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Thursday, 4 July 1946
Page: 2231

Mr HOLLOWAY (Melbourne PortsMinister for Labour and National Ser) (. vice) . - I deprecate the statements and innuendoes of the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) concerning the' courage of the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley). The people of Australia are the best judges of the courage of the right honorable gentleman, and they will shortly have the opportunity to express their opinions. It is more than strange that this motion should have been launched during a week in which we have got nearer to peace in industry than we have been for a considerable time. I remind honorable gentlemen that the long-standing dispute at the explosives factory in Victoria has been settled this week, and the men have gone back to work. Another long-standing dispute involving the employees of Poole and Steel Limited has also been settled, and the men are back at work. All through this week conferences have been sitting with the object of settling the dispute in Brisbane which is specifically mentioned in the motion before the House. Representatives of the parties concerned, under the chairmanship of the Premier of Queensland, have been sitting for long periods, and only- this morning the Premier issued a statement to the effect that, although the parties did not reach complete agreement yesterday afternoon, the door to settlement had not been closed,, and the parties could again meet round the conference table.

This motion has been launched because honorable members opposite fear that they might miss an opportunity to make statements derogatory to the workers of Australia. Let us compare the statements that have been made by honorable gentlemen opposite during this debate with the actual facts of the case. The Leader of the Australian Country party charged the Government with failure to use its power to intervene in the dispute, but everybody who knows anything about the matter is aware that the organization 'involved in it is registered with the Industrial Court of Queensland, and that the workers engaged in the industry are covered by an award of that court. The Commonwealth has no jurisdiction in the dispute, and no Commonwealth industrial machinery exists under which the Government could intervene.

Mr McEwen - The Minister no doubt remembers the rebuke he got for attempting to intervene in another dispute.

Mr HOLLOWAY - 1 did not interject while the honorable member for Indi was speaking, and I certainly do not intend to become hysterical now. The honorable gentleman knows very well that the Commonwealth has no constitutional power to intervene in the dispute. The Queensland Government has taken action to deal drastically with the men who are on strike. The union concerned has already been deregistered, which means that its members have been deprived of the protection of the court. That is a most serious matter. In Queensland, it should be remembered, the principle of preference to unionists is in force. Every worker who is employed under an award of the Queensland Industrial Court is entitled to preference in employment. But not only has the registration of the Meat Industry Employees Union been cancelled, but also preference, which is of vital concern to trade unionists, has been withdrawn. No reference was made this afternoon by Opposition speakers to these very important facts, and nothing was said about the heavy penal sections of the Queensland industrial law. The fact 'is that the Queensland Government has taken drastic action to enforce the law. These men were working under a State law. Had they been working under a Commonwealth law I have no doubt that Acting Chief Judge DrakeBrockman of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court would have taken cognizance of the dispute and would have intervened himself, or detailed one of his brother judges to do so. Had no judge been available for the purpose, one of the Commonwealth industrial commissioners would have been instructed to take charge of the .matter. However, as the men were working under a State and not a Commonwealth law, the Commonwealth had no authority. The men have broken the State law and they have been punished severely by the deregistration of their -union and the withdrawal of preference.

One would have gathered from the remarks of honorable gentlemen opposite that nothing had been done to attempt to settle the dispute, but only the day before yesterday the ham and bacon section of the union, the representatives of the Queensland abattoirs, and also other parties to the dispute who were meeting in conference, agreed upon a formula for settlement, but because the men in the exporting group refused to accept the formula, the conference broke clown. However, as I have said, the door is still open for a further conference. In the meantime, the State Government has taken further action, for it has seized the membership roll of the union and ordered that a secret ballot be held. The ballot-paper shows on the face of it that it was prepared by the State Industrial Registrar for issue to members of the union, who were requested to vote upon the question of whether they were prepared to return to work under award conditions on the understanding that, after their return to work, the four men mainly concerned in the dispute, which involves the interpretation of the seniority rule, should have their grievances investigated at a round-table conference under the auspices of the Industrial Court. The secret ballot is proceeding.

Mr McEwen - Is the honorable gentleman in favour of it?

Mr HOLLOWAY - The honorable member for Indi, who presented such a poor case, will have to get much sweeter bait if he wishes to catch me. Those who raised this matter to-day were aware of the difficulties of the situation and of the troubles through which the Queensland people are passing. Therefore, they should not have made extravagant, irritating and provocative statements, which mustenlarge, rather than narrow, the dispute. They cited figures purporting to show that 6,000 persons are drawing unemployment relief payments, whereas not one-half of that number is registered for unemployment relief, including all those who are involved in the dispute. Mr. McEwen.- My leader said, not that they were drawing unemployment relief, but that there had been 6,000 applications for it.

Debate interrupted under Standing Order 257b.

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