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Wednesday, 31 October 1956


Mr CLYDE CAMERON (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) . - The Opposition has become accustomed to the practice of the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) of assuring the House, when introducing a piece of legislation that may be dangerous from the point of view of the trade union movement, that the measure contains nothing contentious, and hoping that the Opposition will not oppose the bill. On this occasion again the Minister has told us that he did not believe the bill would prove contentious, and that he did not think that there would be any opposition to it. If we did not know the Minister as well as we do, we might have accepted his assurance that this was a non-contentious bill, and have allowed it to go through, as an Opposition will always allow a really noncontentious bill to go through. However, even a very cursory examination of the bill reveals some very contentious provisions. As an example, I cite clause 5 of the bill, which has already been referred to by the three previous speakers on this side of the House.

Clause 5 proposes that in future the Minister shall have the right to. take away from the jurisdiction of the State tribunals or the Commonwealth Public Service Arbitrator the right to determine disputes within a government instrumentality, and place them under the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth Industrial Court or the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. That may not, on its surface, appear to be very important, but it means that the Government will have the power to take employees of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority out of the jurisdiction of the New South Wales Industrial Commission, from which body they have received awards under which they have produced the most outstanding production results, particularly in the tunnelling work in connexion with the Adaminaby dam. Nowhere in the world have results been obtained equal to those that have been achieved by the KaiserWalshPeriniRaymond construction company, employing members of the Australian Workers Union under State awards. This Government proposes to upset that arrangement, which has worked so favorably for every one concerned, and to give itself the power to place those employees under the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission.


Mr Anderson - Do not those employees receive a bonus for production?


Mr CLYDE CAMERON (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Yes, they get a bonus for production, and that bonus could be taken away from them altogether, or drastically reduced, by the commission. The New South Wales Industrial Commission has awarded most beneficial conditions for tradesmen employed on that project, which they would be in serious danger ot losing if the jurisdiction was transferred to the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, because that commission would then say, " We must not continue, except by consent, something that has been awarded by the New South Wales Industrial Commission if it is contrary to our precedents, or if it in any way differs from the standards we have previously fixed, because if we adjudicate on a matter and grant to members of the Australian Workers Union employed by the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority terms and conditions of employment that we have not previously granted to employees in any other industry, a precedent will be established, and the employees in other industries will use it against us and ask why we should make such an exception ". I think it is a tragedy that the Australian Workers Union withdrew its application to the High Court. The union should never have trusted this Government to maintain the status quo, and the day will come, I am afraid, when the Australian Workers Union will regret its action in withdrawing that application to the High Court, as, 1 understand, it has done, because this Government has no intention whatever of allowing employees of the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Authority to remain permanently exempt from the provisions laid down from time to time by the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission.

When we consider clause 5 of the bill, we find that its provisions may be extended to employees of the Commonwealth Railways, who, at the moment, are not subject to the Public Service Regulations, and are completely under the jurisdiction of the Public Service Arbitrator. Ever since 1937, the Commonwealth Railways organization has had a magnificent record of service to this community, free from industrial disputes. Contrast that record with the record of continual stoppages and disputes when the Commonwealth Railways employees were under the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. One can see the danger that would flow from changing the present arrangement and transferring those employees back to the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. It is of no use for the Minister to give us an assurance that that is not his intention, because the Minister will do whatever the secretary of his department tells him to do. If Mr. Bland decides that the employees of the Commonwealth Railways are to be brought under the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, the Minister would, as usual, be too spineless to say no to the proposition. If Mr. Bland were a person who could be relied upon to give a wise and reasoned judgment on these industrial matters, one could not blame the Minister for taking his advice. But one has only to look at the kind of legislation that has repeatedly been brought to Parliament by the Minister, on the advice of this gentleman, to realize how little Mr. Bland understands of the trade union movement, or, if he does understand it, how completely hostile he is to the welfare of the trade unions of Australia. While these conditions prevail, while we have a servile Minister and an arrogant, Labour-hating secretary in charge of the department advising him what to do, it is obvious that any legislation that gives to the Minister more power than he now possesses constitutes a serious danger to the trade union movement.

For these reasons, I direct the attention of the House, and of the trade union movement, to what the trade unionists could lose as a consequence of transferring to the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission the industries and undertakings of the Commonwealth Government that are now within the jurisdiction of the Public Service Arbitrator, or of the New South Wales Industrial Commission, or of some other State body. Under the Public Service Regulations, employees of the Commonwealth are entitled to three weeks' recreational leave each year, but it is quite certain that, if some Commonwealth employees were brought within the jurisdiction of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, the commission would not include in the awards covering them provision for three weeks' annual recreational leave. The commission would have the right to disregard the Public Service Act and the Public Service Regulations, which protect Commonwealth employees at present.

Neither I nor any other member of the Opposition is prepared to stand idly by when the Minister tells us that these bills are not contentious. When the Minister said that, either he attempted deliberately to mislead the House, or the secretary of his department deliberately misled' him or did not tell him what was in the bills. Both of those charges are serious charges to lay against a Minister of Her Majesty's Government.

I want to refer to the effect that the bills will have on the sick leave entitlement of

Commonwealth employees. At the moment, all employees of the Commonwealth to whom the Public Service Regulations apply are entitled to sick leave each year at the rate of two weeks on full pay and a further period on part pay, but if men are transferred to the jurisdiction of the commission, the commission will make applicable to them only the sick leave provisions contained in other awards that it has made. They will be granted only one week's sick leave a year, and after one day's absence due to sickness they will be required to produce doctors' certificates covering each additional day of absence. Under the Public Service Regulations, an employee of, say, Trans-Australia Airlines, the Commonwealth Railways or the Australian Aluminium Production Commission is entitled, not only to double the amount of sick leave to which he would be entitled if he came within the jurisdiction of the commission, but also to be absent on sick leave for four days without being required to produce a doctor's certificate. That is something that the commission would never give to an employee.

I turn to district allowances. What guarantee have we that the commission will grant to men working in outlandish places district allowances at the same rates as those prescribed by the Public Service Regulations? What guarantee have we that the Minister, on the instructions of the secretary of his department, will not bring all of the line staff of the Postmaster-General's Department within the jurisdiction of the commission? If that were done, it is quite certain that the linemen would lose the benefit of the district allowances to which they are entitled now, as well as the benefit of the recreational leave and sick leave facilities that I have described. It is certain also that they would lose the benefit of the present camping allowance provisions. We know that whenever the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, or its predecessor, the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, has been called upon to fix a camping allowance, the most that it has ever awarded has been 7s. a day. Mr. Commissioner Donovan fixed 7s. a day as the camping allowance for Australian Workers Union men employed on railway construction work, but under the Public Service Regulations Commonwealth employees are entitled to a camping allowance of 12s. a day in the case of a married man and 8s. 6d. a day in the case of an unmarried man when the department provides and pays the wages of a cook. But most telephone linemen and most members of the Australian Workers Union who become entitled to a camping allowance have to do their own cooking. Public Service Regulation 98B provides that where no cook is provided the rate of camping allowance shall be 14s. a day for a married man and 10s. 6d. a day for an unmarried man. In the case of a married man, the Public Service Regulations provide for a camping allowance at double the rate that would be fixed by the commission.


Mr Curtin - It is not enough.


Mr CLYDE CAMERON (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - I agree that it is not enough, but, in the case of a married man, the camping allowance prescribed by the Public Service Regulations is exactly double the allowance that the men could expect to get from the commission, once it got its claws on their conditions. There is no doubt that the aim of this Government is to drag the conditions and the standards of the workers down to a common level.


Mr Bland - What nonsense!


Mr CLYDE CAMERON (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - The fact is that that is the aim of the Government. With the object of ensuring that decisions of the Public Service Arbitrator will not get out of line with decisions of the commission, some time ago the Government gave to itself, as an employer, the right to appeal to the commission against any decision of the Public Service Arbitrator of which it did not approve. Could anything be more dictatorial than that? By these bills the Government is making certain that it will have, not only a right of appeal against decisions of the Public Service Arbitrator with which it disagrees, but also a right to disagree with decisions of the Public Service Board itself. By transferring Commonwealth employees to the jurisdiction of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, it will remove them from the jurisdiction of the Public Service Board. The Minister knows that the commission would not give to men within its jurisdiction the conditions to which Commonwealth employees are entitled under decisions of the Public Service Board.

There is no doubt that the aim of the Government is to take away from all people employed by the Commonwealth on a wages basis the beneficial conditions that they enjoy under the Public Service Regulations and to apply the regulations only to the tall poppies of the Public Service. The collar-and-tie top boys will have one set of conditions and other Commonwealth employees will be expected to accept another, and inferior, set of conditions. Frankly, I see no reason why Jack Brown, a labourer working for the Commonwealth, should be entitled to less sick leave than Mr. Bland, another Commonwealth employee. I see no reason why two men employed by the same government, and being paid, in effect, by the same taxpayers, should be entitled to different periods of sick leave. There is no ground on which the Government can justify its action of splitting the Public Service into two sections and giving to the less privileged section a poorer set of conditions than that given to the more highly paid section. That is one of the things that we oppose strenuously.

I want to refer to compassionate leave. Under the Public Service Regulations, an employee is entitled to two days' compassionate leave in the event of the death of a wife, a mother or a child, I know that the commission would never give such conditions to people within its jurisdiction. I applied to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court for compassionate leave for members of the Australian Workers Union, but the court refused point-blank to introduce, as a standard, a provision for compassionate leave. It is certain that any Commonwealth employees who are brought within the jurisdiction of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission by the operation of these bills will lose the right to two days' compassionate leave which they now enjoy.

The living-away-from-home allowance - which is distinct from the camping allowance - is applied to the Public Service at present on a level which the commission would never accept and would never apply to people unfortunate enough to come within its jurisdiction. Will any trade union secretary tell me when the Commonwealth Arbitration Court or the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission ever provided for 7s. to be paid for each meal that an employee had to buy as a result of working overtime? The meal allowances prescribed by the court and the commission have been very much lower than the 7s. prescribed by the Public Service Regulations.


Mr Curtin - What does a judge or a commissioner get?


Mr CLYDE CAMERON (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - I do not know. Certainly he gets more than 7s. for a meal.


Mr Curtin - He gets £7 7s. a day as an allowance.


Mr CLYDE CAMERON (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - I think the honorable gentleman is wrong there. The living-away-from home allowance for a judge was £7 7s. a day, but there has been an increase since then.

The point is that once these men are denied the benefits of the Public Service Act and the regulations under that act, they stand to lose all the rights I am talking about. I shall mention only one more of the things they stand to lose: Under the Public Service regulations a member of a union is entitled to attend an arbitration hearing to give evidence, or to appear on behalf of his union, without the loss of pay. We shall live a long time before the judges of the Commonwealth Industrial Court give a trade unionist the right to appear before it to give evidence or to plead a case and be paid by the employer while he attends, whether the employer is the Government or a private undertaking, because the court knows that its job, especially in the eyes of this Government, is to reduce wages and conditions to the lowest level that the workers will tolerate, and not to award the maximum that industry can afford to pay. The judges of the court consider that they should give to the employees the minimum that the employees will accept without revolting. They consider that their judgments should be based not on merit, but on the attitude of the employees at the time, according to whether they are led by a " grouper " trade union secretary who will do what the boss says or by a militant Labour man who will fight for their rights. The court knows that if they are led by a " grouper " secretary like Laurie Short, who will take whatever is rammed down his throat by the Government and the employers, it can hand out whatever it likes. If they are led by an Australian Labour party militant union secretary who the court knows will fight for the rights of the union members he represents, it exercises its judgment accordingly and awards a little more.


Mr Turnbull - What will happen if they are led by Communists?


Mr CLYDE CAMERON (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - The court unfortunately, will award a little more then also. That is why the Communists have been able to entrench themselves so firmly in the trade unions.

I want to discuss now the proposal in this so-called non-contentious bill to repeal section 54 of the principal act. Let us consider this non-contentious bill a little. The Minister for Labour and National Service has not told us why it is proposed to delete section 54. The secretary of the Department of Labour and National Service knows that it is to be omitted at the behest of the Graziers Federal Council of Australia, because the award of the New South Wales Industrial Commission which gives persons who are not members of the Australian Workers Union a rate of pay higher than that fixed by Mr. Conciliation Commissioner Donovan forced the graziers ultimately to give way on the recent shearers' strike and pay the higher rates. So the Graziers Federal Council now wants employees to be compelled to indicate whether they are members of the Australian Workers Union so that if the graziers succeed in having the present rate under the award of the Industrial Commission reduced, they can dismiss Australian Workers Union members, who would be entitled to a higher rate. The Minister and the secretary of the department know perfectly well that that is what is behind the proposal to repeal section 54.

That section has been in the act for many years. It was repealed on only one occasion, and its removal almost caused a revolt. Both the Minister and the secretary of the department know that this section was originally inserted in the act to protect unionists from victimization by employers who were prepared to take advantage of their knowledge that an employee was a unionist and either dismiss him or deprive him of some of the benefits to which he was entitled. I recollect very well the days when I was employed in the shearing industry. Before my mates and I were given jobs in a shearing shed we were forced to sign a declaration staling whether we were union members. The employers did not dare to take action against the shearing teams to which we belonged, but they did take action against station hands. If a station hand in the West Darling district signed a declaration that he was a union member he was instantly dismissed. Worse than that, if he was not a union member at the time he took a job he was compelled by the award to advise his employer when he joined a union. It was to protect the employees against victimization in that way that section 54 was inserted in the act. It reads -

The Commission shall not include in an award a provision requiring a person claiming the benefit of an award to notify his employer that he is a member of an organization bound by the award.

That was a perfectly simple safeguard against victimization, but this Government proposes to remove it from the act without giving any logical reason for the proposal. It says only that this is a non-contentious bill in which there is nothing to raise any one's blood pressure or to cause the Opposition to delay its passage.

Why was the Minister not honest enough to tell the House that section 54 is to be repealed by this so-called non-contentious bill in order to prevent the Australian Workers Union from using the New South Wales Industrial Commission's shearing award to hinder the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission or Mr. Conciliation Commissioner Donovan in reducing shearers' wages? So long as the New South Wales Industrial Commission's award gives to non-unionists a rate higher than that which Mr. Conciliation Commissioner Donovan cares to fix for members of the Australian Workers Union, he dare not attempt to reduce the shearers' rates of pay. Moreover, if the Australian Workers Union or any one else succeeds in having the rate prescribed under the New South Wales award increased the conciliation commissioner dare not refuse a similar increase under the federal award. Lt was this situation that broke the pastoralists' opposition in the recent shearing strike throughout Australia. The complementary effects of section 54 and the award of the New South Wales Industrial Commission on the shearing dispute have caused the Government to include in this measure the proposal to repeal section 54, although it makes out that this is a simple, harmless and innocent bill which does nothing except straighten out a few tech nical machinery matters. It is about time the Minister was a little more frank in explaining in this House legislation affecting the trade union movement. He should tell the truth and stop trying to lull us into a false sense of security by telling us that a measure is non-contentious although some of the most contentious provisions that one could imagine are tucked away in it.

I now want to discuss briefly proposed new section 117A of the principal act, which relates to the right of laymen to appear before the Commonwealth Industrial Court. This matter should never have been overlooked in the first place. The Minister has no excuse, because the Opposition specifically directed attention to this weakness when the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill 1956 was being considered in this House Less than six months ago, and stated that laymen should be given the right to appear before the court. On that occasion the Minister, in typical fashion, refused to accept the Opposition's advice. He refused not because he knew anything about the matter himself, or because he understood the measure, but because the secretary of the department, who in fact is the Minister, told him, " Clyde Cameron or some other Com. has put it forward. Therefore you should have nothing to do with it ". It is about time the Minister started thinking about legislation for himself so that he can make up his own mind instead of allowing himself to be pushed about by a public servant who tells him what to do in matters that are of vital concern to the trade union movement as a whole.

It is entirely wrong for the Commonwealth Industrial Court to have the right to prevent a union representative who is a layman from appearing before it. It has no more right to prevent him from appearing than it has to prevent a solicitor or barrister from appearing. A union should have the right to say who will appear on its behalf, whether on a matter of law. on an appeal, or on any other matter. This Government had no right to make such a provision. A murderer can appear in his own behalf before a criminal court if he wishes to. Any citizen can appear in in his own behalf before any ordinary court. How can a union, a thing incorporate that consists of a number of members, something intangible, express itself other than through its secretary or other appropriate officials? While trade unions remain bodies incorporate and quite intangible, then some person - and 1 suggest that the union itself should decide who that person should be - should have the right to appear before the court and represent the union, irrespective of what the court says about the matter. The Industrial Court consists of legal men, and the trouble with it is that lawyers love to have lawyers appearing before them. It appeals to their vanity to have lawyers before them, and they think that it is infra dig to have to listen to laymen pleading a case. Not only that, but they are usually small enough, when a layman appears before them, to go out of their way to find some reason for rejecting the propositions that he puts before them. Here we have a court presided over by a man who has been politically partisan all his life - Mr. Justice Spicer. A political appointment! A mat> whose political-







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