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Wednesday, 31 October 1956

Mr THOMPSON (Port Adelaide) . - I have endeavoured to follow the Minister's argument in this matter. The Minister claims that this measure will clear the difficulty up, but I point out that the measure arose as a result of recent difficulties in the pastoral industry over varying awards. If the federal award wage rate in an industry is lower than the State award rate covering the same industry, a man may accept a job at the wage rate under the federal award and later, perhaps in the event of his dismissal, claim payment for the whole of his period of employment at the higher State award rate. I am at a loss to understand how the provision in this clause could prevent an employee from acting in that way. I think that the provision is intended to apply particularly to Queensland. I do not thing that it applies to any other State.

Mr HAROLD HOLT (HIGGINS, VICTORIA) - lt applies to New South Wales. The employer would then make this protection satisfactory from his point of view, by getting some provision inserted in the State award as well. That is how much protection the employee has in this matter.

Mr THOMPSON - You propose to compel the employee to state whether he belongs to an organization so that the employers can have a clause put in an award to meet the position. I can remember the position in industry in the past, when certain kinds of men in trade unions - men of the same type as we find in other spheres - would be prepared, and not only in times of economic depression to accept all sorts of bad conditions of labour in order to gain, or retain, employment. Like the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey), I have had experience in trade unions, and have known of cases of men coming to their unions after they have been dismissed from their employment and telling the unions that the employers have been paying them 10s. a week or £1 a week below the award rates. They then ask the union to recover the amount of under payment for them. Such men were prepared to work at lower than award rates so long as they kept their jobs, and the unions concerned have had to fight their cases for them, although the employees had been acting as they should not have acted by accepting wages below award rates.

The Minister has said that there are other clauses on which we could argue more effectively than this one.

Mr HAROLD HOLT (HIGGINS, VICTORIA) - I did not say that.

Mr THOMPSON - The Minister said something to that effect. But I say to the Minister that the previous measure was just as objectionable to us in many ways as it could possibly be. The Government was able to force that measure through the Parliament by the use of its majority.

Mr HAROLD HOLT (HIGGINS, VICTORIA) - It has not proved to be objectionable to the trade union movement.

Mr THOMPSON - It is all very well for the Minister to speak about the trade union movement. He is speaking about the leaders, for the time being, of that movement. I remind him that the trade union movement consists of the men who make up that movement, and not merely of the leaders of the movement. An honorable member opposite said that when the previous legislation was before us we on this side of the chamber, and especially the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), forecast that all sorts of dire happenings would result from it. I want to say to that honorable member and his colleagues that even this series of provisions is not being taken calmly by the organizations that will be affected. They are not just sitting back and accepting anything the Government cares to do in the industrial field. In my electorate I learn week after week of difficulties that are arising as a result of the Government's industrial legislation, such as the Stevedoring Industry Act. These difficulties stem directly from the powers that the Government provided in legislation which are now being exercised by the various authorities concerned. An honorable member says that these authorities are justified in using those powers. The supporters of the Government claim that the men have accepted the Government's legislation, and that the Opposition's arguments against the legislation are only a lot of bluff. But I tell the Minister that I hate having to read in the newspapers in my own district about twice a week that men are stopping work as a result of the implementations of some of the provisions inserted in industrial legislation introduced by this Government. I do not suggest for one moment that the Minister is including provisions in this measure with the purpose of doing something wrong.

Mr HAROLD HOLT (HIGGINS, VICTORIA) - Be fair. If I understand the honorable member correctly, he is speaking about the provisions of the Ashburner award for waterside workers. Where does that come into this legislation?

Mr THOMPSON - It is not in this legislation.

Mr HAROLD HOLT (HIGGINS, VICTORIA) - What other disputes in South Australia, then, is the honorable member referring to?

Mr THOMPSON - I did not say that that came into this legislation. What I said was that the Minister had spoken about the improvements that have resulted from the previous legislation and that honorable members opposite have stated that what we forecast would happen as a result of that legislation did not, in fact, happen.

Mr HAROLD HOLT (HIGGINS, VICTORIA) - I challenge the honorable member to name any disputes in South Australia, apart from waterfront disputes, that have been the result of our legislation.

Mr THOMPSON - If the Minister knows of anything more devastating than the trouble that has occurred in the waterfront industry, I should like to hear what it is. Honorable members opposite - :not the Minister - have been saying that our case is just a lot of bluff, and that the things we said would happen did not happen. I am pointing out what has been happening week after week. The Minister may say that the troubles I am referring to have occurred in the waterfront industry. I am quite prepared to accept that, but the point I am making is not whether it be the waterfront industry or any other industry, it is that if the Government puts certain clauses in this legislation it will produce a condition that will engender in the men the feeling that they must stop work in protest against these provisions. The Minister has told us about these two awards covering the pastoral industry, but I do not think that that position warrants the insertion in the legislation of the present provisions. I agree with the honorable member for Bendigo that the Minister could well delete these clauses. Does the Minister think that if the provision contained in clause 6 had been in the act when the federal award in the pastoral industry was made, it would have prevented the difficulties that arose? I say that it would not have prevented any upheaval that came about, and I hope that the Minister will reconsider the necessity for the elimination of section 54 of the principal act.

Question put -

That the clause be agreed to.

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