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Friday, 18 September 1942

Mr McEWEN (INDI, VICTORIA) - As compulsory unionism is the law in Queensland, will the Prime Minister indicate whether it is the policy of the Government that men who are called up for compulsory service in the Civil Constructional Corps and are drafted to Queensland shall become unionists in accordance with the State law!

Mr CURTIN - To men employed in the Civil Constructional Corps, the Government has decided to apply the award of the State or district relating to the class of work that is being done. That includes the rate of pay, and all the conditions prescribed by the award. Awards in Queensland make it obligatory upon a person to become a member of a union.

Mr McEwen - Jb that the law or the award ?

Mr CURTIN - I think that it is both, but it is most certainly the award. So far as the Commonwealth Government is concerned, it is the award which is the direction to the Allied Works Council, and I understand that the Australian Workers Union award in Queensland includes that provision.

Mr McEwen - Will it be an offence if a man who is called up for service in the labour corps does not join a union ?

Mr CURTIN - The honorable member L« interrogating me. First, he asks me whether the Government will apply the law or the award, and I answered by saying that the Government will -apply the award, and that happens to be the law. It would not be a safe course for the Government to attempt systematically bo set aside State laws or awards when dealing with industry. Earlier, I indicated that some State awards fix different rates of pay for the same class of work. Men who are called up in New South Wales to undertake work in Queensland will, under the decision made by the Commonwealth Government, have to work for lower rates of pay than they would receive if the work were being done in their own State. The Government has asked the court to examine the position, and to provide a formula to meet the anomaly. It is easy to say that the Government should pay the rate that applies in New South Wales. Once that instruction were issued, I have no doubt that the highest rate in any particular award of any State would become the general rate over the whole field. The problem of labour, said Thomas Carlyle, is the supreme problem of the world, and it takes all the statesmanship of the world to cope with it. It is the most difficult and imponderable problem which comes to governments ; and

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