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Thursday, 4 April 1957

Mr CLAREY (Bendigo) .- I express my very great regret that the Tradesmen's Rights Regulation Act, which is so essential to the welfare of the industrial life of Australia, has been made the subject of a purely political debate to-night. It is a very important measure, the object of which is toenable us to get the very best results from the productive efforts of Australian industry. It' has functioned only because the trade union movement has agreed to the principleson which it is based. As the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) has said, the trade union movement has co-operated wholeheartedly in the task of making the legislation effective.

I regret that the Minister spoke as he did to-night. If he felt that the trade union movement had taken some action or had made some decision which was likely toaffect adversely the smooth working of the legislation, the right thing for him to do was, not to participate in a purely political debate of the kind that has taken place here to-night, but to take the matter up with the Australian Council of Trades Unions - the body which enables the legislation to function properly. I say, with due respect to the Minister, that his participation in a political debate on this subject, in which he has raised the question of communism in trade unions and the action allegedly beingtaken by one union to thwart the Government, has done more damage than anything else that might have occurred in this chamber could have done.

I deny absolutely the suggestion that theAustralian Engineering Union is under Communist control at the present moment.

I deny absolutely that the persons who were elected to the federal council of that union were elected purely on unity tickets. Anybody who knows what is taking place in the Australian Engineering Union would not be so foolish as to make statements of the kind that have been made here to-night, particularly in view of the importance of this legislation to the smooth working of Australian industry.

I know that when some persons who have come here from overseas claim that they are tradesmen, their claims often are made perfectly honestly, but what we have to bear in mind is that some people who are regarded as tradesmen by the standards of other countries are not regarded as tradesmen by the standards of this country. In Australia, the apprenticeship, training and ultimate graduation, so to speak, of craftsmen are on the English lines, but in many of the countries of central, eastern and western Europe, men who are regarded as having been trained in engineering frequently have been trained only in a specialized branch of engineering. In those countries, apprenticeships are for periods of two or three years, but very seldom four years. Many people who believe themselves to be engineers, and who can produce papers to that effect, cannot meet the requirements of Australian industry. As a consequence, it is essential under those circumstances that there should be examinations by competent tradesmen to ensure that those persons who are admitted as tradesmen in Australia are up to the standards which Australian industry requires.

Mr HAROLD HOLT (HIGGINS, VICTORIA) - Why do they single out Hungarians?

Mr CLAREY - It is no good for the Minister to put that over. Whatever is said, that policy so far has not been put into operation, and if it were put into operation, the last place in the world that we would be able to accomplish any alteration in the policy laid down by the union would be in this chamber in a debate in which charges are made against the trade union movement. I know enough from my experience in the trade union movement to be able to say that, if it is desired that these matters be settled, the Australian Council of Trades Unions has the machinery to settle them. The Australian Council of

Trades Unions has shown, by its cooperation ever since dilution of labour was permitted in World War II., ability to work with the Government to ensure that these things are righted. Whatever trouble there is can be righted if the Government goes about it in the right way. I say again, with great regret, that the Minister has done much to damage himself and the trade union movement in regard to the Tradesmen's Rights Act, by being a party to this debate to-night.

Finally, in regard to the second matter raised by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), I would earnestly suggest to the Minister that he should make some inquiry into the questions which were stated to have been asked of the applicants for these positions. I can understand questions being asked of a person to prove his qualifications to be a research officer. 1 can understand his being asked questions to show that he has the necessary experience; but those questions should not be framed in such a manner as to require an answer, either " Yes " or " No ", in relation to government policy. The applicant is entitled to a fair go, and I suggest that the Minister, in his own interests and in the interests of the Department of Labour and National Service, inquire into this matter.

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