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Thursday, 16 May 1957

Mr ANDERSON (Hume) .- No one doubts the good intentions of the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison), but most people would find his argument difficult to follow. I was rather pleased to hear him begin by saying that he did not want transport costs to be increased. He has taken a very strong line in regard to transport, and we all know his. ideas about it. His wish for stable trans. port costs is very laudable, because transport is an important factor in our whole cost structure, but only a few weeks ago he supported an urgency motion favouring the restoration of quarterly adjustments of the federal basic wage. Where does he stand?

Opposition, members jump from one position to another; as: expediency dictates. When the- Arbitration Commission, anrnounced; recently, a 10s. increase, in the federal, basic- wage, every Labour leader in A'ustralia, threw up his hands and. said, " What a- wicked shame, lt- is not nearly enough.". But now we are told that Labour, does not want transport costs to go up. How can wages be increased without adding to costs?

Opposition- members, interjecting,

Mr ANDERSON - The moment one attempts to- bring' the light of reason into the foggy thinking of honorable members opposite, they begin to object. The honorable member for Blaxland, in wanting to keep transport costs down, has a- very good point, for we are living in a competitive world: But- he also advocates everything that will keep costs- up: He' says that reasons given' for an increase of" 5d! are not enough, but the- reasons for that increase were set out' very clearly- by the Minister for Labour and National- Service (Mk Harold Holt).

The estimated cost of the- work of' the Stevedoring Industry Authority was calculated last October, but events since that date have made the bill' before us necessary. There was; first, the question of weather. This- is- always important on the waterfront for, unlike the- land, work does not continue- there when it is raining; as cargoes might be- damaged. In this- case the weather- was- dry and so only a few man-hours were lost. Again, no one could' foresee the Suez Canal dispute or that the Stevedoring Industry. Act would work so well. Every one now acknowledges that' there has been a better turn-round of shipping and that is one of the first things that had to be done to reduce the cost of transport by sea. In common with other primary producers, I am interested in what happens on the waterfront. Indeed, we have to meet, out of our own pockets, the cost, of everything that goes wrong there.

I have before me the speeches delivered by Opposition members during the second reading of. the Stevedoring Industry Bill in. June of last year. Honorable members may recall that. Mr.. Healy was present and this, of course, may. have affected the. attitude of some speakers. One after another, Opposition members attacked the bill as the most, vicious ever directed at a trade-union movement. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) described it as a totalitarian measure designed to smash trade unionism. Even more reasonable members, like the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. 0:Connor) described it as a straight-out attack on the trade union movement. Every Opposition speaker has been proved wrong. The Government believed that, something had to be done and, though things are not yet entirely satisfactory, there are good grounds for believing that a substantial, improvement, has taken place on the waterfront.

The honorable- member for Blaxland also ! said that too many men were engaged on the waterfront. Iti is almost impossible; in. seasonal work, to gauge exactly, what one's labour, requirements will be. One thousand fruit, pickers might be required in a certain- district, but one hailstorm will reduce that number to- 200. Certain conditions which, have obtained in the last six months, have made the estimate of waterside labour requirements- inaccurate. If too. many, men are engaged on. the waterfront, surely the Waterside Workers Federation, can- rectify the position.

One honorable member- opposite spoke about shipping combines, which the Opposition is- always attacking, and' suggested that there were only two- independent shipping lines, and' the Australian Coastal- Shipping Commission- - that all the rest' were interlocked. Surely competition is provided by road and. rail transport. The honorable, member for Blaxland said that the fallingoff. in interstate shipping was; serious. Of course iti is. But the Opposition is always talking about the profits- of the shipping companies-.. How can they, make profits if. their ships are not getting cargoes?. Labour supporters cannot have it both ways, or consider- only, the factors in their favour, neglecting all the others. Business people do not like to use interstate shipping transport because of the. time factor and- the constant danger of hold-ups through turbulence on the waterfront. I make that direct charge,, not against' the waterside workers alone, but against the shipping people also,- for all' sides are equally guilty.

The question of decasualizing the waterfront must concern any government, but there must always be some casual work. I have always followed with interest the views of John Lewis, the great American leader of the coal-miners. His philosophy was that he did not care how many miners lost their jobs, but did care that every one who had a job got good pay. That is sound reasoning. His other point was that if a man wanted good pay he had to earn it. That reasoning could very well be applied to the waterfront of this nation. I believe in high pay; I always have believed in it. But if ships are to be turned around more quickly, and if cargo is to be handled more quickly, we must expect to have a certain number of men moving out of the industry as well as into it.

There is a tremendous turnover of labour in Australia, and that is one of the reasons for our high costs. After a man has got to know a job and has become valuable as a producer, he vacates the job for another. However, there must be a turnover in labour. The men who leave one industry and move into other fields may reduce costs in the industry which they enter. John Lewis has always been prepared for miners to lose their jobs in the American mining industry as it could employ the remainder provided they are well paid and work hard. That is why America is able to compete on European markets with its coal, and it is able to do that only by practising a reasonable philosophy such as that of John Lewis. The people who are engaged in our shipping industry say to the waterfront workers, " If we can reduce costs, you will get more wages ". That is a philosophy which I would support.

There has been a great improvement on the waterfront. There is no doubt about that. I have here figures for the three months of January, February and March showing the hours lost in various ports in Australia. Only two States, Queensland and New South Wales, have bad records. Apart from the waterfront, the number of industrial disputes that take place in the two States of New South Wales and Queensland is always higher than the number elsewhere in Australia. The number of disputes, both on the waterfront and in manufacturing industries in Western Australia, South Australia, Tasmania and Victoria is comparatively small, but the figure is always high in New South Wales and Queensland. Nobody can tell me that there is a vast difference in the character of the workers in the six States of Australia. The only essential difference is that they have different governments. We hope to have a change soon in Queensland, which has one of the rottenest governments we have ever had in Australia. There is an equally bad government in New South Wales. The morale of the nation stems from the top, and it is in Queensland and New South Wales that most of our industrial troubles arise.

I have before me a record of the disputes that have occurred each month in the ports of Australia. There have been minor disputes such as a demarcation issue between the waterside workers and the Australian Workers Union in Queensland. It resulted in the loss of 11,000 man-hours. Sometimes, there are minor troubles in which men lose their jobs because they have been smoking in the ship's hold, and man-hours are lost. There is friction of this kind the whole time. The responsibility is not on one side. In the month of January, the employers were at fault. I believe in putting both sides of the question. In the case of " Iron Master ", the ship's derricks were not working. As I have said, the blame is not all on one side, but if relations were as bad between employers and employees on the land as they are between men and management on the waterfront, how much primary production would we have in Australia? If we on the land were over-ready to fire our men, and the men were prepared to leave us at any moment because of some dispute, what would happen to primary production? I believe that the present position on the waterfront could be rectified. Costs on the waterfront affect every man, woman and child, the people whom honorable members in this House are supposed to represent.

I believe that the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) has made quite a good case for this bill, although red herrings enough have been drawn across the trail. When the Opposition talks about costs on the waterfront and, at the same time, initiates urgency debates designed to increase wages which are the main content of all our costs, I feel that it is not sincerely working in the interests of the people it is supposed to represent. I think that this bill, in which it is proposed to increase charges, is completely justified. The Minister has said that he has spoken to the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge), who has informed him that the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission believes that the improved turnround of ships should make it possible for them to accept the 10s. federal award rise and the increased charge without increasing freights. The Minister also mentioned that Mr. Parker, of Huddart Parker Limited, had referred to the better turn-round of shipping. Those people do not make such comments and then increase freight charges. There is no reason to suspect that charges will go up. In the same speech the Minister said -

It is, perhaps, not unconnected with the good performance of coastal shipping in northern Queensland that there has been a reduction of £1 a ton in freight for cargoes transported southwards from the northern ports.

So it will be seen that the responsibility is on the shipping industry - both the employees and the employers - to try to improve the conditions there, and one of the factors that will operate in this direction is the stevedoring legislation that was passed last June. I commend the bill to the House.

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