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Friday, 25 June 1937

Debate resumed from the 18th June (vide page 47) on motion by Senator Sir Georgepearce -

Thatthe paper be printed.

SenatorCOLLINGS (Queensland) [2.45]. - I have taken advantage of the opportunity afforded to me during the last two or three days to read the report very carefully, and I shall be obliged if the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) will furnish me with some information with respect to certain portions of it. In that section of the report dealing with the liability of ship-owners to pay wages to seamen in cases of sickness, there appears the following: -

Wages are payable, in full, so long as the sick or injured seaman remains on board his ship. If he is landed, wages in whole or in part, as may be prescribed by national laws, shall be paid (but only where the manhas persons dependent upon him) until he is cured or the sickness, or incapacity has been declared to be permanent. National laws may fix a minimum period during which payment continues, being in anycase not less than sixteen weeks from the day of the injury or commencement of the sickness.

My reading of that paragraph is that a seaman with no person dependent upon him will not receive payment for sickness, and I shall be obliged if the Minister can explain the reason for that. In another section dealing with the promotion of seamen's welfare in ports, it is stated -

It is desirable to create in every important port an official or officially recognized body which might comprise representatives of shipowners, seamen, national and local authorities and the chief associations concerned. The function of such body would be to collect all useful information and suggestions on the conditions for seamen in the port, to put forward measures for the improvement of such conditions and to collaborate in the carrying outof such measures. In order that these measures maybe co-ordinated, it is desirable that the maritime States should furnish the International Labour Office every three years with a report on the experience acquired and on the progress made in this field.

Will the Minister tell the Senate what action the Commonwealth Government has taken in this matter? The report states further -

During the discussion and prior to the final vote for adoption being taken in the conference, the Australian Government delegate announced that because of constitutional limitations on the powers of the Commonwealth Government to deal with various matters covered by the recommendations, he would abstain from voting. He had been instructed to state, however, that any recommendation adopted would be brought by the Commonwealth Government to the notice of the several State governments with a request for sympathetic consideration.

Will the Leader of the Senate inform us if communications have been sent to the various State governments with a view to their adoption of the convention, and if there is some means by which we can avoid this frequent reference to halfadozen State governments before taking action to implement decisions at the conference. I am not suggesting that the Government is in agreement with this section of the report, hut I should like to know what is being done? In some cases I know that Commonwealth legislation overrides State laws dealing with the same subject. I turn now to the report of the Australian workers' delegate. It contains some interesting information which, if time permitted, I should like to read to the Senate. I admit that the generally accepted feelingof members of the various industrial and political organizations with which I am associated, as well as other sections of the people, is that these conferences arc of little value. I strongly dissent from that view. I believe that the Labour Organization at Geneva is one of the best institutions we have ever had, and I consider that we should have full representation there of the different sec tions of the community. Mr. Tudehope, the Australian workers' delegate, states -

Once again the Australian delegation only included one Government delegate, although

Australia is, as you are aware, entitled to two Government delegates with full voting power at the Conference. As it is to the obvious interest of Australia to secure the adoption of international labour conventions establishing progressive standards of working conditions, it is desirable that the Commonwealth should exercise its full voting power at sessions of the Conference. I would therefore urge that the Government send complete delegations, including in each case two Government delegates, to future sessions of the Conference.

I commend that recommendation to the consideration of this Government.

Senator Arkins - The honorable senator'sparty should cease from criticizing the cost of overseas delegations.

SenatorCOLLINGS. - Iam not sure that my friend is competent to judge what my party, or any member of it, should say or do. I am not aware that any responsible member of my party has objected to the expense incurred by delegates to the International Labour Conference, although he may have objected to the expense incurred at the League of Nations Assembly. The International Labour Conference is a subsidiary body, and is differently constituted. Whatever Senator Arkins may have heard about Labour objection to the cost of overseas delegations, I at least believe that expenditure on account of the International Labour Conference is fully justified, in order that Australia may benefit from the deliberations and decisions of that body. I should like to know now what action is being taken by the Government to implement the conventions? Is the mere tabling of the report the end of the business? I hope it is not, but that legislation will be introduced, having for its effect the progressive improvement of the conditions of labour.

Debate (on the motion of Senator Foll) adjourned.

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