2nd Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I wish to know from the Prime Minister if his attention has been directed to certain statements which have been published by Lt. -Col. Neild in the Australian’ press, and in an English journal, reflecting upon the condition of our troops and our military equipment generally, the assertion being made that our supply of rifles is not up to war strength, while a number of other statements are made which, on the face of them, are not very correct? Will the Prime Minister take steps to contradict those statements as publicly as they have been made?
– My colleague, the Minister of Defence, has taken notice of the statements of Lt. -Col. Neild to the extent of showing how far they are from being correct. He has taken that step publicly, though I do not know whether the Minister’s contradiction conveys all that the honorable member for Eden-Monaro desires. Most of us, while admitting that the condition of our armaments and the equipment of our forces is not all that we wish, know that the condition of affairs is not nearly so bad as it has been represented to be by the statements published by Lt.-Col. Neild. My honorable colleague has pointed that out, and has, I think, definitely disposed of the general body of the assertions put forward by that officer.
– Does not the Prime Minister think it wise that a contradiction should be sent to the English journal in which the statements of Lt.-Col. Neild have appeared ? Does he think that a very reserved statement, such as he has just made, to the effect that our armaments are not as good as we should like them to be, is sufficient? Would it not be wise, in the interests of the country, that a definite statement as to the rifles we have should be made, and sent to the journal in question ?
– I will bring the matter under the notice of my honorable colleague.
– Does not the Prime Minister consider it advisable, seeing that the statements complained of have been 4 p made by a military officer in the service of the Commonwealth, that further steps should be taken with a’ view to prevent anything of the kind happening in future?
– That aspect of the case is, I understand, now under the consideration of my honorable colleague.
– Is it not subversive of military discipline for an officer occupying the position in the Military Forces of the Commonwealth held by Lt.-Col. Neild to write in the strain in which he has written ? Has he not brought himself within the purview of a court martial by publishing such statements?
– In Mexico they would shoot him.
– I am not sufficiently versed in the etiquette of the profession of arms to be able to give off-hand an opinion on that aspect of the question; but, as I informed the honorable member for Herbert, the whole matter is under the consideration of the Minister of Defence.
– Is it not a fact that the late Minister of Defence, replying to a question asked in this House, stated that our supply of rifles and ammunition was up to war strength, and that subsequently the, position has been further improved by savings effected by the Defence Department? The statement of the Prime Minister, in reply to the charges of Lt.Col. Neild is that the position is not nearly so bad as the latter has asserted it to be. That is a rather qualified rebuttal of Lt.-Col. Neild’s charges.- I think that we should have, as nearly as possible, a complete statement of the position, so that we may know who is correct in this matter.
– If the honorable member means a complete statement of the condition and extent of our munitions of war, I do not think that it would be proper to place such information upon the table and to make it public.
– If our war supplies are up to war strength, a statement to that effect might be made.
– A general statement such as that might be made, but it is not usual for a Government to disclose, for the benefit of all and sundry, their exact resources in regard to munitions of war. I shall, of course, lay all the matters mentioned before the Minister of Defence, and obtain his advice as to how far w= may reassure the public by a statement as to the actual condition of affairs.
– I think that the House should receive some information in regard to this matter.
– The honorable member must not enter upon a discussion. He is entitled only to ask a question.
– Inasmuch as we expend something like ^800.000 a year upon defence, is it not right thai: we should be informed in regard to the position generally., more especially in view of the serious charges which have been made by an officer of the Commonwealth Forces? Apparently the Prime Minister, after a consultation with the Minister of Defence, can sec his way to give only the qualified answer that the position is not nearly so bad as it has been said to be.
– The honorable member makes a misstatement in saying that I spoke after consultation wilh the Minister of Defence, because I had no knowledge that these questions would be asked this morning, and, therefore, had no opportunity to consult my colleague upon the subjectmatter of the inquiry. As a private member, I myself, acting upon information supplied to the first Minister of Defence, stated in this Chamber that, in my opinion, we should make further provision in the way of armaments and munitions of war, and a few weeks ago, in putting forward the Government policy, I informed honorable members that this Ministry intend to do that. Under these circumstances, it would be folly for me to say that the position as to our armaments and so on is absolutely satisfactory. I do not think it will be satisfactory until we have an absolute reserve supply, and a sufficiently large number of rifles and a big’ enough store of other munitions of war to equip more than the war strength provided for in the scheme furnished by Major-General Hutton.
– Did not the late Minister say that a large saving had been effected, and the money used to provide munitions of war?
– As I indicated the other evening, when speaking upon the Supplementary Estimates, a sum of nearly ^50,000 was diverted - I think properly - by the late Minister of Defence and the late Treasurer from some less urgent expenditure to provide reserve ammunition and armaments, chiefly in the nature of rifles.
– The Government are robbing Peter to pay Paul. They are taking away half the Fremantle fortifications.
– All the money voted for the Fremantle fort could not have been spent this year in any case, because of engineering difficulties which stood in the way. However, we have no intention to leave Fremantle defenceless. I shall bring the whole matter under the notice of my honorable colleague, and shall consult him as to the best way to meet the charges which have been referred to, which are undoubtedly, in their general tenor, incorrect and improper.
– The article in question contained a gross libel upon an arm of the service’ with which the writer is not connected - the Mounted Forces. Under these circumstances, I ask the Prime Minister whether inquiry should not be made to ascertain the correctness or otherwise of the statements complained of, so that a stigma which, in my opinion, they do not deserve, may be removed from a number of men who did valuable service in the field - where, I. understand, the officer who makes the statements was not considered competent to bear a part.
– I shall have inquiries made into that aspect of the question, too.
– I understand that a proposal has been made for rendering our cadet system more efficient, and I wish to know from trie Prime Minister if the question has been dealt with. I should also like to be informed, seeing that there are now two Committees of this Parliament, inquiring into military matters, whether he has considered the advisableness of appointing a Commission on lines similar to those followed in England, to inquire into the whole condition of our Military Forces. Although in England they have had centuries of experience in practical warfare, whereas we have only on one or two occasions had any connexion with it, they have considered it advisable to appoint a Commission such as I suggest should be appointed here.
– It must be remembered that it is impossible to arrange these important services all at once, or to provide all that we wish to provide for the improvement of our defence. We would all like to be in a position, if necessity arose, to put into the field every adult in Australia, equipped and armed. That is the ideal to be aimed at, but we cannot expect to attain it all at once. The last Government, as they went on. shaped and trimmed our military organization very largely, and we hope to do something further in that direction. But I do not at present see the need for a Commission such as the honorable member suggests. I shall have the matter inquired into when the Cabinet are considering the military estimates and the policy to be pursued in regard to defence.
– The English Government have appointed a Military Board of Advice.
– The English War Office is much older than ours, and for that reason has become encrusted with excrescences, so that it is more difficult to reform. Ours is merely a tentative system.
– I think that upon investigation the Minister will see that there is need for some reform.
– Yes; but our whole system could be changed by a stroke of the Minister’s pen, whereas the position is very different in England. There they were forced to appoint a Board of Advice, because, without the weight of the recommendations of an independent body such as that, the Department could not have been moved. In Australia, fortunately, we can move in these things very quickly. I shall have the matter inquired into.
– Is there any truth in the rumour that the gentleman in question has been appointed Field Marshal of the Chinese Army in Manchuria to succeed General Ma?
– I have heard nothing of the matter.
– I desire to ask the Minister of Home Affairs whether his attention has been directed to a letter which appears in the Argus of to-day, stating that one of the Deputy Returning Officers for the electoral division of Wannon has not yet received payment for his services at the last general election. The writer affirms that the officer was paid a certain sum upon one occasion, and that he received a few shillings upon another; also, that a third small payment was made. Cannot some arrangement be made to fully satisfy the claims of electoral officers, instead of paying them in driblets ?
– I did not see in the newspaper to which the honorable member has referred any letter from a divisional returning officer; but I did see an anonymous letter referring to the non-payment of certain electoral claims in connexion with the Wannon division. If the officer concerned would apply to me direct, 1 should be able to say whether or not his statements are true. All deferred claims are being examined most carefully. In the Argus of this morning I observed another letter, in which reference is made to my preMinisterial attitude upon this question, and it is suggested that that attitude has recently undergone a change. I desire to say that, inasmuch as I could have taken up no preMinisterial attitude on matters of which I had absolutely no cognisance, there can have been no change in my opinions. Every claim made by an electoral officer for payment is being inquired into, and the accounts are being settled almost off-hand.
– But were not these accounts forwarded to the Department months ago? Surely they should have been settled.
– The accounts which remain unpaid are those which have been disputed. They are cases in which there is a very material difference of opinion between the officers and the Department as to the importance and value of the work performed.
– Should not all officers have known what they were to receive ?
– It would have been a great deal better had they done so. Arrangements have now been made which will prevent a repetition of these claims. At future elections every officer, before entering upon his duties, will know definitely the payment which he is to receive for his services. At the last election,’ which was the first conducted under the Commonwealth law, it was very difficult for the Department: to decide what was a fair remuneration for certain work, and to secure electoral officers who would undertake it at that rate. Both the scale of remuneration and the character of the work differed in the various States, and the attempt by the Department to establish a uniform rate of pay failed. The officers had had no experience of the work that would be required of them under the Act. That has been the cause of all the trouble in reference to the settlement of claims. As accounts are received, and the Department is satisfied that an officer has not been treated as liberally as he should have been, further payments are made. I assume that that is the reason why the officer referred to by the honorable member for Wannon has received several payments.
– I desire to call the attention of the right honorable member for Swan to a statement which appears in this morning’s Argus. It has reference to the new clauses dealing with oversea shipping, which the Government propose to insert in the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill. If: reads as follows: -
Sir John Forrest, who was seen, said that the proposal of the Ministry would strike a serious blow at Western Australia. After spending £1,250,000 on the Fremantle harbor, the people of that State would not be able to make _ any use of the mail steamers that called there. ‘ He regretted that the other members from Western Australia were so bound to the Labour Government that they could not make a protest against this treatment of their State in the only way that an effective protest could be made.
I desire to ask whether the right honorable member accepts that statement as being made with his authority.
– Most certainly I do. The sentiments expressed in the paragraph in question are mine, and I said a great deal more, which will doubtless appear in the Western Australian newspaper published in Perth, to-day. What I intended to convey was, that the Western Australian members of the Labour Party are not able to make their protest in the only effective way possible, namely, by withdrawing their allegiance from the present Government.
– Seeing that the Western Australian representatives who are members of the Labour Party have publiclypledged themselves to resist any attempt to apply the common rule to the oversea mail steamers - that their attitude upon this, question is well known, and has been ‘emphasized upon more than one occasion in this House-
– I acknowledge that.
– I ask why the right honorable member -for Swan persists in making statements which are so absolutely opposed to facts?
– In reply, I desire to say that I quite believe the Western Australian members of the Labour Party will adhere to their hustings pledges. I have never said anything to the contrary. But I would point out that merely to vote against a particular clause in a Bill is a very different matter from withdrawing support from a Government which is working all this mischief. If great injury is done by the Labour Party Government to Western Australia, the West Australian Labour members must take the responsibility-
– It will be done only in a particular measure.
– The power and influence of the Western Australian members of the Labour Party to prevent the proposals of the Government being attempted or carried out is as nothing compared with what it would be if they told the Prime Minister that, in the event of the Government persisting in their antiWestern Australian proposals, they would withdraw their support from it.
– I desire to ask the honorable member for Fremantle whether he is prepared to extend to Tasmania the same treatment ?
– Order. I am afraid we are degenerating into a debate on this question, and I do not think I ought to allow that.
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
Whether any further steps have been taken lately to select a site for a barracks in place of the Victoria Barracks, Sydney ?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
It has been suggested that the Commonwealth might accept from the State, in lieu of the Victorian Barracks, Paddington, a less expensive site, which would answer the purposes of the Department of Defence. Several sites have been submitted, and are under consideration, but no decision has been arrived at.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 1 6th June, vide page 2424):
Clause 46, as amended -
The Court shall, as regards every industrial dispute of which it has cognizance, -have power
Upon which Mr. McCay had moved by way of amendment -
That after the word “ arises,” line 9, the following words 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 the organizations parties to the dispute.”
– As an individual who entertains moderate views, who recognises that this Bill contains some provisions which will prove useful and valuable in the case of certain industries, but who does not desire the measure to be pushed to extremes, I welcome this amendment. I was particularly pleased with the explanation of it which was given by the honorable and learned member for Ballarat. In legislation of this kind, it is very necessary that we should, as far as possible, allay public anxiety in the event of industrial troubles arising. There is no doubt that the adoption of this amendment will’ allay public fear to a very considerable extent.’ Up to the present we have had no experience of any value in -Australia of the application of the common rule. I am aware. that in a few instances it has been applied in New South Wales, but the Act has ,not been in operation long enough to allow us to judge of its general effect.
– Do I understand the honorable member to say that we have had no experience of the common rule in Australia ?
– We have had very little experience of it.
– Does not the common rule apply to the association to which the honorable member belongs?
– What association is that ?
– The Medical Association.
– What is the common rule of which the honorable member speaks ?
An Honorable Member. - License to kill.
– One honorable member says that the doctors are licensed to kill. That, however, is not a common rule, but a common law. I am dealing with this question from a business stand-point, and not from that of a medical man. We have to consider how the application of the common rule will affect non-unionist employes. Honorable members upon this side of the Chamber represent the employers and nonunionists. We admit that honorable members opposite represent the unionist employes. I am quite prepared to grant that the application of this rule will prove of considerable value, to unionists. Nevertheless, it will prove a very serious matter to non-unionists.
– Is the honorable member speaking from experience ?
– I am speaking from the little experience we have had of it in Australia. From time to time we have heard much of the working of the New Zealand Conciliation and Arbitration Act, and have been told of benefits that it has conferred on all classes of the community ; but as soon as it is proposed to embody in this Bill a provision which, as the honorable and learned member for Corinella has pointed out, appears in the New Zealand Act, the Prime Minister, who poses as a strong champion of that Act, raises objections, and resists what is in reality a moderate proposal, designed to make this legislation more acceptable to the general community. I should like to see the display of a reasonable degree of consistency. We hear honorable members from time to time making assertions with regard to one clause and one class of persons that are wholly in conflict with statements they have made in reference to another clause and another class. What we evidently require is a permanent record, not merely on the pages of Hansard, but on our brains, of what we have said on previous occasions, so that we may be able to preserve some semblance of consistency. This is a very moderate and proper amendment, and I hope that it will be agreed to. We need above all things consistent legislation which, while not imposing hardship on any section of the community, will be generally acceptable to the people of Australia, and make the Federation eventually more popular than it now is.
– I support the amendment as being likely to make this legislation less objectionable, but even if we agree to it, the Bill will go a great deal further than the necessities of the position require. The further we proceed with our consideration of the Bill the more we appear to forget the conditions under which it was first proposed. We should remember, when dealing with the question of the common rule, that the wages and the hours of labour prevailing throughout the great bulk of the industries of the Commonwealth are based on’ what experience has shown will allow a reasonable margin of profit to the employer, and that in nineteen cases out of twenty they are admitted to be fair by both employers and employes. Unfortunately, we find that in almost e-very industry there are exceptional cases. On the one hand, we may have a grasping employer, who desires to reap undue advantages at the expense of other employers, by calling upon his workers to do more than he should reasonably expect, while on the other we have in some cases employes who are unduly and unnecessarily aggressive. These elements have, on rare occasions, led to strikes and locks-out that have been productive of much evil, and with a view to cure that evil it was proposed that some measure of this kind should be introduced. The intention was that it should deal only with the particular cases in which the evil existed ; but we propose now to go further, and to establish new conditions based, not upon what experience has shown an industry can afford, but on the sweet will of that mysterious entity which we choose to call “ the Court.” The Court-means, after all, only one man, and, perhaps a very commonplace individual. I have no hesitation in saying that if we allow any one to recklessly alter the, conditions, based on experience of what the various industries can pay, that have grown up in Australia, we shall do far more harm than good. I have supported this Bill as earnestly as any one’ to the extent that I think it necessary that it should go, in order to cure known evils, but I go no further. If . the Bill is allowed to go beyond that limit, it will probably result in the destruction of a number of industries, and the throwing of hundreds, and, perhaps, thousands, of persons out of employment. I am sorry to saythat, when we speak of the Court, some of us appear to be inclined to lose our heads. We seem to imagine that the Court will be endowed with superhuman intelligence, and will be able to do that which no human being has been able to satisfactorily perform - that it will be able to consider the intricacies of all trades, and to prescribe a remedy for every evil associated with them. Most of us have read of the way in which Sairey Gamp invested her mythical friend, “ Mrs. Harris,” with all the attributes of human excellence that her imagination could conjure up, and we remember how rudely her idol was shattered when Betsey Prig declared, on a memorable occasion, “ I don’t believe there’s no sich person.” If we could learn in advance of the name of the gentleman who will constitute the Court, should we have such confidence in his judg- ment as we seem at present to profess ? If we could speak of the Court as “ Tom Jones,” or by whatever is the name of the individual who is to constitute it, we should, perhaps, not have such unbounded: faith in it. There is very little doubt that we are all acquainted with the gentleman: who is to constitute the Court. If the Court were established in advance, we should know what we were doing, and should not speak of this tribunal with such bated breath, and in such termsof reverence as we do now. We should speak of the man who’ constituted it as we knew him. The gentleman to be selected will probably have the confidence of almost every honorable member. I have no doubt that the most suitable man who can be selected for the position will be chosen ; but he will be only human, and if we knew exactly who he was to be, we should not be disposed any longer to regard him as being able to deal with all the evils that may arise. The duty of dealing with a known evil is very different from that of dealing with cases in which it will be necessary to establish entirely new conditions. It would be utterly impossible for any human being to establish new conditions not based on past experience. What will the Judge have to guide him unless it be the experience of that which already exists? If he is to take the casesalready existing in connexion with the various industries, there will be no necessity for a common rule. A common rule should apply only to exceptional cases. The rates of wages and hours of labour to be fixed should be those which at present prevail in the great majority of industries throughout the Commonwealth; but the exceptional cases in which unduly low wages are paid should be dealt with, and the wages raised to the standard of the others. I would not go so far as to say that men who, asthe result perhaps of having exceptionallygood management, are able to pay something more than the average rate, should be compelled, as they would be by the application of the common, rule, to reduce their wages to the rates ruling throughout the great bulk of the industries. That would not be fair. If those who conduct businesses that are exceptionally profitable find that they can pay high wages, Why should we not permit them to do so? Why should we step in and say, “After this; you must not pay more than a certain wage?” It is impossible to reduce any industry to one dead level. Every business man of experience knows that some persons pay the wages prevailing throughout the industry in which they are engaged, and perhaps make fortunes ; whilst others in the same line become bankrupt. Why attempt to level human nature when we know that it is not equal? Some employers can pay a good deal more then Others, and we should content ourselves with dealing with those cases in which unreasonably low wages are given. If we bring the wages paid in those cases up to the general average, we shall not require to apply any common rule; and instead of endeavouring to level an industry from end to end it will be necessary to deal only with the diseased portion of it. That is all I thought was intended when this Bill was introduced. I never imagined that it was proposed to do more than deal with the abuses that arise in every industry. The Wages Boards created tinder the Victorian Factories Act were appointed only to raise the wages in those branches of business in which unduly low rates were paid. Whilst I administered that Act I appointed more Wages Boards than did my predecessors, but in every case I first made a very careful investigation. The result of my investigations was that nineteen out of twenty, and I might even say ninety-nine out of every 100, were found to be paying fair wages, and their men admitted that they’ did. But there were a few exceptional cases in each trade where individual employers paid absurdly low wages. My object in appointing Wages Boards was to bring the wages in those cases up to the ordinary or average level of wages paid by the other employers. There was never any intention on my part to pull down wages, as is proposed by the institution of this common rule. I think it is a mischievous interference with the generous employer who is doing well, and is prepared to pay more than the ruling wage. The operation of this common rule provision will prevent his doing so, and if he desires to do so, I ask, why we should not permit him to do so? Mr. Fisher. - He will be able to do so under this provision.
– He will not if we establish a common rule.
– He can give as much more than the ruling wages as he pleases.
– Then to do so he will have to go behind the Act.
– No; it would be quite in conformity with the Act for him to give as much more than the wage fixed by the common rule as he pleases. That is done frequently in New South Wales. Wages much higher than those fixed by the Court are paid in some cases.
– We know that the object of the common rule is to establish a rate of payment–
– A minimum rate.
– It is not a minimum rate.
– It is, and it is nothing else.
– In any case, honorable members opposite are doing all they can to discourage the generous employer from giving more than the wages fixed by the common rule.
– Not at all. He will be better able to give more when his competitors are compelled to give fair wages.
– Can honorable members opposite give a single reason, based. upon common sense, why we should interfere in cases where no disputes have, arisen, where employers and employes are working harmoniously together?
– The honorable gentleman did it himself under the Factories Act in Victoria by the introduction of the Wages Boards.
– I observe the seraphic smile beaming on the countenance of the honorable member for Darling. We know what that honorable member said here the other night. He said, “ Give us this Bill, and we shall very soon get up a dispute, and we shall very soon extend it beyond the limits of a State.”
– That is not correct.
– My honorable friend sees before him a rich harvest of the kind in which he has been accustomed to revel in the past.
– We cannot work up a dispute where there is no grievance.
– I know that my honorable friend is well able to induce people ‘to believe that they have a grievance.
– What was the institution of the Wages Boards under the Victorian Factories Act but the application of a common rule to all engaged ‘in a particular industry.
– Yes; and it made the minimum wage the maximum in every instance.
– It did nothing of the sort.
– When the Victorian Factories Bill was being framed I took a very great deal of interest in it, and later on I took great interest in the administration of the law. My only reason for establishing Wage Boards was to cure a few cases where employers were paying absurdly low wages.
– To fix a common rule.
– To bring the wages paid in those cases up to the level of fair wages.
– Hear, hear.
– To that extent I am prepared to go heart and soul with the honorable gentleman in this Bill ; but honorable members opposite propose to go a long way beyond that. They are proposing to give power to the Court to fix an arbitrary level. What is the object of the common rule, if it is not to fix a new standard of pay and hours of labour on the judgment of one individual, as opposed to the experience of the whole of our past industrial life ? That is the object of the common rule proposed under this Bill, and that is how it will operate. I can see that a great deal of injury may result from it in the future. It appears to me tb,at where we have one ounce of useful, beneficent legislation, we load it with more than a pound of mischievous matter, which will do more harm than good. I ask honorable members opposite to try to be reasonable. If they would only be reasonable, and propose to deal with actual grievances, honorable members would be united in supporting them. But when they propose to dislocate trade, and to make the success or non-success of our future industrial life dependent on the judgment of one individual whom they dignify by the name of “ the Court,” they are going a great deal too far. They are treading on very dangerous ground, and I am afraid that when it is too late they will find out that they are doing more harm to the people whom they desire, and I believe honestly desire, to benefit, than they dream of at the present time. I say this as one who has had some experience of business, and who knows what he is speaking about. I hope that the Government will at least accept the amendment pf the honorable and learned member for Corinella. It is in the right direction, but the very terms of that, amendment show that it also goes too far It provides for the establishment of a com mon rule where there is any competition between the parties affected. That shows distinctly that it is a new standard that is sought to be created.
– Was it not exactly the same under the honorable member’s Wages Boards ?
– No, this is widely “different. In the first place the provision in the Victorian Act for Wages Boards was brought into operation only after an investigation of the conditions of a particular trade. A common rule is not established by an award of a Wages Board.
– Did it not apply to th* whole metropolitan area?
– It applied to the industry in each case.
-The Wages Boards took into consideration one particular industry.
– That is all this Bill proposes to do.
– It proposes to deal with an individual case, but the moment, the Court has dealt with that case the common rule is applied to the whole of the industry. My experience in the administration of the. Victorian Factories Act was that the employers were almost as anxious as were the employes for the appointment of Wages Boards. Thev used to tell me the reason. They said, “We pay a fair wage to our men, and they all admit it, but we have to compete with those who pay miserably low wages.” Those were very few in number. I . believe that if I said they constituted one out of every twenty I should be overstating their number. I do not think there was anything like that proportion of employers who paid an unduly low rate of wages. The Wages Boards were brought into operation merely to remedy the evil existing in those cases. But we knew, after investigation, who would be affected by the awards of the Wages Boards. We could put .our hands on the individual who would be affected. Honorable members opposite will not be able to do that in the case of an award fixing a common rule.
– This Bill will do exactly the same thing.
– It will do nothing of the kind. A common rule, under this Bill, will apply over the continent of Australia, and will affect people whom the persons fixing the common rule have never heard of. It is all very well, to say that notice will be given to persons affected, to be represented. Why, in the name of common sense, should we compel a person who may be carrying on some little industry, or engaged in mining, a thousand miles away in the interior of this continent, and who may have no grievance whatever with, his employers, or they with him, to send a delegate to the Court to give reasons why he should not be interfered with ? That is a mischievous interference with industry. Is it any wonder that, in the face of all this kind of thing, we are losing our population as rapidly as people can go away from us ? It is all very well for the Prime Minister to laugh.
– I do laugh, considering that Victoria was losing population when the State was without this legislation.
– We never lost population before we began this legislation.
– The honorable member’s legislation ?
– Of course, after the collapse of the banks and other financial institutions in 1892, we had a short period of depression before we began this legislation. I think I should be right in saying that that period of depression was concurrent with the introduction of this legislation. I was a supporter of this legislation.
– The honorable member has been one of those who has been ruining the country by introducing this legislation.
– I did not do it for the reason confessed by my honorable and learned friend last night, when he said, in connexion with these industrial disputes, that they were very profitable to himself.
– No, I did not say that.
– I never made any personal profit out of legislation, and if my honorable and learned friend is actuated by any motives of that kind he cannot expect my sympathy.
– That is not fair.
– I did not say that.
– When the honorable and learned gentleman was speaking across the table to the honorable and learned member for Wannon, he told him that his connexion with these institutions had always paid him - that he had made it pay.
– I did not.
– That is not our object.
– I did not say that.
– If my honorable and learned friend wishes to withdraw-
– There is no withdrawal.
– No; I did not say that.
– I accept the honorable and learned gentleman’s denial, but we shall see from Hansard what he did say.
– I did not say that. Will not the honorable gentleman accept that statement ?
– Order. The honorabe member for Gippsland has accepted the honorable and learned gentleman’s denial.
– I do not go so far as to say that this legislation is the cause of our losing our population. I do not think that it has had much to do with it, but I do say emphatically that it is. since we began this legislation that a serious loss of our population has occurred. I say, further, that I know from personal experience - though I do not admit that there was a justification for it - that this legislation has been the cause of the withdrawal of a great deal of capital from investment in industries that would have given a great deal of employment in Victoria.
– Not in those industries which come under the Wages Boards.
– I believe that those who possess capital were unduly alarmed, and without sufficient cause, but that they were alarmed I know, because in my own experience I am aware of many individuals who have withdrawn capital from industrial enterprises. I know also of persons who have been deterred from establishing industries here by the fear of what might result from this kind of legislation. I know that when we go too far in this direction we run a great risk not only of closing some of our existing industries, but also of preventing people investing money in the establishment of new industries, which, if established, would give a great deal of employment, and would -attract population t’o our shores instead of driving it away. I feel strongly upon this matter, because I am perfectly sure that the extent to which it is proposed to push this legislation seriously menaces the future welfare of the Commonwealth. I wish, at least, to have the satisfaction of placing my views on record, although, in the present temper of our honorable friends opposite, I fear that they will have but very little effect.
– After the remarkable speech by the honorable member for Gippsland, one might readily be excused for asking whether he is the same gentleman who assisted in placing on the statute-book of Victoria a set of laws which, in my opinion, does credit to himself and the Parliament of which he was then a member. Why should such heat be introduced into this discussion? The object of the Victorian legislation was the relief of employes, who are under-paid and sweated, and who live under conditions far from just and equitable ; and I cannot understand how the honorable member for Gippsland can now condemn a provision which has exactly the same end in view. I cannot see that the amendment is very important, or can be very effective.
– Then accept it.
– I suppose that the honorable and learned member for Corinella, like, many legal gentlemen, implies that it is impossible for a layman to see anything ?
– I am merely asking why you do not accept the amendment, if it be. such as you describe.
– It is not necessary te introduce an amendment, which only makes the clause more confusing than it was originally.
– The amendment modifies, the clause.
– That is not so; and I shall show the position as it appears to me. The clause deals with the application of an award to the industries affected ; and honorable members of the Opposition, who talk so much about placing too much confidence in the Judge, seem to lose sight of the fact that our whole system of jurisprudence implies confidence in our Judiciary.
– But there is no appeal from this Court.
– I know there is no appeal in the ordinary sense of the term, but the Judge may apply to the High Court as to points of law about which he is in doubt.
– There is no appeal in the proper sense of the term.
– I know there is no appeal according to the usual methods. I have no hesitation in giving the Judge the power proposed, because the Court has the right to review any award on the production of new evidence that the award is operating unjustly or hardly on any section of employers or employed. There may- be no right of appeal, but this Court can do what other Courts cannot do, viz., review’ cases in the light of new evidence. The amendment indicates that the honorable and learned member for Corinella is afraid that, under the clause as it stands, the Court, iri applying the common rule, may be inclined! to extend that rule all over the Commonwealth, without regard to common-sense or reason. I have seen the common rule in. operation in New South Wales, and remember the discussion which took place on the clause in the Parliament of that State; and the object of such legislation is to bring into line competing industries, one section of which has appealed to the Court and obtained an award. The Court would never think for a moment or reducing wages which, in the same industry in another State, were higher than those fixed by an award. That would be no part of the business of the Court. The very fact that in a certain industry - in, s»ay, Western Australia - wageswere higher than in some of the other States would be clear proof that the conditions were different, and the Judge, as a. man of common-sense, would realize the position disclosed by the evidence. Under such circumstances there could be no danger of the application of a common rule ; the only result would be the raising of lower wages to the level of the rate fixed by the award.
– Is - it not natural to suppose that the higher rate of wages would come down to the minimum ?
– That has not been the experience where a similar law is in operation.
– Does the honorable member think that an employer wishes for charity’s sake to pay higher wages than he need?
– I do not quite catch the question. The honorable member seems to have a habit of ruminating on a discussion, and of putting little puzzling, questions at inopportune times. I happen to be in a position different from that occupied by the honorable member, inasmuch as I have had experience both as an employer and as anemploye1; and I, therefore, .possess knowledge which, owing to his environment, he cannot have obtained. Honorable members on this side have not only had experience as employes, but have had as keen an association with employers and their interests as has the honorable member or any of those who taught him what he knows.
– -We are not considering the interests of employers, but the interests of the country.
– I arn discussing the point raised by the honorable member’s irrelevant interjection.
– The honorable member for Gwydir need not notice interjections.
– I realize that fact, Mr. Chairman, and I also realize that if the practice of interjecting had not been indulged in so largely, this discussion would have been shortened to a very material degree. Personally, I prefer neither to interject nor to notice interjections. The opponents of the clause have a fear that the Court will bring down the higher wages paid in States other than that in which the award is given - that wages will be reduced to the level of the award. Such an idea is ridiculous on the face of it. How does the honorable and learned member for Corinella propose to define where competition begins and where competition ends?
– I am going to trust the Court.
– We want to trust the Court, but the honorable member for Corinella does not. - Mr. WEBSTER. - I want to trust the Court in matters affected by this clause; and, after all, the Court has to be trusted in much more critical matters. Take the case of an industry in which an award has raised the wages, by, say, as. per week. Although the product of a similar industry in an adjoining State may not hitherto have been in competition, it comes into competition immediately the award is given, because it is produced under cheaper conditions. That seems clear enough. The amendment certainly does not improve the clause, but leaves even more complicated questions to be dealt with by the Judge. However, I do not think the amendment would make a great deal of difference, seeing that it is simply explanatory, or an instruction to a Judge as to the limits within which the award shall apply.
– That is just exactly what we want.
– That is, honorable members are not prepared to trust the Judge.
– There is no necessity for the amendment, because the Judge will not apply an award except where it is necessary. By the amendment a position is created which will make it verv difficult for any Judge - even the intelligent Judge such as has been indicated by the honorable member for Gippsland - to ascertain what the legislation means; whether it means competition at the time an award is given, or competition which is likely when the conditions are altered in- a particular industry in a State. These are matters of moment. I certainly think the Committee would do well to consider, not only the wording of the amendment, but its application. I am surprised to hear the honorable member for Gippsland attributing to legislation of this kind the fact that population and capital are leaving the country. So far as Victoria is concerned, I dare say that to some extent the honorable member’s statement is correct ; but any man who has studied the Federal Constitution, must have realized that when once Federation was go£ into working order and a uniform Tariff imposed, capital must naturally leave Victoria for New South Wales, where industries will ultimately be developed. Under the strictly protective Tariff which previously prevailed in Victoria, industries were developed in that State, but immediately the conditions were altered under the Federal regime, attention was directed to fields which are greener in New South Wales, and where the possibilities are greater.
– I spoke of capital that I know to have been withdrawn from industries from fear of the effects of legislation of this kind.
– If that is so, the honorable member has not been happy in setting the example he did as a statesman in the Victorian Legislature. After leading the people up to the stage of believing that the operation of. the Victorian law - which the honorable member did so much to pass, and which has done so much for so many poor people in this State - would improve their lot, the honorable member condemns us because we want to apply a law of a similar character to the Commonwealth.
– I stated that I thought that people were alarmed and that there was not proper justification. But notwithstanding they were alarmed, and did withdraw capital.
– This idea about the withdrawal of capital is a nightmare. The honorable member for Wentworth laughs. Of course I know that he understands all about these matters. It cannot be expected that to a gentleman of such attainments, such questions would be wrapt in mystery. There are, of course, no doubts in his mind. The statistics of New South Wales pi, Ki >!:)>’ with regard to the amount of capital which has been spent in that State in the development of industries since the Labour Party came into existence, and since this so-called socialistic legislation has been in operation, show that the. hue and cry about the withdrawal of capital is entirely unwarranted.
– Let us have those statistics.
– More money has been invested in New South Wales during the last four years than in any period in the history of the State. I shall be out of order in entering into questions which are foreign to the amendment, but I think it necessary to say that all this talk about the effect of such legislation as we are now passing upon the future of Australia is absolutely groundless. In my opinion the future will show - as has been the case in New Zealand - that this legislation will tend, not to drive capital from the country but to bring it to Australia; not to retard progress, but to assist in development ; not to degrade the people, but to lift them to a higher level where they can live as human beings. The whole’ trend of this legislation is to elevate humanity instead of keeping them where our opponents desire to keep them, under the heel of capital, so that the capitalists can live on them to their heart’s content.
– If I may be. permitted to return to the subject before the Chair, and not to emulate some of the second reading speeches which we heard, I may say a word or two about the amendment. The Government has suggested an alternative.
– The honorable and learned member may as well wait a little while ; we- may have something else to suggest.
– I understood that there was some possibility of our being able to arrive at some form of expression that would be mutually agreeable. In default of that, I wish to say that I think the whole debate has shown that the idea expressed in my amendment, as to what is the justification for the application of the common rule, is practically admitted all round to be the correct basis. Consequently I am unable to understand the vigour, with which some honorable members are opposing it. The best objection raised to it so far as I have been able to understand is, “ as the Court will act upon this principle in any event, what is the good of putting it in the Bill and confusing the Court?” If this is the sort of thing that the Court would do, it is just the sort of thing that the Legislature should insure being done, by directing it to be done. As I said last night, if the form of my amendment prevents the proper application of the common rule, where there is what we may call “ a product df industry “ in question, I am quite prepared to amend the. amendment to that extent, by, for example, inserting the words “ labour or “ wherever the word “ products “ occurs. So that it would read -
The common rule shall apply only when the labour or the product enters into competition with the labour or the product.
I would change the word “ products “ into “product” as a mere matter of grammar, and change the word “ enter “ into “ enters,” making the amendment read in this way -
Except where the labour or product of the industry of the persons whom the common rule is to bind, enters into competition with the labour or product of the industry of the parties to the dispute, or of the members of the organizations, parties to the dispute.’
I am prepared to offer that as a compromise to the Government if they will accept it. It should meet all their objections except, possibly, this one - that they may desire to insert the words “ enters, or is likely to enter.” To that proposal I could not agree, because it seems to me that the duty of the Court is to determine on facts and not to anticipate events. At the very worst, if there is some product which it is supposed is likely to enter into competition, though it does not enter into competition at the time - if it does immediately afterwards enter into competition - it only means an application to the Court to declare a common rule. Common rules’ are of such potent effect that they should not be lightly made, and any reasonable- appeal of that kind, or any reasonable publicity, seems to me not undesirable, but desirable, in the interests of both sides alike. Therefore, I say to the Government, that the use of the words, “ likely to enter,” opens up an infinitely wider field of conjecture than either the paragraph as it stands, or the amendment as I proposed it ; and the only effect that could possibly arise from such an amendment would be, perhaps, to prevent any such application of the provision. As I said last night, I believe in the common rule. . But I believe it is an engine that must be used sparingly, and only after the fullest deliberation and the greatest care. The interpolation of words providing that the Court has to consider whether something is likely to happen, as well o.s what is happening or has happened, casts the Court entirely upon the field of conjecture. That seems to me to be undesirable. I would ask the Government if, with the insertion of the words I have suggested, they would be prepared to accept the amendment ? The course of the debate has shown that practically the whole of the Committee accepts the common rule, but wishes to put in a reasonable limitation to insure that it will not work injuriously, so far as this Legislature can insure that. The Government and their supporters themselves recognise that some such method as this will be adopted by the Court, even if it is not directed by the Legislature.
– My trouble is that this amendment enforces the limitation.
– But it is admitted that this is a limitation which would have to be imposed by the Court. I do not desire to make the Bill inoperative. I am actuated by a sincere desire to make it operative as far as possible within safe limits. The common rule seems to me to require this limitation. I myself think that the Court would not make common rules unless some such factor as that indicated were existent in the condition of affairs. But I desire that the Legislature should say that this shall be done, and that the Court if it knows nothing else, shall know that the Legislature agrees with it. Apparently, the sense of the Committee is with me, in reference to the substance of this amendment. The Government might realize that. They are sacrificing nothing that they should not sacrifice by recognising the feeling of the Committee. I have approached all the amendments upon this Bill in a spirit of impartiality, and not with any desire to embarrass the Government. But when it is clear that the Committee thinks that this is the right line to pursue, and when even those who oppose the amendment practically oppose it on the ground that it is unnecessary, it seems to me that they offer an argument in favour of the amendment, which is of much greater force than any argument that I have been able to use. I, therefore, should be glad to know that the Government see their way to accept the proposal placed before them, in the interests of the Bill.
If they will accept it, we shall be able to proceed to the next amendment very promptly ; but so long as the Government. fights against what every one appears to regard as a proper thing - whether it happen;to be proper to express it here or not - wl shall not be likely to make any progress.
– In order to prevent a wrong impression going abroad iiconsequence of the remarks of the honor able member for Gippsland, I desire ti’ quote a few figures which he seems to have forgotten, as to the effect of the FactoriesAct in Victoria. The figures give a complete answer to the statement that this kind of legislation is doing an injury. If figures prove anything at all, they give a most powerful argument in favour of extending legislation of this kind, as likely to bring about prosperity in the country.
– Do I understand that the honorable member is going to show a connexion between the Factories legislation in Victoria and the proposal to institute a common rule throughout Australia’:’ My attention has been drawn to the fac. that there has been a digression. I had no’ observed it myself, but under the circumstances I think it desirable to inform the honorable member that he must adhereclosely to the amendment.
– I desire to keep closely to the subject before the Chair. Of course the aspect of the question which has beer raised by the honorable member for Gippsland is a very tempting one. The connexion is this : The honorable member was arguing against the common rule There is no difference in principle between the application of the common rule and the operation of the Wages Boards in Victoria. The honorable member for Gippsland himself was a part’- - and deservedly receives credit for being a party - to the introduction of the Wages Boards in Victoria. I think it is only fair, in order to prevent a wrong impression going abroad with respect to the loss of population, to quote the figures. I will do so very briefly. They have a very important bearing on the question of the common .rule. The Wage; Boards in Victoria cover particular industries. The Arbitration Court which we are establishing would affect a larger area, but the principle is the same. It must also be remembered that the common rule will be applied within certain areas. It may be assumed that in some instances the areas within which the rule will be applied by the Court will be small areas. If I took the view which the honorable member has expressed, I should sb,are his alarm. But I do not understand that the common rule is going to be applied in the way he expects. The Court is not going to make a common rule covering persons thousands of miles away. The common rule will apply only to those engaged in the industry concerned by the dispute, and the decisions of the Wages Boards of Victoria have a similar application. Taking the last report of the Victorian Inspector of Factories, I find that in 1886 there were in this Stale 1,949 factories, employing 39,506 persons. In 1890 the numbers had increased to 2,502 factories, and 47,813 employes. Then came the bank smashes, following the land boom, so that in 1894 there were only 2,515 factories, and 34.268 hands. In 1896 the Wages Boards came into existence, and we find a steady increase in the number of both factories and hands, until in 1902 there were 4,252 factories, and 59,440 hands.
– But there was an alteration in the definition of factories.
– The report states that 11,627 more persons were then employed in the factories of the State than were so employed in the most prosperous days of the land boom.
– How many of them were women?
– I leave that to the honorable member to find out. The total population of the State in 1894 was 1,179,230, and, in 1901, 1,202,940, an increase of 23,710, or 2 per cent., whereas the number of persons employed in factories increased in the same period from 34,268 to 56,945, an increase of 22,677, or 66 percent. Those figures show that it is not persons employed in factories who have left Victoria, although it is only to factory hands that the decisions of the Wages Boards apply. The population which has left Victoria has been drawn from industries which are not covered by the factory legislation - from the farming and mining industries, and notably from the latter.
– That is not so.
– The fact is undeniable. The figures which I have quoted are from a report laid before the Victorian Parliament. No doubt the honorable member recognises the foolishness of those who say that money is being withdrawn from the country because of certain legislation. But, even if some are being moved in that direction by foolish fears, are we, therefore, to cease to do justice? The honorable member moved very determinedly to abolish sweating. In some baking establishments he increased the rates of wages from 3s. 6d. to 9s. per week, yet there was no increase in the price of bread, while, as I have shown, the number of hands employed in factories has steadily increased since the Wages Boards were created.
– I am willing to go as far as is necessary to kill the evil of sweating.
– The honorable members fear that this measure will create a new condition of things is not well grounded. The effect of the decision of the Court, and of the making of common rules, will be what is aimed at, and secured by, the establishment of Wages Boards, so far as they have been permitted to operate - the levelling up of wages to the amount paid by decent employers. That is all we wish for, and the honorable member is strongly in favour of its being accomplished. This measure will not establish a new set of conditions, and upset every industry ; but it will level up wages, and abolish sweating. To. do this it is necessary to empower the Court to make common rules, because if any person or set of persons is left outside the application of an award of the Court the measure will be ineffective. I have shown that the statement that legislation of this kind causes population to decrease is not borne out by the experience of Victoria, and that the exodus of population from this State has been due to other causes. The prosperity of a country is greatest when sweating is abolished, and employes are paid decent living wages, because the purchasing power of the community is increased, and that benefits in turn the producing classes. As a moderate man, I am opposed to anything revolutionary.
– The honorable member will become a Conservative in time.
– I wish to conserve justice and fair play, and to extend them to everybody. The action of the Arbitration Courts in New Zealand, New South Wales, and Western Australia has been to raise conditions to the level already allowed by the best employers. I took the trouble to recently go through the New South Wales decisions, and I found that in no case has the Court awarded higher wages or better hours than have been given by some employers without compulsion. I still hold the view that the amendment is unnecessary, and likely to create confusion. I do not object to the main idea which the honorable and learned member for Corinella has in view, that the Court should deal only with the dispute before it, and that its awards should be restricted in their application to the persons engaged in the industry concerned, but I do not think it necessary to state that in the clause. When things are self evident it does not improve matters to try to make them clearer. We shall have, not a person of very low intelligence, but one of very high intelligence, to administer the measure, and we can safely trust him to administer it fairly.
– The honorable member for Darling has furnished one of the strongest arguments which could be brought against the Bill, quite apart from this particular clause, and as this clause is the backbone of the measure, I think I shall be in order in replying briefly to a few of the statements which he advanced. He told us that there has been a large increase in the number of persons employed in factories in this State since the Victorian Factories Act was passed. I take his assurance to that effect ; but it proves only that that Act is an infinitely better measure than is the one under discussion. In New South Wales, where for the last three years an Arbitration Act has been in force, there has been an increase of only about thirty-one hands - speaking from memory - in the total factory population, and a decrease in the number of male hands, although, prior to the passing of the Act, there had been a steady yearly increase of something like 2,000 hands.
– The honorable member is not in order.
– I am making a brief reply to ‘ the statements of the honorable member for Darling.
– I cannot allow that.
– Then I apologize, Mr. Chairman. The honorable member for Gwydir is to be congratulated upon his new definition of the common rule, which the honorable member for Darling has supported. He says that rates of wages are to be levelled up to the highest paid by any employer, and the honorable member for Darling tells us the same thing. We are also informed that the Judge of the Arbitration Court will be an omniscient being. Now, an omniscient being would know that such a step would upset the economic conditions of the country, and bring ruin, first upon the employes, and afterwards upon the employers, who have the more staying power. The . Committee is, in my opinion,- rather too slavishly following the precedents set by State legislation. The application of common rules may be an excellent thing in the States, because it may prevent numerous petitions to the Court ; but the jurisdiction of the Federal Court will be different from that of a State Court, inasmuch as it will cover only disputes extending beyond the boundaries of any one State. A common rule applied under such circumstances would impose an obligation upon persons not concerned in the dispute within the cognisance of the Court, and would create fresh disputes by giving cause for appeals and petitions against its application. The application of common rules may be necessary under State legislation, though I do not say that it is, but it is absurd to consider it necessary in Federal legislation. The only effect of the application of common rules under Federal legislation will be to glut the Court with appeals against decisions, and to prevent bond fide cases of dispute from being heard. The rough difference between the amendment of the honorable and learned member for Corinella and the proposal of the Government is that the former gives the direction to the Court that common rules shall be applied only in cases where injustice would occur if they were not applied, and the Government allow the unrestricted application of the principle of the common rule. Some such provision is the logical corollary of the arguments used by the Prime Minister in support of the principle of the common rule. He posed as the friend of the employer, and. said that it was to safeguard the honest employer that this- provision was inserted in the Bill. That being so, why does* he not go further, and say that the honest employer shall not be forced to appeal against common rules applied to him in connexion with disputes in which his branch of industry is in no way concerned ?. Last night the Government told us that the position of the shearers prevented them from accepting the amendment; but I think that the proposed amendment on it, inserting the words “ labour or,” meets that objection. The honorable and learned member for Corinella wishes to leave it to the Court to decide whit’ is and what is not competition ; but the
Ministry tell us that the omniscient Judge whom they are going to appoint will be incapable of deciding so important a question. Yet he is to be asked to say what has prompted a man to live in any particular part of the country. The Minister of External Affairs told us the other night that a man living in the back-blocks deserves higher wages than a man living in the city, because all would live near the city if they could. But there are sometimes considerations of home and surroundings which make the distant back country more congenial than city life. Is the Judge to inquire into these personal considerations? To impose such a task upon him is to require more than the honorable and learned member for Corinella would wish. How is a Judge going to review all the varying conditions which prevail from the rolling downs of West Sydney, where all the discontented farm labourers live, to the back country of the Darling, where are to be found the only thoroughly contented domestic servants in Australia ? Under the Government proposal the Judge will require to take into consideration all these different conditions. The amendment submitted by the honorable and learned member for Corinella is in the nature of a suggestion to the Court regarding the direction in which Parliament desires the common rule to be applied. It is a fair application of that principle if it is wise to accept it at all. I shall support the amendment of the honorable and learned member for Corinella.
– The proposal of the honorable and learned member for Corinella meets the chief objection to this sub-clause which I formerly entertained. In its original form the operation of the common rule would have been confined to manufacturing industries, and probably some of the larger unions of an Inter-State character would have been exempted. The amendment meets that objection. Last evening the Government accepted a proposal, the effect of which was to confine the application of the common rule to the industry affected by any dispute. The amendment under discussion is merely an extension of that principle. Unless we vest the Court with power to make a common rule, it will be called upon to deal with a multiplicity of applications for common awards. That is not desirable. Whatever may be said to the contrary, the Wages Boards in Victoria practically make a common rule applicable to the trades with which they deal. It has been argued that whilst it is necessary to provide for a common rule in State arbitration law, in Federal legislation such a provision constitutes an absurdity. That seems to me most extraordinary logic. I hold that there is as great, a necessity for a common rule in Federal law as there is in State law. The conditions are practically, the same. Last evening the honorable member for Darling . pointed out that since the enactment of factory legislation in Victoria - which in some respects resembles the arbitration law - there has been a considerable increase both in the number of factories and factory hands in this State. That, however, does not prove all that he desired to convey. It must be recollected that when the Factories Act was amended .an alteration was effected in the definition of “ factory,” which widened its scope, and brought more employes under the operation of that statute. At the same time there is no denying the fact that we must look for a natural increase in tile number of our factory workers from ye,ir to year. Our attention must therefore be directed towards securing improved conditions for those engaged in industrial enterprise. Where an opportunity presents itself to make the duty of the Court clear, we should unhesitatingly embrace it. I trust that the Government will accept the proposal of the honorable and learned member for Corinella in an amended form. As the decisions of the Court will be based upon questions of fact, the amendment proposed will exercise a powerful bearing on the industrial community. Therefore I think that we should definitely state what we intend.
Mr. LONSDALE (New England).Upon several previous occasions I have pointed out the effect of the application of the common rule upon country districts. I regard the amendment of the honorable and learned member for Corinella ,hs one which, to a large extent, will prevent a repetition of the difficulties that have occurred in New South Wales in connexion with the Arbitration Act. Where the labour or product of one industry comes into competition with the labour or product of another industry, I . think that the common rule should apply. Consequently, I shall support the amendment. It has been said that a Judge will not apply that common rule. The experience of New South Wales is that it has been applied, and applied to the injury of industries in the country districts. That is a clear answer to the statement that a Judge will not apply it. It cannot fairly be said that a little boot factory at Armidale comes into competition with establishments in Sydney ; on the other hand, it can be urged that a boot business in Sydney competes with a boot factory at Armidale.
– The boot factories at Geelong compete with similar establishments in Melbourne.
– I am speaking ‘of what has occurred. A boot factory at Tenterfield, Inverell, or Glen Innes does not compete with similar establishments in Sydney. Yet in New South Wales the common rule has been applied in such a way as to injure the small industries in the country districts.
– Did the employers apply to be exempted from its operation?
– They were not allowed to form an industrial union.
– Why not?
– Because the Registrar would not permit them to do so.
– An individual could protest.
– I quite admit that. But is it to be expected that persons will travel hundreds of miles to place their views before the Court? I object to the application of the common rule to country districts. At the present time the employes of Messrs. Abel Bros., confectioners, cf Sydney, are applying to the State Arbitration Court for the application of the common rule to the county of Cumberland. The city employers, on their part, are asking that the principle shall be applied to the whole State. They desire to place the country employers under a disability. They wish to destroy the businesses of the country so that they may send their own goods there. It is most unfortunate that, in opposing this Bill, men like myself should be charged with a want of humanity. I recognise that all honorable members opposite are humanitarians.
– Order ! I would ask the honorable member if that observation has any relevance to the question which is under consideration?
– I shall connect it with the question before the Chair. The amendment is in the interests of humanity, and I discuss it from that stand-point.
– Will the honorable member pardon ray interrupting him for one minute? The honorable member said,, when referring to a case in which application had been made for a common rule to apply all over New South Wales, that the employers wished to shut out competition, t anticipate that if both parties had been compelled to ask for the common rule it would not have been applied in this case?
Mr. LONSDALE (New England).- I do not know who applied for the application qf the common rule in two of the cases to which I have referred.
– What were the cases?
– Those relating to the saddlers and the boot makers. I am not making any charge, but I know that, in the case of Abel Bros., Mr. Abel asked that the common rule should be extended over the State, or over some large area, while the men wished it to be applied to only the county of Cumberland. The men therefore were not to blame in asking for the extension. My desire is to assist the working classes. If it were possible, by this means, to increase wages to an abnormal extent, the only result would be injury to the great bulk of the masses. If wages were raised to an extent that production could not endure, that production would cease, and serious injury would be done to the community. I am against the provisions in the Bill that handicap those engaged in manufacturing and producing interests in rural districts. It should be our desire to attract men, not to the cities, but to the country districts. It has been said that legislation of this kind in Victoria has improved the conditions prevailing in the State, and on this point I should like to bring before the Committee an interesting fact. Something like 4,000 persons left Victoria for South Africa, and an inspection made of the tickets issued to 1,000 of them showed that of that number only nine were connected with the land, the remaining 991 being persons who had been coddled by this class of legislation.
– To what legislation does the honorable member refer?
– To legislation providing for the creation of Wages ‘ Boards and to other measures that were supposed to assist the workers. It has been urged that the effect of bringing every one engaged in an industry under the common rule would be to increase the number of workers. In Victoria, however, the only result of factory legislation has been to secure an increase in the number of women employed in factories, and when I add that under this class of legislation in New South Wales the number of women in the local factories is being increased while the number of male employes is falling off, I think that a complete answer is furnished to that contention. I trust that the Government will accept the amendment and recognise that it is unwise to allow the Bill to go too far. We must legislate in a way that will help men wherever they may be. My outlook may be broader than is that of the men who believe that this legislation will assist them. I do not wish it to go forth to the country that I am here to crush labour under the heel of capital. I am here to give labour every assistance. If we could pass a Bill that would find work for every man in the community, I should have the greatest pleasure in supporting it. That, however, is impossible, and attempts to ameliorate the condition of the masses by legislation of this kind will have an opposite effect. If we develop a sturdy manhood and a sturdy independence on the part of our citizens, without coddling them by Act of Parliament, we shall, do far more than would be possible under legislation of this class.
– There is a well recognised rule amongst parliamentarians that, if it is impossible to defeat a measure on the motion for the second reading, the next best course for its opponents to pursue is to mutilate it in Committee to such an extent that it will become unworkable. Attempts in this direction on the part of those who have previously expressed themselves as being altogether opposed to legislation of this kind, cannot be condemned on the ground of inconsistency; but I cannot understand the attitude of those who, whilst professing to sympathize with the objects of the Bill, make themselves parties to a proposal that must eventually convert it into so much waste paper. The honorable member for New England has made it-clear since his election to this House that he is opposed to legislation of this kind, in any shape or form.
– No ; I say that we should test the question by the experience of others before we take action.
– At an earlier stage the honorable member emphatically declared his opposition to legislation of this description, and, therefore, he is quite consistent in supporting an amendment that, if carried, would make the Bill useless.
– The honorable member is the only one who thinks that the amendment would have that effect.
– There are other honorable members who share my opinion. I have already said that it would be unwise to declare to what particular industries the Bill shall apply, and I do not intend to support any proposal that would have the effect of limiting its operation. If I had not believed that the Bill was a good one I should have opposed the motion for the second reading, and have followed the course adopted by others who have contested practically every clause. But believing as I do that it is calculated to accomplish much good - that it will benefit not only the employes, but all humane employers and the community generally - I give the measure my heartiest approval. I have always held that legislation designed to prevent the cessation of work because of any trade dispute - and that is the object of this Bill - is worthy of support. Under this Bill it would be impossible for a strike to occur. If a dispute arose in any industry, not a day would be lost, but the matter would be settled, according to evidence, by persons who had no axe to grind. If the Bill be mutilated, as it would be by the adoption of this and other proposed amendments, all the time that we have devoted to its consideration would have been wasted. What is a common rule? The honorable member for Gippsland has informed us that, as Premier of Victoria, he administered the Factories Act, and appointed more Wages Boards than did any of his predecessors.
– Out of a total of twentynine appointed, the honorable member created twenty-three.
– Quite so. We see the application of the common rule in the operation of those boards. I am prepared to admit that their decisions apply only to industries within the metropolitan area, but the honorable member for Gippsland admits that they have done much good, and we hope that this measure will be attended with equally satisfactory results. What is the good that it will achieve ?
– That is what we want to know.
– Do not “ stone-wall “ the Bill ; let us get to a division.
– The honorable member does not care whether the Bill is mutilated or not.
– He is anxious that it should be mutilated.
– The honorable member knows nothing about the matter. I wish to see the Bill passed.
– That being so, the honorable member should vote against the amendment. Let us pass a measure that will be worthy of a place on our statutebook. Those who are seeking to mutilate the Bill by supporting the amendment would have adopted a much more manly course had they voted against the motion for the second reading. How will1 it be possible to bring the shearers under the operation of the Bill if this amendment be carried? It cannot be said that shearers employed in the back-blocks of Queensland come into competition with those engaged in Victoria and in South Australia.
– Do not the products of the industry in the different States come into competition ?
– Not at all, and certainly not in the sense in which competition would be interpreted by the Court. If an award is made increasing rates in a certain place in the bootmaking trade, I can well understand that it might be held that the persons affected are in competition with boot manufacturers in other places, and that the increased rates would, therefore, be unfair, unless they were made general. I have always contended that, as far as possible, we should secure uniformity of conditions by our industrial legislation. T hold, for instance, that in connexion with Inter-State free-trade, it is essential that every industry in the Commonwealth should, as nearly as possible, be placed on an equal footing ; but if the amendment is accepted, the whole object of this Bill will, as regards securing equality of conditions, be defeated. I venture to say to the honorable member for Gippsland that if the awards of the Wages Boards, which he established, applied only to the persons concerned in the special cases brought before them, and not to all persons engaged in similar industries, they would have been only so much waste paper. In the same way honorable members would make waste paper of this Bill, unless we are verycareful. The honorable member for Corangamite supports the amendment, but he is consistent in that, because he is an avowed opponent of the Bill. The honorable member is opposed to this kind of legislation, but he is inconsistent in that, inasmuch as he has no objection to its application to the profession to which he belongs. Members of the honorable member’s profession refuse to work with non-unionists. It is undoubted that members of the profession to which the honorable member for Corangamite belongs refuse to recognise non-unionists. It is a matter of surprise to me that persons who constitute a guild of their own, which it is almost impossible to enter, -should always be opposed to this legislation, in the interests of other persons.
– I think the honorable member’s remarks are not applicable to the question of a common rule.
– I say that there are rules connected with the association to which the honorable member for Corangamite belongs which apply to every individual in that association in Australia.
– Their rules do not fix the payment which each shall extract from those who employ them.
– They provide that they shall not work with non-unionists. We had a very striking illustration of that some years ago in Adelaide, in the hospital dispute which occurred there.
– I remind the honorable member that I do not consider his remarks relevant to the question. The Committee is dealing with common rules which are to be orders of the Court. I do not think that the rules to which the honorable member refers are orders of any Court.
– It is objected that the President of the Court will be some person unknown. I find that an amusing objection, in view of the fact that honorable members are aware that it has been decided that a Justice of the High Court shall be President of the Arbitration Court.
– None of them would take the position.
– Is that the excuse now? The Bill we are discussing provides that a Justice of the High Court shall preside over the Arbitration Court, and yet some honorable members infer that the Court will be constituted of inferior men who cannot be entrusted with the administration of this law. To my mind, that is a verv grave reflection upon the gentlemen whom we have appointed Justices of th”. High Court. It is most creditable to the working classes of Australia that they should be prepared to hand over their weaponsof war - the right to cease work whenever they thinkfit - to the discretion of the proposed Court.
– They retain the right under this Bill, with a week’s notice, if they are engaged by the week.
– They cannot strike under this Bill.
– They can stop work at the end. of a week.
– They cannot strike under this Bill, and it is of no use for the honorable member to endeavour to lead me off the track in that way. The whole object of this Bill is to prevent strikes.
– For a week.
– It has been urged against the passing of the Bill that in the United Kingdom, in America, and on the Continent of Europe the labouring classes have not been prepared to trust their case to an Arbitration Court. I say that it speaks volumes to the credit of the labouring classes of Australia that they should be prepared to repose such confidence in a Justice of the High Court as to hand over to him all their interests, and depend upon him to mete out justice in their disputes. Honorable members are opposing the imposition of a common rule on the ground that men carrying on mining at Coolgardie will be affected by a decision in a case affecting the mining industry at Ballarat. The President of the Court under this Bill will be a man, I believe, not only of common sense but with a fine sense of honour. I believe that he will conscientiously inquire into every case brought before him, and to suggest that he will give a decision in a particular case and then makehis award applicable over the whole continent of Australia, is not very complimentary to the person who will be appointed to this position.
– He will have the ordinary limitations of human nature.
– Does the honorable member for Kooyong believe that the Justice of the High Court, who will be President of the Arbitration Court, will give a decision in a mining case at Ballarat, and make his award a common rule affecting miners in Kalgoorlie? Does he believe that the mining industry of Broken Hill will be affected by such an award? I ask honorable members to consider the coal-mining industry. Will not those engaged in that industry come under the amendment? Do not products of their industry come into competition with the products of the same industry in other places that may not be before the Court? The more the amendment is looked into, the better honorable members will see the extent of the trouble to which it would give rise. I cannot see how the products of silver, lead, or gold mining industries will come into competition in any way. There is no doubt in my mind that this amendment would have the effect of excluding those engaged in them from the operation of the Bill, and that it would also absolutely exclude shearers and seamen. I ask any honorable member present to place himself in the position of a delegate appearing before the Arbitration Court, and try to prove that seamen and waterside workers in one place are brought into competition with those in another. It is clear that we must leave wide discretionary powers to the Court. We have appointed as Justices of the High Court able men, who from day to day are trusted to deal with matters of the very greatest importance, and it is not very complimentary to them for honorable members to suggest now that we should not, without imposing limitations which will stultify the principle of the Bill, have sufficient confidence in them to give them the administration of this law. I tell honorable members candidly that, if this amendment be agreed to, they can have the Bill for my part.
– We do not want it.
– I desire that this Bill should be passed, or I should not be so strongly opposed to the amendment. I view the whole question seriously, because in my experience, of over twenty years in connexion with labour affairs, I have known the disasters that arise in connexion with strikes. That is why 1 am so strong an advocate of this measure. It is contended that it is an experiment to a great extent, and that we do not know what results may follow from it. We have the experience of New Zealand to show that this legislation has operated there to the great advantage of employers and employes, and of the country in general. I invite honorable members to consider the case of the coal miners’ dispute at Outtrim. Should not the experience in that case be sufficient to convince them that almost any method at all would have been better for the settlement of that dispute than the strike which occurred ? If this or a similar measure had been law in Victoria, we should not now be reading articles in the newspapers about starving wives and families in that district. In my own experience, I have known the most heartrending sufferings to be inflicted by the refusal of a particular section to confer with another. The amendment, so far” as I can see, in the cases in which it will apply, would tend to bring about a repetition of our past experience. Seeing that we are prepared to take the great step of handing over to this Court all our weapons of war - a step the wisdom of which is doubted in some parts of the world - I ask those who are insisting on this amendment to be prepared to act in the same way on behalf of the employers. In Austrafia the great mass of the workers have Sufficient confidence in the Judge who will be at the head of this Court to believe that, after hearing evidence on both sides, he will return verdicts that are substantially fair - such as will do injustice to no section of the community. This legislation will not have the effect of harassing industries and creating disturbances, such as we have known in the past, nor will it have the effect of driving capital out of the country, but will, on the other hand, tend to progress and prosperity. The measure will :jive security to capital invested, and insure that, at any rate, during the period of war, there will be no danger of men ceasing work to the injury of any industry within the area affected. In that way the interest of the employers will be promoted. I appeal to honorable members who are in sympathy with legislation of this character to follow the example of those who represent the employes, and leave the decision to the Judge without any restriction. I do not make this appeal to those who want to kill the measure. There is a well-known, but unwritten axiom, that if we desire to kill a measure, and cannot do so by one process, we are justified in killing it by another.
– I do not think that that applies to the supporters of this amendment.
– The process generally adopted is to mutilate a measure so as to render it unworkable.
– This amendment does not mean mutilation.
– The amendment would aid the measure.
– The amendment would mutilate the measure to such an extent that I am afraid that the result would be to render it unworkable.
– The honorable member must recollect that the “amendment is moved by an honorable and learned member who is in sympathy with, the Bill.’
– All I know is that for some days past other honorable members, who are not in sympathy with the Bill, have been moving in the same direction; and very clever tactics may have been brought to bear in order to induce some one in sympathy with the Bill to submit this amendment.
– The amendment was submitted by the honorable and learned member for Corinella entirely on his own initiative.
– As I say, we have practically handed over to this Court all the weapons of warfare which, for many years past, have been in the hands of the working classes, who are prepared to trust their destinies to this Court.
– This is not a measure for war, but a measure for peace.
– Exactly ; and that is shown in’ the fact that the working classes are prepared to deliberately hand over all the weapons which have been in their hands during the whole historical period of organized industry, All we ask, in common fairness, is that the other side shall display the same confidence. The working classes are really doing more than they are asking the employers to do, seeing that the Judge will be a man whose environment, training, and whole life have been entirely apart from the sphere in which he will have to act.
– Who is the man?
– A Judge of the High Court. We have deliberately removed the two assistants which the Bill first proposed, and left the decision absolutely to the judge; and if he is a fit and proper person to be a Judge of the High Court, surely he can be trusted, as we are prepared to trust him, in the administration of this Bill.
– It is not quite fair to say that the object of the mover of the amendment is to mutilate the Bill. It will be very generally admitted that the honorable and learned member for Corinella has given the Bill very generous consideration on its merits.
– I think the effect of the amendment would be very largely in the direction of mutilating the measure.
– What its effect would be is a matter of opinion ; but we must, at least, give the mover credit for not desiring to mutilate the measure.
– Hear, hear.
– We are not only asked to trust this mysterious officer to the full extent that he is to be trusted in the High Court-
– Why “mysterious”?
– Because there seems to be an impression amongst some honorable members that the moment this Judge enters into the jurisdiction given by this Bill he is to become endowed with some kind of supernatural ability or omniscience which will enable him to adjudicate on the whole of the trade complications of Australia. We are asked to place this power in the hands of a man who is, from his very teaching and training, a nonbusiness man - a non-practical man. We are asked to leave all to him, absolutely without control and without providing for the right of appeal. We are asked to give a Judge of the High Court a power such as no Parliament in Australia has ever before handed over to a Court ; and we are only exercising common reason and prudence when we seek to set some limit to the exercise of that power. As to the common rule, we are, in my opinion, doing far more than many of us anticipate. If the clause is passed as printed it will have an effect that was not quite appreciated by the framers, who were, of course, a previous Government. I can see cases where a common rule would be absolutely disastrous to employers and employed alike. In the newspaper business, for example, the rates of wages differentiate, not on account of the work or of the ability of compositors or staff, but simply in accordance with the means of the proprietors. Throughout the country districts of Australia there are certain newspapers, which, although they may not be nearly so large or influential as the city papers, are filling their own little corner, and affording what some of us appreciate - an honest means of livelihood to a class who have suffered more, perhaps, than any class from the introduction .of machinery. No class has suffered more heavily by the introduction of machinery during the last eight or ten years than have compositors, who. speaking generally, are one of the most intelligent sections of our workers.
– They have not suffered to any great extent on the country press.
– But . when the whole of the compositors in the city are thrown out of employment the market is filled with surplus labour.
– But all the large news- paper offices gave the compositors the opportunity to learn to operate .the typesetting machines.
– The PostmasterGeneral knows that it would not be possible to give employment to the whole of the compositors.
– That is so.
– One type-setting machine will turn out as much work as six or seven average compositors.
– It will do as much as five compositors.
– To that extent the compositors are thrown out of work through no fault on their part, or on the part of their employers, but simply because this machinery takes the place of the hand-workers. These unfortunate men suffer great hardship by being deprived of employment at a time of life when they are too old to turn to another means of earning a livelihood as handicraftsmen ; and they go to swell the ranks of unskilled labour. In the country districts there are scores of newspapers which are not paying the same rates of wages that are paid in the large centres. Indeed, the proprietors of those country newspapers could not afford to pay the same wages - the ship could, not carry the sail. Is it in the interests of the workers themselves that country proprietors should be told, “You must pay the rates of wages which obtain in the Government Printing Office, or on the Argus or the Age, or you must shut up shop and go out forest-thinning, or doing work of that kind?”
– The Court may differentiate in regard to local conditions and circumstances.
– The Court may differentiate in regard to local conditions of labour, but not as to whether the employer is in a position to pay the wage awarded.
– Yes ; in New South Wales the Court takes that point into consideration when giving an award.
– The New South Wales Court did not do that in regard to the common rule to which I referred.
– The Court does not do so in all cases, but may if it likes.
– Has the Court to sit in Melbourne or Sydney, and say to every newspaper proprietor throughout Australia, “ Come and show the conditions of your business, or we shall extend the common rule to you “ ? If that be so, the machinery will be so cumbersome as to break down of its own weight. If honorable members speak of circumstances which are within their own knowledge, that may have some little influence with the Committee ; and I can assure honorable members that I have known compositors, reporters, and leader-writers, when a newspaper has been in difficulties, through no fault of the proprietor, to voluntarily submit to a percentage reduction of their salaries and wages. Surely, such men were doing nc harm.
– That could not be done under this Bill.
– I am afraid that it could not ; and what will be the consequence? Some informer, such as it is sought to breed under the Bill, may make the discovery that men are trying to keep intact the business on which they depend for their living, and by his action they may be thrown on the mercy of the world as unemployed. He may go to the Court, and say - “ Brown is now carrying on his business against the common rule.” The man might be hauled before the Court and punished. His business would be closed, and his employes would suffer. I believe that the amendment, if accepted, would go’ as far as Ministers themselves should desire to go. It would give the Bill a fair trial. Because, after all, we must recognise that we are to a great extent embarking upon experimental legislation. Is it wise for Ministers to push this experiment to too great an extreme, when a friendly amendment is proposed by one of the supporters of the Bill? I warn the Committee that the application of the common rule to the whole of Australia, with its enormous area and its varied labour conditions, would be practically impossible. It would inflict the direst injustice not only upon employers, but also upon men whose means of livelihood would be taken from them. I believe that Ministers in their hearts are strenuously endeavouring to benefit those men. I give them full credit for that endeavour. I appeal to them to accept the amendment, and allow the principle of the common rule to have a fair trial under rather more restricted conditions. In New Zealand, which is a small country compared with Australia, it has been found necessary to have four districts. But under’ this Bill we are asked to have one area, embracing the whole of Australia, from the Gulf of Carpentaria down to .Hobart. The common rule is to be applied by a Judge, who, whatever his qualifications may be, will at any rate not be, in a practical sense, a. man who will be able in the time at his disposal to grasp all the conditions of the various trades of Australia. I ask the Government to restrict the common rule to those businesses which absolutely come into competition with each other. I do nor. want to see one employer taking advantage of another where the conditions are the same. I want all employers to have a fair run. . I am prepared to allow similar conditions to be applied where similar conditions obtain. But it is not possible to apply a common rule throughout the length and breadth of Australia, and to determine that one man, whatever his qualifications maybe, shall be the supreme judge of labour conditions throughout the continent, lt is not practical; it is not sensible. Ministers might fairly accept the amendment; but, if they do not, I shall have much pleasure in voting for it.
– I feel certain that the debate on the amendment has accentuated the position which has been taken up by a number of honorable members that the Bill, in its scope and intentions, exceeds the powers of the Constitution. I hope that ultimately just and equitable measures for conciliation and arbitration will be adopted by each State. The framers of the Constitution presupposed that each State would have legislation of that character, and in order to bridge over any difficulty which might exist in reference to the application of the separate State Acts, it was considered by the Convention to be necessary to provide some means to settle disputes which extended beyond the limits of one State. In my humble judgment that was all that was contemplated in the power conferred by the Constitution. Of course. I should not venture to express an opinion on the legal aspect of the question. I have simply expressed my views as a layman. But I believe it was intended that this power of the Constitution should only be invoked in reference to disputes which in consequence of their magnitude were likely to bring about serious trouble to the whole of the industrial interests of Australia.
Some of the States have not yet considered it advisable in their industrial interests to pass Conciliation and Arbitration Bills. It was never intended that Commonwealth legislation on this subject should override the wishes of a State and suborn State rights.
– I think we have heard that before.
– The amendment gives me. an opportunity of repeating that that is exactly the position. My honorable friend, with his enthusiastic advocacy of this class legislation, hopes to be able to suborn a State like Victoria, and compel it by means of Federal legislation to pass a State Arbitration Bill.
– Why does not the honorable member put the case fairly ? This measure can apply only to a dispute existing in two States.
– There are very many means which are perfectly well known to the honorable member, and other supporters of the Government, whereby industrial interests may be brought under the operation of this measure.
– I do not know of any at present.
– I have heard methods suggested. The common rule, as proposed in the Bill as it stands, will simply have the effect of launching the industrial interests of the Commonwealth in a sea of possible trouble. The Prime Minister and his Government are. I am sure, desirous of doing what is reasonably fair. But they are influenced by their enthusiasm and their environment, and by the feeling that injustices have been done in the past. I do not in the least degree desire to say that right is always on the side of the employer. On the contrary there is as much selfishness amongst employers as there is amongst employes. I am associated with the employment of a large number of men, and that in these actions they are influenced by an underlying principle of fairness and justice is apparent when one gets to the heart of the bulk of them. The trouble is that a class of legislation is passed which is specious in- its character, and which holds out expectations and hopes to men whose habits of life do not lead them to inquire into what, the final results of it are likely to be. It is being rather held up to them that they will secure something which is opposed to all the applied rules and customs of ordinary business procedure, whereas if we depart from practical business lines we shall in the long run injure not only the employers of labour, but their employes as well. I hold that the Government are attempting to impose^ restrictions on the large commercial interest of the country the ‘ effects of which they do not properly realize. They are living in the expectation of giving advantages by the clauses of this Bill, which are opposed to the law of supply and demand, and would, therefore, do injury, and harm to those whom they distinctly represent. I suggest that the amendment of the honorable and learned member for Corinella - which is a modification of the baneful proposal of the Government, and a reasonable compromise between two opposing views - should be accepted by the Committee.
– When this part of the clause first came under discussion I was inclined to think that its provisions were too wide ; but, having listened to the debate very carefully, it is now my opinion that, if the amendment as amended is carried, its provisions will be too narrow, and the application of a common rule will have but little effect so far as some of the largest classes of employes are concerned.
– To what classes does the honorable member refer?
– To the wharf labourers, for instance.
– The word “ labour “ covers them.
– It seems to me that the amendment would largely exclude the application of the common rule to classes of men such as wharf labourers, seamen, and possibly miners. It might be reasonable to insert in the clause some provision which would be a direction to the Court to take into consideration the conditions prevailing in. various parts of Austraia ; but I think it dangerous to take from this very responsible and highly-placed Judge the power to make common rules applicable, so far as he thinks necessary. I can understand that those who are opposed to the Bill may be ready to vote for any restriction of the powers of the Court.
– Very few honorable members are entirely opposed to the Bill.
– I have heard two or three honorable members say that they are opposed to it.
– Why should the amendment endanger the position of the miners?
– I think that it may take from the Court the power to extend a common rule to the classes of men whom I have named, and possibly to others, although it is especially necessary that the provisions of the Bill should apply to them in every respect. In my opinion, there is nothing in the argument of the honorable member for Gippsland that the provision now in the Bill threatens danger to certain classes of the community. My only desire is that the’ measure shall be made as fair, and the Court left as free, as possible. The Judge should have great responsibility and great latitude. No doubt there should be power to vary the common rule, or if there is not that power, to exclude certain parts of the Commonwealth from its operation, because, for instance, the conditions prevailing in the northern parts of Australia differ widely from those prevailing in the southern parts. Of course, in the next paragraph the Court is given some power in this direction; but I am not sure that the adoption of the proposed amendment would not greatly weaken it. The honorable member for Wentworth has asked me how the amendment would affect the miners. I think that it might affect them just as it might affect seamen. I do not know how the product of their labour can be said to come into competition in the sense meant by the amendment. I believe that in neither the New South Wales nor the New Zealand Act is there any such restriction as that now proposed. New Zealand is, of course, divided into industrial districts, to which the common rule is applied.
– The amendment has been copied from the New Zealand Act.
– No. The idea which it embodies is taken from the New Zealand Act ; but the amendment itself is by no means a copy of any provision in that measure.
– I do not think that it is a copy. I do not feel inclined to restrict the Court in the way proposed, and therefore I cannot support the amendment, because I think it may be pregnant
Avith trouble, and perhaps disaster, for certain members of the community to whom we wish to apply the common rule without restriction. Possibly it might be well to follow the New Zealand practice, and divide the Commonwealth into industrial districts.
Mr. McCAY (Corinella).- With the permission of the Committee, I will withdraw my amendment, and substitute for it another form of words which I think will effect the same result, and at the same time cover industries of which there is no obvious product.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment (by Mr. McCay) proposed -
That after the word “arises,” line 9, the following words be added, “Provided that the Court shall not act under this paragraph, except where the persons whom the common rule is to bind, or the products of their industry, enter into competition with one another.”
– The Committee has discussed this amendment very carefully, and very thoroughly, and it would, therefore, be a pity if, after all, we should divide upon it under a misunderstanding. There may be, however, a difference of opinion as to its effect, as well as to its principle. We all wish to vote for one principle or another, and should not like to be told later on that we had voted for something for which we did not mean to vote. It is my duty to prevent, so far as lies in my power, any fiasco of that kind. I can, of course, only, say what, after a careful reading of the words it is proposed to insert, I take them to mean, and it will be open to any member of the Committee to show that my view is incorrect, The theory of the meaning of the amendment upon which the Government are acting is that if it were carried in its present form, and afterwards_a dispute came before the Court in which the wharf labourers and their employers in Sydney and Melbourne were concerned, it would, under any circumstances, be impossible to apply the award as a common rule to wharf labourers and their employers in Brisbane, Adelaide, or Fremantle. That may, or may not. be a right thing to enact; but if honorable members will look, carefully at the amendment, I think that they will see that that is what it means. I should like to know how it can be argued that the wharf labourers of Brisbane enter into competition with the wharf -labourers of Sydnev. How can it be said that the wharf labourers of Fremantle enter into competition with those of Melbourne? The amendment is absolutely absurd when we come to reduce it to simple terms. So also is the inclusion of the word “persons,” and the reference to the products of their labour. In the case of the wharf labourers’ industry, there is no tangible product which can be handled or touched. I hope that honorable members will vote on this proposal, with a full knowledge of what would be its effect. It is couched in plain language, is very well expressed, and is less open to ambiguity than was the amendment in its original form. Most certainly the products of the wharf labourers’ industry do not enter into competition with one another.
– The products of gold, silver, or lead mines cannot come into competition with one another.
– I am speaking of one particular case. I repeat that the persons whom the common rule will bind - the wharf labourers of Sydney and Brisbane - do not compete with each other. I think that this discussion might fairly be reduced to a test vote upon the question - “ Ave we in favour of applying the common rule to wharf labourers in other ports, when only two or more ports are interested in a dispute? “ So far as I am concerned, I need hardly say that I support that view.
– That is not the only branch of industry which will be brought under the operation of the common rule.
– The honorable member will restrict all branches if he restricts one.
– Under the amendment we could not apply the common rule to a dispute which had excited much friction and worked much damage in Sydney and Melbourne, even though we recognised that it was bound to extend to Brisbane. The result would be that though an award might be made, which was binding in Sydney and Melbourne, it would not be binding in Brisbane. What would follow ? There would be a ferment in Brisbane. If the employes there saw that their fellows in Sydney and Melbourne had obtained good terms under an award they would certainly work up an agitation. Thus we should have two disputes where otherwise one only would have existed.
– The result might be that the men would accept the award.
– Then what harm can result from applying the common rule? I think that the honorable member for Franklin has adopted a consistent attitude throughout the entire discussion on this Bill. He is opposed to it tooth and nail.
– That is very unfair, because he has denied the statement several times.
– I beg the honorable member’s pardon. I was not aware of it. I should be very sorry to do the honorable member an injustice, and, I am sure; that the honorable member for Echuca was unduly warm in interjecting as he did. I think that I have made the position clear, and I hope that the division will be limited to the one . issue - “ Are we in favour of allowing the common rule to apply to ports which are not affected by disputes?”
– I think that the AttorneyGeneral has begged the whole question “of the common rule. What was the argument advanced by the Minister who introduced this Bill? What has been the argument of Ministers from first to last? That it would be unfair to bind one individual by an award and not to bind his competitors. That is the only ‘ reason which has been advanced in favour of the adoption of the principle. This awkward, and, it may be, very troublesome, provision was embodied in the Bill for one reason only - that it would be unfair to competitors if one party were bound by an award of the Court whilst all other competitors in the same industry throughout the Commonwealth were not bound. The false issue which the Attorney-General seeks to make the real issue in the approaching divisior - the case of wharf labourers - is not a very favorable illustration, even from his own stand-point. Let us suppose that a dispute arose in Sydney and Melbourne regarding the conditions under which wharf labourers worked, and that it was brought before the Court. Would not the wharf labourers of Brisbane. Adelaide, and Fremantle have an opportunity of joining in that dispute, and of submitting their case, if they have one, to the Court ? Certainly they would have.
– Not unless we are going to apply the common rule.
– If they were dissatisfied with their conditions they would have the opportunity of going before the Court. What constitutes a “dispute”? Simply a request for something, and a refusal. If a dispute arose between the wharf labourers of Sydney and Melbourne, could not the wharf labourers of Fremantle, Adelaide, and Brisbane put- in their claim? If their request were refused, could they not join iri the case before the Court ? But if they were satisfied why should the Court interfere ? If they apprehended that by the application of the common rule their wages might be reduced, what right would the Court have to interfere?
– They do not fear that.
– The Minister of External Affairs does not know what they fear, because a dispute has not yet arisen. He may be able to speak on behalf of. the wharf labourers of Sydney, but he cannot speak on behalf of those of Perth and Brisbane.
– He is President of the Waterside Workers’ Federation.
– No man in Australia is able to speak of the future on behalf of the wharf labourers.
– Will the honorable member be good enough to show me where I begged the question?
– In the first place the Government submitted this Bill to the House, and advocated the adoption of the common rule on one ground only.
– And we stuck to i’i.
– They advocated the adoption of the principle for the reason that it would be unfair to apply it to one party to a dispute, and to exempt from its operation all others engaged in that industry. This amendment merely seeks to embody in the Bill words which practically give expression to the very argument which was advanced by Ministers. When, therefore, the Attorney-General declares that the amendment would operate badly, he is begging the whole question.
– That is what the honorable member calls begging the question.
– I ‘ ask what argument was urged by Ministers in favour of the common rule?
– That was one of the arguments.
– What were the others?
– The question of convenience and the necessity for re-opening the whole question.
– Any sensible Judge will apply the common rule only when he finds that if he neglects to do so competitors will be prejudiced.
– Then what is the use of the amendment?
– All Judges are not sensible.
– Does the honorable member assume that the Judge of the proposed Court will not be sensible?
– I assume that all Judges are not equally sensible. That is not a very large assumption. As they are not all equally sensible, and we do not know whether the most sensible man in Australia will be chosen, an (indication should be put in this Bill-
– I am willing to accept an indication.
– What is this proposal?
– It is mandatory. It is not an indication, but a direction.
– I do not see why any objection should be urged to a proposal to incorporate in the Bill a direction from the Parliament which passes it. The only case instanced by the AttorneyGeneral was that of the wharf labourers. Why should they be disturbed if they are not dissatisfied with their conditions?
– Should we not insert a similar direction in all Commonwealth legislation ?
– Judges are directed in other laws. Is not this Bill full of directions? The amendment proposed is merely a direction in favour of the course which the Government themselves advocated. It expresses the avowed desire of the Ministry in connexion with the application of the common rule. This common rule provision may prove to be a very dangerous- one alike for employers and employes. For example, if the wharf labourers at Fremantle are in receipt of wages very muchhigher than those which are paid in the eastern States, they will naturally be disinclined to enter into a dispute and to invoke the application of a common rule. Why ? Because the result of an appeal to the Court might be a reduction of their wages. The same argument is applicable to the miners of Western Australia. They are receiving the highest wages in the Commonwealth, and they are certainly not working under the worst conditions. As a matter of fact they labour under better conditions than do miners elsewhere who receive a lower rate of wages. Naturally they do not desire to be brought under the operation of the common rule. When they do, it will be open to them to express their wish, and to avail themselves of an opportunity to bring the case before the Court.
– They will be able to join in a dispute.
– Yes ; but the proposal is that, even where the workers and their employers are satisfied, the Court shall be allowed to apply a common rule, and grade these men with similar workers in the rest of Australia. If any alteration be made in their conditions it must result in a decrease of wages, and. the men will find -the clause, as it stands, an unfortunate provision. It is very much better that the right to declare a common rule should operate only in cases in which there is. competition in labour, or its products. The amendment is a sensible one. It will be to the advantage of both sides, and more particularly the higher paid workers of Australia.
– It seems to me that some honorable members do not properly appreciate the real meaning of the amendment. The branches of industry that the constitutional provision on which this Bill is based was especially designed to meet were more particularly those relating to seamen, shearers, wharf labourers, and workers of that description. Honorable members, who propose to vote for the amendment, will practically put beyond the pale .of possibility the application of a common rule to either of these three classes of workers. That is the point.
– That is not the point.
– I may be wrong, but that is the view I take of the amendment. It is all very well for the honorable member for North Sydney to say that it is an excellent one ; but it is singular that honorable members who have, from the first, opposed the Bill, display a remarkable unanimity in the view that the amendment will be beneficial to the measure itself, from the verv outset they have welcomed every proposal to restrict this measure as a heaven-born inspiration in favour of the Bill. I do not include the honorable and learned member for Corinella in this category, because I know that he has given an earnest support to the principles of the Bill, and- am convinced that he believes he is doing right. Those who favour the passing of this Bill in an effective form are, however, naturally a little suspicious when they hear every declared opponent of it supporting the amendment.
– I am prepared to exclude these special organizations.
– If that is the general view, and the amendment is put in that form, I shall not object to it.
– We will accept that offer.
– Quite so. I have not endeavoured to draw a hard and fast line. We have already indicated that we are willing to accept the amendment, provided that those engaged in transportation are excluded from its operation, and I should also like to exclude the shearers. I have drafted an amendment, that I should be willing to submit, which provides that the Court, before declaring a common nils -
Shall pay due regard to the extent to which the industries or the persons affected enter, or are likely to enter, into competition with one another.
I am in favour of indicating to the Court, to use the term employed by the honorable member for North Sydney, the lines on which we think it ought to proceed ; but why should we compel it to refrain from granting a common rule where the convenience of all parties may be in favour of it? What does this amendment mean? If the members of the shearers’, seamen’s, or wharf labourers’ organizations desire io have a decision applied generally throughout Australia, what course will they have to pursue if this amendment be carried ? They will have to join as parties to the original dispute every employer in the industry throughout Australia, and subject them to all the inconvenience which litigation involves.
– The result of the amendment would be to cause trouble that might otherwise be avoided.
– That is the point. The parties affected in the districts to which the organization in question extended would be automatically joined. If the wharf labourers had a dispute, the employers at Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, and< Adelaide would, no doubt, be joined as parties; but there are various other ports, where wharf labourers are employed, at which’ no organization exists.
– They are very few.
– Launceston is a case in point.
– Yes ; but I am speaking of all the ports on the north-west and north-east coasts of Australia.
– Then there is Devonport.
– Quite so. If the amendment were carried, the unions concerned in any dispute brought before the Court would be compelled in self-defence to join as a party every employer in the industry whose name could be ascertained by reference to a business directory. It would be absolutely necessary for them to adopt that course, in order that none might be left out of the original award. If they failed to join them in the first instance, they would not be able at a later stage, when circumstances appeared to justify it, to ask that the common rule should be applied to Brown, Jones, or Robinson, whom they at first thought it advisable to refrain from joining.
– Would not the labourers at the other ports be entering into competition with those under the award?
– I should like the honorable and learned member to consider that aspect of the matter. Competition between individuals, when considered from the abstract point of view of political economy, and the law of supply and demand, exists, no, doubt, to such a degree as would render the amendment of no value as a restriction. But we have to ask ourselves whether the Court would be likely, in construing an Act of Parliament, to take that abstract view of what is meant by the word “competition.” In my opinion, it would regard the word “ competition “ as meaning, as the honorable and learned member for Corinella said last night, something
Teal, that is, tangible or substantial.
– Not if the word “ substantial” is to be construed as meaning something large, rather than real.
– Let us accept the word as meaning something real. Do honorable members think that the Court would consider the word “ competition “ in the amendment to refer to that abstract competition, which, under our present state of civilization, exists practically between every individual ?
– I will trust the Court.
– The honorable and learned member from time ‘to time says that he will trust the ‘Court, but he perpetually misapplies the term, because he demonstrates that he will not trust it. The Government are prepared to trust to the good sense and judgment of the Court in all matters. We say that there should be practically no restrictions of the power of the Court, except those which the Constitution compels us to impose. The honorable and learned member, however, seeks to fence the Court round in such a way that it will not be able to give expression to its own opinions. It will be bound, by Act of Parliament, to refrain from extending the common rule, even although the convenience of all parties might justify that step, unless competition can be proved. I fail to see how it would be possible in the case of the seamen or wharf labourers, or, practically speaking, even in the case of the shearers, to prove the existence of competition in the sense in which that word would be regarded by the Court. The honorable member for North Sydney says that the Government have now no right to put forward this view, because the only justification we advanced for the proposal to allow of the application of the common rule was that competition would exist. That is not the only justification. It is one of the arguments in support of the principle, and I admit, a very important one, but there are other reasons. There is the question of convenience.
– - The honorable member for North Sydney is wholly opposed to the Bill.
– The honorable member is one of those who has consistently opposed it. I do not object to that attitude, although it is perhaps inconvenient from the stand-point of the Government.
– What I said was that I was against the introduction of a Federal Arbitration Bill until the State Arbitration Acts had been more fully tested.
– The honorable member “ was against the introduction of the New South Wales Bill.
– I announced that I would not repeal the State Act bv-
– The honorable member was against it when it was first introduced.
– Certainly, I was ; I say that it has not vet been tested.
– That’ is a matter of opinion.
– The honorable gentleman is pointing out what he says are my views, but I am seeking to tell the Committee what they really are.
– What the honorable member has said is not inconsistent with what I have attributed to him”. He has always been hostile to this kind of. legislation.
– Not hostile. Mr. WATSON.- We will say, then, that the honorable member has, so to speak, adopted a policy of armed neutrality. The point which I wish to put is that the principle of the common rule, in my view, will be of comparatively little value, unless it is available to the classes of workers for whom this Bill was primarily intended ; and, secondly, that the amendment would increase the number of disputes, and the consequent expense by compelling those unions having no opportunity to take advantage of the principle of the common rule to resort to the inclusion, as original parties, of every «, employer in the industry whom they could discover. That would be a most unfortunate state of affairs. It would be much better to allow the unions to join as parties to the proceedings those who are immediately concerned, and if they wish to extend the award, to come before the Court and show cause in each individual instance. We are proposing to surround this paragraph with provisions that will insure the recognition by the Court of local conditions and every factor that ought to enter into its consideration. As showing that the Government is not adopting a hard and fast line, I would point out that we have already amended this clause in a restrictive way. Without any request being advanced by honorable members, we have substituted for the words “ industry affected by the award,” the words, “industry in connexion with which the dispute has arisen.” That shows that we do not wish to facilitate the extension of a dispute in any under-hand way, so that it would cover every branch of the industry in the Commonwealth. We have shown a proper desire, as far as possible, to confine every dispute within its original area, and, I think, that we may, with justice, expect those who favour trie Bill, to meet us with a reasonable degree of liberality in this connexion.
Mr. McCAY (Corinella).- I shall not detain the Committee for more than two or three minutes, as I assume that the debate is nearing its close.
– I must speak again.
– I am very sorry to hear it. I object to the assertion made bv the Prime Minister that if this amendment were carried, seamen, for example, would not be able to come under a common rule. I assert that they would. There must be two parties to a dispute among these men - the seamen, and the employers of the seamen - and, having regard to the way in which ships trade between the different ports of Australia, it is impossible to conceive of a case in which some one of the ships, under the award of the Court, would not come into competition with a ship that was not under the award. In my opinion, shearers could also be brought under the common rule, if the Court thought fit to apply it. The products of the industry of shearers are continually in competition. The common rule would also apply to coal miners, but, so far as its application to gold miners is concerned, I think that there is something to be said on either side. There is, perhaps, some doubt as to whether, under this amendment, the common rule could be made to apply to wharf labourers. But if we are to deal with specific cases and specific facts, I remind the Committee of the remark made by the Prime Minister,- that the Minister of External Affairs happens to be President of the Waterside Workers’ Federation. The great bulk of the men engaged in the industry are members of the unions forming that federation, and therefore members of the organization which would be a party to any dispute brought before the Court. There would be no necessity for a common rule for them, because practically every one employed in the industry is within the organization, and would come under the award of the Court. Honorable members appear to forget that my amendment applies only to a common rule, and does not limit awards in any way. Some arguments have been directed against it, as though it would limit awards.
– In a great many instances awards would be of no use without a common rule.
– With respect to the industry with which the honorable member for Darling is most familiar, there can be no reasonable doubt that it would come under the common rule provisions.
– If a common rule could be applied, where is the necessity for the amendment?
– I remind the Committee that there is a fundamental principle justifying . the application of awards to people on either side who have not asked for them, and it is that somebody else may suffer injustice because they are not brought under a common rule. The injustice can only arise’ where there is competition, and we are here only to remedy injustice. It is not a fair comment to say that this amendment would injure the Bill, whether it is intended to do so or not. It is not sufficient for the Prime Minister to say that I and others have no wish to injure the Bill, because I contend that what is proposed will not injure the Bill. We are laying down a principle which it is admitted on all sides the Court will have to apply. The Prime Minister ‘ says that he is willing to put in a direction that the Court must consider what I have suggested in giving a decision. He has admitted that that is one factor which should be regarded by the Court. I say that it is the fundamental basis upon which the Court should proceed. If it is wise ‘to give such a direction as the Prime Minister suggests, it is only because that is what the Court ought to do. If we believe that the Court ought to do that, it is our duty as a Legislature to direct that it shall do it. When we use the expression “ trust Che Court,” we mean that within the limits of the authority which Ave choose to confer upon the Court we should leave it a free hand. We are doing that, but when there is a clear principle which may be laid down, and of which the Legislature approves, it is the duty of the Legislature to inform the Court of its ‘approval of that principle, and of its intention that that principle shall be adhered to. I have referred to the cases of the wharf labourers, the seamen, and the miners, and I ask the Committee ‘to pass this amendment to give legislative form to what practically every honorable member believes to be the true basis upon which the application of the common rule should be conducted. We shall be shirking our duty if we do not take such steps in this Bill as are necessary to carry out what we believe to be a correct principle.
Mr. HUGHES (West Svdney- Minister of External Affairs). - There is one aspect of the question to which I should like to direct the attention of the Committee in connexion with wharf labourers. Competition can hardly be said to arise betweenwharf labourers employed in Melbourne and in Sydney, or between those employed in Sydney and in Fremantle. I am not dealing with a supposititious case, and I remind the Committee that wharf labourers at Adelaide do not belong to our federation. In one port of Western Australia, wharf labourers engaged in the industry do not belong to our federation. The honorable and learned member for Corinella has said that the basic reason for a common rule, and its application, is competition. Very well, competition in what ? - o–
– Competition which causes the people, coming under the common rule, to be injured by being under it.
– If the rate of wages paid to wharf labourers in the port of Sydney is increased, and the rate paid to wharf labourers at Fremantle, or elsewhere in the Commonwealth, is not correspondingly increased, I ask honorable members to say whether the increase will not have a deterrent effect upon the shipping going to the port in which if operates, providing it is of such a character as will be felt bv the shippers. .Honorable members should not forget that the stevedores never pay the increase, or very rarely do so. It is the shippers who have to pay it. I will give an illustration. If men work between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., the ordinary hours, the stevedore pays the wages ; but for overtime the shipper, and not the stevedore, has to pay. It will, therefore, be seen that if an increase of wages is directed in any . particular . port, and the rule does not include all the ports of Australia, its effect will be in the nature of a direct embargo upon the shipping entering the port in which the rule applies. If a proposal, is made to increase the wages of wharf labourers in Sydney or Melbourne the Court must consider what effect it will have, or will tend to have, upon the shipping of those ports, when some other ports are excluded from the common rule, and when, under the amendment proposed by the honorable and learned member for Corinella, on his own admission, they cannot be brought within the rule, because there is no real competition between them. Such competition as there may be cannot be said to be competition between port and nort in the sense in which we use the word here, because the persons coming before the Court are employer and employ! and the stevedore cannot say that the effect of the rule would be to decrease his “profits, because it would not.
– Would not the wages be the same in every port?
– The right honorable gentleman will permit me, with my special information on the subject, to tell him that they are not the same now. At the port of Fremantle, for instance, is. 6d. per hour is paid for work for which one lot of men receive is. an hour in the ports of Melbourne and Sydney, and another lot is. 3d. per hour. Iri the port of Brisbane for the same work they receive is. per hour, but when we go up the coast to Cooktown, I believe that the rate is is. 6d. or is od., and if we go round Cape York to Normanton the rate there is, or used to be, 2s. an hour for the same work. Yet if we exclude Brisbane, where the men engaged in this work are poorly paid, these amounts represent practically the same rate of wage. That is to say, they represent practically the same purchasing power. If there is any one of the ports excluded from the common rule the Court may say, “One of the effects of granting this very just application for increased wages in the ports of Sydney and Melbourne will be that persons carrying on business in the port of Adelaide, or some other port where the wharf labourers do not belong to the federation, will be able to handle cargo very much more cheaply than those engaged in the industry in Melbourne, and Sydney. That will naturally tend to decrease the chance of shipping going to the ports in which the increase is allowed; especially as the increase is in many cases directly, and in every case ultimately, paid by the shippers, and not by the stevedores.
– That is a theoretical argument, but has it any practical bearing?
– The bearing is this : the honorable and learned member for Corinella says that there is competition in every trade but that engaged in by wharf labourers, and then he assumes that all the wharf ‘labourers employed in Australia are members of the Waterside Workers’ Federation. My word must be taken in this matter, and I say that some wharf labourers do not belong to the federation, and further, of those who are in the federation some may not desire to be brought under a special rule. The unions are autonomous bodies in the different ports, and they can only be brought together when they are all agreed. My honorable friend will understand that a dispute within the meaning of this Bill is a difference of opinion as to the pay that should be given or the conditions of work imposed. I point out that the Court of New South Wales was asked to increase the wages in the tailoring trade, and the application was met by the statement that, in Queensland, there was no factory legislation, and no method of increasing the wages or of determining the amount to be paid for each garment, and that, therefore, if the wages were increased, the trade would drift from Sydney to Brisbane. It has done so to some small extent. I point out that, if there is any way by which the members of the
Waterside Workers’ Federation will be deprived of the benefit of a common rule, there the whole of the wharf labourers will be excluded from the Bill. Honorable members will agree that the Court may refuse to apply a common rule if in their opinion to do so would be to injure the shipping industry in a particular port. If it is the intention of the Committee to exclude wharf labourers, we should say so in set terms, but we should not pretend that it is our intention that they shall enjoy the benefits of this measure, when by the amendment it is proposed directly to prevent them from, enjoying them. So far as the wharf labourers are concerned, I earnestly ask the Committee to accept the suggestion of the Prime Minister, which is practically to the same effect as the amendment, except that it will not be mandatory in every case upon the Court to have regard to competition, and competition alone.
– I will propose the amendment to which I have referred if the other is defeated.
– Competition, as has. been shown, will not directly affect this particular industry, and there are others which the honorable and learned member for Corinella has perhaps* overlooked in the same position. I do say that if thismeasure was intended to benefit any one at all, it was the maritime labourers and shearers. The honorable and learnedmember for Corinella now proposes to exclude the members of a federation numbering 11,000 men from the benefits of the Bill. Perhaps more than any other, the object aimed at in this legislation was to benefit the class of men who were engaged in the great maritime strike. The Committee, after saying that it is prepared to allow maritime labourers to come under the Bill, i9 now deliberately being asked to exclude the most powerful body of them.
– I have not yet spoken on the question of the common rule, but I told the honorable and learned member for Corinella that I should probably vote for his amendment. After listening to the arguments of the Prime Minister and the Minister of External Affairs, I feel now that if we are to save the Bill at all we must vote with the Government, and I propose to do so. The provision for a common rule is really the heart of the measure, and it is not likely that it will be applied tc» small organizations and to the artisan classes. As the measure can apply only to disputes extending beyond the limits of one State, it is clear that it will apply especially to the pastoral, mining, and shipping industries. Seeing, that the amendment submitted by the honorable and learned member for Corinella would have the direct effect of excluding the persons engaged in those industries, it is only right that those who believe in the Bill should endeavour to defeat, not the intentions of the honorable and learned member, which I believe, are absolutely honest, but of those who, by voting with him to take the heart out of the measure, hope to destroy the measure itself. I shall vote with the Government, largely because of the promise of the Prime Minister that on this amendment being defeated, as I hope it will be. he will submit a provision which will intimate to the Court what we desire. I take it that the Court will regard th’at intimation with just as much respect as it would an absolutely mandatory provision such as that suggested by the amendment. I hope the Government will be supported in their opposition to this amendment, and will preserve, and make effective in its operation, the principle of conciliation and arbitration. ExMinisters should certainly support the clause as originally drafted.
Mr. SPENCE (Darling).- I urgently appeal to the Committee to reject this amendment. I speak with some intimate knowledge of past difficulties in the wool industry, in connexion with which there is the largest organization in Australia, and which is the industry that yields the biggest return to the country. We have had a great many “fights,” as we call them, and at the head-quarters of our opponents there are clever men. We have consulted the ablest barristers and solicitors in New South Wales as to the means to be adopted to enable us to get into Court. We are surrounded by numerous difficulties, on which I do not dwell, but merely suggest, because honorable members know that the occupation is intermittent, and that there are no regular employes for any particular employer. In the face of our experience, and from information given to us by the highest - legal authorities, I am convinced that if this amendment be carried there will be no chance of the men to whom I am now particularly referring being able to obtain the benefit of the measure. I know that the honorable and learned member foi Corinella is a friend of the Bill, and I have
no prejudice against any proposal he may make; but it seems to me that as the debate proceeds the case against his amendment becomes stronger. I desire again to emphasize the statement made by the Prime Minister, that the amendment would mean that the name of every employer and every employ^ would have to be ascertained. We do not know who the members of the opposing union are, and we do not know all the workmen who might go to work. The honorable and learned member for Corinella says that we would have an award ; but that is utterly useless unless we have a common rule. Let me point out what has already been done by the party opposing us in New South Wales. They are now, in view of this Bill, forming another organization for the express purpose of keeping us out of Court. If there be no common rule, the employers can make use of the friendly body of workmen to defeat the whole object of the Bill, and render any award utterly inoperative. I cannot conceive that even those who are opposed to this class of legislation should favour an amendment that would prevent its being operative in an industry in which, perhaps more than any other, there has been trouble.
– If shearers and seamen had not been in view, the section would not have been in the Constitution.
– The honorable member for North Sydney was most convincing as to the danger of this amendment, because it seems to me he gave away the whole case of those who support it. That honorable member spoke of other bodies of workmen, who, in some distant’ part, might be satisfied with their conditions, and not desire to come under the Bill. I should like to remind the honorable member that there are two parties ; and if higher wages were paid in any spot, the ship-owners would take good care to make the persons interested there a party to the suit, with the distinct object of trying to get a reduction of wages. Therefore the argument of the honorable member for North Sydney does not apply. The fact is that where there are uniform conditions the whole Commonwealth can readily come under a common rule; but if all the parties have to be named, the contract will be too big for the Court,, and the Bill, instead of making for peace and peaceful industry, will be provocative of disputes. The honorable member for North Sydney said that a dispute could soon be got up, and I have been twitted with a similar remark, which I made in a partly jocular spirit. What I me.mt was that, in order to bring a case under the Federal law, it would be easy to satisfy the technical conditions, and that is probably what the honorable member for North Sydney also meant. But that is not what we want ; we want this Court to have a chance to deal with industries in accordance with recognised customs, so that there may be as little revolution as possible. The amendment, on the other hand, would create a complete revolution, and make the Bill utterly inoperative. Unless it is the deliberate intention of the Committee to shut the shearers out, we ought to reject this amendment; and this I say from a full knowledge of the difficulties surrounding the industry, and of the necessity for a common rule. I venture to say that if there be a common rule it will be observed loyally on both sides, representatives of which are accustomed to meet and arrange matters. But if every employer and every workman has to be named, the measure will be found to be impracticable, owing to the immense area and the number of men concerned.
– I offer my strongest opposition to the amendment, which would not render the Bill absolutely inoperative, but would cause it to be shorn of much of its advantage. A reference has been made to the many occupations in which we cannot say that the products of the labour employed come into competition in different States. There are, for instance, seamen, wharf labourers, and shearers, and do not let us forget, the gold miners. No one can say that gold comes into competition with gold in the sense intended by the amendment. To say that the gold miners of Australia will have to be left outside the beneficial operation of a common rule, if the Court, in its wisdom and discretion should think the circumstances justify it in imposing a common rule, is in itself quite sufficient to negative the amendment.
– I do not think the honorable and learned member can have read the amendment, which relates to persons as well as to products.
– I see no difference.
– A heated reference has been made by (he Prime Minister to the action of one or two honorable members, who, like myself, are opposed to the Bill.
– There are more than one or two.
– On every occasion when we support an amendment, we are told we do it for the sole and simple purpose of emasculating the measure.
– There is nothing improper in suggesting that?
– On every possible occasion our motives are impugned by the Prime Minister; but I draw attention to the fact that the Prime Minister has frequently declared a number of amendments to be amendments for the purpose of emasculating the Bill, and then has accepted them without going to a division.
– Honorable members will recollect that when we were discussing clause 27, or clause 28, a few days ago, no fewer than three Ministers spoke. We had the Prime Minister, in a very heated oration, such as we heard this afternoon, denouncing the attitude of the honorable and learned member for Ballarat as one likely to endanger the Bill.
– I do not think I said that in regard to clause 27.
– It was in regard 10 some amendment which the Prime Minister wished to insert in clause 27.
– With all respect, I do not think that is correct.
– With great respect, I am absolutely certain it is correct, because I remember noting the fact at the time. The amendment which the Prime Minister wished to move was to omit “ industrial dispute,” in line 7 of clause 27, and insert “ dispute in relation to industrial matters if it extends, or is likely to extend’, beyond the limits of that State.”
– All the same, I do not think I made use of the expression which the honorable member attributes to me.
– ‘On that occasion, the Prime Minister was’, as usual, followed by the Minister of External Affairs, who was even more violent than his chief ;” and, finally, we had the Attorney-General, who, as usual, was more sophistical than either of those two gentlemen. Notwithstanding that those three gentlemen insisted on the amendment, and stated that if it were not carried the Bill would be largely inoperative, they had not the courage to go to a division. That fact should be accepted as giving us a very good test of the mock heroics which have been indulged in by the Prime Minister to-day. The carrying of this amendment would not render this Bill inoperative; but, I have no hesitation in saying that if I thought it would make the Bill largely inoperative, I should enthusiastically support it.
– As the honorable member is doing now.
– I am not enthusiastically supporting this amendment, which I have refrained from discussing, because I think the relief it gives is practically trifling. No honorable member has given a more generous support to this measure than has the honorable and learned member for Corinella; and if this amendment be supported byhis leader, the honorable and learned member for Ballarat, we may take it that it is one which is not inimical to the Bill. To say that the proposal is inimical to the basic principle of the Bill is stretching language to an unwarranted extent. The honorable and learned member for Corinella, who is a legal authority in whom I have great confidence, has assured us that with his amendment the Bill would apply to shearers, and, that being so, the honorable member for Darling might very well withdraw any objection. I give the opinions of the honorable member for Darling the great respect due to them, because . I know he has thoroughly considered the matter; but I again emphasize the point advanced by the honorable member for North Sydney.When we were discussing clause 18, the justification advanced for the common rule was that the products of industries would come into competition, and that, therefore, it was just and fair that one award should be made applicable to as large an area as possible, provided clue regard was paid to local conditions and requirements. I differed from the honorable and learned member for Corinella as to clause 18. but it seems to me that in submitting this amendment, his action is absolutely consistent with the attitude he then assumed. I observe that the New Zealand Conciliation andArbitration Act of 1900, contains in section 87 - which is a similar provision to the one which we are now discussing - the following proviso: -
Provided that the Court shall not act under this sub-section, except where an award relates to a trade or manufacture, the products of which enter into competition in any market with those manufactured in another industrial district.
The spirit of this provision is exactly that which the honorable and learned member for Corinella has embodied in his amendment. In taking up that attitude, he seems to me to have good authority, for we must recollect that the first industrial Arbitration and Conciliation Act was passed in the Colony of New Zealand, and that the great bulk of the arguments in favour of this measure are drawn from New Zealand experience. The experience of New South Wales is so slight - the Conciliation and Arbitration Act having been in force so short a time in that State - that we are not able to rely upon it. But the experience of New Zealand - where this class of legislation was in operation prior to the passing of the New South Wales Act - seems to me to afford a very excellent reason why the Commonwealth Parliament, in going along these lines, should follow that example. I think it will be admitted that New Zealand is the most radically democratic country in the world ; and if this provision has been inserted in the Conciliation and Arbitration Act of that country, it seems to me that it cannot be held to be incompatible with the democratic spirit to insert it in the Commonwealth Bill. The honorable member for Gippsland has been taken to task in a very unfair manner with relation to some references that he made to the Victorian Factories Act. But it must be remembered that although to a certain extent the decision of a Wages Board is a common rule, it is only a common rule within a definite limited area. The Victorian members know that that Act has no operation in shires, and so forth, except under very special and stringent conditions. So that the Victorian Wages Boards’ common rules do not extend over the whole of Victoria.
– They do in the baking trade.
– Perhaps they do in that trade; but, speaking generally, there is no common rule applying throughout Victoria;’ and therefore the honorable member for Gippsland was unfairly taken to task in that respect. The decisions given under the Victorian Act are local, and by no means Inter-State.
– How could they be InterState?
– It seems to me that the amendment moved by the honorable and learned member for Corinella, though not one about which I feel very enthusiastic, will remove some apprehensions which people may rightly feel. Therefore, I shall cast my vote in favour of it.
– I do not desire to detain the Committee more than a couple of minutes; but the honorable and learned member for Wannon has made some remarks concerning me which indicate that he has an imagination transcending that of most people, and is not slow to draw upon it when it suits his purpose. The honorable and learned member alluded to the alleged fact that I had exercised someheated oratory on the occasion of clause 27 being considered. He said that I had then stated that the Bill would be emasculated if the amendments proposed were adopted, and that I had appealed to every one who was favorable to the Bill to support the proposal of the Government. He added that eventually the Government let the clause go without a division. Well, I have had an opportunity of looking at Hansard, and I beg to recall to the memory of the honorable and learned member for Wannon and honorable members generally what then took place. So far from my having spoken with any heat, or with any attempt at oratory - even if I were capable of it - it will be found that the arguments which I then put forward were advanced merely tentatively, and that the honorable and learned member for Ballarat, in following me, said -
The speech of the Prime Minister shows that he felt a very natural, and I think a very proper, hesitation in making up his mind whether the amendment he proposes comes within the Constitution.
I ask whether that language would have been applied by the honorable and learned member for Ballarat to my speech if I had indulged in any heated oratory in favour of my proposal ? -The only other time when I spoke with reference to the matter was when I got up and said that I did not intend to insist on the amendment.
– Three Ministers spoke.
– But the honorable and learned member accused me of showing heat on every occasion. If he will take the opportunity of looking at the advance copy of Hansard, which 1 hold in my hand, and which contains my speech, he will see that the whole tenor of it is in a contrary direction. I trust that we shall come to a division to-day. The matter has been debated since last’- evening, and I have nothing further to say, except to express the. hope that honorable members will hesitate before they vote to exclude from this Bill the shearers, the wharf labourers, the seamen, and the railway men, because that would be the effect of the amendment of the honorable and learned member for Corinella.
Mr. ROBINSON (Wannon).- I find from the statement of the Prime Minister that I have done him an injustice, which I sincerely regret. But I wish to state definitely and decidedly that an interjection or a phrase did come from the Ministerial bench, ,and from a member of the Ministry, during the discussion upon the clause to which I referred, to the effect that unless the clause were carried the Bill would be rendered wholly inoperative. I say that distinctly. I find that in charging the Prime Minister I have done him an injustice. For that I offer him an ample and abject apology, because he is the essence of fairness himself, and I regret that I should have misunderstood him in any way;
Mr. KELLY (Wentworth). - I should like to say a word or two* before the division is taken, because I think that some discredit is sought to be attached to this amendment, on the strength of the fact that certain honorable members who support it. were opposed to the Bill on the second reading. That is true, but that is no reason for discrediting the amendment. -I opposed the Bill at the second reading stage, because, in my opinion, the principle of it has not been sufficiently tested in the States. I am going to show what the effect of the wider application of the common rule will be. It is desired by honorable members opposite that the principle of the common rule shall apply to seamen, shearers, and others. That /application will lead to a large number of new branches of certain unions being formed in places where branches do not at present exist. These branches will have to be formed .to enable employes to appear to show cause why, for instance, a common rule reducing wages should not be entered against them. The wider application of this principle will, consequently, lead to a much larger accession of power on the part of one of the existing unions, at any rate, and I think of three, upon which the party opposite rely for their political support. I only put that consideration forward to show what one of the effects will be. I should not have mentioned it at all, except for the attempt which is being made to throw discredit upon the amendment and those who support it. I throw back the taunt, and I say that if our honesty can be impugned in this regard, equally fairly the honesty of the party opposite can be impugned, who seek to increase arbitrarily the number of the unions upon which they rely for their political support.
– It seems to me to be an extraordinary thing that so much objection should be taken to this amendment. We find that the same provision exists substantially in the New Zealand Act. An amending Bill was introduced into the New Zealand Parliament last year. I have read the debates with reference to that Bill, and I find that no exception was taken to this section, nor was any attempt made to alter it. Those who are inclined to criticise this Bill, or to suggest amendments in it which they think should be made, are charged by honorable members opposite with being against the Bill altogether, and with endeavouring to defeat it. I have no doubt that when honorable members opposite get into their pulpits to deliver pleasant Sunday afternoon addresses next Sunday, those honorable members upon this side of the chamber who support the amendment will be held up as being against the principle of the measure. That, however, is far .from being the case. It is true that two or three honorable members on this side of the chamber have boldy and straightforwardly said that they are against the Bill. But I have never known of any measure of similar importance to this one - which gives rise to so much scope for consideration and disagreement - which has been received so sympathetically by a Parliament as this Bill has been received. I desire to see the principle of it enacted, but enacted on grave and cautious lines at first, because in no country yet - not even in New Zealand - has it been fairly and properly tried. In New South Wales there is a Conciliation and Arbitration Act in operation, but it is strange that most of the honorable members who are against this Bill come from the State where that Act is working, and are convinced that it is not proving anything like the benefit that its friends thought it would be. In New Zealand the results accruing from the Conciliation and Arbitration Act have not yet been determined. We do not know whether it is going to be a success or not. Only the other day the New Zealand correspondent of a newspaper, which is certainly favorable to this description of legislation, writes in very strong terms with regard to the effects of the Act in New Zealand. In the Age of the 7th of this month, I find the following -
The Arbitration Court continues to be busily engaged. The tramway employes failed in most of their claims, but trades go on making demands and telling the same story of increasing cost of living and increasing rents.
The awards of the Court continue to be made the excuse for high prices. Though wheat this week was a shade under Australian prices at Dunedin, the 41b. loaf ranges, in the North Island, from 6d. in the few places where there is competition, .to- from 7d. to rod. where there is no competition. The combines of millers and of bakers pocket the difference, and blame the awards of the Arbitration Court. The dangers to the community from unions of employers are great and increasing. Already they have robbed the workers of the benefits of increased wages, and the only remedy the worker sees is the further increasing of wages. There must be a reversion to competition, and that would mean competition in labour “as in other things, or trade must be regulated by law.
The correspondent goes on to use the following very pregnant words -
New Zealand for the next few years will be an object lesson to political economists. She is making experiments for the whole world, but in the main I am convinced she is doing it in ablind way. The. enormous increase of the export trade, which has- nothing to do with arbitration awards, has given her prosperity, and, therefore, the ability to bear the burden of social experiments.
– Will the honorable member read the paragraph concerning New Zealand prosperity in the same article?
– I will deal with that directly. The effects of the Act are not set down as a relief, but a burden. This correspondent says that the Act has noi contributed to the prosperity of New Zealand, but that production has enabled New Zealand to bear the burden of this legislation. He continues -
Industrial arbitration has affected every class, every phase of life. An award in one trade increases the cost of living in all the others. There is a perpetual enhancement of values. A dragon has been set loose in the land, because it was thought to be harmless, but he is gaining strength, and will devour the people unless they manage to chain him. Who is going to chain him? Not Mr. Seddon, who thinks it is right that he should roam at large, and for ever. It was not foreseen-that an artificial value placed on labour would result in artificial values being -placed on everything else.
I wish to be cautious in- this matter. I would not trust a Judge more than another individual in a matter pf this kind. We have the opinion of the Chief Justice of New South Wales as to the working of the Arbitration Act of that State, and it is not a very favorable one. I think that we should limit the powers of the Court in the first instance, and afterwards extend them if we find it necessary to do so.
Mr. McCAY (Corinella).- The matters about which we are disputing seem to have been reduced to the question whether the amendment would exclude those connected with the business of transportation and shearers.
– And miners, too.
– I am prepared to meet the Government by providing that the common rule shall be capable of application :to . those engaged in the business of transportation or incidental industries, and to shearers and their employers, although the products of .their industry may not technically be regarded as coming into competition.
– Why not mention the miners, too ?
– Because I think they should be subject to the general rule. No special reason has been given for making an exception of them. I think that, in view of what the Prime ^Minister has said more than once to-day in connexion with this matter, the compromise I .offer should be accepted, and my amendment, amended as I suggest, agreed to.
– I admit that the honorable and learned member is, from his own point of view, taking up a very reasonable attitude. He believes that competition should be the determining factor in the application of the common rule, but the Government do not take that view. While we regard competition as a large factor, we do not consider it the only factor.
– Leave it to the Court.
– We take the view that it should be left to the Court. I am willing to amend the paragraph by inserting a provision - as an indication, not as a mandatory direction - to the effect that in the application of the common rule the Court shall pay proper regard to the aspect of competition and the surrounding conditions generally. For these reasons I am constrained to oppose the amendment ; but if it is carried we must endeavour to make it as acceptable as we can. In the interests of the Bill we think that the Court should be free from anything in the nature of a tie or improper hindrance in the application of the common rule.
– I am inclined to the view expressed by the honorable and learned member for Corinella, that competition should be made the basis of the common rule, but I recognise the essential need for exemptions. I understand that the Prime Minister will not accept the compromise which has been offered, and therefore it seems to me safer to negative’ the amendment as it stands. If, however, pastoralists, shearers, miners, and those engaged in transportation were exempted, I should be more disposed to vote for the amendment.
Mr. McCAY (Corinella).- By leave, I propose to amend my amendment ‘by adding the followings words : - “or such persons are engaged in the industry of transportation or in pastoral pursuits.”
Amendment, by leave, amended accordingly
– I urge the Government to .accept this compromise. I am one who has strongly supported the Bill, and after the arguments to -which I ha-ve listened I think it would be a very good thing to make the common rule capable of application to shearers, railway men, and others engaged in the business of transportation ; but I have .grave doubts as to the wisdom of including miners, which has been suggested by the honorable and learned member for Indi. It seems to me that if miners are included serious trouble will be caused.
– Because the conditions under which mining takes place varies so much in different parts of Australia.
– The Court is not bound to apply the common rule to miners.
– Will not the Court know as much as we know about the variation of conditions of which the honorable member speaks?
– The point is that, as we know of this variation, and feel sure that it would .create great industrial trouble - throwing men out of employment and causing loss, want, and misery - to apply the common rule to the mining industry, we should not leave the matter to the Court at all. The honorable member’s interjection seems to me an admission that it would be a bad thing to include miners. If the Government will not accept the amendment as proposed to be amended, they place members like myself in an awkward position.
I suggest that progress should be reported, so that the matter may be threshed out on our next day of meeting.
– Why not trust the Court ?
– I am prepared to do so; but will any representative of a mining constituency speak in favour of applying the common rule to miners? I am not in favour of so applying it. It is idle for honorable members opposite to declare that the extension of the common rule to the mining industry will do no harm. I ask them to demonstrate that it will confer some good upon the miners themselves. A division upon this proposal should be taken in a full Committee.
– Every vote is accounted for.
– A number of honorable members have left the chamber in the belief that the proposal would not apply to miners. Now we have the assurance of the honorable and learned member for Indi that it will apply to them. I agree with the Government that the common rule should be extended to shearers and seamen, but I fail to see any reason why it should apply to miners.
– It will be extended to them if my vote will insure that result.
– I have an open mind on this question. If the honorable member for Hume can show me that this proposal will benefit the miners, I shall be delighted to support it.
– The late Government, with which the honorable member was associated, was prepared to extend the principle to the miners.
– That fact ought to remind the Minister of External Affairs that the present Government, after fighting hard for certain amendments, have seen fit to change their minds. It is idle for him to recall what the late Government did. That sort of nonsense is absolutelywasted on me, and if he persists in that line of argument I shall probably retaliate. He cannot do all the abusing in this House. I have voted with the Government in some divisions, and against them in others, just as I thought they were, right or. wrong. I am resolved that this proposal shall not be passed without debate.
– That is a threat.
– It is no threat. Representing as I do a mining constituency, it is only fair that I should ask the Prime
Minister, who represents a similar constituency, to explain how the extension of the common rule to the miners will benefit them.
– Can the honorable member advance any reason why they should not be included in this Bill?
– Because’ the conditions under which they labour differ so greatly. In some places they are compelled to work underground, in others they are obliged to labour in the wet, in still other localities provisions are dear, or the climate is bad.
– The honorable member seems to forget that under the New South Wales Act the common rule is extended to the miners.
– I do not forget that.
– Does the honorable member say that in no two places are the conditions alike?
– The honorable and learned member must not endeavour to catch me with questions of that kind. I made no such statement. I would ask the honorable member for Kalgoorlie whether a fair rule which would be applicable to the conditions of mining at Tumberumba would be equally applicable to those which obtain at Kalgoorlie?
– Certainly not, and that is not the intention of this proposal.
– It could be applied in that way.
– But it would not be so applied.
– Are the Ministry prepared to advance any reason in favour of bringing miners within the scope of this measure ?
– Not to-day.
– I admit that it should be applicable to the shearers and seamen. When the Minister of External Affairs reminds me of the fact that the late Government favoured this proposal, I ask him why he does not chide the honorable member for Hume, who now adopts a very different attitude on this question from that which he formerly took up?
– I did not hear him.
– The Minister ought to be present in the chamber more frequently, and then he would know exactly what transpires. This is the first occasion during the week on which I have addressed myself to any question relating to the Bill, and I have no desire to unduly prolong the debate. A number of honorable members have left, under the impression that the common rule could not be applied to miners, and those who agree with the view I hold should not allow a division to be taken until the question has been thoroughly threshed out. I am anxious to catch ‘my train, but that is a- matter of no importance as compared with the necessity of doing justice to the miners. A fair compromise has been offered, and, if the Government are -not prepared to accept it, I appeal to those who like myself do not consider that the common rule should apply to miners to prevent a division being at once taken. I should like to have a further explanation, and no one is more able to give us that explanation than is the honorable and learned member for Indi.
– If the honorable member will give me an opportunity, I shall be pleased to explain the proposal.
– With that assurance I shall be pleased at once to resume my seat.
Mr. ISAACS (Indi). - I think that the whole scope of this debate may be speedily cut down. The amendment means, in effect, that notwithstanding any evidence that may be brought before the Court as to the similarity of conditions under which miners are engaged in any part of the Commonwealth - no matter if it be shown that in twenty different places the conditions of work of the miners are so ‘very similar that a common rule might advantageously be applied - the common rule shall not be made. The clause, as it stands, does not say that the Court shall in every case, however dissimilar the conditions may be, impose a common rule that would work hardship or inflict injustice on any portion of the community. Where the Court sees that it would be unjust or impracticable to apply a common rule, it will be able to refrain from doing so. But the amendment declares, in effect, and this is why I object to it, that, no matter how desirable it may seem on the evidenceno matter how similar the conditions relating to the industry in various parts of the Commonwealth may be, or how advantageous it might be to apply one common rule to an. industry within any area, and with any modification - the Court shall not. apply a common rule.
– It permits of others coming in.
– It restricts the Court, and for that reason I object to it. If the honorable member for Eden-Monaro thinks that this provision declares that miners and others are necessarily to be covered by a common rule he is mistaken. If that were its purport, his remarks would be well founded, and would receive my approval. But that is not the meaning of it, and, that beng so, I think I have shown that his argument is not a sound one.
Mr. DUGALD THOMSON (North Sydney’). - I would ask the Prime Minister te agree to progress being reported. We have frequently had spirited debates, but we have never yet sat past the hour at which it isnecessary to adjourn on Friday afternoons in order to enable honorable members from other States to catch their trains.
– Does the honorable member think that we should consent to progress being reported after a debate extending over nearly two days in regard to one small matter ?
– The honorable member will find that we have not spent two days in dealing with this ques- . tion. “
– When we were dealing with clause 37 we had a discussion on the principle of the common rule which extended over nearly a day.
– That was in regard to the broad question of the desirableness of the common rule. The question now before us is, whether there should not be a reasonable limitation of the principle, such as is contained in the New Zealand Act, which has always received great praise, from those who favour compulsory conciliation and arbitration.
– There the people are differently situated.
– The position has been constantly shifting since the inauguration of this debate. There is no desire to be inconsiderate, but-
– I see no indication that a number of members desire to speak.
– I believe that there are a number who wish to do so. The explanation given by the honorable and learned member for Indi has given rise to an entirely new situation.
– Not at all.
– I am expressing my own opinion. There has been no desire to obstruct the progress of business. The speeches, though many, have been brief, and have come from both sides of the chamber. I am informed that the Prime
Minister himself desired to delay the division until after lunch in order that he might further consider the matter, and in these circumstances it would not be unreasonable for. him to grant our request. I do. not wish to say one word that might be considered to convey a ‘ threat, but if honorable members are detained over the usual bour, it will not tend to- advantage the debate.’
– I did not ask for any delay.
– I was informed that the honorable gentleman did.
– When an honorable member proposed to speak two or three minutes before the usual luncheon hour, I suggested it would be a convenient time to adjourn.
– We were informed shortly after 12 o’clock that the honorable member did not desire to take a division before lunch.
– Then I can assure the honorable member that that information did not come from me. When an honorable member spoke to me about an amendment I told him that be had better wait until the luncheon hour. That remark was made privately, and it is unusual to mention such matters in Committee.
– The honorable gentleman must accept my assurance that I did not know it was a private conversation.
– Hear, hear.
– I was informed that the Government desired that the matter should not be settled before the lunch hour. I would ask the Prime Minister not to create that feeling of irritation which the proposed departure from the general rule must cause.
– It is only reasonable that we should come to a division on this question. When clause 37 was under consideration, on the initiative of the honorable and learned member for Angas we debated the general question of the common rule for a whole day. Then we proceeded yesterday afternoon to deal with this minor aspect of the principle. We have been discussing it all day, but I do not complain of the time that has been spent in this way, because I admit that the question is a rather important one, and that it is only reasonable that proper time should be given for its consideration, in order that the best results may be achieved. I think, however, that every honorable member has spoken, on this subject.
Mr.- Cameron. —Every very honorable member, who wishes to speak to it.
– I believe that is so, and in view of the time that has been spent in the consideration of this question I do not think it is proper to -ask for an adjournment. I am prepared, however, to give the Committee an undertaking that if the amendment is defeated, ‘and that which .1’ have indicated is carried, I shall be willing to recommit this paragraph of the clause on a request to that effect being made on be-, half of the Opposition.
– If a -request is made to recommit the clause, the honorable gentleman will agree to it?
– I think that’ to recommit this paragraph is a fair thing. If it is subsequently found that there is force in the contention of honorable members who have expressed themselves in the interests of the gold-mining industry, we can then consider the matter.
Mr. CHAPMAN (Eden- Monaro).- The honorable and learned member for Indi has failed to convince me. I asked him to show how this provision would help the miners. The honorable member for Hume may be very much amused at my denseness, but it would be very interesting to me to hear that honorable member explain how this provision will benefit the miners. I admit that the Prime Minister has now made a fair offer. I point out the position in which his action places me and a number of other members of the Committee. I desire to give a vote which would have the effect of applying the common rule provision to shearers and others, and yet the honorable gentleman forces me into a falsa position, because I believe that the provision, as it stands in the Bill,- would be very bad indeed in its effects if applied to gold miners.. The Prime Minister represents a gold-mining constituency, and it is open to him to show how this provision will operate with respect to that industry. The honorable and learned member for Indi has given us the law on the subject, and has told us what the Court will do. Hu has said that there arc numbers of places in the Commonwealth where the conditions of the gold-mining industry are identical, and that, if we passed the clause as it stands, the Court would be able to apply a common rule to those places. Are we to allow the Court to say that the conditions in all those places are identical, and to make a common rule that will affect them, all ? I have no hesitation in saying that such a proposition is calculated to alarm those interested in the gold-mining industry, and to prevent the opening up of mines which would be opened up if no trouble of this kind was apprehended. I believe that a common rule would be so detrimental to the interests of the miners that I take the liberty of saying that every member of the Committee who represents a gold-mining district should vote against that industry being brought under the common rule provisions of the Bill.
– I represent a gold-mining constituency, and I shall vote for it.
Mr. DUGALD THOMSON (North Sydney). - I understand that the Prime Minister will ‘offer no objection to the recommittal of this clause if that is thought desirable.
– No ; to the .recommittal of the paragraph, in dispute.
– In the circumstances I think the Committee should accept the honorable gentleman’s assurance. I am glad it has been given, as if it had not been given it would have led to a resistance that would have been unfortunate.
Mr. ROBINSON (Wannon).- The honorable and learned member for Corinella desired to add a few words to his amendment. He has, however, had to leave the chamber, and on his behalf, I move -
That the amendment be amended by the insertion, after the word “ transportation,” of the words “ or handling goods for transportation.”
Amendment pf the amendment agreed to.
Amendment, as amended, negatived.
– I promised honorable members that I would be prepared to move a certain amendment, if the amendment moved by the honorable and learned member for Corinella were defeated. I now move -
That after the word “ arises,” line g, the following words be inserted, “ Provided that the Court, before declaring a common rule, shall pay (lue regard to the extent to which the industries or persons affected or are likely to enter into competition with one another.”
Amendment agreed to. Amendment (by Mr. Watson)” agreed to -
That the following words be added . to the paragraph as amended : - “ Provided also that before any common rule is so declared, the President shall, by notification, published in the Gazette, and is such other publics; ‘ons, if any, as the Court directs, specifying the industry and the industrial matter in relation to which it is proposed to declare a common rule; make known that all’ persons and organizations interested and desirous of being heard may, on or before a day named, .appear or be represented before the Court ; and the Court shall in manner prescribed hear all such ‘persons and organizations so appearing or represented.”
Paragraph, as amended, agreed to.
Mr. KNOX (Kooyong). - I ask the Prime Minister whether he can promise that copies of the Bill, as amended to date, will be circulated before the Committee resume.
– That will be attended to.
Mr. DEPUTY SPEAKER: I have to inform the House that a subpoena has this day been served on the Clerk of this House, requiring him to attend on Monday next at the Supreme Court, Melbourne, in connexion with an information filed against one Olive Douglas, and to produce the writ issued on the 15th March last for the electoral division of Melbourne. If the House approves, the Clerk or some officer of his staff will be authorized to attend and produce the writ as required by the subpoena. There being no objection, I take it that the House approves.
House adjourned at 4.38 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 17 June 1904, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1904/19040617_reps_2_19/>.