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Thursday, 30 April 1942


Mr ROSEVEAR (Dalley) .- The debate has indicated, as was pointed out by the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Duncan-Hughes), a serious difference of opinion on both sides of the House as to the merits of the regulations contained in Statutory Rule No. 77, and as to how they should be operated. The Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) laid stress upon the fact that the then Opposition in 1940 supported the enactment of the National Security Act under which these regulations are made. It is true that when the vote was taken on that, measure the majority of the members of the then Opposition did support it, but it, is also true that there was a substantial body of opinion against it, not only in debate, but also in the voting. Of the 30 members of the then Opposition 21 voted for and nine against the second reading. Twenty voted, for and ten against the third reading. So, it is hardly fair to say that the then Opposition gave its wholehearted support to the measure. Two present ministers, the Minister for Supply and Development (Mr. Beasley) and the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward), in addition to the Prime Minister, took part in the debate, and had it not been for the guillotine a considerably larger number of Opposition members would have spoken. It is not correct to give to the people at this late stage the impression that the Opposition whs united in its support of the aci under which these regulations are made. I was one who spoke and voted against the bill, in the belief that the power to make regulations should not be granted to the Government and, as I believe that Statutory Rule No. 77 should not be enforced against, the workers, I intend to place on record side by side with the Prime Minister's declaration with regard to the unanimity of the Opposition the fact that there was no unanimity. Because the Prime Minister quoted extensively from the speeches made by himself and the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) I -! J:i a i 1. quote very briefly from the speech delivered by the honorable member for Weft Sydney (Mr. Beasley), now Minister for Supply and Development - [ do not know whether the introduction of tl is hil) was prompted by Mr. Essington [.-wis ur any one else with a similar outlook, hut T do know that the trade unionists of this country, and those who have followed the struggle of the trade unionists for many years, are awu re of the outlook of that gentleman and his associates; they fear that there may hi> some sinister purpose behind the introduction of this measure to enable the fullest possible advantage to be taken by certain interest!! of the present situation of the country.

Hiswords show his unquestionable opposition. It is interesting to note that Labour members who formed the " noes " on the second reading were the honorable member for West Sydney, the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn), the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan), the honorable member for Melbourne (the late Dr. Maloney), the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Mulcahy), the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Sheehan), the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Gander) and myself. We were joined by the honorable member for Ballarat. (Mr. Pollard) on the third reading. As the honorable member for Bourke properly pointed out, the only people who can make an effective sacrifice under these regulations aire the workers in industry, since, althouh compensation must be given to property-owners who make no personal sacrifice, no compensation is pay- able to workers when they are transferred compulsorily from one employment to another at possibly half the wage they previously earned. I am opposed to these regulations as I was opposed to the legislation which makes them possible. I believe that when the full effects of the confiscatory regulations and the industrial conscriptive regulations are felt ,by the people generally, as they have already been felt by men forced by one means or another out of small 'businesses into the crushing hands of the combines, there will be a reckoning, and it is as well that there be a record of those who support these things and those who do not.

My most deadly fear is that by these regulations we have forged a weapon which might easily fall into the hands of the Opposition. This 'Government is dependent for its existence on the votes of independents who owe no allegiance to the Labour party. At any time Labour could be thrown from, office and the Opposition parties restored to power to wield as a weapon regulations which they did not have the political courage to make when previously in office, however much they would have liked to have them. The right honorable member for Kooyong very aptly said to-night that governments come and go. That was never more true than in the life of this Parliament.

The honorable member for Bourke, thoroughly honest in his convictions, moved for the disallowance of these regulations, but we have seen the Opposition using this debate as another means to attack the Minister for Labour and National Service. The Minister disclosed to-day that since this Labour Government has 'been in office, there have been fewer industrial stoppages than in any similar period in the last 35 years. The Minister for Labour and National Service got the miners back to work by going amongst them and reasoning with them. The success of his mission, for the failure of which members of the Opposition must have prayed, has resulted in the fire of the Opposition and the anti-Labour press being directed against him. With the outstanding exception of the right honorable member for Kooyong, every Opposition speaker to-day -has used this debate to attack the Minister for Labour and

National Service, who has said - and I entirely agree with him - that in no circumstances will he operate these regulations against the miners. His theory must be tested that the men can be persuaded to work by reasoning with them, but that they cannot be induced to do so by threats of force. So far, as all fairminded persons will admit, his theory has worked very successfully, whereas no success attended threats.

From what I have been able to see of the miners although they are of the workingclass movement, they are a class apart. There are many reasons for that. I believe that the problems of the industry are more psychological than industrial. The Minister for Labour and National Service, correctly seised of the situation, has dealt with the industry on that basis and has met with success. Miners are a class apart because they and their forebears have been in the industry for generations. I venture the opinion that80 per cent, of the 22,000 miners on the New South Wales fields are the children or grandchildren of miners. The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) could not understand why it was that when miners were out of work they waited for another mining job instead of looking for work elsewhere.

It is as though they were bred into the industry. The industrial struggle of the miners is history. Less than 100 years ago, there was in the mines of Great Britain slavery worse than any slavery known in the civilized world, worse even than the slavery of Czarist Russia. Knowledge of these things is handed down from father to son. I have a book of an old miner at present a member of the legislature in Western Australia. He had a taste for verse and amongst other things he mentions particulars with regard to findings of the royal commission which inquired into the coal-mining industry. I propose to read certain quotations from the book in order to impress on honorable members why I think the treatment of the problems of coal-miners should be psychological rather than industrial. The author said -

Excerpts from the evidence of the Royal Commission on the Employment of Children in Mines. 1841 -

Page 82, line 4 - "The child in front is harnessed by his belt or chain to the waggon; two small boys assist in pushing the waggon forward."

In those days there were no fast pit ponies, a reference to which seemed to cause great amusement to some honorable members to-day. One hundred years ago the place of pit ponies was taken by small children of both sexes.

Page 95, line6 - " The lad or lass is harnessed over the shoulders and back with a strong leathergirth, which is furnished behind with an iron hook, and which attaches itself to the chain fastened to the coal-waggon or hutch, and it is thus dragged along."

Page 95, line 35 - " Harnessed like horses . . and the more difficult in consequence of the inclination, which is frequently one in three to one in six."

N.B. - The description of the harnessing of boys to do the work as above described is correct. I have been so harnessed and employed." Dairy ".

The author of that publication is a member of the Legislature in Western Australia, a man over the age of 80 years, who was mining in the days when boys and girls aged as young as five years, were harnessed like animals to draw the coal trucks. The stories of the trials and tribulations of miners in the early days are almost the folk lore of the miners of to-day. Every improvement gained in industrial conditions in the mines since that time has been steadfastly hung on to because the miners realize the great struggle that has gone on for over a century to raise mining to the present standard.


Mr James - The honorable member need not refer to conditions in England to substantiate that claim, for in 1860 similar conditions applied in the mines at Newcastle.


Sir George Bell - Boys and girls are working just as hard in this country today to keep the idle miners.


Mr ROSEVEAR - In order to further the war effort of Australia trade unionists are at present sacrificing customs, usages and principles for which they have fought for years. Similar sacrifices are not being made by the miners, but they have informed the Government that if coal must be won they will get it. They have offered suggestions to the Government for the better utilization of manpower in the mines, in the interests of the nation, but not in the interests of private individuals who get profit out of the mines. The miners are a class, apart within the working classes, and are divided and distinct from the average working man, both individually and collectively. The Minister for Labour and National Service adopted the correct procedure recently when he visited the mine- fields, and conferred with-, the miners. Instead of telling them- that the Government would force them to do certain things, he reasoned with them. The fact that his efforts were successful has rankled in the minds of Opposition* members.

When Ministers of the Crown are speaking about industrial workers they should be sure of their facts. Opposition members and the press have freely used a statement made by the Prime Minister regarding frivolous strikes. On the 15th April, the right honorable gentleman said -

The great majority of coal strikes this year arose over matters not associated with relations between the employers and employees.

As not more than 20 per cent., of all stoppages relate to- matters between- owner and employee, there is little evidence that provocation plays any material part in. the productionloss.

The Prime Minister was very caustic in his criticism of the miners in his statement to the press, a statement which, I suggest,ought not have been made at that stage. The right honorable gentleman placed upon the miners the responsibility for at least 80 per- cent, of the stoppages on the coal-fields. The Minister for Labour and National Service has assured the Parliament that that is not a true representation of the position that obtained on the coal-fields. His contention is backed up by a further statement made by the Prime Minister two days after the publication of his original statement, when the right honorable gentleman recanted and said -

The Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin)- to-day denounced any attempt by mine-owners to exploit the national need of coal by forcing changes in industrial, practice on the workers. He said that the Government had long been conscious of the eagerness with which certain mine managements- were seizing on the; present circumstances to make changes at the workers' expense. Mr. Curtin. quoted the case of a dispute at the Wongawilli Colliery on Wednesday. He said that his facts we're basedon a report from Mr. Fred Loudon, president of the Southern Miners' Federation, whom he regarded as an absolutely reliable and patriotic trade unionist.

If that be true, the right honorable gentleman should never have made his original statement against the miners. If the Government was . aware that . mine-owners were making profit out of a commodity that really belongs to the people of Australia from mines which they hold on lease from the Crown, and that the mineowners were taking advantage of existing war conditions to obtain financial' benefit for themselves, then obviously it should cancel the leases and nationalize the mines. Had that been done, there would have been less trouble, so far as the miners are concerned.

I listened with interest- to the right honorablem ember, for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) in his. discussion, of the statutoryrule. The honorable member is. in favour of. it.. I am not; but I appreciate the soundness of the arguments he raised because I, too, believe that, it is possible to drive, a horse and cart through- the provisions of the irate. There are loop-holes, by which any irresponsible person, guided- by motives of self interest, can evade the rule. The Prime Minister said that the powers given would not be put into operation without written authority. I believe that any Minister operating such, far-reaching powers, would take that precaution, but action that might be taken under the statutory rule might come within three different categories.First, where does the advicecome from upon which the Prime: Minister, or any Minister, will set the rule in operation? Second, will the Minister consider a. written Lastruction essential', or will an oral- instruction be sufficient for the purpose?' Third, what will be the effect of any action taken- under this, statutory rule? It is conceivable that some persons might obtain a. benefit at the expense of the people who- are dispossessed. I have previously mentioned the case of a man from Melbourne, who, acting under instructions conveyed orally, as is provided for in the statutory rule, and in defiance of the instructions of the Board, of Area Management of New South Wales, endeavoured to secure possession of a factory which was to. be handed over to another firm in which that gentleman was financially interested. It is true that that gentleman is no longer in the service of the Government and that the transaction was stopped. He was caught red-handed, but how many others have operated in the same way and have escaped detection ? But for certain officials in New South Wales, he might never have been found out. Irrespective of the intentions of the Government, particularly in relation to the confiscation of property, if power is to be delegated to somebody in Western Australia, obviously the Prime Minister cannot be on the spot in every case, and he must delegate his power to some one else. On whose advice would the Prime Minister depend ? Aftei' twelve months of investigating the war effort in Australia in relation to the manufacture of munitions and so on, I have no hesitation in saying that representatives of big business dealing with defence contracts have a selfish interest in many matters dealt with by them. The dollar-a-day volunteers are being weighted down by the personal interests of individuals who are giving that service. Whilst for the time being they are divorced from the private interests which they represented prior to the war, they have not, deserted those interests, and if the opportunity should come to place, material gain in their way they will undoubtedly take advantage of it. In every State of the Commonwealth on boards of area management, and even at the centre of things in Melbourne, persons are in positions of authority who represent vested interests. Every move that the Government is making in order to develop its war plans is subject to advice by these self-interested individuals. Ministers are, in fact, not in a position to form independent opinions on many matters, and it may easily happen that persons who represent vested interests may use delegated power to give oral or written directions in certain connexions. Fo] this reason I consider that there' should be in these regulations safeguards such as have been suggested by the right honorable member for Kooyong.


Mr Rankin - What about the Board of Business Administration?


Mr ROSEVEAR - I would include it with the others.


Mr Rankin - One of the members of that board is the managing director of a business enterprise which robbed the people of £250,000.


Mr ROSEVEAR - I referred this afternoon, during question time, to a certain firm whose affairs had come under the notice of the Joint Committee on War Expenditure. The committee requested the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) to investigate this case. I believe that if a certain contract given to that firm comes before honorable members in detail, they will get the greatest shock they have ever experienced, and they will marvel that such things can happen in war-time. The position was so serious that the committee invited the Prime Minister to take steps to prevent the firm from obtaining any further contracts until its present contracts have been investigated. It is quite possible that persons responsible for giving the firm a certain contract may advise the Minister that, in effect, particular factories should be confiscated, and handed over to some other control. The individuals giving such advice may afterwards use delegated power again to transfer such factories, or it may be other property or plant, to people whom they specially wish to favour. Delegated power may be exercised, under these regulations, on oral instructions, and persons affected may have no means to ascertain whether, in fact, the alleged oral instructions were actually given. Obviously, therefore, additional safeguards should bc included in the regulations. I support the Minister for Labour and National Service 100 per cent, in his statement that these regulations should not be applied to the workers. I believe that far more satisfactory results will be obtained from the. workers by reasoning with them rather than by threatening them. Threats of pains and penalties are always less effective than persuasion. That applies particularly to miners. When the National Security Bill was before the House I protested against its passage. I protest now against the issue of these regulations. Honorable members may ask, "But how do you propose to vote? "

The Labour party has decided how it will vote, and I intend ' to vote with my party. 1 shall do so because I shall not cast a vote which will have the effect of destroying a Labour government. I realize that the alternative to this 0-ove mm em is a government composed of members of the Opposition, whose hands are itching to lay hold of the dreadful weapon which we have forged. They will not lay hold of it with my help.







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