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Thursday, 5 March 1942

Senator McLEAY (South AustraliaLeader of the Opposition) . - 1 move -

That Regulation No. 27b of the National Security (Coal Control) Regulations, issued under the National Security Act 1939-1940, and included in Statutory Rule No.,10of 1942, be disallowed.

I take this opportunity to remind the Senate once again of the enormous powers which have been given by Parliament to the Executive since the outbreak of thewar, and also to emphasize the duty devolving upon all honorable senators in considering the regulation issued under the National Security Act. Since the 1st January approximately 100 statutory rules have been gazetted, and many of those rules contain a number of regulations. I have been advised on sound legal authority that, whilst the Senate may disallow a regulation under a statutory rule, it cannot disallow part of a regulation under a statutory rule. In view of the wide powers now possessed by the Executive, and having regard to the number of regulations which arc being gazetted, every opportunity should be afforded the Senate to give full consideration to these regulations. I personally intend to oppose strenuously any regulation which I think will not help our war effort or will do serious injustice to the people as a whole. Of course, it is the duty of every honorable senator to approach these regulations in that way/ Parliament should meet as regularly as possible in order to give us the opportunity to consider these regulations most carefully. Some regulations have been in operation for a considerable time, yet we have not had an opportunity to pass judgment on them. Evenhonorable senators opposite will admit that many regulations gazetted recently were prepared rather hurriedly. I protest also against the action of certain Ministers, or who ever is responsible, in not laying on the table of the Senate at the earliest possible moment certain important regulations promulgated in the Commonwealth Gazette.

In moving that regulation 27B be disallowed, I draw the attention of the Senate in the first place to the objectionable nature of that regulation, which, to me, savours of vicious discrimination between employer and employee. Regulation 27A provides first of all that -

1.   The owner of a coal-mine -

(a)   Shall not, without the consent of the Commission, fail to keep the coal-mine open for the purpose of its operation in the manner in which it is usually operated.

In a recent amendment, the word " Commission " was substituted far Commissioner ". I have no objection to the placing of that power in the hands of the commission. I do not propose to read the regulation any farther, but honoraible senators will realize thai, should an employer refuse to observe the conditions laid down in the regulation, he is subject to a fine and certain other penalties. However, regulation 27b provides that when a coal-mine is open for the purpose of its operation in the manner in which it is usually operated, and the committee of . management of any organization of employees in the coal-mining industry has directed members of the organization to work at the mine, any person who refuses to attend shall be dealt with by the management committee of the union concerned. Surely, if it is right that the commission should have power over the owners, it is also right t hat it should have control over the employees. I cannot remember any regulation such a? this having been passed through Parliament in recent years. I cannot understand how responsible people canthinkit fit and. proper to place such authorityinthehands of the president, secretary and committee of management of a union, these officers having been appointed by the coal-miners themselves. It is too ludicrous for words. It is quite obvious that if such a committee ordered the coal-miners back to work, or ordered them to do anything not acceptable to them, the coal-miners would see that member? of the committee were disciplined when they came up for re-election. Those of us who have had an opportunity of watching the course of events in various coal-mining unions realize how jealously the president,secretary and committee members have to guard their statements and actions, because they depend on the votes of the miners if they wish to be re-elected upon the expiration of their term of office.

Senator Keane - What is wrong with that?

Senator McLEAY - First of all, it displays vicious discrimination. The regulation provides that the commission shall deal with the employers, but that the unions themselves shall deal with the employees. The union committee of managementhas power to direct men to soback to work, and if they refuse to obey. they may be expelled from the organization in accordance with section 2 of the regulation.

My second objection to regulation 27b is that it smells of political pandering to union executives who are supporters of the Labour party and of the Labour Government. There can be no doubt about that. I suggest to the Government that the people of Australia are becoming tired of reading day after day, following statements by responsible Ministers about alleged total mobilization, that it is necessary to consult the Australasian Council of Trade Unions or some other outside body of unionists in. order to see whether or not the action proposed by the Government is acceptable to such bodies. The people are quite right in claiming that in times such as these the Government should govern and should not be dictated to by outside interests. I have no hesitation in saying that if one looks at these regulations carefully and fairly, one can come to no other conclusion about them.

Mythird objection to this regulation is that it means' political interference with the work of the Arbitration Court, lt is an attempt on the part of the Government to appease the extremists in the trade union movement and to undermine the power vested in the Arbitration Court. All political parties favour arbitration, and I suggest that the umpire's decision should be taken as final. I warn the Government that if it continues this policy of appeasement and political interference, those whom it tries to appease will bite the hand that feeds them. There is ample evidence of that in the reports appearing in the press from day to day.

Senator Keane - Industry has never worked more smoothly than it is working to-day.

Senator McLEAY - The honorable Senator knows better than that. He knows that a strike occurred on the Melbourne waterfront just after Darwin was bombed. The policy of interfering with matters which have been fully considered by the Arbitration Court is getting this Government into a serious position. I was horrified to read in the Melbourne Sun of the 4th March, the following report : -

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