Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Full Day's HansardDownload Full Day's Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Wednesday, 9 September 1942

Mr ROSEVEAR (Dalley) .- Earlier to-day I asked a question relating to the Allied Works Council and its interference with *he man-power problem in New South Wales. The Prime Minister is advocating a campaign of austerity in order to conserve man-power, and yet we find that members of the Allied Works

Council, which is controlled by the TheodorePacker coterie - men who are not responsible to any one but themselves, although theoretically under the Minister for the Interior - are interfering with the work of important government undertakings in New South Wales. As the days pass the man-power problem becomes more involved. On the one hand, we have the Army authorities disputing with the civil authorities as to what men shall go into camp and remain there, and on the other hand, we have the man-power authorities, under the Department of Labour and National Service, endeavouring to balance the whole position, but being severely interfered with by the military authorities and the Allied Works Council. Several cases were brought to my notice this week in which the Allied Works Council called up men who were engaged on the graving dock in Sydney. One can not imagine a job with a higher priority in the defence programme than that undertaking, yet these men were taken from that work. Apparently, there is no power which can frustrate the efforts of the Allied Works Council when that body calls up men. As the result of its activities the staffing at the graving dock is getting into a serious state.

Mr Blackburn - Under the regulations, the Allied Works Council has a free hand.

Mr ROSEVEAR - Evidently the control of man-power is everybody's business, and therefore it is nobody's particular business. If this body, which is not responsible to the Government or to the Parliament, is allowed to upset the works programme of the Commonwealth, the present confusion will become more confounded. I know some of these men who were called up last week by the Allied Works Council, and I am confident that they will not be able to stand up to the arduous work which is being performed in the northern parts of Australia, especially during the coming summer months. Regardless of their age or their state of health, they are assigned to jobs in distant parts of the Commonwealth. In addition, the officers of the Allied Works Council evidently pay no heed to the nature of the work that the men are performing before they are called up, despite the fact that they may be engaged on defence projects. The men are given 48 'hours' notice to report to the Central Railway Station and they may be sent to distant parts of Australia. In one instance, an employee on the graving dock in Sydney was called up by the Allied "Works Council. Another reason why he should not be sent away was that his wife was suffering from ill health. Last Thursday he was granted an exemption from service, but on Monday two inspectors of the Allied Works Council visited his home and instructed him to report for duty the next morning. I have no doubt that he will be given 48 hours in which to prepare to leave for some distant part, despite his previous exemption.

Mr Blackburn - In Victoria, the men are given only 24 hours' notice.

Mr ROSEVEAR - I cannot understand why the Government tolerates it. So far as I am aware, no one associated with the Allied Works Council is competent to perform this job. Mr. Arthur Blakeley, who for many years was a member of this House, holds an important government appointment, and his judgment can be relied upon, particularly in relation1 to man-power problems. With an organization that Mr. Blakeley cannot tolerate because of the conditions that apply in it, something must be radically wrong. Mr R. Windsor, a highly respected officer of the New South Wales Public Service, found after a very short time that he could not tolerate the conditions in the Allied Works Council. This organization requires a thorough combing out. On some other occasion I shall have more to say about the doubtful personnel engaged in the Sydney office.

The Government professes to be greatly concerned with making the best possible use of available man-power. Its wish is not always realized in practice. The council sends to the wife of every man who is called up, a voucher for £6, and she is asked to sign the dodiment in two places. To my amazement, I discovered this week that these vouchers have been sent to the wives of some men who are working in Sydney.

Mr Calwell - Working on jobs upon which they have been engaged for years.

Mr ROSEVEAR - That is so. For example, one man is employed by the Maritime Services Board of New South

Wales. The Director of the Allied Works Council, Mr. Theodore, instructed him by letter to remain in the employ of the board. To my amazement, his wife received this week one of the vouchers to which I have referred. It appears that the Maritime Services Board will be responsible for a portion of his wages, and the Allied Works Council will pay to his wife £6 a fortnight, regardless of the fact that he is still engaged in his peace-time avocation and is not likely to leave Sydney. That illustrates the shameful waste of man-power to which I am objecting. The staff of the Allied Works Council keeps records of payments to his wife, whilst the Maritime Services Board keeps records of payments to the man himself.

To make matters even more ridiculous, T have in my possession a voucher that was sent to a resident of Carlisle-street, Leichhardt, New South Wales. The husband, being aged '64£, is not eligible for service with the Allied Works Council, but his wife has received a voucher for £6 and has been asked to append her signature to the document. If vouchers are to be distributed as freely as if they were advertising pamphlets, government funds will be endangered. It seems obvious that the bookkeeping system of the Allied Works Council in Sydney is lax and loose. Our man-power resources are being squandered in a most foolish manner. Men who are physically incapable of doing a hard day's work have been sent from Sydney to northern Queensland. Almost immediately on arrival, they have broken down in health and have been sent back to their homes. It is futile to talk of an austerity campaign, practising economy and conserving man-power when the Allied Works Council acts in this fashion. It is under the control of no Minister so far as we can discover, although nominally it is under the direction of the veteran Minister for the Interior (Senator Collings). Judging by press reports of his utterances on the extraordinary difficulties that 'have presented themselves in the functioning of the Allied Works Council, one would be justified in concluding that the Minister knows as much about that organization as a garden grub knows about astronomy. The organization is due for an overhaul. The Government should bring it under strict ministerial control, and limit the powers that it now enjoys. These powers are even more farreaching than those that any Minister wields. Until the Allied Works Council is brought under strict ministerial control it will be an upsetting influence on the man-power position, and will endanger the security of government funds. I am not concerned with the Minister for the Interior because he would not understand, but I urge the Prime Minister to take up this matter without delay, because I assure the right honorable gentleman that the last has not been heard of it.

Thursday, 10 September 1942

Suggest corrections