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Wednesday, 30 November 1960


Mr JONES (Newcastle) (12:34 PM) .I wish to direct the attention of the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) to what I regard as the unfair treatment that is meted1 out to unions that are prepared to allow the arbitration system to take its course, as compared with those unions that are not prepared to do that and are prepared to fight for their rights. On various occasions the Minister has stated in the House that if the unions place themselves in the hands of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission they will be given a fair hearing and will get a fair decision.

I remind honorable members that in Melbourne recently the Waterside Workers Federation was fined £500 for contempt of court - for having taken the law into its own hands when it could not get justice. The Boilermakers Society and eight other unions in Newcastle went on strike because one unionist who came to Canberra with a deputation to protest against the provisions of the Crimes Bill was suspended. the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited having claimed that the deputation was not engaged on union business. The unions have been called upon to show cause why they should not be dealt with. This sort of thing is going on continually with unions that are prepared to fight for their rights.

I want to direct the attention of the House to what is going on in relation to the Musicians Union of Australia, and to point out how slowly the wheels of arbitration turn when they are asked to turn by a union. I wonder if the powers that be ever apply any oil to those wheels to speed up the hearing of applications by unions. We know that they are speeded up when the occasion arises to impose fines on unions. I have received a letter from Christina Marshall, the secretary of the Newcastle coalfields branch of the Musicians Union of Australia. It relates to an infringement of the musicians' award by a hotelkeeper. In the first place, a letter had been addressed to the New South Wales Department of Labour and Industry, which replied, in effect, that the complaint was a matter for the Commonwealth Arbitration Commission. The letter therefore was sent to the senior Commonwealth arbitration inspector on 1st July, 1960. It is now 30th November and nothing has yet been done. Just imagine what would have happened if the union had been infringing the award. The letter is in these terms -

Under instructions from my committee I had requested the Department of Labour and Industry to make an inspection at the Speers Point Hotel where a colossal round-up of entertainment is advertised every week-end, and it is stated the amount of £2 is paid per player, which is far under the award for hotels.

Incidentally, the rate of pay for playing in hotels is £3 19s. for three hours. The letter continues -

As this is a Commonwealth award matter the Department of Labour and Industry here has referred me to you. We sincerely trust you will be able to make an early investigation as it has also been stated that musicians who insist on the award do not get another job.

Not only does the hotelkeeper pay only one-half of the wage to which musicians are entitled, but any player who demands the full wage is told not to come back. On 6th July, Mr. W. R. Watkins, Common wealth arbitration inspector, replied to Christina Marshall in these terms -

I refer to your letter dated 1st July, 1960, about the employment of your members at Speers Point Hotel, and advise that the matter will be investigated when an inspector next visits the district.

The Musicians Union is entitled to complain and to feel that something is wrong with our cumbersome arbitration system. As I have said, the matter was first raised on 1st July and here we are at 30th November without any action having been taken by the Arbitration Commission. Employers have their complaints heard promptly and the unions are entitled to the same treatment. How easy it is for employers' organizations to have matters heard by the court! How easy it is for the court of pains and penalties to impose fines on the unions! The fines that the court has imposed since it has been reconstituted amount to a considerable sum.

I had hoped that the Minister would be in the chamber when I mentioned this matter. As he is not, I hope that at least he will take up the matter with his officers to ensure that the Musicians Union receives justice. It is accepting arbitration. It has not gone on strike and it has been prepared to allow the wheels of arbitration to turn slowly. Like most trade unionists and workers generally, the members of this union have no confidence in arbitration. They want somebody else to have a look at this matter. I ask the Minister whether he will do something to make this apathetic body get on with the job that it was appointed to do, namely, to ensure that awards that are made by the commission are observed by both parties to them. We want to ensure that the employers also observe award conditions.

I have previously referred in this House to the actions of tire racketeers in the community, and I now wish to place on record another aspect of that matter. I propose to refer to the annual report of M. S. McLeod Limited, which appeared as an advertisement in the Adelaide " Advertiser " of 3rd November, 1960. I shall refer to the relevant parts of the report to the shareholders by the chairman of directors of the company, because they relate to the rackets that are going on in the tire industry to-day. The report states -

As it now appears that not more than about three acres of ground will be required for the manufacture of prefabricated buildings and other such products, the remainder of the Wingfield land should represent a good investment and could provide a very satisfactory site for a tyre factory, at some time in the future-

I emphasize this point - should the Australian tyre manufacturers force us into this position.

Here, we see a company, which is one of the largest tire distributing concerns in the Commonwealth, having to set aside land so that it may go into the tire manufacturing business if the tire manufacturers force it to do so. The report continues -

As four of the Australian tyre manufacturers now control, between them, over 300 retail tyre stores, it would appear that these tyre manufacturers are seeking to retain for themselves not only the manufacturing and wholesale profit - but, in addition, as much of the retail profit as they possibly can. It will be readily seen, therefore, that recent criticism in the House of Representatives concerning the present method of the terms of sale of tyres by the Australian Tyre Manufacturers to the Independent Tyre Dealers of Australia, was well founded.

Apparently, nobody on the Government side of the House can see any justification for the criticism and complaints that are continually being made about this position, although many people outside can do so. The company report continues -

For this method of sale gives the tyre manufacturers almost dictatorial rights covering the wholesale and retail prices of new tyres, and has the resultant effect of considerably increasing the price of tyres to the Australian primary producers at a time when their products are at lower price levels. It has the effect, also, of making it difficult for small independent tyre dealers to continue to trade profitably in the new tyre retail sales field. We - as Australia's largest independent tyre dealer, will find ways and means of securing our new tyre requirements at a price that will enable us to maintain the superb tyre service for which we are renowned among the primary producers, transport users and private motorists of Australia.

The Australian Tyre Manufacturing Companies undoubtedly have modern plant and efficient methods of production, with resultant low factory unit costs. Therefore, in view of the serious position facing the very important primary industries throughout Australia owing to the reduced export prices of their products . . . (for instance the average price for Australian wool for ten years to the 30th June last was 75d. per pound, compared with an average of only 45d. per pound for the first quarter of the current financial year) . . . it would appear there is a case for the removal of import duty on all pneumatic tyres and tubes imported from the United Kingdom, and for a reduction of fifty per cent, on the import duty on pneumatic tyres and tubes from MostFavouredNations - for it could be claimed that the 25 per cent, exchange rate between Britain and Australia in itself affords the Australian tyre industry a considerable amount of protection against tyres imported from England.

Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay).Order!The honorable gentleman's time has expired.







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