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Wednesday, 10 May 1961


Mr E JAMES HARRISON (Blaxland) . - If there was any sane reasoning in the speech we have just heard from the honorable member for Bruce (Mr. Snedden), the effect of it was destroyed completely when he attempted to write down the leadership of the trade union movement of this country by referring to the decision taken by the interstate executive of the Australian Council of Trade Unions yesterday as a Communist-inspired decision. That remark brought the honorable member for Bruce down to the lowest level ever to be reached by any honorable member in this chamber. The recommendation considered by the interstate executive yesterday came from the leaders of the A.C.T.U., and it was adopted unanimously. By throwing in that type of stuff - I use the term advisedly - the honorable member for Bruce is seeking to join the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) in casting a smokescreen over what this Government is really doing by this legislation.

The honorable member spoke about our responsibility to propose amendments if we believe that the bill is defective. I emphasize that yesterday the interstate executive of the A.C.T.U. unanimously decided that any bill which attached to long service leave entitlement tags such as those proposed here would be opposed by the Australian trade union movement from one end of Australia to the other so long as those tags continued to be attached. I repeat that this was the unanimous decision of the interstate executive. On behalf of the Opposition, I have pleasure in supporting that point of view.


Mr McMahon - You took the opposite point of view last Thursday night.


Mr E JAMES HARRISON - I did not. Again the Minister tries to drag in what I said last Thursday night. I stand by what I said then. I said that we on this side would never lend our support to any measure that sought to attach tags of this kind to long service leave entitlement. What I said was as clear as crystal. The Minister cannot twist what I said last Thursday night. I repeat that I stand by what I said then. This is the first time in the history of this Parliament that an attempt has been made by a government to attach penal provisions to an entitlement. It will go down in history as a disgrace to the Government that made it.

Let me put the record straight. We of the Opposition oppose this measure in its present form because we believe that long service leave is an entitlement - a payment for service. We adopt firmly the declared policy of the trade union movement in Australia that long service leave is a right accruable to all Australian workers in return for services rendered to any employer or organization. That policy has been advocated throughout the history of the trade union movement and of the political wing of it that we have the pleasure to represent. We oppose this measure because it does not recognize the principle that I have outlined. I join with the A.C.T.U. interstate executive in expressing complete opposition to the objectionable provisions in this bill which impose a penalty on long service leave entitlement because of industrial action by waterside workers. I would oppose similar legislation if it affected the Australian Federated Union of Locomotive Enginemen or any other trade union in Australia because as soon as any penal provisions are infused into legislation such as this the principle of granting long service leave is destroyed completely.

The provisions of this bill are diametrically opposed to those in the Tasmanian legislation. The Minister said that it was a better bill than the Tasmanian one. I ask him to listen to the comparison of the two bills that I shall make later. When this legislation becomes law - I am assuming that the Government will use its greater numbers to pass the bill, irrespective of the justice of our opposition - it will deprive waterside workers in Tasmania of their long service leave entitlement under the State act. At this moment the Tasmanian legislation is the subject of an appeal to the High Court of Australia. Without attempting to canvass any decision that may be given as the result of that litigation, I say that the Government has introduced this measure now because it believes that should the High Court favour the Tasmanian Labour Government, the principle of the Tasmanian act will have been firmly established. This Government would then be in the position of having to legislate to defeat a provision that had been found valid by the High Court of Australia, and so to deprive waterside workers in Tasmania of an entitlement that had been secured to them by the court.

There are no penal provisions in the Tasmanian act. It does not carry a tag that any unauthorized stoppage can or will affect the leave entitlement of waterside workers, except that in determining the length of qualifying service any day or other period during which they fail to comply with the requirements of the industry, as prescribed in the act, shall not be counted. In simple terms, if a man becomes caught up with a stoppage, the days on which he is not available for work will not be counted when calculating his length of service for long service leave purposes. That is a simple principle which is contained in every worthwhile long service leave act in this country.

Let me now compare the provisions of the Tasmanian act with the provisions of the bill that we are now discussing. I invite the honorable member for Bruce to say whether he would be a party to the kind of proposition that I shall mention. To illustrate my point, let us consider what would have happened as a result of the recent stoppage at Fremantle had this bill been in operation. When I speak I shall not speak Healy's words; I shall speak the words that were used at the highest level of the trade union movement in Australia. During the recent dispute at Fremantle fourteen working days were lost. Under the Tasmanian act those fourteen days would not be counted in assessing the long service leave entitlement of the waterside workers in that State. Under this bill the penalty would have been, first, the automatic loss for the next succeeding 56 days of the attendance money of 24s. a day that the waterside workers would otherwise have received if they had been on call but no work had been available for them. In addition, their long service leave would have been deferred by one

Let me illustrate how this bill would have affected waterside workers who were involved in the 24-hour stoppage in Melbourne on 15th March last - a little over one month ago. During March, 4,132 waterside workers were registered in the port of Melbourne. No formal notification was given of this stoppage and subsequently the Waterside Workers Federation was fined £100. Under this bil! the waterside workers could each have lost 30 days' service in the calculation of long service leave entitlement. That is the maximum long service leave deferment that the act provides. In addition, 'the Melbourne waterside workers would have lost their attendance money for the next four days on which no work was available for them. Thus this Government will be able to mete out to the individual the same medicine as the Industrial Court gives to the union. 1 never thought that I would ever see legislation which would contemplate the imposition of three separate penalties for one offence. But that is what can happen.

The Minister and the honorable member for -Bruce let the cat out of the bag when they said that this bill was designed first to award long service leave, and secondly, to reduce disputation on the waterfront. Does this mean that the Government now recognizes that the penal provisions of the arbitration legislation 'which it has already put in the statute-book are as ineffective as we -said they WOUld be? You cannot deal with a turbulent industry by passing penal legislation. What I said the other night in relation to the turbulent coal-mining industry in New South Wales was true. Events over the past thirteen years have proved that the Chifley Labour Government was correct in its attitude. You can never deal with a turbulent industry with legislation of this character. The speeches of the Minister and the honorable member for Bruce show clearly that they think along one line only - that if a Communist happens to be the leader of an industrial union in this country everything that the union does is wrong. Every time the Government introduces legislation of this character into this House it is establishing him more firmly in the position he holds, and that is what it is doing now. The waterside workers of this country will rally against legislation of this type. I recall what the Labour Government did with respect to the coalminers. After thirteen years of operation of legislation of a different type the Minister for Labour and National Service now brings down a bill which will worsen the situation on the waterfront When introducing the bill the Minister told only half the story in some respects. The honorable member for Bruce to-night spoke of a statement attributed to Mr. Monk. I wish to direct attention to the March report of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority which deals with stoppages by waterside workers.

Strangely enough, March was one of the best months for a long time on the waterfront. In that month 42,597 man-hours were lost, whereas the average monthly loss is 51,227 man-hours. Sixty per cent, of those man-hours were lost in the Melbourne stoppage on 15th March, and the union has already been fined £500. To give the lie direct to the aspersion that has been cast on the reasons for stoppages by waterside workers, 1 turn to the official documents. At Brisbane, on 1st "March, a stoppage occurred because of an alleged protest against suspensions imposed on waterside 'workers involved in the "Dunedin Star" dispute. On 15th March, a stoppage by waterside workers at Brisbane, Maryborough, Urangan and Townsville was related to the 'State industrial legislation and 'caused the loss of 2,'944 man-hours.

Let me remind the House that at the time when the waterside workers stopped work in those places practically the whole of the trade union movement in Queensland stopped work in protest against State legislation of similar character to that now before the House.

In Newcastle, on 17th March, a stoppage was caused by the dismissal of a job delegate. At Port Kembla on 6th March, there was a stoppage to discuss pensions and long service leave. At Townsville on 2nd March, there was a stoppage owing to a dispute on a ship called the " Inchstaffa ". In Melbourne, on 6th March, a dispute was caused by a refusal to work overtime on the " Port Huon ". There was a further dispute in Melbourne on 29th March, because the men refused to wear wet weather clothingwhich had not been cleaned after previous use. At Burnie, on 24th March, there was a short stoppage because a meeting was held to decide policy.

I put it to the Government that a ; great proportion of these waterside stoppages - in this turbulent industry - results from a section of the present Stevedoring Industry Act. We have heard a great deal about the so-called shortcomings of the employees. Let us examine what is happening on the employers' side. I find that during March, 2,238 man-hours were lost. At Sydney five overseas vessels were delayed, with a total of 1,089 man-hours lost, every one of which was the responsibility of the owners. On 30th March, 390 man-hours were lost through the employers keeping men at work on a vessel on which the gear had been condemned some days previously by the Inspector of Navigation. Derogatory remarks by a supervisor caused the loss of 115 man-hours, but later he apologized. Thousand of man-hours have beenlost through the actions of the employers. What has 'this Government done about that position? The Stevedoring Industry Authority cannot do anything, because of sub-section 2 of section '17 ofthe present act, introduced by this Government. The sub-jection reads as follows: -

In regulating the performance of stevedoring operations under this Act, the Authority shall, except to such extent as, in the opinion of the Authority, is essential for the proper performance of that function, avoid imposing limitations upon employers with respect to theircontrolof water side workers engaged by them and their manner of performance of stevedoring operations.

In that provision lies the cause of the greatest trouble on the waterfront to-day. The Stevedoring Industry Authority has control over the union and employees, but this provision has been interpreted to mean that the authority must not interfere with the control of the employers over the waterside workers. Until such time as the Stevedoring Industry Authority is put in a position where it can deal with the employers it is useless to discuss legislation of this type.

In 1950 non-productive working time taken over nine main ports and excluding smoke-ohs was 24.7 per cent. In 1960 it had increased in ten main ports to 31 per cent. So in ten years the loss had increased from one in four to nearly one in three. In the year ended 30th June, 1960, 29,912,276 man-hours were worked and paid for; 9,272,795 of the hours worked were in connexion with actual cargo handling. In the year ended 30th June, 1960, 806.133 man-hours were lost through stoppages. They were not paid for and were equal to only 2.7 per cent. of the total man-hours worked. A breakdown of the figures covering unproductive time shows that the loss of 598,245 man-hours was attributable to waiting for cargo and 658,000 man-hours were lost in the despatch and placing of labour by employers. In that year, with the total I have mentioned, 1,256,000 man-hours were paidfor and lost as the result of failure by the employers on the waterfront properly to organize the work force available. The Government has introduced this legislation without correcting that situation. It is an omission I never expected in a free parliament in this country.


Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Are they the official figures?


Mr E JAMES HARRISON - Yes.


Mr McMahon - Did you not agree to the present legislation?


Mr E JAMES HARRISON - If the Minister can pin on me any statement to show that I acquiesced in this type of legislation I will be prepared to donate any sum he wishes to any charitythat he nominates.

This industry is not a young man's occupation, asthe Minister should know if he examined it. According to the official documents only 6.8 per cent, of the workforce at the six capital ports and four major ports is under 30 years of age. This is an old man's industry.


Mr Kelly - Why?







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