25th Parliament · 1st 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 -
Coal Industry Bill 1965.
Aliens Bill 1965.
– I preface a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate by reminding him that last week I asked him a question relating to restrictive legislation by the United States of America against the importation of Australian meats into the United States. In reply, the Minister said that the United States Congress had no power over imports and that action in this connection had been taken by State legislatures. Press reports have indicated that the Minister’s reply was not in accordance with the facts. I now ask the Minister: Is it correct that the Australian Government protested directly to the United States Administration on the possible effects of State legislation discriminating against the sale of imported meat? As the Minister is under a misapprehension regarding this most vital matter, will he obtain an authoritative statement from the Minister for Trade and Industry on this matter which is so important to Australia?
– I believe that the honorable senator himself is under a misapprehension. In reply to his question last week, I said that various State legislatures in the United States of America were taking action in connection with the consumption of meat from Australia and this had no relation to the power to restrict imports which resided in the Congress of the United States of America. I regret that I have not re-read the question and the answer but according to my recollection, I said also that the prohibition on Australian meat by some State legislatures in the United States arose from action taken under State health legislation which required certain packing and presentation of meat. I said this action had nothing to do with Congress or the exercise of the powers held by Congress in respect of imports.
The honorable senator has asked what the Australian Government is doing in this matter. I can assure him that the very alert Minister for Trade and Industry is well aware of the situation which is developing because of action taken by State legislatures in the United States, and appropriate action has been taken to bring this matter to the notice of the relevant authorities in the U.S.A. The honorable senator also asked for some definitive statement by the Minister for Trade and Industry. I shall be pleased to refer the honorable senator’s question to the Minister and if he wishes to add anything to the information I have already given the honorable senator, I shall be pleased to pass it on to him.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Industry. Is the present Australian production of frozen vegetables sufficient to meet the full domestic demand? Is there any evidence to suggest that processors of frozen vegetables arc attempting to gain artificially high prices by seeking increased tariff protection against imported products?
– We have always imported seasonally some frozen vegetables, particularly peas and beans, from New Zealand. I am not aware of any application having been made by the Australian industry to the Tariff Board. If the honorable senator will place that part of his question on the notice paper, I will obtain an answer for him from the Minister for Trade and Industry.
– I preface my question to the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral by stating that early in this sessional period I asked the Minister whether something could be done to improve television reception in the upper Murray area of South Australia and that shortly after asking that question I received from a firm named Western Telonics a letter which stated that the firm had technical equipment which would provide television reception of city quality for any towns in this area, and that this equipment had been inspected by and had met with the approval of the Australian Broadcasting
Control Board. The letter also stated that engineers of the Postmaster-General’s Department had expressed interest in the equipment. Will the Minister now request the Postmaster-General to submit a report on the matter so that the Parliament will be able to determine whether there is any substance in the firm’s claim and, if there is, whether the use of such equipment would be economically practicable?
– I will direct the honorable senator’s question to the PostmasterGeneral and endeavour to obtain some information on the matter.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Housing. Has his attention been directed to a statement by the Victorian Minister for Housing, the Honorable Lindsay Thompson, that there has been some evidence in recent weeks of a Reserve Bank policy of tightening the home building lending rate? Will the Minister inquire whether this applies only to Victoria or whether other State Ministers have reported similar circumstances? Will the Minister inform the Senate of the result of his inquiry?
– I have not seen the statement by the Victorian Minister for Housing to which the honorable senator has referred. However, my own knowledge of the housing situation produces a picture somewhat different from that suggested by the Victorian Minister’s statement. The housing figures seem to indicate no downturn and, of course, the figures in relation to commercial building seem to signify an upward trend. It has not been brought to my attention that this alleged action by the Reserve Bank has called for comment in any other State, but, as the honorable senator has asked me to do so, I will have inquiries made. I will let her know the result as soon as possible.
– Does the Leader of the Government in the Senate recall that several years ago it was revealed that more than £100 million was paid to members of the defence forces without parliamentary approval for this having been obtained in the proper way? Does the Minister recollect that the main cause of this irregular pay ment was a shortage of staff in the drafting section of the Solicitor-General’s office? Has the Minister examined the Bills and documents relating to other matters now awaiting discussion by the Parliament and has he formed the opinion that they can be disposed of in a reasonable manner by Thursday of this week? Was the irregular flow of Bills through the Parliament during this sessional period due to a shortage of draftsmen in the Solicitor-General’s office? Does the Minister believe in the Commonwealth parliamentary form of government or does he believe that the Parliament should be treated contemptuously?
– Mr. President, answering first the last part of the honorable senator’s question, I am a firm and staunch believer in parliamentary democracy as practised in Australia. The honorable senator may rest assured that should he ever be engaged in a fight to retain the system of parliamentary democracy of which he speaks so lovingly and is looking for someone to assist him, I shall be only too happy to stand by his side to defend the parliamentary democracy that we know.
I recall the incident to which he refers. As he correctly stated, it arose because - or partly because - it had not been found possible to draft regulations at a time when they should have been drafted. I also recall that subsequent action was taken to correct that position. I have had necessarily to examine the list of legislation which is to be presented to the House this week. I certainly do not give the honorable senator an assurance that he will be able to leave this place by Thursday night. However, this is a matter which I hope to have an opportunity to discuss with the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate later this afternoon or evening. The fact that I shall this day move for the suspension of Standing Order No. 68 indicates that I am aware of the amount of legislation which must be dealt with this week. I trust that the suspension of that Standing Order will make it possible for us to deal expeditiously with the legislation coming forward without sitting too late on one or more nights. A variety of reasons has contributed to the fact that on this occasion legislation is coming to us in the last week of the sessional period in such quantities. One reason is that I understand there has been some delay because of shortage of staff and illness amongst the draftsmen employed in the AttorneyGeneral’s Department. But that is only one of many reasons.
– I wish to preface my questions directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry by saying that it had been my intention to ask them earlier in the year. However, I realised that at that time the Logan Downs case was before the High Court and my action in asking the questions at that time may have been misinterpretated. I ask: Has the honorable gentleman’s attention been drawn to the published opinion of Mr. K. A. Aickin, Q.C., in which he advanced the view that the Australian Wool Board would be acting without authority if it were to expend its funds on promoting its own or anyone else’s wool marketing scheme? Has the Minister sought the advice of the Attorney-General as to the correctness of Mr. Aickin’s opinion? If so. has the Australian Wool Board acted within its authority by engaging in nation-wide broadcasts on wool marketing between 6th December 1964 and 21st December 1964? Does the Minister intend to issue any instruction to the Australian Wool Board in respect of its actions in relation to any future wool marketing proposals which may emanate from its own recommendations or from decisions of the Australian Wool Industry Conference?
– The honorable senator advised me earlier that he intended to ask these questions. I had an opportunity to discuss them with the Minister for Primary Industry who has supplied the following information: The advice of the Attorney-General’s Department has been obtained on the question of the power of the Australian Wool Board publicly to explain the proposals for a reserve price scheme for wool. In the course of its examination of the matter, the Attorney-General’s Department considered Mr. Aickin’s opinion. Having regard to the opinion obtained from the Attorney-General’s Department, the Minister for Primary Industry is satisfied that the broadcasts made by the Wool Board late last year were within the Board’s authority. In view of that opinion, the question of giving instructions to the Wool Board does not arise.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services. In view of the great success of the Winston Churchill memorial appeal to the general public, which has resulted in the establishment of a scholarship scheme, has the Government any plans to perpetuate by a similar appeal the memory of President John F. Kennedy, whose untimely death robbed the free world of a great leader? It is suggested that a John F. Kennedy post graduate scholarship on mental retardation, or a John F. Kennedy modern hospital or sheltered workshop might be established in each State, thus assisting the cause of the mentally handi-capped in which the late President was intensely interested and to which he gave practical help. If the Government has no such plan, will the Minister, who I know is personally interested in this work, raise the matter with the Government with a view to conducting such an appeal for this worthy cause?
– A number of questions of policy arise from the honorable senator’s question. For that reason T ask that it be placed on the notice paper.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Civil Aviation. In the new works which are now, I believe, under way at the Hobart airport, has provision been made for additional space for the parking of aircraft in close proximity to the airport terminal building? If not, will his Department inquire as to the need for increased parking space for aircraft at this airport, which is experiencing increased air traffic?
– Recently a contract was let for the extension of the runway at Hobart airport at a cost of a little over half a million pounds. There is provision in these new works for the extension of the pavement adjacent to the terminal buildings. With the increased traffic in and out of Hobart airport, to which the honorable senator has referred, aircraft are cramped and there is not an oversufficiency of room. This is being attended to in the contract which is now under way.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs. I refer to the reported expression of regret by the Minister for External Affairs at the second Chinese nuclear test. Will the Government go further and make an emphatic protest in the United Nations and elsewhere at this preparation for war, which not only pollutes the environment but also is an affront to the peaceful aspirations of mankind?
– The Government, through its representatives in the United Nations and on other occasions, has over and over again expressed its opposition to the testing of new nuclear devices by any country, has expressed its desire that all countries should join the nuclear test ban treaty, to which Australia was one of the earliest signatories, and on every occasion, both public and private, has expressed this view as the view of the Australian Government to governments concerned or through the United Nations. It appears that little more could be done with any effectiveness in that direction than is already being done.
– The Northern Division of the Department of National Development is currently undertaking a comprehensive survey of beef road development in northern Australia, including the Gulf and the Cape York Peninsula areas of northern Queensland. The provision of satisfactory transport facilities in these remote cattle producing areas is recognised by the Division as being fundamental to the basic development of the areas. A report on this subject is expected to be in the hands of the Minister for National Development in the near future. After the Government has studied this report, it will be circulated to all interested parties.
– Before the adjournment of the Parliament for the winter recess will the Leader of the Government in the Senate make a statement regarding the latest peace moves in Vietnam? Is the Minister in a position to say whether there is any truth in Press rumours that Russia has asked France to pass on secret peace feelers to the United States of America in an effort to bring Hanoi to the conference table?
– I am sure the honorable senator will be the first to recognise the danger of attempting at this time to make any statement that might be based on unconfirmed Press reports. I shall discuss with the Prime Minister, who is the Acting Minister for External Affairs, the possibility of making any statement on the situation in Vietnam and the prospects of peace or of a continuation of the war.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Housing: When will the Housing Loans Insurance Corporation commence the actual business of insuring housing loans? Will State branches or agencies of the Corporation open for business on the same date? What action is being taken at this time to publicise the aims of the Corporation and to attract finance from, and the support of, banking and lending authorities for the purposes of the scheme? Is it a fact that since the relevant legislation was passed there has been a decrease in the amount of funds made available for housing loans?
– I am well aware that at this time possibly the chief pre-occupation of the Minister for Housing is the taking of necessary steps to establish the Housing Loans Insurance Corporation. This involves the selection and appointment of suitable staff and, following that attention to the more physical matters such as the opening of branches, to which the honorable senator has referred. Decisions on such matters will necessarily be taken after initial action has been taken to set up the Corporation. I am not in a position to inform the honorable senator what is the programme for opening branches in each State. I shall take the matter up with the Minister for Housing.
– I address the following questions to the Minister for Customs and Excise: What is the current position regarding the importation of potatoes from New Zealand to Australia? Approximately how many tons have reached Australia and how many more tons are expected in the near future? Are the conditions of scarcity in Australia still applicable, thus requiring importation from overseas to be continued?
– Because of the very strict quarantine requirements of the Department of Health, in order to prevent the spread of disease, it is possible to import potatoes into Australia only for processing purposes. Some potatoes have been imported into the ports of Sydney and Melbourne for processing purposes. It is important to remember that the quarantine requirements necessitate some examination of the residue after the potatoes have been processed. Consequently, it is not possible to permit the entry of potatoes through other ports. I want to make that point particularly clear because representations have been made by processing firms seeking to import potatoes from New Zealand through ports other than Melbourne and Sydney. Very stringent conditions exist in relation to the importation of potatoes.
As to the quantity of potatoes that has been allowed to come into Australia, speaking off the cuff and subject to correction, I think it is about 6,000 tons. Owing to the climatic conditions that have prevailed in Australia there might well be a shortage of potatoes during the coming months. But the question of the importation of potatoes other than for processing purposes would have to be very carefully examined and due regard would have to be paid to the requirements of the Department of Health. I see no prospect of importers being allowed to import potatoes into Australia for other than processing purposes.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Acting Minister for External Affairs. Did the Minister say, as reported in the Press, in his address last night in Canberra to the Australian International Co-operation Year Convention, that the activities of the United Nations Organisation in the political field indicated a betrayal of the dreams which led to the foundation of the Organisation? If he did say that, did this expression of disillusionment represent the views of the Government? Is the Government at the present time putting forward any constructive proposals as a contribution to making the United Nations a more effective instrument for securing world peace?
– I saw this morning in the “ Canberra Times “ a report of the statement I made in Canberra last night to the conference held to celebrate the International Co-operation Year. I was delighted to see that it was, as far as I could tell, a completely factual and completely accurate account and a perfectly concise presentation of exactly what I said, which is not usually found in newspapers. That answers the first point which the honorable senator raised. I endeavoured to put forward the proposition that it had been hoped that the United Nations, and its predecessors in various forms, might have shown how there could be some alternative to unilateral power and force as a means of settling international disputes. But I pointed out how the use of the veto, the extension of the veto, the examples of small countries, such as Hungary, which had not been able to be helped, and other illustrations all indicated that in the political field power politics was still with us and that the United Nations had not provided the answer which some people had hoped it might provide.
I went on to point out that there were avenues of co-operation between nations, which are being helped and assisted by this Government at other levels, which might eventually, one might hope, lead to the growth of what was originally hoped for. This, as I pointed out in the first part of my speech, was not an attack on the United Nations but merely an endeavour to examine factually the organisation which had been set up to see how it could work, what could be expected of it and how it could be improved. The assistance which the Australian Government is giving in fields of cooperation, not only through the United Nations but through the Colombo Plan and from other sources, is, I think, a practical step in real international co-operation.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Civil Aviation. Has the Minister noted the case of a migrant who recently consigned himself in a packing case as air freight in an endeavour to return to Europe? What steps is the Department of Civil Aviation taking to deal with this matter?
– Yes, I did notice the report. This is the second case of this type which has occurred as far as Australia is concerned. I would like to issue a warning to anyone who perhaps proposes to emulate this very foolhardy and dangerous practice because if the packing case containing a person was carried on a non-pressurised aircraft the individual could, in certain circumstances lose his life. The offence carries a penalty of £500 or two years’ gaol or both. The practice is indeed very dangerous. As this case originated in Melbourne and the packing case was taken from that city to Sydney by domestic airliner, the Australian Government will be interested in the matter. The Commonwealth Police are now conducting inquiries along those lines.
(Question No. 413.)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice -
– The Minister for National Development has provided the following answers -
(Question No. 414.)
asked the Minister for
Civil Aviation, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s question are -
(Question No. 441.)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Industry -
– The Minister for Trade and Industry has furnished the following answers -
– On 6th April Senator Buttfield asked for information about the responsibilities of universities in Japan and in the United States of America for educational television, and also whether any thought had been given to the establishment of an educational television school along the lines of the one in England under the sponsorship of the Nuffield Foundation. At the time, I was unable to provide the honorable senator with the information she was seeking, but I indicated that I would endeavour to find the answers to her questions. I have now obtained the following information -
In Japan, educational television is the responsibility of the national broadcasting company, NHK, which has carried education broadcasts since 1959 on a special educational television network. The education department of NHK arranges telecasts to schools, to pre-school and post-school students as well as to adults. Thi universities are involved in production on through the use of members of their staff al broadcasters.
In the United States, the situation varies in different communities. In some cases universities have set up their own studios and conduct courses in television production and, as well, broadcast programmes for university students and the general public. In others, the universities collaborate with other educational bodies in trie community to give financial support and provide programmes for community educational television stations. There, in addition, many universities use closed circuit television for extending their classroom work. In some communities, school administrative bodies set up educational television stations to serve their own schools, and in others voluntary community organisations and educational bodies arrange to finance the running of stations after assistance has been received from the Ford Foundation in erecting studios and transmitters.
The courses at the Centre for Educational Television Overseas school in London to which tha honorable senator referred, were arranged especially for broadcasters from the developing countries who have little or no experience in the television medium. The Australian Broadcasting Commission will open a Training School in Sydney later this year. Courses will be arranged for producers and other broadcasting personnel in all branches of television and radio broadcast* ing, including education.
Motion (by Senator McKenna) - by leave - agreed to -
That leave of absence be granted to Senator Brown for one month on the ground of ill health,
– I move -
That Standing Order No. 68 be suspended until the end of the present period of sittings to enable new business to be commenced after 10.30 p.m.
I submit this motion, which is self explanatory, to enable new business to be commenced after 10.30 p.m. Within the next few days we shall be discussing quite a lot of legislation. To arrange the flow of business so that it will be, I believe, more convenient to all honorable senators, it will be necessary sometimes to introduce new business after 10.30 p.m. This motion is not novel in the Senate nor indeed is it novel in any democratic parliament that abides by standing orders similar to ours. Normally at the end of a session there is necessarily something of a rush. That is the position on this occasion and for that reason I submit the motion.
– I oppose the motion not only for the many reasons 1 have advanced against it previously on innumerable occasions but also for other and different reasons that I shall offer now. I was rather intrigued earlier today to hear the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Paltridge) qualify his praise for democracy with the words “ as practised in Australia “. I am quite certain the M inister had this motion in mind when he applied those qualifying words. Odgers in “ Australian Senate Practice “ pointedly directs attention to the fact that the reasons for Standing Order No. 68 are, first, to protect minorities - and that would be a democratic purpose - and, secondly, to prevent legislation by exhaustion. That also is a very worthy purpose. Accordingly I fully realise now why the Leader of the Government added a qualification when he expressed his praise for democracy earlier today.
Wc have had experience of the suspension of this very useful standing order which prohibits the commencement of new business after 10.30 at night. Nobody with experience in the Senate will contradict me when I say that many of the incidents reflected no credit upon the Government or upon the Senate itself. We do not have to think back very long to appreciate the truth of that statement. In the light of experience with the present Leader of the Government in the Senate and his predecessors, I would say that generally the arrangement under which Leaders of the Government and Leaders of the Opposition have conferred from time to time on the order and conduct of business has worked exceedingly well for the convenience of most people concerned and certainly for the convenience of the Senate itself. It has worked so well so far during this sessional period that, speaking from memory and not from a. search of the records, I can recall only one occasion when the debate has been gagged by the Government. That speaks well for the good sense of both the Leader of the Government and the Leader of the Opposition.
I pay tribute to the Leader of the Government for his courtesy in providing consultation on this important matter of arranging the business of the Senate and for his readiness to listen to requests from the
Opposition. 1 do not know why, even at this late stage in the sessional period, he should not continue to rely upon that technique for the days that remain. It may well be that this motion will be carried. I hope that it will not be carried and that we shall be able to continue with the arrangements that have worked so very well hitherto.
I was very pleased to hear him announce, in reply to a question asked this afternoon by Senator Benn, that there would be discussions between Government and Opposition leaders on the arrangement of the business to be dealt with in the immediate future. My colleagues and I will be quite happy to participate in those discussions, but I indicate right away that the Opposition has three conditions in mind. The first is that there should be enough time to give proper consideration to all the bills. The second condition is that there should be a proper gap between the introduction of new business and the resumption of the debate on it. I mention only one matter in this connection. Bills that come from another place are very frequently the subject of comments by Ministers in the other place, and before debate proceeds in this chamber it is of great convenience and help to participants in the debate to learn what fresh pronouncements have fallen from ministerial lips. That cannot be done if the debate is proceeded with immediately.
The third condition is that there should be no continuation of the sittings beyond midnight or thereabouts. A period of rest is essential. We all have had experience of working not only right through the day but also right through the night and even beyond the small hours of the following day. I recall one occasion not so long ago when we continued through until lunchtime on the following day. That certainly is not conducive to good temper, good health or good legislation. It does not reflect any credit upon those who sponsor it or even on those who participate in it.
In the circumstances which have existed between the Opposition and the Government, we know that the end of a sessional period is in sight when this hardy annual or biannual comes up. We have been told that responsible people in another place have indicated that the sittings will conclude this week. One spokesman has said that they will not conclude until next week.
In any case, it is quite clear that the end is in sight. The introduction of the motion now before us is really an invitation to the Opposition to be obstructive. I am sure that the Leader of the Government, in introducing it, does not intend that, but I direct his attention to the fact that it may enforce upon the Opposition a duty to obstruct Government business. That is not a course upon which we want to embark. I hope that we still will be able to proceed with discussions and understandings as in the past, and that there will be no need for the Minister to do any more than to introduce new measures after 10.30 p.m., letting them lie until a proper period has elapsed before we are asked to debate them.
Wilh the end of the sittings in sight, I direct attention to the fact that already to our knowledge there are some 23 bills to be discussed, lt is true that some of them are bracketed together and may, so far as the second reading stage is concerned, be debated together. At present there are seven bills on the Senate notice paper and sixteen on the notice paper of the other place. I think it proper to list them for the record. The bills on the Senate notice paper are -
Conciliation and Arbitration Bill 1965.
Poultry Industry Levy Bill 1965.
Poultry Industry Levy Collection Bill 1965.
Poultry Industry Assistance Bill 1965.
International Wheat Agreement (Extension) Bill 1965.
Cellulose Acetate Flake Bounty Bill 1965.
Western Australia (South-west Region Water Supplies) Agreement Bill 1965.
The notice paper shows 13 matters listed for the other place, and notice is given of three other matters. The 13 Bills listed are as follows: States Grants (Petroleum Products) Bill 1965; Customs Tariff Bill 1965; Customs Bill 1965; Sales Tax (Exemptions and Classifications) Bill 1965; Commonwealth Electoral Bill 1965; Referendum (Constitution Alteration) Bill 1965; International Monetary Agreements Bill 1965; Broadcasting and Television Bill 1965; Parliamentary Retiring Allowances Bill 1965; Appropriation Bill (No. 3) 1965; Supply Bill (No. 1) 1965; Supply Bill (No. 2) 1965; Appropriation (Special Expenditure) Bill (No. 2) 1965.
In addition, the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) has given notice of a Bill to amend the Universities (Financial Assistance) Act 1963-64; a Bill to grant Financial Assistance to the States for Science Laboratories and Equipment in Schools; and a Bill to grant Financial Assistance to the States for Buildings and Equipment for use in Technical Training in State schools. It is quite obvious that while the list includes machinery matters, it also includes matters which are not only of great importance but are of vast volume. I have referred to alterations to the Commonwealth Electoral Act and the Broadcasting and Television Act, and to the States Grants (Petroleum Products) Bill, the Customs Tariff Bill, the Customs Bill and the three education bills.
Although the Senate rose last Thursday night and I have addressed almost every minute of my waking period since to the legislation coming forward, I confess that I have not yet looked at some bills. That is the situation in what seems to be the last week of the sessional period. There literally was not sufficient time. Honorable Senators who have examined the legislation will have noticed the volume of reading matter that is required in a consideration of the States Grants (Petroleum Products) Bill and the importance of the issues raised in the Commonwealth Electoral Bill, the Customs Tariff Bill and the Customs Bill. The changes to be made must be taken on trust by the Opposition, unless we are prepared to spend days in a study of them. We just have to take the Government’s say so as to the effect of the changes. It may be that we can do that, but if we do so, do we discharge our responsibility properly? The Opposition believes that ample time should be allowed to examine these very important matters.
I welcome the intimation given at question time by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Paltridge) that discussions will take place between him and the Opposition in relation to arrangement of our heavy programme. If the three points I have enumerated are kept in mind, I have little doubt, in the light of past experience, that we shall be able to give proper attention to the Bills and at the same time have due regard to the convenience and health of honorable senators and to all members of this Parliament. If agreement can be reached between the leaders of the parties which can then be ratified by the three separate parties - both Government and Opposition - it would be the best of all worlds and the sensible way to conduct the business of this Senate.
– I wish briefly to oppose the motion of the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Paltridge). We came here on 16th March after a holiday of four months. I do not mean to disparage the work of members of this Parliament by using that expression. We were in recess for four months and for the first six weeks of this sessional period we debated nothing but ministerial statements. Quite a number of ministerial statements still appear on the notice paper of the other place and of the Senate, plus the Bills to which the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator McKenna) has referred. I wish to deal briefly with the . Referendum (Constitution Alteration) Bill, to which my leader did not refer in detail. A bill that touches the Constitution of Australia must be a bill of some importance. Surely we can expect that when we come here after the Parliament has been in recess for a period qf four months the Government will have at least some of its business ready for the Parliament to go on with.
The Minister has said that this is the normal procedure in this chamber at such times. That may be so. I think that since I have been here this motion has always been proposed, but it is not in accordance with normal democratic procedure to introduce the important matters which will be introduced into the Senate in the dying hours of the sessional period after this lapse of time and hasten consideration of them. If we had been fully employed for the seven weeks that we have been here and if the Government had then found it was unable to complete its programme and required a resolution of the type that it now seeks in order to do so the Opposition would have had in some sympathy for it in its predicament. But in the first week of the sessional period we sat on only one day; at other times we have been scratching round for speakers to fill in time in order to keep the Senate sitting; and in the last week 23 bills are to come to us for consideration. Many important statements will not be discussed or when the time comes for them to be discussed they will be completely out of date. I instance only one, which was referred to by the Leader of the Government the other day, namely, the report of the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) on his overseas visit in connection with investment from overseas, which this Parliament should debate coldly, clearly and concisely. By the Budget session, the whole thing will be out of date, and should not even be on the notice paper. For these reasons, the Government should not be permitted to introduce new business after 10.30 p.m.
– in reply - r 1 want at once to say again to the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) that I do not propose to abandon the practice to which he has referred in terms of commendation, of continually consulting him day by day as to the programme, but the motion which we are now considering is necessary at this time to supplement that close arrangement. There is nothing new about it, as I have said before. This is a procedure which was resorted to by the Labour Party when in office. In the unlikely circumstance of its being in government again in the foreseeable future, it will be resorting to this procedure again. The procedure permits the introduction of new business after 10.30 p.m. The suspension of the Standing Order will, I submit to the Senate, make it possible for us to move more smoothly through the outstanding business or the business as it comes forward, and that is preferable to inhibiting ourselves by putting upon the Senate a condition that we should not introduce new business until the following day if we are not ready to go ahead with it by 10.30 p.m.
The Leader of the Opposition has referred in rather harrowing tones to the horrors that flow from suspension of this Standing Order. What in fact has occurred over the past three years? In 1964 we sat beyond 12 midnight on 5 occasions, 3 of them in the spring sessional period and two of them in the autumn sessional period. In the autumn sessional period we sat until 3.43 a.m. on 19th May and until 6.12 a.m. on 20th May. The hour of 3.43 a.m. is rather late in the morning, but to sit till that hour is not to sit right through the night, although the Leader of the Opposition thinks otherwise. If one goes back to 1963 one finds that in that year we sat beyond 12 o’clock on four occasions. If one goes back to 1962 the record shows that we sat beyond 12 o’clock on two occasions. I suggest to honorable senators that that record does not throw up the extreme circumstances that were referred to or indicated by the Leader of the Opposition. What we propose is no more than the usual procedure that is followed in almost every Parliament that I know of. It does not necessarily entail sitting through the night. We have to go back many years before we find the particular occasion to which the honorable senator refers. On that occasion we sat until about midday on a Saturday, I think, to clear the business. It is not usual to do that, and I trust that it will not be necessary to do so on this occasion. I am prepared to consult with the honorable senator in order to meet the convenience of all senators; but I make it quite clear that I do not give him any specific assurance in respect of the three conditions that he mentioned. However, I shall certainly bear them in mind when we are discussing the programme of business.
Question put -
That the motion (Senator Paltridge’s) be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Alister McMullin.)
Majority . . 4
Debate resumed from 13th May (vide page 845), on motion by Senator Gorton -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Upon which Senator McKenna had moved by way of amendment -
At end of motion add “ but the Senate is of opinion that the Government should immediately introduce legislation to repeal the injunction and contempt provisions of the Act in relation to awards “.
.- When the Senate adjourned on the night of Thursday last, 13th May, I was partially through the comments that I wish to make on this measure. I had expressed myself as being strongly in support of every effort that is made to reduce industrial unrest. I had also stated that in far too many instances industrial unrest was the result of the work of extremists. I cited one illustration to lend point to my comment, and I was rather astonished to hear Senator Cavanagh challenge what I said. I had explained that one strike at the Bowen meatworks, situated at Merinda, was caused because certain employees, knowing full well that they were required to wear issue boots, arrived wearing thongs and repeated the offence on the next day. I had said that that was the basic cause of the dispute. Senator Cavanagh then said that I knew that that was not the cause of the strike. I have checked the facts to make sure that my memory was not playing me false and I have learned that I was quite correct in making that statement.
I had intended to use that illustration merely in passing. I thought it was well known to honorable senators opposite as well as to those on this side of the chamber that many strikes are the result of petty, stupid and simple acts, and that they ought never to occur. When Senator Cavanagh speaks I disagree with him quite frequently, but I never challenge his sincerity. Because I do not challenge his sincerity, I am forced to the conclusion that he does not know the detail–
– Does the honorable senator say that the cause of the Mount Isa strike was a petty one?
– I repeat that I am forced to the conclusion that Senator Cavanagh does not know the detail of industrial trouble, which is often the result of silly and stupid acts. Therefore I propose to do what I had not originally intended to do and to give to Senator Cavanagh - apparently his colleagues need the lesson too - a few facts which no doubt he will find to be somewhat unpalatable. First, I want to refer to some very interesting figures that were mentioned by Senator Cant. The honorable senator pointed out that of a total of 869 strikes in the year 1959, 105 occurred as a result of disputes over wages, hours and leave, and 556 as a result of disputes over physical working conditions and managerial policy. He quoted figures through to 1963. In every instance that he quoted, physical working conditions were the greatest cause of industrial unrest. I would add that they covered both Federal and State jurisdictions. That is an important point. I also point out that in that category not only was there the greatest number of disputes, but also the greatest number of working days lost. Senator Cant, after giving those figures - and I make it clear that I am not challenging them - said -
These are the disputes that worry the Australian Council of Trade Unions and they are the spontaneous disputes that occur on the job. They are rather short in duration but, nevertheless, they tend to disrupt industry.
I agree with that. He went on to say -
They are not, generally, disputes authorised by the registered organisations concerned. These are the disputes that the legislation proposed by the Minister will do nothing to cure . . .
I join issue with him there on one point, that the Commonwealth legislation, which this Bill proposes to amend, does a great deal to create unnecessary and frivolous strikes. I shall give illustrations to prove the point that I am making.
I have already given one illustration which dealt with the meat industry, and because time will not permit me to traverse the whole industrial field, I shall confine my remarks to the disputes which have occurred in the meat industry. I may say that I had considered referring to the Mount Isa dispute. But on further thought I recognised that that dispute came within State jurisdiction and not Federal jurisdiction, and as the Bill which we propose to amend deals with Federal jurisdiction, I would be out of order in referring to Mount Isa. Therefore, I shall refer to the meat industry. Over the years some of the meatworks in Queensland have operated under Federal awards and some under State awards. In 1960 there was a fairly concerted move away from State jurisdiction towards Federal jurisdiction because of the fact that under Federal law it was possible to impose additional penalties. This resulted in much more industrial harmony or, shall I say, much less industrial disharmony, than existed under the State law.
The meat killing industry is unique in some ways. It is very vulnerable. Of course, every industry has its area of vulnerability, but the meat killing industry is vulnerable for two specific reasons. First, the cattle which are killed at our meatworks are frequently drawn from tick free areas. Anybody who is familiar with the cattle industry knows that if cattle are moved from a tick free area into an area where ticks exist, there is considerable danger of them developing red water within 10 days. Consequently, it is necessary for the cattle that are brought to the meatworks to be killed and treated within this period so that they do not become ill. That is one area of vulnerability in the meat industry. An urgency exists in this industry that does not exist in other industries.
The second area of vulnerability and of urgency is concerned with the fact that at the present time a great deal of beef is sold as boneless meat. Beef which is to be sold as boneless meat is slaughtered and placed in a chiller. Then at a certain period of time and at a temperature of between 45 and 60 degrees, it is boned and prepared for export. Only a short period of tolerance is allowed there. If the period exceeds 10 days the meat is frequently useless and has to be disposed of. In order to illustrate this point I shall refer to meatworks which, incidentally, had been operating under State jurisdiction but which had moved into the Federal jurisdiction. At one time there was £50,000 worth of beef in the chillers awaiting boning when a strike occurred. Had the meatworks been operating under State jurisdiction and had the strike been prolonged beyond 10 days the meat would have been useless, but because they were operating under Federal jurisdiction and sanctions could be imposed, the meat was saved. It would not have been saved had the company not moved into the Federal jurisdiction in the period prior to this incident. I think that is a very important point to bear in mind.
The meat industry, in common with other Industries, has been subjected to very many petty strikes. Indeed, I would say it has been subjected to hundreds of them. That statement might appear to be an exaggeration, but I refer honorable senators to the official records. I have one or two copies of them here. Reference to the records shows that at the Brisbane Abattoir alone - forgetting about all the other meatworks in Queensland - in a 10 months period in 1961-62, 188 separate stoppages took place before the Abattoir moved into Federal jurisdiction. The stoppages occurred during the time it was operating under State jurisdiction when no sanctions could be applied. I think all honorable senators - even honorable senators opposite who so strongly oppose sanctions - will agree with me when I say that to have 188 stoppages at one meatworks in a period of 10 months is a ludicrous situation. 1 shall now explain what happened when the Brisbane Abattoir moved from State jurisdiction into Federal jurisdiction. A seven weeks strike occurred at the Abattoir. It is also interesting to note that although the works were under Federal jurisdiction, one section remained under State jurisdiction. The part of the works which was covered by Federal jurisdiction was the meat hall. The rest of the works were not under Federal jurisdiction. During this period in 1964 when there was a seven weeks strike at these meat works, the only section of the works covered by the Federal Meat Industry Award, the meat hall, did not go on strike. Every other section of this abattoir did. It is perfectly clear that the reason why one section went on strike and the other section did not was that in one case sanctions could be applied and in the other case sanctions could not be applied. This could be arguable, I suppose, but that fact, to my mind, is perfectly well demonstrated. However, this is leading up to the further illustrations that I want to give.
In 1963, there were some discussions between sections of the industry as to whether an application could be made to the Court to remove sanctions or to remove the bans clause from the award itself. I repeat that these were just some general discussions, not a decision. The Meat and Allied Trades Federation, anticipating the possibility of this case, prepared a background brief to present to the Court should the case come before the court. One thousand pages of this brief - that is a lot in anybody’s book - were devoted to industrial stoppages which had occurred under State jurisdiction, but not under Federal jurisdiction. There were 1,000 pages devoted to industrial disruption within the meat industry itself. I think this is a shocking situation. Whilst it continues, I do not see how we can ever hope to really get efficiency into the industry. Because of these problems, most meatworks moved over to Federal jurisdiction. There has been infinitely less trouble since that changeover.
I must illustrate my next point very thoroughly because 1 want to leave no doubt in the mind of any honorable senator that whilst the meat industry in Queensland was operating without sanctions - it was operating under a State award where there were no sanctions - an application was made to the Industrial Court in this regard. I am going to quote from the “ Queensland Government Gazette “ of Wednesday, 21st January 1959. The issue I have is No. 35. This was a case which had been taken to the Industrial Court in Queensland. This is quite a lengthy document. I do not propose to quote all of it because 1 do not think it is justifiable that I should. Within this document certain extracts from evidence appear. I might add that the Industrial Court Member who was adjudicating on this case was Mr. J. P. Bennett, who had been appointed to the Queensland Industrial Court by a Labour government. He had a very good record of service prior to his appointment to the Court, and I would add that he has had a very good record since his appointment. Mr. Bennett heard this case. The extracts of evidence which are published in this official document show that union representatives openly admitted that they practised political blackmail to get conditions beyond award conditions that had been decided upon. This is a very serious situation when one realises the full aspect of it. So, I wish to quote a section of the interrogation and cross-examination of Mr. Fay, who was an official of the Australasian Meat Industry Employees Union in Cairns. The passage reads -
Question: In other words, you agree that you set out purposefully to deny the employer the right he has under the Award, if it is not satisfactory to you?
Answer: If it is nui satisfactory to the members.
Question: If it is not satisfactory to the members?
Question: You set out to deny him that right?
Answer: That is correct.
Question: You see nothing wrong with that approach?
Answer: Nothing at all.
This passage formed a part of the judgment which was given by Mr. Bennett. He traversed the history of the meat industry over the years. What I have quoted is a section of some of the extracts that he read. He then gave his own conclusions. As to the evidence, he said -
In the review of the evidence, I have not referred to evidence for the applicant which relates to a comparison of the rates of pay and conditions of employment as contained in the Notice of Motion with other awards and Industrial Agreements. 1 am skipping a lot of Mr. Bennett’s remarks, but this document is available for anybody to see. Mr. Bennett went on to quote what happened as far back as 1919. He referred to a judgment given in that year by the then President of the Queensland Industrial Court who said -
My conclusion from the evidence given in these proceedings and from the statements made in my presence at compulsory conferences is that the operations of the largest works of the North, Ross River and Alligator Creek are carried on, retarded or stopped at the whim of a mob led or followed as it suits their purpose by officials whose avowed policy in the words of the Northern District Secretary is not to suppress but to excite discontent. This policy is dictated by a spirit of revenge against the employers, who impelled by the disregard paid to agreements by this very same section of employees had invoked the jurisdiction of the Court of Industrial Arbitration. Adopting sabotage and choosing occasions when owing to the perishable nature of the products handled their demands could not be resisted without great loss to the employers their attacks have until recently been crowned with immediate success.
Those remarks, which came from the “ Queensland Government Gazette “ of 12th February 1919 were quoted by Mr. Bennett in 1958 when handling this matter.
Mr. Bennett went on to say ;
I have quoted at length from this judgment as it is obvious to anyone hearing or reading the evidence in this case that history has repeated itself and (he tactics used in 1919 have been successfully used at Queerah almost 40 years later.
I do not propose to reiterate other statements made by the Court in regard to this Union’s activities but I refer to one of many incidents related in evidence in this case.
In October, 1956. as the result of an industrial dispute a number of calves were killed by members of the staff solely to avoid cruelty to the animals as they were too young to fend for themselves.
I remind honorable senators that the men were on strike; so the staff killed these calves to avoid cruelty. My quotation continues -
As a prerequisite to a resumption of work, a demand was made on the Company for a sura equal in value to the wages which would have been paid to members of the A.M.I.E.U. had they performed the work. The amount of ?49 6s. was paid.
That is an example of the political blackmail - there is no other way to describe it, and it was so described by Mr. Bennett, a member of the court - which went on in this industry. It was beyond all reason. Because of this political blackmail, one after the other the meatworks left the State jurisdiction and went over to the Federal jurisdiction. They did so because sanctions can be imposed under the Federal law but not under the State law. Because they did this, and because sanctions have been used when employees have resorted to blackmail tactics - I use the word again - strife within this industry has been cut to an almost unbelievable degree. On practically every page of the document before me there is an illustration of what I am telling the Senate today.
– Does the honorable senator want the document incorporated in “ Hansard “?
– It is somewhat lengthy. 1 think I would be overstepping the bounds of courtesy by asking for it to be incorporated in “ Hansard “. However, anybody who so wishes can see it. I make the point that if it had not been possible for the meat industry in Queensland to operate under Federal jurisdiction, which provides for sanctions, that industry would be virtually dead today.
Let me repeat what I said quite early in my speech. I do not like to see penalties imposed on anybody and I wish it were possible to avoid the imposition of penalties, but, Mr. Deputy President, I could not, in all honesty, support any proposal to remove the sanctions provision from the legislation when it can be proved conclusively that the existence of the sanctions provision has saved an industry which is of great value not only to Queensland but also to the whole of Australia. Queensland exports more than 50 per cent of the Australian beef that goes overseas, and the Queensland meat industry would have been killed if it were not for the existence of the sanctions power. Al- though I hate to see penalties imposed, while there is industrial blackmail and a threat of the death of a great industry I could never in conscience support the removal of the sanctions power from this legislation. Therefore, I cannot support the amendment which has been moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna.)
I think there is a slight danger that the Bill we are considering could, because of the rest period, incite within this industry, to a degree, action of the kind I have described, but, because of its overall application and because it will give greater opportunity for conciliation than previously existed, I support it. I hope it will bring all good and no evil. I would have liked very much to give certain illustrations of the recent Mount Isa problem, but I refrained from doing so because the dispute there did not affect the Federal jurisdiction and I assumed that if I referred to it, Mr. Deputy President, you would rule me out of order. I reserve what I have to say on that matter for another time. I am very much opposed to the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition and I strongly support the amending Bill which is before us.
.- Three views have been expressed during this debate. The first is the view put forward by the Minister for Works (Senator Gorton) - it was supported with considerable enthusiasm by Senator Morris, although he qualified his support in the last few minutes of his speech - that the legislation which is before us should be approved and that the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) should be opposed. The second view expressed was that of the Opposition, which does not oppose the legislation but supports the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition. That amendment is -
That the following words be added to the motion that the Bill be now read a second time - “but the Senate is of opinion that the Government should immediately introduce legislation to repeal the injunction and contempt provisions of the Act in relation to awards.”.
That is the view that I desire to support. The third view was put forward by Senator Wright, who, as I understand him, is opposed both to the Bill and to the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition. In his speech Senator Wright said that he could only think that the author of the Bill was a will-o’-the-wisp. He described the legislation as being “ inane “ and as “ showing less than respect for the intelligence of the Senate “. His contention was that it went too far because it made a concession to the view which the Opposition and the trade union movement of Australia have put forward over a long period of time. The amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition was based upon our conviction that it is time to take out of the statute altogether sections 109 and 1 11, dealing with contempt. Senator Wright did not agree with that. Senator Morris, in the last few minutes of his speech, seemed to be fearful of dangers which might arise by reason of the granting of the so-called rest period.
– I sounded that note, but I supported the legislation.
– I know. Senator Morris is an enthusiastic advocate of sanctions, because he said that he regarded sanctions as an important ingredient in the system of industrial arbitration. He sensed danger in the granting of this rest period, but he still supported sanctions.
– Specifically for the industry that 1 mentioned.
– I did not understand the honorable senator to be limiting his remarks to the meat industry. He discussed some proceedings in the State industrial tribunal back in 1959 and the circumstances under which the Queensland meat industry came to operate under a Federal award. I ‘know nothing of that matter and I do not want to debate the niceties of that proposition. I want to say something about what might be regarded as the sanctions outlook, the philosophy of sanctions. It seems to me that the attitude of the Government and its supporters on the general question of the penal provisions of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act is limited and circumscribed. There seems to be a great deal more anxiety to stop strikes than there is to remove the causes of strikes. In my opinion, this is essentially a negative approach. Much more emotion and enthusiasm are spent on defending the need to put an end to strikes than in raising the fundamental questions of industrial efficiency, harmonious employer-employee relationships and, ultimately, large national questions like productivity. The Government and its supporters seem to concentrate upon the superficial aspects of this matter.
This has been noted by a learned commentator on industrial relations who has written a good deal in this field and has given much consideration to this question of penal provisions. I refer to Professor J. E. Isaac, formerly Professor of Economics in the University of Melbourne and now Professor of Economics in Monash University. I believe he is also President of the Industrial Relations Society of Victoria. Writing in the “ Journal of Industrial Relations “ of October 1963, Professor Isaac had this to say about the philosophy of penal sanctions - . . as the law now stands it encourages some to be so obsessed and so impatient with trying to stop all strike action as an end in itself that two important matters are inclined to be neglected. First, to seek out the more fundamental causes of industrial discontent, of which strike action is only a symptom, and to provide more effective machinery for alleviating discontent without the use of penal sanctions. Treating symptoms is not the same as treating causes, as anybody with a persistent headache well knows when offered an asprin. Secondly, industrial relations are a continuing relation, and it is important to keep on asking what effect sanctions have on such relations. Are we in danger of throwing the baby out with the bath water? It is not enough to say that the use of penal sanctions is not very widespread. Its frequent use, even in a limited area, is bound to evoke a general sympathetic response among workers.
These observations seem to me to place the emphasis where it should he placed - on a constructive approach to the whole problem of the industrial complex and industrial relations. The legislation before the Senate is some concession - a very modest and minor concession - to the point of view I have put. This point of view has been expressed very forcefully both in this Parliament by the Opposition and outside the Parliament by the trade union movement which has been united in its opposition to the contempt provisions of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act ever since they were introduced.
One need only refer in passing to the debates that took place both in this chamber and in another place as examples of this unequivocal attitude. When these provisions were introduced, the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) warned the Government that no good would come of them because in the end they would run against the united opposition of the trade union movement and the political wing of the Australian Labour Party. I believe that what the Leader of the Opposition had to say on that occasion was prophetic because no provisions in Australian industrial legislation have caused more unrest and generated more genuine opposition than these contempt provisions.
Let us have no misconceptions about this matter. These are not ordinary sanctions. They are not ordinary penalties for breaches of an award. These are provisions under which a union in breach of an award - and its officers if the circumstances make them applicable - may be brought before the Commonwealth Industrial Court be subject to very heavy fines for contempt of the courts. In other words, under sections 109 and 111 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. what begins as an industrial dispute is by a legal device translated into a matter of whether an organisation is in contempt of court or not. That is raising the whole question of industrial disputes onto a new and highly unsatisfactory plane and that is the underlying reason for the amendment that has been moved by the Leader of the Opposition.
As I have said, the Bill makes a modest concession. At the same time, it is important to recognise how limited is the new look. It will not apply at all where there is an actual strike. It will not operate when an employer applying to the Commonwealth Industrial Court satisfies the Court that a breach or non-observance of the award is likely to occur within the next 10 days. Indeed, the whole system of notification of disputes exists only as a preliminary to the Court assuming jurisdiction in the matter, because there is no obligation anywhere in these new provisions for either the employer or the employee to notify a conciliation commissioner of the existence or likelihood of a dispute. All the legislation provides is that if notification is not given, you cannot approach the Court at all. It provides nothing new by way of machinery for the settlement of industrial disputes by conciliation. It prescribes that a period of 14 days must elapse in the ordinary way before an application is made to the Court; but it does nothing to fill the vacuum. It takes no positive steps to ensure that the conciliation process will be going on while that period is passing.
– But it takes steps to encourage such a process.
– I d° not know what the steps are except by deferring the right of the employers to approach the Court.
– If you do not approach the Court, you do not get costs.
– But costs are only one aspect of this matter.
– It is encouragement.
– It may be encouragement to the employer to say: “ I had better try to get a formula because if I do not notify the Commissioner of the existence or likelihood of a dispute, 1 cannot get costs “. But the employer need only make a notification. He makes the notification and then preserves his rights so far as costs are concerned. He is not required, nor is any machinery provided, to step up the conciliation process. Nothing need happen during that time. As long as the employer has notified the Commissioner, he has made good his claim for costs if he later succeeds in his case.
– I think that is an over simplification.
– It may be a matter of argument. All I am saying is that I do not see the positive measures that are being taken contemporaneously with this to step up the conciliation process. As the Bill does not apply to actual strikes but only to threatened or likely strikes, it is of extremely limited application. Nevertheless, as the Leader of the Opposition has said, we do not oppose it because it does make at least some concession to the view which has been put by us in past debates when measures pertaining to these penal provisions have been before the Parliament. However, we lay stress on the positive approach contained in the amendment proposed by the Leader of the Opposition. I want to take issue with a statement in the Minister’s second reading speech in which he dealt with statistics relating to the application of the penal provisions since 1950, when they first came into operation. He said -
The following sets of figures covering the last 15 years illustrate the extent to which the sanctions provisions have been used. The number of strikes per annum has averaged 1,248 and the number of applications under section 109 and its predecessor section 29 have averaged 26. To carry the illustra tion still further, the number of orders made absolute on applications under the sections I have mentioned has averaged 14.
The Minister drew from that the conclusion which he stated in his next observation -
Now it is difficult to argue from these figures that there has been an excessive resort to sanctions.
In my opinion, that statement is disingenuous; it is less than frank, because it fails to acknowledge the very great increase in the number of applications and convictions in recent years. That increase was well set out in the article by Professor Isaac, to which I have referred previously, in the October 1963 issue of the “Journal of Industrial Relations “. For the sake of brevity, I will read the Professor’s statement. That will save me referring to a number of different documents and figures. The source of the Professor’s figures is the Department of Labour and National Service. He states the matter in this way -
Since 1961, the Commonwealth penal provisions have been administered more frequently, more heavily and more widely than in any previous period. In the 12 years ending 1961, there were 203 applications for orders under section 109 and its precursor section 29. Of these, 109 orders were made absolute. These represent an annual average of 17 and 9 respectively and may be compared with 67 and 50 for 1962, in which year a larger variety of unions than usual, numbering 20, were involved as respondents in these proceedings. And the annual average for the first half of 1963 is nearly twice the corresponding figures for 1962. In the same 12 years, 50 fines were imposed under sections 29a and 111 amounting to £13,800. In 1962, there were 28 fines amounting to £9,150. More than half of this amount was incurred by the Waterside Workers Federation, the rest being borne by eight other unions. And in the first half of 1963, 23 fines amounting to £9,200 were imposed.
There was a very big increase again in 1963-64. In a period of 10 months in 1963-64 there were 51 fines. In addition, costs totalling the huge amount of, I think, £33,000 were imposed on unions from 1950 to 1964. Penalties in 1964 amounted to over £27,000.
The Minister ignores the fact that there has been in recent years an immense increase in both the number of applications and the number of penalties. Indeed, the present measure is in some respects a response to the argument that the employers in some industries were beginning to have automatic recourse to the penal provisions rather than to the general conciliation provisions of the Act. The Bill is an acknowledgment that this process was becoming too much of a habit. The easy way out was to use the big stick, to go immediately to the Commonwealth Industrial Court for orders under section 109 and to follow that up with orders for contempt under section 111, resulting in fines and heavy costs. That is the context in which the present Bill was introduced.
It seems to me that the thinking on the Government side about penal sanctions is very generalised and does not condescend to any analysis of the type of distinctions that could be made if one were disposed to make them. I put this forward as the way in which the matter should be approached. One looks in vain in the Government’s thinking for some kind of distinction between strikes which affect the national interest and strikes which are merely inconvenient, which might have some temporary effect on employers and perhaps on parts of an industry but which do not raise any national issues or national questions. These penal sanctions have been used indiscriminately - not only in cases where some general threat to national activity has been involved but also in cases where no real question of national importance has arisen. If we reach the stage where this is regarded as the only way to deal with a difficult industrial situation, this country will begin to go downhill and industrially we will not be able to make the progress that we should make.
No-one on this side of the Senate and no other responsible person would advocate striking for the sake of striking. Everyone appreciates that when there are strikes there are people, including the strikers themselves and their families, who suffer hardship. But there are often great principles at stake. A system which does not concede to unions the right to use the strike weapon as a last resort is a system lacking in something fundamental. One concession which the trade union movement cannot make is to give away entirely and without qualification the right to strike.
The Government’s approach, so far as it goes on this occasion, is welcome; but it is most important for us to get the legislation into perspective, because it gives away very little. The cooling off period as it has been referred to outside, is not a cooling off period in the strict sense because, as I have said, there is nothing to fill the vacuum. A period of 14 days is set before an approach can be made to the Court after notification of a dispute, but it is not as though some separate machinery for conciliation were being contemporaneously or simultaneously set in motion.
I do not propose to delay the Senate much longer. I suggest that Senator Wright’s approach takes the matter to its extreme. He regards the legislation as inane and rather tellingly points to the way in which the amendment to the new section 109a introduced in another place - the proposed sub-section 3 - takes away with the right hand what it had given with the left hand. The Opposition does not share that point of view because it concedes nothing to the position we hold.
I thought Senator Morris laboured unnecessarily his point that sanctions are an important part of the system of industrial relations. He gave the point so much emphasis that he seemed to regard sanctions as the central part of the system of industrial relations which he supports. The Opposition stands committed to the system of conciliation and arbitration, but not to the arbitrary use of penal provisions against the trade unions. We want to see removed from the statute book those provisions which deals with the iniquitous proceedings for contempt. They are a blot on our industrial system and should be removed at the earliest opportunity. I support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate.
– Mr. President, it says a lot for the patience and forebearance of the Australian Labour Party and of the trade union movement that they are prepared to welcome even so feeble an attempt to cut down the jurisdiction to issue labour injunctions as this Bill represents. As Senator Cohen has well said, the penal provisions are a blot upon the industrial system. When this matter was before the Senate towards the end of last year, I said that the function of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission was to fix just minimum rates of wages. This submission was met with some incredulity by Senator Morris, who played a notable role in preparing the legislation which led to the strike at Mr Isa.
The legislation before us is important because it discloses a great weakness in our system of conciliation and arbitration. At present the Commission hears submissions and evidence and determines what is a just minimum to be paid to all workers, irrespective of whether they are the best, average or relatively inefficient. It is reasonable to say that a just minimum is fixed without regard to, say, the costly inefficient workers in the community. The calculation is made as a reasonable assessment of the amount which ought to be paid as a just minimum wage throughout industry. If that proposition is correct - and I shall shortly demonstrate that beyond question - an area is left for collective bargaining above that just minimum, lt is understood by the Commission that trade unions and workers will be able to bargain with employers and their organisations in an endeavour to obtain wages higher than the minimum. As Senator Morris has just re-entered the chamber, I shall repeat that on the last occasion when this matter was debated in the Senate, he seemed to regard as fantastic the proposition that the function of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission is to fix minimum wages. I have said that when one looks at this system it is apparent than an area is left for collective bargaining. This is well recognised by the Commission. It may be convenient, now that Senator Morris is present, to demonstrate that this proposition which I put on a previous occasion when it was rejected by Senator Morris, is, without doubt, correct. For my authority I shall quote from the latest report of the President of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. It is for the year ended 13th August 1964 and was tabled in the Senate a few weeks ago. In relation to over award payments the President said -
Over award payments are no new phenomenon on the Australian scene though their range and character have assumed greater importance under conditions of full and over full employment which have thrown up shortages of key labour and not least of skilled labour. Because the Commission has already performed its function of fixing minimum payments and not actual or maximum payments the area in which over award payments exist can be regarded in many ways as a collective bargaining area, though such payments need not always be the result of negotiation. In addition to the difference in the type of payments another difference exists in that decisions regarding over award payments are more often than not arrived at on an undertaking rather than an industry basis whereas the opposite is the case in -the Commission’s prescriptions.
I do not wish to quote the entire section dealing with over award payments. However, I shall quote a further passage, in which the President said -
But in the light of the existing legislation and the Commission’s function to fix minimum . and not maximum payments it may be questioned whether in the long run it would be the best policy for the Commission to intervene in this area without invitation from or the consent of the parties.
It is clear from the President’s words that the Commission is at present arbitrating only in respect of minimum payments and is leaving to the area of collective bargaining payments above the minimum. The President said that that is being done on the basis of individual undertakings or employers, rather than throughout industry.
– May I interrupt for a moment? I addressed myself most specifically - and I used figures cited by one of the honorable senator’s colleagues - to the question of physical working conditions and managerial policy rather than to wages. The honorable senator knows that.
– I have referred to what the honorable senator said towards the end of last year. In many cases throughout industry, collective bargaining produces the result that employees in a factory or undertaking are paid wages above the minimum fixed by the Commission. This is correct and is understood. It would be wrong if, throughout industry, all workers were paid only the amount that the Commission considered to be a just minimum. It is correct and proper that the workers should be able to negotiate for and to obtain wages higher than the just minimum. The workers obtain higher wages, sometimes by negotiation. They may be paid a wage £2 or £3 a week above the award. This is correct and proper. Workers who are receiving payments above the just minimum, perhaps as a result of negotiation, may say to their union or employer: “We should be paid more than we are getting. Here is an area of collective bargaining and we seek higher wages. We are entitled to more”. The employer says: “ No, I will not give it to you “. The employees are then in the area of collective bargaining, and what happens? if they use their industrial strength, the employer always has the labour injunctions available to him under section 109 to bring the whole weight of the State on his side in order to crush the employees and their organisations. In this area of collective bargaining, which is deliberately left under our system and is the part with which most of our industrial strife is concerned, it is regrettable that we are still living in the area of chaos and of judicial intervention which is so bad that it had to be dealt with in the United States by the Federal Congress bringing down laws, in effect to outlaw the labour injunctions. This was done by acts such as the Norris La Guardia act, by which the teeth were cut out of the Federal labour injunctions and provision was made for trial by jury where it was alleged that there was any contempt of the orders issued by the court in the extremely restricted field which was left to it.
But in Australia the employees and their organisations are left to the mercy of the system whereunder the employers can go straight into the Court and seek an injunction on the basis that there is a breach of an award, such as of a bans clause. The employers go to the Court and say: “ We seek an injunction. The employees are not observing this award. They are not working in accordance with it. They are not working in accordance with the just minimum.” In many cases, of course, even at the time when the injunction is sought, the employees are actually receiving, by consent, more than the just minimum. In other cases they are on the just minimum, but in either event their arm is being held in this area of collective bargaining, and it should not be held.
It may be that we should have a system of conciliation and arbitration which extends across the whole field, as was envisaged by the words of the President, when he said -
But in the light of the existing legislation and the Commission’s functions to fix minimum and not maximum payments, it may be questioned whether in the long run it would be the best policy for the Commission to intervene in this area without invitation from or the consent of the parties.
In other words, what was being envisaged by the President of the Commission was that there should be arbitration across the whole field, which there is not at the moment. So the unions and their members are getting the worst end of the stick in both ways. The Commission fixes a just minimum, and when the employees seek to negotiate in the area of collective bargaining, their hands are tied. Why should the employer be able to seek an injunction to force unions and employees to work at that just minimum if it is envisaged that there ought to be an area of collective bargaining? It is unanswerable. In the United States the conclusion was so clear to the whole of the community that these great acts were passed in that area of collective bargaining. There it extended across the whole field. Here it extends across the portion above the just minimum. No strikes have been caused in recent times by any problem as to what the just minimum is. The strikes have been caused as to what margins and overaward payments ought to be.
– There have been strikes, even this year, by unions against the payment of higher wages than they claim are justified.
– I do not know to what the honorable senator’s remarks relate. I know from my own experience and from the genera] experience in the trade union field that what I am saying is perfectly correct. It ought to be apparent to anyone that the industrial strife in this community arises from the attempts - the justified attempts - of unions to bargain collectively, to use their industrial strength in an area which has been deliberately left to be operated in that way. Yet we have the system of labour injunctions used whenever the employees attempt to exert their industrial strength. This cannot be right. If we want this system of conciliation and arbitration to operate effectively, then it ought to be extended across the whole field. There ought to be arbitration in those matters which lie outside and above the question of just minima. The Commission ought to be acting in the way which was envisaged by the President in this report.
Alternatively, if we want the system of part arbitration and part collective bargaining to remain, then the trade unions and employees ought to be entitled to use the same advantages as exist in the United States, where collective bargaining obtains across the whole field, and they ought not to be subjected to this kind of labour injunction, which brought the whole of the system into contempt in the United States when it was being operated. The use of the labour injunction in the United States did more than anything else to bring the federal judiciary into contempt. It put the judiciary in an impossible position, because every time there was labour strife, the judiciary was ranged on the side of the employers, as a result of the legislation. This inevitably put the judiciary into a false position. It was brought into a situation where its reputation was tarnished. One has only to read any of the text books on the American history of labour and the history of labour injunctions to see what these did to bring down the reputation of the American federal judiciary. No one would want to see this happen in this community, and it is happening.
The reputation of the Federal judiciary, through no fault of its own, but because of the way the legislation which it carries out has been framed, is being tarnished and affected, and it ought not to be. We ought not to be seeking to use the authority of the courts in the way in which we have been. It may be all right to think that we can do that, but if we do it inevitably we will weaken the authority of the courts. The unions will struggle for an improvement in wages. That is their function. Their members will struggle. If they find that every time the struggle continues they are ranged not only against the employers but also against the courts, what effect will that have on the prestige and authority of the courts in this community?
The objection of the Australian Labour Party is to this system and to the use of the labour injunctions. We think - we are certain that we are on strong grounds - that these sections in this form ought not to be in the legislation. Some endeavour has been made to water down the sections and, because of the motive that is behind this amendment, the Opposition is not opposing it. No one can pretend that as a piece of legislation this is at all satisfactory. What Senator Wright said about the operation of the amendment is, of course, correct. It gives with one hand and takes away with the other. This amendment, so far as the injunctions are concerned, will, I think, not have the effect that was desired. In the long run this may not matter, because when the injunctions continue to be granted - as they will, because this is like a three card trick - endeavours will be made to bring in some legislation which will curb the injunctions and see to it that they are not used as an instrument of civil conscription, as they are today.
Nothing could be more ridiculous than the form in which the amendment is cast. Fourteen days must elapse following the giving of the notification; but if a breach is likely to occur within 10 days, the section will not operate. It is obvious that in a great number of cases the amendment will be rendered nugatory. Again, as was indicated earlier in the debate, if that part of the section did not take effect, then the following one would. So if applications are made under the section for a positive as well as a negative order, then the section will be of no effect. The result is that in all but extremely rare cases the amendment will have no effect on the situation. But that does not really matter. The important thing is the motive behind it. There is a recognition that something must be done to stop the use of this weapon in industrial affairs and that a more intelligent mode of handling these matters can, and ought, to be devised. One that springs to mind is arbitration by the Commission, as has been envisaged by the President of the Commission.
The Bill contains several other provisions that are of some importance. Regulations are to be introduced to limit the amount of costs that may be awarded in respect of applications under section 109 of the Act. It seems to me that the Minister’s suggestion as to what is to be included in the regulations will make no difference at all to the law, but I suppose that at some stage or other we will be provided with some elucidation of the difference in practice. The awarding of costs can act only as an irritant. The best course obviously would be to provide that no costs be awarded in proceedings of the kind we are considering. That observation of mine could be extended beyond proceedings for labour injunctions and breaches of them and could embrace all proceedings under the Act. I should think that, unless a good case could be established, as in proceedings for the recovery of wages, employers as well as employees would be better off if no provision were made for costs.
It is the practice of the Court in relation to matters such as the interpretation of awards to make no order as to costs, other than in exceptional cases. I suggest that the practice of the New South Wales Industrial Commission in allowing nominal costs only could be adopted with advantage in the Federal sphere, and that it could be carried to the point of simply awarding no costs at all. That would then leave this as an area for the regulation of industrial affairs without the parties being penalised in any way. In ordinary civil litigation it is thought reasonable that a party who loses a case should pay costs because the matter in question is his own private affair, but in relation to industrial matters the organisations concerned are acting in the public interest. They are public bodies performing public functions and they ought not to be penalised by having to pay costs.
I refer now to the proposed amendment of section 119 of the Principal Act. As I understand the situation, the intention is to increase from six months to twelve months the time within which proceedings may be brought so that there may be adequate time for investigation by various organisations and persons such as inspectors. I have already mentioned this matter to the Minister. It seems to me to be very doubtful, to say the least, that the proposed amendment will do what it is designed to do. It is not apparent that there is a limitation of six months within which proceedings may be brought, and it may well be that the effect of the amendment will be to impose a time limit of 12 months where one did not exist before. Perhaps this matter will be enlarged upon at the Committee stage.
We do not oppose the substance of the Bill at this juncture, but I join with other Opposition senators who have spoken strongly against the provisions which relate to labour injunctions. I invite the Government to consider seriously whether the arbitral machinery ought not to be extended and labour injunctions done away with. Such injunctions are a constant source of irritation; they go far beyond the imposition of fines and the awarding of costs. I believe they are an impediment to the achieving of a satisfactory industrial atmosphere. Although the unions and the workers may be crushed when the power of the State is invoked by the employers, history teaches us that such action inevitably leads to such reaction that industrial troubles become more violent. If justice is on the side of the unions and the workers, they will not be deterred by labour injunctions. That has been the experience elsewhere. It will be our experience here if the source of irritation is not removed. It would be a very unfortunate experience indeed for us. We ought to be intelligent enough to look at the experience of other countries. Before we fall into the same errors we ought to remove from our legislation provision for labour injunctions.
– I commence my remarks by reminding the Senate that during the debate on Vietnam I complained about what might be described as deceit in the introduction of legislation or other matters for discussion and the use of misleading information in an attempt to justify that attitude. Something similar has happened on this occasion. Consequently, it may be necessary for me to repeat some of Senator Cohen’s comments. This legislation was endorsed and supported by the Australian Council of Trade Unions and the Australian Labour Party - indeed, they welcomed it - because the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) had said that it was designed to provide a breathing space of a fortnight between the commencement of a dispute and the taking of action, and also to lower the cost of proceedings. The legislation will achieve neither of those ends. Senator Cohen said that the improvement is a very modest one. I go further and say that the improvement, if any, is a very modest one.
I agree with the analysis of Senator Wright on this matter. The main thing that the legislation will do is impede the Court from carrying out or considering the functions that are imposed upon it. But unlike Senator Wright, it does not worry me whether the Court is impeded for the whole of its existence in implementing the sanctions. Nevertheless, I think there is merit in saying that if we, by means of legislation, impose a responsibility upon a tribunal it is strange to find further legislation that somewhat impedes the carrying out of the responsibility. I am of the opinion that this legislation will do that. I believe that the benefits to the trade union movement, about which we on this side of the Senate are concerned, are more imaginary than real. The effect on the trade union movement could be more detrimental than beneficial.
If we look at section 109 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act we find that it states -
The Court is empowered -
As the Minister for Works (Senator Gorton) pointed out in his second reading speech, the proposed amendment to the Bill in no way interferes with that provision. Therefore, if it is provided in an award that strikes shall not take place, and a strike does take place, there is nothing in the proposed amendment to prevent immediate notification by the employer and action by the Court, and the application of the penal provisions of which we have been complaining this afternoon. Sub-section (b) provides that the Court is empowered -
To enjoin an organisation or person from committing or continuing a contravention of this Act or s breach or non-observance of an award.
The provision to enjoin an organisation or person from committing or continuing a contravention of the Act is not altered in an way by this legislation. But the Court can enjoin an organisation or a person from committing or continuing a breach or nonobservance of an award only if the parties comply with the proposed new section 109a. The organisations that may be enjoined by virtue of their particular awards at the present time will receive no benefit from this legislation. Anyone who thinks that it will give the waterside workers, the coal miners or anybody else a breathing space of 14 days is wrong. The proposed new section 109a will prevent the Court from enjoining organisations until certain conditions are complied with.
What are the conditions? Proposed new section 109a provides that no action can be taken until the Court has been notified that a breach or non-observance is likely to occur. Sub-section (b) provides that the notification must be given without delay. Under the existing legislation, if a dispute is pending because an organisation has decided it will take action in the future, the employer has the right to seek to have the organisation enjoined to prevent it from breaching the award. But the employer may say: “ We will wait and see what develops. If a strike does take place, we will take action.” I am not an authority on the Federal act, but I imagine that there is no breach of an award if a strike does not conflict with a clause of an award. Apparently, the Government by this Bill proposes to say, in effect: “We do not want to irritate the men. We will wait and see. If the necessity arises, the employers can approach the Court.” But under the proposed amendment, they will have no approach to the Court unless they have notified the Court without delay. If they do not comply with that provision they lose their right to apply for the imposition of the bans and limitation clause. It will make the employer careful to ensure that when there is a rumour of an impending strike he notifies the Court. I do not know whether, after the notification has been given, there has to be a hearing on the question.
We find, too, that the proposed subsection (b) provides that the Court shall not commence the hearing of an application for an order unless it is satisfied that-
That is the exception. Then proposed subsection (c) provides that the Court shall not commence the hearing unless it is satisfied - subject to the next succeeding sub-section, that a period of fourteen days, or such longer period as a Commissioner or a presidential member of the Commission has determined, has elapsed since the notification was given.
That shows that the Court shall not hear an application unless the conditions are complied with. If notification is given without delay and if 14 days have elapsed since the notification was given, it follows that the Court has to hear the application. Although the strike may never eventuate, under the proposed new section the Court will have the power to enjoin an organisation or a person. In my opinion, it will lead to a worse position than exists at the present time. We could find that there were more notifications to the Court of the possibility of disputes occurring than there have been under the present provisions.
On the question of the limitation of costs, we find that the Minister will be given power to prescribe rules in relation to costs. In his second reading speech the
Minister suggested what costs may be prescribed, but we have nothing in the Act to indicate what the costs will be. If unions are limited to junior counsel it will not necessarily benefit them because a greater number of applications may be made to the Court. The Court may say: “We will be better assisted by senior counsel than by junior counsel”. If it did say that, it would be difficult for the Court to refuse the costs of senior counsel. I do not know whether the Minister would be influenced on the question of costs by the conduct of unions from time to time.
The Minister, in his second reading speech, said -
First, sanctions in one form or another are an essential part of our arbitration system. The Government has no intention of removing them.
Further on, he said -
The following sets of figures covering the last 15 years illustrate the extent to which the sanctions provisions have been used. The number of strikes per annum has averaged 1,248 and the number of applications under section 109 and its predecessor section 29 have averaged 22. To carry the illustration still further, the number of orders made absolute on applications under the sections I have mentioned has averaged 14. Now it is difficult to argue from these figures that there has been an excessive resort to sanctions.
First, I ask: Why was the period of 15 years selected? The “Labour Report”, which publishes the numbers of industrial disputes in Australia since 1913, shows the increased number of industrial disputes which has occurred since 1949. In that year, there were 849 industrial disputes. In 1950, there were 1,276 industrial disputes. There were 1,344 industrial disputes in 1951 and 1,627 industrial disputes in 1952. In quoting our figures, we have not taken a longer period which would include times when strikes were fewer in number but we have taken the period when strikes commenced to increase. We have averaged out these figures to show that sanctions have not been unduly used.
I support Senator Cohen in what he has said. However, my figures differ somewhat from his figures. But my figures were supplied this afternoon from the Minister for Labour and National Service. A calculation shows that they are obviously the figures to which the Minister referred in his second reading speech. In this analysis of applications for orders under section 29 and section 109 of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act, we find that seven applications were made for orders relating to section 29 in 1950. No applications for orders were made in 1951. In 1952, three applications for orders were made and in 1953 seven such applications were made. This analysis takes in 1956 also when no applications were made. I think this was due to the fact that 1956 was the year of the decision in the boilermakers’ case. The finding of the Privy Council was that the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, as then set up, did not have power to impose sanctions.
Because of this lack of power in 1956, no applications were made until section 29 of the Act was amended and the amended section became law. But in the seven years during which section 29 operated, 57 applications for orders were made. In the nine years that section 109 has been in operation, 337 applications for orders have been made, in relation to 222 disputes. Of those applications, 180 orders were granted and made absolute in relation to 147 disputes. So, not only has the number of applications for orders under section 109 increased in recent years but also more than one application and more than one order have been made in relation to the disputes involved. In 1957, 18 applications for orders were made in regard to 15 disputes. Twelve orders were made absolute in relation to 11 disputes. In 1958, 38 applications relating to 11 disputes were made to the Court. There were 26 orders made absolute in connection with those 11 disputes. In 1959, 40 applications were made in relation to 16 disputes. Surely this is carrying the matter to extremes. Because a body strikes, this does not mean that that body is fined. But, with regard to the 40 applications in relation to 16 disputes, 10 orders were made absolute relating to 8 of those disputes. So the figures go on.
We find, as I have already said, that 337 applications for orders were made from 1956 to 1964 compared with 57 such applications from 1950 to 1956. Over the 15 year period from 1950 to 1964 we find, as the Minister for Labour and National Service said, that there was an average of approximately 22 applications for orders. The increased use of the penal provisions has resulted in an increase in the strike levels. So, it would appear that this provision, rather than being a cure, is detrimental to the solution of any dispute. It cannot be said on the figures that I have quoted that, despite the penalties imposed, we are solving anything. This raises the question which we must consider: Is it our desire to punish workers because they take strike action, or is it our desire to prevent strikes?
Siting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.
– Before the suspension of the sitting I had complained about what I termed deceit in connection with the introduction of legislation. I tried to show that, whatever our views may be, the penal provisions of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act have not stopped strikes. In my view, they will not do so. Therefore, the question to which we have to seek an answer is: Is the Government actuated only by a desire to condemn the workers on every occasion, or does it really want to tackle this strike problem? No-one wants strikes, whether he is on this side of the chamber or the other side, or whether he is an employer or an employee. If anybody suffers as the result of a strike, it is the striker himself.
Senator Morris said that strikes are caused by extremists and, trying to be impartial, he added that there are extremists on both sides, and that if we could get rid of the extremists everything would be better. Then, however, he went on to say that on almost every occasion the cause of a strike is the workers themselves. He referred to one incident when workers would not wear certain boots and said he thought that was the cause of a strike then. It is quite obvious that Senator Morris himself is one of the extremists who contribute greatly to the strikes that we all desire to avoid. I should have thought he would have been more quiet on the subject.
He wanted to refer to Mount Isa. In my view, one of the factors contributing to the trouble there was that the men were required, under State industrial legislation, to go before a tribunal that could reduce but not increase their bonuses. That legislation was introduced in 1961 by Senator Morris, who was then Minister for Industry in Queensland. As I have said, that legislation made a direct contribution to the big strike at Mount Isa. The Commonwealth Year Book will show that, although strikes did not decrease when Senator Morris resigned from that office, the bigger strikes stopped and the number of man hours lost through strikes decreased.
Senator Morris also referred to workers striking when they came under the Queensland industrial legislation. Let me remind the honorable senator that the Queensland, legislation has penal provisions in it and that only recently the Australian Federated Union of Locomotive Enginemen was fined under those provisions. The honorable senator said that workers in one section of a meat works went on strike but those in another section did not, those who did not strike being under a Federal award. It may well be that the legislation which was sponsored under the guidance of the honorable senator was more conducive to strikes than was the Federal legislation.
We shall never achieve anything if we do not get rid of those extremists who say that only workers are the cause of strikes. The question of provocation must always come into this matter. We must try to find out what compels men to go on strike, to sacrifice their wages and adversely affect the interests of their families. After all, most men have hire purchase and other commitments. It seems to me that any law which thousands of our citizens find themselves in breach of each year is not a just law and does not represent government for the people. If we are to govern for the people we must pass laws to deal with abuses of the normal way of life, not laws which thousands of people find themselves in breach of every year. Laws such as that should never be on the statute books.
During my time in this Parliament I have brought out my pet theories, but I have always tried to substantiate what I have said with facts so as to forestall the comment that what I am saying represents only my opinion, whilst others hold different opinions. I have had 16 years’ experience as the secretary of a trade union in South Australia. In those 16 years my union was notorious for being involved in industrial conflicts from time to time. I make no apology for that. My experience has led me to believe that there is a cause for every strike. I do not believe that any one man, no matter what his oratorical powers, no matter what political party he belongs to and no matter what his outlook on industrial matters is, can persuade a body of men to make the sacrifice of taking strike action, unless the men have a grievance which they believe justifies them in striking.
Contrary to what is generally said, wages do not constitute a big factor in the cause of strikes today. In my union, if the employer had made an application for a reduction of wages by 10s. a week I would have been instructed to go to the industrial court and fight against the application. The mcn would have decided to stop work only if I had come back to them and reported that the court was bound by legal precedent and that there was no salvation for them there. However, if I had gone to the men and said that John Smith had been dismissed for sticking up for trade union principles and that I thought the dismissal was unjust, they would have said: “ Tell the boss that we are going to take strike action -. There would immediately have been a resolution to stop work until the man was reinstated.
When we look for the cause of strikes we find that there has sprung up in Australia a class hatred between employers and employees. This has occurred because industry has developed to the stage where the employer is no longer an actual participant, but is now a board of directors concerned only with figures. Promotions in factories are given to individuals because of their ability to get more production and to drive men without consideration of the human element. Class hatred is growing because today the employer is remote from his employees. There is no longer the working relationship that existed in small industries. Employers appoint industrial or welfare officers who are concerned with production rather than the human side of factory employment. If we are interested in solving the strike problem, we must consider that factor. We must try to find out whether there is any way in which we can exercise sufficient control of the conduct of businesses as to have administrative appointments that are acceptable to all concerned. While it might interfere somewhat with profits - and I doubt whether it would - it would definitely help to stop repeated stoppages of work year in and year out.
In support of this contention I cite figures on industrial disputes in Australia published in the “Year Book of the Commonwealth of Australia” 1964. The Commonwealth Statistician has put causes of industrial disputes in four classifications. These are - (1) Wages, hours and leave; (2) Physical working conditions and managerial policy; (3) Trade unionism; (4) Other causes. la an explanatory note the Commonwealth Statistician states -
The first group is restricted to disputes involving general principles relating to wages, hours and leave; minor questions regarding the claims to pay or leave by individual employees are included under managerial policy. The second group comprises disputes regarding physical working conditions and general questions of managerial policy, which term covers disciplinary action, the promotion of employees, the employment of particular individuals, personal disagreements between employees and supervisory staff and disputes arising from the computation of wages, leave, etc., in individual cases. The third group includes stoppages over employment of non-unionists, interunion and intra-union disputes, disputes over recognition of union activities, and sympathy stoppages in support of employees in another industry. The last group comprises disputes by way of protest against situations not arising from tha usual relationship of employer and employee, e.g. political matters and cases (occurring mainly in the coal mining industry) where the cause of the stoppage is not officially made known to the management.
The figures for 1963 show that 279 disputes occurred because of wages, hours and leave; 748 because of physical working conditions and managerial policy; 115 because of trade unionism and 108 for other reasons. The percentage of disputes in some of the principal industries due to these causes was as follows -
We must face the fact that physical causes, managerial matters and physical working conditions, lead to more than 54 per cent, of disputes in industry. The figures shown in the last report of the Stevedoring Industry Authority show that the loss of man hours as a result of unauthorised stoppages on the part of waterside workers was 1.6 per cent, of the man hours worked. I have not the actual figures relating to disputes caused by the stevedoring employers but they were higher than ever before and much higher than in the previous year. In addition there were prosecutions for lack of safety provisions and breaches of the award by the employers in the stevedoring industry. If we forgot our prejudices and looked at this matter clearly, we would have to look somewhere else for the causes of industrial disputes. Experience has taught me that there is a Lack of proper relationship between employers and employees in the industry.
In my organisation we reached agreement with the employers on one occasion on wages and conditions but could not proceed to a settlement because the association to which the employers were a party said a dangerous precedent would be established affecting the whole field of industrial relationships in South Australia. So we find that the employers are no longer permitted to decide matters in the interests of their own industry. They have associations with employers organisations and must consider the repercussions of agreements on some other industry. Therefore, they are unable to make agreements for the good of their own industry. However, because the employers are not on strike they are not considered law breakers although they prevent a relationship between employers and employees which would discourage strikes.
We see now the development of employers organisations with trained advocates and industrial officers who believe that their prestige rises according to their ability to defeat claims by the working classes. Their aim is to defeat applications by the employees; they ignore human relationships and the ability of industry to pay. In South Australia there are two employer organisations competing for members. The unions might be able to reach agreement with one organisation, possibly comprising the employers of the majority of the workers in an industry, but the agreement is opposed by the other competitive employers organisation on principle.
My experience is that one of the greatest causes of industrial disputes in Australia is the development of employer organisations and the employment and education of industrial officers by them. By their training and application to industrial matters, these officers become more competent than most solicitors in dealing with industrial affairs although they are laymen. Although a case might be a just one, they know the legal arguments best designed to defeat an application by the workers. Even though a dispute which arises in a factory involving a wage claim is the result of some managerial action, the matter is first taken to the industrial officer of the employer’s organisation so that he can try to find a loophole in the award by which the employer can escape his responsibility to make a certain payment. Management is never concerned about the individual difficulties which arise in factories. In the occupation which I followed previously, peculiar difficulties arose by the very nature of the craft and the quick setting material which was being used. These things can never be explained to a board of directors which, in the main, comprises accountants who are concerned only with figures, not with disabilities or difficulties suffered by employees. They want the figures and the figures must be provided.
If we are to stop disputes we must look for the main causes of disputes. On the limited evidence available there are two causes, first, physical hardship suffered by the workers, and secondly, managerial control. Penalties are not a solution to these problems. Irrespective of the penalties that may be imposed, there always will be disputes so long as the causes of disputes exist. Despite the oratorical powers of union organisers, no-one can pull men out on strike if the men do not want to go on strike. At all times the ones who will decide whether they will go on strike or remain at work are the ones who are actually concerned. No body, no organisation and no trade union can get men back to work if they are required to work under intolerable conditions.
If we were sincere about putting an end to strikes, we would set up an inquiry to investigate the causes of strikes. These causes, I believe, come under two headings - managerial control and physical conditions. Waterside workers are very often condemned for going on strike, but if the people knew the accidents which have occurred on the waterfront they would not be so ready to condemn waterside workers for stopping work when they fear that their working conditions are unsafe. The conditions need not necessarily be unsafe, but the waterside workers may fear that they are. Very often the men have suffered physical injury and have attended the burials of mates who have died as a result of unsafe working conditions on the waterfront.
We are prepared to come here and call irresponsible this section of our kinfolk which has contributed greatly to the movement of goods in and around Australia. They are adults who have the responsibility of protecting their wives, families and homes. Because the watersiders have been involved in frequent stoppages we condemn them and say that they will stop work because they are required to load materials for Vietnam and for any other reason. But these are only minor matters. They would never arise if there were not some festering complaint which irritates the employees in the industry. Not less than 78 per cent, of the disputes which occurred last year in the stevedoring industry were the result of working conditions and managerial control.
Reference has been made to strikes over increased wages and political and trade union issues. They are insignificant. If those causes were removed there still would be no worthwhile contribution made towards removing strikes from the Australian industrial scene. If the Government stopped looking at the trade unions and condemning men who regard the responsibility to protect themselves and their organisation as paramount, and if it looked to the managerial side and investigated that, it would find a solution to the disputes which have occurred. The Government should stop penalising a particular section of the community for breaking a law which is unjust and unfair.
.- in reply- The purpose of the Bill now before us is twofold. In the case of a threatened dispute as a result of a breach of an award, or in a case where an employer and employees in a particular industry seek a variation of an award and a dispute is threatened, the first purpose “of the Bill is to provide a period of time for the different points of view to be considered before an application is made to the Commonwealth Industrial Court by one side or the other to restrain the threatened breach of an award, the hope being that during this period an agreement will be reached between the parties to the dispute by discussion among themselves or before the President of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, thus avoiding the cost and trouble involved in an approach to the Commonwealth Industrial Court. The second purpose of the Bill is to limit the costs of actions before the Commonwealth Industrial Court to proportions which the Court itself considers to be reasonable having regard to the matter before it.
A great deal of discussion has centred on the question of whether there should be any sanctions in industrial legislation. Indeed, the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) is to the effect that there should not be any sanctions - that they should be abandoned. The Government has made its position clear on this. It does not believe that industrial sanctions ought to be abandoned, and it does not propose to abandon them. I would go further than that and say that no member of a major political party, whether in this place or in the State sphere, speaking seriously and responsibly, would genuinely urge that industrial sanctions be abandoned.
History has shown that in States which have had Labour Administrations over considerable periods industrial sanctions in the State legislation have not been abandoned. History also shows that the sanctions in Commonwealth legislation were introduced by Herbert Evatt, Attorney-General in a Labour Government. In legislation which he introduced in 1947 he provided for industrial sanctions. It was only at a later stage, when, I think, the High Court decided that one court should not have the power of adjudicating a dispute and of imposing sanctions, that the sanctions were placed within the control of another court. I point out that they were introduced by the party which is now in Opposition and I do not believe that they would be abandoned even if that party ever became the Government.
It seems to me to be quite ridiculous to suggest that in a community where there is provision for disputes between employer and employee to be decided impartially by persons who represent neither the employer nor the employee, there should not be some expectation that both parties to a dispute will abide by an impartial arbitrator’s decision, and that if they do not abide by an impartial arbitrator’s decision they will be expected to pay some penalty for not doing so. I think that, to any reasonable man, that appears to be the only way in which an arbitration system can hope to continue. I believe that 90 per cent, of the Australian people hope for the continuation of the arbitration system because it has brought great benefits to employers, employees and to all Australians. As to what I believe to be the outworn, outdated and dangerous doctrines of class hatred which we heard expounded by Senator Cavanagh, I can say only that they do not apply to any great degree in Australia today. They are breaking down month by month and year by year, to the great anguish and fury of the Communist Party, which would like to see them flourishing, but to the great benefit of the majority of the Australian people.
– The Minister is going to extremes. He is not interested in settling disputes.
– I am sorry, I cannot hear the honorable senator. Perhaps he could save his remarks until a later stage. Most of this debate has been occupied in discussion of sanctions. I hope I have expressed succinctly the Government view of that portion of the debate. Senator Murphy advanced the argument, as I understood it, that there is an arbitration system which decides a wage which employers are forced to pay and for which employees are expected to work; but, he said, this is a minimum wage and above it there is an area of negotiation between employer and employee. The honorable senator said that there was a complete right to strike, to refuse to work for the wage set by the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission if agreement could not be reached in the area of negotiation above the wage fixed by the Commission. If that proposition is accepted, Mr. President, it means merely that a judgment handed down as to what is a wage which ought to be paid in a particular industry has no significance whatever, except that nothing less than that amount can be paid. It is quite true that any individual clearly can refuse to work for a particular employer at a wage set by the Commission if somewhere else, through free negotiation with another employer, he can obtain a higher wage.
To expand that proposition - as I gather Senator Murphy did - to hold that it is right and proper for an organisation or union to refuse to allow its members to work for a wage which is judged to be proper by the Arbitration Commission where attempts fail to obtain a wage higher than that fixed, to me and probably to most reasonable people means simply that a judgment of the Commission has no binding effect whatever except on one party to it. That party is the employer. If the idea is accepted, it means that the judgment has no binding effect upon the organisation which represents the employees.
– It was through a principle of arbitration that employers were forced to pay a minimum wage.
– Surely, if a case is brought before the Commission and a judgment is sought on what is a reasonable wage which employers should be forced to pay and for which employees can be expected to work, it is wrong for the organisation representing the employees to say: “ Notwithstanding the judgment of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, we will not allow our members to work for the wage fixed by the Commission “.
– When has that ever been said?
– I was endeavouring to indicate that it was inherent in the argument advanced by Senator Murphy this afternoon. It is the matter to which I was addressing my remarks.
Senator Cohen during the course of his speech said that nothing was included in this legislation to ensure that conciliation would take place when a dispute was threatened between an employer and an employee. I pointed out at the time that encouragement was given in the Bill for the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission to be notified that a dispute was pending because, if the Commission were notified to that effect without delay and the dispute eventuated, whichever party decided to take action in the Commonwealth Industrial Court would receive its costs. If a party to the dispute did not notify the Commission that a dispute was pending, it would not receive its costs. Senator Cohen expanded his argument to say that while that is true as to costs, there is nothing which causes the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission totake any action after it has been notified that a dispute is pending. The honorable senator is quite correct. There is no provision in the Bill which makes the Commission take notice of the dispute; but if the Commission carried out the function for which it was created and carried out responsibly the tasks which its members know were given to them to carry out, if there were any chance of conciliation succeeding in a threatened dispute, it would succeed. The Commission would fail only if it acted with complete irresponsibility. Obviously this is a charge which cannot be levelled fairly against the Commission.. The Commission would take note of the advice and would seek to conciliate and arbitrate in a dispute which, under the terms of this Bill, had been referred to it.
I do not wish to say much more at this stage of the debate. If a breach of an award takes place, this legislation does not affect the situation. The Bill seeks to give some relief to large and inflated costs of legal representations in small cases where the Commonwealth Industrial Court believes that high level legal representation is not required. It does not prevent representation but merely limits, according to the Court’s judgment, the costs to be allowed for representation.
The provisions of the Bill seek to ensure that if a dispute is pending, instead of an immediate approach being made to the Commonwealth Industrial Court, some time will be devoted to exploring whether, through the assistance of Commissioners, the dispute can be settled between the parties. If it cannot be settled, the present law is not changed. If in the course of seeking settlement an award is breached, again the present law is not changed. But the Bill does import a period where an opportunity is given to the processes of conciliation and arbitration to provide that an award is not breached. I think that in that way it may well assist the unions and employers. Indeed, I believe it follows the lines at present followed by responsible employers’ and employees’ organisations. Therefore, I oppose the amendment and commend the Bill to the Senate.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be added (Senator McKenna’s amendment) be added.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Alister McMullin.)
Majority . . . . 5
Question so resolved in the negative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
-(Senator DrakeBrockman). - Is it the wish of the Committee that the Bill be considered as a whole?
Clauses 1 to 5 agreed to.
Clause 6 (Hearing of certain applications not to be commenced unless certain conditions fulfilled.)
– Proposed sub-section (3.) was introduced in the other place at a late stage and on short notice. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) said that the provision would apply in the event of rolling strikes. At that stage he moved this amendment. It seems to me that this would be a suitable occasion for the Minister for Works (Senator Gorton), who is in charge of the measure in this chamber, to indicate the reasons for the late insertion of this provision, because it seems to negate the intention of sub-sections (1.) and (2.) of proposed section 109a as earlier advised in this chamber. I should like to know whether the intention was to cover a situation in which a series of stoppages occurred, so that this will at least be on record.
– As I understand it, subsections (1.) and (2.) of proposed section 109a provide that if a dispute is pending, that is, if there is notification between employer and employee that there may be a dispute, before application may be made to the Commonwealth Industrial Court for an injunction against the dispute or for a mandamus for the stopping of a dispute, notification must have been made to the Court by the employer to the effect that a dispute is in the offing. The notification must have been made without delay or, if there has been delay there must have been reasonable cause for the delay, and 14 days must elapse for conciliation processes to take place.
The Bill did not intend to allow breaches of the award, as distinct from threatened breaches of the award, to take place without having the laws as they exist at the present moment applied to actual breaches. The provision to which the honorable senator refers was inserted to take care of cases in which an actual breach had occurred, where there had been a dispute but when persons sought to approach the Industrial Court for an injunction or a mandamus the breach was no longer in operation because the people who had committed it had gone back to work. It was felt that with certain unions, or possibly with certain leadership of unions, a situation could occur in which there was a breach, followed by an approach to the Industrial Court, upon which the breach would cease to be in operation, and immediately the approach to the Court was stopped there would be another breach, followed by another approach to the Court. This provision, as I understand it, was inserted to cope with the possibility of such a situation as that arising.
.- I asked that this Bill be taken clause by clause so that I could add a few comments upon this proposed new section. I spoke with regard to it fairly fully in the second reading debate and have no wish to repeat what I said then. Further consideration of the provision has only confirmed me in the belief that all the criticism of it that I offered was completely justified. I was very impressed by an article which I read in the Sydney “ Daily Telegraph “ on Friday last, which made the waterfront troubles the subject of a leading article and referred to the fact that the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) had said that a position of anarchy had developed. Yet that was followed on the very next day by this jelly fish provision in the Bill. We all know that the union that receives greatest attention under section 109 is the Waterside Workers Federation. This clause is a deplorable, weak and pitiable provision which will introduce confusion and lead to teasing delays. Instead of promoting a period of calm in which the parties may get together, it will tie the arms of the referee behind his back while the boxers box on. I should like to develop my researches a little to ascertain where the idea for inclusion of this futile clause originated.
– I agree that the clause is futile, confusing and unsatisfactory, but for a reason different from that which has exercised the mind of Senator Wright. It seems to me that the trade unions are concurring in the refinement of these provisions instead of taking the firm stand that they ought to have nothing to do with them and that they should be deleted from the legislation. I find it difficult to understand why any trade union should welcome this kind of provision except, of course, that the Australian Council of Trade Unions believes that anything is welcome which helps to show that this kind of labour injunction is deplorable, unnecessary and an excrescence in the industrial field. Apart from that opinion on the part of the A.C.T.U., to which we defer, 1 see nothing of real value to the trade union movement in this amendment.
One notes that the proposed new section 109a relates only to paragraph (b) of subsection (1.) of the preceding section 109. So if an application is made under section 109 (1.) (a) for an order of compliance with an award proved to the satisfaction of the Court to have been broken or not observed, this whole clause 109a has no operation. I suppose 99 per cent, of the cases that come before the Court arise from an allegation by the employer that there has been some breach of an award. It may be that an application is made under paragraph 109 (1.) (b). That would be so in most cases, but the real substance of any application would be that there had been some breach of or non-compliance with an award. So, as I said earlier, the proposed section means nothing. Its inclusion is a three card trick; the provision is a snare and a delusion. Apparently it has been put forward as something that will afford some amelioration of these labour injunction provisions. I do not see how it will do much good except, as I suggested earlier, that one welcomes the motive behind it and the recognition that something must be done to get rid of these labour injunctions. Anything that will help to get rid of them is a step in the right direction. But to my mind this is a feeble, inadequate and, from the practical viewpoint, a negative step.
When one turns to paragraph (c) of subsection (1.) of proposed new section 109a, one sees that a period of 14 days or such longer period as is determined must elapse following the giving of notification before the Court may commence the hearing. But then sub-section (2.) provides -
Paragraph (c) of the last preceding sub-section does not apply if the applicant satisfies the Court that the breach or non-observance is likely to occur within the next ten days.
So even in the rare and extreme case where a union is so reasonable as to go to the employer and say: “ We will give you 14 days’ notice, or in any event more than 10 days’ notice, that unless something is done we propose to get our members to withdraw their services “, all the employer has to do is to wait for a period of time to elapse so that there are 10 days or perhaps less to run before the breach or non-observance occurs, and he may then go right ahead and get an injunction. It seems that the unions are delivering themselves into a trap. Apart from that, whatever may be thought to have been gained by this provision, it is all rendered of no effect where the employer makes an application under paragraphs (a) and (b). In other words, if he can show that there has been some breach of the award, he may ask for an order under the terms of paragraphs (a) and (b). Strangely enough, he does not even have to prove that there has been a breach under paragraph (a) as well as under paragraph (b).
– He has only to ask for it.
– As Senator Cohen has said, he has only to ask for an order. I repeat that he does not even have to prove that there has been a breach under paragraph (a); all he has to do is to make an application under paragraphs (a) and (b), and the section has no effect at all. If anything worse could be put over the trade union movement as a supposed amelioration of the penal provisions I should be very surprised. To describe the proposed section as a three card trick is to give it a very gentle description. One would have hoped that, instead of this kind of provision having been included in the legislation, there had been some practical provision or intervention by the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission so that matters of moment to the unions as well as to the employers could be dealt with by the Commission in a compulsory way. One would have hoped for that sort of thing instead of a set up under which the employers may use these labour injunctions when they are confronted with difficulty in collective bargaining.
However, as a party we are endeavouring on this occasion to defer to the enlightened view of the A.C.T.U., which seeks to encourage any show of sincerity on the part of the Government in ameliorating the penal provisions. It is for that reason that we are not opposing what seems, to anybody who has any acquaintance with the subject, to be a web of illusion.
, - I would like some clarity on this matter. The amendment seems to give so little benefit that I question whether it meets the intention of the Minister. Senator Murphy said that sub-section (b) of section 109(1.) would have no application to most unions. That is the section under which most unions are fined. The amendment has no application to sub-section (b) where there is a contravention of the Act. Again it only has application to a part of sub-section (b). I can see that the Minister cannot follow me. If we look at the proposed new section 109a we find it states - (1.) The Court shall not commence the hearing of an application for an order under paragraph (b) of sub-section (1.) of the last preceding section to enjoin an organisation or person from committing a breach or non-observance of an award unless the Court is satisfied . . .
Unless the court is satisfied that certain conditions have been complied with it will not enjoin an organisation for committing a breach or non-observance of an award. The present paragraph (b) of section 109 (1.) covers contravention of the Act or a breach or non-observance of an award. The proposed sub-section has application only to the breach of an award. Therefore, it must have very limited application. I ask the Minister: Has it any application to a union which already has a bans clause in its award?
Paragraph (b) seeks -
That is, enjoining another organisation. But if there is an organisation which has a limitations clause in its award, can it contemplate a strike if the relevant clause in the award prohibits it from proposing to strike? If it strikes it must be guilty under sub-section (1.) of section 109.
I also ask the Minister in his reply to give an opinion on the other point I raised, namely, whether the court can take cognisance of a dispute or a pending dispute for the purpose of enjoining an organisation if the notification is not given without delay or if the registrar is not satisfied that the explanation is reasonable. Will the net result of this be to give the court power to decide that it is compulsory to report any dispute or pending dispute, although at the present time disputes are not reported until they reach such proportions that they could become somewhat dangerous to the employer? Will not the proposed amendment necessitate the reporting of more disputes or pending disputes to the court? Once they are reported to the court, is the court under an obligation to hear submissions and determine whether or not an organisation should be enjoined?
– I would like the Minister to consider this clause of the Bill to see whether he could broaden his views on it. My whole experience regarding arbitration is that speed of hearing is the essence of the contract in an attempt to prevent a dispute from arising. I think that most people have waterside workers in mind when they think about this matter. But industrial troubles are not as general as the Minister sometimes says they are. In his second reading speech he said that two and a half hours per man per year were lost. My wife wastes more time than that. If that is the extent of the industrial lawlessness in Australia, I think that the figure is fantastically low. I do not know who has been pulling someone’s leg in relation to this matter.
If one singles out the unions that are affected one finds that about -nine-tenths of the unions never strike at all. A new type of people are striking today. Doctors strike and airline pilots strike. Striking is not the prerogative of the people who have hooks in their belts. I think that the Minister should be endeavouring to pinpoint where these strikes occur, instead of talking about average figures because they lie in relation to this matter. What we want on the waterfront is the same type of legislation as we have in the coal mining industry. I am glad that Mr. Bland, Secretary to the Department of Labour and National Service, is present in the Senate. He was interested in this matter. The Gallagher Tribunal was introduced to solve the problems of the coal industry. The Government may think the wharf labourers are revolutionary, but the Government has to be a little revolutionary too.
In the coal industry a tribunal was established to look after the complaints of the industry. Mr. Justice Gallagher was appointed to heal the ills of the industry. Probably that move did more to bring about industrial peace in the coal industry than any other move. This might shock honorable senators opposite, but Mr. Justice Gallagher introduced the proposition of 11 days pay for 10 days work. Somebody might say that is soft pedalling. But the Government was after coal, and that is how it got the coal. Every honorable senator sitting here knows that the miners have not stopped working since 1949.
– They received a 10 per cent, bonus.
– That is how Mr. Justice Gallagher set out to solve the situation. When there was a strike or an argument at the pit head - the wharf labourers are in much the same position - somebody did not come up and say: “ Listen, we want to have a 14 days cooling off period.” That is the very negation of the word “ strike “ which means quick action. Strikes are not considered over a long period. A strike that is considered over a long period is not really a strike at all. People are amused when there is a transport strike and everybody has to walk to work. But that is counted as an effective strike. The only effective type of strike is the one that hurts the employer.
This Bill seems to be going right outside that experience. In the coal industry we had the machinery of arbitration operating almost at the coal face. When men went to work in the morning and there was a dispute, they did not say “ We have to wait 14 days to see whether it is worthwhile fighting for “. What used to happen was this: There would be an immediate meeting of the mine conciliation committee on the job with a view to stopping the strike before it started. That is the sort of line this Government ought to take in the matter. I do not think that the idea of a cooling off period is really acceptable to workers generally. They are never anything else but cool. What they intend to do is generally calmly thought out. It is usually a local issue which only they understand and which only they can solve. They want action immediately. Actually, the men want to prevent the dispute occurring. If you say: “ No, nothing happens for 14 days “, by the time the 14 days are up there may be strikes everywhere because you are only perpetuating the situation which most workers are trying to end. If they have a dispute they want it settled right on the job.
I am not the greatest admirer of the arbitration system. I think that it is good in parts. I have a feeling that the Conciliation Commissioners of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission consult one another. They never do anything that is heroic and they never blaze new trails. They stick to the general pattern and never step outside it. When you accept arbitration totally you are accepting a situation which means almost the status quo for men and women who work for a living. It is all too slow. Speed is what is wanted in arbitration. Disputes which should have been settled on the job site are shifted to Canberra or elsewhere for hearing. I think that is all wrong. I agree completely with Senator Murphy that these provisions will not have the effect that the Government possibly thinks that they will have.
The Government speaks about the avalanche of strikes that has occurred. The Government is merely talking in cliches when it speaks in that way. There has never been such a degree of industrial peace as there is in this country now. There could not be this great prosperity about which the Government is always speaking - great prosperity and the new age - unless workers worked regularly. I am afraid that too much politics is made out of strikes that do occur. I would like to leave honorable senators with this thought in their minds: From a practical point of view, a trade union wins strikes only when it can localise a strike or dispute. For example, the greatest strike of which I knew was the miners’ strike for the abolition of what they called the afternoon shift work. It lasted for 10 months. I am quoting this example to show honorable senators what happens and to try to educate Government supporters as to how men and women who work for a living think. A certain section of the industry went on strike. For 10 months the men did not fill a skip of coal. They were not fighting the community. Ninety per cent, of the rest of the coal miners were working and paying the other men to be on strike. Eventually, the other coal owners who were being hurt by this strike decided to make a common cause of this application for abolition of afternoon shift work. The strike was settled and the men went back to work. Of course, that section of the work force was much the poorer. The new technique of ending a strike which has developed is to spread it over Australia. That is the new technique of bringing a strike to an end. If every worker in Australia lays his tools down, he will lay them down for only 24 hours and goes back to work the next day. That is not the kind of industrial fight that is won.
I am covering these viewpoints on this matter and quoting these examples to give to the Minister an idea of what is wanted. This applies particularly to the waterfront where most of the men work for probably 20 lo 25 employers in one week. They have all sorts of disagreements. Each individual has about 24 points of contact where he can be in industrial trouble. My idea is that the Government could end this situation on the waterfront if it were prepared to make the port authorities, be they in Sydney, Melbourne or anywhere else, the employers so that the men would know for whom they were working.
Let us have a look at the facts in relation to these waterside workers. What happens to the waterside worker? He is up early in the morning. He has to listen to the radio and, if he hears his number called, he goes to work. He is not certain he is going to work that day. He has a number. If his number is 224, and he hears that number called on the radio he goes to work. If it is not called, he goes back to bed. That is a lovely way to run an industry. But this is the system. As 1 say, the men are working for 20 different companies in a week. That is a bad system. How can industrial peace be obtained if the waterside workers do not know for whom they are working half the time. A real revolution is needed in our industrial methods on the waterfront. I think it was the Minister who talked about Harry Bridges and what has happened in America. The sort of thing I am talking about now is what has happened in America. Revolutionary changes have been brought into the waterfront operations in America. Some of the old ideas have been given away. 1 express this view to the Government: I believe that the Government has tried in some ways to feel out the situation and do something to improve it. But the Government will not give up its prerogative about penalties. Penalties are absolutely useless because they do not hurt the men concerned with the cause of the strike because the men concerned do not pay the penalties. The union pays the penalty for them. This provision is ineffective because it does not affect the men concerned personally. The Government knows that this is the situation on the waterfront. The penalties are of no use whatsoever. They cannot achieve industrial peace. They are of no use to employers. Most employers are opposed to them. The seeking of these penalties is only a bad habit that has developed. It costs unions a lot of money. Embittered men who could have been won over are lost through these penalties. I. am talking particularly now about workers on the waterfront and the waterfront generally. The Government and employers must realise the difficulties and the attitudes connected with the waterfront just as they realise the attitudes of men working in the days when the mining industry was a 6-day a fortnight industry. Now, the mining industry is a 10-day a fortnight industry with 11 days pay for 10 days work. And the men work. Some people said it was a gimmick. It was not a gimmick. It was an attempt to do something revolutionary and constructive. I think the same sort of approach should be made to the position of waterside workers. The record of time lost - 2) hours per man per year - which the Minister quoted and which honorable senators opposite say is a terrible indictment of the industrial situation, should be seen in its proper perspective. This average time lost through industrial disputes is occurring in the greatest period of affluence that Australia has ever known.
.- Much of what Senator Ormonde has said has been very interesting, but it has not been related to clause 6. I rise because there is reference to the immediacy of the Commonwealth Industrial Court exercising its jurisdiction to grant an injunction. Immediately comes the notion that if an application is made to the Industrial Court under section 109 the Court does not say: “ We are bound to issue an injunction.” The Court has the authority to say and has the right to say, “ We will stand this application over until next week “ or “ We will stand this application over for a fortnight “ if that is the proper thing to do. I find in all this legislative rigmarole - proposed new section 109a - a complete affront to the court of law. The court of law is the body in whose discretion and decision should lie the matter of how long it delays an injunction. But here there is a meaningless rigmarole which, I think, has shown no respect whatever to the ability of the Court to make a proper decision whether to give an injunction immediately or withhold one.
– I think that at least some of the remarks made by Senator Ormonde and honorable senators on the other side of the Committee appear to be based on the belief that the proposed section that we are discussing applies in some way to a situation where there has been a breach of an award, or where a strike is occurring, or where a breach of an award is occurring. It does not. It has been specifically stated and is clearly explained that it does not. This Bill does not change the existing law in cases where there is an existing breach of an award or an existing strike. It concerns itself with a situation that has arisen where an employer has reason, because the employees have said so to him, to feel that there is a difference of opinion which may result in a breach of an award unless conciliation is applied to the difference of opinion. That, I think, answers 80 to 90 per cent, of the points made by Opposition senators who have spoken. This does not apply to a situation where there is a breach of an award in existence; it applies only to a situation where a breach of an award might be expected.
There was one point made by Senator Murphy to which I would like to refer. We adverted to the amendment moved in another place by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) to section 109. If I heard him correctly, Senator Murphy said that where an application is made for an order under paragraph (a) of sub-section (1.) of the last preceding section in regard to a breach or non-observance of an award, or an application is made under paragraph (b), the provisions of this section - section 109a - do not apply. After that I understood Senator Murphy to say that all a man has to do is to make an application; he does not have to prove anything. He merely makes the application. But this is not so, because the application is made under section 109, the immediately preceding sec tion. Section 109 states that the Court is empowered, if an application is made under paragraph (a) of sub-section (1.) to order compliance with an award proved to the satisfaction of the court to have been broken or not observed.
– He seeks to establish what is under (a).
– Where an application is made for an order under paragraph (a) of sub-section (1.) of section 109-
– He seeks to establish.
– That is so, but he has to prove it to the satisfaction of the Court.
– No, not before subsection (3.) operates, I suggest.
– I suggest that he does.
– I contest that.
– Let us contest it and see what the situation is. As I understand, when a breach of an award has occurred, but is not continuing although it is expected to continue, an employer can apply to the Court under the provisions of section 109, and the provisions of proposed new section 109a do not then have any effect. If he does apply under section 109, then I suggest that he has to make his application stand, to prove to the satisfaction of the Court that there has been a breach.
– In other words, the Minister says that he has to succeed in his application under section 109(1.) (a) in order to displace paragraph 109a?
– He has to apply under section 109 (1.) (a) and seek to establish that there has been a breach of an award. If, under the provisions of section 109(1.) (a), he does establish to the satisfaction of the Court that there has been a breach of an award, then none of the provisions of proposed new section 109a, as previously set down, apply.
– Suppose he applies and fails. He has still made an application.
– I will sit down and consult my adviser,
.- I want to put forward my view of subsection (3.) of proposed new section 109a. In my view, section 109 empowers the Commonwealth Industrial Court to grant a mandatory order for compliance with an award or to issue an injunction against a breach of an award. Proposed new section 109a subtracts from the Court’s power to deal with an application for an injunction. By an amendment that the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) moved in another place as an afterthought, and which now takes expression in sub-section (3.) of proposed new section 109a, it is provided that none of these provisions shall apply if an application is made for an order under paragraph (a) and paragraph (b) of sub-section (1.) of section 109 - that is, if an application is made for a mandatory order at the same time as an application for an injunction. That means that if you file the two applications together you prevent from having any effect whatever all the rigmarole which is being written into the statute under proposed new section 109a, which I say is an affront to the Court.
By the simplest of devices the whole of proposed new section 109a can be relegated to complete futility. Section 109a restrains the Court’s power to deal with an injunction - it cannot deal with it until a certain time has elapsed - only in the case where the application for an injunction is not accompanied by an application for a mandatory order. There will never be a situation where an employer will spend money to try to prevent a breach of an award and use the properly constituted Industrial Court to get an order under paragraph (b) - an injunction against breach. If that employer spends money on counsel in order to get rid of all this nonsense that is coming into the Act in the form of proposed new section 109a he will automatically file, along with his application for an injunction, an application for an order of mandatory nature under paragraph (a). He does not have to adduce proof when he files his application. The filing of the application alone, in the terms of sub-section (3.) of proposed new section 109a, means that the preceding provisions of the section do not apply. Tweedledum, under paragraph (a), will march along with Tweedledee under paragraph (b). By the combined efforts of these two blind mice, section 109a will be relegated to the futility of the wastepaper basket. Every employer with an atom of sense will simply laugh at the whole of this Parliament’s proceedings in bringing in such legislation.
.- I want to support the view put by Senator Wright and Murphy on this clause. I suggest to the Minister for Works (Senator Gorton) that there may be some confusion in his mind as to whether proposed new section 109a gives some new right of application. In fact, the only application that can be made under the Act is under section 109, and that may be made under either paragraph (a) or paragraph (b) of sub-section (1.), or both. Anybody with any experience in this jurisdiction knows that any employer - for prudence sake - puts his grounds jointly and severally. He makes an application on both grounds, saying: “ We may not be able to prove an actual breach of an award under paragraph (a), but we will certainly get home on paragraph ‘(b) “. Proposed new section 109a does not add anything to that. It does not add any new grounds upon which an employer can approach the Court. It simply puts certain qualifications on his access to the Court, or, more strictly, upon the Court’s power to entertain his application, I find myself in complete agreement with the interpretation of sub-section (3.) of proposed new section 109a, which, as Senators Murphy and Wright have said, says that all that needs to be done is to make an application under paragraph (a) at the same time as an application under paragraph (b). In other words, that would happen if an employer followed the usual course.
– The honorable senator was talking of 109a (3.).
– No, of I09A(1.)(a) and (b). There is only one section of the principal Act under which an application may be made and that is section 109. We are discussing proposed new section 109a (3.). I do not think there is any escape from the interpretation of that proposed new sub-section permitting an employer to apply under paragraphs (a) and (b) or proposed new section 109a (1.) and thus to take himself outside anything that is contemplated by the proposed new section. So by the simple device of putting his application on two grounds or making two applications under paragraphs (a) and (b), an employer can thumb his nose at the new prescription. He can say: “ I am not interested in section 109a because it does not apply to me”.
– I have listened carefully to honorable senators who have spoken on clause 6 and to the Minister for Works (Senator Gorton) who replied. All have been trying to tell us of the circumstances in which this legislation will not apply. If the Minister expects the Committee to support the legislation, it is time he told us in what circumstances the legislation will apply. It certainly will not apply to spontaneous stoppages such as those called in shops and factories by shop stewards. These are stoppages over which a union has no control at the beginning, and they are not supported by the Australian Council of Trade Unions. This legislation will not affect such stoppages because they happen spontaneously. At the same time, they comprise the greatest number of stoppages and cause probably the greatest industrial disruption. In addition, there are other circumstances which have been outlined to which this part of the legislation will not apply. I should like the Minister to tell me in what circumstances the legislation will apply.
.- The legislation will apply when a dispute is called immediately by a shop steward in breach of an award or in any circumstances of that sort because there will be no alteration in the present law applying to such circumstances. The legislation will apply where there is discussion between the employers organisation or the employees designed by one side or the other to lead to an alteration of an existing award. At present it might be possible, for example, for an organisation of employees to state that unless the employers meet their demands, the employees will have an industrial stoppage in a fortnight’s time. Under the Act as it stands, it would be possible for an application to be- made to the court for an immediate injunction to prevent that breach of the award. The provisions of the Bill would require that to be done only under certain conditions. Those conditions would be that immediately such a situation arose, the court would be notified that there might be a breach of the award. If that notification was not made immediately, the court would have to be satisfied that there was a delay because discussions were taking place which seemed likely to result in finality between the two parties. Provided no breach of the award had taken place, no injunction would be granted by the court until 14 days after the notification.
– But we are supposing that they have already stated that there would be a stoppage in 14 days.
– If they did stop in 14 days, the existing law would apply whether this Bill is passed or not; but the Bill does encourage an approach to the Conciliation Commissioner at the inception of a dispute. If an approach does take place, the ordinary provisions for a mandamus or injunction or whatever it might be will still apply.
As to the actual application of proposed new section 109a (3.), there could well be - if I might use such a disrespectful wordsome esoteric legal point. I believe the actual situation would be that if a breach had taken place but was no longer in operation, under 109a (3.) an employer would make an application for an order. Two things would be required before this application could be successful. First, there would have to be a breach of the award and non-observance of the award or a similar breach would have to be likely. If an application had been made under those circumstances, then the Commonwealth Industrial Court would not be bound by the preceding part of section 109a.
As to the second point, as a layman I emphasise again that this Bill does not alter the existing situation when there is no breach of the award. The term “ cooling off period “ is not the right description of what is provided in the Bill. But the Bill does provide that when an incipient dispute becomes known to both parties, an injunction against the incipient dispute turning into a real dispute will not be sought immediately. It will be sought only after an application to the Conciliation Commissioner on the ground that there is an incipient dispute.
– I have followed the legal argument on clause 6 with great interest. I think it has been pushed to the extreme and I do not propose to make any contribution to it but 1 am concerned about another aspect. I understand that the subject matter of the Bill was discussed with the Australian Council of Trade Unions and with the employers organisations. I direct a question now to the Minister for Works (Senator Gorton) concerning the amendment which was introduced in another place and is now contained in proposed new section 109a (3.). Has there been any discussion with the A.C.T.U. or the employers organisations regarding the new element that has been thus introduced into the Bill? If what is set out in proposed new section 109a (3.) was contemplated by the Government from the beginning and put to both employee and employer organisations, will the Minister explain how it caine to be omitted from the Bill previously?
– I shall answer the last point first. Obviously if this amendment had been in the mind of the Government from the beginning, it would not have been omitted from the original Bill. It was inserted as an amendment later because it was not in mind previously. As to the first part of the question asked by the Leader of the Opposition, I believe it would be true to say that consultations on this matter have taken place with the various organisations concerned.
– Does that apply to section 109a (3.)?
– That is right.
– T feel constrained to rise because the Minister has said that these matters are dealt with in a practical way. Unfortunately, the experience of many of the great trade unions is that very often a technical approach is made to these matters. The unions have been subjected to the experience of being taught a great deal about the law - for instance, that the penalty of £500 for non-observance may be applied every day that a dispute continues and in respect of different factories or undertakings where a strike is taking place. In fact, they have learnt that there has been a tremendous multiplication by way of technical applications of the law, despite what the Minister has said about the practical man’s approach to the matter.
Let me deal with proposed new subsection (3.). Consider the ordinary case of a bans clause which provides that a union is not to be party to any ban or limitation of work. If the union were to say: “ There is to be a ban tomorrow on work at such and such a factory “ that, in the ordinary meaning of the industrial law, would be a breach of the award. Similarly, if the union were to say: “ There will be a ban or a strike 14 days from now”, that equally would be a breach or non-observance of an award. It occurs on the day when the union gives that direction, not when work stops. The ban or limitation may well be said - in fact I should think it almost certainly would be said - to have occurred when the union said: “ There is to be a ban “. Does not that bring the case withing section 109 (1.)? In every such case where the employer has a reasonable apprehension that there will be some contravention of the Act such as to entitle him to go to the Court to seek an injunction against a union, he would almost certainly have the proof of an actual breach or non-observance. I would think that the practical position is that in almost every instance where there is a case under section 109 (1.) (b), there is also a case under section 109 (1.) (a). That seems to be the experience of all persons in this chamber who are conversant with the industrial law and its application.
– Does the honorable senator mean that there always has been a breach?
– I am saying that almost invariably where an employer can establish a case for an injunction under section 109 (1.) (b) he can also establish that there has been a breach or nonobservance under section 109 (1.) (a). Even if work has not stopped, if a ban has been placed on work, what difference does it make if the work is to stop tomorrow or in 14 days?
– Why need he have the evidence?
– As Senator Wright reminds me, the Minister has not yet answered the question that I put to him originally and which caused him to sit down. The clear position under this proposed amendment is that the employer has only to make the application. There is nothing to say that if he establishes his entitlement to an order under section 109(1.) (a) the provisions of section 109a shall not apply. All that is required here is that he make the application.
– And whether the application is refused or allowed, the application having been made this section becomes inoperative.
– Even if it is not supported by evidence.
– Exactly. There may be the extreme case in which one may say that an application is not an application at all because it is so capricious or so lacking in bona fides that the Court will not treat it as a real application. But leaving that aside, which would be the rarest of rare situations, if an application is made in the ordinary sense, with any attempt to justify it or to persevere with it, that is enough, whether it succeeds or whether it fails. This supposed barrier which has been raised to protect the trade unions or to bring about some amelioration of these hated labour injunctions seems to be no real barrier at all. It is not calculated, however well intentioned it may be, to achieve its purpose.
– Whatever the opinions may be on this legal matter, the opinion of the Government’s legal advisers is that the proposition advanced by Senator Murphy in this instance is not correct.
– The Government will be in a lot of trouble if it accepts that advice.
– In what respect?
– I am putting the view of the Government’s legal advisers. That may be wrong in the opinion of the honorable senators but, as I was endeavouring to explain, the advice is that it would not be legally correct to say that all that was needed was to make an application, and that if an application were made the provisions of section 109a (1.) and (2.) automatically would not apply.
The objective of proposed section 109a (3.), to which argument has been addressed, is that where there was a breach of an award which was then not continuing but was likely to occur again as soon as the application or the mandamus had subsided, it would be possible to make an application under section 109a (3.) both for a mandamus, because there had been a breach, and for an injunction to prevent a repetition of the breach, and that that application would be made under the provisions of section 109 (1.) (a) and (b). The proposition put forward by Senator Murphy, and I think supported by Senator Wright, and therefore obviously with some legal backing, is that all that would be required would be to make the application, but the proposition to which I would adhere would be that unless the application could be sustained when it was made under section 109 (1.) (a.) and (b) it would not be sufficient to make section 109a (1.) and (2.) inoperative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 7 agreed to.
Clause 8 (Costs).
.- I listened with care to what the Minister said when closing the debate. When he reads his speech tomorrow in “ Hansard “ he will find that he was stating the position which existed before this clause was introduced. Section 116 of the Act, which is to be amended, provides -
The Court may make such orders as it thinks just as to the costs and expenses (including the expenses of witnesses) of proceedings before the Court. . . .
The Court is to have complete power to make such order as to costs and expenses as it thinks just. It can fix costs. In the proper cases, it can limit costs to one or two counsel or to whatever number it thinks appropriate. I contest that provision. If the purpose of the amendment was not to allow the costs of two counsel unless the Court certified that the case was proper for the attendance of two counsel, that would be in the ordinary way a proper provision to make. But under the terms of the amendment before us, the power of the Court to award just costs is to be subordinated to the Government’s point of view in making regulations under the authority that is to be conferred by clause 14, which states that the Court is to have power to regulate any matters with respect to costs and expenses, including the expenses of witnesses, of proceedings before the Court. I believe this is wholly inappropriate and that the power now possessed by the Court should be relied upon.
I would add my support to the proposition that the Court should have much greater control of the costs that it allows. I am led to believe that some of the costs which accrue under orders of the Court are extravagant in the extreme. I believe that legal costs should come under a very clear and rigid review, not only in the arbitration jurisdiction, but in many other jurisdictions as well, because they are getting out of hand. To confine myself to the industrial field, I point out that without this amendment the Court is a repository of power now to make any order that it thinks is just. It is simply lacking in its duty in cases where it thinks that costs should be limited to one counsel, if it awards any party costs of two counsel.
In my view the amendment is entirely wrong because it is subordinating the Court’s complete power to do justice to a regulation which any Minister for Labour and National Service may make from time to time according to his idea of the quantum of costs. The Court should be left with an unfettered discretion. If there is any failure on its part to limit costs and prevent them from becoming excessive, there are proper means of making submissions to the Court to see that the failure does not recur. But to subordinate the Court’s jurisdiction to a Government’s power by regulation to fix costs is quite wrong. Usually the judges of a superior court such as the Commonwealth Industrial Court would be given the power to make the rules with regard to costs. They would be published in the ordinary way and would come before us as rules that could be dealt with in each House of Parliament. There should not be a ministerial fixation of costs to which the Court’s discretion is subordinated. For that reason I am opposed to the amendment suggested in clause 8.
– I wish to refer to one or two matters raised by Senator Wright. I suppose that in one sense fixing costs by regulation could be described as a ministerial fixation of costs. Yet that is an exceedingly misleading description of what is, in fact, proposed. Whatever is to be done will be done by regulation, which is quite distinct from a ministerial action in writing. It is to be done by an instrument Which, as we have heard quite frequently from Senator Murphy and Senator Wright and others, is under the control of the Parliament before which such regulations must be laid. If the Parliament disapproves, they become inoperative. So they are subject completely to parliamentary discretion. Furthermore, it is not proposed to fix costs. It is proposed, as will be seen when the regulations are promulgated, to provide that in some cases there will be no costs. If, for instance, the Commission has not been approached within the time in which it should have been approached according to the Act, costs will not be allowed.
It is proposed that the Court may indicate that Queen’s Counsel should not be employed, so that costs of the action may be kept down, unless, as I understand it, the court believes that the appearance of Queen’s Counsel is justified. This can hardly be described fairly as a real fixation of costs, nor as a ministerial decision.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 9 (Imposition and recovery of penalties.)
– I refer to clause 9 which provides for amendment to section 119 of the principal Act. The clause seeks to amend that section -
I have already mentioned to the Minister and his advisers my view that the manner of introduction of the Bill in this chamber did not completely reveal the position. It was introduced in another place in the same terms and I am not in any way suggesting anything against the Minister who introduced it here. In his second reading speech the Minister said -
The Act as it now stands prevents inspectors taking action in respect of a breach of an award, including recovery of wages, if proceedings are not commenced within six months of the breach of an award. In complicated cases this is sometimes too short a period to allow inspectors to complete their investigations. So the amendment made by clause 9 will permit proceedings to be commenced at any time within twelve months after the commission of the breach.
That was the explanation given by the Minister. It seems to me that inspectors are in the same position as the other persons referred to in section 119 of the principal Act, sub-section (2.), which provides that a penally may be sued for and recovered by the Registrar; an inspector; any organisation which is affected, or whose members or any of them are affected by the breach or non-observance; any member of any organisation who is affected by the breach or non-observance; any party to the award or order; or any officer of any organisation which is affected or any of whose members are affected by the breach or nonobservance, who is authorised under the rules of the organisation to sue on behalf of the organisation. Certainly that covers a considerable number of bodies and. persons not personally and directly affected by any any breach of the award in the sense of being the employee or person who would bc liable to be paid the money concerned. As I understood it, section 119 of the principal Act was not so limited as the Minister indicated. First, the amendment seems to me to apply not only to inspectors but equally well to all the other persons mentioned in section 119 (2.) taking action in respect of breach of an award, including for recovery of wages. He said action could not be taken unless the proceedings are commenced within six months of the breach of the award.
The Commonwealth Industrial Court has had occasion to consider this matter in a number of cases. In Parkinson v. Grazcos Co-operative Limited, reported in Volume 1, Federal Law Reports, at page 90, the Full Bench held that proceedings under section 119 were not in their nature criminal but were civil proceedings to recover a penalty. That view was also adverted to in Australasian Meat Industry Employees Union v. Meat and Allied Trades Federation of Australia, reported in 2 Federal Law Reports, at page 234, when the Court referred to those matters as if they might be continuing offences. But the matter was resolved in another case, Australasian Meat Industry Employees Union v. Thomas Playfair Pty. Ltd., reported in 3 Federal Law Reports, at page 234, in which the Court took the view that there was no limitation of time when the preceedings were brought by an organisation, because the organisation was not the party liable to receive the moneys directly it was not in the same situation as an employee would be - that is “ a party aggrieved “ - in which case some limitation of two years would apply in New South Wales. The Court held specifically that the provisions of section 56 of the Justices Act of New South Wales did not apply, that the provisions of section 21 of the Crimes Act of the Commonwealth did not apply, and that proceedings under section 119 were not .subject to a limitation of six months under the Justices Act or any other limitation. The effect of the cases is that the well known principles which were referred to by the great Judge Cussen in Victoria many years ago in Jones v. Lorne Sawmills, and referred to bv the high Court on other occasions since, have been affirmed in respect of this section of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. These principles are very important.
– What does the honor able senator say is a statement of that principle?
– The principle is, first, that there are continuing offences in relation to non-payment of wages; next, so far as this section 119 is concerned, that there is no limitation of time for the institution of proceedings. Recovery of wages is a proceeding which has always been looked upon jealously by the law. It is in a special category. There would be many, many cases in which proceedings could not be taken under section 119 if this amendment were applied in the way in which, apparently, the Minister considers it would apply.
– But suing civilly for wages, one would be bound by the six years limitation, would he not?
– The honorable senator is now moving into a very obscure part of the law. and certainly, for instance, under comparable provisions of the New South Wales legislation, that would not be so. Where limitations are placed upon recovery under the industrial arbitration acts, this may have the effect also of limiting proceedings otherwise. I should not like to say that one could commence civil proceedings apart from this Act - certainly not in a case where the recovery sought was of amounts required to be paid by an award, as distinct from amounts which might be required to be paid by reason of some contract which could be distinguished from the award.
– Does the honorable senator say that there is no civil action except under the procedure of section 119 to recover wages prescribed by an award?
– Where the obligation arises from the award, it might well be enforceable only under the Act and one could not safely say otherwise. It would be different if there were a contract away from the award altogether. If one made a contract to pay a certain amount, the position might well be different. This was adverted to in the famous case, True v. Amalgamated Collieries. In regard to recovery of wages under an award, it seems to me, unless the Minister or his advisers are able to show otherwise, that the amendment would introduce a limitation restricting proceedings under section 119 rather than, as has been suggested by the Minister, an enlarging of the period of limitation from 6 months to 1 2 months.
– It is not recovery of wages that the honorable senator is talking about; it is the time within which one can proceed.
– The time within which proceedings may be brought. The proposed amendment reads -
Proceedings under this section in respect of a breach or non-observance of a term of an order or award may be commenced at any time within 12 months after the commission of the breach or non-observance.
So far as recovery of wages is concerned, this relates back to section 119(3.) of the principal Act, which reads -
Where, in any proceedings against an employer before a court specified in sub-section (1.) of this section, it appears to the Court that an employee of that employer has not been paid an amount to which he is entitled under an order or award, that Court may order that the employer shall pay to the employee the amount of the underpayment that no order shall be made in respect of so much of the underpayment as relates to any period more than 12 months prior to the commencement of the proceedings.
– Yes, he cannot get more than 12 months wages. What about section 123?
– This new clause deals with recovery under sub-section (3.), which is dependent upon existence of the proceedings, and the proposed amendment would place a limitation on the commencement of proceedings. It is said, as a justification of the provision, that an enlargement is being made, that the limitation as to time is being increased from 6 months to 12 months. If what I am putting is correct, that is simply not so and what is proposed involves a restriction.
The effect of this provision may be greater than appears on’ the surface, because a serious question arises as to whether offences under this legislation in respect of the non-payment of wages are continuing offences. The better view at the moment may be that the offences are continuing.
However, the effect of this amendment may be to bring about a different view of the obligations and the offences under the legislation and it may well be said that, in the light of proposed sub-section (4.) of section 119, no longer are the offences continuing offences and that unless the proceedings are brought within 12 months of the original breach that will be the end of the matter. This is an extremely serious matter from the point of view of the trade unions and their members. There would be many thousands of cases in which persons have recovered wages because of the present construction and understanding of this section but in which they may well not be able to do so in the future.
– As the Minister suggested a few moments ago, if the plaintiff were an employee he would be bound by section 123, would he not?
– For the enlightenment of those who may not have a copy of the Act, section 123 provides -
An employee entitled to the benefit of an award made at any time within twelve months from any payment by way of wages in accordance with the award becoming due to him, but not later, sue for the sum in any court of competent jurisdiction.
– Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– I rise, Madam Temporary Chairman, merely to give Senator Murphy the right to continue.
.- I thank Senator Wright for his courtesy. The suggestion is that section 123, insofar as it applies to an employee, would also affect the organisation of which he was a member, and perhaps any other persons who might be proceeding under section 119, in order to recover wages due. That would appear to be an arguable view of the legislation. The Commonwealth Industrial Court has taken the contrary view. The decision in the case to which 1 referred - Australasian Meat Industry Employers Union v. Thomas Playfair Pty. Ltd. - is clearly inconsistent with that view. That case was brought more than 12 months after the moneys became due. The whole question as to the limitation of time was argued. For a long time the view has been taken - it has been acted upon and has become settled law - that a prosecution, if one may so call it, for the civil offence, or the proceeding if one prefers so to call it, under section 119 may be commenced and is in no wise limited by section 123, certainly insofar as the organisation or these other persons referred to in section 1 19 (2.) are concerned.
– But if he takes proceedings under section 119, why is he not bound by the latter part of sub-section (3.) of that section?
– The recovery of wages goes back for 12 months prior to the commencement of the proceedings, but the prosecution or proceedings for the penalty may be instituted without such limitation because the law, as I understand it, is that the offence is a continuing one. If you are required to pay wages by, say, Thursday of a particular week you commit an offence if you do not pay them by the Thursday. The obligation is not merely to pay by the Thursday, but to pay. Every day that you continue to fail to observe the requirements Of the law you are committing an offence. That is the view that has been taken for many years.
What I am concerned about here is that legislation has been introduced which will vitally affect the position of organisations and all their members - and for that matter, employers - in respect of proceedings under section 119. Considered decisions have been delivered in relation to this section. I do not blame the Minister for Works (Senator Gorton), who is in charge of the Bill, in any way but the Senate is entitled to more than the plain statement that the Act as it now stands prevents inspectors from taking action in respect of a breach of an award, including the recovery of wages, if proceedings are not commenced within six months of the breach of the award and that in complicated cases this time is too short. That is a quite inadequate statement of the position. It seems to me to be an erroneous one. We ought to have a better exposition of the matter, and I hope that one will be made.
.- I rise to express my appreciation of the action of Senator Murphy in giving me a copy of the judgment in the case Australasian Meat Industry Employers Union v. Thomas Playfair Pty. Ltd. I am most obliged to the honorable senator. In view of the decision of the Court in that case, I think it is most desirable that the provisions of section 123 and section 119 (3.) relate plainly to the recovery of wages accrued only in the 12 months before the commencement of proceedings. If the Court has found that no limitation is imposed under the existing law, it is quite time that the appropriate period of limitation was made clear. We have managed to get along with section 123 and the words in the latter part of section 119 (3.) up to the present, and they seem to me to indicate that the appropriate period is 12 months. As provision for that period is now explicitly being written into the Bill, I simply want to say that I wish to adopt it.
– When Senator Murphy raised certain criticisms I thought that the Minister for Works (Senator Gorton) would examine them and provide an appropriate answer. I am convinced that Senator Murphy’s point has been well made. It is evident that in the light of decisions of the Commonwealth Industrial Court applications may be made outside the period of 12 months. That being so, it would be futile for the trade union movement to accept the restriction or prohibition that is now proposed. Senator Murphy has directed our attention to three decisions on the matter. I repeat that we should have expected the Minister to explain the reasons for the inclusion in the Bill of proposed new sub-section (4.) of section 119. If any explanation that the Minister may offer is not contrary to the views expressed by Senator Murphy, I suggest that the Bill should be agreed to without this amending provision and that the provision be considered separately. I suggest that this would be the proper procedure to adopt.
I am certainly not a legally trained person, but I have had some experience with arbitration awards. Having listened to the debate, I agree with Senator Murphy that the Opposition and the trade union movement would be making a great mistake by accepting such a situation. It seems to me that this matter would not have been canvassed during the tripartite discussions in the form in which it is now being canvassed. I cannot imagine, in a discussion between the Government, the employers and the employees, the A.C.T.U. agreeing to a provision which prohibits and cancels out something which the unions have got elsewhere. Having heard Senator Murphy describe the circumstances that applied when he was acting for the Meat Industry Union, it seems to me that the logical course would be for the Government to withdraw the amendment and deal with it separately on another occasion. At least, I would like the Minister to make some comment on the matter raised by Senator Murphy.
.- The Government would prefer the Bill to go through in the way in which it proposes. A year is provided within which applications may be made. I do not propose to get involved in a legal argument. The Government believes that a year is sufficient time in which to allow people to initiate action.
– I would like to know from the Minister whether or not this particular amendment was requested by the Australian Council of Trade Unions. It was indicated that a number of these matters were discussed and, in fact, were initiated by the A.C.T.U. Could the Senate be informed as to whether the request for the amendment was made by the A.C.T.U.?
– I do not have that information.
- Senator Wright indicated that he proposes to support the amendment, not because of the reasons that have been advanced by the Minister, but because he agrees to a reduction in the rights of the trade unions. Apparently he and the other supporters of the Government accept the amendment to this clause because it significantly cuts down the rights of the trade unions, the rights of the inspectors, the rights of the registrars, and indirectly the rights of persons who are affected by the underpayment of wages.
I have gone to some trouble to put to the Minister considerations which indicate that the basis on which the Bill has been presented to the Parliament is incorrect. No answer has been forthcoming from the Minister. He has not disagreed with what I have put forward.
– Or agreed with what the honorable senator has put forward.
– Nothing has been said, despite the fact that he has been given ample notice and that his advisers are present in the Senate. Senator Wright, after having considered the matter, apparently agrees with the view I put, but he thinks it is right that this reduction in the rights of the unions and the inspectors should occur. He says, in effect: “ I think the view is correct, but I think that the rights should be cut down and that there should be a limitation of 12 months.”
– Surely it is anomalous to say that proceedings are not subject to some limitation.
– Madam Temporary Chairman, what Senator Wright is putting forward is an argument which may or may not be valid, but it cannot be right that a Bill which has been passed in another place is dealt with on a different basis here. Is it not even worse that the matter should be considered without the merits being discussed? Considerations have been put forward by myself. They have been supported by Senator Bishop. Senator Wright has accepted the substance of these, but he says, in effect: “I believe that the change that is toeing made is right, notwithstanding the fact that it is being put on a false basis in this Parliament.” That cannot be right.
The Opposition in the Senate, of necessity, has to accept the second reading speech of a Minister when he introduces a bill. One cannot assume all the time that there will be an error. One cannot search through the legislation until one finds that the Minister’s speech incorrectly represents the alterations that are to be made in the law. I have no doubt that in another place the Opposition, as well as the Government, accepted the explanation at its face value and dealt with it accordingly. It is entirely wrong that this chamber should be dealt with in this way. The measure has been introduced on a basis which is challenged as being incorrect; no answer has been given by the Minister; and one Government senator who spoke to it accepted the argument that it was an incorrect basis but he has proceeded to say: “ That satisfies me, anyway.”
I can only say that it may well be that the A.C.T.U. accepted this explanation at its face value, as the Opposition originally accepted it when it decided to support the measure. It is a most reprehensible way of presenting legislation and of dealing with it in this chamber.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 10 to 14 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Gorton) read a third time.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir
A lister 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 adjourn.
Question put. The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Alister McMullin.)
Majority . . 9
– Is the Senate agreeable to the honorable senator withdrawing?
Honorable Senators. - Yes. (The honorable senator thereupon withdrew from the chamber.)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Debate resumed from 13th May (vide page 830), on motion by Senator Henry -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– Mr. President, this Bill is for the purpose of granting a form of assistance to the State of Western Australia to extend further the comprehensive water scheme. The Opposition does not oppose the Bill. However, this statement is not to be construed as meaning that the Opposition supports the type of assistance that is proposed by the Bill. The scheme is concerned with taking water from the coastal regions into the parched inland areas to assist the production of stock and the provision of a decent water supply for the small towns in this part of the State.
The scheme was first proposed in 1946 but was subsequently modified. The original proposition provided for a servicing of 12 million acres, and the modified scheme proposes to service 4 million acres. The cost of the original scheme was estimated to be £4.3 million but because of increases in the cost of materials and labour the scheme finally cost £10.25 million. The scheme was subsidised on a £1 for £1 basis under an agreement entered into between a Labour government in the Commonwealth and a Liberal government in Western Australia. Thus, a non-repayable loan of £5 million was made to the State.
The work on this scheme extended over 12 years. The period was longer than had been contemplated originally, and the variation was made after the Commonwealth Labour Government was defeated. The present Commonwealth Government restricted the amount of money that could be spent on the scheme annually. Whilst the Government agreed to continue to provide the £5 million required on a £1 for £1 basis, it said that only a certain amount each year would be spent on the scheme. This decision involved the Western Australian Government in the expenditure in advance of moneys out of its own resources in order to bring the water to the outback areas much more quickly. The scheme, therefore, was delayed by this action of the Commonwealth Government. As a result of this decision, an increase of the productivity of the region, which would have been brought about by this extension of water to those areas, was not achieved as soon as it could have been.
Overall, the scheme has had a pretty chequered career. Now we find that the Commonwealth Government is rather reluctantly coming to the aid of the State. I propose to advance the reasons why the Opposition does not support the sort of aid that is proposed under this scheme. When the scheme was completed in 1961-62 the State Government made an application to the Commonwealth for further assistance, but a decision was not forthcoming. Subsequently, in 1963, a fully documented case for assistance was presented to the Commonwealth. That assistance is only now being made available. This has meant that the State Government has had to carry the scheme along over the intervening period with money provided out of its own resources, approximately £500,000 having been spent each year until this time. The State will get little relief, I think, from expenditure under this scheme, although a greater amount of money will be expended each year when the assistance is forthcoming.
The assistance proposed by the Bill is in the form of a repayable, loan. I am positive that anyone who took notice of what the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) had to say in August of last year would not have gathered then that this was the type of assistance proposed for the scheme in Western Australia. At that time the Treasurer said -
We have now decided to offer financial assistance to an extension of the Comprehensive Water Supply Scheme in Western Australia under which water will be reticulated to farms and towns in regions to the north and east of Northam and to the east of Narrogin. Subject to the Government of Western Australia matching our contribution on a £1 for £1 basis, we will make advances to that Government up to a maximum of £5,250,000.
I think anyone who has a knowledge of this scheme, or anyone who knew the type of assistance which had been given between 1948-49 and 1961-62, would have expected that that type of assistance would have been continued. The extension of the scheme, as now proposed, will service a further 3.7 million acres, making a total of 7.8 million acres serviced by the whole scheme. Yet the original scheme provided for the servicing of 12 million acres. But the proposition in this Bill for the expenditure of £10,500,000 over a period of eight years means that two-thirds of the scheme will take 23 years to complete. If that is the momentum that national development is gathering in Australia, I think our grandchildren will not live to see the time when this country is fully developed. The loan that is being made to the State will not be repayable - or the repayments will not commence - until ten years after the advance is made. The loan is then to be repaid over a period of 15 years, with six-monthly repayments, and the money will attract interest at the long term bond rate.
I want to say something about this long term bond rate. It means that the interest rate on the loan could fluctuate by as much as 2 per cent, or 3 per cent. The State Government has no say in what the interest rate will be. Only the Commonwealth Government has a say in that. The long term bond rate is based on what money can be raised in Australia by public subscription, and the Commonwealth will always offer an interest rate which it thinks will attract sufficient money to fill its loans. At any time when the loan market is failing and there are more attractive avenues of investment, the Commonwealth is forced to raise the interest rate. The State will have no say in that. All it will do is to pay the rate of interest fixed by the Commonwealth.
Very much of the Commonwealth Government’s assistance to the States - in particular to Western Australia - is of this type. If we take the Broome jetty, the Derby jetty or the standard gauge railway in Western Australia, we find that all these works are being carried out under loans made to the State, which have to be repaid over a period of time and which attract interest at the long term bond rate. The beef roads scheme is conditioned by the State having to match the amount of money that the Commonwealth spends on beef roads. Of course, the result of this must be that the State will come more under the domination of the Commonwealth Treasurer. This means that substantial amounts of the State Budget each year are being controlled by the Commonwealth. It is not for me to say whether this is a good thing or a bad thing, but I think it must eventually lead to the result that the Commonwealth will take over the States. It will be taking them over so far financially that they will not be able to carry on, and the Commonwealth will have to carry them. In fact, the States are reaching the position today that they are practically only spending agents for the Commonwealth.
– The honorable senator would agree with that.
– Yes, I would agree with that. This is one country. I think there should be only one law and that this Parliament should make the law. I completely agree with that. In view of the balance of payments difficulties into which we seem to be running, I would have thought we would have had a statement from the Treasurer. I would have liked to debate the question. In view of the position we seem to be facing, I would have thought that the Government would have expedited this type of national development so as to bring increased production into the economy as quickly as possible, instead of bringing down an agreement which provides for the extension of this scheme and the expenditure of £10,500,000 over a period of eight years.
I suppose the Government would call this a forward looking policy, but it is too slow to have any great effect on the economy of the country. Do not forget that this scheme has been examined and approved by the Commonwealth Bureau of Agricultural Economics on the basis of export earnings - the amount which will be produced to increase our export earnings. I would have thought that the Commonwealth would have done something to expedite this extension and get it on the stocks a bit more quickly. However, because this Bill provides assistance that will benefit the inland areas of Western Australia we will not oppose it. But because the proposed assistance is a departure from the previous assistance scheme, because of the excessive period that will elapse before the scheme is completed, because the State has to pay an interest rate which is not fixed or determined and because part of the State’s finances is taken out of its control, we do not support “the measure.
– I rise to support the Bill. I am pleased that Senator Cant on behalf of the Opposition also supports the measure and that the Opposition will not vote against it. This Bill is of tremendous importance to the agricultural areas of Western Australia and indeed to the whole Commonwealth. Under the provisions of the Bill, the Commonwealth Government will provide £5.25 million on a £1 for £1 basis to Western Australia to help the State to supply water to its agricultural areas. This means a total expenditure over the next seven or eight years of £10.5 million.
The water will supply an area of 8 million acres. Already 4 million acres of land has an adequate water supply. The farmers and the townships in the area will now have the use of additional water. It will increase farm production and supplement town water supplies. Farmers in this area will be able to increase the carrying capacity of their land as a result of this supply of additional water. With the help of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation and the Department of Agriculture in Western Australia, new grasses and legumes have been produced. By the use of these, the carrying capacity of the area affected will be increased by more than 100 per cent. Sufficient water cannot be obtained in some of the drier areas with an annual rainfall of 12 to 15 inches because the salt level is too close to the surface and farmers are unable to put down bores or construct dams. Therefore, they have to rely on water reticulated a considerable distance from the Darling Range catchment area.
With the additional water to be provided through the scheme under discussion and the new varieties of grasses such as cyprus barrel medic, rose clover and other clovers that will thrive in the low rainfall areas towards Geraldton, farmers in the area will be able to take a new look at agriculture. Large additional areas are being sown to clovers and medics which build up the nitrogen content of the soil. After three or four years, this build up enables the farmers to adopt the ley system of farming. The nitrogen content is built up for three or four years and then a crop of wheat is sown. On this highly fertile country, the farmers are then able virtually to guarantee in a normal year a return of about 10 or 12 bags of wheat to the acre instead of the normal 4, 5 or 6 bags.
– How much do they pay for the water?
– This water is reticulated to supply stock. The farmer has to pay so much per acre to the Government. He will also have to pay a certain amount for the water he uses.
– Will any of this water go on to the pastures?
– It is not designed to go on the pasture. I am not talking about irrigation. I am talking about water to supply additional stock that the farmers will be able to carry on this area because of scientific developments and new types of pastures. In some cases they will be able to quadruple the stock carrying capacity of the land. The water going to this area will supply their stock. The farmers cannot get water on their properties because of the salt content which is close to the surface. That is the reason for this Bill. However, the hour is late and we could continue this discussion for a long time. I conclude by saying I am glad the Australian Labour Party is supporting the measure and I have pleasure in supporting it myself.
– I rise to support this Bill. I agree with Senator Scott that it is an important measure for a number of reasons to which I shall refer later. It is pleasing to Western Australians that this assistance is to be given by the Commonwealth Government particularly in view of the response we had about two weeks ago to our request for assistance for the Ord River scheme. However, I regret that in this case the Government has seen fit to depart from the principle embodied in the grant for the modified comprehensive water scheme. In that case the Commonwealth Government made a straight out grant. Under the provisions of the Bill now before the Senate assistance is to be given to Western Australia by way of a loan, bearing interest and repayable in instalments over a period of 15 years as Senator Cant has mentioned. These repayments are to commence 10 years after the payment is made by the Commonwealth Government. Therefore, no payment will be required by the Commonwealth until after the completion of this scheme.
What worries me about this arrangement is that no doubt the Western Australian Government will endeavour to recoup some of the interest and sinking fund payments that it is required to meet. Perhaps it will endeavour to recoup itself by increasing the charges for water supplied to the farmers. This would be a very serious matter because it would add to the costs of primary producers. 1 referred to this matter in my speech on the Budget last year and I said then that I believed Western Australia could not afford to service loans of this kind and at the same time carry out a programme of development over a land mass covering 32.8 per cent, of Australia. Western Australia must look to the Commonwealth Government for assistance and the Commonwealth must give this assistance on a grant basis rather than through loans as provided in this Bill. The two honorable senators who have participated in the debate so far devoted a good deal of time to the benefits which will be derived by Western Australia from this proposal. I do not want to go into that aspect because, as I have said, I dealt with it during the Budget debate last year, but I agree with what they have said.
I believe that this will not be the last occasion on which Western Australia will ask for assistance to further the extension of water to the country areas of that State. To support that statement let me point out to the Senate the situation which exists in Western Australia. I think all honorable senators realise that by world standards Australia is an arid continent. I have obtained statistics which show that the average rainfall in Australia is 16.5 inches whereas the average rainfall on the land masses of the rest of the world is 26 inches. Even in the United States the average is 29 inches. It is rather interesting to note the rainfall on other continents. In South America it is 53.1 inches, in Africa 28 inches, in Asia 25.4 inches and in Europe 24.3 inches.
Rainfall in Australia varies from something like 178 inches at Deeral in north Queensland to well under 5 inches in the Lake Eyre region. Even in the same State and in the same district there is a great variation. For instance, in 1945 the average rainfall at Deeral was 287 inches whereas in 1943 it was down to 109 inches. The rainfall on individual properties in the drier areas in the centre of Australia may vary from 1 inch to 20 inches from year to year.
In the southern portion of Australia the rainfall is more or less uniform and comes in peak periods, mostly in the winter. In the northern portion of the continent the rainfall comes mainly wilh the monsoons over a. period of three or four months. It is interesting to note also - this is not common to Australia but applies throughout the world - that the heaviest falls of rain are generally on the eastern side of continents so it is obvious that Western Australia has a lower rainfall than the eastern States of Australia have.
When we consider the water potential, Western Australia has something like 8 per cent, of Australia’s total potential of which 6 per cent, is in the northern areas and the remaining 2 per cent, in the south western part of the State. The proposed extension with which we are dealing covers a large area of the wheat belt but to the north of the area young men who have taken up many thousands of acres of land are today carting water for up to 50 and 60 miles. They have not even drinking water at some periods of the year. Senator Scott gave one reason, but there are many other reasons why these people cannot get water. They have spent thousands upon thousands of pounds putting down bores in a search for water, but with no result. They have even tried constructing dams but the soil there is too porous to hold the water, with the result that the dams leak and their efforts and money are wasted. So the only way in which water can be extended to these areas is through pipelines. Again I say that Western Australia cannot construct these pipelines on her own. She has been spending £500,000 a year from her own resources, but even if she were to keep on at that rate of expenditure, it would be almost the end of the century before water could be supplied to those parts about which I am speaking. I am sure that the people who live there cannot wait that long. Therefore I make an appeal here and now to the Senate and to the Government to realise, please, in advancing money under this Bill that this is not the last time the Government will be asked to assist a State that is developing about 1 million acres a year, most of which is in the drier areas, for the State will require further assistance to extend water to them. I support the Bill.
– I shall be brief because I spoke at great length on this matter last year.
– Incorporate that speech in “ Hansard “.
– It is incorporated. Other speakers have covered the details of the Bill. I just want to talk on what I consider to be the importance of water in these areas because my earliest recollections are of getting up as a small boy early in the morning and carting water for stock before going to school. There is nothing more heartbreaking than making the decision to stop carting water because, after having carted it for some time, one still does not know when it is going to rain and one is faced with the thought- that ultimately one will probably still have to sell one’s stock, and sell it at a loss.
I think it should be stressed to all those people who cynically say that Western Australia gets too good a deal that Western Australia is the one State in the Commonwealth that is today developing 1 million acres of agricultural land a year. This has been going on for six years. This has made a terrific inroad into the State’s own resources. Land cannot be opened up without providing the facilities that are needed, such as hospitals, schools, and roads. Therefore 1 think that Western Australia has a genuine case because of its unique circumstances in that it still has big areas of agricultural land to be developed.
Apart from that, I remind the Senate that up till 1963, out of her own resources, Western Australia had spent £24 million in developing water schemes. For a State with the population that Senator Drake.Brockman mentioned, I think that is a pretty fair effort. I will go along with the statement that has been made that this will not be the last approach by Western Australia. I, too, think t’here will be more approaches for assistance as these schemes are developed. For instance, I think now of Esperance. One of the real problems in the Esperance area today is a good water supply. People have gone to the trouble there of putting down dams, but they do not get the run off because the top soil at Esperance is very porous. They have also spent a lot of money in putting down bores in certain parts, but they cannot get underground water.
– What is the rainfall like at Esperance?
– The rainfall at Esperance is excellent for agricultural needs, but that is of no use unless the water can be stored for stock in the dry periods. That is one factor that will have to be looked at in connection with the development of Esperance. The pipeline is already as far as Norseman. Admittedly, it is only a small pipe, but I think we will have to face up to the fact that an approach will be made at a later stage for an extension of the pipeline to Norseman. I am in a position to know a little about this because I have two farms past which the comprehensive water supply runs. I am glad to say that we had to use the comprehensive scheme on only one occasion, for a fortnight. I would like to make the plea to all farmers that they continue to develop their own water resources on their farms and use the comprehensive scheme as an insurance policy. Our stock carrying capacity has increased considerably because of the knowledge that we will not be faced with a water shortage during the dry months. Although the season did not open until the middle of May, there was still sufficient water for our stock.
All too often, decentralisation is talked about glibly but the provision of an assured water supply completely changes life in a country town. The scheme now under consideration will do a lot of good. Honorable senators should remember, when we Western Australians present our case for the type of assistance provided in this legislation, that the State is playing its part. Expenditure of over £24 million is not a bad effort in view of the population of Western Australia. I support the Bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 13th May (vide page 826), on motion by Senator Henty -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The purpose of this Bill is simple and straightforward. Therefore, it is not my intention to take long to discuss it. The International Wheat Agreement was first ratified by the Labour Government in 1949 for four years. The present Government ratified the Agreement in 1953, 1956, 1959 and 1962 for three year terms. On each of those occasions the same principles, or substantially the same principles, operated.
The Bill before us seeks to ratify the Agreement for a further 12 months. The existing Agreement has five aims. The first is to assure adequate supplies of wheat at reasonable and stable prices. The second is to expand the sales of wheat. The third is to overcome the problem of both under and over-production of wheat. The fourth is to encourage wheat use to help improve health and nutrition. The fifth is to increase international co-operation in matters affecting wheat. The principal method by which these aims were to be achieved was the International Wheat Agreement. The Agreement was made between the major wheat exporting and importing countries. It sets maximum and minimum prices for wheat and specifies the quantities that are to be traded. At the present time 31 importing nations and 10 exporting nations are parties to the Agreement. There can be no doubt, I believe, that the Agreement has been the means of keeping this great industry stable. Wheat authorities hold that despite recurring gluts and shortages of wheat, the world consumption of wheat tends to equal the production over a period of 8 to 10 years.
As I said, this Bill only extends the present Agreement for one year. The reason for that is that the Kennedy Round of General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade trade negotiations is at present being held at Geneva and the major cereals will be one of the subjects discussed. It is to be hoped that the period of 12 months for which this Bill will operate will be sufficient time to allow for any alterations to the Agreement to be concluded. That being so, the Labour Party supports the passage of this Bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Senate adjourned at 11.18 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 18 May 1965, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1965/19650518_senate_25_s28/>.