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Tuesday, 20 October 1964


Senator BENN (Queensland) .- Senator Morrissaid that there is no way in which you can compel youths to take on apprenticeships. That is admitted. You cannot get them by the scruff of the neck and place them in apprenticeship vacancies. But there is economic compulsion in the community. Why are members of the Public Service sitting in the Senate tonight? Why are we sitting here? There is a force behind us all that compels us to do things. In 1960 there was such a excess of lads seeking employment in the Commonwealth that they constituted a serious problem to every branch of the Department of Labour and National Service. Now that I have mentioned the Department, I say that it has many clever officers who are quite capable of carrying out the work that is required at the present time and also to undertake new projects, such as I outlined a while ago.

If the report of the Commonwealth-State Apprenticeship Inquiry had been passed over to two or three officers of the Department back in 1954; if a quiet word had been spoken to them about the future requirements of the Commonwealth, and if it had been pointed out to them that probably in 1964 there would be a serious shortage of journeymen to carry out essential work, and that the shortage would impede the development of the Commonwealth, those officers would have done their utmost to overcome the difficulties. They would have furnished weekly or monthly reports as required showing the progress they were making. They would have kept this matter under their notice and would have found a way in which all the problems could have been solved progressively. There would not be the sad situation which confronts us today.

There has to be a percentage of skilled journeymen in the community to create employment for other workers. There is no constitutional power that the Commonwealth can use in respect of apprenticeship matters. Such matters are left to the States. But in Commonwealth awards reference is made to apprentices and we find that apprentices, whose employment is covered by Commonwealth awards, are attending technical colleges provided by the States. This matter has to be ironed out and, of course, the Commonwealth Government is, shall I say, the major governmental unit in the Commonwealth today. The six State Governments should be able to get together as a body and say: " We will build up a perfect apprenticeship scheme. We will not have the higgledy-piggledy set of arrangements that exists at the present time."

I know that all the States have not provided for a fair measure of apprenticeship. South Australia did almost nothing for years, lt did not even make it compulsory for juniors employed in skilled trades to be made apprentices. In Queensland it is compulsory for every employer who has juniors employed in a skilled calling to indenture them for a period of four or five yeaTs, or for whatever period is prescribed by the Apprentices and Minors Act, by regulation or by an award. ] am not dealing with this matter on a party basis at all. 1 am dealing with it because it is a serious matter, so far as the Commonwealth is concerned. From where do we get our apprentices? How are they to be trained? First, there is the orthodox apprenticeship schemes; secondly, there are schemes which provide for some form of adult entry, such as the Commonwealth Rehabilitation Training Scheme, adult apprenticeship or upgrading, and thirdly, there is migration. I think that migration has been tested fairly well, but at the present time the resources of migration in this respect are strained, ft has not produced nearly the number of journeymen required in the Commonwealth at the present time. The orthodox apprenticeship scheme, which is operating in the various States, could be improved considerably if there were closer co-operation between the Commonwealth and the States.

I know that some State instrumentalities, which are capable of employing apprentices, are not employing their full quota. I should say that some railway departments in the States do not employ their full quota of apprentices at the present time. They are not employing the number of fitters and turners, boilermakers and coachbuilders that they could employ. If they do not train them, to whom are they to look for their journeymen in the future? I have passed some of the railway workshops in New South Wales and have seen the notices posted up outside saying that tradesmen, such as coachbuilders and others, were required. They may have done their duty in the past and trained their own apprentices but that is what 1 have seen.

The same thing happens in Queensland. The railway authorities say: " We do not require so many boilermakers and fitters' and turners in the loco shops now. We do not require so many electricians. So we will take on only sufficient apprentices for our own requirements." That is a selfish attitude to adopt in respect of apprentices.

Every workshop, whether it is owned by the State Governments, by the Commonwealth, or by private individuals, should be used as a training establishment for apprentices. Speaking generally, the requirement is one apprentice for every two journeymen. Employers should take their full quota of apprentices. The Commonwealth Government has an inglorious record, so far as apprentices are concerned. I remember when it sacked apprentices engaged in the building trade in the year when the system of day labour was changed to one of contract labour.

A general review of the apprenticeship scheme should be made at the present time. It should be launched immediately, not in 1965 or 1966. These are matters that do not solve themselves. Someone with the requisite power has to say. "This must be done. You can use propaganda if you like, but it is much better if you use the law." I have used the law in the past and have had many people prosecuted and fined, because in Queensland it was compulsory for employers to indenture apprentices in trades. Many employers did not believe in the apprenticeship scheme, but many others did. I had the experience that some of the employers who opposed the scheme became its greatest supporters after they saw the benefits of it. They made their workshops available for the training of apprentices. The engineering shops were made available to the boilermakers for setting out and other classes of work, and also to the fitters and turners. These problems can be overcome, and I am saying now that they should have been overcome three or four years ago by someone in the Commonwealth Government with a little drive and a little force. Most of us here back in 1954 saw that these conditions would develop. We expected the Government to face up to the problems and to say: " Here is a national duty to be performed. It must be performed efficiently."

How can industry expand without a full quota of journeymen? lt is almost impossible. We cannot expand without tradesmen, and we cannot have tradesmen unless we are prepared to train our own. We must face up to training apprentices. We must give the youth of the Commonwealth the opportunity to learn trades. Boys went to school last year, they are going to school this year and they will be going to school next year. Surely the Education Departments could do some propaganda work with the boys. If boys see on the national television stations trade work being done, we will not be able to cope with all of them who will be applying for apprenticeships. I know from my own experience that trade work fascinates most boys. We get the boy who wants to be a clerk all his life, but he is the odd individual.

I will return to what I said a moment ago. The Commonwealth Government has failed in its task. It has failed the people of Australia. I will admit that so far as Queensland is concerned - I have some knowledge of Queensland - the development that has taken place there in. the past 12 or 18 months has never been exceeded at any time in its history. Never in the past has so much developmental work been done in Queensland as has been done in the past 12 or 18 months in the sugar industry and in other industries. Many of the big under takings have found it necessary to expand, but when they require additional tradesmen, as they do at present, they cannot find even one tradesman anywhere. The buildings that are being erected are being erected despite a shortage of labour.

Senator Morrisspoke about the present disquiet in industry. This is one of the causes of the disquiet. You cannot solve one problem until you solve the other. I suggest seriously to the Minister that he speak to someone in the Ministry, even to the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies). If he likes to make an appointment with the Prime Minister for me, 1 shall tell the Prime Minister what is wrong. I. do not mind meeting him and telling him what he should do, but I draw the the line at meeting the present Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon). I do not think we could persuade him to do anything. I conclude on that note.







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