2nd Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at z.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Report (No. 4) presented by Sir John Quick, read by the Clerk, and agreed to.
– I wish to ask the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, if his attention has been called to the evidence given by Major Kell before the Butter Commission, wherein that officer alleges that he refused to take more than two hams as a present under the system of commercial immorality now prevailing in private enterprise. Will the Minister of Defence, in. view of the action of the officer in question, recommend his promotion to the position of Colonel ?
– The honorable member might address his request formally to the Minister of Defence.
– I wish to direct- attention to a paragraph in this morning’s Age, where it is stated that -
The Director of Agriculture remarked yesterday that, as the mail companies had taken no pains to deliver the butter at regular intervals in London by steamers which they engaged during the fruit “season, it was difficult to see why the shippers continued to bind themselves by contract to the companies, and to pay jd. per lb. for the carriage of their butter to London in the very same vessels in which Brisbane shippers were able to send butter to London for id. per lb.
Will the Prime Minister cause inquiry to be made into the accuracy of the statement that butter is being shipped to London from Brisbane under contract for Jd_ per lb., and into the general conditions, under which the shipments are made, witha view to ascertaining the relative cost of shipments from Brisbane, Sydney, and” Melbourne ?
– The Minister of Tradeand Customs has been engaged for somelittle time past in an inquiry into the whole of the conditions under which perishableproduce is. now shipped abroad. Thaquestion arose incidentally in connexion withthe consideration of the mail contracts, which is a matter under the control of thePostmasterGeneral, but in connexion with which were a number of particulars, upon which we desired information which it was impossible for him to get, and, therefore, at his instance and mine, the Minister of Trade and Customs is inquiring into thewhole matter. It will be recognised by ali” that the facilities for the export of perishable produce have increased very materially lately as compared with the position whenthe last mail contracts were entered into, and the Minister is endeavouring to ascertain how far it may be necessary to incorporate in the new contract something in thenature of a trade subsidy, as well as a mail subsidy. I shall ask him to give attention” to the matter mentioned by the honorablemember for Moira. It is an extraordinary state of affairs if, as is alleged, Brisbaneshippers can get their butter carried for Jd. per. lb. while Melbourne shippers have topay fd. per lb. I may add that noarrangement as to subsidy will be come tountil the matter has been submitted to theHouse.
– When will the classification of the Public Service be made public ?
– I had a conversation with the Public Service Commissioner on the subject this morning. Yesterday hebelieved that the lists would be available at the end qf this week, but now he thinksthat there will be a delay of a few days, longer, because of the difficulty in gettingthem printed. The report is naturally a voluminous one, and the printing office is not turning it out as quickly as he expected. The report has been completed! so far as the Commissioner himself is con;cerned.
– I wish to know from the Minister of Home Affairs if he has received further reports, or other information, from the surveyors, Messrs. Chesterman and Scrivener, on the Tumut and Bombala sites? If he has, will he lay them upon the table, and have them printed before the Seat of Government Bill is considered ?
– I am ‘ expecting to see both gentlemen this afternoon. They are coming from their respective districts, and will bring with them their final reports, which I shall, of course, place before honorable members at the earliest moment.
– I wish to know from the Postmaster-General to what extent, if any, he has consulted the people of Kyneton as to whether the hours during which he is depriving them of telephone communication with Melbourne are the hours during which they do not wish to use the line.
– It was impossible to consult the residents of Kyneton on the occasion in question, when a deputation waited upon me. Kyneton is the only intervening station connected with the trunk line from Melbourne to Bendigo, and it was considered that no great hardship would result to the residents at the former place, inasmuch as they make only six calls per day. . The line is largely availed of during “certain hours, owing to the business which is transacted between Bendigo and Melbourne. I have arranged that Kyneton shall be cut out only during three hours daily, and that during the rest of the day the line shall be at the service of the residents of Kyneton, in addition to being available to the people of Bendigo and Melbourne. The hours during which the Kyneton station is cut out are. from 10 to 11 a.m., 12 noon to 1 p.m.. and 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. The reason for fixing upon these hours is, that the main users of the telephone line are persons interested in mining matters at Bendigo, and as they are the largest customers of the Department, it is necessary to make some little concession in their favour.
– Did not the people of Kyneton give a guarantee?
– Speaking from memory, I do not think that they did; but I mav say that it is not intended that they shall be put to any inconvenience. I distinctly stated to the deputation that if the present arrangement did not work satisfactorily, the matter would require to be reconsidered.
– I desire to address a question to the Prime Minister. In view of the fact that the Minister. of Home Affairs has stated that the publication of the Public Service classification lists . is being delayed in the Government Printing Office, and that there are a great number of compositors out of work - a deputation recentlywaited upon the Premier of Victoria, and asked that some of the unemployed printers might be put to work at forest thinning - will the Prime Minister see that, if necessary, additional compositors are taken on, in order to facilitate the printing of the lists? The classification tables have been promised for some considerable time, and any further delay should therefore be avoided.
– So far as I can ascertain, the delay in the issue of the classification lists is not due to the printing office. As most honorable members will realize, the compilation of the lists is an enormous work. There are many thousands of Federal employes, and a tabulated statement has to be compiled showing the position of each man. Particulars have to be given as to the time at which he joined the service,
I his grade, and his salary, first with regard to his employment in the State, and then with regard to his employment in the Commonwealth up to the time of regrading. Then there are two classification columns, namely, one showing the officer’s present classification, and the other the class in which he will be placed when an opening is found, according to his deserts or ability. When honorable members recollect that all these particulars with respect to each man in the service have to be embodied in the table, they will easily recognise what a really important and large work has to be performed, and that it is impossible for the Commissioner to complete it without a number of revisions, in the course of which every entry in respect to each civil servant has to be checked, in order to avoid errors which might commit the Commonwealth to something that was never intended. It will be realized that the mere checking of (he lists and of all the different entries is a stupendous work in itself/
An Honorable Member. - Some of the public servants have not been classified previously
– Even where they have not been classified, it is still essential that particulars should be given in respect to each man. I had a consultation with the Government Printer in my office this morning. He assured me, in the first place, that there was no delay so far as the printing office was concerned. As to the suggestion that men from outside might be employed to carry out this particular work, it must be remembered that it is of a confidential character. It would be most improper if any idea of a tentative or a preliminary proposal, dr one regard to “which there might be a printer’s error, were communicated to the public until everything is finally adjusted. Therefore, the work is confidential as well as very important, and the Government Printer thinks it right, and very properly too, to keep at this work as many of his regular hands as he can accommodate in the office. In this connexion, _ the question of overtime was mentioned, and Mr. Brain assured me that the only overtime lately worked has been in relation to the tables involved in the classification scheme. These have now been completed, and no more overtime wort will be necessary in regard to them. Apart from this. I must express my sympathy with the compositors who are out of employment. I can appreciate their case, asp I have been in the same position myself, as a compositor. I have told the Government Printer, and he quite sympathizes with the idea, that he should avoid overtime on every possible occasion. Overtime work, as a general rule, is not good either for the employer or the employe. Every one recognises that, and Mr. Brain assures me that he has not for a considerable time sanctioned it, except in the case of the printing of the re-classification scheme. t have asked him to obtain the services of extra hands, whenever they can be secured, for any extra work that is required. It must always be remembered that when Parliament is sitting, the Printer receives instructions from Mr. Speaker, or from Ministers through Mr. Speaker, that certain work must be completed by the next morning. In such cases there is no time to call in outside men to cope with the extra pressure. The work must be done immediately, and it may not be possible to find suitable men on the spur of the moment. Some times, therefore, overtime cannot be avoided in the ordinary working of the office. My instructions to the Government Printer are - and. I am sure that he is anxious to carry them out - to minimize to the fullest possible extent the overtime worked in the office.
– I desire to ask the Minister of Trade and Customs what amount of revenue is collected in the shape of duties upon ships’ stores? I. would ask, further, whether, in view of the very aggravating nature of the duty and the infinitesimal amount of revenue derived, it is worth while to proceed with its collection?
– I do not pretend to be able to give the particulars required offhand, and I would ask the honorable and learned member to give notice of his question. I shall then have an opportunity to furnish an answer with regard to the matter of policy referred to in the latter part of his question.
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable and learned member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether, in view of the importance of the subject, he will take steps to ascertain if it is within the power of the Commonwealth to construct works in connexion with the River Murray and some of its tributaries, for the purpose of conserving sufficient water to insure continuous navigation in the main streams?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
I shall ask my colleague, the Minister of Home Affairs, to take steps in the direction indicated, although I understand the matter has already had some consideration at his hands. I am, at the instance of my colleague, communicating with the States interested, to ascertain if they are willing, under section 51 subsection XXXVII of the Constitution, to allow the Federal Government to deal with the Murray waters in respect of irrigation as well as navigation.
asked the Minister of External Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister, representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
Whether, in view of the decision of the Government not to recognise military rank off parade, the Minister of Defence will cause to be cancelled the following regulations applying to the Militia and Volunteer Forces made under the Defence Act 1903 : -
Part II., clause ro - “Warrant officers, noncommissioned officers, and men will salute all 4 m 2 commissioned officers whom they know to be such, whether dressed in uniform or not.”
Part V., clause 31. - “A member of the Citizen Forces shall be considered to be on duty, although not in uniform.”
I wish to say, in reference to this matter, that, upon the ist March last, I wrote to the Defence Department, asking for the cancellation of these regulations, but, up to date, have received no reply to my communication.
– I must ask the honorable and learned member to postpone his question until Tuesday next, as I have not yet been able to obtain the information he requires.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether he has yet communicated with the Premiers of any of the States to ascertain if it is intended to deal with the development of the iron industry?
– The reply to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
Yes. Some days ago I communicated with each of the State Premiers.
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
The new excise regulations which it is hoped will shortly be brought into operation, contain provisions under which this can be done, and in proper cases permission is given in anticipation of these regulations.
Debate resumed from 26th May (vide page 1622), on motion by Mr. G. B. Edwards -
That in the opinion of this House, the AttorneyGeneral should introduce the necessary legislation to give effect to the recommendations contained in the report of a Select Committee on Commonwealth coinage and currency, adopted by the House on 19th June, 1903.
– I thought that to-day we should have had a pronouncement by a member of the Government in respect to this question. In the last Parliament, it will be recollected that a resolution, similar to that which is now under consideration, was carried, though only by a small majority. Some time prior to that a Committee of Parliament was appointed to investigate the matter of the proposed reform of our coinage. That body devoted considerable time to its work, and eventually . submitted a report to the House. The report was adopted on a resolution which was carried some twelve months ago. I do not know whether, in Federal politics, we are to follow the practice which is common enough in Victorian politics - and perhaps in those of some of the other States - of receiving reports, adopting them by considerable majorities, carefully pigeon-holing them, and afterwards forgetting all about them.
– Order. Will the honorable member resume his seat. I would point out that there are quite a dozen conversations, proceeding in different parts of the Chamber; it is almost impossible for the honorable member to proceed. I must ask honorable members to refrain from conversing aloud.
– I hold that no matter should be remitted to a Committee for inquiry, unless the Government honestly intend to deal with it subsequently in a practical way. Otherwise a waste of time is involved on the part of members of the Committees, as well as a waste of public money. The practice to which I have referred ought not to be countenanced. The Committee appointed by Parliament in this instance spent a good deal of time in investigating this matter, which, in my opinion, is worthy of much more serious consideration than appears likely to be extended to it by the Government. I do not propose to speak at any length upon this proposal, because the honorable member for South Sydney traversed the ground so thoroughly and capably that there is really very little more to be urged in support of it. I merely purpose answering one or two of the objections which have been urged against its adoption. Before doing so. however, I would point out that since the preparation and adoption of the Committee’s report several bodies have discussed the question most exhaustively, notably, the Australian Natives Association, which, at its annual conference, representing as it did some 20,000 members in Victoria, unanimously adopted the proposal of the Committee in favour of a decimal coinage system. Moreover, several articles have appeared upon the question in the more influential newspapers of this and other States. One or two exceedingly able articles were published in the Age. Whilst I do not regard that journal as an authority upon every subject, I hold that upon financial questions it is probably as well edited as is any newspaper in the British Dominions. On that ground alone I hold that its opinion is entitled to respect. One of the objections which have been urged against the adoption of a decimal system of coinage is that it should be accompanied by a reform of our weights and measures system. I admit that some force attaches to that objection.. Personally, I am of Opinion that there should be a decimalisation of our weights and measures system, just as there should be a decimalization of our coinage system. At the same time I do not hold that until we can secure both reforms we ought to refuse one. I am prepared to accept the first now, and to afterwards endeavour to obtain, the second as quickly as possible. I hold that the two questions are intimately related. I admit that there is strong reason why they should be dealt with jointly, but that is no excuse for- advocating delay in the matter of altering our coinage. Whilst it is important that we should deal with our system of weights and measures, it is still more important that we should place our money system upon a simple and rational basis. Others again urge that until something like a universal system of coinage has been established, which would be the result of some international Conference, it is idle for a small community to attempt reforms of this character. It is rather singular, however, that those who urge this objection fail to recognise that several international Conferences have already dealt with the matter, and . that the reform is, nevertheless, as far off as ever. Those , who entertain the view which I am now combating seem to imagine that there is some special necessity to place the coinage system of the world upon a uniform basis. They forget that the principal use to which money is put is of a domestic character. It is used by the masses more than by the merchants. So far as merchants and traders generally are concerned, at the present time they have to conduct their businesses in a way which compels them to adopt practically a decimal system throughout the world. Probably they would find their task rendered a little easier if we adopted a similar system in Australia. It is not the merchant and trader who are most concerned in securing a simple system of money; but the persons who daily have small transactions with the butcher, the grocer, the baker, and other tradespeople. If by means of this system Ave succeeded - as 1 am sure we should - in simplifying that branch of trade, and the accountancy work relating to it, we should do much for the people of Australia. Another objection levelled against the Committee’s proposition is that we ought in any case to wait until Great Britain takes action in this direction. It is urged that it would be idle for a portion of the Empire to decimalize its system of currency while the remaining parts failed to do so. As I have said on previous occasions, if we are to delay what we conceive to be desirable reforms until some other part of the world has taken action, we shall always be in the back-wash of legislation. I do not quite understand that attitude of mind which considers no proposition worthy of consideration unless it has been dealt with by some other part of the Empire. If we are to maintain the character of a progressive people it will be necessary for us, occasionally, at all events, to step out for ourselves, and to say that, although the reform which we contemplate ,has not been carried out elsewhere, we are satisfied, as the result of reasonable inquiry, that it is right and that we should bring it about. If the reform were right we should stand bv it, and if it proved to be wrong we should be able to amend it or abandon the proposal ; but the suggestion that we should remain idle until the Imperial Government have taken action is one that I cannot accept. There is an excellent answer to those who urge that we should wait until Great Britain takes action, and that we are proposing to make a change in our monetary system so radical that it would materially alter the trading relationships of the Commonwealth with other parts of the Empire. The proposition of the Select Committee is that we should decimalize the sovereign. The sovereign is the standard of value throughout the British dominions, and I am proud to say that it is accepted almost the world over as being at all times worth the value attached to it. That being so. there can be no force in the argument that we should wait for Great Britain to take action in this direction before carrying out the recommendation of the Committee. The great bulk of our business in respect of trade accounts with the rest of the Empire, will be ‘based in any case upon the sovereign, and, as we propose to retain that coin, there need be no serious apprehen sion as to the wisdom of the reform. Australian merchants and traders having business relations with firms in Great Britain and other parts of the world, deal with their accounts in such a way that they are simplified at sight. We have large business transactions with the United States of America, but invoices from that country are dealt with in merchants’ offices in Australia without any great difficulty. I am informed, on very credible authority, that those who have to dissect these invoices can do so at sight. If that be possible, how much easier would it be for traders in the United States, and other countries where decimal systems are in force, to deal with our accounts on the establishment of a Commonwealth system of decimal coinage? Traders in Great Britain have already to deal with the decimal systems of other countries, and would experience no difficulty from the addition of a Commonwealth system. I feel that the internal benefits to be derived from this proposal would be so great as to far out-weigh any external disadvantages that might possibly be experienced. That being so, we may, without hesitation, adopt this proposal, and give to the people of Australia the advantage of a decimal system of coinage. It would certainly enable them to transact their business in a more rational and economic way than is at present possible. The reform advocated by the Committee would not, in my judgment, disturb trade or prejudicially interfere with the operations of merchants and traders. On the contrary, it would simplify their transactions. Some persons urge that if the Committee had recommended the retention of the penny, or the threepenny piece, they might have been inclined to support their proposition. That is a most remarkable attitude to take up ; because, to decimalize the penny or the shilling, as the case might be. would be to interfere with trade and commerce with the outside world to a far greater extent than the adoption of any other system would in1volve. The scheme recommended by the Committee is the only one that has ever found favour with the British people. It will be within the recollection of honorable members that the honorable member for South Sydney pointed out some time ago that the system which the Committee recommends has actually been approved by resolution of the House of Commons, and that the British Government propose to deal with the matter as soon as they can dispose of more urgent questions. To decimalize the penny, or the shilling, would be to put us out of touch with British thought and opinion on the subject; whereas the proposals of the Committee are in accord with the ideas of the people of the old country, and would eventually fit in with what I think is likely to be the Empire system. We are not oblivious’ to the fact that there are other advantages to be gained from the decimalization of our money. I take it that in connexion with this change, we shall mint our own gold, silver, and copper coins and that we shall reap the advantages now secured by the Imperial Treasury from the coinage of the silver used in the Commonwealth. Our importation of silver coinage is so large that it represents at present a profit -of between £30,000 and £40,000 a year to the Imperial Government. That profit ought to be reaped by the Commonwealth, and would be secured by it if we adopted the proposed decimal system and minted our own coins. Another profit which would be gained if we put our decimalized coins into circulation at once would represent something exceeding £1,000,000. The proposition of the Committee is, if my memory serves me rightly, that that profit should be held as a kind of trust fund to meet any depreciation of silver, or to pay off from time to time the national debt. I do not think that we should use it save for some such purpose as I have just mentioned ; but we should in any case reap the advantages of these savings if we had only the courage to deal with the subject. I do not wish to pose as a mere money-grubber, but I think that the proposition that we should secure the profit of over .£30,000 which, at present goes to the Imperial Treasury, is a sound commercial one.
– The Imperial authorities at present take that profit as a set-off against the cost of maintaining the gold standard in Australia. They have asked us to agree to pay the expense of maintaining the gold Standard if we take the profit on the coinage of our silver currency.
– The expense of maintaining the gold standard in Australia does not amount to more than £2,000 per annum.
– Does the honorable member for Bourke say that if we coined our own silver we should save £40,000 a year ?
– The present profit is about £35,000 or ,£36,000 a year, and the. whole expense of maintaining the gold currency of this country does not amount to £3,000 per annum. There is, therefore, a very wide margin of profit. I take it that we should be prepared to pay the expense of maintaining the gold standard if we secured the profit derived from the coinage of the silver used in the Commonwealth. It is a fair proposition to make, and a responsibility which the Commonwealth ought to accept. The right honorable member for Swan appears rather to doubt the figures I have given, but he can find ample proof of their substantial accuracy in the report of the British Mint Master. If he looks at the reports of the Australian Mints also, I feel sure that he will find that the figures are as I have given them. He will further find, and it will probably be gratifying to the right honorable member, that the Mint iri Western Australia is amongst those which are most profitably conducted at the present time.
– I believe that the quantity of silver used in Australia is” npi so great as to give a profit of £40,000 a year on its coinage.
– The quantity of silver used in Australia is so great that, speaking from memory, the Mint Master of Great Britain is prepared to admit that there is a profit of £36,000. Surely we can have no higher authority ?
– There are charges for freight, and other charges to be reckoned.
– The figures I have given make allowance for every charge in connexion with the matter. There is a collateral profit to be gained by the decimalization of the coinage which ought not to be neglected by rational minds in the community. The time saved in connexion with the education of school children, and in the keeping of accounts, and that kind of work, by the adoption of this system, is valued in round figures, £1,000,000 a year. That is a very large sum, and while I am not prepared to stand sponsor for the statement, I can inform honorable members that experts and others who gave evidence before the Select Committee estimated that there is something like that saving to be made in this connexion. It is contended! that the difficulties of the present system are so great that, in order to master them, a child requires to remain one or two years longer at school than would be necessary if the decimal system were adopted.
– It is estimated, in England, that the saving in the school time of children would amount to about a year, having regard especially to the study of weights and measures.
– If the saving amounted only to one year in the education of children, it would be considerable; and, taken in connexion with the saving of time in the keeping of accounts, the advantages stated should be recognised in dealing with this question. I have endeavoured, in a few moments, to answer the objections most prominently stated against the adoption of the system. Such arguments are put forward as, for instance, that if we were to decimalize the’ sovereign it would be difficult to deal with purchases that cut into the half-penny and so on. We have the old illustration submitted of so many yards of cloth at i.ijd. per yard, and so manypounds of butter at 11 3/4 d. per lb., and we are asked to find the answer in terms of the decimal system. But the answers to these questions have been given so often that there is no need to repeat them here. I assert that the great reason for decimalizing money in the Commonwealth is the domestic reason. It would facilitate all account keeping in the Commonwealth; it would render calculations more easy for school children and for people who are not well versed in book-keeping. People would be able to carry out everyday transactions with ease, and it would be of very great advantage to the small class of shop-keepers throughout the Commonwealth. In these circumstances, apart from the profit to be derived from the coinage of our own silver, I again assert that the balance of advantage is so much in favour of the decimalization of our system of money, that I think there is ample justification for immediate legislative action upon the adoption of the report of the Select Committee. I feel that we should have some pronouncement from the Government in respect to this matter, and that it should be such as to indicate at once whether there is any possibility of legislation on the subject. If there’ is to be no legislation it will be a direct intimation to the members of Select Committees appointed in the future before they go on with their investigations to get an official statement as to whether their labours are likely to be followed bv action. I for one will not consent to become a member of any Select Committee unless I have some definite undertaking that the report and recom mendation of the Committee are likely within a reasonable time to be translated into Commonwealth law. It is of no use to waste Commonwealth time and money, and the services of honorable members, if no action is to be taken upon the report of a Select Committee. Honorable members are aware that the previous Parliament adopted the report of the Select Committee who dealt with this matter ; I have no doubt that the motion now before the House will also be agreed to ; and- in the circumstances I am satisfied that the time is ripe for legislative action translating these proposals into law.
.Honorable members who were members of the last Parliament will recollect that when speaking on this matter in 1903 I expressed the utmost sympathy with the object aimed “at by the Select Committee. I believe that honorable members generally are agreed that if we can secure the adoption of the decimal system’ of coinage, and the metric system of weights and measures, a great advantage will be secured to the commercial community as well as great relief given to children in their school work. The advantages of the adoption of the decimal system of coinage and of weights and measures are so apparent that it appears to me to be extraordinary that nothing has so far been done in the mother country to effect this very much needed reform. I am unable to say that the Government are prepared, at the present time, to introduce legislation in this direction. It is all very well for the honorable member for Bourke to say that if there is no prospect of legislation - I presume he means this session - that there will be a discouragement to honorable members to agree to serve on Select Committees, and to devote a great deal of time - and I submit in this case a great deal of ability, for several members of this Committee displayed great ability - to the elucidation of any subject, and the making of recommendations; but, apart from the possibility of legislation immediately following the production of the report of this Select Committee, it seems to me that a very great deal of valuable work has been accomplished in any case. The position I take up is simply this : In the first place I have had no opportunity, as Treasurer, to consider how far the proposals of the Select Committee will result, first of all in a dislocation of the finances, and secondly, in a disloca- tion, as I presume there necessarily would be, to some extent, of commercial affairs in relation particularly to the small transactions which form so large a part of the dealings of our citizens. In my view I should have time, which I certainly have not had up to the present, to go into these matters, and to ascertain from those competent to speak, with authority, how the proposed change is likely to affect them. In the first place, I am certain that, so far as the Post Office is concerned, the change proposed by the Committee must have a very considerable effect.
– It would facilitate the arrangement at which we are aiming.
– That aspect of it, I admit, deserves very serious consideration. We must consider the charge now made for carrying a letter in Victoria, and in some of the larger cities and centres of the other States of the Commonwealth. If the recommendation of the Committee be adopted, that would immediately become reduced in value to the extent of 4 per cent. It might perhaps make possible the adoption of a uniform charge for postage at an earlier date than would otherwise be possible. The making general of, say, a 5 cent postage, which would be a difference of a fraction of a penny upon what we have at the present time in some places, might be a happy medium between the present penny and twopenny systems that prevail alongside each other throughout Australia.
– Five cents is a little more than one penny.
– Four cents is 4 per cent, below the value of a penny, or .96, and’ therefore five cent’s would be a little more than a penny. The adoption of a coin like that for postage purposes might facilitate the early adoption of a uniform postage rate throughout Australia. I do not say that until the bookkeeping period has passed we can have a uniform stamp ; but we could have a uniform charge throughout Australia, if people in one State were willing to pay a little more in order that others might pay a little less. That is one aspect of the question. I am looking at it purely tentatively, but the effect upon the Post Office is only one aspect, after all. There would be a much larger dislocation so far as the interests of private individuals are concerned. There are so many transactions possible by means of the “humble brown,” as it is termed colloquially throughout Australia. For instance, in Sydney the whole tramway system de pends upon the collection of pennies. Penny sections are the basis of that system. In the ordinary transactions of private business there is no doubt that the penny plays a very important part.
– The honorable gentleman must admit that within the last few years we have seen a reduction of about 25. per cent, in the cost of many of the articles which- the penny purchases.
– I admit that there has. been a reduction in the cost of given articles, and that very soon matters would adjust themselves.
– The tendency is still downwards.
– But :t is not invariably so. The general tendency of the prices of commodities is downwards, with the increase of effectiveness in machinery. But there are exceptions here and there, which destroy the general application of that principle. There is, however, this interesting fact since the question was last discussed in this House : I am informed - I have not been able to obtain the Parliamentary paper- - that there is sitting at the present time a Committee of the House of Lords, in connexion, not only with the question of decimal coinage, which is immediately under consideration, but also with an alteration in the system of weights and measures.
– No; the House of Lords Committee is considering only the question of weights and measures.
– I was informed, on the authority of a pamphlet issued by the English Society of Accountants and Auditors, that the House of Lords had appointed a Committee on this subject. But the honorable member is better informed than I am, and I accept his correction. I was hoping that if that information were correct, there might be a prospect, within a reasonable time, of obtaining some decision from . the British Government. I admit that up to the present we have not been encouraged to look for any practical outcome from the action which has been taken in the British Parliament, which has been generally favorable to the adoption of a different system in the calculation of money values, as well as with reference to weights and measures. If that had been so, the way would have been comparatively easy for us. I quite sympathize with the decision of the Select “Committee, to continue intact the sovereign as a measure of value. Although they recommend that we shall have the florin as a unit, that coin is to maintain its present relation to the sovereign, and, therefore, the sovereign may continue to act as the medium of exchange.
– The sovereign is the standard.
– Although the florin would be the unit for calculations, the sovereign would be the measure of value. I quite appreciate that suggestion, because the retention of the sovereign facilitates our conmercial relations with, outside countries to a considerable degree. The sovereign is accepted practically everywhere throughout the world. Therefore, it is of advantage to retain it. I recognise that the florin was an instalment of the decimalization of the British coinage. But the retention of the sovereign entails an alteration of our smaller denominations of coins, if we are to adopt a decimal system. That is the aspect of the matter, that I wish to have time to look into before I commit myself to introduce legislation on this subject. I may add that I intend, in any case, if opportunity serves, to devote some attention to the question in the direction especially of ascertaining the opinions of different commercial people throughout Australia on the probable effect of, or justification for, an alteration in any degree of our present token coinage. That is the point which seems to me to be most important for the Government to consider. Because, in this matter, although we have the power to legislate for Australia, we shall be affecting to some extent the interests not only ‘of private citizens, but also of the States. The instance which I have quoted, of the tramway system in Sydney, has a bearing upon this point, and in regard to many other things it seems to me that’ the interests of the States as States are bound up with the present proposal. That consideration emphasizes the necessity for looking carefully into the effects of the suggested change before the adoption of it as a matter of ordinary legislation. I say at once that if there were any prospect of the British Government taking action within a reasonable time, I should be inclined to take the plunge without further inquiry; but, apart from the practical questions involved in Australia, I do not quite appreciate the wisdom, if it can be avoided, of further differentiating . in the coinage of the different portions of the Empire. The proposal which we are considering does not ask us to adopt the coinage of Great Britain, nor that of Canada, which is another part of the British Empire. Although it is recommended that we shall take a decimal system, such as they have in Canada, we are to adopt another measure of value as our guide. Consequently, there is a very material departure from any system that at present prevails within the Empire.
– The coinage which we propose is English.
– Except that the tokens that would go to make up the sovereign would be of a very different character from the tokens at present in use, and would necessarily lead to a different system of quotation in merchants’ catalogues, and everything of that sort. I admit that catalogues could very easily be prepared in accordance with our system, and would be understood, just as it is easy enough to-day for a man in this country to understand an American catalogue. Still it takes a little time, and I do not think it wise to have differing systems if it can be avoided. I do not say that the fact of it differing from other systems in use in the Empire should stand in the way of the adoption of the decimal system, if no other course is open ; but we should aim at avoiding these distinctions as much as possible. That is a matter which requires consideration. I quite appreciate the work which has been done by the Committee, and I have no desire to imply a reflection
I upon them by a refusal to introduce legislation at the present time.What I said on the last occasion when the subject was debated in this chamber shows that I have every sympathy with the basic principle into which they inquired, and upon which they reported, but I feel it proper for me to inquire further into the probable immediate effects of an alteration, before committing the Government to the introduction of s Bill, at any rate during this session. I desire the opportunity for investigation which a recess should give, before taking further action.
– I intend to be very brief in what I have to say on this matter, because I recognise that the honorable member for South Sydney, who moved for the Committee, and who took so much interest in the question when it was under consideration by that body, has at previous stages placed before this House a very full outline of the reasons for adopting the resolution which is now before us. Further than that, hon-‘ orable members can refer to the proceedings of the Committee. They can judge by the evidence, and by the report, whether the proposal to change the coinage of Australia to one of a decimal character is, or is not, desirable. I would only say in reply to the Prime Minister that, while I recognise the force of all he said, the difficulties which he points out, the internal difficulties in Australia can never be removed, however long we wait before we effect a change.
– 1 admit that.
– They cannot decrease, and they must increase. With the enlargement of population and the spread of trade, every year must make the change - which, if it be a desirable one, must surely come some day - more difficult, so far as the internal interests of Australia are concerned. As regards our external interests, I think very little of the difficulty. In the first place, this system fits in with the British system. We retain the British sovereign, that great standard of value, not only for the British possessions but largely for the world. We also retain the florin, the shilling, the sixpence, and, if thought desirable, the threepenny-bit, at the actual value which they now hold, and we propose to make the variation which must be made at one end or the other of the scale of value in any change to a decimal system, in the penny and halfpenny, the difference being only 4 per cent. We cannot under any future circumstances get closer to the British system, and we have an indication of the direction which British decimalization will take when adopted by the fact that, on the report of a Committee of the House of Commons in favour of the decimal system the florin has been coined as an advance guard of the system, and as an indication of the direction in which British coinage will move when decimalization is adopted. We have the further fact that, whilst Canada has had to adopt the American system,” owing to her closeness to the United States, she does not coin the dollar, finding the half-dollar a much more convenient coin for circulation. The American dollar seems too large for a unit, just as the franc, to British people, at any rate, seems too small. We propose to adopt something between the two, and something which has been practically adopted bv the British Government, as the unit of our decimalized system. It mav be asked, why should we give preference to a decimal system? My reply is, in the first place, that our notation is decimal. It proceeds by steps of ten. No system of money, or of weights and measures, which does not proceed by the same gradation, can ever be convenient, economical, or assist easy and accurate calculation. Some have said that the duodecimal ‘ gradation of money and of weights and measures is superior to the decimal, that under it sums can be halved and quartered, and re-halved and requartered to a greater extent than under the decimal system. I am not prepared to admit that the advantage does lie with the duodecimal system, but even if it did, the question is not answered, because so long as. our notation is decimal, our aim must be, if economy, convenience, ease of calculation, and readiness of education are to be considered, to bring our coinage and our weights and measures into harmony with our notation. I shall allude briefly to one or two of the objections which have been raised to the proposed change. The great objection is that it will throw our coinage out of gear with the British coinage. I have already shown that, if the system is to come at any time, that which has been proposed will throw us less out of gear than any other system. Only the smaller coins, the penny and the half-penny, would be altered, and then only by 4 per cent. We can adopt, in substitution, either the 4 cent or the 5 cent, piece, or both. We get, in one case, a reduction of 4 per cent, on the penny and the halfpenny, and in the other a coin representing 1 i-5d. in our present money. Either of those coins can be used for small transactions, and in a great’ many of such transactions it would be possible to reduce in a corresponding degree the quantity purchased. Where articles are bought by the lb. or by the packet, the quantity sold can be reduced so as to make the interchange between buyer and seller exactly the same as it is now. In other cases, of course, either the 4 cent piece, .which will be 4 per cent, less, or the 5 cent piece, which will be i-sd. more, will have to be adopted. This difficulty, however, wil! always have to be met. Waiting will not get over it, and it will increase as population and internal commerce grow. We must remember that, year by year, a larger number of people are coming under the decimal’ system. Every year hundreds of thousands, and in some years millions, are being brought under that system. While the Committee was sitting, as we learned immediately after our report had been agreed to, Ecuador, one of the South American-
States, . adopted a system of decimal coinage, and, strange to say, . without any connexion with our inquiry, and without our knowing of their inquiry, a system which is exactly that which the Committee recommended to this House. The people of Ecuador even accept the British sovereign as a coin of circulation, and every other gradation is exactly that which the Committee recommend. The process of change is proceeding all over the world, and the number retaining the old duodecimal, or mixed system, will become very small in proportion to the much larger number using the decimal system. If there is convenience, advantage, and economy to be obtained in adopting the decimal system, are we to allow foreign countries alone to enjoy it? We, and the British people, ought to move as soon as possible in obtaining these advantages for ourselves. In Australia we have none of the difficulties which Britain has to face. We can quite understand that in Great Britain the alteration of the coinage would be a serious difficulty. They have there a large population - 40,000,000 - and an enormous trade, and they have to contend against the sentiment which is satisfied with a good solid system of coinage that has existed for generations, and (would be apt to look upon a change as almost an interference with the British Constitution. We have there, too, a people less alert to change, and less generally educated, than are our own people. For all those reasons the change would be a much bigger one in Great Britain than it would be here. But I am satisfied that the people of that country regret that the change to a decimal system of coinage and of weights and measures was not made when its population numbered only 4,000,000. and its trade was infinitesimal, as compared with the present trade. Recognising this, we should see that our interests lie in the adoption of the decimal system while our population and our trade are small. I quite agree with the Prime Minister that he has many things to consider. He has only recently come into office, and naturally cannot be expected to have given his attention to everything in the first few weeks of his Ministerial career. But an expression of opinion by this House that it is desirable that legislation should follow on the report of the Committee might be passed.
– The motion, in a manner, directs the Attorney-General to bring in a Bill.
– I have adopted the usual form.
– I have never heard of such a motion being passed in New South Wales.
– Perhaps the honorable member for South Sydney would consent to an alteration of his motion which would make it an indication of the opinion of the House.
– I see no objection to the passing of such a motion as that.
– I do not suggest any amendment, because at the moment I am not quite sure of the wording which has been used. Personally, I look upon the motion as an intimation of the wish of the House that legislation should follow on the report of the Committee. Of course, the passing of it cannot bind the Ministry to introduce legislation ; it really only records the opinion of the House. Possibly the Prime Minister may think that in this matter I am the Radical and he is the Conservative. When I am satisfied that a proposal, whether it be of a social, political, or economic character, will effect an improvement, I am always ready to support it, and to face the difficulties that must, for a while, accompany the change. That is why I support the motion. It may be urged in favour of postponement that by delaying action we. shall accomplish our object more easily and readily than bymaking the change at an earlier date, because we may expect the British Government to adopt a decimal system of coinage.
– If that occurred the opposition here would be minimized.
– The indications are. however, that whilst that change may be made, it will probably not. take place in the immediate future. The British authorities are giving their attention to what I admit is a much larger question, namely, the decimalization of weights and measures. Although the adoption of that system will involve the expenditure of many millions, and will render it necessary to change many of the patterns and looms and the machinery in use in the manufacturing industries throughout Great Britain, the Government recognise tha necessity of introducing the reform. Great Britain finds that she is . unable to retain her proper position in competition with other nations, owing to the want of uniformity of her system of weights and measures with the decimal standard adopted in countries with which she conducts a large trade, and is realizing the necessity of facing an immediate stupendous loss in order to secure a future gain. At the same time, there is no indication that, in conjunction with the adoption of that system, it is proposed to introduce the decimalization of money.
– As the decimalization of the currency would be less difficult than that of weights and measures, I should think it most likely that they would effect that change first.
– Possibly they, may think they have faced a sufficiently difficult matter in regard to the decimalization of weights and measures, and may not care to add to their troubles. In consequence of the system of notation adopted throughout the greater part of the civilized world the movement in Great Britain must be towards the decimalization of weights and measures and money. The only question for us to consider is, are we prepared to take an early or- a late part in that movement? I think that our circumstances justify us in taking an early part, because by waiting we shall not reduce, but rather increase, the difficulties we shall have to face when eventually we join in the general march of progress.
– I am in favour of the general tenor of the report bv the Select Committee on Commonwealth coinage and currency presented to the House last year. I some time ago prepared notes with a view to addressing the House on this subject, but unfortunately the information I then compiled is not within my reach at present, and I am, therefore, not in a position to address the House at any length. I had desired to move the adjournment of the debate, but I shall defer to the anxiety of the honorable ‘ member for South Sydney to have his motion disposed of to-day. If the honorable member will agree to the modification of his motion in such a way that it will simply affirm the desirability of giving effect to the recommendations of the Committee, I do not think there will be. a single dissentient voice.
– I have simply followed the form adopted in the British House of Commons.
– But it is an unheard of and a most improper thing to direct a Ministry to bring in a Bill.
– I do not think that we should be justified in giving a direction to the Ministry upon this subject at present.’ The Prime Minister placed the position before us in a business-like manner. He. showed that the proposed change would involve very serious consequences. The honorable member for North Sydney stated that we were a small community, and should be prepared to make the change at once. He argued as if we had only ourselves to consider, but we have to bear in mind that if we made the proposed change it would place us out of touch with Great Britain and other parts of the Empire in the matter of the currency. Our efforts should be directed to bringing about uniformity, rather than to making a change, which, however desirable it might be, would be serious if it tended to complicate our methods ofcalculation, and to disturb trade relations. This question is so important that, with all due respect to the opinions expressed by the gentlemen who gave evidence before the Committee, I think that a greater number of banking and commercial authorities should have been consulted. If we sought the opinions of our banking authorities at the present moment it would be found that they regard this question as too serious to be dealt with hastily. On general principles I am quite in accord with the recommendations of the Committee, but the question as to whether it would be expedient for us to make the change now should be the subject of much fuller inquiry and very careful consideration. We should consult the leading financial authorities of Great Britain before taking action which would have the effect of still further isolating us from the old country. We should seek to harmonize the financial, commercial, and fiscal conditions of the Empire, rather than introduce conflicting elements. The Committee aimed at reducing the changes in our system of currency to a minimum.
– If their recommendations were adopted, our outside troubles would be reduced to a minimum, but our internal troubles would be very serious.
– The aim of any scheme should be to reduce both internal and external troubles as far as possible. I hope that, in view of the far-reaching nature of the proposal, nothing hasty will be done. The Prime Minister has spoken wisely., and his view will doubtless be shared bv the majority of honorable members. We should safeguard ourselves against taking any steps. which would place us in a serious position in regard to trading relations abroad.
– I move, as an amendment -
That the words “ the Attorney-General should introduce “ be left out ; and that after the word “ legislation” the words “should be introduced” be inserted.
If the amendment be adopted, honorable members will be asked to merely affirm that the necessary legislation should be introduced to give effect to the recommendations of the Committee. As the whole question has been very fully debated, it is hardlynecessary for me to say anything more than that I think that . the introduction of any form of decimal coinage would prove of advantage to the community.
Amendment agreed to.
– I do not intend to speak at any length. I believe that the reform recommended by the Coinage Committee is coming. We may delay it if we like, but come it must. If we recognise this fact, there is no time so fitting as the present. There is a general consensus of opinion that the proposed reform is desirable, but that we should wait. If, however, ‘we recognise that in view of our growing population and extending ramifications of trade, delay will increase the difficulties of effecting the reform, we must be forced to the conclusion that the sooner it is introduced the better. It has been pointed out by the honorable member for North Sydney that if Great Britain ever introduces a currency reform it must take the direction of this proposal. The subject .has been approached there by several Select Committees and Royal Commissions, and the only scheme that ever had any chance of being adopted was similar to that which the Coinage Committee have seen fit to recommend. The Prime Minister seems to entertain the idea that if we delay action for a few years the question of the reform of our currency system will be taken up by Great Britain. If we were convinced that it would, there might be some reason’ for our continued inaction. But I should like to know what the Prime Minister would say if he were asked to postpone some of the Government measures - -the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, for example - for a similar reason. I deeply regret that the Commonwealth has not displayed the spirit which was exhibited by the United States so early in its Federal career - the spirit which should prompt us to grapple with our own problems, and deal with them in our own way. Instead of doing so, however, we are continually asking - “ How will this matter be viewed in its relation to the Empire?” When we were considering the question of Australia’s contribution towards the maintenance of the British Navy, no member of this House desired to go further than I did. I am prepared to go still further in connexion with the proposed reform of our coinage system. If by the adoption of that system we can effect a saving of ^30,000 or ^40,000 annually, I am perfectly willing to hand over that sum towards the support of the Imperial Navy. But I fail to see why, year after year, we should continue to make a present of that amount to the people of Great Britain, and then quibble about voting an extra £1,000 or two towards the maintenance of the British Navy. Let ur take what absolutely belongs to us, and afterwards, when we come to consider the question, of how much the Commonwealth, as an integral part of the Empire, should contribute towards that Navy, let us give freely. Of course if we are to effect the saving to which I have referred, we musthave a distinctive set of coins. This brings us face to face with the question, “ Which is the best coinage system to adopt?” My answer is that the decimal system is universally recognised as the only one which we can adopt if we are to get the best system. The argument has been advanced that, by introducing the reform we shall dislocate our relations with the British Empire. Some honorable members who are possessed of commercial experience surprised me when they advanced that argument. The honorable member for Kooyong seems to think that a system of coinage differing from the present one in its cent, two-cent, or three-cent pieces - copper tokens - would dislocate our trade relations with Great Britain. The idea is perfectly absurd. Both Canada and India possess coinage systems which differ very markedly from that of the mother country. Although the rupee is ostensibly a 2s. piece, and varies in value from is. 1 1/2d. to is 3d., according to the ruling price of silver, business men experience ro difficulty in buying or selling in India. I would further point out that not one-eighth of 1 per cent, of our whole population are interested in the remotest degree in transactions with other parts of the Empire.
– Upon that basis we should maintain the penny, I think.
– No. The great question to be considered is that of our internal relationship. It would be of no benefit to us if we made our money system accord with that of the rest of the world.
– Are the masses of the people dissatisfied with the existing system?
– The greatest advocates of the decimal coinage system in Great Britain are the working classes, who are constantly signing petitions in favour of its adoption. In South Sydney I have addressed large meetings of working people, who exhibited the most intense appreciation of that system. The benefits to be derived from a universal system of money values are no more worth aiming at than are those which would accrue from the adoption of a universal time system. The only reason why we keep in touch with the British sovereign and the 2s. piece is because they form a part of our history. We do not wish to depart from them in obtaining a new system. We can decimalize our present monetary system with very little disturbance to our current coins. All the objections which have been urged against this proposal vanish when subjected to close examination. Honorable members must recognise that within a comparatively few years there has been a reduction of 100 per cent, or more in the price of almost every article which can now be purchased for a penny. During my own lifetime there has been a decrease of 100 per cent, in the price of postage stamps, whilst the difference in the case of a box of matches represents 200 per cent. The price of newspapers has steadily decreased throughout the world. It is well known that many public men favour a reduction in the price of postage stamps, but believe that the nation cannot sustain the loss which it would involve. If, however, we can secure a smaller coin-
– What country has such a small coin in common use?
– If we adopted the decimal system, and introduced a 4 cent piece, which would be worth 4 “per cent, less than a penny, we could reduce the price of the present penny postage stamp at least 4 per cent. Then let us see how the system would operate in the- case of newspapers. Most of us recollect, that the price of the great morning journals has been reduced from 3d. to id. Below that, however, they do not seem able to go, simply because it is impossible for them to reduce the price to £d., and there is no interme diate coin. If we decimalize our present system, . the cost of the daily newspapers would immediately be reduced to 4 per cent, less than id., so that the poorer classes of the community would be benefited. The same remark is applicable to the ferry fares which are- now charged. In Sydney many of the ferry companies are obtaining a higher fare than they really desire.
– The price of all these things might be increased to 5 Cents?
– Yes; if everybody was as ignorant of the circumstances of trade as the honorable and learned member appears to be.
– That is very rude.
– I beg the honorable and learned member’s pardon if it seemed rude.
– It was rude - there was no seeming about it.
– I maintain that the decimalization of our coinage system will contribute towards the reduction of charges which is now in progress. The honorable member for Kooyong urged that the people have not asked for the change proposed. In reply, I would point out that at a conference of representatives of the Australian Natives Association, which was recently held in Melbourne, resolutions in favour of the introduction of this system were unanimously agreed to. Similarly the various Chambers of Commerce throughout Australia have affirmed the necessity for reform, not only in our currency laws, but in our system of weights and measures. I believe that these reforms are coming, and that Australia, in common with other parts of the Empire, will benefit by their adoption. Nevertheless, I hold that our coinage system can be reformed without interfering in any way with our foreign relations. By adopting the decimal system, we can obtain a signal benefit, not only in our private but in all our public transactions. Therefore, we should no longer stay our hands, and await the initiative of other people.
Question, as amended, resolved in the affirmative.
That, in the opinion of this House, the necessary legislation should be introduced to give effect to the recommendations contained in the report of a Select Committee on Commonwealth Coinage and Currency adopted by the House on 19th June, 1903. .
– I moveThat there be laid on ihe table of this House a return showing -
– Is the proposal contained in paragraph 5 put forward as a joke of an elephantine character ?
– No. As a new member, I desire to ascertain, if possible, the total expenditure that has been incurred in relation to the selection of a site for the Federal Capital. A site has not yet been selected, but a great deal of money has been spent without any definite result.
– For what purpose is this return sought?
– For the information of the Commonwealth generally, and particularly for the information of my constituents and myself. As the Prime Minister objects to the proposition contained in the last paragraph, I would explain that I was led to ask for information as to the total weight of all documents printed in relation to the selection of a Federal Capital site by the knowledge that in connexion with various Parliaments huge sums are spent in printing documents, for which no adequate return is obtained. The bulk of this printed matter must be enormous, but if there be any difficulty in supplying information as to its weight, I am quite prepared ‘to agree to the elimination of paragraph 5. I hope that the Prime Minister will offer no objection to the motion, and that the information will be supplied without delay.
– The question is-
– I understand that the honorable and learned member wishes to withdraw the last paragraph of his motion?
– The honorable and learned member did not ask for leave to withdraw it. but I understood him to say that he would accept an amendment in the direction mentioned. As he has concluded his speech, his desire can be met only by another honorable member ‘ moving the excision of the words referred to. I understood the honorable and learned member to say that he would not object to their excision.
– Quite so.
– There is no objection to supply the information which the honorable and learned member desires, but I should like to point out to him that in addition to the deletion of paragraph 5, it will be necessary for further amendments to be made if he desires that the information shall be speedily placed at his disposal. I presume that he wishes to secure the return as soon as possible ?
– That being so, it will be necessary to make one or two alterations. In paragraph 3 it is asked that information be given as to the total cost and expenses of the Royal Commission, while in paragraph 4 a request is made for information as to the total cost of all maps, plans, and other documents in relation to the Federal Capital. As a matter of fact, the maps and plans were prepared for the Royal Commission, and their cost is included in the figures relating to the expenditure incurred by the appointment of the Commission. If the honorable and learned member agrees to paragraph 4 being amended by the substitution of the words “ the printing and distributing of “ for the words “all maps, plans, and other,” his object will be served, for the whole cost of the maps and plans, as well as of the Royal Commission, will be given in answer to paragraph 3.
– I am quite willing that the suggested amendment should be made.
– I will therefore move -
That the words “all maps, plans, and other,” line ir, be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ the printing and distributing of “ ; that the words “ including the cost of issuing and distributing,” lines 12 and 13, be left out ; that paragraph 5 be left out.
Amendments agreed to.
– I am quite in accord with the motion ; but should like to take this opportunity to say that the expenditure in the direction referred to seems to me to have been very necessary. The Constitution places upon the Parliament the responsibility of determining the site of the Federal Capital, and it would be very difficult for honorable members to carry out that duty without obtaining some knowledge of ihe various suggested localities. I think the inspections and reports which have been made were absolutely necessary. When we were asked, at ‘the close of last session, to deal with the Seat of Government Bill, I clearly intimated that I should vote as well as the information then at my disposal would enable me to do ; but that I felt that I was not in a position to properly exercise the duty cast upon me by the Constitution of making a selection. Since then we have been able to place ourselves in a better position, and I am sure that man)’ honorable members, in common with myself, feel that we are now better fitted to deal finally with the question than we were at the close of last session. It thus seems to me that there is no ground whatever for the assertion that we have wasted money in this direction, oj that we have unduly delayed our investigations. The selection of- even the district in which the Capital is to be established is a very important matter, and that difficulty is intensified when the exact site of the Capital has to be determined by us. The information which the honorable and learned member desire to obtain will be useful to the House. We shall be interested to learn what has been the expenditure, but I totally disagree with any suggestion that we have improperly spent either time or money in this direction.
Question, as amended, resolved in the affirmative.
That there be laid upon the table of this House a return showing -
The total cost of the Parliamentary visits of inspection to the proposed Federal Capital sites.
The total cost and expenses of all inspections and reports by various officers appointed to inspect such sites.
The total cost and expenses of the Royal
Commission on the Federal Capital.
The total cost of printing and distributing documents relating to the Federal Capital.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 15th June, vide page 2367).
Clause 46 -
The Court shall, as regards every industrial dispute of which it has cognizance, have power
to make any order or award or give any direction in pursuance of the hearing or determination ;…..
– I would suggest that, with a view to facilitate the debate, the clause be put paragraph by paragraph.
– Is it the pleasure of the Committee that I put the clause paragraph by paragraph? Honorable Members. - Hear, hear.
Mi. WATSON (Bland- Treasurer).- I have underlined the words “ any order or award,” in paragraph b, but am not at present prepared to submit an amendment. My action in this matter will depend upon the result of our consideration of paragraph /, and it may be necessary for me to recommit the clause. I wish to make it clear that the words “ any order or award “ will allow the Court to differentiate in an award, as well as in a common rule, as to the conditions which the different parties should observe.
Paragraph agreed to. Paragraph c -
– I move-
That all the words after “ award,” line 3, be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the 1 words “ and to specify to whom such penalties I shall be paid.”
This is chiefly a drafting amendment, the Attorney-General considering that the object of the paragraph will be met quite as well by the insertion of this shorter provision.
– I would point out to the Prime Minister that if we omit all these words we shall not specify the amount of any penalty.
– I confess that I had overlooked that point.
Mr. McCAY (Corinella). - If the amendment be carried, no maximum penalty, and no maximum individual penalty, so to speak, will be fixed. The Court would have power to fix a maximum as high as £1,000,000, or as low as 2s. 6d.
– I had overlooked for the moment the fact that the amendment would have that effect. In a number of clauses we fix penalties which, of course, under the Acts Interpretation Act, are maximum penalties; but in regard to the breach or non-observance of any term of an order or .award, it is extremely difficult to select a maximum penalty that would meet all circumstances. We think that, on the whole, it would be better to leave it to the Court to do so.
– Does the honorable gentleman know of any case in the ordinary statute law in which the Courts are left to fix the maximum penalty ?
– I cannot say that. I remember any. The difficulty is that what would be a very reasonable maximum for an individual member of an employes union might be altogether inadequate for an individual member of an employer’s union. For instance, a unionist employe may be one of too or 1,000 in the employment of art individual employer. Those employes might together cease their employment, 01 might break an award, and a fine of £5 or £to per head would be a reasonable penalty upon them, and might be just as effective in preventing another offence by them as a fine of £1.000 might be as a penalty against an employer.
– Paragraph c as it stands provides for that case.
– I do not know that it does.
– Under it, if there be only one employer, £1,000 is the maximum; if there be two, £500; and the penalty goes down to £10 if there be 100.
– That is very severe, as one man may have a very small industry, and another, with 100 men employed, mav have a very big industry.
– In my view it would be well to trust the Court in regard to the penalty.
– Could not the honorable gentleman agree to reduce the amount in the case of the smaller number of employers - say, that if three were concerned, the penalty should be £500 instead of £1,000?
– The interests of three big mines might be much larger than the interests of ten other mines.
– That is a feature of the matter which appealed to me. I saw the difficulty of fixing any maximum which would be fair in respect to every class of individuals who might come before the Court. For instance, in the case of an organization of employers it might be but fair that the penalty fixed should le a very large sum. In the case of an organization of employes the penalty might be several thousand pounds, whereas in the case of a single employe it might be a reasonable penalty to impose a fine 01’ only ^5 for an offence against the la .v. The circumstances are so dissimilar that I do not think it wise to tie down :.hs Court too strictly in fixing penalties.
– It is not a question of tying the Court down too strictly, if the honorable gentleman will permit me to say so. It is a question of fixing a maximum within which we shall be bound to trust to the Court. It is no reflection upon the Court, implies no want of confidence in the Court, and would relieve the Court, to say that, having regard to the offences proposed to be dealt with by the Bill, we fix a certain sum which shall represent the maximum penalty. I think that upon matters of this kind, which are not technical and not legal - not technical in the sense of appertaining to any particular industry - the Arbitration Court as originally proposed by the Bill, being constituted of two permanent members, having experience of business affairs, as well as the Judge, would have been more competent for the imposition of penalties than the Court as now proposed. I can say with the honorable and learned member for Corinella that I cannot recollect a tribunal that has ever been trusted bv any Legislature with unlimited power of penalizing under any Act. I think that if the Prime Minister considers the matter further, he will find that the difficulties which appear to surround him are of his own creation.
– In the Customs Act some very high penalties are provided for.
– But a maximum- is fixed in every case.
– Take the case of an individual member of an employers’ organization, a case which is evidently contemplated by the clause. A £10 penalty might be so small a matter to him that it would pay him to go on breaking an award of the Court.
– That is the case of an individual member.
– Yes, say of an employers’ association, because the clause does not distinguish in this matter between employers and employes.
– The honorable gentleman has overlooked the fact that in addition to the fine, there is a power of imprisonment provided for any failure to obey an award of the Court, or for ar>v deliberate breach. We have passed one such clause already, and there is at least one other of the same kind in the Bill. In clause 5 it is provided -
When any person is convicted of an offence against any provision of this Act for which a pecuniary penalty is provided, the Court before which he is convicted may direct that the defendant shall not continue or repeat the offence under pain of imprisonment, and thereafter the defendant shall not continue to repeat the offence.
Penalty : Three months’ imprisonment.
The Court first fines the offender £1,000 and then, if there is reason to believe subsequently that this is not a sufficient penalty the Court has power to imprison him for three months. That is a great power in reinforcement of the fine. Then there are penalties provided in clause 57.
– Will the honorable and learned gentleman look at clause 55?
– In other clauses fines are referred to, and I know that there is another providing for imprisonment.
– It is clause 55. If a man breaks an award, an. injunction may be obtained against him to restrain its breach under penalty of imprisonment.
– That is quite right. Under clause 55, if a person breaks an award, an injunction may be obtained against him, and if he is guilty of a contravention of it, he may get three months’ imprisonment. Under these circumstances, a fine of £1,000 is sufficient when there is also a possibility of three months’ imprisonment.
– The honorable and learned gentleman should recollect that the fine may only be £10 in the case of an individual member of an organization, and the clause makes no distinction in this connexion between employers and .employes.
– I am aware of that.
– A fine of £10 might be nothing to an employer.
– It is enough if it is coupled with the intimation that any contravention of the order mav lead to imprisonment for three months. I take it that such treatment is quite drastic enough to meet any of the offence’s” likely to be committed against this Bill. For my part I think that there will be few contraventions of the awards of the Arbitration Court. I believe that these provisions for imprisonment will hardly ever be used. I surmise that it will be a very rare case indeed ira which it will be necessary to enforce them. In the meantime, the maximum provided in the Bill is, in my opinion, ample. As to the suggestion to omit a maximum altogether, I do not think the proposition can be entertained for a single moment.
Mr. McCAY (Corinella).- The Prime Minister has really taken up two positionssince he proposed his amendment. At first the honorable gentleman said he had overlooked the fact that the amendment omitted1 a maximum.
– What I intended to convey was that I omitted to mention the fact that this was the clause in which it was proposed to omit a maximum. 1
– The honorable gentleman went on to say that there might be a fine of several thousand pounds, and that, so far as individuals are concerned, the clause places employers and employes on the same footing. I do not think that is quite accurate, because it is only where an organization of employers numbers 100 or more that employers and employes are put upon the same footing. I do not know that there are many such organizations of employers.
– There are a number.
– For example, the organization with which the honorable member for Darling is most familiar - as a friendly enemy - may number 100 or even hundreds. In any case, I believe that it is undesirable in this matter of penalties to make any distinction between employers and employes. First, as regards maximum penalties, the Court will be aware of all the differences, and the suggestion is that, though the Court may be trusted in everything else, it is not to be trusted in one respect, because of some fear that it will not realize the difference between a rich employer, and, comparatively . speaking, a poor employed I know of no case in which Courts are left with unrestricted power as to penalties. The Statute always fixes the maximum, and sometimes also the minimum, penalty. Ordinarily, the maximum penalty is fixed, and it is left to the discretion of the Court to impose any penalty between the maximum and nothing. Surely that is a sufficiently wide discretion. Personally, I could not dream of consenting to the elimination of a maximum. Is it intended that this shall be held up as a weapon in terrorem? Is that the way in which employers and employes are to be brought into harmony ?
– That is the spirit of the Bill.
– Are we to say to people - “ We will ruin you in pocket, and if that is not sufficient we will ruin you in reputation?” We should not hold out threats of that kind either to employers or employes. It is the bounden duty of this Committee to fix a maximum penalty and a reasonable maximum, and, I say, that £1,000 is a reasonable maximum penalty for. any organization, whether of employers or employes. It must not be forgotten that the organizations of some employes are nearly as rich as are employers’ . organizations, though the individuals may not be in the same happy position. £1,000 as a maximum penalty is high enough for any offence sought to be dealt with in this Bill, and, further, it is undesirable to make a difference between the two sides in fixing the maximum penalty. To do so would be to give to people who are hostile to the principle of the Bill a chance to say that we are differentiating in a matter in which we can safely leave it to the Court to make such differentiation as is properly required.
– Are we not proposing to do that?
– I say that the Legislature must fix the maximum penalty.
– Does the honorable and learned member contend that a fine of £10 will be of any moment to an individual employer if he desires to break an award ?
– Yes, when he can also he sent to gaol.
– That might be a long way off.
– I say that the whole scheme of the Bill is to foster organizations, indirectly at any rate. It is of no use for the Prime Minister to say that the penalty is £10 for a single employer, when the maximum penalty is £1,000 for an organization. That is the figure which one looks at. Difficulties will arise in all probability with organizations, and not with individual employers. Even though a difficulty should arise in the case of an individual employer or employ^ - because, so far as my observation goes, I am not prepared to say that one class is more or less law abiding than the other-
– Their interests are so different : that is the difficulty.
– Their interests of course are diverse. The Prime Minister apparently suggests that it will be to the interest’ of each class to break an award at the expense of the other. That can be the only interpretation of his statement.
– I admit that in some cases it is.
– Surely we need to provide penalties in order to prevent that selfinterest, to which the honorable gentleman refers, inducing people to break the law ? The question is - What penalty should we, at this stage, enact as the highest that may be imposed? I think that £1,000 is quite enough.
– We do not object to the penalty of £1,000 ; it is in connexion with the £10 penalty that the difficulty arises.
– The honorable gentleman is proposing to omit both.
– Because that seems to be the easiest way of dealing with the matter.
– There is provided a penalty of £10 in the case of an individual member of an organization.
– In many cases that would be a ridiculous penalty to impose upon an employer.
– This is another position which the Prime Minister is taking up. The honorable gentleman now says that it is not the provision for a maximum to which heobjects, but the amount of the maximum. Does he propose to increase the maximum also in the case of offences by employes?
– We propose to leave it to the Court to determine, according to the circumstances in each case.
– The Court can do that if a maximum penalty is provided. I ask the Prime Minister to show me any case in which such a power as he proposes is left to any Court under any circumstances. The side-note to the clause refers us to the following Acts : -
N.S.W., 37 (7); N.Z., 91; S.A., 57; W.A., 83-
The New Zealand Statute fixes a maximum. Presumably all the other Acts do the same. For a departure from the invariable practice of Legislatures in matters of this kind, some overwhelming necessity must be shown. There is no necessity suggested in this case, except that it is urged that, perhaps, £10 would not be a sufficient deterrent in the case of an employer. With every respect for the Prime Minister, the view which I venture to put to him is that this is not the way to induce people to believe that this is an impartial measure.
– It appears to me that in this amendment my honorable colleague is merely following out the principle which we have adopted throughout the Bill. We are leaving to the Court the adjustment of those matters which if seems absolutely essential under the circumstances to leave to the Court. Who is better fitted to determine the amount of the penalty which should be imposed than the Court ?
– I say - “ Determine the maximum penalty ; we are better fitted to determine that.”
– The honorable and learned member quoted the marginal note to show that in New Zealand, New South Wales, South Australia, and Western Australia a maximum penalty is fixed. But what has been the result in New -South Wales? Under certain circumstances, it pays an employer to commit a breach of the award. He pays the £5, which is the maximum that any individual may be fined. Six months elapse before he is called upon to come before the Court again, and during that time he does very well..
– Under this Bill he may get three months’ imprisonment if he commits a breach of the award.
– The Court will have the whole of the facts before it.
– The parties should at least be equal before the law.
– To suppose that the Court would inflict a greater penalty than the facts call for is to cast a reflection upon the Court.
– No one says that.
– Are we going to say for a moment that the Court would not apply the penalty equally to a union as well as to an employer? The honorable and learned member for Corinella said that a union may be as rich as any employer. A union collectively may be richer than an individual employer. Why should not such a union pay a penalty - it may be a penalty that would deprive it of every farthing of its funds - if it deliberately commits a breach of the award? If, on the other hand - as is very much more likely, judging from the experience of New South Wales - an employer commits a breach of the award, why should the penalty be limited to £10 ? That may be a deterrent to one man, but it may not be a deterrent to another.
– Clause 55 meets that argument. A man can be sent to gaol if he is perverse.
– My honorable and learned friend says that with the air of a man who, like Columbus, has discovered something entirely new. I suppose every Court has power to commit for contempt. If my honorable and learned friend were to commit any offence, and were to be brought before a Court and fined, and did not pay the fine, he might be committed for contempt. But the amount of the fine to be imposed ought to be considered independently. The honorable and learned member says that people are law-abiding, and will pay up. But to contend that £10 will in all cases act as a deterrent is, on the face of it, absurd. Such has not been the case in New South Wales. I do not suppose that it will ever be the case. In one case in New South Wales a boat came in, and was unloaded with nonunion labour. The parties interested said that it would suit them better to pay the fine and employ non-union labour at rod. than to engage union labour at is. 3d. That ‘ case disposes of the objections which can be urged against this amendment, namely, that it leaves to the Court the determination of the penalty to fit the offence. If the Court cannot be trusted to do that, the immeasurably greater powers which we have intrusted to it under this Bill ought to be severely restricted. I am not shutting my eyes to the fact that in some cases the Bill sets down a certain penalty. But this instance is differentiated from those cases, because what is here contemplated is a penalty to prevent persons from breaking an award. That is the mainspring of the Bill. Therefore,, we say to the Court, “ Impose such a penalty as the circumstances of the em,ployer or the employe or organizations seem to warrant.”
Mr. GROOM (Darling Downs).- I intend to oppose the proposal of the Prime Minister to omit the maximum penalty from the Bill. I think it is a very great mistake to do so. In the first place, it is not possible, as has been pointed out by the honorable and learned member for Corinella, to point to any single Statute in which there is not a limitation of the penalty in some way or another, either in the direction of imprisonment or fine. There isalways a limit given to every judicial tribunal, to which it can go in fixing penalties. But in this instance the Prime Minister desires us to put into the handsof the President of the Arbitration Court, the power, at his own discretion, to impose an unlimited penalty. The object of this penal provision is not to enable any person or organisation to make money. We have to read the proposal to make the omission in connexion with the fact that the section enables the President to determine to whom the penalties may be paid.
– The Court may do so; that is in the original clause.
– We have to take the two provisions in conjunction, otherwise there may be a misunderstanding. It seems to me that the idea is to give the Judge unlimited power, so that he can grant compensation to those persons who complain that the award has not been carried out.
– He may, or he may not.
– I do not think that we should give unlimited power to order compensation. We should not give the Judge power’ to swell the funds, either of the employers’ union or the employes’ union.
– - The central idea is that occasionally the Court may give something in the nature of costs, if it likes.
– If a certain award has been broken, there may be compensation, and a Judge may direct to whom it shall be paid.
– Just so.
– If we are to have an order for compensation only, it would be better to keep it apart from the penal clauses.
– We can’ vote on them separately, but they are inseparable so far as the machinery goes.
– The idea in paragraph c is this: An award has been given; we want that award to be observed ; certain conditions are fixed in the award ; if a person commit a breach of that award he is fined for that breach. His offence is that the Court having given an award, he has been guilty of contempt by an evasion of it. The question is : What amount of penalty is sufficient to make him realize the fact that he has committed a breach of the law, and to secure observance for the future of the terms and conditions of the award ? I do not think that it is advisable to give an unlimited penalty. If there is a desire to increase the penalty, let us do it by all means. Personally, I do not think it Ought to be increased. The amount is ample. But if there has been a breach of an award bv an individual, and he repeatedly shows his contempt, he can be dealt with under clause 5, which says -
When any person is convicted of an offence against any provision of this Act for which a pecuniary penalty is provided, the Court before which he is convicted may direct that the defendant may not continue or repeat the offence under pain of imprisonment, and thereafter the defendant shall not continue or repeat the offence.
In every case that comes before the Court, the Court has to consider the facts adduced. If in any case a man who has broken the award, and has been fined, continues to break the award, and the Court comes to the conclusion that he has wilfully and intentionally broken it, any Judge exercising a reasonable discretion would say - “ Your action is practically a contempt of the award of the Court, and any further infringement will be penalized by imprisonment.” That is quite drastic enough. I am with the Prime Minister in a desire to do all that can be done to have the award of the Court obeyed. As a rule, I believe that the general law-abiding spirit of this community will conduce to a willing desire to obey the awards of the Court. But we shall not. increase that respect if we give the Judge power, not only to penalize any man, but to decide what the extent of the penalties shall be.
– The Court consisting of only one man.
– There are two assessors, it is true.
– Who are chosen for their technical knowledge of a particular business.
– Still, they are there.
– The Prime Minister is quite right; but if there is a difference of opinion between the assessors then the amount of the penalty becomes one man’s decision.
– Are the assessors to be members of the Court?
– Yes, so long as their appointment lasts.
– Under the proposal of the honorable and learned member for Ballarat, the position would be just the same, although the employers and employes would have permanent advocates on the tribunal. After all, it is the discretion of one man only. There is a good deal in the contention of the Prime Minister .that a man having the qualifications of a Justice of the High Court would be guided by the dictates of reason and fairness ; but it is not wise to trust too much to the discretion of any individual, so far as the imposition of penalties is concerned. The fixing of a
penalty is. as a rule, entirely within the discretion of the Judge, and unless he applies a wrong principle of law, cannot be reviewed. That, to my mind, would not be desirable in this connexion. I am not arguing on behalf of either the employers or the employes only, because they are equally affected. I say that, as a general principle, we should be very careful not to give undue power to the Judge. I hope that the Prime Minister will hold to the clause as introduced.
– The clause makes no provision for the imposition of a penalty upon an employer who is not a member of an organization.
– That is apparently provided for by paragraph d. But, even so, that would be no reason for giving unlimited discretion to the Judge.
– It appears to me that in the original drafting of the clause there was an oversight in leaving out the employer who is npt a member of an organization. .
– He is covered by the next paragraph.
– I do not think so. I do not object to the providing of a maximum penalty, but if we are to have a maximum penalty, we should have one applying to the individual employer, which should certainly be more than £10, and another applying to organizations. In my opinion, since it is the large organizations which are most likely to bring disputes before the Court, £1,000 would not be too great a maximum penalty for those of either employers or employes. Provision must also be made to levy upon the members of organizations, if necessary, to secure the enforcement of a penalty where their funds prove insufficient, though it is not very likely that the maximum would ever be enforced. An interjection has been made, suggesting the application of imprisonment as a penalty ; but it would be a very extraordinary thing if an employer were sent to prison. Our experience is that employers are generally let off with a fine. In the industry with which I have been more particularly connected, there is an organization of employers and another of employes, and there are also a number of employers who do not belong to tha employers’ organization. Practically those employers always observe the rules laid down by the organization, and would, no doubt, be compelled to observe the con ditions required by a common rule ; but any penalty for a breach should be made more severe in their case than in the case of the individual employers belonging to the organization, supposing the funds of the organization were insufficient, and a levy was made on its members. The Bill is based on the recognition of collective bargaining, and organizations are’ held responsible for carrying out the decisions of the Court. In most cases, breaches by individuals may be, dealt with in the ordinary way. In some cases the Court may make awards which will provide penalties for certain breaches, and I think all we need do is, either to leave the matter open, as the Government propose, o’r to provide a maximum penalty for organizations and a larger maximum penalty individually for employers who are not members of an organization. The position of an individual employer is very different from that of an individual workman, because an advantage gained by a breach of an award would be the greater in the one case than in the other. The individual employe really is not concerned, because he could be dealt with under the law affecting masters and servants, though, even if not a member of an organization, he would be subject to a common rule applying to his industry. I have all along been in favour of trusting the Judge, and I think’ that if we empower him to impose penalties at discretion, the result will be about the same as. if we provide maximum penalties in the Bill. I can hardly- conceive of any Judge imposing a penalty up to the maximum which might be named. I recognise that the general practice in’ law-making is to fix a limit, which is to be taken more or less as a guide by the Judges ; but the conditions surrounding the proposed Court will be so dissimilar from those surrounding ordinary Courts, that I think we can safely leave the Judge to act according to his discretion. If that is not done, I hope that the individual employer who is not a member of an organization will be dealt with differently from the individual employer who is a member of an organization. I should like to know, too, if companies will be regarded as organizations. If so, of course their shareholders will be responsible for any penalty that may be imposed upon them. Where an employer has 200 men under him, it might be more profitable for him to pay a penalty of £10 than to observe an award of the Court.
– Surely it would be wiser to fix some penalty.
– In that case there should be two penalties, and the maximum applicable to an individual employer should be higher than that applicable to an organization. I do not say that if a maximum penalty of £.1,000 was provided foi a breach of an award by an organization, that amount should be made the maximum penalty for a breach of an award by an individual employer. To my mind, it will be difficult to fix a maximum penalty for breaches of awards by employers who are not members of organizations. Probably the penalty should be greater where the breach was made by the employer of 1,000 men than where it was made by the emplover of 100 men. For that reason, 1 would leave the matter to the discretion of the Court.’ I thoroughly agree with the principle upon which the Bill is framed, the recognition of equality -between emplovers and employe’s. But that equality obtains only so long as they are regarded as organizations. It ceases when the individual employer, who is not a member of an organization, is compared with the individual employed The operation of the measure depends upon organization, and probably the Court will take action only when moved by organizations. The employer who is not a member of an organization, stands in a very different relation to his industry from that occupied by those who work for him. Having control of a large factory, he possesses a power which the others have not. As the object of imposing a penalty is to enforce the observance of the law, difference of conditions, must be regarded. This regard is necessary to secure that equality which is recognised in the Bill.
– I can quite understand why the honorable member for Darling should be only too glad of the opportunity to differentiate between employers and employes; but I think he will agree with me that, despite his personal opinion, the only principle upon which a measure of this kind can be based is that of absolute equality, so far as the two classes to whom it is to apply are concerned.
– So far as they are equal. Mr. KELLY. - The honorable member was very diffuse in his argument, though, no doubt, from his point of view, perfectly correct. But he failed to say to whom these fines, when extracted, will be paid.
When we know that, we shall understand a good deal more as to the reason why a maximum penalty should not be fixed. Both the honorable member and the Minister of External Affairs say that they are ready to trust the Judge all the time, and yet the Government propose to amend clause 51 so as to provide that all the rules of the Court shall be laid before Parliament within thirty days of being made.
– That is a mistaken regard on our part for the feelings of the honorable member.
– I should be quite willing to forego that concession if the Government would meet my wishes in regard to the clause under discussion. The regulations are a small matter compared with this question of maximum penalties. I am not prepared to trust any one man with the enormous power which the Ministry proposes to give to the Judge.
– The honorable member for Darling is rapidly assuming the character of a pacificator. He is relinquishing his belligerent role, and is now devoting his attention to explaining away difficulties. He has used expressions which, if they might be taken to indicate the spirit which animates him and those who think with him, would very soon remove all difficulties in regard to this measure. He said that he desired ro see fair play as between employer and employe, but in view of his support of the proposal now under discussion I have some doubts as to his good intentions. The Government are seeking to differentiate between the employer and the employe, and to make the former subject to heavy penalties entirely disproportionate to any inconvenience that might be caused by the breach of sn award. All our laws contain limitations as to the penalties to be imposed, and some good reason should be advanced for any departure from that principle which has stood the test of years. We are justified in assuming that the object of the proposal is to favour the employes, at the expense of the employers. The Prime Minister has, in many matters, displayed a desire to act fairly and reasonably ; but all that he may have done in that direction will be utterly neutralized if he persists in pressing the present proposal upon the Committee. I hope, therefore, that he will see his way to agree to fix a maximum penalty, so that we shall not require to depend absolutely upon (he decision of one individual. No such liberty as that now suggested has ever been allowed to a judicial tribunal. No Court, however large its jurisdiction, has been permitted to impose penalties at its own sweet will. The Government have been asked what is to become of the fines, and I should like that matter to be cleared up. I cannot suppose that it is intended that the fines should be handed over to the unions by way of indemnity.
– Yes, in some cases. In the New South Wales and other Acts the Arbitration Court has the power to hand the fines over to the injured party, and we should adopt a similar provision.
– I venture to say that that is a very bad principle. The money should be paid into the Treasury, or held by the Court for a specific purpose. We should not offer any inducement to either side to bring trivial matters before the Court with a view to securing damages. The impression created by the Prime Minister’s proposal is that he is disposed to differentiate between the employer and the employ^.
– We do not propose to differentiate; if the Court likes to do so, it may.
– It is proposed that there should be no limit to the amount of the fine imposed, and we desire to know why such a radical departure from all past practice should be made. I trust that honorable members will enter a strong protest against the amendment.
– I hope that the Committee will not listen to the proposal to give the Arbitration Court such a large discretion in the matter of penalties, because it is contrary to all recognised practice. We have to read this clause in conjunction with others contained in the Bill. The paragraph which we are now discussing is intended to empower the Court “ to specify the organizations or persons to whom such penalties shall be paid.” Similar words occur in other parts of the Bill. Thus it is sought to establish a most pernicious principle which should not, in my opinion, receive the sanction of this or any other Legislature. I can see clearly that it mav lead to corruption, intimidation, and blackmailing. At any rate, it leaves the way open for such things, and for all kinds of petty persecutions on the part of dissatisfied individuals on either side. It will encourage them to bring trivial disputes before the Court with a view to creating irritation and trouble, and it will probably be better for many employers to submit to blackmailing rather than waste their time in going to the expense of defending their position in the Court. There is apparently a sinister design behind all these provisions, and the Government and those who are supporting them will have difficulty in convincing the Committee to the contrary, if they persist in the retention of these words, which occur in various clauses of the Bill. They can best show their good intentions bv readily agreeing to the omission of the provision for handing over the fines to the aggrieved parties, and by consenting that al I penalties shall be paid’ into the . Treasury. I desire to record my grave objection to .ill proposals of this character, and to ask the Committee to seriously consider the wisdom of fixing a maximum penalty for the guidance of the Judge, instead of giving him unlimited discretion.
– I desire to move an amendment, in which several honorable members intend to support me, to the effect that all the words after the word “organization” shall be omitted. If I vote with the _ honorable and learned member for Ballarat in regard to the question now before the Chamber - as I feel inclined to do - I shall be prevented from moving my amendment later on.
– I can easily alter the form of the amendment’ so as to accommodate the honorable and learned member. With the permission of the Committee, I ‘ shall confine my present amendment to the omission of the words “ not exceeding,” line 3.
Amendment amended accordingly.
– I protest against the proposal to allow the Court to exercise unrestricted power in regard to inflicting penalties. That would be a departure from our ordinary practice. If we were dealing with some awful crime, I could understand the proposal. The evident intention is to make a criminal of any man who puts his capital into business, encourages production, and affords employment. I am not a capitalist, nor shall T ever probably be in a position to employ capital in the .direction .1 have indicated’; but I think that it is to the interests of the community that the fullest encouragement should be given to investments in industrial enterprises. Whilst, no doubt, it is necessary to protect workmen from being sweated or injured by grasping capitalists, it must not be forgotten that many employers treat their men fairly. The advocate’s of this class of legislation apparently regard all employers as’ bad men who are seeking to injure their employes. No doubt there are, on both sides, men who seek to injure their industrial opponents. The best thing we oan do is to endeavour to bring the parties together amicably, instead of inducing them to entrench themselves in fortified camps. If it is to be regarded as criminal for one man to employ others, and penalties are lo be imposed, we should fix a maximum. We do this even where the worst of crimes are concerned, and it- would be utterly absurd to allow the Arbitration Court a free hand. If only because we are creating new offences, I think that we should fix a maximum penalty for them.
Amendment negatived. Mr. ROBINSON (Wannon).- I moveThat after the word “ organization,” line 7, the words “ and to specify the organizations or persons to whom such penalties shall be paid,” be left out.
My object in submitting this amendment is to prevent fines which may be inflicted for any breach of an award from finding their way into the coffers of the other party to any industrial dispute. Ordinarily, fines which are imposed for breaches of the law are paid into the Consolidated Revenue Fund. The Government, however, propose to extract money from one class, and to hand it over to the political unions of another class. In short, the clause means that if any employer commits a breach of an award for which he is fined, the fine shall be paid into the funds of the local union, which usually works in conjunction with the political labour council. That is to say, the funds of the Labour Party are to be augmented at the expense of the employers. Boiled down, that is what the proposal really means. What justification is there for departing from the usual practice ? Why should not the fines inflicted be paid into the public revenue? The employers’ or,ganizations will not benefit from the fines imposed, because, if a breach of an award were committed by, say, the Shearers’ Union, the penalty inflicted could not be recovered.
– Why ? The union has funds.
– When we come to levy on them we shall find that they are “ up the spout.”
– -The honorable and learned member has had no experience of unions, otherwise he would not make that statement.
– There was a union in Victoria which organized a strike last year. Paragraphs appeared in the daily newspapers to the effect that that union had £70,000 at its disposal. When, however, the actual facts were disclosed, it was found that it was possessed only of about 2s. 6d., and the strikers have been regretting their action ever since. Penalties inflicted’ upon industrial organizations could not possibly be enforced, and no sane body of employers would attempt to recover them. Take the case of the Shearers’ Union, which numbers several thousand employes. How could a fine be inflicted upon the individual members of that organization? It is absolutely impracticable. The honorable member for Darling smiles. His self-imposed mission when the Bill becomes law, is to travel round the country working up disputes ; so that if the measure does not pass, his occupation will be gone.
– That is quite as respectable an occupation as is that of living upon other people’s disputes.
– That is a very con-, temptible reflection upon the Prime Minister’s colleague, the Minister of External Affairs. The honorable gentleman ought to know better than to attack his own colleague. I repeat that, if the Bill becomes law, the honorable member for Darling has expressed his intention of going round the country to work up disputes. If any breach of an award be committed by an unfortunate employer he will be promptly hauled before the Court and fined, and the money thus extracted from him will be paid into the funds of the local industrial union, and used to defray the expenses’ of parliamentary labour candidates. No more infamous proposition has ever been submitted to Parliament. Upon no principle of justice can it be defended. It cannot be defended upon any principle of justice, based either upon evolutionary or utilitarian grounds. It seeks to introduce into our legislation a system of revenge, whereby, if a man commits a breach of the law another man shall be able to extract money from him. These fines, I repeat, will be used largely for political purposes. In reply to a previous speaker, the Prime Minister asked, “Why should not these penalties be paid to a union, seeing that the Court has no power to award costs?” I have no objection to vesting the Court with power to award costs, though, in this connexion, it must be remembered that the
Bill prohibits the employment of counsel before that tribunal, except by consent of the parties. I shall press my amendment to a division if I can command the support of only one honorable member to act with me as teller.
Mr. HUGHES (West Sydney- Minister of External Affairs). - The honorable and learned member for Wannon has supported his amendment in a speech characterized by that moderation and decency of language which should distinguish all members of a deliberative assembly, and which particularly distinguishes my honorable friend. Honorable members will probably recollect that Mr. Dick, one of the characters drawn by a very illustrious man, the perusal of whose works affords us both amusement and recreation, was engaged for an almost interminable period - in fact, during the whole term of his lunacy - in drawing up a petition which he was unable to finish, because of his inability to avoid any reference to King Charles’ head. The honorable and learned member for Wannon has made a number of speeches in this chamber, but I have never heard one in which he has contrived to avoid some allusion to the Shearers’ Union. Had he done so. his utterances would have been very much more to the point, very much less monotonous, and infinitely more effective. The reason why he drags iri a reference to this King Charles’ head upon every conceivable opportunity, is very clear. I appeal to honorable members opposite to view, calmly and impartially, the physiognomy of the honorable member for Darling, that filibuster and firebrand, who is accused of an intention to travel over Australia for the purpose of working up industrial disputes. I ask. is it possible to find in the Commonwealth a face which is more calculated to inspire the most distrustful person with feelings of absolute trust, or one which is more completelyopposed to the characteristics which my honorable friend suggests?
– Still waters run deep.
– But they run clear and true, nevertheless. The honorable member for Darling has been described as an agitator, who proposes to travel Australia for thf: purpose of stirring up industrial disputes, although it does not appear that, under this clause, he will receive any portion of the fines which may be inflicted for breaches of awards.
– He told the Committee that, if certain persons were brought under the operation of this Bill, he would soon work up a dispute.
– Is that all? No wonder my honorable and learned friend squirmed when the Prime Minister spoke of “ living upon other people’s disputes,” because the reference hit him so hard. So far as I have been called upon to interfere in other people’s disputes, I have at least made a tolerable living out of them ; but I do not know that the honorable and learned member for Wannon has been able to make a living at all. What are the facts of the case? We all know that at the last election an emissary of the Shearers’ Union set the honorable and learned member for Wannon a task which he has not forgotten.
– Give me a straight run, and I can wipe him out by 2,000 votes.
– That is the reason the honorable and learned member discharges his venom against the peaceful, law-abiding and admirable institution of which the hon- 01 able member for Darling is the head. Does anybody mean to say that such an organization, led by such a man, will do anything of the character suggested by the honorable and .learned member for Wannon ?
– He strikes terror into our hearts.
– I cannot believe that the most timid female, if awakened at 2 o’clock in the morning, would feel in the slightest degree disturbed by the presence of the honorable member for Darling in her bedroom. My honorable and learned friend knows full well that at the last general election the Shearers’ Union had a task set before it which unhappily it partially failed to perform - the task of sweeping him from the public life of Victoria - but he also knows that if it has another opportunity it will accomplish the work.
– The Government wish to secure a little more money from some of mv supporters.
– My honorable and learned friend fears that if the members of the union obtain sufficient funds they will be able to carry out this task. He said just now that fines imposed in all cases invariably go into the coffers of the Treasury. That is not so, and he knows that it is not. There are Statutes in which it is provided that the fines, or a portion of the fines, imposed under those laws shall go into the pockets of the informer. The honorable and learned member knows that unless that course were adopted, under certain circumstances, no conviction could ever be secured. If we proposed to limit this provision to employes, there might be some ground for complaint, but employers and employes alike will be enabled to reap any benefit that may be derived from it. A similar provision is to be found in the New South Wales Conciliation and Arbitration Act, sec-t tion 37, sub-section 7, which provides that -
In any proceeding . . . the Court . . . may - fix penalties for a breach or non-observance of any term of an award, order, or direction not exceeding Five hundred pounds in the case of an industrial union, or Five pounds in the case of any individual’ member of the said union, and specify the persons to whom such penalties shall be paid.
I defy my honorable and learned friend to point to one case in which that provision has been abused in the way he “suggests. Disputes have not been worked up, and money has not gone into the pockets of employer or employe as the result of it; but something else has occurred that will be of interest to the Committee. The first case which came before the New South Wales Arbitration Court was that of The Newcastle Wharf Labourers’ Union v. The Newcastle and Hunter River Steam-ship Company Limited. While a dispute was pending certain employes were discharged for refusing to accept new conditions. The matter was brought before the Court, which reinstated the men. It was held that the unionists who had been discharged should be restored to their former positions, and that the non-unionists who had been engaged in their stead should be discharged. The Court directed that the “ costs, fees, and expenses of and incidental to ‘ ‘ all the proceedings in the matter of the reference should be taxed and paid by the respondents, and also awarded the sum °f j£15 I5S- 10 the union. What could have been more proper? It will be impossible for costs as between solicitor and client to be granted in any case arising under this. Bill. In the case of a union having a membership of about 150 or 250 - I believe that it was the Tailors’ Union - expenses amounting to something like £200 were incurred in a reference to the New South Wales Court. The award was given in favour of the union, and it was practically left without a penny at its disposal. Supposing that a breach of an award of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court took place, and that the men were forced into Court, as they were in this case, they would have to pay heavy law expenses. Having spent all their money in establishing their case, they would have absolutely nothing in the way of recompense in the absence of this provision.
– They could obtain costs.
– -They could not secure costs as between solicitor and client. In the case of The Sydney Wharf Labourers’ Union v. Ranselus, in which the defendant had defied the order of the Court, an injunction was obtained. The decision was that the defendant had committed a breach of the award, and he was fined ^50, and ordered to pay certain costs. The whole of that amount was given to the Wharf Labourers’ Union, and even then they were out of pocket when the amount necessary to obtain the award is taken into consideration.
– They could obtain costs.
– They could obtain what is called costs under the Act, but that by no means included the whole sum expended by them in bringing the matter .before the Court. Every honorable and learned member will recognise that this must have been so.
– I should like to know where the ^£50 went.
– It went to members of the honorable and learned member’s profession’.
– - My honorable and learned friend means to say that he would like to have been retained so that he would have known where the money went. No inspectors are appointed under the New South Wales Act, nor shall we have inspectors under this measure. Who, then, is to enforce it? Who is to see that no breaches. of the awards of the Court take place?
– Do the Government propose to create a class of paid informers?
– That is the result of nearly every law.
– We create no one.1 This is an industrial Bill, and under it we do not usurp functions of Providence. Unless we appoint inspectors to see that the awards of the Court are observed, we must necessarily depend upon employers and employes for their enforcement. If the amount of the penalty exceeded the amount of the costs to which the successful party had been put, many reasons might certainly be advanced for refusing to grant the full amount to the successful side.
– The Court will exercise a discretion.
– And the New South Wales Court has always exercised its discretion.
– Not always.
– Some honorable members have spoken in a way that would suggest that this provision was unknown in other arbitration measures. It has been in operation in New South Wales, and has not given rise to a class of informers, or to the enrichment of a union of either employers or employes. Surely the honorable and learned member for Wannon does not contend that it is necessary to insert in this Bill a provision that would say, in effect, to the Judge that only so much of the fine shall go to the successful party as is necessary to recoup him for his outlay? If that is the sole objection which the Committee have in view, why is not an amendment moved to that effect? But the fact is that my honorable and learned friend is opposed to any portion of the fine being allocated in this way. Although a union of employers or employes might expend £100 in the way of law costs, he would object to the penalty inflicted being handed to it by way of damages. I take it that the desire of the Committee is to prevent any person making a profit or a trade out of the system provided for in this paragraph. That, certainly. is the desire of the Government. If any suggestion can be advanced to prevent such an abuse of the provision, let it by all means be submitted. Why should the Court be distrusted so far as this matter is concerned when in many other directions we propose to intrust them with even greater functions ?
– Should not a union be content with the ordinary costs?
– In the Newcastle and Hunter River Steamship Company’s case men were robbed of their employment by the wrongful act of their employer, and they were compensated.
– They received the money by way of compensation ! If we intend, that compensation shall be allowed, we ought to make our meaning clear.
– Let me make a quotation from the decision given by the Arbitration Court of New South Wales in the case of the Newcastle Wharf Labourers’ Union v. the Newcastle and Hunter River Steamship Company, Limited. It bears directly on the allocation of the penalty and the reason why it was so allocated. The President in delivering judgment, said -
We further direct that, should either the claimant or respondent be guilty of a breach of our award, it shall be liable to a penalty not exceeding £100 for every breach, and that should any member of the claimant union or respondent company be guilty of a breach thereof, he shall be liable to a penalty not exceeding £$ for every breach. This award shall take operation upon and from Monday, June 2. . . . Though this decision will necessarily throw out of employment the men who have been working for the company at Newcastle and Morpeth since April 10 - a result which we cannot but regret - yet it must be remembered that meantime they have been earning wages which should have been earned by the members of the union. In any event one set of men or the other must, unfortunately, be deprived of this particular work, but, as we have pointed out, justice requires that the union men should be restored to their former position, whatever hardships may unfortunately follow.
Dealing with the costs, we are of opinion that the company should pay to the claimants the sum of 15 guineas, and costs in accordance with the scale provided in the rules. As we have already pointed out, the members of the union have incurred a heavy loss through the action of the company, and although we do not think the men were justified in refusing to work at all on March 5, yet when thereafter the real dispute arose, as to the terms and conditions on which they should be employed - and that was the real basis of the dispute, the company, in our judgment, unreasonably refused to allow the men to work under a provisional arrangement which in no way would have prejudiced its rights, and was to be subject to adjustment by the Court. The company then insisted on the legality of the attitude it has assumed, and, having failed to maintain it before us, we think it should pay these costs.
That award was in effect nothing more nor less than that which was properly due to the union of employes. It was directed that a penalty of £100 should be paid for breach of the award, and I see no just reason for refusing to allow penalties to be dealt with in this way. If a union of employers or employes were put to great expense, in obtaining justice, and incurred costs which under this measure could not be recouped, I hold that the Court would be right in determining that it should receive such portion of the fine as justice demanded. We contend for that principle, and for that alone, and we propose to leave it to the discretionary power of the Court to say what the payment shall be.
Mr. ROBINSON (Wannon).- I trust that honorable members will bear with me for a few minutes, while I deal with one or two points which the Minister of External Affairs has raised. I am exceedingly glad that the Minister is doing me the honour of listening to my remarks. On most other occasions on which I have had an opportunity to debate a question with him he has left the chamber immediately after the conclusion of his remarks, and that possibly accounts for his wide acquaintance with the speeches that I have delivered. He credited me with having, on every occasion on which I have discussed the provisions of this Bill, referred to the Shearers’ Union.
– Every occasion on which the honorable and learned member could do so.
– When dealing with the amendment now before the Chair I mentioned the union, and then only by inadvertence, but on no previous occasion have I done so, and a reference to Hansard will bear out this assertion. The Minister of External Affairs is what is known as a genial “ bluffer.” When he has no facts he abuses the other side. He has that capacity for abuse which a Police Court practice gives, but that is a class of practice that I do not hanker after.
– And cannot anchor to.
– I am quite prepared to allow my honorable and learned friend to make his income by a Police Court practice, but I prefer to make mine by a means which, to my mind, is somewhat more cleanly. The Minister attacked me for making some reference to the member for Darling. I am sure the honorable member will acquit me of a desire to say anything personally offensive to him. I wish to lay stress, upon the statement he made when we were discussing the amendment by which it was proposed to include domestic servants. The honorable member said that if domestic servants were brought under the operation of the Bill he would soon work up a dispute. He appeared to regard it as praiseworthy to work up a dispute. I do not so regard it. On the contrary, I believe that a man who works up disputes is deserving of censure.
– It all depends whether an injustice is being done.
– I have been told that my opposition to the clause is due to my opposition to the Shearers’ Union. It is a fact that a gentleman who was nominated by the Shearers’ Union ran as a candidate against me at the last election. It is also a fact that a third candidate came forward. My honorable friends opposite are not in ignorance of the fact that the third candidate’s meetings were attended by supporters of the Labour Party. They went to his meetings up to the day before the nomination, and cheered him to the echo, so that paragraphs appeared in the newspapers describing the magnificent meetings he had. But when they had got the unfortunate man landed with his nomination paper and his money in the hands of the Returning Officer, they turned again and rent him. Notwithstanding their tactics, and their boast that they had got me this time, because they had got a third man cutting into my votes, I managed to beat their man very handsomely. All I ask at their hands at the next election is a fair field and no favour, and if the electors of Wannon should return a labour man then, I must be mistaken as to their political views. We are told that fines do not always go to the Treasury, and that they sometimes go to informers. That is just what I desire to prevent. I wish to prevent the creation of a class of spies and informers, men who hang round back doors and endeavour, by spying, to secure a conviction for a breach of the law, that they may partake in the fine imposed. In the. history of all ages there has been admittedly no more contemptible profession than that of the informer. My honorable friends opposite wish to put the imprimatur of the Labour Government upon it. I think it is a most dishonorable profession, and the more it is checked the better. A great many convictions have been secured under the Victorian Factories Act without the intervention of informers. *
– - By inspectors. Let the honorable and learned member be fair.
– I admit that there are inspectors under the Act.
– Would the honorable and learned member agree to the appointment of inspectors under this Bill ?
– I should have no objection to the appointment of a reasonable number of inspectors under this Bill, and I should much prefer them to the spies and emissaries of certain organizations who maybe going around spying into the way in which a man conducts his business. That is what honorable members opposite desire. They would much rather not have inspectors. They would prefer to have the emissaries of organizations going round to secure convictions, that half the fines imposed might go to the funds of the unions. We know that, in one case, where a fine of £50 was imposed, there were costs amounting to £65 to cover expenses. It appears 10 me that a sum of £65 for costs in a case of this kind is utterly outrageous. I do not know who the counsel for the fortunate union was, though I may have my suspicions on the point; but he must have had a very good time. If the informers got £50 distributed amongst them, they also must have done very well out of the business. Honorable members opposite propose, under this Bill, that there shall be no legal costs whatever in these cases. They propose to prevent any solicitor or practitioner appearing before the Court without the consent of both parties to a dispute. So that the claim which has been made with respect to the expenses arising out of these cases is, on their part, a bogus claim. When lawyers are prohibited from appearing in these cases there will be no legal costs.
– It is not proposed that lawyers shall be prohibited from appearing if both parties are agreeable to their employment.
– The honorable gentleman has given notice of an amendment intended to shut out counsel from these cases unless with the consent of both parties, and that means that it is their intention to shut them out altogether.
– Not at all.
– If that is not their object, why is such an amendment brought forward at all ? I can speak for myself, and, I believe, for a number of those who are associated with me in this matter, when I say that I do not think there will be any objection to a clause being inserted giving the Court power to award reasonable costs to any person who can prove that an organization or employer has broken an award of the Court. If a man goes to expense to prove that some other person has committed a breach of the law, he should be allowed his reasonable expenses in proving that a breach has taken place.
– That is all we ask.
– But I do object to this provision whereby the funds of certain organizations are to be built up at the expense of those on the other side. I think that is a monstrous proposition.
– Why does not the honorable and learned member suggest an amendment ?
– If the Government will accept my amendment, and omit these words, they can insert a provision to bring about what I desire; but the result I desire cannot be achieved unless my first amendment is agreed to. We are being continually told to trust the Court, and this has been repeated so frequently that I am reminded of the legend put up in a shop in the western district, “Trust in God; all others cash.” We are asked to take this Court too much on trust. I think the Committee should strike out the provision which will permit organizations to build up their funds out of fines and costs imposed by the Court, and we should insert some provision to give reasonable costs to any person who takes steps to bring a breach of an agreement before the Court.
Mr. SPENCE (Darling). - I desire, on behalf of a highly respectable body of people in the Commonwealth, the employers, to enter my emphatic protest against’ the unfair aspersions cast on them by the honorable and learned member for Wannon. I think it is most unfair that he should not only insinuate, but should say straight out in two speeches that they intend to be chronic law-breakers, to such an extent that the penalties which will be imposed upon them will be sufficient to enable another class in the community to run all the labour candidates required for Parliament. That is the statement the honorable and learned member has made, and on behalf of the Employers’ Union, representing a most respectable and intelligent class of people, I desire to enter my protest. I think it is most unfair that the honorable and learned member should assume that a class of people who have hitherto always been known as the “ law and order party “ will, under this Bill, be turned into chronic lawbreakers, and will need to be punished so frequently by fines that in future the members of the labour unions will not be required to make contributions to the funds of their organizations, seeing that a sufficient sum will be handed over to them by a friendly Judge of the Arbitration Court to enable them to carry on their work without any necessity for a levy upon their members. The honorable and learned member has not had one word to say about the likelihood of employes breaking an award’.
I arn very glad that he has so high an opinion of that class, but as one who at all times stands up for fair play, no matter what class is concerned, I do protest against the assumption that breaches of this arbitration law will be confined to one class in the community. If it is admitted that the offences by either class will be about equal, and the honorable and learned member for Wannon might be justified in admitting that such a thing is possible, he will see that the Employers’ Federation will have as much to spend politically as the other side-
– It will be harder for them to recover.
– They will have nothing to spend on the return of the honorable and learned member at the next election.
– No, after the statement which the honorable and learned member has made, I can see that we are going to win Wannon with our Shearers’ Union man next time, because the members of the Employers’ Federation, just as the members of other organizations, like a man who will always stand up for them. Humanity, in the average, is very much alike, and it is just possible that there may be some breaches of agreements by employes. If they occur anything like as frequently as those by employers, that political institution, known as the “Employers’ Union,” will have as much to spend politically as will the Other side. If the objection which the honorable and learned member for Wannon has urged is the only one which can be urged to this clause there is not a very great deal in it. Circumstances occur in connexion with some cases which would justify a provision for securing compensation. It is quite possible that a body of employes may put an employer to some considerable loss before he could get the Court to deal with his case, and compel them to carry out their agreement. In such a case, who could object to the penalty imposed going by the way of compensation to the person who has been involved in the expense?
– Does the honorable member propose that a new clause should be inserted providing for compensation?
– I am not proposing anything, I am asking honorable members to support the clause as it stands. I see an objection to the use of the word “ compensation,” because the sum awarded might not always be compensation. I think it will be safer to leave the clause as it stands. I do not see any reason to believe that the Court in this matter would act unfairly or injudiciously. I am opposed to legal gentlemen conducting cases before the Court, unless with the consent of both parties, who would, in such a case, take upon themselves responsibility for the payment of costs. But where there are breaches of awards, it is. certain that loss will be entailed upon one side or another, and unless we make provision for some kind of compensation, which would mean the passing of a number of new clauses to meet that difficulty, it is better that the matter should be dealt with as proposed by this clause. I do not see why, under this clause, the Court might not order that fines imposed should go to the public revenue, and not to either party to a dispute.
– The Prime Minister proposes to move an amendment making that clear
– I shall be satisfied if that is done. I do not desire that these fines should benefit any particular body of labour unions; but, I think, freedom should be left to the Court to do some measure of justice. It is better to- leave to the Court to order that the money shall be paid into the public revenue where it is clear that neither party to a dispute has a just claim to it. I feel sure that, on reflection, the honorable and learned member for Wannon will be prepared to withdraw his amendment.
– The concluding remarks of the Minister of External Affairs arrested my attention. I do not go so far as the honorable and learned member for Wannon proposes to go in preventing any costs whatever being awarded to the party showing that a breach of an award had been committed.
– Costs are dealt with separately. The honorable member will find the reference in paragraph i.
– That only deals with costs arising in connexion with the proceedings in an industrial dispute. I think there is a clear distinction between costs in an industrial dispute and costs in a proceeding for a breach of an award.
– That is so.
– That is why I take the liberty of making the suggestion that we should attempt to harmonize them as much as possible. I agree to some extent with the honorable and learned member for Wannon, in his objection to the whole fine being awarded to either party. The underlying principle is bad. There are a few instances in the laws of the States where fines go to informers. We do npt desire to encourage that class of people,’ particularly in cases where the relations between employers and employed are concerned. But, on the other hand, it is not desirable to allow either party to a dispute to have to prosecute the other party for a breach of an award, without being made some allowance for costs and compensation for loss sustained. I recognise that the Government want to do what is absolutely fair. I suggest, to meet the difficulty, that, with the consent of the honorable and learned member for Wannon, we might insert after the word “specifying,” some such words as the following : - the amount which may be awarded as costs to organizations or persons concerned.
I wish it to be clearly understood that I think it ought to be permissible to allow costs to either party if there is a prosecution for the breach of an award. Under certain conditions compensation should also be allowed. But to leave it to informers to interfere between employers and employed is not desirable. We should endeavour to keep the peace between those two classes of people.
– I have considered the advisability of amending paragraph c in the event of the amendment of the honorable and learned member for Wannon being so amended as to permit of that being done. We might adopt some such amendment as that suggested by the honorable member for Moira, making the clause read as follows : -
And to specify the organizations or persons to whom, if the Court think fit, such penalties may be paid.
As far as concerns the attitude assumed by the honorable and learned member for Wannon, it would _ appear that he is So brimming over with prejudice that the mere mention of a union is sufficient to set him aflame. His whole judgment is warped and coloured and disturbed by his fear of unions and their agents. Apparently the honorable and learned member is incapable of coming to a calm decision in respect to anything in which unions are concerned. He seems to have had his epidermis so much injured while the elections were in progress that he has never recovered from the shock. It does not seem to me that the Committee should be guided entirely by the considerations which he hasput forward. The honorable and learned member made rather an improper insinuation in saying, in respect of the money award to the; Wharf Labourers’ Union, mentioned by the Minister of External Affairs, that it had been “ carved up “ amongst some informers. The honorable: and learned member was evidently speaking without knowledge. As a matter of fact, it was the members of his own profession who “ carved up “ that money, as: they will always do, and to a degree that the honorable and learned member doubtless, appreciates.
– There was not a penalty inflicted by the Court in the Newcastle case.
– In the Newcastle case there was an award of costs. But I was referring to the Sydney case alluded to by the honorable and learned member for Wannon. I may mention that the Minister of External Affairs did not appear on behalf of the wharf labourers. It is marvellous that they won without -his assistance, but, nevertheless, it is a fact that he was not there, and consequently had no share in the “ carving up.” The Newcastle case, according to my remembrance of it, touches exactly the class of cases that this paragraph is designed to cover. I donot suppose that I can appeal to the honorable and learned member for Wannon, but let other honorable members consider thisinstance. Let us assume .that an employer is willing to continue his business under existing conditions, pending a settlement of a case by the Arbitration Court. But suppose that his employes, although the Act enjoins them not to strike, but to observe the existing conditions until the Court makes an award, persist in striking. Suppose that in consequence of that action they cause the employer, not only to lose theprofit on their services, during the timewhen they ought to have been at work, but that also he is unable to fulfil contracts into which he had entered, and that he is therefore materially injured. Ought not that employer to have his remedy in the way of compensation against the union that has brought about that condition of things?
– What is the good of the remedy, if the union has no funds ?
– That supposition is a figment of the imagination of the honorable and learned member for Wannon. I. know the unions better than he does, and I say that the great majority of them have plenty of funds.
– That statement, again, was a figment of the imagination of the newspapers that support the honorable member for Corangamite. The great majority of the unions have fairly material funds. Consequently a remedy can be had against a union. Penalties are also recoverable against the individual members of a union. Take the case of the miners at Newcastle, who have £7,000 or £8,000 in the bank.
– Should not some guarantee as to costs be made in advance ?
– That is a matter which I shall be glad to look into. The Newcastle case was not one in which there was actually a breach of the award, but what happened was equivalent to that. The principle involved was just the same. There was a dispute pending. The company practically caused the dispute by proposing to reduce wages. Their action was in the nature of a lock-out. The employes refused to go to work under these new conditions. Under the law, the employers - the Newcastle Company - should have observed the existing conditions, and asked the Court to adjudicate as to whether a reduction of wages and an alteration of working conditions should not be made. The company refused, however, to abide by the central principle of the Act, which provided that no alteration of conditions should be made while a dispute was pending. By that refusal to obey the Act, the company caused these men to lose a certain amount of workTherefore, fifteen guineas were awarded, so as to some extent to reimburse the men for their actual loss. The money was paid, not to any set of informers, as the scene painted by the honorable and learned member for Wannon would cause the Committee to believe, but to the men who had sustained the loss. The compensation was given to them because they were acting rightly, legally, and within their privileges in refusing to work under the new conditions which the company sought to impose.
– Could not the honorable gentleman frame a clause specially to deal with compensation ?
– I think that the clause as 1 propose to amend it will sufficiently meet the conditions. 4 n
– That does not remedy the evil. If the Court does not order compensation to be paid to one side or the other, the money should be paid into the Consolidated Revenue Fund.
– I have discussed that from the stand-point of equality, and am advised that the alternative to the Court making such an order, is that the money would be paid into the Consolidated Revenue Fund. That is the only fund into which the money could be paid. It would be left with the Court if it thought fit to pay the money to an organization or person. But that would not be imperative. I admit that it might have been a mistake to make it imperative for the Court to pay all the penalties over to some organization or persons. The reason why the Government were not prepared with an amendment to this effect previously, was that we originally proposed to leave out this provision. We intended to propose another clause for this purpose. But seeing that the paragraph is to be retained, I propose to amend it in the way I have indicated. It leaves a discretion ito the Court in extreme cases to award compensation to persons who have been improperly treated by the other side.
Mr. McCAY (Corinella).- It seems to me that whatever words we adopt, they should be placed, not in paragraph c, but in paragraph d. When an award is made, the Court will say that for any breach of it the penalty shall be an amount not exceeding so much. If there is a breach, the procedure provided in paragraph d will be followed, and, in my opinion, it is only then that the Court should decide what the destination of the penalty should be. I do not think that the Court can decide the destination of a penalty in anticipation of a breach, because its decision must depend upon the circumstances under which the offence was actually committed. The procedure taken under paragraph c is procedure before an actual breach.
– The one decision might come into conflict with the other.
– Yes. The Court, acting under paragraph c, might say that the penalty for the breach of certain terms of an award should not exceed ^10, to be appropriated in a certain manner, and then, when a breach had taken place, acting under paragraph d. it might find that in fairness and equity the appropriation should be something quite different. The Court, when acting under paragraph c. will not be in a position to say what should be the destination of a penalty, and, consequently, I shall vote for the omission of the words from paragraph c, though not for the reasons which appear to actuate the honorable and learned member for Wannon. I differ from him as to the impropriety of men associating themselves- with unions. I think it is better for both sides to organize. On the question of principle, the provision under discussion is analogous to the common law remedy of an action of damages for breach of contract. An award is made, and is broken by one of the parties to it, whereby the other party suffers actual injury, and is, therefore, it seems to me, entitled to whatever the Court may consider reasonable damages, subject to the maximum provided in the Bill. Using terms somewhat loosely, what I may call a “compulsory contract” has been broken by one of the parties to it.
– Then, let it be clearly provided that what is termed a penalty is merely damages.
– That is a question of words rather than of substance. It may be better to state clearly what is meant, but it does not matter whether the word “penalty,” “damages,” or “compensation ‘ ‘ is used, so long as the intention is clearly understood.
– Damages would go to the party interested, whereas a penalty, it is understood, is paid to the Treasury.
– The Bill provides otherwise. A breach of an award, like an assault, is punishable - to use the word iri its widest sense - in two ways. An assault is punishable as a breach of the peace by fine and imprisonment, or sounds in damages to the person injured. So a breach of an award may be punishable as an offence against the law, or it may sound in damages to the party injured. I think that both methods of dealing with breaches should be open to the Court. I do not care what words are used ; but if one party deliberately commits a breach, and thus causes loss to the other, the party damnified is as much entitled to damages as he would be for an ordinary breach of contract.
– Why not let the injured party proceed in an action for damages?
– Because that would multiply litigation. It may be necessary to multiply litigation by increasing the sub-, stantive causes of action, but to do so for purposes of procedure cannot be approved of.
– I do not see how that would multiply litigation.
– If it means another action, it must do so. The Arbitration Court, in. dealing. with a breach of an award could deal with both aspects in the one procedure, which would obviously save time and expense. I think some such words as “ if the Court think fit “ should be inserted to show that it will be optional with the Court to apportion the penalty in whatever way it chooses. I shall be glad to learn from the Government if they agree with the view I take. I believe in the principle embodied in the provision; but, as I have shown, I think that the words I refer to are in the wrong place.
Mr. LONSDALE (New England).- I do not think that the honorable and learned member for Corinella is quite just in the remarks which he made concerning the honorable and learned member for Wannon, because the latter does not object to men joining unions. We all believe it to be’ good for men to form themselves into unions. What the honorable and learned member for Wannon objected to is the proposal that penalties shall be paid into the funds of organizations.
– Organizations of either employers or employes.
– Yes. I am of opinion that, if injury is done to one party by the action of the other, in refusing work or in ceasing from work, or in any other way, damages should be given by the Court to the party injured, and words should be inserted to make that clear; but where damages are not awarded, any penalty imposed should be paid to the Government. I agree with the honorable and learned member for Corinella that the words which have been referred to are in the wrong paragraph.
– The Minister of External Affairs attempted to show by reference to a case which occurred at Newcastle, in New South Wales, that a fine or penalty had been applied to the payment of damages to one of the unions concerned in a dispute. The provision in this Bill .has been adopted from the New South Wales Act, and therefore we may assume that the Federal Arbitration Court would have power similar to that which has been exercised by the State Court. I find by reference to the case referred to that the Court first of all awarded damages to the amount of £15 15s: against the offending union, and then awarded costs’ in addition. Then they fixed the penalty for any subsequent breach of the award at £100. They did not deduct the damages from the penalty, because no penalty was inflicted at that time. They fixed the penalty for any subsequent breach of the award, and specified that the full amount of the penalty should be paid to the union which was aggrieved. That is what is objected to by the honorable and learned member for Wannon. He is opposed to the allotment of the fines before an offence has been committed, because persons will probably be encouraged to bring cases into Court with a view to obtaining compensation.
– It would revive the old informing system.
– Yes, it would encourage informers. I should much prefer to see a provision permitting the Court to allot damages and costs to the aggrieved union to the extent that it thought fit, the balance of the line to be paid into the Treasury.
– There would be no balance.
– Perhaps not. The case quoted by the Minister does not support his contention, because damages were allotted apar from the penalty imposed, and it was ordered that the penalty to be incurred in the event of a breach should be handed over to the aggrieved union. Even though the payment of£1 might constitute sufficient compensation, the union was to receive the full amount of£100. I think that the objections raised to such a provision are reasonable, and that some arrangement fair to both sides should be made.
Mr. GROOM (Darling Downs).- I would request the attention of the Prime Minister whilst I read this clause -in conjunction with subsequent clauses. Under clause 46, paragraph c, power is given to the Court to fix maximum penalties, and to specify the organizations or persons, to whom such penalties shall be paid. That is the provision which’ the honorable and learned member foi Wannon desires to omit. In paragraph d power is given to the Court to impose penal - ties within the maximum previously mentioned, and to specify the organizations 01 persons to whom the penalties shall be paid. Then in clause 52 we find that application can be made to Courts of summary jurisdiction to enforce the payment of penalties. Therefore, under paragraph d, of clause 46 and clause 52, alternative Courts are provided, between which an applicant can make his choice when he desires to recover a penalty. Clause 52 provides -
Where any organization or person bound by an order or award has committed any breach or non-observance of any term of the order or award for which the Court has fixed a maximum penalty, any organization or person entitled to the penalty may proceed for the recovery thereof in any Court of summary jurisdiction.
In the first instance a maximum penalty would be fixed under clause 46, paragraph c, and afterwards an aggrieved person might apply to the Arbitration Court or to a Court of summary jurisdiction to impose the penalty. The latter Court, however, would have no option but to impose the maximum amount. Under section 46, paragraph c, the Arbitration Court could fix the maximum penalty at, say,£500,and provide that that amount should, in the event of a breach, be paid to the aggrieved organization. That would be fixed by the award, and would be part and parcel of it. If there were a breach two courses would be open for the aggrieved person in order to secure the enforcement of the penalty, namely, by application, under paragraph d, to the Arbitration Court, or. under clause 52, to a Court of summary jurisdiction. The latter class of Courts would be sitting at all the States capitals, and the aggrieved organization, which would probably have branches in all the principal centres of the Commonwealth, might go to any of these Courts, or to the Arbitration Court at the Seat of Government. I think that the desire of honorable members is that justice shall be done on the spot where, the breach occurs. . To secure this, it would probably be necessary to apply to a Court of summary jurisdiction. . If, however, the Arbitration Court had already fixed the maximum penalty, and had specified the organizations or persons to whom it was to be paid, the hands of the Courts of summary jurisdiction would be tied.
– What influence would the words “if the Court thinks fit” have, if they were inserted?
– I think it would be inadvisable to allow the Arbitration Court to specify in its first award how the fine should be applied. I am supporting the view taken by the honorable and learned member for Corinella. Suppose that an award were given in regard to a dispute affecting the seamen, and it were’ decided by the Arbitration Court sitting in Melbourne, that the penalty for a breach should be £500. It is not advisable to permit the Court, in its first award, to decide how the penalties should be applied, because a breach might not occur until, say, twelve months, afterwards, and perhaps then upon entirely different- facts a matter of the breach of award might arise in some such place as Adelaide or Fremantle. Suppose that a wrong were clone to either employers or employed, the aggrieved party would either have to come back .to the Seat of Government, and apply to the Arbitration Court to vary the award, or to go before a court of summary jurisdiction and seek an enforcement of the penalty in accordance with the original award. The circumstances might vary very considerably in different cases, and we should seek to insure justice on the spot in accordance with the facts as they arise.
– The honorable and learned member is proposing to allow the inferior Courts to decide how a penalty shall be applied.
– I can see no harm in doing that, because it will be purely optional for the parties to go to the Arbitration Court direct, or to apply to a Court of summary jurisdiction. It might be more convenient for them to take action in Western Australia, rather than come all the way to Melbourne.
– That would be a very serious responsibility to impose upon a police magistrate.
– I do not think so. The matter might be a very small one. -
– Then, take the alternative - the organization cannot get the money unless it comes to the Arbitration Court.
– That is worth considering.
– The Arbitration Court should fix the maximum penalty, and the court of summary jurisdiction should award any damages it liked, from the smallest amount recognised by the law up to the maximum. It would be better to follow- the suggestion of the honorable and learned member for Corinella, and allow the Arbitration Court to fix the maximum penalties permitting the parties to proceed by subsequent application for the purpose of securing a decision as to how the money shall be applied. Whether or not it be desirable to leave that decision to an inferior Court, it is. absolutely necessary that we should allow the Arbitration Court to deal with the allocation of the penalty at a later stage, in order that the amount may be fixed according to the circumstances. As to the proposal that the money should be paid into the Treasury, I should leave the matter entirely to the discretion of the Court. If it thinks that the matter is one purely of damages let it award the full amount to those who are injured. I thoroughly agree with the honorable and learned member for Corinella that it is not advisable to multiply legal proceedings, but to provide the easiest machinery that can be devised for performing all the operations ‘that the law requires. We should permit everything to be done expeditiously, and on the spot. Under the present proposal if the Arbitration Court fixed a maximum penalty, and decided that when a breach occurred the whole of the fine should be paid to one. or other of the organizations, that would fix the matter absolutely until the award was varied. A ‘person might then ask the Court to award him damages under paragraph d of this clause, and find himself confronted with a hard and fast award made some twelve months previously, and thus justice could not be done.
– Does not the honorable and learned member think it wise to differentiate between penalties “and damages?
– No, ‘I do not think it is necessary. A certain sum could be fixed as the fine to be inflicted for a breach of an award, but before compensation could be paid there must have been a breach. In other words, there must have been something to justify the penalty, and only after the penalty has been imposed should the Court have power to specify to whom it should be paid as compensation. Here the party to whom compensation shall be paid is clearly within the discretion of the Judge.
– What Judge ? The Judge who makes the award, or the one who imposes the penalty’?
– In New South Wales there is only one Judge of the Arbitration Court. Under this Bill there is only the President of the Court who may make an award, and the application for its enforcement must be heard by him. I should like the Attorney-General to meet the views of the honorable and learned member for Corinella as far as possible. I cannot support the proposal of the honorable and learned member for Wannon. He attacked the clause because he does not believe that any of the fines inflicted ought to be paid into the funds of a union.
– He was speaking of “fines” as opposed to “compensation.”
– I arn not opposed to the principle underlying the clause, neither is the honorable and learned member for Corinella. What he emphasized was that it is undesirable to permit of an award being made allotting sums to certain persons one day, and subsequently for the Judge who is called upon to decide the question of compensation upon fresh facts to find his hands tied.
– I quite recognise that the honorable and learned member for Darling Downs and the honorable and learned member for Corinella are anxious to make this Bill effective and useful. Personally I feel much obliged to them for the assistance they are rendering to the Government. Before honorable members come to a decision on this matter I wish to show them some of the ulterior consequences that would ensue from the adoption of the amendment proposed. Some confusion of ideas has occurred in regard to. subclauses c and d. Sub-clause c has reference to the fixing of a maximum penalty, In determining an award the Court frames a kind of regulation - -a by-law - prescribing the maximum penalty for a breach of that award. It does r.ot deal with any existing offence. Sub-clause d is of quite a different character. It enables the Court to fix a penalty after a breach has occurred. In effect, it gives the Court power to say, “ So and so has been found guilty of a breach of an award, and must pay this penalty.” Personally, I hope that’ the Arbitration Court will not be called upon to impose many, penalties. It will have very difficult and responsible work to perform in determining industrial disputes. Nevertheless it has been thought wise to vest the Court with power to inflict a penalty if appeal be made to it.
– The AttorneyGeneral does not wish to encourage informers.
– Certainly not. Having regard to the fact that the Arbitration Court will consist of one Justice, that it will sit only in one place at a time, I think that applications for the infliction of penal-‘ ties will usually be made to the Courts of Petty Sessions. The question which the Committee have to face is, “ Is it wise to leave to the Courts of Petty Sessions the responsible and indivious task of determining who are the proper persons to receive the penalties imposed ? “
– There is an alternative.
– I do not know of any.
– The alternative is to declare that the penalty shall be in the nature of a fine, not of damages, unless the parties go to the Arbitration Court.
– That is not an alternative, but merely a refinement. Shall we. give police magistrates, who naturally entertain various views of economics and social » politics, the power to say who shall receive these penalties? If so, some magistrates will say that the penalties shall go to the Crown, whilst others will order that an organization or employer, who has sustained loss, shall be indemnified to a certain extent.
– - Could not a special clause be inserted, dealing with the question of compensation ?
– I do not wish to provide for compensation as well as penalties. I desire, if possible, that, in each instance, the penalty -shall cover the whole case.
– Will not that lead to the encouragement of litigation ? Will it not cause people to come forward in the hope of receiving these penalties?
– That is a matter to be considered by honorable members. Of course people may harass employers or organizations, knowing that these must suffer loss as the result, although they themselves will not be benefited. I think, however, that I shall have discharged my duty if I bring the Committee face to face with the real position. I wish to extenuate nothing. The question which we have to consider is : “ Are we prepared to allow police magistrates here, there, and everywhere to exercise the great discretion of saying that a penalty shall be paid either to an organization, to the Crown, or to an employer ?” It is impossible to deal with this provision without taking into consideration the powers of the Police Co’urts. Under clause 52, as we propose to amend it, proceedings for the recovery of penalties may be brought in any Court of summary jurisdiction. The Committee have already seen fit to reject the amendment proposed in sub-clause c. We wished to strike out the words having reference to specifying the organization or persons to whom such penalties should be paid. The scheme would then have been a workable one. At the same time I should prefer that the Judge who makes an award, who will be a man of the highest capacity, who will have investigated the whole merits of the dispute, should be able to say, “ This is a case in which, if there has been a breach of the award, the penalty ought to go to the Crown:” or, “ This is a case in which the penalty should go to an organization,” or to an employer, just as he thought fit. In connexion with each particular award, I should like to give the Arbitration Court power to say how far a Police Magistrate should have discretion in dealing with the 0 appropriation of the penalty.
– The Judge could not do that until he knew the nature of the breach, and the seriousness of the offence.
– He would know the award that he had made, the parties who were affected, the trade that was involved, and what the. chances were that attempts would be made to disregard the award.
– But one breach might cause no injury, whereas another might inflict a lot of damage.
– Quite so. Of course the police magistrates will deal with that matter. They are vested with power to assess damages. The question which ‘we have to decide is whether they shall be vested with discretion to determine to whom penalties shall be paid. Speaking for myself, I would prefer to substitute for the words which compel the Arbitration Court to specify to whom penalties shall be paid, the following words - “And if it thinks fit to specify the organizations or persons to whom such penalties shall be paid.” There are numerous cases in which it might say - “ Oh, we shall leave this to the Court which imposed the penalty.” The effect of that would be to enlarge the powers of the Arbitration Court to deal with particular cases. It would allow it full discretion to determine whether the appropriation of a penalty should be left to the discretion of a police magistrate or of the .Arbitration Court. Of course we shall have to recommit this clause, because it contains no provision for the imposition of a maximum penalty in the case of employers. The result is that there is no maximum penalty against an employer. . I do not think that the Committee desire that, and if we wish to have a workable Bill, it will be necessary for us to have the clause recommitted. If it is really the desire of honorable members to press the larger amendment, I shall offer no stubborn resistance to it. The result will be, however, that power must be given to some one to say to whom a penalty shall be paid.
– That is the point which we wish to settle.
– Very well. If the Court of Arbitration in making an award is not to say to whom it shall be paid, we must leave it to the Court of summary jurisdiction to determine that matter.
– Is there not this alternative, that we can say where a Court of summary jurisdiction deals, with a case, that the punishment shall be a fine, and not damages, and that if any organization desires to recover damages, it shall go to the Arbitration Court. That is an alternative which is worthy of consideration.
– If it is a mere question of whether we should, in some circumstances call a penalty “ damages,” the matter is of no great importance. I was assuming that the Bill as drafted by the late Government, and as accepted by the present Ministry, would be in that respect adhered to.
– I only used the two words “ penalty “ and “ damages “ to contrast two ways in which a penalty might be applied.
– Then it is a mere matter of verbiage.
– Oh, no.
– If it is a mere question of whether we should speak of “ damages “ or “ penalty,” I may at once say that I have no objection to applying either term.
– But there is a great difference between the two.
– No doubt there is; but in drafting the Bill, the late Government decided that whether the fine was in the nature of damages, or in the nature of a penal sum to be paid to the Crown, it should be called a penalty, and that the Court should be left to determine to whom it should be paid.
– We wish to draw a distinction, so that the compensation shall go to the party, and the penalty to the Crown.
– No doubt it would be more appropriate to use the word “damages” in relation to a sum of money that is to be paid to one of the parties, and the word “ penalty “ in respect of a fine that is to- go to the Crown. I recognised that at the first, but did not think it necessary to make a mere verbal alteration. It appeared to me that the Bill sufficiently carried out our intention, and I saw no neces- sity for interfering with it unless something of importance was to be gained. I should like, if possible, to give the Court of Arbitration power to specify how the money shall be applied.
– Not beforehand.
– If they think fit.
– The words are, “if it thinks fit.”
– Under the clause a? it stands, the Court would not do that unless it thought fit.
– Under the clause as it stands, it could not fix a maximum penalty without deciding to whom it should be paid.
– Quite so. Inasmuch as it will be necessary to recommit the clause, in order to carry out the proposal in regard to employers, I suggest that we should simply omit the words “ organizations or persons,” allow the words, “ and to specify to whom such penalties shall be paid “ to remain, and pass the paragraph without much further debate. That amendment would leave the Court power to declare, if it thought fit, that the penalty should be paid, either to the successful organization or persons, or to the Crown. I suggest that with this slight emendation the paragraph should be passed, on the undertaking that the Prime Minister will recommit the clause.
Mr. DEAKIN (Ballarat).- It may be difficult for the Attorney-General while at the table to piece together the set of proposals that have been submitted, but I do not think that it is difficult to collect the sense of the Committee. The Committee has fairly made up its mind. So far as I am able to judge, it has agreed that the Arbitration Court should have power to fix the maximum penalties, and that when those penalties are fixed, it should be possible, only when the Court thinks fit, to divert some portion of them by way of damages to one party or the other. It is also recognised by the Committee that the enforcement of penalties would frequently be sought in Courts of summary jurisdiction, which are ready of access, and provide a cheap and ready method of procedure. The Committee favours the proposition that this course should be open to the parties ; but we have the further suggestion of the honorable and learned member for Corinella that we should allow the Courts of inferior jurisdiction to deal only with applications for the enforce ment of penalties - penalties that go to the Crown - and that every other case in which application is made by either party for part of the penalty to be allotted to it b,y way of damages, or in which any such question will have to be determined, should be heard by the Arbitration Court. The clause having been amended to give effect to these desires, we shall have solved the whole difficulty. There are three points. We wish, in the first place, to enable the Arbitration Court to fix the maximum penalties, and then to allow it, if it pleases - although I doubt if it could or would do so - to attach penalties in advance. I do not object to that power being given, for I am willing to trust the Court. Next we require the Arbitration Court to deal with any allotment of money penalties to either party, finally leaving the enforcement of awards, without damages, as the Attorney-General desires, to the inferior Courts, with their cheap and simple procedure.
– The intention of the Committee is clear. There has been no doubt during the last two hours as to the desire of honorable members; but the AttorneyGeneral, astute and able lawyer that he is, has given us a dissertation on something that we do not wish to consider. The honorable and learned member for Wannon has proposed the omission of certain words, and all that the Committee wish, and all that we have endeavoured to impress upon the Ministry for the last two or three hours, is that words should be inserted providing that the fine, less the costs and the damages, shall be paid into the Consolidated Revenue. That is a simple statement of what honorable members desire, and it seems to me that there is no room for further discussion. We need not enter into the consideration of “bloodmoney.” We know that the Government does not wish to be called upon to pay “ bloodmoney,” and that it certainly does not desire to establish an industry of pimps. We wish to have the maximum penalties fixed, and to provide in. the Bill the method in which they shall be dealt with. The Committee is of opinion that no sum in excess of the costs and damages should be paid to any organization or informer.
– We do not wish any organization to be enriched as the result of taking action.
– Exactly. We know that the Government have no desire to establish a system under which “ blood-money “ would be paid, or under which it would be possible for litigants to be enriched.
– If they had to depend on this Bill for ‘their enrichment, they would not’ get much.
– The honorable and learned member for Wannon, in that enthusiastic and democratic way in which he approaches every question, has seized upon the statement made by the Minister of External Affairs that a certain union received £50.
– And there were about 4,000 members of that union.
– There are over 66,000 unionists in New South Wales, and the granting of that penalty of £50 to the union would not mean the enrichment of the unionists of New South Wales to the extent of even one penny each. Thus, while there is a possibility of a charge being made against the Government, that they are endeavouring to create means for the enrichment of the unions, they are really unnecessarily exposing themselves to blame. I desire that the words proposed to be omitted shall be replaced by a provision that the fine, less the costs and damages, shall be paid into the Consolidated Revenue.
Mr. JOHNSON (Lang). - I must confess my inability to follow the subtleties of reasoning indulged in by those who fail to see any distinction between the term “penalty” and the word “damages,” and who hold that they are really synonymous terms. 1 can conceive of a case occupying the attention of the Arbitration Court, which would be sufficiently serious to warrant the imposition of a penalty, although a technical breach of an award involving no great damage had been committed. In such a case, ‘the penalty certainly would not partake of the character of an. award for damages. A fine would be imposed that properly ought to go to the Crown. The desire of most honorable members who oppose the clause in its present form is that, wherever the term “ penalty “ appears in the Bill, is . shall be made clear that, unless otherwise provided, it means a fine which shall go to the Crown, and that it shall be left to the discretion of the Judge to determine, in the circumstances of each case that comes under his review, whether either the whole or any portion of the penalty shall take the nature of damages to be awarded to either party to the dispute. That is a point that requires to be made perfectly clear. Some provision should be made whereby, except, in those cases, the penalty, when it is in the nature of a fine, should go to the Crown. It should always be understood as a fine which should go to the Crown, unless, in the opinion of the Court, the breach of the law complained of is of such a character as to entail damages on one side or the other, in which case the Court should have power to say what portion of the penalty or whether the whole of it should take the form of damages granted to the party aggrieved.
– I think there is a good deal in the suggestion of the honorable and learned member for Corinella. I am m- ‘clined to the view that it would pernios be better to give the Court power in the first instance to say to whom penalties shall be awarded, if, in its discretion, it should be necessary to do so. That is why I was willing to put in the words “if the Court’ thinks fit,” because that would leave the matter to the discretion of the Court.
– There is no mention in the clause of the penalty” going to the Crown in any circumstances.
– That is so, and we propose to put the matter in this form - “ and to specify to whom such penalties shall be paid.” That would include the Crown within the discretion of the Court.
– Would not “whom” in that case refer only to persons or organizations ?
– Not when no words, such as “ persons or organizations “ areused to indicate that the word “ whom “ should have any other than its ordinary meaning. It was not our intention to confine the discretion of the Court in this matter to persons or organizations. That can be seen from the amendment appearing in our printed list.
– The words of the amendment suggested, read in conjunction with the words of the Bill, would appear to me to imply that “ whom “ means persons and organizations.
– The honorable member will see that our proposal was by way of amendment of the Bill after the elimination of the words “ organizations or persons.” That would leave the “discretion of the Judges construing the law quite uninfluenced by any suggestion which the words “organizations or persons “ might convey. In view of the suggestion that, if this language were employed, the Court might feel that it was bound to make some such direction when making an award, I see no great objection to confining it to paragraph d. I do not see that very much will be lost. But when we come to deal with paragraph d, we propose to follow the language of our own amendment, and leave out the words “ organizations or persons,” and thus allow the Court full liberty to award the penalties to the Crown, if it thinks fit.
– Will the word “whom” cover the Crown ?
– I think so.
– That is the point about which I am in doubt.
– I do not advance my cwn opinion merely in the matter, as I am fortified in the opinion I hold by that of the Attorney-General. I am prepared to consent to the amendment iri paragraph c, and later to provide that power shall be given .to the Court under paragraph d, to specify to whom tlie penalties shall be paid.
– Does the honorable gentleman propose to recommit paragraph d.
– We have not reached it yet ; but I may -say here that it is probable we shall have to recommit paragraph c, with a view to provide that an individual employer or employe, who is not included in an organization shall be subject to the same penalty if the Court thinks fit. At present, because of the amendment submitted by the honorable and learned member for Wannon, we cannot go back in paragraph c to make that amendment. Honorable members will see that the paragraph contemplates that the parties dealt with will be either organizations or individual members of organizations, but as many employes and employers are altogether outside of organizations, it is well to include them in the maximum penalty. I cannot be certain on the point, but if they are not so included I think it might be contended that they would be liable to a penalty outside the maximum.
– Is that the honorable gentleman’s own law ?
– I dare say that in putting forward a supposition I am likely to be as close to the law as even a lawyer would be, because nearly everything appears to be possible in the construction of language. I am prepared to accept the amendment in paragraph c, without of course, agreeing to the principle the honorable and learned member for Wannon has advocated.
Mr. GROOM (Darling Downs). - In view of the fact that the clause will require to be recommitted, I ask the Attorney-General to make it clear by the Bill who are the persons and organizations entitled to sue for an award.
– Any party to an award! who is aggrieved, I presume.
– - I have a reason for asking that the Attorney-General will look into the matter.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether he can give honorable members any guarantee that these penalties will strike employers as well as. employes ? I have been reading the cases up very carefully, and I find that in every great case brought before the Courts in England the penalty has been imposed upon the employes.
– We propose to make that clear on recommittal.
– I am glad to hear that. At the present time in Colorado these cases are invariably decided against the men. I do not say that it is because the Courts are prejudiced, but it is don:, and the men have to suffer.
Amendment agreed to.
Paragraph, as amended, agreed to.
Paragraph d -
To impose penalties, not exceeding the maximum penalties mentioned in the last preceding paragraph, for any breach or non-observance of any term of an order or award proved to .the satisfaction of the Court to have been committed, and vo specify the organizations or persons to whom such penalties shall be paid.
– In view of the previous decision of the Committee, I do not intend” to move the amendment of which we have given notice in the first part of the paragraph, but I propose to move the omission of the words “ organizations or persons ‘ ‘ - and the end of the paragraph will then read - and to specify to whom such penalties s.hall be paid.”
Mr. ROBINSON (Wannon).- I wish to have this paragraph so amended that it will carry out the desire of the honorable and learned member for Ballarat. I am not asking for anything which is not reasonable, and I do think that it would be reasonable to allow organizations or persons in certain cases to get costs and damages out of the penalties. I have hurriedly drafted some amendments which I think” will carry out that idea. I propose to move the insertion after the word “ penalties, ‘ T line 1, of the words “and grant damages.” Then, after the word “paragraph,” line 3, I propose to insert the words “ and to award such portion of the penalties as and by way of damages, and such costs as the Court may think fit.” I would then move in the last line of the paragraph to leave out the word “penalties, “ with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ damages and costs.”
– That would enable the Court to give two sets of damages.
– That was the honorable and learned member’s suggestion.
– The object I desire to secure is that the Court shall have power to award a portion of the penalties if it thinks fit, as, and by way of, damages to any injured organization or person. I do not wish that willy-nilly the whole penalty should go to an “organization or person in the case of a breach of an award.
– I think that what the honorable and learned member for Wannon suggests can be met by amending the paragraph as T have suggested, and inserting after the word “ penalties “ the words “ in whole or in part.” That portion of the paragraph would then read - “ and to specify to whom such penalties, in whole or in part, shall be paid.”
Mr. KELLY (Wentworth).- It seems to me that the proposal of the honorable and learned member for Wannon is to differentiate entirely between damages and penalties. The’ Prime Minister’s proposal would still leave it open to doubt. We wish to make it clear in this Bill that the Court shall not, in any circumstances, grant penalties to the unions.
– What does it matter what we call them?
– In an Act of Parliament it matters a great deal what we call them.
– Does the honorable member contemplate granting damages in addition to the penalties? Mr. KELLY.- I take it that at the beginning there will be a great many technical breaches of the Act.
– From our experience in New South Wales I do not think that that is likely.
– Suppose that there are many technical breaches. In those cases no damages will be awarded. But if there were any cb.ince of a “ penalty “ being awarded to a union or private informer that brought such a breach to the cognisance of the Court, many informations would be laid in the case of such breaches, although, being technical breaches* they injured no one, and did not interfere with the industrial peace of the community. For that reason I think we should differentiate very clearly between penalties and damages, and make it absolutely impossible for the Judge to award the imposed fines to those giving information of simply technical breaches.
Mr. KNOX (Kooyong). - I wish to understand clearly whether the Crown is included under the word “ whom “ ?
– I think so.
– So long as it is clear that in addition to organizations and persons the penalties may be paid into the Consolidated Revenue, I am satisfied.
Mr. ROBINSON (Wannon).- I accept the Prime -Minister’s suggestion. I think it meets the case in fewer words than my own proposal.
Amendment (by Mr. Watson) agreed to-
That the words “ the organizations or persons,” line 7, be left out.
Amendment (by Mr. Watson) proposed -
That after the word “ penalties,” line 8, the words “in whole or in part” be inserted.
– I do not think that this amendment will quite meet what a good proportion of the Committee desire to achieve. We wish to draw a distinct line between penalties and damages. For instance, if a penalty of £500 can be imposed, and it can be shown that damage has been inflicted, either on employers or on a union of employes, the whole of that sum might be awarded in damages. But what we object to is the abominable system of giving a portion of the fine to any informer. If there is one form of greed on the face of God’s earth which is more contemptible than another, it is that of the informer who lives on sneaking and obtaining blood money. Under this provision I am afraid that informers would be able to obtain such money, either against trades unions or employers. There is always a fear, if we put it into the hands of any Court to award any portion of a penalty to an informer, or to any body of men who turn informers, that persons will be induced to look round for the chance of informing for the sake of the reward. If means are given to do evil, men will soon be found to seek the rewards of evil.
– Under a stronger section of the New South Wales Act there has never been an instance where anything has been paid to an informer.
- Mr. Seddon, who certainly cannot be called antagonistic to legislation of this character, has publicly stated that if appeals are so perpetually made to the Courts, he will have to take into consideration the whole position of affairs.
– That remark was made on another matter altogether, and the context of Mr. Seddon’s remarks was never published in Australia.
– If a trades union, or some of the members of a union, have suffered, and can show that they have received injury or damage, I do not object to the Court being allowed to recompense them to the last farthing If any employer can show that he has suffered loss at’ the hands of his men, let the full award of damages be paid to him. But beyond that I would not go to the slightest extent.
– Who has a better right to the award ? .
– If the honorable member wants these penalties to go to informers
Mr.- Watson. - We want them to go as damages to those who have suffered.
– I am prepared to allow the full amount of the damage that a man has sustained to be paid to him out of the penalty.
– That is all that is provided.
– This provision allows the Court to grant the whole of the penalty inflicted to the person bringing the case forward. I object to that entirely. If the Attorney-General could draft an amendment providing that the whole of the damages should be paid to the parties who have suffered, that would secure exactly what we are contending for.
– The Attorney-General advises that the paragraph now allows to be done what the honorable member desires.
Mr. JOHNSON (Lang). - I take the view which has been expressed by the honorable member who has just sat down, that the words which it is proposed to insert do not meet the case from the point of view of several honorable members. I suggest as a solution of the difficulty that after the word penalties,” in the first line of the paragraph, we should insert the words, “ Pay able to the Crown, or grant damages.” I would make the paragraph read -
To impose penalties payable to the Crown, or grant damages, not exceeding the maximum amounts mentioned in the last preceding paragraph, for any breach or non-observance of any term of an order or award proved to the satisfaction of the Court to have been committed, and to specify to whom such damages shall be paid.
That would leave it at the option of the Court either to impose a penalty, or to grant damages, to be paid to either of the aggrieved parties. Further on the clause provides to whom such damages shall be paid. My suggestion would make the proposal perfectly clear, and would remove the ambiguity which exists in the words proposed to be added
– I will consider that.
Amendment agreed to.
Paragraph, as amended, agreed to.
Paragraph e -
To’ enjoin any organization or person from committing or continuing any contravention of this Act, or any breach or non-observance of any term of an order or award.
– I move-
That the words “ or any breach or. nonobservance of any term of an order or award” be left out.
The idea with which these words were inserted in the paragraph is sufficiently covered by clause 55, which gives power to make orders or awards. It is, therefore, quite unnecessary to retain these words.
Amendment agreed to. Paragraph, as amended, agreed to. Paragraph / -
To declare, by any award, that any practice, regulation, rule, custom, term of agreement, condition of employment, or dealing whatsoever, in relation to any industrial matter shall be a common rule of any industry affected by the award.
Mr. McCAY (Corinella).- I freely admit that the Arbitration Court is not likely to make common rules on matters that have not arisen in a dispute. But I am inclined to think that the Court would have power to do so.
– If the Constitution gives it to them.
– It is not wise that we should have mistakes made as to the powers that are conferred by the Act. Say that a dispute arises which is cognizable by the Federal Court. Certain questions are submitted to the Court by either side in connexion with that dispute, and those questions are determined by an award. It seems to me that this paragraph, so far as its language goes, and apart from the point mentioned by the honorable and learned member for Ballarat, would enable the Court to declare as a common rule something that had not been in issue, and had not been raised by either party t’o the dispute.
– I do not think that that is intended. The idea that we had in our minds was that the Court might declare in a common rule less than it declared in an award, but not more.
– But as the paragraph stands, I think the Court could declare more. I would suggest the insertion after the word “ matter,” of the words “ determined by such award.” As the paragraph stands, it would appear that the Court could make something a common -rule, .in addition to the award - something that was beyond the limits of the award itself. The Court would have wider powers as regards the common rule than as regards the- dispute itself. I shall not move the amendment now, if the Government would prefer me not to do so ; but I am inclined to think that that is a possible construction of the paragraph. I do not know whether the Attorney-General has had the point under consideration.
Mr. HIGGINS (Northern MelbourneAttorneyGeneral). - I cannot think that the honorable and learned member’s proposal would make the clause clearer. In the latter part of it we intend to make an amendment which will clearly restrict the Court to the application of a common rule to the industry in connexion with which the dispute arose. As the clause stands at present, the common rule would apply to any industry affected by the award, so that I apprehend that a common rule made in connexion with a dispute between bootmakers and their employes, say, might affect the tanning industry. But the honorable and learned member says that we should prevent the Court from dealing with anything which is not within the dispute brought before it. The basic principle of the measure is trust in the Court, though some honorable members appear to think that the Court should be spoon-fed, or drawn about in leading strings. When the Court has to deal with a specific industry, in connexion with which it has heard certain evidence, and has discovered the existence of certain evils, it may consider that an award with regard to wages or conditions of labour should be applied over a broader area than that occupied by the parties to the dispute. But I cannot conceive of any sane Court dealing with a matter altogether outside of the case in which it has been taking evidence. I do not wish to tie the hands of the Court. If, with sufficient evidence before it, it considers that it would be advisable to make a certain regulation a common rule, I do not think we should prevent it from doing so, so long as the application of the rule is confined to the particular trade in which the: dispute arose.
– Could the Court deal’ with a matter which was not in dispute?
– No; that would be outside its jurisdiction. The honorable and learned member for Corinella did not go so far as to say that the Court would deal’ with matters which had not been referred! to it, but he seemed to think that it might deal with matters which had not been referred to in the evidence taken in connexion1 with the carrying on of any industry concerned.
– I did not say that exactly.
– Then I misunderstood the honorable and learned member. I cannot see that words which would obviously guide the Court in its action are necessary here. It is a mere question of making the clauses sufficient. If the Court went beyond the dispute before it, and the matters therein raised, it would be going beyond its jurisdiction. It must be remembered that the man who will deal with these matters will be a Judge of the High Court, and if such a man cannot be trusted to keep within the ambit of a quarrel, who could?
Mr. SPENCE (Darling).- I do not think that the proposal of the honorable and learned member for Corinella would make any change in regard to the common rule, and, therefore, I regard it as unnecessary. But he made another suggestion which I consider worthy of notice. That was as lc* the Court being limited to the matter in dispute. In my opinion, the Court should not be tied up. The common rule may not cover all that is embraced in an award. Am award may be made affecting a particularindustry, but the common rule may be only a portion of it. It may not be necessary to make the whole award a common rule. The Court not only stands in the positionof an arbitrator between two contending; parties, but, in extending an award by making it a common rule, must consider any other industry closely related to that immediately concerned, and have regard, to some extent, to the protection of the general public interest. Many industries, particularly manufacturing industries, are very closely interwoven. It may happen that employers and employes in a certain industry may come to an agreement as to conditions which may be detrimental to some other industry. One of the main reasons why I support the creation of an Arbitration Court is because such a Court, having continuity of existence, .will take cognizance of industrial relationships generally, whereas under the Wages Board system cognisance is taken only of particular industries. I think it best to leave the clause as it stands, so that the Court, if it chooses, may deal with matters not presented by the two parties to a dispute, but arising in connexion with it.
– There is one aspect of the common rule which 1 view with some alarm. At the present time there are many industries, such” as the mining industry, for example, in which men can earn much more by going to outoftheway parts of the Commonwealth than by staying near centres of civilization. Mr. Hutchison. - Can the mining industry come under the Bill?
– The miners, the seamen, and similar large bodies of men are those most affected. A case of this kind might arise. Many miners have left Victoria and gone to Western Australia or Queensland, and there earn much more than they could earn here.
– They were very wise.
– But shall we be wise in preventing them from continuing to do so ?
– Under the next clause, the Court has power to make any exceptions in view of local conditions which it may think fit.
– No doubt, the Court could take into consideration the difference between the cost of living in two places, but it would not take into consideration the circumstances which justify the payment of £2 or £3 a week in excess of the cost of living to one man and of only £1 to another. That being so, men will lose the advantages which they have hitherto obtained by going to distant places, and submitting to many hardships in order to earn higher wages.
-There is no limitation on the discretion of the Court. Mr. McLEAN. - Does the Prime Minister think that a Judge of the High Court would feel justified in saying-“ I shall allow a man in Western- Australia to earn £4 a week over and above his living expenses, but a man in Ballarat is not to earn more than 30s. a week above his living expenses “?
– He would have full power to do that.
– I am satisfied ‘ that no Judge would differentiate further than between the cost of living in any two places. If we asked him to do more than that, where would his work end? Is it reasonable to expect him to say how much a man in Western Australia or in some distant part of Queensland should earn clear of expenses, and how much a man similarly employed in a more settled State should earn? No doubt a Judge, as a reasonable man, - would allow larger wages in places where the cost of living was high than he would allow where the cost of living was low ; but’ he would not differentiate further than that, and allow one man to earn perhaps two or three times as much, clear of living expenses, as was earned by another. That being so, the application of a common rule would kill all enterprise and reduce everything in an industry like mining to the dead, dull level which prevails in the larger centres of population, such as Ballarat and Bendigo, where all the comforts of life are obtainable, and, where, therefore, men are satisfied to work for lower wages ?
– Has the honorable member read the next paragraph ?
– I am going beyond this Bill to the Constitution, and I should like to have my honorable and learned friend’s opinion on the point ; because . there is no one whose opinion on a constitutional matter I value so highly. ‘Does my honorable friend think that a Judge would differentiate to the extent of saying that he would allow a man to earn £4 a week, clear of all expenses, in Western Australia, and only 30s. a week, clear of expenses, in New South Wales or Victoria ? I am sure that my honorable and learned friend will agree that a Judge would not do so. If he would, the conditions to which I have referred would prevail. A number of men who have left this State have been sending money to their families here, out of their large earnings in other States, notably Western Australia. If the common rule were applied to the extent of cutting, clown the clear profits made by these men, over and above their living expenses, we should inflict great injury upon them. I would ask honorable members to consider this matter carefully. I do not think that the Attorney-General will contend that, under a common rule, one man in Western Australia would be permitted to earn £4 or £5 clear of his expenses, whilst another was able to save only 30s. per week in Victoria.
– Will the honorable member yield if the Attorney-General says he is wrong?
– I do not think he will say so, because he is most consistent. I have heard him arguing on similar questions before, and I do not think that the fact that he now occupies a seat on the Treasury benches will induce him to take up an attitude different from that which he has previously assumed. I would ask honorable members to seriously consider the aspect of the case which I have presented.
Mr. HUGHES (West Sydney- Minister of External Affairs). - I think that the honorable member, who has just resumed his seat, has omitted to consider that a Judge, in determining his award, would have regard to all those circumstances which determine rates of wages. Now, the wages paid in connexion with the mining industry at Ballarat, are determined, first of all, by the number of miners and the cost of living, and, secondly, by the comforts of civilization. Precisely the same factors operate in Western Australia. It is notorious - as the honorable member really admitted, in the course of his argument, although, perhaps he was not aware of the fact - that in new countries, with few of the advantages of civilization, the wages are higher than in older communities, because of the hardships which have to be endured.
– Food is dearer.
– Precisely. The honorable member for Gippsland made that point. In addition to that - I am not going to say that it is unhealthy in Kalgoorlie - any man might readily prefer to accept £2 pet week, in Melbourne or Ballarat, rather than work at Kalgoorlie at a wage of £4 per week. It might pay him better to remain here. That most people do prefer to remain here is proved by the fact that, in spite of the higher wages paid at Kalgoorlie, there is not an inordinately large number of people there, but only a comparatively few men of a specially enterprising and energetic character. I think that that is generally admitted. These are the circumstances which now determine the different rates of wages. We find that in Europe, for instance, the wages are lowe* than in new countries like America or Australia. In the older countries there is more competition, and a different standard of living, and the people possess advantages which we do not enjoy. The Judge would have regard to all these circumstances. My honorable friend says that the Judge would not make any greater difference in the rate of wages as between Western Australia and Ballarat than would be marked by the difference in the cost of living. But he is supposing that the Judge would lose sight of all those other factors which cause rates to vary at present. Besides the difference in the cost of living, there are the discomforts which naturally attend the pursuit of one’s livelihood in districts where the benefits of civilization are not so ready to hand as they are here. For instance, if I went to one of what are called the inside districts of New South Wales, and found employment on a station, I might be able to earn £1 per week and my rations. If I went further out, I should probably be able to command 25s, per week, and if I went still further back, close to the border of South Australia, I should, if other things were equal, probably receive still more. Therefore, the Judge would take into account the difference in locality, climate, and circumstances generally. He certainly ought to do so.
– Would the honorable and learned member propose to divide the Commonwealth into industrial districts?
– How could a Judge determine all those matters ?
– The honorable member who seizes on that objection as if it were a sheet-anchor forgets that he acknowledged that the Judge would be able to ascertain accurately the difference in the cost of living in various places.
– He could ascertain that easily enough.
– I contend” that the other conditions are susceptible of investigation by precisely the same means. They are, in point of fact, indicated by the existing differences in the rates of wages.
– Could the Minister conceive of a man working in the back country perhaps because the climate benefited his health? How could the Judge take that into account?
– If it were suggested to the honorable member that it would benefit his health to live up to his waist in mud, would he go to New Zealand, or to Moree, in New South Wales, where, there are hot springs, and act as a tank-sinker without pay?
– We may very well put all cases of that kind on one side. The honorable member may have come here for the benefit of his health, although not . for the benefit of ours, so far as I am aware. Should we ask him to hand back a portion of his honorarium because his presence here will benefit his health? The Judge would take into consideration all the factors I have mentioned, which would be as readily ascertainable as is the cost of living. Any Judge who would not do so is certainly not likely to be called upon to adjudicate in these matters.
– I think that the objections which have been ‘ raised by the honorable member for Gippsland would be, to a large extent, disposed of if it were remembered that there is no provision in the Bill to the effect that the Judge shall make a common rule. He is not compelled to make a common rule. He will not make it, unless it is not only practicable but advantageous under the circumstances to do so. Possibly, the circumstances of, the industry affected by an award would not admit of a common rule being applied ; in such a case he would refuse to apply it. In other cases the application of a common rule might be limited to certain districts or to certain conditions. Special conditions might be imposed under certain circumstances, or the rule made subject to certain exceptions. Therefore, a common rule might be applied just so far as the Court regarded it- as likely to be advantageous - it might be made as wide or as restricted as the Court thought fit. If the circumstances were so dissimilar as the honorable member for Gippsland had indicated, the Court would probably decide that it was not practicable to apply a common rule, and therefore would abstain from doing so. I take it that we must confer power to make a common rule where it would be advantageous to do so. We must see that in certain industries the circumstances in various parts of Australia are naturally such that, commercial and labour conditions generally ought to be the same, or as nearly so as possible.
– Then, why not restrict the application of the common rule to such cases ?
– We have not the means of discriminating.
– But we could insert a provision which would indicate that the common rule should be applied only to industries in which the conditions are similar throughout the Commonwealth.
– That would have no practical effect, because we should still have to leave it to the Court to decide when the conditions were similar.
– Would the Court be likely to differentiate to the extent of determining that a man might earn 30s. clear per week in Victoria, as against £4. clear per week in Western Australia?
– It is impossible to say what any tribunal would do in the exercise of its discretion on the strength of any imaginable evidence that might be brought before it. If the conditions were so widely different that no fair common rule could be applied, I imagine that the Court would not attempt to exercise its power in that respect. We must, however, leave it within the power of the Court to, as far as possible, equalize the conditions of industry in Australia. That is one of the objects of our Constitution.
Mr. KNOX (Kooyong).- I think that many of the difficulties in connexion with this Bill would be overcome if we could at once secure a Judge as superhumanly perfect as the President of the Arbitration Court is expected to be. It is proposed that one Judge shall deal with all kinds of references, and shall apply uniform regulations despite the varying circumstances under which industries are carried on in different parts of the Commonwealth. Surely this suggests enormous possibilities in the way of inflicting disabilities upon the people of the Commonwealth. The Court is to have absolute discretion with regard to the application of the common rule.
– We have no alternative but to give them that power.
– I think that the power of the Court might be restricted in some such manner as was proposed yesterday. Under the provisions of the Bill, the Judge and two assessors are to be empowered to impose upon the industries of the Commonwealth conditions which will have consequences so serious that it seems almost impossible for one human mind to compass them. It would be desirable if we could distinctly set out in the Bill the qualifications to be possessed by the Judge who is to preside over the Court. I again enter my protest against the proposal to enforce the common rule in this unrestricted manner, because I think that it will be fraught with serious consequences- to our industries.
Mr. McCAY (Corinella).- I move-
That after the word “ whatsoever,” line 3, the words “ determined by the award “ be inserted.
I understand that the Prime Minister is willing to accept the amendment.
– It can do no possible harm, and it will make the paragraph clearer.
Amendment agreed to.
– I move-
That the words “ affected by the award,” line 5, be omitted, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “in connexion with which the dispute arises.”
This amendment is in the nature of a limitation. In the absence of some such provision, if a dispute arose in one industry, it might be held that it really affected anotherFor example, let us suppose that a question affecting the wages of quarrymen was at issue. The price of stone would naturally influence the wages of stonemasons. The amendment will have the effect of confining the application of the common rule to those industries in which disputes arise.
Amendment agreed to.
Mr. McCAY (Corinella). - I move -
That the following proviso be added : - “ Provided that the Court may not act under this paragraph except where the products of the industry of the persons whom the common rule is to bind enter into competition with the products of the industry of the parties to the dispute, or of the members of organizations parties to the dispute.”
In speaking on this question yesterday I expressed some doubt as to the constitutionality of this sub-clause. I was dubious as to how far we could apply the common rule, and I felt that without some provision being made for its application in certain cases, the Bill would be practically inoperative. On further consideration, I think it is possible to limit the operation of the common rule to cases in which the conditions are sufficiently similar, or to industries which are sufficiently related, to justify its application. Of course, I shall be told that we should trust the Court. I hold, however, that it is the business of the Legislature to direct the Court wherever it- possibly can.
– The Court would prefer to have its powers clearly defined.
– It would prefer that, upon such delicate questions, the Legislature should, as far as possible, indicate its intentions. There are two ways in which the application of the common rule can be limited by legislative means. One of these is by adopting the method which has been followed in the New Zealand Arbitration Act, and to which I drew attention yesterday. The other way is to limit the operation of the common rule to those States in which the dispute exists which the Federal Arbitration Court has been called upon to decide. For instance, if a dispute extends from New South Wales to Queensland, but no further, the common rule should be limited to those two States.
– That might be unjust to the other States.
– It might possibly prove unjust, but even where a dispute has extended to two States, and the parties to it have come before the Court, there might conceivably be persons in those States who were not parties to the dispute, but who clearly ought to be bound by the same rule, as applied to those parties. I think there is a great deal to be said in favour of that limitation. I merely mention the matter in passing, because it seems to me to suggest a possible solution of the constitutional difficulty. In New Zealand there are four industrial districts, and the awards made by the Arbitration Court are confined to the districts in which they are made. They can, however, be extended from the industrial district in which they are made to other industrial districts. The process there is not known as the “common rule,” although its effect is the same. The essence of the limitation which my amendment imposes is that the common rule shall not be applicable to cases in which there is no industrial competition. When industrial competition exists, if some competitors are bound by an award of the Court whilst others are not, injustice may arise. We require equality only where there is competition. The New Zealand law recognises that.
– Will not the amendment involve a long preliminary argument as to whether competition exists?
– It will be no more difficult to decide that matter than it will be to determine scores of others with which the Court will be called upon to deal. The same objection could be urged against the operative parts of the Bill as a whole. It will be no more difficult to establish, whether or not substantial competition exists, than it will be to decide many of the questions involved in determining an award. Of course the language of the New Zealand Act is not entirely suitable to the form cif draftsmanship that has been adopted in this Bill. I am not wedded to the language of my amendment, which merely expresses the idea present in my mind. 1 shall welcome any alteration in it so far as its drafting is concerned. Omitting the mere verbiage, the effect .of this amendment will be that unless when an award has been made in respect of, say, New South Wales and Queensland, the Court is satisfied that the persons engaged in the industry there, to whom the award applies, are entering into competition with persons in other States, to whom the award does not apply, it shall not have power to make a common rule. It is only when that competition ultimately arises that, so far as I am at present able to see, any justification foi the common rule can be said to exist. It is because of that belief that I propose this amendment.
– How does the honorable and learned member think it would affect the shearers ?
– And the seamen and wharf labourers?
– It would certainly affect, the shearers, because the products of any shearers’ industry enter into competition with the product of every other shearers’ industry in the London wool market.
– Not here.
– I did not say in Australia.
– What are the products of seamen ?
– It may be said that there are no products of industries relating only to what maybe called carriage - the transport of goods from one place to another - as compared with the products of shearers or the manufacture of goods. I considered that phase of the question, and at first drafted the amendment in terms that would cover it. When I discovered, however, that in that form the amendment assumed, at first sight, a rather cryptic character, I. thought it better to put the proposal before the Committee in a simpler shape, so that I should be able to make my meaning perfectly clear.
– Does the honorable and learned member propose to exempt what may be called transport rather than productive trades?
– It appeared to me that in cases in which the transport trades had a common interest it was almost certain, under existing Australian conditions, that they all would be brought within the purview of the award ; that, as’ a matter of. fact; if, say, the seamen came before the Court, the award would practically bind the whole of the seamen of Australia. I understand that there is a Federated Seamen’s Union, so that practically all the seamen would be parties to the award of the Court, and it would be unnecessary to have a common rule to extend the award to seamen who were not parties to it. As regards callings relating to transport by land - such as carriage” by coach - the coaches of Kalgoorlie do not come into competition with the coaches of Bundaberg.
– There is another big federation - the Waterside Labourers’ Union.
– Various suggestions have been made, but I cannot deal with them all at once. The Prime Minister, I think, asked how railway men would be affected by the common rule. If the railway men can be lawfully brought under the Arbitration Bill, and if a dispute arises among them and extends beyond the limits of any one State, we may safely say that all the railway employes whom it could possibly affect will be parties to the dispute. They are an obvious example of a consolidated body. They are always, so to speak, available, and closely’ in touch with their societies, so that there would be no difficulty in regard to the whole of them becoming parties to any dispute in which they had common interests. So far as the waterside labourers are concerned, I doubt, in the first place, whether their circumstances and conditions are such as ‘to at any time make it probable that a common rule dealing with them would be called into existence.
Mr. Hughes. Why?
– There are quite as many points of divergence between waterside labourers in tropical parts and those engaged in a more temperate climate as there are differences between other callings. If I am wrong in my assumption, with regard to the waterside workers, I shall be satisfied to have my proposal amended so that it will include persons engaged in carrying trades, or in transport work, which T think is the better term. The central idea of mv amendment is that the touchstone by which
the. applicability or otherwise of a common rule. is. to be determined is the question of competition. Do the waterside labourers of Sydney and those of» Melbourne, in any reasonable’ sense of the term, come into competition with each other? I doubt if they do.
– In some senses they do.
– The .test of the necessity for ‘the common rule is competition.
– Why ?
– Because the chief ground for applying a common rule is that if we du not either the person who is subject to an award or the person who is not, will be at a disadvantage as compared with the* other. That is a fundamental principle. Mr. Spence. - There are other cases.
– There may be numerous other cases to which the honorable member will be able to refer. I am simply putting my view before the. Committee, and I repeat that the fundamental justification of the application of the common rule is the principle that without its application A, who is subject to an award, is at a disadvantage as compared with B, who is not; and that A’s disadvantage as compared with that of B, arises from the fact that A and B are. competitors - one an unfettered competitor, and the other a fettered competitor. Mr. Poynton. - Would not the cost of handling goods be increased.
– If an addition is made to the cost, as. the result of the award, then the competitor, who has to pay that additional cost, suffers, as compared with the competitor who has not. In those cases let there be common rules; but where that condition of affairs does not arise there should not be common rules, and we should not give the Court power to apply them. This will be an indication to the Court of the kind of cases to which we think the application of the common rule would be justified. From the Federal point of view, this is the most substantial justification for the common rule. It, at any rate, makes me feel it my duty to support the principle ‘of a common rule in some form or another. It is because this is my view of the justification of the common rule that I feel bound to submit a proposal to limit the application of the principle to’ cases” in which that justification exists. I admit that the Court may ‘ be confronted with difficulties in determining this matter, but the difficul ties will be no greater than they would be if this limitation were not imposed. The Court would, at the very outset, consider at least one of these points before it made a common rule. It would not say in effect : “ We are going to have a beautiful, imaginary, paper uniformity.” It would rather ask : “ Why should the award be binding all over Australia?” We say that in certain cases it should be extended, because persons under it may be suffering or else securing an advantage as compared with those who are not, for the reason that they have ultimately to go .to the same buyer, whether he be a buyer of goods or of labour, or of goods which are subject to increased cost as they are travelling to the market. That is one of the first matters which the Judge’ would consider, and it seems to me that it is the main justification for the principle. It is because of the existence of this difficulty that we feel bound to assume a jurisdiction, although ultimately the doubts which some of us entertain may prove to be well founded. I am not wedded to the verbiage of the amendment. It expresses for the present the object that I have in view, and if it were found necessary to recast it I should be quite satisfied. I should not feel hurt if not one word of the amendment, as now proposed, ultimately appeared in the Bill, as long as the idea which it conveys were embodied in it. I trust that the Committee will realize that the proposal in regard to a common rule is viewed with very great apprehension by a large number of persons comprising not merely opponents of the Bill or of its principles, but friends of both. If we can, in this measure, give the public the assurance, so to speak, that it is only in those cases in which obviously unfair results must follow from the absence of a common rule that we are going to provide for the application of the principle or the possibility of common rules, we shall go far to secure for the Bill that Australian approval which is necessary to its ultimate success.
– The honorable and learned member for Corinella has drawn a distinction between an award and its effects, and a common rule, which, on its face, is a perfectly clear and logical one. He spoke of competition ; but I have only to say that such a restriction as he mentioned would not in any way limit the operation of the common rule. Eliminating the transport workers, as we may call them for conveni- ence, is there any case in which persons engaged in a certain trade in a particular place do not enter into competition with persons following the same trade in some other place? I do not know of any. lt is obvious, for example, that a boot factory in Brisbane and a boot factory in Perth may enter into competition with one another. If we shut up the boot factory in Brisbane, or did anything tending in that direction, there would be, on the face of it, a greater market for the output of the boot factory at Perth, and vice versa. It matters net what trade we take. Let us refer to the trade represented by my honorable friend the member for Darling. If the shearing rate were increased in New South Wales and Queensland, so that shearers there got 22s. 66. for shearing 100 sheep there, while in South Australia they got only 15s. or 17s. 6d., it is very clear that the competition in the English and European markets might be prejudicial to the persons affected by the award in the two former States. They would, consequently, be unfairly dealt with unless the rule affecting them was extended to South Australia, and the price paid there was pushed up to 22s. 6d., or some corresponding increase of wages was given to the shearers in that State. If it be true that there is not one trade that can be mentioned into which competition, if regarded from that stand-point, does not enter, there I. ask of what use would the amendment be?
– But it is not true.
– In the case of all the industries which come to my mind now as suggested by the honorable and learned member for Corinella competition does enter, and, therefore, the Court would be justified in considering that it ought to extend the common rule to them. The honorable and learned member will see that in that case his amendment would in no way restrict the operation of the common rule. If, on the other hand, the Court takes a narrower view of what competition may mean, then I say the amendment -might be found very prejudicial indeed “to the working of the law, or to any particular industry. Before I should be inclined to vote for the honorable and learned member’s amendment, or to embody it, in any words at all, in the Bill, I should like to hear from him or from some honorable member who agrees with him that the effect of it will not be, in so many words, to make no difference at all. If competition is to be understood in the sense in which the honorable and learned member appeared to refer to it, I am unaware pf. a solitary industry into which competition does not enter. On the other hand, if the restrictive view of ‘ competition is to be taken, the Court might construe the words of the amendment in their narrowest sense. It might say - “We are, in this legislation, imposing certain restrictions on human liberty, and those restrictions ought to be most rigidly observed. We shall therefore interpret it in its technical and narrowest sense.” The competition must be effective 01 substantial. The Court, in so doing, would be following out a well-known principle of the interpretation of laws. If that were the course adopted the amendment would certainly be effective, and I fear it would be altogether too effective. ‘I shall be glad to learn from the honorable and learned member whether the common rule provided for in New Zealand has been operative, and with what effect? I understand that it is there a new departure.
– It has been the law there since 1900.
– The honorable and learned member may tell us what have been its effects. Last evening, the honorable member for Richmond quoted Mr. Reeves, as saying, in reference to the common rule in New South Wales, that he waited with interest to see the effect of it. I interjected that judging by experience in New South Wales, the common rule was a provision worthy of inclusion in this measure.^ We can point to the effects of its operation in New South Wales, and I now ask the honorable and learned member for Corinella what has been the effect of the application of a common rule in New Zealand ? It has to be noted that the New Zealand case is not on all fours with this, because New Zealand is divided into four districts, and a common rule operative in one of those districts is not necessarily operative in another. Consequently, the conditions there cannot be compared with the conditions likely to exist in the Commonwealth under this Bill. Under the circumstances, I do not think we can agree to adopt the amendment. I should like to say that if it is intended to be merely a direction or indication to the Court as to how they are to apply a common rule well and good ; but if it is to have the effect of restricting the Court in its application of a common rule,’ it would appear to me to be most undesirable. The motto right through has been that we should trust the Court. In New South Wales, where no such restrictions as are suggested by the honorable and learned member for Corinella are to be found in the law, the common rule provision has been applied with a due regard to existing conditions. T say frankly, that I know of no other fundamental reason for a common rule than competition. There may be others, but I think that is the fundamental reason. There is, of course, a fundamental principle running through this Bill, that in order to prevent disputes, it is necessary always to have such just and equitable conditions as will do away with the necessity for them. Therefore, apart from competition, it may be a desirable thing to have a provision which would insure equality of conditions all over the Commonwealth. Generally speaking, the Court should determine where a common rule should apply. I ask the honorable and learned member for Corinella to say in what trade, taking his larger interpretation, competition does not enter, and if he is unable to do so, to tell the Committee what will be the use of his amendment. I ask him also, what has been the effect of the operation of the common rule provision in the New Zealand law, and whether he thinks the conditions existing in New Zealand, where a common rule is rigidly confined by the Act to one of four districts, can be considered in any way analogous te the conditions which will obtain in the Commonwealth under this Bill.
– I am surprised that this amendment should be moved. I believe it involves several issues which have not yet been discussed, and, if adopted, would certainly very greatly complicate matters. It would provide great ground for argument, as ‘ to whether the Court had power to make a common rule or not. We have had some very fine distinctions drawn as to whether in some instances competition arises. There is one industry which I do not think is- likely to come before the Court, and that is the gold mining industry. Does the honorable and learned member for Corinella claim that the gold mining industry is a competitive industry in the sense that its products come into competition in different places? I have never heard that gold produced in one place is held to come into competition with gold produced in another. There is a fixed -price for gold according to its standard value. If the honorable and learned member could convince any Judge that the gold mining industry in one place in its products enters into competition with the same industry in another, he must be possessed of very considerable persuasive powers. The honorable anil learned member for Corinella did not, by the way, explain what is the product of the wharf labourers’ industry. The honorable and learned gentleman did not mention the gold rnining industry, the product of which is gold, which does not always go into the pockets of the shareholders in a mine, who often lose some of their own. gold in carrying it on. Does the honorable and learned member say that the product of this industry enters into competition ? There may be some variation in the prices of silver and copper, but I do not think it is claimed that there is a variation in the price of gold. T listened with great interest, but in vain, to find a reason for the amendment. It seems to me that it would create a very great deal of trouble. I have an objection to the Court being directed to base its award upon grounds of competition, or upon the price realized for the products of an industry. My experience has been that the question of wages to be paid in a great number of industries has not really affected the matters in dispute. I can give an illustration. We have had from time to time a great number of conferences in connexion with the wool industry, which would certainly come under this Bill. It is one in connexion with which there would be no difficulty in the application of the common rule. The parties concerned in the industry would themselves require a common rule, but for reasons entirely apart from competition, in not one of the conferences to which I refer, has it ever been claimed that those carrying on the pastoral industry could not afford to pay the prices asked by the working men’s organizations. But the amendment now proposed would be a direction to the Court to raise arguments and bring forward evidence relating to the price of wool, which we know is regulated by foreign competition.
– I do not agree with the honorable member a bit.
– I say that the amendment would naturally raise those questions, because it proposes that, unless it can be shown that there is competition, a common rule cannot be applied. In this case, it would be admitted that the value of wool is affected by foreign competition.
– It raises the question of the cost of production, but not the question of the market price.
– If the cost of production has no relation to the market price-
– I never said it had not, but we do not get that far in this connexion.
– I can give honorable members my experience in the matter. Though the Royal Commission, of which I was a member, and which inquired into the condition of the pastoral industry, in the worst portion of New South Wales, where hundreds of thousands of pounds were lost by men engaged in the industry, took the evidence of over 260 witnesses, not a single one of them claimed that the wages paid to employes in the industry was a factor in their failures or losses. The amendment would appear to me to bring that factor in. Those engaged in every industry that I can think of as likely to come under this Bill, would be prevented from securing a common rule, by the proposed amendment, unless, as the Minister of External Affairs has pointed out, the Court takes the view that there is competition in every industry. In the transport trade, so far as shipping is concerned, competition may be said to exist between various ship-owners, but it is a “ competition’ which they can regulate themselves if they choose to arrive at a common agreement. But they do not have any product ; and it may be strongly argued to the Judge that, as they do not produce anything, they do not come under this clause. It seems to me that no case has been made out, but that we are going to complicate the matter. The real object of the Bill is to deal with disputes that arise not in relation to competition, but in relation to wages and conditions as between employers and employes. The matter of. competition onlyenters into it on the employers’ side, where one is undercutting another. But in regard to any dispute that this Court will be asked to settle, competition is rarely a factor, for the reason that the Court would general Intake the conditions existing and wages paid by a fair-minded employer as a basis for doing away with sweating on the part of an unreasonable employer. The operation of the common rule in such cases will be to give something like equality of conditions. The factor which is the main consideration is to see that there is no sweating of human beings. No ‘fair-minded employer com plains of being called upon to pay a decent wage so long as he is protected against the unfair employer who undercuts him.
– That is competition.
– But that is only a factor in certain industries. The industries which are likely to come before this Court are not affected by that consideration. If, however, the honorable and learned member for Corinella considers that the products of the industries affected by this Bill do enter into competition, what is the use of inserting this provision, tangling up the Court, and affording scope for argument and confusion. To my mind it only complicates matters, and cannot do any good. No principle whatever seems to be involved, and I hope that the Committee will reject the’ amendment.
– We have to commence the consideration of this question by recollecting that. the operation of the common rule takes its foundation rather from the implied necessities of the Constitution than from any express endowment of power. After that preliminary consideration, we have to recollect that the common rule is not asked for within the region of any dispute. We have provided in the amplest manner by definitions that are as wide as any Act can make them, for every kind of industrial dispute in every kind of trade in every possible circumstance ; and whenever a dispute occurs under any of those varying conditions, the Court is empowered to determine the whole question by an award. The common rule only operates outside the region of dispute - outside the region of challenge. No person has been aggrieved among those upon whom a common rule is called upon to operate. But it is admitted that, apart from the phraseology of this Bill and the terms of the Constitution, it is necessary and desirable to apply the common rule in order to complete the work that is done by awards. The common rule does nothing which an award cannot do. Anything that is excluded from the operation of the common rule is not, therefore, excluded from the operation of this Bill. It only requires that a dispute shall be extended to the new area, and it comes under the operation of an ordinary award. ‘ So that in dealing with the common rule the only thing we have to take cognisance of is that which the honorable member for Darling has dealt with. At the worst any restriction of a common rule leaves anything it cannot reach to be settled after a dispute. We can, therefore, approach this question without any idea of excluding anything from the Bill. But, if any reasonable condition can be found, which can be attached to the common rule, without assailing its usefulness, it would be wise to attach it. A common rule, as applied to Federal disputes extending beyond one State, takes on an entirely different character from that which obtains within a single State. A Federal dispute, to begin with, extends beyond one State, and two States are brought within its operation immediately. One can readily imagine that the application of the common rule to the remaining States of the Federation, so far as similar industries are concerned, would possibly be very rare. Still, it is a very reasonable thing to contemplate the possibility of disputes extending, and of a common rule being applied to all the six States. It seems to me to be extremely unlikely that the common rule can be exercised on an Australian seal0, even in cases that are technically within the domain of the Court. With regard to the seamen, arid possibly the shearers, there may be Australian common rules, but at the present moment I cannot recall any other industry in which it is likely. Even in the mining industry, which has been alluded to, the circumstances of Kimberley, Kalgoorlie, and Gippsland are so entirely different that we can sca tce! v imagine a common rule being proposed that would apply to those three places. Now under the proposal of the honorable and learned member for Corinella, as the Minister of External Affairs has admitted, the essential condition under which a common rule or award is called for, is when there is competition. If this Continent were divided into water-tight compartments, in regard to any particular industry, and an industry in one part could not come into competition with a similar industry in another part, there can scarcely be a reason for asking for a common rule within those divisions. The honorable member for Corinella proposes that competition shall be the test of I lie common rule. The honorable member for Darling has admitted that this does not, on a liberal interpretation, impose any important restriction. But it does afford an additional security to those who may be doubtful about the operation of this measure. It is a small restriction, indeed, but it does give a guarantee. A similar limitation has been in existence in New Zealand for more than three years. It was slightly amended in 1903, showing that it has passed under criticism. But nothing has been done in the way of impairing it, and it does afford a guarantee to the public that the common rule does not call for any unnecessary exercise of authority. Whenever the conditions of competition may call for it, it may be applied. But when there is no competition, cases are left to be settled by an ordinary award. I understand that the honorable and learned member for Corinella does not pin himself to the phraseology which he has used, but that he is willing to leave it to the Government. I commend the matter to them.
– I think we ought to have a division.
– The Government have agreed to consider the point, and as we have nearly reached the usual hour for adjournment, and especially as we have done a fair amount of work to-night, I think we might leave it with the Government.
– We have not done very much.
– We may not have done very much so far as concerns the number of clauses that have been passed, but so far as concerns fundamental questions, we have done as much to-night as we have done on any night. We now have our fingers on the vital parts of the Bill. This clause is the very crux of the measure. Here are the powers of the Court, and here are the terms on which those powers can be exercised. When we have disposed of clause 48 we shall have very little but machinery clauses. remaining to be dealt with. It seems to me that the adoption of the principle of the amendment would afford a kind of public guarantee that the common rule would not be applied in a wanton fashion.
– I do not think it is likely to be so applied.
– I think not. I agree that the distinction as to competition in production is the keynote, but think that it may be enlarged in the case of transport workers. If we define work and transport widely enough, we shall bring in even the coach-drivers, the carriers, and the wharf labourers. In fact, I think there is an American or an Australian decision that already brings in wharf labourers. Tt is desirable to give the public a guarantee that this provision with regard to the common rule is not to be exercised unless it is really needed. It is quite possible that gold miners might be brought in under the operation of the common rule, in, say, Ballarat and Gippsland, but gold miners in Kalgoorlie and Kimberley could hardly be brought under its operation without straining it. In the same way it might apply to coal miners working under similar conditions. But it certainly would not be wise to have a common rule applied equally to miners in New South Wales, Victoria, and, say, Kimberley. Those are the points for consideration. It seems to me that the mind of the Committee tends in one direction, and that we shall be able to shape an amendment which will be acceptable to both sides,, and at the same time give the public the guarantee, to which I have referred, for what it is worth - and it will be worth something to those in remote places like Kimberley and Kalgoorlie.
– -I must say that I am rather afraid that the adoption of the amendment in its present shape would go even further than the honorable and learned member for Corinella at present intends. The mere fact of putting an indication in the clause that competition is to be the keynote of the common rule - because I think that that is what it would amount to - would incline the Court to look for substantial competition.
– Real competition.
– I think that the Court would carry that as far as language would allow it to be carried, because it might reasonably be argued that the intention of Parliament, in inserting the words, was that, before the common rule should be extended, competition should be absolutely proved, as affecting conditions of employment.
– The word “ substantial “ was in the first draft of my amendment, but I crossed it out.
– The honorable and learned member argued that there is some form of competition in the production of wool, inasmuch as it is all sent, to London, so that when there is an immense oversupply prices fall, whilst when there is a shortage they rise; but that might not operate sufficiently in the minds of the Judge to merit it being regarded as substantial competition. In that case, the shearers, to deal with whom the Bill was admittedly introduced, would be left out of account altogether.
– No ; but they would be left out of the application of the common rule.
– Cannot the Prime Minister trust the Court?
– Certainly, if the Court is not bound by language which goes even further perhaps than the Committee contemplate. It is the honorable member for Corinella who is not trusting the Court. I am prepared to trust it by leaving out all restrictions upon the application of the common rule.
– Then the Bill might consist of one clause, saying that a Court shall arbitrate.
– Sooner than restrict the Court in this way, I would give it absolute freedom of action.
– If arbitration were to be confined to disputes extending beyond a State, a Bill of six clauses would do.
– Possibly. As a layman, it at first seemed to me that a much simpler Bill than that drafted would have met the case, except in regard to the extension to oversea ships, to deal with which I have given notice of amendments to-night. The amendment of the honorable and learned member for Corinella seems capable of being construed in a very restrictive sense indeed, and to an extent that would almost abolish the common rule as a feature of the Bill. It does not give that consideration to industries connected with transportation indicated by the honorable and learned member for Ballarat.
– I explained my reasons for submitting the amendment in its present form, leaving it capable of the expansion referred to, if the Committee thought fit.
– The honorable and learned member for_ Ballarat referred to the bringing in by common rule of States other than those disturbed by the original dispute. I admit that that is one of the features of the common rule. Of course there is in the minds of every person who has not seen a great deal of the working of this kind of legislation, a natural alarm as to how far it may go.
– And a greater alarm in the minds of many who have seen the working of it. =
– I do not think that there is any real danger to justify fear, so far as the New South Wales experience is concerned. What I wish to point out in regard to the argument of the honorable and learned member for Ballarat is that the common rule will have a value apart from any question of its extension to States, other than those originally concerned.
– Practically there will always be competition between the two States concerned.
– It will depend upon the industry. But a dispute extending from New South Wales into Victoria may affect only a portion of an industry in each State. The organizations of employes bringing it before the Court may not represent all those employed- in the industry in the two States affected, while the employers cited may not include all the employers. Therefore, in respect to either employes or employers application may very properly be made to the Court to extend the award by way of common rule to others engaged in the industry in those States.
– - There practically must be competition in such a case.
– Not in all .instances. For instance, the gold-mining industry might be concerned.
– In that case there would be competition amongst the workmen.
– In the absence of restrictive legislation, or of the restriction created by trades unions, there would be competition. The ordinary law of supply and demand would apply, so that the greater the number of workmen offering the smaller would be the remuneration, and vice versa. But would that be a form of competition which the Court would hold In be real and substantial, assuming that my original idea as to the construction which the Court would put upon the proviso is correct ?
– - That depends upon the phrasing of it.
– I admit that it can be modified to get rid of these doubts.
– Why not take until tomorrow to think the matter over? It is important.
– I admit its importance. Perhaps it is worth thinking over. It must be remembered that it was to get over a verv real difficulty that, this was introduced in New Zealand.
– The reason for its introduction is not so obvious here.
– If the honorable and learned member had heard what was told to me, he no doubt would .appreciate my feeling in the matter. In New Zealand they had four separate industrial districts, and there was an unwillingness to depart from that plan. But it was shown clearly that there was competition between the products of one district and those of another, and the acceptance of competition as the criterion or key-note of the common rule was the only practicable method under the circumstances of getting over the difficulty, and, at the same time, maintaining the original districts. It is not necessary to prove, to secure the application of a common rule within an industrial district, that there is competition there. The idea of insuring that competition shall be proved before a common rule can be extended beyond the boundaries of the industrial district to which it was originally applied was adopted in New Zealand by way ‘of compromise. It was a compromise between the representatives of the Auckland district, which, from the point of view of the other districts, had been recalcitrant, and the other members of the House, who were urging that a general common rule should be applied over the whole of the Colony. Therefore, it was not in the nature of a well-thought-out proposal from the point of view of those who wished to make the Act effective, so much as the best scheme that could be adopted under the circumstances.
– It has worked very well for three years, and has been availed of in several cases.
– Quite so, and as compared with the previous state of affairs, and from the stand-point of those who desired to see something approaching equal conditions of industry, it was very valuable. At the same time, being a compromise, it does not afford “the same example to us as it would have done if it had been adopted as the best solution of the difficulty apart from the special circumstances. I do not say that these circumstances preclude us from considering the scheme, but it is certainly less valuable than it otherwise might have been. Perhaps, it would be as well to allow a little time for consideration, and I am quite willing to report progress at this stage.
Mr. FISHER laid upon the table the following papers : -
Statement showing exports of hides, sheepskins, and rags, 1901, 1902, 1903.
Reports in regard to opium-smoking in Victoria, South Australia, and Western Australia.
House adjourned at 10.42 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 16 June 1904, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1904/19040616_reps_2_19/>.