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Thursday, 26 March 1942

Mr SPEAKER - Order! The Minister must speak to the question before the Chair, the disallowance of certain regulations.

Mr WARD - I am answering the argument - if it was an argument; it appeared to be political propaganda - advanced by the former Minister. I was endeavouring to show that the Opposition by its actions was not helpingto preserve unity in this country, in this Parliament, or in the industrial field. We make no apologies for having said that on this particular committee there shall be one organization speaking for the workers, and one for the employers. Would it not have been preferable in existing circumstances for the honorable member for Fawkner to have waited to see how this committee would function? Would he have not done better to make some inquiries as to how it is functioning, whether the shipowners or the members of the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union had protested against any of the committee's decisions? There was no protest from the honorable member when a conference was held recently at Canberra between the shipowners, represented by Sir Thomas Gordon, the Waterside Workers Federation, represented by Mr. Healy, a representative of the United States of America, the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin), and a number of other Ministers, but no representative of the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union.

Mr Holt - How could we know about these happenings?

Mr Fadden - The honorable member for Fawkner had nothing to do with that.

Mr WARD - No. Rut he seems to have a great deal to do to prevent the Government from organizing the port of Melbourne which sorely needed organizing. The Opposition, seeking political advantage, wants to destroy the Melbourne Port Committee, because honorable members know that it will be successful. As Minister for Labour and National Service, the honorable member for Fawkner did nothing to organize the port of Melbourne. No plan was submitted ; there was nothing more than draft regulations. All that the honorable member did was to talk, hut this Government acted to organize the port, and, in spite of efforts of the Opposition to cause industrial unrest and disturbance, the Government's actions will prove successful.

In the sittings of Parliament in the last few weeks we have witnessed attack after attack on the Government from the Opposition benches. Then, after having launched the attack, the Opposition has tried to cajole the Labour Government into admitting some of its members into a national government. I repeat what was said very ably by the Prime Minister: "We are a Labour government and,, while we remain in power, we shall govern, and, when we govern, we shall apply the laws in such a manner that they will be of benefit to the great majority of the people, not merely to a small section of them". I invite honorable members to study the records of Parliament to see which regulations have been challenged by the Opposition. No abjection was taken to the regulations designed to conscript labour, but when it was proposed that wealth be thrown into the common pool there wa3 instant outcry. Referring to the licensing of waterside workers under Statutory Rule No. 19 the honorable member for Fawkner said " This reminds me of the ' dog collar ! act referred to so often 'by the Labour movement". These regulations do institute a licensing system. The workers have to have permits to work on the waterfront. Registration of labour is needed, so that it can be properly allocated in order that the maximum results might be achieved. Since I have been in charge of the Department of Labour and National Service and since these regulations have been put into operation, successfully, as it hurts the Opposition to admit, the ship-owners, as well as the employees' representatives, far from wanting interference with the regulations, have asked that there be no interference; they have not protested against the basis of representation. The Waterside Workers Federation and the shipowners are satisfied, and the chairman who is responsible to the Government is quite- satisfied about the operations of .the committee. My advice to all fair members is that before they squeal they should Jet this committee operate in order that they might learn whether or not any workers on the Melbourne waterfront are to be victimized. Honorable members opposite are squealing before they are hurt, because they must know that the action taken by the Government will make a most beneficial contribution to the organization of employment in the port of Melbourne. 1 do not know to whom the honorable member for Fawkner owes his brief in this matter, but whomever he represents, I advise him to take back to his clients the fact that we propose to extend the principle of port committees to other ports after we have discovered that, it works successfully in the port of Melbourne. The honorable member may tell his clients that the Labour Government is determined not only to ensure that manpower shall be properly organized to achieve the maximum effort, but also to give to the workers some say in the control of the industry in which they are employed. Probably that is the root of ,the objections. The Opposition does not mind setting up committees on which the representatives of the bosses are dubbed the representatives of the workers, but it strongly objects to the workers being granted direct representation. I am of the opinion that we should extend the principle established in the appointment of this committee. Why not give to the workers the right to share in the management of other industries, for example, the manufacturing industries? The workers are the men who make the fighting of this war possible. They produce the wealth and the materials with which it is being fought. They should, therefore, have the opportunity to share in determining their conditions of employment and how particular classes of labour shall be engaged. The Government offers no apology for what it has done, and it challenges the Opposition to destroy its efforts in the port of Melbourne to ensure the rapid loading and unloading of ships' cargoes. Every body knows how necessary it is, especially now, that ships shall turn quickly back to sea after the discharge of their cargoes. That requires organization and labour. It was to secure that organization and labour and to speed the about-turn of ships that the Government established the committee. The committee is beginning to succeed, but the Opposition, in searching for political advantage, is attempting to destroy the constructive efforts of the Government to overcome our difficulties. I hope that honorable members will put Australia before their own party political interests, and vote to allow this committee to continue to function and give service to the country.

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