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Thursday, 5 March 1942

Senator McBRIDE (South Australia) . - On two occasions this afternoon the Leader of the Senate (Senator Collings) chided the Opposition with obstructing Ministers in their administra tive affairs. He has made it clear to us that he resents the Opposition exercising the rights that it has in this chamber. He has told us, and I agree entirely with his statement, that the work of a Minister in these extraordinary times is very onerous. I assure the Senate that the Opposition does not wish to obstruct the Government or interfere with its administrative duties. On the contrary, we on this side of the chamber have a sincere desire to help the Government in these most difficult days. The Government should do in this instance what it did on another occasion, when the Opposition showed its bona fides by helping the Government to make workable a completely unworkable regulation. The Opposition is prepared, at this stage, to withdraw the motion before the Senate, provided that the Government will undertake to submit the regulation to us so that we can assist the Government to make it workable. A great deal has been said regarding the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union. One would imagine, from the speech of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane) that this union had sprung into existence as the result of the 3trike of 1928. As a matter of fact, the union was established in 1917, and was registered in the State Court of New South Wales in that year. Furthermore, it was given federal registration a year before the strike referred to took place. The members of this union came to the assistance of the Government when the members of the Waterside Workers Federation, in defiance of the recommendations of their committee of management, refused to comply with the award of the Arbitration Court. The members of the union, which had then been in existence in one State for eleven years, came to the assistance of the country and observed the award of the court. The Minister has the temerity to suggest that, because men who were members of the union in 1928 are not members of the union to-day - and I cannot accept that statement-

Senator Keane - Those men had no federal award in 1928.

Senator McBRIDE - They had an award in 1927. My information is that, on the 6th July, 1927, federal registration was granted to the Permanent and Casual

Wharf Labourers Union, and that was over a year prior to the strike of 1928.

The real point to which we take exception is the fact, which has been admitted by the Leader of the Senate, that the Government has put into practice, in the guise of a measure of war-time necessity, what the honorable senator called one of the " cardinal principles " of the Labour party, in order to eliminate a union with which it does not agree.

Senator Collings - I did not say anything of the kind. The existence of two unions in one industry is always a disturbing factor.

Senator McBRIDE - Why was not the Waterside Workers Federation eliminated? I repeat that the Government, has, on the admission nf the Leader of the Senate, used the National Security Act and the exigencies of our war-time situation to implement what he has called one of the cardinal principles of the Labour party. It is well for the people to know that this Government is capable of implementing planks of the Labour party's policy in the guise of war-time measures. We resent and resist this action of the Government. If it is genuinely desirous of bringing about peace on the waterfront it will do as we ask and give to the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union representation on this committee of employment. We realize that, on a proportionate basis, the federation should be represented by two of the three members of the committee^ Surely that would give to the federation the protection to which it is entitled. Although the Minister for Trade and Customs has glibly said that there is nothing in these regulations to jeopardize the position of the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union, I draw attention to the name of this committee - the Waterside Employment Committee. That is the body which will decide upon the employment of those who apply for work on the waterfront. To suggest that, under these conditions, the members of the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union can be assured of equal opportunities for employment on the waterfront with members of the federation is to ask us to stretch our imaginations further than I am prepared to stretch mine. As to regulation 15, I am not in a position to say whether the present membership of the two organizations is sufficient to carry out the work now required on the waterfront. If that be the fact, I suggest that, owing to the urgent demand for manpower, it may be necessary for the Government to prevent any further increase of the membership of those organizations. If the Government considers that the men now registered as members of the organizations are sufficient to carry out the work required on the waterfront, I have no objection to the prevention of additions to the membership, provided the restriction applies to both the Waterside Workers Federation and to the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union ; but to suggest that this regulation would not handicap the latter organization is an insult to one's intelligence. Regulation 15 states that the committee shall not refuse to register or 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. In my opinion, this regulation was designed - and the Leader of the Senate has admitted it in his speech - to annihilate and eliminate the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union.

Senator Collings - I take exception to the remark of the honorable senator and ask that it be withdrawn.

The PRESIDENT - As the words used by Senator McBride have been objected to, I ask that they be withdrawn.

Senator McBRIDE - I withdraw them, but I maintain that the only inference to be drawn from the Minister's words was that regulation 15 was designed to prevent the organization referred to from expanding. If it had no representation on the committee, it would obviously have to pass out of existence. If the Government declines to accept my suggestion, I shall support the motion for the disallowance of the regulations.

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