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Friday, 18 November 1938

Mr STREET (Corangamite) (Minister for Defence) . - Reference was made by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) to a contract given by the Defence Department to Hatcraft Proprietary Limited for the supply of military hats. Correspondence has already taken place on this matter, both with my predecessor (Mr. Thorby) and myself, particularly in regard to the fact that the successful tenderers for the contract are not respondents to the award covering the trade in which they operate. The terms and conditions of tenders in all defence contracts provide that tho contractor shall observe the wages and conditions provided under the appropriate award. As the honorable member for Dalley has said, the departmental inspecting officers have examined the books and operations of this company, and, having cross-examined employees, some of whom are financial members of the union, they have found nothing to suggest that the terms of the contract are not being observed. The secretary of the journeymen's division of the union in New South Wales recently said that the complaint was that the firm employed boys and youths and adult labourers to do tradesmen's work at rates below the award rates. Special instructions were given by my predecessor for departmental inspecting officers to investigate this aspect of the complaint, but no breach of .the award has been discovered. The secretary of the union, as the honorable member for Dalley remarked, sought permission for a member of the union to enter the factory in order to watch the processing of the hats; hut under the contract no Minister or officer of the department can authorize anybody other than Commonwealth or State -officers to carry out such an inspection. The first contract was let to this firm in 1934, and since that date, the union could have cited this firm as a respondent to the award. I cannot understand why the union has not yet taken such action. I have discussed the matter with the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway), with whom I propose to see the secretary of the Victorian branch of the union. A draft clause has been drawn up by the honorable member, with the assistance of the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn), which it is suggested might be included in future defence contracts to obviate such a state of affairs as is alleged to exist. This clause is now being examined by the industrial officer;' of the department. I seriously suggest that the union should be able to give an explanation as to why it has not any attempt to cite the company as a respondent. If it did so, it would be entitled under the award to make any inspection considered by it to be required. In this respect, the union is no different from any other union having members employed by firms engaged in the work of supplying defence equipment. I shall interview the secretary with the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, and I hope .that we shall arrive at a satisfactory conclusion in regard to the matter.

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