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Wednesday, 7 August 1946


Mr SPENDER - Let the Minister tell me then under what provision he can apply. I will not be told that it is nonsense. It is the Minister's bill. He must, have read it. He must know all about it. Let him tell me the clause under which he can apply.


Mr Holloway - I will tell the honorable member when the bill is in committee.


Mr SPENDER - Tell me now in order that I may make an effective second-reading speech.


Mr Holloway - He can apply, to the local committee.


Mr SPENDER - Under what conditions can he apply to the local committee'? If the Minister will not tell me now, I shall ask him again in committee' where provision is made in the bill for those cases. I give only one example, that of a dilutee who has had some war experience in a trade and then left it to serve in a non-technical unit of the forces. The question I shall ask in committee is where in the bill provision is made to cover his case.


Mr Holloway - He is entitled to reinstatement in the position he occupied before joining the forces. The honorable member knows that as well as I do.


Mr SPENDER - But the provisions of the Re-establishment and Employment

Act are for all practical purposes excluded from operation as far as the trades specified in this bill are concerned.


Mr Holloway - No: the men in that group are covered.


Mr SPENDER - Sub-clause 2 of' clause 41 cannot apply, as a probationary tradesman must be an adult and must satisfy the local committee that he could, within twelve months obtain the necessary experience. That in itself is limiting. I have good reason to believe that that provision was made in order not toaid but to exclude ex-servicemen.


Mr White - An ex-servicemen could not get that experience in twelve months.


Mr SPENDER - Of course not. 1 come now to trainee tradesmen. Subclause 3 provides - (3.) If a Local Committee is satisfied that a member of the Forces who -

(a)   during the period pf the war has had' training and experience in the Forces in a trade to which this Part applies; and

(6)   is certified by a Regional Training Committee to be eligible for training benefits under the Commonwealth Reconstruction Training Scheme established under Part III. of the Re-establishment and Employment Act 1945, could, within a reasonable period,- as to what that reasonable period is no one has any guide at all - acquire the skill necessary for the performance of work ordinarily performed by a recognized tradesman, the Committee may, upon the application of that member, authorize the employment, subject to the provisions of section forty -three of this Act, of that member as a trainee tradesman for the purpose of undergoing a course of training in an industrial establishment in a trade to which this Part applies.

It is well to turn to clause 43 with this final observation' on the powers of the local committee : The aspirant has to' go through the gateways held- by the local Committee, and, even then, only a man of a certain type can qualify under the provisions of clause 41. A probationary tradesman, must be an adult whom the committee is satisfied can, within twelve months, acquire the necessary skill. A trainee tradesman must be one who, amongst other things, could within a reasonable period - and no indication is given of what a reasonable period is - acquire the skill necessary for performance of the work ordinarily performed by recognized tradesmen. No indication is given of what that is. In both cases there is no appeal if the application is rejected.


Mr HOLLOWAY (MELBOURNE, VICTORIA) - He goes to the central committee if he is not satisfied with the decision of the local committee. The honorable member has read the bill and says that he knows all about it.


Mr SPENDER - I do not know all about it. I said that the Minister knew all about it. Would he mind telling me where it is provided that a man turned down by the local committee can go to the central committee? If the Minister does not answer me now, I shall have to ask him in committee. The power is given to the local committee in clause 41. The local committee isin substance an arbitrary body. The provisions relating to probationary and trainee tradesmen are subject to clause 43, which reads - (1.) Subject to the provisions of this Part, the provisions of Division 2 of Part II. of the Re-establishment and Employment Act 1945 shall apply in relation to employment in the trades to which this Part applies.

That makes it appear that the Parliament is extending preference in employment to ex-servicemen, but when the bill says " subject to the provisions of the act ", it substantially cuts down the whole of the preference conditions of the Reestablishment and Employment Act. Before I leave that, I point out that clause 45 says -

(1)   A person shall not be entitled to make an application to a court of summary jurisdiction under section twenty-eight of theReestablishment and Employment Act 1945 in respect of a failure to engage him in employment in a trade to which this Part applies unless the matter has first been considered by a Local Committee.

So there is a distinct writing down of the provisions of the Re-establishment and Employment Act. An application must first be considered by the local committee, but clause 43 provides - (1.) Subject to the provisions of this Part, the provisions of Division 2 of Part II. of the Re-establishment and Employment Act 1945 shall apply . . .

Then it says - (2.) An employer shall not, in the engagement or elevation of any person to carry out work ordinarily performed by a recognized tradesman of a particular classification, engage or elevate -

(a)   a person other than a recognized tradesman if a recognized tradesman of that classification who is competent to perform that work is available and offering for employment; or

(b)   a person other than a recognized tradesman or a probationary tradesman if a probationary tradesman of that classification who is com- petent to perform that work is available and offering for employ ment.


Mr HOLLOWAY (MELBOURNE, VICTORIA) - That was the promise made to him by the dilution committee.


Mr SPENDER - No such promise is contained in the dilution agreement. Time after- time the allegation has been made that that promise was made by the dilution committee, but on the11th May. 1946, Mr. F. T. Perry, president of the Australian Metal Industries. Association, was invited to attend a meeting in, Melbourne of the central engineering trades committee to discuss the future terms of the " agreement ". At that meeting. I am informed, he restoration of prewar practices and customs in relation to the employment of bona fide tradesmen was fully and frankly considered and discussed. Mr. Perry, on behalf of the metal trades employers of Australia, agreed that the enunciation of the undermentioned principle would be a full and proper implementation of the winding-up of the " agreement ". This was assented to by the Amalgamated Engineering Union andthe Australasian Society of Engineers. It was agreed -

Conditions in the industry to be those operating prior to the signing of the dilution agreement on8th May, 1940, which means that the custom of the trade was to recruit tradesmen in the greatest percentage of case's in the industry, through the apprenticeship system or other approved training scheme.

It is well to disclose what the agreement provides, because no greater rights can exist than are provided in it. Reverting again to the bill, paragraph a of sub-clause 2 of clause 43 gives to the recognized tradesman preemption in respect of engagement or elevation over any one else in a job, regardless of whether a probationary tradesman or even a full tradesman who has given most distinguished military service overseas and is much more competent. So long as the recognized tradesman is competent' - no degrees of competency are provided for -he is given complete priority over everyone. This bill is designed to consolidate the interests of men already in the trades.

Mr.White. - It is the reverse of preference to ex-servicemen.


Mr SPENDER - Of course it is. Then sub-clause 4 of clause 43 provides - (4.) An employer shall not, without the consent of a Local Committee -

(a)   dismiss a recognized tradesman of a particular classification while any person of that classification, other than a recognized tradesman, is employed by him in the same establishment ; or

So there is no choice between recognized . tradesmen. All are to be brought under the control of the local committee. In time of war, I could understand the need for some of these provisions, but, in days of peace, I shall resist them with every argument that I can advance.

Then it was said that the purpose of this bill is to protect the rights of both the employers' and the employees under the dilution agreements. I direct attention to the fact that in existing awards power exists for an employer to dismiss an employee for inefficiency. As honorable members will see, sub-clause 5 of clause 43 provides -

The provisions of sub-section (4.) of this section shall not prevent the exercise by an employer of any rights which he possesses under any law or any award, order, determination or industrial agreement to dismiss an employee for malingering, neglect of duty or misconduct.

Sub-clause 4, of course, provides that an employer shall not, without the consent of a local committee, dismiss a recognized tradesman or probationary tradesman. From sub-clause 5 the word "inefficiency" has been omitted. "Why? That is a direct denial of the rights of the employer, Which are contained in the dilution agreement and which, we were told, this bill will preserve. Provision is made for some, but only some, of the decisions of a local committee to be reviewed. Accordingto the "statement of the Minister, an appeal is allowed to the central committee. I point out that under clause 44, only a very limited right of appeal is permitted in special cases, because sub-clause 1 provides -

Where a local committee has directed or approved or consented to the dismissal of a person from employment, or the refusal by an employer to engage or elevate a person in employment, and that person or the employer considers that the direction, approval or consent is not justified by the provisions of this part, he may request the Chairman of the local committee to refer the matter to the central committee, and the Chairman shall, as soon as practicable, refer the matter accordingly.

If the person concerned is dissatisfied with the decision of the central committee, he may appeal to a judge of the Supreme Court. Now, this clause limits the appeal to two cases, first the refusal of an employer to engage or elevate the . employee and, secondly, the dismissal of a person from employment. So far asI am able to observe, all other cases under clause 41, such as the refusal by the local committee to grant a certificate that a man is a recognized tradesman, will not be made the subject of appeal.


Mr HOLLOWAY (MELBOURNE, VICTORIA) - Clause 45 takes it a little further.


Mr SPENDER - Sub-clause 1 of clause 45 provides that -

A person shall not be entitled to make an application to a court of summary jurisdiction under section 28 of theRe-establishment and Employment Act 1945, in respect of a failure . to engage him in employment in a trade to which this Parliament applies unless the matter has first been considered by a local committee.

Iremind honorable members that section 28 of the Re-establishment and Employment Act states -

Where any person whom an employer has refused to engage in employment considers that, having regard to the provisions of the last preceding section, the employer should have engaged him in employment, that person may apply to a court of summary jurisdiction constituted by a Police, Stipendiary or Special Magistrate for anorder under this section.

The magistrate can then deal with the matter, and order that the person shall be employed and given the preference which the act prescribes. That absolute right has been cut down by the bill.


Mr Holloway - It has not.


Mr SPENDER - That is a matter of opinion. I know the real reason for this clause. When the person appearsbefore the magistrate, it will be pointed out that the matter has been dealt with by the local committee.


Mr Holloway - No. The reason is that we do not desire the person concerned to waste timeby going to court when the local committee can determine the matter.


Mr SPENDER - If the court has complete jurisdiction in the matter, why should not the person concerned have the right, at his own option, to go there?


Mr Holloway - If he does not get justice from the local committee, he can go to the court.


Mr SPENDER - He can go to the court only in respect of preference.


Mr HOLLOWAY (MELBOURNE, VICTORIA) - The honorable member is trying to evade the issue.


Mr SPENDER - I am not.


Mr Holloway - The honorable member has been snared by his own cunning.


Mr SPENDER - Do not the provisions of a special act such as this, -in respect of employment, override the general act which deals with all employment? I direct attention to the opening words of sub-clause 1 of clause 43, namely, " Subject to the provisions of this Part". They mean "except insofar as this part provides otherwise, the Reestablishment and Employment. Act shall apply". The implication is that this bill will reduce the efficacy of the Reestablishment and Employment Act. Therefore, when the person ultimately appears before the magistrate under the preference provisions, he will be confronted with the decision of the local committee.


Mr Holloway - The honorable member would explain his point much more quickly if he had a good case.


Mr SPENDER -I am not one of those who says that the Minister always answers a question fairly. I have heard him, on occasions, give an unfair answer. Sub-clause 2 of clause 45 provides -

In any prosecution of an employer for a contravention of section forty three of this act- and clause 43 imposes an obligation upon the employer to employ, not an ex-service man, but persons other than exservicemen - and in any proceedings against an employer under section twenty-eight of the Reestablishment and Employment Act 1945, it shall be a defence for the employer to prove that the act or omission with which he is charged or which is called in question was directed, approved or consented to by a local committee duly or, on review or appeal, by the central committee or a court and that the decision of the local committee or central committee, as the case may be, does not stand reversed as the result of review or appeal.

Obviously when the person appears before the court, he will be confronted with the finding of the local committee. The whole purpose of these provisions is toprevent the applicant from appearing before the court under clause 28, unless first he is heard by the local committee. The local committee may decide that he shall not be engaged, and the employer then will have an absolute defence. Yet the Minister claimed that this bill will assist ex-servicemen. If this is the Government's idea of. a fair deal to exservicemen, it is not mine. I have no desire to divide this community into those who are ex-servicemen and those who are not. I have some conception of the meaning of a 'total war effort. The Parliament has, however, passed legislationdescribed asthe Re-establishment and Employment Act. That legislation was supposed to represent the high policy of the Labour party towards granting preference in employment to exservicemen. In every way, the Government is now destroying the efficacy of the act. Why? Because in all industrial matters which are presented to this Parliament for its formal approval, the Government must adhere to the policy laid down by the trade unions.







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