23rd Parliament · 2nd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Assent to the following bills reported: -
Customs Tariff Bill (No. 3) 1960. Customs Tariff (Canadian Preference) Bill (No. 2) I960.
Customs Tariff (Canada Preference) Bill 1960. Customs Tariff (New Zealand Preference) Bill (No. 2) 1960.
Customs Tariff (Federation of Rhodesia and
Nyasaland Preference) Bill (No. 2) 1960. Excise Tariff Bill (No. 2) 1960.
– Has the Minister for National Development seen a press statement allegedly made by the Prime Minister of New Zealand, to the effect that Consolidated Zinc Corporation Limited has undertaken to establish aluminium smelters near Otago, Southland, in the South Island, at an estimated cost of £160,000,000? Has the Minister also read that the company proposes to obtain its bauxite supplies from Weipa, north Queensland? Can the Minister inform me of the shareholding interests of Consolidated Zinc Corporation Limited in Australasia, the United States of America, and the United Kingdom? Is it the Minister’s belief that the output from a smelting project estimated to cost £160,000,000 would cause a comparatively small plant such as that at Bell Bay to become redundant? Does the Minister also believe that the production from the project contemplated in New Zealand would preclude the economical production of aluminium in Queensland by any company?
– I have seen the statement attributed to the New Zealand Prime Minister, Mr. Nash, in reference to the proposal to build a smelter in New Zealand. That proposal, as I understand it, is but part of a general, overall plan that without doubt takes due care of the position of the Bell Bay smelter. The Consolidated Zinc proposal is to increase the size of that smelter forthwith to permit an annual production of 28,000 tons, and a further increase in production to 40,000 tons is contemplated. In those circumstances, it is just not sensible to think that any smelter would be built that would undermine the trade of the Tasmanian smelter. I do not propose to comment at length. A lot of water is running under the bridges.
– Very dirty water!
– Very good, cleat water, which will be for the benefit of Australia, as will become manifest in the not distant future.
– 1 ask the Minister for National Development a supplementary question. Having regard to the fact that in the agreement between the Queensland Government and Commonwealth Aluminium Corporation Proprietary Limited there is a complete prohibition upon sending bauxite out of Queensland, except to Bell Bay, will the Government be prepared to support that prohibition by prohibiting the export of bauxite from Weipa, first, until Australian requirements are met, and secondly, until Consolidated Zinc Corporation Limited establishes an aluminium smelter in Queensland or elsewhere in Australia? Does the Government recognize that it is important not to export employment opportunities? Does it acknowledge the difference that the export of aluminium, at a cost of about £270 a ton, as against the export of bauxite at a few pounds a ton, would make to our international payments problem?
– With respect, I doubt the accuracy of the statement of the Leader of the Opposition that there is in the agreement between the Queensland Government and the Commonwealth Aluminium Corporation, or Comalco, as it is called, a prohibition on the export of bauxite. My recollection, speaking from memory and subject to correction, is that the obligation on Comalco is to erect a smelter somewhere in Australia, within a stated period of time, and that if it fails in that obligation the Queensland Govornment has the right to restrict the area held under title by Comalco. I have no recollection of any prohibition on the export of bauxite and, indeed, when one thinks of the vastness of this project, it seems that it would be a quite impracticable embargo to impose, because we could never hope within the foreseeable future to consume within Australia all the products of that bauxite. In the development of the scheme, there must be intermediary stages at which various products will be exported, regardless of the final conclusion.
As to the othei parts of the honorable senator’s question, it is hardly possible to do justice to them by answering them offhand, except to make the point that the whole basis of the aluminium industry is the availability of power at a cheap rate, so that an article may be produced at a competitive price. We are aware that a hydro-electric project in New Zealand which provides a far more attractive basis than is available in Australia has been examined. This proposal will not affect the development of Bell Bay, nor will it affect the development of Weipa, lt is a part of one of the biggest schemes that Australia has had the good fortune to be able to develop.
– Why export it?
– Because we simply could not use ali the bauxite that can be produced in Australia. Are we to buy it and put it in cages or store it somewhere?
– No, buy it and sell it to the New Zealanders.
– Be sensible.
– By way of a further supplementary question, I ask the Minister whether he will refer to clause 18 of the agreement between the Queensland Government and Comalco. I suggest that he will there find a provision that no bauxite is to be exported from Weipa out of Queensland except to Bell Bay, without the consent of the Governor in Council.
– Obviously Senator McKenna ‘has recently examined the document. I would not dispute the matter without doing the same. Whilst the strict terms of the document may be as Senator McKenna has indicated, I take leave to reserve my judgment as to their practical application.
– Will the Leader of the Government in the Senate, as Minister representing the Prime Minister or in his capacity as Minister for National Development, please let me know what stage has been reached in negotiations with the
Premier of South Australia regarding the proposition recently put forward by Sir Thomas Playford for the construction of a huge river Murray dam near Renmark, in South Australia?
– I give this reply to Senator Laught: The. Premier of South Australia has written to the Prime Minister. His letter is being considered by the Prime Minister.
– I preface my question, which is addressed to the Minister for Civil Aviation, by pointing out that last week I was in an aircraft that had taken off from the Royal Australian Air Force aerodrome at Newcastle, but which had to return on one engine and make an emergency landing. Where civil aircraft use Royal Australian Air Force airfields on which there are no emergency landing facilities for civil aircraft, can the Minister arrange, for the Royal Australian Air Force to provide fire and ambulance equipment to minimize possible danger to passengers?
– The question involves Royal Australian Air Force and civil aviation procedures. I should like to look at the question more closely before giving a specific answer. I do know that where there is joint use of an airport fire precautions and other precautions for the safety of passengers are worked out and a certain procedure is adopted; but, as T have indicated, I should like an opportunity to examine the question so that I may answer it more precisely.
– I address my question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, in that capacity, or in his capacity as Minister for National Development. It relates to the very important announcement by the Premier of Western Australia on Friday last to the effect that that State had entered into an agreement with the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited for the establishment of steel works at Kwinana, involving a total investment of some £40,000,000. Has the Minister sighted the agreement? Does it involve an obligation on the. part of the Commonwealth for the provision of approximately £35,000,000 for the construction of a 4-ft. 8i-in. railway from Kalgoorlie to the coast? ls he able to make a statement about the agreement, with particular reference to the Commonwealth’s obligation? Can he also inform the Senate when this work may be commenced, if it is to be commenced?
– I have not seen the agreement. I have made arrangements to obtain a copy so that I may study it in detail. The Premier of Western Australia has made representations to the Prime Minister, and those representations are being considered.
– I address the following questions to the Leader of the Government in this chamber: Has the Minister noted the press statement concerning the suggested take-over of Farmer’s (Holdings) Limited in Sydney by the Myer organization of Melbourne? Are not these recurring colossal take-overs, with the consequent control of industry by a few monopolists, detrimental to the economic, social and political welfare of Australia? Will not such control of industry eventually lead to the domination by a few of Parliament itself - if not openly, at least covertly - and open the way, because of overcentralization, to the eventual domination of Australia by the Communists? Will the Minister consult his colleagues on these matters and later make a statement to the Senate?
– I did read the press reports of the negotiations that are proceeding between the Myer Emporium Limited and Farmer’s (Holdings) Limited. T do not think ‘t is for me to express an opinion on whether the proposals are detrimental or otherwise. I take it that the proposals have been made within the laws of Victoria and New South Wales and that, I suggest, is the dominating factor.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry inform me whether it is a fact that the whaling nations of the world have agreed not to take whales or. alternatively, to take them in restricted numbers, from the Antarctic sections or areas 4 and 5 during this season? Does the Minister know whether the agreement is being honoured by all member nations of the Whaling Convention? Is it a fact that some weeks ago a Japanese whaling fleet, consisting of a factory vessel and a number of chasers, passed through Fremantle, heading south? Would this fleet be destined for areas other than those 1 mentioned at the beginning of my question? What steps is the Australian Government taking to see that the agreement not to take whales from the specified areas is carried out? Will the Minister assure the Senate that the agreement not to take whales will be adhered to by all signatories? Will he say whether he is satisfied that the Australian whaling industry is noi suffering as a result of unauthorized catching in the Antarctic areas?
– I think that the series of questions that the honorable senator has asked, which are of great importance, should be placed on the notice-paper so that the Minister for Primary Industry himself can provide answers. If the honorable senator adopts that procedure, I assure him that in due course he will receive answers to the questions.
– Has the Minister representing the Treasurer read reports in the press concerning the Treasurer’s intention to give consideration to various aspects of the sales tax legislation? When the Treasurer is considering any problems relating to the saies tax, will he consider removing marine diesel engines entirely from the field of sales tax, on the ground that they are used mainly in fishing boats?
– Yes, I have seen a number of reports about the Government’s intention in connexion with some aspects of sales tax. I was happy to note that some of them were quite commendatory. As to the honorable senator’s request concerning the removal of marine diesel engines from the field of sales tax. all that I can say is that I will refer it to the Treasurer.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry.
In view of the tremendous interest that was taken in the Government’s recent announcement that it would hold an inquiry into the marketing of wool, can the Minister inform the Senate whether the Government has decided on the terms of reference for the committee? Further, has it decided whom it will appoint to the committee to conduct this inquiry? If decisions on these matters have not been made, can the Minister say when an announcement on them is likely to be made?
– Because of the importance which will attach to the terms of reference of the proposed committee, the Government is giving very close consideration to them. An announcement concerning the membership of the committee will be made in due course by the Minister for Primary Industry himself.
– My question, which is addressed to the Minister for National Development, is related to the very important question asked by my colleague, Senator Vincent, about the announcement of the proposed expenditure of £40,000,000 in Western Australia on the erection of a steel plant. When the Government is considering the standardization of the rail link between Kalgoorlie, Perth and Kwinana, will it also consider the standardization of the link between Broken Hill and Port Pirie so that there may be a standard gauge railway line between Western Australia and the eastern seaboard to enable cheap freights to be charged on goods manufactured from steel produced at Kwinana in Western Australia, thus enabling those goods to compete in the eastern States with goods manufactured in those States?
– My recollection is that the Western Australian rail standardization proposal involves an expenditure of £30,000,000 and the South Australian proposal involves an expenditure of £20,000,000. An expenditure of £50,000,000 is involved in the two proposals. In those circumstances, I think I might be excused from expressing opinions off the cuff.
– My question is addressed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate as the representative of the Prime Minister, who administers the Commonwealth Public Service. Has he seen an advertisement in the publication “This Week in Melbourne” of 18th November, concerning the book “ So You Want To Be An Australian “, in which it is alleged that the author of that book, Cyril Pearl, has written inter alia -
A powerful virus called myxomatosis is keeping the rabbit menace in check.
And then later -
No way has yet been discovered of keeping the public service menace in check.
Is it to be taken that Mr. Pearl believes that public servants who are employed in the defence departments, the defence services and the social services, repatriation, health, education and other departments, are a menace? If not, does the Minister not believe that public servants employed in revenue raising departments are very necessary and therefore they cannot be classified as a menace? Is there any way of preventing or toning down such insulting and erroneous statements, which are apparently written by some authors and writers for publicity purposes and which can only do harm to the morale of a fine and loyal body of Australian men and women in the Commonwealth and State Public Services?
– I have not read the publication; I have not heard of it. I do not know the author; I have never heard of him. All I am intent on doing is completely dissociating myself from the sentiments he has expressed.
– Has the Minister representing the Treasurer examined the information which appears on page 15 of the report and financial statements for 1960 of the Reserve Bank of Australia which shows that the number of loan contracts for housing increased from 50,000 in 1957-58 to 57,000 in the last financial year, and also that the sum required to finance the loans increased from £123,000,000 in 1957-58 to £154,000,000 in the last financial year? Has he also observed that the information explains that the figures include building contracts let by Government housing authorities and loans approved by trading banks, savings banks, major life assurance societies, the Commonwealth War Service Homes Division and certain building societies in New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland? Will the Minister inform me whether the Government proposes to reduce the lending activities of the trading banks, savings banks and major life assurance societies for housing purposes, and also whether the Government proposes to increase the rates of interest presently charged by such organizations on loans negotiated for home-building?
– I have had reason to study the information contained in the statistical report of the Reserve Bank, to which the honorable senator refers. No doubt the honorable senator will remember that the Treasurer in his statement last week referred to the fact that home building had increased. He said that at present approximately 100.000 units were being built, which represented an increase of about 16 per cent, on last year’s figures. The Treasurer’s statement laid particular emphasis on commercial buildings and buildings other than homes. Throughout that section of the statement dealing with buildings was the suggestion that home building should suffer as little as possible under the Government’s newly announced plan. One indication of the Government’s sympathy with home building is the fact that loans from building societies are not to be penalized in the matter of interest deductibility for taxation purposes. Also, the directive issued to the banks in respect of selective lending will lay emphasis on the types of advances which are to be given some preference.
– I direct a question to the Minister for National Development. Ts the Minister aware of the important part played by the comprehensive water scheme in increasing the productivity of large areas of Western Australian farm lands? Ts it a fact that the Government of Western Australia has drawn up plans for extending the present scheme? Has the Government of Western Australia approached the Commonwealth for financial assistance to carry out this work? If so, will the Minister say what was the outcome of that approach? If negotiations have not been completed, will the Minister say what stage the discussions have reached?
– My recollection is that the Government of Western Australia requested the Commonwealth to provide about £8,750,000 of the total cost of the scheme of £17,000,000. The application received very careful consideration by the Commonwealth, which took into account the fact that reimbursements and loan provisions for Western Australia had been appreciably increased. My recollection is that Western Australia’s total loan provision this year was in the vicinity of £36,500,000. The Commonwealth’s attitude in relation to this and so many other applications is that once the Australian Loan Council has made the utmost provision, it is extremely difficult for the Commonwealth to supplement those advances in response to special applications. True it is that special grants have been made from time to time. For instance, a very substantial amount has been specifically allocated to Western Australia for development in the north-western sector of the State. However, it is not practicable to reply favorably to all applications for special assistance, and the application to which the honorable senator refers was not considered, on its merits, to be one which the Commonwealth could support. I understand that the Premier of Western Australia has again written to the Prime Minister in relation to this matter and I am sure that, as always, representations from Mr. Brand will receive very careful consideration by the Prim? Minister.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Prime Minister, who is responsible for the Commonwealth Public Service. Will the Minister inform me how many temporary clerical assistants are employed in the Commonwealth Public Service in each State? How many of those employees have more than ten years’ service? How many of them are ex-servicemen with the requisite educational qualification for permanent appointment in the service? Will consideration be given to confirming the permanent employment of such men before new recruitments are made at the beginning ol next year from persons who leave school this year?
– I can only ask Senator Tangney to put that question on the notice-paper. Obviously I cannot have such figures in my recollection. I remind Senator Tangney that it will not be long before we are considering a Public Service bill in the Senate based on the recommendations of the recent committee of inquiry.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. What was the approximate yield of sales tax on motor cars in the year before the little Budget and in the years succeeding the little Budget?
– -I shall have the information provided for the honorable senator.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
What are the reasons for the delay in payment of pay increases to members of the Citizen Military Forces?
– The Minister for the Army has provided the following reply: -
It was deemed essential that the regulations to give effect to the increased rates of pay to the Citizen Military Forces should be drafted to conform with the wishes of Parliament as expressed in the recent debate in the Senate on the financial regulations of the Service departments. The draft regulation is now expected to be ready for submission to the Governor-General within a few days.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -
– The Minister for Labour and National Service has supplied the following answers: -
asked the Minister for Customs and Excise, upon notice -
– I now furnish the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions: -
Debate resumed from 15th November (vide page 1527), on motion by Senator Henry -
That the bill be now read a second time.
. This is only a short bill. The Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty) outlined in his second-reading speech what the Government intended to achieve by it. The bill approves a supplemental agreement to the Sugar Agreement 1956-61. The supplemental agreement amends the original agreement by increasing the wholesale price of sugar by the equivalent of Id. per lb. in the retail price, and also by increasing from £2 4s. a ton to £5 a ton the rate of rebate payable on sugar used in manufactured food products. The sugar industry’s contribution to the funds of the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee is increased from £120,000 per annum to £264,000 per annum. As honorable senators will know, this amount really comes out of the price of sugar.
Early this year, representations were made to the Commonwealth Government by the Queensland Government and the sugar industry for an increase in the price of sugar, and, in May last, the Government decided to increase the price by Id. per lb. That increase has been in operation now for several months. Sugar agreements generally extend for five or seven years. The first agreement was approved by the Parliament 40 years ago, and the current agreement was approved in 1956. It will come up for review in August next year. The Government has promised that a thorough investigation will be made of all the ramifications of the industry, including price, before the next agreement is made.
The reason for an increase in price will be apparent to honorable senators. The price was last determined in 1956, since when there has been a substantial increase in costs. Most industries have exercised their power to increase the price of the commodities they produce. The sugar industry is the only Australian industry that must come to this Government before the price of its commodity is increased. The Government then determines the price that the consumer pays. It is a great pity that this procedure is not followed by many other industries. It would be of advantage if the Government were enabled to supervise other industries and determine whether or not price increases were justified. It was apparent that sugar producers could not continue to absorb increases in wages, freights and other production costs. They had no difficulty in establishing that it would be a great hardship if they had to carry on at the former price.
There can be very little controversy in regard to the Government’s action. There is no need for me to discuss the value of the sugar industry. Next year, when the Government appoints a sugar inquiry committee, the searchlight of investigation will be on the industry. There has never been any quarrel with this practice of conducting investigations; indeed, the industry has invited it. The committee will meet in public, interested parties will have an opportunity of expressing their views, and the economic position of the industry will be investigated. I feel sure that next year there will be a new sugar agreement between the Commonwealth Government and the Queensland Government. These agreements have been of great value to Australia. The industry’s earnings total £60,000,000 per annum. Sugar exports last year and again this year were valued at £30,000^000, which represents a valuable contribution to our overseas balances. Perhaps it is not necessary to say that there is probably no industry in Australia that is as efficient, in every respect, as is the sugar industry. There are no middle men, for instance, associated with the industry. It is a co-operative organization, almost from beginning to end.
Although the people of Australia are at present paying a fairly high price for sugar, I point out that for the ten years from 1942 to 1952, sugar was sold in Australia more cheaply than in most other parts of the world. It would have cost more, in those days, to import sugar than to produce it in this country. At the present time, costs in the industry are higher than those of most sugar-producing countries. By and large, the agreement has been of tremendous value, particularly to Queensland. It has not only assisted the industry in that State but also has been largely responsible for the increase of population in the coastal belt, to the great advantage of the State generally.
I do not wish to labour the economic importance of the industry. The Government must have been convinced of the need for the price increase that is contemplated. The Australian Labour Party does not oppose the bill. I think that all honorable senators on this side of the chamber will support it in the knowledge that the industry has rendered a great service to Australia, is highly efficient and is of tremendous importance to our economy. I hope that the bill will have a speedy passage through the Senate.
– I support most heartily the increase in the price of sugar which the Government proposes to confirm by the bill now before the Senate. I understand that the increase will mean that sugar will retail at lid. per lb. I propose to refer to some of the aspects of the sugar industry because the details of the industry are foreign to many people in Australia. Sugar is grown mostly in subtropical and tropical regions, and as a consequence, many people in the southern regions of Australia have not had an oppor tunity to visit those areas. However, I know that Australians who are sufficiently fortunate to visit the sugar-growing areas of northern New South Wales and Queensland are most impressed by the industry and the manner in which it is conducted.
It is of interest to note that the Australian sugar industry is perhaps the only sugar industry in the world that is conducted by white labour. Because of its importance to our economy it is an industry that deserves the favorable consideration of the Commonwealth Government and of all Australians who support the need for the overall development of Australia. The industry is playing an extremely important part in the development of Queensland and northern New South Wales. In fact it is of major importance to Queensland. Only a year or so ago the value of the production of the industry forged ahead of the value of the wool cheque in Queensland. On that occasion, it became the largest earner of any of Queensland’s industries. In 1958, the gross income from sugar was £61,322,000, which indicates its great economic value.
A striking feature of the sugar industry, particularly at this time when we are considering the financial circumstances of the country, is that a considerable proportion of the sugar that is produced in Queensland and northern New South Wales goes overseas.
– What percentage?
– I think about 40 per cent., although I cannot recall the exact figure offhand. It cannot be. denied that the industry earns valuable external credits for this nation. Any industry which can earn money overseas for Australia is important at the present time and of considerably more value to our economy than are other industries that come to mind.
It can be said that the industry is of great importance to our national welfare. If you travel along the coast of the State which I am proud to represent, you will find, Mr. President, fine cities and towns which, in the main, are dependent on the sugar industry. For instance, there are Nambour, Bundaberg and Childers - all fine towns; and further north, there is Mackay, my home city. Almost a quarter of the total production of Australia’s sugar comes from that area. Still further north, there are Proserpine, Home Hill, Ayr, Ingham, Babinda, Tully, Innisfail and Cairns. When we consider the cities and towns which depend to a great degree on the sugar industry, we must appreciate the part it has played in the settlement of the coastal strip of Queensland. If the industry were to cease production to-morrow, the population of that area would diminish greatly. My friend from South Australia, Senator Mattner, says that the southern States have built up the industry. My reply is that much of the success of the industry is due to the fact that fine, sturdy pioneers, many of them from the Old Country, were prepared to go to those tropical and sub-tropical areas of Queensland and work under conditions that would be considered very trying by people from the southern parts of Australia. We should pay a tribute to the pioneers who have played such a noble part in the development of the coastal regions of Queensland.
I think it will be agreed that the various communities of Australia should help each other. In the southern States where the greater part of Australia’s population is to be found, much of our sugar production is consumed. On the other hand, because of the prosperity of the sugar industry, the people in the northern areas of Australia are able to consume many commodities that are produced in the southern States, thereby helping those States to become prosperous. We must look at the development of our industries as broad-minded Australians. If we do so, I think we cannot help but agree that all the communities of Australia have a part to play in the overall development of the Commonwealth. However, a special meed of praise is due to the people of the northern areas of Australia, because they have been prepared to live in warmer climates than are experienced in the south and to put up with less favorable conditions to develop the sugar industry.
If we look closely at this industry, Mr. President, we get an idea of the money that has been expended on its development and of the work, the invention and the scientific research that have been necessary to develop it to the excellent standard that has been attained to-day. It can truthfully be isaid that the Australian sugar industry is as efficient as that of any other country. We should be proud of the fact that people from overseas who are engaged in the sugar industries of other countries come to Australia to investigate, the methods of the Australian sugar industry. Science has played a significant part in the development of the industry. In connexion with the evolution of improved varieties of cane, experimental stations have been established. The cane-growers contribute to the upkeep of the stations and the Queensland Government also makes a contribution. An interesting feature of the development of new varieties of cane is that in some cases, after a few years, the standard will fall. On the other hand, another variety will be developed that will exceed expectations. Some of the new varieties that have been developed have played a very great part in raising the quantity of sugar produced from each ton of cane. Science has played a wonderful part in the development of new varieties. We owe a great deal to those persons who have undertaken that work.
Any one who goes to the sugar regions would find a visit to the experimental stations worth while. Those stations are also conducting a great deal of research into the various diseases which attack sugar cane. As with other crops, new diseases attack sugar cane. The forces of science are then set to work, and it is to the credit of those who work at the experimental stations that it does not seem to take them very long to master .a disease which, if allowed to go unchecked, might prove to be disastrous to the industry.
– Is not this increase in the price of sugar inflationary?
– So far, my colleague from Tasmania has not paid a visit to north Queensland to see the ramifications of this industry. But, knowing what a thoughtful person he is, and knowing the far-reaching contribution he has made to debate in this chamber since he was elected to the Senate about eighteen months ago, I am quite confident that, after he pays a visit to that area, we shall hear from him some very fine speeches about the value of the sugar industry to this -country.
Now, let me pass to the milling side of the industry. A sugar mill is a place of very great consequence. To build a new sugar mill nowadays would cost approximately £4,000,000. I mention that figure to indicate to honorable senators the sum of money that is involved in the extraction of juice and the production of sugar. The efficiency of the industry is such that, when scientific investigation reveals a better method of extracting the juice and of producing more sugar from each ton of cane, the mill-owners spend a considerable sum of money in replacing out-of-date machinery with more efficient machinery. Specialists at a sugar research station in the Mackay district are continually investigating improved scientific methods of producing sugar from cane.
– Has anything been done to improve the method of harvesting cane?
– Yes. 1 shall tell the honorable senator about that later. It is the aim of the industry to extract 100 per cent, of the juice content of sugar cane. Probably that aim is not quite achieved, but the millers are not very far from achieving it. The juice is used not only for the production of sugar, but also for the making “f .molasses. The pith of the cane, in the form of fibre, is used to fire the mill and so make the production of sugar more economical. It is used also for the manufacture of fibre board. Investigations are being conducted to determine what other uses may be made of sugar cane.
Because of the increasing efficiency of the sugar mills, a considerably greater tonnage of sugar cane is now being milled each day than was the case in the past. The result is that the crushing season, which used to last from mid-June until January of the following year, now lasts only from late July until November. I have already said that the Mackay district produces approximately one-fourth of the total output of the industry. When I was home in Mackay last week-end, I read in the press that the last two mills in production in that area this season had closed down. I point out that we are still in the month of November. That serves to indicate how, because of scientific investigation and increased efficiency in the industry, the crushing season has been shortened.
asked what had been done in regard to the cutting of the crop.
A great deal of time and money has been spent in trying to perfect mechanical cane harvesters. Many such harvesters have been evolved, but so far none has been quite satisfactory. It must be remembered that the cane has to be cut near the ground because the sweeter cane is found close to the ground. The top of the cane has to be cut off too, and, as honorable senators know, all sticks of cane do not grow to the same height. It must also be remembered that in the tropical and sub-tropical regions periods of very windy weather are experienced. From mid-January to about midMarch we have the monsoon season. That is the warm period of the year, when a great amount of rain falls. It is the period of fast growth. At that time the cane, because of its height, is likely to bend over.
– Can you tell us approximately what is the annual value of the sugar crop?
– In 1958, it was £61,000,000. In 1957, it was about the same, and in 1956, it was £54,000,000. I have not last year’s figures. It will be appreciated that, when the cane is bent and twisted, mechanical harvesting is very difficult. As I have indicated, many kinds of harvesters have been evolved - mostly by the farmers themselves. Some of those harvesters have been taken up by machinery manufacturing firms, which have spent quite a lot of money in trying to bring them to a high standard of efficiency. The industry has a committee which regularly visits the cane fields of Queensland, and New South Wales if necessary, and tests various kinds of harvesters that have been evolved. This is done in an effort to ascertain how the development of such machines is proceeding. If they find one of sufficient merit, the industry is prepared to assist financially in order to bring about an even more economical cutting of the cane.
– Is the canegrowing acreage rigidly controlled?
– Yes, because the industry fits in with the world production of sugar. The manner in which our sugar industry manages its own affairs is an example not only to other primary industries in Australia, but also to primary industries throughout the world which are inclined to over-produce. The Queensland sugar industry is allowed to devote only a certain area to cane-growing, and the tonnage of cane produced is limited. The industry is permitted to produce sufficient sugar for Australian consumption and, in addition, a certain amount for export. Some honorable senators might say that, according to newspaper reports, there has been an over-production of sugar cane in Queensland during the last two or three years, in that more sugar cane was grown than was allowed to be harvested to meet the needs of internal consumption and export. Some people in the south might say. “ Why waste the cane? Why cannot we have cheaper sugar? “ If the. sugar industry over-produced, as other industries have done, there would be a collapse of the price. The price of sugar cane is worked out on an economic basis to give a fair return to the growers. If we produced more sugar than we do at present, we would upset the whole of the markets of the world. If we in Australia did anything to unsettle the International Sugar Agreement, it would be a very serious matter for ourselves and every one else concerned.
– There is no suggestion of that.
– I was referring to the fact that sometimes people in the south ask why the surplus cane cannot be harvested. That is because Australia abides by the International Sugar Agreement so far as internal consumption and exports are concerned.
– That is the way to run the world.
– It keeps the industry stabilized. I believe that our sugar industry is extremely well run. Any one who knows the industry cannot help but be impressed by its ramifications and efficiency.
– The great oversight has been that provision has not been made for an ample rebate to the fruit industry.
– As a Queenslander, I am very proud of our sugar industry, which is a very fine example of what can be done by our own Australian people. Many years ago, this industry was always thought of as a black labour industry. In the early days, kanakas were, brought from various south sea islands to work in the industry. It might be as well for me to remind the Senate now that that was one of the bones of contention when Queensland was invited to join the federation. As honorable senators will recall, steps to establish the Commonwealth Parliament could not be taken until the States agreed to the establishment of the Senate. Therefore, the Senate ‘v h keystone of the Commonwealth Parliament. One of the great stumbling blocks to Queensland’s inclusion in the federation at the time was the fact that black labour was employed in the sugar industry. Queensland agreed to enter the federation on the understanding that its sugar industry would be protected if it forsook black labour in the industry. Although I was only a boy at the time, I can remember that the kanakas were shipped back to the various south sea islands and the Queensland sugar industry then became a white man’s industry. It was thought in many quarters at the time that white men could not work the industry, but they have done so. Credit is due to the people in the sugar belt who have shown throughout the years that white men can successfully carry on this industry in the tropics.
Vfy friend and colleague, Senator Wright from Tasmania, referred a minute or two ago to the rebate that is given to the fruit industry. He thinks, of course, that the one defect in the arrangement is that the sugar industry does not give a greater rebate to the canned fruit industry.
– That is the one blind spot in Senator Wood’s advocacy of the sugar industry.
– In his second-reading speech, the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty) stated -
The Supplemental Agreement amends the original agreement in three aspects. These are -
The rate of rebate payable on sugar used in manufactured fruit products is increased as from 1st June, 1960, from £2 4s. per ton to £5 per ton, and the sugar industry’s contribution to the funds of the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee is increased from £120,000 per annum to £264,000 per annum.
The Export Sugar Committee is empowered to increase the rate of export sugar rebate in those instances where exporters have elected to accept a predetermined rate of rebate for a period extending beyond 1st June, 1960.
A rebate of £5 per ton is granted in respect
Of sugar that is used in the production of Canned fruit. Most of that production is Undertaken in the southern States. No Other industry has such an unusual feature as this relationship between the sugar industry and the fruit canning industry. A point that is sometimes lost sight of is that when the fruit canning industry processes fruit for export, it is entitled to receive the Sugar used in the process at a price representing the lowest cost at which sugar can be imported into this country. That puts the fruit canning industry on the same basis as if it were importing sugar into this country and using it to produce canned fruit for export. It will be seen, therefore, that the sugar industry is playing its part towards the production of canned fruit in Australia for consumption not only in Australia but overseas. 1 feel that the efficient manner in which the sugar industry is controlled is an example that some of the other primary industries of Australia could well follow. If they did, they might have less trouble in future than they have had in the past.
As T. have said, most of the fruit canning is done in the southern States. Queensland has its difficulties in relation to certain crops. Until recently, the pineapplegrowing industry was a buoyant industry, but last year there was considerable overproduction and many of the pineapple-growers had to walk, off their properties. The remainder have had to curtail production. The difficulties have been caused partly by overproduction and partly by competition that has come from South Africa, where pineapplegrowing has been undertaken recently, using cheap labour. The tropical fruit industries, such as the pineapple industry, have had to contend with production from other tropical countries employing black labour at cheap standards. Therefore, our fruit and other industries have those difficulties. I believe the sugar industry has set an example which might well be followed by other industries in order to maintain a fair standard price (or their producers. If more notice were taken of the sugar industry, as an example, some of our other primary industries might have more stability.
I do not want to say much more about this very interesting industry. It is facinat- ing to those who know it and those who see it. I commend the bill to the favorable consideration of this chamber because it will maintain a very efficient industry which has not received an increase in price for quite a few years, during which wages and costs have increased considerably. An application for an increase in price, to which the industry would have been entitled in view of the rising costs, was not made much earlier because of the efficiency of the industry and because it commenced the development of a new phase in the handling of sugar - bulk sugar handling - which has helped to revolutionize the industry in many ways. Loading and shipping costs have been reduced considerably, and the industry’s determination to spend money in order to arrive at even greater efficiency has helped to keep the price of sugar down for much longer than would otherwise have been the case.
The first bulk sugar terminal in Queensland was built at Mackay. Whereas a ship used to take three weeks to load its sugar, to-day with bulk sugar handling that same ship is loaded in one day. Further, many thousands of pounds, probably millions of pounds, have been saved by the elimination of the bags in which the sugar was transported before the bulk sugar terminals were opened. Bulk sugar handling has resulted in a transformation in shipping. Whereas before bulk handling shipowners were loath to carry sugar because of waterfront trouble and long loading delays, today, because of expedition and speed of handling sugar - shipowners vie for the right and privilege of carrying sugar to our overseas markets. This position has arisen because of the determination and efficiency of the sugar industry, which has benefited the people of Australia generally by the expenditure of money and the scientific approach to that aspect of the industry. I commend the bill to the favorable consideration of the Senate.
.- Mr. Acting Deputy President, I am sure that you have deduced already that the sugar industry is a Queensland industry and that it is of great importance to that State. I make it quite clear that I do not intend to oppose the bill in any way. If I were to do so, it would be quite unsafe for me to return to Queensland at the end of this week. The bill is important in more than one respect. It is important because it virtually fixes the retail price of sugar in Australia. Jn doing that, it also fixes more or less the incomes of those who produce the sugar. In addition, it decides the rates of wages that will be paid in the Queensland sugar industry.
We know that every industry is subject to rising costs these days. The sugar industry, like all others, whether primary or secondary, is almost constantly subject to rising costs because of the inability of the present Commonwealth Government to control inflation. The answer to rising costs, as we know it, is an increase in the price of the product. There is a large proportion of small men in the sugar industry. Many of the growers may be classed as small men; but, on the other hand, big companies own plantations and sugar mills. The sugar industry is not a co-operative industry, as some people imagine. As a matter of fact, several mills are privately owned by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited and other companies which also own plantations. Those companies gain considerably more than does the small grower from an increase in the price of sugar. Nevertheless, the sugar industry must be kept alive in the interests of the Commonwealth and the defence of the country. Therefore, an increase in the price must be awarded to the industry occasionally.
There was a time when the sugar industry was very attractive to the Australian work force. I can clearly recall when men left their normal employment in the cities of Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney and travelled to Queensland to engage in sugar harvesting operations. While they were so engaged they earned considerably more than they earned in their home States. But harvesting operations are slowly being mechanized and the labour force is gradually being reduced. I am aware that at the present time one of the problems of the cane-growors is to decide upon a standard harvesting machine which will harvest the cane satisfactorily and which can be mass-produced and sold at a reasonable price. I am also aware that some of the large growers, including some of the companies which grow sugar cane, during the past five or six years have had in operation a style of harvesting which has given them satisfaction. A large proportion, perhaps the majority, of their crop this year was harvested mechanically. Of course, when cane is harvested by a machine the grower does not require any manual labour.
So, the industry may be becoming more prosperous as a result of its being mechanized in the field; but there are fewer men in the adjacent townships and cities, and consequently fewer consumers. When one is speaking about a town of a certain size in Queensland it is common to describe it as a one-sugar-mill town, a two-sugar-mill town or a three-sugar-mill town. If there are four sugar mills in the district, you say it is a city. That is about how the towns and cities run because of the labour which the mills employ and the number of men employed in the field during cane harvesting operations.
Senator Wood spoke about the bulk handling of sugar on the wharfs for the purpose of shipping the sugar expeditiously. Bulk handling has worked all right from the point of view of the industry itself and that of the growers, but it has been a sad affair for the labour force in the cities. Already, ghost towns are appearing in certain parts of Queensland. There is a small area outside Ingham known as Lucinda Point. Its population would be about 200 or 300 souls. At present it is a real ghost town because several years ago bulk handling equipment was installed to load the ships arriving in the bay. Now there is no labour force there at all. Nobody lives there except a few fishermen who formerly worked in the sugar industry in that district. Similar repercussions followed the installation of bulk handling equipment at Mackay a few years ago. The number of waterside workers employed loading the sugar onto ships was reduced to a mere handful. The same thing will happen in several other areas in Queensland. Whether the public of Queensland is deriving any benefit from the mechanization that is taking place in the industry I am not prepared to say. That is a matter that will be investigated by the committee appointed to inquire into the industry. On the face of it one would think that the installation of costly equipment for loading sugar onto ships more quickly and the mechanization of harvesting operations would lead to a reduction in the price of sugar. Whether that will happen I cannot say, because I am unable to deal fully with the economics of the industry. 1 want to stress the views of the people engaged in the sugar industry in Queensland. Their prospects in an industry that used to give them employment for at least six months of the year are fading away and diminishing. Senator Wood referred to the increased handling capacity of the mills. It is true that the mills have improved their crushing equipment considerably over recent years. It is interesting to note the increased capacity of the mills to handle the sugar-cane. The harvesting season is being shortened because of the greater milling capacity and the introduction of bulk handling equipment on the wharves. This has resulted in less wages being paid in a year than previously. The prospect from any viewpoint is not bright so far as the residents of the towns and cities of northern Queensland are concerned. The incomes of the inhabitants of those towns and cities are diminishing as the years advance.
Senator Wood referred to the ways in which the industry is protected. That protection was afforded to the industry years ago. No government nursed the sugar industry more than did the Labour governments of Queensland. It regarded the industry as its baby, and did everything possible to improve the industry for the growers as well as the workers.
This legislation will approve an increase in the wholesale price of sugar. That increase arises out of an agreement, first between the sugar growers and the Queensland Government and, secondly, between the Queensland Government and the Commonwealth Government. We know that the industry is highly organized and very efficient. We know that cane, if it is to be harvested, must be grown on what is known as assigned land. Cane can be grown on any land in Queensland, but getting it harvested by the local mills is another matter.
I do not think there is any serious opposition to this bill. There may be some opposition from Tasmanian representatives who are anxious to protect the interests of the fruit growers. If they have a case to put forward, we should listen to them. If a greater concession has to be granted by the sugar industry to the fruit growers and the fruit preserving industry of Tasmania and the other southern States, that is a matter for settlement between the interests concerned. The Labour Party does not oppose the bill, and I give it my blessing.
.- We are discussing a bill concerning one of the major primary industries of the country. The fact that the bill is before us is evidence that the producers of sugar must have an increase in price in order to keep them in the industry. Costs have mounted to such an extent that this bill has been introduced granting an increase of Id. per lb. in the wholesale price of sugar. This is indicative of the way in which the cost structure is threatening our primary industries. I have nothing to say against the legitimate claim of the sugar producers for an increase in price. I think that this increase could be justified ever so much more worthily than many of the increases that have been granted in other fields in recent years. However, I do not want to dwell on that discordant note.
One matter that rather neutralizes any spirit in this debate is the fact that, for the first time since 1933, this legislation expressly recognizes the continuing relationship between the sugar industry and the fruit-growing industry. Despite strong representations made on behalf of the fruit industry since I have been here, the Commonwealth Government has, consistently, since 1933, refused to increase the domestic sugar rebate payable under the sugar agreement. This year, for the first time, the Government has induced the Queensland Government and the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee to agree to an increase in the domestic rebate from £2 4s. to £5 a ton. I welcome that increase because it establishes the principle of the continuing relationship between the sugar industrv and the fruit industry. That principle may now be developed until a proner figure is reached which will recompense the fruit industry for the damage that it has sustained in the past. Tn 1932 the price of sugar was £36 lis. 9d. a ton. Although the Sugar Agreement commenced in 1926, it was in 1932 that it was really placed upon a sound basis. The domestic sugar rebate was fixed at £6 5s. Id. a ton. Readjustments had to be made because the price of sugar dropped in January, 1933, to £32 10s. a ton.
– One id. per lb.
– lt will suit my purpose if 1 keep to the price a ton. As a matter of emergency only, the domestic sugar rebate was reduced to the low level of £2 4s. a ton. It is a terrific indictment of the people who have managed this industry, and an indication of a very dark blind spot in the outlook of the industry, that it has yielded to continuing pressure to maintain the domestic sugar rebate at that depression level. The rebate represents a payment of between £120,000 and £130,000 a year in an industry which on modern figures earns £60,000,000 a year. I should have thought that from the sugar industry’s own point of view it would have been inadvisable to keep this contest between the two industries going, because one of the essential things that the sugar industry should recognize is that having an organization which maintains the price of sugar, the industry in turn, in its own interests, should see that proper recompense is made to the fruit industry in order to prevent it from being damaged as the result of the advantages that sugar producers enjoy.
– That is how the agreement came about; the sugar industry agreed to do that.
– I agree with Senator Courtice that it was on that principle that the original agreement was made, but I am stressing my point for the purpose of future advocacy. I regret that there has been this blind outlook from 1930 onwards.
I acknowledge with great warmth the fact that after representations were made at the time this increase was announced earlier this year, prompt action was taken by the Minister. The sugar industry put before the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) who was Acting Prime Minister at the time, representations that an adjustment should be made in the domestic sugar rebate. I cannot express my appreciation too strongly of the initiative shown by the Minister and of his typical commonsense comprehension of the position in acknowledging that an adjustment of the domestic sugar rebate should be made when there is an increase in the price of sugar. The domestic sugar rebate is to be increased to £5 a ton. If however the previous domestic sugar rebate of £2 4s. a ton were to be adjusted on the basis of the increase in the price of sugar from the 1933 figure of £33 a ton to the present price of £90, the domestic sugar rebate should be something of the order of £7 a ton. However, that is a false basis on which to make the adjustment because the amount of £2 4s. a ton fixed in 1933 was a depression figure reduced to that amount after the rebate had been fixed in 1932 at £6 5s. a ton. The figure on which the rebate should be adjusted, it would seem to me, is £6 5s.; and if that were done, the present domestic sugar rebate should be fixed at £15 a ton. That is simply peanuts to this industry when we consider the damage that is being done to the fruit industry. It shares the impact of Australia’s increasingly perilous economy along with all the other agricultural industries, but to a special decree.
Production rose slightly as compared with 1958-59–
This is the report for the year 1959-60 - but exports continued to fall. Export statistics appear in Appendix “ F “ from which it will be seen that exports to the United Kingdom declined to the very low level of 198 tons. It is of interest to note that imports into Australia of jams and jellies from the United Kingdom have been steadily rising of recent years, the 1959-60 figures being 500 tons valued at £86,000. This represents an increase of over 50 per cent. as compared with the previous year and is more than double the quantity exported from Australia to the United Kingdom.
My friend, Senator Wood was good enough to observe that H. Jones and Company Limited had established a factory in South Africa, one of the purposes being, no doubt, to escape the irrational system of prices in Australia.
– They are entitled to get sugar at world parity. They are no worse off than if there were no sugar industry at all in Australia.
– I fully accept what Senator Sir Neil O’Sullivan says. A proper assessment of the export rebate is made from time to time according to the world price of sugar. Export industries can recover any increment that is imposed on them by reason of the Australian price of sugar exceeding the world price. My observation was directed to the wider field, and not merely to the cost structure of the sugar industry. It was directed to a matter that should be causing intense anxiety to every honorable senator. I refer to the general cost structure of this country, and particularly to its impact on agricultural industries. I point out that although primary producers are the principal export earners, we exported 198 tons of jams and jellies to the United Kingdom and imported from it 500 tons.
– At what price?
– Will you check those figures, please?
– I read from the official report of the Fruit Industry Sugar
Concession Committee so that nobody would doubt my figures. They are quite clear. If there is any significance in Senator Henty’s interjection, and the implication is that our imports are at a price grossly in excess of what we receive for our exports on the United Kingdom market, the situation is infinitely more ridiculous. I suppose that the United Kingdom producer is not exporting to Australia at a loss. I suppose that he is getting a price that meets the United Kingdom cost of production and manufacture and transport costs, and provides a profit.
– Quality and variety would come into the picture.
– Is it suggested that our exports are not of equal quality to the products of English manufacture?
– There was a time when they were greatly inferior. They are better now.
– In all my discussions over the last ten years with the industry, I have never heard that suggested. I am not saying that it is not correct. When I put forward such a matter as this, I thirst for knowledge. If anybody has facts that explain the position, I am receptive to them. But if this is the trend of our export market, even in primary production, we have a paralysing hope of maintaining the existing cost structure in this industry. I hope that the Senate will take note of the dwindling production in the Tasmanian berry fruits industry. In the last ten years it has dwindled by 50 per cent. The industry is very small, but it is an ancillary support to quite a substantial number of families. The destruction of it is an indictment on the nation. I hope that from all sides of the chamber, as soon as we get the report of the committee of inquiry, will come support for a domestic sugar rebate that will enable berry fruit processors in Tasmania to offer to producers a price for their product that will attract increased interest in the industry. Now that we have penetrated the unvarying opposition of the Government to adjusting the domestic sugar rebate, I sincerely hope that we shall have a substantial degree of acceptance by Queensland senators of the fact that they will not deprive the sugar industry by conceding a proper measure of domestic sugar rebate that will enhance and strengthen the position that that industry has established as a claimant on the national Parliament for its maintenance.
– I agree with Senator Wright that it is unfortunate that 27 years have elapsed since consideration was extended to a primary industry of particular importance to his State. I am pleased that the position is being reviewed. All of us deplore rises in the price of commodities used in the ordinary household, but it would be remiss of me not to pay a tribute to the Queenslanders who have adopted a national approach to a problem that is of special significance to their State. I pay due tribute to Senator Courtice and other Queensland senators on this side, and to Senator Sir Neil O’sullivan and Senator Wood on the Government benches. At all times they have placed the value of this industry efficiently before the Senate and the nation.
The sugar industry is more than a Queensland industry. The annual value of the crop is about £60,000,000, of which £30,000,000 is earned overseas. To the farmer goes 42.5 per cent., which covers labour and other costs; to the mills, 19.1 per cent.; to transport - including shipping - 10.2 per cent.; to refining interests, 13.9 per cent.; to distribution, 14.3 per cent. It can be seen, therefore, that the industry has a national significance. It has made a major contribution to the settlement of a large section of northern Australia. I am not going to traverse the history of the industry and the way in which the black labour ultimately was repatriated, but in that respect I am remfnded of a story that was told to me when I was a child. When the black labour was being repatriated, a certain storekeeper in Childers sold tickets of various grades, such as first-class tickets to heaven and third-class tickets to heaven, so he did all right out of the sugar industry when the natives were being repatriated. The industry is of national significance in that it has been instrumental in leading to the settlement in northern Queensland of white people with a health standard unequalled in the world.
Tn some respects, we deplore the need to increase the price of sugar; but, of course, it is due to the inflationary trends that have been permitted to continue by successive Menzies Governments. Increases have therefore been inevitable. We cannot do anything other than accept them, although there has been a degree of reaction in the south to the latest increase. We should appreciate, however, that if there had been no sugar industry in northern Queensland we might not have been able to preserve Australia from invasion by the Japanese. If northern Queensland had been captured, there would have been little need for the Japanese to land in New Guinea. In the absence of the settlement that has resulted from the establishment of the sugar industry, the Japanese could have landed in the north and, because of the nature of the terrain, they could have come south.
In 1932 and 1933, during the depression and the days of the Lyons Government, there was agitation for a reduction in the price of sugar by Id. per lb., but due to the resistance of the sugar growers and the Labour Government then in office in Queensland, the price was reduced by only id. per lb. We heard then talk of “ sugar barons “. I can speak from personal experience of those days, and I know that many sugar farmers then lived in tin shanties. Subsequently, for ten years, the people of Australia received the cheapest sugar in the world, in the sense that it would have cost much more to import sugar from other countries. For a considerable period, the Australian people have enjoyed the cheapest sugar available. In addition, the development of the industry has led to the settlement of a large part of northern Australia. Thus, the industry has been in no small measure the means of preserving in Australia the way of life that we espouse.
The names of certain men who have made a major contribution to the efficiency of the industry come to mind when we are discussing this subject. For instance, we must pay tribute to the late Mr. Arthur Bell, who was Director of Agriculture in Queensland, Dr. Kerr, a scientist, and Mr. Norman Bennett, a mill manager. They were the first scholars to be sent overseas, and they really placed the industry on the scientific basis that we see to-day. They helped greatly in making the industry unexcelled in the world, in regard to cultivation methods, cane varieties, and harvesting and mill extraction methods. To those men we owe a great debt.
Perhaps the cane farmers are not the most affected economically by conditions in the industry. Some of the factors that affect the economics of the industry are the increasing efficiency of mechanical harvesters and the introduction of bulk handling methods, with its effect on the settlement of sugar-growing areas. The introduction of bulk handling has led to a decline in settlement. Bulk handling was first introduced at Mackay, at a cost of £1,500,000. Overnight, 400 of the 450 wharf labourers employed there were dismissed. Subsequently, bulk handling was introduced at Bundaberg, Mourilyan, and Cairns. The result has been a decrease in waterfront labour at those places. Mechanical handling is not as efficient as some people would have us believe, although it is being used at Bundaberg and other places. The Massey-Ferguson mechanical harvesters seem to be working comparatively efficiently, more particularly on level ground. They do not appear to be so efficient in hilly areas, but improved efficiency appears to be only a matter of time.
In view of these developments, Australia may have to face the question whether it is prepared to protect the sugar industry in relation to the price of sugar. If the industry is not to be regarded as of importance to the settlement of white people in the north of Australia, the economics of the industry from the point of view of people who consume sugar may have to be considered. The interests that are involved in this industry are not only those of the cane growers but also those of the men who labour in it.
As was pointed out by Senator Benn, the periods of seasonal employment in the industry are becoming shorter. Many workers now work for only four months, whereas previously the cutting season lasted for six or seven months. In addition, there was a degree of slack work available, but that kind of work is decreasing in volume. The slack work in mills also is decreasing. The workers in the industry are now purely seasonal workers, and their financial position is being affected.
– And there are fewer of them, I take it.
– There are fewer of them because of the increasing use of mechanical methods. For instance, the use of bulk handling methods affects not only employment on the waterfront but also in the mills. Sewers and stackers are being dismissed. The loading of trucks is not so necessary as it was previously. The sugar is simply poured into a truck which is specially designed to carry it, and it is efficiently unloaded at the waterfront. So, there is a reduction in the amount of work that needs to be done. In addition, in the cane fields most efficient mechanical loaders are being used and are taking the place of men.
I have not taken out accurate figures, but I suppose it would not be unreasonable to say that the assets of the sugar industry amount to £1,000,000,000. They may be worth much more than that, and perhaps that is the minimum value. In any event, it is obvious that this is an industry that calls for serious consideration. I hope that next year the Government will consider the appointment of a royal commission to consider various aspects of the industry, such as the decreasing employment opportunities and the effect of that decrease on the settlement of north Queensland. If it is considered that there is justification for the decline in employment in the industry, then it may be agreed that there is also justification for the expenditure of larger sums of money on other projects to provide employment for the people displaced from employment in the sugar industry because of increasing mechanization.
Co-operative ownership in the industry has proved eminently successful. Despite the forebodings of many people when successive Labour governments in Queensland provided the finance necessary to enable men who had relatively little experience to acquire mills, the mills are being managed successfully, although in some cases, they are very old. The tonnage handled by those mills has been increased to such a degree that it equals that of the proprietary mills. I think, therefore, that any committee of inquiry or royal commission that is appointed should consider also the advisability of the extension of co-operative ownership of mills.
I come now to an aspect of the industry which, 1 suppose, is a contentious one. Any one who knows the industry will be aware that, in many instances, cane farms have an exaggerated capital value. There is in operation a government mechanism under which transfer of the ownership of farms in relation to which there is a determined sugar peak can be effected only at a particular price. But human nature being what it is, the owners of such farms find devious means of avoiding the obligations of the law. In the national interest, in the interests of those people who live south of the border, and in the interests of those who work in the industry, more particularly those who labour for wages, there may have to be a close investigation of the capital value of particular farms. A better mechanism may have to be evolved, and be more rigidly policed, than that which is now in operation. A reasonable return for labour should be ensured.
A scientific investigation of the utilization of surplus cane is inevitable. In the past, seasons have, in a measure, protected the industry against over-production; but last year I was informed by Dr. King, who is in charge of the sugar research station that is conducted by the Queensland Government - Dr Kerr, who is now in charge of the research station conducted by the milling and owner interests, was formerly in charge of the government station - that it is expected there will be surplus production in four out of every five years. That is a matter which calls for scientific investigation. It is ridiculous to produce a surplus of cane and just plough it back into the ground when perhaps it could be utilized to improve the standard of living of the people or to reduce the price of sugar.
I support the bill. I say again that we of the Opposition are opposed basically to an increase of the price of commodities that are used in the ordinary household, but such increases are inevitable under the Menzies Government, which has done nothing to arrest inflation. We believe, though, that there is a measure of justification for an increase in the price of sugar. I support the idea of having an investigation of the industry next year. I suggest that a royal commission, rather than a committee of inquiry should investigate all the ramifications of the industry, including cultivation, employment of labour, milling, refining and transport, with particular regard to the settlement of north Queensland.
Senator Sir NEIL O’SULLIVAN (Queensland) [5.8]. - I am pleased to support the bill. I do not propose to go through the history of the sugar industry, because it has been very well canvassed by honorable senators on both sides of the chamber. When considering this industry, it is important to bear in mind that the largest concentration of white people in the tropics is between Cairns and Mossman, in Queensland. That concentration of whites would not subsist without a well developed and very efficiently managed sugar industry. The sugar industry is vital to the economy of Queensland and of the Commonwealth as a whole. The value of the sugar industry to Queensland’s economy is second only to that of the wool industry. The sugar industry is more important even than the beef industry, and Queensland is the biggest beef exporting State in the Commonwealth.
A study of Queensland’s economy is interesting. Queensland imports from overseas £47,737,000 worth of goods annually, and exports overseas £169,964,000 worth. So Queensland has a very favorable balance in terms of overseas trade.
– Queensland imports a lot from the other States.
– That is so. I was coming to that point. Queensland imports goods produced by factories in New South Wales and other States which, quite properly, enjoy tariff protection. Queensland imports £200,703,000 worth of goods per annum from other States and exports to those States £103,695,000 worth, it will be noted that Queensland buys from the other States approximately £100,000,000 worth of goods more than she exports to them. Those facts are worth bearing in mind when considering a matter such as we are considering now.
Although at the present time the people of Australia are paying more than the world parity price for sugar, there were times during and after the last war when the price of sugar on the domestic market was about one-half of the world parity. During those years, because of the efficiency of the Queensland sugar industry and the non-availability of sugar in other parts of Che world, the people of Australia benefited considerably. Now, as I have already said, they have to pay a little more, but it is worth paying the extra for the two reasons I shall mention, if for no others. First, the availability of sugar is guaranteed to the Australian consumer in any circumstances and, secondly, the industry is playing a very important role in developing a vulnerable part of the Australian continent.
I am sorry that Senator Wright is absent from the chamber. He more or less made an appeal for the sugar industry to give greater concessions to the Australian fruitprocessing industry. It seems to me to be somewhat of an anomaly for one primary industry to be called upon to subsidize another. The Australian fresh fruit processors as a group are the best customers of the. sugar industry; they consume approximately 60,000 tons of the total output of more than 600,000 tons of sugar. The sugar industry is not unmindful of that fact, and it is in its interests to ensure that the fruit processors flourish and prosper. I do not propose to go into that matter fully, but I believe it is worth while to refer to the comments of people who are well qualified to give a considered opinion on such matters. It is all very well for Queensland senators to express their views. Probably others will say that they speak as Queenslanders, and that they have a vested interest in the sugar industry.
I note that Senator Wright has now returned to the chamber. May I repeat, for hts benefit, that I do not believe it is sound to call upon one primary industry to subsidize another? I say that, even though the sugar industry has a vested interest in the prosperity and well-being of the fruitprocessing industry, which places valuable orders with the producers of sugar.
– Would, you argue along that line if one of the primary industries was being very heavily assisted and the other was not?
– The sugar industry is not being heavily assisted at the present time. Whether sugar could be obtained from the Dominican Republic or Cuba, where there is a surplus, is problematical. Whether sugar from those countries could be landed here at a price lower than that which we are paying is open to question. It is necessary to take into consideration the cost of freight and insurance, and arrangements would have to be made to get it from Cuba to Australia. I do not think any one could deny my belief that the Australian sugar industry is more than repaying whatever assistance it has received over the years.
– Is not the rebate paid on sugar used in processed fruit products taken into consideration in the price paid to the grower?
– The rebate of £2 4s. per ton was taken into consideration in the determination of the price. There is no intention at all by the sugar industry to try to get out of that payment of £2 4s. per ton.
In looking at the history of this matter, I should like to refer to the report of the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee of 1952, which was presided over by Mr. McCarthy, who was formerly the Chairman of the Tariff Board. It made a very thorough investigation, and furnished a complete report. Rather than give my own personal views, I shall paraphrase at some length some of the findings of this worthwhile committee. This subject was thoroughly considered by the Commonwealth Government in 1952 and 1956. The fruit interests represented to the 1952 committee of inquiry that the £2 4s. rebate should be substantially increased, to £10 18s. 6d. per ton. The committee reported that, over the years, certain misunderstandings had arisen. It mentioned the following as one of the most important of the misunderstandings -
That the price of sugar should be used as the medium for assisting certain Australian industries using sugar to overcome difficulties that have nothing to do with the price of sugar.
The committee said it could see no reason for extending rebates for general disabilities suffered by sugar using industries. The committee went on to state -
Some of the disabilities in the fruit processing industry arise from the cost of fruit, labour and tin plate whilst the processed milk industry has recently been faced with a steep increase in raw materials arising from increased costs and prices in the dairying industry. If it be a reasonable claim that: exporters of products containing sugar should have access to. sugar at the price that they would pay Cor duty free sugar a similar claim would exist for concessional prices for other Australian materials such as fruit, cases, paper for labels and so on; the claim might even logically extend to labour also.
– What is the honorable senator quoting from?
– I am quoting from the report of the 1952 committee of inquiry. This was a government inquiry. This is the committee’s conclusion, as set out in paragraph 493 of its report -
In the absence of such evidence-
That is, there was no evidence at all whether £2 4s. was a reasonable amount or not, or whether the needs of the fruit processing industry were more or less than that amount - the Committee considers that this rebate should be continued at the present rate and subject to existing conditions. The Committee suggests, however, that if the fruit industry desires an increase in the rale of rebate it should make further representations to the Government and the question might then be referred to the Tariff Board or some other competent authority for full inquiry.
Following that, the fruit interests made reresentations to the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) who, in October, 1956, made a very reasonable statement. He stated, in effect, that if the fruit industry were in a parlous condition and if it were a worthwhile industry - which he had no doubt it was - and needed assistance, there was a proper procedure which should be followed, namely, to submit a detailed submission supporting a request for increased assistance, which the Government would consider referring to the Tariff Board. Just as secondary industries may submit a case to the Tariff Board for a review of the tariff, so may primary industries make submissions to the board. The Prime Minister said, in a press statement that he issued in October, 1956 -
The Government had received representations from a number of interests, particularly from fruit growers and processors, that certain terms and conditions of the Agreement be amended to afford them greater assistance.
In most cases, apart from other considerations, the amendments sought would have resulted in claims by the sugar industry for a further increase in the domestic sugar price. If the fruit industry interests were to present to the Minister for Primary Industry a detailed submission sup porting a request for increased assistance, the Government would consider referring the matter to the Tariff Boand or some specially constituted authority or public enquiry and report to the Government as to the nature and extent of any aid such authority might consider the fruit industry needed.
Of course, that was a very reasonable and fair proposition - that if the industry needed assistance it should make a submission to the Tariff Board. But do not, for goodness sake, put forward the proposition that because one industry has been slightly assisted, the sugar industry, out of its abundance, or lack of abundance, should provide assistance to other primary industries.
There is another matter which is worthy of bearing in mind. The committee stated that for a considerable period during, the war and up to 1952 the fruit industry had the advantage of full supplies of sugar at prices much lower than could have been obtained on the world market, and in addition the rebate of £2 4s. per ton continued to operate during this period. It went on to state, in paragraph 23, that the essential basis of the export rebate system is an insurance to Australian processors.
Figures I have before me are very interesting. They refer to the increase in the price of sugar from. 1947 up till now, compared with the increase in the price of fruits that have benefited under the Sugar Industry Fruit Concession Committee. In 1947, the average price of sugar was £24 18s. 9d. The last available figure I have shows a price of £46. That means that the price has not quite doubled. Let us look at the canning fruit prices. The prices that I shall mention were not necessarily the top prices, but the prices at which the processors had to buy the raw fruit in order to qualify for the rebate of £2 4s. per ton. The price of apricots in 1947 was £17 per ton, compared with £35 per ton in 1959. The price of clear clingstone peaches in 1947 was £16 per ton, compared with £46 per ton in 1959. I emphasize that these were the prices that were insisted upon as minimum prices, not the maximum prices, by the Sugar Industry Fruit Concession Committee before the rebate of £2 4s. was made available. The price of freestone peaches in 1947 was £12 10s. a ton compared with £30 a ton in 1959. The price of Bartlett pears was £15 per ton in 1947, compared with £38 per ton in 1959. Plums and quinces were £10 a ton in 1947 and £20 per ton in 1959. Pineapples were £15 per ton in 1947 and £22 10s. per ton in 1959.
– 1 understand that the honorable senator has been quoting the price per ton right through.
– Talk about starvation rates!
– The point I am making is that whereas the price of sugar has not quite doubled, in some instances the prices of the other commodities have almost trebled. I am talking ab^jjt average prices. The function of the Frujt Industry Sugar Concession Committee is not only to pay the internal rebates and export rebates so that an Australian processor will in no circumstances pay more for sugar than the price at which he could import sugar duty free from any part of the world; the balance of the money is to be used at the discretion of the committee for scientific and industrial research to improve the return per acre and to encourage and increase sales of processed fruit throughout Australia. lt appears that although jam has a sugar content of about 60 per cent., in fruit itself the proportion is almost infinitesimal. In ordinary canned fruits the sugar cost represents 4 per cent, of the retail price. That is not likely either to make or break the fruit industry. In the case of jam the proportion of the cost represented by sugar is slightly higher. The 1931 Sugar Inquiry Committee found that the decline in sales of jam was not due to the high cost of the sugar contained therein but to a change in the eating habits of the people. This extract from the majority report of that committee is worth quoting: -
Evidence was given that the annual per capita consumption of factory jams in Australia had fallen from 18 lb. in 1912 to Iti lb. in 1928-29. and this was attributed to higher sugar costs. However, it was admitted that the consumption of canned fruit had more than doubled within recent years. With regard to factory jams, we consider that the cost of sugar is only one of several factors, and it was stated by several witnesses that the reduced consumption is due mainly to the intense competition from many new types of popular food products that have been put on the market during the last fifteen years, and which ire commonly used with bread and butter, and therefore must tend to supplant jam. Other authorities concur with this view.
Declining jam consumption appears to be a world-wide tendency. At the last census in Great Britain, despite the low prices of sugar in that country, the consumption of jam had fallen to only 8.66 lb. per capita. It is clear that if the people as a whole eat more of certain kinds of food, whether because of changing tastes or for any other reasons, they must as a whole eat less of other foods, particularly those of a similar type or class. Taking the fruit industry as a whole, i.e. jam and canned fruit combined, more fresh fruit per capita is now processed in Australia than in 1914.
I could give other illustrations to convince any reasonable mind that the price of the sugar content in in processed fruit is not an element in retarding increases of sales. I think the answer must be sought elsewhere. I repeat the suggestion made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) to the sugar industry and the fruit industry to have a case prepared for presentation to the Tariff Board. No doubt they have done so. No one who is interested in the great Australian sugar industry would be pleased to see one of its best customers languish. The fruit processors are probably the largest individual customer of the sugar industry. These two industries have much in common and it is in the interests of the sugar industry to ensure that the fruit-processing industry flourishes. With all my heart, I wish the industries well if and when they approach the Tariff Board for some concession and consideration. I have much pleasure in supporting the bill.
– in reply - This bill seems to be accepted by both sides of the Senate. I should like to comment on one or two interesting points which have been raised. I was very interested to note the figures which Senator Wright cited of imports of jams and jellies into Australia, compared with our exports. I do not suppose anybody in this chamber is a better judge or a greater eater of marmalade than I am. Knowing the quality of the Australian products, I am puzzled to see English jams and jellies on the Australian market at exhorbitant prices which are much higher than the prices of the local products the quality of which is every bit as good as that of the imported products.
T am not prepared to say whether the reason for this is super sales promotion by those very old firms which have manufactured these commodities for many years, or that in Australia some sort of snob value is still attached to these commodities because they are produced by a firm with an old name in another part of the world which has been manufacturing this type of product for many years. I do not understand why the commonsense people of Australia continue to pay such high prices for imported products.
– Are the imports uniformly at a high price?
– I have no authority to answer that question, except my own observations during 40 years in the grocery trade. On that basis I would say that I could go around a few high grade stores in Sydney and Melbourne and put my hands on the £86,000 worth of these jams and jellies which has been imported into Australia this year. These fancy packs sell in high grade stores at prices well in excess of those of the Australian product, and I believe the quality of the Australian product is every bit as good as that of the imported product. I do not understand why that is so. I say to Senator Wright that whatever the reason is, the prices are far and away above the prices of comparable Australian articles on our market. So the reason has nothing to do with the price of sugar. The two factors are those I mentioned - either some sort of lingering snob value is attached to these products, or some super sales promotion work is done by old established firms with 200 or 300 years’ experience behind them, which have this lingering goodwill attached to their names.
Many young Tasmanians got their start in the Queensland sugar industry by going there and cutting cane. The money they earned by cutting cane in Queensland has started many young Tasmanians on farms or in business on their own account. So, quite incidentally we in Tasmania have received some benefit from the sugar industry. Anybody who has travelled in North Queensland to any extent must realize that it is dependent upon the sugar industry for its continued prosperity. North Queensland is sugar and sugar is North Queensland. The great development that has taken place there has been due to the flourishing sugar industry. It is an efficient industry. It has spent its money on research in respect of not only production, but also efficient handling methods which have been referred to by many honorable senators. it is fair to say that the reason why the industry has not applied for an increase in the price of its product over the last four years when costs have risen and other industry prices have risen, is the efficient methods which the Queensland sugar industry has developed, particularly in bulk handling. That has been one of the revolutionary efficiency measures which have been introduced into this industry.
– Forced on them by a desperate position, of course.
– No matter what forced it on them, one must take one’s hat off to the industry for its ingenuity in developing bulk handling. Bulk handling was first developed in other countries, and it was introduced in Queensland because of conditions that were forced on the industry there. Nevertheless, bulk handling has been one of the reasons why the price of sugar has not been increased in the last four years. The bill has the support of the Government and of the Opposition.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
In committee: The bill.
– I should like to know where, in the various sugar agreements, is the provision that the price of sugar may be altered by agreement between the Commonwealth Government and the Queensland Government. I have read the original agreement and subsequent agreements, but I can see no machinery for altering the price of sugar. I am told that this provision is inherent in the agreements, but I should like to know just where it may be found.
– I understand that a provision is contained in every agreement whereby the Commonwealth Government and the Queensland Government may confer. If they agree, the price of sugar may be altered.
.- I should not like this matter to go unnoticed, and I should not like to be thought, by my silence, to acquiesc ; jnt system, lt must be rem . . nis agreement owes its validit wal of the Parliament. No is approved by the Parlia. ;iet. should be capable of effectual alteration unless that alteration is ratified by the Parliament. It is wrong that a new price should be operative for six or nine months in anticipation of parliamentary approval. It may be legitimate to make the price operative for one or two months, but it was something like fifteen months before the 1956 alteration came before the Parliament. It is a system such as this that breeds laxity in the Defence Forces and encourages them to expend a large amount of money without putting their regulations in order. I hope that in future the spirit of the agreement will be observed, and that parliamentary approval for any alteration of price will be promptly sought.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from 15th November (vide page 1528), on motion by Senator Henry -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– The bill now before the Senate deals with the very important matter of weights and measures and the establishment throughout Australia of uniform standards in those elements. The subject-matter of the bill is not new. I, personally, had the honour of introducing the original bill to the Senate in 1948.
This matter has been under consideration for a long period. In 1936, at a Premiers’ Conference, the Premiers agreed to the proposition that the Commonwealth should set up Commonwealth standards, that the States should calibrate their own standards against those of the Commonwealth, and that all the ordinary, everyday work of administration should remain with the States. That is the basis upon which the legislation was presented to the
Senate in 1948. At that time, a National: Standards Laboratory had been set up in Sydney under the control of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. The 1948 act provided for the establishment of the National Standards Commission, which was empowered to draw up regulations to give effect to the purposes of the act. The commission consisted of five experts, skilled in this particular kind of work.
Until the present bill came before the Parliament I was under the impression that the commission had functioned, that the regulations had been made and that we were enjoying national standards throughout Australia. The Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty), in introducing the bill, told us that the Government has been advised that some minor and formal amendments to the act are required to avoid legal difficulties in deciding the relative scope of Commonwealth and State legislation. The Government has decided that it would be better to have a fresh act, incorporating these relatively minor amendments, rather than deal with the matter by mere amendment. If I am correct in assuming that nothing has happened since 1948 - that no regulations have been made and that the commission has not functioned - it is a disgraceful state of affairs that this position should not have been corrected for twelve years. I should like the Minister to tell me whether this is the position - that the act has not functioned, that the regulations have not been made and that the expected process of calibrating State standards against Commonwealth standards has not been carried out.
The position is all the worse when one glances at the amendments that have, in fact, been made in the bill that is designed to replace the existing act. Two new definitions have been added, one of a “ subsidiary standard of measurement “ and oneof a “ working standard of measurement “. Clause 4 of the bill guards against Commonwealth and State laws coming into conflict in the matter of implementing the bill. Clause 5 is a formal clause binding the Crown in right of the ‘Commonwealth or of a State. Those are relatively minor matters. I rise, not to oppose the bill, but to support it, and in doing so I should like the Minister to say whether I am correct in assuming that the act has been a dead letter for twelve years. If I am correct in my assumption, will the Minister state why this position has been allowed to endure?
In conclusion I emphasize, as was pointed out by the Minister in his second-reading speech, that this bill is not a minor matter. These standards extend over an exceedingly wide field. In his speech the Minister said -
The words “ weights and measures “… apply to standards of measurement of all physical quantities used in commerce, industry and science; for exampie, mass, length, time interval, volume, area, pressure, density, electrical current and power, temperature, &c.
I have quoted the Minister’s remarks to emphasize the importance to every phase of activity in this country of having clearly defined standards, and of having subsidiary standards in each State. I think an explanation is called for from the Minister if, in fact, the regulations have never been promulgated and if the act has been a dead letter for twelve years. I notice that in his concluding sentence the Minister said -
It is intended that regulations to give effect to the provisions of the act will be made after this legislation has been passed.
In the light of the long delay I should like confirmation of that statement by the Minister. I should like him to indicate whether the regulations are ready or whether, after all the delay, they are still to be prepared.
– in reply - The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) has directed attention to something which, as he pointed out, because of its very diversity, covers a tremendous field. A long series of conferences has taken place between the various States and the Commonwealth, and legal difficulties have been encountered. However, I understand that all the States are in agreement and that the regulations are almost complete. Within a very short time of this bill being passed the complete regulations will be issued.
Question resolved in the affirmative. Bill read a second time. In committee: The bill.
Senator McKENNA (Tasmania - Leader brief comment to make. I refer the Minister to the last page of the bill, line 22. I notice a misprint in the copy that has been made available to me. It may have been corrected after the bill left the House of Representatives. The first word in line 22 should be “ than “ and not “ that “. Has the Minister two “ that’s “ in his copy?
– My copy reads “ that that”. It is quite obvious that the first “ that “ should be “ than “.
– I refer to clause 17 which reads -
The Commission shall consist of five members, who shall be appointed by the Minister and shall hold office, during the pleasure of the Minister, on such terms and conditions as the Minister determines.
Is any remuneration to be paid to members of the commission? If so, what remuneration will they receive?
– To the best of my knowledge the members of the commission will receive travelling allowances, but I understand that they will get no remuneration.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Sitting suspended from 5.49 to 8 p.m.
Debate resumed from 28th September (vide page 765), on motion by Senator Cole-
That the bill be now read a second time.
– This is a private senator’s bill - not a Government measure - introduced into the Senate by Senator Cole. We on the Government side said, at the time it was introduced, that we would give it fair treatment, putting it on the business list of the Senate; that we would not advance it in priority to Government business but that we would not make any attempt to delay it. The bill was introduced in September. It now reaches its place for discussion in the ordinary way, having, I think, been treated fairly by the Government in the arrangement of the business programme of the Senate.
In effect, the bill contains proposals of the Australian Democratic Labour Party. As a layman, I shall outline its principal provisions without following its terminology. The bill proposes that an organization, that is, a trade union registered under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, shall give financial support to a political party only in certain defined ways. First, it will not pay an affiliation fee to a political party in respect of any of its members who have written to it stating that they desire that no affiliation fee be paid to the political party in respect of them. Secondly, quite apart from affiliation fees, unions will not be allowed to make payments to political parties except under the formula set out in the bill which provides that payments are to come from a fund set up by the union specifically for the purpose and that the fund is to consist solely of contributions by members of the union. Thirdly, the making of a contribution to the fund will not be a condition of membership of the union. Fourthly, a member of a union is not to be put at any disadvantage or under any disability in union matters because he does not contribute to the fund from which political payments are made. That is my summary of the contents of the bill.
I lead for the Government in the debate in acknowledgment of the importance of the bill. The Government’s views on the matter are already known. They were foreshadowed in a statement made in the Senate in September last by Senator Gorton on behalf of the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon). I do not pronose to traverse the contents of the statement. However. I should like to remind the Senate that the statement indicated that the president of the Australian Council of Trade Unions had informed the Minister for Labour and National Service that the interstate executive of the A.C.T.U. had passed the following resolution: -
The A.C.T.U. is of the opinion that a compulsory political election levy should not be applied bv affiliated unions.
The Minister stated that if the Government were informed by the A.C.T.U. that the resolution had been properly endorsed, the
Government would, in the belief that it was unnecessary to legislate, defer further consideration of legislation to deal with compulsory political levies. The Minister went on to say -
If, however, in spite of the A.C.T.U.’S resolution there is resort, in future, to compulsory political levies by individual unions, the Government will be forced to reconsider the need for legislation.
I think that that is a fair summary of the concluding note of the ministerial statement. 1 remind honorable senators that subsequent to that statement the A.C.T.U. resolution was endorsed by the required number of trades and labour councils in the various States. 1 think that, in the broad, the Government’s views on this matter are generally acceptable. The Government is opposed to compulsory political levies. It believes that the circumstance that unionists may risk loss of employment or be victimized for failing to pay a compulsory political levy is utterly repugnant. I do not want to traverse what has happened in the past, including the contribution that the trade union movement has made to Australia. I should prefer for a few minutes to look to the future, not to what the trade union movement has done but to what it will be called upon, in company with all other Australians, to do. I am one of those who believe that the decade that commenced in 1960 has, in very many ways, opened up a new world. It is not only an atomic age; it is also a new era economically. I have said before in the Senate, and I say again, that I believe that we have resolved the problem of unemployment.
– Not in Queensland.
– You have yet to be disillusioned.
– I believe it to be true that we have resolved the problem of unemployment. We have learned the procedures and gained the skills whereby the greatest single disadvantage that was suffered by employees in the past has been removed. I believe that this objective has been reached with the minimum use of controls and the maximum liberty for the people as a whole. In the post-war Australian scene there has been no direction as to where the man shall work and the occupation he shall follow. There has been liberty to move about and seek better conditions, not only better working conditions but also improved individual standards of living.
It has been a time of rapidly improving standards of living, accompanied by many other opportunities for change for the better for the individual in the Australian community. There has been change for the better not only because there has been more continual and more remunerative employment, but also because there have been greater educational opportunities which have led to higher intellectual standards. There has been a tremendous improvement in educational facilities right through from the kindergartens to the. universities. The opportunities that are now available for technical education, for professional education and for general education are infinitely greater than, I think, the majority of us in this chamber thought were possible ten or fifteen years ago.
I point out to the Senate, Mr. President, that not only have we had these great educational improvements, but side by side with them have gone higher material living standards and tremendous improvements in medical science and medical treatment. The expectation of life is greater now than it was a decade ago. In addition, the facilities for the treatment of disease are now better than they were. Medical and hospital facilities are available to a far greater degree than was previously the case. I do not think that a review of those developments is inappropriate to a discussion of the bill before the Senate, because the great majority of Australians are trade unionists, and what is good for trade unionists is, by the same logic, good for Australia as a whole. No government, regardless of its calibre, could survive if it faced 100 per cent, opposition from the trade unions. A government can stay in power only if it has the confidence and the respect of the trade unions. There is a two-way traffic in that confidence and respect; it goes both ways.
Times have changed, and again I make no apology for saying that the great political issue at the present time is a conflict between socialism and free enterprise. We on this side of the chamber say that the great progress that has occurred in the last decade could not have occurred under socialism. Honorable senators opposite say that had they been in power, they would have, done better. I comment in that way for the purpose of indicating the conflict in politics and to lift it, I think, to a different category.
– How would the honorable senator designate the Snowy Mountains project?
– I do not know that that is an appropriate interjection.
– It is a difficult one to answer.
– 1 do not find it a bit hard to answer. I say that the great conflict in principle between the two opposing political forces is a conflict between socialism and free enterprise.
– Free enterprise, such as Myer’s taking over Farmer’s.
– I do not know that that interjection is appropriate, either. To my way of thinking, the important thing is that we both say that it is for the people to choose between the two conflicting ideologies. We should say, too, that when the people have made their choice, even in regard to major matters of policy, we will accept the umpire’s verdict.
I repeat that I do not think the comments that I am making at the moment are far astray from a proper discussion of the bill that is now before us. We say, in reply to this bill, that it is utterly repugnant that, upon the resolution of a problem such as this, the Australian people should be forced to agree to compulsory political levies for elections and to contribute to a cause to which they may well be diametrically opposed. This is not a theoretical matter at all. It is beyond the field of argument that great numbers of trade unionists support the Liberal Party politically and believe that that party can govern Australia more equitably and more efficiently than can the Australian Labour Party. They cast their votes accordingly. We differ from the Australian Democratic Labour Party in relation to this bill in that we believe that a better result will be achieved and that we shall have a better Australia if the trade union movement corrects this fault voluntarily. It is a relic of the past, Mr. President. The actual work of governing Australia shows that there is no need for this practice now, and that the continuance of a system of compulsory political levies does grave injustice to those trade unionists who do not support the political party to which the union funds are given. We think that it is utterly wrong in principle that any one in Australia, whether he is a trade unionist or not, should be compelled to pay a levy to a political party.
We believe that that is also the view of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, which has set machinery in motion to remedy the injustice. We believe that we would do harm to the possibility of securing a better all-round national effort if we attempted to do by means of legislation what responsible people are quite prepared to do voluntarily. This is not the only problem that confronts Australia, Sir. It is a good thing to keep matters such as this in perspective. There are much greater issues than this to which we have to apply our minds. It is necessary, in relation to all the great matters with which we are concerned, to achieve as far as it is possible to do so, a co-operative effort by the nation as a whole. We have great tasks ahead of us. Externally, we have the conflict with the Communist world; internally, we are apt to forget that we all must take part in a co-ordinated effort, despite our varying political views, and that there are so many things that we should do together, as well as those that we want to do together.
We must try to derive increasing value from the progress that is being made in achieving higher standards of living, by reducing the erosion of those standards by inflation. We have to encourage a national consciousness that both public and private investment should be applied to works, proposals and projects in Australia that are basic to development. We, as a Parliament, have to educate and to lead public opinion, with a view not only to increasing national savings, but also to ensuring that, through individual effort, those savings shall be put to good effect by using them in national works. I make this point, Mr. President, because the Government believes that, so far as it is practicable to do so, these things should be done voluntarily. To compel people to do things is a hard task, indeed. The whole history of war-time controls illustrates that. All of us remember the condi tions that obtained during the last war, when those who were patriotic and observed controls saw those who lacked a sense of patriotism enjoy better circumstances.
We on this side of the chamber believe that compulsory levies for political purposes are utterly wrong, but we do not believe that the cure lies in compulsion. We believe that to give those concerned an opportunity to set their own house in order is sound and correct. We believe, moreover, that when they set their own house in order, they will take pride in, and will derive satisfaction from, having done so. and that in that atmosphere we shall have a better chance of co-operative effort in the future. The whole point of the conflict is not whether trade unionists should be made to pay levies for political purposes. As I understand the situation, there is no conflict between honorable senators on both sides of the chamber on that matter. The Democratic Labour Party makes it plain in the bill that it is opposed to compulsory levies and, as I understand the situation, the Australian Labour Party is also against such levies. The A.C.T.U. has gone on record as being opposed to them. We of the Liberal Party are opposed to such levies, as are our friends of the Australian Country Party.
The point at issue is whether there should be definite and definitive legislation to prohibit compulsory levies. We differ from the Democratic Labour Party when it says that legislation should be introduced to prohibit compulsory levies. The Democratic Labour Party adopts the attitude thai some of the unions are Communist controlled and cannot be trusted, and that other unions are under the control of people who, whilst they are not Communists, believe that compulsory levies should not be prohibited and will only pay lip service to the decision or ruling of the A.C.T.U. There is no need for me to say on this occasion that the Government does not trust Communists. Of course, it does not. But the Government does not overlook the fact that the vast majority of Australian trade unionists are not Communists, and are just as much opposed to compulsory levies as are we in this chamber.
As a government, our task is to get the best co-operative effort from all sections of the Australian community. We cannot get co-operative effort unless we respect the opinions of others and they have respect for our opinions. The trade union movement has said that it will set things in order, and that it will do so in its own way. We have received that offer from the A.C.T.U., and as a government we believe that at the very least we would be showing scant courtesy to the trade union movement if we said: “We will not accept your assurances. We will bring down legislation despite the fact that you have said voluntarily that you will act in this way.” As a Government, we do not think it is appropriate to consider the passing of legislation unless and until the trade union movement shows by its acts that it is not carrying out the assurances it has given. We say further that no one has the right to expect that a responsible body representing the trade union movement will not carry out the assurances it has given.
That is the position as I see it. I have not attempted to deal with the matter of contracting in or contracting out. To discuss that would only confuse the situation. As I have already indicated, the matter under consideration is the general principle underlying compulsory political levies. 1 disagree with the views of the Democratic Labour Party. I respect its views, and T admit that it has had experience in this field. But this is one of those occasions on which a basic decision has to be made about the right track to follow in order to reach a desired objective. The Democratic Labour Party says that the desired result should be achieved by passing an act of Parliament. We believe that we should first give the trade union movement every opportunity to do voluntarily what needs to be done. T do not want to sermonize, but I believe it is pertinent to point out that the result will be vastly different if the change is made voluntarily. If the change is made voluntarily I am sure, as T said earlier, that the trade union movement will take pride in, and will derive satisfaction from, having done it. It certainly will not feel hurt and humiliated because its word on such an important matter was not accepted by the Australian Parliament.
To give a greater sense of responsibility to the trade union movement, and to give it more authority within its own sphere of operations, will be of great benefit in the future. We are all human and have our limitations, but if greater responsibility is given to the trade union movement it will adopt a national rather than a sectional outlook and will be more disposed to cooperate with other sections of the community. I believe my colleagues in the Government will support me in expressing the view that, when people are placed in a position of trust and responsibility, they welcome the opportunity to live up to that position. In this case, the A.C.T.U. has accepted responsibility in relation to an important matter. 1 have no doubt that it will live up to the obligation it has voluntarily assumed.
The Government is opposed to the bill, and will ask its supporters to vote against the motion for the second reading.
– This is one of those rare occasions on which I find myself in agreement with the conclusion reached by the Leader of the Government in this place. I feel happy in the thought, though, that I do not agree with him in regard to all the arguments he used to reach that conclusion. I do not propose to pursue him into those arguments.
I find the bill to be very interesting, lt has led me into some fields of study and research that really intrigue me. the fruits of which I hope, during this debate, to put before the Senate. I trust they will prove to be of interest to honorable senators. The bill before us proposes to amend section 140 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. That section, amongst other things, provides -
A rule of an organization . . . shall not impose upon applicants for membership, or members, of the organization, conditions, obligations or restrictions which, having regard to the objects of this Act and the purposes of the registration of organizations under this Act, are oppressive, unreasonable or ‘unjust.
Sub-section (2.) authorizes a member of an organization to apply to the court for an order declaring that the whole or a part of a rule of the organization contravenes that provision. A further sub-section provides that if the court makes an order declaring a rule to contravene sub-section (1.) in that it is oppressive, unreasonable or unjust, as from the date of the order the rule is to be deemed to be void and completely written out of the rules of the organization.
I think it is as well to approach the subject of the bill with that thought in mind as a background. At the risk of covering some ground which has been already covered by Senator Spooner, I shall paraphrase the purposes aimed at by this bill, lt does two main things: It provides that no affiliation fees are to be paid unless the rules permit a member to require that no affiliation fee be paid in respect of him. It provides also that no payment, apart from affiliation fees, for party political purposes is to be made unless the rules provide, first, that it be paid out of a fund set up for that purpose only; secondly, that such fund is to consist of contributions of members only; thirdly, the contribution to that fund is not to be a condition of admission to or retention of membership; and finally, that no disability is to be suffered by a member who does not contribute.
That is the broad purpose of the bill. It surprised me when I read it because I understood that the Democratic Labour Party, which has sponsored this measure, was not concerned about affiliation fees and was not concerned about contributions to a political party from a general fund, but was solely concerned about the question of compulsory political levies. I got that impression from a letter that Senator McManus wrote to the “ Sun-Herald “, and which was published in part in the “ Onlooker “ column of 3rd April this year. In publishing a part of the letter, “ Onlooker “ apologized for the fact that space prevented him from printing it in full. In his column “ Onlooker “ stated that Senator McManus had said - . . May I point out that unions have contributed financially to Labour in three ways -
The letter states also - “ The legislation my party will introduce will offset 3 only. Most unions will never be affected.”
The following is a further extract: - Of these, 1 and 2 are traditional forms of assistance:
That is, affiliation fees and grants from union funds - 3 is unusual.
This letter, written as recently as April last, and followed by a bill that deals with affiliation fees and makes severe inroads into appropriations from the general fund of a union, causes me some surprise.
The bill, I note, is taken from an English law which began in 1913. 1 think it is appropriate to see this bill against the background of English history, not only in relation to the matter of political funds, but also in relation to the rise of trade unionism in England. One can see in that way how the English law has reached a position which, whilst it is paradise for those who contended for it, having regard to the conditions that they had to beat, is not nearly so good1 as the position that Australians have known for many decades. One cannot understand the vital difference between the English approach and the Australian approach to this subject without knowing something of the background. I go back to the famous case of Osborne, decided in 1910, which shocked the whole trade union movement of England. The House of Lord’s decided that there was nothing in the trade union acts from which it could reasonably be inferred that trade unions, as defined by Parliament, were meant to have the power of collecting and administering funds for political purposes. The House of Lords ruled that a rule of the Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants that purported to do that was completely void, and two of their Lordships based their objections on very narrow grounds by saying that they considered that it was completely against public policy for any association to select a person and send him into Parliament to represent it and to be bound to carry out its requests. The House of Lords thought that that was completely reprehensible.
– Don’t you?
– No. I think it is the right of any collection of people to select a person to represent them, to present their views, and to expect that that person will honour his obligation. I joined the Australian Labour Party and am bound to its platform. I feel not the slightest difficulty in adhering to it. When I feel that I cannot honour it, I shall resign from the party and from the Parliament.
– It is not only a matter of adhering to its platform. It is also a matter of carrying out its ad hoc wishes from day to day.
– Whatever the terms are, if one is not prepared to honour them one should never accept the nomination or the responsibility. Having accepted, I consider that it would be completely dishonorable to do the reverse.
Scalar Wright. - You think it is not inconsistent with parliamentary life to accept the direction of the person who paid you to come here.
– Nobody pays me to come here.
– They paid in Osborne’s case.
– The situation is completely different in this case. I am referring to Osborne’s case to show the narrow outlook concerning trade unions in 1910. In the House of Lords, two of their Lordships based their judgment upon that narrow ground. That decision came as a rude shock to the trade union movement, but in 1913 the Trade Unions Act of that year reversed the decision in Osborne’s case. I need not traverse the provisions of that measure. At page 73 of Vester and Gardiner’s work on the trade union movement, there is a passage stating what the act in effect proceeded to do.
– The act in effect proceeded to do what this bill proceeds to do. did it not?
– No, this bill is very much more severe in certain particulars, as I will show, than even the English act.
– I shall be very interested to hear the distinction between the two.
– I propose to advert to that before I conclude. The interesting thing is that in 1913 the law introduced the principle of contracting out. They determined that there should be one fund - a political fund - that politicial contributions should be paid into that fund, and that any member of a trade union, by signing a form of exemption specified in a schedule to the act, could contract out.
– Did that include affiliation fees, or their equivalent in those days?
– No, it was a question of contributions for political election purposes. On this point I might say that the act did not prevent the general funds of the union, apart from the political fund, being used for political purposes not connected with an election, as long as the use to which they were put came within the statutory objectives of a trade union as laid down in an act as remote as 1879. That is one of the great distinctions between this bill and even the English act. The English act permitted the use of general funds, quite apart from the question of affiliation fees or contributions for elections. This bill, whether designedly or not I do not know, positively prohibits that. Under this bill all moneys must go into the political fund and they must arise from direct contributions from the members and from the members only. Once this bill becomes law there will be no power for a union to do as it has done hitherto and apply its funds for general political purposes, such as getting a particular piece of legislation through the Parliament, quite apart from an election. This bill would tie that fund up in that way. I say to Senator Wright that that is one of the great distinctions that I see between this bill and the English act, narrow as I think the English act is.
It was not surprising that contracting out turned out to be an unhappy system in which a man had to isolate himself from his fellows and say, “ I do not want to be with you in this particular activity “. I need not develop that theme. Senator Spooner did not develop it. It is quite clear that that could be obnoxious. That system was altered in 1927 to contracting in, in which those who, by a particular notice which again was set out in a schedule to the 1927 bill, indicated that they wished to participate in levies that might be made for political purposes could be expected to pay. But again that drew a sharp line of distinction at a political level between people who were associated primarily not for political purposes but for industrial purposes. Again, when that system did not prove very satisfactory, there was no other hole to bolt into and for the sake of a change, in 1947 England went back to contracting out.
– What was the reason for bringing in contracting in in 1926?
– It was after the general strike.
– That may be, but as I think the honorable senator will know, there were difficulties under either system. This matter was dealt with rather extensively by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) in his statement. I agree with what he said about the disabilities attached to several of those matters and Senator Spooner indicated the same type of attitude in his speech on this bill.
I should like to go back a little further into the English scheme and say a word or two about the growth of the trade union movement in England as part of the background to what 1 have just said. We should recall that the statute of Elizabeth I., passed many years ago, set out the principles upon which wages were determined. It is rather amusing to read this -
The famous Elizabethan Statute of Apprentices, which operated until the modern period, aimed to yield a “ convenient proportion “ of wages to hired persons in times both of plenty and scarcity, and provided for annual meetings of local justices with other “ discreet and grave persons “ to fix wages for all kinds of labour, and the terms for and numbers of regulated apprentices.
One may imagine the process being done in the villages, hamlets and elsewhere in merry England, and how rough the treatment and the justice was.
– Not rough for their day. Be fair to them.
– According to their day; and I concede that their days were rough. About 1750, as the industrial revolution got under way, seeing the owner of the factory, the autocrat, the absolute monarch of all he surveyed, and seeing the shocking conditions, the appalling labour conditions of hours and wages, hygiene, safety, and five and six year old children at work, men sought to combine in industry after industry. They were met separately in those industries by combination acts. It was a criminal conspiracy to combine in restraint of trade, to hinder trade. To combine for the purpose of increasing wages or improving conditions was such a criminal conspiracy at common law. In addition, if that type of action affected the fortuue of an employer, it was also a civil conspiracy which immediately entitled the employer to sue the union or individuals for damages that had been caused to him. That was the law and the background at that time - in the good old days, to which some people often refer.
In 1813, the Statute of Apprentices was repealed. In 1824 and 1825, the sweeping provisions of the combination acts repealed the earlier statutes penalizing trade combinations but revived in statutory form the common law rule as to conspiracy. Those provisions conceded the right of collective bargaining at that time. No doubt honorable senators do not need to be reminded of the Tolpuddle martyrs and the Dorchester labourers who in 1835, for having striven to have their weekly wages increased from the magnificent sum of 8s. a week to 9s. a week, were deported to Australia for their trouble.
– The good old days!
– The good old days, as Senator Brown said. That was the position until 1871, when the Trade Union Act removed from trade unionists criminal liability for acting in restraint of trade and provided for the registration of trade unions. But it still forbade picketing, whether peaceful or otherwise. In 1875, the position in regard to criminal conspiracy was clarified. In 1906, civil conspiracy was eliminated. Just imagine that! Until 1875 it was a criminal conspiracy to combine in the way the trade unions do every day. It was 1906 before they were relieved of civil liability for interfering with the activities of employers.
– Free enterprise.
– In free enterprise, as somebody said. In fact, it was 1913 before trade unions were by law allowed to use their funds for the purpose of achieving their political ends. Those changes are all very recent. Trade unions were criminally liable until 1875, civilly liable to 1905; and they were unable to use their- funds for political purposes until 1913, when the decision in Osborne’s case was overruled.
– Do you claim that they have immunity from civil liability in Australia?
– I will be coming to that. They have.
– You think so?
– 1 will come to the Australian position presently. I want to indicate the background against which the legislation permitting trade unions to use their funds for political purposes came into being. The trade unions in England had to fight their way inch by inch to gain everything that meant progress to them and an amelioration of their conditions. They had to fight against the rule of wealth from the beginning. It took them pretty well a century and a half to get to even where they got to in 1913. Now, in Australia the position has been entirely different. We had trade unions formed in the 1840’s - the compositors in Sydney and the carpenters in Victoria. The union in New South Wales was met by the Master and Servant Act, which was designed to crush the activities of the trade union. But the thing that really gave the open sesame to trade unions in Australia was the very fortuitous circumstance of the gold rush, which made labour scarce and at a premium. From then on the various skilled trades were able quite freely to combine in trade unions.
– Added to which many people who came from overseas to those rushes had very sound and advanced ideas in relation to this matter.
– I could not agree more and, apart from the people of the type of the Tolpuddle martyrs, who brought with them a violent sense of injustice and who did not remain quiet, I would cite the Chartist movement, which had a great effect, and the Irish patriots, who played a great part in the 1848 revolution throughout Europe. All those things combined with the gold rush to free the trade unions. They got away to a good start with the skilled trade unions. In the 1880’s we had the miners and the shearers combining. At the end of the 1880’s we ran into the economic blizzard about which we hear to-day. The land boom burst and, as Senator Tangney reminds me. the banks went broke. From 1888 to 1894 we had the miners’ strike, the maritime strike and the shearers’ strike. It was at that point that the trade unions of this country decided to organize politically. Their main aims were not so much to put their leaders into parliament as to get progressive reforms, social reforms, political equality and justice in the factories that were beginning to be established in Australia. In other words, it was a broad fight against what the English had encountered - the rule of wealth. It was a fight against injustice. The labour leagues - the genesis of the Australian Labour Party - were established in the 1890’s, and they had very rapid success. They were supported by funds from the trade unions that wanted a say in two things - policy and selection of candidates. The trade unions played a magnificent part in helping the original labour leagues along. In 1891, the Labour Party won 36 out of 120 seats in New South Wales. In 1894, it won sixteen seats out of 90 in Victoria. By 1910 it controlled both Houses in the Federal Parliament. So one sees in a brief period of twenty years the great virtue that accrued to the trade union movement from having political representation and from indulging in political activity. Incidentally, 1910 marked the era of the commencement of the Commonwealth Bank, now the Reserve Bank of Australia; the commencement of the Royal Australian Navy and the beginning of what is termed to-day the welfare state - a programme of social reform. From that time the Australian Labour Party has been either the government or the official Opposition in the Commonwealth Parliament. From the beginning it was recognized that trade unions were, in fact, using their funds for political purposes. That was done openly. In the Conciliation and Arbitration Act of 1904 particular reference is made to that fact, although in a restrictive way. Section 55, which provided for the registration of trade unions, has a proviso which reads -
Provided that no such organization shall be entitled to any declaration of preference by the Court when and so long as its rules or other binding decisions permit the application of its funds to political purposes or require its members to do anything of a political character.
– When was that repealed?
– In 1910, when Labour came to power. Action was taken for its repeal by the Labour Government in August, 1910. So one can see the vast benefit that arose from political action in that way. Here was a penalty imposed on a union that used its funds for political purposes. If it used its funds for political purposes it was denied preference. One of the justifications for the intervention of the trade unions in politics was to cure that very thing, and it was done the moment the Labour Party obtained a majority in both Houses. All along trade unions have used their funds without hesitation - openly and publicly - to support the party of their choice. That party has not always been the Australian Labour Party. There have been exceptions.
Let me come to the bill, and let me say at once that I agree with the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner), who said it was unnecessary in the present situation. In a statement made some little time ago bearing upon this particular subject the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) said -
Only one union - the Waterside Workers Federation - has, during the last ten years, attracted public attention by imposing compulsory levies . . .
Senator McManus in his letter to “Onlooker” of the “Sun-Herald” indicated that he knew of two unions that had imposed compulsory levies. The period is not denned. So I say at once that the evil here aimed at is lying within exceedingly narrow compass. In addition, as Senator Spooner has explained, the trade union movement has, in effect, outlawed compulsory election levies. A resolution to that effect was passed by the interstate executive of the Australian Council of Trade Unions. It was confirmed by five out of the six branches of the Trades and Labour Council. Queensland was the only State to refrain from confirming the resolution. That resolution is now trade union policy for all of Australia in the firmest possible way.
– What is meant by election levies?
– That means, as 1 understand the phrase, helping a political party in any way to win an election.
– Including the Communist Party?
– Any party, including that to which the honorable senator belongs. The trade union movement has outlawed compulsory political election levies. That being so, there is no need to cure a position that arose in one or two instances at the most down many decades, and which quite obviously is frowned on by the trade union movement itself. Several unions make provision for contracting out. Some provide for contracting in. Generally speaking, where the rights of minorities may be involved, I would say that the trade union movement of Australia is entitled to great credit for the common sense and fairminded way in which it has approached this problem. It has shown a good deal of respect for the rights of minorities. I congratulate the Government on having the wisdom to interfere as little as possible in the internal activities of trade unions, stepping in only if there is an evil that cannot otherwise be cured.
– Senator, are you authorized on behalf of the Australian Labour Party to say that if Labour became the government it would legislate to prevent trade unions from imposing compulsory political levies in the future?
– That position has not arisen. As the Government often says to the Opposition, that is a hypothetical question.
– I think you have answered my question.
– That question will be resolved in the light of the circumstances then existing, and I have no doubt that it will be resolved as I have indicated.
– As you have indicated in what way?
– As I have indicated, the trade union movement, itself, has regarded compulsory political levies as being undesirable, and the Australian Labour Party does not favour them at all.
– If they were imposed, would the Labour Party legislate against them?
– I think that is pressing the matter too far. If a small union were to impose them we would certainly leave it to the trade union movement, in the light of its avowed public policy, to discipline that union and bring it into line.
– Can you tell me one trade union that has been disciplined by the A.C.T.U. during its years of existence?
– I would say that the trade union movement has achieved its results without flamboyancy but by far better methods of persuasion and argument - far better methods than by getting out the big stick, the whip, the spur and all the rest.
– Did you not contradict your own policy when, as a member of the Chifley Government, you brought in legislation for clean ballots?
– Very definitely you did. You did not allow the trade union movement to fix things for itself then; you went in and legislated.
– Let the honorable senator understand that that was an entirely different matter, and furthermore, I point out to the honorable senator it was done with the concurrence of the trade union movement itself. The trade union movement was consulted and moved with the Government. Its congress, held only a few months after the legislation was brought in in June, 1949 - in the following September - upheld the legislation. That legislation had the concurrence of the trade unions, but the honorable senator is advocating legislation against the wish of the trade union movement to cover a defect which he admits has occurred in only a very limited area. That is the vast difference between the Chifley Government’s attitude in relation to clean ballots and curing irregularities and malpractices and what the Democratic Labour Party now proposes to do.
– The trade union movement did not want clean ballots.
– I think the trade union movement itself realized the need for them when it was sharply brought under their notice by the Chifley Government; and to its credit I would say that it recognized that it could no more stand for irregularities in ballots than the Chifley Government was prepared to do. Although, as I say, the trade union movement concurred, I also in truth say that the Chifley Government gave leadership in relation to that particular matter.
Doubts have been raised that in view of a statement by Mr. Monk at the Melbourne Trades Hall the undertaking will not be honoured, and that payments could be made out of general funds to a political party and could be reimbursed later. It has been made very clear by A.C.T.U. officers that what was said and meant on that occasion was that if, in the light of existing circumstances and future commitments, the A.C.T.U. or the trade union movement decided to make a contribution to the funds of a political party, and at a later stage something that could not have been foreseen arose - perhaps some great industrial cause or something of the kind - then funds could be recouped by a special levy. There would be no relation between the general contribution that would be made to a political fund and the levy that would be made subsequently. So, after a talk with trade union leaders I am in a position to say on their assurance, as well as on my own judgment, that the undertaking and the policy now expressed will be honoured implicitly and without hesitation. The president of the A.C.T.U.. Mr. Monk, agrees with that version.
I want now to refer to Senator Cole’s second-reading speech in which he gave the Hursey case as an example of the problem with which he was dealing. Having quoted some few extracts from the judgment of the High Court in the Hursey case he went on to say -
This background of the events associated with the fight of the Hurseys is most necessary to fully understand why as a matter of principle they were of the opinion that they should not have to subscribe to a political levy which in their view was unjust.
The sections of the judgment quoted by the honorable senator in his second-reading speech picture the Hurseys as blameless, reasonable people without demerits of any kind who were generally badly used at every point.
– I think they were badly used.
– No other construction could be put upon the portions of the judgment that were selected by the honorable senator.
– The court confirmed the fact that they were entitled to damages.
– That is so. I am merely correcting the impression that was sought to be given from the extracts from the judgment. When one goes to the judgment, an entirely different picture is presented. I do not for one moment import any element of intimidation or violence in relation to the Hurseys. I do not wish to comment about that, but I do wish to quote from the judgment. It will take a few minutes, but I do not apologize for taking up the time of the Senate on such an important matter. I shall quote from the judgment of Mr. Justice Fullagar. He delivered a judgment with which the Chief Justice, Sir Owen Dixon, concurred fully and with which Mr. Justice Kitto similarly concurred. In the judgment I am about to read we have three judges concurring.
– That was on the particular rules.
– It was on a whole lot of things, but just listen to what was said.
– It is good to hear the Labour Party expressing admiration for Arbitration Court judges. It is so unusual.
– On this occasion, I point out to the honorable senator, I am quoting High Court judges and not Arbitration Court judges.
– I heard the same thing said about them. What we have heard about them here is nobody’s business. It is good to hear that they are right sometimes.
– Let us listen for a moment to what the three judges had to say about the Hurseys. I am quoting from page 287 - 33 Australian Law Journal Reports - where his Honour, speaking for the three judges, said -
The only remaining matter in relation to the second action is the quantum of damages. His Honour-
He is referring to the Chief Justice of Tasmania - awarded ?2,500 to each of the plaintiffs. He found that the amount of wages lost by each of them up to the date of judgment was ?700, and the balance was awarded by way of exemplary damages for what his Honour described as “wilful and gross violations of the plaintiffs’ rights by a series of wrongful acts from 5th February to 18th June, 1958 “.
His Honour’s assessment-
Again the Chief Justice of Tasmania - was, of course, based on the view that Port Order No. 38 of 1958, which gave a right to preference in employment to members of the Federation, was not in force at any material time. In my opinion-
This is Mr. Justice Fullagar speaking - that Order remained in force until 17th June, 1958. On this view it seems clear that there must be a substantial reduction in damages, because his Honour’s opinion that the wrongful acts committed were a violation of the plaintiffs’ “ right to earn a living at their chosen calling “ must have had a general bearing on the total assessment. Again, that total assessment is very likely to have been .affected by His Honour’s view that the Hurseys continued throughout the material period to be members of the union - a view with which also I have found myself, with respect, unable to agree.
– Will you not concede that Mr. Justice Ashburner of the Arbitration Court had held that that order was in force?
– At the moment, I am not pursuing the action in the Arbitration Court. I want to read the judgments of the High Court Justices without making any comment upon them, letting them answer the extracts that were quoted by the spokesman for the Democratic Labour Party. I think that they will speak for themselves.
Mr. Justice Fullagar continued ;
Further, and perhaps most important of all, the ultimate source of all the trouble was the refusal of the Hurseys to pay the political levy, a refusal which was, in my opinion, not legally justified. In His Honour’s view the resolution for the making of that levy was without force or effect, and the whole of the proceedings therefore assumed in his mind the character of an attempt to enforce an illegal imposition. This again must have affected - and, if His Honour’s view had been correct, rightly affected - the final assessment of damages.
The above considerations are alone sufficient to justify this Court in reviewing the assessment and to require the making of a substantial reduction in the amount awarded. But there are certain other considerations which, to my mind, lead to the conclusion that no sum in the vicinity of ?2,500 can be justified. The events of February and March, 1958, cannot be viewed in isolation, nor would I suggest that the learned Chief Justice so looked at them, but I think that he attached insufficient importance to surrounding circumstances as a whole. This is not a simple case of a large body of men obstructing, with violence and threats of violence and insult, the progress of two innocent persons to a place where they have a right to go. The Hurseys no doubt thought that they were defending an important principle, but the members of the union generally were not actuated by mere personal hostility to the Hurseys. They for their part thought no doubt that they were defending two important principles - majority rule and a monopoly of waterside work for members of the Federation. I think that Mr. Healy thought (probably rightly) that the intention of the Act of 1956 was to give that monopoly. In fact the Act omitted to deal with the case of a waterside worker who was a member of the Federation when he became registered but subsequently ceased to be a member, but the monopoly was, in effect, given by Port Order No. 38 of 1948. If you commit a wrongful act, it is no excuse to say that you are defending a “ principle “, but, when it is a matter of exemplary damages, motives may be matters of importance. In this connexion it is also not to be forgotten that the Hurseys knew, at any rate after the first two or three days, that they would be met by the “ human barrier “ if they attempted to reach their ship. Again it is, of course, no defence that a plaintiff “ came to the nuisance “, but again, when it is a matter of exemplary damages, and when insults and threats are stressed so strongly as aggravating elements, it can hardly he irrelevant that the plaintiffs voluntarily placed themselves “ within range “ day after day.
– Is that a statement of fact?
– It is a statement of the three judges. The judgment continued -
Healy said that he expected them to “stay away “ when once they realized what the attitude of the men towards them was.
Again, the conduct of the plaintiffs - or of F. J. Hursey, who must be taken in these matters to have represented his son as well as himself, was, before the events actually in question happened, in some respects provocative and perhaps even calculated to cast doubts on their good faith. His Honour has found that F. J. Hursey on several occasions said that they would “ split the union from top to bottom “. This was not pouring oil on troubled waters. When Pelham (who was justified in originally refusing to take the contributions without the levy) in September, 1957, wilh the authority of the Executive and of a general meeting, though actually in breach of r. 23 (b), offered to accept from the Hurseys payment of the annual contribution and of death levies without the “ political “ levy, they said that they would have to get legal advice. Why should they want legal advice? More than a month later they said that they would pay only an amount which, on any view, was less than they were bound to pay. Some months earlier F. J. Hursey had said that they were “ pledged “ not to pay the “ political “ levy, and they had refused an option (which again involved stepping outside the Rules) to pay the amount of that levy to any political party they chose. On the other hand, it seems to me that all through 1957 - although some petty and almost childlishly vindictive acts occurred - the union officially showed a good deal of forbearance towards the Hurseys. The levy was originally payable on 12th November, 1956. On 1st May, 1957 (immediately after the “Empire Star” incident) a Branch resolution for their expulsion was passed at a stop-work meeting, but this was disapproved by the Federal body on the ground that the Hurseys had not been heard in their defence. The two incidents mentioned above show that the officials of the Branch were anxious for a peaceful settlement of the whole business. They seem to have discussed paying the levy themselves. But at that time the Hurseys were not even willing to pay the full amount of their contributions. Finally, as late as January, 1958, when they had really ceased to be members of the union, Healy gave them a week in which to pay, and, when payment was not made, rightly (as I think) declared that they were no longer members. I do not see how he could have done otherwise without abandoning a position which he believed to be legally sound, and which, as I think, was legally sound. The inevitable consequences was, of course, that unionists would not work with the Hurseys, but, up to this point at any rate, the impression given by the whole story is that the union was seeking to avoid trouble so far as it could do so without actually conceding that its Rules were not binding on its members. Having regard to all the matters which I have mentioned, I am of opinion that the damages awarded should be reduced to £1,000 in the case of each plaintiff.
The damages were reduced from £2,500 to £1,000 in each case, and in this particular action the Hurseys were obliged to pay half the federation’s costs of the appeal. Mr. Justice Menzies, at page 309, and Mr. Justice Taylor, at pages 298 and 299, also passed strictures in the same terms upon the conduct of the Hurseys, and pointed out that it was unreasonable. The judgment, from which I have quoted an extract, was delivered by Mr. Justice Fullagar, and concurred in by the Chief Justice of the Commonwealth and by Mr. Justice Kitto. I shall not take the time - much as I would like to do so - to read other extracts from the judgments, but I assure the Senate that they are in line with what I have just read.
– Do you agree with the line of reasoning adopted by the learned judges in that matter?
– I do. There were five of them. I entirely agree with it.
– Why have you changed your mind on this legislation?
– There has been no change of mind on it. The party had never considered this matter until this bill was brought up. I have indicated an apparent change of mind on the part of the sponsors in very recent months, which I hope they will tell us about.
– You quoted the judges as saying that the actions of these men were unreasonable. Now you are prepared to support an A.C.T.U. resolution banning these levies.
– The honorable senator should understand that the judges in the. Hursey case found that the rule was not unconstitutional and was not harsh. They found that as a matter of fact. The honorable senator ought to hear another passage on the same subject from the same judge, Mr. Justice Fullagar. Let me read this passage -
The words “ tyrannical “ and “ oppressive “ are of very vague and uncertain import, but, primarily at any rate, I think that they have reference to the internal management of an organization, and that the purport of their prohibition is to ensure that control is in the last resort in the hands of the members and not in the hands of an individual or group. Their effect may go further than this, but I cannot think that a rule is tyrannical or oppressive merely because it may require members against their will to contribute money for a purpose which is relevant to their group interests, and is reasonable and in good faith believed by a majority of the members to be for the benefit of the group.
That represents the considered opinion of three judges, including the Chief Justice. If that is wrong, I do not mind erring in such company.
Coming back directly to the bill, let me show what it proposes to do. It proposes to prohibit the payment of affiliation fees unless people are given the right to contract out. I think that that completely misconceives the purpose of affiliation fees. The payments are not made in respect of individual members of a union. The counting of heads is merely a convenient way of determining what one union, with a small membership, shall pay, as against a union with a big membership. It does not involve in the slightest degree any member of a union in the political philosophy or outlook of a political party which, a majority of the union has determined, should be supported because it is with that party that their best industrial interests lie. It does not mean that at all. If 1 might point to Tasmania, the events there have expressly negatived the view that a member of a union has to be a member of the Australian Labour
Party. He is obliged to take a number of other steps, and he is very carefully screened. He has to sign a pledge and to produce to the secretary evidence that his dues to the union have been paid up. He has to be screened by the executive of the party before he can become a member.
– He cannot join the party unless he has paid his affiliation fees to his union, can he?
– Only unions affiliated with the party can take advantage of the rule. But to suggest that the payment of an affiliation fee puts the brand of Labour on every member of a union is to show confused thinking.
– You are wrong there.
– I put that as the position, and I say that it is merely a convenient method of determining the amount to be paid by a union the majority of whose members have decided that their best interests are served by affiliation.
The second part of the proposal denies the right of a union to contribute from its general funds, a right that unions exercise to-day and have exercised in this country from the beginning. It denies that right because the only moneys that can be contributed to a political party are, as the bill proposes, those that are paid in by members directly to the fund. No transfer from general funds to the political fund is permitted. I should say that that is infinitely narrower than the prototype from which it has been taken, namely, the English legislation.
– Where are the funds coming from that the D.L.P. is getting in Victoria?
– I have answered enough questions from this place to-night, and I suggest that when Senator McManus rises, Senator Tangney direct that question to him. I say quite frankly that I should be most interested in the answer to it.
– You are one of the trustees of the slush fund. You should know where it comes from.
– The question, of course, was directed to the funds of the honorable senator’s party. It is essential to the proper functioning and the efficiency of trade unions that in general matters majority rule should prevail; otherwise the unions become a rabble. I have heard no argument that majority rule should not be accepted in relation to industrial matters or policies to be pursued in other directions; for instance, in a court. Would anybody argue that it was proper that a minority view in a union should be presented to the Arbitration Court or to an industrial tribunal? It is true, of course, that the minority will always take the benefit of any advantages that may be won by the majority. Still, we get this argument when it comes to paying money to the funds of a political party, no matter how traditional that may be.
I repeat that it is to the credit of the trade union movement generally, and also indicative of its common sense and its good past record, that almost universally, throughout the whole period, it has refrained from compulsory political levies. I say to Senator Cole and his colleague that the rare instance does not make the rule, any more than one swallow makes a summer. My party, like Senator Spooner and the Government, is content to rely on the policy decision by the A.C.T.U. to police its own matters. I believe that the one union that has broken away in this matter - the Waterside Workers Federation of Australia - will obey, although perhaps unwillingly. Nevertheless, I am quite certain that it will obey; and with its acquiescence, I am also certain that no other union need be concerned about the matter.
In short, this bill would take us back to the bad old days, which I have been at some pains to describe to-night. Let us realize that the trade unions in Australia were born in a much freer atmosphere than were the British trade unions. The Australian unions have not the heritage of hate and difficulty of the British trade unions, nor have they had to fight against wealth and privilege to the same degree as have trade unions in England. They are entitled to be left untrammelled and to proceed on their way unless there is some gross ill that they themselves cannot cure.
– Above the law.
– Not at all above the law. I should say that the Government has shown very good sense in accepting the policy laid down by the trade union movement which, I am certain, will be honoured. It is in the best interests not only of the trade unions but also of the nation. For all those reasons, the Opposition opposes the bill.
.- This is a private member’s bill and as such, of course, it is in the hands of the Government, which has the numbers. I want to thank the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Spooner) for his fairmindedness in regard to this bill. He has never at any time disguised from us the attitude of the Government. At the same time, he has told Senator Cole and me that the Government would give us an opportunity to put our point of view. He and the Government have been very fair, and I want to express our thanks to him for his attitude.
The attitude of both the Government and the Opposition have been fairly clearly stated in this connexion. In the House of Representatives, on 21st September last, the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) is reported as having said -
He spoke for the Government - say that political levies should be voluntary. It an individual member does not wish to pay such a levy, he should be free simply not to pay it and should not be subjected to any adverse consequences because of not paying it.
Legislation on these lines was prepared by the Government back in 1958. We did not go on with the bill then because the Hursey litigation was proceeding and we could not have proceeded without compromising with that litigation. The matter has been kept under review ever since and we have come to the conclusion that in to-day’s circumstances and subject to certain conditions to which I shall refer in a moment, legislation is not necessary. In coming to this conclusion, the Government has taken into account the considerations I have referred to. It has given weight to the argument that Parliament ought not to legislate so as to interfere in the internal management or domestic affairs of the trade unions. This argument is not decisive. The Government would legislate-
I stress this point - if it were shown that an evil existed that called for legislative remedy.
The federal president of the Australian Labour Party stated his attitude in the “ Western Sun “ in September last in these words -
An important decision was made by the Interstate Executive of the A.C.T.U. at its last meeting in Sydney.
The executive unanimously decided it was opposed in principle to the imposition of levies on individual members of unions for political purposes. This decision will be communicated to the Federal Government.
The Labour Advisory Committee - which consists of representatives of the A.C.T.U., the Federal Parliamentary Labour Party, and the Federal Executive of the A.L.P. - also unanimously endorsed this attitude.
This decision was made to counter the threatened legislation by Senator McManus, the deputy leader of the Democratic Labour Party in the Senate.
Senator McManus outlined in the Senate the terms of a bill he proposed to introduce, not only to prevent political levies in the ranks of industrial unions, but to prevent the unions functioning as affiliated organizations with the A.L.P.
It is believed that the decision of the A.C.T.U. will be sufficient for the Government to oppose the legislation of the D.L.P. . . .
Mr. Chamberlain went on to say, very interestingly -
Australian law has well established the principle of organizational affiliation of industrial unions with the political A.L.P.
Even the original judgment in the Hursey case did not disturb this principle.
There is a vital difference between the principle which supports the organizational affiliation of unions (which is an impersonal one) and the principle of imposing upon the individual a levy to a cause which the individual may find repugnant.
Labour supporters could, perhaps, appreciate how they would feel if called on to meet from their own pockets a levy to support the D.L.P.
I express my admiration of the second last paragraph, which I shall quote again. It reads -
There is a vital difference between the principle which supports the organizational affiliation of unions (which is an impersonal one) and the principle of imposing upon the individual a levy to a cause which the individual may find repugnant.
I congratulate Mr. Chamberlain upon his indignation, but I regret that it was so belated. With the greatest of fortitude, he bore a set of circumstances in which two individuals were called upon to suffer the utmost ignominy and were driven from their employment. They stood for a principle which the federal president of the Australian Labour Party to-day says is beyond reproach.
– When did they learn this great principle?
– Mr. Chamberlain apparently has learned it. He has given expression to it on behalf of your party. If the party stands by him, there is nothing more you can say.
This bill has been introduced in the defence of human rights. We have heard a lot about human rights in recent weeks. The King’s Hall has been crowded with people who have come here to defend human rights. But I have not seen any deputations come here, or any union cars used to transport people here, to defend the elementary principle that a man should not be driven from his job because he will not contribute to a political party to which he is opposed. I have been amazed to see Parliament House invaded by members of the Communist Party, in association with members of the Australian Labour Party, for the purpose of defending human rights. When I saw Mr. McNolty, president of the Victorian branch of the Australian Labour Party, leading into the King’s Hall a group of Communists and A.L.P. men, I wondered what would happen if representatives of such unions as there are in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics were to lead a deputation to the Kremlin to protest on the question of human rights. Honorable senators know as well as I do that they would be shot down before they reached the from steps. I say, therefore, that I am amazed when I see people who claim to be members of the Australian Labour Party associating with Communists, who would destroy human rights if they assumed power in this country to-morrow.
This bill arises from a stand that was taken by two ordinary workmen. I know there are people who talk about communism and how it should be fought, but I have never been in any doubt about the fact that the only person who will defeat communism in this or any other country is the ordinary, common working man who is prepared to display elementary courage. These two men to whom I have referred were prepared to do what few men in this chamber would do. They had the cold courage to walk up to a picket line of people who were determined to keep them out and, if necessary, to use violence against them. Honorable senators may quote any number of opinions expressed by High Court judges or other people, but they will not prevent me from expressing my personal admiration of the courage displayed by these two men.
What they did should never have been necessary. I have frequently expressed the opinion that the wounds from which the Australian Labour Party suffers have been, to a large degree, self-inflicted. When these events were occurring upon the Hobart wharfs, a wonderful opportunity was presented to the Australian Labour Party, through its leaders, to go before the people of this country and to say that it did not wish to accept forced contributions from any trade unionist. If the Australian Labour Party had done that, it would have earned the admiration of the whole of Australia. When it remained silent, it could only have earned the contempt of right-thinking people.
We have been told to-night that this legislation is unnecessary. An agreement has been reached on the Bland-Monk axis to which the Government, on the one side, and the Australian Labour Party and the unions, on the other side, are committed. There has been an industrial dispute. I have known of many industrial disputes that have been settled. I have known also that one principle has always been observed in the settlement of industrial disputes - that is, that there shall be no victimization. In this particular dispute, two men were deprived of their employment and another man who paid the levy, but who supported them, has practically been driven from his employment. I do not see anything admirable in an agreement between the Government and the unions or the A.L.P. which embodies the principle that those who were victimized in defence of another principle, which even the A.L.P. and the A.C.T.U. now say was right, shall not receive back the employment to which they were entitled. When there is a strike, one of the conditions of settlement is that there shall be no victimization of any man who is sacked, or of any employer who is implicated. In the terms of the agreement we are now discussing, and which we are supposed to admire, the Hurseys and the man who stood by them are to be sacrificed. I might, of course, accept that if I were told that it was agreed that the Hurseys would be taken back on the job and that they would go there. My experience over 30 years in the industrial field is that one of the principles in industrial troubles is that there shall be no victimization. I say to the Australian Labour Party and to the Australian Council of Trade Unions that when they made an agreement of this character they let the side down and indicated that they were prepared to sacrifice the individuals involved.
The question that has to be considered first is the position of trade unionism in the community. The classic argument which is put forward against any legislation of this nature is that a trade union is to a large extent a voluntary organization and therefore should not be subjected to laws of a compulsive character. The trade union movement in this country over a period of years believed in compulsory unionism, even by legislation. However, about three years ago the A.C.T.U. altered its attitude. It carried a motion - even Jim Healy voted for it - opposing compulsory unionism. I remember that Mr. Harold Holt, who was then the Minister for Labour and National Service, expressed his admiration for the fair-minded attitude of the trade union movement in declaring itself opposed to compulsion. Let me say that he was very badly advised. When the trade union movement declared that it was opposed to compulsory unionism, what it meant was that it was opposed to compulsory unionism by legislation but it was not opposed to compulsory unionism by industrial action. I challenge any one to name any strong trade union to-day which, if it has the individual power, will not proceed to compulsory unionism.
– That is required.
– Yes. I say that the trade union movement should make clear where it stands. It should not accept kudos from the Liberal Party for opposing compulsory unionism by legislation when it believes in compulsory unionism by the use of its industrial power. I had a lesson taught to me on that some years ago when I was engaged in a long talk with an old friend of mine, the late Mr. Bukowski. In the course of our discussion, I pointed out that he was the secretary of the southern district of the Australian Workers’ Union in Queensland, which embraced southern Queensland and northern New South Wales. I asked him, “ How do you get on when you have compulsory unionism in Queensland and you do not have it in northern New South Wales?” He said, “ There is no trouble. . There is no. compulsory unionism in northern New South
Wales but the workers all join a union because they know that if they do not do so we will throw them in the river.” The situation to-day is that in as many trade unions as have the necessary industrial power there is compulsory unionism. Let us accept that. Let us not have too much regard for the suggestion that is put forward at times by certain people that unionism in this country is purely a matter of voluntary decision.
We believe that this bill represents merely what ought to be done having regard to the fact that in certain industries - the waterside workers are a notable example - compulsory unionism exists today. We say that if you adopt the attitude that a man must be compelled to join a trade union, you have to take the responsibility of preserving his elementary rights as a member of the union. This Government, in the case of the Waterside Workers Federation, has sanctioned the principle of compulsory unionism. Years ago, as a result of a strike, there was introduced what the wharfies called the dog collar act, which provided that waterside workers must be registered. Originally, this requirement was firmly opposed by the unions but to-day it is firmly supported. The shrewd secretary of the union, Jim Healy, realized that by that means the union would have control of labour employed on the waterfront. The position is that no man can work on the waterfront to-day unless he is a unionist.
When the Government, by legislative act, insists that a man must join a union before he can work on the waterfront, the Government then has the responsibility legislatively to preserve his ordinary rights as a worker and a trade unionist. The Government cannot abrogate its duty merely on the ground that it has made an agreement with the A.C.T.U., which, under its constitution, has no right to bind any trade union at all. The question of membership of a union and the question of the right to work on the waterfront are matters entirely for the trade union. The A.C.T.U. is a body of such a character that it can give no guarantee of the type the Government claims it has received, and it can give no definite assurance that such a guarantee will be put into effect.
I want to quote from a publication written by a reader in Industrial Relations at the University of London. In the publication, which is called1 “Trade Unions in a Free Society “, he stated -
It might indeed be asked why the unions should be controlled in this way. Why should they not be free to spend their money as they choose without having to go through the process of establishing a separate fund, adopting special rules, and being subject to the jurisdiction of the Registrar? The answer is obvious: the unions exercise great power and influence, and the community must be protected from the indiscriminate use of funds subscribed to secure industrial protection for political purposes. By their protection of the right to “ contract out “ of payment of the political levy, the political rules emphasize the subsidiary character of political activity. Although unions are bound to be involved in politics, since the government of the day can affect their rights and objectives profoundly, politics is a secondary and not a primary activity of trade unions that have achieved a settled position and a high status in the life of a nation. The first duty of a union is to protect the vocational interest of its members by negotiation and consultation; it is only when these methods prove inadequate that the union should enter into politics.
The last observation tallies practically word for word with a statement I heard enunciated very strongly at the Melbourne Trades Hall Council by the late Reg Broadby, who was secretary of the A.C.T.U., and by Mr. J. V. Stout, the secretary of the Melbourne Trades Hall Council.
– We accept it.
– Your action in voting against this bill will deny it. I want to make some reference to the history of this question. Expenditure by trade unions on political affairs is not a new development. In Great Britain this has been known since 1850. Originally it was designed to achieve two specific objectives. First, an extension of the right to vote, and secondly, an amendment of the law to give greater freedom to trade unions. Later on they also made contributions for the purpose of paying members who could represent them in Parliament. It will be realized that in those days the average trade unionist was not sufficiently well off to be able to enter Parliament. He had to have some means of subsistence. Later on, the trade unionists became dissatisfied with making contributions to support members of Parliament belonging, in those days, probably to the Liberal Party, and tbey formed their own party. Definitely, until 1907 they had the right, which was confirmed by the courts, to pay contributions to political parties. In 1909, Osborne’s case, to which Senator McKenna referred, confined their right to make contributions for industrial objectives. In 1911, following the election campaign in which the Liberal Party promised that it would amend the legislation in the way the trade unions wanted and would return the fees, action was taken to give the trade unions this right. It is interesting to note that the Home Secretary in charge of the bill at the time was Winston Churchill. After the Asquith Government was elected, it did not show any great enthusiasm to proceed with the bill giving additional freedom to trade unions. At that time the Asquith Government depended upon the support of the Irish party and the trade unionists, the Labour Party. The Irish Party made an agreement with the Labour Party that they would work together and force the Government to introduce home rule and the trade union bill. That is the reason why the trade union bill was introduced at that particular time.
The act which was passed in 1913 as a result of that agreement, of which honorable senators may approve or disapprove according to their opinions, introduced these provisions into British law: First, if a union wanted to affiliate with a particular party there should be a secret ballot of its members to approve the affiliation; secondly, there should be a separate political fund for these payments; thirdly any member who disapproved of that political party could contract out by notifying the secretary in writing that he did not want to pay; and fourthly, the Registrar of Friendly Societies was given power to approve or disapprove the rules of the unions concerned.
– In what year was that?
– Nineteen-thirteen. In 1 927, following the general strike, the Tory government of that time altered the legislation so that unionists, instead of contracting out, would have to contract in. That government believed that the great majority of unionists would not be sufficiently interested to write to a secretary of a union to contract in. but it was wrong. As events happened, there was not a very great difference between the amounts of the payments that were made under contracting out and contracting in.
The Labour Party in Great Britain was strongly opposed to contracting in. In 1946, Mr. Ernie Bevin, the then Minister for Labour, introduced a new trade union bill providing for contracting out. It is interesting to note that in referring to the principle that a worker who did not want to pay a contribution to a political party should be allowed to contract out, Mr. Bevin used these words -
It is an act to enlarge the liberties of millions of trade unionists.
When Mr. Bevin said that, he said something that I believe.
– Was there not a true Liberal Party in Great Britain.
– I think there was a difference between the Liberal Party there and the Liberal Party here.
In Australia circumstances have been somewhat different. It has long been accepted in this country that unions should pay contributions to political parties. They have done so in three ways: First, by affiliation fees of so much for each member; secondly, by straight-out donations from particular funds; and thirdly, by levies, whether voluntary or compulsory. For years the law in New South Wales has been practically parallel with the British law in regard to a separate political fund, contracting out and so on. But although that has been the law in New South Wales, the unions have ignored it for years and have got away with it. There have been other factors of which one should take notice. Under Australian law it is not possible for a compulsory political levy to be imposed in every State. I think the High Court pointed out in its recent judgment that compulsory political levies are permissible only in the case of federal unions and in New South Wales and Queensland. As I understand the position, those are the only places where under the law compulsory political levies may be imposed.
For years the Australian Labour Party has enjoyed, without any opposition, the right to obtain political payments from trade unions. I would say that it has been to the advantage of the Australian Labour Party not to have this question raised. I say straight out that it is the kind of issue which once it is raised, you cannot win on it. I was an official of the Australian Labour Party in Victoria for five years, during which period I had this experience: A man would come to the counter and say, “I am a financial member of this union which is affiliated with the Australian Labour Party. On Saturday I went to vote in a selection ballot and I was refused a vote.” I would say to him, “ If you were refused, you can be refused for only two reasons; either you are a member of another party or at some time you have been expelled from the Australian Labour Party.” Usually he would say, “ Yes, I am a member of the Communist Party “. If he said that I would say to him, “ Well, you cannot vote in an Australian Labour Party selection ballot”. He would reply, “Why do you take my money? “ On every occasion when some one said that to me, I said to him, “ Brother, your argument is unanswerable”, and I took a shilling out of my pocket and refunded his money to him out of my own pocket because the Australian Labour Party cannot win on the issue of a man being made to contribute to a political party in which he does not believe.
– You did not go broke giving out shillings.
– No, there were very few cases. But there were cases, and I could see that the Australian Labour Party could not win on that principle.
Senator McKenna is right when he says that very few unions have imposed compulsory political levies. The principal union concerned is the Waterside Workers Federation. I understand that there has been an instance in the case of the Seamen’s Union. However, generally Australian trade unions have not supported the idea of compulsory political levies because the average union has been too fair-minded to do so. A typical example is the Australian Workers’ Union, which imposes political levies to help the Australian Labour Party, but always makes them voluntary. It respects the right of its members not to contribute if they do not wish to do so. Therefore, to those who suggest that there have been so few unions involved that this matter is not worth bothering about, I say that nobody would have bothered about it had it not been for the action which was taken by the Waterside Workers Federation and which was condoned by the silence of the Australian Labour Party and the Communist Party, which were the beneficiaries. No action would have been taken if those parties had not acted in that way.
To give the Senate an example of what people like the Hurseys protested against, I shall read the following extract from the minutes of the Waterside Workers’ Federation. The minutes show that on 11th November, 1955, Senator McKenna addressed the Waterside Workers’ Federal Council then in session. He spoke of the forthcoming Federal election and mentioned the depletion of Australian Labour Party funds. He said -
We will be sending you a letter signed by Dr. Evatt, Mr. Calwell and myself. I think you will be able to guess what that letter will be about.
I am not suggesting that Senator McKenna did anything wrong in doing that; he merely did what has been done by Labour leaders for many years past. I presume that he was sent there for that purpose. That was a normal procedure carried out by Senator McKenna. There was nothing wrong in his association with it. I continue my reference to the minutes by saying that that afternoon the Waterside Workers Federal Council passed a lengthy resolution calling for the defeat of the Menzies Government. On Wednesday, 16th November, the following resolutions were passed: -
That in response to appeals for financial assistance from the Federal Labour Party and the Communist Party, we donate £2,000 to the Federal Labour Party and £500 to the Communist Party.
That this Council recommends to branches and endorses that they strike a levy of at least 5s. per member for the purpose of defeating the Menzies Government, and it be left to the branch to decide which party or in what manner the money shall be distributed. We also urge branches that, where it is decided that a contribution should be made to the Federal Labour Party and the State A.L.P. Branch, the Federal portion be donated through the Federal office.
On Friday, 18th November, the council passed another resolution urging each branch to establish “ Out-Menzies “ committees. Federal councillors took the resolutions to which I have referred back to the State branches, and the Melbourne branch decided to set up an “ Out-Menzies “ committee. The Melbourne Branch imposed a levy on each member for the purpose of defeating the Menzies Government. It kept a certain amount of the money raised for the “ Out-Menzies “ committee and made a donation to the Labour Party funds, although the exact amount of the donation is not known.
The reason for setting up the “ OutMenzies “ committees is this: There might have been a little trouble in the unions if their leaders had simply said that they would give so much to the A.L.P. and so much to the Communist Party. Many members of the A.L.P. would object to that. So the trade union set up the “ Out-Menzies “ committees, and said that it would give the money to those committees, which in turn could give a certain amount to the A.L.P. and a certain amount to the Communist Party. The balancesheet of the Federal Council of the Waterside Workers’ Federation for the year ended 31st December, 1955, revealed that £5,000 had been given to the A.L.P. for its election fund, and £1,510 to the Communist Party for its election fund.
– What year was that?
– 1955. What is the position of the ordinary worker who is violently opposed to the Communist Party? I know many workers, even D.L.P. supporters, who would not say a word about a levy for the A.L.P., but should a man be compelled to pay a levy that will go in part to the Communist Party? I know many wharf labourers who come up to me and, pointing to a map, say that their fathers died in a certain concentration camp or that their brothers are in a certain slave labour camp. Those wharf labourers will often say that their union has instructed them to pay a levy that will be given in part to the Communist Party. That is an intolerable situation, and I do not believe that even Labour men would support it. I am surprised that anybody should vote against this legislation, which would put the matter beyond doubt.
I regret the attitude adopted by the Government in regard to this matter. When this matter was first raised, the Government was asked whether it intended to act. I remember that in 1948, when the Communist Party was rigging trade union ballots and victimizing unionists who were trying to fight against the Communist Party, a deputation was sent to Canberra. I had the honour of moving that that deputation should be sent by the Victorian branch of the A.L.P. The deputation interviewed Mr. Chifley, and it put its case so strongly that legislation was introduced for the first time providing for clean ballots and forbidding victimization of trade unionists. At that time I have no doubt that Mr. Healy anc other Communists would have given al’, the undertakings in the world that the) would not do anything further along tht lines I have referred to. But the Laboui Party in those days felt that the matter should be put beyond doubt and it legislated. It did not accept the word of Jim Healy Or anybody else. It legislated and put the matter beyond doubt. That is all we are trying to do here. Is it not corrupt to ask an ordinary decent trade unionist to contribute funds which may be given, at the discretion of his union executive, to the Communist Party? Is that not corrupt and crooked. I say that such practices should be stopped.
It has been said that this is a matter that should be dealt with inside the unions. I think that the D.L.P. adopted a very reasonable attitude. I asked question after question of Ministers. Senators on the Government side also asked questions. Invariably the answers were that the Government Was considering the situation. Later the Government said that it could not act because the matter was the subject of litigation. When the litigation ended the Government was still considering the matter. Finally, we had no indication from the Government that it was having negotiations with the A.C.T.U. and the A.L.P. I have read in some newspapers that the D.L.P. is much closer to the Government than the A.C.T.U. or the A.L.P., but it is obvious that we are not in the race where the A.L.P. is concerned. We did not hear anything about those negotiations and we decided to introduce legislation. A most remarkable thing happened. On the morning of the day on which our legislation was to be introduced the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ and the Melbourne “ Sun “ were able to announce that the Minister for Labour and National Service would make a statement exactly along the lines of the statement that appears in “ Hansard “.
Those newspapers said that Mr. Calwell would then make a statement. They said that an agreement had been reached between the Government and the A.C.T.U. They said that the A.L.P. was happy about the situation. All those things were announced prior to the Minister acquainting the Parliament of his intentions.
– Somebody leaked.
– I have heard a lot about leakage of information from this Government, but I would say that the incident to which I have referred was a remarkable and scandalous leakage of information prior to a statement being made by the Minister. I hope that the Minister in charge of this bill will indicate the attitude of the Government to that leakage. When the statement appeared in the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ it was accompanied by an expression of opinion from that newspaper’s political correspondent to the effect that the Government and the A.L.P. had united to rebuff the D.L.P. I am not worried about rebuffs. I have had so many in my lifetime that a few more do not matter. However, there seems to be a division of opinion within the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ because after its political correspondent had said that the D.L.P. was being rebuffed, “ Onlooker “ in the “ SunHerald “ saidThere seemed to me to be a strong element of sham in the “ uproar “ in the Federal Parliament during the statement by Labour and Industry Minister William McMahon, on compulsory levies by trade-unions for political purposes.
Actually, both the Government and the Opposition were relieved that, by recommending against such levies, the A.C.T.U. had given them a letout. But there had to be a public demonstration. Hence the “ uproar “.
Cabinet’s decision, obviously approved of by the Opposition, to accept with reservations the A.C.T.U.’s recommendation to the State Trade and Labour Councils, is being represented as a rebuff to the D.L.P.
In a sense, yes. But the D.L.P. . . . can retort that had it not kept the issue alive, there might have been no Ministerial pressure on the A.C.T.U. and no decision by that body against special levies for election funds.
It was the knowledge that the D.L.P. . . . intended to introduce legislation that moved the Government and the A.C.T.U. to reach a sensible accommodation . . .
I will leave it to honorable senators to decide whether that is true or not.
I want to say a few words with regard to the agreement on which the Government, the A.C.T.U. and the A.L.P. rely. In my view and in the view of anybody who knows anything about the trade union movement, as an agreement it is worth nothing. What is it? At best it is an expression of opinion. It simply says that the A.C.T.U. is of the opinion that a compulsory political electron levy should not be applied by affiliated unions. It is merely an expression of opinion which does not bind the Government nor the unions. When the Senate Select Committee conducted its inquiry into indemnity payments the A.C.T.U. gave an assurance that such payments would not be imposed in future. After we obtained the assurance, representatives of different unions appeared before us and we asked them about the matter. Mr. McGowan of the radio operators said, “The A.C.T.U. has no power to bind any trade unions. As far as my union is concerned, we are not bound by any undertaking given by the A.C.T.U. As far as an individual union is concerned, it is bound by its rules and the A.C.T.U. has no power to do anything to it in the event of its not agreeing with this particular decision.” That is an expression of opinion.
– That would be right.
– That being so, as Senator Benn agrees, this opinion of the A.C.T.U. does not bind the trade unions of this country. It is a mere expression of opinion. It binds this Government only so long as it is a government.
– It is a matter of honour.
– I have been in this world a long time and I have had a lot of undertakings given to me as a matter of honour, but I like to see them in black and white. I say to Senator Ormonde that the A.C.T.U. undertaking binds no trade union, and so far as this Government is concerned, it is only binding upon it so long as it is a government. On the day that this Government ceases to be a government there is no undertaking.
I asked Senator McKenna if he would give an undertaking that the Labour Party, if compulsory payments were imposed, would legislate to stop them. Senator McKenna said he was not prepared to answer a hypothetical question.
– He may not have had the authority.
– I know he may not have had the authority, but when he said he would not answer a hypothetical question, as far as I was concerned he answered the question. The position is that this is an opinion of the A.C.T.U. upon which the A.L.P., the Government and the A.C.T.U. relies. It is a temporary expression of opinion which binds nobody and means nothing. It deals with a set of circumstances at a particular time, both sides having looked for a way out.
The Senate has the power in its hands to initiate this legislation. If the A.L.P., the A.C.T.U. and the Government think the principle is right, what is wrong with embodying that principle in legislation? We do not expect that everybody is going to commit murder. A very small number of people in the community commit murder; but we do not say that we will not have a law against murder just because most people have a gentlemen’s agreement that they will not commit murder. We say that we will have a law against murder. In the same way, even if there were only two cases to be dealt with, because you have no firm control over the trade union movement through the A.C.T.U., the only thing to do is to implement legislation of this character.
Some honorable senators have said to me, “I like your legislation generally but T am not sure of the meaning of this or that particular point “. I am not going into particular points of the legislation, other than to say that the bill was submitted to eminent legal authorities with considerable experience in Arbitration Court questions and they said that this was the way in which the legislation should be framed. Senator McKenna said that in my statement to “ Onlooker “ I referred largely to the question of compulsory political payments and not so much to affiliation fees. In reply I say that it was put to me, and I acceded to it, that there was not a very great difference between the payment of an affiliation fee and the payment of a levy. I said that they should both be put upon the same basis.
Some have said to me that they do not agree with contracting out and that they think the legislation ought to provide for contracting in. I disagree with that. In this country a number of trade unions already have a provision for contracting out, amongst them being the Federated Clerks’ Union of Australia and the Amalgamated Engineering Union. In those unions you can already do what is provided for in this bill. They consider that it is the fair thing to do. I agree with even so conservative a person as Sir John Simon, one of the most eminent English conservatives, who, when this matter was debated in 1927 said -
I do not think it is unreasonable that a body like a trade union which has decided on a political fund should have what a great many other bodies, such as limited companies and all sorts of bodies have, namely the benefit such as it is of the inertia of people of no strong opinion.
What he meant was that if a man was not prepared to sit down and write a letter to his trade union secretary and tell him that he wanted to contract out, he did not see why the union should be penalized from that point of view. I agree with him. Some people say that they are opposed to contracting out on the ground that when a man writes to his union secretary and contracts out he reveals his political opinion and may be penalized for it. Experience in Great Britain does not indicate that that is the case.
– Do you not think it would be the case in the Waterside Workers’ Federation?
– 1 do not think it would happen there. Mr. Monk, when speaking at the Melbourne Trades Hall, said that in Great Britain about 12 per cent, of trade unionists contracted out, which was not a very great percentage. I myself think that the Australian Labour Party, or any political party, is entitled to have the benefit of those who are not prepared to write and contract out. If a man writes and does contract out, that does not necessarily mean that he expresses his political opinion. If he writes and contracts out it may be that he has no political opinions; or it may mean that he has political opinions, but does not think the union ought to contribute money, or it could mean that he disagrees with the particular party with which the union is affiliated. I do not think therefore that the arguments against contracting out, as provided for in this bill, are very strong.
I want to say one or two things now about the agreement that has been arrived at by the Government. The Government says that the position is satisfactory in its view because of the assurance that compulsory political levies will be cut out. I want to quote a statement made by Mr. Monk at the Melbourne Trades Hall when this matter was discussed. This is what appeared in the Melbourne “ Age “ -
The president of the A.C.T.U. (Mr. A. E. Monk) said the A.C.T.U. had taken the -position that unions and individual members had the right to say whether they should be called on to make a payment for a forthcoming election.
It was true that A.C.T.U. officers had discussed the matter with the Secretary of the Department of Labour (Mr. Bland) as far back as March.
It was also true that the Government had recognized that a union could subscribe to a political fund, and if it got into difficulties, could recoup the money by imposing a levy after the election was over.
I should like the members of the Government who say that this assurance does away with political levies to listen while I read again -
It was also true that the Government had recognized that a union could subscribe to a political fund,-
It could pay in a lump sum before the election - and if it got into difficulties, could recoup the money by imposing a levy after the election was over.
What does that mean? That means that if Mr. Healy in future wanted to impose a compulsory political levy, he would simply look at the membership of his union, and assuming it was 10,000, he would say to himself, “ We could give a donation of £10,000 to the Australian Labour Party “. Of course, he would not say that; he would say, “We will give £7,000 to the Australian Labour Party and £3,000 to the Communist Party “. When the election was over, he would impose a levy of £1 on every member of his union; and in the opinion of Mr. Monk, with the concurrence of the Government, that is all right. Mr. Monk went on -
We do not say that we should not have any political levies, and the Government has not pushed us to that stage.
Let me repeat it -
We do not say that we should not have any political levies and the Government has not pushed us to that stage.
So the position is, according to Mr. Monk, that the only difference this agreement makes is that you can have a compulsory political levy on every member of a union provided you make it after the election instead of before, and then everything in the garden will be lovely. Mr. Monk said - I agree with him, because I think he is sincere and does not like levies -
My personal attitude - and it has not changed since 1926 - is that there should not be compulsory political levies.
The chairman of the New South Wales Labour Council, Mr. Thom, moved a motion, at a meeting of that body, for the acceptance of the A.C.T.U. decision. He said - this is very interesting -
The Hursey case was not the reason why the A.C.T.U. had decided against political levies. The issues went much deeper than that. Arising out of the High Court case, there was the question of the relationships between Federal and State organizations.
So Mr. Thom is quite certain that whatever reason other people advance for this agreement between the Government and the A.C.T.U., the reason was not the Hursey’s case over the payment of political levies.
– That strengthens our case.
– You have no case.
– I think I would have to agree with Senator Cole that one cannot strengthen what does not exist.
– You have provided a strong argument for leaving it to the trade union movement.
– Senator Ridley has said that the matter should be left to the trade union movement. I have a lot of sympathy with that view. If possible, these matters should be left to the trade union movement, but I say with the deepest regret that, from my experience, that cannot be done. In 1947, I went to a meeting at the Melbourne Trades Hall. Amongst those present was Reg Broadby, then secretary of the A.C.T.U. Also there, I think, were Jack Cain, the Premier, and Fred Riley, one of the oldest and most respected trade unionists in Victoria. We had with us members of the Building Workers Industrial Union who had been trying to get rid of the Communist control of the union, but had been defeated because the ballots were crooked. A man named Miller, who had, at union meetings, attacked the executive, had been declared black and deprived of his job by the union’s action. Our attitude was that that matter ought to be dealt with by the trade union movement itself. These men put their case. Reg Broadby told them that there was nothing that the trade union movement couid do. These men said, “ Do you mean to tell us that for the rest of our lives we have to be members of a trade union run by Communists, in which the ballots are crook?” The leading members of the trade union movement said, “ We are very sorry. lt appears as if nothing can be done.” An appeal was made to the Melbourne Trades Hall Council, which called before it the Building Workers Industrial Union, the union concerned. The union refused to appear, and J. V. Stout, the secretary of the council, said, “We can do nothing about it “. That is why we sent a deputation to Mr. Chifley and to Senator McKenna. We asked representatives of the trade union movement what they could do and they told us they could do nothing. These men even went to the Supreme Court, which said that there was no law governing crooked ballots in trade union elections.
– There is now, though.
– Yes, there is, and that is why there ought to be a law against political levies. The honorable senator is on my side.
– And Labour introduced that law.
– That is true. I had the utmost sympathy with the idea that the trade union movement should settle its own problems but, unfortunately, experience has shown that it is not willing to do so. Take the case of the Federated Ironworkers Association. Ernie Thornton attacked certain members of that union in Melbourne. He tried to throw them out of the union. His method of dealing with anybody that was opposed to him was to declare him black and to order ironworkers not to work with him. To the man’s employer he would say, “ If you do not put that man out of work, I will close down your place “. An employee to whom that happened told me that he went to J. V. Stout, the secretary of the Trades Hall Council, and said, “All I have done is to stand up at meetings of my union and oppose Communist control, and they have declared me black and told the place where I work that it will be closed down if I do not conform. I will not conform. What can I do? What can the trade union movement do to deal with the situation and defend me?” Do honorable senators know what Stout said to him? He said, “ Have you thought of trying to get a job under an assumed name?” That is what the trade union movement was prepared to do.
As I have said, I have the utmost sympathy with the idea that the trade union movement should deal with such matters but I do not think that it can or will do so. In the case of the Building Workers Industrial Union, the union refused to appear before the Melbourne Trades Hall Council. When members went to the A.C.T.U., Reg Broadby said, “ Stout is not prepared to deal with it. He is trying to throw it on our backs and we are not going to take it.” That was the situation. The trade union movement was not prepared to deal with it.
– An isolated case.
– There were more cases than that.
– You have more Communists than we have.
– We have many Communists in Victoria, and there are not very many in South Australia. The trade union movement could not or would not deal with the situation. The Chifley Government did the right thing and dealt with it by legislation. We propose that this matter be dealt with by legislation in the same manner. I do not see. anything wrong with that course and I am surprised that anybody else should see anything wrong with it. The Australian Labour Party, the A.C.T.U. and this Government support the principle. The Government says, “We have to trust the A.C.T.U.”. The A.C.T.U. has expressed an opinion, but the unions have said that the A.C.T.U. has no power of enforcement. I do not think that the A.C.T.U. can enforce its decision, because unfortunately it is not a very financial body, and into its decisions must enter the consideration of a possible loss of contributions by any union against which it takes action. In those circumstances, I have no confidence in the decision of the A.C.T.U. I believe that Mr. Monk’s statement indicates that it is still possible for a union to impose a political levy after an election in the same manner as it previously imposed a levy before an election.
In the circumstances, a fundamental issue of human rights is involved. Whether one likes it or not, the issue is going to be settled in this country. It is whether an ordinary working man can be forced to contribute to a political party in which he does not believe. No government can run away from the responsibility to act by saying that it is going to rely on an expression of opinion by a body which has no power to enforce its opinion. I regret the Government’s action and I regret the attitude of the A.L.P. which, I think, would win a lot of credit if it bluntly said, “ We do not believe in compulsory political levies “. Whether the Government or the Opposition opposes our point of view, we stand by it. We think that it is a point of view that will commend itself to the people of Australia. We intend to persist in our attitude and even if, when the Senate divides, we are on our own, we shall still go ahead.
.- I ask for leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin). - Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question -
That the Senate do now adjoum.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.30 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 22 November 1960, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1960/19601122_senate_23_s18/>.