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Wednesday, 24 September 1958


Mr E JAMES HARRISON (BLAXLAND, NEW SOUTH WALES) . - We are indebted to the honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie) for the tributes he has paid to the trade union movement and its members for the part they played in keeping industry going during the war. It is healthy to find that at least on one afternoon the great sacrifice that the trade union movement made is being recognized by every member of this House. It may lead to the line of thought that we should not forget to recall the sacrifices of the men who remained at home. The sacrifices made by the trade union movement in the interests of the nation prove that there is no section of the Australian people more concerned with the defence of this country than the trade unionists. Those of us closely concerned with the movement, like the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey), remember the sleepless nights of May, 1940, after France had fallen. We remember what was involved in the recognition that we in this country had to produce, not only the war material that we needed for ourselves, but also war material to assist the Mother Country in the Middle East and other places. Those of use who were saddled with the responsibility at that stage of changing the line of reasoning of the craft union organizations in Australia will never forget the guarantees that were required by the leaders of the organizations.

It was healthy to hear the honorable member for Moore say that at some stage the trade union movement must say, "So far and no further ". But I am afraidand this is my main purpose in rising to speak - that the pressure that came, as a result of war, for the changing of the approach of the trade union movement, will remain with us for many years to come because of another force. I am hoping, and no doubt everybody in this chamber is hoping, that never again will we have to call on the artisans in industry in this country to make the sacrifices that they made during the last war. As the honorable member for Moore said, thousands upon thousands of men would have much preferred to don uniform and play their part in the fighting forces than to stay behind to work in industry. For instance, the action of the railwaymen during the war is a splendid illustration of what many men would have done had they been permitted to follow their own bent. Large numbers of railwaymen volunteered for overseas service before the man-power regulations were clamped on them to prevent them from doing so. It is well recognized that if the workers of Australia had been allowed to follow their own desires, the great bulk of them would have joined up when the acid test of war came to this country.

One fact on which the honorable member for Moore did not touch, although I thought he might well have done so, was that the men who had to remain behind in industry responded mightily to the nation's need. The great response of the workers year after year during the war should never be forgotten. They responded to the nation's need without stint, although their wages were pegged at the 1937 level.


Mr Turnbull - They were getting better than five bob a day.


Mr E JAMES HARRISON (BLAXLAND, NEW SOUTH WALES) - An interjection of that description is quite unbecoming in a debate of this character, because- 1 tell the honorable member that thousands upon thousands of workers in industry would have much preferred to have served in' the forces at five bob a day than to have remained in industry, as they were forced to do by the man-power regulations. Have a look at how the man-power provisions forced men to say in their jobs! Have a look at the apprentices of that time! They were young men who were anxious to go to the war, perhaps not for the valour involved, but for the experience that they could get - but they were not allowed to go. Every man who was apprenticed in this country during the war was man-powered and pegged to his job. I have in mind one particular apprentice. Every second night he was on patrol on Sydney Harbour. Every second week-end he gave the whole of his time to military training. Yet to-day he is not recognized as having rendered any service in respect of the great national war effort. That is one of the tragedies relating to the sacrifices- made by thousands of men in this country who, under our present system, will never gain recognition for what they did. So I am grateful to the honorable member' for Moore for the tributes that he has paid to those people.

However, I want to go on from where the honorable member left off. He said that the time would come when the trade union movement would say, " So far and no further." I was pleased that the honorable member made the point that the trade unions, particularly the craft organizations, must see to it all the time that they protect the standards of their trades. We are now approaching a stage in this country's development when that is more important than it has ever been in the past. When I was in America towards the end of last year I visited Detroit, and I put to the captains of industry in the automobile factories - the Chrysler factory in particular - the question: " Where are you going to get your apprentices in a period of automation? " The manager of the organization said, " Well, you know where we are getting them from at the present time." I said " I would not know that, which is the reason why I asked the question." They said, " At the present time we have highly trained officers who are doing nothing else but tour Canada to buy tradesmen there, for use in our factories. We do not care what we pay." The point that the trade union organization has to consider - and the honorable member for Bendigo is alive to this - is that the further we go along the road to automation, the further we go along the road of leaving for the .average individual the mere machinist's job, the greater will be the need for the highly skilled artisan, who is going to be the superman in control. That is one point I want to make during this discussion. It is a good thing to recognize that the new Australians come within the framework of this. But we have to go a long way further in relation to the availability of skilled tradesmen in this country than we have ever gone before, if we are going to develop ourselves as a secondary industry nation in the way that we should.

We have to compete with industrial developments in other countries. A new technology will have to be developed in skilled training. There will be a responsibility on the trade unions to see that that is done; but it cannot all be left to the trade unions. There is also a responsibility on the departments associated with the development of this country to see to it that, in the new machine age, our technology advances.

The honorable member for Moore said that he hoped to see the acceptance of the principle of the training of the youth in the skilled trades. I agree with him. But what is happening in the United States of America to-day? There it has been found that that is insufficient. American laws in relation to apprenticeship extend to men of 25, 26 and 27 years of age. A change is taking place. One has only to walk into a factory that is being modernized, particularly a textile factory, to find that a complete change is necessary in the training of artisans.

The trade union movement will play its part in this respect. It will see to it that the new Australian will be afforded an opportunity to receive the training necessary for the operation of the new machinery which has been so carefully described by the honorable member for Bendigo. He will be able to take his proper place; but we will have to go a long way further than that in the future machine age in this country, leaving aside America and the old countries. We have to be prepared to develop, in the very near future, a new training scheme for those who will be displaced. In the new machine age, first of all, it will be necessary to have men who are more highly trained than ever before. But, apart from those men, many unskilled employees will be thrown out of the form of employment to which they have been accustomed, perhaps all their lives.

I give credit where credit is due. The war-time agreement in respect of the dilutees was arrived at between the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), in the short period before his Government fell, and the trade unions and employer organizations. But the whole plan was implemented by a Labour government. I put it to the House that, if we are to take advantage of automation in the new phase of industrial development, we are going to have just as big a problem, as war-time governments had in meeting national man-power requirements.

The honorable member for Moore spoke about " job opportunities ". That is one of the factors that are being taken very closely into account by trade union organizations.


Mr Leslie - There are a lot of youths coming on, -you know.


Mr E JAMES HARRISON (BLAXLAND, NEW SOUTH WALES) - That interjection is in keeping with an outlook which we on this side of the House do not hold. We know full well that any developing country will take care of its youth,

My concern is for those who will be displaced by youth and those who want to take profit out of the industry at the expense of those who are getting old. The retraining of the men and women who will be displaced as a result of the new machine age will become a national responsibility in the very near future in this country just as it will in every other country in which automation is developing. In Germany, there has been a retraining programme for those who have been displaced. In Great Britain, this is recognized as a great problem which has to be faced not only by the trade unions but also by the Government. This is the position in all countries in which the automation age is upon us.

I believe that, before the period that this bill prescribes expires, it will be found wanting in many directions. Admittedly, it will provide the necessary committees to deal with those who are partly trained. But we shall be faced with a much bigger problem than that inside the next three years. As the honorable member for Bendigo indicated, the Opposition is supporting this measure. It has the support of the trade union organizations because it is filling a necessary requirement within the framework of our present standards. But I believe that it will have to be reviewed before long if it is to meet the problem of the displacement of manpower. Consider the railways for example. Merely because of a new technology in locomotion, 50 or 60 married men - skilled tradesmen and semi-skilled tradesmen - are being displaced in certain country towns from jobs to which they have been accustomed. These men will have to be retrained to take their proper place in society. If men are to be displaced because of a new type of locomotion or because of the introduction of any other new machines, there is a responsibility on the government of the day, whatever its political colour, to do two things: One of them is to provide the necessary training for those people in whatever form of work they are going to undertake. The other is to ensure that those people have continuity of employment in the process. The trade union movement will assist, but the responsibility must not rest entirely upon it. A government responsibility is also attached to this problem.







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