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Thursday, 5 March 1942


The PRESIDENT - I direct the Clerk to take down the words.

TheClerk having taken down and read the following words: -

Regulation15 does not prevent new members from joining or obtaining employment in the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union of Australia.


The PRESIDENT - Does the Minister for Trade and Customs make that statement ?


Senator KEANE - Definitely, and I shall make many others. In the course of my duties as Minister for Trade and Customs, I have made an endeavour to see that congestion on the waterfront is alleviated. In the course of that job I visited the depot of the Waterside Workers Federation and that of the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union in Melbourne. In fact I did more than that; I obtained extracts from their books showing the number of men registered and the average wages in these organizations. I found that the average wage was £58s. a week for members of the Waterside Workers Federation and £5 5s. a week for members of the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union. The numbers in each organization are not in my possession, but they definitely indicate that, although the Waterside Workers Federation hasa huge nominal registration, actually it has not as many members as I thought it had. The other organization was in practically the same position, but, the vast majority were members of the Waterside Worker.

Federation. These men have their own registered unions. They are registered in the Arbitration Court. Without reflecting on that jurisdiction I am of the opinion that it is calamitous to have two unions registered in one industry. However, returning to the main point in my argument I contend that to say that to try to " ring-in " these men as returned soldiers as a reason why industrial justice should be done to them is quite wrong. I point out to the Leader of the Opposition and Senator Allan MacDonald that in 1928 a government of the same political colour as the one which they supported until recently put 980 " diggers " on the sidewalks of Australia because they held the wrong political views. There was no talk in those days of loyalty to men who went overseas. I should like also to raise another point. The Transport, Workers Act was suspended with the acquiescence of every party represented in this chamber in an endeavour to ensure that the increasing tonnage of goods on the waterfront of Australia should be handled expeditiously. I do not believe that this regulation will interfere with that one iota. I say to the Leader of the Opposition, who always assumes an air of superiority, that his action is on a par with that which he took earlier to-day. He is not helping industrial peace by raising these matters. Does he think that the Government called together its Ministers, its officers and representatives of the employers and the union in order to frame these regulations merely for the good of its health?


Senator McBride - What about the

Casual worker?


Senator KEANE - The casual worker has to take his rightful place in the industrial machinery of the nation. If the original members of the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union still retained their membership of that organization, the honorable gentleman might havea sound argument. But the members of that union to-day are not the men who took the places of the members of the Waterside Workers Federation in 1928.


Senator Gibson - Will the honorable senator say that these regulations came before the Advisory War Council?


Senator KEANE - I have not said that. The Transport Workers Act, under which waterside workers had to be licensed in Melbourne, Adelaide and the northern ports of Queensland, was suspended with the acquiescence of the Advisory War Council, in the definite hope of achieving an all-in industrial effort and with the object of ensuring that shipping movements should not be held up.

The points thatI make are that regulation . 15 does not, allow the federation to interfere with the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union's membership, and that regulation 17 provides for the industrial conditions of that union's members to be left untouched. Even without regulation 17 these men are already protected by a Federal Arbitration Court award, which grants them the same rights as the members of the Waterside Workers Federation. A third point is that the present members of the union are not those men about whom all this noise is being made. The regulation has been in operation since the 28th January, but I have not heard of any trouble on any waterfront in Australia. Why is objection raised now? Have the employers complained to the Opposition? The members of the Waterside Workers Federation have not complained, and the members of the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union have not complained. Who has complained? Had these men complained, the Government would have taken immediate action.


Senator Spicer - It can do so now.


Senator KEANE - Does the honorable senator think that the Government, which is fully occupied in conducting this shocking struggle in which we are engaged, has time to go about asking people what they want? We shall give the people what they want so far as that is practicable, provided that we are not obliged to waste time in this chamber and are allowed to get down to our real job. The best job on the waterfront will necessarily be done by the members of the federation, who have spent practically a. lifetime in this industry. Honorable senators know what happened in 1928, when certain parts of Port Adelaide and Port Melbourne were deserted because the jobs of the federa tion members were taken away from them and given to men who, I suggest, do not belong to the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union to-day. I ask the Leader of the Opposition to take the first opportunity to check the statements which I have made to-night in order to see whether they are not correct. There would be some grounds for the Opposition's argument if there were in the union to-day the men who showed this alleged loyalty in 1928.


Senator Allan MacDonald - The loyalists must have left the union in the last three years because they were members when I was in office.


Senator KEANE - There must be some record in the Attorney-General's Department of the names of the men who wore registered on the occasion of the unfortunate hold-up of 1928. That holdup ceased at a certain date, and the Government then, . passed legislation giving first priority in employment to nonunionists and second priority to union men. That was fourteen years ago.

I refer now to regulation 15. It gives protection to existing members of the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union. That is beyond doubt. It does not provide that future members of that, union shall not be registered. The question of future registrations is left to the discretion of the committee.


Senator McBride - A committee composed entirely of officials of another union.


Senator KEANE - The provisions of regulation 15 are augmented by regulation 17, which guards their industrial conditions, and by a federal arbitration award under which the members of the union have the same rights in industrial law as the members of the Waterside Workers Federation. The members of the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union have been treated very liberally, having regard to the history of their organization, which does not now contain any of the men who originally volunteered for work in 1928.







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