Yes, and it was quite a good judgment.
– Does the honorable senator deny that it was a scientific assessment of the state of the economy?
– That is a point to which I wish to refer, and I thank Senator Wright for his interjection. This Government is placing upon the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration the responsibility of being an economic authority, and it should never be placed in that position. I recall that there was a time when cost-of-living adjustments were made annually. When the depression began, the employers could not get to the court quickly enough to alter adjustments to a quarterly basis. When the cost of living rose, they did not seek a return to annual adjustments, but eliminated cost-of-living adjustments altogether.
The Government cannot expect to have happiness in the industrial field until something is done about the basic wage. The adjustments vary from State to State. In some States, the basic wage has not been pegged. In Western Australia, i he base rate was 2.2s. lOd. behind, and when the basic wage was allowed to rise again, that amount of 22s. lOd. was lost for all time. Obviously, this Government should go far beyond an amendment of the act as it is to-day. It must stand up to its economic responsibilities. The court knows that the Government is throwing upon it the responsibility of dealing with the wage structure from the point of view of the economy. If this arrangement is taken to its logical conclusion, the courts will be considering whether they should not divide the basic wage by two. According to some honorable senators, we shall not be able to compete in overseas markets unless that is done.
I believe that the Government should appoint a royal commission to fix a proper basis for the basic wage for all time. We can expect inflation to continue and, under the present arrangement, there will be wide fluctuations and variations in the basic wage payments in the various States. In the end, the situation will become a complete farce and, with unfair competition in the fight for labour, the whole economy is likely to be wrecked.
Those who are most vitally affected by arbitration are the workers. I know that the employers are concerned also, but those most vitally concerned are the workers. They are not impressed when the Government says that the court has reached a decision and the workers must abide by it. They remember the happenings from 1930 to 1933 when action by the governments in the courts resulted in a reduction of wages by 20 per cent. The employers are not impressed either when they know that the court has thrown upon it the responsibility of determining the economic climate. The quarterly adjustments of the basic wage might not have been generous but at least they afforded a rough sort of justice to the wageearners.
– They were always three months behind.
– Yes, and they were set at a low level, but at least they gave a rough sort of justice. They meant that the workers were not to be allowed to fall below a certain frugal level. That arrangement has been destroyed and the Government cannot hope to achieve its objectives with this measure. I believe the only appeal that should be allowed is an appeal to the full Arbitration Court on the question of delays. If that had been instituted years ago we would not have some of the problems that exist at present. The Government cannot gain any satisfaction by keeping a union out of court, not merely for months, but for years, particularly a union in such a turbulent industry as the waterfront industry. When a union is prevented, by delay, from obtaining a decision, the Government is virtually stalling it off. I should like to see included in this bill a provision that after a reasonable period of time a union may apply to the full Arbitration Court and ask that the hearing of its claims take place almost forthwith.
I do not desire to delay the Senate any longer at this stage. I have made my point and I leave it at that. I do not think the suggestion I have made has been mentioned previously during this debate. I repeat that until something is done in regard to the basic wage, machinery amendments to the act, no matter how numerous, will not establish solidarity or co-operation between employers and employees in industry.
Senator SHEEHAN (Victoria) [4.’27J. - i regret very much indeed the attitude which Government supporters are adopting to this bill a’t this particular stage. Arguments that have been put forward by Opposition senators have failed to elicit any reply from Government speakers. As one who has had some experience of arbitration problems and the attempt of workers to remedy their conditions, I feel that very weighty arguments have been advanced by members of the Opposition; but, unfortunately, no reply has been forthcoming from the Government side. The attitude that seems to be adopted by those in authority, when they have the power, towards claims that are made on behalf of the working .class, is generally to treat them with contempt. The Government, feeling that it has the numbers in both the Senate and another place to enable it to make effective .a law such as this ‘according to its own ideas, has evidently made up its mind, no matter what arguments are put forward by the Opposition, to proceed on its own :sweet way to place again on the statue-book of this country an act of Parliament similar to acts that .have been introduced since 1904 and which .have failed to provide a solution to the problems they were supposed to remedy.
This is an important bill, lt is entirely different from the usual measures that are submitted to the Parliament in that it ‘deals with human beings and human values. Therefore, it merits grave consideration. Honorable senators who have spoken have pointed out the difficulties that, have occurred over the years as the result of attempts to bring employees and employers together to share the wealth that they both produce. The worker produces that wealth by applying his labour power to the raw materials, and the employer by applying his financial and managerial experience. In the final analysis something is produced and both employer and employee expect to obtain a share of it. The struggle that has taken place in the past has usually been caused by the worker endeavouring to obtain some of the good things of life. As a matter of fact, it is a struggle for existence on the part of the worker because ever since he began hit upward march he has always been me with opposition from the owners of industry. In the old days, of course, the law of supply :and demand determined the wages and conditions which operated in industry. When workers were plentiful and jobs were scarce -the employer could make his own terms. Workers could accept or .reject the wages that were offered by the .employers.
In this country, fortunately, therewere men and women who felt that those conditions should not be tolerated and, as a result, various devices were introduced in order to see if it were possible to stem the continual struggle that was taking place when the worker .exercised the only right he had of withdrawing his labour power .and bringing about a strike, or when .the employer resorted to the lockout. Ways and means were devised whereby that position could be averted, but the arbitration acts of recent years bear no .semblance whatever to the ideals and aspirations .of those who fought in this Parliament to establish an arbitration .system. It is true that in the early years it was always felt that the employer had the right to determine wages and conditions, but in this Parliament there were those who felt that something should be done to bring about ia system of arbitration. So, slowly but surely, a system was evolved, and in thai system conciliation- was .stressed. Tha; is to .say emphasis was given to the meed to conciliate in order to bring warring factions together and thus bring about peace in industry. However, as time has gone on we have found that none of those attempts has been completely successful. One of the reasons for that failure is that no sooner -does a worker obtain some little increase, or some improvement in his conditions, than economic ‘circumstances take lie benefit from him. During the course of this debate, Senator Grant touched upon one of the most vital problems connected with arbitration. Hie referred to the fact that no matter what one might do so far as legalisms are concerned the currency of the nation is the vital factor. He uttered a truism, because the struggle of the worker has always been to obtain sufficient to enable him to provide some of the good things <of life for himself, his wife and family.
Arbitration was in existence for many years before -a basis was arrived at upon, which a wage could he determined. Mention has been made this afternoon of the basic wage introduced by Mr. Justice Higgins. It was an imperfect formula when all ds said and done, but it was something better than that which had existed in the past. He at least tried to ascertain the quantities of food, clothing and shelter and the cost of those commodities for a man and a family consisting of a wife and two children.. He admitted at the time that the wage so determined was not sufficient; but it remained as the basis of our arbitration system for a very lengthy period. Other commissions of inquiry have considered the matter. -One was .a commission instituted by the late Mr. “William Morris Hughes when he was Prime Minister. It was made .during a time of intense industrial unrest. We, to-day, are again looking for some award which will help to quell unrest. Mr. Hughes said that if we were to have industrial peace it must be brought about by paying a fair price for the labour of the worker,. He appointed .a royal commission to ascertain what should .be a basic wage, and after many months of investigation its report was received. But this was placed in a pigeonhole and nothing was done about it, apart from .discussion. The recomendations in that report were never implemented. The struggle has continued, .and from .time to time amendments have been made to the act.
The High Court recently gave a decision stating that the Arbitration Court cannot be both a court of arbitration and a (punitive authority to inflict penalties upon those who may not observe its awards, and as a consequence, the Government has brought down this -bill to sidestep that judgment. In the old days a very effective method of making workers accept the wages offered by their employers was dismissal, with resultant unemployment .or starvation. The Government has now devised ways and means to bring into operation all the majesty of the law by giving the court authority to impose fines or to imprison or otherwise punish offenders, and make them obey the decisions of the court, irrespective of whether those decisions are good or bad. What a marked difference thereis in the Government’s treatment of thiother partner lin industry - the owner of the workshop - the employer ! Is the Government concerned with establishing any authority to determine what wild bc his share of the wealth created as a result of the application of labour to raw material, and to .see that it is justly apportioned? The Government is at no pains to , create an authority to determine the ratio of reward between the two parties. The worker, alone, is being com - pelledby law ,to accept his share.
Recently, the Arbitration Court decided that industry was in -such a favorable condition that it could pay the workers a prosperity rating of £1 a week. Immediately that decision “was given, steps were taken by the manufacturers to increase the prices of commodities, and so any advantage which the worker might have gained by that decision was withdrawn from nim. The employers simply said that they would .not agree to their rate of profit being diminished or thenstandard of living reduced or the “dividends payable to shareholders decreased in the slightest degree, and that they would offset the order of the court under which they had to disgorge fi a week more to the workers, by increasing the price of the goods they were manufacturing. Do we find the Government becoming excited because that court award has ‘been flouted by one section of industry ? Is it suggested that pains and penalties should be inflicted upon that party to the agreement? Not at all. But immediately the worker refuses to accept a decision of the court, or suggests that it is not sufficient, the full weight of the law is brought to ‘.bear upon him. That is entirely wrong, and is foreign to the spirit of conciliation.
This bill proposes ihe -creation of three arbitration authorities - an industrial court, a commission, and conciliators. These tribunals - whose personnel will all receive handsome salaries - will involve i he country in great expense in deter mining what share the worker will receive from the proceeds of industry. In the old days, it was suggested that the worker’s share was generally measured with a spoon but that of the employer with a bucket. The worker was advised 10 drop the spoon and grab the bucket, and the machinery of the arbitration system deprives him of any chance of doing that, Immediately he shows any signs of substituting a dessert spoon for a teaspoon the force of the law is brought against him.
If Parliament were sincere about this matter it would be urging conciliation rather than arbitration. Part of the work of conciliators is to visit the scene of an industrial dispute, talk to the workers as well as to the management, and try to settle grievances, but if they make a decision which does not suit the employers, it is immediately made the subject of an appeal to a higher authority. During my activities in the industrial field, the confidence of workers in arbitration was considerably strengthened when judges of the Arbitration Court visited a job, inspected the work and discussed its pros and cons with the workers, who were made to feel that when an award was made it would be based on first-hand knowledge gained from personal investigation.
I can see nothing in the measure before us which will make it compulsory for the legal part of the arbitration tribunal to undertake work of that nature. That work will be performed by the conciliators, but they will have no power to enforce any decision at which they and the parties arrive. I have seen many more disputes settled by conciliation, than by the application of the written word or by some profound pronouncement by a judge of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court.
The best results have always been obtained by the parties getting together and settling whatever dispute there might have been between them. In the past there have been boards of reference which have enabled employers and employees to get together and, in a quite unofficial way, to discuss all their grievances and arrive at a decision which is binding in every way, just as if it were an award’ of the court. Now it has been suggested that because of the public interest, such a system cannot be considered. It has been said that the public interest must be taken into account.
– That is not new.
– It is not new, but its operation has been lopsided. Apparently the only time when public interest must be considered is when the workers get something. That seems to be the only time when an appeal is to be lodged on the ground that the public interest must be served. Has any inquiry been held in the public interest into all the increases of prices that have taken place in recent years? Has any regard at all been paid to the public interest as the cost of commodities has increased? Has there been any suggestion made that a tribunal should be set up to investigate those increases in the public interest?
Has there been any indication of the establishment of a tribunal to consider, in the public interest, the increases of shipping freights and fares which have been proposed simply because the workers in the shipping industry have been awarded increased wages by an arbitration authority? The ink was hardly dry on the award granted to the wharf labourers when their opponents before the arbitration tribunal indicated that they would increase freights to reimburse themselves for the small amount awarded to those employed on the wharfs. Has there been any discussion in the public interest about the establishment of a tribunal to deal with that matter? Will that case be referred to this new authority and will any action be taken to prevent the increase of freights? Of course, the answer to those questions is “ no “, and honorable senators on the Government side know that as well as we do.
If a conciliator makes an arrangement which will give some increase to the workers, then we shall have all sorts of appeals. There will be appeals from one authority to another, until finally the workers will be left in the same position as they were in when the whole process began. Therefore, honorable senators will see clearly how lop-sided this bill is, even though it is supposed to be introducing a measure of conciliation.
– There is no appeal from a conciliator as such.
– There is an appeal if the conciliator tries to make an award.
– That is the very important distinction. The conciliator will not make an award; a conciliation commissioner can do that.
– That is so, but if a conciliator wants to conciliate, tells the parties to do such and such a thing, there could be an appeal from that decision. There would be an appeal if the workers received any benefit.
-Theworkersmay wish to appeal just the same as any other party.
– The workers may, but the history of arbitration shows that when the workers have exercised their power to appeal under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, they have usually come away empty handed. The appeal has fallen on very deaf ears. On the other hand, when the employers have appealed they have had quite the opposite experience. Their appeals have generally been upheld.
SenatorWright. - Who appealed in the Boilermakers case?
– That decision was quite unexpected and the Government immediately took steps to ensure that such a thing would not happen again. That appeal was against a penalty that had been inflicted. The High Court decided that the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration could not be an arbitrator and a penalty fixing tribunal at the same time. Now the Government is getting around that deci- sion in a very adroit manner, and hoping that its present legislation will last for time. Possibly the Government will appeal to the Privy Council, to test the High Court’s decision.
I suggest that all the pious hopes that have been expressed during this debate by honorable senators on the Government side will remain unfulfilled until we get down to a more definite basis and devise arbitration machinery that will guarantee to the worker a greater part of the wealth that he produces.Whatever machinery is introduced, it must have that for its objective, because, as Senator Grant has already said, the wharf labourers, who recently received an8d. an hour increase of their rates, and other workers who have been given a 10s. a week increase of the basic wage, will not benefit from those increases, if they find when they go to purchase commodities in a week or a fortnight that the increased cost of living has taken away the advantage of their higher pay. I suggest that this measure fails in every respect to grapple with that grave problem, which really is a matter of human interest.
A measure of this kind deals with humanity, and in that respect itdiffers from other measures that are put before the Parliament.For those reasonsI trust that the Government will go further than it did when this measure was in another place, when a sheaf of amendments was added to the original bill. There, the Government discovered that it had to go a little way along the road towards meeting the objections of the Opposition, and I hope that in this chamber the Government will go further and accept the amendment that is now before us in an effort to make the measure a better one than it is at present.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be left out (SenatorMcKenna’s amendment) be left out.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. A. M. McMullin.)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Question put -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. A. M. McMullin.)
Majority . . . . 5
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 6 - by leave - taken together.
.- Paragraph(f) of clause 6 seeks to insert in the principal act the following definition : - “ The Commission in Presidential Session “ means the Commission constituted by presidential members of the Commission to the number of at least three.
That definition will have a bearing on the constitution of the commission under proposed section 6.. I should like the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) to inform me how many presidential members it is intended shall be appointed to the commission. Proposed section 6 (1.) (b) provides that there shall be not less than two deputy presidents in addition to the president. I should like to draw attention to the fact, if you will permit me to do so, Mr. Chairman, that proposed section 26, which is inserted by clause 10, provides that the Commonwealth Industrial Court shall consist of a chief judge and not more than two other judges. In relation to the commission, there is a minimum prescribed; in relation to the court, a maximum. I should like the Minister to explain to me the purpose and effect of that difference, particularly in view of the definition of the term “ The Commission in Presidential Session”. In the commission constituted of presidential members and others, it is prescribed that there shall be not less than three presidential members and not less than six commissioners. I should be very interested to know what balance will he attempted to be maintained between these two different types of members, and I should like the committee to be informed of the Government’s purpose in relation to the constitution of the commission. How many presidential members, and how many ordinary members it is proposed to appoint to the commission? I regard this matter as being of the utmost importance to the industrial law of this country for the next 25 years.
– I refer to clause 5. Proposed new section 2 (c) provides that the chief objects of this bill are -
To provide means for preventing and settling industrial disputes not resolved by amicable agreement, including threatened, impending and probable industrial disputes, with the maximum of expedition and the minimum of legal form and technicality; 1 consider quite a lot of the phraseology of that paragraph to be redundant. Will the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) inform me at what time it is envisaged that cognizance shall be taken of a threatened, impending or probable industrial dispute, and whether it is considered that the court should have power, of its own volition, to move in on an award or determination >of the court that is operating satisfactorily when neither party has presented to the court an application for an alteration of the existing agreement from the point of view of the employer and union or society covered by the award. As the Constitution vested in the Commonwealth certain power in relation to interstate disputes, I should like to know whether, if it is expected that a dispute in one State will extend into another, the court can intervene.
– Senator Wright has asked for information in regard to the number of the present judges it is expected will serve as presidential members of the commission and as commissioners. 1 think it is true to say that it has always been difficult to have a fixed limit of members on this body, as the demands made upon the members change from time to time. The amount of work that they are called upon to do might vary greatly from year to year. At present, the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration is composed of seven judges. It is contemplated that four of those judges shall remain as presidential members of the commission, but whether four will be the number which will always serve the purposes of the commission, it is difficult to say. That is the reason why the bill has been drafted in its present form. That comment applies equally an relation to the commissioners. We are dealing here with a vast range of industrial disputes. When there are comparatively few ‘disputes, it is possible for the court to carry on effectively with a relatively small number of commissioners, but the time might come when it would be necessary to increase the number. As a matter of fact, since this -Government came into office there has been -a considerable reduction in the number of conciliation commissioners. When this Government assumed office, there were .sixteen conciliation commissioners and, I am told, there are now only nine; eight of them are acting, and one has been seconded to the Australian .Stevedoring Industry Boar-d. Therefore, it is obvious that the number .of conciliation commissioners necessary to carry on this work has varied greatly. It for that reason that the provisions in relation to deputy president? and commissioners have been expressed in the way to which Senator Wright has directed attention.
– What shall become of the other three Arbitration Court judges?
– We anticipate thai th y will become members of the Industrial Court, which is the body that will deal with the judicial side of arbitration. In that connexion, we are dealing with a court of law, in which it is possible to fix the maximum number of judges. The Government has decided that, in that instance there shall not be more than three judges. The matter is a little more difficult in the field of arbitration. The Industrial Court will be a court of law which, I hope, will be conducted in the way that courts of law are usually conducted in this country.
I do not intend to indulge in a long legal dissertation on the very difficult subject that was raised by Senator Cooke in relation to the definition of “ industrial dispute”. I believe that the real point that he was getting at could, perhaps, bc more conveniently dealt -with a little later on. I think that he was raising the question of whether there are circumstances in which the court may intervene .of its own account, without being moved by either of the parties to do so.
– That is so.
– There is an instance of that by way of variation ‘of an existing award, and only in that way. That arises out of the Basic Wage case. The honorable senator .may remember that, in the Basic Wage case -of 1953, the
Commonwealth Arbitration Court determined in connexion with certain disputes that were before it for the purpose of dealing with the matter as a test matter, that the quarterly adjustment system should be discontinued. There were a number of other existing awards not then before the court in that case, which were brought before the court and dealt with, notwithstanding the fact that in some cases the parties did not seek the court’s intervention. The matter was taken to the High Court, which held that the Arbitration Court had power to act as it did. The matter is dealt with later in the bill. If the honorable senator wants to deal with it, especially by way of amendment, I suggest that it would be more convenient to deal with it then.
Clauses agreed to.
Clause 7 -
Part II. of the Principal Act is repealed and the following Farts are inserted in its stead: - “ Part II. - The Commonwealth Conciliation
“6. - (1.) There shall he a Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, which shall consist of the following members: -
– This is a very extensive clause and it incorporates a large number of proposed sections. I suggest to the committee that they be taken proposed section by proposed section, with the intimation that, so far as the Opposition is concerned, we are prepared to have the consideration proceed as it has hitherto, moving amendments of which notification is given from time to time. I suggest to the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Spicer) that that might be the most convenient procedure.
– I am in accord with that.
That the proposed sections in clause 7 be considered separately.
– I wish to say, at the outset, that all of the amendments, ofwhich this is the first, that we now pro pose, were put in another place and wererejected there. If we were to push our views to the point of division in relation to all of these matters, and in relation to other major clauses in respect of which., although we have proposed no amendment, we wish to vote against, the time of the committee would be occupied for a number of hours in merely having divisions. 1 can visualize approximately 30 of them,, and even at six minutes for each, that would account for three hours. The Opposition does not intend to divide on. anything like that number of occasions.. We propose to take a number of test divisions only, but I do not want it to be thought that, because we do not divide, we are not strong in upholding our amendments. Having regard to the fact that we are in probably the last week, if not the last hours, of this sessional period,I think it would be unreasonable for the Opposition to proceed to a division on. every one of these amendments. The amendments are not quite so formidable in number as they appear, because quite a number are consequential on others. 1 think that they will fall into a fairly narrow compass.
– Where are they set out?
– They were circulated last week. There are some 24 of them, and there is a separate one which has been multigraphed and not printed, which also was circulated last week. In all, there are 25 amendments from the Opposition. Apart from the first one, which is rather a key amendment, I undertake to enunciate with all the brevity thatI can command the principle that is involved, from the point of view of the Opposition, and to allow debate to develop from that brief statement. I think that that may suit the purpose of the committee very well.
I move -
That, in proposed section 0 (1.), paragraphs (c) and (d) be left out.
That, of course, goes directly to the heart of the new set of proposals enunciated by the Government in this bill. The effect of the amendment is to confine the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission to judicial officers, or men with judicial qualifications; in other words, to confine it to the presidential members, as defined elsewhere in the bill, so that neither the Senior Commissioner nor other commissioners would be members of the commission proper.
Associated with that amendment are amendment No. 2, which would establish conciliation commissioners apart from the commission itself, and amendments Nos. 14 and 15, the purpose of which is to restrict the commission proper to the four main matters of the adult basic wage, the adult female basic wage, long service leave, and standard hours. Amendments Nos. 4, 5 and 6 are designed to refer to other powers in the field of conciliation commissioners. The fate of amendment No. 1 will determine the fate of amendments Nos. 2, 4. 5, 6, 14 and 15.
I put at once that the purport of the amendments is, broadly, to restore the scheme of conciliation and arbitration in Australia that was first set up by the Chifley Government in its 1947 legislation. The Opposition feels that the scheme of this bill is altogether too complicated, with the old court preserved, a new court established, a new arbitral commission, and a system of commissioners and conciliators. When we come to consider the commission we find that it will be a very weird mixture of judges, barristers, a senior commissioner, and commissioners. They are to have different tenure, different pay, different pensions, different travelling allowances and altogether different status. We feel that, whilst these various elements may mix, they will never fuse and become anything in the nature of a truly corporate entity; that there will be elements that will be floating about like oil on water, from the time of the establishment of the commission until it ends. The factors that make for permanency, continuity and, I should say, harmony, are not there.
We recognize that the prestige of judges on that commission is important as assuring acceptance by the community of their decisions on the four great issues, but we consider also, in matters apart from the four great issues that hitherto have been reserved to the judges of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, that there is a far greater likelihood of acceptance of decisions of commissioners in all other matters relating to industry. In fact, the very latest report of the Chief Conciliation Commissioner indicates how happy has been the term of conciliation and arbitration, in the spheres left to conciliation commissioners, during the last year. He indicates that the great bulk of the disputes that arose were settled by the process of conciliation, and he adds that, in the period that has just concluded, there was no major industrial dispute at all in the field that is covered by conciliation commissioners. Despite the alterations that were effected by this Government in 1952, in permitting references to the court and appeals to the court from decisions of conciliation commissioners, that is a grand tribute to the system, as well as * to the conciliation commissioners operating in that field.
The Opposition has put its view on this subject before, and I merely restate it : That the decisions of conciliation commissioners in matters apart from those hitherto reserved to the judges should be final and non-appealable.
– How is that matter involved in the amendment?
– I indicated, at the outset, that this amendment is part, of a scheme which is set out in the amendments to which I have referred ; that is. amendments Nos. 2, 4, 5, 6, 14 and 15.
– Which of those amendments deals with appeals?
– Appeals are referred to in another proposed section.
– The subject is dealt with separately by the honorable senator.
– In other words, the Opposition would not have an appeal under either system.
– That is perfectly true. This matter is not strictly relevant to the scheme of a court and conciliation commissioners, but I am taking the liberty at this stage to digress a little, because I feel that, by doing so, I shall be able to speak in shorthand, as it were, when1 1 come’ to the other amendments. That is my sole purpose’ in adverting to the matter now:
We believe that the scheme set up in 1947 had a very much better chance of making, for harmony in industry. We believe that it affords to workers; a better chance to participate in the growth, development and’ prosperity of the industry in which they are engaged1. In addition, it will enable them to feel that their own industry can be looked at as an entity upon its merits, earnings, future and profits. A greater sense of responsibility would develop among the workers in that industry if they felt that they were not merely part of the ant heap of workers in Australia.
That, of course, carries them away from uniformity, but I believe that modern’ thinkers do not regard that as. a defect, lt is quite certain that there will be. great variation between one industry and another in the future, if only for 4ihe reason that automation is on-, the way. It will be- readily applicable to some- industries and; not to others, and very special arrangements may have to be made for workers in those industries to which automation is applied. There, will be no question of uniformity between an industry in which automation plays a large part and one in which there is very little scope for it. With the advent of automation, uniformity in Australia will be a thing of the past, and forward thinking demands that, on the eve of that great development, we should now- address- ourselves to the- facts of each industry, anddeal with it, upon its own merits, having regard to its particular conditions. That is a development of the future, and it is one of the reasons that has- influenced the Opposition in its viewpoint on this matter.
We believe that the central control contemplated in this bill, under which a decision of an individual member of the commission - whether he be a judge or a. layman - can be referred to a commission of three, whether those three include a commissioner or not, is not likely to promote industrial peace in Australia. The bill provides for uniformity which, in thechanging conditions of to-day, is not desirable. Undoubtedly, it will not promote harmony in industrial relations, nor develop a sense of responsibility among workers in industry. We acknowledge that they have responsibility as- well) as rights in that field1.
With those thoughts in mind, I put this amendment to limit the proposed commission to’ purely judicial members. If the amendment is carried, there will be a> number of consequential amendments to the bill, and I have indicated their nature. If the amendment is not carried, I do not propose to take the time of the committee by addressing honorable senators on those amendments’.
– I confess that I find it difficult to understand why the Opposition should persist with its amendment. The amendment is designed to restore to the conciliation and arbitration system the rigidity which was introduced into it in 1947.- Unfortunately, the whole system of conciliation and arbitration in Australia has suffered from too much rigidity, partly for constitutional reasons. I do not propose to indicate all of those reasons to the committee, because I am sure that honorable senators are- familiar with the circumstances, but all of those rigidities enter into the system by reason of the fact that, we have to work within the strict verbal limits of the Constitution. It provides that there has to be conciliation and arbitration; it must be for the settlement of industrial disputes, and they must be interstate industrial disputes.
In 1’947, perhaps with the best goodwill in the world, the Labour government of the day introduced a system under which it provided that there were to be judges of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration and, separately, there were to be conciliation commissioners. The act laid down that the judges would deal with only four matters - the basic wage, standard hours, basic wage for females and long-service leave: All- other matters were to be dealt with- by conciliation, commissioners. Judges would not handle, in. any circumstances, the matters that the conciliation commissioners touched, and the conciliation commissioners were not, in any circumstances, to have anything to do with matters with which the judges dealt. That is the. system that the amendment submitted by the Opposition seeks to restore. The choice i3 between a system on that wigid basis,, and one which attempts, to introduce: more flexibility.
In the main, under the system that the Government proposes, the presidential members of the commission will be doing the sort of work that they have been doing under the legislation of 1947’. It is true that there is reserved, to them the four main matters, but they are not excluded- - as they were under the 1947 act - from taking part as individuals, if it is convenient, in the work which the 1947 act kept solely within the domain, of the conciliation commissioners., Surely that is a convenient set-up. Are the judges, should the occasion arise, to be regarded as less competent than the commissioners, to deal with matters that the commissioners habitually dealt with? Pressure of work might be a reason why the judges should deal with some of the things that have come before the conciliation commissioners. That is one way in which wo propose to introduce flexibility to this otherwise rigid system..
On the other hand,, we: shall provide means by which the conciliation commissioner - a< man who is specially versed in the act because- of long experience in a particular industry - should take a hand in appeals and references. One conciliation commissioner may sit with presidential members on an appeal. The conciliation. commissioner, by whom a reference is made upon a matter on which he has not reached a decision, may sit with a presidential member,, or with two presidential members, or with a presidential member and another conciliation commissioner. The conciliation, commissioner who has referred the matter may sit on the body to assist in its final determination. Surely that will make- for speed in dealing with these- things; Here is a man in a particular industry; who normally deals with problems of that industry as a conciliation commissioner. A particularly- difficult matter comes before him. Under the proposed system he says,. “ Now, instead of my deciding this matter myself I will seek the guidance of two presidential members or one presidential member and another of my conciliation commissioners, and the three of us; will sit down together and try to. reach what is the best solution “. Surely, that is a better system than one under which, as at present, the conciliation commissioner who is dealing with the matter has no option but to decide it himself - although he knows the- case is very- difficult and may be subject to appeal - or to refer it to the court and he himself will then take no hand in its decision and will” not be- there to assist his fellow members of the commission to determine the matter. In the choice of one of those two- systems I would have thought- that for the working of a sensible conciliation and arbitration system, the one which provides flexibility would be preferred every time.
– I am very interested in this aspect of this clause. I have listened with great attention to what the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) said as to the rigidity of’ the division between the jurisdiction created by the 194-7 act of the judges- on the one hand and the commissioners on the other. I thought that a great step had been made to bridge that division by the institution of references and appeals. I thought that those procedures had done much to prevent the rigid division on which emphasis has been laid, coupled with the very ingenious piece of draftsmanship that was enacted into legislation whereby all the jurisdictional problems as to the province of the judges in connexion with the four major matters, was got over simply by allowing the ipse dixit, of the judges to prevail as a matter of law so that their jurisdiction should be what they said it was.. Those observations are mainly addressed to the lawyers in the committee.
I am apprehensive of a system in which the commissioners are fellow members with their judges on the one tribunal, especially when neither section, of the membership of that tribunal is limited by law. I believe that most untoward results may be produced if we are to have three judges and 30 commissioners. Ultimately, it will be an easy transition to the stage of a commission composed exclusively of commissioners. I do not. think the possibilities of that happening have been fully considered-.
– The act would have to be amended before that could happen.
– I repeat that it would be a very easy transition, and 1 commend to the committee some considerations that appear in Foenander’s book, Studies in Australian Labour Law and Relations, at page S7, where, after considering the appalling situation in which the system was divided by the rigid separation of 1947 the author said -
Little adverse criticism can he directed to an arrangement by which, within a single responsibility, each justice is made responsible, in a general way, for the conduct of specified industries; Australian experience has shown that, by that device, an arbitrator becomes familiar, or intimate, with the personnel, problems and technique of particular industries. Working under the direction of the justices, and always in a supporting and subsidiary capacity, there could be conciliation commissioners, of a required number, much the same as previously was the case. A structure of this character is essentially different from that instituted under the legislation of 1947. where the separation effected is practically complete and unqualified - an almost total absence of provision for organic connexion at any stage in the divisioning of jurisdiction between the parallel authorities, both as regards the Court and the commissioners vis-ii-ms and with respect to the commissioners inter se.
That passage poses a problem that, I think, is well worthy of consideration. I rise to ask the committee to ponder most thoughtfully - I think, with apprehension - the situation that can easily be produced on a commission, once you get the judges and the commissioners sitting on the one bench. If the committee will bear with me I will refer to a later clause in the bill which provides that when the commission sits in this composite way for the purpose of hearing appeals or references it is to be composed - if I correctly recall the provision of the clause - of simply two presidential members in the case of an appeal and one commissioner and one presidential member or two commissioners in the case of a reference.
– In. the case of a reference there has to be one commissioner but there could be two.
– The committee will get more accurate information on that when it reaches that clause. At the present time, the situation to which I want to refer is that the decision of that tribunal is arrived at by a bare majority. What sort of a situation will a judge be in if he 13 over-ruled by two commissioners ?
– The virtue of judgeship does not necessarily make his decision any more correct.
– This is a matter which is peculiarly within the province of the conciliation commissioners.
– That may be so. but once we start taking these easy steps along the downward slope, we will reduce the judges to exactly the same position as commissioners. It may be that there are some in the committee who do noi value the work of the judges any more than that.
– The honorablesenator should not put words into my mouth. I did not say that.
– No, but I say there may be. If there are those who hold that viewpoint, they should vote according to it. I for one declare, on my consideration of the arbitration system, the invaluable contribution that the judgehave rendered. Let honorable senatorread the recent basic wage judgment anr! the judgment that was passed to me thiafternoon, delivered by Mr. Justice Ashburner, in the Waterside Workers Federation case. Those gentlemen arc capable of making that contribution by reason of having given their lives to the study of the system and then having been appointed because of their appropriateness to the bench. I think it is a matter that needs to be considered very Iona and very deeply before we create a tribunal upon which commissioners take their place on a basis, so far as the exercise of jurisdiction is concerned, with perfect equality with judges.
– That is another matter.
– I invite the Attorney-General to correct me if I am wrong, but I understand they have equality on all matters other than standard hours, the basic wage and the other reserved matters. Is it not obvious that those who have jurisdiction over the various individual industries exercise a very wide and important influence in the moulding of the economy of the Commonwealth? For the purpose of maintaining that valuable contribution by the judges, and retaining them in the ultimate exercise of the jurisdiction, some differentiation along the lines suggested by Foenander, a very experienced authority on industrial, law, would bear earnest consideration.
Sitting suspended from 5.4-6 to 8 p.m.
Further consideration of proposed section 6 postponed.
Proposed sections 7 to 12 - by leave - taken together, and agreed to.
Proposed section 13 -
Subject to this Act, a Commissioner shall hold office until he attains the age of sixty-five years.
– I move -
That after proposed section 13 the following sub-section be inserted: - “ (2.) The Governor-General may, within six months before a Commissioner attains the age of sixty-five years, extend the term of office of the Commissioner for such period as the Governor-General thinks fit, being a period that will expire not later than the date upon which the Commissioner attains the age of sixty-eight years.”.
The proposed commission will embrace three elements in regard to age. There are the former members of the Arbitration Court who, of necessity, will hold office for life. In proposed section 7 (3.), provision is made that a presidential member of the commission shall hold office until he resigns or attains the age of 70 years. In that context, that means a presidential member of the commission, who is not a judge, but has been appointed from the legal bar of Australia, and is a barrister of at least five years’ standing. The proposed new section now under consideration provides for a retiring age of 65 years for an ordinary commissioner. Therefore, the three elements are : judges for life, barristers who are presidential members until they are 70, and commissioners until they are 65. That scheme is an oddity, to begin with. I have always understood that barristers were not a very good insurance risk, because the nature of their calling rather threatened their expectation of life.
– They are a pretty good risk when they are appointed to the Bench.
– I am told that they are like widows who have annuities ; they never die, either. I suggest to the committee that there ought to be some extension of the term of conciliation commissioners, and I remind the committee of what happened in a recent measure in the case of the commissioner who handles export payments insurance. The retiring age in his case was fixed at 65 years, but provision was made also to extend his term of office until he was 68. I have suggested the age of 68 years in my amendment, not only to make the provision accord with the provision in the measure to which I have just referred, but also because in earlier legislation, in 1947, it was possible for a conciliation commissioner to have two extensions of his term, which would carry him to his sixty-eighth year - that is until he was 67. His term could be extended year by year. This Government, by legislation, did, in fact, extend the term of the Chief Conciliation Commissioner, Mr. Mooney, until he was 70. In the amendment I am suggesting nothing new, because the Senate has affirmed the principle of 6S years as the retiring age for the Export Payments Insurance Commissioner, and Parliament approved the principle of extending the term of its Chief Conciliation Commissioner, Mr. Mooney, until he was 70. Earlier legislation relating to commissioners gave them the possibility of extending their term until aged 67.
In these circumstances, I felt that something should be done of a similar nature in this bill, more particularly as these commissioners, who are now being enshrined in the commission under this bill took office in 1947 with the expectation and hope, if not the legal claim, that they would be in office until they were at least 67 years of age. These men who will now be appointed to the new commission have served since 1947, and it is hard to justify a discrimination between barristers retaining office until they are 70, but commissioners only until they are 65, whereas judges will have a life tenure. The amendment would provide a measure of justice to men who were appointed to their office originally with some hope of obtaining an extension of two years, year ‘by year, and the tendency of the Government seems to be to extend the term of commissioners to age 68 as an outside possibility. Foi those reasons, I commend the amendment to the committee.
– The Government is not prepared ‘to accept this amendment. It is true, as pointed out by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator M’cKenna) that the bill contains varying retiring provisions, but they are not without a logical basis. The present judges of the Arbitration Court were appointed as judges of a court in the full sense, and being a federal court, it was necessary, under the terms of the Constitution, that their appointment should be for life. That fully explains why these presidential members of the commission, who are at present members of the Arbitration Court, will retain their life tenure. To have any other provision in respect of them would be a complete repudiation of the engagement that was entered into with them when they were appointed to the Court.
In relation to future appointments with the arbitration commission the Government contemplates that there will be presidential members who have legal qualifications, hut their appointments will be to a tribunal which is no longer a court ‘but a body which will exercise no judicial powers. In relation to those appointees, it has been thought desirable to “provide that their tenure of office should terminate when they attain the age of 70 ‘years. There is logic behind that provision, because most State laws now provide for the retirement of judges, and in those States judges have been deprived of the life tenure that they previously enjoyed. The most common retirement provision in the laws of the States is that judges should retire at 7.0 years, although an Victoria I believe that it is 72 years. In any -event, it is more -common to provide under State law that judges shall retire at 70 years than at .any other age.
That is the basis upon which the age mentioned in .this measure has been chosen, and moreover I suggest that it would be undesirable to appoint to this tribunal -gentlemen who have not had a good deal of experience in their profession. In other words, the persons appointed will :be those who have probably attained the a’ge of -50 years or more before appointment, and the maximum pension that they can enjoy will become payable after they have had fifteen years of service. Those considerations are the foundation upon which we have fixed upon a retiring age of 70 years in relation to the appointees under discussion.
For conciliation commissioners, the normal retiring age has always been <65 years, with a qualification to which 1 shall refer in a few moments. It was contemplated in the Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1947, that conciliation commissioners would normally be in the same position as public servants. Provision for their superannuation and so forth was laid down upon the basis that they should retire at 65 years of age in the same way as public servants. Therefore, in this bill we have made a similar provision. The only difference between the provision in the measure now before honorable senators and the provision in the 1947 act is that the 1947 act provided that a commissioner who had attained the age of 65 years could have his term extended over two periods - one period until he attained the age of 66 years and the second period until he attained the age of 67 years. However, those extensions were to be granted only if, in the opinion of the -Governor-General, it. was desirable to do so in the publicinterest. It was contemplated that a commissioner who had attained the age of 65 years might then be dealing with a part-heard case, and therefore provision had to be made to enable his term to be extended until he had completed the hearing of that case. I have had some experience of the operation of that provision, and I consider that it is undesirable to leave the Governor-General, or the Government, with a discretion to extend the term of one man ,and perhaps .not extend the term of another .man. Such a .state of affairs tends to create invidious distinctions, and for that reason I suggest, quite frankly, that if we are to have a retiring age, let us have a definite one. f should prefer to say straight out that the retiring age should be 68 than to see the. provision proposed by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) adopted.
– Would the Minis ter accept the age of 68 years’?
– No, I cannot do so. If the term of office could be extended, when a conciliation commissioner attained the age of 65 years he would have some expectation, or some hope, that his term would be extended. Then, for some reason or other, it might be felt that his term could not be extended; but in. the case of another commissioner there might be a good reason why his term should be extended. That would create invidious distinctions, which, [ suggest, would be undesirable in a matter of this kind.
By and large, I can see no reason why we should not follow in respect of these people the rule that normally applies to public servants. I can well und.ersta.nd a suggestion being made that Ave should extend the term of office of public servants, and that they should be permitted to continue in office until they are 70 years of age, because there may be good reasons for such a suggestion. However, let us deal with the retiring age as a whole problem, and not introduce a condition in relation to conciliation commissioners that cannot be found in the rest of the Public Service. For those reasons I ask the committee to support thu proposal of the Government.
– I thank the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) for his comments, and in reply I desire to say quite briefly that while he allowed logic to sway his mind for part of the way, he did not allow it to carry him the whole distance. He pointed out that the reasons for giving to barristers, who become presidential members of the commission, a tenure of office to the age of 70 years was because most State legislation was along similar lines. That is logical. It is also logical for him to point out that appointees to these positions would be 50 years of age or more, because it is necessary to have men of experience. However, in applying logic to the matter of these commissioners, he overlooked the fact that the majority of the commissioners appointed under the present legislation were as a matter of fact, and not as a matter of speculation, 50 years or over at the time of their appointment, and were mature and experienced men. Moreover, the majority of them have already retired. Without having the exact information before me, I should be willing to wager that of those who remain probably all of them were 50 years of age or more when they were appointed.
– They are not subject to a provision that the maximum pension shall not be payable until they have served for fifteen years.
– That will not apply to members of the bar; it has purely a judicial application. I am talking about the legal members, so the comparison has to be between barrister? and commissioners.
– Barristers are subject to the fifteen years provision. They will not get the maximum pension until they have served for fifteen years.
– Then barristers are to be made pensionable?
– They are to be made pensionable.
– Barrister who are non-judicial are pensionable and have to serve fifteen years to obtain the fu Ti pension ?
– Some conciliation commissioners were appointed at an advanced age, and were unable to tak* advantage of superannuation benefits. They could not contribute to the superannuation fund, and so they contributed to the Provident Fund in order to receive a lump sum upon retirement. Many of them retired in real distress. I know some conciliation commissioners who retired in distress and difficulty because they could not possibly pay the contributions that were required of them in order to enable them to take advantage of superannuation. I suggest that that is an additional argument for giving a longer tenure of office, as Senator Benn has suggested, to conciliation commissioners.
The Minister, in his reply, did not refer to the two cases that I mentioned to him. In one case the present Government extended the time of the Chief Conciliation Commissioner, Mr. Mooney, to the age of 70, and in the other case this Government and this chamber decided a few weeks ago to extend the term of the insurance commissioner for export payments to the age of 68 years. I regret that the Government will not accept this amendment, or some qualification along the lines of it, because by not doing so the Government will be throwing away ripe experience and getting into a difficult position with new officers at a time of transition and change. That is bad for the whole industrial system, and if it is bad for the industrial system it is bad for the country. It is not quite fair to the men who are already in, who came in very late in life and who will go out of public life with very little superannuation.
– As one who is opposed to the proposed age limits, I should like to mention that age can be divided into four categories - the geological, the chronological, the physiological and the psychological. There are very few people in this chamber who have grown up psychologically, they are still very young mentally, although they have grown chronologically and physiologically. During the war, we brought in superannuates, men of 65 and 75 years of age and, because we brought, them back, we were able to do certain work in the aircraft industry, in the Post Office and in munitions factories that we should not have been able to do without them. They supervised trainees, and did excellent work. “When the war ended in 1945, and demobilization of the forces began, these men were put on the scrapheap and left to rot. It is well known that in seafaring life, provided a pilot understands navigation, he can continue to work almost to the limit of physical and mental endurance. The same prin- ciple should apply to public servants. These superannuates are men who have grown up in the service. They have a splendid background of both theoretical knowledge and practical experience. But they are passed out, and I cannot understand why. The only reason ever given to me was that they were keeping younger men out of certain positions. When I was Postmaster-General, I found that the men of 65’ and 70 years of age who were fully qualified in every way went into administrative positions and there taught and encouraged the younger men.
Why should we be chained to the old, stereotyped conceptions of the medieval age? I know that if some people had their way they would retire politicians who are as old as I am, but they seek to do that merely because they themselves are not qualified and could not stand up to the rigorous test of political life. I am strongly opposed to these age limits, and we have our war-time experience to support me in this stand. If we had another war to-morrow, we would do just what we did the last time. This debate reminds me of an essay, Age and Youth, written by Sir Francis Drake during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. In it he advocated turning to the older men for counsel and the younger men for action, and to the extent that that suggestion was adopted, so did they achieve the best results. There are many people as old as I am who are still very young mentally and there are others of my age who have grown up mentally, although I can see very few on the Government side of this chamber who have grown up mentally. Most of them merely follow precedent, just as the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Spicer) suggested a moment ago. I have mentioned on a previous occasion that the interpretation of the law is based on precedent. It is for that reason that most men trained in the law think backwards, and I think the Attorney-General comes within that category.
– I ask the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) to give further consideration to the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator
McKenna). It does not affect any principle contained in the bill. I remind the Senate that in Victoria the retiring age is 72 years, and that is a very wise precaution. I should imagine that if judges were retired at 65 years of age it is possible that some of them would go back into the profession, and I should not think that would be a desirable state of affairs. I cannot see why a barrister who will be appointed to a position in the second classification contained in the bill should not be allowed to continue until he is 70 years of age. The AttorneyGeneral has said that we want men of mature age in these positions, but that they must occupy their positions for fifteen years before they become eligible for full pension. He more or less implied that the Government would appoint to these positions men of round about 50 years of age. The Attorney-General knows as well as any legal man in this chamber does that the average person qualifies for the law at something between 22 and 24 years of age. By the time he is 50, he has gained a great deal of experience. But does the Attorney-General suggest that because a suitable man may be 45 years of age he cannot be appointed because the Attorney-General believes that a barrister does not reach maturity until he is 50 years of age?
– I did not say that.
– The AttorneyGeneral implied it. If the amendment affected any of the principles of the bill, [ could understand the Attorney-General’s saying that it conflicts with Government policy and therefore he cannot accept it; but I point out that the men who occupy positions in the third category mentioned in the bill have spent some time in the particular work to which they will be called upon to apply themselves until they are 65 years of age. Does not the Attorney-General want experience in that first category? I should say that if anything is essential to the proper working of this bill and the minimizing of disputes in industry, it is the experienced conciliator.
The Leader of the Opposition has pointed out that there are those who, because of their age, may not have been able to contribute to the Superannuation
Fund, and must therefore accept a lump sum payment from a provident fund. In these days of inflation, they may not have sufficient to carry on, and, without mentioning any names, I rest content with saying that I know of one such case personally. I repeat that if the amendment conflicted with Government policy I could understand the Attorney-General’s rejecting it, but it does not do so. On the contrary, I believe that if accepted the amendment would make for the better working of the bill when it becomes law. I appeal to the Minister not to adopt the attitude that the Government will not accept any amendments, but wants the bill to be passed in its present form. Of course, if I thought for a moment that the adoption of my suggestion would prevent the normal advancement of young men, I would not press the point. The Minister has laid emphasis on. the aspect of maturity in relation to the appointment of the judges. I agree wholeheartedly with that attitude, but I cannot see the force of his argument in relation to ordinary barristers. I suppose the reason for stipulating’ that the judges shall retire at 70 years of age is to obviate the necessity for them to resume private practice. I remind the Minister that Mr. Mooney’s term of office was extended, and that the Export Payments Insurance Corporation Bill 1956, which was recently passed by this chamber, prescribed that the chief executive officer should retire at 68 years of age. I am astonished by the Minister’s attitude in relation to this matter. I hope that he will reconsider it, because I do not think that he has given a logical reason for altering a provision the retention of which would facilitate the operation of the bill. In conclusion, I reiterate that, if the acceptance of my suggestion would not conflict with any principle that has been laid down by the Government, it should be adopted.
Senator BENN (Queensland) [8.35J. -I support the amendment that has been moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna), which is in the following terms : -
The Governor-General may, within six months before the commissioner attains the a,gc of sixty-five years, extend the term of office of the Commissioner for such period as the Governor-General thinks fit, being a period that will expire not later than the date upon which the Commissioner attains the age of sixty-eight years.
The Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) has stated that the commission will be composed of men who have the qualifications of judges and men who, by reason of their experience in the industrial field, are qualified to carry out the work of commissioners. A distinction is made between the retiring age of appointees to the commission who have the qualifications of judges - that is, persons who have practised as barristers or solicitors for a number of years - and lay appointees. The Minister indicated that, in all probability, the majority of appointees to the commission would have attained the age of 50 years. Let us consider this matter from a commonsense point of view. Let us assume that a layman who has considerable industrial experience is appointed to the commission, and carries out the duties of a commissioner for fifteen years, by which time he has attained the age of 65 years. Under the provisions of the bill, he will then be compelled to relinquish his duties. Should not the question of public interest be considered? In the first place, that man, by reason of bis close association with industry, would be familiar with the warp and woof of industrial unionism. He would know the attitude of unionists in relation to various matters, and he would be in possession of a wealth of information such as could be gained only by practical experience. As a commissioner, he would have gained considerable experience in handling various matters during that period of fifteen years. I think that the requirement that such a man shall retire from the office of commissioner immediately upon attaining the age of 65 years is bad in principle. If this provision is retained, the industrial life of Australia will lose the benefit of the vast experience of such men. I repeat, that I am approaching this matter from a commonsense point of view. I have, perhaps, a better idea than any other member of this chamber of the vast amount of experience that one can gain in a period of fif teen years’ association with industry. If a commissioner has been able to settle serious, or even minor, disputes during his term of office, surely he could be retained until he reached the age of 68 years. The Opposition is not asking for very much. I support the amendment wholeheartedly.
– As the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) has said, the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) has not justified by any process of logic or sweet reasoning the retention of proposed section 13 as drafted. In effect. Senator McKenna suggested that, in relation to the legal, but not judicial, members of the commission, we should adopt the principle that is observed in relation to State tribunals of providing for retirement at 70 years of age. As the Attorney-General proposes to follow that practice in the case of the legal, but nonjudicial, members of the commission, let, us consider the position of laymen who are members of State industrial tribunals. In Queensland, for instance, there are three lay members of the Industrial Court, and one judicial member, who is a Justice of the Supreme Court of Queensland.
– They are full members of the tribunal.
– That is so. I admit that that tribunal has what the AttorneyGeneral has called judicial power, which the commission will not have. But, logically, we cannot have regard to only one part of the State Industrial Court and neglect the other part. The tenure of office of the lay members of that body is until they reach the age of 70 years. Turning now to the question, of the age of appointment of legally qualified men to the commission, I point out that a prerequisite of appointment to the Supreme Courts or to the High Court is that the proposed appointee shall have been admitted as a member of the bar, or have practised as a solicitor, for seven years. That is the position in Queensland, and I have an idea that it is also the position in relation to the High Court, under the federal statutes. That, therefore, contemplates that a person who was admitted to the bar at the age of 23 would at least be eligible - I, of course, do not say ‘that he would be suitable or experienced - for appointment to the highest judicial tribunal in the land at the age of 30. Men have been appointed at a reasonably early age to the High Court. 1 think that the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) was appointed to the High Court when he was only 37. Therefore, if a man had sufficient legal competence to take a position on the highest judicial tribunal in the community, it is possible that be would be considered more than competent to be appointed to this tribunal at an age very much below 50 years. As a matter of fact, I think that, in view of the nature of this body and the functions that it will be called upon to perform, it would be possible to appoint the legal, hut not judicial, members at a slightly lower age than that at which they might hope to receive appointment to ordinary tribunals.
This tribunal will be called upon to carry out a certain degree of physical work, such as inspections. To take up Senator Cameron’s submission, it will be concerned “with matters that call for action by younger men, rather than for the judgment of more mature men. I think it is reasonable to expect thai, the legal appointments to this body will be made from men well below the age of 50 .years. If that is so, there is no warrant to fix a retiring age of 70 years. If the Attorney-General points to the State industrial tribunals, then, on tho grounds of uniformity and logic, he should not be prepared to accept, in the case of commissioners, appointment to the age of 70 years. 1 think that the argument of Senator Kennelly, that the aggregate experience acquired over a wide field of industry would be no less exacting than experience gained by practice at the bar, to enable a commissioner to exercise his functions in accordance with his responsibility and experience, is compelling and convincing.
Having regard to the way in which the ‘debate has proceeded, I feel that the selection of this age is little less than arbitrary. No arguments and no reasons have been advanced to suggest to honorable senators on this side of the chamber that their amendment should not be accepted, in logic. As Senator Benn has stated, lt should be accepted for reasons of common sense and to enable this part of the legislation to operate effectively. At this late stage, we still urge the Attorn ey-‘General to accept the .amendment.
– This matter concerns a problem that will become increasingly :acute as the years .go by. The expectancy of life is increasing year by year. I appreciate that it is desirable and necessary for a standard age to be fixed for purposes of superannuation, the advancement of younger men, and so on.
– Retirement at the age of ‘65 years is not always enforced, even where superannuation is guaranteed.
– That is so. The point that I wish to put to the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Spicer) is that, sooner or later, we must realize that, with the increasing age of our population, we shall not be able to discard useful people at the age of 65 years. As I look about this chamber, I see quite a number of honorable senators who have passed that age but who are still giving very valuable service to the people of Australia.
In respect of the appointments that we are discussing, the advancement of younger men will not be affected. Those who are appointed will gain experience during their term of office, and provided that their faculties are unimpaired, they should continue to give, valuable service after they reach the age of 65. To my way of thinking, it is not logical to say that people have ceased to be useful merely because they are 65 years of age. The amendment provides that if the appointees are capable of continuing to render worthwhile service when they reach 65, they should be allowed to continue for a further three years. T hope that, as time goes by, more and more experienced people in the community will be allowed to continue to work after that age.
After all, there are two other groups of people in the same occupation, and although their training may have been different, it ‘is admitted that one of them may continue in office until he is 70, whilst the other may continue until he is 80, S3 or even older. Apparently, it is thought that they will be able to give useful service. In the face of that, how can it be said that when conciliation commissioners reach 65 they suddenly will lose all their power of discrimination and their usefulness to the nation? We should not approach this matter by saying, “ Well, precedents have been laid down and it will be a little difficult to let these people continue beyond the age of 65 “. I suggest to the AttorneyGeneral that he have another look at the matter and that, if necessary, he postpone consideration of the clause.
.- I fully agree with all the superannuated, people who have spoken that 65 years is too young for a man to retire from active life. One of the leading statesmen of the world, the Prime Minister of Morocco, is 105. There is really no limit to the age to which tough old men may go. This idea of a retiring age has set in and has become a part of our practice for a very definite reason. That, in the Public Service, the young people coming on naturally want to receive promotion and a chance, before they are too old, to have a position of responsibility. A man over 65 years of age who is fit for active service to the community can find another place if he really wants it.
– This is not the Public Service.
– I know, but there are analogous conditions. I do not believe that honorable senators on the Opposition side would be too keen on the unrestricted retiring age if it applied to judges, because I can remember two justices of the High Court of Australia who hung on in their positions - one until he was about 80 years, and the other until he was S5 years. The Opposition would not have been pleased with such a practice when they were in office as the government. I do not believe that the point is worth labouring seriously. It might be good to revise the situation, but not as it applies to a bill such as that before the committee.
– A general revision could be made if you like, but it would be wrong to pick out one occupation, and apply it to that.
– I agree. It would be wrong to do so without a general review.
Senator SHEEHAN (Victoria) [8.52J. - The amendment that has been submitted by the Opposition would not compel any government to maintain a commissioner or conciliator in office after he had reached the age of 65 years if he could not render office. The amendment would make it possible for him to remain in office if he desired and if he were competent. The government of the day could utilize his services for a given period. I know all the facts that Senator McCallum has presented to the committee. The fixed retiring age originated in and has been applied very rigidly to the Public Service, both of the States and the Commonwealth, but this office is not within the Public Service. There is no right of succession to the job under discussion.
– These officers would not go through the Public Service.
– That is correct, and no one in the community would consider himself likely to succeed to one of these positions until a vacancy occurred and the Attorney-General of the day sought a person to fill the vacancy. Nobody has any vested rights in this position, and that is where it is distinct from the Public Service. There are vested rights in positions in the Public Service. Those of us who have been in this chamber for a long time have seen it happen in our own midst when certain officers have had promotion through the retirement of those above them.
This position is entirely different. We exercised authority similar to that proposed in the amendment in the case of Mr. Mooney, who was Chief Conciliation Commissioner. Honorable senators on both sides of the chamber were unanimous in passing special legislation to give him the right to continue in office because he was rendering valuable service.
– That was a very special case.
– The Opposition suggests that similar provision should be incorporated in this bill. It would enable the government of the day to maintain a suitable man in this very important work. Knowledge of the job can be obtained only by experience. I hope the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Spicer) will consider the amendment seriously. It would increase the effectiveness of the machinery that the committee is considering.
– I suggest that honorable senators should judge men and women by their deeds, and not by their years. If they are capable of doing work that has to be done, they should not be denied the opportunity of doing it. Einstein was a man of 65 years of age when he was at his peak. He was one of the world’s greatest scientists and if he had been retired al: 65, nothing would have been heard of him. The Government’s approach to this matter is similar to that of the average employer who tells a man that he is too old at 40 or at 45, and must take a back :eat. I have been actively - and, I hope, usefully - associated with age pensioners, and I have met quite a number of men and women who were better qualified to do a job than those who would deny them an opportunity to do it. “Why should this Government, or any other government, deny men and women the right to carry on in work they are qualified to do? Leading biologists have stated that it is positively criminal to prevent men and women from working in useful and congenial occupations. It is like putting them into solitary confinement.
Thousands of aged persons in the cities are suffering from sustained frustration. They could do much of the work that is to be done without keeping young people from opportunities. Nothing will be achieved while the Government maintains its dogmatic approach to a retirement age. Superannuants have paid into superannuation funds money that was worth its full value. Because of inflation, they cannot live on their superannuation, but the Government will not do anything either to maintain the value of money or to enable those pensioners to earn a livelihood. This cruelty to human beings is worse than cruelty to dumb animals. I hope that supporters of the Government will not act like driven cattle, but will exercise their initiative and insist that those who can help themselves should be enabled to do so. I would have been suppressed twenty years ago if it had been possible to suppress me, but I have kept going, and I have always had great sympathy with those who have reached the age of 65 years.
During World War II., we would not have been as successful as we were but for many superannuants who returned to work and filled places that could not be filled otherwise. After the war, they were thrown on to the scrap heap, and ye supporters of the Government pose at humanitarians. They claim to be the custodians and protagonists of British justice. I do not believe it. They artguilty of one of the worst crimes thai could be committed against their own people when they force aged persons who are in good health to live a life of idleness and frustration. This Government would see them rust out rather than give them a chance to continue to live useful lives.
– I feel that I am one. honorable senator who is qualified, to speak about this sort of thing. Honorable senators will remember that ever since I came into the Senate I have been pleading the cause of those who are thrown on the human scrapheap which we are building up in Australia. In regard to this particular case, I have intimated to my party that I intend to vote for the amendment, because I firmly believe that it is time we, in Australia, considered the question of early retirement in a serious manner. I do not agree with the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) that this relates to the Public Service. It is something quite distinct from the Public Service.
It will have been noted that, recently, I asked the Minister for the Navy (Senator O’sullivan) to submit to Cabinet the consideration of the retiring age. That is proof that I am sincere in my attitude in regard to the age of retirement. This bill provides an opportunity to bring up the subject. Another such opportunity was provided when the television legislation was before the Senate. This is an occasion on which the Government might have adopted a more modern outlook and have extended the retiring age to 68 or 70 years. I intend to support the amendment.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be added (Senator McKenka’s amendment) be added.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Senator the Hon. A. D.Reid.)
Majority . . . . 3
Question so resolved in the negative.
Proposed section agreed to.
Postponed proposed section 6 - (1.) There shall be a Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, which shall consist of the following members: -
That, in proposed section 6 (1.), paragraphs (c) and (d) be left out.
[9.6].. - Prior tothe suspension of the sitting the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) dealt with this matter and complained about the rigidity of the 1945 system under which the judges in the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration had particular matters reserved to them and commissioners dealt with everything else. The view that the Opposition takes is that that system did not make for rigidity at all, but that it let individual conciliation commissioners run free, if I might use that term, in individual industries to deal with them on their merits. That, I suggest, would bean infinitely more flexible method than one that provides that a matter shall be dealt with by a conciliator and then by a commissioner, and by reference and then by appeal to an ultimate commission. The latter can be comprised of presidential members of the commission alone.
Senator “Wright directed attention to the fact that in the case of a reference at least one of the members shall be a presidential member. The provision is that where practicable the commissioner concerned shall also sit on the body of three. It may well be that the commission will be increased when hearing other disputes and that the body will comprise three members of the presidential commission, Even though the statute says, “Not less than one “ it may well be three. When we come to appeals, the provision is that “not less than two shall be membersof the presidential commission “ ; and,of course, it may be three. My fear, and the fear of the Opposition is that in practice the reference body, or the appellate body, will comprise presidential members probably to the complete exclusionof commissioners. That in itself. I would say, would not he a bad thing fromthe point of view of the law that may require to he applied to the matter beforethe court ; but it will have the effect of pushing the commissioners still further into the most inferior position and drawing a very sharp line of demarcation between judicial and presidential members of the ordinary commission. I would notbe prepared to accept the suggestion of the Attorney-General that there isrigidity in the system that was introduced previously
I think it was simple, understandable, speedy and effective. Now we have a long chain of events involving references, possible appeals and great delays, causing far more unrest than it will cure.
.- Before the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) replies, there is an aspect additional to that whichI mentioned before the suspension of the sitting, which I should now like to raise. Proposed section 7 (1.) provides - (1.) A person shall not be appointed as a presidential member of the Commission unless -
There is the idea that we are providing that a person qualified for appointment to the commission may be one who was a judge of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. His Honour, who was such a judge, had an appointment for life, and was not removable from that office, except on an address from both Houses of Parliament. I do not know what is the willingness of their Honours to accept appointment to this commission or to the Industrial Court, but Parliament has anobligation, when dealing with a question of judicial office to which appointments are being made upon the security of an act of Parliament, and on the ordinary terms of continuous appointment, which has been the recognized basis of security for the judiciary since the revolution, to know that we are not passing legislation in an easy-going fashion which really leaves a judicial personage with no real alternative but to accept a promotion, as it may be considered, although not in terms of salary.
I am mystified about this. The arbitral work of this agency used to occupy seven judges, but this measure is increasing the number. I thought that was because of the importance of the work, and that those additional appointments were required. Honorable senators ought to know something of the practical arrangements which are proposed. A new industrial court is to be established to which three judges of the present Arbitration Court are to be seconded, leaving four. What is the considered view as to their position? Are those four judges willing and ready to accept appointment to the commission, and, if so, will they be sufficient to deal with its work?
– We do not know.
– These are questions of importance, because the economic jurisdiction of this new court is of tremendous importance to the country. The committee is entitled to hear from the Attorney-General as to the Government’s view of this amalgam. Having regard to the future, I am full of apprehension to think that this commission will possibly be constituted in such a way that the distinction between judges and commissioners becomes immaterial. I say it in no more emphatic terms than that.
Question put -
That the words proposed to beleft out (Senator McKenna’s amendment) be left out.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Senator the Hon. A. D.Reid.)
Majority . . 4
Question so resolved in the negative.
Postponed proposed section 6 agreed to.
Proposed sections 14 to 16d - by leave - taken together, and agreed to.
Proposed section 16e - (1.) The salary of a Conciliator shall he at the rate of Two thousand seven hundred and fifty pounds a year, and the Consolidated Revenue Fund is appropriated accordingly.
– I move -
That in proposed section 16e (1.) the words “ Two thousand seven hundred and fifty “ be left out, with a view to inserting the following words in lieu thereof : - “ Three thousand “.
I move that as a request, of course. The effect of my amendment would be to correct proposed new section 16e. (1.) which reads -
The salary of a conciliator shall be at the rate of Two thousand seven hundred and fifty pounds a year, and the Consolidated Revenue Fund is appropriated accordingly.
This amendment, if carried, would make the salary of a conciliator £3,000 a year. Et would, therefore, put a conciliator’s salary into line with that paid to a member of the commission. It is perfectly true that a conciliator will have an important .i°h to do, and I put it to the committee that a man of the type required to function as a conciliator will be very difficult to find. He will need to have particular qualities of mind and character, and I suggest that he would have to be born with a very special kind of personality if he is to make a success of the work of conciliation.
It is no answer to my argument to say that a member of the commission who is not a senior commissioner or judicial or presidential member will have additional work to do in that from time to time he may have to sit on a reference or an appeal to the commission, and that in addition to conciliating he must exercise arbitral functions. I do not think that that is sufficient justification for throwing the emphasis against conciliation in the way that is done pursuant to this clause. Tn other words, the measure does make an invidious distinction. It will lower the prestige of the conciliator in the eyes of those whom he seeks to conciliate.
We live in a very material world and one’s worth is so often, and wrongly, assessed by the amount of salary that one commands. It all goes to the question of prestige and status, and I believe that a feeling will develop about a conciliator when he is sent out in the firststep in the settlement of a dispute, that the office boy has been despatched to see what kind of a. fist he can make of it before the more important members of the staff need to move in the matter. If that becomes the reaction, and I seriously suggest that it may well do. the emphasis is being put in the wrong place. There should be no distinction of salary between a conciliator, and a commissioner who is a member of the industrial commission.
– The amendment moved on behalf of the Opposition is designed to increase the salary provided for a conciliator by £250 a year to take his salary from £2,750 to £3,000 a year, so that his salary would be the same as the salary contemplated for a commissioner. At present, the commissioners are to get £3,000 a year and the chief commissioner is to get £3,250 a year. In this matter one has to have regard to the responsibilities of the positions involved. It is quite true that a conciliator will perform a very important function, and it may well be that his function will become increasingly important the more it is used over the years.
The fact is that a conciliator will be confined to the ta?k of conciliation, and will not normally be able to exercise the function of an arbitrator. The arbitral functions will be performed by the commission, and in addition to exercising the arbitral functions over a very wide range of industrial matters, the commissioners, as distinct from the conciliators, will be called upon to sit with the presidential members of the commission on references and appeals. Therefore, if one were looking for n reasonable gradation of these positions arid their responsibilities, I do suggest that the conciliation commissioner has wider and more responsible functions than the conciliator, and therefore it is reasonable to provide, as we have provided, a slightly higher salary for the commissioner than for the conciliator.
– When I put the case for the change of the salary of the conciliator, I adverted to the fact that there was a difference in function and did not draw attention to the fact that proposed new section 16ad (1.) provides as follows: -
The Commission may refer an industrial dispute which is before it to a Local Industrial Board for investigation and report and may delegate to that Board such of the powers of the Commission (including powers of the Commission in relation to conciliation and the settlement of the dispute by amicable agreement) as the Commission considers desirable . . .
Then in proposed section 16ad (3.) we find that “ Local Industrial Board “ means “ a. Conciliator “. Now I am under the impression that the terms of proposed section 16ad (1.) are wide enough to include arbitral powers. Honorable senators will recall that that sub-section refers to “ such of the powers of the Commission … as the Commission considers desirable …” I suggest that those provisions would include a power to conciliate and arbitrate on the part of the conciliator. After getting a report the commission may determine a matter, and I was rather surprised to see that provision in the bill and queried whether it was appropriate that a conciliator should be used as a local industrial board.
I do suggest to the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) that in view of that power of the conciliator there is not much difference between his functions and the functions of a commissioner. It is true that a conciliator will not be concerned with references and appeals, but I think that a few lay members of the commission will never appear on the reference and appeal hoards. The way has been left open for that situation to develop, and those matters will he taken over in a short time by the presidential members of the commission, and the laymen of the commission will rarely figure in them. That being so, there will not be a very wide difference left between a member of the commission and a con ciliator. We of the Opposition believe that it is a great mistake in this field to relegate the conciliator to an inferior position.
Request for amendment negatived.
Proposed section agreed to.
Proposed sections 16f and 16g - by leave - taken together, and agreed to.
Proposed section 16h -
Subject to this Act, the Commission may exercise any of its powers or functions under this Act of its own motion or on the application of a party to an industrial dispute or of an organization or person bound by an award.
– I move -
That in the proposed section Kin, after the word “ motion “ the following words be inserted: - “(except the powers referred to in sub-section (1.) of section sixteen s of this Act)”.
Earlier the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) adverted to this particular proposed section in another sense, and pointed out that in relation to the reserve matters, the great matters of the basic wage, long service leave and standard hours, the court never moved of its own motion until 1953. In that year, it called up a number of awards and, against the will of both parties in most cases, varied those awards so as to prevent the cost of living adjustments being further operative in them. That action was carried to a very high level, and the Government of Victoria became concerned about it. I understand that both the Commissioner forRailways and the Victorian Railways Union opposed the proposal of the Arbitration Court to eliminate the cost of living adjustments; but the court persisted, and, ultimately, the State Government legislated to restore the cost of living adjustments to that union and to other unions. That action was upheld by its successor which was a government of an entirely different political complexion.
We feel very strongly on this, even though I admit at once that an almost exactly similar provision appears in section 48 of the legislation passed in 1947 when the Opposition was in government. But, surely, the mere fact that it did so appear does not say it should he perpetuated. Then, nothing affecting the four great issues had been raised by the court: of its own motion. When a court, or even this commission, may act in that way, it seems to my mind to overthrow altogether the conception of conciliation and arbitration. It really amounts to legislation, even though it is a variation of an existing award.
– I think those are the only circumstances- in which it would do it.. ‘
– In the case’ ot a variation?
– I can see that it is on a variation, but surely there has got to be an end to one of these great matters. Surely, arbitration must end with a finding on one of the reserved matters. I suggest it is straining the concept of interstate dispute to an undue degree to have a court, of its own-, motion, re-open, after years, a basic wage hearing that has been settled, and entirely alter awards accordingly. To- my mind, and the mind of the Opposition, it is quite foreign to- the principles of conciliation and. arbitration, which are the only two concepts that fall within federal jurisdiction, to have a court forcing employers and employees to accept its decisionsagainst their will. That, surely, seems wrong. There is no objection to the court’s moving of its own motion in matters apart from those. It may be necessary that the court should do it, hut it seems to import into conciliation and arbitration matters which, on the face of it at least, I should have thought should not be there.. After all is said and done, is it not the very base of the exercise of its power and. its jurisdiction that there must be an interstate dispute? Again, how can there be a dispute at all when the two parties are im agreement?
– The High Court held that it could act.
– I know there’ are legal precedents for it, but I am still putting what is difficult for the ordinary man and the ordinary worker to understand. It is just one more instance of the difficulties’ associated- with these limited powers, its amazing complexities and legalities.
– It is certainly difficult for the ordinary senator tounderstand.
– I quite appreciate that. Having been engrossed in this bill for some days and then finding’ it necessary to pick up another bill, like the Stevedoring Industry Bill, which we are about to, face presently, and finding it necessary to look at the history of prior’ legislation,, what one has done on this particular bill evaporates very quickly, too. It is very difficult to carry in one’s mind all the data in connexion with both bill’s when they come in such close juxtaposition before us. It is obvious that the object of the amendment is1 simply to prevent the commission1 from’ acting of its own volition in one of the’ four great matters referred to it. The great fear in the minds of trade union’ leaders to whom I have spoken on this matter- is that when this can happen- there could be a ready reversion, in the event of any kind of recession or depression, to what was done by the court back in 193©’ when it cut down wages by 1’0; per- cent That factor, together with what happened recently, in 1953, is still very much in the forefront of the- minds- of the workers, and of the trade- union leaders- in particular. They asked us to press that: viewpoint in the Senate- when we got the opportunity. The reason for the amendment is completely clear, its effect is quite clear, and. I only hope that the AttorneyGeneral and. the committee are able to accept it.
– I am afraid I cannot accommodate my friend, the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna), on this amendment. The position was stated by me this afternoon, and. I have very little to add to what I said then. The circumstances of the case were such as to indicate that it would be in that type of case that the court would be likely to use its power1 - if it had an application before it which was im the nature of a test case in- which it was called upon to deal, among other things, with the question of whether the provisions for quarterly adjustments of the basic wage should be retained, and on which it had given a decision. I suggest that in those circumstances there are good reasons for the court at least having the reserve power to see that that kind of thing can be operative in relation to awards that the court has made.
The Government has given very careful consideration to this particular matter. It is significant that the Leader of the Opposition does not say that he does not wish the court to act on its own motion with relation to anything. He seeks to prevent its acting on its own motion only in relation to these four matters, and I feel perfectly satisfied that it will only be when such important issues as those to which I have referred arise that the court would be disposed to use this power. My own belief is that in that particular case it used its power for the benefit of the whole community. Whether rightly or wrongly, whether we agree or disagree, the court reached the conclusion that the quarterly adjustments of the basic wage should be discontinued. Having arrived at that conclusion, was it then to be left in the position of a completely futile instrument that could apply that particular rule only in those cases in which parties sought the formal alteration of their awards? If that was to be the position, then we should have the ridiculous state of affairs in which some people would be receiving quarterly adjustments under their awards while others were not, even though their awards were made by the same court. In cases like that, it seems to me that there is a good deal of reason for retaining this power, whether it be exercised by the court for the elimination of the quarterly adjustments or for their insertion. It can operate both ways. No matter which way it works, there seems to be good reason why in cases like that the court should have reserve power to act in the way in which it did in the case to which reference has been made. As I explained this afternoon, the High Court held that it was within the court’s power to act as it did.
– I feel very strongly on this matter. The provision as at present contained in the bill completely nullifies the Government’s professed intention of seek ing to get uniformity in connexion with arbitration throughout the Commonwealth. It is also futile for the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Spicer) to argue that if the amendment were accepted it would mean that certain persons would be working under one set of conditions while others would be working under different conditions. The clause enabling the various unions to obtain variations of the basic wage was inserted in the awards as a result of applications by the unions concerned. After the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, on its own motion, struck out that clause from Commonwealth awards, it remained in all of the State awards. Consequently, many workers have lost faith in the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, and the majority of them prefer to work under State awards. It might be argued that, in instances where both federal and State awards apply to an industry, the federal award will take precedence. However, in Western Australia, many unionists have refrained from allowing themselves to be governed by federal awards. Although honorable senators opposite continue to state that the Governmentis endeavouring to obtain uniformity in relation to industrial legislation in Australia, as I have said, the. majority of workers prefer to work under State awards so that they will receive the benefit of quarterly adjustments of the basic wage.
This measure will not achieve in industry what the Government expects it to achieve. On the contrary, it will cause dissatisfaction. As I pointed out during the second-reading debate, no matter how diligently workers in a particular industry may have applied themselves, and despite the fact that no application from either the employers or the unions is before the court, the court may, of its own volition, and without hearing evidence, intervene in order to break down conditions in that industry, and the unions have no right of appeal. We consider that that is wrong. If the court can act as an instrument of economic repression against the working section of the community, how can the Government expect the workers to look to the court for conciliation? In relation to these major matters, it should be possiblle for the Government to intervene, or for the unions to present evidence to the court in an attempt to retain their rights. If the Government allows a fundamental change in the arbitration awards to be made by a federal arbitration authority without evidence from parties affected by the awards, wages and conditions for which unionists have fought hard, and to obtain which they have expended a lot of money, will be taken from them. If the Government really wishes to provide honest-to-goodness arbitration and conciliation in this country, it should not place the court in possession of power under which it can become an economic dictator to the most important section of the community, the workers. I cannot more strongly express my criticism of the Government for not making provision whereby trade unions, which are registered with the federal court, shall be given every opportunity to submit evidence in order to try to retain their bard-won conditions.
Senator BYRNE (Queensland) [9.44 1. - I should like the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) to explain, for my guidance, how proposed section 16h will operate in relation to a dispute coming before the commission. In the event of the commission, on its own motion, deciding to exercise its powers in relation to the matters mentioned in proposed section 16s, would the whole burden of the case from then on lie on ono of the parties to the dispute? Once the standard hours or the male adult wage came into question, would the court proceed to hear it, with the whole burden of supporting or resisting the application resting on the two parties before the commission, or would the commission do as the court does in a general hearing - that is, call upon all the parties who would be interested in prosecuting or defending such a matter to come before it? I should appreciate the Minister’s explanation of how section 16h will operate in practice.
– I should have thought that, before acting under the power conferred on it, the commission would call the parties before it and give them every opportunity they wanted to submit evidence in relation to the matter. That, seems to me to be the procedure that would be followed, and I think that it was the procedure that was followed in the particular case to which I have referred. In that case, it was not merely a matter of the court sitting in chambers, without having notified anybody, and proceeding to make alterations in the award. The court notified the parties to the award and, of course, gave them an opportunity to put before the tribunal whatever evidence they wanted to tender in relation to the particular matter with which the court proposed to deal.
– I point out that when any of the four matters mentioned in proposed section 16s comes before the industrial tribunals, many persons and bodies are vitally interested, although they may not be parties to the particular dispute. I mean that representatives of the Australian Council of Trades Unions, or the Austraiian Workers Union or other major industrial organizations may not necessarily be called. Similarly, representatives of the employers’ organizations might be interested, although not necessarily summoned to appear. Will the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) inform, me whether the whole burden of sustaining the male adult basic wage or of resisting any interference with it will rest on the industrial organizations which are party to the particular award before the tribunal?
– It is impossible to guarantee what the tribunal may do in every set of circumstances. However, I feel perfectly certain that, in the event of its being called upon to deal with the general question of the basic wage, standard hours, or matters of that kind, it would not interfere with the principle under which it was operating without the matter being brought to the notice of the Australian Council of Trades Unions or the employers’ organizations which were vitally concerned, or even. I should think, the Attorney-General.
Proposed section agreed to.
Proposed sections 16j to 16i. - by leave - taken together, and agreed to.
Proposed section 16m - (l.) Subject to this Act, if it appears to a Commissioner that an industrial dispute has occurred or is likely to occur, he . shall take such steps as he thinks fit for the prompt prevention or settlement of that dispute by conciliation or, if in his opinion conciliation is unlikely to succeed or has failed, by arbitration.
– I move -
That, in proposed section 10m, the words “ or, if in his opinion conciliation is unlikely to succeed or has failed,” be left out with a view to inserting the following words in lieu thereof : - “ and in the event of failure of conciliation,”.
I refer particularly to the words “ or, if in his opinion conciliation is unlikely to succeed or has failed “, which it is proposed to leave out. These words place in the discretion and the hands of the commissioner the power to avoid the process of conciliation altogether, and I think that that strikes at a key point, not only in the act but also in the Government’s mind.
– He could not do that if he acted honestly, could he?
– I think that it may not be a question of honesty; it may be a question of bad judgment. I am not raising the question of honesty at all. He might, in his own good judgment, say, “ These parties are too far apart. By the appearance of their tempers, I will not even essay to get them together “. The purpose of the amendment is to oblige him to make an effort at conciliation.
I took it from the whole tone of the second-reading speech of the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Spicer), and because of the increasing emphasis that obviously is placed on conciliation in this bill, that it would be made mandatory for a conciliator or a commissioner to exhaust the processes of conciliation before he embarked on arbitration. I do not wish to labour this point or to traverse it any further. The issue between us is quite clear.” Should a conciliator or commissioner have the power to by-pass conciliation and go direct to arbitration, or should he at least be compelled by this bill to make a genuine effort at conciliation before embarking on arbitration? I suggest to the committee that the amendment I have moved simply seeks to achieve the latter.
– All I desire to say is that the Government feels that the matter is best left to the judgment of the commissioner.
Proposed section agreed to.
Proposed section 16n - (1.) A Commissioner may, whenever it his opinion it is desirable for the purpose of preventing or settling an industrial dispute, or upon application made by a party to an industrial dispute, direct a person to attend, at a time and place specified in the direction, at a conference presided over by a Commissioner, by a Conciliator or by such other person as the Commissioner determines.
Senator McKENNA (Tasmania - Leader of the Opposition) [9.54 j. - I move -
That, in proposed section 16n, sub-section (1.) be left out with a view to inserting in lieu thereof the following sub-section: - “ (1.) A Commissioner, for the purpose of preventing or settling an industrial dispute, upon application made by a party to the industrial dispute, shall direct a person to attend at a time and place specified in the direction at a conference presided over by a Conciliator.”.
As the sub-section appears in the bill, it is entirely a matter for the commissioner, either in his own unfettered discretion or after an application has been made by a party, to determine to compel a party to a dispute to come before him at a compulsory conference. I understand from trade union leaders that the offending party is very often difficult to attract. For that reason, when one party to a. dispute desires the attendance of the offending party it should be mandatory on the commissioner to call that person to the conference. There is not the slightest objection to the commissioner having complete discretion whenever, in his opinion, it is desirable to call a party before him. “We do not want, to disturb that arrangement, but if he is requested by a party to call a. person, we think that he should do so. That is the purport of the amendment that we seek to make.
– The idea i3 the same as that of the previous amendment.
– Very much the same.
– You want to compel conciliation.
– I acknowledge that we want to compel conciliation, or at least, to compel an attempt at it on the part of the commission or one of those associated with the commission. That is perfectly true. In this case, we do not want to disturb the discretion of the commissioner to call a person of his own motion, but we insist that, when he is requested by a party to the dispute to call a person, he shall call that person. I should not mind if the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Spicer) felt disposed to qualify my amendment so as to preserve a discretion in the commissioner. I should have no objection to the commissioner, on his own motion, directing that a person should be called, but I do wish to achieve the position that if a party asks him to call another, he should be compelled to do so.
– Again, the Government feels that this matter is one that is best left to the discretion of the commissioner when he is faced with the particular circumstances.
Proposed section agreed to.
Proposed section 16p - fi.) A Commissioner’ may, if, in his opinion, it may assist the parties to an industrial dispute to settle the dispute by amicable agreement, and shall, if the parties to an industrial dispute so request, arrange with the Senior Commissioner for a Conciliator to be made available for the purpose of assisting the parties to reach an amicable agreement.
– I move -
That in proposed section 16P, sub-section (1.) be left 011 t with a view to inserting in lieu thereof the following sub-section: - “(1.) A Commissioner shall, when he becomes aware of an industrial dispute, arrange with the Senior Commissioner for a Conciliator to be made available for the purpose of assisting the parties to make an amicable agreement.”.
The sub-section that is proposed to be left out leaves to the discretion of the commissioner the decision whether, for the purpose of settling a dispute by amicable means, a conciliator shall be sent to assist the parties to a solution of their problems. The amendment would oblige him to make a conciliator available when he became aware of an industrial dispute.
– The Government’s proposal would apply if both parties requested conciliation.
– “We prefer to have a position in which a conciliator would be directed to the trouble immediately a dispute was pending or had occurred. It is in line with the other amendments that I have moved, and that the Attorney-General has rejected.
– I support the amendment. The Government has stated that it wants conciliation and arbitration to proceed with expedition. Those who have been associated with the settlement of industrial disputes know that a warning period elapses sometimes before a dispute begins, and the parties concerned are not then in the frame of mind to make a joint request for a conciliation officer. That is the time when the authorities should move a conciliator to the trouble spot. He should be there to bring reason to bear as quickly as possible. There should not be a delay during which the dispute might be fanned. Those who framed the legislation of 1947 sought to provide that a conciliator would be available to keep a close watch on the industrial situation. If he knew that there was a threat of a stoppage, the conciliation officer was to be available to talk to the parties. He was not only to settle disputes, but also to prevent them. I believe that this amendment would help to prevent disputes or, if they occurred, to settle them.
Proposed section agreed to.
Proposed section 16q - (1.) If an agreement between all or any of the parties as to an industrial dispute is arrived at, a memorandum of its terms shall be made in writing. “ (2.) Unless otherwise ordered, and subject to any direction of the Commission, the memorandum, if certified by the Commission, shall, . . . “ (3.) The Commission may refuse to certify such a memorandum if it is of opinion that-
– This proposed section refers to industrial agreements reached between parties and the registration of the agreements subject to the approval of the commission. J have three amendments to the proposed section, and I shall deal with all three together. I shall treat the vote on the first one as applying to all three amendments. I move -
That in proposed section 16Q (2.) the words “ unless otherwise ordered and subject to any direction of the commission,” be left out.
The other two amendments are as follows : -
That in proposed section ICQ (3.), the words “ if it is of opinion that “ be left out with a view to inserting- in lieu thereof the words “only if”.’
That, in proposed section ICQ (3.) paragraph (c) be left out.
The first amendment, if applied to proposed section 16q.. would enable this position to be established : If, in the event of there being an industrial dispute, the parties agree among themselves upon its resolution, and reduce their agreement to writing, and file it with the commission, it would be binding upon the parties. We propose that the commission may refuse to certify such a memorandum only if the provisions of sub-section (3.), paragraphs (a) and (6) apply; that is, if the agreement is not in settlement of an industrial dispute, if.it is unsuitable or if the agreement contains provisions which the commission has no power to include in an award. Those are proper qualifications.
Apart from that, we affirm this position: With the onset of automation, if parties to an industrial dispute reach an agreement among themselves, and are satisfied that the agreement should be registered without further ado, the public interest might well be involved. During the war years, cases were not unknown when employees agreed with an employer upon wage increases, and then joined with the employer in an approach to the Prices Commissioner for higher prices to benefit the employer. That was really a conspiracy, and not a credit to those who took part in it. That sort of thing might happen again. In the first place, it would be rare and, in the second place, if it could occur it should be guarded against in another way altogether by proper supervision and control of prices and profits. If necessary, additional power should be sought for that purpose. The Opposition takes the view that once the parties have agreed, the dispute is ended, and we believe that power to agree should even extend to the matter of standard hours, which should be referred to the court and the commission.
– We would have no standard hours under such conditions.
– I point out that with automation around the corner, and likely to have a big effect in some industries and none in others, it would be difficult to preserve standard hours.
– There might be new standard hours.
– That would depend where the balance lay, and whether automation constituted, in practice, a major part of an industrial force, but I suggest that it would not. This matter must be considered in the light of the changing times in which we live. It might be said that this gets round to a matter of power bargaining, but after all is said and done, it would be an agreement, and, in this day and age, there would not be any body of employers or employees in a period of full employment, who would readily submit to coercion. When the whole head of power of this Parliament is simply to conciliate or arbitrate in a dispute of an interstate industrial character, where is the need for any interference when the parties are agreed? That is the simple proposition that I affirm in support of the agreement
– The simple proposition that the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) has advanced in favour of this argument did not appeal to him in 1947, because this provision is almost a Chinese copy of what appeared in the act of 1947; in fact, it has been in the act in substantially the same form since 192s. The Leader of the Opposition overlooked the fact that when parties come to agreement in these circumstances, they want it registered in the court. Upon its registration in the court it has the effect of an award; it is not just an agreement between a body of employers and a body of employees which in individual cases, let me remind honorable senators, it may be difficult to enforce. It has the effect of an award, and it is because of that the parties want to get it registered. They want to obtain the advantage of being able to enforce the agreement under the provisions of this act. Is it to be said that when the Arbitration Court is considering a dispute it is considering making an award that is not to have regard to the public interest?
That would be a strange proposition, indeed. Yet, the Government is being asked to leave the act in a position in which parties can make an agreement without regard to the public interest, and perhaps, diametrically opposed to the public interest, and then go to the court, seek registration of the agreement, and have the agreement operate in the same way as if it were an award of the court. I suggest that is an impossible position.
The Opposition did not adopt that attitude in 1947, and I suggest no change of circumstances has taken place between then and now which justifies the Opposition adopting that attitude to-day. Automation has been mentioned. Of course, automation will affect some of our industrial relations, but the Opposition has not advocated that we should take from the court the power to deal with standard hours and the basic wage, all because of automation. It is not putting up that proposition. As long as the Opposition looks quite properly to the tribunal to deal with these very great issues then we must preserve the awards of that tribunal against the action of individual parties which may upset the whole system. One way in which to do that is to ensure that agreements, which when registered have the force of awards, can be refused registration if they are against the public interest.
– I thank the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) for his reply. I admit his impeachment that a similar provision appeared in legislation sponsored by the Australian Labour party in this Parliament, but I submit that not only have rimes changed but also, I think, the outlook of the Government has changed. If honorable senators will refer to the Goal Industry Bill which was introduced in this chamber only a few days ago, they will find that in that bill the Government proposes to write into the legislation the provision that where the parties come to an agreement in relation to matters arising in the coal industry, that agreement is to be registered and immediately becomes an award of the commission. Clause 5 of that measure seeks to repeal section 36 completely. Sub-section (2.) of proposed section 36 reads -
Where, at the hearing before the Tribunal, an agreement as to the whole or part of an industrial dispute (being an industrial dispute in relation to which powers and functions are vested in the Tribunal by sub-section (2.) of section thirty-two of this Act) is made in writing between the parties to the dispute, the agreement shall befiled in the Principal Registry or a District Registry established under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904-1956 and thereupon -
the agreement has effect in all respects as if it were an award of the Commission;
the agreement is binding on the parties to the agreement; and
the provisions of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904-1956 under which awards of the Commission may be enforced a,apply in relation to the agreement as if it weresuch an award.
That is the exact situation that the Labour party is trying to achieve. The Government sets that up and approves of it in another bill that it is submitting to the Parliament at this minute.
– We are both right.
– I am not toosure that the. Labour party did not enact the same inconsistency in 1947.
– That may be right. I will even admit that it did ; but even if it did, here is an instance in which the Government is picking out the very provision it denies in this legislation and presenting it to the Senate at this minute.
– The Labour party is picking out the opposite provision.
– We are progressive and we thought the Government was being progressive, but, apparently, it has made a mistake in the Coal Industry Bill.
– The Government has done the same thing in each case; it followed the Labour party’s good example.
– I admit that this is the kind of argument that could go on for a long while. The AttorneyGeneral has reminded me of what the Labour party did in 1947 and I must remind him of what the Government is doing in another bill at this minute.I would be very interested to hear him justify his argument on grounds other than that theLabour party did this in 1947. I do not think that is a very good argument, and I should like him to choose other grounds on which to justify what is happening.
.- The Coal Industry Bill is the product of an agreement between two governments, the Australian Government and the Government of New South Wales. It may be that the provisions made in that bill, which is the product of an agreement between two governments, are not as wise as the provisions which are made in bills which this Parliament enacts in pursuance of its own powers. That seems to me to be the explanation. The provision to which the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) referred is contained in the Coal Industry Act of 1946.
– That was introduced, by the Labour government too.
– In 1946, the Labour party introduced that provision into the Coal Industry Act but exercised, I’ suggest, much better judgment in 1947 when it was dealing with something wholly within the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth. It then provided that the agreement should be certified if the tribunal was satisfied that it was not against the public interest. We cannot, as I think the Leader of the Opposition will agree, amend the provisions of the Coal Industry Act without the consent of the Government of New South Wales. The form of amendment which has been agreed to by that Government in relation to this matter is the one to which the Leader of the Opposition referred.
– The Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) has put forward a good offhand argument, but the position is that a great number of industrial disputes and disturbances were occurring at the time the Coal Industry Act was passed. Those disputes and disturbances were causing embarrassment to the economy of the country. A. State award was in existence and it provided certain conditions. An implicit industrial principle is that any new award shall not reduce the standard of wages and conditions of workers unless for a very good cause. In addition, the coal industry was concentrated in New South Wales. The coal output from that State was the only output worth talking about. The miners in Western Australia met, and the secretary of the coal-mining industry union over there, Jock Shannon, would have nothing to do with the federation and would not allow the dispute to extend to Western Australia. They dissociated themselves, temporarily, from the federation. Therefore, the Western Australian Government was placed in the position of not being able to force federal legislation on a State authority because it had no power to do so. It did not extend beyond, one State. The coal industry in New South Wales was in a state of upheaval, hut there was an agreement with the State - authority which the Federal Government had no constitutional power to override. Consequently, some agreement had to be reached which was equitable, and which the State court could have power at that time to apply.
It should be readily understood that the Arbitration Court provides a minimum standard for any industry, but there is nothing to prevent a contract advancing beyond that minimum standard. It is important, however, that the Arbitration Court should see to it that any agreement for a particular industry should not be allowed to become a general rule. A dispute might occur in an industry at a place in which conditions are entirely different from those in another place where the same kind of work is being done. For example, an agreement might be registered in a court applying to engineering work at Wittanoon Gorge, in Western Australia, but the conditions it contained could not be expected to apply to similar work in Perth, Melbourne or Sydney. Obviously, such an agreement should provide for higher rates of pay and certain conditions of employment to encourage men to go to that place to work. They will think twice before they undertake work at a great distance from their home and under conditions which are not nearly so congenial as those they leave. However, I see no reason why an agreement should not be made between employers and employees to apply to particular conditions, provided that it is not allowed to become a general rule. The Government is afraid that such agreement? might be used as arguments to obtain conditions and rates of pay which are not justified in places where more normal working conditions obtain. However, the purpose of the court is to protect the rights of employer and employee, and to make agreements which are equitable and will guarantee industrial peace. Consequently, I can see no objection to the proposal in the amendment, and I support it.
. -The extent to which public interest should bc allowed to intrude in determining the rights of parties negotiating, is a subject which could always be a matter for disputation according to various points of view. It is rather ironical that a government which has always stood strongly for completely free trading should be so reluctant to provide for completely free industrial bargaining. I cannot reconcile the Government’s attitude to no price restriction in commercial trading with that of applying a rather tight clamp on industrial bargaining on the ground of the possibility of some injury to public interest. The American system of negotiation in regard to disputes and wage adjustments is vastly different from ours. The Australian system seems to be a compromise between the American system, which is the untramelled right of free bargaining, and a system of completely compulsory arbitration. Australia, as it were, has reached a compromise between those two extremes in a system of arbitration which provides for conciliation, but our method of industrial bargaining is unique because of the restrictions under which it operates. In America, the parties negotiate and their agreement is embodied in a contract, but if any dispute arises as to the terms of that contract, it usually goes to an arbitrator who is appointed under the terms of the contract. He does not legislate as to the conditions of industry, but he interprets the terms of the contract. That system is different from the Australian procedure under which arbitrators provide industrial legislation. In America, there is a compulsion on all parties to negotiate. The Wagner Act imposes that obligation on the employer as the TaftHartley Act does on the employee, but there is no responsibility to negotiate in a particular way. Those are the various aspects of American industrial negotia-tions which differ from the Australian system. The Americans have had great experience in industrial free bargaining, and they feel that intervention, at a later stage, by an arbitrator, not in the capacity of one who interprets a contract in the event of a dispute, but as one who imposes conditions, is likely to interrupt the process of free bargaining. The provision in regard to public interest and the reference, in fact, to an arbitrator after an agreement has been freely negotiated and concluded between the parties, is likely to interrupt what purports to be free negotiation.
The CHAIRMAN (Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid). - Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate I formally put the question -
That the Chairman, do now leave the Chai: and report to the Senate.
Question resolved in the negative.
Sitting Suspended from 10.30 to 11 p.m.
– An article on bhp subject of compulsory industrial arbitration versus free collective: bargaining recently came into my hands. It wac written by Dr. Sykes, the senior lecturer in law at the University of Queensland, and it appeared in the May issue of the University of Queensland Gazette. Dr. Sykes canvassed this matter in some detail, and finally reached the proposition that you cannot take a bit of one system and a bit of the other. I do not agree with that proposition, because the system that we have in Australia is a type of compromise in which public interest i> regarded, and does play its part. Dr. Sykes’s reference to the operation of the industrial system in the United States of America is interesting, and I shall read this part of it to honorable senators -
Wages, hours of work and the general rule? governing the conditions of work are, in the United States, regarded as appropriate subjects for that system of negotiation between trade unions and employers which is known as collective bargaining. If this process results in agreement then such agreement i.<= embodied in a written contract. Of course no agreement may be arrived at and in that case there is no Court before which the parties may be brought to have the matter compulsorily determined. The state of deadlock may or may not be resolved by the exercise of some type of economic pressure such as the strike, the lock-out or the boycott. These latter, or rather the threat of them, are regarded aa themselves being part of the bargaining technique and as constituting the most powerful influences which will ultimately tend to force the parties into agreement.
It is true that there is a Federal law prescribing a minimum wage. In reality, however, actual paid wages arc so much higher than this minimum that it plays no part in bargaining. Moreover, it is in no sense basic to the determination of margins for skill as is the position in Australia.
The American system, which accents the right of the parties to negotiate an agreement between themselves, apart from the interest of the community, is quite alien to our concepts of industrial arbitration and negotiation in a civilized community. However, we must not err on the side of a complete acceptance of a system of compulsory arbitration to which penalties are attached to the process of negotiation, which, after all, is the primary purpose of this legislation before us. The Americans, speaking from their wide experience, have put forward the conclusion that if you are to have an arbitral authority sitting in judgment on a negotiation, you are likely to impede the free negotiation of industrial agreements. Dr. Sykes has referred to that aspect of the matter in these words -
Yet there is a good deal in the American criticism that once you have a Court with final powers of adjudication the impetus to true unfettered bargaining is absent. No party will bc prepared to go to what it would regard as the ultimate limit of concession. It would not unnaturally cherish the belief that maybe the Court would give the opposite side less. In the United States no party sitting at the bargaining table will fail to be aware of the fact that if the conference concludes without agreement being arrived at there is nothing for it but a strike - and after all no one enters into a strike just for the pure enjoyment of it. All parties will hesitate irrevocably to cross the Rubicon. But in Australia the attitude willi be that after all there is always the Court which “ might do something “, even at the last, moment.
The American concept of industrial bargaining is alien to ours, and the proposal before the committee in this clause, in the absence of the amendment projected bv the Opposition, will impede industrial negotiations. It can be well imagined that if the question of public interest is going to intrude into the matter it Wl intrude at the negotiation level, and one party or another - more probably the party that has the weaker case - will place public interest in the forefront of ite negotiations, knowing that if it is advanced in that negotiation at first instance there is a possibility of its looming large in the final determination of the commission.
Therefore, I feel that if we are trying to stimulate the processes of conciliation, this proposed section in its present form will not do it. We do take public interest into consideration in industrial negotiations. In the United States of America, where they have possibly a more highly organized commercial society than ours, where agreements are entered into grossly against the interest of either party - particularly the employer, and will commercially impede that employer, it is quite possible the contracts will not be concluded.
There is some sort of sanction in the intensity of economic conflict in the United States. It is suggested that that type of condition is absent in Australia, and that agreements could be concluded quite contrary to public interest, and without any factor which would make reason prevail in the negotiations, and for that reason some process such, as this is the only practicable alternative. That is a viewpoint that may be submitted, but on the balance of advantages, we could leave it to the good sense of the parties to the agreement freely to negotiate, the employees realizing in their best interest? that they cannot foolishly insist on something which will damage the industry in which they are engaged ; and the employer not holding out for something which may provoke industrial unrest, or deny basic justice to the employees in industry, and in that way injure an industry from which they gain their livelihood.
If common sense,, good judgment and sound reason is allowed to be predominant in free bargaining, the amendment that the Opposition has moved to remove the reference to the approval of the commission of a negotiation freely concluded without specific reference to public interest, will facilitate the process of negotiation and encourage the kind of solution which we all want.
– In the debate on the second reading of this measure, I expressed what to my mind was needed as a warning against undue emphasis upon public interest as a deterrent to registration of an agreement, but by the same token I feel that to maintain a balance I should say that the Opposition, in urging the total exclusion of the consideration of public interest, is making an unforgivable mistake. It is not the position that under this measure the court can veto an agreement because it considers that the agreement is not in the public interest. The court can simply refuse certification of the agreement because, in the court’s opinion, the agreement is not in the public interest. That simply denies to the parties all the remedies available under this bill which would make the agreement enforceable as an award of the court.
I think it is imperative that the court should have power to refuse to make available its own remedies to enforce an agreement if it is of the opinion that the agreement is not in the public interest. [ emphasize that it is the court’s opinion as to the public interest. The court would not necessarily take the same view as a parliament, but the court has an urgent interest of its own for the achievement of its own purposes of conciliation and arbitration to maintain a policy, not the least consideration of which is uniformity of conditions in industry because discomformity of conditions prevents any type of industrial peace.
There is only one further consideration that I add. I think that the idea has been common to both sides of the chamber that the whole system of federal industrial arbitration has been free from any parliamentary control and, therefore, not subject to the sovereign corrective in cases of crises and the exercise of the Parliament’s reserve power to maintain the public interest as Parliament sees it, even if it means the correction of an opinion of the Arbitration Court. We have not that power under the Constitution. I merely wish to go on record as holding those views so that anything that I said on the second reading will not be considered out of balance, because I think that it is essential that we maintain a very balanced view in considering the public interest in connexion with industrial arbitration.
Amendments (by Senator McKenna) (vide page 1651) negatived.
Proposed section agreed to.
Proposed sections 16r and 16s agreed to.
Proposed section 16t (Reference of disputes to Commission).
– I move -
That proposed section 16t be left out.
I did not move my proposed amendment No. 16 because it is consequential on amendments Nos. 11 to 13, proposed by the Opposition. The amendment I have just moved seeks the deletion of a proposed section that provides for the reference of disputes to the commission. It provides that in the case where a dispute is referred under this proposed section the commission shall consist of three members, at least one of whom is a presidential member of the commission and one is, where practicable, the commissioner concerned. I point out that under this provision the whole three of them may be presidential members. Under sub-section (2.), of proposed section 16t the commissioner is obliged, upon the application of a party to an industrial dispute, to consult with the president. If the president is of the opinion that the industrial dispute should, in the public interest, be referred, he directs accordingly. The commission will then hear the matter, but it has power to refer the dispute, or even part of it, back to the commissioner who first had it. It also provides that he may direct the commissioner, or conciliator, to furnish a report. The Opposition objects to all that because of the circumlocution and the delays that are implicit in the procedure. That is why we have moved for the deletion of proposed section 16t.
It is quite obvious that if one of the parties makes a request under the proposed section on the ground that the public interest is involved, the commissioner hearing the dispute must approach the president. If the president concurs in the opinion that the public interest is affected, he may refer it to the commission, comprising three members. That commission may in turn refer part of the dispute back to the original commissioner, ft may call for a report, and, ultimately, it may itself arbitrate on that portion of the dispute which it has not referred back. In the end, we may have two bites at an award, one made by the commissioner and the other by the commission itself. That is one of the evils of which the trade union movement complains. The complaint is that not only will there be delays with all the steps that are implicit in the procedure, but, ultimately, one of the parties will finish up with an award that is in two bits. We do not want to improve upon this clause. We do not think it can be improved. We are basically opposed to the whole provision.
I direct the attention of the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Spicer) to the provisions of sub-section (6.) of proposed section 16t, which provides -
The Commission may, for the purposes of this
Miction, direct the Commissioner or a Conciliator to furnish a report with respect to a specified matter and the Commissioner or Conciliator to whom the direction is given, *hall, after making such investigation (if any) us is necessary, furnish a report accordingly.
– What is wrong with that?
– I have not suggested that there is anything wrong with it. I merely wish to ask the AttorneyGeneral if he will refer to proposed section 16p, which provides that the. conciliator is not to furnish a report unless the parties to the industrial dispute consent and agree upon its terms. 1 am wondering how far the provision contained in proposed section 16t would operate upon the reference of a matter to a conciliator under sub-section (6.) of proposed section lf>t. Would the provision under sub-section (3.) of proposed section lGv still operate? The AttorneyGeneral seems to indicate that he thinks it would not. I shall be interested to know why he would think that. Under proposed section 16r, there are parties to a. dispute. This is a specified matter, but it quite obviously is a matter as to which the parties are in dispute and it rather seems that the provision under sub-section (3.) of proposed section 16p negativing the making of a report unless it is in writing and with the consent of both parties, might operate to prevent a conciliator from applying the provision of sub-section (6.) of proposed section 16t.
– As to the last inquiry by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) I should say that sub-section (3.) of proposed section 16f which says -
A Conciliator shall not furnish a report unless the parties to the industrial dispute consent and agree upon its terms- is limited to the particular circumstances with which that provision deals. The provision under discussion deals with the main function of the conciliator. The parties have been referred to a conciliator. A conciliator has been made available to them, and sub-section (2.) of proposed section 16p says -
Where a Conciliator who has been made available under the last preceding sub-section i* satisfied that the parties are unlikely to reach an agreement, he shall, subject to the next succeeding sub-section, furnish a report in writ ing to the Commissioner as to the result of the endeavours to reach agreement, including the matters upon which agreement has, and upon which agreement has not, been reached.
Sub-section (3.) of proposed section 16p says that the conciliator shall not furnish the report unless the parties consent and agree upon its terms. The point about it all is that it is an attempt to get over the difficulty that conciliation may be retarded by the possibility of subsequent arbitration. The parties are left in a position in which they may go to arbitration, failing conciliation, without the arbitrator knowing exactly what has taken place before the conciliator. T should have thought that sub-section (3.) of proposed section 16p is limited to the report referred to in sub-section (2.). When we come to proposed section 16t, we find that a report shall be furnished, under sub-section (6.) This arises at the request of the commission to fulfil its function in determining the matters that arise under the reference.
– That would be a matter in dispute?
– It may be in relation to a matter in dispute. The commissioner or conciliator has to furnish a report with respect to a specific matter, that is, I take it, some matter that arises in the reference. The reference itself arises in relation to a dispute.
SenatorMcKenna. - That is right.
– I think that is true enough. I think it is clear that the proposed sections deal with two entirely different reports. Sub-section (6.) of proposed section 16t authorizes the commission to direct the commissioner to furnish a report that is required to be furnished. It is not affected by the provisions of proposed section 16p. The objection that the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) has raised to this proposed section has been the fundamental issue between us all the way through. The Opposition has stated that it objects to references. We have said that we believe in references. The purpose of these clauses is to retain the existing provisions with regard to references and to make those provisions very flexible by enabling the commissioner, who is responsible for the reference in the first instance, to sit on the tribunal which determines the reference and to take part in the final decision of the matter which is referred to the commission.
Proposed section agreed to.
Proposed section16u (Appeals from awards).
– I move -
That proposed section16u be left out.
The proposed section relates to appeals from awards made by individual members of the commission. Sub-section (2.) indicates the three classes of determinations by commissioners from which appeals lie. Here, again, is a fundamental issue between the Opposition and the Government. It originated, in this instance, in 1952 when the amending legislation was passed. The trade union leaders with whom I have had an opportunity to confer in recent weeks are completely opposed to the appeal provisions, for the same reasons that actuated the Opposition to move a motion to delete proposed section 16t, which deals with appeals. The arguments are very similar. I shall not traverse them all again. The trade union leaders indicated to me and to other members of the Opposition that their experience had really confirmed their fears. I think I cited, during the second-reading debate, some figures that were supplied to me in relation to appeals. Of 29 applications for leave to appeal, sixteen were lodged by employers’ organizations, and thirteen by trade unions. Of the sixteen lodged by the employers, fifteen were granted, but only seven of the thirteen applications by the unions were granted. Nine employers’ appeals were upheld, one was rejected, one was withdrawn, two were dismissed and two were not completed. The whole of the seven applications for leave to appeal that were lodged by the trade unions were dismissed.
– What conclusion does the honorable senator draw from that?
– Iam merely stating the facts.
– There would appear to be a sinister implication.
– The figuresI have cited confirm in the minds of trade unionists their thought that appeals operate to the disadvantage of the trade unions and in favour of the employers’ organizations. There may be a sinister element in that, to some degree, but I do not think the word “ sinister “ as used ‘by the Attorney-General was the proper word to apply. The trade unions were unsuccessful in thirteen applications for leave to appeal, but sixteen applications by the employers yielded nine successes. It is not proper to attempt to draw a logical inference without considering every particular case. But the trade unions have drawn an inference, and I merely make the point that that inference confirms their original fears, which they expressed, and which we affirmed in 1952.
– I rise merely to say that I heartily concurred with the part of the 1952 legislation to which the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) has referred. Despite the figures that were cited by the honorable senator in an attempt to prove that appeals operate in favour of the employers, I am not convinced that the appeals provision of the arbitration legislation has acted to the detriment of the workers. Personally, I believe that appeals are judged on their merits, and the fact that certain applications for leave to appeal were successful and others were not does not convince me that any injustice has been done to the workers under arbitration awards. The argument that has been advanced by the Leader of the Opposition would not bear close investigation. I believe that the proposed section, as drafted, will operate in the best interests of arbitration in this country.
Proposed section agreed to.
Proposed sections 16v to 16z - by leave - taken together.
, - I desire to ask the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) a question in relation to the meaning of sub-section (2.) of proposed, section 16v, which deals with representation by counsel, which matter is also dealt with in proposed section 16 ay. What is the purpose of providing that where the Attorney-General intervenes a person or organization may apply to the commission for leave to be heard and the commission may, if it is of the opinion that it is desirable that the applicant should be heard, permit him to be heard? Was there any thought that the commission would not hear a party?
– Not a party. The provision relates to a person or organization other than a. party.
Proposed sections agreed to.
Proposed section 16aa -
The Commission may, in relation to an industrial dispute or other proceedings before it - .
dismiss a matter or part of a matter or refrain from further hearing or from determining the dispute or part of the dispute if it appears -
that the dispute or part is trivial ;
that the dispute or part has been dealt with, is being dealt with or is proper to be dealt with by a State Industrial Authority; or
that further proceedings are not necessary or desirable in the public interest;
. -I move -
That, in proposed section IGaa, paragraph
be left out with a view to inserting the following paragraph in lieu thereof: - “(d) dismiss a matter or part of a matter or refrain from further hearing or from determining the dispute or part of the dispute if it appears -
that the dispute is trivial; or
that the dispute or part has been dealt with, is being dealt with or is proper to be dealt with by a State Industrial Authority, but in no case shall the Commission in relation to any industrial dispute refuse to hear the dispute or any part thereof merely because of a stoppage, a cessation or reduction of work in the industry or any part thereof;”.
The amendment proposes that the power of the commission to dismiss a matter should be confined to circumstances in which the dispute is trivial or is within the cognisance of a State industrial authority. We supplement that proposal with a request that the commission should not refuse to entertain an industrial dispute merely by reason of the fact that there is a stoppage or strike in the particular industry. Again and again, we have the spectacle of parties before the court, or parties who ought to be before the court, engaged in a strike. Hitherto, the court has adopted the attitude, quite generally, that it will not hear parties who are striking. The dispute then becomes aggravated and grows until, finally, the parties must get together somehow and resolve the matter. It is true that there is always an end to a dispute, as there is an end to everything in this world, so that sooner or later somebody has to get the parties together.
Time and again we have seen courts standing by, governments wondering whether they have power, and even if they have power, hesitating to use it because of political consequences, while a strike continues to rage for weeks, with vast inconvenience to the industry concerned and to the people of Australia.
We feel, and the trade union movement tells us that it feels also, that much more good would be done and that speedier setlements would be reached if the arbitral body, instead of standing on its dignity and saying, “ We will have nothing to do with these parties while they are on strike “, launched out on an attempt to conciliate and end the dispute. That would be a far better contribution to the national welfare. I suggest, and I think I may be pardoned for making the suggestion, that the commission, composed of judges, lawyers and laymen, would be likely to be a little less concerned with its dignity than would a body that, hitherto, had been regarded as judicial, comprising judges only. The attitude that the court has taken in the past - and the conciliation commissioners have taken their cue from the court - has been not to intervene in strikes, although a strike may have occurred in a very small section of an industry which the major organization was not able to control and although the section may even have been defying the efforts of its officers to bring it into line and under law and order. It behoves the new body, in the view of the Opposition mtd the trade union movement, to concern itself with moving into any dispute, no matter what the circumstances of it are, and not allow it to be aggravated.
I indicated earlier that the question of public interest is not one that we should discard; yet we are discarding it from this particular section. We appreciate that it is implicit in nearly everything that happens in these major arbitral proceedings. Regard ought to be had to it. 1. repeat the view that I expressed, I think at the second-reading stage, that it is not fair to throw the onus of determining public interest upon the commissioner, or even upon the commission, making them the absolute guardians of something for which they ha.ve no true responsibility. I say that, thinking and speaking in the political sense. They have to determine that matter very often without one word of leadership or guidance from the Parliament of the nation. I think that the proper thing to do, to safeguard the public interest, would be to have a public advocate of that interest. The whole position needs to be examined to provide for notification to the Attorney-General, or some other Minister of the Federal Government, when a responsible person such a? a commissioner or a registrar, or a body of persons such as a commission, feels thai the public interest is involved. Then., the responsibility would shift where it belongs, to the government of the day. which should determine whether the public interest is involved, and if the decision is in the affirmative, take whatever positive steps are required to safeguard that interest. I think that that U right politically and also fair to th».’ arbitral body. Otherwise, we throw thiquestion of public interest at a body concerned with conciliation and arbitration in a limited field of industrial dispute. We do not give it one single bit of assistance concerning the principles that should guide it in determining the public interest. The whole matter is left completely to chance.
There is no advocate before tha: arbitral body for the public interest. .1 think that the Commonwealth might well look at this question of representation of public interest. Even in the case of an agreement pursuant to the clause which is being considered by the committee, if it were felt that the public interest was involved, why should there not be a notification to the Attorney-General, or the Minister for Labour and National Service who, given reasonable time, might be disposed to intervene and make representations %
– To intervene before the court ?
– To put forward a. point of view, whether it be before the court or before the commission. At any stage of conciliation and arbitration, where the public interest is involved or is thought to be involved, I am suggesting notification to the Attorney-General, thus affording an opportunity to intervene and put a view as to what constitutes the public interest. I do not think it can be denied that it is unfair to the arbitral tribunal to say to it, “We leave it to you to watch and determine the public interest “. After all is said and done, what real opportunity have the two parties to an industrial dispute to argue about that matter unless the issue is raised in the debate before the arbitral authority? It ought to be somebody’s duty to raise it, argue it and sustain it. f address myself to that matter at some length to indicate to the committee that the Opposition is not unmindful of the need to serve the public interest.
Proposed section agreed to.
Proposed sections 16AB to 16ab - by have - taken together.
– Paragraph (Z>) of proposed section 16ae reads- . . the Commission constituted by not less than three members nominated by the President (at least one of whom is a presidential member of the Commission) thinks that the views of the members, or of a section or class of the members, of the organization Or of a branch of the organization upon a matter ought to be ascertained with a view to assisting the prevention or settlement of the dispute, . . .
The very mention of that provision should be sufficient to alert all Liberals who talk so much about secret ballots in industrial disputes. I should like to know why it is thought necessary that there should be not less than three members of a court constituted before a secret ballot can be ordered to ascertain the views of an organization as to the continuance of a dispute.
– This was one of the functions that was performed by the court under the old act. In those circumstances, it was thought appropriate that it should continue to be one of the functions of a body corresponding, in the main, to the court which formerly performed the function.
– It was a provision that the court did not use very much.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) has said that this provision was not used much by the court. Why? When a conciliation commissioner is halfway through a dispute, and somebody takes the organization out on strike, why cannot the conciliation commissioner use his judgment, from his knowledge of that dispute, to order a secret ballot as to its continuance or otherwise? I think that it is of the most vital importance to our industrial set-up to consider the conditions under which an order can be made for a secret ballot on the continuance of a dispute.
It, seems to me that, possibly, one of the reasons why this provision was so seldom exercised was the requirement that it should go before the court, and I see in this measure, in the requirement that not less than three members of the commission shall assemble, merely more formality. The convenience of the members of the commission is to be consulted to get them together, and then it is not to be supposed that they have intimated in what circumstances they will meet. 1 should think that their judgment would be less to be trusted in a delicate matter of that sort than the judgment of the individual judge or member who had been concerned with the matter. I think that in a. matter such as this it would be reassuring, at any rate, if we could have the views of some members of the committee, because it is a matter of the first importance.
– From my experience, I believe that the Government places far more importance on the power of the court to hold a secret ballot of members than it should. In the first instance, workers rarely go out on strike against a majority opinion of members. It is hard for members of a union to continue a long strike which involves suffering. If a ballot is held by a court, it is difficult to compel every member in an industry to vote, or even to arrange, a situation where he could vote. In the majority of cases, the court would know that, the ballot would favour a continuance of the strike since most strikes begin only because of the solidarity of unionists.
What is the position of the court in such cases? A strike is in progress, a ballot has been taken and the workers have overwhelmingly endorsed the strike which the court has tried to declare illegal. The court finds that 80 per cent., or some other proportion of the workers, have decided to continue the strike. How far has the court gone towards conciliation and arbitration? The workers have expressed an opinion, but little progress has been made along the path of concilialion. In addition, if the court would give an assurance that it would take the result of a ballot as au indication of the justification of the strike, the workers would welcome it. That would not embarrass the workers, but it would embarrass the court.
Proposed sections agreed to.
Proposed section 16as - “ An award of the Commission constituted by a Commissioner shall not, unless all parties to the industrial dispute who appear or are represented before the Commission consent or the Commission otherwise directs, have effect until after the expiration of twenty-one days from the date of the award.”
– I move -
That proposed section 16AS be left out witu * view to inserting the following section in lieu thereof: - “ icas. An award of the Commission constituted by a Commissioner shall, unless all parties to the industrial dispute who appear or are represented before the Commission otherwise consent or the Commission otherwise directs, have effect from the date of the award.”.
The section to be amended provides that an award is not to take effect until the expiration of 21 days from the date of the award. Having regard to the fact that a good deal of time is occupied before the award stage is reached, the award should date from not later than the date on which it is granted. There are appeal provisions in the bill, and advantage is to be taken of them within fourteen days if relief is sought. Very often it is desirable that the award should operate retrospectively. I take it that that is not indicated in proposed section 16as. even as it stands?
– Oh, no !
– It may still operate in the future, but the trade union movement feels strongly about it, and the amendment stems directly from a conference between the trade union movement and our leaders. There ought to be no delay once an award is made, and that may be after the whole process of conciliation, arbitration at the commissioner level, reference, appeals, reference back and soon has been passed. There should be no delay in fixing the date from which it should operate.
Senator SHEEHAN (Victoria) [11.50J. - Might I ask the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) what the purpose of thi , clause is, in view of the protestations that are made from time to time regarding delays in the hearing of claims. The position is that a log of claims is presented. Some time elapses before the log is heard, and then the hearing is generally protracted. Finally, we find that when an award is made it must remain in abeyance for 21 days. One would think that if it is desired to conciliate and get any dispute over as quickly as possible provision would be made for an award to operate immediately. The proposal at the moment is that the award should be made retrospective to the date of the lodging of the claim. One of the main objections to arbitration at present is the slowness of its process. That objection would be confirmed if a clause were introduced which would make it possible for the authority to make an award retrospective. I would have been pleased to see such a provision in the bill.
– There is such a provision.
– Where is it ?
– I think there are at least two reasons to support the Government’s contention. First of all, the arbitration system makes provision for appeals. I know the Opposition opposes appeals, but that provision has been carried. It may be undesirable that an award, which in its terms confers benefit?on unionists, should become operative and then be disallowed on appeal. The benefits would have to be taken away. That seems rather undesirable. This provision gives time to the parties to institute appeals.
The provision that it is not to operate until after the expiration of 21 days is not wholly mandatory; the commission can direct otherwise. The commission can say, if it likes, “ The award is U> come into operation immediately “. If it says that, the award will come into operation immediately but, in the absence of such a direction, will become effective after 21 days. From a practical point of view there is another reason for this provision. Australia is a large country with vast areas and it sometimes takes time to notify people of their obligations. This provision gives an opportunity to notify properly people that their obligations become effective at a time after they have had reasonable notification. That seems to he a reasonable ground for allowing a time like this to be included in the section, subject all the time to the control of the commission, which can make an order to the contrary. It in no way affects the retrospective operation of an award. An award may be made which provides for a retrospective payment. All that this section says is that the award will not become operative until the expiration of 21 days. When the 21 days have expired the award as made by the court is effective, and if it provides for a respective payment, thatpayment will be made.
– I am very interested in the explanation which the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) has given. I desire to ask him what the position would be if, during the waiting period, an appeal was lodged by either of the parties. Would the award be suspended until such time as the appeal was heard? Would any time be set down for the hearing of the appeal, or would the position be that a party could indeterminately delay the operation of an award and further aggravate the position?
– In answer to Senator Cooke, the position is that when an appeal is lodged the matter then comes under the control of the body to which the party has appealed. I think that proposed section 16u provides that the commission can suspend the operation of an award or allow it to operate.
Proposed section agreed to.
Proposed sections 16at to 16ax - by leave - taken together, and agreed to.
Proposed section 16ay - (1.) In proceedings before the Commission, a party or intervener -
) not being an organization, may be represented by -
. -I move -
That in proposed section 16ay, paragraph (d)be left out.
This is a regular matter of conflict between the Government and the Opposition relating to legal representation in arbitral proceedings. The Opposition’s attitude is well known. It is based upon objections from the trade union movement, particularly from the Australian Council of Trades Unions, which considers that legal representation on that level prolongs hearings, causes delays and adds to cost. For that reason we propose the amendment which provides that counsel, solicitors or paid agents, cannot appear except by leave of the commission and with the consent of all parties.
– Before the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) speaks, I wish to say that I thought that this matter had been concluded by a debate in this chamber in 1951 when these provisions were, on an amendment emanating from the present Government, amended to provide that in any of these arbitration proceedings counsel, solicitor or paid agent might appear in any case with the leave of the commission. I am desirous of moving an amendment to omit the words “ and with the consent of all parties and also to delete paragraph (d), which is included in Senator McKenna’s amendment. Honorable Senators will see that the purpose of the two propositions is quite different. I desire to provide that a party or intervener shall not be represented by counsel, solicitor or paid agent except by leave of the commission. I should like to be directed from the Chair as to the form in which my amendment should be presented. I suggest that a vote might be taken on the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition. If his amendment is negatived, then I could move my amendment, if that meets with the approval of the Chair.
– That will be the proper procedure.
– I move -
That, in proposed section 16ay, paragraph (c) of sub-section (i.) be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words: - “by leave of the Commission.”.
The committee will observe that the bill endeavours to place a restriction upon the appearance of parties so as to preclude their being represented by a solicitor, counsel or paid agent, unless two conditions concur: First, the obtaining of leave of the commission and, secondly, the consent of all parties. So that if ten parties to a dispute appeared before the commission and one dissented, the other nine could not have representation by a solicitor, counsel or paid agent. That is going back to the dark ages, because I thought light had been thrown upon the situation by a deliberate vote of the Parliament in 1951, when the act was amended to bring it precisely into line with the amendment I have moved. Section 4 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act of 1951 deliberately amended the principal act to permit the representation of parties by solicitor, counsel or paid agent in all cases with the leave of the court, and the words “ with the consent of all parties “ were struck out. Honorable senators may be interested to be reminded of the speech of the present Attorney-General (Senator
Spicer) as recorded in Hansard of the 21st November, 1951, at page 2349. He said -
Successive chief judges, in their reports . . have also commented adversely on the prohibitions contained in section 46.
That was the old section. He continued -
In these days not only the court is faced with problems of compexity and vast significance to the economy; the conciliation commissioners are no longer subordinate authorities, as they deal with matters which are also of supreme importance to the economy. The metal trades margins case before Conciliation Commissioner Galvin is an example. The constitutional limitations which bear on the exercise of functions of conciliation and arbitration in the federal sphere have always been productive of difficult technical and legal problems. Now the division of responsibility as between the court and the conciliation commissioners brings in its train new and complex problems of jurisdiction and competence.
The Attorney then cited the report of Chief Conciliation Commissioner Mooney, in which he said -
A majority of the commissioners considered that this prohibition-
That is, the prohibition of solicitor, counsel or paid agent - deprives them of the aid of skilled and experienced representatives of both employees and employers.
He emphasized the handicap that was felt by conciliation commissioners by being without the advantage of advocacy from these people. If the committee will bear one further reference from de Foenander’s book, Studies vn Australian Labour Law and Relations, at page 80 he cites a very strong plea by the Chief Judge of the Arbitration Court, when he says that the exclusion of solicitors, counsel and paid agents - had increased a commissioner’s difficulty in his “ not inconsiderable task of ascertaining the facts and obtaining the information he must have “. He continued - “ Some Commissioners have by one subterfuge or another endeavoured to evade this prohibition in the Act. It seems to me that Commissioners generally would welcome the right to allow parties to industrial disputes to be represented by skilled, experienced and qualified representatives, including solicitors, or counsel . . .
– They have that right under this provision.
– I do not follow.
– Under sub-section «*).
– Surely, Mr. Chairman, the Attorney-General will not put that proposition to the committee, unqualified.
– I put it, unqualified, and quite seriously.
– I am afraid that the hour of midnight must be making the Attorney’s outlook a little clouded. Sub-section (d) reveals the fundamental falsity of the proposition, because parties are permitted to have professional representation by leave of the commission only if the commission, having regard to the subject matter of the proceedings and nothing else, considers that there are special circumstances which make that desirable. The Attorney-General probably knows much better than I do that those words limit the occasion of the leave that the commission would otherwise be permitted to give. I am well aware that if, having regard to the subject-matter of the suit, the commission considers that there are special circumstances, the consent of the parties might then be dispensed with. That is to be read into the portions of the section which I have asked the committee to strike out, but that is not equivalent, in the slightest degree, to a statement that the parties already have that right under this bill. They have not. The committee must face this matter quite squarely and deliberately, fortified by the unanimous belief of conciliation judges and commissioners. In 1951, the Parliament agreed to an amendment expressly designed to achieve the purpose of the amendment now before the committee, and nothing has happened in the meantime to alter the ground of that amendment, for which honorable senators on this side voted, according to my recollection, to a man.
What is the position? Why is the committee invited to accept this qualification of the right of representation? I speak on behalf of the laymen - the lay commissioners who are to take their seats on the commission alongside of judges. Suppose that an industrial advocate appears for one party, and for the other side, a secretary unversed in procedure. Suppose, further, that the industrial advocate puts forward a legal proposition and the presidential member takes a particular view of the law. What are his colleagues, the lay commissioners to do? Will they not be desirous of hearing such legal submissions as might be made on behalf of both parties, in order to reinforce them in the view that they feel it is their duty to take ? Or are they simply to mimic the presidential member of the commission who happens to be a lawyer ‘.
Most of the laymen who appear in the court assert that professional assistance enables disputes to be abbreviated and settled much more expeditiously than would be possible without it. If our judgment was right in 1951, not one circumstance has arisen in the meantime which alters the ground on which that amendment was based, and I ask the committee to accept this amendment to enable the commission to be the judge of whether parties should have leave to be represented by solicitor, counsel or paid agent, and to prevent one dissident party from negativing the remaining parties’ right to be so represented.
– Order! May 1 suggest that Senator Wright restate his amendment as follows : -
That in proposed section 16AY (1.), paragraphs (o) and (d) be omitted with a view to inserting in lieu thereof the words “ by leave of the Commission “.
– Yes, I agree to that.
Wednesday, 20 June 1956
– I rise in support of the amendment proposed by Senator Wright. The honorable senator has addressed the committee most adequately on this matter, and, with him, I believe that there is a strong case for striking out the words that he proposes should be struck out. I refer to the second-reading speech of the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt), delivered on the 15th November, 1951, on the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill (No. 3) 1951, when, as we all thought, the law regarding representation before arbitration tribunals was being stabilized. 1 refer particularly to a quotation which the Minister made on that occasion from a report of the then Chief Conciliation Commissioner, Mr. Mooney. Senator Wright, when referring to the remarks made in 1951 by the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer), quoted from this report, but I invite the attention of the committee to other aspects of it. Mr. Mooney said -
From information conveyed to me I believe that a number of organizations, particularly the smaller ones which cannot afford to employ a person solely on this type of work or with not enough of it to enable its officers to obtain the necessary knowledge and experience, would welcome a change in the act to at least provide that such representatives should be permitted to appear with the consent of the Commissioner and all the parties.
Without the necessity of dealing with the two points raised - that such representatives should be permitted to appear, first, by leave of the commissioner; and, secondly, with the consent of all parties - I believe that it is important that smaller industrial organizations should have the right of representation by counsel. I believe that nothing has been said by the Attorney-General, or by any honorable senator from the Government side who has spoken in this debate, to indicate any necessity for the proposed change. Nothing has been seriously put before this committee with regard to abuses of the arbitration and conciliation system by legal representatives; in fact, the evidence is to the effect that legal representatives assist the tribunals. Mr. Mooney said - t am able of my own experience to say that the attendance of such representatives at conferences have conduced to the settlement of disputes and, generally speaking, have expedited rather than retarded the hearing when the dispute has come to arbitration.
Therefore, there is no need to change the law laid down by the Parliament in 1951. Consequently, I believe that Senator Wright’s effort to have the law with regard to representation left unchanged is fully justified. We must take a longterm view of this matter, and realize that a strong bar with experience in the industrial conciliation and arbitration jurisdiction provides a field for the future recruitment of judges for the conciliation and arbitration tribunals. If we remove the opportunities for legal men to practice in the industrial jurisdiction, we shall reduce the field from which we shall obtain our future arbitration judges. I do not consider that it is satisfactory to appoint as industrial judges men who have practised in the divorce, criminal, equity or general civil jurisdictions. Therefore, I believe that the disappearance of the industrial bar may be a great disservice to the Commonwealth. The amendment moved by Senator Wright has a lot to commend it, and I ask the Attorney-General seriously to consider it. If it is accepted, it will retain the position as it is at the present time; and I repeat that I have not heard anything which would lead me to believe that any alteration is needed.
– I do not believe that the Opposition is objecting to legal advice being tendered to the court, but it is objecting to the appearance before the industrial tribunals of members of the legal profession. We are objecting in that regard because we believe that the employment of counsel makes arbitration an expensive and sometimes tedious procedure. It has been stated that the presiding officer of a tribunal sometimes needs to obtain legal opinion on a point of law. That always available to him without the necessity of either or both of the parties being put to the expense of being represented by the legal profession in court. Senator Laught has argued that legal men should be employed so that they can serve their apprenticeship as judges - as it were - and later be appointed to the industrial bench. Apparently, he is of the opinion that the parties should pay for the training of these gentlemen. I direct his attention to the fact that when the workers approach the industrial tribunals, they do so to obtain minimum, wages and conditions. Surely, it is not suggested that out of those minimum wages they should be required to pay heavy legal costs so that barristers can learn something of the industrial law.
This Government has not even provided that all persons who enjoy the benefits of awards should contribute to the cost of obtaining them. Therefore, a small core of workers is required to provide allthe money necessary to argue their cases before the court, and they should not be burdened with the additional cost of legal representation. If it is contemplated that legal representation is necessary because points of law will constantly arise in the tribunals, I suggest that the Government will overload arbitration and make it cumbersome and very expensive. I contend the court should be empowered to obtain the best legal opinion on any point of law that confronts it, but the cost of obtaining the opinion should be a charge against the court. It is not proper in this committee to name persons who have caused delays in arbitration cases, but the industrial unions know well that once a matter becomes the subject of legal argument a decision on that matter is delayed interminably. Such a matter is very rarely determined without undue delay. If the proposed section provided that the proposed Conciliation and Arbitration Commission “ in special circumstances can permit “ the representation of the parties by counsel, unions would be afforded some protection, and would not be forced into opposing or submitting an application which would be opposed by a strong organization with unlimited money with which to fight a case and with which to hire an array of counsel which could not be matched by the workers or the unions because they could not meet the heavy expense that would he entailed.
– I direct the attention of the committee to the fact that Senator McKenna’s amendment, which was defeated, sought to omit paragraph (d) of sub-section (1.). “Standing Order 145 states -
No Amendment shall be proposed to be made to any words which the Senate has resolved shall not be left out, or which have been inserted in or added to a Question, except it be the addition of other words thereto.
In view of that Standing Order, to which my attention has been directed, I suggest that Senator Wright must either redraft his amendment or move, at the appropriate time, for the recommittal of clause 7.
– I altered the wording of my amendment in accordance with the suggestion you made earlier, Mr. Temporary Chairman.
– The recommittal of the clause can be moved only when the committee has reported to the Senate.
– Could we not grant leave for the recommittal of the clause to be moved now?
– I suggest that this is a matter in which legal assistance could cut through the problem in about half a second. I have moved my amendment and we have proceeded to discuss it. I urge you, Mr. Temporary Chairman, to adopt the great resourcefulness of the law, and not to enforce the Standing Order to cut short a very interesting discussion.
-i suggest that the difficulty can be easily overcome. The method I propose is not a very elegant one, I admit. I suggest that, for our present purposes, we take Senator Wright’s amendment as being designed to omit from paragraph (c) of sub-section (1.) the words “ and with the consent of all parties “. If those words were omitted, paragraph (d) would not he necessary, and we could then recommit clause 7 to consider whether to omit that paragraph. I suggest that an amendment seeking the omission from paragraph (c) of the words “ and with the consent of all parties “ would not be contrary to the Standing Orders.
– Is it the will of the committee that the course proposed by Senator Spicer be adopted ?
HonorableSenators. - Yes.
. -I proceed to discuss the matter on the basis to which the committee has just agreed. I want to make it clear that the proposed section does not return to the position which existed before the Conciliation and Arbitration Act was amended in 1951. Before that was done, counsel or solicitor could not appear before the Commonwealth
Court of Conciliation and Arbitration except with the consent of the court and of the parties. The 1951 amending measure provided that counsel could appear by leave of the court or by consent of the parties, instead of by leave of the court and with the consent of the parties.
– The court could overrule the parties.
– Yes, but the 1951. act provided that the consent of the parties would be sufficient. I think it is true that some conciliation commissioners, at any rate, treated that provision, in effect, as authorizing them to permit the appearance of counsel as a matter of course if it was asked for. In other words, I think they permitted the appearance of counsel in some cases merely because a party attended with counsel and said, “ We want to be represented by counsel”. I do not criticize any one for that. I feel that the legislature adopted the words “ by leave of the court “ in contemplation that the court would look not to the mere application for leave to be represented by counsel, but to some circumstances which seemed to indicate that the appearance of counsel was desirable. This matter was considered at length by the Ministry of Labour Advisory Council, on which, as honorable senators know, are representatives of the trade unions and of the employing organizations. It is true to say not only that the trade unions opposed the 1951 act, but also that they were supported in their opposition to it by some sections of the employers at least. Therefore, it was felt that we should have some regard, at any rate, for the views of the representatives of the people from both sides of industry who use the concilation and arbitration machinery most. The proposed section is the result of the Government’s consideration of the submissions made to it by those people, and of its own examination of the problems that have arisen.
I think paragraph (d) of sub-section (1.) is a very important element. It provides that the parties may apply for counsel to appear, and it indicates that the proposed commission must be satisfied that there are special circumstances which are sufficient to justify the appearance of counsel, having regard to the law as it is stated in this proposed section. That is all that paragraph (d) states. It does not merely dispense with the need for leave of the commission, as was done in 1951. As I have said, a rather liberal interpretation was subsequently given, in some quarters, to the provisions relating to the appearance of counsel. We have now gone out of our way to provide that it is not sufficient merely for a party to ask for permission to be represented by counsel. The party must establish a ground for the granting of that permission by showing some special circumstances which make it desirable that representation by counsel should be permitted. My own feeling is that, in the working of the conciliation and arbitration system, and in the fair application of these provisions, counsel will appear in those cases in which the appearance of counsel would be useful and in which the commission feels there are special circumstances that justify the appearance of counsel. In addition, counsel may appear by leave of the proposed commission in every case in which the Attorney-General intervenes. Such interventions occur mostly in hig cases relating to the basic wage and standard hours. All that is required in such cases is the leave of the commission for counsel to represent a party. Counsel may appear also by leave of the commission and with the consent of all the parties.
I say quite frankly that I do not like this kind of provision. I suppose it is reasonable enough to imagine that all honorable senators would think I had a personal disinclination to accept provisions of this type. I think the legal profession should be free to appear for people with as little hindrance as possible. But I suggest that, in a very important system of conciliation and arbitration which is used by both sides of industry, some attention must be paid to the views, especially when those views coincide, not merely of the trade unionists but also of some sections of the employers, because those are the people who use the conciliation and arbitration system. All the Government has done in this proposed section is to give reasonable weight to those views and to bring into operation a system, which should work without undue harm to any one.
Senator BENN (Queensland) [12.30 a.m.J.- - I intend to vote against Senator Wright’s amendment. An examination of State legislation will disclose that in several States, counsel and solicitors are not allowed to appear before State industrial authorities, but arbitration and conciliation has functioned most satisfactory in those States. I should say that in those States in which the industrial legislation contains a provision similar to this prohibiting the appearance before State industrial bodies of counsel and solicitors, conciliation and arbitration is on a much better footing than it has been in the Commonwealth sphere. For that reason, I intend to vote against the amendment.
– For the reasons that I put before the committee earlier, the Opposition cannot support Senator Wright’s proposal. I shall not repeat those views.
Proposed section agreed to.
Proposed sections 16az to 16bi. - by leave - taken together, and agreed to.
Proposed sections 16bm to 16r.r - by leave- - taken together.
– I refer to proposed section 16bm, which reads, in part -
Division 3 - Industrial Matters - Snowy Mountains Area. “j Ohm. In this Division, unless the contrary intention appears - and I move -
That proposed Division a of Part 11a - Industrial matters - Snowy Mountains area - hu left out.
I understand that the New South Wales industrial authority has operated quite satisfactorily in this area without Commonwealth intervention. I believe that Mr. Justice Taylor is the principal judge immediately concerned with it. Very good results have been obtained.
– That is to-night’s funny story.
– The Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) can tell it if he wishes. As I understand the position, the State court and authorities actually have settled the conditions for the Snowy Mountains area as between sub-contractors and their employees, or as between contractors and their employees. I am told that the Commonwealth has not intervened at all in industrial affairs there. I understand also that very good terms and conditions have been granted and that record work has been done in consequence. We, therefore, propose to delete anything that will in any way import into that area the activity of the Commonwealth. If it is proceeding satisfactorily, why does the Commonwealth want to interfere?
– This provision will merely bring the new Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act into conformity with the law that exist? already. The act relating to the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority makes provision for this kind of thin?;. I must say that I find it most astonishing that the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) should tell us that the Commonwealth’s employees and employee.1of Commonwealth contractors should have their conditions of employment fixed by a State authority rather than by a Commonwealth authority. And this comes from an authority that has been talking about the necessity for some uni formity! The one instance in which honorable senators opposite want to get away from the Commonwealth authority is this undertaking which is run by the Commonwealth itself.
– I .arn astonished that the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Spicer) is astonished. Consider the position from a territorial point of view. Most of the employees on the job are in New South Wales territory exclusively. They are not working for the Commonwealth at all. They are the employees of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority. They are employed in a State and not, in fact, upon Commonwealth territory or property at all. I should say that on the broad proposition as to who ought to control working conditions, they are far better left with the industrial authority that has had the wisdom to recognize the difficulties of the conditions under which these men work and to afford them such award conditions as will ensure that the job is well done.
– I support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna). I feel that the provision sought to be deleted was not included in the bill for the reasons mentioned by the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer). The Leader of the Opposition has stated the true position with relation to this particular authority. One of the great obstacles confronting arbitration in the past has been that its functions have been restricted to disputes which have extended beyond State borders. The Snowy Mountains scheme is not a Commonwealth undertaking. The proposed amendment does not conflict with our desire to have uniformity. Most of the employees on the Snowy Mountains scheme are working for sub-contractors, not for the authority. The authority has deputed the carrying-out of certain work to sub-contractors, and it would be interesting to know just who is liable for any compensation that might become payable to the employees there. Are they covered by the Commonwealth Workmen’s Compensation Act, or by State legislation ? They are covered by the State act. If compensation is payable under State legislation, what reason can there be for transferring control of their wages and conditions from the State to the Commonwealth authority? Of course, the reason is, as we know, that the State authority, being a body which is able to assess the arduous conditions under which these workers are engaged, has made awards commensurate with the work that these people are performing. Possibly, somebody feels that this might be a little bit too Rood. Conciliation has operated on the Snowy Mountains scheme and that is what we want to operate. Conciliation ! Possibly, it is felt that this new authority should have some extra work to do. I want to argue that, legally, these men are not the employees of the Commonwealth. They are rightfully entitled to the protection of a State authority. Would the Government suggest that the railway employees of Western Australia should be mandatorily brought under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act because railway men in some other parts of the Commonwealth work under Commonwealth awards? Does the Government want to abolish State wage-fixing authorities and arbitration authorities altogether and make this the one and only authority? It would be better for the Government to express its true intention rather than oppose the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition.
Proposed sections agreed to.
Division 4. - Industrial Matters - Stevedoring Industry.
– Division 4 deals with the stevedoring industry provisions in relation to industrial arbitration. As there is another bill before the Senate which deals with this matter, I think it might be convenient if we postpone this part of this bill until we dispose of the Stevedoring Industry Bill.
– It is conceivable that we may have to come bade to this and, in those circumstances, I suggest that we postpone consideration of Division 4 of the bill covering proposed sections 16ns to 168Z
That proposed sections 16BS to 16RZ be postponed.
Clauses 8 and 9 - by leave - taken gether, and agreed to.
Part IV. of the Principal Act is repealed and the following Part inserted in its stead: - “ Part IV. - The Commonwealth Industrial Court.
– I do not move an amendment here, hut voice an objection to the establishment of the new Commonwealth Industrial Court. This appears to be a body which will be set up to exercise judicial powers in relation to arbitral and conciliatory functions of the Commonwealth. The Opposition feels that its creation will place a too great emphasis on the process of the enforcement of awards which we think is better left to the ordinary courts of the State and other federal tribunals or tribunals vested with federal jurisdiction. It is well known that we oppose the provisions of proposed section 37, particularly paragraphs (a), (b) and (d) of sub-section (1.) providing for the power to order compliance with awards, enjoining, and then subjecting defaulters to particularly heavy penalties includ-‘ ing gaol or the possibility of gaol for individual employers and union officials. We object also to the proposed section 44 and, generally, we shall vote against that particular provision.
Proposed section 41 - (1.) The Court has jurisdiction to hear and determine an appeal from a judgment, decree, order or sentence of a State court (not being a Supreme Court) or of a court of a Territory of the Commonwealth made, given or pronounced in a matter arising under -
– I have an amendment to move to this clause. The portion of it with which I am concerned is proposed section 41 which is inserted in the act by this clause. I move -
That in proposed section 41 (1.), -paragraph (6) be left out.
I f honorable senators will turn to proposed section 41 they will see that it provides -
The court has jurisdiction to hear and determine an appeal from a judgment, decree, order or sentence of a State court (not being a Supreme Court) or of a court of a Territory of the Commonwealth made, given or pronounced in a matter arising under -
The Government included this paragraph in sub-section (1.) of proposed section 41 because it thought that, by so doing, it would shorten appeal proceedings against judicial orders and judgments under the Coal Industry Act. Furthermore, it seemed proper that appeals against judgments under that act should go to the court, that is the Industrial Court, which hears appeals under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, rather than to the Supreme Court or the High Court.
The reason why it is proposed to omit, the provision is that the New South Wales Government, when asked for its concurrence in a bill to make amendments to the Coal Industry Act consequential on the bill now before the Senate, indicated that it would concur on condition that this provision was withdrawn. The concurrence of the New South Wales Government in proposed amendments to the Coal Industry Act was sought in accordance with the agreement between the Commonwealth and the State.
The matter is of no consequence to the Commonwealth - indeed, it may very well be that there never have been any proceedings under the Coal Industry Act that have been taken on appeal to a superior court. The matter may be of only academic interest, but in order to carry out the arrangement with the New South Wales Government I have moved for the deletion of that reference to Part V. of the Coal Industry Act 1946-1952. Amendment agreed to.
– Proposed section 30 (3.) of the bill provides that judges shall be paid such travelling expenses as are considered reasonable by the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer). Will the AttorneyGeneral give us some information as to how general that provision is? It seems to me to be an odd provision in relation to the judiciary that the Attorney-General should be the judge as to reasonable travelling expenses or that the travelling expenses of the judiciary should not, in some way, be fixed by law.
– At the moment, the position is that such travelling expenses as are considered to be reasonable will le approved by the Government.
– As is done in relation to honorable senators, who are paid a travelling allowance of £2 10s. a day.
– It will be appreciated that the Governor-General is called upon to perform a lot of formal work. The object of this provision is to relieve His Excellency of a large amount of signing in relation to what is, after all, a relatively simple matter. Of course, it is immaterial to me who fixes the amount. I cannot believe that either my judgment or that of the judges themselves will be affected in any way by a consideration of who fixes the travelling allowance. As I have said, the object of the provision is to obviate a lot of paper work, such as the preparation of submissions, and so on, in relation to what is, in the long run, not a very big item, involving a consideration of whether, for instance, the rate of travelling allowance shall be £7 7s. or £10 10s. a day. The matter is in the hands of the committee.
-rite. - Does the provision contemplate that the Attorney-General shall determine tho rate of daily travelling allowance, or his approving of the reimbursement of expenses incurred ?
– It involves my fixing the daily scale of travelling allowance, which will be the allowance that the judges shall receive while that scale remains in operation. The effect of the provision that the rate of travelling allowance shall be fixed by the GovernorGeneral is that I shall make a recommendation to His Excellency, a certain amount of paper work will be involved, and tho Governor-General will then fix the rate in accordance with my recommendation. There is no mystery about the matter. As I have said, our object is to avoid unnecessary paper work.
. - I only want to point out that the bill provides that the judges’ travelling expenses shall he paid in such amounts as are considered by the Attorney-General to be reasonable. There is no regulation providing that the scale that will be issued by the Minister shall he reviewable by this Parliament. The matter passes outside the responsibility of both Houses of the Parliament. I remind the committee that, constitutionally, it is a. fundamental consideration that all remuneration to, or reimbursement of expenditure by the judiciary should be fixed by law. I shall not take the matter any further at the moment, but it has given me something of a shock to realize that an alteration is being made in the procedure, and that the judges shall be paid such travelling expenses as are considered reasonable by the Attorney-General - not by the GovernorGeneral. I think that the whole position ought to be reviewed, to ensure that we do not become lax. It is a cardinal rule that every penny that is given to members of the federal judiciary should be fixed by law.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 11 to 22 - by leave - taken together, and agreed to.
Clause 23 (Entitlement to membership of organizations).
– The Opposition desires this clause to be left out, so we shall vote against it. The clause is part of a provision dealing with entitlement to membership of organizations which was inserted by the Government in the 1952 legislation. The Opposition then opposed its insertion for the same broad reasons as it now opposes the addition to section 83a of the principal act of proposed new sub-section (4.). In particular, we oppose the rather odd proposal that, if a person wishes to apply to a court for admission as a member of an organization, that application may be made on his behalf by a person who desires to become his employer. We think that that proposal is distinctly odd. Therefore, we oppose the clause.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 24 to 48 - by leave - taken together, and agreed to.
That clause 49 be postponed.
Clauses 50 to 52 - by leave - taken totogether, and agreed to.
Clause 53 agreed to.
That clauses 54 and 55, and the First and Second Schedules be postponed.
Sitting suspended from 12.59 a.m. to
– -by leave - Yesterday, in the course of a question addressed to the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner), I stated that the profit of Caledonian Collieries Limited exceeded 160 per cent. On the information that I have been able to obtain, that is not correct. The net profit in 1950 was £28,108, and in 1951 the profit was £94,068. Instead of an increase of 160 per cent., it was an increase of 240 per cent. I think that probably the report to which I referred was in relation to the following years. I make this correction because I have no desire to make a statement here that is not correct. The actual increase on the profits of the preceding year was more than 240 per cent.
Debate resumed from the 14th June (vide page 1598), on motion by Senator Spicer -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– The measure now before the chamber is comprehensive and of the very first importance. It requires close study of the law and a knowledge of the history of the waterfront, and a very close study of reports, such as the Basten report and the interim report of the Tait committee. Above all, it needs time for full consideration and, I might add, consultation with those who are concerned with this very important industry. I say at once that it is wrong and unfair for the Senate to be asked to consider this matter in the last week of the sessional period, in its dying hours, when our minds are already
Overburdened with a long series of very comprehensive and very important measures.
The Parliament, in this matter of the
Stevedoring industry, is faced with the same old difficulty of divided constitutional power, the Parliament having power over interstate and overseas activity, on the one hand, and the States controlling intra-state activity. Pre-war, the men engaged in this very vital industry were the forgotten men of Australian industry. Their work was intermittent and casual; it had no element of security; there was favoritism in selecting men for work and there was no fair distribution of work; there was no rostering; pick-ups took place in the open, in all kinds of weather; there were ng amenities at all. The whole pick-up system savoured of something in the nature of a human auction. Neither governments nor the employers, the shipping and stevedoring companies, did anything to lift the men or the industry out of the slough of despond in which it had been placed. The history of this legislation falls into five stages. Relief began for those concerned in the industry during the war years under national security regulations.
It was not until after the Labour Government in 1946 obtained a report from Judge Foster that the real reform of this industry began. It was initiated with the Labour government’s legislation in 1947, when a commission of five was appointed to serve and control the field. The commission comprised five - two representing the employers, two representing the employees and an independent chairman. That commission was entrusted with the work of arbitrating in industrial disputes. It was not left to the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. The whole field was in the hands of that commission. There was provision for a limited appeal only to the Arbitration Court. The improved principles that were set up under that measure for the first time in Australia included provision for a quota for each port. That quota consisted of the number of watersiders who could cope with the normal work of the port in ordinary conditions. The number was not so large that when the whole of the work force was used there would not be a decent standard average of wages for the employee.
Provision was made for the registration of waterside workers and the stevedoring employers. For the first time in Australia, provision was made for attendance money. Men who attended the pick-up and were unable to get work, were compensated for standing by. That was a big advance in this casual industry. Provision was made for rostering and a fair distribution of work and, above all, a charge was instituted upon the stevedoring companies in the field of 4 1/2d. a man-hour to provide the funds required to enable the commission to carry on, to provide attendance money and, finally, to supply proper amenities for those in the industry. In short, the Labour government was aiming to make the employing stevedoring companies carry the responsibility that they had avoided and neglected up to that time.
In 1949, the legislation was completely recast. The old commission was abolished because of the misbehaviour, in the view of the government of the day, of the representatives of the Waterside Workers Federation. A commission of three, none of whom was representative of anybody, was appointed. At that point, a change took place regarding the industrial affairs of the union. Instead of the new Australian Stevedoring Industry Board having power over industrial conditions on the waterfront, that work was entrusted to the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, and to one judge of the court alone. The main court had reserved to it power over four great questions - the basic wage for males and females, standard hours and long-service leave.
I invite the Senate to note that the 1949 legislation stood for seven years with one exception. That was the legislation of the present Government in 1954 when the Government provided that the whole basis of recruitment to the stevedoring industry should be changed. Instead of it being channelled through the Waterside Workers Federation, it was henceforth to go through the employers to the board. The Government was warned in this Parliament that that arrangement simply would not work. It was a. situation, that had not been sought by either the employers or the employees. In actual fact, as everybody knows, it provoked a nation-wide strike, and it has never worked from that day to this, [t was resolved finally, as the situation had to be, in a common-sense way, between employers and the federation.
The system was introduced under which the application for, and channelling of labour through the federation still operates to-day. In other words, the Government, despite warnings, blundered into this position and displayed a most abysmal ignorance of conditions on the waterfront, and experienced a most humiliating reverse. The other thing that the 1954 legislation did was to set up the committee now presided over by Mr. Tait, which has furnished a very interesting and valuable interim report.
The fifth stage is the introduction of this bill after six and a half years of this Government, and after the Government has had the Basten report since the 4th January, 1952 - some four and a half years ago - and a report from the committee it set up in 1954. This latter report is utterly incomplete. Even in the matters with which it deals, the committee reported that it was not setting forth the evidence upon which it based its conclusions or the reasons for those conclusions. It made that completely clear. It did not touch on many of the major factors affecting this industry, particularly the costs and profits of the stevedoring and shipping companies concerned in this field.
This is rush legislation on the face of it. One has only to read it ; and evidence in support of that, is that in another place, the Government introduced 25 amendments to its own bill, showing plainly that it is a most ill-considered measure. In fact, now that it is presented to us, we do not find the whole story in the bill before us. One has to refer to the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill to find very important relevant provisions relating to the stevedoring industry. Again, we have an instance of the Government’s characteristic behaviour during the whole term of its office - delay and then all of a sudden it rushes in, taking precipitate action with disastrous results to the subject-matter of its action and to the country. Upon perusal of the bill, one finds that the whole of it is primarily directed against waterside workers and their federation. That was made exceedingly clear by the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) in his second-reading speech, I think I may properly suggest. In the very second paragraph, he said - 1 am not now seeking to apportion blame in one quarter or another.
He was referring to what had happened in what he described as “this turbulent industry “. In the very next paragraph, he said -
The industry is hampered by restrictive practices. “While not seeking to apportion blame, he commenced immediately to blame the federation, and launched, in the course of a whole paragraph, an attack on the faults of the federation. I think that demonstrates the mind of the Government in this matter. It is focusing in this situation upon the “Waterside “Workers Federation and its members to the exclusion of many others and, I say very deliberately, more important factors. Just let me indicate what some of them are. I have listed fifteen matters that, have caused trouble upon the waterfront, and I think most of them are of more importance in the situation than even the matters dealt with under this bill.
Not one of these matters is conjured out of my imagination; every one of them is taken from either the report made by Mr. Basten or that of the Tait committee. I will not have time to deal at length with any one of them, but I shall list them and comment on one or two of them. The first is the outmoded and inadequate port facilities. Those facilities were condemned so plainly by Mr. Basten. The second is slow and late deliveries to wharfs. That has nothing whatsoever to do with the federation. The third is the slow removal of goods from wharfs by importers; and that is dealt with at length in the Basten report. The fourth, is the fact that there are not enough warehouses into which goods may be shifted from the wharfs. Again, that lias nothing to do with the federation. The fifth point is congestion in and about wharfs. The sixth relates to operations in industry which are halted by rain - stopped altogether, and very often the workers are not summoned at all to the waterfront because of the weather conditions. The seventh point is the cause of confusion re industrial awards and orders. I take a moment to refer to that in detail because the Tait committee, discussing disputes and stoppages in this industry, at page 19, paragraph 89, said some significant things about this aspect, and attached very great importance to it. The report states -
The result has been that the award and these orders are in a state of utmost confusion, and indeed we found, upon entering upon the Inquiry, that no one was in a position to tell us with any certainty what was the operative provision of the award plus the orders as to. numerous matters.
Later on, the report continues -
Soon after the appointment of the Stevedoring Industry Commission under the 1947 Act, His Honour Mr. Justice Kirby, who was Chairman of the Commission, is reported to have said that the most urgent need in the industry was the preparation and promulgation of a new code or award, and the committee agrees with this view and finds that the fact that nothing tangible has resulted up to the present lime is a very serious source of trouble and inefficiency in the industry, and in particular of disputes and stoppages.
The committee also referred to the delay in disposing of the log of claims lodged by the federation back in 1950. I select one sentence only, because I have not time to read all of its comments. It is as follows : -
The Government and the Arbitration Court - that is, both of them- cannot bc regarded as free from resposibility for this long delay in the hearing of the logs and the laying down of a new award and a comprehensive code for the industry.
J document the seventh point in this field with that reference to the report of th, committee appointed by the Government. I have already mentioned the eighth point, the delay in dealing with the log of claims of the Waterside Workers Federation. The ninth point was dealt with in the report of Mr. Basten, relating to the delay in customs clearances. The tenth point is the rates of shipping and stevedoring freights and charges. Honorable senators are all aware how much those have risen om the pre-war rates, and the interstate rates have increased by something like 600 per cent. The eleventh point relates to a matter of frequent occur,rence, the wrong stowage of cargo. The twelfth point is the irregular sailings of ships. The thirteenth is the faulty floors of wharfs and sheds. The fourteenth is the inadequate mechanical aids on the waterfront, and the fifteenth the delay in the despatch of cargo documents from the United Kingdom.
Every one of those matters is of major importance, and contributes very seriously to the undoubted difficulties encountered on the waterfront everywhere in Australia, but not one of them lies at the door of the Waterside Workers Federation. I say at once that a grave mistake is being made by the Government in attacking only one aspect of this vast problem, and concentrating that attack on the human element, either forgetting entirely, or certainly doing nothing or little about, all these major matters. I am not pretending that any of them can be cured quickly, but I direct attention to the fact that the Government has had this problem on its hands for six and a half years, and it has very little to show for whatever consideration it has given to it during that time.
The bill has had a most hostile reception. The Opposition is entirely against it, to the extent that we shall make uo attempt to amend it because we think it is too bad to amend. It is also opposed bitterly by the Waterside Workers Federation, and by the Australian Council of Trades Unions, which is the controlling body of the Australian trade union movement. The bill preserves the broad pattern of Labour legislation, which I outlined a moment ago. The proposed authority is to consist of three independent persons, and the industrial commission, instead of the arbitration court, will be used to deal with industrial conditions in the industry. The principles of quotas, registrations of employers and employees, employment bureaux and rostering and fair distribution of work, will all be preserved.
It is quite impossible for me to deal with every aspect of this most comprehensive measure in one speech. I shall not attempt to do that, but I do want to comment on a3 many aspects of it as I can before I conclude. Obviously, one of the first things that must be done is to get a complete codification of the laws referring to stevedoring operations at each port. It is obviously impossible to get intelligent and happy work when workers do not know the conditions under which they are working. It is so obviously a potent cause of misunderstandings and disputes, that I put it as a first priority on the part of the Government and of the new authorities to ensure that in one document there is codified and presented to each individual worker in this industry, the exact conditions that affect him in his work. The second thing that I am concerned with is that the Government should do whatever it can - it may not be able to do much - to facilitate the disposal of that log of claims which has been floating around for about six years.
– That is not true.
– I have taken what I said from paragraph 90 of the report of the Tait committee. The whole matter has not yet been disposed of.
– The log of claims with which Mr. Justice Ashburner is now dealing was lodged in 1955.
– Yes, but the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) must admit that many of the matters contained in the log of claims lodged in 1950 have not yet been dealt with. Of course, some have been dealt with. There have been some interim awards made, and some later applications have been disposed of with more expedition, but the great broad claim of the Waterside Workers Federation of Australia in relation to all kinds of matters has not been disposed of. It is true that to-day we have findings on nine major matters by Justice Ashburner, the arbitral authority. They are decisions which will have a profound influence for good on the future of the waterfront, and it is a great pity in fact that this legislation comes before us at a time when the Tait committee has not concluded its deliberations, and when the affects of the present award and others that may be made are not apparent.
I shall refer next to the obligations under this bill both by reason of the fact that we have two bills to consider in order to ascertain the Government’s approach to the matter, and what is more important, because of the general obligations caused by the duality of control in similar fields by not only the arbitral authority - the presidential member of the committee - but also by the new stevedoring industry authority. If one looks at the transitional provisions of the bill, one will find that they are most complicated. They require the most intense study, and I think that it is safe to say that nobody who has not specialized in the industry, and nobody who has not had legal training, would understand them even after spending a long time studying them.
I do not criticize the drafting of the measure by the draftsmen; indeed, I believe that they have done a magnificent job with a difficult subject. But if we consider the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill 1956, and the measure at present before us, we shall find the same matters entrusted to two authorities. Then the draftsman has been obliged to introduce a whole system of complicated clauses to ensure that differences which are inevitable between their decisions are rectified and cleared up. Those clauses are most complicated.
The particular position is that the stevedoring industry authority is to make orders, and its orders are to prevail over awards of the commission. That is the broad position. Thereafter, neither the commission nor the authority is to make an award or an order inconsistent with that of the other without the other’s consent. It is a most complicated position. I am dealing with it from the viewpoint of peace in the industry, not from any legal angle, and I am repeating the grave difficulty from the viewpoint, of the promotion of industrial disputes and stoppages that lies in the fact that the ordinary worker cannot understand the system under which his conditions are governed. I am prepared to say that there would not be ten men out of the 26,000 members of the Waterside Workers Federation who, with this legislation, will really understand the system under which they are controlled. That is a factor which, right at the outset, militates against the success of this legislation. It simply adds to the confusion which has been pin-pointed so carefully by the Tait committee.
Now, I should like to refer to a very important aspect of this bill. That is the one which provides for a supplementary work force on the wharfs to cover what I might term a seasonal period. 1 refer to the provisions of clause 30. I wish to refer also to clause 40, which provides for the invoking of the aid at weekends and at certain night periods of a force to get over an emergency, tie-up of shipping, however caused. One has to be realistic about this industry and face up to the fact that if the quota principle is accepted - the principles governing it are very well set out at the suggestion of the committee in clause 25 of the bill - if we accept the principle that there is to be a quota that is not so high as to deprive the waterside workers comprising it of a reasonable wage, then the situation must arise in this industry where there are flushes and peaks, where there are holdups due to all kinds of circumstances and where the economic good of Australia itself demands that some urgency provision be made to clear the blockage. One must face that, and this bill attempts to do it in two ways. It sets out first of all, in clause 30, that the authority is not to proceed with the registration of waterside workers beyond the quota for a. particular port, but if numbers are required for a period of up to six months, the authority may register as waterside workers for a particular port more men for that limited period. The authority is required to consult with the Waterside Workers Federation.
Clause 40, which is not to operate before the 1st January next, provides for the sudden occurrence of a bank-up of shipping and the need for stevedoring operations. It is a bank-up that must extend for a period of five days. There must be consultation, and the authority may proceed to the employment of unregistered waterside workers in those circumstances. They can be employed from 5 p.m. to midnight, or at any time on Saturday or Sunday. Their names must be recorded by the authority. They must be invited to work on each particular day, and this situation is safeguarded by the fact that not one of them is to bo employed while a waterside worker is available and willing to do the work at those times. A record us kept at the port, and these men are entitled to exactly the same terms and conditions as apply to the waterside workers themselves. There is provision that applications for registration, in the broad, are to be made through the union. I should say that what has been done in these very important matters is unfortunate at. this time. I think that it is very rash of the Government to bring in this measure at a time when the Tait committee’s report is not fully available, and when the effect of the commission’s award, which has just been made, cannot be fully assessed. I point out all the improved conditions that are made available under that award, which, I repeat, may have the most potent influence in the future: Increased pay, better sick leave holiday pay, a six hours minimum period to be paid for per day, press and radio pick-up, the acceptance of the short-gang principle arid additional overtime. Those are all elements which, I think, can play a vast part in the future. T shall return to this aspect of the matter in a few minutes’ time.
Associated with the matter of the transfer of men from job to job in the one day is the transfer of waterside workers from one port to another, and from one State to another, which indicates agreement on the part of the trade union concerned, the Waterside Workers Federation, to work overtime. I put it to the Senate that, acknowledging the need to supply some emergency supplementary force, the first approach to this matter should have been on the basis of the agreement reached recently between the employers and the federation. I believe that the federation should have been approached, and the proposition put to it that when there was a flush at one port, it was very unlikely that that would be the case at all ports. . There would be ports in other parts of the State or elsewhere in the Commonwealth where the entire quota was not fully occupied. If hostel accommodation were provided by the stevedoring authorities at the major ports where these flushes occur, I have not a single doubt that men from other ports in the State or elsewhere in the Commonwealth, would transfer without hesitation. The availability of suitable hostel accommodation would make a very personal appeal to them. That is the first approach that ought to have been made in this matter.
– How would that work during the fruit export season in Tasmania ?
– I think that, by that means, far more labour would be available in Tasmania during that season. As the honorable senator knows, many waterside workers do go to Hobart, during those seasons.
– Where would they come from in January, February and March?
– During that period, they are slack in Queensland, because the meat season does not begin until March or April, and it runs through for three or four months. Furthermore, the sugar season has not commenced then.
– It has been done often.
– As Senator Ashley has interjected, in the past., Queensland waterside workers have gone to Hobart during the fruit export seasons. The federation has co-operated very well in that connexion. In respect of Hobart, the federation has, over a very considerable period, accepted the principle of a supplementary labour force.
The second approach should have been to ask the waterside workers whether they were prepared to work more overtime in emergencies. I have no doubt that if this request had been made to them on a. proper basis, they would have been prepared to accede to it. Why was not that approach made to the federation ? That seemed to me to be the obvious approach. The Tait committee has referred, at considerable length, to the question of a supplementary labour force. The committee does not consider that such a force would provide an answer to the problem. At page 11 of its report, the committee stated -
Tho conclusion which the Committee has reached on this matter is that the use of a supplementary labour force is not in itself a complete answer to the problem of peak? and flushes, whether normal or abnormal. On the other hand, we find that provided supplementary labour was available when required, that it could be organized and trained, and bc subjected to discipline, and the circumstances and conditions for its use were so precisely prescribed - that it would be clear that it could not be used to the detriment of the legitimate interests of the regular federation labour, then ite use would contribute to the problem of peaks and flushes of shipping and, more particularly, as to those <>f the abnormal type.
– That is consistent with the bill.
– All 1 say to that is that, if the honorable senator looks at the two paragraphs preceding that one he will see that the evidence on behalf of the board was that, in general, the use of supplementary labour is unsatisfactory. The committee proceeded to point out that such labour is unsatisfactory because of the difficulty of obtaining it when it is required, because it is inexperienced, because of its lack of discipline, and so on. The committee stated that the conditions that should be imposed upon the use of such labour have been found to be lacking and, therefore, it does not expect a lot from its use. The report has this to say about the federation; -
The attitude of the federation is generally against it, but perhaps not uncompromisingly so, provided there were proper safeguards, and prescribed limits of its use were adhered to.
Those limits are then set out. The report states that the federation would want to be satisfied that the supplementary men were not used when regular federation members were available, nor used to depress the earnings of federation members; that the latter were not to be left without any work in the period following a flush or peak of shipping, and that the supplementary men did their share of the more difficult, arduous and obnoxious cargoes.
Let us have a look at this question concerning no financial loss to the men. This bill attempts, in limited ways, to meet some of those circumstances, but it does not meet all of them, or any of them, completely. On the question of pay, it provides that if, after an emergency period, nien have been called in from outside, shall I say, in any period of seven days during that 28-day term, the men ante receive a minimum of £12 a week under present day conditions. What confidence can that give to the waterside worker? What is the use of saying tihim, “We will call in a reserve supplementary force and we will use it to clear up a flood of work. If, in the succeeding period, your earnings are down, we will give you less than the basic wage “. The fact is that the guarantee is less than the basic wage. I say frankly that the Government should be ashamed to pur that proposition in a bill. The sum of £12 is not mentioned; the bill refers to “ten times the amount of the rate of attendance money “, which, in fact, works out at £12. There is no avoiding the fact that the Government is expecting the waterside workers to throw their hats in the air with joy over the assurance that they will be given something less than the basic wage for seven days. How can the waterside workers have any confidence in the acceptance of the principles that have been laid down, and that the Tait committee has outlined ? Every one of those conditions is reasonable. Certainly, the Government is doing its best to drive workers from the industry and to create problems by the conditions that it is laying down.
I wish to refer to clause 9 of the bill, which has been the subject of very much disputation. That clause deals with the acknowledgment of a union by the new authority. It authorizes the authority, at any time after the commencement of the act, to establish a register of waterside workers, and where it does so, to declare which organization is the union to be recognized by the Government for the purposes of the legislation at a particular port. I know that there is a definition elsewhere so far as the words “ the Union “ are concerned, which gives authority to the waterside workers to be a union at all ports where they operate at the present time.
– This arrangement will only apply after the commencement of the act.
– That is correct. It will apply only if a register is established after the commencement of the act, and I acknowledge that all existing registers will instantly be brought into being. There is no argument about that. I invite the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) to consider the provisions of clause 36 (1.) (e). Sub-clause (1.) reads : -
Where, after such inquiry as it thinks fit, the Authority is satisfied that a registered waterside worker -
lias failed -
I underline the word “ cancel “. Each of those instances referred to in paragraph (e) may lead to the authority, if it so wishes, suspending or cancelling the registration. The waterside worker reads that and then turns to the provisions of clause 9.
– That refers to cancellation of the waterside workers federation, not that of the unionist.
– Assume that there was some concerted action and that, on one day, every worker at a particular port offended against that provision and the authority cancelled all the registers. That is quite possible. There then would be no register, and the authority would, under the legislation, establish a fresh register.
– The AttorneyGeneral says “ No “. I am not going to pursue the matter further, except to make a suggestion to him. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) indicated that he would accept any form of words that would reassure the waterside workers on this point. I am proposing to the Attorney-General now that it could be cured very largely and quite simply by the addition of a. few words. I do not propose to move them myself at the committee stage, but I indicate them now so that the AttorneyGeneral may consider them. I would substitute some words for the words after “ port “ first occurring in clause 9, so that it would then read -
Where, after the commencement of this Act, the Authority establishes a register of waterside workers at a port at which a register has not previously been established under this or any other Act.
I shall give the Attorney-General an exact note of this matter later. I wish to give him notice of it now, so that he may consider it by the time that we reach the committee stage. The inclusion of those words would, I think, be of considerable help.
I wish to pass now to what will happen under this bill in the event of waterside workers being cut away from work that they might reasonably expect to do. T am referring to clause 7, where it is provided that a waterside worker will not include any person engaged on loose bulk cargo by means of shore-based equipment which has not hitherto been operated by any waterside worker. That seems to indicate, immediately, that all the great bulk-handling installations for sugar which are about to be established in north Queensland ports will deprive the waterside workers of a vast amount of work - probably the bulk of the work that they do in that area at the present time. Why should the waterside workers be excluded from the use of mechanical equipment? Why should it not be a matter for them, so long as they comply with any State requirements regarding the handling of machinery? Here is one more point on which the federation feels that this bill is directed at it and its members.
Later, in clause 7, we find one more exclusion. It is provided that persons in the regular employment of a person engaged in an. industrial undertaking may use their own staff for doing their own stevedoring operations. It may be said that that happens in isolated places at the present time, and that the Electrolytic Zinc works at Hobart does so, and that it is also done at one or two other places, including, perhaps, Geelong. But what assurance is it to the waterside workers to find that more work is to be cut off from them by this bill? They can see very readily that wheat, sugar and meat may go out of their ken. Some of the big motor companies may use their own. permanently employed staff and so take work from the waterside workers. I believe that it calls for a very clear explanation from the Government as to what is in its mind when it is deliberately cutting work away from members of the federation. How can the Government expect the men to welcome a hill with provisions of that sort?
I turn my attention now to the provision for consultations. Throughout this bill, as I read it for the first time, I found that the new authority had to consult with the employers and the employees. I applauded the principle when I found that the authority had to consult with the union before it made orders, fixed port quotas, determined upon the composition of the supplementary work force and dealt with redundancy at a port when considering emergency short-time employment. ThenI came to the provisions of clause 55 (2.) which I shall read to the Senate. Earlier clauses in the bill provide for the setting up of the machinery for consultation, but this clause states in effect that if no consultations take place, that does not matter; it does not affect the validity of what has been done. What is the use of providing machinery for consultation when this provision appears in the bill subsequently -
Where, under this Act, the Authority is, in relation to any act or thing to be performed or done by the Authority, required to consult with any representative, association, Union, branch of a Union or any other person, body or authority, and the Authority performs or does that act or thing without so consulting, that failure does not invalidate the act or thing performed or done.
How does that reassure the federation that it will be consulted ?
– It is an escape clause.
– It is wide open, and it does not oblige the authority to do anything.
– It does oblige the authority as well.
– Let me concede that point, hut there is no significance if it does not act.
– That does not follow, either.
– I think it does. Probably the Government contemplated that a union or body might be recalcitrant and might not be prepared to consult. Why was not the provision confined to such cases? Why was it not stated that this would only apply in any case where the union was recalcitrant and would not consult? If there is any other sort of case that the Government is concerned about, why did it not list them instead of wiping out the whole principle of consultation? I direct my attention now to the functions of the authority. This part of the bill again betrays the mind of the Government. Clause 17 states - (].) The functions of the Authority are -
Hitherto that was regulated and controlled under the legislation introduced by the Chifley Labour Government. That has been watered down as provided in clause 17, sub-clause (2.) -
In regulating the performance of stevedoring operations under this Act, the Authority shall . . . avoid imposing limitations upon employers with respect to their control of waterside workers engaged by them and their manner of performance of stevedoring operations.
What extraordinary tenderness in favour of the employers ! The authority is given power to regulate the performance of stevedoring operations, but is told expressly by this measure to interfere with employers as little as possible. In other words, it is to leave them alone. That is the clear direction contained in that sub-clause. Paragraph (b) of clause 17, referring to functions of the authority, states - to undertake or control, until the Minister otherwise directs, the performance of stevedoring operations at a port in respect of which there is in force for the time being a declaration in writing by the Minister that an emergency exists.
That provision is taken straight out of the Crimes Act. It is particularly repugnant to the whole of the trade union movement, and is rarely used. It is tucked away in the Crimes Act and is trotted out only in dire emergency, but it is written into this legislation as a general provision - a regular tool of trade to be used by the authority on the waterfront.
– What else would the Leader of the Opposition suggest?
– It is the wrong psychological approach to this industry. In other clauses, there is the duality to which I referred earlier. It is applied to transfers, methods of engagement of waterside workers, provision of amenities, first-aid and so on. Then we come to the duties of the authority in relation to the employers. Where they relate to the waterside workers and their conduct, the provisions are laid down with the utmost particularity. Then we come to the part of clause 17 which affects the employers. Paragraphs (l) and (m) state -
The Government has shown great delicacy in its approach to the employers. Provision is made for regulating the conduct of waterside workers in and about the employment bureaux, wharfs and ships, but there is not one word in the bill which allows a finger to be laid upon a foreman stevedore who is abusive and provocative to the men under his control, or is drunk on the joh. What is the reason for the discrimination? That is what the Opposition would like to know, and that is a question that the Waterside Workers Federation is asking also. It is true that very often disputes arise from the incompetence, stupidity, or deliberately provocative behaviour of foremen stevedores. This bill does not attempt to touch any of them, and the authority is directed specifically to handle them with kid gloves. The powers conferred on the authority indicate that it must assist and encourage employers in devising and adopting methods in connexion with stevedoring. Where are the positive obligations on the employers? These are contained in clause 33, which states - (1.) A registered employer -
shall ensure that, as far as is practicable -
I invite anybody who has experience to show how anybody could succeed in a charge framed in those terms. They are general, wide and pious aspirations, but there is no particularity and no code of conduct. It would be a difficult matter to float a prosecution on that basis, and it would be even more difficult to ensure its success. In the terms in which it is framed, this is an absolutely empty gesture by the Government against the employers. The penalties provided are a minimum of £100 and a maximum of of £1,000.
I direct attention now to the provisions for the suspension and cancellation of registration. Here again this highlights the outlook of the Government in relation to this industry. If honorable senators will turn to page 24 of the bill they will find the reason. If it is desired to suspend or cancel the registration of an employer, the authority must go to the court. It. has no opportunity to suspend the employer pending the court’s decision. That is one point I wish to make quite clear. But when the authority deals with the waterside worker and he is to be suspended or his registration cancelled, the hill provides -
Where, after such inquiry as it thinks fit, the Authority is satisfied that a registered waterside worker . . .
. the Authority may cancel or suspend the registration of the waterside worker.
The clause says, “ such inquiry as it thinks fit “. The employer is given a court and he cannot he suspended until the court has made a determination and given him a hearing; but the waterside worker can be suspended by the authority after “such inquiry as it thinks fit”. Admittedly, he is given an opportunity to appeal to a court within fourteen days, and it is competent for the authority, if it, sees fit, to postpone the operation of the suspension until the appeal is heard. Bui look at the obvious discrimination between the employer and the employee.
– The Leader of the Opposition said the employee had no right of appeal.
– The employer gets to the court immediately, but the waterside worker is dealt with on the spot.
– With a right of appeal.
– Also, he can be suspended until his appeal is ended, but an employer cannot be suspended in the same way. That is a grave discrimination.
In the matter of penalties, the wrong approach has been made. Whereas under the prior legislation the penalty for a breach of an order or an award was £5, that has been stepped up very highly to £25, and in some cases £50 for infringing a boycott. The Government has certainly not adopted the Tait committee’s recommendation in that matter. That committee suggested a system under which the authority would fine instead of suspend - a system of quick decisions- - and there would be an appeal in relation to that, if it were desired. The Tait committee’s report has not been followed at all.
The federation is opposed to the bill for all the reasons I have given, and a lot more. For instance, there is power, taken not under this bill, but under the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, if there is concerted action by waterside workers, for the authority to suspend the payment of attendance money, and the authority is not given power to revoke that suspension. The union is obliged to make an application to the court. It is true that the court may grant it retrospectively but one can imagine the difficulties about that. Why, in the first place, if there is to be a suspension of attendance money on a wholesale scale, cannot the body that imposes the suspension lift it?
Why interpose the difficulty of an application to the court on the men in this union ?
– The men should wei come that; they have the court to decide’ the matter.
– But it also delays the matter. The Attorney-General knows very well the delays that are implicit in an application to this court. One cannot walk up to a court and call upon it to hear his case within five minutes. The federation has had too much bitter experience of that type of thing to accept even the Government’s assurance on that point.
The membership of the union is interfered with by this bill. That is resented. Those who are called into the supplementary work force for a six-month period or those who list their names for - weekend and night work are all entitled, under this bill, to go straight into the union as members. That is the point I wan to make. They go in as members on fees that must be reduced ; and if the fee? are not reasonably reduced they can be fixed by the court. These men go into the union as members and participate in al! its activities including the election of officials and the transaction of business, even though they may never be called on to do a day’s work in the industry. The moment their names are put on the list, they are entitled to membership and they may, in fact, never do a day’s work in the industry.
As my time is coming to an end, I repeat that in the view of the Opposition a wrong approach has been made to this problem by the Government. It is so wrong that it is outrageously wrong. This bill will unquestionably stir up more industrial trouble on the waterfront than it will ever cure. The best thing this Government can do is to drop this bill and forget all about it ; and go and talk to the federation in the light of the award the men have now and in the light of the other things they hope to get. This bill is completely provocative and it will certainly cause no end of trouble in this country. We of the Opposition told the Government that in connexion with the 1954 hill. We proved to be very good prophets, because that did happen. There was enormous disruption on the waterfront and in the Australian economy; and the primary responsibility for that rests on this Government which, without understanding and without making a right approach, blundered into a situation which provoked trouble.
The Government is doing worse on this particular occasion. I notice that the bill contains a clause which provides that it will come into operation on a date to be proclaimed. If the Government is not prepared to drop the bill, I suggest that when it forces it through, it put it away and forget all about it, and just watch events for the next twelve months. Consider the action that was taken by the waterside workers following the recent strike after an agreement was reached with the employers. According to the- report of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board, they just about filled their quotas by agreement in very short order and transformed the waterfront in respect of quotas all over Australia. In other words, the federation has shown that this matter can be dealt with. It is willing to deal with it under the new system of transfers to which I have referred, both interstate and intra-3tate, and also by the working of more overtime. Yet, the Government, at a time when the new award is producing a better psychology, rushes in rashly and destroys all the foundations upon which, at this minute, it has a golden opportunity to build. These men - and T know many of them - are as good Australians as can be found in any part of Australia. They have served their country; they contribute to every charitable cause; and they are not entitled to he discriminated against in the way this bill discriminates against them. We of the Opposition look upon this measure in those terms. We think it is a worthy companion to the unworthy shipping hills we have been asked to pass in recent weeks.
.- In directing my remarks to this hill I am at two disadvantages. I do not have, and I have not had, direct experience of working on the wharfs in this industry, and still less have I had any experience running ships which ply to and from the wharfs of this country ; but, although I realize this limitation, 1 am encouraged by the fact that the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna), who has just sat down, is inhibited by precisely the same limitations. Indeed, I think that probably every member of this chamber has, to that extent, a limited knowledge. I desire to put forward views which I think will be approved of, at any rate, by a large proportion of the people of this country who are not specifically engaged either in working on the wharfs or in owning and running the ships that run to and from the wharfs. I put forward a point of view, which, I think, some of them will approve because what happens in this industry extends to every detail of their daily lives and affects the costs which they and the country have to pay in the field of transport, which is one field which operates most rigorously in the economic structure of this country.
I approach the problem, possibly as the people of whom I speak would approach it, without any violent feelings one way or the other against the shipowners or the men who work on the wharfs of this country, but with the knowledge that this industry has been for years one of the most turbulent industries, wherever the blame may lie, with which, we in Australia, or indeed other countries have had to deal, because on the wharfs of all countries there has always been .much turbulence. I approach the problem in the belief that anything which can be done to reduce this turbulence and make the wharfs of this country run more smoothly must be to the advantage of the people of this country including those who work on the wharfs and those who run the ships to them. This bill seeks to do that, and if given a fair trial by all sides, it will achieve, perhaps not complete success, but a considerable and significant advance towards the goal. The Government has been motivated by that desire in bringing down the measure.
It seems to me that one of the principal causes of turbulence of which I have spoken stems from the earlier arrogant attitude of the shipowners, and also from the difficulty of providing labour in an industry which is subject to violent fluctuations of demand. No other industry in the country has had to contend with such a problem. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) stressed the importance which he attaches to the effect of these flushes of work caused by a number of ships arriving almost together from all parts of the world and creating an urgent demand for labour to unload them, followed by periods of slackness and insufficient work for men who depend on wharf labour for their livelihood. If that is the great inhibition under which this industry labours, anything which is done to enable those who work on the wharfs to have some continuity of income and employment, and eventually permanent employment, will prove to be a major factor in overcoming what has been one of the causes of unrest on the wharfs in Australia and in other countries.
It is true that this bill does not contain an offer of permanent employment, but, in conjunction with other happenings of the past few years, it demonstrates an advance towards that right and proper ideal. The payment of attendance money, introduced by a previous government, was the first step in the direction of providing some continuity of income for those who work on the wharfs. The recent award by Mr. Justice Ashburner, under which the minimum period of engagement is increased to six hours irrespective of whether the actual work to be done lasts for that period, is a further step towards permanence of employment.
The provisions in this bill relative to supplementary labour and to short-term engagements are a greater advance than either of those matters and will give a greater feeling of security to the waterside workers. It is clear that if that feeling of security is to be maintained the quotas allocated to various ports must be sufficiently small for those who occupy a position in those quotas to be reasonably certain of continuous employment. To reduce the principle to an absurdity, if a quota of 100 workers was allotted to the wharfs of Sydney, all those workers would be continuously and permanently employed. If the posi tion can be reached in which the quota allotted to the wharfs is sufficiently limited to make reasonably sure their permanent employment, a major problem will have been solved, and one of the principal causes of unrest in this industry removed.
Senator McKenna has accepted the fact that flushes of maximum employment occur when many ships arrive together, and, consequently, over and above the permanent hard core of waterside workers, there must be provision for short-term engagement, or the employment of supplementary labour so that the cargo from the ships can be kept moving and the ships turned round in the shortest possible time. The only way that can be done is to have - to use a military synonym - a regular army of waterside workers - and a Commonwealth military forces work force organized to come in and help when a flush of cargo suddenly arrives. Par from this bill being an attack on the conditions of waterside workers, as Senator McKenna suggested, from the point of view of ordinary observers - of whom Senator McKenna is one - and from a logical point of view, it must be accepted as a great advance towards permanent employment for wharf labourers, which will be the final solution of this problem.
Many of the arguments advanced by Senator McKenna in objection to the bill, other than that of the supplementary work force, are difficult to sustain, and are of such minor importance as to indicate that he has not, and cannot have, any fundamental objection to the measure, or he would have stated it in his speech. His objections were rather to matters of detail and of wording. He enumerated fifteen points, culled from the Tait commission and the Basten reports, and said that this bill had taken no notice of any of them although they were all factors responsible for inefficiency on the wharfs. He suggested that the measure should concern itself with remedying the outmoded and inadequate port facilities, that it should deal with slow deliveries of goods to the wharfs and slow removals from them. He complained that it did nothing about congestion on the wharfs or stoppage of work because of wet weather, or about those other matters he mentioned which contribute to the inadequate handling of cargo on the wharfs. But this bill does contain provisions under which all those things can be dealt with by the authority envisaged in the measure. Clause 17 sets out the functions of the authority, and paragraph (n) lays down that it must - investigate the causes of delays in the performance of stevedoring operations and, in particular, delays in the arrival of cargo at, and the removal of cargo from wharfs.
Paragraph (o) says that it shall - encourage safe working in stevedoring operations and the use of articles and equipment . . .
And paragraph (p) empowers it - to obtain and publish information relating to the stevedoring industry . . which would include information concerning the causes of delays on the wharfs. That is about as far as this authority could go under this bill in relation to the points enumerated by Senator McKenna. It would be well if the bill went further, and gave the authority power to say to port authorities, “ You should lay down another track here because there is only a single track railway, a fact that is holding up the removal of cargo from the wharf “. Or, “ You should provide here better amenities for these workers, also more storage space, and better equipment, such as cranes, for handling the cargo “. As the Leader of the Opposition knows, however, this Government has no constitutional power to include such a provision in the bill. All that the authority can do is to point out the factors which are holding up the movements of cargo in particular ports at particular times, to urge that those in the States responsible should take action to remedy the defects, to publish the facts and to make the reasons for those delays a public question. This bill again gives to the authority set, up under it a right, and indeed a duty, to point out methods by which the handling of cargo can be improved.
Some objection has been raised by the Leader of the Opposition to the provisions in the bill which relate to the persons who shall handle, with the new type loading equipment, bulk cargo on the wharfs of this country. The Leader of the Opposition knows quite well that it is absolutely necessary that this measure should not give to the Waterside WorkersFederation of Australia sole authority to handle all such machinery for the loading of bulk cargo. He knows that that is necessary because, for instance, in various ports that sort of work is done now by members of the Australian Workers Union, and if this bill were to endeavour to give that work to the Waterside Workers Federation of Australia, the Government would be accused of interfering between two industrial organizations. He knows that, in this country, all the time, ports, which are not now very important, are developing, and will come within the orbit of work allotted by consent to the Australian Workers Union or the North Australian Workers Union. But, over and above that, if, for instance in Mackay or some other Queensland port, sugar is to be loaded with bulk equipment, there is no reason why the employees of the sugar firms, the few necessary to do so, should not operate that bulk-handling equipment.
Senator McKenna endeavoured to suggest that such work should he the work of the Waterside Workers Federation, and that if at Bell Bay in Tasmania the employees of the Australian Aluminium Production Commission were to handle bulk-loading equipment, that would be an attack upon the federation. I entirely fail to see the validity of Senator McKenna’s argument on that point. Here we have in contemplation the installation of machinery that will cost millions of pounds, and every honorable senator in this chamber must realize that the installation of that machinery will cut down considerably the number of persons who will be employed at wharfs handling the particular commodity for which the machinery is employed. That being so. that does not enter into the indictment which the Leader of the Opposition has made. His sole objection is that the few who operate this machinery should, bv mandatory power, be members of the Waterside Workers Federation. Why? What is to stop, three, four or half a dozen members of the Waterside Workers Federation, now working on the wharfs in Queensland, from seeking employment with the sugar companies in that State for the purpose of using loading machinery? In fact, no individuals are attacked by this legislation, and I believe that it is much better and for the good of Australia as a whole that a company producing aluminium in Tasmania, sugar in Queensland, or coal in Kew South Wales, or whatever the commodity may be, should have reserved to it and the people working in it the control of the whole of that industry from manufacture to the loading of the product into ships.
Senator McKenna claimed that the provisions which made it necessary for consultation with the Waterside Workers Federation or the employer by the authority, were not real provisions because they were nullified by clause 55 of the bill. L suggest that he himself pointed out the answer to that by indicating that it was necessary that action should be able to be taken by the authority even if the union or employers - and either of them could be imagined to take this stand- should refuse to consult when they were asked to do so. It is quite clear that this matter cannot be more clearly defined than it is in the bill at present, because once you start to try to set out a time limit within which consultation must take place, or a place for consultation, or any other details similar to those, you open the way for either the organization of employers or the organization of employees to put all sorts of reasonable-sounding difficulties in the way of consultation, and to delay consultation when it may well be that the action upon which consultation is necessary is urgent and that something should be done immediately.
The other objections upon which the Leader of the Opposition placed most emphasis were that this bill provided for the suspension of waterside workers, and unfairly discriminated between !he organizations of employers including the stevedoring companies, and the union. He based his contention about, unfairness on the ground that the stevedoring companies could not be suspended by the authority but must have a. right of appeal to the court. They could be suspended only by the court, whereas the waterside workers could be suspended by the authority and then have a right of appeal to the court. At first glance, there is some evidence of discrimination there, but I ask the Leader of the Opposition to imagine what the position would be if a stevedoring company could, at .he whim of the authority, be immediately suspended. I suggest at once that the punishment meted out by such an act would be seen to extend far beyond the stevedoring company which it was sought to punish. It would at once clearly extend to all employees who were working for the company and they would be immediately put out of employment until an appeal took place. It would extend further than that; it would extend at once to all those shippers who had goods, being im ported or exported, passing through the hands, warehouses and trucks of the stevedoring companies. By reason of the desire to punish the company those goods would be immobilized, and thereby all the shippers of the goods would be attacked. So, it is reasonably clear that the reason for this provision is to protect those who use the stevedoring companies. It is also quite evident from the bill itself that the fine of up to £1,000 which can be levied upon stevedoring companies could well he claimed by them, and indeed probably is claimed by them, to be evidence of discrimination against them because there is no power to fine the waterside workers.
It is odd, and probably an indication that this bill is following the correct path, that the attacks upon it are by no means confined to attacks made from the viewpoint of the Waterside Workers Federation - which Senator McKenna has put forward - but are made also from the viewpoint of the shipowners. It appears to me, as a consumer and as one endeavouring to put forward the viewpoint of the consumers, that something of this kindseeking the things suggested in the way> in which they are being sought - which is attacked from both sides, gives the bill a reasonably good chance of being a good bill for me as a consumer. I desire to see good3 handled without great profit either to the shipowners or the members of the Waterside Workers Federation, because that will be to the advantage of the consumers. I know that this legislation can be attacked from many other angles than those from which the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) attacked it. I know there are many who believe that we should have gone further an we have done and that we should have set up this authority purely as a labour bureau without any arbitral powers whatsoever. I am not sufficiently conversant with the legal consequences to know whether that should be done, But I suggest that by setting up this authority the Government has gone a long way towards achieving what the Leader of the Opposition desires - a situation in which chaos resulting from the various orders and regulations on the waterfront, a. situation which led to strikes and in which nobody knew exactly what authority he had will be overcome.
That objective is achieved to the extent that the bill states clearly what particular responsibilities rest upon the authority. They are not and should not be arbitral responsibilities. It also sets out responsibilities resting upon the Arbitration Court. It is true that, previously, members of the Arbitration Court and members of the former commission were not quite clear as to what came within their province and what did not. By clearing up that point, this legislation will do much to overcome many of the disabilities which, as the Leader of the Opposition pointed out, have existed hitherto. “Whatever may be the beliefs of those who, for one reason or another, oppose this bill, it appears to me that it takes a definite and proper step towards providing permanent employment, the disciplining of employers and employees and the clearing up of the confusion which existed hitherto concerning the rights and authority of the various bodies on the waterfront. For those reasons, it is only right and proper that we should wait and see how the bill works, for it has to be remembered that this Parliament always has power to correct in the future weaknesses which may become apparent in either one direction or the other as time goes on.
– It is amazing how honorable senators on the Government side can, at all times and on all occasions, provide an alibi for anything suggested by the Opposition to help either the unions or the workers in industry. Senator Gorton said that the Commonwealth Government had no power under the Constitu tion to help in the improvement of conditions upon the wharfs or the muchneeded mechanization of the industry. Under section 96 of the Constitution, the Commonwealth has unlimited power to provide, through the States, moneys for improving the wharfs. It has power to acquire and operate wharfs itself. It can acquire land upon which to build wharfs, access roads, warehouses or to provide more space round wharfs. One of the great problems in the industry to-day is the congestion brought about by the fact that storage sheds at the wharfs are being used as warehouses.
Senator Gorton also suggested that this bill would do much to solve present problems on the waterfront because of the fact that it made for permanent employment in the industry. It has been suggested on many occasions that permanent employment would solve our problems there, but the fact is that we still have casual employment in the industry and have had it for the last 40 or 50 years. He also suggested that this bill would make for greater continuity of employment in the industry, but I remind him that these problems cannot be attacked by dealing only with the employees. Something must be done to regulate the employers’ side of it. I should like to know how Senator Gorton proposes to regulate the coming in of ships so as to ensure that employees shall be given continuous employment. What does he propose doing about the considerable loss of employment in this industry due to wet weather, a loss that results from the fact that the shipowners and stevedoring organizations have neglected to provide cover under which men may work during wet weather? Reference is also made to the possibility of establishing facilities for the bulk loading and handling of cargoes at the various wharfs, and particular mention was made of the bulk handling of sugar in Queensland. Only recently in Sydney mechanization was introduced for the transfer of sugar from boats to the refinery. Sugar is now taken over conveyor belts direct from the ship to the refinery with the result that approximately 500 waterside workers have been displaced. The saving of the wages of those 500 employees amounts to a considerable sum ; yet, despite this great saving, there has been no attempt to reduce the price of sugar. On the contrary, the price was increased recently.
The stevedoring industry occupies an important place in the economy of this country, and a most significant part is played in that industry by the employees. The Waterside Workers “Federation has been one of the militant unions. It has operated iri what honorable senators opposite have called a turbulent industry, but I point out that this turbulence is not peculiar to Australia ; disputes similar to those which have taken place here have arisen in almost every other part of the world. I point out also that the Waterside Workers Federation has produced some very capable men. For instance, we all know that the late William Morris Hughes was connected with the Waterside Workers Federation in his early days. A former president of this Senate was also connected with it. It has certainly produced men of capacity. If my memory serves me aright, the Australian Labour party was formed as a result of disputation in the waterfront industry many years ago. Many features of the bill do not appeal to either the federation or the Australian Council of Trades Unions. There was such an outcry from the whole of the industrial movement of Australia following the second-reading speech of the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) on this measure in the House of Representatives that, at his request, a. conference with th? trade union movement was arranged to discuss certain provisions of the measure. The Attorney-General (Senator Spicer! attended the conference to elucidate legal questions. From the point of view of the. Australian Council of Trades Unions and various individual unions, the outcome of the conference was not entirely satisfactory.
This bill takes away from the trade unions certain rights that they have possessed ever since their formation. Bv providing the Government with the means nf shackling the federation’s activities, the bill will jeopardize the continued existence of the Waterside Worker* Federation. It provides a means whereby, in times of industrial conflict, the federation can be replaced by another organiza tion. This amazing measure is tantamount to a declaration by the Government, of its intention to try to provoke industrial dislocation in Australia, although the Government has claimed that the measure has been introduced to assist to maintain peace in the stevedoring industry.
About eighteen months ago, after a stoppage of work on the waterfront, the Government appointed a committee to inquire into the industry. Not long ago, at the request of the Minister for Labour and National Service, that committee submitted an interim report. It is significant to note that at the time that the Minister called for an interim report, the committee was about to inquire into the financial aspect of the shipping and stevedoring industries. It seems that, when there were indications that the profits of’ those industries were about to be investigated, a poll took place and a halt was called.
Although this measure contains drastic penal provision in relation to the workers, it does nothing towards curbing the rapacity of the employers in the shipping industry. The penal provisions of the bill are directed only at the waterfront employees and their federation. Whenever there has been trouble on the waterfront, supporters of the Government have criticized and blamed the waterside workers for it. They have not suggested how the shipowners could contribute to peace in the industry. This legislation, which has been formulated on a halfbaked report - because that is what the Tait committee’s interim report really is - will have far-reaching effects on the industrial life of Australia. How could the Government deal logically with the whole of the industry when only a portion nf its activities had been investigated and reported upon by the committee? The employees’ side of the industry has Keen raked over from every possible angle. hut the employers’ side has not been inquired into. This bill seems to follow the pattern that was enunciated by the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) last week during his secondreading speech on the Housing Agreement Bill 1956. On that occasion, he implied that the purpose of the bill was to see that private enterprise was looked after. The Minister made no attempt to conceal the Government’s intention. At least, he was quite open and frank about it.
– Senator Ashley has no.t fairly interpreted what the Minister for National Development said.
– I heard what he said, which was to the effect that the Housing Agreement Bill 1956 had been drafted on somewhat similar lines to the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission Bill 1956, for the purpose of trying to assist private enterprise.
– To assist the national economy.
– No, to try to assist private enterprise. He might, subsequently, have stated that the measure was designed to assist the economy of the country, but he definitely said that the technique that had been adopted in the housing bill was similar to that employed in the shipping commission bill and was designed to assist private enterprise.
– To discharge a public duty.
– That pattern has been followed in the measure now before the Senate. It is obvious that, the Government is out to help the shipowners and to destroy, if possible, the Waterside Workers Federation. The Minister’s statement that the bill is designed to improve efficiency on the waterfront does not line up with its record in this connexion. The only mechanization that has taken place in the waterfront industry was implemented when Labour was in office.
– Hear, hear !
– The only mechanization that has occurred in the industrywas the introduction by Labour of the fork-lift truck system. By this measure, the Government is attempting to create industrial trouble by attacking trade union conditions and standards that have stood the test of time. This situation will result in absolute chaos and industrial turmoil for many organizations other than the Waterside Workers Federation.
This bill is a challenge to the industrial movement and the unions of this country. They have accepted the challenge. Already, before the bill had proceeded very far, the Government weakened in respect of some of its provisions. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) arranged an interview with representatives of the Australian Council of Trades Unions in orderto explain the bill to them. Not only did. he explain it, but he also modified its provisions. One of those provisions, and a very obnoxious one, has been postponed until next January, a fact which is appreciated hy the Waterside Workers Federation.
Clause 54 provides that - (1.) The Authority may require a person -
refuse or fail to comply with any requirement made in pursuance of this section; or
Penalty: Fifty pounds.
– Gestapo methods.
– Yes, real Gestapo methods.
– The honorable senator should understand that the provision that he has just read is a direct copy of section 53 of the Evatt act of1949.
– It is not a direct copy.
– It is. I have the statute here.
– I say that it is not a direct copy. That provision obviously is aimed at the employees. There is no suggestion that the books and other things referred to will be those of the shipowners. Persons who have to appear will have to give evidence on the Bible and probably will be asked to testify against their fellow employees. .Does the Government think that that will create peace in the industry? No other worker in this country has been asked to tolerate conditions under which he may he forced to take a Bible in his hand and swear that he has carried out his work in accordance with the act, or admit that he has been a bad boy and has done something wrong and, in the process, perhaps, swear away the job of a fellow employee. No union in Australia would tolerate this affront to human dignity; certainly the Waterside Workers Federation will not do so.
The Menzies Government has provided in this bill - and I hope that honorable senators opposite will be able to produce a similar provision inserted by a Labour government - for the setting up of bogus unions of non-federation men - perhaps to act as strike-breakers - to replace and exclude Waterside Workers Federation members. The federation is no longer to be recognized as the only union covering waterside workers. The references in the bill to “ union “ and “ association of employees “ have been inserted deliberately for union-breaking purposes. The legislation empowers the authority to compile a register or list of names of men available for waterfront work who would be non-federation men. Does any honorable senator opposite suggest that that will not lead to industrial disputes and upheavals on the waterfront?
Clause 9 provides that the organization comprising these non-federation members shall be declared the official union for a port, to the exclusion of the Waterside Workers Federation. I do not know whether the Government will get away with this provision. The clause reads -
Where, after the commencement of this Act, the Authority establishes a register of waterside workers at a port, the Authority shall declare, by notice published in the Gazette, that an organization of employees (being an organization of employees registered as such under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904-1056 or under a. law of a State or a Territory of the Commonwealth) specified in the declaration is, for the purposes of this Act, the Union in relation to that port.
That means that an organization similar to the Casual Employees Organization, which was established many years ago and is still in existence in Melbourne, may be set up. That will cause trouble and confusion on the waterfront and will not lead to the industrial peace that the Government alleges it expects to see as a result of this bill. Under the provision, the Sydney branch, the Newcastle branch, the Port Kembla branch or any other branch of the Waterside Workers Federation could be disqualified as the official union and replaced by a collection of men which might include strike-breakers.
Reference has been made previously in the debate to the fact that the Government is providing for the payment of appearance money. That is true, but I point out that the payment of appearance money was initiated by a Labour government. This bill aims to bring about conditions similar to those that existed on the wharfs many years ago, when there were “bull gangs “, made up of lead men or strong men. They were to endeavour to speed up the work. Many of the men had to travel to pick-up centres each morning from outlying suburbs. Often they had to travel 10 or 20 miles, but no employment would be available because a ship had been delayed. They would then have to return home. Appearance money was granted to them as a result of an inquiry that was conducted by Judge Foster. Tt was a wise and just recommendation. Before it was introduced, many of the men had to walk 10 or 12 miles because they did not have enough money to pay their fares. The appearance money is fully justified. I am glad that the payment of appearance money has been continued during this Government’s term of office, but I regret that much of its value has been lost through inflation. With the decline in the value of money, the appearance money payments should be doubled so that the men would receive the equivalent of the amount they were given in 1949.
I hope that the Government will be tolerant in implementing this legislation. Honorable senators on the Opposition side have pointed to many injustices in the bill, but the Government has the numbers and the bill will be passed. As the Leader of the Opposition (Senator M’cKenna) has said, it is useless to move amendments. Yesterday, much time was wasted in the submission of amendments which were defeated. I suggest that the Government should suspend the operation of this measure until the industry has had time to settle down, and until the inquiry into various aspects of the industry has been completed. There are indications that shipping charges will be increased again, and some consideration should be given to those charges and the profits of the shipping companies. I hope that the Government will not be in a hurry to impose the harsh conditions contained in this bill, and that it will be tolerant when the act comes into operation.
– Usually, there is a tendency to imply that only the stevedoring companies and the waterside workers are important when matters associated with the stevedoring industry arc under discussion. The welfare of the general public is overlooked, but that is the most important factor in the matter under review. I assure Senator Ashley that it is not true that honorable senators on this side of the chamber place all the blame for waterfront troubles upon the “Waterside Workers Federation.
– We never hear anything else. Senator Mattner must be tho exception.
- Senator Ashley knows that it is not true, and it is not true, either, that this Government wants to smash the unions. After he had made a charge to that effect, Senator Ashley contradicted himself. In one breath He said that the Government wanted to smash the unions, and in the next lie criticized the Minister for Labour an.’1 National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) for meeting the Australian Council of Trades Unions to obtain its point of view.
– He weakened.
- Senator Ashley said that the Government wanted to destroy the unions, but when the Minister for Labour and National Service showed some compassion, met the Australian
Council of Trades Unions and acceded toits requests, Senator Ashley claims that the Minister weakened. We on the Government side of the chamber have never wanted to smash the unions. That isshown by the records of the Government since 1949. If Senator Ashley wants to test the truth of my statement, he should go into the highways and the byways tolearn what the general public believe.
I want to reply to some of the misleading and incorrect statements that weremade by Senator Ashley. It is true that, in 1949, the Labour government of theday introduced a bill designed to overcome the various troubles on the waterfront. Its principal objective was to* reduce stevedoring charges, and that was the desire of the people, also. On the 4th January, 1952, the Basten report on the turn-round of ships in Australia was published. The terms of reference given to Mr. Basten on the 16th July, 1951, were -
To inquire into and report on the factors affecting the turn-round of ships and congestion in Australian ports, and the measures that might be taken, on both the short and the long-term basis, to effect an improvement.
There was only one qualification.: the recommendations must take a practical form. A study of the Basten report shows that the recommendations could be giver, effect. The evidence given by employers, employees, the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board, State governments and port authorities showed unanimously that the turn-round of ships was bad. Thatslow turn-round raised the cost of living of every Australian. One of the few redeeming features was that the State governments reaped a harvest in port dues. I doubt whether any government in Australia has seriously attempted to put the Basten recommendations into operationSix months of investigation enabled Mr.. Basten to furnish a detailed report. I ask honorable senators to consider thetime factor in this connexion particularly.. On the 25th November, 1954, the present Minister for Labour and National Service signed an instrument appointing,, under the Stevedoring Industry Act 1954, a committee of inquiry. The members of the committee were Messrs. J. B. Tait, Gibson and James Shortell. The inquiry was to be made with as little delay as possible and the members were to report to the Government before the 31st March, 1955. It is true that an interim report was furnished on the 2Sth February, 1956. Perhaps the Senate will yet receive a complete report. I thought that, the reason for the appointment of the Tait inquiry was to furnish to the Minisler for Labour and National Service (“Mr. Harold Holt) and the Parliament h report upon facts, upon consideration of which the Parliament could pass a bill at an early date to correct the following matters: - The inadequacy of many of the berths in Australian ports; the halting pace at which goods are removed from or placed in ships; the delay in bringing to and removing goods from the wharfs ; and wasteful expenditure in the industrial practices of the stevedoring industry, i ask myself whether the bill before the Senate achieves all or any of those results. No doubt many, if not all, honorable senators have studied both the Basten report and the interim report made by the Tait committee. They will have found that there is unanimity on the following points : - Labour quotas, recruitment of labour, allocation of labour, redundancy, supplementary labour, increase in the use of overtime, transfers of men. the question of beams and hatches, rain, waiting for cargo and cargo congestion, unproductive time generally, maintenance, of discipline, disputes and stoppages, and regulation and delay. Those are only a few of the many matters on which both committees agreed. I assert that on those facts it is unnecessary to conduct any further inquiries.
I now desire to quote what a leading figure, in the Australian political field said in 1952. His remarks were -
Not only the Government hut the people of Australia are indebted to Mr. Basten for his lucid and penetrating report. Mr. Basten has brought a fresh mind free of bias on the problem of shipping. The report is a model of objective thought and research. Mr. Basten has told us what is required of all parties connected with the stevedoring industry, governments, unions, shipowners, employers, and employees alike. The report should be studied by every organization interested in seeming the quicker turn-round of ships.
The Menzies Government of that day appointed a. Cabinet committee of eight to study the Basten report and urged the committee to treat the matter as urgent. The results of the deliberations of thai Cabinet committee are not known. On the 3rd June, 1952, the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) gave a written answer to the effect that the written recommendations were under urgent consideration. In 1954, the Minister for Labour and National Service said, during the debate on the Stevedoring Industry Bill of 1954, when referring to the Tait committee of inquiry -
It is true that this will not be the first inquiry into the industry in recent years.
That is only too true. All this time we have vacillated, and we are still vacillating. The Government has been responsible for some inquiries, and the Opposition has been responsible for other inquiries. The Opposition initiated the inquiry by Mr. Justice Foster. Then there were reports by Mr. Basten and others. I am interested to know why the Basten report, was allowed to pass unheeded from January, 1952, to November, 1954. Why was no real attempt made by the Government to solve the problems ? T know that every one will tell me that the waterfront problems are complex, but the solution of them is no nearer realization to-day, although all those numerous reports have been made. Resolute Government action unhampered by compromise conclusions would remedy the present disastrous situation on the waterfront.
The public of Australia demands that that be done, and it is up to each and every honorable senator, on both sides of the chamber, to get together and do whatever we can to remedy the situation. It is useless just to fool around. Honorable senators opposite might tell us what they did when they were in office, but goodness only knows they had eight years of undisputed sway in which to clear up every problem on the waterfront. At the same time, I do not think that this Government has been as resolute as it might have been. I know various reasons exist, and probably I shall deal with them later ; but in this year of grace, it is just about, time the members of the Senate came together and did something to clear up the mess on the waterfront. All these various reports - we see it in the Tait report - provide evidence that the A.S.I.B.–
– The Australian Stevedoring Industry Board.
– Honorable senators on this side know all about that, and we also know who appointed that board. We find that it failed to formulate any precise standard, or to make clear to the shipowners or the Waterside Workers Federation the principle upon which quotas should be fixed. We have heard that word “ quota “ mentioned pretty often and I think it is a very significant word. The Tait committee reported that the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board pursued an uncertain and vacillating course and hesitated to fix a new quota unless both the employers and the federation agreed. The evidence showed that the efficiency of the stevedoring operations had been adversely affected by that fact. Whatever standard or principle is adopted on quotas, it should carry the force of law and should not be open to misunderstanding and controversy which leads to delay and uncertainty. The board allowed port quotas to become unreal, and thereby undermined its own position.
Under the 1949 act, labour was made available only through the Waterside Workers Federation, except, under the provisions of section 27 and section 21 (2.), it could be made available through other channels at a port at which there were an insufficient number of registered members of the federation. Unregistered labour was not used to any extent, not because of legal complications, but because of the industrial strength of the federation, and also from fear of a general stoppage. Because section 27, or section 21 (2.), has not been utilized, the federation has enjoyed the monopoly of supplying labour to the industry, f. want to know how honorable senators opposite regard this monopoly - the greatest monopoly in Australia - which exacts heavier toll from its members than does any other organization. Honorable senators opposite are sworn to end all monopolies, but I suppose there can he exceptions to their rule, and they have made this organization a very good excep tion. The Waterside Workers Federation has enjoyed a complete monopoly on the wharfs.
– Its members are unemployed half their time.
– According to evidence given before the Tait committee by federation branch officials, since 1949, when the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board came into existence, the branches of the federation, with the exception of that at Port Adelaide, could have had ample applicants for membership, in spite of the fact that many men were leaving the industry.
– There is no doubt about the truth of the last part of that statement.
– I am glad that the honorable senator agrees. The board failed to fulfil its statutory function to provide sufficient waterside workers for stevedoring operations. The Waterside Workers Federation acknowledges its obligation to fill the quota fixed by the board, and if the federation has a monopoly of labour then its rights and obligations to supply labour should be laid down by statute, and the statute should be obeyed.
The allocation of labour will always be another subject of criticism, but surely it is possible for experienced men to handle almost any type of cargo on a wharf. Stability of employment would create an experienced work force, and eliminate some of the causes of irritation associated with equalization. Then there would be no great barrier to specialized gangs. With the application of common sense, the observance of fair play and the exercise of a little goodwill, any experienced work force soon fits into the various niches of stevedoring.
As to the use of supplementary labour when required, honorable senators will all agree that it must be organized, trained and disciplined, but the chief factor is that it should not be used to the detriment of the legitimate interests of the regular federation labour. I have not touched on the question of the employment of a permanent stevedoring force, although f.icrc are many excellent points in its favour. Any one interested in this subject should read Mr. Basten’s report in which the position is clearly dealt with. Many of the problems of the slow turn-round of ships could be overcome by working more overtime, and I am pleased that in the last award of Mr. Justice Ashburner that point was made. I have not yet had time to read the whole judgment. The amount of overtime allowed previously was limited by orders of the Stevedoring Industry Commission which preceded the board, and the board cannot alter it. In 1951, the Arbitration Court refused an application for an increase of overtime in Sydney, and as honorable senators know. Sydney rules the waterfront. Surely the nights on which extended shifts are allowed to be worked should be variable by the statutory authority to the extent of substituting other nights in certain circumstances when the usual night shift is not worked because of rain or holidays or other causes.
I waa hoping that Senator Kendall would have preceded me in this debate, because he would have had something to say from practical experience regarding the removal of beams and hatches. Honorable senators should realize that the unproductive time spent in removing and replacing hatches and beams represents 7.7 per cent, of the total hours paid for. Loss of time caused by rain has taken a heavy toll also, and in the past six years the losses of hours paid for, but lost through rain, were respectively 5 per cent., 5.3 per cent., 3.7 per cent., 4.2 per cent., 3.8 per cent, and 5.1 per cent. The time lost through rain, and paid for, is at least equal to the time lost through disputes. Of course, I am not blaming the workers for time lost through rain, but it is a matter which should be cured if possible. In the removal of hatches and beams, the foreman has to be a weather prophet to decide whether it will rain or not, because be is responsible for the uncovering and covering of hatches.
On the question of discipline, I am not referring to waterside workers alone, because both sides of the industry are involved, and must be disciplined if conditions on the waterfront are to be improved. The employers, the Australian Stevedor ing Industry Board and the waterside workers are all involved. The employers direct the work through supervisors and foremen, and pay for it. The board determines, by means of a roster, which men are to work each shift, and applies disciplinary measures to men and employers if they offend against the provisions in regard to safe and speedy work. The employer pays the wages, and the men obey the lawful instructions of the employer, but the tragedy is that these two parties are not allowed to make any kind of contact. The contactual relation is governed by broad conditions determined by the Arbitration Court. The two sides of the industry never come together in an atmosphere in which both have a proper sense of their contractual obligations to each other. Is it any wonder that men passing from job to job and ship to ship, working under various foremen, regard the employer in the industry as a legal fiction?
Foremen cannot discipline and lead successions of men of whom they are in charge. It is chiefly due to the older men in the industry that discipline is as good as it is at present. The average age of the waterside workers is 43.4 years, but the older men are retiring, and with their departure goes a measure of discipline. I suggest that the picture is a sombre one, and action to prevent further deterioration ought not to be delayed.
There is much that I would like to say to honorable senators about amenities, but because my time has almost expired, I am afraid that I cannot do so. I shall content myself by saying that the amenities afforded to waterside workers do need improving. A great responsibility will rest upon the members of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority, particularly on the chairman. I suggest that he should be supported by a strong board. If an authority is to take charge of the stevedoring industry, we should certainly have one that knows what it is about. In the past if the board has tried to do something on its own account it has been liable to be overruled by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. Each authority has passed the buck to the other, and n« determined effort has been made to correct many of the disputed conditions in waterfront employment.
I believe that the chairman of the authority should be a conciliator from the commission that will be set up under the new conciliation and arbitration legislation. One of the members should be drawn from a union - not necessarily the Waterside Workers Federation of Australia - and the other member should be a representative of the employers, but not necessarily from the stevedoring industry. I believe that we should give to this authority full power to do what is required of it.
Surely to goodness a conciliator from the arbitration establishment, a man connected with business and a representative from a union, if given sufficient power, could properly carry out their functions. The union representative should be invited to become a. member of the authority simply because his special knowledge of the practices, aspirations and psychology of union members should permit him to make a valuable contribution to the strength of the body. Let us have a board for this industry which can carry out its clear instructions. I suggest that if we set up such an authority, then all the trouble on our waterfront will disappear.
I do not intend to outline all that must be done to deal with the position on the waterfront, but we should make it quite clear that the authority has full power to carry out the policy assigned to it by the Government. If, in those circumstances, the authority should ultimately fail, then we could alter the system. I have said a great deal about this bill because of its great importance to the people of Australia. The Government must get to work ‘ resolutely in order to ensure that all the problems of the waterfront are solved quickly, equitably and with justice to all. If it does that, then the Government shall have justified its existence.
.- No matter what examination we make of the bill before us, we arrive at one conclusion ; that is, that the bill is a declaration of war against the Waterside Workers Federation of Australia. For some years, we have been listening, in this chamber, to honorable senators from the Government side telling us about the major legislation that the Government proposed to bring in to deal with the stevedoring troubles of Australia. On various occasions they have hinted how drastic that legislation would be. About twelve months ago, when legislation was brought in to deal with waterfront troubles, we were told that the measure was a minor one, and that later we should have an opportunity of discussing major legislation, which is the measure now before us.
Earlier this year, there was a strike on the waterfront. It was, more or less, a general strike over wage margins. At that time, we heard honorable senators on the Government side saying - not in a very loud voice, but nevertheless saying it - that some of the heads of the Waterside Workers Federation should bc sacked. Some honorable senators went so far as to say that blood should be spilled, and that it was time they were taught a severe lesson. This went on in the early part of the year, and so honorable senators on this side of the chamber were not; surprised when they picked up this bill and found that it was a declaration of war against the Waterside Workers Federation. When I read the measure, the first tiling that 1 thought of was the work of C. J. Dennis, The Sentimental Bloke. I recollected one of the lines in that book, which was “ Put in the boot “ : and one can imagine that as each, clause of this bill was approved by Government supporters there was a chorus from honorable senators opposite, “ Put in the boot, and put it in again “.
Now, we have the bill before us for our consideration. It is strange how tho waterside workers have been singled out, over the years, from all the groups of workers in Australia, for special attackby this Government. Moreover, the Australian press has ceaselessly attacked the waterside workers. Nothing is too bad for the press to report about the waterside workers. However, honorable senators should remember that the press represents the big shipping interests. Those are the same interests that honorable senators on the Government side represent so worthily - the combines, the cartels, the monopolies and the profiteering companies that flourish in Australia.
Government supporters like to read in the press about the blame being laid at the feet of the waterside workers in respect of every hold-up on the waterfront. To read the press, one would be led to the opinion that the Waterside Workers Federation is a union which, although it has functioned in Australia for the past 70 or SO years, has not an iota of responsibility towards its own members or the community at large. One would think that its members have no responsibility towards their wives and children, and no national responsibility at all. I say that it is dangerous for the Government, and for the Australian press, to single out any group of workers, irrespective of its industrial record, and to attack it ceaselessly.
If we look at the cartoons that appeal in the press, we find that the waterside worker is constantly ridiculed in order to tickle the minds of people who do not understand- the work that he is required to carry out. We see cartoons of that type perhaps not daily, but almost weekly. The waterside workers are held up to the very worst form of disparagement. So, honorable senators may begin to perceive the picture that I am trying to present to them. We have the press constantly attacking the waterside workers, and we have them working more or less in fear of the employers for whom they carry out chores. So, they become more or less immune to that form of attack. Therefore, when they do exercise occasional responsibility, it is very likely that that will disappear quickly, because they are so constantly under attack.
We were told by the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) when he delivered his war cry in the form of the second-reading speech of this measure, that the waterfront industry is a turbulent industry. He mentioned that some years ago there was turbulence in the waterfront industry of New Zealand, but that they took action and all is peaceful over there now. One of the main factors leading to unrest is the fact that the men engaged in the industry have only part-time employment. Unlike honorable senators whose salaries and allowances continue during recess, the waterside worker’s earnings cease immediately he completes his shift. This casual employment is all right for a month or two, or perhaps even for a year or so, but a man who has to spend his life in that type of employment and at the same time establish a home and support a wife and children is under a severe mental strain. It is for that reason that conditions upon the waterfront are unsettled to-day.
Another cause of the dissatisfaction is the attitude of the shipowners. All ships are not alike, nor are all cargoes. The work varies a great deal. For instance, a man may start the day’s work unloading a cargo of fertilizer. He may then be transferred to work on a ship carrying coal, and so on. Again, there is always a likelihood that there will be a hitch in the work. That is always likely on the waterfront. When it does occur, there is no machinery for dealing with the problem immediately. A ship may have come in on the preceding night and may have to be unloaded as quickly as possible so that it may proceed on its way. If some hitch should occur and the men have a complaint, our arbitration machinery lacks the facilities for settling the dispute promptly. It is because there is no means of dealing with these troubles quickly that the men use the strike weapon in an effort to obtain justice. The result of all this is that bad feeling has been generated between the Waterside Workers Federation and the employers over the years, and when this state of affairs becomes long-standing, it indeed becomes a problem to settle the differences. By way of contrast, I mention that this type of thing does not occur in other industries. For instance, if a complaint should arise in engineering works, the trouble is rectified almost immediately and the dispute is settled. In this industry, however, troubles are recurring from day to day on the various ships being worked, and the complaints are almost invariably somewhat similar in nature.
A moment ago, one honorable senator on the Government side told us about the machinery being used on wharfs for loading and unloading ships; but all he succeeded in doing was to demonstrate how little he knew about the stevedoring industry. The industry is built upon a mass of customs that have operated over the years. In some States, the waterside workers operated under a State award. In others, they have always operated under a federal award. Further, conditions vary as between State and State. For instance, in some States, if a wharf labourer works in a shed adjacent to a wharf he must be paid the wharf labourer’s rate. In other places, storemen might be doing that type of work. Again, if waterside workers first operated certain machinery on a wharf, that work has been recognized as the prerogative of the waterside worker. Mr. Justice Ashburner, when granting the waterside workers a marginal increase of 8d. an hour recently, obviously recognized some of the difficulties under which these men operate, for, in delivering his judgment, he said -
Under the present system a man may be called upon to work day, twilight and midnight shifts in the same week. From the point of view of his domestic arrangements he is in a worse position than the employee on rostered shift-work in other industries. He may finish a job on the day shift to-day and not know until to-morrow’s pick-up whether hp will go onto day shift, twilight shift or midnight shift; whereas the man in other industries in general knows well ahead on which shift he -will be working. The total hours worked by waterside workers are not as great as those worked by men in other industries but the average weekly hours of some 32 or 33 may be spread over seven days a week and include an appreciable number of hours worked outside the ordinary hours of a shift and at the week-end.
Under the present system, at least in the capital cities, a waterside worker may be forced to spend more money on fares than men in other industries. If, for example, he attends the morning pick-up and is engaged to start work at 5 p.m. or midnight he may have an extra set of fares to pay.
Anybody who has any knowledge of the waterfront industry knows that to be true. The fares paid by some of the waterside workers ‘to-day amount to as much as 10s. and 12s. a week. That is certainly a serious inroad into their weekly incomes, especially with the present high cost of living.
A further cause of discontent has been the lack of amenities. It is not so very long ago when there were no amenities on wharfs at all. Eventually, both Com monwealth and State authorities introduced laws requiring shipowners and the owners of “wharfs to provide amenities for waterside workers, and these were provided grudgingly. Nothing more than what was required by the law was provided.. At one period, the men had no washing facilities and no conveniences for changing from street clothes into working clothes. They had no showering facilities. In fact, on some wharfs it was not possible for the men to get hot water. The employers felt that they were under no obligation to provide even hot water so that the waterside workers might make a cup of tea. This state of affairs continued for years and could not help but cause irritation and dissatisfaction between the waterside workers and their employers.
This Government’s record in caring for the welfare of its citizens is not good. If it is not attacking the living standards of the people, it is doing all it possibly can to embarrass the wage-earning section of the community. We cannot forget how it suspended the operations of the C series index. I know that the Government claims that the industrial court was responsible for its suspension, but we have our own opinions on the matter. We know how for two years before the court agreed to suspend the operation of the C series index honorable senators on the Government side clamoured for that action to be taken. We also have the fact that this Government attempted to set up a lopsided industrial structure under which it was almost impossible for unions to have their cases dealt with by the courts. I know of instances in which applications that were lodged in 1951 were not heard until 1955. What does the Government expect the workers to do ? Does it expect them to be tolerant towards their employers and towards society in general when it does not even provide facilities for their applications to be considered promptly? I have not the slightest doubt that, before it introduced this bill, the Government put its ear to the ground, figuratively, for quite a while, in order to hear the rumblings and other sounds from various quarters, because there never has been a more class-conscious government than the present Menzies-Fadden Administration.
Doubtless, the Government had regard to the persons whom the Waterside “Workers Federation represents. In applying the political test, the Government probably said to itself, “ Of course, some of them voted for the Liberal and Australian Country parties “. I suffer from no hallucination on this point, because there exist in all groups people who are backward from a political point of view. The Government probably realized, also, that some members of the federation voted for Communist candidates. I have not the slightest doubt that they did so, but I believe that the greater majority of them voted for candidates representing the Australian Labour party. They have always supported Labour, and they will continue to do so, because they believe in a Christian democracy. In summing up, the Government would say to itself, “ On the one hand, there is the Waterside Workers Federation, and on the other the shipowners’ associations, the overseas shipping interests and the stevedoring companies “. It would consider how those interests voted at election time. As everybody is aware, the latter would not vote for Labour. Not on your life! Then, continuing its political ramifications and considerations the Government would probably say to itself, “ We can always rely on the support of the dairy-farmers, because we subsidize their industry by £15,000,000 a year “. As the shipowners have always contributed handsomely to the funds of the Liberal party, the Government would be more likely to be swayed in favour of the shipowners than of the waterside workers. It would make a comparison between the economic strength of the various component parts of the waterfront industry.
We have been told repeatedly that some waterside workers are members of the Communist party. I know that to be true. But I also know that 98 per cent, of the members of the Waterside Workers Federation have no affiliation whatever with the Communist party. They support the ideals and aspirations of the Australian Labour party because, as I said a few moments ago, they believe in a Christian democracy, not a pagan dictatorship. In running its eye over the economic strength of the Waterside Workers Federation, the Government found that it has 26,000 or 27,000 members. The Government realized that the work that they perform, the loading and unloading of ships, is economically important, particularly at the present time. One reason why that work is important is that we depend on overseas markets to balance our trade payments and to strengthen our economy. Then there is the problem of providing adequate storage space for our wool and dairy produce in positions where it can be readily loaded into ships for transport overseas. The Government realizes, as well as do the members of the Waterside Workers Federation, the importance of this aspect of their activities. On the other hand, the Government had regard to the economic strength of the shipowners. As they are engaged in such an important industry as the transport industry, it is obvious that they have economic strength. The Government also realizes its weakness in that it does not possess an overseas shipping line, and it knows that, if the overseas shipping interests decided to abandon the Australian trade, this country would be in a hopeless position indeed.
The road is now quite clear for the bill to proceed upon its way. The Minister has indicated that, as the Government has a majority in this chamber, it will be passed and so become law. In due course, the Government will again complain about rising costs and the slow turn-round of ships, as well as about other matters that have been mentioned in this chamber this afternoon. But, of course, the subject of costs is also important to the waterside workers; they have to live. They provide the human force necessary to load and unload ships, and they must keep body and soul together. It is interesting to note from the report that was issued by the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board last week that the average wage of the waterside workers in Australia is £17 16s. 9d. a week.
It has frequently been said that the “ Corns “ control the Waterside Workers Federation. Let us consider how those men might have become Communists. A man walking along the street does not suddenly decide to become a Communist. One might catch a cold when walking down the street at any hour of the day or night, but there must be a compelling force for a man to become a Communist. Men do not lightly scrap their religion and their aspirations and adopt an ideology that is foreign to the average Australian. When I look back at the way in which some of these men were treated during the depression years, T am convinced that the form of society that is favoured by supporters of the Government spawns and cultivates communism. I believe that the Government itself has been responsible for members of the community becoming Communists. In the depression years, when Australia suffered from mass unemployment, many members of the Waterside Workers Federation in Brisbane were unemployed and helpless. In those days, an unemployed single man was issued by the Government with a ration ticket for 6s. worth of food, on which he was expected to live for a. whole week, and he had to walk 20 miles in order to obtain another ration ticket in the following week. There was also introduced a system of relief work, under which a single man who had dependants was provided with one clay’s work a week, for which he was paid lis. 6d. A married man was provided with one and a half day’s work a week, for which he was paid 17s. A married man with a wife and one child was given two days’ work a week, for which he was paid £1 ls. 6d. A married man with a. wife and three children was provided with two and a half days’ relief work a. week, for which he was paid £1 7s. I remind honorable senators that the men and their families were expected to live for a whole week on the amounts that I have mentioned. I have always maintained that, to compel men to live under such hopeless conditions as those that I have just described, is to force them to seek other ideologies than the one that we think they should adopt.
I have listened to honorable senators speaking about the great work that the Menzies Government did in introducing legislation to provide for a certain form of ballot in the election of officers of unions. That is one of the humorous aspects of the debate in this chamber, for the simple reason that honorable senators opposite who have discussed this matter have not known what they were talking about. Only the other night I heard a pettifogger from some obscure country town in South Australia holding forth on this matter and eulogizing the Government for the great work that he said it had done in introducing that legislation. I challenge him and all honorable senators opposite to examine the registered rules of the Waterside Workers Federation. If they do so, they will see that provision is made for the election of union officials. I suggest, too, that honorable senators follow up that matter by finding out how the members of the Waterside Workers Federation vote in actual practice. They will find that such elections are absolutely honest and foolproof. That has been so, I should say, ever since the late William Morris Hughes was secretary of the Sydney branch many years ago. The Government, in certain legislation introduced recently, has singled out the Waterside Workers Federation and the coal-miners union and has accused them of being dominated by Communists. On that point, too, I challenge honorable senators opposite to make the fullest investigation, not only of the position of the Waterside Workers Federation, but also of the coal-miners union. I suggest that what they find in respect of the Waterside Workers Federation they also will find in respect of the coalminers union.
This bill will be passed by the Parliament, and the legislation will then begin to operate. As I said a little while ago. the Government will then be able to put in the boot; but I remind it that there is such a thing as affinity between man and man in industry. Honorable senator? opposite may call it unionism, or any other term that they wish to use. There is such a thing, too, as a bond, or an affinity, between union and union. 1 warn the Government now that if it proposes to administer this legislation in the way that I think it will be administered it’ will find itself with trouble on its shoulders in a very short time. If the Government wishes to correct the evil of dissatisfaction which exists in the waterside industry it should provide for the payment of a weekly rate of pay for waterside workers. Put them on a weekly rate of wages and give them all a job, so that at all times a waterside worker may bc able to say to himself, ““Well, I have a job and I have a measure of common security “. Let him feel that he has a job to go to to-morrow, or that he has work to do for which he will receive wages. The Government may be honestly of the opinion that this bill is a blueprint for peace on the waterfront, but I think that the future will prove it to be wrong and that the prophecy I made a little while ago will come true.
.- Mr. Deputy President
– Now we shall get the truth !
– Did you call Senator Brown, Mr. Deputy President?
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid) - Order! Senator McCallum has the call.
– This bill contains some exceptional provisions, the reason being that it deals with an exceptional industry, exceptional because it is important to every other industry. It is a part of our transport system, and I suppose that nothing is more important to our trade, our exports and imports, and our industry, than is our transport system. In the early years of this century the transport system of Australia was, I think, efficient. Of Course, roads had not been developed, because we did not rely on road transport, except for the purpose of feeding the railways and the ships, but the coastal shipping services certainly were deficient, whilst the railways were exceptionally efficient. The New South Wales railways boasted that they were the safest in the world, and there is no doubt that they were amongst the best in the world.
There has been, in coastal shipping and in rail transport, an amazing deterioration. That is one of the serious problems which people on all sides of this chamber should face. That is the first reason why I can find it at least justifiable to support this bill, many features of which I do not particularly like. The second reason is that it is quite true that the relation? between shipowners and their employees, and between stevedoring companies and their employees, have been bad. I believe that, in the nineteenth century, they were indescribably bad. This side of the Senate does not consist, despite the misrepresentation contained in the last speech from the opposite side of the chamber, and also that contained in the preceding speech from the opposite side, of either very wealthy capitalists or their representatives. I say unashamedly that we stand for what can be called the capitalist system, if people want to call it that. That is to say, Ave stand for the production of goods by the free enterprise of men, whether employers or employees. But we also stand for such regulation a? is necessary on one side or the other, and in the main, we like regulation which does not vary from industry to industry, except so far as the exceptional circumstances of a particular industry demand variation.
The Minister who presented the bill, the people who have advised him, and the various commissions and boards that have inquired into this industry, believe that it is so exceptional that very different measures should be used from those used in respect of other industries. I should have thought that if anybody had looked at the bill with a sincere desire to find out whether it was good or bad, those would have been the things that he would have looked at, in order to see whether these exceptional measures were justified. As a matter of fact, we have had from all speakers on the other side of the chamber a constant rehash of the old polemic between socialist parties and non-socialist parties. None of that came from this side of the chamber. Senator Benn even answered arguments that had not been put. He said that we are always talking about communism. I listened carefully, and no person on this side of the chamber, in my hearing, even mentioned communism or Communists. Senator Benn was the first to introduce that subject.
– It was raised last week by honorable senators opposite.
– I am doing what I think every honorable senator in this place should always do. I am addressing myself to the bill before the Senate, instead of using this chamber merely as a forum to voice party political propaganda.
This bad spot in industrial relations is something that the bill seeks to remedy. “What it does is to keep - I shall not say “ to take “ because that was done before, and this bill merely alters the method - out of the hands of the employers many of the powers that employers normally have and, in connexion with that, to give some direction to trade unions, which is not normally done. But the source of those matters is not this bill. The source of that kind of regulation is the legislation of the Australian Labour party, enacted during its regime from 1942 to 1949. This bill, to be perfectly frank, is merely a modification - a mitigation, to some extent - of the measures used in that act. Yet, we have the spectacle of an honorable senator opposite objecting to a clause of this bill although it originated not with the bill but with the Evatt legislation. He said that the clause was thoroughly bad. It may be bad, but if it is, we are not responsible. Our only fault is that we have retained that particular part of the measure that was used by Labour. I have given a great deal of attention to this bill and have studied it carefully. I have listened to arguments from all sides, and I believe that t can support the bill only because I am convinced that, in the situation I see ahead, it would be worse if we left things the way they are. By rejecting or seriously modifying the bill we should be doing just that. I do not want to delight the hearts of the present directors of the Waterside Workers Federation, or the more recalcitrant forces behind the Labour party who would welcome a measure of industrial unrest.
The justification for the authority is this: Neither the employers nor the employees in this industry have remedied certain conditions, and neither have various authorities who have had the power to deal with this matter done so completely, but I believe that there has been a considerable improvement in conditions of waterside workers over the past ten years. There has been considerable improvement over the past 50 years. I thank Senator Benn for introducing the name of William Morris Hughes into this debate because he was the man who organized the waterside workers in Sydney. He was the president of their organization and, through his control, conditions were ameliorated, although they were by no means as good as those in other industries. I happen to have known personally the conditions in a waterside worker’s home of 50 years ago. I was a constant visitor to that home for six or seven years. One of the family was a friend of mine and visited me in the country. Except that he had to live at Miller’s Point; - which was not a place where I would like to live - his was as good a middle-class home as one would find at that time in Australia. It was possible for a hard-working and industrious, sober waterside worker to bring up a family at Miller’s Point just as well as it could have been done in other parts of Australia.
I deplore the constant attempts to talk of the waterside workers, or any other group of Australians, as though they were European serfs in a backward country, and as though they would not be able to stand up for themselves as free Australians if they did not have the protection of the wonderful Waterside Workers Federation. I know every kind of worker in Australia, and I do not need any honorable senator on the Opposition side to tell me what the home of any working man is like. I have seen bad conditions, but it was not impossible for a self-respecting and hard-working nian to bring up his family while he was a waterside worker ; certainly it was no more difficult than it was for a man in any other avenue of Australian life.
Those statements should be made in mitigation when people try to attribute to the present controllers of the Waterside Workers Federation, and to the last Labour Government, all the ameliorating conditions that have come about on the waterfront. That improvement began before there was a Labour government in New South Wales. It began with the great Liberal Government of George Reid. I give full credit to all Labour governments for the social legislation that has been introduced, but this fustian talk of Senator Benn adds nothing to our understanding of these problems.
– Why use the word fustian ?
– Because such talk is completely insincere and a sham. Senator Brown has forgotten that he has vacated the presidential chair in this chamber, and that you are in charge of the Senate, Mr. Deputy President, and not he, but 1 shall let that go. One of the great problems that had to be solved on the waterfront was that of casual labour and the peaks and flushes of employment. That problem needs solution, and I support this bill because, through it, the Government is trying to solve that difficulty. I know of nothing more terrible in anything I have read about human employment than the conditions of the dockers in London in 1S89. I have read the full report of the strike that took place in that year, and I know, that the conditions prevailing then were general throughout the world. They can be altered, and we are trying to alter them in this bill. If only honorable senators would address themselves to that matter and say where the bill is right or wrong, they would be serving a better purpose.
It was natural for the Waterside Workers Federation to try to cure its members’ troubles by attempting to get a monopoly of employment on the waterfront, but the problem will not be solved by a body of men determined to maintain a comparatively small quota. We cannot have the whole population of Australia - everybody who depends on trade, industry and commerce - dependent upon what happens to those who are determined to secure work for themselves, or who make that their first consideration. We must consider the needs of everybody in Australia who consumes goods and uses transport, alongside the problems of the waterside workers.
This bill tries to do that. It leaves to the Waterside Workers Federation the virtual monopoly that it has at ordinary times, but it includes a provision that the authority can engage other men if they are necessary. What is the objection? Is it to be argued that ships should stay in port and not be unloaded ? Are we to have a perpetuation of the slow turn-round of ships which is raising the cost of living for everybody, including those who work on the wharfs? Are we to allow that state of affairs to continue simply because of fear that the men on the wharfs will be unemployed at some period ?
I do not say that this is a perfect attempt to remedy the situation. There must be a set body of men working on the wharfs all the year round, but we must be able to get labour from other planes when those men are not sufficient for the task. I do not believe that it is enough to say that there is always some port that is slack and others that are busy. There are times when too many ports are busy to enable ordinary transport between one port and another to be handled. Therefore, I believe that a pool of workerswhether they are country workers or men prepared to work overtime - is necessary.
In a period of low employment I can quite imagine trade unions saying, “ We do not like that because it might result in a pool of unemployed “, but to-day, In conditions of full employment, that cannot happen. Nobody is likely to be permanently unemployed in the conditions that exist now, simply because he works in a particular calling for part of the year only, lt is absolutely essential to have some way by which those working on the wharfs may be supplemented in peak hours by others. If honorable senators do not like this provision of the bill, let them make alternative suggestions. Merely to condemn it and talk of be bill as an attempt to smash the unions, or even as an attack on the “Waterside Workers Federation, is absurd and *ha.** nothing to do with the case. When I heard Senator Benn say, “ This is a declaration of war”, I recalled the oil phrase, “ If it is a declaration of war, it is the feeblest I have ever heard “.
One of the worst problems that nas faced us in the past few years is the slow turn-round of ships. I agree with honorable senators who have said that that ie largely due to inadequate equipment and poor conditions - matters that have nothing to do with the unions who work on the waterfront. This bill, and the reports upon which it is based, do not attempt to throw all the blame on the waterside workers.
Sitting suspended from 5.45 to S p.m.
– Before the suspension of the sitting, I was arguing that this bill deals with an exceptional industry in that it embraces transport, which is so vital to all our trade and commerce. It is exceptional, also, in that its past history has not been, on the whole, happy in regard to relations between employer and employee. Those conditions have been mitigated over the years and I think the justification for this bill is that it seeks to improve them further. The particular fact that applies to this industry, and not to all others, is that work does not come in a steady volume, because ships arrive at different times.. Again, there are seasons for shipping certain goods. There are peak periods, periods of average flow, and periods in which there is not much to do and the task of maintaining the same quota on the waterfront is difficult.
None of us wants the old bad methods which 1 described and criticized before dinner. They prevailed in all ports. Large numbers of men who had no security or continuity of employment were anxious to get work on the waterfront. There was always, of course, a central flow of men who were steadily engaged, and I do not think it is unreasonable to say that, on the average, they were the best men ; but there were others who could not get steady employment, and, of course, there is nothing like unemployment to make a man less employable than he ought to be. Those conditions have been mitigated by the legislation that has been amended from time to time, hut some of us hope that we can gradually get away from those conditions and ultimately give to the ordinary worker in this industry the same degree of security that many other workers enjoy. After all, seasonal workers in other industries have, over the years, had steady employment the whole year round. Probably, the shearing industry is one of the best examples. There was a time when conditions in that industry were very bad, but they have steadily improved. During the lifetime of most of us, the shearing industry has been one in which men have worked had with great skill, have earned good wages and have contributed to the great industry to which all of us in this country owe so much.
Although it is the particular defect from the point of view of some of the critics, one of the particular qualities of this measure is that it gives to an authority special powers which are not given in the normal practice of employment. This authority is to consist of three men, but if honorable senators read the bill carefully they will note that the authority may consist of the chairman alone if a deadlock should arise. This authority can do a great many things. It can, for instance, as I said previously, bring in an outside labour supply, not to displace, but to supplement the men normally working in the industry. It can do that only on special occasions and then only with authority of the Minister, And it can, under certain conditions, put men off. The details of what can be done by the authority should be debated more fully at the committee stage. It can also provide certain amenities and improve conditions in the industry generally.
Therefore, I find no substance in the criticism of those who say this bill is specially designed to smash a trade union or to reduce its power or in any way make the conditions of the men worse. I hope that clause 17 will be fully discussed at the committee stage. If honorable senators turn to page 13 of the bill they will find that the authority will have power to get rid of some of the other evils of this industry, including deficient material and equipment, and to provide proper amenities for the men. I find it utterly impossible to believe what I heard an honorable senator say this afternoon, that this is an attempt to single out the waterside workers for particular attack. If it does anything, it singles them out to give them special privileges, and those privileges may be justified because of the particular circumstances of the case. I can find no reason whatever for believing that it is the intention of the bill to attack the waterside workers, nor would it be used for that purpose except by the sort of government which we are not likely to get in Australia. It is aimed, of course, at protecting the public interest, or, as Senator Gorton put it, the interest of the consumer. That is something we must remember in all our industrial legislation. Honorable senators on both sides should read very carefully every part of clause 17, before they criticize the bill.
I, therefore, come to the conclusion that, this bill does not in any way lean to the side of the employer. “Whether it is fully acceptable to the employers, I do not know. I believe it will be acceptable to the trade union movement in general and to the great body of workers, because I find an enormous fund of reason among the Australian people, who, although divided into groups, sections or classes, are not violently antagonistic to each other; they know how to work together. I said this afternoon that I had had some experience of the waterfront in Sydney Harbour when I was a boy. I also had some experience some three years ago when I used to travel daily from Balmain. I travelled by ferry five days a week because it was an agreeable way in which to make the journey. I met many waterside workers; the ferries were full of them. I was rather surprised to hear one honorable senator say that there are. no facilities on Sydney wharfs for men to change their clothing, and that sort of thing. My recollection is that most of these men returned from work dressed in street clothes and not in their work clothes. Some facilities for changing must have been available. I do not for one minute say that the antiquated waterfront of Sydney has everything which it should have, either in the way of material for handling ships or conveniences for the men, but there are quite good wharfs in Sydney. One in particular is very good. The others, partly because of public opinion, partly because of necessity, and also partly because of the pressure of the various authorities have had work done on them in order to bring them up to date.
This bill will place on the authority, the employers and the union the responsibility of improving conditions and of making waterside work something that really fits the great port of Sydney. The same, of course, is true of other ports about which I do not speak because 1 know less about them. I have been told that Port Phillip will become in time the most modern of our ports.
– Fremantle shows every sign of being that.
– I spent a couple of days in Fremantle and I know it is a better port than some of the others. However, I shall leave to honorable senators from “Western Australia the opportunity to describe that port.
I must reply to some further criticisms that I heard. It did not seem to me co ring true; it seemed to me to follow the old general propaganda line which, I suppose, all parties and all politicians indulge in at times. “When we are examining a bill of this nature, which does not bear the impress of having been dictated by the employers but certainly bears the impress of resulting from continuous consultation with the trade union leaders, that sort of criticism is simply useless.
Senator Ashley said that honorable senators on the Government side were always willing to find an excuse to do something against the workers. We are not doing that on this occasion, and we have no need to do it. If an excuse were needed it would be on entirely different grounds. Senator Ashley said there were all kinds of causes of inefficiency other than those which the Government has mentioned. That is true, and they have been pointed out in the various reports, as well as in the second-reading speech of the Minister for Shipping. I direct the attention of honorable senators, however, to clause 17, which recognizes them, and makes provision to remedy them. Sub-clause (1.) (I) provides that one of the functions of the authority shall be -
To investigate means of improving, and to encourage employers to introduce methods and practices that will improve, the expedition, safety and efficiency with which stevedoring operations are performed.
Paragraph (m) provides that it shall -
Investigate methods, and to assist and encourage employers in devising and adopting methods, for the satisfactory performance of stevedoring operations in rain.
Several other matters of a similar kind are mentioned in that clause, some of which should have been discovered by the employers, and some by the employees. However, the clause empowers the authority to inquire into such matters.
A most amazing statement made by honorable senators opposite was that the Minister’s second-reading speech indicated that his colleague in another place, the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt), had had a conference with the trade union leaders and men working on the job, and for that reason the Government was showing signs of weakening towards the trade unions. That is a fantastic statement, and does not represent the attitude of this Government or of the Australian people. When a Minister is about to bring down a measure which affects the vital interests of an industry, it is only right and proper that he should consult with the workers engaged in that industry.
Whatever criticism may be levelled at the present Minister for Labour and National Service, it cannot be said that he has ignored or in any way neglected the interests of workers in a particular industry.
I commend the bill, and I ask honorable senators who may have any doubts about it to think carefully over its provisions. The rejection of this measure would certainly delight the extremists on the side of the trade unions - not the mass of the workers, but the people who batten on discontent, and who use class antagonism as one of their main levers to secure power. For more than six years, Government senators have set their f faces against that sort of thing. I have heard many criticisms of this Government’s industrial policy, including the suggestion that it is a policy of appeasement. The word “ appeasement “ is not necessarily an expression of contempt, but if it is used to indicate weakness on the part of the Government to suggest that it is allowing to people more power than they should have, and is condoning indiscipline or selfish action by a group, then that represents an attempt to convey an entirely wrong conception of what the Government has done. I am hoping that soon a new and better spirit will arise in the waterfront industry. Throughout the greater part of the labour force of Australia there is not a spirit of discontent, but one of satisfaction. The average Australian worker is content to work, and believes that he has a right to a just reward. I hope that as a result of the passage of this bill the discontents of the past - for which few of us to-day are responsible because they are the legacy of long and bad traditions - will go, and that the time will come when there will be no further need for special legislation for the waterfront because it will be recognized as one of the great Australian industries working for the public good.
– I do not wish to comment on the remarks of Senator McCallum, but it is obvious that he is not conversant with conditions on the Australian waterfront. He told the House that about 50 years ago he used to visit some friends who lived on the waterfront, and stayed in their home, and that is about all he knows of the wharfs. He said, further, that if this bill were defeated it would satisfy the extremists in the trade union movement - meaning the Waterside Workers Federation. I am certain that Senator McCallum cannot claim that the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) has received any congratulatory telegrams from the rank and file of the Waterside Workers Federation for bringing down this bill, which proves conclusively that it should be defeated, because those workers are not satisfied with the measure in its present form. If ever workers were looking for a solution to problems that have troubled them for many years, it is the waterside workers.
In 1954, a committee of inquiry was appointed to inquire, among other things, into the costs of, or connected with, stevedoring operations, and the extent to which those costs have affected rates of freight for the transport of goods by sea ; the profits made from stevedoring operations; the increases in rates of freight since 1947, and the causes of those increases. It was to inquire also into the factors affecting the efficiency of stevedoring operations, and its regulation and control as set out in section 11 of the Stevedoring Industry Act 1947.
I have read the act, and also many reports that have been presented by committees of inquiry, and I am confident that most knowledgeable people agree that this hill does not fit the recommendations in those reports. For that reason, the bill should be withdrawn, and if the Government wishes to do something for an industry that is vital to the economic development of Australia it will adopt some suggestions made from this side of the chamber. One is that the commission proposed to be set up to deal with the stevedoring industry should include representatives of the Waterside Workers Federation, the Australian Council of Trades Unions, primary producers’ organizations, representatives of importers, exporters and shipowners, and last, but not least, of State governments.
This afternoon, honorable senators on the Government side suggested how conditions on the waterfront could be improved by the action of State governments, but the Minister has not suggested what moneys will be made available to the State governments to bring about those improvements. I have heard itsaid here to-day, and on another occasion in another place, that the waterside industry is troublesome and turbulent. I agree, but the workers have always been provoked. A few months ago shipowners announced that they proposed to increase their freights by 10 per cent., and after less than three weeks’ negotiation between the parties and the representative of the Government, it was decided that the increase should be per cent. By contrast, in 1951, the waterside workers lodged a log of claims in the Arbitration Court, but they were forced to withdraw it because no action was taken. They lodged a further claim in 1954, and only yesterday Mr. Justice Ashburner, of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, gave judgment granting waterside workers an increase of 8d. an hour, although they claimed ls. 6-Jd- an hour. Honorable senators can clearly see what proportion 8d. an hour is of the waterside workers’ claim of ls. 6£d. an hour. But in three weeks, when the shipowners’ claim was before the arbitrator - which was this Parliament - the shipowners received 75 per cent, of their claim. Therefore, is it any wonder that the waterside workers who are engaged in an industry .where insecurity prevails more than in any other industry, are seeking better conditions and higher pay?
I have listened carefully to the speeches during the debate on this measure, and it appears to me that the award was originated by legal geniuses who are not conversant with the conditions of the waterfront. The report of the committee set up to investigate the waterfront has not yet been presented, but these legal geniuses, to satisfy the greed and lust of the shipowners, have brought in a measure which the waterside workers are expected to accept. The recent award made for the waterside workers is only an interim award, and I am pleased to see that for once the Communists have not been officially blamed for all the trouble on the waterfront.
– Mr. Shortell was on the committee.
– He may have been, but the inquiry has not yet been completed, and I shall explain later why this Government desired the report of the committee to be presented before the 30th of this month. The explanation, in short, is that the Government desired to bring in legislation to cripple the Waterside Workers Federation of Australia and bring about chaos on the waterfront.
– Why does the Government want chaos?
– If the honorable senator tells me the answer to that question, we shall both know. We of the Opposition say that the waterside workers are entitled to a proportion of the prosperity that this country is supposed to be enjoying at present, but they have not got it. Senator McCallum has detailed some of the history of conditions on the waterfront of this country, and when we consider how conditions have improved over the years, we understand why it has been necessary for upsets to occur on the waterfront.
It has been said by some honorable senators that conditions are better to-day than they were 50 years ago. I suggest to them that many years ago similar sentiments were being expressed by members of the Parliament. In 1915, 1923, 1925 and 1928 they said that agitators on the waterfront were doing great harm to the economic development of Australia.
Labour governments have always tried to deal with waterfront troubles by giving the waterside workers a decent existence, t suggest that the time will come soon when we shall see a repetition on the waterfront of the conditions that existed there in 1928. Indeed, the officials and members of the Waterside Workers Federation are very worried about that aspect of the matter, because they believe this measure could bring about the same kind of thing that happened in 1928. At that time there was trouble on the waterfront, and the government of the day allowed persons from outside the union, just as the Government intends to do under this measure, to become members of the union and work on the waterfront. I suggest that the bill is another measure designed in view of the great pool of unemployed which will develop in this country very quickly very soon. Quite recently, in the Melbourne Argus, there was a cartoon showing a great pool of unemployed growing in this Commonwealth.
– That is what the honorable senator said in 1949.
– We knew that unemployment must come, because we knew that unemployment must follow maladministration. This Government has hired, borrowed, begged and stolen everything it possibly could in order to bolster up its finances and make the people believe that we are enjoying continuing prosperity. In 1929, a similar state of affairs existed, and the then nonLabour government had to hand over the reins to the Labour party because it had borrowed and begged everything that it possibly could both inside and outside Australia, and could no longer carry on.
– The Labour government that took over did not last long.
– That was because of one of the greatest political tricks ever put over in Australia by any political party. I suggest that, when the history of Australian politics is written, it will prove that the late James Scullin stood head and shoulders over his contemporaries. He did a wonderful job for this nation, but was maligned by people who are now supporters of this Government in this chamber and in another place. Mr. Scullin took over the administration of this country after our finances had been wrecked - as was said by the late Joseph Lyons at one of our conferences - by those two political scoundrels, Bruce and Page.
– Who put Scullin out? It was the honorable senator and his colleagues.
– I do not know who put Scullin out, but I do know that Senator McCallum had to get out of the Labour party because of his particular activities.
– I supported Scullin.
– Yes, and I remember when the honorable senator supported Chifley.
– Yes, I supported them in their times of adversity.
– We were all very grateful when Senator McCallum left the Labour party.
– I stood by them when they needed friends.
– I suggest that our economic position soon may be the same as it waa in 1928 and 1929. A great pool of unemployment will grow in this country, and I suggest that the Government, by its present measures, is seeking to prepare that situation. The Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) may smile, but f am trying to put a case on behalf of the Waterside Workers Federation of Australia, and if the AttorneyGeneral wishes it, I shall go with him to any waterfront in the Commonwealth where he can put his case and I will put mine to the workers at a pick-up. Then we can find out whose policy the workers favour. The Attorney-General can laugh that off, but I challenge him to come with me a t any time and do as I have suggested.
We must be very careful of our casual employment on the waterfront. The bill proposes that men who work in other industries during the day may hire themselves out to shipowners or stevedores to work on the waterfront after their usual day’s work, or on Saturday afternoons and Sunday. I suggest that that is simply a method of breaking down the conditions of the waterside workers. The workers of all unions, including the Amalgamated Postal Workers Union, have fought for the 40-hour week. If a man who works a 40-hour week in one industry by day goes along to work on the waterfront for six hours’ overtime at night or at the week-ends, the judges of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court will say, “ These men are well able to work 48 hours a week in their own industries “. Consequently, the Government’s action will break down hard-won. conditions.
People have complained because the. Waterside Workers Federation would not take in more members. This measure will allow outside persons to join the union. As I interjected when Senator Mattner was speaking to-day, what is the use of men belonging to the farmers’ union, for example, if they are not farmers? What is the use of a man belonging to the Waterside Workers Federation if there is no work on the waterfront for him? In the Melbourne press, for three days last week, it was reported that there had been a surplus of about 2,000 men on the Melbourne waterfront. Up until the last increase given by Judge Ashburner, these men were expected to exist on 24s. a day. When the men object to these things and endeavour to improve conditions, they are classed as Communists. I remind the Senate that the waterside workers are satisfied with Mr. Healy, as is proved by the fact that he was returned unopposed at the last election. That being so, nobody can blame tho Communists for any of the trouble on the waterfront at the moment. Another important point is that these people, who are to be registered as casual workers when more ships than normally enter the port and have to be loaded and unloaded, will be members of the Waterside Workers Federation. They will enjoy all the rights and privileges for which that federation has fought over the years. Further, they will have a vote at the election of officers for the federation, and that will be the time when those people who are supported by members of the Government and one other honorable senator in this chamber - the groupers - will be able to come in and take control of the Waterside Workers Federation. The waterside workers have had an extremely arduous time over the years. I have worked in the industry and know something about it.
– How long ago?
– In 1919, when I came back from World War I., and I have had the pleasure of working in it on several other occasions in another capacity. Senator Mattner says that the waterside workers have a monopoly. They have a monopoly of what? Is it a monopoly of 24s. a day appearance money ?
– They have a monopoly of misery.
– Exactly. The waterside workers are expected to turn out to work any ship at any time of the day or night. If they were not called at the pick-up, they received, until recently, a paltry 24s. a day.
– They could have a radio call instead of turning out.
– Then, they would be deprived of even the 24s. a day. Under those conditions, all that would be left to them would be to buy a mirror, stay at home and watch themselves starve. Of course, that would suit the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer). This is not the Government’s bill. I understand what the great shipowners and stevedoring interests had in mind when they told the little boys who work for them in this and another chamber: “ This is the bill we want. Never mind about the report of the commission. You have had enough of that. This is the bill we want. Put it through before the 30th June, 1956, because alter that date you will not have the numbers to do it.”
The waterside workers have been maligned many times in this Parliament by many honorable senators on the Government side. I remember going down to the Bay on Good Friday morning in 1942 and seeing 62 ships that had been diverted to Australia to be unloaded. The cargoes of those ships had to be distributed in the best way possible under the circumstances because the vessels were not allowed to go to the islands. Those ships were expected to tie up to some of the most old-fashioned, antiquated wharfs ever heard of in the history of shipping. There was not wharf accommodation available for them, and this was the condition of affairs after we had had years and years of anti-Labour administration in the federal sphere. They were the people who brought down the “Dog Collar Act” of 1928 to smash the waterside workers who had fought for decent conditions over the years. These 62 vessels to which I have referred were loaded with great quantities of material that were essential to the war effort, and it is significant that neither the shipowners nor those members of Parliament who smashed the waterside workers in The waterside workers slaved day and night for months under all sorts of 1928 took any part in unloading them, adverse conditions to unload those ships. They did an excellent job and it was because of their efforts that those ships were enabled to depart and transport merchandise to other areas where it was urgently needed. After that tremendous effort, we heard not one word of praise from this Parliament or from any member of either the Liberal party or the Australian Country party of the great work they had done.
There was no improvement in loading and unloading facilities on the waterfront until a Labour government was returned to office at the end of 3941. It built new wharfs and installed more uptodate loading and unloading facilities.
– Where did it build new wharfs?
– One great wharf was built opposite General Motors-Holden’s Limited at Port Melbourne. The Attorney-General does not know where the wharfs were built, yet he tells this Parliament that we should accept this bill ! Did any one ever hear anything so ridiculous? That new wharf is a magnificent piece of work. One section of it extends 600 yards and another section 400 yards. Here we have in charge of this bill a Minister who lives in Melbourne and yet does not know where the new wharfs were built? I repeat that before further improvements are effected on the wharfs for the quicker turn-round of ships, there should be a conference of those people who are vitally interested in shipping. It should not be decided solely by the shipowners and stevedores who are making fabulous millions out of shipping; the matter should be discussed by representatives of the primary producers, manufacturers, importers, the Waterside Workers Federation and the Australian Council of Trades Unions. Where does the Australian Country party stand on this matter? Does it not want representation on the proposed commission? Do not the manufacturers and importers want it? We certainly want representation of the Waterside Workers Federation and the Australian Council of Trades Unions on this body. We do not mind who is appointed as chairman, for those representatives of the people who know something about the industry will be able to convince the commission of what is necessary to ensure that the workers at least enjoy the amenities to which they are entitled and the primary producer is given proper and adequate service.
The men working on the waterfront never know for certain what they will be taking home in their pay envelopes each Friday night. That has been the position not for the last five years but the last 50 years. They have always been casual workers. The only guarantee they have enjoyed has been the appearance money of 16s. a day first granted by the Labour government and which was later increased to 24s. If the Government is genuine in wanting to establish harmony on the waterfront, it must see to it that the backbone of the industry - the waterside workers - are given decent conditions, together with economic security. Given those assurances, they will do as good a job in the future as they did during Easter of 1942, just after a Liberal government which had a majority in both Houses of Parliament had walked out and left Australia to the Japanese, the Communists and the German wolves. The waterside workers stood up to their job in those days. I repeat that they rendered splendid service to their country but there has never been one word of praise uttered by any honorable senator on the Government side for what the waterside workers did in those days.
The Government claims that the holdups on the waterfront are due mainly to industrial troubles. Of course, 1 realize it is not much use talking to the AttorneyGeneral because he would not know where the waterfront is. He did not know where the new wharfs had been built. It is tragic to see the confusion on the wharfs at Melbourne. It is not uncommon for ships to come in loaded with merchandize for both Melbourne and Brisbane but with the Brisbane goods stowed on top of the Melbourne goods with the result that the cargo for Brisbane has to be unloaded and placed in the storage sheds, where it causes congestion, while the Melbourne cargo is taken out. After the Melbourne goods are taken out, the cargo for Queensland has to be reloaded. All this is due to the fact that the ships were loaded originally under incompetent supervision. Had there been competent supervisors, the Melbourne goods would have been on top of the Brisbane goods, the work of unloading would have been expedited and there would have been no congestion in the sheds on the various wharfs. These things must be taken into consideration.
This afternoon, certain supporters of the Government complained about the time that is lost in taking off and putting on hatch covers. It must be remembered that this work does not advantage the waterside workers, but is done to protect cargoes in the holds. Honorable senators opposite have also complained about the loss of time through rain. But does this bill make any provision in that regard? It does not. If a waterside worker refuses, because his health may thereby be impaired, to obey a supervisor’s order to work in the rain and he is stood down, a stop-work meeting is held. The employers blame the federation for stop-work meetings held in such circumstances, although, the federation has had nothing to do with them. If a commission such as I have suggested were appointed, composed of men of varying outlook, I have no doubt that it would make recommendations to overcome some of these difficulties. The Government could then, with confidence, bring down legislation which would benefit the people of this country. As I said a few minutes ago, the time is fast approaching when there will be a pool of unemployed in Australia.
– Do not be foolish.
– Some time ago, I asked the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer), who represents the Minister for Labour and National Service in the chamber, to supply me with the latest figures available in relation to the number of vacant positions in each State, and to inform me of the cities or towns where the vacancies exist. Yesterday, he supplied me with a deferred answer to my question. Although it might have satisfied a dumbbell, it did not satisfy me. The Minister stated that it would not be proper to furnish the names of the firms or businesses in which vacancies exist. Why not? If a man were unemployed in Canberra, and the Minister knew of a suitable vacancy in Goulburn, but di.i not reveal that fact, how could th, unemployed worker get the job?
I said a moment ago that a pool of unemployed is being created. It is noteworthy that the Government, almost on the eve of losing its majority in this chamber, has introduced legislation in connexion with the shipping and stevedoring industries, housing, and conciliation and arbitration. Although this Government has been in office for six and a half years, it has never previously attempted to solve any of the problems associated with the subjects covered by this spate of legislation. I believe thai the measure now before the chamber will have a detrimental effect on the people of this country because, as a result of the decrease of both exports and imports, there is now less work available than formerly for the waterside workers. I emphasize that in my opinion the Government is preparing for another era of unemployment in this country. But I warn honorable senators opposite that the Australian. Labour party will not be caught off-guard as it was in 1929, and a future Labour government will not have to try to do what the Scullin Government had to do because it did not have a majority in this chamber between 1929 and 1931.
If the Government sincerely wants this country to prosper, and the men engaged in industry to be happy, it will withdraw this bill and establish a commission composed of representatives of all phases of industry to study fully the conditions on the waterfront. It would then be able, in the light of that committee’s recommendations, to introduce legislation which would be satisfactory to the men engaged on the waterfront and the greater majority of the people of Australia. Of course, I realize that that kind of legislation would not satisfy the rapacious millionaire shipowners. I predict that, consequent on the benefits that have been given to the waterside workers by Mr. Justice Ashburner, within the next two months, when the Parliament is in recess, shipping freights will be increased by the shipowners.
– During this debate, we have heard the history of the Australian waterfront, and of inquiries that have been carried out in relation to that industry. I do not intend to deal with those subjects to-night, but shall content myself by making a few remarks about the provisions of the bill and offering several suggestions to the Government.
To my way of thinking, this measure is a hasty and ill-conceived bill, which will do very little to remove the distrust between employers and employees on the waterfront. It will not remove the underlying causes of foment on the waterfront. It will not overcome the difficulties that have manifested themselves over a great many years. It will also introduce into the trade unions an aspect that is foreign, to their traditional practices. I believe that the bill is provocative, and that it will aggravate the existing feeling of mistrust in the waterfront industry.
The provision in relation to casual employment in the industry will inevitably arouse united opposition from the trade union movement. I believe that the lack of permanent employment on the waterfront is one of the greatest drawbacks to the maintenance of peace in the industry. Casual employment in this industry should be abolished in favour of permanent employment, and that change must be accompanied by the payment of adequate wages to ensure that the men in the industry will take a pride in their work. Due to the fact that the weekly income of waterside workers fluctuates considerably, it is impossible for their wives to budget for domestic expenditure on an equitable basis. In one week, with overtime a waterside worker might earn £30; in the following week he might only draw from £6 to £7 as appearance money. In such circumstances, the domestic economy of the waterside workers’ families cannot be put or. a. stable basis. The man who receives a large income for one week is apt to think of himself as king for a day and to forget, about putting aside something for a rainy day. Some, waterside workers may put something aside, but I suggest that a great many do not do so. I think that the fluctuating income on the waterfront has a great deal to do with the hardships that the families of waterside workers have to face. The waterfront industry must have stability in the form of » permanent wage.
The fundamental principle of decent human relations is recognition of the dignity of labour. While this insecurity remains and the economic instability continues, pride in a job well done will be absent from the waterfront. For this reason, it is imperative that the waterside worker should have permanent employment and be given a remunerative wage. If he is required to work overtime, he should be paid for it, just as he would be paid for working overtime in any other employment. I know that there are quite a lot of arguments against that being done, and that it may be said that although the waterside worker will not be working all of the time during the week he still will be paid his weekly wage. When I say “weekly wage” I mean a proper weekly wage. If there is overtime to be done, he must do it. Therefore, if he works overtime outside his ordinary working hours, there is no reason why he should not be paid for it. To judge by the profits that the stevedoring industry makes, it ought to be able to carry that additional burden. If those suggestions were adopted, it might even be found that the shipowners would enliven their services and bring ships into port at the proper times.
Even the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) is not very enamoured of the provision relating to the recruitment of casual labour. If he were satisfied with it, why in the world would he have postponed it until next January? If a government wants to do certain things, usually it stipulates them in a bill which is introduced in the Parliament, and when the bill is passed the government sees that those things are given effect. But, obviously, the Minister is not very happy about the idea of casual labour on the waterfront. I believe that casual labour may be used only when there is permanence of employment. If the waterside worker is given permanent employment there will be very little objection to the use of casual labour. The waterside worker will be getting his full weekly wage, and the casual labourers will not upset his conditions in any way. They will be received on the waterfront without any trouble.
In my opinion, this matter of permanent employment is something that the Government must consider if it wants to overcome the troubles on the waterfront. From permanence of employment will flow the other benefits which the waterside workers want and which could be embodied in legislation of a kind similar to that which applies to workers in other major industries.. With permanent employment, waterside workers would be able to- have a superannuation scheme: they would have holidays, the same as anybody else, and all the minor pinpricks that are responsible for disturbance on the waterfront would be removed. This bill should include provision for matters of that kind, instead of leaving them in the air; I cannot see how this measure will improve the conditions that already exist. I have no doubt that the legislation will remain on the statute-book for ten years, as the present legislation has. Once this bill become law there will be no great desire to change it during the next few years. That being so, the Government must get down to the basic matters that are fermenting trouble on the waterfront and try to overcome them by legislation introduced in this Parliament.
I wish now to deal with the important matter of the statutory authority that is to be established if this bill becomes law. I believe that representatives of neither capital nor labour should be on that authority. The body is to be appointed to settle disputes, and whilst it might be of advantage to have representatives of those interests on it, I believe that that advantage would disappear if the body being established were an expert body to administer de-casualization and discipline, and to regulate stevedoring operations and the use of labour schemes in order to achieve efficiency. The authority would be hamstrung, at its inception, by this disputatious approach. What are the disadvantages in having representatives of those interests on the authority? There will be much intimate information that the authority will need, so that it may give a considered opinion and act in the interests of efficiency on the waterfront; but would such intimate information be forthcoming from the representative of the Waterside Workers Federation when he knew that there was also a representative of the shipowners or other capital interests on the authority? Would the representative of the capital interests give the desired information? Would the authority obtain the information it needed? Incidentally, when I refer to the representative of the Waterside Workers Federation, I mean, of course, that if the representative on the authority were a member of the Australian Council of Trades Unions, or a member of a trade union, he would still be the direct representative of the Waterside Workers Federation, because that is the union that is directly concerned. As I say, I do not think there would be free exchange of the intimate information that would be needed by the authority.
Then there will be problems which will be administrative in character and which will require independent and impartial administration. Two opposing views will be put forward. There will be a chairman who will arbitrate between those views, one from the representative of the employers, and the other from the representative of the employees. Both could be wrong, but the chairman has to arbitrate between them. The result must be a compromise between the two, which might not contribute greatly towards efficiency on the waterfront, but if the chairman himself were giving the judgment, he would not be upset by the pull from either side.
This position could arise also : The employers’ representative and the representative of the employees could gang up oil the chairman in many cases. In north Queensland ports, there has been considerable slackness among waterside workers, and a lack of efficiency on the stevedoring side as well. To save trouble, the stevedoring representatives have allowed this state of affairs to continue because there are profitable exports in that area, and the companies do not want their revenue disturbed. In such cases, the two parties could join against the chairman when he seeks to introduce efficient methods that are essential on the waterfront.
The trade union representative will be a direct representative of the “Waterside Workers Federation. That will not be in the best interests of efficiency on the waterfront. The waterside workers are looking mainly for benefits for themselves, and we are not likely to get efficiency from them in these circumstances. The present leaders of the “Waterside Workers Federation are not concerned with the welfare of Australia as a whole. It is important for Australia that contentment should be brought to the waterfront, because what happens there determines both internal and foreign policies.
The constitution of the proposed authority would necessitate extreme care. The idea of a board comprising representatives of mineowners and workers would be fatal. As always happens in such cases, the chairman, instead of having the assistance and co-operation of independent minds would spend most of his time acting as a referee between his colleagues who would probably hold pre-conceived and most irreconcilable views on almost every relevant subject. The ideal authority in Australian conditions would, as in the case of the
Coal Commission, consist of one man with legal training who would readily acquire the knowledge of the industry required to give a balanced decision on varied issues. He should have as a senior staff three managers presiding respecttively over departments of production, distribution and finance.
Each of these officials would be selected and adequately paid with a view to procuring the acme of competency and experience. Junior staff, naturally, would depend upon the extent and nature of the duties.
With a one-man authority, there would be no diverging opinions, and he would be able to bring efficiency to the waterfront. As it is now, the bill will further entrench Healy on the waterfront. I firmly believe that. I believe that Healy is only too willing that this bill should be passed.
We have to get down to basic causes of unrest. During the debate on the Coastal Shipping Agreement Bill 1956, I suggested that there should be co-operatives on the waterfront. I asked a question of the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge) on the subject. He has not answered me yet. I believe that stevedoring should be placed under the control of the Waterside Workers Federation. It should run its own stevedoring co-operative. We would then be rid of those few on the waterfront who are slackers. If the waterside workers were receiving dividends from their stevedoring operations, they would make sure that there would not be any slackness on the waterfront. They would discipline their members, and those who were not prepared to pull their weight would soon find themselves outside the federation. That could be done under the shipping bills that were recently before the Senate.
Stevedoring operations are more profitable to the shipping companies than are freights. I asked the Minister for Shipping and Transport to verify that, but I have not had an answer yet. However, I believe that it is true. If extra money were to go to the waterside workers from stevedoring, that would be helpful in cleaning up the waterfront and ending the slackness that is evident in many places.
This bill, to my way of thinking is just a palliative for the present. The Government should withdraw the bill and submit it to a select committee of the Parliament. The committee, if necessary, could obtain the assistance of any one it thought could help it. The bill could then be re-drafted as ;here is no need to rush it through during this sessional period. If the bill will do something to get rid of unrest on the waterfront, or if it can do the things I have suggested should be done, there should be no difficulty in putting it through the Parliament during the next sessional period. I hope the bill will be submitted to a select committee of both Houses of the Parliament so that it can be carefully considered. If a new bill is brought in during the next sessional period I shall be quite willing to give it my blessing, but I am afraid I cannot see any great advantage in the present bill and, therefore, will vote accordingly.
– I have listened with considerable interest to the remarks of Sena’tor Cole in respect of this important measure, and I have heard with like interest the wide divergence which exists between some of the ideas to which he has given expression and the ideas held by the Evatt Labour party. I must confess that when he speaks of a one-man authority I am not in agreement with him. I note that both the Basten and Tait reports contain views which are at variance with those expressed by Senator Cole: and for my own part, I repeat, T. do not agree with him.
When he gives expression to the longterm ideal of permanent employment he is getting very close to what many of us, probably most of us in this chamber, regard as something extremely desirable in the long run. I, for ray part, would welcome the opportunity to bring that particular method of employment to the waterfront. As for the debate which has emanated from members of the Evatt “Labour party, if I may so refer to it,
I cannot help feeling that it has taken on the form of a competition as each honorable senator opposite in turn is trying quite obviously to better his predecessor as the foremost advocate of the Waterside Workers Federation. I think that is regrettable because it has brought to this debate a narrowness which is narrower than the type of criticism we usually get from the Labour party.
I have a sincere and profound conviction that some provisions of this bill will do much indeed to quicken the turn-round of ships in Australian ports and to arrest the upsurge of stevedoring costs. For that reason, if for no other, it is a bill which ought to receive the support of every responsible senator who has an appreciation of the effect of transport costs, including stevedoring costs, on the economy of Australia. In a moment or two I shall refer with some particularity to one or two of the provisions which I believe can make such an outstanding contribution along the lines I have suggested.
I listened this afternoon to the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) leading this debate for the Labour party. I must confess I was as interested in his remarks as I invariably am. I was interested in the historical references which he made to this industry and its development. I could not help noticing, of course, that he placed altogether undue emphasis on practices of the past and on industrial relations which have long since ceased and have gone forever into the limbo of forgotten things. He made that emphasis to the almost total, exclusion of the important conditions which now apply to the waterfront and. if I may say so with pride, to the exclusion of the new outlook which all sensible, thinking Australians adopt towards this industry with its particular and peculiar difficulties. The Leader of the Opposition said that the bill was an onslaught on the Waterside Workers Federation and on its members. T cannot see how in any sense that statement can be supported. He seemed to think that that was almost the exclusive purpose of the bill, and he went on to refer to fifteen other factors which had been referred to in the Basten report and which this particular legislation made no effort at all to correct. .1 could not make a note of all of them, but he referred to the outmoded port facilities, the slow and late delivery to wharfs, the slow removal of goods, congestion orwharfs, wrong stowage of cargo and the faulty surface of wharfs and of sheds. He mentioned a number of others; but he completely overlooked the fact that every one of these factors which he mentioned lies completely outside the ambit of Commonwealth responsibility. This bill does, in fact, under clause 17, empower the authority to take certain steps, to investigate and to bring to the notice, presumably of the responsible authorities, and to the public, by way of its reports, the very conditions which are contributing to the slow turn-round of ships but over which it has no direct power itself. I suggest that the authority in. doing that can contribute greatly to the easement of those conditions about, which the Leader of the Opposition complained. By constantly bringing those various things to public notice and by formulating public opinion, something will be done to improve the factors about which he complained.
He went on to say that one of the things which was aggravating members of the federation was that there was not a complete codification of all awards and orders at ports in the Commonwealth, and that, considerable confusion existed in the minds of members of the federation! because of the difficulty of obtaining particulars of these matters. I can do no better than refer the Leader of the Opposition to the speech made by the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Spicer) when he introduced this bill. He made particular and specific reference to this matter in the following terms : -
One of the matters commented on by tha 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 the 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.
That indicates quite clearly and definitely that the Government is not only aware of this very desirable improvement but is also willing that the new authority take steps to bring about a codification as one of its first jobs.
The Leader of the Opposition proceeded from that point to criticize what he referred to as duality of control as between the commission and the authority and the confusion which would result because of that duality of control. It will be necessary, under the new arrangement, that there should be frequent, and possibly continuing, conferences between the commission on the one hand and the authority on the other on matters referred from one body to the other and back again. I should have thought that such an association between these two bodies, far from creating complexity, would have led to a greater clarity of the position. From that point, Senator McKenna proceeded to argue - amusingly, I thought - that the federation and its members would need a new system because they would find themselves completely perplexed. To say the least, that was a poor compliment to the “Waterside “Workers Federation. 1 suggest to Senator McKenna that not even he can exceed its members in understanding their conditions of employment on the wharfs. They have become masters of the details of their award, and they will not be in any way confused by this particular system. In the past, they have understood completely their terms of employment and what their award contains, and so they will under the new system.
– At the moment, they are at a loss to understand what is proposed.
– If Senator Sheehan needs any clarification on any point concerning the employment of the members of the “Waterside Workers Federation I suggest that he contact that body, and he will soon be fully informed.
A particular criticism which interested me was that action in respect of this important industry was being taken at the wrong time. I cannot understand that argument. It ignores completely the facts. It pays no heed to the economic situation in which Australia is placed, and takes no cognizance at all of the responsibility of any government to take action - any action, or all action - which will result in a quicker turn-around of ships and a reduction of transport costs. The long Australian coastline makes it essential for this country to depend on seaborne transport. Our overseas trade is also dependent upon the carriage of goods by sea and, to a large extent, its export markets depend upon the incidence of freight rates, and how successfully they can be kept to a low level.
At this moment, when transport costs are taking something like 25 per cent, of commodity prices, we should be directing our attention to any possible action which will arrest the unfortunate upward trend of freight rates. Recently, I had an extract made of freight rates on 50 typical voyages of Australian shipping between November, 1955, and April, 1056, and the figures disclosed that stevedoring costs represent no less than 43.3 per cent, of the total outlay on voyages. I shall cite only two examples. The first was of a voyage made by Eugowra in April, 1956, from Melbourne to Devonport and back to Melbourne, carrying 896 tons of vehicles, general cargo and cement. The voyage costs totalled £5,106, of which stevedoring was £2,383, or 46.6 per cent. River Loddon, in January, 1956, had a voyage from Kembla to Sydney, to Fremantle, lifting 8,114 tons of steel and general cargo. The total costs were £57,478, and stevedoring costs £24,S.r>0, or 43.2 per cent, of the total voyage costs. I was interested, further, to examine overseas freights, and last year, the following estimate was taken of the percentage costs of a voyage of a typical 10,000-ton vessel on the United KingdomAustralia run : In the United Kingdom, 13 per cent, of the total cost was taken in stevedoring, whereas in Australia it was 24 per cent. Those are revealing figures, and suggest the need in Australia to reduce freight costs and to achieve a quicker turn-round of ships.
Two provisions of the bill have been criticized by honorable senators opposite. The first is the short-term registration of labour, and the employment of supplementary labour. Surely this course must make a real contribution to the reduction of costs. Only a few months ago, when the apple season in Tasmania was at its height and ships were attempting to load in Tasmania, on one occasion no fewer than thirteen ships in Hobart were unable to obtain berths or labour. 1 correct myself. There were thirteen ships in the port of Hobart, and only two nr three of them could get berthing facilities or labour ; the remainder had to wait because of a shortage of labour. Do I have to carry on and give further instances of the effect of this sort of shortage on costs which, in their turn, affect our primary industries?
It is quite unnecessary for me to labour the point that to-day we are meeting severe competition overseas because of the rise in the level of our costs, and it is incumbent on everybody with a sense of responsibility in this country to ensure that everything possible is done to reduce costs. I suggest that the employment of short-term registration labour will go a long way towards correcting that deficiency. Shortage of labour does not occur only in Tasmania; it occurs in Queensland ports and other ports in Australia, and that provision alone should go a very long way, indeed, towards ensuring an improvement. So it is, too, in respect of the employment of supplementary labour in the evenings and at the week-ends. I believe that it was the Leader of the Opposition who suggested that rather than employ supplementary labour, stevedoring companies should employ members of the Waterside Workers Federation on overtime.
I find it extremely difficult at times to reconcile the conflicting arguments which emanate from the Labour party. I have sat here in this chamber on a number of occasions and listened while honorable senators opposite have bemoaned the fact that workers, including waterside workers, have been asked to work overtime, and have pointed out that such excessive overtime caused fatigue, that there was a loss of efficiency, and that no good came from it at all. Yet, to-day, we have the suggestion that waterside workers should be asked to work more overtime. I was interested to find out from the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board’s annual report of last year that the time worked by waterside workers at ordinary rates was 69.8 per -cent., at time and a half it was 18.7 per cent., at double time 8.5 per cent., and at double time and a half 2.8 per cent.
– Shipping delays would have something to do with that.
– Does it matter? “Waterside workers have been required to engage in overtime to the extent of 30 per cent, of the time they work, and that should be sufficient. Any suggestion that they should be asked to increase that overtime is, in the face of the Labour party’s previous objections to overtime, wholly unreal.
– Will not the casual workers be working overtime?
– They probably will be.
– Will they or won’t they?
– They probably will be. There will be occasions when they will be on overtime, and there will he occasions when the permanent men will be on further overtime. I am pointing out the insincerity of the argument of the Opposition, which one day is to the effect that the men should not be asked to work overtime, and the next day that they should be asked to work more overtime.
– But what about the new men?
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Wood) Order! The Minister should continue his speech without paying attention to interjections.
– I am well aware that this is a measure which has been criticized politically from the opposite side of this chamber, and it has also attracted some criticism from people who might be normally regarded as of liberal persuasion. I myself, do not believe for one minute that this bill is the last word on the stevedoring industry - far from it. The waterfront industry has undergone marked fluctuations in the past, and will no doubt continue to do so, and it will be necessary to alter legislation to meet changing circumstances and changing needs. However, I do say that this legislation, offering as it does in respect of only these two points to which I have addressed myself - the employment of short-term registration labour and the employment of supplementary labour - will make a contribution to the quicker turn-round of ships, greater waterfront efficiency and a consequent arrest of the upsurge of costs, will make a contribution which is worth while. Because it is worthwhile, it should gain the support of all those who realize the importance of keeping our costs to a minimum at this time.
Senator SHEEHAN (Victoria) [9.37’J. - I rise to oppose the passage of this bill through the Senate. I listened with a great deal of interest to the remarks of the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge), and I was rather disappointed with the way in which he commenced his speech, ne suggested that honorable senators of the Opposition were endeavouring one by one to demonstrate their affinity with the members of the Waterside Workers Federation of Australia. Well, as a member of the Labour party, I believe that it is our particular prerogative and duty when legislation of this kind is going through this chamber - legislation which will effect the livelihood of workers - to ensure by all means in our power that it is likely to be of some benefit to those people.
The Minister’s suggestion that the Opposition were members of the Evatt Labour party rather than of the Australian Labour party, should not have been made by an honorable senator of his position. I suggest that, instead of being criticized, the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) should be congratulated not only by honorable senators on this side of the chamber, but also by Government supporters for the excellent manner in which he analyzed the various provisions of this bill. I believe that if honorable senators on the Government side were to express their candid opinions; they would agree that the exposition given by Senator McKenna on the ramifications of the bill and its short-comings, was fair and reasonable, and much superior to the speech of the Minister. If is effort reminds one of what he said during his second-reading spech on the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, a measure which is closely related to this bill and which has not yet finally passed through the Senate. Both these measures, which have been introduced almost simultaneously, are extremely important pieces of legislation in that they deal not with the ordinary things of life but with human problems, with the question of how a great section of the community is to enjoy a reasonable standard of living by selling its labour. After hearing what the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Spicer) has said just now and what he stated during his secondreading speech, it would seem to me that the Government is imbued with the idea that all disabilities under which the stevedoring industry labours to-day are due entirely to the activities of the waterside workers. The Attorney-General appears to deplore the fact that unionism is gaining strength in Australia, that the waterside workers are slowly but surely building up industrial strength because of the happy circumstance that we are now enjoying a period of full employ ment. Throughout the whole of his speech there was a note of regret at the fact that the workers, because of the growing strength of unionism, are in a position to demand something more than they could hope to get in former days.
This industry has been referred to as being turbulent. It has been suggested from time to time that its troubles have been due to the fact that the unions have been Communist controlled. I remind the Senate that the Russian revolution took place in 1917 and that communism was unheard of in this country until many years later. This has always been an industry in which the workers have been virtually without jobs. There have been continual interruptions in it over the years. As one honorable senator mentioned this afternoon, it was the great maritime strike years ago that led to the establishment of the Australian Labour party. There were no Communistcontrolled unions in Australia in the ‘nineties, nor were there any at the time of the great waterside workers’ strike in 1917. In those days, the unionists were good Labourites, men who were keen to organize their fellows in order that working conditions might be improved. In “those days the workers knew not whether they would be working to-day, to-morrow or next week. They attended at the wharfs morning after morning and whether they received work depended upon the whims of the foreman stevedore. In those days, men were not known by their names; they were known by numbers. I have stood on the wharf many a time watching these foremen select men for work. Their practice was merely to point to those selected, saying, “ You, you, you and you “. Is it any wonder that one of the reports furnished to the Government points out that the reason why the Waterside .Workers Federation opposes some of the suggestions the Government seeks to impose upon the workers is that they fear the return of those conditions which existed in the past and from which they have been able to obtain some measure of amelioration as a result of their industrial strength ?
The conditions of to-day are by no means all that are to be desired. For instance, is there any other section of workers in this country who have to scan newspapers or keep their ears glued to the radio in order to discover whether on the morrow they will be on the payroll of the master? Honorable senators on the Government side have referred to these radio and press announcements at wonderful improvements. Can it be said that such conditions as these should be tolerated in this day and generation ‘<. This is an important industry. It playsa great part in the development of the country. It is essential for the proper transport of commodities both round our own shores and to other parts of the world and it is only fitting that the workers engaged in it should enjoy reasonable conditions. If the Government was sincere in its desire to reduce stevedoring costs and to curb inflation, it would not be bringing down measures such as this: i1 would be doing something really calculated to improve conditions on the waterfront. Over the last four or five years, we on this side have endeavoured time and time again to obtain from Government spokesmen some assurance that something will be done to improve the conditions of these workers, and we have always received negative replies.
– We were called Communists.
– That has been the stock reply. Whenever we asked the Government to try to do something to remove the causes of industrial discontent and stoppages on the waterfront, the reply has been, “ Why do you not talk te the Coins?” What, an admission for the Government to make - that although it had power to improve these conditions, it was not prepared to use it !
The Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge) directed attention to some passages in the Basten report. I n.m glad that he did so. I commend to the Minister’s attention paragraph 5 of the report, which contains suggestions and recommendations in relation to improvements. Other paragraphs show that the shipping industry has undergone many changes. Certain shipping companies now ply their vessels to only the main ports, whereas formerly they were loaded and unloaded at many other ports. The committee’s report directs attention to the absence of handling facilities at the various ports. It also states that consignees are loathe to remove their goods from the wharf once unloaded, and that the owners of the goods should be compelled to remove them from the wharfs promptly.
Attention is also directed to the shortage of customs staff, and to the fact that delay is caused through the late recipt of bills of lading from overseas, and through the bad stowage of cargo. All of these things contribute to slowing down the turn-round of ships which, we have been told, has been responsible for increased freight rates. Is the Government doing anything by means of this bill to improve the position? The Minister for Shipping and Transport has stated that the provision of new wharfs and new channels are State matters. I remind him that, although the Commonwealth holds the purse strings, it has not exhibited any willingness to supply money to the States to enable them to improve shipping facilities. The people look to the Commonwealth Government to take the lead in these matters because, in the final analysis, shipping hold-ups affect adversely all sections of the community. The Commonwealth Government should provide the States with sufficient money to improve the facilities on the wharfs.
The waterside workers, the men who work for a living, are the ones who will bear the brunt of this legislation. I was both amazed and amused by the Government’s proposal to overcome the shortage of labour on the waterfront by permitting the employment of casual labour from 5 p.m. until midnight and at week-ends; that such casual workers shall be registered; and that if they fail to turn up when required, they will be dealt with, and their names will be struck off the register. Of course, this proposed scheme will not operate until January next. I suppose that one of the purposes of the proposal is to stimulate a little more activity on the part of regular waterside workers. Nevertheless, it is ridiculous. During a period of full employment, whom does the Government expect to be able to recruit for this work? Does it expect a man who has worked in a workshop or factory until 4 o’clock or half past four in the afternoon to report for work on the wharf on his way home, in response to a notice that he has received? It might take him an hour or so to travel from his normal place of employment to the wharf. If he is required to work on the wharf from 8 p.m. till midnight, when will he partake of his evening meal? I have been reminded of the occasion when a famous prima donna announced that, assisted by a few other people, she would unload a ship that was held up.
– How did she get on?
– The lady did not do too much work. I can imagine the reactions of a nicely dressed publicspirited shop assistant upon being told by a foreman stevedore to unload coal or fertilizer or some stinking skins that had been lying in the bottom of a boat for a considerable period of time and which, probably, permanent watersiders had refused to unload. Yet the Government claims to have evolved a wonderful solution to the problem of the shortage of labour on the waterfront. Fancy responsible departmental officials burning the midnight oil to produce this wonderful scheme! And fancy a responsible Minister, who has held the Labour and National Service portfolio for a number of years, believing that this scheme will overcome the difficulties on the waterfront! The shipowners should be prepared to help to solve the problem that is caused by what is called a flush of shipping - the arrival of a number of vessels from overseas about the same time. Seasonal work is not uncommon in Australia. It applies in the shearing industry and also in the meat industry, the dried-fruits industry, the canning industry, and other industries. There may be a shortage of labour at one place and a glut at another place.
Surely, the stevedoring industry could, be organized on a basis that would provide for decent accommodation for members of the Waterside Workers Federation who might be required to go, for instance, to Queensland. Why is it that they will not undertake these trips? It is simply because suitable accommodation for them does not exist; simply because they are unable to live at those places as decent human beings. If proper accommodation were provided for them and they were given reasonable amenities,. I feel sure that many members of the federation would be prepared to takework at places where there was a shortage of labour. The Government apparently wants a return to the conditions that existed in the shearing industry, and also in the waterfront industry, in the old days, when there was a surplus of labour and workers were obliged to accept thaconditions, whether they were good, or bad, that were offered by the employer. We have got away from those days, and we demand something better.
The Minister suggested that possibly this bill will not be the last word, that something else may have to be done, and that this legislation may not be the solution of the problem. I agree with that suggestion. I have no doubt that when, this legislation becomes operative therestill will be problems to be faced. The waterside workers will want somethingbetter than this. If costs are to bereduced, improved methods must be adopted. I was pleased to read, recently, that improvements are being made at themoment on the wharfs in Melbourne. Any one who knew those wharfs, whohad gone down to the Victoria Dock or walked along the river, would know that there were absolutely no amenities for the* workers. There was no sanitary accommodation, nor was there eating accommodation. There was no place where a mans could go and have his meal in comfortHe had to eat it in the dust blown from, the roads, or sit amongst the cargo. Those* were the conditions that existed in theport of Melbourne and about which the waterside workers protested. I am not; so conversant with the conditions at Sydney and Brisbane. If those conditions could be improved, and if there were a guarantee of employment, so that a waterside worker could feel secure, as do other men in industry, and could know that his income was assured, I think we could expect improvement of the position on the waterfront.
X was pleased Co hear Senator McCallum refer, this afternoon, to a visit to the home of a waterside worker, and to the fact that the waterside worker had a nice home and was a decent person. Unfortunately, too many people, in the past, have thought that the waterside worker was not entitled to a decent home, and that he was of a species apart from ordinary individuals. I have known many waterside workers; indeed, I number them among my best friends. I have been associated with them, not only in the industrial movement, but also on the sports field and elsewhere. I have found them to be just the same as other people. As human beings, they are entitled to a higher standard of living than they have at present. This Parliament to-night should be devising ways and means to make it possible for them to have better conditions, instead of dealing with this bill which contains a threat in its penal clauses and speaks of waterside workers being dismissed, de-registered, and so on, while, on the other hand, apparently, there is to be only a mild rebuke if an employer happens to commit a breach of the legislation. I suggest to the Government that it have another think about this matter, if it wants peace on the waterfront. It should introduce better legislation than this. Appeals have been made to the Government to withdraw this bill, but I have no doubt that it will be passed by the Parliament. However, I suggest that the Government wait for the report of the Tait committee and make further investigations before proclaiming the legislation, so that when we come back here in August or September, perhaps a bill worthy of the problem that is in front of us may be introduced in the Parliament.
Senator SEWARD (Western Australia) f 10.7] . - In addressing myself to this bill, I do so with one object in mind : That is. in the hope that legislation can be procured which will bring industrial peace to the waterfront and enable those engaged in stevedoring work to enjoy working conditions comparable to the conditions enjoyed by those engaged in other industries, as well as to enable ships to turn-round in the minimum space of time. If we can secure those objectives, then I think we shall have done a very good job for Australia. Before dealing with other matters, I wish to reply to a remark made by Senator Sheehan, and which also has been made by other honorable senators on the Opposition side. The honorable senator voiced the old cry and appealed to the Commonwealth to establish wharfs where at present wharfs are not up to standard. I remind honorable senators opposite that if they peruse the State budgets they will find that the profits from State harbours go to Consolidated Revenue, instead of going towards the installation of wharfs. If the State governments used that money as some of the harbour trusts have been appealing to them to use it, some wharfs might be in a better condition than they are now.
In considering this bill, it is advisable I think, to have before us the objectives that were aimed at when the legislation was originally brought before the Commonwealth Parliament. In order to refresh the minds of honorable senators. I propose to read briefly the remarks of the sponsor of the original legislation, the present Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), who was in those days AttorneyGeneral. In introducing the Stevedoring Industry Bill 1947, the right honorable gentleman stated, on the 21st February, 1947-
The aim of the bill is to achieve industrial peace, and continuity and efficiency of work in the stevedoring industry, which is an essential factor in the transport of this country and thus to its economy. The importance of sea transport in the trade and commerce of Aus? tralia can hardly be overstated. The great bulk of interstate trade is conducted by shipping, and, indeed, there are parts of the Commonwealth which cannot be served commercially except by sea. The special position of Tasmania, of Western Australian ports, and of Queensland ports and Darwin illustrate the dependence of Australia on sea transport for interstate trade, while the entire overseas trade is carried out by shipping.
Later in his remarks he stated -
On the 19th October, 1045, Judge Foster was appointed to conduct an inquiry into the industry. The terms of reference to His Honour were comprehensive. The measure which has been drafted, and is now before the House, follows the broad recommendations contained in Judge Foster’s report.
That, then, was the objective when the legislation was first placed before the Parliament.
Before proceeding further, I want to refer to the history of this matter. The measure that was introduced in 1047 lasted for only two years. It had to be replaced by another bill, which was introduced by Mr. Dedman. In the course of his remarks on that bill he said -
Having devoted its primary attention to the reduction of strikes, the commission had advanced to the position where it could devote more attention to the achievement of greater efficiency in the conduct of stevedoring operations.
His subsequent remarks were interesting, because we have been told that the waterside workers are provoked into strikes. Two members of the first Stevedoring Industry Commission were Messrs. Healy and Roach. Mr. Dedman said -
Mr. Healy and Mr. Roach, the Federation’s representatives, on two different occasions incited waterside workers to strike against their own commission’s orders. The strikes had nothing whatever to do with conditions of employment of waterside workers but followed court proceedings against a Mr. Sharkey and a Mr. McPhillips, neither of whom had any connexion with the industry.
That was the fate of the first measure. lt might be interesting if I cited some of the remarks made by the present Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt), who sponsored this bill, when he opposed the measure introduced by Mr. Dedman in 1949. Mr. Harold Holt said -
Far from being a bold legislative experiment, as the Minister claimed, that was a cowardly legislative experiment. Instead of revealing courage on the part of the Government in venturing into a new field, it represented on the part of the Government a surrender in three important industries which are vital to the economy of the Commonwealth and the successful conduct of our trade and commercial affairs. It was a surrender by theCommonwealth to Communist pressure.
If further illustration is required of the need to abolish this stevedoring authority it is contained in the report of Judge Poster, who said -
It was conceived as a war measure and lt relied upon the almost unlimited war powersof the National Security Act. It had onemain objective, the most rapid “ turning round of the ships”. Cost” was almost unimportant, expediency largely governed itsactivities and there was an expressed agreement from both sides assented to by Mr. Justice Dixon that it should bc regarded as a war measure and to cease at its termination.
So that I shall not be misunderstood, I wish to explain that I do not suggest for one instant that the action of the present Minister for Labour and National Service in introducing this bill showed him to be guilty of cowardice. I have given the present Minister’s comments on the bill that was introduced by Mr. Dedman. I say without hesitation that, in introducing this bill, the Minister ha* been at great pains to produce a measure which, in his honest opinion, will achieve the objective he had in mind when the bill was first introduced. I cannot share his enthusiasm, but I acknowledge without hesitation his integrity in. this matter. In the opinion of Judge Foster and Mr. Justice Dixon this provision should have ceased at the termination of World War II.
If honorable senators study the reports of the Stevedoring Industry Board, they will find evidence of the utter failure of the board and the commission. If they need further evidence, they may study the two inquiries that were conducted by committees under the chairmanship of Mr. Basten and Mr. Tait, respectively, into the stevedoring industry. I believe we can say that it is about time we were rid of this stevedoring authority, and obtained something better. I wish to direct attention to the terms of reference in the Tait committee report. This bill is framed on the Tait committees’ report, which is only a partial report. I wish to direct attention to matters that the Tait committee has not yet investigated, and in which I am particularly interested. I believe that everybody who has occasion to use shipping is interested in it. The first term of reference to which I refer is as follows : -
That is an important term of reference, and it should receive exhaustive attention. Honorable senators should have had all the information available on that matter before this bill was introduced. The other terms of reference are -
Those are important matters, and we should have information on them before we are asked to pass amending legislation. When we are considering a hill like the measure that is before us, we look for something that will be of appreciable benefit and will achieve the objectives we have in mind. They include amicable relations and good conditions on the waterfront, and a more rapid turn-round of ships.
Having said that, 1 wish to direct the attention of honorable senators to the troubles that are affecting the waterfront at present. I have already quoted the remarks made by Mr. Dedman in 1949 about stevedoring operations, and the attention that was given to a reduction of waterfront disputes. This is the record of strikes on the waterfront since 1950 -
Last year was the worst for waterfront disputes since the end of World War II. The last report of the Stevedoring Industry Commission - its sixth report - occupies 33 pages, and of those, eighteen pages are filled with details of industrial disputes that took place on the wharfs last year. In the face of that awful record, we propose to continue the operations of the stevedoring authority which has worked such havoc on the waterfront in the past ten years. The number of working hours lost last year - 2,675,893 man-hours - represents 75,000 days. I think the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) pointed out the other day in his second-reading speech that the shipping companies lost £30,000 for a one-day stoppage. I leave it to honorable senators to compute the enormous financial loss which has to be borne by the community, and in the case of goods coming into Australia by the consumer of those goods, and in the case of goods being exported overseas by the exporter. That is only one of the things which bring about a loss. In addition, stoppages caused by rain are almost equal to those caused by industrial disputes, with the result that more than 11 per cent. of the man-hours worked has been lost as the result of those two causes.
Rain has been mentioned during this debate and Basten mentioned it in his report. He does not think it is beyond theability of the Australian people to devise some method whereby work could be carried on when rain is falling. It would be difficult because of theworking of cranes and the interference of masts, but I have yet to find a problem of that description that the ingenuity of the Australian people is not capable of solving. If some incentive were offered, it would not be long before a method was found to enable work to be carried on, at all events except in the case of heavy rain or gales.
I certainly hope that something will be done about the matter. As I have said, the loss occasioned to the country by rain and industrial disputes has amounted to
II per cent, of the working man-hours.
I wish to bring to the attention of the Senate another very serious loss. In many cases, because of an industrial dispute, ships have arrived in Australia from England, and after discharging their passengers have gone back to England with their cargo unloaded. That cargo has to be brought back later. I have not the faintest idea how many times that has occurred, but it occasions enormous losses to the importers, not only because of the extra charge of going to and from England, but also because the goods may have been soft goods required for a particular season, and the delay has caused them to miss the season. The loss would be incalculable. I do not think the people of Australia realize the enormous costs that have to be added to our goods, both imports and exports, because of that sort of thing. That is why I am dealing with this matter extensively so that it might be brought before them in the hope that some real effort will be made to bring about changed conditions on the wharfs so that we will be able to carry on this industry as it should be carried on.
The next great expenditure to which I wish tr refer relates to wharfs. The subject was mentioned by a previous speaker, but he did not go into it as far as I wish to go. By way of illustration let me take the case of Western Australia. We have some very good wharf accommodation and we have a very live harbour board, but I am led to understand that four more berths are needed at Fremantle in order to deal with the trade coming into that port. A new wharf costs about £1,000,000 to build at the present time. If those four wharfs are built and are worked to capacity, Fremantle will be able to carry on, for the next ten years at all events, according to the views expressed by the general manager of the harbour board. But if those wharfs are not worked to capacity Fremantle will have to consider vacating the Swan and the port will have to be transferred to Cockburn Sound at a cost of millions of pounds. I had the pleasure a few weeks ago of visiting the port of Melbourne. I am no judge of ports myself as I have not had any great experience, but 1 was told by a person capable of expressing an opinion that Melbourne was one of the best ports in the world for the reception of boats, handling of cargo and so forth. That was the opinion expressed, but in any case it is a very excellent port. The same authority informed me that it would cost £1,000,000 to build a wharf, and also that any new berths would have to be used to their maximum capacity.
I have here a very interesting report from the Melbourne Harbour Trust, which shows exactly what the position is. It shows that, despite most modern wharfs, now mostly concrete-surfaced, more mechanical equipment, palletization of cargo, modern vessels, more waterside workers, higher wages, and shorter hours, the total cargo handled in the port of Melbourne in 1937-38 was 4,670,682 tons. In 1941, before the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board came into operation, it was 4,648,733 tons. The following year, 1942, it was 5,121,699 tons. In 1949, it was 4,075,050 tons, and in 1955, 4,682,231 tons. The tonnage was only 12,000 tons higher in 1955 than it was in 1937-38. The average tonnage handled per boat per day at the wharfs was as follows :- 1937-38, 736 tons; 1941, 801 tons; 1942, 675 tons; 1949, 272 tons; and 1955, 326 tons. In 1955. the volume of cargo handled was only half the tonnage handled in 1938-39, when the wharfs did not have modern equipment and the men worked longer hours for less pay. They handled more than double the amount of cargo that is being handled to-day.
– That is contrary to the Tait report-
– I do not care what the Tait report says. I do not. place much importance on the Tait report and I do not mind telling honorable senators that that is my opinion. I place much more reliance on the Basten report. The Tait report is not a complete report, and it deals only with some of the things we want to know. The report to which I am referring goes on to say -
This has been brought about principally as a result of concessions granted by the Statutory Authority. The Statutory Authority has intervened in stevedoring operations and has broken down the recognition of the employers’ authority and placed it in the hands of a third party. The system of inspectors created by the Authority interfere in the relations between the employers and the workers which tends to encourage the employee to disregard the lawful directions of the employer. The personnel of the Statutory Authority has criticized the work of the employers on the job, which is. detrimental to efficiency.
I express my extreme regret that this bill contains provision for the continued employment of inspectors. I have been told, on reliable authority; that inspectors are. the cause of endless trouble. They go snooping around and if, for example,, they see a sling-load of tenbags of flour instead of the usual number of twenty, they report the occurrence as something against the employer. We would be well advised to do away with inspectors, and I should like to see all intervention by any third, person betweenthe employer and man who is doing the stevedoring work, abolished.
If improvements; are made to harbours involving a cost of £1,000,000 for a wharf, the result will be an increase of harbour rates, and if the wharfs are used to only half capacity, the increase of harbour dues will be considerably greater than if the wharfs were fully occupied. That brings me to deal with the cost of stevedoring operations. In order to finance the stevedoring authority, a charge is made under the Stevedoring Industry Charge Act 1947. When that, charge was introduced in 1947, the revenue derived from it was £420,000 a year. By 1955, that income had risen to £1,630,000. Since 1950, the sum collected from this charge has been £5,242,844. I know that it will be claimed that the stevedoring authority has to pay attendance money, and that is true, and from 1950 to 1955 this has amounted to. £2,2:80,308, so that a balance of £2,962;,536. remains with which to pay administration charges and provide such amenities as may be installed. I do not know whether many amenities have been provided. I remember that,, when the stevedoring, authority visited Western Australia, the question of amenities on> the! wharfs was raised. I do not know whether they really were needed, but the harbour trust said to the stevedoring authority, “ You go ahead and put them, in “’, to which the stevedoring authority replied, “ It is your wharf, and if you, want them you put them in”. I do not know what they get the money for if they do not use it in connexion with these amenities.
I regret that Senator Paltridge is not present at the moment, because he cited, some figures in connexion with stevedoring charges with which I cannot, agree. Of course, his figures probably applied* to a different class of ship from that to which the., figures- I have apply. I have here some figures taken from a paper read by Mr. A. G. Lowndes to the Australian Institute- of Political Science summer school at Canberra on the 29th January last on the subject of Australian Coastal Shipping. It is one of the finest reviews of transport I have had the pleasure to peruse. He sets out the percentage of charges, in the first instance,, of a ship of 2,500 tons carrying 85 per cent, of its capacity. It is an up-to-date motor vessel, in first-class order, and the following are the charges involved: - The annual or fixed charges consist of depreciation, 5.7 per cent.; insurance, 1.7 per cent. ; docking, repairs and maintenance - an average over four years’ - 4 per cent.; management, light dues, sick and accident pay not recoverable, claims and so on, 1.9 per cent. The total of those charges was 13.3 per cent. There come the ship operating expenses. These consist of crew wages and pay-roll tax. 15 per cent.; fuel, 3.3 per cent.; providoring, 3.1 per cent. ; sundries and stores.. 1.8 per cent. ; port charges, 2.8 per cent. - a total of 26 per cent. But the stevedoring charges amount to 60.7 per cent, of the total charges on that ship. On a larger vessel of 5,000 tons, with a cargo capacity of 80 per cent… the fixed charges totalled 12.6 percent., and the ship operating expenses- 20.4 per cent., but the stevedoring charges were 67 per cent. In the face of those figures, is it not manifest to everybody that drastic measures must be taken to reduce such costs so as to enable our exporters to have better opportunity to compete in overseas markets, and also reduce the cost of goods coming to thi? country ?
I pass now to a consideration of how stevedoring charges may be reduced without lowering the wages of waterside workers. I emphasize that because, unfortunately, whenever Government senators say that they want to improve the conditions of the waterside worker, they are accused by honorable senators opposite of desiring to reduce his wages. I have no such desire, because I wish to see him receive the highest possible wage, and to enjoy the best possible working conditions. This is the most important step to take to bring about satisfactory conditions on the waterfront. The first thing to be obtained for the waterside worker is security of employment. Senator Hendrickson referred to the Tait report. I do not know whether honorable senators are aware that, so far, the Tait commission has cost £95,396. That is an extraordinary amount for any inquiry. In 1955, it was estimated that the inquiry would cost £27,886. Subsequently, the estimated expenditure for 1956 was £2S,500, and only recently an additional estimate of £39,010 was agreed to. bringing the total estimated cost to date to £95,396. We are paying very dearly for this inquiry, and I hope that the Minister will not allow it to go on much longer, unless better results are produced than we have had to date. The question of permanent employment has been referred to in both the Tait and the Basten reports. On page 1 of the Tait report, the following paragraph occurs: -
The organization of the stevedoring industry is based upon the use of casual labour. A fundamental fact in the industry is the tremendous fluctuations, which occur even from day to day, in the amount of shipping in any port requiring stevedoring labour. This fact makes permanent employment of all waterside workers impracticable.
On page 19 of the Basten report, paragraph 13 reads -
It is important that the social status and security of the waterside worker should he the equal of that of other workers in the great. Australian industries. The waterside worker’s employment should, therefore, be rewarded in the same way as in the majority of those industries. He should, in particular, have the samp kind of security in his earnings and should, therefore, be paid on a weekly basis. To achieve this in an industry subject to the fluctuations of work which characterize the stevedoring industry is not particularly easy. Those fluctuations, however, would be removed, as far as it is possible to remove them, by the adoption of the proposal that when » stevedoring company has more work than itf average, it should share tho excess with those which happen, for the time being, to have less. The waterside worker himself should receive a guaranteed minimum weekly wage and should attend for work daily. That is to say. whenever g man’s earnings in any week should fall below the guaranteed figure, because there has been insufficient work for him, he should be paid the guaranteed figure.
That is something which I want to see adopted, because then the waterside worker would have permanent employment, and many of the present difficulties would be overcome. The Tait report directs attention to the great fluctuations in shipping, and expresses the opinion that this is one of the reasons why it is not possible to have permanent employment for waterside workers. I have here figures showing the quotas which have been allotted for the six capital cities. In Brisbane, in 1949, the quota was 2,399. In the years from 1950 to 1955, the respective quotas were 2,700, 2,700, 2,700, 2,700, 2,700 and 2,470. There obviously was a norm. The registrations of workers in those years were 2,338, 2,492, 2,539, 2,362, 2,172 and 2,247 respectively. The highest registration was 2.539 and the lowest 2,172. It is obvious that 2,000 men would be certain of permanent employment during those years, and the rest would be casuals. In Sydney, during the same period, the highest registration was 7,0S4, and the lowest 6,113. Therefore, 6,000 could be employed permanently, which would be the norm, and the remainder would be casually employed. Waterside workers are human beings like ourselves. If a ship comes in and has to be loaded or unloaded, there is no inducement for them to do the work in the shortest possible time. They will naturally make it last as long as possible in order to obtain the highest amount in wages, and so have fewer days on which they receive only attendance money. If they have permanent employment it will affect their earnings whether they take one, two or three days to do the work. The tendency will be to get the ships turned round more quickly, and that is the object at which the industry should aim. The recruitment of labour will also be given a different aspect. No man wants to be recruited for a casual occupation in which he may or may not be called on for work. But if we have permanent employment on the waterfront, there will be some inducement for men to put their names down for casual employment in order that they may eventually remain permanently on the wharfs.
There were strikes on the waterfront last year because men were called on at 11 a.m. to work, and they wanted to be paid from 8 a.m. The employers would not accede to their requests, and as a consequence, the men went on strike. The result cf those strikes was that 25,170 man-hours were lost. If there were permanent employment on the waterfront, I suggest that such a situation would not occur. The men would be paid on a weekly basis, whatever times they might be’ called upon to work, strikes would not occur, and the turn-round of ships would be facilitated. In his report on the turnrounds of ships in Australian ports, Mr. Henry Basten said -
In the ports of Sydney and Melbourne, the 1 tari ing stevedoring companies could take large numbers of men into their regular employment.
That is evidenced by the figures I have cited -
In Hobart, the three companies could take a fairly large percentage of the whole quota into their regular employment. in Adelaide, the situation is only a little less favorable than in Hobart.
In Fremantle, a low minimum for regular employment would be possible, because work ashore is done by the Harbour Trust and, for each gang employed, the stevedoring canpanies pay many fewer , men than in other ports.
Therefore, on the authority of Mr. Basten, this is a matter which could very profitably be taken up in order to bring a system of permanent employment into effect. The matter of redundancy was mentioned, and I suggest that permanent employment would probably overcome that difficulty and do away with redundancy.
As my time has now almost expired, I must conclude my remarks, but I do reiterate that I am certain that if permanent employment could be instituted in the waterfront industry it would be of considerable value. There should be no intervention by any authority between the employer and the employee. The stevedoring employer should have the authority to conduct his own business, because he knows how many men he wants, what he can do with them, and everything else about the business. Therefore, no authority should come between him and his employees. I regret to have to say that because of the provisions of this bill, and in view of the huge cost of shipping under our present circumstances, I am afraid that I cannot support the measure.
– This bill does not appear to meet the requirements of the people or of any section of the Parliament except the Ministry. It is quite certain that it is most unsatisfactory to the officials and members of the “Waterside “Workers Federation of Australia, and also to the other trade unions that have considered it.
Senator Seward spoke for a considerable time about the measure, mainly referring to its deficiencies, and indicating that he considered that the Government should adopt a more practical approach to waterfront employment. The honorable senator made a very good and careful analysis of the position, and finally summed it up by saying that he believed that the Government had missed the mark in relation to doing anything that would improve labour conditions or the cost of stevedoring on the waterfront.
The Government has called for many reports about this industry, and those reports have been submitted after very extensive inquiries. However, if one compares those reports with the legislation at present before the Senate, one arrives at the conclusion that the Government has called for these reports merely to present a front to the Australian public, and has then completely disregarded them. The Government has acted on its own initiative, giving no attention to important matters raised in the several expensive and comprehensive reports made available to them by their own direction. That attitude, in view of the statistics mentioned by Senator Seward, will not help to improve the waterfront position in any way.
Senator Seward proved that there has been a reduction of output and an increase in the cost of handling goods by stevedoring companies. No action has been taken by the Government to check the unprecedented rise in shipping freight costs. An examination of the relevant figures will disclose that, of the total costs involved in importing and exporting goods to and from Australia, stevedoring charges are not a disproportionate part. But the Government has taken no notice at all of that tremendous increase. The AttorneyGeneral (Senator Spicer) claimed that the bill had been brought in after full consultation with the Waterside Workers Federation, and after giving consideration to the opinion of the Australian Council of Trade Unions. I point out that all the reports that we have had from those sections of industry indicate that they have the strongest objection to this bill, and the way in which it is designed to operate.
The Waterside Workers Federation has stated that without doubt it considers this bill will have an adverse and punitive effect on its members, and will tend to break down the authority of the union. The measure will introduce into our industrial life some features which honorable senators on this side, and most trade Unionists, thought were dead letters in Australian industry. One such feature is the provision to allow voluntary labour to be called to stand by as a threat to the members of the Waterside Workers Federation who work full time on the wharfs for a livelihood.
In 1954 the Government made an attempt to alter the system of recruitment of labour for waterfront work on the pretext that the supply of labour was insufficient and that the waterfront was being worked uneconomically and ships were being delayed. At that time the Government provided that outside labour should be called for and registered, with a total disregard for the Waterside Workers Federation, but within a very short time negotiations were undertaken with the union in order to get competent labour to work on the wharfs with disregard to their own legislation. Then the system of the recruitment of labour reverted to the same sensible system of allowing the union to decide who should work on the wharfs.
There is no indication in the bill of where the 1954 attempt to curtail the union’s privileges broke down, and I consider that the Government should make some report to the Senate about just what occurred in that regard. I understand that labour was called for but that it was found that many of those who responded were not fit to work on the wharfs. Ultimately the Government had to rely on the union to obtain skilled and competent men for this work. At that time I understand that the Government also discovered that the waterside workers had not caused most of the unsatisfactory conditions in relation to the turn-round of ships that were complained of. The Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge) referred to clause 17 and suggested that it gave the authority the right to investigate and, apparently, to report on other matters which were unsatisfactory on the wharfs. He said that the .authority could report only on such matters as might be calculated to be in the public interest; no power was given to the authority to enforce correction by penalty where the employers or any other section of the stevedoring industry are remiss, but when the waterside workers offend, the bill contains five clauses in which vicious penalties are prescribed to deal with them. That fact was brought to the Minister’s notice very forcibly by the unions, and the following extract from a report by the delegation that met the Minister is worthy of note -
Our objections to these sections have already been set out in other previous matters sufficient to show that no satisfactory reply or justification was forthcoming from the Minister or Mr. Bland in regard to penalty clauses. A half-hearted attempt was made to justify them on the grounds that it was necessary to maintain continuity of work and that in any case the penalties would not be applied if there was no reason to do so.
In regard to the effect of monetary penalties such as those set out in sections 20, 21, 27, 40 and 44, the Minister claimed that monetary penalties were already provided in the existing legislation and because of the alteration in the value of the pound it had been decided to increase amounts to make them more effective. Tt was suggested to the Minister that if this was the Government’s approach to the value of the pound, surely it was just that the basic wage should bc increased in like manner to that of the increased penalties.
Certain figures giving comparative costs on various wharfs were quoted tonight, but Government senators were not fair enough to point out that at the moment the country is suffering from a high rate of inflation for which the waterside workers are not responsible; and it is this inflation which is the real cause of the Government’s present embarrasment
Recruitment of labour has been mentioned. The Government would have introduced this system in 1954 had it been possible to do so, for its policy, if possible, to have standing by a pool of casual labour to act as a threat to those who are permanently engaged on the wharfs; but the state of employment then was -such that a reserve pool could not be established. The establishment of such a pool in these days can only lead to bitterness in the industry. It certainly will not help to promote a greater spirit of cooperation. I agree with Senator Seward that the Government should have taken steps to solve the problem by introducing some system under which waterside workers might enjoy a guaranteed weekly wage. No such attempt has been made, and the Opposition feels that this bill is so devoid of real merit that it is not worthy of amendment. We take the view that it is basically wrong and that no amendment will make it a good bill.
In an attempt to establish some sort of a case for the Government, the Minister for Shipping and Transport cited the case of a ship that brought 10,000 tons of cargo to Australia from the United Kingdom. He stated that stevedoring costs in the United Kingdom were 13 per cent, and that on the same cargo upon its arrival in Western Australia they were 24 per cent. He did not explain that in England the cargo was loaded direct into empty holds, that it was loaded with up-to-date equipment on newly built wharfs and that when the ship arrived in Australia various other factors could operate to increase costs. For instance, the ship may not arrive on time. That would entail a payment for waiting time. Further, the whole cargo is not unloaded at the one time. It is possible that parts would be discharged at various ports. That would add to the cost. Again, in Australia, the equipment is by no means up to date, and the reports furnished to the Government have established the fact that much of the difficulty experienced in unloading ships in Australia results from the fact that cargoes are not loaded according to the port of destination. It often happens that hundreds of tons of cargo have to be shifted before the waterside workers can unload the cargo destined for the port at which the ship happens to be at the particular time. Bad stowing, bad weather conditions, late arrival of ships, and a host of other things all cause trouble in any transport industry, but in shipping in particular. Again, it is well known that stevedoring costs are always lower for loading than for unloading. So, the comparison made by the Minister for Shipping and Transport was unfair.
The Minister also said that the workers understood the full implications of this measure. They certainly do, and I venture the opinion that they will resist to the utmost any attempt to bring to the wharfs any system of volunteer labour which is to be used as a challenge to their right to full employment.
– It is only supplementary labour, which is vastly different from volunteer labour.
– Senator Anderson may call it what he likes. It is supplementary volunteer labour. I suggest that it will be difficult to establish this pool of volunteer labour unless it is made up of persons who are normally engaged in other industries and who are seeking employment outside their ordinary working hours in those other industries. The employment of such labour cannot solve our problems on the waterfront.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid). - 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.
– I refer again to a report of the conference that was held in Melbourne on the 1st June between Mr. Holt and the interstate executive of the Australian Council of Trades Unions before this bill was introduced. The report states -
As an example of the confusion that exists, not only in the Minister’s mind, but even in the minds of those who drafted the bill, it is interesting to record the explanation given by Mr. Bland when Mr. Healy strongly objected to the provisions made in the transitory provisions of clause 6. Clause 19 (1) provides that an order of the authority supersedes an order of the industrial commission. Such an order shall not be made until after the authority has first consulted with a member of the presidential commission. The Federation had already raised strong objection to the above provision because it would enable orders affecting working conditions to be made without the Federation being consulted in any way ; and in fact would be a denial of the right* conferred by the Constitution under Section 51 (xxxv) for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes extending beyond the limits of any one State by conciliation and arbitration.
Both the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge) and the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) have stated that the Waterside Workers Federation thoroughly understood the implications of this measure, and that the provision to enable orders affecting working conditions to be made without the federation being consulted was one of the implications. In this respect, the measure follows the pattern of the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill 1956, under which the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission can intervene in relation to current awards and, without calling evidence, alter the conditions prescribed in those awards. I contend that there has been a very serious departure from practice in giving to a commission authority of that nature.
I cannot see that this bill will result in the improvement of conditions on the waterfront. I admit that the industry is hard to handle, but I do not think that this measure will improve the position. If, as Senator Seward has said, the bill was based on the recommendations of the Tait committee, at least we would have been able to see whether the measure was designed to correct matters stressed by the report to be urgently in need of correction. But the committee has furnished only an interim report. The Government has introduced this measure at a time when it has a majority in thi? chamber to ensure its passage, despite the fact that it will impose on both the Waterside Workers Federation and the industry conditions which, in normal circumstances, would not be entertained by the Senate. Although this measure should be fully discussed in committee, like other important bills, it has been brought before this chamber in the dying hours of the session.
– We will come back next week, if you will.
– I should be here on my own.
– be here.
– The Leader of the Government says that he will come back next week if I will.
– And stay back, too.
– Of course, the Government would stay here next week if it considered the matter sufficiently urgent to warrant its doing so. But 1 am quite sure that the gag will be applied later in this debate, as it has been on many other occasions.
– That is wishful thinking on the part of the honorable senator; he would love us to gag him, but we will not do so - -not yet, anyway.
– This bill should be discussed fully in committee. It is futile for the Opposition to seek at this stage to alter certain provisions of the bill to enable it to work, because it is apparent that the Government will not accept any amendments from this side. By introducing this measure, the Government has, 1 believe, aggravated the position on the waterfront.
– I believe that the measure we are discussing is a very important bill in the history of this Parliament. It is important from the point of view of both the economy of Australia and the defence of this country. I ask the Senate to take notice of a certain remark by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) which, I think, was very important. He said that this bill was based upon the broad structure of the Evatt legislation of 1949. So it is. The measure demands a close examination in the light of every principle for which we stand, as it is designed to establish efficiency and justice on the waterfront. In the first place, it is to be understood that the bill is solely concerned with the organization of the labour force on the waterfront.
The bill contains three main principles which, I think, need examination. First, it constitutes a government authority, an authority of three persons appointed by the Government, with legislative, administrative and arbitral powers which will enable it to intervene between employers and employees. That authority is additional to the jurisdiction of the Arbitration Court, which, as all of us know, is maintained in this country for the general regulation of industrial conditions in employment. But the surprising feature about this bill is, as I shall show by examination of it, that it gives ascendancy to the waterfront authority proposed to be created over and above the Arbitration Court. Thirdly, the bill maintains the statutory monopoly which was given to the Waterside Workers Federation by the acts of 1947 and 1949, with some exceptions, exceptions which, as I shall endeavour to show, are weaker from the point of view of modifying the monopoly than were the exceptions of the legislation of 1947 and 1949.
I want to say one or two preliminary things: First, I regard the waterfront organization as vital to defence. It is not of the slightest use having a navy and deploying troops if the ports of this country are under a control that can stagnate them when a war-time effort is required.
I think that if, as a Government, we came here to destroy communism, we want to recognize that, in the Waterside Workers Federation to-day, the executive power is mainly exercised by Communist executives. I am not imputing communism to the Waterside Workers Federation generally, but one would be recreant to one’s trust if one did not say, on his own admission and on the admission of the supporters of the Australian Labour party in this Senate, that the secretary of the federation, who is undoubtedly the moving power in the federation, is an avowed Communist and is, I believe, working more energetically on the Communist programme than is any other person in this Commonwealth. If one reviews the activities of the Waterside Workers Federation during the last twelve months, particularly the strikes and methods that have been employed, one cannot persuade oneself from the view that it has been a programme completely governed by Communist activity. It has not been designed for the benefit of the members of the Waterside Workers Federation.
I remind honorable senators of a statement of the aforesaid Mr. Healy, made in Brisbane in January of this year, that in respect of the waterside workers’ strike, which had been brought on as a protest against failure to secure margins, “ the employers could save themselves the four million quid which our margins claim will cost by getting peace “ - he implied, from himself. The margins judgment has been delivered. We shall see what the result will be. I cite that matter to instance his attitude to the waterfront organization.
It is interesting to me to recall that, at one time, my political blood was stirred by the onset of the nationalization programme of our political opponents. It will be remembered that, just after the 1940 general election, they brought in legislation, in February 1947, to give complete control of the waterfront industry to a government organization. They adopted that indirect form of nationalization only because they had been taught a lesson in the Airways case in the previous year, and had been shown that they could not go straight out for direct nationalization in the face of section 92 of the Constitution. Is it not a sobering thought that, having piloted the waterfront commission legislation through in February, 1947, in June or July of that year Mr. Chifley issued his famous thirtyseven word pronunciamento to the effect that he was going to nationalize the private trading banks. In October and November of 1947 he put that legislation through the Parliament. Of course, having made the mistake of accommodating Mr. Healy and Mr. Roach on the Waterfront Industry Commission, he found that they were altogether too intransigent for his political purposes, and so, in June, 1949, at the appropriate stage to capture the election in December, 1949, so he thought, he modified his legislation for the waterfront by converting the commission into a board, reducing its membership from six to three and dropping its arbitral powers but maintaining its legis lative and administrative powers, so that that board had control of the waterfront. That was the situation when we came to office.
I have taken a great interest in this matter because my island State considers stevedoring and shipping of especial importance to it. I think I can honestly claim to have had an unremitting interest in the reform of stevedoring legislation. I speak with a good deal of feeling on this occasion although, I hope, suitably subdued. It was a matter of satisfaction to me that the Government took steps to procure a report from a high stevedoring authority, Mr. Henry Basten, which was made available after, I think, some two or three months of inquiry, and presented to the Government. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) chose to say that it was a model report, a model of objective thought. It is a sobering reflection that the Minister for Supply (Mr. Bealey chose to reiterate that view of the Basten report when it appeared that he was supporting this bill in the House of Representatives recently. But the fact is that although Mr. Henry Basten’s work was committed to a Cabinet committee of eight and described as an urgent task, we have not been informed of any decision arrived at by the Government in regard to the report.
The next we knew was that in October. 1954, a bill was brought into the Parliament, the main object of which was to institute the Tait inquiry. The Tait inquiry was started. We were led to expect that it would conclude, so as to enable us to pass judgment on this proposal, by April, 1955, but there was no limitation placed upon the period that the Tait, inquiry might occupy, and it is still going on - I pause only to say, at a cost which I think few of us would condone. Thi» bill is moulded on an interim report from the Tait committee, an interim report which bears internal evidence, unmistakably, of haste in its preparation. 1 believe that anybody who compares tb»Tait committee report with the Basten- report will not be able to disabuse bis mind of the practical, robust impression created by Henry Basten’s proposal, compared with the involved, indefinite and. vacillating rigmarole of the Tait report.
The Tait committee was asked to report upon facts. That expression was introduced into the 1954 act specifically to reserve to this Parliament its independent opportunity for judgment. We did not ask for recommendations from the Tait committee. We asked for a report upon the facts. I am not very proud of the idea that this parliamentary bill is couched in a form simply to give expression to the recommendations of the interim report of that three-man committee, particularly when I remember that the committee itself expressly says that it offers no reasons for its report, that it cannot state its reasons, and that there is no time to state the evidence. Thinking that somebody should be responsible for presenting to the Parliament the evidence upon which the report was based, I requested the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Hoit) to consider a suggestion that some collation of the evidence be made, and that, at least, the main submissions and arguments put by the various parties should be reduced to a summarized form, I suggested not exceeding 30 to 40 foolscap pages. The Minister was good enough to advise me on the 20th April, through the Attorney-General, that -
As the committee proposes in its final report to refer to the facts and circumstances upon which its conclusions are based, I think that Senator Wright would agree that the preparation in the department. of a separate digest of evidence and contentions would, having regard to the dimensions of the task, hardly be justified.
I do not comment upon that. My expectation must he disappointed, but I do understand the reply to mean that a digest of the evidence and arguments has not been made within the department. Therefore, it would appear that we in this House are in as good a position, on the perusal of the Tait report, as the depart ment is to use our judgment upon the propriety of the measure that has been moulded to give expression to the report.
But my disquiet with regard to the report does not end there. I notice in paragraph 90 of the report, which has been brought to the attention of the Senate on two occasions during this session, the most impressive disparagement that the Tait committee chose to express with regard to the functioning of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. It stated -
As long ago as the middle of 1950, both the employers’ organizations and the Federation filed logs of claims with the Arbitration Court. In both cases the log was most comprehensive and claimed the laying down of conditions of employment and of work on the waterfront which covered a very wide area. Since them both logs have been amended and added to from time to time. The Arbitration Court has not yet, six years later, really come to the actual hearing of these logs although it has heard numerous applications with regard to them, and as to particular matters which it has treated as urgent has entered upon a hearing, and in some cases made orders. . . . The Government and the Arbitration Court cannot be regarded as free from responsibility for this long delay in the hearing of the logs and the laying down of a new award and a comprehensive code for the industry. This delay accounts, we find, in no small measure for the chaotic conditions we find existing in the industry.
– That is fair comment.
– It is untrue and ill-founded comment, such as to show that the whole report cannot be relied upon as a record of fact, especially when you remind yourself that in the eighteen months during which the Tait committee was sitting, it only had to telephone the registrar of the Arbitration Court for the actual facts. He was probably not more than a few blocks away in the same city in which the committee has been sitting. I asked a question of the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) on the 15th May last, and on the 13th June he was good enough to provide an answer, which included this information from the Industrial Registrar of the court -
No evidence has been tendered before the Committee of Inquiry by any officer of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration.
The Attorney-General, having conveyed that information from the registrar to me, added in his letter -
The logs of claims filed by the employers’ and employees’ organizations in the middle of 1950 were withdrawn by the respective parties early in 1954, following an announcement by the Honorable the Chief Judge to the parties that he intended to continue the hearing of the claims until completion; accordingly, ‘t *s entirely wrong to suggest, as is shown in the recital appearing in paragraph 90 of the Interim Report of the Committee of Inquiry, that these logs of claims are still awaiting hearing six years after their filing in the Court’s Registry.
The perusal of the proceedings before the Court in Stevedoring matters between the middle of 1950 and early in 1954 (when claims were withdrawn) discloses that lengthy adjournments in hearings took place on several occasions in consequence, at times, of the nonavailability of representatives of the parties to be present at the hearings-
I believe my recollection is that Mr. Healy, on one occasion, was abroad for many months.
Nevertheless, during the aforesaid period, matters which were regarded by the claimants us of particular urgency, including some outside the log of claims, wore brought on for hearing by the Court. The 7th Annual Report of the Honorable the Chief Judge, for the period ended 30th September, 1954, shows that a considerable number of days were spent by the Court on matters relating to the Stevedoring Industry Act, namely, year 1951-1952 - 72 days; vear 1952-1953 - 73 days; and year 1953-1954-118 days.
Suggestions made by the Court for the simultaneous hearing by several Judges during their vacational periods of waterfront matters were rejected by the parties.
Tile logs of claims presently before the Court were filed in the Registry in June, 1954.
Conferences took place between the parties during the latter part of 1954, and early in 1955, the Honourable Mr. Justice Ashburner intimated to the parties that following consultation with the Chief Judge, he would be available to proceed without interruption with matters relating to the Stevedoring Industry.
Shortly following this intimation, the representatives of the Waterside Workers’ Federation of Australia sought to have matters relating to their log of claims, except those regarded at. urgent, such as sling loads and marginal rates of pay, stood over generally until the realisation of the Committee’s Inquiry which it was estimated would finish not earlier than the end of 1955.
The Court refused to accede to this request, but granted a further request of the Federation for an adjournment of approximately four weeks. Since early in 1955, the Court has heard the matters originally claimed as urgent by the Federation, namely, sling loads and marginal rates, and in continuation of the hearing has completed recently the more urgent matterarising out of the logs of claims of the Feder, tion and the employers.
But for my disclosure of these facts in vindication of the Arbitration Court, that court might still have been under th,stigma - very helpful to Communist propaganda, which no doubt was the inspiration of the information that was imparted to the Tait committee - that the court had slept on a log of claims from .1950 until 1956. That is most damaging to the Arbitration Court, and we should take that as an instance of how our institutions can be disparaged to their very great disadvantage.
Take one other instance of a very interesting fact which is otherwise on record. In paragraph 21 of the Tait report reference is made to the agreement that was reached between the various parties following upon the abortive recruitment legislation of October, 1954. In paragraph 21, in stating that situation, the Tait committee chose to say -
What did follow the amending legislation was an agreement in February, 1955, after negotiations between the employers and the Federation and the Australian Council of Trades Unions -
Then, in parenthesis, are the words the Board not being a party.
If one looks to the sixth annual report of the Australian stevedoring industry board, at page 10, one will find that it was reported by the board to Parliament - information which is available without the assistance, and, indeed, contrary to the finding of the Tait committee - that there were discussions between the parties, and finally, on the 13th February, 1955, at a conference presided over by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) and attended by representatives of the employers, the Australian Council of Trades Unions, the union, and the board, agreement was reached between the employers and the union in relation to the procedure, and all the particulars of the agreement are set out.
So, I ask leave to say that those inaccuracies - I put them no worse than that - do not inspire one upon matters easily capable of check to place infinite reliance upon the Tait committee report. The report has been submitted to the judgment of the Minister. How should one be guided by the Minister’s view? The Minister has been in charge of this matter since the late Senator George MacLeay was unhappily relieved of this responsibility early in 1950. I have said before, and I repeat, that the administration during that time seems to fit entirely Winston Churchill’s words, “ resolute on irresolution, determined on drift”.
When the Minister for Labour and National Service said in the House of Representatives last week, during his second-reading speech, that the Government did not rush into an overhaul of this legislation, I do not claim that he overstated the position. Then, it has to be remembered that the first remedy we applied to the situation was the recruitment legislation of October. 1954. When the waterside workers challenged the passage of that legislation through the Parliament they made the issue one between a Communist union and the Parliament. I, therefore, supported the legislation of the Parliament; but it was immediately abandoned by the Minister in favour of the compromise agreement to which I have referred. When I read a comment in the following terms, I feel constrained to agree with it -
The handling of the waterside labour question certainly does not inspire confidence in anybody. Mr. Holt treats comrade Healy and his lieutenants as if they were courtly and trustworthy old gentlemen. The stevedoring inquiry after eighteen months’ investigation has come up with some platitudes which anybody in the industry could have written out for it before it started. The only arresting feature of its report is that it had only half done its work. It has made the tortoise look like a tin hare. The Government is so eager to get off the mark, however, that it seems to have got itself tangled up with the problem at the tape. The kindly minister who feels that he can deal on courtly terms with Communist leadership, as if he were negotiating with a fellow member of the Melbourne Club, is wasting his time. He is merely involuntarily working for the Communist cause.
– From where does that come?
– That is from The Harbour. The next thing to which I wish to address myself is a reminder as to the way we have introduced this legislation. A3 the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) has said, it undeniably adopts the broad structure of the Labour legislation of 1947. We all know that national security regulations were introduced as the result of a join report of Sir Owen Dixon, Sir Thomas Gordon and Mr. Jim Healy for the constitution of a war-time organization. The report did not overlook the recommendation that that organization should cease when hostilities ceased, but the Labour Government of the day employed Mr. Justice Foster in 1946 to inquire into the matter. He came forward with a suggestion in a report which shows that he was startingly intimate with the constitutional difficulties that had been revealed in the Airlines case. The results of his findings were put into the 1947 legislation and adapted in 1949.
It is interesting, if honorable senators will consult Hansard, on pages 555 and 561, to see what was said by the Minister for Supply (Mr. Howard Beale). He said that Mr. Justice Foster’s report had attached to it a draft bill prepared by Mr. James Healy. I have it on the authority of Mr. Beale’s speech that the Labour legislation of 1947 and 1949 was closely taken from Mr. Jim Healy’s bill. We have been reminded by Senator Seward to-night that those who introduced the bill claimed for it that it was a bold experiment. Well, the experiment was direct intrusion by the Government, first in virtue of the defence power and, in the post-war period, in virtue of the trade and commerce power, into the relationship between employer and employee. If it were an experiment, what has the experience been ? It has been one of chaotic waste, indiscipline and a mountain of sea costs almost ruinous both to our coastal and overseas trade. I submit that has been the case under the administration of a board which shows the futility of the most fear-stricken agency of government. Into that institution the Government has injected from £2,000,000 to £3,000,000 by way of administrative costs. In taking such guidance as we may from the judgment of the Minister let me remind the Senate of one or two matters which the Minister for Labour and National Service chose to say in 1947. At page 596 of Hansard the Minister said -
This bill is bad in principle, and contains many bad administrative practices. It seeks to perpetuate so much ti,at is repugnant to honorable members that those of us who claim to speak for a free democracy should not tolerate it. The House should reject it.
At page 59S he said -
If the bill did nothing more than that-
That is, extinguish the life of the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union - it should be condemned out of hand, but it does much more. It provides that, henceforth, the only persons who can obtain employment on the waterfront are members of the Waterside Workers Federation.
At page 600 the record reads -
I refer to the preservation of the arbitration system . . . This bill is a direct attack on the arbitration system . . . This bill is a continuation of the policy of “ divide and smash “ advocated by Communists in their determination to destroy our arbitration system.
I remind honorable senators that the present bill gives ascendency to orders of the waterfront authority over awards of the Arbitration Court. It is important to notice that, so far as the clauses linking the Arbitration Court with the proposed authority can be interpreted, my interpretation is that they give ascendency to the authority over the awards of the court. At page 602, Mr. Harold Holt said-
The principles and purposes of the measure are obnoxious, and, therefore, should be rejected by the Parliament.
When the succeeding bill, in 1949, was before the legislature on the 5th July, the present Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) who, on that occasion, was leading the debate for the Opposition on the bill - in days which were pregnant in the political history of Australia, when some of us devoted ourselves to a cause which we thought at that time would be of undying permanence and to the everlasting advantage of Australia - in response to the claim of the Labour Government that this was a bold legislative experiment, said -
Far from being a bold legislative experiment, as the Minister claimed, that was a cowardly legislative experiment. Instead of revealing courage on the part of the Government in venturing into a new field it represented on the part of the Government a surrender in three important industries which are vital to the economy of the Commonwealth and the successful conduct of our trade and commercial affairs. It was a surrender by the Commonwealth to Communist pressure.
At page 1970, he said -
Any one who has followed the events of the last two years since the Parliament passed that legislation-
That was referring to the parent legislation of 1947-
On the same page, he referred to monopolies, and said that the monopoly given to the Waterside Workers Federation was unique in Australian legislation. At page 1976, he added that the legislation was obnoxious because it interposed a government organism between employer and employee, thus constituting what he then described - I think expressively - as the “ infernal triangle “.
Taking such guidance as we can from the report and from the Minister’s remarks, the question is, what has been our experience since these organisms have been operating? This instrument was condemned in forthright terms by Mr. Basten - a man. of some practical experience. At pages 13 and 14 of his report, he went on record as recommending to the Government in January, 1952-
In these circumstances, it is not to be imagined that the man can feel he has any contractual relation with the succession of stevedoring companies who have been his employers and if he concludes that the employer in the industry is a legal fiction he may be very close to the truth. This is, indeed, casual employment and it is not surprising that the relations between employer and employee continue to be weak and mistrustful.
The organization of the industry thus permits the stevedore foremen to exercise little discipline and even less leadership in respect of the succession of men of whom they are in charge. That the foremen are able to exercise any control at all is moTe likely than not attributable to the fact that there still remains in the industry a substantial number of older men who have become accustomed in the past to the idea that one of the duties of management is to give instructions and to see that they are carried out. The average age of the Waterside Worker in Australia is 43.4 years. The men who have experience of this truism will, as the years go by, gradually retire from the industry and it is difficult to escape the conclusion that with their departure the authority of the foremen will diminish still further and the industry will reach a pass in which it will become all but impossible for management to carry- out this important part of its functions. The picture is sombre, and it is certain that action to prevent further deterioration ought not to be delayed.
Action ought not to be delayed. Of course, every one who has read Mr. Basten’s report will call to mind the sentence which is printed in its foreword to the effect that he found unanimous agreement that conditions on the waterfront were bad.
Well now, that being so, as far as one can rely on the scrutiny in the Tait report, and as it is the basis of the legislation, let us see whether or not it found that this organism was an organism of effectiveness during the period. Let us consider a few of the references made in the Tait report. Paragraph 10 states -
We have had strong representation made to us on behalf of the shipowning and stevedoring interests, ‘ based on the evidence, that the present Board has completely failed properly to carry out its functions in regard to fixation of quotas, and ensuring that sufficient waterside workers are registered to fill quotas, and as to redundancy.
Paragraph 11 reads -
In regard to quotas, the Committee finds on the evidence that the Board has been dilatory in dealing with the shipowners’ applications for increases in the quotas, has given too much consideration to the objections of the Federation to such increases, and has failed to act on any clear principle or standard. The Board allowed the quota figure at some ports to remain unaltered for lengthy periods after it should have been altered and indeed, on the Board’s own admission, had become unreal.
Paragraph 12 reads -
We realize that the Board’s difficulties in regard to quota fixation were bound up with the difficulties encountered in regard to recruitment, . . . the Board . . . pursued an uncertain and vacillating course and hesitated to fix a new quota unless and until it could obtain agreement between the two parties.
Paragraph 13 reads - . . the efficiency of stevedoring operations has been adversely affected by the absence of any denned standard or principle upon which the “ quota “ for any port is to be fixed.
Paragraph 15 reads -
We find that the Board allowed the quota at many ports to remain unaltered for long periods and adopted a policy of not considering alterations unless application was made to it, and these facts not only resulted in the quota figure often becoming unreal, hut tended to weaken the Board’s position when it was pressing for recruits to fill the quota. . . .
Then we come to a very important paragraph - paragraph 17 - in which the committee reminded us of the important section in the 1949 legislation to which I hope I shall later have time to refer. That is section 27, which prohibited unregistered persons from being employed except with the consent of the board) except at a port at which a sufficient number of registered members of the Waterside Workers Federation was not available seeking work. The committee then asked what was the test of sufficiency, and continued in paragraph 17 as follows : - . . the failure to use unregistered labour . . . was due not so much to any legal complications . . . but to the industrial strength of the Federation, and the fear of general stoppages following such use. This applies both to employers . . . and to the Board . . .
The committee then mentioned firm measures in the form of a decision by an independent body, and referred to section 21 (2.) of the 1949 act, which prohibited the registration of other than federation members except at such ports as the board determined. The report goes on to state that the board has never made any such determination, and the real reason for the board’s inaction was the strength of the federation. The report continues -
The result of the failure to use either section 27 or section 21 (2) has been that the Federation has enjoyed what is in effect a monopoly of the right to supply labour to the industry.
In paragraph 18, the committee said -
During the period prior to November 1954, the registered strength at most ports was consistently below quota, and the Committee is satisfied on the evidence that the Federation through the action of its branches, on occasions impeded and on occasions delayed the filling of the quota and even the raising of registered strength up to demands short of the quota . . .
Paragraph 20 reads -
The committee finds that the allegation that the Board failed to fulfil its statutory function “ to provide at each port sufficient waterside workers for stevedoring operations “… is well founded . . .
Then, omitting other matters, I desire to refer the Senate to paragraph 40 of the report in which the committee records that the board did not enforce transfers of gangs, although that was provided for in the award. It also stated that the absence of that system contributed to inefficiency. In paragraph 46 we read that the board desired to introduce press and radio pick-up; but it considered that it could not introduce the system generally unless it could obtain the agreement of th, federation. Paragraph 82 reads -
The committee finds that the present Board has acted in the matter of disciplinary action against waterside workers without having lab! down any standards of code of behaviour, and the absence of a defined standard or code hailed to uncertainty, irritation and reluctance to accept decisions, and to disputes.
Paragraph 84 reads -
During the whole of the period of the Board’s administration there has been a continual record of disputes and stoppages of work on the waterfront . . .
I need not refer again to paragraph 90. because I have already dealt with that,, but there is one part of the report that: indicates a state of affairs which, J believe, the Administration would find difficult to justify. That is the record of the commission in paragraph 89, which reads -
The result has been that the award and these orders are in a state of utmost confusion, and indeed we found, upon entering upon the inquiry, that no one was in a position to tell us with any certainty what was the operative provision of the award plus the orders as to numerous matters. In course of our inquiry the Board caused to be prepared a consolidation of the award and the orders, which entailed a great deal of research and has been most valuable, but which is acknowledged to be not necessarily authoritative, nor complete . . .
That is the report of the committee, after the board has administered this industry for some eight years, when one would think that the most elemental idea of administration would prompt the board, when taking over the responsibility of a confused industry, to assemble within the first two months all the documents that constituted the conditions and terms under which men were expected to work. Therefore, if this were an experiment in 1949 I do not have to use my judgment : I take for what it is worth the report of the Tait committee as a striking indication of the inefficiency of the board.
The next matter to which I shall address myself is the principle underlying this legislation, and I shall make but passing reference to it. My colleagues will be interested to know that the federal council of the Liberal party passed a resolution this year that in its opinion the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board should be abolished. A statement that 1 recently read in those terms appeals to my ideas of principles. It is -
It does not seem that although the problem is a complex one the solutions are nearer realization because of the establishment of inquiries and the receipt of reports. In fact it may well .be that a resolute government action unhampered by compromise conclusions arrived at after protracted inquiries and observation would go further towards removing the present calamitous circumstances on the waterfront than any other method.
If my colleagues will look at paragraphs 97, 79 and 69 of the Tait report, where reference is made to the necessity, if this organization is accepted, of surrendering freedom, we might remind ourselves of a now politically famous statement made by the late Mr. Chifley, that if Australia were to be developed every labourer could not expect to see the town clock each morning, or hold his wife’3 hand every night. Mr. Tait has conclusively shown that the acceptance of this organization involves the surrender of the right of control which is synonymous with the very term “ employer “ and which Mr. Basten said was so essential to effective work that we should consider whether we are causing decay in the functioning of the stevedoring industry or whether we will promote efficiency by this bill.
Then, I remind the senate of what Mr. Basten said as to the position being capable of deteriorating into one of complete direction of labour, which, he said, would not be tolerated. In this respect, it fills one with no satisfaction to find that the word “ control “ has been dropped from the expression of the first function of the new authority. The old authority was expressed to have as its first function the regulation and control of stevedoring operations. The present authority is to regulate stevedoring operations. Anybody who cares to peruse paragraph 99 of the Tait committee’s report, where it says that emphasis should be on regulation rather than on control, will see that it irresistibly implied that regulation, as everybody knows, means control; and the dropping of the word “ control “ is little more than an alteration of phraseology.
The importance of this point is brought out by reference to the judgment of Mr. Justice Ashburner on the sling loads, to which two references were made by the Minister for Labour and National Service during his second-reading speech in the House of Representatives. One might infer from that speech that the theme of the judge’s reasons was an ardent espousal of the idea of organizational control. Without quoting at length from that judgment, I merely wish to say that the judge went on record as saying that the first attempts of the new board were to create a sling-loads order which fixed the quantity of cargo for every specified circumstance. The judge thought that was unwise, and he referred to the fact that sling-loads at many ports are disgracefully low. He referred in particular to the port of Launceston and went on to emphasize that he would not fix any specified quantity for a sling-load because the quantity which was appropriate for a proper sling-load in proper circumstances was a matter for the judgment of the stevedore in charge of the operations, emphasizing again the essential need for maintaining the authority of the person in charge of the operation and not having it subjugated to a government board.
The next matter to which I wish to advert is the relationship between the proposed authority and the Arbitration Court. If honorable senators will refer to sub-sections (3.) and (4.) of section 84 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, they will see that it is there provided that the arbitration commission shall not make an award or order in the exercise of its powers in relation to the stevedoring industry which, in the opinion of the commission, will be inconsistent with an order of the authority unless it has first consulted the chairman of the authority and the chairman has notified the commission that the authority has agreed to the making of the order or award. Subsection (4.) says that an award or order made by the commission in the exercise of its powers under this provision, with the agreement of the authority under subsection (3.), has effect notwithstanding anything inconsistent contained in the order of the authority, and the order of the authority is to that extent of no effect. (Extension of time granted.~ Clause 19 of this bill provides that - (1.) Subject to sub-section (4.) of section eighty-four of the Conciliation and Aribtration Act 1904-1950, an order of the Authority has effect notwithstanding anything inconsistent therewith contained in an award of the Commission . . . and the award of the Commission is to the extent of the inconsistency, of no effect.
Sub-clause (2.) of the same clause provides that the authority shall not make an award which, in its opinion, is inconsistent with an award of the commission unless it has consulted with and obtained the agreement of the commission or the Arbitration Court. In the first place, opinions might differ, and if the opinion of the commission is that there is no inconsistency it may make an order which will be interpreted by another court as being entirely inconsistent. “With this legislation, there is no link-up necessarily at all, and then, unless there is some special virtue attached to the introductory words of clause 19 of the Stevedoring Industry Bill making the provision subject to sub-section (4.) of section 84 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, the orders of the authority take effect and override the awards of the Arbitration Court. In that respect, I remind myself of the significance that we once attached to what we said was Communist policy to divide the Arbitration Court and smash it; and the disintegration of the Arbitration Court system in this country would be a great disservice to the country. I have no information, but I have a shrewd feeling, that so far from there being any change in the organization, there is not going to be any change in the chief personnel of the new authority. The atmosphere seems to tell me that Mr. Hewitt who has presided over this state of affairs of which I have react the record in the Tait report will preside over the new authority.
The next matter is perhaps more significant. It is claimed for the present bill that by providing for short-term registrants for seasonal requirements, and by providing for sudden occurences by the employment of unregistered persons, the new authority will be enabled to exercise powers which were not available to the old one. I submit that, quite clearly, this bill restricts and does not expand the proposed authority’s powers in that respect. If the Senate is interested to turn to the paragraph upon which Mr. Tait laid emphasis, section 21 of the Stevedoring Industry Act 1949, it will be seen that it was wholly at the discretion of the board under the old act whether or not a registry for waterside workers would be set up at any port. Mr. Tait went on record as saying that the board never had determined the ports at which registries should not be established. Under this measure, it is obligatory on the authority to set up registries at all ports where stevedoring operations are carried on.
The second point is, that the new authority does not have expanded powers, but has restricted powers. This is a matter of substance rather than of legal interpretation, and it depends on section 27 of the 1949 act. I remind the Senate that, under the 1949 act, the prohibition against the employment of unregistered persons applied except with the consent of the board, and the board was entitled to give its consent to the employment of unregistered members at any time, and in any circumstances. Under the new legislation, the situation is that the authority will only be so entitled, as a matter of substance, whatever the confused state of the law says under the new bill, in cases provided for specifically - short-term registrations, and the sudden occurrences that are referred to in clause 40. And then, what is still more important, sub-section (2.) of section 27 of the old act made specific provision that nothing in that sub-section should prevent, the engagement for employment of a person as a waterside worker at a port at which a sufficient number of registered workers was not available. The Tait committee’s report recorded that the board never exercised that power. Mr. Basten told us that the board should keep it in mind with a view to exercise, but even since his report was furnished, it has never been exercised.
The point I make is, that the 1949 act gave a more ample power to employ unregistered personnel than does the bill now before us. Let me say, in order to make myself quite clear, that that is not a matter necessarily of legal interpretation. Anybody who reads a bill in which old section 27 is reprinted, followed immediately by a provision that on occasions of sudden occurrences unregistered waterside workers may be employed, would not attempt to say that the new authority would permit unregistered waterside workers to be employed except in those cases particularized in that provision. If I have made my point rather hurriedly, I hope that it is none the less clear. Since 1949, the board has failed, not for want of legal authority, but because of fear of the industrial strength of the federation. So I find little satisfaction in the involved and confused bill now before us, designed to square-rig this new legislation to an outfit that it does not fit at all - a square hole for a round peg-
– The honorable senator means a square peg for a round hole?
– I know that that is the usual expression; I have used an inverted form of it.
– That is different.
– This bill wants to be different. It wants to surround the Chifley legislation with a little scaffolding.
I suggest that what we want for the waterfront is one of three methods. We do not want an independent government organism, with power to regulate the whole of the stevedoring operations, in conflict with the Arbitration Court. What we want is either an administrative bureau as a part of the registry of the Arbitration Court, under the special responsibility of the judge who is assigned to this industry, to administer the registry of waterfront labour, to establish the quotas, to provide for recruitment,’ to make the allocations of labour and to pay the attendance money. It is already provided in pending legislation that the Arbitration Court has power to make provision for co-operative contracting systems, such as Senator Cole referred to in his speech, and to provide for piecework. I remind myself that 90 per cent, of the work in the Thames is done by piece-work, on the basis of free selection, which is still very highly prized by the lumpers there. I also remind myself that there should be provision for secret ballots to be taken on stoppages. That should be accompanied by a vigorous loan policy in order to supply money to the States to enable them to put their port facilities, wharfs and equipment, in order. That is the responsibility of the States, I know, but in an industry which is so important as this one, it is of great national importance that the ports of this country are brought up to date as quickly as possible, and money supplied for that purpose would be very well employed.
If that method is not acceptable, the second scheme that should be accepted is one having a purely administrative body, parallel to the New Zealand body, with administrative powers only, which could be set up to administer the functions of registration, quota, recruitment, allocation, and payment of attendance money; or, alternatively, as was suggested by the employers to the Tait committee, the establishment of co-operative companies having branches in all ports, created by the employers, under whose direction these administrative provisions could be carried out.
Just in conclusion, may I take leave to remind the Senate that these views are in accordance with the experience in New Zealand. I ask the Senate’s permission to make a brief reference to the report of the royal commission that was held there in 1954. I wish only to refer to the report of Sir Robert Kennedy, a Justice of the Supreme Court, who made one report. At the moment, I am not able to say whether the report of his fellow commissioners differed in this respect or not. My recollection is that it did not differ materially. At paragraph 322 of the report, the judge stated the functions that still remained to the New Zealand commission in 1954. They were, first, that the labour bureaux were taken over or established by the commission; secondly, that central pay offices were taken over or established; thirdly, that a system of co-operative contracting was imposed on the industry; fourthly, that the commission attended to the provision of amenities and levied moneys for all of these purposes; and fifthly, that it commenced the preparation of a statistical record. Reference to paragraph 328 of the judge’s report shows that when the first New Zealand organization was created in the Labour days of 1940, it consisted of a small body of practical men with waterfront experience. The judge said, “ Then came a chairman, with representatives of either side, and finally, a sol<commissioner who, without disrespect to one of undoubted capacity, might be regarded as a civil servant”. The judge went on to say that, in the Labour days of 1948, the New Zealand Government found it necessary to deprive the commission of judicial and legislative powers and to reduce it simply to administrative functions. The judge said that that was as he thought it should be, because it was impossible for a body whose work had largely become ‘ administrative to do judicial and legislative work.
The situation in New Zealand, as the annual reports show, is that in 1954 there were no stoppages of work through industrial disputes. There were 6,304 man-hours lost, of a total of 13,000,000 man-hours, and in 1955, there was an all-time record distribution of profits earned under the cooperative contracting system. The sum of £929,760 was distributed amongst the waterside workers, equivalent to ls. 93/4d an hour. There were no stoppages whatever in that year because of industrial disputes. To indicate the improvement in output that has been achieved by the reformation of their organization, I point out that, in 1950-51, they had 7,91.1 workers on the job, who put through 8,348,000 tons, or an average of 1,055 tons per man per annum. In 1954-55, they had 6,501 workers, or 1,400 fewer, and they put through 2,000,000 tons more - 10,435,000 tons - or an average of 1,605 tons per worker per annum, or an increase from 1,055 tons to 1,605 tons in the matter of four years. I remind honorable senators that, according to Mr. Justice Ashburner’s judgment which was delivered on Monday last, the comparative figure for Australia to-day is only 1,250 tons per man per annum, which has improved from 1,157 during the last few years. So that the New Zealand experience is, I think, strong confirmation of the benefit that would accrue from the adoption of their system in this country.
Mr. Deputy President, I am obliged to the Senate for its patience in allowing me to continue so long. It is not a pleasant task that I have essayed. I regret to say that I am unable to support the bill. I reject it because I believe that government regulation of an employer and employee relationship, in addition to, and inconsistent with, the arbitration court system, will give a confusion of administration and will do nothing to promote efficiency in the industry. I reject the idea of monopoly, which is unique, I think, not only in Australian legislation but also in any other legislation that I can find, being given to the Waterside Workers Federation, although that monopoly is modified by new and ineffective exceptions. I think it is particularly important not to create this authority giving power to the federation when it is undoubtedly under Communist control.
Thursday, 21 June 1956
– Senator Wright has made a very critical survey of practically all phases of the stevedoring industry. To my mind, he illustrated how untimely this measure is, how mischievous it is, what a halfbaked measure it is, and how biased and discriminatory it is. Honorable senators who have supported the views of the Government in this matter have shown a complete lack of understanding of the trade union movement of Australia.
Because they have the numbers, both in this chamber and the House of Representatives, and by that means they may give effect to their views, they seem to underestimate the vast strength of the trade union movement outside this Parliament. That movement has declared itself to be opposed to this measure, and it also has declared, through the Australian Council of Trade Unions, its support of the Waterside Workers Federation in objecting to the discriminatory nature of the bill.
The Government claims to have a man.date for many matters that have been mentioned in this chamber in recent weeks. Perhaps it has a liberal idea of the term “ mandate “, but I assure honorable senators opposite that the trade union movement has a very long history of successfully dealing with attacks on it:fundamental principles. Throughout this bill there are attacks on the basic principles of trade unionism as it has been developed in this country over the years. I now ask for leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Motion (by Senator O’sullivan i agreed to -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn to 10 a.m. this day.
Senate adjourned at 12.30 a.m. (Thursday).
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 19 June 1956, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1956/19560619_senate_22_s8/>.