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Wednesday, 6 July 1949

Mr THOMPSON (Hindmarsh) . - I am wondering where the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt) obtained the information on which he has based his remarks. He has said that the Permanent and Casual Waterside Workers Union was established during the war years.

Mr Holt - I referred to the years of World War I.

Mr THOMPSON - It was established at Port Adelaide in 1928.

Mr Holt - I was not referring to Port Adelaide. The union, as such, was first established during World War I.

Mr THOMPSON - It was not formed in Adelaide until 1928.

Mr Holt - Port Adelaide is not the only port in the Commonwealth."

Mr THOMPSON - The honorable member is merely talking in generalities. I am dealing with the specific case of

Port Adelaide with which I am familiar. He has complained that this bill will compel employers to engage men belonging to the Waterside Workers Federation as though there were something new about that. In 1928, before volunteer labour was employed, members of the Waterside Workers Federation enjoyed preference in employment on the waterfront. In those days employers restricted those included in the pick-up to members of the federation. Only after the members of the federation refused to work, and then after argument extending over two or three weeks, were volunteers permitted to work on the wharfs and the organization known as the Permanent and Casual Waterside Workers Union was established at Port Adelaide. The honorable member is completely wrong when he suggests that that organization was formed during the war. When there was just the ordinary arbitration control of the union the shipowners recognized the principle of preference to members of the Waterside Workers Federation. The honorable member suggests that the Government should select more employees. I point out that every union has its rules and before any man can become a member he must he accepted by the union. If the authority considers that additional men are required in the industry the practice is to advise the Waterside Workers Federation accordingly, and that union has accepted the responsibility of admitting more men. The honorable member stated that he knows that men who want to get into the industry cannot do so. The reason that they want to get into the industry is because of the good remuneration its members receive. The Waterside Workers Federation is not anxious to open its doors and take in a big number of applicants because it wants to retain for its members the opportunity to earn good wages. If the union were " swamped " with all of the men who wish to enter the industry the position that honorable members opposite have complained about would soon arise. Recently the Opposition objected because about £30,000 had been paid out for appearance money. If additional large numbers of men were admitted into the Waterside Workers Federation the amount of appearance money paid would increase considerably. It is necessary to maintain a proper balance between the number of men required and those registered in the industry, otherwise difficulties would occur. I emphasize that long before the waterside workers were the subject of any industrial legislation apart from the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act, the employers recognized the principle of preference of employment to members of the Waterside Workers Federation. At present the federation will only accept as members men of a certain age, and it requires qualifications to be possessed by the men that it admits to membership. Previously any one who was regularly proposed and accepted by the union became a member, and was entitled to be employed by the shipowners. The bulk of the waterside workers in South Australia are at Port Adelaide. The position there is that if there are not sufficient men available to meet requirements, the secretary requests other organizations to supply some of their members to assist. Such employment was not restricted to members of the Waterside Workers Federation. That was the position until recently.

Mr Dedman - That is the position now.

Mr THOMPSON - The Storemen and Packers Union in Port Adelaide also follows that practice. If the Waterside Workers Federation has 1,000 men on its books and that number is able to meet the demand generally, and to earn reasonable wages, no objection can be taken to the reluctance of the organization to increase the number of men in the industry. As I have already pointed out, the port committee now allocates the work, and directs all of the gangs to jobs in turn. At the end of the monthly or threemonthly period it tallies up the amount that each gang has earned, and an effort is then made to equalize earnings as far as possible. If additional men were brought in and workers in the industry did not receive reasonable wages difficulties would arise. This measure deserves to be supported.

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