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Wednesday, 10 May 1961

Mr CALWELL (Melbourne) (Leader of the Opposition) . - In the first place,. Mr. Speaker, I want to register the strongest possible protest on behalf of the Opposition at the action of the Government in introducing a bill of this nature and importance this afternoon and then expecting the Opposition to debate it four hours later. It is a bill that vitally affects the lives and interests of many people on the waterfront and many people dependent upon the trade that flows through our seaports. But the Government decided to bring the bill down, because it wants to get it through in the very last moments of the sittings of the Parliament. Had the Government not decided late this afternoon that the Parliament should meet next week, we would have been expected to pass this legislation after an all-night sitting of this House, and it would have then been forced through another place some time tomorrow, with as much consideration given to it as honorable members can afford to devote to it in this chamber.

This Government is processing its legislation in the same way as butchers put their meat through a sausage machine and, like a lot of the meat which passes through a sausage machine, the legislation is equally indigestible. Let us look at the origin of the bill - I am not looking at the origin of the sausage meat - as it, too, is wrapped up in mystery. Both Houses of this Parliament adjourned on the night of Thursday, 27th April, without any member having the slightest idea that legislation of this sort was even contemplated by the Government. On the next morning we discovered that the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) had issued a statement saying that the Government intended to bring down legislation to give waterside workers long service leave.

Mr Thompson - It was not a fortnight ago.

Mr CALWELL - It was less than a fortnight ago, as the honorable member for Port Adelaide reminds me. No one believes that the Minister has any great affection for the waterside workers and he certainly showed none during his speech this afternoon. I think his sentiments towards the waterside workers are reciprocated by them towards him, in turn.

Mr McMahon - It was not the waterside workers I mentioned, but some of their leaders.

Mr CALWELL - The Minister said the industry was a very turbulent one. I shall make some comment later on what the Minister said about the nature of the employment with which we are dealing. Honorable members wondered what all this was about, because in the Speech of His Excellency the Administrator at the opening of the Parliament there was no mention of this legislation, no hint of it at all. It was not mentioned by the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) when he gave notice of the suspension of the 11 o'clock rule, after which hour, without such suspension, no new business can ordinarily be introduced. He hinted darkly that the Government did have other legislation to bring forward, but at that time it did not look as if there was any necessity for the Parliament to meet this week, or last week, either.

After we had read what the Minister for Labour and National Service had said, we of the Opposition asked the leaders of the Australian Council of Trade Unions and the Waterside Workers Federation whether they knew anything about the legislation. My colleague, the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison), who acts as our liaison with the Australian Council of Trade Unions was in conference with representatives of these organizations immediately the Minister's announcement was made. We found that the people with whom we made contact knew as little about the legislation as we did and so we had to form our own conclusions as to why the Government proposed to bring down the legislation. We were not long in coming to the conclusion that the Government did not bring down these bills because of any feeling of sympathy for the watersiders, any desire to do justice to them, or any regard for the question of whether long-service leave should be granted to casual workers generally throughout the Commonwealth.

It did not take us long to discover that the Government had realized that both Houses of the Parliament of Tasmania had passed a waterside workers bill, but with no pains and penalties included in it. The Government knew that the Premier of New South Wales had indicated that, when the referendum campaign was over in that State, it was the intention of his Government to bring down legislation to provide for longservice leave for all casual workers, which of course would include waterside workers.

Mr McMahon - No.

Mr CALWELL - The Minister denies what I am saying, but I know that the resolution of the New South Wales executive of the Labour Party was to that effect. I know that the New South Wales Trades and Labour Council had a similar resolution on its books and I know that that was the intention of the New South Wales Government. Legislation having been passed in one State and likely to be passed in another - it might be passed in others also - made this Government introduce its own legislation which will supersede all State legislation. The legislation contains pains and penalties clauses so that waterside workers can have long-service leave, but only on a good behaviour bond.

Under this measure waterside workers, provided they do the things which the Government requires them to do, can have their long service leave but, if they do not do those things, they will wait years for their entitlements. On 1st May - it was a good day for a conference of representatives of the Australian Council of Trade Unions and the Minister - the president, the vicepresident and the secretary of the Australian Council of Trade Unions - Mr. Monk, Mr. Kenny and Mr. Souter, respectively - came to Canberra and conferred all day with the Minister.

Mr McMahon - Two days.

Mr CALWELL - All that day, and the president and secretary of the Waterside Workers Federation were also in attendance. The conference continued next day and late that afternoon the president of the Australian Council of Trade Unions came to see me, as did also the president of the Waterside Workers Federation, Mr. Beitz. I learned from them something of their discussions with the Minister. They told me that as the result of those discussions some of the original provisions of the legislation were modified and suggestions were made by them for further modifications. I understand that the Government gave some consideration to these matters. Indeed, the Minister admits that consideration was given to what the Australian Council of Trade Unions put forward, and certain other modifications were made later. The bill was then drafted, as we have received it, in its present form.

Now, Sir, Mr. Monk made it quite clear in the discussions I had with him, and also in the discussions that he had with the honorable member for Blaxland both in Melbourne and in Adelaide on Monday and Wednesday of this week, that under no consideration would the bill be acceptable to the trade union movement while heavy penalties could be imposed which could delay the time at which long service leave would fall due. As the Leader of the Opposition, I received draft copies of the bill only last night. Until then I knew nothing of its contents. I received these copies on a confidential basis, and I maintained that confidence. I handed one copy, as agreed upon, to the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, and another copy to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in this House, because otherwise we would not have been in any position to debate the legislation at all. We took the matter to our caucus this morning and considered it.

The indecent haste on the part of the Government to introduce this legislation is, I repeat, to be condemned. We have suggested that in order that the fullest consideration might be given to its contents the bill should be stood over, and further discussion of it should not be resumed until the next session. I even told the Treasurer that as far as this party is concerned - we are backed by the trade union movement of the nation - we do not care whether or not the Government goes on with the bill in its present form. As far as we are concerned, the Government can forget all about it. We believe in the principle of long service leave, and we will vote for those clauses of the bill which will bring long service leave into operation; but we will vote against those clauses of the bill that propose the infliction of penalties and disabilities on people. If the bill is dropped altogether, then, after the next elections, we ourselves will introduce legislation in the form in which we draft it. If the legislation passes in its present form, we will amend it in the way we wish to amend it later on.

Mr Forbes - You will introduce it as a private member's bill?

Mr CALWELL - We will introduce it as a government bill. The honorable membe, who in his spare time is a doctor of philosophy, could then philosophize outside of the Parliament, instead of inside. It is hard to understand why the Government is rushing this legislation through at this particular time, because its benefits will not become operative until three years after the act is proclaimed. It is not as though somebody were going to get a benefit immediately the bill is passed. This is a bill which, so far as the generality of waterside workers is concerned, will operate some time in 1964. We do not object to some forward date being named, because that has been customary in legislation of this sort wherever it has been introduced anywhere in the Commonwealth. There always has to be a certain period before the legislation can operate.

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - The penalties start straight away.

Mr CALWELL - Yes. Whilst the benefits are not due to operate until three years hence, the penalties will operate immediately. If a waterside worker goes on strike, he can be penalized in various ways. He can be dealt with by the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority and he can be deprived of certain leave.

Mr Whitlam - He can be declared by the authority.

Mr CALWELL - Yes. There are other ways by which he can be dealt with. Of course, if one-third of the waterside workers in any port go on strike or hold unauthorized meetings, the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission can impose a penalty. The amount of penalty is stated in the legislation. There is provision for a maximum penalty, which, I believe, is better than the original provision contained in the first draft of the legislation, under which it was possible for a waterside worker to suffer a double penalty.

Mr E James Harrison - He still does.

Mr CALWELL - Yes, I know that he may, in certain circumstances. The

A.C.T.U. has been placed in 'much the same position as we have been placed concerning consideration of the contents of this legislation. Its officers did not receive copies of this bill until some time this afternoon. I understand that they were promised that they would have copies of the bill early this morning.

Mr E James Harrison - Yesterday morning.

Mr CALWELL - Yesterday morning originally. Of course, we had expected to have the bill before us in this House yesterday evening, but there were drafting delays. Everybody suffered because of those delays, which were due to the unfortunate breakdown of one draftsman. But copies of the bill as we have it before us now were not in the hands of the officers of the A.C.T.U. until 2.30 this afternoon.

Mr McMahon - I gave them outlines of it before that.

Mr CALWELL - At that time all they had to advise them of the Minister's general views were outlines of the bill's contents, but copies of the Minister's second-reading speech had not reached them. The A.C.T.U. officers take their stand - and we agree with them - on the principle that waterside workers are entitled to long service leave just the same as are other sections, and should not be penalized, as the Minister proposes to penalize them. Most legislation of this sort contains no penal provisions. The Tasmanian act contains no penal provisions. The New South Wales act would have contained no penal provisions.

Mr Mackinnon - It would have.

Mr CALWELL - No, it would not. It would not have contained any penal provisions, and even the members of the upper house in New South Wales would not have put in provisions of that sort.

Mr Mackinnon - That is your supposition.

Mr CALWELL - I am sure of my position in that respect, because I know their feelings on the matter. The A.C.T.U. has unanimously decided its view on this question. This is its view as expressed in the resolution that it passed -

The aim of the trade union movement is that long service leave is a right accruable to a worker for service rendered to an employer or an industry.

Because the legislation of the Federal Government relating to waterside workers does not recognize such a right without disabilities and penalties, the A.C.T.U. Executive expresses its complete opposition to objectionable principles in the Long Service Leave Bill which imposes penalties on entitlement because of industrial action of waterside workers.

This provision is diametrically opposed to prevailing State legislation and would deprive some waterside workers of pleasant long service leave entitlements.

We also register an emphatic protest at the manner and procedure adopted by the Government for introducing the Bill which denies the Labour movement reasonable opportunity to examine and analyse the full implications of the provisions.

We request the Parliamentary Labour Party to oppose the Bill in both Houses of Parliament on the basis of the Trade Union opposition to these provisions.

Having considered the position and having our own views - most of us are financial members of trade unions - we have equally unanimously decided to vote against the second reading of the bill and to vote against those clauses containing provisions for the imposition of disabilities and penalties. If the Government will not remove those clauses, we will vote against the third reading. That is our decision on the matter, and I have no doubt that the Government expected that that would be our attitude.

In his speech this afternoon the Minister said that in general principle the long service leave provision in this bill was comparable with the ordinary State long service leave laws. The Australian Labour Party supports the policy of extending long-service leave wherever possible to the Australian workers, emphasizing most strongly the desirability of such leave being approved in this period of mechanization and automation, but the long service leave policy of the Australian Labour Party is that the provision must be not less in value than that operating under State and Federal long service leave laws, and that long service leave is a right accruable to all workers for service rendered. In simple language, long service leave is a right to a return for service, on the levels of periods served, and should not be contingent upon any other industrial condition, and should not be related to any other circumstances of employment. There is nothing in the Commonwealth Public Service Act provisions granting long service leave to Commonwealth public servants which says that they will be deprived of their leave if they go on strike. I never remember any such provision having been inserted in that act.

Mr Mackinnon - It is quite unnecessary.

Mr CALWELL - The honorable member for Corangamite says it is quite unnecessary. Strangely enough, the honorable gentleman .has stumbled upon a truth. The reason why Commonwealth public servants do not go on strike and why waterside workers often do is because of the different natures of their respective employments. Commonwealth public servants are permanently employed. They have a regular income. They know what they will receive each week. In short, they know what their take-home money will be. They know what annual leave and sick leave they are entitled to receive and they know the various other conditions that attach to their employment generally. They have a retiring age and they have superannuation rights. But the waterside workers have a turbulent occupation because it is a casual occupation.

Mr Griffiths - Are they not threatening to go on strike against the Government now?

Mr CALWELL - I hope they do not go on strike against the Government. I know of a better way to beat the Government. You cannot beat the Government by industrial action. I wish the waterside workers, and all others who contemplate strikes, would save the money they would lose by going on strike and put it into the campaign funds of the Australian Labour Party. We would then defeat the Government at the ballot-box and the waterside workers would then get what they really want, which is the de-casualization of their industry. For many years now, ever since 1945, attempts have been made to decasualize this industry. We of the Australian Labour Party established the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority. We imposed the first levy on the ship-owners to provide amenities for the waterside workers. We did many things for the waterside workers which had never been done before. I remember the 1928 strikes on the waterfront, when men hawked their labour from ship to ship. They came down in the early morning; they came back after the lunch break, often without having had any lunch at all, and then they came down again for .the night shift. But they often had no work for days on end. We tried to humanize

But we will never have peace on .the waterfront until we have a permanent body of employees there, just as we have in all other transport industries. If we can have permanent employees on the railways, we can surely have them on the waterfront. In these days of fast-moving transport, it ought to be possible for the big shipping companies to .regularize the arrival and departure times of their ships so that the men in the work force on the waterfront will know to within £1 what their incomes will be .each week. Once we can establish conditions of that sort on .the waterfront, waterside workers will be less disposed to show their resentment against society, as they often do now.

We of the Australian Labour Party certainly do not support the haphazard strikes that occur to-day. J agree with Mr. Monk, the president of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, who is reported in to-day's press as having said that wharf stoppages held in several States over the Commonwealth Government's proposed legislation on long service leave were unauthorized and were harming the cause of the waterside workers, not helping it. I think that anarchy anywhere, in the trade union movement or elsewhere, is not to be tolerated and it is for the trade union movement itself to assert its authority and ensure that unauthorized strikes do not take place. I do not want unauthorized strikes anywhere. But, above all else, I want to see justice done to the waterside workers in this legislation and in any other legislation that is brought down. I am sure that if the waterside workers had, to use an Australian term, a " fair go " in the matter of long service leave, the situation on .the waterfront would be better than it has been or is .likely to be.

Mr Anderson - They have had a fair go.

Mr CALWELL - The honorable .member for Hume, who has an incurable hatred of the trade union movement, who is allergic to waterside workers, who is allergic to seamen, who is allergic to any one who can be called a militant and who is, above all, allergic to shearers, would like to see a return to the bad old days when there was no trade union movement. We live under a capitalist system. The employers are well organized, the banking institutions are well organized and the manufacturers, who are suffering a little to-day, are fairly well organized. But they try to secure only what they think is justice for themselves. All other sections of the community are entitled to organize so long as they do it within the law; they are entitled, surely, to seek an improvement of the conditions under which they must work. I am sure that those who work on the waterfront are average Australians.

Mr Anderson - They are not!

Mr CALWELL - I think they are. As a matter of fact, most of the recent entrants to the Waterside Workers Federation are returned servicemen. Returned servicemen have a very great respect for the very gallant gentleman who is the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson) and he should have respect for them because of the services they, too, have rendered to Australia. Then why should he want to discriminate against them because of the occupation they follow?

Mr McMahon - It is not an occupation.

Mr CALWELL - It is an occupation and it is a very good occupation. I heard what the Minister had to say to-day. Of course, I did not have much time between the hour at which he finished speaking and the hour at which I commenced to speak to give the matter all the thought I would have liked to have given it, but I take this extract from what he said -

In truth, the leaders of the Waterside Workers Federation have been engaged in a prostitution of the very purposes of trade unionism.

Is that the sort of sentiment that will bring peace to the industry? Will that invite co-operation between the leaders of the union and the Minister or the leaders of the trade union movement and the Minister? I recommend that the Minister take Dale. , Carnegie's course on how to win friends and influence people. The Minister said further -

All too frequently at unauthorized stop work meetings, allegedly called to discuss some major industrial issue, discussions are centred on and resolutions are put about matters that are not industrial.

That may be deplorable. I think that stopwork meetings ought to be called for industrial purposes only. The honorable gentleman then spoke about the number of hours that were lost on the waterfront. He said there were 107 24-hour port stoppages. What happened was that waterside workers were expressing some discontent about some circumstances over which they probably had little or no control. Men felt they were being unjustly penalized in their view. They may not have been unjustly penalized, but that was how they felt and they were sticking to the principle of solidarity with one another. The Government ought to provide better machinery than now exists if it wants to avoid these stoppages. Then again he said that in 1959-60, 40 per cent, of the total man-hours lost were lost in that particular period of so many stoppages. That is the story he told us to-day, but at other times, and particularly at election times, he boasts about the industrial peace there is in Australia. He tells the Australian people that this Government is governing so well and has the confidence of the trade unions to such an extent that there are fewer man-hours lost by strikes in Australia than in any other country.

Mr Howson - That is true; they are all lost on the waterfront.

Mr CALWELL - Honorable members on the Government side cannot have it both ways. They try to blame the waterside workers in order to justify the penal clauses of the bill. That is the whole purpose of this particular piece of propaganda, and it is nothing but propaganda. When the Minister talks about the waterside workers prostituting the principles of trade unionism, he should remember that it will be time enough for him to make charges when the trade union movement has told the waterside workers that that is the effect of their actions. I have made my position clear on the matter. I do not believe in unauthorized stoppages by the waterside workers, the seamen or anybody else because they are the losers in the long run. It is their wives and families who suffer. I do not think that men would willingly inflict sufferings on their wives and families unless they felt strongly about some of the things that happen during their employment.

The Minister said that other regular fulltime employees receive long-service leave. These people are not regular full-time employees in the ordinarily accepted meaning of the term. The waterside workers go to work when they are rostered to do so. If there is no work for them, they get attendance money. If there are no ships bringing goods to Australia, there can be a surplus of waterside workers and there can thus be more people receiving attendance money. If the Government's credit squeeze policy had succeeded as it hoped, there would have been very few ships arriving in Australia now bringing goods from abroad, and very few waterside workers in employment. There are many people employed on the waterfront at present because the Government cannot control the flood of imports even with the credit squeeze.

Mr Reynolds - Government members get attendance money to-day.

Mr CALWELL - Some of them are not worth it. The Government thought it should extend the benefits of long-service leave to what it calls permanent waterside workers. It makes a distinction between those who are what the Minister calls permanent waterside workers and those who are irregularly employed on the waterfront. The distinction is made on the basis of age and capacity to work. If a person is too old to work or reaches a certain age, he becomes an irregular worker. If he is healthy and has the strength to handle the cargoes and so can give value for the money he receives, he is a permanent worker and he will get the benefit of the legislation. We think the old waterside workers are not being properly or adequately treated. But when the Minister says that the legislation and the Government's decision will be welcomed by the big majority of the men themselves, I think he is romancing, or indulging in wishful thinking or engaging in a vain hope.

Mr McMahon - Have you discussed this with the A.C.T.U.?

Mr CALWELL - I have discussed it with the president of the A.C.T.U. I think that the overwhelming majority of waterside workers want long service leave, but it is wrong for the Minister to say that the great majority of the men welcome this legislation. At all the stop-work meetings and other union meetings that have been held, the men have indicated that they want long service leave, but they want it without tags. I repeat that they are entitled to it without tags.

The Minister has said that the men want this provision - he calls it a concession, which I dispute - on a nation-wide basis, and that they know their chances of getting it by pressure on State governments and by industrial action, despite all the boasting of their leaders, are pretty remote. The Minister knew better than that. He knew that State government after State government would legislate in this way because State government after State government has brought down long service leave bills for workers in so many industries until to-day in every State everybody employed on a fulltime basis - that is, except all casual workers - is covered by long service leave.

Mr Duthie - Why should there be a difference between the provisions on the mainland and those in Tasmania?

Mr CALWELL - That is one of the sweet mysteries of life. If I knew that, I would know why the Government brought down the bill. The Minister said -

Some waterside workers will, however, be eligible for payments in lieu of leave immediately and others between now and 1964. Pro rata leave will be granted under certain conditions after ten years' service.

The bill is made retrospective to 1942. That is the same as the Tasmanian legislation, and I am not complaining about that nor is any other honorable member on this side of the House. We think the Minister could be more liberal to the older men and less discriminating against them. Putting the position broadly, we believe that what we are proposing is much in line, in general principles, with ordinary State long service leave laws. It is, as a matter of fact, more advantageous than the Tasmanian legislation dealing with the waterside workers. Whatever the Tasmanian Parliament has passed, we want to improve upon, and we think the country is prosperous enough to pay for it.

I have not the slightest doubt thai me Government, in this age of automation ana mechanization will not have to- levy very much more on the shipowners to provide the funds to pay long service leave benefits. It will' not cost industry that much more in these days when fewer and fewer waterside workers are required while profits are going to greater and greater heights. The people who are suffering from these developments are the waterside workers and trade unionists generally. Those who are benefiting, are the people engaged in industries that use ships, and the shipowners. I invite honorable members from Queensland to tell the story of mechanization in that State. You can. go along the coast of Queensland and visit the ports of Rockhampton, Townsville, Mackay, Cairns or Mourilyan and see the effects of mechanization. At Townsville, ships are bulk loading sugar and bagged sugar is out. The labour force on the waterfront has been cut probably by two-thirds.

Mr Barnes - It was brought about by industrial lawlessness.

Mr CALWELL - It was brought about by progress. In the port of Townsville you will see zinc concentrates from Mount Isa being loaded in bulk into the ships. We do not try to stand in the way of progress. If increased mechanization is going to make industry more profitable, and make it easier for men to work, then let us have progress; but at least the benefits of improvements in the field of mechanization and the advantages of automation should be shared by the whole community, and should not be appropriated by a few. The waterside workers have suffered more from mechanization and automation than have most other people so far, and there will be more suffering on their part as time goes on.

Mr McMahon - The members of the Australian Workers Union gained in the Queensland sugar ports.

Mr CALWELL - Yes, they gained, but the waterside workers lost.

Mr McMahon - Are you against the A.W.U.7

Mr CALWELL - No, and I am not entering into union rivalry in this matter. The waterside workers and the A.W.U. members in Queensland get along quite amicably together. But every one knows that nobody can stay the march of progress.

Nobody on this side of the House is a twentieth century Luddite, but we can understand why the Luddites smashed the machines more than a century ago, when there was no provision made for their employment after their displacement by the machines.

We say that much of the legislation is wrong. We object particularly to the provision that if there is a port stoppage involving more than 250 men or one-third of the men at the port, the men involved will lose benefits that would otherwise have been available to them, unless the union can satisfy the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission that the stoppage was justified. There is no charge laid against the union calling for an answer from it. The union, however, must go along and discharge the onus of proof. The men will be suspended under this law, and then they must prove to the commission that they were justified in stopping. For every day of a port stoppage that is not covered by this exception in the provision, the men involved will lose attendance money on four occasions when they would, otherwise have received it, and their qualifying period of service for long service leave will be reduced by a number of days, not exceeding 30, as the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission determines. It seems that the Government is framing the legislation so that if a man is due to lose attendance money he will not be penalized until there is a slack period on the waterfront. Then he will lose the money. But while ships are in port and the employers want labour, he will be required to work. He will get delayed justice. His punishment will be deferred because it will be more profitable for the Government and for other interests concerned if it is deferred.

This legislation reflects no credit on the Government. That is why the Minister made his midnight announcement. This is not the kind of measure that the Government could boast about. If there was any merit in it, the Government would have made its announcement to the Parliament in the open. It would have invited representatives of the A.C.T.U. to come here and confer with it beforehand. It would also have had representatives of the waterside workers here in order to confer with them, and we of the Opposition would have been told more about what was in contemplation. The Government would have been glorying in its achievement. Instead, it is trying to push the legislation through as quickly as it can, trying to get it on the statute-book in the hope that people will soon forget about it. After that it hopes for industrial peace on the waterfront, and if this hope is not fulfilled the blame will be -placed on this turbulent industry for what happens and not upon the Government for having acted foolishly or stupidly.

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