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Thursday, 1 December 1938


Mr FORDE (Capricornia) .- I move -

That the following new clause be inserted : - "20a. - (1.) The Minister may make application to the Chief Judge, or a Judge, of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, or to any Commonwealth authority established for the purpose of determining rates of wages and conditions of employment, for a declaration as to what rates of wages and conditions of employment are fair and reasonable for labour employed in the production of such parts of motor vehicles as are specified in the schedule. (2.) Every person who claims the bounty payable under this act shall, in making such claims, furnish to the Minister such evidence as the Minister requires as to the rates of wages paid, and the conditions of employment observed, in respect of any labour employed in the production of such parts of motor vehicles as are specified in the schedule. (3.) If the Minister finds that the rates of wages or conditions of employment, or any of them, paid or observed in respect of any labour employed in the production of such parts of motor vehicles as are specified in the schedule -

(a)   are below the rates and conditions declared, in pursuance of subsection ( 1 ) of this section, to be fair and reasonable; or

(b)   are below the standard rates and conditions prescribed by the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, or by any other industrial authority of the Commonwealth or a State, the Minister may withhold the whole or any part of the bounty payable. (4.) If-

(a)   the Chief Judge, or a Judge, of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration has not declared, in accordance with subsection (1.) of this section, what rates of wages and conditions of employment are fair and reasonable for labour employed in the production of such parts of motor vehicles as are specified in the schedule; and

(b)   there are not in force, in the locality where the parts of motor vehicles as are specified in the schedule are produced, any standard rates and conditions relating to the labour employed in the production of the said parts, prescribed by. the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration or by any industrial authority of a State, or contained in an industrial agreement registered under any law of the Commonwealth or a State, the Minister may appoint an authority or authorities for determining, for the purposes of this section, rates of wages and conditions of employment which are fair and reasonable for labour employed in the production of such parts of motor vehicles as arc specified in the schedule, and any authority so appointed shall be deemed to be a Commonwealth authority within the meaning of sub-section (1.) of this section. (5.) An authority appointed by the Minister under the last preceding sub-section shall consist of a representative of employers engaged in the production of such parts of motor vehicles as arc specified in the schedule, a representative of employees engaged in such production, and a person who shall act as chairman and who shall be appointed by the Minister on the joint nomination of the representatives of employers and employees:

Provided that, if the representatives of employers and employers fail to make a joint nomination of a chairman within twenty days after being called upon by the Minister so to do, the Governor-General may appoint a person to act as chairman."

I take this action because the Government has not inserted in this legislation a provision similar to that contained in other bounty measures ensuring that employees in the industry shall work under award wages and conditions. A provision of this description was inserted in the Iron and Steel Products Bounty Act 1919, the Iron and Steel Bounty Act 1922, the "Wine Export Bounty Act 1934, and the Raw Cotton Bounty Act 1934. The last two measures to which I have referred were passed by the Lyons Government. This hill provides for the payment of a substantial bountyto manufacturers of radiators. Since 1918, governments of various political colours have passed bountybills and on all occasions there has been included a safeguarding provision giving the Minister power to withhold the bounty if, in his opinion, award rates and conditions are not being observed. During my own term of office as Minister for Trade and Customs in the Scullin Government, I had to take advantage of such a provision in the Raw Cotton Bounty Act, because a nationalist government in Queensland had removed certain rural workers, including cottonpickers, from the jurisdiction of the Arbitration Court. These workers were at the mercy of employers and were being forced to accept whatever remuneration was offered for their services. In framing legislation for the provision of a bounty on the production of cotton, the Commonwealth Government took into consideration, not only the growers of cotton, but also the workers engaged in the industry, and to this end included a safeguarding clause stipulating that award rates and conditions must be observed. Under the powers conferred upon me by the Raw Cotton Bounty Act, I appointed a special tribunal composed of representatives of the employers and employees engaged in the industry, and the Commonwealth Conciliation Commissioner as chairman. That tribunal visited cottongrowing districts, and fixed the remuneration for workers engaged in picking cotton, and industrial trouble, which had been threatened, was averted. No doubt situations will arise in the future in which such authority will again have to be invoked. I understand that the possibility of such a provision being declared unconstitutional is now exercising the mind of the Attorney-General (Mr. Menzies). I point out, however, that the onus would be on the employers, receiving substantial payments by way of bounty. to test the validity of the legislation in tlie High Court of Australia, and that public opinion would be so overwhelming that efforts to declare the provision unconstitutional would have to be abandoned. I personally do not think that the provision could be declared unconstitutional, but I do not wish to pit my legal knowledge against that of the Attorney-General. I point out, however, that several governments during the last twenty years have passed bounty legislation, and on each occasion a safeguarding clause similar to the one now1 proposed has been inserted. This was the case even with respect to legislation passed in 1934 by the Lyons Government, in which the now Chief Justice of the High Court, Sir John Latham, was Attorney-General. I cannot see any valid reason for the exclusion of a similar provision on this occasion. It is possible that manufacturers engaging in the production of motor radiators might establish factories in all the States of Australia. At present workmen in Victoria and New South Wales- at least would be covered by arbitration awards, but a government of one of the States might in future decide to exempt from the jurisdiction of the Arbitration Court certain workers engaged in this industry.


Mr Menzies - If the industry were interstate in character there would be. no doubt about the workers being covered by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court.


Mr FORDE - That is so, but circumstances might arise in which the awards of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court would not apply. For instance, the cottongrowers of Queensland, whom I have mentioned previously, were not covered by a Commonwealth award, and in order that they might be given reasonable wages and conditions, I found it necessary to appoint a special tribunal. What happened in the cotton industry might happen in some other industry. The insertion of a safeguarding clause in this bill would prevent such a state of affair:) occurring in the radiator manufacturing industry. The rights of the workers should be safeguarded. They are entitled to their place in the sun, and it must be remembered that even at award rates of pay they are receiving barely enough to keep, body and soul "together. Wo should protect them in this bill as they have been protected in other similar bounty legislation passed since 1918.







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