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Thursday, 16 November 1939

Mr HOLLOWAY (Melbourne Ports) . - I support the opinions expressed by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), and trust that a definite pronouncement will be made by the Government at an early date. It is dangerous to interfere in this way in marine or other industrial disputes, and, in view of the action taken in this instance, those expressing sympathy with the unfortunate men concerned may become involved. There is a keen sense of loyalty amongst all seamen, and these men are likely to receive substantial support in many directions. The coolie crews on overseas steamers have a strong organization and, although the coloured members of ships' crews do not all belong to the same organization, they have means of conveying information from one ship's crew to another. I believe that the Himalayan mountain coolies usually work as firemen, and that those who come from Calcutta and Bombay are generally employed as seamen, but they have more or less the same interests, and, generally speaking, Asiatic seamen have similar religious beliefs. I trust that the Government will have very careful inquiries made as to whether a Minister or an official is responsible for suppressing information in connexion with what may be a legitimate industrial dispute. I do not believe that any anti-

British influence is responsible, because other Asiatic crews have received additional pay and improved conditions to cover the risks involved in the war zone. Already some of the coloured, as well as the white, crews have been given increases of pay in order to compensate them for the extra risks which they are obliged to run at this period. Freight and insurance rates have been automatically increased, and the shipping companies have adjusted the wages of some of the crews. Evidently, however, they have not dealt with all of the crews in this manner, and this particular crew, having been informed of what has been done for crews on other ships, has asked for similar concessions. Sometimes the chief officer of a ship who handles the crew is not so good as another man in performing that work. Some of these officers frequently adopt the policy of the big stick. I know that 75 natives were brought out last week to take the places of men who are protesting. Consequently the dispute has developed into a contest between the men and the owners. I ask the Minister to take steps to prevent this dispute from developing into a serious industrial conflict. I am sure that no one, not even the men concerned, wants to see that happen. This trouble, therefore, should be nipped in the bud. If no legitimate reason exists for such action it is a drastic interference with the liberties of the people of Australia to try to deny them knowledge of something so important as an industrial dispute.

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