1st Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr. SPEAKER informed the House that hehad received a return to the writ issued for the election of a member to serve in the House of Representatives for the electoral district of East Sydney, in the place of the Right Honorable George Houstoun Reid, resigned, indorsed with a certificate of the election of George Houstoun Reid, Esq.
Sir WILLIAM McMILLAN presented a petition from the chairman of a public meeting held in Sydney, praying that delays shall not be allowed to prevail as a reason for breaking the existing electoral law, and for depriving citizens of their just political rights.
Petition received and read.
– I wish to know from the Postmaster-General if his attention has been drawn to the fact that large and influential public meetings have been held throughout the populous centres of Queensland to protest against the action of the Government in not definitely including Brisbane as a port of call in the new mail contracts for which tenders have been called 1 Will he stay his hand until he is in possession of the facts stated at those meetings?
– I have not had my attention drawn to the meetings to which the honorable member refers. He and other honorable members are aware, however, that, as alternative tenders have been asked for, Queensland is placed in exactly the same position as the other States. While tenders have been invited for the delivery of mails at Adelaide by steamers which are afterwards to proceed to Melbourne and Sydney, tenderers are also asked to state ‘ the additional cost of sending their vessels on to Brisbane once a week or once a fortnight. As I stated on a former occasion, however, the acceptance of tenders is a matter for this House, not for the Ministry, to deal with. Tenders are invited on the distinct understanding that their acceptance or rejection is a matter for the House. If the majority of honorable members think it desirable to pay whatever may be the additional cost of sending steamers to Brisbane, I have no doubt that the. representatives of Queensland will be gratified at their decision.
– I wish to know from the Postmaster-General if he can reconcile the reply which he made on Friday in response to a question asked by myself, that he had it on the authority of the P. and O. Company that if Brisbane were made a port of call an extra steamer would have to be placed on the line, with the following telegram from Queensland which appears in this morning’s newspaper : -
In reference to the statement of Sir Philip Fysh that another boat would be required if the European mail service were extended to Brisbane, the Premier says that when he interviewed the representative of the P. and O. Company who was sent out to make inquiries, that gentleman specifically stated that no more boats would be required.
– When I gave the reply to which the honorable member refers, I believed, and I still believe, that the information which has reachedQueensland that Brisbane could be made the final port of call for the mail steamers without its being necessary to employ an additional steamer was based on the statement of a local officer of the company. I then stated that I had been informed upon the authority of the P. and O. Company - and I meant by that a higher authority than the local agent in Queensland - that another boat would be necessary if the service to Brisbane were contracted for.
– I should like to ask the Prime Minister a question without notice. I see in to-day’s Age that the Prime Minister, speaking of the issues for the next general election, declared it to be the intention of the Government to fight for “ fiscal peace and preferential trade.” Would the right honorable gentleman mind saying if the report is correct; and, if so, how he reconciles the maintenance of fiscal peace with the defenceof proposals of preferential trade, particularly on the lines enunciated recently by the protectionist conference ?
– It is a fact that I made the statement attributed to me. I used the words “maintaining the Tariff” or “fiscal peace together with preferential trade.” If the honorable member asks me how I reconcile the maintenance of the Tariff with the existence of preferential trade and fiscal peace, I will endeavour to inform him, so faras I can, without unduly prolonging my answer. The Government are of opinion that the maintenance of the Tariff is a fiscal peace which will prevent the strife that otherwise would arise, not only in the country, but through any prolonged session of this Parliament in debating item by item a revised Tariff. The Government think that that should by all means be avoided, and that the conditions of the country make it entirely undesirable. With regard to preferential trade, the Government are of the belief that an allround treatment of the Tariff question which might perhaps be carried out in a Bill of one or two clauses is not likely to lead to the same kind of strife as that to which the honorable member and I allude ; and that it can be carried out quite consistently with the maintenance of our own Tariff for the purposes for which we framed it, while giving for purposes of Imperial cohesion an advantage which no free-trade policy can give to our own kith and kin.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– In reply to the honorable member’s questions I beg to state” that -
The officer commanding the 7th Australian Commonwealth Horse reports that a sum collected for the purpose named proved to be insufficient, and instructions were given for it to be returned to the subscribers.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence,upon notice -
– In reply I beg to state : -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 4th September, vide page 4685) :
Clause 3 -
This Act shall not apply to the public servants of the Commonwealth or of a State or of any public authority constituted under the Commonwealth or aState.
– I think that the most disappointing part of the Bill to a great many of the valuable public servants of Australia is this clause, which excludes the whole of them from its operation. It is not contended, I venture to say, that industrial disputes may not occur in the Public Service either of the Commonwealth or of the States. But I understand, from what the Attorney-General said in moving the second reading, that there is some doubt in the minds of the legal members as to whether we actually have the power to bring State public servants within the operation of ameasureof this kind. I amnot capable of arguing the legal question. I shall leave that to the legal members. But on the Attorney-General’s own argument I base my opposition to the clause, and I consider that my grounds for its omission are sound. Admittingthe Attorney-General’s contention for the sake of argument - that we have not the power to deal with State public servants in the way that we are dealing with the servants of privateemployers - then itis inevitable that if we insert this clause it will prohibit any State Government or Parliament which by resolution of both Houses, or by an Act of the Legislature, may declare that they desire that the public servants of the State in question should come within the Commonwealth measure, from doing so unless we amended the Act. Surely that is a sufficient reason for asking honorable members to omit the clause. There would be a great deal of opposition to including all the public servants of the States or of the Commonwealth, but I respectfully submit that it is particularly desirable to bring within the scope of the Bill some members of the Commonwealth and States services. I particularly refer to those included in the amendment tabled by the honorable member for Kennedy. The railway servants at least should be allowed to come under the Bill. At the very outset I desire to say that I believe that the friends of this Bill must do one of two things. If they have any remarks to make, either in opposition or in approval, they must make them as brief as possible. The passing of the Bill depends entirely upon the restraint exercised by those honorable members who support its main principles. Therefore, I shall rely mainly upon the argument that the clause would prevent any of the States Governments, in the event of a great industrial struggle, from taking advantage of the provisions of the Bill. If this Parliament were not sitting at the time, it would be impossible to so amend the Act as to permit of the Federal tribunal being availed of for the settlement of a dispute between States and their employes. Some of the public servants of Victoria have asked, by petition, that the benefits of the measure may be extended to them. On the other hand, some of the States Premiers have expressed themselves as unfavorable to any such course being adopted. Whilst I admit that the States Premiers are guardians of the States interests, I venture to say that this Parliament is elected upon as broad a basis as is any State Parliament, and upon a broader basis than are some of them.
– We gave up our claim on that ground when we declined to adopt the proposals of the Electoral Commissioners for the distribution of the States into electorates.
– Thehonorableandlearned member is not on solid ground when he makes that statement, because I could cite cases in Queensland in which some electorates contain five times as many voters as ethers.
– The same thing could be said regarding Victoria.
– No doubt ; but I do not wish to follow up that point. The principal argument against extending the benefits of the measure to the public servants of the States is that an award given by the Federal Court might have the effect of disturbing the estimates of expenditure adopted by States Parliaments. Surely there is no force in that argument. It has also been urged that the States Governments might refuse to comply with an award which would involve increased payments to its public servants. That argument brings us back to the contention that payment cannot be enforced against the Crown, which in the cases referred to would be represented by the States Governments. That is a reasonable objection, but it is based upon the assumption that the State is entitled to privileges which should not be enjoyed by the private employer. Why should the State be placed in any such position of advantage ?
– The State is not an entity apart from the people who constitute it ; or it should not be.
– Will the honorable and learned member follow up that declaration by asserting that any State Government should be at liberty to sweat its employes to the disadvantage of private employers ?
– But the people cannot sweat themselves.
– But one section of the people could sweat another if they happened to possess the power. In some of the States the minority have ruled for a considerable time, because the majority have not been granted full voting power. The States Governments are gradually encroaching upon the ground hitherto occupied by private enterprise, and I, for one, welcome that encroachment. If, however, the States enter into competition with private employers in various industries, they should be prepared to subject themselves to the same rule that governs private employers regarding conditions of employment. It has been said that the workmen who are in favour of the Bill are prepared to give up their right to strike. But I would ask whether the railway employes of the State of Victoria have not already been deprived of that liberty? They were penalized for exercising that right recently by being deprived of their political rights. They have been made the subjects of all kinds of slanders, and now stand in a position which renders it very desirable that they should have an opportunity to appeal to a tribunal which will protect them when they are right, or put them right when they are wrong. Parliaments are the least satisfactory courts to deal directly with the settlement of industrial disputes in the event of serious trouble arising; and I hold that we should stand upon much sounder ground if we extended the benefits of this measure to the public servants of the States. If we pass the clause in its present form, we shall strengthen the idea that the State should remain untrammeled in dealing with its employes. The Queensland Government have recently established a very large and up-to-date engineering works, located in the electorate of the honorable member for Moreton. These works will bring the State into direct competition with large private establishments in Brisbane and Maryborough. The men employed there are not under the direct control of the Government, but are placed under the Railway Commissioner. If the Commissioner cut. their wages down below the rates paid to men of a similar class in private employment, would not very unfair conditions be brought about? It might be urged that the Government works do not compete with private firms in the open market, but they indirectly do so. I hold that at least the railway servants of the States should be included within the scope of the Bill, and that its provisions should also be extended to men employed in connexion with docks, waterworks, and other public enterprises of that kind. If we exclude all the servants of the States from the benefits of this measure, we may inflict a great injustice upon private employers. Honorable members of this Parliament and members of the Parliaments of the States are constantly being appealed to by public servants to use influence in their behalf.
– Honorable mem bers have no right to use their influence in such cases.
– I am fairly free from such appeals, but other honorable members are continually being applied to, and sometimes comply with the requests preferred. If the provisions of the Bill were extended to State public servants any reasonable dispute could be submitted to the adjudication of the Federal Court, and justice would be more readily secured than under any other system of which I know. I understand that some honorable members do not wish the clause to be omitted, and, therefore with a view to allowing further discussion, apart from my amendment, I move -
That the word “ not “ be omitted.
– I think there is one excellent reason why honorable members who have studied the Constitution should support the Government in regard to this clause. The clause as it stands is directly expressive of the provisions of the Constitution. The States have merely yielded to us the power to deal with the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes extending beyond the limits of any one State.
– The whole Bill must be read subject to the Constitution.
– There is no doubt about that. I have not the slightest doubt that the right honorable member for South Australia would never have entertained the idea of inserting this clause in the Bill had he not felt bound to do so.
– What is the necessity for the provision?
– It is necessary to prevent men from indulging in litigation without knowing what the law is. It should be our especial care to make perfectly clear what our powers are. The clause does that.
– Can the honorable and learned member point to a section of the Constitution which prevents us from interfering with State servants in an industrial dispute ?
– But surely the honorable member would not say that a dispute between some of the State employes and the State itself would be a dispute “ extending beyond the limits of a State.”
– Then the Bill would not apply.
– Exactly. I believe in the law being made certain, and therefore I hold that we ought to make the provisions of this Bill so clear that he who runs may read. With that object in view I shall support the action of the Government. To my mind it would be a most extraordinary thing if, after having appointed a Public Service Commissioner, and set forth his powers, we established a Court of Appeal over him.
– Would the honorable and learned member object to the payment of money which was granted by a court of law?
– If that court of law set itself above Parliament, most unquestionably I should.
– Why does not Parliament settle all disputes between the individual and the State?
– Having appointed a Public Service Commissioner, it would be ridiculous to establish another tribunal to which State employes could appeal. I can easily conceive that the creation of such a tribunal might result in our being called upon to pay them less than Parliament had deliberately decided upon.
– Whatever the Court settled would be just.
– Personally I should decline, at the bidding of any arbitrator, to turn round and affirm that the State’s servants should be paid less than Parliament had deliberately decreed. One of the arguments used by many honorable members is that the public servants are too highly paid for the work which they perform.
– They say the contrary.
– I am dealing with the cry which is raised by a large section in this House.
– Who made that statement?
– I remember that, in the New South Wales Parliament, the honorable member made a very fierce attack upon the State employes.
– That is a pure invention.
-I was strongly under that impression.
– The honorable and learned member was altogether wrong.
– In the New South Wales Parliament there was certainly a large section who insisted that the State servants were paid too highly. I hold that we should not remit the decision of this question to an outside Court of Appeal. Parliament should decide for itself, and should not fear to accept the consequences of its action. The public should be given to understand exactly what we are doing, and we should not achieve our purpose by any indirect means. If we accepted this amendment what would our position be in relation to the States ? That is a point which honorable members must consider. We have certainly no power to make a State Parliament set aside certain sums of - money to meet any award that might be made by the Court, in regard to the salaries of public servants. Do we propose, in an indirect way, to take away the control which the States Parliaments have over their purse ?
– They have to set aside moneys to meet an award for damages made against them in an ordinary Court.
– Yes; but only because of the law the Parliament has made, and in such a case it votes the money to meet the award. In some cases, as the result of a decision of the Courts, it merely amends the law, and that is why we occasionally get retrospective legislation. If the Court gave a decision against a State in relation to the members of its service how should we be able to carry that decision into effect ? The courts of law never act contrary to the declaration of Parliament. They enforce only what they believe to be the decision of Parliament as expressed by its laws. They never think of coercing a Parliament. If a certain sum of money were set apart to meet the wages of a member of the Public Service, and there was a clear, definite, expression of opinion on the part of Parliament that he should not receive more, is it likely that, on resorting to an action at law, that man would receive an order for the payment of a higher salary?
– What about the decision in the action recently brought against the Victorian Government by certain State public servants 1
– That was a case in which the law was not clear, and the Court simply declared what law should apply to the men.
– The State Parliament had refused to pass the money necessary to meet the demand made by the men, and the Court ordered that the amount claimed should be paid.
– Quite so. That might possibly be the case.
– The money is going to be paid.
– That is another matter. In that case the Court gave a decision according to law, and not against it. Even if we had the power to pass a law of this kind - and I do not think that we have - how unwise it would be for us to attempt to coerce any State Parliament into doing anything in which it did not believe. Our laws should always be as clear and as simple as possible. It has long since been laid down, first of all, that our Acts should be as few as possible, in order that the people may make themselves familiar with them, and, secondly, that they should be as simple as possible, in order that the people may understand them. If we do not clearly set forth the limitations of this measure it will not be as simple as it ought to be.We are, however, perpetually departing from the very A B C of legislation, and therefore I need say no more on that point. We talk of putting an end to all disputes by passing a measure such as this ; but there are thousands of disputes between members of trades unions, and if we are to legislate against one class of disputes we should legis late against the other. In order to be logical we should really provide in this Bill that “ No one shall be allowed to express an opinion contrary to the opinion’ of Parliament.” That would put an end to all disputes. One of the very first objects of a socialistic community is to declare that any man who does not do what is ordered by the Government shall go to gaol.
– What socialistic school enunciates that principle ?
– It is argued that if a man does not work he should go to gaol.
– What is the point?
– If the honorable member is an extreme socialist he should support that view of the question. I presume that even those honorable members who reject the principle of one vote one value still hold that in the main the Parliament represents the people.
– When we are in the majority.
– In all our arguments we hold that Parliament represents the people.
– To which Parliament is the honorable and learned member referring ?
– I hope that the Federal Parliament does not represent the present opinion of the people. If it does, it does not represent their interests. What becomes of our contention that Parliament - either the CommonwealthoraState Parliament - represents the people if we allow a discontented minority of electors to set at nought the sovereign will of the people, and to obtain their own way, not by securing the votes of a majority of honorable members, but by obtaining a decision from a court? Parliament determines what salaries are to be paid to the public servants, and approves of the appointments of the officers who control them, and, in doing. that, carries into effect the will of the people whom its members represent.
– The honorable and learned member’s argument tells equally against the appointment of Commissioners to manage the railways.
– Yes; but it may be shown in favour of the management of railways and similar concerns by Commissioners, that it is necessary to get rid of the evils arising under political control.
– The amendment has been moved for similar reasons.
– I should like to know what is going to become of Parliament if it is to be over-ridden by courts and lawyers in everything that it does. Honorable members at one breath speak against lawyers, and in the next advocate the passing of legislation which must be interpreted and controlled by lawyers. I intend to support the clause as it stands. I have no doubt that the Attorney-General before drafting it fully considered the legal difficulties which have to be avoided, and came to the conclusion that, even if we have power to make the decisions of the Court binding upon the States, it would be unwise to exercise it.
– When I spoke on the second reading .1 informed the House that this clause was framed as much for the purpose of challenging discussion as for any other. The effect of the Bill would be practically unchanged if it were omitted, because the servants of the States are technically the servants of the Crown, and the Crown is not to be bound except by express words.
– We could bind the Crown by saying that the Act shall apply to the servants of the States.
– We should then be using express words.
– Can we bind the States without expressed authority under the Constitution ?
– In my opinion, we have authority under the Constitution to bind the States in this matter. If honorable members will look at section 51, they will see that in a number of instances, in which it is intended to prevent the invasion of States rights by the Commonwealth, the power of the Parliament is specifically restricted. For instance, paragraphs XIII. and XIV. give the Parliament power to make laws with respect to banking “ other than
State banking,” and insurance “ other than State insurance “ ; paragraph XXVI., with respect to -
The people of any race, other than the aboriginal, race in any State.
And paragraph XXXIII., with respect to -
The acquisition, with the consent of a State,, of any railways of the State”.
But when we come to paragraph XXXV.. we find no such restriction.
– Does not paragraph XXXV. restrict the power of the Parliament to legislation with respect todisputes “extending beyond the limits of any one State “ 1
– Has the Parliament power to legislate for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes except in those cases to which the State authority cannot apply ?
– Such, then, is the power of the Commonwealth whatever the policy of its exercise may be. There is only one other consideration of a legal character which it is necessary to take into account - and that not so much in itself, for it is not free from ambiguity, but because of itspractical effect. We have yet to learn at exactly what point of overflow a dispute can be said to extend “ beyond the limits of any one State.” We have, indeed, prior to that, first of all to obtain some clear legal definition of what an “ industrial dispute” is, when it becomes a dispute, and when it crosses the boundary of a State. The important question is. just when a dispute extends beyond any one State ; and certainly there is much matter for consideration as to whether a. dispute between a Government of a State and the public servants of a State will ever be a dispute “ extending beyond the limits of any one State.” That is the practical difficulty.
– May not it be such a dispute so far as the general citizens are concerned and so far as concerns the generalpeace of the Commonwealth ?
– The whole of the subsections to which I have referred are governed by the intimation that the Commonwealth has power to make laws for the “ peace, order, and good government of the Commonwealth.” I think we have the power to pass this clause under that provision. But we have the power subject to a limitation which, in this particular instance, may prove to be a very considerable limitation indeed. I cannot venture to say that the insertion of this power would be meaningless in the States, but I do say that, being subject to that limitation, the exercise of it would be surrounded by many difficulties. It would need a great deal to satisfy the Court that any dispute in which the public servants of a State are pitted against their own Government can become a dispute extending beyond the limits of that State in the. natural sense of those words.. But that, of course, is a restriction which we cannot, if we would, remove. It is, therefore, unnecessary for us further to consider the point ; but I wished to deal fairly with the Committee in calling attention to it.
– Was such a thing ever imagined in the Convention 1
– So far as I can remember there was no allusion in the Convention to the operation of this particular sub-section upon the servants of a State. I cannot recollect any allusion, though I have not refreshed my memory.
– That would not affect our present rights under the Constitution.
– But it might be said that we are straining the Constitution.
– That would not follow at all.
– There cannot be the least doubt that in this and a number of other instances we “ builded wiser than we knew.” Those are the only three points to which I think it necessary to direct the attention of the Committee generally; and particularly of its legal members ; not that they require to be discussed, but because they require to be remembered in the present discussion of the sub-section affecting this Bill. Granted that we have the power to legislate, and assuming that this limitation would not apply so as to forbid State disputes extending beyond the limits of any one State’ - assuming that the . sub-section as it stands confers a real authority, and that the disputes are industrial - we are faced by the practical question as to whether, as a matter of policy, this Commonwealth, at this time, ought to seek to exercise it. I venture to submit, and very urgently, that we ought not to seek to do so. It is in the first place obvious to all that there is the broadest possible distinction between employment by a State and private employment. In private employment - subject, of course, to a few written laws and to the general unwritten law or custom of each particular calling - the private employer is absolutely unbound in regard to the primary conditions under which he employs. Of course the employer is confronted with organized labour in most countries, and this imposes very important limitations. There are also other limitations which spring out of the nature of the occupation itself, and to which no reference need be made. But speaking subject to these qualifications, in private employment the master is master. He is the final court of appeal, with no authority over him or intervening between himself and those who receive salaries or wages from him. That is the condition of private employment, and that is the condition that is generally rebelled against by organized labour. That is the condition which we are dealing with, and which the measure will alleviate in most material and essential particulars. Under this Bill there will be created a tribunal outside both parties and beyond their personal control, capable of being invoked to decide disputes between the man who pays the wages and the man who receives them. That is the new departure to which I called attention in moving the second reading of the Bill. Now those conditions cannot be said to apply to the States - speaking of the States in a Federal sense as those bodies which still retain a large share of independence under the Federal Constitution. The employes of a State are in a very different relation to their employers. They have always one tribunal to which they can appeal - an unsatisfactory tribunal I freely admit for individual appeals—anunsatisfactory tribunal for class appeals, I admit ; but still, a tribunal, perfectly independent, not personally interested, and, if swayed at all by numbers, swayed in the interest of those who are employed rather than by the interests of those who employ. This is certainly a very essential difference. But in addition to that, almost all the States Parliaments, and this Parliament also, have exercised their legislative authority to create tribunals of one character or another- dispassionate and competent tribunals - to whom disputes between servants and the State may be and are referred. We have, as the honorable and learned member for Werriwa argued at some length, tribunals created for the special purpose of dealing with disputes between employers and employed, considering the Parliament for the time being as the employers. The whole of the people really are the employers, but Parliament is their agent. Parliament in all the States, as representing the employers, the public, has created competent and capable tribunals for the special purpose of seeing that justice is done to the employes of the State in regard toall the relations to which this measure refers. So that, between the private employers, with whom we are dealing in this Bill, and from whose judgment there is no recourse, and the public employer, the State, there is a very broad gulf. This tribunal which is about to be created to deal with private employers and their employes, is really a complementary measure to the Public Service Act which we have already passed, and under which we have created a special tribunal for our own servants. By this measure we are seeking to extend to private employes precisely the same benefits that we have already specifically extended to our own employes, and in precisely the same manner, and as most of the States - I think all of them - have extended them to their employes. This is a measure to put private employes, as far as we can do so, practically in the same position as wehave already placed the public servants in by enabling them to have their disputes settled by an independent tribunal.
– I thought the object of this Bill was to prevent strikes.
– That is so. Its object is to prevent strikes which arise out of disputes ; because, if you provide a means of settlement for disputes, you prevent strikes. Under the conditions of this measure we have the means of preventing strikes absolutely, whereas the States have not actually prohibited strikes amongst their own servants.
– Therefore the States tribunals do not cover the ground contemplated by the Bill.
– But the States having provided the tribunals referred to could proceed to pass measures prohibiting strikes amongst their public servants. They are under no necessity to create tribunals, because they already exist, and they do not require to give guarantees to the public servants that they shall be treated equitably, because this has been done already.
– Such guarantees are not given in any of the States. To what tribunal can the men appeal ?
– In New South Wales, in Victoria, South Australia, and Western: Australia such tribunals have been provided.
– Not in Victoria.
– Yes, I beg the honor able member’s pardon.
– But there is no Arbitration Act in Victoria.
– I was speaking of the Public Service Commissioners, to whom the public servants of that State can appeal, and of the Railway Commissioners, to whom the railway servants can appeal.
– Those Commissioners do not constitute impartial tribunals such as that contemplated by the Bill.
-They are tribunals which undoubtedly exercise the same powers that would be exercised by the Arbitration Court, except that they have not theauthority to prohibit strikes. The point is that there is between the private employer and the State the gulf to which I have referred. The States have already created tribunals satisfactory to themselves. We are about to extend to private employes the advantages now possessed by the employes of the States coupled with a prohibition of strikes,
Mr.Fisher. - Why did New South Wales and Queensland pass special Acts for the purpose of settling, by arbitration, disputes arising in the railway services of those States ?
– I do not think they were absolutely necessary. It would be perfectly competent for this Parliament to pass an Act applying the principles of conciliation and arbitration to the public servants of the Commonwealth. So far as I understand, the Victorian and New South Wales Railways Acts provide for tribunals to which the employes can appeal.
– Why did not that operate during the last railway strike in Victoria?
– I do not wish to dicuss the Victorian railway strike.
– How can we carry on this discussion without referring to it?
– We cannot help remembering that strike, whose occurrence and consequences we all deplore.
– The settlement was worse than the strike.
– The men have been shamefully dealt with.
– That is a matter for their representatives to consider. It is impossible to touch upon that inflammatory subject without provoking some manifestation of strong feeling, and that is why I wish to pursue the even tenor of my way without being deflected from it by any recollection of the unhappy event. If the State tribunals already in existence should fail to give satisfaction, Courts of Conciliation and Arbitration can, if so desired, be created by the States, to which appeals could be made by their public servants. Therefore the question is one for the States, and for them alone.
– Will the Attorney-General indicate how an award of the Federal Court could be enforced against a State Government?
– I endeavoured, when moving the second reading of the Bill, to indicate the difficulties with which we should be confronted if we endeavoured to force upon a reluctant State the finding of the Federal Arbitration Court. Assuming that the award reduced the wages of the State officials and the State’s Parliament refused to comply with the award, I know of no power which would compel it to keep to a lower scale of pay. Similarly, if the Federal Court gave an award which had the effect of increasing the amount to be paid to the State employes, I am unaware of any means short of the strongest and most serious by which a self-governing community could be compelled to more liberally remunerate its employes.
– Why do they satisfy the judgments of their own Courts - there is no compulsion ?
– There is compulsion in some of the States, but not in others. There is, however, an obligation which has always been recognised. The Judiciary Act imposes that obligation upon the States in a stricter manner than ever before.
– It would be absurd to attempt to compel a State Government to create a deficiency.
– I desire to direct the attention of the Committee to the fact that we are entering upon a very dangerous field indeed, when we seek to interfere between the State and its employes. We are taking a serious step when we propose to interfere between private employers and those whom they engage. But it would be much more serious to attempt to deal with the States in the same way that we are proposing to deal with private employers.. In the first place, the Constitution preserves to the States a large number of independent rights. The States are continued as active entities, as selfgoverning bodies endowed with very large powers. Among the largest and most important of the powers preserved to the States are certainly those relating notonly to making, but, as a necessary corollary, to managing their own railways and public undertakings. To interpose the authority of the Federal Court between the States and their railway employes would be to take a longer step than I think the public are prepared for towards the assumption of the control of those railways by the Commonwealth. If the railways are to remain under the control of the States, as the Constitution certainly implies, and if they are not to be dealt with by the Commonwealth in any State without the consent of that State, the reasonable corollary is that they should not be interfered with by the Commonwealth in regard to the terms and conditions of employment. As the Constitution implies that no State should be required to part with its railways except with its own consent, it seems to follow as a natural corollary that we should not interfere with the terms of employment upon them until we are prepared to assume the responsibility of making and managing the railways.
– Let them treat their servants as they choose.
– That is a matter between the State Parliament and its constituents, as are many other questions of vital importance. But the real point is, are we acting under the influence of Federal impulses when we propose to intervene in a local matter, which is one of the most critical - critical to the reputation, the standing, and the authority of every State. If, by the exercise of superior power, we keep the several States in their relations with us conscious only of their weakness and their dependence upon us - if, in some of the most important agencies intrusted to them, we intervene between them and the execution of the behests of their constituents, we shall be striking a deadly blow at their independence under the Constitution, and depriving it of much of its Federal character. The Constitution waS based upon the assumption that, although there was a line clearly drawn between the powers of the States and those of the Commonwealth, it was impossible to define the boundary everywhere in such a way as to prevent misconception. I desire honorable members to consider this proposal .as aiming at one of the dearest rights of the States - as intervening between them and their employes. The subject is so grave and ‘ serious that I appeal to them not to support the proposal of the honorable member for Wide Bay, simply in view of recent events in Victoria. We must always remember that hard cases make bad law. An appeal has yet to be made to the people, in which those events will be regarded. We cannot anticipate the judgment of the electors in that connexion.
– The voice of the public servants will be excluded from that judgment.
– The very fact of their exclusion will cast in their favour a sympathetic vote which will compensate them for a good deal of the loss which they have sustained. But we have not to judge any one State by any one act on the part of its Parliament. In all the States, we have seen conditions of flux and reflux - we have beheld the advancing and the receding tide. The fact that the tide recedes is no reason why it should not advance again. We are not called upon to make this very serious and vital invasion into State life and authority, because, in a particular instance, action was taken which does not commend itself to some honorable members. It would require very much more than that to. warrant the Commonwealth in stepping into the arena, and taking part in what are and ought to be State affairs. This Commonwealth is barely three years old. It has already assumed most of its legislative powers. No complaint has been made with reason that it has not gone fast enough ; some complaint has been made that it has gone too fast Before this question is decided, I trust that honorable members will look upon it not simply from the desire to create a symmetrical Bill which will embrace all that it is capable of embracing. In its present form the measure has not been drafted witha view to exercise all the powers which areconferred by the Constitution to their full extent. We have stopped somewhat short of that. I believe that in the future the interpretation of the word “ prevention “’ may carry this legislation very much further.
– Further than it authorizes to-day.
– Even that statement is. subject to limitations. We may easily come to see that, what a section of the Constitution may not be held to authorize to-day, it comes to authorize when it has. further developed. In the United States nothing has been more frequent than tofind readings of its Constitution adopted which would not have been approved when it was framed a century ago. I strongly urge theCommittee to refrain from exercising all the power which we are capable of exercising in connexion with this matter, and to trust theStates to deal fairly and equitably with their servants, as they invariably havedone on the past. There may have been exceptions, but these have been only of a. temporary character. In the long run every State has treated its employes with theutmost generosity. The tendency of theStates has been to put their employes in a position superior to that which is enjoyed, by private employes anywhere. That tendency will be certain tore-assert itself. Under such circumstances, and having regard to theserious character of the proposed interferencein the affairs of the State, I ask honorable members to reject the proposal. I admit the point made by the honorablemember for Wide Bay, and would be perfectly prepared to introduce words in thisclause providing that when any State, of its. own free will, chooses to adopt the Federal Arbitration Court as an independent tribunal for the settlement of disputes betweenitself and its employes it may resort to it.
– Whatever happens to theproposal before the Committee, I shall beglad to have that amendment made.
– There is no objection to it.
– It is a very unlikely contingency.
– I am unconcerned now as to whether it is or not. It may well bethat when this tribunal has become firmly established, and has won the confidence of the people, the States themselves will, of their own choice, prefer to go to such a Court. In any event we can do no wrong to the States if we leave them an open door through which they may, if they desire to do so, approach this tribunal. I do not wish to make any exclusions. I ask the Committee to consider the amendment, not merely in relation to public servants as such, or to the States Governments as such, but in relation to the character and spirit of the whole Federal Constitution under which we are living. If we do that we should be encouraged to be extremely considerate, especially in these the earliest days of our history, in all our dealings with the States, and seek to maintain them in their dignity as long as we can as efficient agents of the people, and efficient guardians of the rights which have been intrusted to them.
– As one of the friends of the Bill, I do not wish to discuss the amendment at great length, because it seems to me that those who desire to see the measure become law during the present session will have to exercise some restraint in order that that consummation may be realized. One is justified however in saying a few words in relation to this question. I trust that the Committee will carry the amendment, and make the Bill apply specifically to the public servants of any State, so far as the Constitution will allow, and in relation only to that class of disputes, which the Constitution contemplates. I am inclined, as a layman, to agree with the suggestion made by the Attorney-General, that in the absence of any specific provision to the contrary this Bill would not. be held to apply to the employes of a State. But I contend that if the amendment be carried the Bill will apply to the servants of any of the States who may enter upon a dispute of the character contemplated by the Constitution.
– Without any express words ?
– These are express words.
-Under section 51 of the Constitution we have power -
To make laws for the peace, order, and good government of the Commonwealth with respect to- (xxxv.) Conciliation and Arbitration for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes extending beyond the limits of any one State.
Then we find that section 5 of the Constitution Act provides that -
This Act and all laws made by the Parliament of the Commonwealth under the Constitution shall be binding on the Courts, Judges, and people of every State and of every State of the Commonwealth, notwithstanding anything in the laws of any State. , . .
Thus it seems to me to be clear that if we clearly express our intentions, we have power to make this Bill a law obligatory on the people of the various States, in relation to a dispute of the character contemplated by the Constitution. So far as the mere question of power is concerned, there can be no doubt that we can declare that once a dispute of the kind arises this measure shall apply to it. There is every possibility of such disputes occurring, although I do not think they will be heard of very frequently. I trust that we shall rarely have such disputes, but we know that a few months ago there was every prospect of the Victorian railway strike extending to one or more States.
– Would they have been extensions? Might they not have been separate strikes?
– They would have been extensions of the original strike. The facts must be determined according to the circumstances of each case, but if a strike, similar to that which occurred in Victoria, had taken place concurrently in another State, I think it would have been held to be an extension of the Victorian dispute. A question of that kind, however, is a matter which some Court will have to decide. The Attorney-General asserted that the States employes have tribunals to which they can appeal. I deny that in most of the States there is any such tribunal to which the States employes as a body may appeal. Excluding New South Wales and Western Australia there is no such tribunal in existence in any of the States. It is true that, in various States, members of the Public Service - as the term is ordinarily understood - are under Public Service Commissioners, and that, in most of them, there are Railway Commissioners. But neither the Railway Commissioners nor the Public Service Commissioners constitute a tribunal in the sense that the Court which we are proposing to establish will be one. There is no provision for evidence to be given before the Commissioners on behalf of a collective body of men, and, as a matter of fact, it was only recently that the railway employes’ organizations were grudgingly admitted to recognition by the officials of any of the States. In the case of the Victorian railway dispute the authority provided for by Act of Parliament, which the AttorneyGeneral apparently had in his mind when he was referring to this question, was deliberately overridden by the Ministry of the day. Some people may say that the State Parliament upheld their action. The honorable and learned member for Werriwa asserts that Parliament represents the people, and it may be contended, therefore, that the people themselves were responsible for what occurred. I entirely dissent from the view that because Parliament takes a certain course of action, the people therefore necessarily indorse that action. It must be admitted by all who give any attention to the subject, that the people are compelled by circumstances to delegate to certain bodies of individuals powers which, theoretically, the whole community has to exercise. That has been done by the creation of the ordinary courts of law. The people, as a body, cannot be expected to settle all disputes which arise between individuals, and they delegate to civil courts the duty of inquiring into and adjudicating upon those disputes. In the same way, the Parliaments of the States have recognised that they cannot satisfactorily carry on directly their great railway services, and they have delegated their powers to different sets of Commissioners. In regard to all the great industrial enterprises of the States, the people are represented by delegated authority. And all that is asked for in this case is an extension of that delegated authority. Parliament has certainly the power, but has not the opportunity, to give close attention to the individual grievances of its employes or to the circumstances which surround the employment of a large class of State servants. It has no opportunity to ‘inquire into and adjust those grievances, and therefore it creates, in the shape of an Arbitration Court, a body which can stand between its employes and itself. As to the argument advanced by the Attorney-General, that we have no power to insure effect being given by the Parliament of any State to an award made by the Federal Court-
– It would be extremely difficult.
– If it were necessary to enforce it by law it would be difficult, and a highly undesirable state of affairs would arise. But it has occurred more than once that the Parliaments of the States have agreed to abide by the decisions of their own Courts, and to meet the financial obligations thereby imposed. ianiHC!””””
– But the proposed Court will be a Commonwealth Court.
– It will be a Court which, under the Constitution, will have just as much power to bind the States authorities as the States Courts have. Section 5 of the Constitution provides that the laws passed by Parliament shall be binding on the Courts, Judges, and people of every State.
– That is, the laws which can be constitutionally passed.
– Of course. I contend that under paragraph xxxv. of section 51 the proposed legislation will be constitutional.
– There is nothing there to support the honorable member’s contention.
– In New South Wales, New Zealand, and Western Australia the railway employes of the States are under the Arbitration Acts of those States. In New South “Wales the employes of the Harbor Trust, the Metropolitan Board of Water and Sewerage, the Hunter River and District Board of Water Supply and Sewerage, and other bodies of men secondarily or indirectly in the employment of the Government, also come under the Act. The local Parliaments have given to the Arbitration Courts of the States the right to make binding decisions in regard to rates of wages and hours and conditions of employment.
– But no cases have arisen under the States Acts.
– I believe that a case arose in New Zealand, and that anothercase, in which the railway men were concerned, occurred in Western Australia.
– In the instances to which the honorable member is referring, the Parliaments of the States have delegated powerto Courts of their own choosing ; in this case power is being given by the Commonwealth to a Court which is not of their choosing.
– Only in regard to disputes with which the States cannot effectively deal - disputes which are likely toextend beyond the boundaries of any one State. Interference in regard to other disputes is not contemplated. For my ownpart, I should like to see the Commonwealthsupreme in regard to all matters of industrial legislation, but I recognise that under the Constitution it is not supreme. This Parliament, however, has power to legislate with respect to disputes with which the States cannot effectively deal, and we have the example of the States for making our legislation apply to public servants. The Attorney-General stated that the reservation of the Constitution, that the Commonwealth Parliament shall have power to take over the railways of the States only with their consent, implies as a corollary that the States should be allowed, until we take over the railways, to retain the details of management within their own hands. I do not think that that follows. In the first place, the Constitution contains no such limitation ; it is simply an inference. In the next place, the reason for the limitation which exists in the Constitution is to insure that the development of any State shall not be retarded by the compulsory transference to the Commonwealth of its powers of railway construction. But the decisions of the Commonwealth Court in regard to wages, hours, and conditions of publicservants employed in . connexion with the railways of a State would not hinder to any material degree the development of the territory of that State as its authorities mightthink fit. The real question for us to consider is, are disputes of the character contemplated by the Constitution likely to occur amongst the public servants of the Commonwealth or of the States 1
– Does the honorable member contend that a dispute among the public servants in the Lands Department of any State would be an industrial dispute ?
– That is a point upon which I have not made up my mind. But surely the honorable and learned member would not say that the clerks employed by private firms would not come under the provision of the Bill ?
– Clerks were brought under the New Zealand legislation by a specific provision in an amending Act ; they were not included in the general provision in the original Act.
– But the original definition was much narrower than that in the Bill.
– The New Zealand. Consolidated Act applies practically to all employes with the exception of public servants other than railway employes. The experience of the past few months shows us that these disputes are likely to occur. That being so, is it not our duty to take steps to prevent them ? In my opinion it is as important, in the interests of the community”, to prevent disputes amongst State employes, and the trouble which must follow in their train, as to prevent disputes amongst private employes.- I desire to emphasize the fact that these disputes are likely to occur, and that their effects will be just as injurious, if not more injurious, to the interests of the community as a whole than the effects of disputes among private employes, because, as years go by, the States are likely to enlarge their control over public serviceswhose magnitude makes them of the nature of monopolies, and the cessation of which produces infinitely more suffering and loss than the cessation of a comparatively small private enterprise.
– I trust that the common sense of the Committee will render prolonged debate upon the amendment unnecessary, though I have very little sympathy with the Government in connexion with this matter. The honorable member for Bland spoke of the amendment as an extension of the proposals of the Government ; I look upon it as a reductio ad absurdum. I ask honorable members to give a broader consideration to this question than it has hitherto received. We, in the early days of Federation, are bound to endeavour to make Federal legislation workable. When, on a former occasion, I referred to the views of members of the Convention, the honorable member for Bland replied that it did not matter what the members of the Convention thought, and that we had a right to exercise to the fullest extent the powers conferred by the Constitution. No doubt we have, but there is a great difference between exercising and straining those powers, and we should pay regard to the necessity for making our Acts workable. We shall probably find, as we proceed with the discussion of this measure, that it will be a very difficult one to administer. Are we going to increase that difficulty by adopting a provision which, broadly speaking, is unconstitutional? It has been said that railway employes of a State could not strike if this measure were made applicable to them. The States authorities, however, have power to pass similar measures, and to apply their provisions to their railway employes. But even that would not prevent strikes under certain circumstances. Honorable members seem to forget, however, that the
States authorities are sovereign within their own domain, and that the proposal before us strikes at the principle- underlying the Constitution. If there were a dispute among the employes of the Railway Commissioners of a State, all the machinery in that State insuring fair play would be called into operation. It would then be unreasonable to bring the Commonwealth machinery into operation, because the State Parliament would probably be as kind and humanitarian as this Parliament. Suppose the Arbitration Court increased the salaries of the railway employes in a particular State to an extent beyond that for which provision was made upon the Estimates ? Could we go through the process of forcing a State Parliament to vote more money than it considered necessary, or more than the exigencies of the State would permit? If we attempted to take any such steps we should make ourselves the laughing-stock of Australia, and bring about utter chaos. The AttorneyGeneral has clearly proved that the servants of the States are servants of the Crown, and cannot be interfered with by us. The States Parliaments are endowed with the same humanitarian feelings, and are elected upon the same suffrage as we are, and are quite as capable of insuring fair play to their public servants. Are we to allow the whole of the Public Service of a State to be thrown into disorder ? Are we to countenance the defiance by public servants of their own masters ? Surely that is a condition of affairs that none of us could contemplate with composure. With regard to the extension of a railway dispute to more than one State, I would ask honorable members how the railway servants in New South Wales could have any interest in a dispute in the railway service of Victoria ?
– Are not the railway employes’ organizations federated ?
– The organizations may be federated ; but the men are employed under altogether different conditions. The interjection of the honorable member indicates the ridiculous extreme to which it is sought to extend the operation of the Bill. The Attorney-General has indicated the extent to which the rights of the States are safeguarded by the terms of the Constitution, and I can confidently say that it was never contemplated by the Convention that any attempt would be made, under the provision for the settlement of disputes extending over more than one State, to exercise control over the public servants of the States. It is our duty at this juncture to proceed very slowly, and to avoid doing anything that would cause the Federal authority to be regarded with any other than kindly feelings. I venture to say that every responsible statesman will roundly and severely condemn this proposal as an attempt to encroach upon the jurisdiction of the States. We should not be swayed by technicalities, but by common sense and prudence, and we should do everything we can to make the wheels run smoothly in regard to matters within the States and beyond them. I hope, therefore, that the amendment will be withdrawn.
– I think that one statement made by the honorable member may be cordially indorsed, namely, that it is highly undesirable that any lengthy debate shall take place upon this, or, indeed, upon any other clause. I am prompted to advance some reasons in support of the amendment, because I conceive that unless the Public Servants of the States are included within the scope of the Bill, it will be, in a large measure, defective. The honorable member for W entworth said that the power which we were seeking was unconstitutional. That is a matter for the High Court to decide, and it would be better for us to confine our attention to the wisdom, or otherwise, of the step now contemplated. What the Convention intended, or did not intend, has nothing to do with the question. If the Convention had contemplated giving us much larger powers and had failed in so many words to invest us with such powers, no mere intent could have helped us. We are, therefore, tied down by the letter of the bond, and not by the spirit of the Convention in it. The Attorney-General says that the States’ Governments can pass acts for the settlement of disputes between the States authorities and their employes. There is nothing singular about that, because they can, in precisely the same way, pass laws to prevent disputes between private employers and their employes. With regard to the contention that we could not compel a State Parliament to increase its Estimates, I would point out that that result might be brought about by a judgment of the High Court. If a judgment, involving the expenditure of a large amount of money, were given against a State, the State Parliament would have no option but to increase the Estimates. The High Court might be called upon to determine a dispute between the State of New South Wales and one Jones, of Western Australia, and it might decree that Jones was entitled to £80,000.
– But that would be in accordance with the laws of the State.
– It might be in accordance with the laws enacted by us within the scope of our jurisdiction. We are told that if we extended the benefits of this measure to the States’ servants they would be able to defy their masters. I do not think that there would be any defiance on their part; but they might seek redress, and that I presume is exactly what the Bill contemplates. The Attorney-General asks how a dispute involving the public servants of the States could extend beyond the limits of a State. Such a dispute could be extended beyond the limits of a State in exactly the same way as one affecting the employes of private individuals within that State. The measure is intended to provide for the settlement of disputes which extend beyond any one State. The mere fact that the public servants were the employes of a master whose authority was coterminous with the boundaries of the State would not affect the question. The Attorney-General seemed to suggest that, owing to the mere fact that a State had no jurisdiction beyond its own boundaries, a dispute affecting its employes could not come within the operation of the Bill ; but the same argument would apply to employes of private individuals within any State. Suppose that the State of New South Wales started ironworks, and that its employes considered that the conditions under which they were working required to be altered. It may be presumed that the employes would be members of trades unions federated throughout the States, and therefore a dispute affecting the State employes of New South Wales would probably involve the employ s in private ironworks in Victoria or Tasmania or elsewhere. The Attorney-General stated that there was a clear distinction between private employers and the States. But I do not see it, and I do not agree with those who consider that the States Governments should in this connexion be permitted to enjoy rights which are denied to private employers. If that argument had been put forward by a rabid socialist I could have understood it, but when it is advanced by men who hold the opposite creed it is astonishing. It is urged that whilst we are taking away from the private employer the right to say absolutely what wages he shall give, we should leave disputes affecting public servants of the States to be settled by a fluctuating majority in Parliament, which may be moved by the exigencies of the political situation, and ignore the merits of the case. Were the people of Victoria the proper persons to determine their relations with the employes during the recent strike? May it not happen that, upon the spur of the moment, Parliament will do a thing of which the people do not approve? This Bill contemplates the creation of an impartial tribunal - -an aspect of the question which the Attorney-General seems to entirely overlook. I hold that in the first place the people ought to hand over their right of dealing with their employes to Commissioners. In New South Wales that practice has been adopted to a very large extent. In Victoria the same tendency is exhibited. Here the management of the railways has been intrusted to a Commissioner. That is a wise policy for the State to adopt. Any other must inevitably land it in disaster. In connexion with the recent railway strike in Victoria, did we not behold a Parliament which had not the courage to discuss the trouble upon its merits, but was content to vote in the way that its leader urged ? Would the Attorney-General be willing to commit his liberties to such a tribunal as that? No packed jury in any trial had so notoriously made up its mind beforehand as had that jury. I desire to see an impartial tribunal created. The honorable member for Wentworth and the Attorney-General have addressed themselves at considerable length to the question of whether or not it is expedient to exercise this power at the present time. What is the Bill ? Any one would think it was a measure designed to run; throughout the land like some epidemic seeking whom it might devour. Instead of that it is a Bill to settle industrial disputes. It is not intended to set people by the ears. The Attorney-General has repeatedly declared that its object is to bring about industrial peace. If that be so, is it possible to have too much industrial peace ? It has been suggested that it is not expedient to infringe upon the right of the States to control their own affairs. My answer is that it is not proposed to take away from the States any of their rights, so long as they do not threaten the peace of the Commonwealth. Directly any dispute threatens the peace, integrity, and industrial welfare of the whole community we have a perfect right to intervene.
– This clause will create war instead of peace between the States.
– We wish to prevent disputes from partaking of an inter State character. Surely we have a right to intervene for the settlement of any industrial trouble which extends beyond the limits of any one State, even though the public servants of that State happen to be concerned. The Attorney-General hasaffirmed that we should act with extreme caution at this stage of our national life, but I contend that this Bill embodies an idea which, if rightly applied, will bring about peace where formerly there was nothing but trouble and Confusion. As the honorable member for Bland has already pointed out, the tendency of the times is in the direction of the State extending its functions, and thus securing more employes under its control. There is just as much likelihood of a dispute arising in which the employe’s of a State are concerned, . as there is of trouble occurring between private employers and their employes. I hold that this Bill ought to extend equally to all, and therefore I shall support the amendment.
– I venture to think that the Attorney-General has scarcely done himself justice by the way in which he has placed this matter before the House. He has put it that if we strike out this provision or convert it from the negative to the affirmative we shall be intruding upon the province of the States. In other words, he suggests that the States, if left alone, are in a condition to deal satisfactorily with the whole matter. I emphatically take the opposite view. The position, I take it, is this : State jurisdiction is limited to its own bounds. As regards industrial disputes which are entirely within the limits of any State, well and good. Let the State authority dispose of them. But the Constitution has clearly marked out that it is not the province of any State to deal with a dispute which extends beyond its own borders. That is the duty of the Federation. We are here for the purpose of exercising that power. What is suggested by the Attorney-General is, not that we shall relegate to the States that with which they are competent to deal, because we have already provided for that. We give to them, as the Constitution gave them, full jurisdiction in all disputes of a local character. Every line and letter of this Bill is limited by the declaration that its provisions shall apply only to the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes extending beyond the limits of any one State. Seeing that its application is limited by such express words, what more is required? That which is a State dispute is entirely subject to State jurisdiction ; but that which is not wholly a State dispute, but affects more than one State, should not be left to those States to decide, and to decide, possibly, in different ways.It should be intrusted to the jurisdiction of that body which acts for united Australia - the Parliament of the Federation of which we are members. The Attorney-General must see that the possibility of the Federal Court interfering in a dispute which is confined to a particular State is prevented by the Constitution itself, and by our repetition of the declaration of its terms in the Bill. There is no possibility of our interfering or attempting to interfere by reason of this provision in a dispute which belongs to a State. The jurisdiction of the Court will arise only when the dispute has extended. If we make no reference to the position of public servants under this Bill, we shall divest ourselves of the powers which are vested in us by the Constitution; we shall cast them aside as not to be exercised in any event. This is a. power - it is more, it is a trust - reposed in us, and it seems to me that ill would be the day when we declared ourselves unwilling to undertake it, and bound ourselves, practically, for all time not to exercise it. It is not a question of interference. I look upon the object of this proposal as laudable, and in the highest degree benevolent; and why should we decline to assume beneficent functions to the fullest extent to which we are justified in assuming them by the words of the Constitution ? The object of this Bill, amongst other things, is the prevention of strikes. Is that not an object which should commend itself to every man ? The measure is designed to secure the settlement of industrial disputes. Shall we say - and this is what we are asked to say - that we will not take upon ourselves the trust conferred upon us ? Why should we say so ? We exercise it freely in regard to all private disputes, and given a dispute with which no State can satisfactorily deal - given the existence of a set of circumstances for which the Constitution has provided, and which. its framers foresaw - are we to bind ourselves not to interfere in such a case ? Surely not? If we have no confidence in a measure of this kind, let us away with it; but if it be good, as I believe it is, and if it be administered in accordance with Australian sentiment, we cannot have too much of it. We cannot, and ought not to, provide for circumstances in which we will not allow or trust our Court to interfere, in the interests of peace and good-will, in a dispute which is not local, but extends beyond the boundaries of any one State. That is the simple position. Do we trust the Court ? I do, and I believe that our trust will in every respect be justified. _ Where is the justification for the outcry in regard to interfering with the powers of a State when the State by the’ very nature of the disputes with which it is proposed i the Federal Court shall deal could not cope with them satisfactorily ? We can interfere only with disputes which extend beyond any one State. It may be that disputes in relation to wages paid by the States Governments and other matters of the kind, will rarely extend beyond one State, and if that be so, we shall rarely be called upon to interfere. But can we predict that a case of the kind will never happen ? Is it right for us to do ‘so ? We know what were the possibilities of the extension to other States of the recent Victorian railway strike.
– Would not this amendment be an incentive to the extension of such strikes ?
– Ten thousand times no. In the very foremost pages of this Bill it is declared that persons who go out on strike shall be liable to certain penalties, and we should provide concurrently with the prohibition of strikes a remedy by which justice may be done. If I imagined for a moment that proposals of this kind in relation to conciliation would encourage strikes, I should not support them. But every word and letter of this Bill speaks peace and good-will - deals with conciliation and with the settlement of disputes. We are asked, however, to say that the provisions of a Bill of this kind shall not apply to the largest bodies of workmen in the Common wealth, the public servants and railway servants of the States. Let us be true to ourselves and true to the Constitution. Letus, by all means, refrain from unnecessary interference in State affairs, but let us remember that we cannot interfere in an industrial dispute as long as it remains purely a State affair. No further provision is necessary to tie our hands, and therefore I say to honorable members, “ Trust yourselves and your Court, and look with confidence to a future which I venture to think will exceed in prosperity anything of which we have had previous experience.” In the various States Acts, provision has been made in special terms for the application of the awards of the Court to some of these great organizations. The Conciliation and Arbitration Act of New South Wales is specially applied to the railway servants of the State, and the same may be said of the first measure of the kind that was ever drafted - the New Zealand Act. I believe there is also a similar provision in the Western Australian Act. Is there anything in the history of the past to cause us to depart from such a wellestablished precedent ? Surely not. Then away with the idea that it is proposed that we should interfere in disputes relating entirely to a State. We propose to interfere only when a State is powerless to act - when an attempt on the part of a State to deal with a dispute extending beyond its limits would lead to confusion and to conflicting decisions. This amendment is necessary, and I hope that we shall agree to it - that we shall have trust in our Constitution, and the best means that may be applied to its working.
Mr. G. B. EDWARDS (South Sydney).I think I shall have to support the amendment, although I do not altogether approve of the way in which it is framed. I sincerely hold that, if we are to attempt legislation of this kind, there is no reason why we should exempt from its operation the large bodies of men employed by the Federal and States Governments. They represent the most highly organized body of employes in the Commonwealth, and any stoppage in their operations would be attended with greater evil than could arise- from any dispute between private employers and employes. When the Attorney-General. in moving the second reading of this Bill, depicted all the benefits that were to accrue from it, I could not refrain from interjecting - “ If these benefits are so great, why should we exempt the States employes from the operation of the measure?” The honorable and learned gentleman promised to deal with that question, but did not do so during the second reading stage of the Bill. He has certainly discussed the question to-day, and I do not know of any speech made during this debate that so strongly favoured the amendment as did the honorable and learned gentleman’s defence of the provision of the clause as it stands. Argument after argument advanced by him seemed only to prove more conclusively that the amendment ought to be adopted. One of his chief contentions was that the Parliament of each State had it within its power to pass legislation to deal with disputes between the State and its employes, and, consequently, that the Federal Parliament ought not to interfere. By parity of reasoning we might also say that the States Parliaments have the same power to deal with private disputes, and consequently that the Federal Parliament should not interfere in them. The suggestion to which I most strongly object in relation to this measure is that it should operate like an elephant wandering about the Commonwealth picking up pins ; but any Federal law dealing with conciliation and arbitration, and omitting from its operation large organizations of State employes, would, be the play of “ Hamlet “ with the Prince of Denmark and all his family left out. Are we to deal with strikes such as that which recently occurred among the Victorian railway employes ?
– If this Court had been in existence it could not have dealt with that strike.
– I am not going to discuss the merits of that strike, or the way in which it was settled ; but there was a time when the people, not only of Victoria but of New South Wales, were convinced that it would extend to New South Wales. That state of affairs might have been brought about in two ways. If the Government of the day in New South Wales had sympathized with the Government of this State, and assisted it to defeat the men, the dispute might have extended to an adjoining State, or if members of that Government - and there were members of it who sympathized with the men - had attempted in some way or other to assist the railway employes to resist the Government of Victoria, the strike might also have extended beyond the limits of this State. In either case we should have had a strikeamong the railway servants in more than one State.
– Would that extension have brought it within the purview of this law 1
– At once. My difficulty with regard to this measure is in relation to the definition of theword “ prevention.” I do not see how we can apply that word to a disputewhen we can deal only with disputes which extend beyond the borders of any oneState. But if we had a railway strike which, owing to the action of the Government or its organized employes, was carried beyond the borders of the State in which it arose, that dispute would at once come within the terms of the Constitution, and, under the legislation we are now passing, the Federal Court could and should stepin. Our desire in agreeing to the Federation of the States was that the Commonwealth Parliament should be able to deal with these and similar matters. The honorable member for Wentworth strongly objects to this clause, but the speech delivered by him this afternoon was a repetition of the arguments against all legislation of this kind, and not against the clause* itself. The honorable member urged that we wereunnecessarily interfering with the States, but the people of these States haveagreed that it is good and well for us to interfere with State legislation within the limits of the Constitution, and I join with those who regret that wehave not power to deal with all industrial troubles. By the provisions of theConstitution, we can deal only with disputes which extend beyond the limits of any oneState. Of all such disputes which are likely to arise, not one would be fraught with somuch damage to the peace and continuity of trading operations throughout the Federation as a dispute between the Commonwealth Government and its’ employes, or a Stateand its employes. I consider that the Courtought to have power, not only to deal with disputes between the States and their railway employes, extending beyond any one State, but that’ it should also have power, in somecases, at all events, to settle disputes between the Federal Government and its employes..
If a strike were to occur among the lettersorters, letter-carriers, and subordinate officials of the Postal Department, the whole of the social and commercial life of Australia would be thrown into chaos. Therefore, if it be a good thing to prevent strikes, we should apply the provisions of the measure to Government employes, both Commonwealth and State, as well as to private employes. I do not think that any harm can arise from doing so, though it is possible that the power conferred by the amendment might not be exercised for years to come. If we do not insert some such provision, we shall, unless we subsequently pass an Amending Bill, prevent the States from taking advantage of our legislation if they desire to do so. I think that as time goes on, and confidence in the Court is established, the States will wish to refer their disputes to it. It will be necessary for them to have some tribunal to which to refer them, and I cannot conceive of a better one than the Commonwealth Court, which will be unbiased, and in every respect better fitted to adjudicate than any State Court. A Federal Conciliation and Arbitration measure which under any circumstances exempts the public employes of the Commonwealth and the States will fall very short of the measure which I contemplated.
– While I desire to see the Bill made as effective as possible, I am disposed to think that the honorable member for Wide Bay proposes to go too far. I am of opinion that the railway servants of the States should be brought under the provisions of the measure, but I do not see why the Bill should apply to other Commonwealth and States officials, such as the employes of the Customs Department or of the Lands Departments, who do not compete with private employe’s. Nearly all the States have workshops for the construction of locomotives and rolling stock, and the doing of other work which is also done in private workshops, and they employ mechanics who compete with those similarly employed by private manufacturers. Furthermore, the State and the private employes frequently belong to the same industrial organization. For instance, the Amalgamated Engineers’ Society, the Boiler Makers’ Society, and the Carpenters’ Society all have members in both Government and private employ. These societies have standard rates of pay, below which their members are not supposed to work. In many instances, however, the rates paid by the Government have not been as high as the standard rates, and when in Queensland the Commissioner of Railways has been approached with a view to raising the Government rates to the standard rates, considerable friction has occurred, and disputes have been very narrowly averted. I think that the occurrence of such disputes ought to be a matter for the Commonwealth Court. I have been in intimate touch with the railway workers of Australia since 1875, and for a large number of years was an engine driver, so that I profess to know something about the conditions of railway employes. I knew, too, that it would have taken very little to cause the recent railway strike to extend beyond the limits of this State. If those in authority in South Australia or in New South Wales had ordered their drivers to takeover the Victorian engines, and run the trains through Victoria, there would have been such a strike. Not only the railway traffic of Victoria, but that of practically the whole Commonwealth, would have been disorganised. Are we not to provide means for preventing a catastrophe of that sort? We should be lacking in our duty to the people whom we represent if we did not. I think it unnecessary, however, to apply the provisions of the measure to public servants who do not comb into competition with private employes. If the Bill applied to the Commonwealth public servants,and they brought the matter before the Court and obtained a decision in their favour, this Parliament wouldhave to consider the competence of the Public Service Commissioner. The cases, however, are not parallel. The railways have been vested in Commissioners in order to remove their control and management from political influence, and therefore their employes should be subject to the same conditions as apply to the employes of other industries. The other public servants, however, are in quite a different position.
– I am not convinced of the necessity for taking control of the Departments now under the authority of the States, which is practically what the amendment amounts to. It has been said that a decision of the Court may affect the Estimates of a State Parliament ; but, to my mind, it may go further, and affect the policy of the State in regard to railway construction, rates of freight, or other matters. Although it is argued that a strike of State servants may extend beyond the State, all that can happen is a strike of sympathy of public servants in one State with those on strike in another State. But, inasmuch as it has been left to the Parliaments of the States to fix the salaries and rates of wages and conditions of employment of the public servants of the States, I think that there is no reason for the Commonwealth Parliament, even if it has the power, to attempt to interfere, at any rate before it has demonstrated its own ability to properly control the Departments vested in it by the Constitution. I do not propose to say anything about the recent railway strike in Victoria, but reference has been made to the conditions which would have arisen if it had extended. But how could a strike be extended beyond the limits of a State except through a sympathetic strike on the part of members of federated unions? I have shown as much practical sympathy for labour as has any man in this Chamber, but I think that there is a limit beyond which it is not judicious for the present Parliament to go, and I shall move an amendment at a later stage, with the view to restrict the operation of the Bill to organizations of a purely InterState character. To my mind, there is a danger of ‘the Bill becoming so over-loaded that it will prove unworkable and injurious to those whom it is intended to benefit. Many of the able and elaborate speeches delivered by honorable members upon this Bill pointed to the probability that the organizations throughout . Australia would, by means of federation or amalgamation, seek to utilize the provisions of the Bill in order’ to override the operation of the State Arbitration Acts. That is a hope which we should not foster. I have a great horror of strikes. I have had personal experience of them and of their disastrous results, but I will not countenance any interference with the rights of the States to control their own employes. I do not think it is judicious to make any such attempt.
– Even if we had the power under the Constitution to extend the operation of this measureto the public servants of the States, I think that any such attempt on our part would cause an immense amount of irritation at a most inopportune time. The States are so sensitive to any encroachment on their special domain, or to any extension of the Federal power within their limits, that we ought to approach them in a spirit of conciliation and sympathy, and take care not to unnecessarily inflame them against the Federal authority. Any attempt to bring the railway servants of the States within the scope of the Bill would lead to great discontent and ill feeling, and I am sure that if there were any possibility of secession, such interference with State rights would constitute a strong impelling motive towards that end. I hold, with the honorable member for Moira, that we ought to follow the course that was manifestly intended by the Convention, and to confine the ‘ scope of the Bill to matters of a purely Inter-State character. It was never for a moment contemplated that the management of the railways, as regards wages and hours of labour, should be handed over to a Federal tribunal. There is no express delegation of power to deal with the railways under the Constitution, but an attempt is now being made, under the provision of section 51 relating to arbitration and conciliation for the settlement of industrial disputes, to practically hand over the control of the chief financial branch of the railways to three- irresponsible officials. If a dispute arose between Messrs. Hill and Company, the coach contractors, and their drivers with regard to wages and hours of labour extending over the limits of the one State - a dispute which could easily enough be precipitated - the Court could, if the Bill applied to employes of the States, apply a common rule to the whole of the railway servants of the States. We must measure what is likely to occur by the scope of . the subsequent provisions of the Bill, and we must consider the extent to which the powers with which it is proposed to invest an absolutely uncontrollable and irresponsible body may be exercised. The States Governments would have no control over the Court, and surely the absurdity of the proposal must be apparent when the extent of the powers to be exercised by the Court are considered. If - a dispute arose in the carrying trade, involving steamships travelling from one State to another, the Court could make an award regarding the rates of wages to’ be paid upon steamers, and could apply those rates to the railway servants, and thus supersede all the State legislation relating to the railways and their management by Commissioners. I think that the honorable member for Bland put the matter too strongly when he said that a similar power to that indicated is conferred by the New Zealand Act. I am somewhat sceptical upon that point. I do not think that any award of the Arbitration Court in New Zealand could override the provisions of the Public Service Act in that colony. I believe that the powers of the Court are limited by the Public Service Act, and that the same remark applies to the State of New South Wales. It is true that the Arbitration Court in New Zealand may have been utilized to settle disputes arising in connexion with the Public Service, but only as a substitute for the Board specially provided for under the Public Service Act. I am not quite sure upon that point, because I have not been able to consult the Acts ; but common-sense suggests that there must be some limit to the power of the Arbitration Court in cases where the State itself is concerned as an employer. Surely w.e should not invest the Court with power to apply a common rule which would upset the provisions of the States Acts which provide for the appointment of Railway Commissioners to manage the railways and to deal with all matters relating to the pay and conditions of employment ? Then the Court has power to differentiate between State and State, and this might lead to all kinds of complications, involving not only the States concerned in a dispute, but others entirely beyond its influence. That shows the absurdity of bringing the large public services of the States within the operation of the Bill. If the Convention had for a moment contemplated that any such attempt would be made to extend the authority conferred by the Constitution the powers delegated to us would have been very considerably curtailed. It is claimed that the railway servants are under the control of the Commissioners, who are non-political in character, and are therefore not servants of the Crown ; but the States Parliaments could very easily foil us by bringing the Commissioners under direct political control. Then the Federal Act could not possibly apply to them except with the consent of the Governments of the States. In framing the Constitution we were careful, when we desired to deal with the States railways, to specifically refer to them. Thus section 98 provides that -
The power of the Parliament to make laws with respect to trade and commerce, extends to navigation and shipping, and to railways, the property of any State.
Again, when we wished to give the right of action against a State we made express provision to that effect, as in section 78, relating to the power of the Parliament to make laws conferring rights to proceed against the Commonwealth or a State in respect of matters within the limits of the judicial power. Could we justly grant any remedy against the States beyond that conferred by the Judiciary Act? Surely, if the Convention so jealously guarded the rights of the States in connexion with the provisions relating to the judiciary, it could never have been contemplated that an extension would be made of the powers relating to conciliation and arbitration in the way now proposed. The light honorable and learned member for South Australia seems to regard this as a matter of very great importance ; but if he would not allow the Arbitration Court to interfere in the case of a dispute in the Customs Department which could be settled under the Public Service Act, why should the power of the Court be exercised in regard to a dispute between a State Government and its employes ? If the right honorable and learned member is not prepared for the interference of the Arbitration Court in disputes between the Commonwealth and its servants, why should he approve of an encroachment upon the domain of the Railway or Public Service Commissioners of the States 1 If a railway strike took place in Victoria, and a sympathetic strike also occurred in South Australia, -it. could not be contended that the dispute extended beyond the limits of one State. No doubt one strike would arise out of the other, but the cause of the dispute could not be the same, and the wages and terms of employment would be utterly different. An application of the powers of the Court to such a case would be absurd, and would involve an encroachment upon the original powers of the State which would give rise to a great irritation at a most inopportune time.
Mr. BATCHELOR (South Australia).I do not think it is fair to assume that because we may confer extreme powers in this Bill, they will necessarily be exercised. As the honorable and- learned member for South Australia, Mr. Glynn, has pointed out, the application of the common rule in case of a dispute between Messrs Hill and Company and their employes might regulate the wages of the whole carrying trade throughout Australia. We have to assume, however, that those who are charged with the administration of this Act will exercise common sense. The honorable member for Moira has said that the Bill is not intended to take out of the hands of the States the control of its servants. Neither is it designed to assume control of the business of private individuals. Its object is “ the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes.” In his speech upon the second reading of the Bill, the Attorney-General laid special emphasis upon the necessity for creating an impartial tribunal which shall settle industrial disputes, instead of their determination resting upon brute force. Why should that method of settlement be limited to private employers and employes ? If a strike occurred in the Government service, it would have to be settled in just the same way as would a strike outside. As the essential purpose of the measure is to prevent all the conditions of industrial employment from being upset by strikes, it seems to me that we ought not to hesitate at taking power to intervene in disputes even where the public servants of a State are concerned. The AttorneyGeneral, however, has expressed a doubt as to whether a dispute between any State and its employes could extend beyond its own borders. If there be any virtue in that contention, it seems to me that it is equally applicable to the whole of the Bill, and if the honorable and learned gentleman carries that argument to its logical conclusion he will reduce his Bill merely to an ornamental piece of letterpress. Let me point, for example, to the Amalgamated Society of Engineers. That body is federated throughout the world. Let me assume that a united attempt was made by that organization to secure the recognition of the principle of forty-four hours’ labour per week, or that its members objected to working with non-unionists. A dispute would arise which had no connexion with any particular State. The Attorney-General contends that such a dispute would not extend beyond the borders of one State.
– It would be very difficult for such a dispute to arise.
– Then how can it be urged that the Bill possesses any real value 1 If a dispute such as I have indicated would not extend beyond the limits of any one State, I cannot conceive of one that would. In this connexion I may also point out that the rolling stock and the railwayline between South Australia and Victoria is owned jointly by the States in question.
It would be extremely easy for a dispute, of an Inter-State character to arise in connexion with a property which is jointly owned.
– It is possible to conceive of it, but it would be very rarely realized.
– Of course I do not imagine that strikes against the Government are likely to occur frequently in any State. Still less likely are they to extend beyond the borders of any one. State. Nevertheless, as the very object of the Bill is to prevent disaster, why should we not make its provisions applicable to the State employes? If the power for which I am contending will be generally inoperative so much the better. Certainly we ought to establish some tribunal which will decide these industrial disputes impartially. No one will deny that after the recent railway strike had occurred in Victoria, it was extremely difficult for either side to arrive at a settlement, and no one will pretend that the settlement which was made was satisfactory to both parties. I urge the Committee to take whatever steps may be necessary to bring about harmony in our industrial relations.
– I have already intimated that I intend to support this Bill. At the same time I appeal to all friends of the measure to abstain from taking any action which may result in so weighing it down as to temporarily defeat its object. If I were convinced that we possess the legal and constitutional power to deal with the matter under consideration in an effective manner, I should cordially support the amendment. I listened attentively to the impressive appeal which was made by the right honorable member for South Australia, Mr. Kingston, and I have given due consideration to it. Yet I am bound to confess that he has not removed the doubts which previously existed in my mind as to whether this Parliament can effectively and legally deal with disputes of this character. The test of a power I take it is whether we can give legal expression to it - whether we can enforce it. Let us suppose that the tribunal which it is proposed to establish made an award either with reference to wages or the hours of labour. The award having been made it would be necessary to enforce it. In that connexion, clause 73 provides -
The Court may, on the application of any party to an award, make an order in the nature of a mandamus or injunction to compel compliance with the award, or to restrain its breach under pain of imprisonment, and no person to whom such order applies shall, after written notice of such order, be guilty of any contravention of the award by act or omission. 1 should like to know whether the Court could legally or safely go to the extent of imprisoning the Railway Commissioners of Victoria or New South Wales because they failed to carry out an award. Could any Court reasonably imprison those who failed to carry out its award, not because they were unwilling, but because they were unable to do so? If an award were made against the Railway Commissioners of New South Wales or Victoria, directing them to increase the rates of wages or to alter the hours of labour of their employes, they would be unable to comply with that award unless they were authorized to do so by the Parliament to which they owed their appointment.
– Unless an Appropriation Act were passed for the purpose.
– Quite so. The Railway Commissioners might say to the Arbitration Court - “ We cannot carry out your award ; we have not the money to do so.” In such circumstances under this proposal they would be sent to gaol simply because they had not carried out an award which they were not authorized by a State law to obey. If the State authorities passed legislationauthorizingtheRail way Commissioners to give effect to the awards of this tribunal, the Court would have not only jurisdiction, but power to enforce its awards against them. In the absence of such legislation it appears tome that such awards would be an absolute nullity, and that the whole proceedings of the Court in relation to matters of that kind would be reduced to a farce. I would cheerfully give the Court power to deal with Inter-State disputes affecting public servants, provided the States Parliaments would agree to confer the necessary authority. They could do so. The proper course for us to pursue is to hold out some inducement to the various States Parliaments to pass laws authorizing the Federal tribunal to deal with these disputes. It might be very convenient for the States Governments to have a Federal tribunal to settle disputes of the kind; they might be glad to get rid of them bypassing them on to a Federal authority, and I, for one, should be quite willing to go to the extent of amending this Bill so as to give . our Court authority to deal with such Inter-State disputes, in which State employes were concerned, as were referred to it by States laws. I have given the question anxious and careful consideration, and I fail to see how we can confer jurisdiction upon our Court to enforce an award against a State authority when that authority is founded upon the rock of State law. I ask all friends of this Bill whether they desire to give the Court a power which will be set at defiance by the States authorities. If, unfortunately, we assume an aggressive attitude towards the States Parliaments and Governments they may say - “ Hands off. What right have you to deal with our employes ? We are capable of dealing with them, and are prepared to legislate for them.”
– Might not a State Government say the same with regard to a High Court decision ?
– A decision of the High Court will operate upon the individual. The execution will be directed to the individual - to his goods and chattels, and his person. But we are asked to cause this measure to operate upon a State corporation, whose powers are perhaps limited by State laws and by State appropriations. ‘
– But the Railway Commissioners fix wages.
– They cannot fix wages save to the extent authorized by Parliament. If the wages were increased in one quarter, the revenue available for appropriation in another direction would be reduced, and the result might be a decrease in another quarter. I understand that the power exercised in this respect by the New Zealand Court is very limited - that it is practically a farce. The Court there cannot interfere, except within the margin of the annual Appropriation Act, with the rates of pay of public servants. It cannot make any increase or reduction between the classified standard of wages as determined by the Appropriation Act.
– The railway employes are brought under the Act.
– To that limited extent they are. But there the State Parliament has freely and voluntarily delegated its jurisdiction to an outside body, while here we are asked to say to the States authorities - “ You have no right to control the wages of your own people.” I do not wish this measure to be unnecessarily overburdened. It is, as it stands, a good Bill, and represents a substantial instalment of -what we all desire. We should be thankful for the great advance which it makes in the direction at which we are all aiming, and should not do anything to cause enemies of the Bill to rise up in a quarter which might, to some extent, imperil its chances. I know that lawyers differ. I do not profess to say. that my opinion in the matter of the legal aspect of this question is correct and that the opinions of others are wrong ; but I hold that where the lawyers differ we should look to the responsible legal adviser of the House. I may not be correct in the view which I hold; but I prefer to follow the responsible leader of the House in regard to this question, and to say that the utmost extent to which we should go is to make some amendment declaring that the Court shall deal with inter-State disputes in connexion with railways and other public services provided the
States Parliaments will delegate that authority to it.
– I have considered this question with a great deal of anxiety, and I am very sorry indeed to find myself holding views different from those entertained by the honorable member for Wide Bay on this occasion, because our sympathies in this matter run very much in the same direction. I should have been very glad if I could have seen any practical way of achieving the desire which the amendment indicates. But I regard it, first of all, as a matter of principle, and secondly as a mat- .ter of practical politics, and I think it would be a mistake to attempt to extend the provisions of the Bill to the States employes.
– To any of them ?
– Yes ; at all events at thepresent moment. I shall shortly state my reasons for this opinion. The principle upon which I support this Bill. - and I think it is the central principle that animates all its friends - is that industrial disputes should, as far as practicable, be rendered impossible. When we ask ourselves what is it that makes industrial disputes possible, we find that it is the contest between private interests. It is the natural selfishness of both sides, each side attempting to obtain the greatest personal advantage possible, that compels the State to intervene and say that for public reasons that private warfareshall notcontinue. But the position is very different when we propose to say to the whole State, acting not from private reasons, but from public reasons, “You shall not exercise your corporate public powers.” Honorable members will see that, although at some future time it may be found necessary or advisable to exercise powers which I am not prepared to say do not exist in the Constitution, there is undoubtedly a different principle involved. When we ask the greater State to interfere with the lesser State, we cannot stand upon the same clear and undoubted platform that we are on when we say to a State, “ W e will interfere with private cupidity, or private rapacity, or a private desire for enrichment at the expense of all that may be dear to the State and important to the individual as a member of the State.” It seems to me that the words which have fallen from the honorable and learned member for Bendigo are deserving of great consideration, and that when we are embarking upon a great enterprise we ought not to endeavour to take a cargo such as may endanger our voyage. The practical view of the matter is this : The proposal as a bare proposal is attractive. We can say “Let us as a Commonwealth see that the State employes are fairly treated.” There is no man in this community to whom I would yield in my desire to see that end effected. I am not prepared as a member of the Federal Parliament to express my views as to the cause of the unfortunate strike pf railway employes which recently occurred in Victoria. We all hold opinions in reference to it, but it is no part of our duty to take sides in regard to such a strike or any private disputes when dealing with this matter. Notwithstanding my desire, I find myself compelled to inquire, “What would this intervention mean 1 “ It would mean that every Railway Act and every Public Service Act would practically be abrogated.
– Or be liable to be abrogated.
– Would be practically abrogated, and for this reason : The Federal Court, consisting of one Judge and two lay members, one of whom might dissent from any decision of the Court, would have power to disregard every Public Service Act. Two gentlemen - I do not care how high their position may be - would have power to say, “We will disregard the States Public Service Acts. We will say who shall be employed and not employed in the States services. We will say what the hours and conditions of, labour of public servants shall be. We will say, notwithstanding the provisions of any State Act, what their remuneration shall be - how they shall be dismissed, if dismissed at all - how they shall be treated; what privileges they shall enjoy, the class of work upon which they shall be engaged. The minute of their employment shall be regulated not by the States Governments, or the States Parliaments, not by the people of the States as such, but by Us.”
– If the Court is constituted it will be able to do exactly the same in relation to private enterprises.
– I defend the application of the power to private individuals, because there is the greatest possible difference between the interests of private individuals and public, interests.
– I am speaking of the disregard of State Acts.
– In my opinion, that matter stands upon a different footing.But [ say that it is a very drastic step, and one which I am not prepared to take at the present time, to provide with regard to the public servants of the States, who are controlled not by private employers but by the representatives of the whole body of the people, that the powers of the States shall be set at naught, and that their Acts shall be treated as non-existent or practically repealed if the majority of the Commonwealth Court see fit. I fear that honorable members have lost sight of a very important principle, and one that, perhaps, is best expressed in the phrase of a Chief J Justice of the United States, who spoke of “ an indestructible union of indestructible States.” When we interfere with the rights of the States to fix their own terms of employment for their employes, we are in- vading what is really and properly the province of the States Parliaments.
– The employes engaged in the industries of the States are also the employes of the States.
– I do not agree with my honorable friend in the view which he takes on that subject. I think, however, that we shall endanger the Bill if we accept the proposal embodied in the amendment. The right honorable member for South Australia and the honorable member for Darling referred to the fact that’ some of the States, at all events, have given to their Arbitration Courts the right to adjudicate in respect to State employes.
– I said State employes under Commissioners.
– I draw no distinction between the two classes of employes’. Employes under Commissioners are State employes, and a State Parliament may abolish the Commission at any time. It is only for the purposes of administration that any body of State employes is placed under Commissioners. But two observations are important in regard to the action of the States to which reference has been made. The first is that what has been done has been done by the authorities of the States, and the second that the Courts are subject to the laws of the States. But if we agree to the amendment the public servants of the States will be under the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth Court, which will be independent of the States laws, and will, if necessary, override them. To show that the Status Courts are subject to theStates laws, let me read the words of the learned President of the New South Wales Arbitration Court, when giving a decision in May of this year upon the dispute between the Illawarra Collieries Employes’ Association and the Southern Collieries Proprietors’ Association -
I might observe here that this Court is bound by the statute law of the country. This Court cannot make an award or an order which is in contravention of it ; and when we deal with applications which arise out of our award, we have still to see nhat the statute law is given effect to ; and it is perfectly clear law that where a right, whether by statute or common law, is vested in, or granted to, a citizen, that right is not abrogated, except by the express language of the statute, or by necessary implication from it, and in my view neither condition exists in this case.
– The Court gave a contrary decision in regard to the Early Closing Act when a case was brought before it by the Butchers’” Union.
– No. It merely held that under a voluntary agreement shopkeepers might close earlier.
– The Court applied the rule to others than those who signed the agreement.
– I do not remember any case dealing with this question other than that to which I have referred.
– The point arose in regard to the Early Closing Act, in the case referred to by the honorable member for Bland and in another case ; but the view taken was identical with that spoken of by the honorable and learned member.
– When a State Parliamant delegates to a State Court the settlement of disputes, it does so without abrogating its own legislation. But if we take possession of the field, and say that, notwithstanding the State legislation, the Commonwealth Court may go over the head of the State Parliament, and determine what the terms, and conditions, and privileges of the State service shall be, the position is very different.
– Does the honorable and learned member suggest that the awards of the Federal Court should be abrogated by State legislation %
– Certainly not ; and my desire that they should not makes me all the more careful to determine how far we should go. When the award of the Federal Court is given, it must be paramount. To my mind the amendment goes beyond the consideration which led a number of us to support the Bill, namely, that private interests should not stand before the. public welfare. If we apply the Bill to the Public Services of the States’, we shall attach to it such a heavy weight that its friends may be seriously anxious about its fate. I desire to see its beneficent provisions applied to as large an area as possible, because I look upon the measure as one of the greatest, if not the greatest, that ‘has yet been introduced into this Parliament, and 1 am fearful that by attaching this provision to it we shall do something towards preventing it from becoming law.
– I fail tosee how the honorable and learned members for Indi and Bendigo, and other honorable members who have spoken against the amendment,- can reconcile their present attitude with the support which they gave to the Bill. Honorable members, like the honorable member for Wentworth, who opposed the Bill, are naturally in favour of limiting its operation as much as possible. But other honorable members, while they say that the measure will be beneficent in its application to private employers of labour, contend that it should not be applied to the States or Commonwealth authorities.
– There is a broad distinction between the self-governing bodies which represent the whole people and the nonselfgoverning bodies to which the Bill applies.
– The self-governing bodies which represent the people ought to obey the laws of the Commonwealth. Why should they be exempt from obedience to this particular law ?
– Because it is necessary to preserve the self-governing powers of the States.
– The argument used by the Attorney-General and others against the clause applies with equal effect against the Bill. If the Governments of the States and of the Commonwealth have to obey the laws of the Commonwealth, why should exceptions be made in respect to this particular law 1 The Attorney-General says that the ‘ powers of the States Governments have in some instances been delegated to tribunals, such as railway boards, for example, for the settlement of disputes between employes and the Government.
– That is in States where there is not an Arbitration Court.
– Yes. But there are States where what the honorable and learned member refers to has not been done,, and he made no reply to the interjection of the honorable member for North Sydney as to what is to be done where there has not been a delegation of power. As a matter of fact,, there is no tribunal within the Commonwealth to which has been delegated the powers conferred by this Bill. There are tribunals for the settlement of dispute’s arising within the States within which they have jurisdiction, but there is no tribunal for the settlement of disputes extending beyond any one State. Objection is taken to the amendment, too, upon the ground that the Commonwealth has no power to enforce any decision of the proposed Court. But the same thing might be said of a decision of the High Court. We take it for granted that the. Governments of the States will respect the law. The honorable and learned member for Bendigo asked what power we have to imprison a State Commissioner of Railways for refusing to comply with a judgment of the Arbitration Court. I do not know what the powers of the Commonwealth are in that respect; but as we collect a large amount of money from the States, we may have power to retain some of it to satisfy any decision given against the Government of a State.
– We cannot retain more than our fourth under any circumstances.
– There is always a margin which the Commonwealth could retain. No doubt some means would be devised for enforcing the decisions of the Arbitration Court. If a dispute occurred between two or more States Governments and their employes, who would be better able to arbitrate than the Commonwealth Government?
– If the States- Governments thought so, we should be perfectly prepared to offer our services.
– I believe that the States will show that they think so. I quite agree with the right honorable and learned member for South Australia that we have a sacred trust to discharge. We are called upon to preserve peace, order, and good government in the Commonwealth, and there is nothing that would tend more to injure that peace, order, and good government than a strike extending beyond the limits of one State. Therefore if we decline to use every means in our power to prevent disputes of this kind arising, we shall be false to the trust reposed in us by the people. That would be a craven policy to pursue and one quite unworthy of the Commonwealth. The position taken up by those honorable members who are in favour of the principle of the Bill, and who are still opposed to the amendment is quite illogical. The AttorneyGeneral says that if the benefits of the Bill were extended as proposed we should interfere with the powers of self-government of the States. A similar argument might, be used against the law courts. The States Governments and the Commonwealth Government may be proceeded against in the Courts. Yet- no one would contend that in the exercise of their jurisdiction the Courts interfere with the powers of self-government of the States. If we are” prepared to apply the principle of arbitration to private individuals, we should extend its benefits to the State and Commonwealth public servants. Why should the Commonwealth and the States Governments be exempted from the operation of the Bill ? The prevention and settlement of disputes extending beyond the limits of any one State is a power expressly conferred upon the Commonwealth by the Constitution, and we shall be shirking our responsibility if we do not adopt every means within our power to discharge the trust committed to us.
– If the honorable member for Wide Bay desires to see the Bill placed upon the statute-book, and to promote the welfare of the public servants of the States and the Commonwealth, he will withdraw his amendment. I do not understand how honorable members can advocate State socialism and State control of various industries one day, and come down the next day and argue that the States Governments are not fit to conduct any industry or department, and that we must set up an outside tribunal to control them. It is now proposed to take the management of States enterprises, out of the hands of the Governments and place them under a Federal tribunal. In. order to attract the best available talent into the Public Service, the States Parliaments have agreed to pay their servants somewhat higher rates of wages and salaries than are given to those engaged in similar occupations outside.
– That is not invariably so.’
– No, because it is impossible to avoid anomalous conditions here and there, but my honorable friend will admit that my remarks apply to the great majority of cases.
– I will not admit that.
– The correctness of my statement could be very easily established. We know that all the departments of the States and of the Commonwealth are inun-dated with applications from persons anxious to obtain admission to the Public Services.
– Because the employment is permanent.
– That may have been one of the reasons. I am sure that if there were sufficient room in the Commonwealth and States Departments for all workers, private employers would look in vain for servants. That is because of the higher rates of pay prevailing in the Public Services.
– Not always.
– Does the honorable member contend that those who are being paid in excess of the rates ruling outside should have their wages reduced in order that a few anomalies might be rectified ? In the event of an appeal being made to the Arbitration Court that tribunal ‘could only adopt as a standard the remuneration rulingin private employment, and consequently the pity of the public servants would in almost every case be reduced.
– The recent railway strike in Victoria had nothing to do with wages.
– No, but that is beside the question. The Arbitration Court would, in the event of its being appealed to, be compelled to cut down the remuneration of public servants in nine-tenths of the States and Commonwealth Departments. Furthermore, the proposal now made by the honorable member for Wide Bay aims a direct blow at the very foundation of responsible Government in the States. The people of a State might send their representatives into Parliament pledged to treat their public servants in a particular way. They might direct them to pay the public servants a little more than could be secured by workers outside. In spite of that verdict the triumvirate which would be set up could step in and declare, “ You shall not do that.” It seems to me a monstrous proposal, and I am indeed surprised that it should emanate from those who have always favoured the principle that the Government of the country should be “broad-based upon the people’s will.” What becomes of all the talk in reference to adult suffrage if we create a triumvirate who will be in a position to defy the people ?
– That is a most extraordinary argument.
– -Does not my honorable friend see that it is so. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie declared that the finances of the States might be disturbed by an award of the High Court or of a Supreme Court. Surely he recognises that there is a vast difference between any ordinary court of law and the tribunal which is contemplated under this Bill. The Justices of the Supreme Courts of the States have to administer the law as they find it. The members of this tribunal, however, will consider rather the substantial merits of each case. It is utterly impossible for us to pass a law which will direct the Court in the discharge of its functions. Its members must inquire into the conditions of trade, and fix such rates of pay as, in their judgment, are suitable to the industry affected. There is not the slightest analogy between the character of the two tribunals. If a dispute occurs between a State Government and its employes who should decide it ? I hold that the people should determine it. What other tribunal should be supreme?. I have always fought to base the government of the country upon the expressed will’ of the people, and I shall never be a party to creating any tribunal which shall be superior to that will. Not very long ago this House adopted what is known as the minimum wage in connexion with the public servants. The result is that some employes who formerly received £40 or £50 a year now obtain £110. What chance would they have of securing such a rate of remuneration if they had to state their case before an Arbitration Court ? Their rate of pay would be regulated by that which obtains for similar work outside the Public Service. I have always favoured the idea that the State should be the most generous employer in the country. But if we are to create this tribunal what will become of that principle? We cannot instruct the Court to deal in one way with State employes and in another with private employes. Surely honorable members will see that uniformity would prove the biggest blow that could be dealt at the public servants of the State, because it would reduce their wages to the level of the rates which prevail outside. Under all the circumstances I think that the State employes may fairly plead to be saved from their friends.
– As I had not an opportunity of speaking upon the second reading of this Bill I desire to say that I am very strongly opposed to it. In my judgment it has been framed entirely for the benefit of men who belong to unions. When I reflect upon the large number of workers who are scattered throughout Australia, it seems to me grossly unfair that a Bill should be submitted to Parliament solely iri the interests of a particular section. Two large classes of the community are excluded from its operation, namely, the employes of the States and those who do not belong to any union. I listened attentively to the remarks of the honorable and learned member for Indi. He declared that we ought not to intervene between State employes and the States Governments, because the former labour for the good of the people as a whole. If there is anything in that argument, I should like the honorable and learned member to carry it a little further. I would point out to him that municipal employes equally with State public servants work for the good of the community.
– The honorable member is not accurately quoting my words.
– I can assure the honorable and learned member that I have no desire to misrepresent him. I trust that no amendment which will have the effect of excluding State servants from the operation of the Bill will be acceptable to this Committee. In my judgment we should do justice all round. For these reasons I shall support the proposal of the honorable member for Wide Bay.
– I have no intention to unduly occupy time during the progress of this measure through Committee ; but I am sincerely anxious that public servants shall participate in any benefits which itmay confer. In my judgment they are just as much entitled to consideration as are any other section of the community. Any one who was resident in Melbourne during the recent railway strike will appreciate the farreaching results of that trouble. The men concerned in that struggle have petitioned this House to be brought under the operation of this measure. They are convinced that they have justice upon their side. On the other hand, the State Government ask that the Bill shall not be made applicable to their employes. These facts speak for themselves. To my mind the scope of the Bill should be so extended as to embrace the employes in the Government Printing Office. The honorable member for Gippsland has declared that every person who can do so enters the public service of the State as soon as possible. I know that every employe in the Victorian Government Printing Office gets out of it as speedily as possible.
– The men outside receive more wages.
– Exactly. I am satisfied that if an Arbitration Court were in existence the conditions of the employes in that establishment would be materially improved. The honorable member for Gippsland referred to certain cases which have been duly paraded by newspapers opposed to the principles of the minimum wage, and in which public servants, hitherto in receipt of a salary of £40 or £50 per annum, have had their rem uneration increased to £ 1 1 0 a year. He failed, however, to mention that, according to a return prepared to the order of this House, a number of men in Victoria who had been in the service for twenty-three years, were not receiving £90 per annum.
– Some men are not worth £25 per annum.
– Perhaps the honorable member would like to knock all men on the head as soon as they are no longer able to work.
– Men who are not worth the minimum wage should be dismissed from the service.
– Exactly; and no doubt the Commissioner will adopt that course. I trust that the Committee will agree to the amendment.
Mr. FISHER (Wide Bay). - I should like to say a few words, more particularly in reply to the honorable member for Gippsland. I invariably listen to the honorable member’s remarks with interest ; but I venture to say that no man holds more dogmatic views upon certain subjects than he does. It seems to me that the arguments used by him go further than the necessities of the case require. He asserts that the mover of the amendment, and those who support it, hold socialistic views. I do not hesitate to say that every movement in a socialistic direction is a step towards the advancement of civilization.
– I did not say that it was otherwise.
– It is too late in the day to say anything against socialism. The late Lord Salisbury declared fifteen years ago that every one was now a socialist.
– I contrasted that view with the action which it was proposed- to take.
– Any legislation which is for the well-being of a nation, or for an aggregation of nations, such as is the British Empire, represents socialism in some form or other. The honorable member for Gippsland objects to a tribunal consisting of a High Court Judge, assisted by two Assessors, dealing with intricate matters of trade, busidess, and industry. What alternative proposal does he make? He asserts that in any event the members of the Public Service would have their grievances remedied at a general election. But has the honorable member ever heard of a general election in which only one issue was involved ?
– Or does he recognise that Victorian public servants are unable to vote?
– Those who are responsible for the disfranchisement of the Public Service of Victoria will have to answer for it at sometime or other. It is a condition of affairs which no democrat, not to saysocialist, could tolerate. The honorable member urges us to trust the people to do that which is right ; but, in the complexity of issues associated with a general election, no body of public servants could expect to have their case absolutely determined on its merits. The individuality of a candidate - the fact that he happens to be a particular favourite in a particular district - has often more to do with his return than has any question of national interest. The personality of the Minister for Home Affairs, for example, is such that, even if he confiscated the Treasury funds, he would still be returned to Parliament. The honorable member for Gippsland says that the public servants of the States are overpaid.
– I did not say that.
– The honorable member said that members of the public service received a higher remuneration than was obtained by those discharging corresponding duties for private employers.
– The great majority of them do.
– I venture to say that the Commonwealth and the States have some of the most eminent men in Australia in their employment, and that, having regard to the salaries received for the discharge of similar duties outside the service, those men are underpaid. The honorable member for Melbourne, for example, gives proportionately a higher rate of wages than is paid to men doing similar work in the Public Service, and the same may be said of many other private employers. Certain honorable members have dealt with this great question by urging that some members of the Public Service might have their salaries reduced. If some members of the service are receiving too much and others toe little, there should be a readjustment of salaries. Surely abstract justice demands that all shall be treated alike, rather than that a favoured few should enjoy advantages which are not possessed by others. As to the socialistic tendency of our legislation, I would ask how far the States Parliaments have gone in the direction of constituting authorities, whom they consider to be better able to deal with certain industries, than are the Legislatures themselves. They have appointed PublicService Commissioners, Railway Commissioners, and intermediate managers in every direction, in order to relieve themselves. Socialistic legislation, whether passed by the Parliament of the Commonwealth or the Parliaments of the States, will.do well if it delegates to a properly constituted authority, judicial in its character, all that will tend to advance the interests of the community. I have only a few word3 more to say in relation to the position of the railway employes. If the Committee declines to extend the provisions of the Bill to all public servants, I shall be very glad to see an amendment carried applying them to those serving under any public authority constituted by the Commonwealth or by the States Governments. We have the railway men in our mind’s eye. When the Commonwealth takes over a proportion of the States debts, it will also have to take over a proportion of the assets of the States ; and, whether the States like it or not, the railways will, doubtless, form part of the transferred assets. Recognising the fact that, notwithstanding what has been said against it, the federation of labour took place prior to political federation, we must see that it will continue to grow, and that the railway servants throughout the Commonwealth will undoubtedly form one combination. If the States treat them differently, trouble is sure to arise. We are dealing with men of the highest character. The railway employes - the engine-drivers - have carried out their duties practically at all times in the most satisfactory way, and they are men of whom any State might well be proud. I recently read a statement that Bishop Porter, of New York, never leaves a railway platform without taking off his hat to the engineers who have safely brought him to his destination, and no higher compliment could be paid to public servants of that class.
– I quite agree that at the present stage in our Federal history this is a matter of consider- . able difficulty to determine. The AttorneyGeneral, in moving the second reading of the Bill, made special reference to this clause. He requested honorable members to express their opinions in relation to it, and, in the course of my speech on the motion for the second reading of the measure, I gave some attention to this provision. I feel that the relations which exist between the States and the Commonwealth at the present juncture are worthy of the greatest consideration. We have reached a most critical period in the history oi the Commonwealth, and if we can fairly agree to any procedure which will minimize if not entirely remove the friction which undoubtedly exists between the .Federation and the States, we shall do much to assist the well-being of the community. In our desire to secure that end, however, we should not be prepared to . sacrifice any members of the community, or to deny them a privilege which we are granting to other sections. I agree with the AttorneyGeneral, that the public servants of the Commonwealth have evidenced no, desire to come within the scope of this measure, but a different feeling prevails with regard to those enterprises in the direction of State industrialism which have been undertaken by the several States. Where a State embarks upon an enterprise which hitherto has been left to private persons, it should not endeavour to obtain an advantage at the expense of any possible competitor. In these circumstances, although I do not for one moment allow that the result of the passing of a measure such as this will be to improve the position of workers to the detriment of their employers, I feel that as the scope of the States undertakings is enlarged, we shall find that there is greater necessity than ever for dealing ‘ out even-handed justice to every section of the community regardless of whether they are public servants or the employes of private individuals. Strikes are unlikely to occur where State servants are directly controlled by the Government of the day; but where there is an intermediate authority there is danger that the conditions under which the men may be expected to labour will not be consonant with those prevailing outside or in accordance with the desire of the majority of the people. Directly the control of any Department is handed over by the State to a separate authority, we have no right whatever to deny to those who work in that Department the treatment which we extend to other workers in the community. In Hew Zealand railway servants were at first exempted from the operation of the Act, but in 1900 they were, at their own desire and in conformity with a resolutionpassed by a body of employers, brought under its operation. It has been pointed out over and over again that, even from the employers’ point of view, there are no terrible drawbacks connected with legislation of this kind, and proof of that statement is contained in the fact that the employers of New Zealand, who have had the longest experience of it, desire to see it extended rather than curtailed or abolished. In their action in regard to the railway employes of that colony they showed that they believe that its benificent effects should not be confined to private employes, but should be conferred also upon the public servants. The. honorable member for Tasmania, Mr. Cameron, uttered a word of warning when he indicated his attitude in regard to the clause. As I am anxious that the measure shall pass, I shall not discuss the question at length, but I should be sorry to range myself with the honorable member. I feel, however, that we shall run great danger of losing the measure if we adopt the proposal to omit the clause. If the Bill is carried exactly as it stands, it will prove of immense benefit to the Commonwealth, but we must be careful that it is not overloaded and rendered unworkable. This Parliament should not impose upon the States authorities restrictions which it is not prepared to impose upon the Commonwealth Government, but there is not the necessity for the application of the provisions of the measure to States servants generally which exists for its application to those who are under intermediate authorities. Under’ these circumstances, while I shall support an amendment applying the provisions of the Bill to State employes working under intermediate authorities, I shall vote against the amendment before the Committee. I am strongly in favour of the principle- of the amendment under discussion, but I think that in view of the friction which now unhappily exists between the States and the Commonwealth, we should not impose upon the Governments of the States restrictions which they may be inclined to resent.
– The question under consideration is more important than most honorable members seem to think. I have not contended that we have no power to bring the public servants of the States within the scope of the measure, because my personal opinion is that we have that power ; nor have I contended that most of the operations of the public servants of the States .are such as can involve industrial disputes, or disputes likely to extend beyond any one State. I have directed my argument to the question - should what power we have be exercised, and I have endeavoured to bring honorable members to what appears to be the real point at issue. Those who support the amendment have dealt with equal generosity with me, because they have not pointed out, as they might have done, that I have not endeavoured to argue the question upon its merits. The consideration by which the Government is affected, may seem at first sight merely one of expediency, and no longer applicable at a future date, when the Federal Parliament has come into full possession of its powers, and the whole range of its authority has been brought into play. I deal with the question now solely from the stand-point of what is most Federal, most expedient, and most just to the States at the present moment. We cannot, in one breath, admit that the States are under the Constitution self-governing bodies, and in the next support a proposal which lays the axe at the very root of their selfgovernment.. The authority of the States over their employes is surely one of the most important factors when they are conducting their affairs in the manner which their people believe best. The people of the States elect their representatives in Parliament, who, by a majority, maintain in power a responsible Government which submits proposals for the making and management of railways, the wages and conditions of employment 6f public servants, and every detail of public administration. They provide, also, for boards, by which disputes which may occur in the public service are to be finally dealt with. This amendment interferes with the right of the Parliaments of the States to make appropriations, to revise estimates, and to decrease or increase expenditure upon their Departments, whether these are of an industrial character, or merely official and administrative. There may come a time when, at the wish of the people of the States, many of the powers of the States Parliaments will be surrendered to this Parliament. But it is unwise, inconsistent, and unjust to the States, and contrary to the Federal spirit of the Constitution, to intervene between the Parliaments and people of the States at the present time.
– Even when disputes extend beyond any one State?
– Yes. A railway dispute extending beyond any one State could be equitably dealt with in each State in. which it occurred.
– And dealt with differently in each State.
– The Parliaments and’ peoples of the States may be trusted to deal fairly with their servants in the future as in the past. One or two exceptions occurring in a long series of years do not destroy the general rule. Not until after anothergeneral election or two shall we know how the people of this State propose to deal with their public servants.
– A case which supports the contention of the AttorneyGeneral occurred in South Australia the other day. The Railway Commissioner there wanted to interfere with the eight hours system, but Parliament prevented him from doing so.
– Exactly. Similar pro- “posals have been made by Commissioners in this State, and rejected by the Government, with the approval of Parliament. With but few exceptions, the States authorities have dealt fairly and generously with their servants. I appeal to the Committee to continue to trust them, and I urge honorable members at the outset of our Federal history, while the Federal machinery is causing inevitable friction, not to take a step which is not pressed upon us by any serious situation. I submit that there is no such pressing urgency at the present instant as to call upon us to take a step which, although it may . be authorized by the Constitution, must destroy the selfgoverning powers of the States. We shall by this amendment take* the fullest advantage of . the power conferred upon us by the Constitution, it seems to me without sufficient provocation. We are . altering the scope and intention of the Bill in a vital particular. The measure is intended to deal with industrial disputes, in the ordinary acceptation of the term, extending beyond any one State. No one will deny that the scope of this measure is ample enough already to deal with all disputes for which no provision can be made by means of State tribunals. The only criticism directed against this measure is that it is too ample and too extensive. We have dealt with industrial disputes as popularly understood in the very fullest and most comprehensive fashion, and I submit that this is enough to attempt at one time. Let us establish this tribunal and see it at work. Let us test it by its results, and when it has justified itself, as I believe it will, and public confidence has been gained, we may hope that the States Governments will voluntarily - if they do not establish Arbitration Courts of their own - seek the aid of the Federal Court. I am perfectly willing to insert a provision which will enable any State Government to have recourse to the Court, because that would follow the lines laid down by the measure. But I cannot agree to any amendment which will involve an interference between the States and their employes. Such a provision would strike a blow at Executive Government, belittle the State Legislatures by intervening between them and their servants on critical occasions, create still further confusion with regard to the relative spheres of operation of the Federal and States Governments, by rendering it more difficult than ever to harmonize them. The proposal is entirely foreign to the purposes of the Bill. This Parliament, sensible of its Federal obligations and inspired by the Federal spirit, should treat the States generously. I appeal most earnestly to honorable members to reject the amendment, as incongruous and inconsistent with the Bill.
– There is no doubt that the Attorney-General throws a sort of intellectual glamour over the Chamber. I remember once in Canada watching a snake which had its eye upon a sparrow, which though it screamed in affright, was irresistibly attracted towards the snake. The Attorney-General seems to exercise a similar fascination over a’ great many honorable members. I ask is the Commonwealth the creature of the States, and is this Parliament to be subordinated to’ the Parliaments of the States ? If so, we can no longer sustain our claim to be the paramount power.
– “ It is excellent to have a giant’s strength, but it is tyrannous to use it like a giant.”
– We should not deprive a large section of the community of the opportunity to appear before the Federal Arbitration Court and to demand their legitimate rights. The very object of the Constitution was to create unity of interests to the fullest extent of the powers granted to the Commonwealth, and whilst I have no wish to place any unjustifiable construction upon the Constitution, I desire to see the authority conferred by it exercised in the freest possible manner. I have endeavoured to view this question in the light of the experience gained in the working of the United States Constitution. There it has been clearly laid down that the Commonwealth Government is the paramount power. Would the Commonwealth permit the whole course of trade and commerce to be paralyzed by a dispute between a State Government and its employes? During the recent railway strike in Victoria we saw reason dethroned and men reduced to the state of savages, for a time. The railway men were defeated, but they have not forgotten the way in which they were treated, and they are not likely to lose any opportunity to set themselves right. To-day, the railways of Victoria are the worst upon earth, and travellers cannot depend upon reaching their destinations within any given time. The greatest dissatisfaction exists in the Public Service ofVictoria, and at any time a difficulty may occur which will have the effect of paralyzing trade and commerce. Honorable members may rest assured that if the present proposal to extend the benefits of the Bill to the States public servants is defeated, they will recognise their mistake before many years have passed. TheCommonwealth has the right to regulate commerce. In the United States recently the President sent an army to Chicago, and gave the people of Illinois to understand that nothing would be permitted to interfere with the conveyance of the mails. In that case the Federal Government exercised its power over the State Government, and similarly the Commonwealth should in all cases be the paramount power. The present condition of affairs is deplorable, because honorable members appear to be afraid of ‘ their own shadows. I am glad that His Majesty has not assented to the infamous . Bill which was intended to deprive the civil servants of Victoria of their rights. We may be defeated to-night ; but we shall make another attempt to give the public servants the same opportunity to remedy their grievances as are offered to those in private employment. We shall transfer the question from this House to that greater tribunal the public, before whom we shall soon have to appear on the hustings, and all honorable members who vote against the proposed amendment will have to explain their conduct.
Mr. HIGGINS (Northern Melbourne).It seems to me that some of the remarks of the honorable member for Tasmania, Mr. O’Malley, are entitled to our most careful consideration. The way in which the Federal power has been exercised in the United States affords an example of the extent to which the Commonwealth authority could be exerted to insure the carriage of the mails and the conduct of trade and commerce without friction. This is a very difficult question, and I am not at all surprised at the objections which have been raised to the proposal. At the same time the Attorney-General must see that it is better to exercise the Federal power with the assistance of an impartial tribunal which will enter into the merits of any dispute from all sides. If there is one thing more than another which would be calculated to produce friction between the Federal Government and the States Governments, it is the direct interposition of the former in a matter of this sort. I have risen only to deal with that aspect of the question, which in my opinion has not been sufficiently considered. I think that the honorable member for Tasmania, Mr. O’Malley, deserves credit for having directed our attention to the case in the United States in which the Federal authority intervened. In one instance regiments of the regular army were sent down to Illinois to quell a riot, although under the Constitution the Federal authority had no power to interfere in case of . domestic violence, except at the request of the State Government. It justified its action on that occasion by declaring that it had to control the carriage of the mails and protect Federal buildings. I should like to know whether the honorable member for Wide Bay intends to confine his amendment to railway employes when the dispute extends beyond one State. The principal objection which has been taken to it is that which the AttorneyGeneral has put so well. -What does it mean ? His objection is that the State Government should deal with the matter. A State Government cannot deal with any dispute extending beyond its own territory. Are honorable members not aware of the fact that the locomotive engine-drivers and firemen in the eastern States all belong to one union 1 It was because it is impossible to satisfactorily deal with maritime and shearers’ disputes by means of State legislation that this power was inserted in the Constitution. I sympathize very deeply with the Attorney-General upon this matter. Naturally he is anxious that the Bill shall become law during the present session. I am thoroughly convinced that the only reason which prompts his opposition to the proposal to apply the Bill to State employes is a desire to avoid giving offence to the States Governments. Yet there is no employer throughout Australia who has such supreme power over his employes as have the States Governments. Of course the provisions of the Bill could not have been applied to the recent railway strike in Victoria. That trouble did not extend beyond the limits of the State.-
– Under this measure we shall be offering an incentive to the extension of disputes.
– I do not agree with the honorable member. I have some intimate knowledge of what occurred in connexion with the recent railway strike, and I say that the country may congratulate itself upon the fact that that trouble did not extend beyond the limits of this State: I intend to vote for the amendment. I feel that it is a big undertaking into which we are asked to enter, but at the same time it is not too big. I would further point out that it is quite wrong to speak of the railway servants as State employes. In Victoria, the railways are vested in the Commissioner.
– The railway servants come under the annual Appropriation Act]
– Under section 39 of the Victorian Railways Act, all officers or servants under the control of the Commissioner are deemed to be officers of the Commissioner. The whole object of the reform, which was adopted twenty years ago, was to prevent these men from remaining servants of the State. Having removed the railways from political influence, it would be very inconsistent for us to regard the railway employes as servants of the State.
– Could an award against a State bo enforced ?
– I think so. Of course nobody can compel Parliament to appropriate money, but if by the judgment of a competent Court a certain sum of money was ordered to be paid, Parliament would not refuse to make the necessary provision.
– I think there are two cases on record in which Parliament has refused to do so.
– I was not aware of that. The only case of which I have any knowledge is one in which the Court ordered that a postal official should be paid a certain sum, and the Crown treated the judgment as if it referred only to past years. I shall vote for the amendment.
– I presume it is a littlelate in the day to express sympathy with the principle which underlies a measure of this character. The proposal immediately under consideration invites us to proclaim our stupidity by creating a tribunal which shall be superior to Parliament itself. Under no circumstances can honorable members justify such a proposal before their constituents unless on the ground that they are prepared to legislate in spasms. In this House we are accustomed to hear a good deal about the sovereign rights of the people. Every time that there has been any lapse from our system of Representative Government to bureaucratic government - every time a proposal has been made to hand over the control of any of the States services to Commissioners or to a Board - there has been violent opposition to it. It has been felt that Parliament is competent to manage its own- affairs, and if the rights of public servants are not safe in the hands of the representatives of the people they will not be safe anywhere. If we are competent to deal with the many other important duties which have been intrusted to us - such as the framing of the Tariff, which affects our industries, and with the methods under which Australians are presumed to earn their living, and with the defence of our country from foreign aggression - it seems remarkable that we should not be able to deal justly with our public servants. We are all agreed that in the public service of Australia, as in the community as a whole, there are a considerable number of able men, while there are many who are not. We grant also that unfortunate difficulties appertain to the service ; that there is a clashing of what is generally regarded as seniority with competency. But Public Service Boards are generally appointed to deal with these matters. I would appeal to honorable members to say whether ‘iny tribunal which we might appoint would deal with the public servants of the Commonwealth or of any State more honorably or as generously as they would be dealt with by the Parliament itself. We require no proof of the assertion ‘ that if the whole of our employes, however competent they might be, left the service of the State we should be able to fill their positions by appointing competent men from outside.
– What does that prove ? It simply proves that there are a number of men out of employment.
– It proves that, without any Court such as we propose to create, public servants as a general rule have been so reasonably treated by Parliament that outsiders would be glad to fill their places.
– Does not the honorable member know that the public servants of Victoria have been disfranchised %
– I am not dealing with that question.
– But the honorable member asserts that the public servants of the States have been well treated.
– I am not aware that any public servant has applied to the majority of honorable members - certainly no one has applied to me- to have the measure of his employment or his status in the service interfered with in this way.
– I have received a circular from public servants in Victoria asking for this amendment.
– One swallow does not make a summer. The interjection made by the honorable and learned member reminds me of a question which I am not prepared to avoid - the recent strike of railway servants in Victoria. That is a matter which to-day is troubling many honorable members. I express no opinion as to the merits of the strike. I am prepared to grant that there may have been justification for it ; but we are not called upon to consider that phase of the question. The way in which the dispute was terminated proves that there was at the time such a body of men out of employment that if the railway employes had not resumed work when they did there would have been no positions open to them.
– The Department could not get men to fill their places.
– If those on strike had believed they could have won they would have continued on strike. When a man enters into a conflict he desires to win, and he continues the struggle until it appears to him to be inadvisable to prolong it. It appeared to the railway men who went on strike that there would be no positions in the service open to them if they did not return at once to their employment. That proves that there werea number of men out of employment in Australia who were prepared to accept even the arbitrary . control of the Victorian Railway Commissioners.
– Would not that remark relate also to private employers ?
– It proves that, after all, the conditions of the service were not so harsh that other men were unprepared to work under them ; beyond that point I have no desire to force the argument. It is wise to lay down certain fundamental principles in regard to our legislation, and to follow them. If there had been an Arbitration Court in existence when the railway strike took place, and the men on appealing to the Court had lost their case, it might have been said that the procedure was bad, and was an indictment against arbitration, whereas, at best, it would have been but a detail. The AttorneyGeneral has already pointed out that when the people of the States were invited to federate certain promises were held out to them. We promised them that the States Parliaments should have uncontrolled power over their lands, their mining industry, the administration of justice, and other matters, and we absolutely bound ourselves under the Constitution to refrain from interfering with any of those questions. But if we pass this amendment we shall place the whole of the States Parliaments practically in the position of a foreman of works. If a workman disagrees with his foreman, that foreman cannot dismiss him, but must bring his complaint before his master. In the same way, if we adopt this amendment, the States Parliaments will merely occupy the position of foremen in regard to their railway and other undertakings, and we shall practically hold the position of master.
– That would not suit.
– Of course not. I contend that honorable members should deal reasonably with these matters. Do honorable members think that the public servants who have already been transferred to the Commonwealth are abundantly satisfied with the change that has taken place in their position? If an honorable member asked the members of the military forces whether they preferred the old States control to their present position under the Commonwealth would he receive a reply in the affirmative?
– They are not public servants.
– I do not understand these quibbles with regard to those who are and who are not public servants. The honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne contends, as a lawyer, that the railway employes are not the servants of the States ; but he knows that, apart from legal technicalities, they are - that, although they are under Commissioners, Parliament is above those officers. Unless the Parliament of Victoria had been in sympathy with the action taken by the Commissioners in relation to the resent strike, those officials would have had to leave the service.
– The cause of the strike was not the work of the Commissioners.
– I should like to hear what the honorable member for Bland would say if, for example, the Court declared that certain salaries which the Federal Parliament had declared should be paid to postal officials, should not be received by them.
– That shows what the Federal Parliament has to do with this matter.
– Notwithstanding the presence of the honorable and learned member in this Parliament, I believe that it is perfectly competent to deal with the Public Service.
– Is the honorable member in favour of the Bill 1
– Unquestionably I am. Any man who does not believe in conciliation at the present time is little short of being a lunatic. I have no desire to speak at any great length, but am sure that there is no honorable member who would not more gladly approach this Parliament than any tribunal controlled by technicalities, or any Judge whom we might appoint, in order to obtain substantial justice for a public servant in a case which had merit to commend it.
Question - That the word proposed to be omitted stand part of the clause - put. The Committee divided.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– I move-
That the following words be added - “except that it shall apply to the railway servants of any State.”
I think that after what we witnessed in “Victoria a few months ago, it is absolutely necessary that the provisions of the measure shall be made to apply to the railway servants of the various States. I should like to apply them, also, to the employes of Harbor Boards and similar bodies.
– The Victorian dispute did not extend beyond the State.
– As a matter of fact it affected all the States. Mails which usually leave Melbourne on the Wednesday and reach Queensland on the following Monday were nearly a fortnight in transit. Was not that an interference with the commerce of the States? Furthermore, the strike in Victoria was on the verge of extending to two other States at least, in which case the trade and commerce of the eastern States would have been paralyzed. To my mind the measure would be practically useless if passed without this amendment. I am sorry that the amendment of the honorable member for Wide Bay was negatived. The Committee having decided against it, however, should adopt the amendment which I have moved. It cannot be argued that the railway men are public servants in the ordinary sense of the term, and they are treated by the States authorities as bodies quite apart from the other civil servants. Under these circumstances, and in view of the possibility of a strike which would paralyze the whole of Australia, I hope honorable members will accept the amendment.
– It is unnecessary for me to repeat the arguments which I have already addressed to the Committee on this subject, because, when speaking against the amendment moved by the honorable member for Wide Bay, I realized that it related more to the railway employes of the States than to any other class of public servants. It must be admitted that a dispute in which the railway servants of the States were involved would, prima facie, be an industrial dispute within the meaning of the Bill. It cannot be denied that the stoppage of the trains would produce the gravest disorders. Action similar to that taken in America, to which allusion has been made, may have to be taken in the future if the railway service of any State is interrupted for any period of time, but the question to be considered now is not the right of the Commonwealth to protect the interests of its citizens in such an emergency. The whole issue is whether we are to destroy the self-governing powers of the States by depriving their Legislatures and Executives of the control of their own servants. In addition to the arguments which I have already submitted, I ask honorable members to remember that in applying the provisions of the Bill to the railway servants of the States we remit to the Court, not merely simple questions such as wages and hours of labour, but all the matters mentioned in the definition of “ industrial matters “ in clause 6. ‘ Industrial matters “ includes all matters relating to work, pay, wages, reward, hours, privileges, rights, or duties of employers or employes, or the mode, terms, and conditions of employment or non-employment ; and in particular, but without limiting the general scope of this definition, includes all matters pertaining to the relations of employers and employes, and the employment, preferential employment, dismissal, or nonemployment of any particular persons or of persons of any particular sex or age, or being or not being members of any organization, body, or society.
That covers every detail of railway administration.
– Those questions would be remitted to the Court only in the event of the gravest disputes extending beyond any one State arising.
– All those matters might be remitted to the Court. If the railways were the property of private employers it would be necessary and proper to include them, because without this extensive range conciliation and arbitration might be made impossible. But it is another matter to’ place under the control of an Arbitration Court, which is independent of the States authorities, every detail of their railway management. The position of a private employer, who is answerable to no one but his conscience, and that of a Parliament which is answerable to the people of a State, and has no interests to serve by treating the public servants with undue harshness, are’ very different. At the present time the States are dependent upon the generosity of the Commonwealth for whatever amount of Customs revenue in addition to the three-fourths provided for by the Constitution, is returned to them. That is their chief source of income. Their chief asset is the railways. It is now proposed to make their railway income dependent upon the Commonwealth Arbitration Court by means of decisions in regard to expenditure. We are going to assume control both of their income and their expenditure. What is left to them ? I have already pointed out that if in particular instances the States have dealt harshly or unfairly with some of their employes, that is only a temporary matter. We may be perfectly sure that every State will eventually deal fairly, if not handsomely, with all its employes. The States have lost the control of the chief source of their income, namely, the Customs, and, according to the desire of some honorable members, they are now to lose the control of their principal remaining: source of income, namely, the railways. What would be the position of States,, intended to be left free and independent in the exercise of their powers within certain limits, if we were to take out of their hands the control of their publicServants 1
– I am afraid that that is a boomerang argument, which may be used, against the Bill.
– I draw the broadest distinction between private employers, whoare answerable to no one, and the States. I would not push this argument if the Stateswere prepared to surrender and we wereprepared to accept the control of the railways. It has been pointed out that if wetook over the States’ debts, or a portion of them, it might be necessary for our own security to exercise some control over therailways. Hereafter too it may be perfectly legitimate for us when we take over the lines to manage the railways, so far as the wages and hours and other conditions of employment were concerned.Then we should have the railways in ourown hands, and it would be competent forus to allow the conditions of employment to be settled by a tribunal such as that now contemplated. We should, however, assume a hopelessly inconsistent attitude if” we left the States nominally independent and self-governing, and yet at the same time made such inroads upon their authority and upon their revenue as would destroy their powers of self-government.
– Does the AttorneyGeneral think that the Arbitration Court will lose sight of all those considerations 1
– No. I have every confidence in the tribunal about to becreated. But I am pointing out that the granting of such powers as are now proposed to the Arbitration Court would be entirely inconsistent with the exercise of thepowers of self-government by the States. In some future generation all the powers now suggested, and more, will probably be exercised by the Federal Government, but that cannot be done and at the same time leavethe States anything more than the semblance of self-government.
– The States claim that they are working their railways on commercial principles. Why should they not bedealt with in the same way as others^ -who are carrying on commercial undertakings?
– Because the railway authorities are in an impartial position and have on the whole dealt fairly with their servants. I am sure that the Arbitration Court would do absolute justice between employers and employes; butI am contending that if it were permitted to interfere between the State and its employes, the powers of self-government now exercised by the States would be destroyed. I do not for one moment say that the awards given by the Court would unduly interfere with the profits derived by the States from their railways or that any injustice would be done, nor do I contend that the Court would do anything beyond securing peace.
– The States Parliaments do nob manage their railways. The Minister of . Railways in Victoria is absolutely helpless.
– Yes, but he is helpless under the operation of an Act which may be altered to-morrow by the State Parliament.
– But we must deal with the facts as we find them.
– There is nothing in the proposal to which I take exception except that it would destroy the selfgoverning powers of the States by placing over them a tribunal to decide the terms and conditions under which their railway servants shall be employed. I do not object to the purpose of the amendment, but to its indirect effect upon the political autonomy of the States. We are not entitled to destroy their self-governing powers at this stage. This is a Federal Government, and if we are to preserve the Federal character of the Constitution we must leave to the States the management of their own industrial enterprises. I assume always that we have the legal authority to control their undertakings, though of course that is merely an opinion formed without the exact study of the Constitution that it requires. The States may and will demur. .
– The Attorney-General proposes to rob private employers of rights similar to those which he wishes to preserve for the States.
– Private employers have no rights of self-government of which they can be deprived, and that is the respect in which they differ from the States. I have no doubt of our powers constitutionally to bind private employers, and that marks a possibly vital difference. It is because the proposal now before us would have the effect of making an unconstitutional inroad upon the powers of the States that I hold that it should be rejected.
Mr. CONROY (Werriwa).- -Some honorable members seem to be under the ‘ impression that a dispute could be brought within the jurisdiction of the Federal Arbitration Court if the union concerned were a branch of a federated organization. That, however, is an entirely erroneous idea. We have power to deal only with strikes extending beyond the limits of any one State. If the railway men of Victoria wished to strike
An Honorable Member. - If the present proposal be adopted they could not strike.
– I am entirely opposed to any proposal designed to prevent men from striking. I would not interfere with the freedom of State or other servants in that regard. Men are fit for nothing more than to become base slaves if they submit to work under the coercion of the. whip,’ whether the whip take the form of a leather lash or the law. I want to see a body of free men in Australia. What would be the use of a lot of men bound down by cast-iron laws 1 Are - we to stamp out all individuality? Are we to have a body of men afraid to say what they think ? It was stated in the Victorian Parliament recently that the railway men should not be permitted to strike. I never heard such an outrageous proposition. When men are not free to say whether they will work or not, they are not worthy of being considered as men. If everything is to be regulated for us, life will not be worth living. Our freedom has come to us much too easily. If we had had to fight for it we should value it more highly. If men are not to be free to abandon work when they wish to do, what is to become of them? They are merely slaves. The railway men of Victoria wanted to strike and they did strike. I am not questioning the wisdom of their action, although it seems to have been rather foolish, in view of the fact that they were evidently not prepared to make a prolonged stand. What I wish to point out was that the mere fact that the men involved in a dispute were members of a federated organization would not bring their dispute within the jurisdiction of the Federal Court. The railway men of New South Wales enjoy very much better conditions than those under which the railway servants of Victoria are employed, and it surely would not be contended that an award given by the Arbitration Court in connexion with a dispute between the railway men of Victoria and their employers should be applied in such a way as to lower the rates of pay in New South Wales. Here the rates of pay are less and the hours of work longer than in the railway service of New South Wales, and the wages there might be lowered under a common rule of this proposed Court very considerably without the men in that State having a voice in the matter. I hold that men should not be prohibited from striking when the occasion requires it, Of course, before striking, all property intrusted to their care must be safely returned, and to insure this some notice is absolutely necessary. So far from preventing industrial disputes, the operation of this measure will absolutely multiply them. I trust that honorable members will not convey to the public the impression that we have the power to intervene in any industrial dispute before it has extended beyond the limits of one State. 1 shall never be a party to enacting legislation which will limit the right of a man to work where he chooses and for whom he pleases. How can a man express his dissatisfaction with the conditions of his employment except by means of a strike? I shall certainly oppose the amendment.
Question - That the words proposed to be added be so added - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 5
Question so resolved in the affirmative. Amendment agreed to.
– Without making any other comment, I think I am justified in saying that ‘the vote which has just been given creates a situation of some gravity. I think I shall best he discharging my duty to this House and to the country if I say, with ail courtesy, that the Ministry must consider the position before any further business is undertaken. I therefore move -
That the Chairman do now leave the Chair, report progress, and ask leave to sit again.
Motion agreed to ; progress reported.
House adjourned at 9.55 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 8 September 1903, viewed 6 July 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1903/19030908_reps_1_16/>.