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Wednesday, 31 October 1956

Mr CURTIN (Kingsford) (Smith) . - I rise to support my colleague, the honorable member for Hindmash (Mr. Clyde Cameron), in his opposition to this bill. I should like to answer a few of the remarks of the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson). The honorable member is typical of the bloc which calls itself the Australian Country party. Ali that its members do, from morning to night, in this House, is to insult the workers of Australia. They hurl insults at the real producers of the wealth of the Commonwealth. The honorable member for Hume is so vicious that he is outstanding among the very bitter and vicious members of the Australian Country party.

Mr. ACTING DEPUTYSPEAKER.Order! I should like to know what this has to do with the bill.

Mr CURTIN - I am answering the honorable member for Hume on behalf of my colleague, the honorable member for Hindmarsh, who cannot answer the attacks that were made on him. The honorable member for Hume opposed incentive payments which, have been paid in accordance with agreements which have been entered into and which this Government wishes to abolish. The honorable member cannot conceive in his wildest dreams why a working man should be paid a little above the basic wage. He has the idea of years gone by of just giving the worker enough to keep him going and to keep him strong enough to work again the next day. The idea was to keep him in debt, in abject poverty, and that is one of the objectives of the Australian Country party and its supporters. The tradesmen of to-day will no longer be dictated to by these people. The tradesmen of to-day demand what they want. They demand their price and, what is more, they wait until they get their price before they do what is needed of them. I shall pass from the honorable member for Hume, because I think that he is sour with respect to the activities of the workers over the past two years, culminating recently in the glorious victory by the shearers in defeating the attempts of members of the

Australian Country party and their supporters to reduce the payment to shearers for each 100 sheep.

This bill has been introduced by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt). He presented the bill, made his second-reading speech, and departed from the House. So distasteful is this bill to the members of his own party that there are now only eight of them in the House, plus the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Fairhall), who is disgusted with the Minister for Labour and National Service because he is not here to pilot the bill.

Mr Pearce - How many Labour members are in the House?

Mr CURTIN - There are only eight members of the Liberal party here, despite the fact that this is a most important bill. This decaying Government has adopted its usual tactics of bringing very important measures into this House in the last days of a dying Parliament. The Minister for Labour and National Service, in his opening remarks, said that the several arbitration bills that he had introduced were interrelated. He said that, in some respects, they were complementary one to the other. The Minister proceeded -

Clauses 17 to 21 are designed to clear up a few drafting points-

How simple and innocent - revealed when the act passed last session was finally printed. There is nothing of any substance here, and I do not think that the House would wish to be wearied-

One of his favourite sayings - with a detailed recital of the reasons for each individual clause.

Let me recite one of the provisions of the bill.

Mr Pearce - Let the honorable member weary us, instead of the Minister wearying us.

Mr CURTIN - I shall tell the people of Australia the truth, which the Minister and the supporters of the Government, who are interjecting, have not had the courage to tell them. Clause 3 (b) of the Australian National Airlines' Bill 1956 reads as follows: -

Any determination or order which was in force under the Public Service Arbitration Act 1920-1956 immediately before the dale of commencement of this Act and applied in relation to the employment of officers or employees of the Australian National Airlines Commission-

That applies to Trans-Australia Airlines - and any determination or order resulting from proceedings referredto in the last preceding paragraph, continues to apply . . . but- " But " is an important word - is subject to any award, order, determination or agreement made under any other act after the commencement of this act. . . .

The last few words destroy the meaning of the whole paragraph. That is what the Minister did not want to weary the House with. He did not want to tell the truth.

There is another bill which concerns the aluminium industry. Clause 4 of that bill reads as follows: -

Notwithstanding the amendment made by this Act, a determination which, immediately before the commencement of this Act, was in force under the Public Service Arbitration Act 1920-1956 and applied in relation to persons appoint ed or employed by the Australian Aluminium Production Commission continues to apply as if section eleven A had not been inserted in the Principal Act, but is subject to any award, order, determination or agreement made under any other Act after the commencement of this Act.

That is another provision with which the Minister did not want to weary the House.

Let us take into consideration the basic wage rates payable in the different States. The aluminium industry is confined to Tasmania. There is an agreement in respect of the aluminium industry, and it is based on a basic rate of £13 18s. a week. This bill will bring the industry under rulings of the Commonwealth court which has pegged the basic wage at £12 16s. So when these bills have been correlated, the effect will be to establish a basic rate of £12 16s. a week for the employees affected by them. In Tasmania, for instance, the difference between that rate and the existing rate will be £1 2s. a week. The Minister said that he did not want to weary the House with a recital of the details. That is one of the details. Immediately this bill is passed, the Australian Aluminium Production Commission will make an application to the court, under this bill, and the employees who are working under an agreement based on the basic wage operating in Tasmania will immediately have their wages reduced by £1 2s. a week. Of course, the workers in Tasmania will be very pleased to hear that immediately this bill is passed their wages will be reduced by £1 2s. a week.

Employees at the St. Mary's project work under a New South Wales act. The New South Wales basic rate is £13 14s. Consequently, the employees at St. Mary's will have their wages reduced by 16s. a week. Of course, the Minister for Labour and National Service would say that he does not intend that their wages shall be decreased. Honorable members know what this Government has done to the arbitration law in the last seven years. The president of the Commonwealth Industrial Court, who will have the responsibility of implementing these bills, has in fact been their architect He has designed them to give himself dictatorial power to rationalize wages, conditions and hours of labour throughout Australia.

The honorable member for Bruce (Mr. Snedden) said that he deprecated the statements of Opposition members and that the Government did not intend to do this or that. When the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) brought down the Stevedoring industry Bill he said that the Government did not intend to do anything, but it is doing plenty. Big business is being given the right to do as it wishes throughout the stevedoring industry and now, with the aid of the Arbitration Court, it will be able to do what it likes elsewhere as well. Even though the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson) suggests that we should not criticize the Arbitration Court, I wish to make the deliberate statement that the action of the president of the new tribunal, in appointing himself to that position, has lowered the prestige of that body to a degree not previously known in this country. The president is a political cat's paw, who has appointed himself for the purpose of carrying out the vicious legislation that has been brought down by this Government. The lack of interest by Government supporters in this bill is demonstrated by the fact that only seven or eight of them are in the chamber, but those who are here must surely realize the political repercussions that will follow this bill. Surely they do not think that the workers of Australia will take it lying down. Do they not realize the strength and determination of the trade union movement? Do they think that my own union, the Boilermakers Society of Australia, will accept the dictation or direction of a political cat's paw who has set himself up as a dictator of the arbitration system? Do they think that my union will accept an attack on their conditions at the Snowy Mountains project, or a reduction of the climatic or living away allowances? As long as they are boilermakers they will not accept those things. That goes for all the craft unions. While they exist they will provide the opportunity to tell Mr. Justice Spicer what the workers think of him. Speaking as a member of the boilermakers" organization. I can say that we shall never accept a reduction in our standard of living. Speaking as a member of Parliament, I fully endorse the sentiments of the members of the Boilermakers Society of Australia.

Mr Turnbull - The honorable member is endorsing his own sentiments.

Mr CURTIN - I endorse a sentiment that was expressed by a majority meeting which I attended. The vicious clauses in this bill will cause no end of industrial trouble. The Minister would be well advised to withdraw and completely redraft the bill before it proceeds further. The honorable member for Bruce has described it as a mere process of rationalization. We all know the sins that are committed under cover of rationalization. We all know what happened to Trans-Australia Airlines under rationalization. This Government gave £4,000,000 of the people's money to Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited so that that organization could place itself on an equal basis with TransAustralia Airlines. Every one knows that the Government wiped off Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited's taxation debt, as well as the amount owing for airport dues. Every one knows that that stank to high heaven.

Mr Joske - I rise to order. For the last five minutes the honorable member has been talking, not about the bill, but about the rationalization of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited.

Mr ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER - I must ask the honorable member for KingsfordSmith to direct his remarks to the bill, f had occasion to do so earlier, and I must ask him to observe my ruling or resume his seat.

Mr CURTIN - My esteemed legal friend, the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Joske), should examine the bills under discussion. He will find that one of them refers to Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, and must surely give honorable members the right to refer to the rationalization of that company and TransAustralia Airlines. I wish to refer to the depressing conditions that obtain in both organizations as a result of the Government's policy of rationalization. If 1 cannot do so, I shall accept your direction to the contrary, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker.

Every one knows of the appalling conditions under which the employees of TransAustralia Airlines are working. The conditions of the air hostesses are disgusting, to say the least. The pilots approached the former Public Service Arbitrator, Mr. G. B. Castieau, but this Government appealed successfully against his award. The result was a reduction of the salary increase awarded to the pilots. Similar action was taken in regard to other employees of Trans-Australia Airlines, notably the air hostesses, who at the moment are trying, through one court or another, to obtain justice. So far, they have failed dismally, and I take this opportunity to bring the injustice under which they are labouring under the notice of Parliament. 1 oppose the bill in its entirety. The Minister loves to pose as a moderate who is happy to appease the trade union movement. His favorite feature writers these days are pleased to refer to him as a man who is subjected to much antagonism in his own party for his moderate treatment o' trade unionists. To the contrary, he is om. of the most vicious Ministers for Labour and National Service we have ever had, and has brought down some of the most vicious legislation that this Parliament has known. An examination of " Hansard " and the statute-book will reveal just how oppressive has been the legislation that he has brought down in the last seven years. The Minister has only to examine his own handicraft - the Stevedoring Industry Bill, the 1952 and 1956 amendments of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act and the culminating effort that we have before us. The Minister is pleased to describe the bill as a very moderate approach and does not want to " weary " us with a detailed description of it. The details are there for my legal friend on the Government benches to examine. By unloading more work on to the arbitration system, the Government will create more work for the legal eagles, who also belong to a union.

Mr Joske - What is wrong with that?

Mr CURTIN - There is nothing wrong with it at all, but unionism means toleration, combining to get justice for all, and not discriminating against another body of unionists. Bar associations are always pleased to protect the interests of their members, and they are assisted, of course, by some members of Parliament, but they do not care whose interests are impinged upon, as long as their own are protected. This bill was introduced by a lawyer, to assist other lawyers to exploit the field of arbitration to the detriment of the trade union movement, by reducing unions to such a state of financial weakness that they cannot resist the attacks of big business.

Mr. ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr. Bowden).- Order! Where is that provision in the bill?

Mr CURTIN - If I had not looked, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker, I should have thought that you were asleep.

Mr. ACTING DEPUTYSPEAKER.The honorable member will either connect his remarks with the bill or sit down.

Mr CURTIN - The bill deals with arbitration. The legalisms in the act, which are to be exploited by the legal eagles, are to be widened considerably by the provisions of this bill. I do not know why you are restricting me, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker.

Mr ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER - 1 would like the honorable member to cite clauses if he makes statements like that.

Mr CURTIN - The clauses are there in abundance. I should like to read a few clauses to honorable members, but I do not wish to weary the Minister with such a recital. However, I shall refer to three or four of them. The Minister, in his secondreading speech, after surveying the background to these bills, said -

What the bills do is-

(a)   To restate the circumstances-

That is a very nice word -

.   . originally set out in the 1955 amending Public Service Arbitration Act, under which the Arbitrator may refrain from dealing with a claim on the grounds that it could be better dealt with in some other way;

Mr Turnbull - I rise to order. 1 remind you, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker, that the Standing Orders provide that tedious repetition is an offence.

Mr. ACTING DEPUTYSPEAKER.Order! The honorable member is now reading from the Minister's second-reading speech.

Mr Turnbull - He has already read it once or twice.

Mr CURTIN - If we had not a secondreading speech to guide us, how would we criticize the provisions? The Minister continued

(b)   to allow the Arbitrator to consent-

Mr Turnbull - We heard that before.

Mr CURTIN - I am merely referring to a few of the points which the Minister brought out, instead of citing the full clauses.

Mr. ACTING DEPUTYSPEAKER.I think that the honorable member is summing up.

Mr CURTIN - The people of Australia and the trade union movement will sum up on this matter. The Minister said -

(b)   to allow the Arbitrator to consent to a claim being dealt with by the Arbitration Commission-

Now we know where that claim will end up after it has been dealt with by the commission -

.   . where he believes it is one which he should refrain from dealing with;

Under the power which the Minister will gain from this bill, the Arbitrator will be told which claims to deal with. The Minister continued -

(c)   to allow an organization comprised only of Crown employees to take a claim to the commission where the Arbitrator refrains-

That is, where the Arbitrator, by deliberate act, refrains from conforming to the requirements of the bill, organizations that consist only of Crown employees will be enabled to take a claim to the commissioner. The Minister went on to say -

.   . from dealing with it or consents to its going to the commission and

(d)   to permit the commission, when dealing with matters affecting Crown employees, to make an award though it may be inconsistent with a law of the Commonwealth affecting the wages and conditions of the employees concerned.

That is one of the provisions with which the Minister did not want to weary honorable members!

We have previously had legislation designed to tie up the trade unions, but some such measures have been broken down by the organized action of the trade union movement. This bill is designed deliberately to do exactly what has been done in the past by anti-Labour governments, and the result, which the Minister is inviting, will be deliberate action by the trade union movement. I suggest that the Minister have a good look at the' bill before he takes any further action.

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