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Thursday, 5 March 1942

Senator COLLINGS - A great deal.

Senator SPICER - If it be wrong for the employees, then it is also wrong for the employers. The regulation merely sets out the offence that the Government has created in the case of the employer.

Senator Keane - How could the commission instruct 300 men to remain at work ?

Senator SPICER - What nonsense! That is an absolute quibble. Does the honorable senator mean to say that it is beyond the power of this Government to devise some means whereby the commission could instruct men to remainat work? If the Government has reached such a pass, the sooner it gives up control of the treasury bench, the better.

Senator Collings - That is the objective behind thismotion.

Senator SPICER - - Anowner who is required by the commission to open his mine should do so, and, if he does not keep it open, he should be subject to all the penalties.

Senator Collings - We are in agreement on that matter. That is provided in regulation 27a.

Senator SPICER - I invite any member of the Government to give me a tangible reason why the same test should not be applied in the case of the employees.

Senator Collings - Regulation 27B has done the job, and we have secured continuous production.

Senator Fraser - How could the commission be empowered to expel a member of an organization?

Senator SPICER - That is quite a separate matter. Regulation 27B creates a new offence under the National Security Act, and the penalty for that offence is by way of fine or imprisonment. If a coal-mine owner does not keep his mine open, he is liable to a penalty. In that set of circumstances, it is only just that precisely the same offence should be created in the case of the employee.

Senator Fraser - This regulation has done the job.

Senator SPICER - I must be pardoned for being suspicious of it.

Senator Collings - Because it has been issued by this Government.

Senator SPICER - No. I am suspicious of it because its terms suggest that the Government was not game to introduce the same offence for the employees as for the employers. I deplore the fact that, under war conditions, I find that for some political reason not yet fully explained the Government has created a different kind of offence in the case of. employers from that provided in the case of employees. It has been suggested by the Minister for External Territories that, as the result of these regulations,' employee organizations are imposing fines on their members. There is nothing in these regulations which gives power to the committee of management' of any trade union to impose fines on its members.

Senator Collings - The unions already have that power, and the honorable senator knows it.

Senator SPICER - Of course they have. It has nothing to do with the operation of this regulation.

SenatorFraser. - I contend that the regulations give to the Miners Federation power todiscipline its members.

Senator SPICER - All I am concerned with is that a regulation which deals with employees in a manner different from that in which it deals with employers should not be allowed to pass without discussion. In view of its injustice, I believe that it should be disallowed. Although I do not suggest that the whole regulation should be disallowed, the Opposition has no remedy but to move for its disallowance. There is a way out of the difficulty if the Ministry is prepared to meet the Opposition, but as long as the Government promulgate? regulations which are open to the criticism that they give effect to its political policy rather than to the advancement of the war effort, those regulations will meet with my opposition. I suspect that the form of regulation 27b is dictated by political considerations, and that the only reason why the Government will not make the commission a body which is to direct members of unions to go back to work is that it sees difficulties with its own. supporters.

Senator Fraser - The commission would not have power to expel a member of the Miners Federation.

Senator SPICER - That is another matter.

Senator Fraser - That is the substance of the whole dispute.

Senator SPICER - I am not much concerned about the power of expulsion. That was not the main reason for the introduction of this regulation. It was not brought in so that trade union committees of management should have thepower of expulsion. They already have that power under their own rules.

Senator Collings - They have no power to expel for not working, and that has made regulation 27b necessary.

Senator SPICER - This regulation, was not introduced to give to committees of management the power to expel.

Senator Fraser - It was introduced to bring about a 100 per centcoal production.

Senator SPICER - Exactly, the object was to ensure continuous . production. Cessation of work should in each case be with the consent of the commission.I have the strongest objection to a regulation which, in effect, puts into the hands of the committee of management of a union, the power to determine whether a strike shall be legal or not. Let us assume that a number of men are on strike. The committee of management meets and can do one of two things. It can direct the members of the union to go back to work - if it does so, regulation will operate; but it may not direct the men to return to work. The regulation provides that there shall be an offence for not working if the committee of management says that the men must work, but there is no offence under the regulation in the case where the men are on strike and the committee of management refuses to direct them to go back to work.

Senator Collings - Non-sense. There are penalties for not working.

Senator SPICER - There is a penalty for not working only where a committee of management directs the men to work. The plain objection to that is that the committee of management is largely controlled by the large body of unionists. For the purpose of this argument, I am assuming that the men are not working, and it is plain that they can continue to refuse to work without being liable to a penalty unless the committee of management says that they must work.

Senator Collings - Legal sophistry!

Senator SPICER - I am sorry if a member of the Government cannot understand plain language. I am prepared to have my argument submitted to any lawyer. I see no reason why a government at this tragic time should object to imposing the same conditions on a worker, who will not work when he is directed by the commission to do so, as those imposed on an employer. For those reasons, I shall support the motion for the disallowance of this regulation.

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