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Thursday, 5 March 1942


Senator SPICER (Victoria) .- I paraphrase some of the remarks which have just been made by the Minister for Aircraft Production (Senator Cameron) by saying that if the Government would forget everything else and devote itself to a united effort to win the war, we should not be engaged in this discussion to-night. It comes ill from the honorable senator to tell this chamber that it should not be concerned with petty issues, and that we should not open up old wounds. Who opened this wound? Who opened up this issue?


Senator Cameron - Honorable senators opposite.


Senator SPICER - The Government opened up this issue by the gazettal of these regulations. We were told by the honorable senator in the course of his speech, in various phrases which meant the same thing, that the position on the waterfront, and I agree with him, has improved immeasurably. He also told us that relationships on the waterfront were much better than previously. I agree with him on that point also. In that set of circumstances, when the relationship between these two bodies of men was improving, the Government introduced regulations designed to slowly murder one of those organizations. The regulations are in no way associated with the task of winning the war. We had a long speech from the Leader of the Senate (Senator Collings) on this subject, when he had much to say about democracy but little to say about these regulations. I believe that if we are to preserve our democracy in Australia it is essential that this chamber should see that this kind of thing does not take place. The Ministry is charged with a tremendous responsibility. Parliament has given to it enormous powers for one purpose and one purpose only, namely, to enable it to take any action which it thinks necessary for the defence of this Commonwealth. It is a distinct abuse of those powers to use them for other purposes. So long as I find a government doing that, I shall resist it to the utmost. The strongest condemnation of these regulations was provided in the speech of the Leader of the Senate when he opposed the motion. He did not attempt to show that the regulations are necessary for the defence of Australia. That is what he should have done. He told us frankly that they are for the purpose of giving effect to a cardinal principle of Labour's policy. Can any one imagine a greater abuse of the powers vested in the Ministry for the defence of the Commonwealth than to use them deliberately to give effect to some petty theory of a party policy? The

Leader of the Senate said that this matter involved a cardinal principle of the party to which he belonged, that there should not be two organizations on the waterfront.


Senator Collings - There should not be two organizations working in the one industry because such a position always leads to friction and trouble.


Senator SPICER - No evidence has been given to the Senate that it has led to friction and trouble in this case. Indeed, the Minister for Aircraft Production has stated that conditions were improving prior to the promulgation of the regulation on the 28th January. Any one who knows anything about conditions on the waterfront in Melbourne knows that they have been highly satisfactory during the last few years.


Senator Collings - And still more satisfactory during the last few months.


Senator SPICER - How can it possibly contribute to harmony on the waterfront to say to members of a lawful organization of men carrying on their occupation in accordance with the law of the land, that the Government is going to slowly murder them, and that it is going to create a committee to control their activities upon which they are to be given no representation at all.


Senator Collings - Where have we mentioned slow murder?


Senator SPICER - It is clearly set out in regulation 15, which prescribes that the committee shall not refuse to register, or cancel or suspend the registration of a man who is at present a member of the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union. But the Government takes jolly fine care that no more members will be allowed to join that organization.


Senator Collings - Where have we said that?


Senator SPICER - Regulation 15, which prescribes that the committee shall not refuse 'to register, or cancel or suspend the registration of a present member of the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union by reason of the fact that he happens to be a member of the present organization.


Senator Collings - Does the honorable senator want anything fairer than that?


Senator SPICER - If the Government wishes to be fair in the matter itwill provide that at no time shall the committee refuse to register, or cancel or suspend the registration of any present, or future, member of the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union. But the Government is not prepared to do that. If it did so, that organization might secure new members and thereby retain its strength of 1,100 members. It prefers to tie up the organization by ensuring that no new members shall be enrolled in it.


Senator Keane - Who said that the membership of that organization was 1,100?


Senator SPICER - I am informed that the membership of the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union is 1,100, and that that of the Waterside Workers Federation is 1,800. All that we ask is that these 1,100 men be given one representative, and the 1,800 members of the Waterside Workers Federation, two representatives on the committee. What could be fairer than that?


Senator Clothier - Has the honorable senator read regulation 17?


Senator SPICER - Regulation 17 does nothing to ensure that a person shall be entitled to register as a member of the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union, and if he secures registration, to ensure that his registration cannot be cancelled just because he happens to be a member of that union. If the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union were an illegal organization the Government could not treat it more unfairly. If it had been guilty of the commission of the most heinous crime, the Government could hardly deal with its members more unjustly.


Senator Cameron - How many organizations are there in the honorable senator's profession ?


Senator SPICER - I do not propose to discuss irrelevant matters. The honorable senator asked us to have some regard for the other fellow's point, of view. Has he had any regard for the point of view of a member of the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union ?


Senator Cameron - Yes, we are trying to improve his position.


Senator SPICER - We are only asking that the Government shall have some regard to his point of view. He has been- working on the wharfs for years in accordance with the law of the land. He belongs to an organization which is recognized by the Arbitration Court, and is a perfectly lawful organization. Consequently, the Government is not justified in putting that organization upon a different basis from that of the Waterside Workers Federation. We do not raise these issues for the purpose of making political capital. I remind the Leader of the Senate that the Opposition has done much to assist the Government to put its most atrocious regulations into some kind of order. Regulation 76 was most outrageous; and when the honorable senator sees the revised version he will see the value of consulting the Opposition in such matters. We now give to the Government an opportunity to follow a similar course in respect of these regulations. In the interests of our war effort and the community as a whole, and in the interests of justice to these men, the Government should consult with honorable senators on this side of the chamber, and agree upon an amendment of these regulations which will ensure a reasonable, sensible and workable scheme. I urge the Government to amend regulation 5 by giving one representative out of the three to the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union.


Senator Courtice - Have they asked for it?


Senator SPICER - Yes, they asked me to do what I could.


Senator Collings - Not one honorable senator on the Government side of the chamber has had a letter from any of them.


Senator SPICER - I assure the Leader of the Senate that I was approached by representatives of the organization weeks before the regulations came into being, and I was urged to make an endeavour to get some such representation on this committee as there would have been on the committee proposed by the Menzies Government.


Senator Keane - Who did the honorable senator see about it?


Senator SPICER - I saw the secretary of the union.


Senator Keane - Did the honorable senator see the Minister?


Senator SPICER - What a waste of time it would have been for me to see the Minister. We have been discussing this matter now for six hours in an endeavour to get some modification, but the Government apparently is not prepared to do anything about it. All that is necessary is to amend these two regulations in the way indicated, and I believe that by so doing we shall be contributing to harmony on the waterfront. If these regulations are persisted with, far from assisting our war effort, they will create disharmony and put a serious brake on the war effort on the waterfront at least.

Question put -

That regulations numbered 5 and 15 of the National Security (Waterside Employment) Regulations issued under the National Security Act 1939-1940, and included in Statutory Rule No. 19 of 1942, he disallowed.







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