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Wednesday, 31 October 1956


Order! The honorable member's time, has expired.

Mr BEAZLEY - Since' no other honorable member has risen I shall take my second period now. I shall conclude these references by referring to the section on Tasmania, which says, of Burnie, " Labour: Excellent cranemen ". For Hobart it says, " Labour: No information given ". One can, of course, put a sinister interpretation, on the comment, " No information given ". The publishers of this book obtained their information from Australian companies, and employers. This is an employers' research publication, and its comments on Australian labour compare more than favorably with the comments made about labour in hundreds of ports throughout the world which are commented on. It does not regard Australia as a country in which labour is inefficient. At least, it did not make such a comment, whereas it did comment on labour in many other places as being completely inefficient and wholly inadequate. I do not think we need draw from a publication such as this, prepared by an international employers' organization which has a clear understanding of the position on the waterfront throughout the world, the conclusion that the legislation which this Parliament has been constantly enacting in an endeavour to bring a sane atmosphere to the waterfront has been unsuccessful. It has not been unsuccessful. As I have had occasion to remark in this chamber previously, the atmosphere on the waterfront has been completely transformed from the atmosphere of embittered relations which was characteristic of the early 1920's. This measure, which will buttress the payment of appearance money and the other benefits which are helping to decasualize the industry, will probably be successful and will probably continue to transform the atmosphere on the waterfront.

I think that when there was in Australia a large corps of unemployed a much higher proportion of young, able-bodied men worked on the wharfs than is the case to-day. The Waterside Workers Federation of Australia, in Fremantle at any rate, has done an honorable thing by bringing a lot of younger men into the industry.. When 1 was first elected to this Parliament in 1945 the average age of waterside workers in Fremantle was 58. Many men engaged in lighter work as " hookey-ons " and the like were in their late 70's and id their 80's. With the demobilization of the forces after World War II. great numbers of young men entered the industry. The overwhelming majority of the waterside workers in Fremantle are returned servicemen, and the average age of the men on the waterfront there is lower than was the average years ago. Nevertheless, if one addresses a meeting of, say, factory employees, one is struck by the fact that waterside workers as1 a body are older than' factory workers, who have a different age distribution. I think the waterside workers, generally acknowledge that their industry has been transformed and that the bad traditions of the past have gone from it. My conversations with those I know best- those in. my own constituency- confirm my belief- that they are responsible citizens who consider that they are doing a job for the nation and regard themselves as. having a stake in the country.

Something has been said about- wages. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Howson) was shocked that waterside workers earned more than some other workers. I was a teacher before I was elected to the Parliament, and a: very frequent topic of conversation in staff rooms at schools was the fact that wharf lumpers received a higher hourly rate of pay than, was paid to teachers. My answer was always, " Why not? " I never heard of a; teacher leaving the teaching- profession to. work on the wharfs. The job we were doing had its pleasures and compensations which prevented us from looking- only. to> wages as a measure. In any event, the annual earnings of the waterside workers are. always levelled down by long periods without- work. Taking into account the periods during which they receive appearance money only, and the vital importance of the work they do for the community, their earnings are not excessively high.

Bill agreed to.

Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.

Bill read a third time.

Sitting suspended from 11.37 p.m. to 12.5 a.m. (Thursday).

Thursday, 1 November 1956

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