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Thursday, 17 September 1942

Mr McDONALD (Corangamite) . - Having heard the explanation of the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt), I am of opinion that the case for the Government is very much worse than it appeared even after the right honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Menzies) had finished speaking. Apparently the Attorney-General would have us believe that the Government could have brought about this effect by legislation, but thai; it preferred to apply indirect and underground methods? The communications read to the House by the right honorable member for Kooyong make it clear beyond all doubt that this is just what is, in fact, being done. I believe that some unions are so powerful that they are able to dictate to the Government what course it shall pursue. Evidence of this was forthcoming recently when the

Commonwealth Government varied a court award, despite the fact that the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) has repeatedly assured us, as he did again only last night, that wages had been pegged. When the dredge Matthew Flinders was to be removed from Melbourne to Fremantle, the Government entered into the following agreement with the union: -

1.   In respect of the voyage from Melbourne to Fremantle, each employee shall be paid a minimum of three months' wages inclusive of war risk, bonuses and all other conditions provided in awards and agreements.

2.   Upon the termination of the voyage, i.e., midnight on day of arrival at Fremantle, each employee shall have the right of repatriation to Melbourne at the expense of the Commonwealth by the first available train.

3.   Victualling allowance provided in award shall be paid while awaiting commencement of return voyage.

4.   Wages are to be paid from the time of termination of voyage to Fremantle up to and including the day of arrival in Melbourne.

Wages were also paid while the men were returning to Melbourne. A crew was picked up on behalf of the Commonwealth under the terms indicated in the agreement, and the following table shows the award rates that should have been paid and the amounts that were actually paid by the Commonwealth Government under the agreement:-


What an- anomaly ! The second cook on the dredge received for a fortnight's work the sum of £65 10s., which represents to our troops in New Guinea 22 weeks' pay. If the unions have made themselves so powerful as to be able to wring these concessions from the Commonwealth Government on the eve of an austerity campaign, I say frankly that the people will not tolerate the position.

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