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Wednesday, 20 May 1942

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Prowse (FORREST, WESTERN AUSTRALIA) - Order! The honorable member must not reflect upon the judiciary.

Mr HARRISON - I bow to your ruling, sir; but I shall give the facts, and leave the House to draw its own conclusion. The council had been summoned to advise the Government on industrial matters, but its members found that the board was to supersede the Arbitration 'Court and take action that would violate established industrial principles. When the representatives of the employers realized that the vote of the chairman would be cast one way and one way only, they walked out of the meeting, which was then adjourned sine die.

The House should be told about another item on the agenda, which related to preference to unionists. It did not. appear on the original agenda, but was introduced subsequently in a surreptitious manner. Mr. Clarey stated that he wanted to make it clear that his intention was to secure, not preference for unionists, but compulsory unionism, and he asked that the agenda should be altered accordingly. The representatives of the employers protested, and asked who was responsible for the appearance of the item on the agenda, as it had not. been placed on the agenda in December. The Minister for Labour and National Service, who was present, stated that the Government had given that instruction. After some discussion this unbiased chairman stated in open council that further discussion would be useless, because he intended to vote for compulsory unionism.

Mr Rosevear - What is wrong with that?

Mr HARRISON - He stated that compulsory unionism was in force in Queensland. He did not wish to hear the view3 of the representatives of the employers, because his mind was made up. The chairman would not have been appointed if he had not seen the light, and recognized the alleged excellence of compulsory unionism. The Industrial Relations Council was rigged in much the same way as the Women's Employment Board, which the Government appointed under Statutory Rule No. 146. The representatives of the employers asked for an adjournment to enable them to submit the matter to their organizations, but the chairman, running true to form, refused to grant it. Consequently, the council was divided.

On the agenda of the council was an item relating to the fixation of remuneration for females. That is now covered by this statutory rule. It was thought at the time that the Industrial Relations Council would shoulder the responsibility of the Government which, incidentally, has a habit of shelving sticky subjects. As we know, the meeting of the council broke up before a decision was reached, and the Government was obliged to resort to other means in order to put its scheme into operation. The Government did not take the proper course of appointing a board consisting of a representative of the employers and a representative of the employees, with an impartial judge as chairman. First, it appointed a judge of the Victorian County Court, who had formerly sought election to Parliament as a supporter of the Labour party and who was appointed to the County Court Bench by a Labour government. The representative of the employees is Mr. Wallis, of the Clothing Trades Union, who knows everything that is to be known about the Labour movement. Not satisfied with ensuring that the Labour party would have a majority on the board, the Government then appointed as the representative of the employers a women named Cashman, who is known to be biased in favour of the Labour party. That she does not know the problems of the employers did not disturb the Government. The Industrial Relations Council did, in fact, consist of an equal number of representatives of employers and employees, and trouble arose when the representatives of the employers discovered that the chairman was prepared to vote one way only. The Government determined to avoid any difficulty regarding the functioning of the Womens Employment Board by ensuring that every member of that body had Labour leanings. For the reasons I have given, f shall vote for the disallowance of these regulations.

Mr Holloway - Until this moment the honorable gentleman has scarcely mentioned the regulations.

Mr HARRISON - No doubt the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Holloway) dislikes my resume of the history of this matter. If the Industrial Relations Council had functioned as the Government intended it to function, we should probably not have heard of these regulations; but when that council ceased to function the Government had to find some other means to realize its aspirations. The setting up of this board not only supersedes the Arbitration Court in certain spheres, but actually establishes a body more powerful than the court. Regulation 10 provides -

During the currency of any decision of the board no provision of any award, order or determination made by an industrial authority dealing with the subject-matter dealt with by the decision or any variation thereof and inconsistent with the decision or variation, and no decision or determination of any authorty of the Commonwealth or a State with respect to female employees of the Commonwealth or State inconsistent with the decision of the board or any variation thereof, shall he effective.

It is hard to imagine a more comprehensive provision. A body wielding such authority is undoubtedly more powerful than the Arbitration Court. In the exigencies of war, honorable members generally agree that boards with extraordinary powers must be established, but the Opposition, resents the appointment of biased bodies, which represent only one section of the people. No doubt, this board will be instructed to make decisions in accordance with the desires of the Minister for Labour and National Service, to whom the members owe their appointment. In fact, the board will be a cypher. The Government is perpetuating the bias shown in the appointment of the Industrial Relations Council, and, in doing so, it has violated all the ethics of fair play.

Mr Holloway - The chairman of the Womens Employment Board is one of the most highly respected judges in Victoria. Moreover, the employers selected their own representative. I object to the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) repeating such insulting suggestions as that the Government has " rigged " this board.

Mr Pollard - The honorable gentleman is also reflecting upon the judiciary

Mr HARRISON - The Minister for Social Services may know something about his own department, but evidently he knows nothing about the Department of Labour and National Service, or he would not have said that the employers had appointed their own representative to this board. The Minister for Labour and National Service has told us that the employers nominated Mr. Johnstone. He also gave us the reasons why he would not consent to Mr. Johnstone's appointment, and why he appointed Miss Cashman. [ Extension of time granted.] 1 wish to make it perfectly clear that the employers did not nominate Miss Cashman. They nominated Mr. Johnstone, but that gentleman was not acceptable to the Minister for Labour and National Service. Miss Cashman was the nominee of the Minister for Munitions (Mr. Makin). That honorable gentleman is not an employer of labour in the usually accepted sense of the word. I am sorry that the Minister for Social Service should have attempted to " slip something across I repeat that the Government appointed the Womens Employment Board because of the collapse of the Industrial Relations Council and of the necessity to do something to- meet the situation that arose in consequence. If the chairman of the Industrial Relations Council had been reasonable, and not a man with a single-track mind, the council would have had a reasonable chance of success, for it was composed of equal numbers of representatives of the employers and the employees with a chairman. The Womens Employment Board is composed wholly of employees' representatives.

Debate (on motion by Mr. Rosevear) adjourned.

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