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Thursday, 26 March 1942

Mr FALSTEIN (Watson) .- It has been stated that there are 1,100 members of the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union. If that be so - I am surprised to learn that the number is so large - it is solely because there has been a great increase of the quantity of cargo handled at the different ports, particularly Melbourne, and additional labour, over and above the number of persons ordinarily available to handle normal cargoes, has been required.

Mr Holt - Seventy-five per cent, of the members of the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union are foundation members.

Mr FALSTEIN - I should be very surprised if that were the case. For the information of honorable members, I should like to point out that in this time of war, not only is it necessary for a man to be registered in accordance with the provisions of this regulation, but also, he must be the holder of two national security passes. One pass entitles him to go on the wharf, and the other, a red pass, entitles him to do certain work on the wharf. The only persons to whom these red passes are issued are members of the Waterside Workers Federation, members of the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union, and certain others persons called "snipers" whose number is limited according to the demands made from time to time by shipowners for their services. I say very definitely to the honorable member for Fawkner that, in Sydney at least, there is evidence that persons who apply for casual work on the wharfs in the capacity of " snipers " are informed by departmental officials that before red national security passes can be issued to them, they must join the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union and pay the annual subscription, which is more than £4. Many men whose services are now 'being utilized on the waterfront, have had little or no experience in the handling of cargoes, because they are outside the required numbers of " snipers " and therefore they are obliged to join the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union. If the membership of that union in Melbourne is as large as has been indicated by the honorable member for Fawkner, it is for that reason. An examination would reveal that only a small proportion of these men are qualified to handle cargoes. I say that with some feeling, because at one time I worked on the waterfront.

Mr Holt - But the proportion as between the federation and the union remains the same.

Mr FALSTEIN - No. The honorable member said that the membership of the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union is 1,100, but from my experience in Sydney and other places I say definitely that the number of men properly qualified to handle cargoes is considerably less than that. In fact, it is probably less than half that figure.

Mr Holt - The position in Melbourne is different.

Mr FALSTEIN - I should think that the position would be the same in Melbourne.

Mr Holt - These men have been working on the waterfront for fourteen years.

Mr FALSTEIN - That may be so, but I remind the honorable member that for the most part, in normal times, these men handle only intra-state cargoes and not interstate and overseas cargoes. I have had some experience of these things, because at one time I did sniping work on the wharfs. With great respect to the honorable members opposite, I suggest that they have been sadly misinformed with regard to the rights and status of this organization in the eyes of other trade unions. The Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union has been property described as a scab organization and a bogus union. It has been fostered under conditions which, if permitted to continue, especially in Melbourne, would create such industrial discontent that a major upheaval might be precipitated. Reference waa made by the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) to the previous Government's handling of the Transport Workers Act. There is no need for me to remind honorable members that under that act many iniquitous things were done. It was the bane of the waterside workers' lives for a long time, and not the least iniquitous of the injustices perpetrated under that legislation was the forcing of the waterside workers at Port Kembla to load 7,000 tons of pig-iron for transport to Japan. When the act was repealed by the Menzies Government, less than a month prior to the general elections of September, 1940, the obvious purpose was to endeavour to cajole and mislead the workers and the liberal-minded people of this country into the belief that the Government was repenting, even in its last hours. My one regret about those elections is that the Labour party was not returned with a substantial majority.

In conclusion, I should like to say that I do not agree with all regulations that have been gazetted. Like the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn), I believe that government by regulation is not an entirely satisfactory method of carrying on the administration of a country, because it does not permit a full consideration of the many important matters which should be considered, and would bc examined thoroughly if they were brought before Parliament in the form of legislation. I was very pleased to hear the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward) inform the House to-night that not only was the system which has been instituted at the port of Melbourne to be continued, but also its operation was to be extended to all other ports of the Commonwealth. The introduction of that system will make for a much greater output, and a more rapid handling of cargoes. I desire only to add that the case which has been presented by the honorable member for Fawkner and other honorable members opposite on behalf of the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union is a weak one. Apparently the Opposition i9 satisfied with the regulations, with the sole exception that they do not provide for a representative of the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union on the committee.

Mr Holt - Nor for recruitment.

Mr FALSTEIN - The substantial argument advanced by honorable members opposite has been that there is no representation of the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union. A great fuss has been made, especially by the right honorable member for Kooyong, who alleged that the Government was ignoring minority rights. That is the substantial objection which has been raised to these regulations. The other point is a much narrower one. I havealready explained to the House that the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourer? Union is merely a transitory body, and therefore should not have representation which would act to the detriment of the men who really do the work on the waterfront. I suggest to honorable members opposite that .this regulation be retained as it now stands.

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