2nd Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Sir. JOHN FORREST. - Has the Prims Minister noticed the statement in this morning’s newspaper, that the PostmasterGeneral has written a minute in regard to the use of military titles by officials of his Department. The newspaper statement is this: -
The Postmaster-General wrote a minute, is which nc pointed out that “ The functions of this
Department being purely civil, no recognition of any kind can be given to military titles.” He ordered instructions to be issued at once to this effect to the Deputy PostmasterGeneral. Mr. Mahon added to his minutes . 111 intimation that he had noted Mr. Outtrim’s supposition that “ officers can claim to use their titles at all times “ ; but pointed out that the issue was not a “ claim to use “ their titles themselves, but their right to require other officers to recognise and use such titles in conversation and ‘ written communications. “ Of course,” wrote the Postmaster-General, “ the men had no such right.”
Is the action of the Postmaster-General to be taken as the action of the Government? If so, by what right or authority do the Government interfere with the use of military designations to which officers are entitled by law?
Mr. WATSON. - I have only seen the statement which the honorable member has read ; I have not had any communication with my colleague on the subject. Speaking without further information, I think that the action he has taken is quite justifiable. I am not informed as to the legal right of officials to be addressed by their military titles, but I shall consult the AttorneyGeneral upon the subject.
Sir JOHN FORREST.- I will give notice of the question. I take my stand oh the law.
Mr. WATSON.- It would be better if the right honorable member would give notice. According to the newspaper account, the decision of the PostmasterGeneral is reinforced by the opinions of his permanent officials.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice - 1 What sum, in addition to salary, has been paid to General Hutton during the tenure of his office, for travelling expenses and personal allowances? 2 What sum, in addition to salaries, has been paid to officers of staff in attendance upon General Hutton during the tenure of his office, for travelling expenses and personal allowances?
– I have been supplied by the Minister of Defence with the following replies : -
In- Committee (Consideration resumed from 2nd June, vide page 1951) :
Clause 4, as amended -
In this Act, except where otherwise clearly intended - “ Industrial dispute “ means a dispute in relation to industrial matters -
arising between an employer or an organization of employers on the one part and an organization of employees on the other part, or
certified by the Registrar as proper in the public interest to be dealt with by the Court, and extending beyond the limits of any one State, including disputes in relation to employment upon State railways, or to employment in industries carried on by or under the control of the Commonwealth, or a State, or any public authority constituted under the Commonwealth or a State.
Upon which Mr. Robinson had moved, by way of amendment -
That the following words be added to paragraph b : - “But it does not include a dispute relating to employment in any agricultural, viticultural, horticultural, or dairying pursuit.”
– Of all the important matters which may be considered in connexion with the Bill, none is more important than that which engaged the attention of the Committee yesterday, and will engage its attention again to-day. We are dealing now with the most important section of the community. In an extremity we could, perhaps, do without other sections, but we could not do without the body of men who are settled upon the land, and whose interests we are now considering. I think that the Prime Minister is unwise in opposing the amendment, and if he persists in his opposition to it he will find himself in danger of wrecking the Bill.
– We cannot go back upon the provisions drafted by the late Government.
– It is useless to say that the Bill is that of the late Government.
– We take full responsibility for it.
– During- the second reading debate the honorable member for Gippsland and others took strong objection to the application of its provisions to farmers and dairymen, and indicated that they would oppose it to the bitter end. In my opinion, if the Deakin Administration had continued in charge of the measure, they would not have maintained the extreme attitude which’ is now being maintained by the honorable member for Bland.
– Hear, hear.
– Why, the- provision was in the Bill as introduced by the Government of which the right honorable member was a Minister !
– My contention is borne out by the interjection of the right honorable member for Swan, and the statements made by the honorable member for Hume last night. I think that the Prime Minister will find that on this occasion he has struck a snag.
– The Bill was made applicable to farmers only that there might be something to give away.
– Yes. For years past the farmers have had one restriction after another placed upon them. Government inspectors have been appointed to supervise the destruction of noxious weeds and of Vermin, and to see that dairying and other industries are carried on strictly in accordance with the law. ‘I do not say that the appointment of such inspectors was not necessary in the interests, not only of the community at large, but of the farmers and dairymen themselves, but many of the inspectors carry out their duties in such a way as to considerably harass the farming and dairying industries. Now that it is proposed to bring those industries within the provisions of this measure, the cup of bitterness will be filled to the brim, and .our farming population will be prepared to take’ the strongest measures to oppose it. Did the members of the Labour Party, when before their constituents last December, inform the farmers of their intention to apply its provisions to them? I venture to say that no labour member who represents a farming community did so.
– I told the farmers of my constituency that I would make the provisions of the measure apply all round.
– So did I.
– When a general statement of this kind is made to a large meeting the people do not grasp it as they would if they were told that the Bill would apply to them. Honorable members did not tell their farming constituents that. But the farmers should know what is intended, and how their interests will be affected. Under the measure all conditions of labour on a farm may be regulated by the Court. No matter what the exigencies of the situation, or what the season, the Court’ may interfere with the management of the farmer’s business in every detail. He will not be at liberty to make such arrangements as he chooses with those who wish to work for him on the share system, or to pay such wages as those who are ready to become his employes are willing to accept. Then, the hours of labour will be fixed by law, and the farmer’s control of the work done on his farm will be taken entirely out of his hands. He will not be able even to select his own employes. He may find that instead of being able to employ a man in whom he has confidence, because he knows he will do his work well, he will have to take some other man merely because the latter happens to be a member of a union. All matters between himself and his men will be regulated for him, and he will have to carry on his business as the Court may determine. If I have not stated the case correctly, I shall be very glad to be set right. So far as I can understand the Bill, that is what it means.
– The Bill was introduced; by the leader of the party to which the honorable member belongs.
– The attitude which I took up with regard to this ‘ Bill at the elections was that, whilst recognising that within certain limits it might be made a very beneficent measure, it could not in fairness be applied to the rural industries. I specially brought this matter before every meeting I addressed, and told the electors, that, subject to certain qualifications, I intended to support the Bill. The fact that I favoured the Bill at all was not verywell received; but I preferred tobe perfectly candid with my constituents. The exemptions I proposed were - States servants of all classes and those engaged in rural industries. Now, this Bill can be applied with benefit only to industries in which there is something like regularity of” employment, and in which the conditionsare to a certain extent settled. I know the conditions cannot always be of a settled’ character in any industry; but at the sametime there is a vast difference between industries such as we have in the cities or inthe mining centres, or those connected with’ the shipping trade, and those’ which are proposed to be exempted under the amendment. In order that, the Bill may be applied with benefit to industries there must be regular methods of working which will’ afford the Court a basis for its decisions.
Another essential condition is - something like certainty of return.
– The honorable member means industries in which large bodies of men are employed.
– Exactly; and those in which investors have some certainty of obtaining a return for their outlay. Absolute certainty cannot be looked for in any case ; but those who conduct the manufacturing industries of the cities always have assets in the form of the raw material or the finished product, and get some return, whatever price may be realized for their goods. I ask honorable members whether the farming industry is carried on under the conditions I have named. If not, would it be fair to bring it within the scope of the Bill ? We know that in rural life employment is intermittent. Men cannot be employed throughout the year, in the same way as in a factory, or in a mine, or on a ship. The conditions of employment are also varied. They are subject to the most extreme changes, and there are also continual changes in the markets. Another great factor with which we have to reckon in the farming industry, especially in such a country as this, is the uncertainty as to the returns. The Prime Minister; admitte’d last night that farming was a sort of gamble, and it seems to me that to bring such an occupation as that within the scope of this Bill would be absurd. We know that north of the Dividing Range in this State, and in South Australia, New South Wales, and Queensland, it is a mere chance whether the farmers obtain any return from their crops. As the honorable member for Ballarat once said, it is simply “ betting on the clouds.” The farmer in the north is at all times the sport of the seasons, and; therefore, ought to be left free and unhampered. We cannot lay down hard and fast rules as fo the manner in which he shall carry on his industry. The Labour Party have posed as the friends of the farmer. They want to fell him How he shall carry on his business, and what will prove of benefit to him. I do not think, however, that one farmer in a hundred would agree to be included within the provisions of this Bill. I said, not long ago, in this chamber, that nothing would please me better than to arrive at a common ground of agreement between the farmers an’d the Labour Party. If that could be brought about, we should lav the foundation of the prosperity of this country. It is not likely, however, that any such result will be achieved whilst the
Labour Party desire to impose upon the agricuItural community such conditions as are embraced in this Bill.
– Similar provisions are in the New South Wales Arbitration Act, and they have not resulted in the divorce of the two parties.
– That is no reason why we should bring the agricultural industry under this Bill. If we had a Conciliation and Arbitration Act in Victoria we might consider whether we should bring the agricultural industry within its scope, since it could be locally controlled. As a matter of fact, however, upon every occasion on which the Factories Act has been under discussion, the Victorian Parliament has strenuously insisted upon the agricultural industry being absolutely excluded from its operation. What is the position of the farmers to-day? We all speak of the farmers as we know them. The honorable member for Gippsland had in his mind the farmers in the wet districts, with whose conditions of life and employment he is thoroughly familiar. The Prime Minister, when he spoke, was thinking of the farmers in his constituency, where, according to his statement, the tenants appear to be very numerous, and the landlords especially harsh. I speak of the farmers in my own district, and I ask what is the condition of the agriculturists of the north? How many of these men have made a living during the last eight or nine years ? They have had to combat an eight years’ drought, and they have cropped their land year after year, looking for some return, and have obtained little or none. Almost all of them are very heavily in debt, in consequence of the bad seasons. It is a rare thing to find in the northern districts any man who has his farm unencumbered, nd who is out of debt. The settlers have been battling against adverse seasons for years, and they now find themselves with their stock destroyed, with heavy debit balances at the bank, and heavy mortgages on their land. They have had one good season, and if they have one or two more, perhaps they will be able to recover. But I ask : is this the time - when they are struggling with their heads just above water - to impose upon them any additional burdens? Farming work comes in rushes. It was not until a fortnight ago that many of our farmers were able to plough. The ground was hard and caked through want of moisture, and they could not. turn up the soil. Since the rain came, they have had to rush their teams out, and work from early morning till late at night in order to get their crops in.. Then again, the farmer has to send his produce oversea. The desire of all those who are of the same fiscal faith as myself is to give the farmer a home market. That is why we advocate the imposition of duties for the encouragement of local industry, in the hope that we shall thus be able to provide customers for our primary producers. In America, where the population is rapidly increasing on account of tha encouragement given to industry, public men are seriously debating the question whether they shall allow foodstuffs to be sent out of the country. It is calculated that if the population goes on increasing as at present, America will have to cease exporting foodstuffs, because she will not be able to do more than feed her own people. That is the condition of affairs which we desire to bring about here. The farmer would then be able to get a reasonable price for his produce ; and the people would be supplied with good food at cheap rates. At present we produce much more than we require to feed our own people. The competitors of our farmers are scattered all over the wot id. If we go to India, we find the Indian ryot working for a few pence a day, and growing wheat which competes with our own.. In Russia the moujik works early and late in the wheat-fields at a very low wage. The Chinese coolie, who lives under the most miserable conditions, grows wheat and other grain, which competes with our produce. The peon on the farms in the Argentine Republic works under the very hardest of conditions, and at very low rates of pay. In all these great wheat-growing countries the working hours are long, the wages ate small, and the very best machinery is employed. The agriculturists are not dependent upon old-fashioned implements, such as the sickle, of which we heard yesterday. Thev have the best machinery in the world, which they can use just as well as we can. I object to this provision, because if there is any section of the community which abhors litigation and law courts it is the farming class. They desire to hold themselves aloof from legal tribunals by every means in their power. They have no time to devote to attendance at law courts. They wish to be allowed to work their farms in their own way, and strongly object to conform to conditions which may be prescribed by r.n Arbitration Court. Last night the Prime Minister debated the proposal of the honor- able and learned member for Wannon with very considerable heat. He has such a cool and equable temperament that I was exceedingly surprised to see him exhibit such warmth. He declared that the amendment was one which the Government could’ accept under no circumstances whatever. He spoke of the .condition of the farm labourers, and of the dairying employes. Several times during the course of his remarks he safeguarded them bv saying that he was not acquainted with the conditions which obtained in other parts of the country, but was referring to those which prevailed in his own constituency. The honorable gentleman spoke very severely of the treatment which farmers extend to their employes, and of the conditions under which they compel them to live. So indignant did he wax upon this question, that the honorable member for Gippsland chided him with being unable to discuss it without slandering the farmers of Australia. But I would point out that the Prime Minister was referring only to the farmers of his own district. If the condition of affairs there is as wretched and ghastly as he affirms, he was not slandering these men. When they read his remarks - which they will do with very great interest - they will no doubt offer a vigorous protest if his statements are unwarranted. If, on the other hand, the honorable gentleman intended his remarks to apply to other parts of Australia, I unhesitatingly say that they are not correct, and that he is slandering a body of men-
– Misrepresenting, not slandering.
– No; the term “misrepresentation “ is too mild a one to apply to the Prime Minister’s remarks of last evening. Personally, I mix very freely with the farmers of my own district, and I know that their employes are treated well - that they receive a fair remuneration for their labour, that they are well housed, and that, in almost every case, they sit at the farmer’s table, and have their meals with the farmer himself. In short, they receive practically the same treatment as the farmer and his family.
– And in most cases the men are just as faithful to their employers as if they were members of his family.
– And he does not ask them to do work which he has not done himself.
– The reason why the farm labourers are not receiving all that we should like them to get is because their employers cannot afford to give more. When, however, they receive the same treatment as the farmer himself, it is unfair to level against the latter the charges that were made last night. It has been said during the course of this debate that the conditions of employment in the dairying industry, are destined to exercise an evil influence on this country. No attempt, however, was made to substantiate that statement. It is true that we did hear a story about some person driving along a country road and finding a boy who was very soundly asleep. I did think that the Prime Minister was a little above these “ penny dreadful “ tales. Surely he did not expect us to accept that story as an argument in favour of bringing the farmers under the operation of this Bill. Instead of the dairying industry exercising a baneful influence upon this country, I hold that, by its development, Australia will be placed upon the high road to prosperity. In the speeches that were delivered last evening no attempt was made by honorable members opposite to discuss this question fairly. They contented themselves with dealing with all sorts of side issues. The Minister of External Affairs gave the Committee a dissertation upon early rising, which was entirely, foreign to the subject. We were told by the Prime Minister that in New South Wales the wages paid to dairying employes ranged from 7s. to 12s. per week! That may be true of the district which he represents, but it is certainly not true of Victoria. As the honorable member for Moira pointed out, it is impossible’ to obtain the services of a boy upon a farm for 7s. a week. They always receive more than that. Honorable members were also informed that statements made at the Teachers’ Conference confirmed the remarks of the Prime Minister, and condemned the conditions under which the dairying industry is carried on. From what I can gather, that allegation does not place the position in a proper light. The facts are that recently the teachers of our State schools in the country have ha-1 imposed upon them a new system of lessons which requires a great deal of attention on the part alike nf teachers and pupils. It involves considerable additional’ work, much of which, in mv opinion, is unnecessary. The teachers discussed the question, and decided that in the- country, where children were employed upon farms, it was quite impossible to give effect to this system. The
Prime Minister also pointed out that the dairying employes have to work 365 days a year. Personally, I fail to see how that industry can be successfully conducted without a certain amount of work being performed on Sunday. Until we get cows which will give us a double supply of milk on Saturday, we cannot dispense with a certain amount of Sunday work.
– -Who asked the dairy farmers to dispense with a certain amount of Sunday work ?
– Will the honorable member be quiet? I know that in my own district there is no work done upon Sunday which is not absolutely necessary. The cream is not sent to the creamery upon that day. The cows are milked, and the milk is allowed to stand until the Monday, when the cream is forwarded to the factory. Another question which has been dragged into this debate has reference to landlords and their tenants. We have been told that if we impose these conditions upon the farmer the loss which will be sustained will not come out of his pocket, because the rents will be reduced, and the landlord will have to pay.
– More bird-lime.
– As a matter of fact, the number of tenant farmers in Victoria is not anything like that of those who are farming their own land I am aware that tenant farming is carried on in the western district of this State, and that it is very successful there. There is no attempt made by the large land-owners to grind down the men who lease farms from them. As a matter of fact, in many cases those who went in for dairy farming there a few years ago now drive better horses, are possessed of more finished buggies, and dress better than do their landlords. I desire - as does the honorable member for Gippsland - that men should farm their own land.. I wish to see every man settled upon hisown holding, and not paying rent. But I would point out that the genuine farmlabourer does not intend to remain in employment for the rest of his days. He is always actuated by a desire to get a piece of land of his own, to settle upon it with his family, and to finally work up to a position of independence. It is the men who are labouring under these conditions who will feel the scourge of this provision, if it be adopted. The Prime Minister told us that in many cases tenants who are engaged in dairying upon the share system receive only one-fifth of the results of iheir labour. I take the liberty to question that assertion. When these statements, which are damaging to the reputation of our farmers, are broadcasted through the public press of this country, it is only fair that specific instances should be given I know of cases in which dairying is carried on under the share system, and in which the owner provides the land, stock, house, and implements, whilst the tenant supplies onlythe labour. The profits in these cases are divided equally.
– What is this debate upon ?
– The Minister of Home Affairs had better ask his own colleagues. The Prime Minister declared last night that though the farmers are not getting fat or making fortunes, they can offer better conditions than they are doing to their employes. I hold that the way to assist the farmer to offer improved conditions to his employes is to make him prosperous. The case of New Zealand was quoted in this connexion, but the conditions which obtain there are entirely different from those that prevail here. A comparison cannot fairly be made between a country in which there is an average annual rainfall of 40 inches, and one in which the rainfall amounts to only 10 inches or 15 inches per annum. In New Zealand the farmers can rely on some regularity of seasons ; they have a reasonable certainty of good crops, and of steady employment “in farming operations. There, farming is not the mere gamble that it is in many parts of Australia. The Minister of External Affairs attacked the closer settlement policy adopted by the honorable member for Gippsland as Premier of this State, and denied that any real step had been taken in that direction. I hoped to have had the statistics bearing on the matter, but they are not to hand. The action of the Government of the honorable member for Gippsland was the first, and remains almost the only step taken towards closer settlement in Victoria. The Government of . which he was the head endeavoured not only to settle farmers on the land, but to establish village settlements. It acquired 96 acres of land within three miles of the General Post Office. Melbourne, and there to-day sixty families are settled on blocks ranging from one acre to an acre and a half, and form, I am told an almost ideal village, settlement. They were given an opportunity to purchase the land on remarkably easy terms, the payments extending over thirty years, and I think these facts must demonstrate- to the Committee that my honorable friend was sincere in his efforts to settle the people on urban as well as country lands. The Minister of External Affairs’ also holds some remarkable views as to the position of the farmers of Victoria. His habitat has apparently been the Sydney wharfs or Sussex-street; but if he were to travel, the farming districts of Victoria his present conclusions would quickly undergo a change.. The honorable and learned gentleman said that no one should be exempt from the operation of this Bill unless good reason could be shown for it. I hold that many honorable members who spoke . last night advanced . good reasons for the exemption of those engaged in farming industries, and I trust that I have also adduced some grounds in support of that contention. Another question put by the Minister of External Affairs was, “Why do men desert the country districts?” and he vouchsafed the reply that the passing of this measure would solve the present difficulty. In what way, I would ask, is this Bill likely to keep the people on the land ? It seems to me that it will really have an opposite effect. Men desert farm life because of bad seasons, which render it impossible for them to carry on. We know that the work is laborious, and a man who goes on the land must not expect to have an easy time. So far as agricultural pursuits are concerned, there is no royal road to fortune. I should be pleased if we could give all our honorable friends of the Labour Party 200 acres each, and thus afford them an opportunity to endeavour to make a living out of the land. They would very quickly find that the life of the farmer is far different from that of men who go from place to place gulling the people with nonsensical stories of the way in- which to secure prosperity for the country. Every honorable member admits that this clause, so far as the farming industries are concerned, would be inoperative.
– I do not.
– Nearly every member of the Government has admitted that it would be inoperative, and that being so, why should we seek to pass it into law? Whyshould we add to the unrest which, as the honorable member for Moira said last night, has been created in the minds of the farming classes by this proposal ? It is adinitted that it would apply1 only in the case of a contingency which is exceedingly remote, and that possibly it might never be required. I remember once witnessing a play in which the head of a household was constantly bringing home something that was not required. When his wife remonstrated with him his answer invariably was, “ It will be so handy to have it in the house.” And it seems to me that honorable members opposite think that it will be very handy to have this provision in the Bill to meet an unlikely contingency. I hold that we should not “ meet the devil half-way.” Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. Let us deal with existing conditions rather than legislate for all sorts of unlikely contingencies. We should not- look too far ahead. The honorable member for Gippsland told the Committee last night that if it could be demonstrated that the conditions portrayed by the Prime Minister actually existed in the country districts of the Commonwealth - if it could be shown that farm labourers were actually being ground down as the honorable member- suggested - he would be one of the first to urge that such a provision as this should be passed into law. That is the attitude which many honorable members take up. The honorable member for Darling professed to be extremely solicitous for the welfare of the farmers. He asserted that those who supported the amendment were prepared to take from those employed in pastoral pursuits the power to strike, while at the same time they were ready to leave the farmers and dairymen open to the consequences of a strike among their employes. He said that at a time when a man wished to have his land ploughed or his crop harvested a strike might occur, with the result that farmers would lose the return of all their industry. I would remind the honorable member that the farmer has always been able to have his work carried out without State interference. He has never had any trouble in this direction, and will always take care to avoid it; but should any difficulty occur, he would be able to overcome it. If we pass this provision, however, farmers will” be afraid to launch out, many of them will be slow to put any large area under cultivation lest they should be unable in the event of a dispute amongst farm labourers to gather in their crops with the assistance of members of their own families. A provision such as this, even though it might be inoperative, would restrict operations in every direction. The honorable member for Darling has also referred to the way in which land was acquired many years ago in the western district of Victoria. We know that much of the land in that district was obtained by means that were not very creditable; but we are not responsible for that fact. Mo. one deplores more deeply than I do the tactics that were resorted to in order to secure much of this land ; no one is more ashamed than I am of the land legislation which existed in Victoria in days gone by. I deeply regret the fact that a large area of land was taken up in the way described by the honorable member, and passed into the hands of comparatively few men. I do not hold, however, that the remedy suggested by him would be effective. He asserts that those who support the amendment are not prepared to assist settlement by imposing a land tax that would cause the price of land to be reduced. I, for’ one, am not prepared to assist in the imposition of a tax designed to rob a man of the result of his industry. If a tax such as the honorable member suggested were imposed with the object of striking at those who obtained their property in an illegal manner, it would also be applicable to others who had perhaps spent a lifetime in acquiring and improving their small properties.
– It would not touch improvements.
– The honorable member said that the present Victorian land tax was on improvements. That is not so. It is imposed merely in respect of the natural grazing value of the land, and is practically an unimproved land tax. I am aware that the proposal made by the honorable member is very dear to the Labour Party. It is the one proposal left to them to -conjure with on every public platform, and naturally they do not care to see the bubble pricked. It can be pricked, however, and little time need be occupied in showing that the contention that their pet tax would prove the salvation of the country is an utterly absurd one. It would not by any means have the results that its advocates claim for it. The honorable member for Darling made another statement last night which appeared to me to be a very remarkable one. He asserted that the question of whether wages were to depend upon profits must go entirely by the board. His contention is true in so far as it relates to the fact that everyone who labours should be paid a fair living wage; but when he asserts that there is absolutely no relation between profits and wages he makes a grave, mistake.
The man who is doing well can afford to pay . his employes better wages than can the individual who is simply keeping his head above water.
– I said that, although that was so, experience showed that the man who could best afford to pay high wages very often paid the lowest.
– I feel satisfied that honorable members opposite are honestly anxious to improve the condition of the farming community. That being so, they should endeavour to make farming more lucrative, for the workers themselves must participate in increased prosperity. It is idle to say to the farmers, “Allow’ us to tax you, and prosperity will come.” The farmer who accepts that gospel is making a rod for his own back. If we wish to widen the avenues of employment in rural districts, and to better the condition of the farmers themselves, we must afford them the means to improve the land. We must help the farmers by carrying out water supply and conservation schemes, and assisting the States in a policy of closer settlement. I would even go a step further, and say that those who wish to take up land for’ the purposes of closer settlement should have an opportunity to settle on some of the large estates of the Riverina, some of which ‘ comprise from 100.000 to 500.000 acres. I am sure that they would readily take up the land if there were a reasonable probability of a suitable water scheme being carried out. The farmers, however, will never believe that increased taxation will make them prosperous. The advantages that will accrue from the passing of this measure are very largely overstated. The Bill is regarded by many as ti kind of Joss, or fetish, that all should worship; but the farmers themselves view it with much alarm. If the Prime Minister and his colleagues desire that this Bill should speedily become law I trust t’…it i nev will agree to the amendment. If they do they will probably succeed in passing’ the Bill within a reasonable time. If thev do not accept the amendment it will be the duty of representatives of country districts to oppose the measure at every stage. I believe that the amendment will bc carried. If the Government find that the solid body of honorable members who intend to vote for it are prepared to block the Bill at every stage unless it be accepted, they will regret very much that they did not yield to our solicitations.
– The debate to which we have listened during the last few days has done much to demonstrate to the Committee at least one reason why the late Prime Minister should have been anxious to relinquish the duties of his office. In the course of a speech one honorable member of the late Government disclaimed responsibility for the provisions in the Bill as framed by his Ministry, while another honorable member of it has, by way of interjection, also disclaimed all responsibility. We have likewise heard three honorable’ members who supported the late Administration speak in opposition to this .provision, and it appears to me that, in view of this dissension in the ranks of their supporters, the late Prime Minister must have recognised that the only course open to him was to hand over the reins of government to another party. An attitude which is little short of remarkable has been taken up by certain honorable members opposite. We heard them on Wednesday last accusing the Government of not being prepared to bring within the scope of the Bill those to whom it should legitimately be extended, while to-day a number of them assert that .we are going too far, and are seeking to extend it to many to whom it should not apply.
– I rise to a point of order. Is the honorable member for Hindmarsh in order in reading a newspaper, whilst another honorable member is addressing the Committee ?
– The honorable member for Kalgoorlie will proceed.
– It would be to the advantage of the House if more honorable members would read newspapers and refrain from holding conversations in the Opposition corner. I was endeavouring to point out, when the honorable member for Corangamite interrupted me, that the present attitude of honorable members opposite was wholly inconsistent with the position taken up by them a day or two ago. I recognise that the honorable and learned r-ember for Wannon has been consistent. He opposed the Bill on the second reading, and, not being able to defeat it, his policy is now, no doubt, to cripple it, if possible. I would point out that his amendment may have a wider effect than would at first appear. He proposes to exclude from the operation of the measure disputes relating to employment in the viticultural, agricultural, horticultural, and dairying industries, and has omitted pastoral pursuits. Now, it has been my experience in Victoria, and, to a small extent, in New South Wales, that there are very few stations devoted entirely to pastoral pursuits.
– Seven hundred cows are milked on one station in my electorate.
– On most of the stations you will’ find persons engaged in nearly all the pursuits mentioned in the amendment, and consequently the provision, if adopted, may be interpreted by the Court to mean the exclusion of persons whom all wish to bring under the Bill. For instance, a station might shear 1.0,000 sheep, have 5,000 or 6,000 acres under oats or barley, and be milking a large number of cows - -
– The honorable member knows that the intention is not to exclude shearers.
– We have nothing to do with intentions ; though during the last few weeks we have heard a great deal about the intentions of one and another, from those of the members of the Federal Convention, down to those of honorable gentlemen sitting in this chamber. What we are concerned with is, not the intentions of honorable members, but the meaning which the words we adopt will convey to the Judge who is engaged in interpreting them. I believe it is possible that an interpretation may be placed upon the amendment, if adopted, which would exclude from the operation of the Bill persons engaged in pastoral pursuits, though not exclusively so engaged.
– Shearers could not be taken to be dealt with in the amendment.
– The honorable member is not competent to determine the point. On many stations men are employed all the year round, ploughing during the ploughing season, harvesting at harvest time, and shearing at shearing time. Would a Judge say. if this provision were adopted, that they were engaged in pastoral pursuits when shearing, and in agricultural pursuits when ploughing or stripping? I do not think that he would, because such persons could not be taken as engaged wholly in either agricultural or pastoral pursuits. Consequently, I think the amendment as worded is dangerous.
– Then why not add the words “ except shearers and shed hands “ ? I have asked the mover of the amendment to do that.
– So that the honorable member admits that the interpretation which I speak of might be put upon the amendment ?
– I admit that there may be a difficulty where hands are employed continuously all the year round. I would exclude them ; but I think that shearers and shed hands should be included.
– During the debate considerable attention has been given to the position of the poor farmers. I agree with the honorable member for Echuca that the farmers are a very important section of the community, and I should be one of the last to try to place upon the statute-book any measure likely to seriously interfere with their undertakings, so long as they are carried out under reasonable conditions. But it is not the poor farmer who is chiefly aimed at. It will be found, as a rule, that the smaller farmers treat their employes better -than do the larger farmers. Many small farmers have but one employ!, and they share with him the conditions which they are willing to accept for themselvels. But on a big farm, where a number of men are employed, a distinction is made, and I think that the Bill will apply to the larger farmers with a little more severity than to the smaller farmers. There are occasions, however, when interference with the farming industry is not seriously objected to, even by honorable members opposite’. Now and again, owing to the occurrence of droughts, the Parliaments of the States have voted money to purchase seed wheat at the expense of the community, to supply deserving farmers who were not in a position to buy it for themselves. Those who represent the farming districts do not complain of interference of that kind. But when we propose to compel the farmers to treat their employes fairly and justly, we get addresses like those of the honorable member for Echuca - good electioneering speeches, but not worthy contributions to a debate of this kind.
-t- Surely the honorable member does not. assume that the speech of the honorable member for Echuca was made for electioneering purposes ?
– I do not know what the honorable member’s intention was, but that is the impression conveyed to my mind.
– I should like to see an election on this point to-morrow.
– Honorable members on this side are as anxious as any others to have the present position settled by an appeal to the people. Those who represent farming constituencies seem to think that they are the only members competent to say what are fair and reasonable conditions for the carrying on of farming operations. Apparently they are not prepared to let farmers go before an impartial tribunal, and have their cases dealt with on their merits. If they have nothing to fear, why do they act differently from the representatives of other sections of the community ? As a mining representative, I am not afraid to have disputes in which miners are concerned submitted to a fair and impartial court. If the evidence produced substantiates the claim for an increase of wages or better conditions, I am prepared to believe that the Court will grant it, and that if the Court decides against the claim, those interested will accept the decision. Why should the farmers object to this? Will not the Court be competent to deal with their cases? I have not heard honorable members say that the Court will act unfairly. Still, they object to bringing cases before it. We are told also that it is too early to bring forward provisions of this kind. But the policy of the present Government is, not to wait until disputes have arisen and then try to legislate to deal with them, but to make provision beforehand for the settling by an impartial tribunal of the disputes’ of every citizen or body of citizens in Australia. To wait until trouble occurs is in keeping with the policy which has been adopted by some honorable gentlemen opposite throughout their political careers. Again, we are told that there is no organization of farming employes which could submit a case to the Court. But apparently honorable members fear that when the Bill is passed organizations will spring into existence.
– There is no such organization in New South Wales, although an Arbitration Act is in force there.
– They are moving in the direction of organizing. .
– I believe that it is only a matter of time when the farm labourers will be organized, and if the necessity arises, they will avail themselves of measures of this kind. Last night the honorable and learned member for Corinella placed a very wrong construction upon a remark of the Minister of External Affairs. He stated that the” Minister had made it appear that people are leaving Victoria because there is no Arbitration Act in force here. I do not think that the Minister made any such statement, or intended to convey such an impression. . The cause of the exodus of farmers from Victoria has been ex plained by the honorable member for Gippsland, and the honorable member for Echuca, who have stated that they have had to struggle hard in order to make a reasonably good living upon the land. I admit that but I ask why ? Is not the explanation to be found in the fact that the State Government has been putting settlers upon the wrong land? Large sums of money have been spent upon irrigation works in the dry districts of Victoria, whilst the most fertile lands have been used for the purpose of grazing sheep. The figures quoted by the honorable member for Darling, according to which 3,000,000 acres of choice land in- the western districts of Victoria are held by three companies, comprising only 125 individuals, are alone sufficient to condemn the policy pursued by the Victorian Government. If the farmers of Victoria were settled in those districts where the natural advantages are the greatest, they would be much more prosperous, and the community would derive greater benefit from their exertions. Only after having closely settled the most fertile districts could the Victorian Government fittingly engage in expensive irrigation enterprises with a view to settling the more arid tracts of country. An entirely wrong impression is being conveyed to the farmers of Victoria with’ regard to the intentions of the Government. It is being represented to them that it is proposed’ that their farm hands shall be allowed to work only from 8 o’clock in the morning till 4 o’clock in the afternoon - that the eight hours system will be immediately applied to their occupation. Those who have had experience of Arbitration Courts know that it is generally recognised to be impossible to bring about uniform conditions in all classes of industry. When the hotel and restaurant employes in Western Australia were brought under the control of the Arbitration Court, many people said that the Court would impose conditions that would prevent them from- getting their breakfast before 8 o’clock in the morning. Now, however, that the Court has given its decision, those who desire their breakfast at 6 o’clock can get it at that hour just as they did before the Court was brought into existence. All that the Court decreed was that the employes should work only a certain number of hours per. day, and should receive a certain rate of pay. If the Court proposed to be created were called upon to give a decision in regard to -the conditions which should prevail in the farming industry, thev would take into account all the surroundings, and the necessities of the case. If it were necessary, for instance, for dairying employes to start milking at 5 o’clock in the morning, provision could easily be made for such a case. I believe that the farmers would derive benefit from having the conditions of their industry controlled to a certain extent by a thoroughly impartial tribunal, and I trust that they will not be misled by statements which are now being made with regard to the probable effect of the measure.
– I join with the ‘honorable member for Gippsland, and the honorable member for Echuca, in expressing my surprise that the Prime Minister should have been almost fierce in his denunciations of a class which I have always regarded as a highly reputable one. Although I do not, wholely and solely, belong to that class, I have been connected with the farming community -by business and friendly relations during the greater part of my life. I have been in their houses, I have met them on their farms, on show grounds, and under almost all’ circumstances, and I have never seen any of the conditions described 50 forcibly by the Prime Minister.
– He was speaking of New South Wales.
– We have heard a great deal about the virtues of New South Wales, and I think that I shall be able to show the “honorable member that, so far as wages are concerned, New South Wales is not very far behind the other States. The Prime Minister said that he knew of farm hands receiving wages as low as 7s. per week. I have never known of such a case myself. The lowest wages paid to any one about my own place are given to a lad of about fifteen, who looks after the stable and goes for the mail. He never gets less than 8s. a week. It must be remembered that a boy coming upon a place such as that has opportunities of learning, and that the employer has to run the risk of his damaging implements through want of familiarity with his work. I cannot conceive of a farming hand worthy of the name being paid such a low rate as . 7s. per week, and I am inclined to regard the statement of the Prime Minister with some doubt. There must have been some special reason why the man referred to was not able to earn more money. Eight years ago a friend of mine, in the Murrumbidgee district, further out than the electorate represented by the
Prime Minister, asked me to procure for him two farm hands. I sent him two men, one being a young man, who, as a leading hand, was to receive ; £100 per annum, with keep. The other man, who went with his wife and family, was to receive£70 per annum, it being arranged that his wife should do the cooking for her husband and another man. One of the men afterwards left the place, and is now managing a property in that modern paradise of which we have heard so much - Eden-Monaro. I believe that the other man is still in the place to which I sent him. I want to know how it is that these men could retain their positions at such rates of pay, whilst others were being paid only 7s. per week.
– Perhaps they were not ordinary farm labourers?
– They were farm hands, but, certainly, fhey were good men, who thoroughly understood their work. The one who received the highest salary acted’ as first ploughman. He was a capable man, who, in the old days before drills came into general use, could sow his eighty or ninety acres a day broadcast. The other man was probably just as good, but the leading man happened ‘to be the senior among my hands, and he received the preference. ‘ I have never seen labourers under the conditions to which the Prime Minister has referred. I may tell him, however, that during my election tour, in December last, I saw in the back yards of the public houses many harvest hands who were drunk or suffering a recovery. I have seen as many as four of these men, at one time, under such conditions. One man begged a shilling for the purpose of getting a meal. I offered to arrange with the landlady to give him a meal, but he- would not take it, and he then confessed that he wanted the money to buy drink. The wages paid throughout that district, to harvest hands was 30s. per week, and this was the wav in which many of these casual’ hands spent their money. These are the men whom the Prime Minister champions, whom the Minister of External Affairs extols, and whom the honorable member for Darling would organize into unions, so that they might protect themselves against the inhumanity and greed of the farmers.
– Of some farmers only.
– It is all very well to say that. I know a great many farmers, and I venture ‘to say that the position, occupied by farm labourers has been altogether exaggerated. The honorable member for
Kalgoorlie said the hands employed on the smaller farms were better off than those engaged on the larger ones, but that is quite a mistaken view. I know many cases in my own district in which the sons of large farmers work with the employes, have their meals with them, go into the towns with them at holiday times, and live under practically the same conditions. I generally farm from 500- to 1,000 acres myself, but I do not wish to speak as a member of the farming community. My employes have the same food as we do ourselves. Their food is prepared for them by the” same cook, and they have practically the run of the food supplies on the place.
– The honorable member is an exceptionally good employer.
– I do not pretend that for one moment. I claim that my case is no exception. There are hundreds of other cases to which the same remarks would apply.
– Other farmers treat their men very badly.
– I have not come across them.
– They are to be found within twenty-five miles of Melbourne.
– I am speaking of the farms in the country up towards the Mallee. The honorable member for Darling last night said that if the farmers had to pay a few shillings more a week to their employes they would not be very greatly injured. That is quite right. That is a matter of no concern. The honorable member also said that no one benefited more than did the producers from the effects of high wages. I admit that, with this reservation, that it is necessary that the high wages shall be associated with permanence and expansion of industry. Temporary high prices, followed by a shrinkage, confer no advantage upon the producers. During the boom time in Melbourne the stock breeders sent in to the markets fully 100 per cent, more sheep than they do now. The workmen of the city were then earning good wages, and, being meat eaters, they did not stint themselves of that food. I have not had time to closely examine the returns, but I believe that it would be found, that there has been a shrinkage in the meat supply of Melbourne since the time of which I have spoken representing fully 100 per cent. That is to say that if 40,000 sheep were sent into the markets weekly during the boom, not more than 20,000 sheep are sent there now.
– That boom was the result of an unhealthy land gamble.
– No doubt, but that does not affect my argument. I contend that only when high wages can be made permanent does the producer reap any great benefit. Under such conditions it would not matter two straws to the farmers if they had to pay a few shillings more to their employes. It is not, however, only a question of increased wages. What I *fear is the disturbing influence which this Bill will have upon the minds of the men.
How oft the sight of means to do ill deed’s Makes ill deeds done.
If this provision be retained in the Bill the men will naturally think that they can make some use of it to improve their condition. Honorable members generally will admit that the distribution of the rural workers over Australia does not lend itself to the best methods of organization. Nevertheless, I hold that if farm labourers once become imbued with the idea that their condition will be improved by the operation of this measure, it will exercise a disturbing influence upon them. That will result in loss of confidence on the part of the farmer. He will begin to reflect whether he cannot invest his capital in some other enterprise, in which he will not be confronted with labour troubles. In my own district there is not avery great distinction between growing wheat and fattening lambs. I grow wheat simply because I do not care to carry all my eggs in one basket. If the farmer has to face the prospect of industrial troubles he will naturally embark upon those forms of enterprise which require the least labourThere is no doubt that up to the present time the expansion of the farming industry has been largely due to the adoption of labour-saving appliances. Personally, I have nothing to say against improvements in machinery. All labour-saving appliances are good, if their effect is merely to divert labour into other channels. But if, on the contrary, they displace a large number of men without effecting any saving in the cost of production. I doubt whether any benefit is conferred by them. I may be pardoned for quoting ray own case to illustrate my point. The year before last I experienced some little trouble with the men inmy employ. Although I had two strippers and a winnower, rather than risk a recurrence of the trouble, I bought two harvesters, which merely require the services of a driver. This question does not hinge upon the wages that are paid. I never grumble at the wages which I pay, provided that I get value for my money. The farmer will hesitate for some time before engaging in agricultural enterprise if he has to add to the uncertainty of the seasons, and the low value of produce, the prospect of labour troubles. Whilst the honorable member for Darling was addressing the Committee last evening, I asked him how - assuming that an organization of farm labourers existed, and that a dispute arose whilst farming operations were in full swing - the attendance of necessary witnesses at Court could be secured.
– A dispute would require to extend beyond the limits of any one State before it could come before the Commonwealth Arbitration Court.
– That is one of the defects of the Bill. Personally I should much prefer a uniform Act throughout Australia. I do not believe in the principle that if a man’s house is on fire in one corner he should wait until another corner is in flames before endeavouring to extinguish it. But, assuming that a dispute occurs whilst farming operations are in full swing, how are the individuals concerned to be brought before the Court? When farm labourers have finished their engagement with one employer they go elsewhere.
– It would be unnecessary for a number of witnesses to attend the Court, as in the case of the shearers.
– The case of shearers is to my mind altogether, different. As a body they are more capable of organization and of acting in unison. There is another aspect of this matter to which I desire to refer. If the members of these unions depended for employment upon their superior skill, I should have no fault to find with them. I have frequently heard my father, who hailed from the north of Scotland, speak of the porters of Aberdeen, who were required to carry about 5 cwt. up a flight of stairs before they could qualify for that position. They depended upon their superior skill, whereas the trades unions of Australia rely upon legislative enactments. Only the other day I saw the report of a case which came before the Arbitration Court at Broken Hill, and in which Mr. Justice Cohen presided. The evidence showed that with the exception of the Proprietary mine, which had distributed some ^6,000,000 in dividends–
– Does the honorable member think that his “remarks are germane to the amendment?
– I desire. to show that the members of these unions depend upon ah award of the Arbitration Court, and not upon their superior skill as tradesmen. In the case in question the men were defeated upon both points upon which they appealed to the Court.
– And they loyally abided by the decision.
– Out of 8.000 miners who are working at Broken Hill, only 2,000 are unionists. Yet - perhaps because the men failed in their appeal - the Judge ii> his award gave a preference to unionists, not as against men on the spot, but as against any others who might come there.
– The door is open for all to join the union.
– If the unions were dependent upon the superior skill of their members, they would be most useful organizations, but it is wrong that they should be given a preference over others bv legislative enactment. The honorable member for Echuca commented upon the fact that the honorable member for Darling had said that profits would have to go by the board as against wages.
– I said that wages should not depend upon profits.
– I have taken the trouble to look up an authority upon this matter, whom I regard as a very good one. Indeed. I think that he offers a better definition of a wage fund than any other economist with whom I am familiar.
– Surely the honorable member is not going to argue from a wage fund standpoint at this time of the day?
– I shall do so only in direct relation to what was said by the honorable member for Darling. Professor Walker combats the- theory that “ wages are paid out of capital, the saved results of the industry of the past.” He holds that -
Wages are paid out of the product of present industry, and production furnishes the true measure of wages. So long as additional profits are to be made by the employment of additional labour, so long a sufficient reason for production exists. When profit is no longer expected, the reason for production ceases. It is production - not capital - which furnishes the motive for employment, and the measure of wages. Wages are to a considerable extent advanced out of capital, but it is the prospect of a profit in production which determines the employer to hire labourers; it is the anticipated value of the product which determines how much he can pay them.
– That value depends upon production.
– Quite so ; but if this economist be correct, it is actually dependent upon the future profits. He declares that the possibility of future profits determines the employment of the hired labourer.
– Henry George was the first to advance that theory.
– As Professor Walker does not quote the passages I have read, I assume that they are his own. I think his view of the matter is a . fair and reasonable one. In discussing this question, honorable members have been invited again and again to look at what has been done by the Arbitration Courts of New South Wales and New Zealand ; but I contend that experiments in this direction have not been long enough in operation in either New South Wales or New Zealand to enable us to accept them for our guidance. There are many other considerations to which attention must be given. The prosperity of New Zealand was largely increased by the impetus given to its export trade by the war in South Africa; and I would remind the Committee that if any decay is to take place, it is unreasonable to expect any rapid sign of it. To use a homely illustration, I would point out that when a man ringbarks a tree, he does not examine it on the following morning in the expectation of finding it dead. The process of decay is gradual, and although I hope that there will be no falling away in the prosperity of New Zealand, this may possibly be the experience of industrial legislation of this kind in that country. I have no desire to raise false alarms in regard to the operation of this Bill. I wish simply to advance what I believe to be reasonable arguments against the passing of experimental legislation, such as this, at an inopportune time. The Minister of External Affairs asked again and again, “Why -do people flock to the towns?” and several excellent answers have been given to the question. I can supply the Committee with another concrete answer : Some two or three years ago the Government of New South Wales decided to expend a large sum of money in carrying out relief works in Svdney. Some time after this decision was arrived at. I had a conversation with a fellow traveller in a railway train, who informed me that when the relief works were started he had a number of, men in his employ in a district beyond Bourke. They were engaged in scrub-cutting, and received 25s. a week and their board; but one day three or four of them informed him that they wished to leave his employ, and that they proposed to go to Sydney. When the land-owner remarked, “ You have not much more money than you will require to take you to Sydney ; what will you do when you get there?” they answered, “We shall obtain employment at 7s. a day on the relief works.” This policy has been pursued in Victoria as well as in New South Wales, and it is one of the reasons why many men leave the rural districts for the cities.
– They have never received 7 s. a day on relief works.
– I believe that that was the rate of pay for a time ; but that it was subsequently reduced.
– Seven shillings a day was paid only on reproductive works.
– It may be that these men obtained employment on the reproductive works. I have listened with pleasure to the debate, for the subject is one in which I take a very great interest. When speaking on the Address-in-Reply, I pointed out that, although, in the opinion of some of the legal members - ‘and notably the Attorney-General - we had not the power to deal .with the question of settling the people on the land, there was ample room for us to take action in that direction, without infringing States rights. If a man has money, he can obtain practically anything; and on the occasion in question I endeavoured to show the House that there was within reach of the Commonwealth Government a very simple means of settling tSe people on the land. The whole question depends upon whether we are prepared to borrow ^1,000,000 or ^2,000,000, to enable us to acquire land for closer settlement purposes. As against the indebtedness so incurred, we should have the security, of the land, and it could not be said that we were borrowing for any wild-cat scheme.
– I would point out to the honorable member that the matter with which he is now dealing is not within the scope of the amendment.
– I bow, sir, to your ruling ; but it is necessary for me to refer briefly to this matter if I am to follow the line of argument adopted by the honorable member for Gippsland, the honorable member for Echuca, and others.
– Those honorable members simply made statements of fact for the purpose of illustrating their arguments; but the honorable member is proceeding to discuss the method of settling the people on the land.
– I recognise, Mr. Chairman, the distinction which you wish to draw, and shall not further pursue that phase of the question. “ Let me return for a moment to the consideration of the question “ whymen rush from the rural districts to the city.” There is a strong inclination on the part of young men and women to obtain employment that will afford them the means of subsistence, and at the same time enable them to obtain a certain degree of pleasure. I was very much struck by a short speech made some years ago by a railway official in Victoria, whose rank in the service I cannot for the moment recall. In speaking at one pf the railway banquets, he displayed a degree of level-headedness of which one would like to see more. He pointed out that it was a great mistake for any young man of brains to enter the railway service ; that it -was a mistake for a young man to accept any employment that would not afford him an opportunity to improve his position, and ultimately to become his own master.
– The difficulty is to secure billets in which a man will have an opportunity to rise.
– It appears to me that settlement on the land affords this opportunity. If it is enacted that farmers’ shall pay a minimum wage, we shall not have many young men devoting themselves to farming pursuits. We should rather allow a young man to make his own arrangements. Let it be open to him to say to a farmer, “ I have come to you, because I desire to acquire a knowledge of farming; pay me what you like”; and more good will result to our youths than is likely to accrue from the passing of a minimum wage. The Minister of External Affairs referred to the training to be acquired at agricultural colleges. These, I admit, are very useful institutions ; but it is not every man who can afford to send his son to one of them.
– In New South Wales short courses of instruction are given, and are found to be of great advantage.
– A youth may obtain free education at the New South Wales College of Agriculture; if he is poor, he has not even ‘to pay for his board and lodging.
– -That is all very well, but it would still be impossible for many young fellows to avail themselves of the opportunity to acquire an education .under such terms. Many lads have not an opportunity to earn something for themselves while attending schools of this description ; but if a young man is prepared to go on a farm and accept what may be considered at the outset a low wage, he will soon acquire a ‘thoroughly practical knowledge of agricultural work. Some of the best agriculturists I have met have received their technical education in this way. I have known several large farmers in my district who employed young fellows on these terms. They gave them about ^30 a’ year to commence with, and allowed them periodical increases. It is in this way that many opportunities are given 50ung men to become their own masters ; but if we insist upon the application of the common rule to the farming industry, the payment of a certain prescribed wage, and other like conditions, these opportunities will be lost. I do not at present propose to move an amendment of the amendment; but if the honorable member for Kalgoorlie is prepared to give effect to his suggestion, and make it clear that the amendment is not to apply to shearers and shed hands, I shall be pleased to support him. I am certainly of opinion that, with the exception of maritime troubles, this Bill is more likely to be applied to disputes amongst shearers than to difficulties amongst those engaged in any other employment. I was originally opposed to the principle of compulsory arbitration, but as we have gone so far, I am anxious that the Bill shall be made as effective as possible. If a compromise of the kind I suggest were accepted, so as to make it clear that the amendment is not intended to affect Shearers and Shed Hands Unions, I think it would be satisfactory.
– I support the Government proposal, . believing that all should be included.
– I thought that the point made by the honorable member was that if the amendment were carried it might give rise to difficulty in regard to shearers and shed hands.
– I believe that it would;, but it is not my desire that the amendment should be carried.
– If it is to be carried, would not, the honorable member prefer to. see it amended in the way suggested?
– That is a matter for further consideration.
– I trust that the amendment will be carried, for I am sure it would do much to remove many of the fears that exist in the minds of the people in regard to the effect of the Bill. The residents of rural districts are, rightly or wrongly, losing confidence in the country, owing to the course that is being pursued by the Parliament in regard to legislation of this description. The honorable and learned member for Wannon has omitted debatable matter from his proposal, and I regret that the Prime Minister should have made an onslaught upon it, as well as upon members of the class to which I belong.
– I spoke in favour of them as a class : I referred only to individuals.
– I am aware that the honorable gentleman does not come from a verv uncivilized part of the Commonwealth, but if he would pay a visit, as he has promised, to the district which I represent, I feel satisfied that we should be able to enlighten him as to the true condition of the farming and pastoral industry of Victoria. I’ shall vote for the amendment.
– I have listened, as- 1 am sure we always do, with great pleasure to the honorable member for Grampians, and, although he has certainly advanced some very trite sayings, they are nevertheless of great importance so far as the proposal to bring agricultural labourers under this Bill is concerned. I would point out to the honorable member that he relies upon what is really a fallacy in a quotation from Shakespeare -
The conservative class generally accept that as their maxim, and quite forget the converse -
– There have been no strikes in connexion with the farming industry.
– There have been strikes of shearers in the’ pastoral industry, which is cognate to those mentioned in the amendment, and I remember to have heard of strikes among the rural workers of the old country. Our aim is to make strikes a thing of the past. At first sight it may seem a difficult matter to apply the provisions of a Bill of this kind to rural industries, but there are no reasons why it should not be applied to such industries which do not equally affect its application to manufacturing and other city industries. Those who know the history of arbitration law know that the prophecies of evil which were made in connexion with it’s application have not been verified. It was said that the Arbitration Courts would interfere with industry by preventing employers from making the most favorable arrangements they could for the conduct of their businesses, and that thus private enterprise would be crippled. The gospel of laissez faire has been preached. We have been told that we should leave everything to the good feeling and good sense of the employers. The fallacy that this measure will hamper the good employers, the men who have the good will of their employe’s, and who stand in a friendly relation towards them, ran through the speech of the honorable member for Grampians. It cannot be too often repented that the good employer will not be affected by a Bill of this character. Having been brought up on a farm, I know that the men’ are dependent upon the farmer almost as his children are.
– I am afraid that the honorable member did not rise very early when he was farming.
– I have always been an early riser, because, unfortunately, I am a bad sleeper. I have no hesitation in saying, from a large experience of agricultural life, that the relations between farmers and their hands are generally of the happiest kind. In many places the farmer and his employes practically make up a family. But there are exceptions to every rule, and this law provides, not for the good employer, but for the bad employer. In Victoria children of tender .age are sometimes employed on farms to the detriment of the welfare of the community. In many places the school holidays occur during the period of harvesting or of fruit picking, and- the children, instead of being allowed to enjoy themselves, are compelled to work in the orchards and on the fields, and thus their lives are cramped.
– Children look forward as the event of the year to hop picking or any employment of that kind. They regard it as a picnic.
– Yes, but it is a hardship to them to be employed during their holidays, and is detrimental to their welfare.
– But they are the farmers’ own children.
– The honorable member seems to think that a father should be able to do with his children as the Irishman claimed to do with his wife.
– Does the honorable member propose that children shall bring actions against their parents?
– That, of course, is absurd. The Bill, however, will enable parents to protect their children. I wish honorable members who are opposed to the measure to understand that its object is, not to create strikes, but to settle disputes. Do they believe in law and order, or in the settlement of disputes by force? If they’ are in favour of the adoption of rational methods of settlement, they will make the measure as comprehensive as possible. I claim that we have no right to leave any man at the mercy of a bad employer. Probably in no industry is there a happier relationship between men and masters than in the farming industry, but, nevertheless, there are farmers who are bad employers, and their men should be protected. Reference has been made to the exodus of young men from the country to the city, and it has been stated that we are offering every inducement to men to leave rural pursuits to come to the cities. Surely if we bring all but agricultural workers under the Bill, we shall be offering them an inducement to leave agricultural pursuits and become railway employe’s, or tram conductors, or to engage in other city pursuits. If, on the other hand, we apply the measure to all, there will not be this inducement. In my opinion, if one part of the argument holds good, so does the other. It has been argued that the measure will not be taken advantage of. No doubt the know-‘ ledge that a fair, rational, and equitable means of settling disputes exists will often bring about peaceful settlements without reference to the Court. It is generally admitted, however, that the claims of the shearers to come under the Bill cannot be ‘ overlooked, because of the strikes, and troubles which have occurred in the pastoral industry, and there seems no reason why we should overlook the claims of other rural industries. I hope that the Committee will see that all are given the right to appeal to the Arbitration Court, and that the measure will bring about a time when strikes and the ill-feeling engendered by them shall be matters of the past, and we shall be able to work out our destiny in peace’ and harmony.
– I should not have taken part in this debate but for some remarks which have fallen from the honorable member for Gippsland. He stated some time ago that he was not in favour of class legislation, and yet we find him supporting an amendment which is intended to exempt from the operations of this Bill a very large section of the community. I know something of the agricultural industry, because I spent the early years of my life in agricultural pursuits. I have reaped with the old reaping hook, and have had to put up with some of the accommodation provided by farmers in the State from which I come for those who in the old- days were reaping by the acre. I do not wish to condemn farmers as a class. I think that honorable member’s, when they select particular cases, are frequently induced to take a distorted view and convey a wrong impression. The honorable member for Echuca took an extreme attitude when he said that we could do without all classes of the community except the farmers. I would ask, of what use would the farmers be if there were no consumers? As a matter of fact, all classes of the community are interdependent, and I know of. no reason why any exception should be made- in favour of the farmers. I do not suppose that the provisions of the Bill would ever be availed of by those engaged in the agricultural industry, because it is extremely unlikely that any disputes between farmers and their employes will extend beyond any One State. At the same time, I shall never support any proposal that savours of class legislation. If it is right that the manufacturers should be brought under control by means of a measure of this kind, the farmer should also be included within its scope.
– Has the honorable member ever known of a strike among farm hands ?
– I have known of small troubles only. The Government have been accused of overloading the Bill, but it seems to me that the amendment will have’ that effect.
– Would it not have the effect of unloading rather than of overloading?
– I think not.
– But it proposes to take something off - to narrow the scope of the measure.
– I fully understand that ; but, at the same time, it is overloading the measure by introducing complications. In legislation of this kind, we should not consider the case of the farmer of Victoria or of New South Wales, but the people of Australia, and’ if it be necessary to pass a law of this description for the people of Australia, all classes should be brought under its operation. I am sorry that the debate has occupied so much time, because I believe that every honorable member has made up Eis mind as to the way in which he will vote. I entirely deprecate the remarks which have been made by some honorable members by way of minimizing the importance of the manufacturing industries. Whilst I have a high appreciation of the position occupied by the agriculturists, I contend that they are no more necessary than are the tanners, boot manufacturers, or others, who make use of the raw material produced on farms. In my own district there are many people who make their living by dairying, but they do not work such extraordinarily long hours as have been mentioned during :this debate. It is true that they start work early in the day, but they have periods of rest which compensate them. I do not think many farmers inflict great hardships upon their children. Some farmers are fair and honest in their dealings, whilst others impose upon their employes. In the same way, some manufacturers are fair and reasonable, whilst others oppress their workmen. I see no reason why any exception should be made in favour of the farmers, and therefore I shall vote against the amendment.
– I shall support the amendment, because I think it would be almost impossible to establish a common rule that could be applied to the farming industry. The conditions under which farming is carried on vary very widely in different parts of the Commonwealth, and I do not see how the Bill could be applied to it. The honorable member for Darling spoke about disputes which might arise between farmers arid their harvesters as to wages. But it seems to me that it would be impossible for the Court to intervene in such cases because the harvest would be over before any decision could be arrived at. If our experience of the Arbitration Court of New South Wales is any criterion, it would probably take two or three years before a decision would be given. Harvest work- has to be performed quickly, and, generally speaking, the . labourers have all the best of the deal, because the farmer, in order to get his crop in, must pay whatever wages are demanded. The dairy farmer is in a somewhat different position. The dairying industry has proved to be a veritable gold mine for the Victorian farmers during the last few years, and those who take an interest in the development of our resources must be highly pleased with the marvellous change for the better that has taken place. This result has been brought about at the cost of a great deal of time and labour on the part of our farmers, and is partly attributable to the fact that the industry lends itself to the employment of all the members of the farmer’s family. I am familiar with the conditions which prevail throughout the dairying districts along the coast of New South Wales, and I know that the dairymen could not carry on their business if they did not rise early. They have entered into co-operative associations, and have laid down certain regulations, with which they have to comply, in order to make the best use of the perishable product they have to handle. No Arbitration Act in the world could reasonably set aside the rules which these men have laid down for themselves. They have to get their cream and milk to the factories early in the morning, and late in the afternoon, so that it may not be subjected to too much heat, but kept sweet until it can be converted into butter. It is necessary for them to work early and late. The farmer’s work is never done, but it can justly be said that the farmer does not ask his labourer to do what he is not prepared to do himself. The less we interfere with the producers the better. The dairy farmers of Victoria have been assisted to a large extent by the State, but those in New South Wales have had to carve out their own path to success. They have had no Government assistance whatever, but have cultivated a spirit of sturdy independence and self-reliance; they require no coddling or assistance. The honorable member for Darling said that we were beginning at the wrong end. I think that the Government are beginning at the wrong end when they propose to include farmers within the scope of the Bill. They might with more advantage direct their energies to securing cheap freights for our farmers, in order to enable them to compete successfully in the markets of the world. We are producing more than we require to meet our own needs, and we have to face the competition of the world in open markets. There has been no demand on the part of the agricultural community for legislation of this kind. I have never heard a farm labourer express dissatisfaction with his lot. If the pay he receives is not sufficient, he can easily find other employment. The Prime Minister is generally very fair and candid, but I do not think that he was altogether justified in mentioning the case of the boy who was asleep near his milk cans. Why, we find honorable members sleeping even in this chamber. Surely no significance is to be attached to that fact. The life of the farmer or the farm labourer is necessarily a hard one, and no doubt the children of the farmers have to help. Otherwise many farmers could not make a living. Dairying is one of those industries - natural industries, I admit - in which work has to go on from the early hours of the morning until late in the evening, but the children of the farmers do not suffer to the extent that has been represented. They can milk and they can ride, and can perform all the work of the farm, but their education is not neglected. The girls can play the piano as well as those who are brought up in the cities, and the boys make good citizens. The life they lead may be a hard one, but it is healthy.
– No one insinuated anything to the contrary.
– It was contended that their education was being neglected, but that is not true. Even if they were being hardly used the Bill would not afford any relief. The farmers confer many benefits upon the State. They are not only producers, but they take into their service neglected boys from the public institutions, where they are a charge upon the State. They bring ‘them up to farm work and make men of them.
– Do not other people do that?
– Not to the same extent as the farmers. Last evening the Committee were treated to an excellent speech upon this amendment by the honorable member for Gippsland, who is possessed of a practical knowledge of the subject. To my mind, he conclusively showed that any interference between the farmers and their employes must result in injury to the agricultural industry. He answered very fully the arguments of the Prime Minister, and, although the Minister of External Affairs took up the running, he signally failed to show that a good case had not been made out in favour of exempting the farmers from the operation of this Bill. It has been said that people are forsaking agricultural pursuits and flocking into the cities. In the district which I have the honour to represent I am happy to say that such a condition of affairs does not exist. On the contrary, population there is increasing very rapidly. Most of the land in that district was taken up some years ago, the settlers being chiefly engaged in timber getting. Recently, however, they have turned their attention to the dairying industry, and as a result the prosperity of the district is increasing by leaps and bounds. I claim that we should be exceedingly chary about interfering with the agriculturist or the dairy farmers and their employes. The farmer has already to contend with sufficient disabilities, He has to face the prospect of drought and floods, and has frequently almost to hope against hope. Consequently we should be very careful not to engender on the part of the farming community suspicion of our legislation. The Prime Minister has declared that the probability is that this provision in the Bill will never become operative. If so, where is the necessity for incorporating it in the measure? The honorable member -for Southern Melbourne said that it was wise to retain it, in order that it might be applied to unscrupulous employers. Personally, I do not believe in meeting trouble half-way. The proposal of the Government reminds me of the story of a girl who set out for a certain village. On the way there, she came to a well, by the side of which she sat down and commenced crying. A little later some friends came along, and inquired, “ Molly, what in the wide world are you crying about?” Her reply was, “I was crossing to the village yonder, and I resolved to take a short cut. In doing so I came to this well. Then it occurred to me that some day I might get married and have a little girl, and she might fall into this well, and then whatever would become of me?” She was meeting trouble half-way, which is precisely what the Ministry are doing in connexion with_ this Bill. I hold that no legislation can prevent strikes. We may make it illegal to strike, but that will not prevent men from doing so. I claim that legislation of this character simply engenders disputes. Let honorable members reflect upon the number of cases which await the attention of the Arbitration Court in Sydney. In many instances legitimate grievances do not exist, but the men appeal to the Court upon the off chance of getting an increase in their wages.
– That is an unfair statement.
– Why, then, do they appeal to that tribunal?
– Because it is the tribunal from which they can obtain redress.
– In nearly every- instance their appeals are for an increased wage.
– Sometimes they do not get an increased, but a decreased wage.
– I am acquainted with members of trades unions in Newcastle who are opposed to this class of legislation. In New Zealand the Arbitration Act is a dead letter so far as farm employes are concerned. I admit that the conditions of life in the farming industry are exceedingly hard. One of the many troubles with which the farmer is afflicted is that his sons do not take kindly to agricultural pursuits. They prefer to work upon the tram-lines in Sydney for 7s a day. The attractions of city life are too powerful for them to resist. The honorable member for Southern Melbourne stated that the operation of this Bill will conduce to settlement. I think that its effect will be exactly the reverse. Farmers dislike legislative interference. They have had to carve out their own path to success. They have cleared the land in the first instance, and established their homes upon it. Later on, when they have become employers of labour, they have treated their employes as they would one of them- selves. I remember perfectly well that when I was a lad I was more afraid of one of the man servants on our farm than I was of my father. Why ? Because he took an interest in his work. My father’s interest was his interest. . I know hundreds of employes who selected land in the Robertson and Moss Vale districts, who cleared it, and established their homes there. Years afterwards they sold it, and acquired land upon the northern rivers of New South Wales, where the dairying industry,’ which has proved such a source of wealth to that State during the past ten years, is now being carried on. I heard some honorable member interject a little time ago that the advocates of the amendment wish to legislate for a class. That comes with very bad grace from my honorable friends opposite, who are averse to making this Bill applicable to every section of the community.
– We do not say that this is class legislation.
– The arguments of the honorable member for Echuca, the honorable and learned member for Illawarra, and the honorable member for Gippsland, conclusively show that by retaining the Government proposal we shall inflict injury upon our producers. I contend that it is impossible to apply a common rule to the farming industry, chiefly on account of the continual changes that are going, on. Only a few weeks ago, Victoria was largely exporting butter to Great Britain, whereas to-day she is importing 10 or 12 tons per week from Sydney to supply her own needs. A common rule, that would suit the district of Gippsland, would not suit the farmers in other portions of Victoria. Some reference has been made to the Teachers’ Conference, and to the fact that the children of our dairy farmers are denied the advantage of a proper education in consequence of having to labour upon the farms. We all know that the children of farmers are required to do some work, and I do not think that a little work injures them. I was reared upon a dairy farm, and had to rise regularly at 4 o’clock in the morning. Of course, I did not like it, but it had to be done. I remember that it was very often necessary for me to have my Euclid book upon my knee whilst I was milking the cows. In these clays, of course, children have to learn a great deal more. They are required to study French, Latin, Geometry, and a great many other subjects. Indeed, I am disposed to think that the system of cramming, which is so prevalent in our public schools, works far more injury to the children than does the labour which they are required to perform upon the farms. I admit that the hours of employes in the dairying industry are very long, but it is impossible to alter that state of affairs. The work must be done. Moreover, the farmer does not ask his employe to do anything which he is not prepared to do himself. If it were possible to regulate matters, so that the farmer could be assured of a fair return for his work, we might reasonably insist upon the employe” securing a similar return for his labour. The Prime Minister also made some reference to the share system. I have had some experience of that system. In the Richmond River district, New South Wales, the practice is for the landlord to appropriate one-half the profits, and the tenant the other half. They share them equally. But this Bill will not affect the dairy farmers there., because the tenants who are working upon the share system usually have large families. Consequently in a great many cases, they do not employ any outside labour whatever. The farmers and their families do all .the work. It is one of the grand features’ of the dairying industry, that it is not characterized by a declining “birth-rate. Nearly all the dairy farmers have large families, and are thus enabled to work their holdings cheaply. A good deal has been said about the hard conditions under which the children who are engaged on dairy farms have to work; but the Bill will not improve them. Some fathers may be harsh in the treatment of their children, and make them work more than they should work ; but the Bill will not prevent that. If it would, there might be som’e reason for passing it. In New South Wales, not a single case of the kind has been brought before the Arbitration Court. In no instance has the Court been invoked to prevent children from working in this way. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie said that the Bill will make farmers treat their employes properly. The inference to be drawn from his remark is that at present farmers do not treat their employes properly. It is unjust to place such a stigma upon them. I have yet to learn that the dairy farmers are notorious for treating their employes badly. As a rule, they treat them as they treat the members of their own families. What are the evils which the Bill will rectify? Has it been asked for by the persons concerned? If there had been a demand for it by the employes of farmers and dairymen, it might be right to provide that they should not be exempted from its provisions ; but there has been no such demand. The honorable member for Darling has spoken of complaints having come from Gippsland. But he knows as well as I do that neither in New South Wales nor in New Zealand, where Arbitration Acts are in force, has an union of farmers’ employes been formed. Everything has gone on well in both places without appeals to the Arbitration Court. I do not see the need for legislation to meet dangers which are never likely to occur. It might be said that the Arbitration Court might fix the wages of farm employes in New South Wales at £i a week, while the wages of farm employes in Victoria remained at 15s. a week; but I do not know that that would be any justification for the passing of a Bill of this nature. The New South Wales Arbitration Act has practically had no effect at all upon the fanning industry in that Stale, and the farmers of Victoria have never asked for such a law. In this State there are more farmers than there are in any of the other States. No Government has done more to assist its farmers by improving their conditions, bettering their means of transit, supervising the export of their produce, and opening up markets for them in other parts of the world, than the Government of Victoria has done for its farmers.
– That remark comes very nicely from a representative of New South Wales.
– But we have had no demand from the farmers of Victoria, or from their employes, for a measure of this kind. Then why force it upon them ? The speech of the Prime Minister puts the position of the Government in quite a new light, and no doubt the farmers of New South Wales will expect him to be ready to answer for it. He is, I know, a man who has always had the courage of his opinions, but when he goes to New South Wales he will be called on to explain what he has, said on this subject.
– That may be very shortly.
– We must be always prepared for contingencies. Whether an appeal to the people comes scon or late, I shall be ready for it, and I should not vote against my convictions, even if there were to be an election to-morrow. Honorable members opposite all say that the Bill may never be required.
– We do not refrain from charting and lighting a rock because no ship has ever struck upon it.
– We chart and light a rock because it is an ever-present danger. But in this case there is no danger. What we are doing is to bring in a Bill which will create disputes.
– Why has not the New South Wales Act created disputes?
– It has done so.
– In the farming industry ?
– I am not speaking of the farming industry.
– No case affecting the farming industry has come before the New South Wales Court, because it would be impossible to apply a common rule to that industry. I do not think that a Judge could be obtained who could satisfactorily adjudicate in any such case. We are perfectly reasonable in asking that those engaged in the farming and dairying industries shall be exempted from the operation of the Bill. The position of the railway servants of the States is a different one. They are all organized, and control the highways of commerce. It is they upon whom the farmers rely for the carriage of their produce to market, and it is necessary, for the protection of the farmers, as well as of the community generally, that every means shall be taken to prevent the occurrence of disputes between railway employes arid the -Commissioners extending beyond any one State. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie seemed to think that it would be dangerous to accept the amendment, because it would exempt a number of pastoralists and their employe’s who are engaged in mixed farming. It is not usual, however, for men who have large holdings to engage in mixed farming. As a rule a pastoralist is a pastoralist pure and simple. Where a farmer has a few sheep, he should be allowed to shear them himself, if he can. No doubt, if he employs’ labour, he has to pay the same rate of wages as is paid by pastoralists, and probably a higher rate, because he has fewer sheep.
– The honorable member does not dispute the truth of my statement that on many large stations a considerable area of land is used for agriculture ?
– No ; but the amendment’ would not prevent persons from coming under the Bill, so far as they were engaged in pastoral pursuits.
– A man in the position I spoke of would be as much an agriculturist as a pastoralist.
– He would be both an agriculturist and a pastoralist, and, so far as he was a pastoralist, would come under the Bill. There are men engaged in other walks of life, who, so far as part of their business is concerned, come under Arbitration Acts, while, so far as another part is concerned, they do not. For instance, I know a man who is a lawyer, and who is interested in a tobacco factory. His control of the employes in the factory is governed by the arbitration law, but his control of the clerks in his lawyer’s office is not.
– In that case there is a clear distinction.
– There is also a clear distinction in the case under immediate consideration. I think it is right to apply the provisions of the Bill to shearing disputes, because such disputes are always likely to occur, and to extend beyond any one State. I do not think, however, that there is any likelihood of disputes occurring between farmers and their employes, and therefore I see no need for bringing them within the provisions of the measure- I shall support the amendment.
– As a practical man who has made his living by farming, and is still doing so, I wish to make a few remarks on this subject. During State and Federal elections the popular cry is always “ Settle the people on the land. Provide for closer settlement.” I think that if the measure before us is applied to the farming industry, it will prevent people from going on the land. I speak with authority on this subject, because I represent one of the largest dairying districts in the Commonwealth - the South Gippsland district. The dairymen there are mostly men who have selected land, and ,farm their own freeholds. Many of them were originally men of very small means’, and the most successful of them are men with large families, whose children assist them. I do not say that the Bill, if passed, will be a dead letter; but it will be bad legislation, because it is not required. There have been in the past no disputes between farmers and their employes. I was very much grieved at the remarks made by the honorable member for Darling last night. It seems to me that there are agitators who wish to bring strife and trouble into the farming districts of Victoria. We do not desire that. We know what has taken place so far as the pastoral industry is concerned.
– It has been a good thing for the shearers that they have organized.
– I admit that a measure of this kind should apply to shearers. I represent a coal mining district, and I admitted when speaking on the Address-in Reply that I was not opposed to the introduction of a measure for the prevention of industrial disputes likely to extend beyond any one State. But as there has never been a dispute between the farmers of the Commonwealth and their employes, why should we apply the provisions of such a measure to them? The Prime Minister spoke about the need for charting and lighting a rock before a ship had struck on it, but in this case we have no rock to chart or light, and there is, therefore, no need to apply the provisions of the Bill to the farming industry. I am sorry for the position which the Labour Party have taken up in connexion with this matter. The speech of the Prime Minister will be read throughout Victoria with regret. Apparently he feels that he has nothing to gain from the farmers of Victoria.
– I think that we have. A number of farmers in “New South Wales support the Labor Party. I shall take all sorts of care to have, my speech circulated.
– I hope that the farmers will take particular note of the honorable member’s remarks. I think he looks for support from the employes rather than from the employers.
– From both.
– In my opinion the employes of the farming industries are content to be left alone. The honorable member for Darling said that letters containing grievances have come from farm employes in the district which I represent, and he expressed his willingness to form a union there, which would only cause strife and agitation. I hope there are too many sensible men in the Committee to allow the Ministry to go too far. If the Government would make this a vital question we should be only too glad to go to the country upon it. When I entered this House I thought that I should find myself engaged in the consideration of some very big questions, but all we have done hitherto is to deal with this Bill, which is not a very important one, and which would not have been introduced had it not been for the Victorian Railways strike.
– It was promised by Mr. Justice Barton in his Maitland speech.
– This .Parliament will cause a great deal of dissatisfaction in Victoria by interfering in matters of State concern. If there is any question which should be left to the State Parliament, it is this one. It is entirely beyond our province.
– How long would the honorable member give them to make up their minds ?
– They have already made up their minds in regard to this matter. We have far more important business to transact. Yesterday we had before us . a motion relating to the utilization of the waters of .the Murray, and other rivers, for the purposes of irrigation, and that is a matter which should engage our earnest attention. Then, again, it is highly desirable that we should arrive at some satisfactory arrangement with regard to the transfer of the States debts. We might, with much more profit, devote our attention to these matters than seek to trench upon the province of the States Parliaments. The object pf legislation of this kind is simply to stir up discontent among the Victorian railway servants, who should be left alone after the fair settlement arrived at at the close of the recent strike. The Prime Minister has made a very serious charge against farmers, so far as ‘the rates of wages paid by them are concerned. He said that in certain districts, the prevailing rates range from 7s. to 12s. per week. I have never heard of such rates being paid in Victoria. I have carried on farming operations for many years, and I could put my hands on a number of my old employes who are now successful men. I could point to one man who started with me as a boy at 5s. per week, to learn his business, and who is now the father of a large family, and ‘the owner of a property worth ^3,000. These are the men whom it is desirable that we should put upon the land. What better class of settlers could we have then those who are bringing up families, and ‘ who are training them to country pursuits. None of my men have ever received more than £1 per week and their keep, and yet most of them now have properties of their own, and are making a good living for themselves and their families. If the Bill as it stands were brought into operation, and it were made to apply to the dairying industry - as it might be if agitators got to work among the employes in that industry, and caused trouble - it would probably result in ruining it in the district which I represent. I am speaking in the interests of people who have worked hard, who have kept themselves on the land for many years past, and who do not wish to be interfered with. As a matter of fact, they look after their business so intently that they have not even time to go to the poll and record their votes. At the last election, only 50 per cent, of the farmers voted. But if they find that legislation is being passed which will have a detrimental effect upon their interests, they will probably come forward and record all their votes against the party which is responsible for placing such laws upon the statutebook. I should be failing in my duty if I did not raise my voice against a measure of this kind, calculated as it is to entirely wipe out a very important industry. The people in the country are now being aroused to the fact that they will have to loot after- their own interests. The artisans in the towns have done so, and have done it well, and I’ admire them for it. The people in the country now see that they will have to watch legislation if they wish to guard themselves against injury. I wish to raise my voice, and to record my vote, against a proposal which will probably do more injury to the dairying industry than anything which has been brought forward since this Parliament came into being.
Mr. POYNTON (Grey).- I rise to express my sympathy with the Government in the serious situation in which they now find themselves. Had they abandoned the provision which was included in the measure introduced by the Deakin Government, they would have exposed themselves to a charge of inconsistency. They would have been asked why they did not stick to the Bill. This attitude was assumed by honorable members opposite a day or two ago, but when one of their number proposed to strike out the word “ industry,” over which all the trouble had occurred, they would not vote with him. They are now opposing a provision in the Bill which was introduced by themselves.
– It was admitted that this; provision was only inserted in order that it might be given away.
– I have never heard, that stated previously. If that be the case, it does not say much for the late Government. I am inclined to think that if the Deakin Government had remained in power,, we should not have found Ministers voting, against their own proposal. A change of Government produces the most remarkable, effects. It is immaterial to me which way the vote goes upon this amendment, because. I do not see that much good can be achieved by retaining the provision in its present form. It may have been inserted with the idea of maintaining a consistent attitude, and of preventing any distinction being, made in favour of a particular class of employes. I’ believe that it will have very little, practical effect. That opinion is based upon the experience that has been gained in New Zealand and New South. Wales. Perhaps, some good ,may result from it, in so far as it may act as a deterrent, by imposing a check on those employers who might under other circumstances, be inclined to take advantage of their employes. The honorable and learned member for Wannon seems to have been inspired by a sudden new-born zeal on behalf of the farmers.
– He has advocated the interests of the farmers for some years past. “Mr. POYNTON. - Presumably the honorable and learned member would sayso if he were here; but I have some recollection of his carrying the single-tax banner,, whereas now he has abandoned it. Now we find him engaged in the occupation of flogging a dead horse. Honorable members opposite have admitted that the amendment is a matter of very little consequence, that it is like a chipin porridge, neither good nor bad, but they have made it the subject of a good electioneering cry, upon what appears to be the eve of a dissolution. I think that the Prime Minister deserves every credit for havingbeen consistent. He represents a farming constituency, and if honorable members opposite are to be believed, it will not be to his; advantage to support a provision which will” have the effect of bringing the agricultural industry within the scope of the Bill. Therefore, he is showing some degree of moral courage. The honorable member for Flinders has stated that this is an attempt to invade the sphere of action of the States Parliaments, but I would point out to him that disputes such as would be dealt with under this measure could not be covered by any State legislation.
– It is admitted that disputes in the agricultural industry could not very well .extend beyond any one State.
– Then there is the more reason for raising a good election cry’ upon the strength of the proposal to include the industry in this Bill. I have done a great deal for the farmers of the State from which I come, and I have a great number of farmers among my constituents. I have no doubt that the newspapers will continue to represent - as they have clone recently, under the most glaring head-lines - that terrible disasters will follow upon legislation of this kind. I should like to see some honesty in the criticisms directed against this measure, and also something like consistency. The opposition to the provision which is sought to amend has been, from start to finish, a pure and simple electioneering gag. The honorable and learned member for Wannon would show some courage if he went before his constituents and proposed that the whole of the taxation should be imposed upon the land ; he would be better employed than in flogging a dead horse. If it is. unlikely that any disputes will occur that will bring the agricultural industry under the operation of the Bill, why should so much anxiety be expressed with regard to getting on with other business? We might have had this question settled last night but for the desire of honorable members who represent agricultural constituencies to address the farmers - to put up men of straw, and knock them down again.
– To whom is the honorable member talking?
– I am talking to the farmers. No man in this Committee has done more than I have for the agriculturists. The honorable member for Gippsland took credit for bringing a number of trades under the operation of the Factories Act in Victoria, and I give him every praise for what he has accomplished. I would point out, however, that he took good care that he did not apply the Act to any of the industries carried on within his own electorate. It is all very well to be liberal with regard to matters which do not affect one’s self. The honorable member for Flinders expressed some fear that agitators would go into his district and arouse the employes of the dairy farmers into a state of mutiny. Does not the 3z honorable member realize that this Bill is intended to do away with agitators, and to submit all trade disputes to the decision of an impartial tribunal?
– If the Bill will kill agitators, why do the Government and their supporters want to pass ii?
– We do not want to encourage agitators.
– We want to kill strikes. All those honorable members who oppose this Bill are in favour of strikes. I might go so far as to say that they prefer to see the employe with his hand on the throat of the employer - to see the utter stagnation of industry, to see the people starving. I should be perfectly justified in charging the mover of the amendment with all this, because he is evidently not in favour of any restrictive legislation, but believes in the survival of the fittest, and would let every grasping, greedy employer take every advantage that he can of his employes. He would let every sweater get the full benefit of his nefarious operations.
– Is that the honorable member’s experience of the farming community ?
– I am not speaking ot the farming community, but of the honorable and learned member who proposed the amendment.
– Order. The honorable member must address himself to the amendment.
– I should have been very glad if the Chairman had taken up that position before.
– Order ! That is a distinct reflection upon the Chairman, and I must ask the honorable member to withdraw it.
– I shall withdraw it, with this reservation, that I do not see why I should be stopped now, in view of the fact that land taxation in all’ its aspects has been discussed during this debate.
– Order. The honorable member, as an old member of Parliament, must know that when he is requested by the Chairman to withdraw any remark which is regarded as objectionable, he must do so unconditionally. I now ask him to follow the usual course, and withdraw his remark without any qualification.
– With all due –deference to the Committee and to the Chairman, I withdraw. I only wish to remark that almost every aspect of the land taxation question has been discussed during this debate, and that I do not quite understand why I should be pulled up.
– I will explain to the honorable member. The honorable member said he was not talking of the farming industry, and as the amendment distinctly deals with that industry, I would ask the honorable member to confine his observations to it.
– I am very glad that the Chairman has made that explanation, because he entirely misunderstood what I said. The honorable member for Gippsland asked me if the remarks which I was making referred to f armers, and I said that I was not then speaking of the farmers, but of the honorable and learned member for Wannon, who had advocated a non-restrictive policy. I still believe that I was speaking to the proposition before the Chair.
– I judged from the honorable member’s own words. I shall be very glad if it can be shown that there is any connexion between the views of the honorable and learned member for Wannon on the single tax and the matter before the Chair.
– I was proceeding to show that there is a want of consistency in the actions of the honorable and learned member for Wannon. Had the Government abandoned this provision, honorable members opposite would have immediately charged them with inconsistency. There have been- too many electioneering speeches delivered upon this proposal. I trust that we shall get to a division without any further delay.
– Now that the honorable member has had his say, he desires the debate to close.
– I have not previously troubled the Committee. I remained silent for two days. I repeat that the provision in the Bill has afforded honorable members opposite _a splendid opportunity of addressing their constituents.
– How the honorable mem- ber would have revelled in it had he occupied a seat upon this side of the chamber !
– Had I been sitting upon the other side of the House I should have spoken exactly as I have done. The experience of New South Wales and New Zealand goes to show that, in the case of rural industries, this provision in the Bill will not be called into operation. At the same time, no harm can result from it’s inclusion. I shall support the clause in its present form, which was the form in which it was submitted by the Deakin Government.
– It is rather amusing to note the attitude which is assumed bv Victorian representatives upon this question. I can quite understand it. They are merely pandering to their constituents for electioneering purposes. That is the sole object underlying the amendment proposed. I fully appreciate, the position of the honorable member for Flinders. He is perfectly well aware that in New South Wales the farmers and their employes can be brought under the operation of the State Arbitration Act. He realises that, if an award were given there which had the effect of increasing the wages of farm labourers, the Victorian farmers would be placed at an advantage as compared with those of New South Wales. That is the motive underlying the action of some Victorian representatives. When, during the first session of the last Parliament, the honorable member for Illawarra attempted to relieve the farmers of New South Wales from the iniquitous fodder duties which were operating, these very individuals exclaimed, “ Oh, we have a splendid harvest in our State, and we intend to profit by the necessities of the other States.” They are adopting similar tactics upon the. present occasion. I was exceedingly pleased to hear the good words which have been spoken on behalf of the farmers and those employed in agricultural and dairying industries, because I have a vivid recollection of a debate which took place in this House, in the course of which it was urged that those employed in agricultural pursuits were an unreliable lot of drunkards.
Honorable Members. - No, no.
– When the Pacific Island Labourers Bill was under consideration, the argument was repeatedly advanced that farm labourers - “ white men “ was the term used - could not engage successfully in tropical agriculture, and that they were nothing but a drunken set of loafers.
– Not half-a-dozen members of this House were antagonistic to that Bill.
– A similar attitude was adopted towards section 16 of the Postal Act. At least honorable members might be consistent. I think that this provision is a very good one, and no valid reason has been’ advanced why it should be eliminated from the Bill. The only reason urged by the honorable member for Flinders in favour of the adoption of that course is that some agitator may possibly undertake to organize the farm labourers, and that, as a result, this measure would become applicable to them. I was rather surprised at the action of the ex-Minister of Trade and Customs in speaking against this provision, seeing that it found a place in the Bill which was introduced by the late Government, of which he was such a prominent member. Some honorable members opposite would have supported it had the Deakin Government remained in office.
– The Ministry might have accepted an amendment.
– I quite agree thai they might have. There are a good many things that the late Government might have done. I hold that if this Bill is good for the factory worker, it is equally good for the farm labourer. If it is to apply to the employer who is engaged in manufacture, it should also apply to the farmer. We have been told that its operation will result in the absolute ruin of the farming industry. Does the honorable member for Flinders seriously believe that?
– I am indeed surprised to hear it. Honorable members will recollect that we were told that the abolition of kanaka labour would destroy the sugar industry in Queensland ; but the fact is that the output of sugar this year is greater than it has ever been previously.
– But a proportion of kanakas is still working there.
– Does not the honorable member see how that argument recoils upon himself? Are ‘the sugar planters so foolish as to continue developing the industry
– The honorable member should await the result of the operations of another three years.
– One of the strongest exponents of the employment of that class of labour in tropical agriculture is spending ,£360,000 in irrigation. I have no desire to detain the Committee, but when honorable members opposite deliver speeches simply for electioneering purposes, I think it is just as well that something should be said by the other side.
– Like the honorable member for Grey, I have listened in silence to this debate for ‘ 3 z 2 two days. If so many honorable members opposite had not so strongly denounced the action of the Government, I should not have addressed the . Committee at this stage. The attitude which has been taken up, and the language which has been used by the advocates of the amendment, are absolutely ridiculous. They urge that this legislation, so far as it will apply to rural industries, will prove inoperative, because those whom it will affect enjoy such good conditions as to render it extremely unlikely that an appeal to the Arbitration Court would result in their improvement. If that be so, I do not understand the logic of their position. Of course I could understand it if the charges that have been made in connexion with the dairying industry in particular, were true; but the advocates of the amendment declare that they have no foundation in fact. What, then, is the reason of their anxiety to embody the amendment in this Bill ? In Victoria recently there has been what I may term an “epidemic” of burglary. Let us suppose that, as a result, the State Parliament submitted a very drastic measure dealing with burglars and burglary. What would the general public think if the Young Men’s Christian Association petitioned the Legislature to insert a special provision in the Act, exempting its members from the operation of that Statute ? It would certainly be very absurd. We know that members of the Young Men’s Christian Association are not likely to commit burglary, and the authorities would, therefore, probably reply that the “Act was intended to operate generally, and that it would be called into requisition only where offences were actually committed. The honorable member for Flinders was very emphatic in his statements as to the effect of the operation of this Bill in his own district. Yet I believe that at the recent Teachers Conference which was held in this city, representatives from that district entered a most vigorous protest against the conditions that exist in the dairying industry there. They told of children who have to milk a number of cows each morning before going to school, and who are afterwards too sleepy and too mentally inactive to acquire the education to which they are entitled. Does the honorable member believe in the .employment of child labour in the dairying industry If he does not he ought to assist us in preventing the infliction of so great an injustice upon children whose parents put gain before the health of their offspring.
– If that condition of affairs does exist, how can this Bill alter it? The relation between father and child is not an industrial- relation.
– If a fanner engaged in the dairying industry has a child which is subjected to improper treatment in connexion with the industry this Bill can certainly be brought into operation to insure consideration being extended to it. The other aspect of this question has reference to the employment of farm labourers. What is the objection to the Bill being made applicable to them? Is it because their wages are too low? Surely the honorable member for Flinders believes in paying a man a fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work? This Bill does not go further than that. I do not suppose that its effect will be to establish the munificent average of £2 per week, which was the sum mentioned by one of the advocates of the amendment. But would the payment of such a wage ruin the dairying industry? Is the honorable member for Flinders aware that in that portion of Great Britain where farming is most prosperous the highest wages are paid?
– The farm labourers here are quite satisfied with, their present wages.
– If those wages are reasonable there will be no interference with them under the operation of this Bill. I have met farm labourers, however, who have informed me of the wages that they receive, and who are anything but satisfied with their conditions. I protest strongly against the political capital which honorable members opposite have attempted to make out of the position taken up by the Government. In one breath they assure us that the Bill will prove absolutely inoperative, and in another they indulge in a wild denunciation of the Government, and in equally reckless prophecies of what will happen if the amendment be not adopted. The term “ agitators “ has been applied to those who it is thought may interfere with the dairy employes in this matter. As a student of history, I believe that all the good which we at present enjoy, politically and socially, is due to the efforts of agitators. The honorable member who used the term in a somewhat offensive way belongs to a race which owes all of which it has a right to be proud to the fact that its common people and their leaders were always prepared, not merely to agitate, but to fight for justice, and for what they believed to be their rights. Therefore, he should hesitate before using the term “ agi.tator “. in an opprobrious fashion.
– I am an agitator.
– We are all agitators more or less, and when the term is used legitimately I am proud of it. It is notorious that- many honorable members had fathers or grandfathers who were driven out of their own country by the operation of injustices which agitators tried to remedy, and they should be the last to turn round in their days of prosperity and gird against the class to which they ought to belong in sympathy as they do in birth.
Mr. LONSDALE (New England).This debate brings me back to my very early days, I do not know how long ago, when I drove bullocks at the plough. My father was a farmer, and I know the conditions under which farming populations work, and consequently sympathize with those engaged in- that employment. Nevertheless, I am opposed to the application of the Bill to agricultural labourers. Even the honorable member for Grey must admit that I am consistent in this attitude. I am not ‘sure that he always means quite what he says. We are all alike in this respect, that we put our worst side foremost. No doubt honorable members often imagine that I feel antagonistic to them personally, and am rather spiteful, and the honorable member for Grey gives me that impression at times. I do not think that he is really spiteful. I believe him to be as kindly at heart as most of us are. Of course, it is natural, when motives are imputed, to retaliate by imputing similar motives to those by whom we are taunted. Consequently when honorable members who have spoken for the farmers have been told that they have been making electioneering speeches, they have retaliated by saying that those who are opposed to the amendment take that stand merely so that, later on, they may be able to tell the agricultural labourers in the various districts that they fought for their interests,; and tried to help them, notwithstanding the opposition of the honorable and learned member for Wannon and others. I maintain that we ought not to place on the statute-book legislation to assist only one section of the community. In my opinion, the legislation we pass should apply equally to all. I know that some of those who are supporting the amendment, and opposing the application of the Bill to agricultural labourers, voted for its application to railway employes. To me, however, it seems that if it was right to apply the Bill to railway employes, it is right to apply it to agricultural labourers. As a matter of fact, I think it should apply to neither section of the community. The railway servants are in a much better position than are agricultural labourers. They, by reason of their numbers and organization, can always stand up for themselves, whereas the agri:cultural labourers are scattered and disorganized. Of course, my present remarks are a criticism rather of the action of the members of the party with which I am associated than of the action of the Labour Party, and show that I am at least impartial. I am, however, consistent in objecting to the inclusion of both railway servants and agricultural labourers. I have travelled through a large part of New South Wales, and I know the difficulties under which the farming population . works. It has been said that the Bill, if passed, will be inoperative. Certainly the New South Wales Act has been inoperative, so far as the farmers of that State are concerned. I believe that there has yet been no dispute in the agricultural industry in New South Wales for the settlement of which the intervention of the Arbitration Court has been sought. Honorable members opposite contend that, as the Bill is not likely to be used, its application to the farming industry will do no harm. But -
How oft the sight of means to do ill deeds Makes ill deeds done !
It is quite true, as the Prime Minister has admitted, that no disputes in which the farming industry has been concerned have come before the New South Wales Arbitration Court; but four-fifths of the disputes which now congest that Court have been created by the passing of the Arbitration Act. They would never have been heard of if the Act had not been passed. I admit the truth of what the honorable member for Perth Kas said about agitators. I am an agitator, and have been one for years. My desire is to uplift the masses. I am not a sweater, nor do I love the sweater, notwithstanding the suggestion of the honorable member for Grey. I have as much sympathy with the man who is toiling as has the honorable member himself. I wish to assist the workers in every way, and Would do all I could to improve their conditions. But I hold that the passing of this measure will not do anything in that direction. Something has been said about the single tax. If the principle referred to was put into force the probability is that some men would not be quite so1 well off as they are, while a very large number would be better off. I recognise the difficulty of doing anything in that connexion in Federal politics ; but speaking to State constituencies I have always favoured such action. My idea is that we should eradicate the source of the evil. It is of no use to lop off the branches of a tree to cure it of the blight.
– But would the honorable member allow a roof to be spoiled for the want of a shingle?
– The passing of this measure would not do any good. Could any Judge, although he might hear all the evidence that could be brought forward, impose such regulations as would improve the conditions of the masses to any extent? The fact is that these conditions are largely governed by the effect of outside competition. Our butter, cheese, and wheat have to be sold in the markets of the world.
– How does the honorable member account for the fact that there is a difference of as much as 100 per cent, in the rates of wages in different parts of Great Britain? In some districts men are paid ros., and in others
– If my theories were carried into effect, things would be very different in England. The Duke of Westminster would not be drawing £1,000,000 a year while other people were getting only 10s. a week. But, suppose that a Judge declared that the wages of our farm labourers are too low, and ordered that they be increased, would that benefit the men ? No ; because it would crush out of existence the industry in which they are employed. If we could raise the price of our produce, I would willingly vote for an increase of wages. This Bill will not increase wages.
– It does not crush out factories for the Court to order an increase of wages.
– Our factories do not compete largely with the outside world. They compete with each other, under practically uniform conditions. Moreover, they are constantly cheapening production by introducing improved machinery, and they employ only men of the highest capacity, discarding men of low capacity, and letting them die of starvation if they cannot find work elsewhere. The reports of the Vic- torian Factories Inspectors, however, show that the attempts to raise wages here have not succeeded very well. I wish to do all I can for the working classes, but I have no desire to throw dust in their eyes. We have been told that the object of the Bill is to settle strikes ; but there has been no strike in connexion with the agricultural industry. When I stated that it had been made to appear outside that the Bill had been introduced, not to prevent strikes only, but .to improve the conditions of our labouring population, the Minister of External Affairs challenged my statement, although he afterwards admitted its truth. My contention was that a strike cannot be settled without a review of all the conditions under which the inr dustry concerned is carried on, and rates of wages must be included in that review. The argument is being used in New South Wales and elsewhere that the passing of this Bill will improve the conditions of the masses ; but practically it will have no such effect. A solicitor who has appeared in very many of the cases which have come before the New South Wales Arbitration Court a few weeks ago wrote to the Sydney Daily Telegraph a letter, about a column and a-half long, pointing out that the awards of the Court had done little to raise wages. I should like every member of the Labour Party to read that letter to his constituents, to acquaint them with the effect of the New South Wales Act. This gentleman made these statements with a view to disarm the opposition of the employers, but when he goes before the members of the labour unions, as he has done previously) he will probably speak in high terms of the advantages which the Act has conferred upon them. Why does he not tell the same tale to both parties? Why is he not true to the men he represents, instead of endeavouring to deceive them ? Why does he not tell them plainly, that this kind of legislation will not help them ? When I spoke recently, I said that sweating could not be prevented by such legislation as this, and that wages could not be improved by it. I pointed out that as an industry develops and becomes prosperous, high wages will follow, and that if an industry goes down the wages will fall with it. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports interjected that at the height of the boom in Melbourne wages were lowest and sweating was at its worst.
– That is perfectly true. More sweating was revealed by the Chief
Secretary and his inspectors during that period than at any other time.
– I visited Melbourne in 1897, long after the bursting, of the boom. I believe that the- honorable member for Melbourne Ports was at that time Secretary of the Anti-Sweating League.
– I had held that position for seven years previously.
– I cannot remember the exact date of my visit, but I know that it was about Easter-time. I cut out of one of the newspapers an extract from a report of a speech delivered by the honorable member, in which he described the terrible plight of the people at that time - in 1897. If the conditions at the height of the boom were worse than those described by him, I am at a loss to conceive what they could have been. The picture drawn by the honorable member, at a public meeting at the Town Hall of the awful condition of affairs among the working men of Victoria was one that would make the most hard-hearted man weep. If the conditions at the height of the boom were worse, the working-people of Victoria must have been starving to death. That is my answer to the honorable member’s interjection. The idea of some honorable members is that this Bill will have the effect of improving the conditions of the working classes. I hope it will. No one will be more pleased if that result is brought about. But I consider that it is utterly ridiculous to expect, by restrictive legislation of this kind, to lift up the masses. History shows that all such attempts have failed.
– They have not failed in Victoria.
– The attempts to raise up ths masses of Victoria have failed. The Victorian Parliament made one attempt, by means of restrictive legislation - I need not say what it was - to! help the working men of Victoria by giving them higher wages! That failed, and they had to make a still further attempt by law to help the artisan classes. That also fell short of their expectations. They had to make further amendments of the law, and failure again resulted.’ They were unsuccessful from beginning to end. Many years ago, when the landed proprietors in England had the power in their hands, laws were passed - to keep down the wages of the agricultural- labourers. .’Did they keep down the wages? For a while they succeeded; but when the black death and the plague swept away a large number of the population, the wages rose, despite the law.
– But under normal conditions the law kept the wages down, and left the agricultural labourer the degraded individual he is to-day.
– At about that time, wages were proportionately better than they were afterwards, when all kinds of restrictive laws were passed. In those days the people had their commons, but the landowners gradually swept them away, and left the people in a far worse condition than they were before. Any attempt to keep up wages must fail, unless the law runs side by side with natural conditions. I believe that in New Zealand the wages paid to agricultural labourers have gone up, not as the result of any award of the Arbitration Court, but because of the general prosperity of the Colony. The moment that there is a turn in the tide of affairs in New Zealand, the wages will probably go down, and no law would serve to keep them up. I hold strongly that the people cannot be assisted by such legislative means as those now proposed. No one is more in sympathy with the working population than I am; I would give every man the greatest comfort. If the people are oppressed by bad laws those bad laws should be swept away. There is no use in getting rid of one injustice by creating another. The ideas of those honorable members who believe in restrictive legislation have been derived from the time when the land-owning classes passed laws which had the effect of keeping out of use the land which belonged to the people. I may be called a Socialist, but I am not one. I am an individualist. I would give to every man what he could earn and let no man share his earnings with him. I would not let the man who does nothing rob him who does something. Legislation of the kind now before us, so far from giving every man the benefit of what he earned, would do the reverse. Legislation of the kind proposed does not help the working man. The capitalist, if he had any sense, would allow all such proposals to be passed into law, in order that their utter futility might be demonstrated. I do not think that the Bill can have any effect upon the agricultural industry, but I shall vote in favour of the amendment, because I am prepared to face my farming constituents, and tell them that the measure could not help them. I passed through my electorate during harvest time. I saw crops standing 7 feet high, and I also saw hundreds of men seeking work. Why? Not because the farmer would not pay them high wages, but on account of the weather. The farmers were losing the whole of their crops. Could any law correct that sort of thing? Although there were plenty of men available, the farmers paid 7 s. and 8s. a day, because they wished to take the fullest advantage of the fine days, and get their crops in quickly. When times are prosperous wages rule high, but when they are not wages will go down. I voted against the provision to bring railway servants within the scope of the Bill, because I thought that it would not be in their interests to be included. They have their unions to protect them, and Commissioners to whom they can appeal, and there is really no necessity for any’ such measure as far as they are concerned. I cannot understand the attitude of those honorable members who voted in favour of bringing railway servants under the Bill, and who are now supporting the amendment with a view to excluding agricultural labourers from its operation. Those who vote for bringing one class of employes within the scope of the Bill should be willing to extend its provisons to all. Then, again, those farmers who want, by means of the law, to secure higher prices for their wheat, should also be willing to give the agricultural labourers every advantage that can be conferred upon them by law. I claim to be acting with perfect consistency in this matter, because I am totally opposed to proposals of this kind ; they must prove futile.
– During this debate assertions have been used in lieu of arguments. Some honorable members have stated that strikes do not occur among agricultural labourers, and that there is no likelihood of any trouble arising in connexion with that industry. But the honorable member for Gippsland has pointed out that the agricultural labourers, above almost any others, require assistance at our hands. If ‘ honorable members will direct their attention to the condition of affairs which existed in the old country many years ago, they will find that at one time, although there were no strikes amongst agricultural labourers, there were such things as rickburning and stack-burning, which were brought about by the existing distress. Subsequently Joseph Arch came upon the scene, and organized the labourers into unions, and did some good in that way. Are we to wait for another Joseph Arch to organize our agricultural labourers, or are we to adopt the provisions of the Bill, which will furnish an easy and peaceful method of settling disputes. If, as some honorable members say, the Bill will prove inoperative, so far as the agricultural industry is concerned, where is the harm in allowing its provisions to stand ? There is no object in making the Bill any more complicated by exempting the agricultural industry from its operation. Very strong arguments have been adduced in favour of giving the Bill the most extended application, and, therefore, I shall vote against the amendment.
– As several honorable members still wish to speak upon the amendment, I would appeal to the Prime Minister to consent to report progress at this stage.
– After the long debate we have had I think we ought to proceed to a division.
– That would be quite impossible to-day.
– We have had a very long debate.
– The subject is a very important one, and relates to one of the largest interests in the Commonwealth. We are justified in debating it to the fullest length, in order, not only that honorable members may understand what is being done, but that the public outside may fully comprehend the nature of the proposal.
.- I think that the length to which the debate is being strung out is unreasonable. It was commenced early last evening, and has continued ever since.
– Nearly all the speakers to-day have been on the Government side.
– I do not think so; but, even if that were the case, there is no reason” why we should not proceed to a division this afternoon.
Mr. KNOX (Kooyong). - Although I do not represent a farming constituency at the present time, I had that honour for some years as a member of the State Legislature. During the course of this debate reference was made by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports to the part which he played in connexion with the enactment of factory legislation. As that honorable member is aware, I strongly sympathized with that movement. At one time it was suggested that the provisions of the Factories Act should be extended to the farming community. Honorable members who recollect the consternation which was created throughout the whole of Victoria as the result of that suggestion, must be convinced that’ the provision in this Bill is one of very serious importance.
.In moving -
That the House do now adjourn,
I wish to say that on Wednesday next I anticipate bringing down some Supplementary Estimates. These will be confined to items of expenditure which have been paid by the Treasurer out of his advance vote, to cover emergency matters that have cropped up during the year. The reason why I must ask the House to consider these Estimates is that at the present time the Treasurer’s advance vote is exhausted, and unless they are put through, we shall be unable to deal properly with urgent matters that may arise during the next few weeks.
– Are there any new items in these Estimates?
– Not many.- Nearly all of them were authorized by the ex-Treasurer, and although they total a large sum, they chiefly represent advances against savings which have already been made upon the Estimates in chief. The passing of these Supplementary Estimates will enable the Treasury officials, who have a very hard month before them, to debit the payments to the Departments to which they properly belong.
– Has any provision been made for the payment of arrears due to Victorian postal officials, who have established their claim to receive the same salary as officers holding similar positions in other States ?
– Provision will be made for the payment of some of the ascertained claims in that connexion. These, of course, represent a debit against Victoria under the bookkeeping system. The officers have established their claim to sums which total about ^20,000, and we have now to pay the accumulated arrears for three years. I do not say that the ^20,000, which will be included in the Supplementary Estimates, will exhaust these claims, but it will provide for those officers who have established them.
– The .£20,000 really represents the judgment of the Court?
– Yes. I cannot see that we arc justified in paying other officers until some definite announcement has been made in regard to them. Acting on the advice of the Attorney-General, it is not my intention to compel the claimants to institute further proceedings. Apart from that item, the Supplementary Estimates will contain nothing which has not been paid out of the Treasurer’s advance vote.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Mouse adjourned nt 4.5 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 3 June 1904, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1904/19040603_reps_2_19/>.