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Wednesday, 10 May 1961

Mr SNEDDEN (Bruce) .- Mr. Deputy Speaker,we have seen this evening a remarkable abdication of responsibility by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell). One would have thought the honorable gentleman had a responsibility, as the spokesman for the Opposition, to examine the bill critically. One would have thought that, having examined it, he would have said, " There is this wrong with it or that wrong with it ". Indeed, one might have expected at least some suggestion of an amendment. The Leader of the Opposition has completely ignored this responsibility, because of his steadfast conviction that what the Australian Council of Trade Unions says is right.

Droves of members of the Waterside Workers 'Federation have been around the King's Hall yesterday and to-day. We have seen them in groups all over this building. We have seen them giving information to honorable members of the Opposition, and we would have been justified in hoping that the Leader of the Opposition would have given us some constructive criticism of the bill. He has given us no such thing. It was not until only three minutes of his time were left that he mentioned any part of the bill at all. It was at that point that he said the Opposition objects to the provision relating to a port stoppage by 250 men or one-third of the men at the port.

The Leader of the Opposition has said he does not agree with unauthorized strikes. He made that point quite plain on three occasions. He has also said that the Opposition believes in the principle of long service leave. What a remarkable synthesis of these two principles is contained in the bill! The legislation is directed towards giving long service leave, and it is also directed against unauthorized strikes.

The Leader of the Opposition says, " I am against unauthorized strikes ". I would like him at some convenient time to tell us what an authorized stoppage is. Of course, there is a provision in the waterside workers' award for eight authorized stop-work meetings each year, four in each sue months. As far as I can see, those are the only authorized stoppages in which waterside workers may take part. I repeat that the Leader of the Opposition has asserted that he is opposed to unauthorized stoppages. It may surprise the House to know that in the last six months of 1960 waterside workers lost 40 hours of work each, on the average, by reason of industrial stoppages. An entire week's work was lost by every waterside worker in that six months. When the Leader of the Opposition says he is against unauthorized stoppages, I remind him that every one of the stoppages that went to make up the 40 hours lost by every waterside worker was an unauthorized stoppage.

Why is not the honorable gentleman saying to us to-night, " I support this bill in its entirely because I am against unauthorized strikes and I am in favour of the principle of long service leave? " He did not say that. He did not even examine the bill. All he did was to tell us that the waterside workers were getting a rough deal. One would have expected him to set out his reasons for objecting to the bill. He might even have been presumed to have read yesterday's " Sydney Morning Herald ", and in particular the letter to the editor by Jim Healy, the secretary of the Waterside Workers Federation, who pointed out what he found 'objectionable in the legislation. If the honorable member had been in the King's Hall, as I was yesterday, talking to a -group of waterside workers, he would have learned from them their reasons for objecting to the bill. But we have not had .from him a single reason for objecting to it, except for an airy-fairy objection which was given three minutes before he sat down, criticizing one provision of -the measure, which I am quite sure the honorable member does not really comprehend.

The Leader of the Opposition went on to say that he felt die promises of Jim Healy to the union were 'capable of achievement. He .-said that State after State has legislated on long service leave. That ls true, but let us bear in mind that State after State legislated on long service leave seven years ago, and if you like to study the long service leave legislation of the States you will find that eligibility in every case is determined according to whether or not there was continued employment with a single employer. To suggest that because some years ago all the States legislated on long service leave, the benefits of similar legislation were within the grasp of the union is complete nonsense. It was because of an enlightened industrial policy, which required that long service leave be granted, that the Government decided to legislate.

The Government's sense of industrial responsibility also required that as well as the provision for long service leave there should be some tightening of industrial discipline on the waterfront. We must remember that the 20,000 workers in this industry have been responsible for 30 per cent. of all lost time from industrial disputes in Australia - 20,000 men in a total work force of 4,200,000. If anybody can stand up in this House or anywhere else and honestly suggest that discipline on the waterfront is adequate, or that the interests of the public are being properly safeguarded, then I will be greatly surprised. Nobody could conscientiously believe that this is so.

This bill is designed to do two things in addition to providing for long service leave - first, to tighten discipline; and secondly, to serve the public interest. The principal way in which it will serve the public interest is by ensuring that economic losses suffered by the community through industrial disputes will be greatly reduced, or even, it is hoped, completely eradicated. That may be too much to hope for at this point of time, but perhaps the time will come when it will be achieved.

The Leader of the Opposition said that he recognized the difference between Commonwealth public servants and the waterside workers. I am glad that he recognized the difference. One might have thought it would be clear to all, but unfortunately, too often, it is obscure. The difference is this: The Commonwealth Public Service, as the Leader of the Opposition said, has a permanent status. Public servants have a permanent, single employer. The waterside worker has not. He has no permanent em ployer. He works for a different employer every day. But perhaps the most important difference which was highlighted by the Leader of the Opposition was the turbulent nature of the waterfront industry. Of course, nobody could find a less apt word to describe the activities of this union, but I will deal with that later on. The Leader of the Opposition suggested that there should be no strikes on the waterfront at all and that the money so saved should go into the funds of the Australian Labour Party.

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - A good idea!

Mr SNEDDEN - A wonderful idea! The Labour Party would not have one credit entry for the simple reason that strikes do not cost the waterside worker a single penny. It has been suggested that the waterside worker has to foot the bill for the " monstrous " fines imposed by the Commonwealth Industrial Court. The maximum fine that the Commonwealth Industrial Court can impose is £500. If that is divided among the 20,000 members of the Waterside Workers Federation it comes to 6d. a man. That is no great penalty.

As was pointed out by the Minister for Labour and National Service in his secondreading speech, too often, after a stoppage on the waterfront, when the men return to clear the ships, penalty rates are incurred. Consequently, the amount of money taken home by the waterside worker is increased by the fact that there has been a stoppage. So, expect nothing from the suggestion that there be no strikes and that the money saved go into Australian Labour Party funds. That procedure would not result in a single credit. The Leader of the Opposition also said that this bill makes a distinction between the permanents on the register and the irregulars on the register on the basis of their age and health.

Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - I rise to order. I have just discovered that the honorable member has appeared in court as a paid agent of the shipowners. I want to know whether it is in accordance with Standing Orders for him now to represent them in the Parliament.

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