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Tuesday, 22 September 1942

Mr WARD (East Sydney) (Minister for Labour and National Service) . - The Opposition has accused the Government of endeavouring to introduce compulsory trade unionism. As Minister for Labour and National Service I have endeavoured at all times to get 100 per cent, unionism. Both in my department and in any other sphere where my influence can be used, I have endeavoured to achieve that object. No section of the community has made greater sacrifices in order to assist the Government to secure a 100 per cent, war effort than has the trades union movement. To this end, trade unionists have sacrificed rights which were not conceded to them by antiLabour governments, despite the fact that it is difficult to-day to find any member of the Opposition who expresses open antagonism to trade unionism as such. Those rights were won by the unions after many years of struggle. Since the outbreak of hostilities the unions have voluntarily relinquished many of those rights for the duration of the war, because they desire to assist the nation in its hour of need.

The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) stated that repercussions will follow when the public learns that the Government is endeavouring to use its war-time powers to implement the policy of the Labour party. Why should not the Government take every opportunity to give effect to its policy? In my opinion, the only policy that is likely to assist the people of the country is the policy of the Labour party. My only complaint is that the Government hesitates too much in giving effect to certain phases of its policy. Honorable members opposite speak glibly of an all-in war effort, and support any form of conscription or compulsory service, always provided that the element of compulsion is applied only to the workers. But when the Government recently proposed to limit profits by a method of compulsion, the Opposition raised a score of objections. Honorable members opposite object to men being compelled to contribute to trade union funds, and contend that the Government should protect the conditions prescribed by awards. While private individuals control industry, it is necessary to employ an army of organizers and officials to compel unscrupulous employers to observe awards. Legislation and Arbitration Court awards do not ensure to the workers that to which they are entitled, 'because some employers are continually endeavouring to avoid their obligations under the law. If union officials are required to compel the observance of awards, why should not a small minority of workers fall into line with the vast majority and contribute to the maintenance of the unions?

Mr Francis - Because, in this instance, the Government is the employer.

Mr WARD - The Government is not the employer in all cases. A good deal of the work is carried out, not under the direct control of the Government, but by private enterprise. Trade unions are rendering invaluable 'assistance to the Government. Many of them have been weakened numerically because they released their members for other work. They have also supported the plans of the Government for the rationalization of various industries. Despite this service rendered by the unions, honorable members opposite contend that the Government is under no obligation to assist them to preserve their strength and virility. In the period of post-war reconstruction, the trade union movement must be strong, because it will be the basis of a progressive programme of rehabilitation. If the movement be seriously weakened during the war, all the talk about a " new order " will be as futile as it was during the last war. The " new order " which honorable members opposite envisage, and which they are endeavouring to establish, is the system of the Axis countries. Some people in Australia still believe in nazism and fascism, and honorable gentlemen opposite are not immune from the charge of endeavouring to break down workingclass organizations.

Mr McLeod - They would like to disband them.

Mr WARD - That is true. They do not object to employees' organizations in which the officials are provided by the bosses. They object only to organizations that are affiliated with the Labour party. If the bosses' unions were affiliated with the United Australia party, honorable members opposite would raise no objection. Recently, the insurance companies proposed to form a new organization, and intimated that those employees who did not join it would lose their jobs. Honorable members opposite did not object, and say that the new organization was unnecessary because a trade union already covered this class of employment. They have supported all sorts of " scab " organizations which, they believe, will weaken the trade union movement, and they have endeavoured to force men into these so-called trade unions to the detriment of the Labour movement generally. If the honorable member for Moreton desires an unequivocal answer to the question which has been directed to members on the Government side of the House, I say that the Labour Government is giving effect to the policy of the Labour party. It is the policy of the Labour party to assist the unions to make themselves strong and virile. If a minority of individuals wish to place their own interests before those of the nation and endeavour to delay important works because they want to be out of step with the majority, the Government will not assist them. Where we can use our influence and endeavours to secure the co-operation of trade unions we shall do so. The honorable member for Parkes (Sir Charles Marr) declared that he had been a member of a trade union for 47 years. Generally, when men join the trade unions their political education progresses, and all I can say about the honorable member for Parkes is that his membership of a union for 47 years is probably the worst advertisement that trade unionism could ever receive. The Allied Works Council is obliging its employees to join bona fide unions. In the Department of Labour and National Service we have directed employees to become members of bona fide organizations. We make no apology for doing so. We think that the trade unions are doing a. wonderful job in the war. The war could not be won without the assistance of the trade unionists, and the Government will assist them to the maximum of its ability.

Proposed vote agreed to.

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