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Thursday, 17 September 1942

Mr ANTHONY (Richmond) .- It might be expected that a debate of this kind would be conducted on the merits of the subject, regarding which there is room for a reasonable difference of opinion. The debate was initiated in good faith from this side of the House, and we hoped that the discussion would be kept above personalities. However, when the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward) entered the lists, it was too much to expect that the discussion would remain clean. We knew that dirt would be thrown about, and "we were not disappointed. I was selected for a part of his attack. He alleged that I was such a bad employer that, at Christmas-time, I said to one of my share-farmers that he could have ten days' leave without pay.

If the Minister for Labour and National Service knew anything about sharefarming, he would know that sharefarmers are not paid wages, but draw a share from the sale of the products of the farm. Thus, I would have no say regarding what time he took off for his holiday; that would be a matter entirely for himself. On the face of it, therefore, the statement of the Minister for Labour and National Service is a lie.

Mr SPEAKER (Hon W M Nairn - Order! That expression must not be used in the House.

Mr ANTHONY - I withdraw it, and say that the statement is entirely untrue. Moreover, though it is not necessary to point this out in order to refute what the Minister said, the fact remains that. I have not had a share-farmer on my place for the last seven or eight years. I have had only one share-farmer in my Life, and he left me seven or eight years ago. Thus, it is established that the Minister for Labour and National Service, who, by virtue of his office, might be expected to know something of labour conditions, is completely ignorant of the conditions of share-f arming ; yet he is not above fabricating charges relating to the private affairs of another member of Parliament. He further stated that I had paid 10$d. an hour to men working for me, and that, when the men struck, I raised the -amount to ls. an hour. That statement is also- a fabrication. I never paid wages as low as 1.0-kl., or even ls. an hour. There is a responsibility upon a Minister of the Crown to deal accurately with the facts. Surely there is enough merit in his case to render it unnecessary for him to indulge in misstatements and worse. If some of the things that one has heard regarding the Minister's conduct of affairs in his constituency were repeated in this chamber they would not make pleasant hearing. He ought to know how difficult it is for those engaged in primary industries to obtain labour on any terms to-day. In order to get labour at all, it is necessary for employers to offer rates which are competitive with those prevailing in other industries.

The principal objection from this side of the House to preference to unionists is that it compels employees to contribute to the funds of a political party with which they may have no affiliation or even sympathy. It savours of the terrorist methods of the Nazis. The Minister for Supply and Development declared that the great majority of employers in the clothing trade have willingly adopted this principle. His statement has a familiar ring. When Hitler holds an election, his followers receive; 99.9 per cent, of the votes for the very good reason that if anybody dares to vote against the Nazis, the Gestapo wi'.. seize him. Employers in the clothing trade, I imagine, believe that if they do not agree to the wishes of the Minister, no contracts will be granted to them. When the Minister declares that the employers wholeheartedly support the principle, I am not convinced.

I do not wish to deny to unionists their just dues ; but wages have risen so inordinately in some protected industries that various individuals no longer work as hard as they did previously. To that degree, our war effort is reduced.

Mr Pollard - Does the honorable member suggest that the Australian worker is a " slacker " ?

Mr ANTHONY - Some of them are slackers. For example, a few days ago an employer told me-

Mr Pollard - A biased source!

Mr ANTHONY - He invites an investigation of his statement. He directed three skilled workmen to do an engineering job, which occupied them for three days. A tradesman himself, he contended that with the assistance of two men he could have done the work in an hour.

Mr Pollard - A superman.

Mr ANTHONY - Perhaps he is a superman, but he is prepared to prove his statement.

Honorable members opposite claim that there is a good reason for compelling men to join unions. They contend that if a worker enjoys the benefits of award rates and conditions he should contribute to the maintenance of the organization that won for its members those advantages. But that claim does not apply to men who, despite the denial of the Minister, are called up by the Department of Labour and National Service, They are conscripts. Is it necessary to regiment them into a union in order that they may share the cost of maintaining award rates and conditions \ The Minister cited the example of the British Medical Association; but a doctor is not denied the right to practise if he does not become a member.

Mr Beasley - That is the effect of it.

Mr ANTHONY - I know of scores of doctors who are not members of the British Medical Association, but they are practising. On the other hand, I do not know of any skilled man who can get, a job in the engineering trades unless he becomes a member of the union. At the present time, thousands of countrpeople, including the sons of butchers, bakers, farmers and grocers are coming to the city for the purpose of obtaining war work. Some of them are actuated by a patriotic desire to contribute to the war effort, whilst others are looking for a better job with higher remuneration than they had previously. Unless the persons are accepted by " Jock " Garden's organization in Sydney, they have no chance of securing employment in war industries. In other words, in order to strike a blow for their country, they must first strike a blow for " Jock " Garden and Eddie Ward. The procedure is for an applicant for a job in a munitions factory to apply to lie Department of Labour and National Service, where his name is registered. He is then sent to the Trades Hall to run the gauntlet of " Jock " Garden's minions.

Mr SPEAKER - Order ! The honorable member has exhausted his time.

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