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Thursday, 30 April 1942

Mr ANTHONY (Richmond) .- This debate over-concentrates on a particular industry as being possibly affected by Statutory Rule No. 11. Undue emphasis is being laid upon the position on the coal-fields. No doubt, that is a very important matter, but it seems to me that Statutory Rule No. 11 has not been introduced for the specific purpose of taking action against the coal-miners, or against any workers. It has been introduced to give to the Government power to organize in order that we might be able to hold Australia, and later take the offensive with other members of the United Nations. That is the reason why Statutory Rule No. 11 has been promulgated.

Mr Frost - Then why does the honorable member want to have the regulations disallowed ?

Mr ANTHONY - The Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Frost) again demonstrates his entire lack of understanding of the position, because the motion for disallowance originated with one of his own party's supporters, and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Fadden) has indicated that we do not. propose to vote for tie motion. If Statutory Rule No. 11 is to be of value to the Government it. must be used without fear or favour against all sections of the community against whom it might be necessary to invoke it. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward) laid great stress upon the workers' side of the war. Who are the workers? Are they only those who are members of industrial unions? Are they only those who support the Government ? I venture to say that 99 per cent, of the people of this country are workers, at the present time, particularly. There are very few independent people in Australia. There are very few people who can afford to live without doing something for their daily bread, and at least 99 per cent, of the community can be truthfully described as workers. Does the Minister suggest that only those who earn their living by manual labour of some kind can be classified as workers? If that is the case, how does the Minister classify himself? And how do numerous trade union officials qualify as workers if only the manual worker is to be described as a worker? I am not criticizing those individuals who rise from a position as employees to become owners of their own businesses. Nor am I criticizing those nien who graduate from the ranks of labour to take command of unions as officials. They all are workers, and there is no justification for the slur which the Minister casts upon members of the community who do not happen to work with their coats off and in bowyangs.

Mr Lazzarini - A great many trade unionists do not work that way.

Mr ANTHONY - I give to the Minister for Home Security (Mr. Lazzarini) the credit for doing a lot of work in his own garden on Sundays, but he would not qualify as a worker in the sense in which the Minister for Labour and National Service uses the word.

Mr Lazzarini - I have been a trade unionist for a long time.

Mr ANTHONY - The Minister for Labour and National Service has been at great pains to emphasize that Statutory Rule No. 77 will not be invoked against what he calls the workers,but he has not specified whom he would include in that category. I am unhappy in voting against the motion for the disallowance of the statutory rule. When t he matter was first mentioned some weeks ago on the floor of the House I declared that I would support the Government because I believe that in wartime the government should have the power to be given under Statutory Rule No. 77. I fear, however, that the Government will not use the power properly, because the Minister for Labour and National Service has declared that so far as industrial disputes are concerned he will not, under any circumstances, use it against certain sections of the community. Of what use will the powers be to the Government? Are they to be invoked against one section of the community only - the section continually referred to by the Minister for Labour and National Service as the "bosses"? In that honorable gentleman's mind there are only two sections in the community, the workers and the bosses. Any one earning his own living is a boss; any person employing one or two employees is a boss; and in his definition of a boss the honorable gentleman includes a solicitor, an architect or any other professional man who is earning his living by his professional skill. No person who comes within this category will be given the blanket cover of protection against Statutory Rule No. 77 that has been promised to the trade unionists by the Minister who will be entrusted with its administration. In view of the declarations of the Minister for Labour and National Service, as opposed to the views expressed by the Prime Minister, I should be justified in supporting the motion, because it is manifest that the statutory rule will not be administered impartially. Above and beyond my personal feeling, however, there is a greater duty which devolves on all members of this House, namely, to entrust the executive of the day, irrespective of what government is in office, with power to take speedy and prompt action for the defence of Australia should the emergency call for it. In spite of my lack of confidence in the manner in which the Minister for Labour and National Service will use the enormous powers given in the statutory rule, I shall not support the motion for its disallowance.

Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.

Mr ANTHONY - I believe that the Government of this country should be armed with the same authority to act rapidly-

Mr Calwell - As Hitler has.

Mr ANTHONY - I was about to say, as a totalitarian state has, but I adopt the expression of the honorable gentleman who has interjected. Is there anything wrong with empowering a democratic government to act rapidly, should the occasion to do so arise? Germany and Japan have demonstrated that they possess effective striking power. Since the inception of the war, the democracies have been mostly on the defensive. Despite all the criticism of totalitarian methods, their success makes it evident that, from a military and an offensive point of view, they produce results. Therefore, if the Government of this country asks for powers which, in its opinion, are necessary for the more effective conduct of the war, although I happen to be on the Opposition side of the House I shall not deny them to it, whatever party it represents. I admired the speech, of the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn), who stated his point of view with great logic, clarity and tolerance. Nevertheless, war is war, and, despite whatever fears I may hold, I believe that it is necessary to give to the executive of this country the authority to act rapidly, decisively, and with determination, in any emergency that may arise. The single flaw in the request of the Government is the declaration of a leading member of the Cabinet. If government by Cabinet means anything, it means that the whole of the Cabinet is of one mind. That is the very basis of the Cabinet form of government. There should be no division. The Cabinet should be one entity, and when the Prime Minister speaks in regard to a matter that has been decided by it, every member of it, whether he agrees or not, should declare himself for it, or resign his portfolio. Yet what do we find? The Prime Minister made the declaration that, if the regulations made by Statutory Rules 1942, No. 77, he disallowed, the Government will consider the submission of its resignation to the Governor-General. But one of his senior Ministers - the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward) - who, in the main, will have the administration of these regulations in relation to industrial matters, declares that, despite what has been decided by Cabinet, he will not apply these regulations to a section of the community that he supports and the votes of which he hopes to gain for his own particular purposes. He is courting popularity at the expense of his colleagues and to the detriment of the prestige of the Government. I am not concerned with the degree of division that may exist within the party opposite. But I am concerned to get impartial administration, and when the Prime Minister appeals to this House not to disallow those regulations, whilst at the same time one of his senior Ministers declares that the power sought will not be used against a large section of the community - meaning, in effect, that it will be used only against another section - I entertain very serious misgivings. Nevertheless, I believe that the Government should possess such power, and for that reason I shall not support the motion for the disallowance of the regulations. Although, at present, I have not confidence in the administration of the Minister who will be principally concerned with the industrial side of the matter, I have a considerable degree of confidence in the Prime Minister, and hope and believe that he will exert all the influence he possesses towards ensuring that these powers shall not be abused.

Let us examine some of the statements of the senior Minister who is responsible for the control of industrial affairs. First, let us consider the attack he has made upon a man who has been appointed by the Government of which he is a member - the chairman of the Coal Commission, Mr. Mighell.

Mr James - This Government did not appoint him.

Mr ANTHONY - Mr. Mighell, although appointed by the preceding Government, was confirmed in office by the present Government. I am not concerned with his qualifications, but I am concerned with the attack that was made upon him by the Minister for Labour and National Service. It is a most serious matter to make such a deliberate and devastating attack upon the chairman of the Coal Commission. It is almost an unforgivable offence. I can conceive of nothing that calls for more condemnation.

I come now to the Minister's justification for various disputes. He weaved a heartrending story around a fractious pony which was likely to kick the man who was driving it, -or to upset a skip of coal, and so obstruct the working of the mine. In time of war, when every ton of coal is as vital as a drum of petrol, there ought to be some other way of settling a dispute that is caused by a pit pony being fractious, than the cessation of work by 200 or 300 men. It is the height of absurdity for the Minister for Labour and National Service to defend a wheeler and a number of other individuals who walk out of a mine merely because a pony does not possess the desired temperament. I have worked quite a number of horses, and have handled many fractious ones. I have not simply thrown down the plough reins and gone on strike when a horse would not work, but have broken it in and made it respond to my will. I have not known a. horse that could not be broken if one had the will. Instead of 200 or 300 miners being thrown out of work, either the man or the horse, or both, ought to have been removed, and the remainder of the men been allowed to continue at work. Defence of that, sort of thing by a responsible Minister in time of war is almost incomprehensible.

Then there is the alleged sacrifice which the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) so often laments, and about which the Minister for Labour and National Service almost shed tears to-night - -.the sacrifice which miners are making in order to hew coal. I have very little knowledge of coal-mining, but I know that a coal-miner cannot be induced at any price to leave that industry and engage in any other industry, he would almost sooner starve while looking for employment in a coal-mine than engage in any other occupation. If coal-mining is such an unpleasant occupation, why do not the miners accept other employment? The honorable member for Hunter has told us time and again of the thousands of miners at Kurri Kurri and elsewhere on the coal-fields who are unemployed. Few of them could be induced to accept employment on a farm.

Mr James - Because they would be exploited.

Mr ANTHONY - The claim is that they would be exploited, in producing the food which keeps alive such individuals as the honorable member for Hunter. The sorry story weaved around the miners by the Minister for Labour and National Service may or may not be true. The best evidence of whether it is or not, is to be found in the fact that they will not accept any other job. That, of itself, indicates that coal-mining does not impose such a tremendous strain as the honorable member for Hunter suggests.

Mr James - There are now thousands of miners in other industries.

Mr ANTHONY - My honorable friend from Hunter is always talking about the mine-owners provoking strikes. Let us examine the position in relation to strikes. I have a press cutting dated the 14th April last. It will be argued that the statements in it are not true because they were published by the press. I have no very close knowledge of coal-owners, and not a tremendous amount of sympathy with them. Probably, there are a good many faults on their side as there are on the side of the miners, but the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) will admit that there could not be a better employer of miners than the McKell Government in New South Wales, of which Jack Baddeley, who represents a coal-mining district, is Deputy Premier, yet here are some headlines from the Sydney Sun of the 14th April, 1942:-


850 Idle Men Greet Ward on Peace Mission.

That hardly constitutes an argument in support of the nationalization of the coal mines. It was not the owners who were responsible for the trouble. They did not irritate the miners into striking. The owner in this case was the Labour Government of New South Wales, the only kind of government which, in the opinion of the honorable . member for Hunter, should be in power. Nevertheless, in this State mine, this nationalized mine, 850 miners greeted the Minister for Labour and National Service by going on strike. Let us see what some of these strikes have been about. Are they strikes against the bosses? Has their purpose been to improve industrial conditions? I was in Lithgow five or six weeks ago when a strike was looming there, which threatened to hold up, and in fact, did later hold up, the production of vitally-needed arms and equipment in the Commonwealth Small Arms Factory. Was the purpose of that strike to right some industrial wrong? It was nothing of the kind. It was the outcome of a quarrel between two unions. The Amalgamated Engineers Union wished to impose certain conditions on the union to which the employees in the Small Arms Factory belonged. This demand was resisted, and the engineers went on strike. That is the sort of thing which the Minister for Labour and National Service defends.

Mr James - Was production held up ?

Mr ANTHONY - Yes, it was.

Mr James - It was not held up at all.

Mr ANTHONY - That is one instance in which Statutory Rule No. 77 should have been applied.

Mr James - You are telling lies.

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