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Wednesday, 7 August 1946

Mr WHITE (Balaclava) .- I am glad that the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) descended from his high place as Speaker of the House to discuss this subject in the committee, because he has made it perfectly clear that the status quo of unionists as at the 8th May, 1940, is to be preserved) and they are to enjoy No. 1 priority.

Mr Bryson - Why should that not be so?

Mr WHITE - The honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Bryson) believes in unionism before patriotism. Perhaps it is as well that I should mention here, that I have received a letter from the New Guinea Returned Soldiers Association objecting to the slur cast upon returned soldiers by the honorable member, and stating that it had .written to the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) requesting him to ask for an apology from the honorable gentleman for the remarks he made. It can be said of the honorable member for Bourke -

His footballing cheers,

And political jeers

Equip him for everyday work.

The honorable member for Dalley . has clearly shown that the trade unionist comes first and the ex-serviceman second. If any doubt existed on that point, it has been resolved by the text of the bill. . According to this clause, a probationary tradesman means " an adult member of the forces whose employment as a probationary tradesman in a trade to which' this Part applies has been authorized by a local committee ". A trainee tradesman means " a member of the forces, not being an apprentice, whose employment as a trainee tradesman in a trade to which this Part applies, for the purpose of undergoing a course of training in 'an industrial establishment, has been authorized by a local committee ". Therefore, an adult ex-serviceman must be either a probationary tradesman or a trainee tradesman. The persons who are to be protected are those unionists who were members of a union in 1940. Some of them may have gone overseas, but the majority remained in Australia. The essential thing is that all except those who were unionists in 1940 are in a different category; they are ticketed men. Is it necessary that a man should have a licence to work in this country after he has been on active service in its defence for from four to six years? That appears to be the ' position. Surely the honorable member fo*r Dalley has enunciated a policy of despair in having expressed the fear that these unions may be swamped with applications for membership. We do not want that. But at least we should be optimistic, and believe that production can be so expanded as to absorb these men. Otherwise, the unionists will have all the work preserved for them'.. Whilst some men are to be protected, - others who have had technical experience in the armed forces may he denied the right to bc described as tradesmen in the country for which they fought. That is the issue, without exaggeration. Many of these nien are skilled tradesmen. I have heard it stated that from the outbreak of the war approximately 30,000 men were given technical training in the Royal Australian Air Force, and became skilled craftsmen. The . Air Force established its own technical training schools, and staffed them with excellent instructors. I pay tribute to the unions, which assisted to provide instruction in those schools. The Melbourne No. 1 Engineering School was larger than any technical school in Australia. There, were over 100,000 men and women in the ground staffs of the Royal Australian Air Force, in a total force of approximately 180,000.

All of those 30,000 technically trained persons will be labelled probationers or trainees, notwithstanding that they can pit their skill against that of any other person. They will have to appear before a committee consisting, of two employers and two employees, with a Government representative as chairman. The members of the committees may be the fairest persons in the world. But why, in a democratic country, should not a man be permitted to obtain employment according to the degree of his skill.? All the members of the engineering unions are not highly skilled, nor have all of them passed through an apprenticeship. In the 31 classifications of tradesmen there are these -

Ground engineers, aircraft mechanic and ground engineer and aircraft mechanic, as specified in Classification No. 57 of -clause 3 (<*) of the Consolidated Award - Aircraft Industry of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration; tradesman ground engineer or aircraft mechanic holding no certificate; motor cycle mechanic; motor mechanic; and motor tuner and tester.

Many such men have not served an apprenticeship. Preference is to he given to men in .the aircraft industry who worked in an aircraft factory for good wages and lived at home throughout the war. On the other hand, this legislation will operate against the man who went through a Royal Australian Air Force technical training school and fitted himself to service a Spitfire or to become a flight engineer, or who may have piloted a £100,000 bomber such as the Lancaster in operational flying. Yet, in his native land, he is to be junior in the matter of employment to another man who happened to be a member of a union in 1940, even though that man may not have worked in his trade for years. I have asked the Minister to say whether that statement of the position is wrong in any respect. This is one of the most dangerous and unfair bills that have been introduced in this Parliament. Merely because a man is a member of a union, it is likely that employment will be guaranteed to him, whereas the exserviceman is to be placed in the discard unless a committee permits him to be admitted to a trade after a period of training or an apprenticeship, no matter how skilled he may be. What will happen should there be a depression? There are portents of one in other countries, and over-control here will force one. There is a clause which provides that" a man may be dismissed for certain reasons, but inefficiency is not one of them. The ex-serviceman who has had valuable technical training will have to take the labouring jobs, and do pick-and-shovel work. I hope that the Minister will not allow that to happen, and that he will accept the amendment submitted by the honorable member for Fawkner for the inclusion of these men in the scheme. If he does that, there will be no danger of the fears that I have expressed being realized. But if he does not, we cannot accept as a promise of adjustment any statement that he may make.

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