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Wednesday, 14 May 1930


Senator DALY (South Australia) (Vice-President of the Executive Council) . - I regret that the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce) should have introduced into his speech matters which were obviously intended to prejudice the fair trial of this particular issue. The disallowance of a regulation is a serious step which the Senate should not be prepared to take except upon some clear and well defined principle. Otherwise, it might be found disallowing regulations simply from caprice, or perhaps to humiliate the Government. I invite honorable senators to approach the question, not from the standpoint of whether the waterside-workers were right or wrong in striking when they did, or whether Parliament was right or wrong in passing the Transport "Workers Act, but on the assumption that the previous Government was absolutely justified in introducing that act, and to ask themselves whether the present Government, in making this regulation, has done anything contrary to the letter or spirit of that legislation which its critics have placed upon the statute-book.

In order to. bolster up his case against the Government, Senator Pearce quoted an anonymous letter. I have been in the Ministry for but a few months, but if I were to take notice of all the threats conveyed to me by anonymous correspondents, I should certainly have more grey hairs in my head than I have. I can assure the Leader of the Opposition that the Labour movement is just as sane to-day as it was when he was a member of it, and that threats of the nature of those he mentioned could not and have not emanated from the Labour party. If the right honorable senator has any fears as to the safety of the particular gentleman to whom the letter was addressed, or if that gentleman himself is anxious for an assurance from those of us who are sitting on this side of the chamber, I can give the assurance that we stand behind the Opposition in their statement that threats will not deter them from doing what they conceive to be their duty. That is the attitude of the Government. No threat by the Senate, nor any humiliation sought to be placed upon the Government by the Senate, will deter Ministers from doing what they conceive to be their obvious duty. Honorable senators must remember that although the numbers in the Senate may be against the Labour Government to-day, they may be in favour of the Government tomorrow. I ask honorable senators also to remember that Ministers have some feelings in the matter, so that when a regulation is issued, honorable senators ought not to rush off to try to ascertain what some person has said in some trades hall. They do not hear of honorable senators supporting the Government referring to the fact that a member of another place rushed into print with the declaration that the Senate would be instructed to take certain action. "Would any one suggest that it was possible for honorable senators of the Opposition to be instructed by Mr. Gullett or some one else as to what they should do ? It would be just as reasonable for me to suggest that Mr. Gullett has the power to instruct honorable senators as it is for suggestions to be made that the Government is bound by what some one has said in the Melbourne Trades Hall. I have asserted on several occasions, and I repeat, that the present Government owes allegiance to nobody outside Parliament except the people who placed it in power, and accepts no responsibility for statements made by unauthorized persons.

What principle has been infringed by the framing of this regulation? It has nothing whatever to do with the matters mentioned by Senator Pearce. It is not, as the honorable senator said it was, an attempt on the part of the Government to introduce preference to unionists. There is no mention of preference to unionists in the regulation itself and its observance by the employers would not bring us one step nearer to preference to unionists than was possible prior to its introduction. I challenge the honorable senator's suggestion that the regulation has obviously overridden a decision of an arbitration tribunal. Senator Pearce did not show us in what respect an arbitration decision had been overridden. It is true that Chief Judge Dethridge, very early in this dispute, made certain statements regarding the psychology of the two contesting camps on the waterfront and said that because of the abnormality of the conditions prevailing in these two rival camps, it would be better to keep them apart. But those were the conditions applying months ago. They do not apply to-day. The best test to apply is to ascertain what has actually happened. Senator Pearce has referred to certain fears that were in the mind of Chief Judge Dethridge about men being thrown into the sea. I have not seen where any one has been thrown into the sea, although this regulation has been in operation for twentynine days.


Senator Sir George Pearce - There are too many police to permit of that being done.


Senator DALY - There are no more police on the wharfs to-day than there were prior to the introduction of the regulation.


Senator Sir George Pearce - That does not apply to the pick-up place.


Senator DALY - There is no need for police protection at the pick-up place. There has never been the semblance of a riot. The feelings between the two camps are not what they were months ago.


Senator Ogden - What is the object of the regulation?


Senator DALY - It has been introduced so that the operations under the Transport Workers Act can be effectively policed; so that we can have a common pick-up place and so that we can see if it is not possible to engender in the hearts and minds of the two contesting factions the absolute necessity of seeing if they cannot come together and get rid of the existing trouble.


Senator Reid - That would not create more employment.


Senator DALY - At Port Adelaide, trade has been absolutely ruined because of the refusal of the ship-owners to give employment to the members of the Waterside Workers Federation, or, at any rate, because of the discrimination shown in giving employment. The same conditions apply at Port Melbourne, and it is absolutely essential in the interests, not only of the industry itself, but also of those who are dependent on it, that some way should be found out of the present difficulty. The Government has no desire to commit any breach of the law.

The position on the waterfront has given Ministers the gravest concern ever since they have been in office, and different avenues of settlement have been explored. We are really at our wits' end. The difficulty is that we cannot get to the shipping lords in Great Britain. If the matter were left to the Australian shippers and stevedores the trouble could be settled within ten minutes.


Senator Ogden - What would be the nature of the settlement - the employment of none but unionists?


Senator DALY - That question does not apply, because I take it that the volunteers have their own trade union organization. The Waterside Workers Federation knows its limitations to-day. If honorable senators opposite were only in the same position as the Government is to see how near we are to a settlement of this trouble, instead of harassing Ministers by moving for the disallowance of regulations on no ground whatever, they would be assisting the Government by allowing the matter to stand.


Senator Reid - Can the Minister produce any evidence that the overseas shippingowners have interfered?


Senator DALY - I have not the records here, but I do not think there is very much doubt that no settlement of this trouble can be reached without reference to Great Britain. South Australian shippingagents can confer with South

Australian workers, but the result of their deliberations must be referred to a central shipping committee located, I believe, in Melbourne, and before there can be any final settlement the matter must be referred by the shippers to their Home offices.


Senator Sir William Glasgow - The same thing applies to the union authorities ?


Senator DALY - I am not suggesting that the procedure is uncommon, but that it is unfortunate. The dispute has gone beyond Australia. That, however, does not affect this particular matter. I ask honorable senators opposite in what respect the regulation offends against the principles which should guide a government in the framing of regulations. Surely it is not going to be contended because the members of the present Opposition, when in power, were in favour of the Transport Workers Act and we, then in opposition, were opposed to it, that a regulation now made by us under it should be disallowed. I urge upon honorable senators the importance of this motion from the viewpoint of constitutional government. The Opposition majority in the Senate should not be used against the Government unless it has done something contrary to the principles of legislation. I ask honorable senators to calmly and dispassionately study the regulation in an endeavour to see what principle, if any, has been infringed. The regulation is strictly within the four corners of the act under which it has been framed. There has been no overriding of a decision of the Arbitration Court in the matter of preference. There is nothing in it to which exception can be taken.


Senator Chapman - Does it not override the decision of the court in regard to pick-up places?


Senator DALY - No.


Senator Sir William Glasgow - It fixes a pick-up place.


Senator DALY - Merely for the engagement of labour under the award. The volunteer workers are not engaged under an award of the court.


Senator Sir George Pearce - The judge refused to do what the Government has done and he gave his reasons.


Senator DALY - Early in the dispute, when feeling was running very high, there occurred many of those regrettable incidents to which the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce) referred. The judge refused an application of the Waterside Workers Federation to make the old pick-up place, which was .the federation's rooms, the only pick-up place under the award. He refused the application and said that in view of the high feeling which existed between the two factions, the volunteers should have a separate pick-up, and so the practice continued. The court could not order a pick-up place for the volunteers.


Senator Sir George Pearce - Yes it could.


Senator DALY - It is idle for the right honorable senator to make that assertion. I think Senator McLachlan, as a lawyer, will support my statement, that the court cannot prescribe conditions of labour in respect of men who are not bound by the award.


Senator Sir George Pearce - It could provide for preference to unionists and then prescribe the place of pick-up.


Senator DALY - Then why not wait until the court has given preference 'o unionists and provided for a pick-up place before moving to disallow the regulation. Even in that respect the emptiness of the argument is apparent. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce) knows that the court will not give the preference to these unionists. As an application for preference has been rejected by the court, we can examine this subject on the assumption that preference has been denied by the court, and then determine whether the court has power to prescribe pick-up places. The Government has done something which the court has not the power to do - over which the court has no jurisdiction. The court has no power to prescribe pick-up places for volunteer workers, as the jurisdiction of the Court does not apply to men who are not members of a union. If some authority is necessary I refer the Leader of the Opposition to the recent American Drycleaners' case, decided by the High Court, which clearly laid it down, following other decisions, that these conditions applied only to employees who were members of the claimant organization. The Commonwealth Arbitration Court could not prescribe pick-up places for employees w.ho were not members of the Waterside Workers Federation.







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