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Thursday, 4 April 1957


Mr CURTIN (Kingsford) (Smith) . - As a member of one of the great metal trades unions, 1 rise to defend 70,000 members of another metal trades union. For the benefit of the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth), I point out that the Australian Engineering Union has 70,000 members. It is a world-wide organization with head-quarters in London. This union co-operated with the federal Labour government in no uncertain way in bringing the war to a successful conclusion. The Australian Engineering Union, in common with other metal trades unions, co-operated with the federal government. After certain inducements had been held out to the government, it agreed to cooperate in the formation of a tradesmen's rights committee. For the benefit of the picture show operator, the personnel officer and other honorable members opposite - the non-worker and the non-producer - 1 shall outline how it works. The Tradesmen's Rights Committee, of which I was a member representing the boilermakers' section, is comprised of three members. The chairman is Mr. Doug Apsey, who is a senior officer of the Department of Labour and National Service. He is a very capable man. The employers and the employees each have a representative. The employees' representative from the engineering section is Alan Wilson. The independent chairman and an employers' representative can always outvote the engineering representative.

The talk about trades tests is all baloney. There is no such thing as a trades test in the metal trades section of the union. If a man cannot satisfy the Tradesmen's Rights Committee that he has the qualifications to be tried as a tradesman, he does not receive any consideration. He has to produce proof of his qualifications to the committee and the committee decides whether that proof is sufficient. The personnel officer, the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen), of course, knows the technique that was used by employers generally to try to break down conditions. A big metal trades union such as the Australian Engineering Union with a membership of 70,000 has different sections. There would be the highly skilled man, the less highly skilled man and so on down the line. If the employer, through the personnel officer, could approach the court in an effort to break down the conditions and wages of the second, third, fourth and fifth grade men, that would suit him down to the ground. But, in co-operation with the Labour Government during the war, longsighted members of the union foresaw that such a position could arise when the war was over, and they blocked all entry to those categories. If a man can do the work of a tradesman, the tools need only to be placed in his hands.


Mr Howson - Can the honorable member do it?


Mr CURTIN - I can produce more in a week than the honorable member could produce if he lived for another 50 years. Once a man holds the tools in his hands, it isobvious whether he can use them or not. If he is qualified, he has the right to work. The trade union movement will see that he retains that right to work. If things get bad, as they are getting now, he will not receive any consideration from honorable members opposite. They will not create any situations for him when times are bad.

The Tradesmen's Rights Committee was formed purposely by the unions concerned to protect the apprentices of the future and to protect the sons of the immigrants who later will have to serve terms of apprenticeship to make them skilled tradesmen. The Hungarian who was refused a trades test will in the future be very pleased that such a rigid system operates to protect his son when he wishes to serve his apprenticeship. Some honorable members opposite are professional men. All professional men jealously protect their professions. The trade unions will also ensure that their professions are jealously guarded. A boy has to serve an apprenticeship of five years between the ages of sixteen and 21 years. He then sits for a higher trades certificate, which takes another twelve months. Finally, he seeks to obtain his honours certificate, which means another twelve months. For seven years, the mother and father of that boy have to sacrifice and struggle. After the boy has obtained his honours certificate, other scientific study may follow. Boys following their apprenticeships right through continue to attend technical colleges up to the age of 40 years. They become the complete tradesmen of whom Australians are so proud.

After the hysterical outbursts of honorable members opposite against the trade union movement, I felt compelled to rise in defence of my fellow trade unionists. 1 have been a member of the boilermakers' union for 43 years.I still hold my o.k. card and have remained a financial member. The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson), a vicious member of the Australian Country party, said that every man has a right to work. The graziers' organization did not think so in 1930. That is the complete answer to the honorable member. He. and those like him, would not give the ordinary trade unionists a feed. The history of Australia shows that to be so.

The honorable member for Moreton spoke about " The Tribune ". He seems to be a very avid reader of " The Tribune ". He must be one of its best subscribers. He cites some comment made by the Sydney District Committee of the Australian Engineering Union. For his edification, I inform him that the Sydney District Committee is a local body which meets every Thursday night. It is not a policy-making body for the Sydney branch. It is just a local body which meets to discuss ordinary union matters.

I shall mention, briefly, the five top men of the Australian Engineering Union. The first is Horsburgh. Then there is John Garland, who is a member of the Waverley South branch of the Australian Labour party. He is a bright upandcoming Australian and we are proud to know that John won such an exalted position at such a youthful age. Next is Alan Wilson, who is a member of the Communist party. The fourth is Mr. Stone, who is a member of the Australian Labour party. Horsburgh, Garland and Stone - three of the five - are members of the Australian Labour party. We have all heard the hysterical talk about Communists in the trade unions. Those three members of the Australian Engineering Union were elected under the auspices of the court-


Mr SPEAKER - Order! The honorable member's time has expired.

Question resolved in the affirmative.







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