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Wednesday, 10 May 1961


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER - Order!


Mr SNEDDEN - But we have not had cheap transportation.. As a nation, we have been the victims of very high distribution costs both internally and externally. When these costs are increased by industrial di'sr turbances on the waterfront, those who suffer are not. just union members, or any other people who are identifiable as a group or a type. The people who suffer are the community as a whole. And because the. community as a. whole suffers, the responsibility for taking action in the matter is a. governmental responsibility. There have teen disciplinary powers in the hands of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority, but, unfortunately, those powers have been such as could not be exercised in a manner which would reduce the number of stoppages on the waterfront.

This union which finds itself in a position so strategically important in relation to the nation's economy is led by a general secretary who has in his hands all the elements of tyrannical control of the union. There can be no doubt about the iron-fisted control exercised by Mr. Healy, the general secretary of the Waterside Workers Federation of Australia. Equally, of course, nobody can doubt his very great capacity of mind. But, unfortunately, the capacity of his mind is directed against the public interest, and we, as members of a political party, supporters of the Government and members of this Parliament, have a responsibility to intervene in such a way as to take away from Mr. Healy the control exercise by him in directing this union against the public interest. Any one who may have any doubt of the way in which he has exercised this control needs only to look at the records.

The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) told us that there were 107 24-hour stoppages on the waterfront in Australia last year. References to stoppages on the waterfront are seen with alarming frequency in the newspapers. The most extraordinary reasons are given for these stoppages. Perhaps the most extraordinary of all was that given for a stopwork meeting held the other day. One of the four opportunities to hold authorized stop-work meetings in Sydney in the current half-year was used by the Waterside Workers Federation the other day in order to express publicly its confidence in the regime of Fidel Castro in Cuba. What an extraordinary use of an authorized stopwork meeting! There are other reasons for strikes. There are on the waterfront imaginary ills and there are some real ills. I do not suggest that there are not real ills. The arbitration system exists to correct them. That system is something which we believe in. It will be utilized by this measure.


Mr Uren - Take out the objectionable provision.


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER


Mr SNEDDEN - If there is a feeling of danger on the part of a gang working on a particular ship, the members of the gang are entitled to bring their state of mind to the attention of somebody. And, indeed, if they are convinced that thereis danger, they are entitled to take some action about it. But nobody ought to try to convince anybody else that a situation in which one gang is in some danger on one ship is an excuse for a general walkout throughout the whole port.

Strikes of other kinds are common. They are held, for example, to stage public demonstrations outside the law courts in Law Courts-place, in Melbourne - demonstrations at which judges of the Commonwealth Industrial Court are burned in effigy and at which groups of men are assembled and addressed at large by members of the union, such as vigilance officers and branch secretaries, about the dreadful arbitration system and the shocking penal clauses in the act. The lack of respect which these people show for the court and for the act outside the court, however, is as bad as is their contempt before the court. Mr. Docker, the union's advocate, only two months ago stood before the court and said, in effect: " We will take no notice of the orders of the court. In fact, we reserve to ourselves the right to strike whenever we see fit to do so." This was said at the hearing of a contempt charge to which the union pleaded guilty.

These are the sorts of things which have brought public regard for the Waterside Workers Federation to its lowest ebb. We all know that 90 per cent. of the members of this union are fine, decent men. They are decent Australians who are seeking to earn their living in their chosen calling, and the responsibility of giving them the unfettered opportunity to do this is a governmental responsibility. You and I know, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that the Australian worker does not want to go on strike. This is proved by the fact that Australia has an extremely good industrial record. If we put on one side the two most troublesome groups - the waterside workers and the seamen - we in this country have a very good industrial record. Is there a fundamental difference between the man who works in a factory and the man who works on the waterfront? What is it that makes a man who works in a factory want to go on working in order that his and the country's economic lot may be improved? What is there about the waterside worker that makes him want to go on strike in the fashion that is so common? The answer, of course, is that there is no difference between the two except leadership. The difference is to be found in the leadership to which the waterside worker is on many occasions subjected, and therefore this Government has to do something about the problem.


Mr Reynolds - That is an absolute insult to these men.


Mr SNEDDEN - If the honorable member for Barton thinks that it is an insult for me to say that the Waterside Workers Federation isled against the public interest by its Communist leader, I should like him to make perfectly clear where he stands. If he says that he supports the Communist leader of the federation, we shall know precisely what his position is. There will be an opportunity to reflect on these things.


Mr Pollard - It is time the Government checked on the profiteering activities of the shipowners. Their sins go unseen.


Mr SNEDDEN - The honorable member for Lalor has been in this place and in a house of the Victorian Parliament for a total period almost as long as that for which many members of the Waterside Workers Federation have belonged to their union - just about since the turn of the century. The honorable member, like some of them, has given no thought to the fundamental principles of the economic advance of this country. He cares not for that. All he is concerned about is responding to pressure from a Communist-led union. Why?

This is true, for goodness sake. The Australian Council of Trade Unions does not share the views of the Waterside Workers Federation. Mr. Monk, the leader of the council, is a respected man. His views were reported in the press to-day. I admit that one cannot always accept a press report with complete confidence, because the press can sometimes report only parts of statements, and often there is a qualification which is not printed. But I am certain, from Mr. Monk's activities in the past that, insofar as he is reported in this morning's press, he does not approve unauthorized stoppages. He warned the union against them, and I am sure that he was accurately reported. Yesterday, the interstate executive of the council met in Adelaide. Four or five Communists were at that meeting.


Mr E James Harrison - That is a lie!


Mr SNEDDEN - How many were there?


Mr E James Harrison - There were only two there yesterday.


Mr SNEDDEN - Only two? Name them!


Mr E James Harrison - I shall tell the honorable member about it.


Mr SNEDDEN - There are no fewer than four Communists on the interstate executive, and the honorable member for Blaxland knows it well. One of the Communists is Healy himself. Notwithstanding that, the interstate executive of the Council--


Mr Uren - Name them!


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER - The honorable member for Reid will come to order.


Mr Uren - Name them!


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER - Order!


Mr Uren - Well, he should name them


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER - I name the honorable member for Reid.

Motion (by Mr. McMahon) put -

That the honorable member for Reid be suspended from the service of the House.







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