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Thursday, 5 March 1942


Senator McLEAY (South Australia) (Leader of the Opposition) . - I move -

That regulations numbered 5 and 15 of the National Security (Waterside Employment) Regulations, issued under the National Security Act1939-1940, and included in Statutory Rule No. 19 of 1942, be disallowed.

StatutoryRule No. 19 contains 17 regulations; but I draw particular attention to clause 2 of regulation 5 which consists of 16 clauses. The Opposition particularly objects to clause 2 of regulation 5 which states -

Each committee shall consist of three representatives of employers and three representatives of waterside workers who are members of the federation, together with a representative of the Minister who shall be chairman of the committee.

I t will be found from the definitions that the federation " means the Waterside Workers Federation of Australia. The Opposition objects to such a drastic alteration of the personnel of a committee controlling operations on the waterfront in Victoria as has been provided for by this regulation.Regulation 4 provides that these regulations shall apply in relation to waterside workers at the Port of Melbourne, and at such ports in the Commonwealth as are specified by the Minister by notice in the Gazette, and to those ports. The Minister proposes to set up a new committee under the powers given under the National Security Act to control and regulate employment on the waterfront in Victoria. Previously, the committee appointed to control operations on the waterfront in Melbourne under the Transport Workers Act consisted of a chairman appointed by the Minister, one representative of the Waterside Workers Federation, and one representative of the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union.


Senator Lamp - " Scabs '"' !


Senator McLEAY - The honorable senator ought to withdraw that remark, because 130 members of the Australian Imperial Force are members of that organization, and 70 of them are at present, fighting with the Australian Imperial Force. Prior to the promulgation of the present regulation, the Waterside Workers Federation and the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union each had one representative on that committee. Ever since the passage of the Transport Workers Act there has been peace on the waterfront in Victoria. I strongly object to the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward), under the guise of war emergency, using the powers given under the National Security Act to set up a new committee on the waterfront in Victoria. Under this regulation he proposes to appoint three members from the Waterside Workers Federation and three representatives of the ship-owners, and the Minister also proposes to appoint the chairman. This means that the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union, with a. membership of over 1,100, will have no representation on the new committee. I understand that the membership of the Waterside Workers Federation in Victoria is about 1,800. I now inform, the Leader of the Senate (Senator Collings) that I am prepared not to go onwith the disallo wance of regulation 5 if the Government is willing to recognize the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union and to give it representation on the committee.

This matter was discussed when the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) was Minister for Labour and National Service. A conference was held between the Waterside Workers Federation, the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union and representatives of the owners, and it was requested that representation should be given to the members of the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union in Victoria. When Mr. Ward became Minister for Labour and National Service he, by means of this regulation, took advantage of war conditions in order to show the most vicious and vindictive discrimination that could be imagined. I remind the Senate of the reason for the formation of the organization known as the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union. In 1928, when there was trouble on the waterfront, the Beeby award was given, and, despite the fact that the executive of the Waterside Workers Federation and representatives of the Australasian Council of Trade Unions advised the union leaders in Melbourne to obey the award, they were not prepared to do so. Honorable senators will remember the introduction of the Transport Workers Bill and what followed. The members of the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union said on that occasion, " We are prepared to observe the umpire's decision. We agree to abide by the award of the Arbitration Court. But, in order not to be controlled by the extremists, we shall set up our own organization ". That body was established in Sydney, and it also functions in Melbourne. I believe that the membership in Melbourne is larger than in any other Australian port. Now the Minister proposes to set up a new committee and refuses to give representation to the members of the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union. I know that honorable senators are anxious to reach a decision regarding this matter. Is the Leader of the Senate willing to consider my suggestion that the Permanent and Casual

Wharf Labourers Union is entitled to representation, or is the Government prepared to back up the Minister for Labour and National Service, notwithstanding the fact that Japan is bombing various ports in Australia? Last Saturday week, members of the Waterside Workers Federation were not prepared to work on the wharfs in Melbourne in loading goods required for Darwin. Members of the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union were the only men who turned up to do the job. I urge the Government to treat this matter with the seriousness that it deserves.

I turn now to regulation 15, which reads -

The committee shall not -

(a)   refuse to register; or

(b)   cancel or suspend the registration of, any waterside worker who is, at the date of commencement of these regulations, a member of the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union of Australia by reason of the fact that the waterside worker is a member of that organization.

A careful reading of that regulation shows that there is no hope for any new member of that union.


Senator Collings - Why?


Senator McLEAY - He is not guaranteed employment.


Senator Collings - He can get into the other organization immediately.


Senator McLEAY - Obviously the Government is prepared to take advantage of the war situation in order to strangle an organization which is prepared to abide by the decisions of the Arbitration Court. From conversations that I have had with members of the two unions, I know that since 1928 they have been prepared to work together amicably. If the Leader of the Senate makes inquiries, he will find that the old committee, on which there was one representative of the Waterside Workers Federation of Australia and one representative of the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union of Australia, worked successfully with very little friction. My reason for moving that regulations 5 and 15 be disallowed is to give to the Government an opportunity to amend those regulations in order that justice may be done to a deserving section of the people.


Senator Lamp - Is the organization to which the honorable senator refers affiliated with the United Australia party ?


Senator McLEAY - No; but it is registered in the Federal Arbitration Court. Should these regulations be not disallowed and the Waterside Workers Federation be given the power to strangle the other organization, there will be disunity instead of unity, and industrial trouble where there should be peace, whilst the members of the Government can lay this flattering unction to their souls that they have done a great injustice to a large number of men who have rendered valuable service to Australia.


Senator Keane - When?


Senator McLEAY - I remind the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane) of what I said earlier about the number of members of this union who served with the Australian Imperial Force. Members of this union have as much right to live as have the political supporters of the Government and the lawbreakers whom the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward) is trying to protect.







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