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Thursday, 11 June 1931

Senator MCLACHLAN (South Australia) . - I shall shortly recapitulate the reasons which are actuating the Opposition on this occasion, and which influenced it in disallowing similar regulations previously. The union which the Government seems to desire to shelter and give work to, to the exclusion of the other union, has, in effect, by its refusal to accept the award of the Arbitration Court, deliberately over-ridden the law of this country. To the Waterside Workers Federation the Government proposes to give the preference which was refused more than once by Mr. Justice Beeby and by the full Arbitration Court.

Senator Barnes - The honorable senator's own union takes care of its members.

Senator MCLACHLAN - The society to which I belong is conducted in a manner that may help at times the muchtroubled president of the Australian Workers Union. The Government, by the very act of issuing these regulations, debars from work men who have laboured efficiently on the waterfront for some two and a half years, without a single instance of a stoppage of work. These men are not employed for less wages' than, or under different conditions from, those provided under the award. These are the men whom the Government seeks to drive out of employment to the advantage of those who have refused to obey an award of the court, which has been characterized by the other side as a pernicious award. There were scenes of violence on the waterfront recently in Sydney. The Government, for another reason, interfered with the right of employers to free selection, compelling them to employ members of an organization which has constantly defied the court over a long term of years. This body' has harassed the shipping industry; has caused innumerable delays, and has inflicted loss on the shipowners and the community amounting to; hundreds of thousands of pounds. I have given several of the reasons which actuated the Government in introducing the legislation under which these regulations have been framed. I cannot understand why the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers

Union should be referred to as a bogus union. What has it done to justify such a term ? It is a union registered under the law, and its members are as much entitled to consideration as are the members of any other trade union organization. Why should the members of that organization, who are obeying an award of the Arbitration Court, be singled out by the Government for punitive treatment? Probably it is because the present Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin), when the Transport Workers Act was under consideration, said that in the event of a change of Government the men who were then performing the work on the waterfront, would, so to speak, be thrown to the wolves. In effect the Government is attempting a back-door method to repeal the Transport Workers Act. I am willing to admit that many of the members of the Waterside Workers Federation are honest and deserving men, but unfortunately they were influenced by their leaders to disobey an award of the Court, and, in consequence of that and other actions, are now suffering. It is the responsibility of this Parliament to support any section of organized workers which is observing an award of the Arbitration Court. Honorable senators opposite have said that there is now peace on the waterfront; but that is due solely to the fact that the work is being efficiently performed by the members of the so-called bogus union. Quite recently Mr. Kelly, the President of the South Australian Arbitration Court, at the instance of the South Australian Government, held an inquiry as to the extent to which relief should be afforded to the members of the Waterside Workers Federation at Port Adelaide. Mr. Kelly conducted an investigation into the whole circumstances and instead of reporting in favour of action being taken to alleviate the position of the members of that federation in Port Adelaide, reported that its members should approach the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union and endeavour to arrange for a joint appeal to the Arbitration Court, so that the members of both organizations might get a fair share of the little work which, unfortunately, is now offering on the wharfs at that port. It is not a question of political bigotry, but of doing the right thing by those men who are observing the law. These men are entitled to all the support that we can give them. "We are not concerned with the opinions of the representatives of the shipping interests so long as the work on the waterfront is satisfactorily performed. ' "When the Transport Workers Act was under consideration promises were made by certain members of this chamber and another place, and those promises must be honoured. As no additional reasons have been adduced to warrant' the regulations now under consideration, I intend to support the motion. Honorable senators on this side of the chamber have already committed themselves to the principle that the members of the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union should be supported. If some members of the federation are experiencing hardship it is to be regretted, but hardships will unfortunately have to be faced by many others before financial stability is restored in this country. In view of the report submitted by Mr. Kelly, who acted in an independent capacity, there is no reason why action should now be taken to grant preference to those who in the past have openly and repeatedly flouted the law.

Senator Sir WILLIAMGLASGOW (Queensland) [5.25]. - When I moved the motion for the disallowance of these regulations, I was under the impression that, as the subject had been debated at length on previous occasions, there was no necessity to endeavour to justify the motion. Since the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Barnes) and other honorable senators have raised certain points, I should like to take this opportunity to reply briefly. The Minister said that since the present Government had issued regulations under which preference is given to members of the Waterside Workers Federation there had been peace on the waterfront. He must realize that prior to the passage of the Transport Workers Act, there was continual industrial trouble, and that almost daily the transport of overseas and interstate goods was seriously hampered. Since that act has been in operation, the handling of goods, both overseas and interstate, has proceeded without interruption. Ships have been running to schedule time, cargo has been handled expeditiously, and much more cheaply, while efficiency generally has been increased by from 30 per cent, to 40 per cent. Pilfering and short landings, which were an enormous charge on ship-owners prior to the passage of the Transport Workers Act, have also disappeared.

Senator Daly - In what ports?

Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW - In Brisbane for instance.

Senator Guthrie - And in Melbourne.

Senator Sir WILLIAMGLASGOW.In practically all ports.

Senator Daly - That is not correct.

Senator Sir WILLIAMGLASGOW.It is the duty of the Government to protect the trade and commerce of this country, but it was also the duty of honorable senators opposite when in Opposition to advise the leaders of trade union organizations, whom they represent, to obey the law. During periods of industrial disturbance on the waterfront when awards of the Arbitration Court were being openly flouted honorable senators opposite remained silent.

Senator Barnes - Why does the honorable senator wish to obstruct the Government ?

Senator Sir WILLIAMGLASGOW.I am not obstructing the Government, but am endeavouring to assist those who are peacefully working under an award of the Arbitration Court. Senator Rae referred to the members pf the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union as being physically and morally inferior to the members of the Waterside Workers Federation. That is an insult to these men, which I strongly resent. It is also al reflection upon the members of the Waterside Workers Federation, because trade has been carried on without any trouble since volunteers have been employed on the waterfront - and carried on more cheaply, expeditiously and efficiently-

Senator Guthrie - And more honestly.

Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW - Yes; it has been carried on with less loss to the shippers than formerly. Senator Rae also referred to the Casual and Permanent Wharf Labourers Union as a bogus union. He should know something about bogus unions, for he went to Queensland during the last shearers strike and formed a union outside of the Australian Workers Union.

Senator Rae - I rise to a point of order. Is the honorable senator entitled to make statements to which I cannot reply, and which are not relevant to the subject before the Chair?

The PRESIDENT - As to the first part of the question, the honorable senator is not out of order; as to the second, he is straying from the subject.

Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW - Am I not entitled to reply to the statement of the honorable senator that a bogus union has been formed? I was endeavouring to show that the honorable senator was not consistent.

The PRESIDENT - The honorable senator need not reply to irrelevancies.

Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW - I have no doubt that the Australian Workers Union will know how to deal with the honorable senator on account of his activities in Queensland during the last shearers' strike.

Honorable senators opposite have suggested that since the enactment of the Transport Workers Act the members of the Waterside Workers Federation have been thrown out of work; but that is not so, for the members of the federation who took out licences have been employed continuously. About 400 members of the federation are at present in continuous employment on the Brisbane waterfront. The members of the federation who took out licences have been given employment.

Senator Daly - Whether their record was good or not?

Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW - If they are licensed they are given work.

Senator Rae - Has there been no victimization ?

Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW - I cannot answer that question. All I can say is that the men who took out licences, and who were prepared to work under the award of the court, were allowed to work. Traders who use Queensland ports have suffered tremendously in the past through the actions of the members of the Waterside Workers Union. There were two sections df the union in Cairns, each of which tried to secure control of the work on the waterfront, and shippers had to stand by while the two sections fought each other. At Bowen the members of the federation declared certain persons black, and refused to handle inward or outward cargo for them. They were a law unto themselves. The result was that these people had to send their cargo to Townsville and rail it back again. That sort of thing has not happened since the Transport Workers Act has been in operation. The people on the coast of Queensland would be very sorry if the conditions which have prevailed in the last two years were altered, as they would be altered if the regulations which we are now seeking to disallow were to remain in force.

Senator Daly - Would the honorable senator agree to the application of the regulations to Melbourne and Adelaide?

Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW - Certainly not, because conditions formerly were just as bad there as in other ports.

Senator Daly - The honorable senator does not know what the conditions were at Port Adelaide.

Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW - I know that there were difficulties. If the members of the Waterside Workers Federation desire to work on the waterfront they should obtain licences. If they are licensed they will doubtless be given employment.

Senator Daly - The honorable senator should remember that the people of Port Adelaide buy sugar from Queensland.

Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW - That reason why we should allow conditions to revert to what they were before the Transport Workers Act came into force. I hope that the Senate will disallow these regulations.

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