4th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr. FRAZER made and subscribed the oath of allegiance as member for the electoral division of Kalgoorlie.
Mr. SPEAKER informed the House that he had issued a writ for the election of a member to serve for the electoral division of Kooyong in the place of the Hon. William Knox, resigned, and that the dates appointed in the writ were as follow : - Date of nomination, Friday, 12th August; date of polling, Wednesday, 24th August; date of the return of writ, on or before Wednesday, 7th September.
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Whether he will inform the House the number of times, from and including 1900, to date, that the Japanese Government have amended their Tariff or introduced a new one?
– The only alteration made prior to that recently under notice was in 1906.
Albany Fort Guns - Naval Bases : Corio Bay
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence. upon notice -
– The reply furnished by the Minister of Defence is -
These questions relate to matters of a confidential nature, which are not usually made public. I shall be pleased to give the information confidentially to the right honorable member.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
Will the Minister, in allocating positions for naval bases, take into consideration the special advantages and facilities offered by Corio Bay, in the vicinity of the important town of Geelong?
General Division Employes - Temporary Employes - Clock : Geelong Post Office - Wireless Telegraph Stations - Telefunken and Marconi Systems - Cablegrams : Prize Fights
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The following answers have been supplied by the Public Service Commissioner, in whose province this matter lies : -
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
Does he intend to make provision for the placing of a clock in the tower of the Geelong post-office ?
– It is not intended to make provision for the placing of a clock in the tower of the Geelong post-office as it is not considered to be the function of the Postmaster- General’s Department to provide such clocks. Parliament, in section 19 of the Post and Telegraph Act, has made provision for such facilities being supplied by the persons interested.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
Whether he will give such directions as may be necessary to prohibit the delivery of any press cable message relating to the training of pugilists in preparation for a prize fight, whereby public interest is continually being stimulated prior to any pending ring contest; and, further, will he prohibit the delivery of any press cable messages which describe any prize fight in detail, and which give particulars of every round of these so-called brutal and disgusting exhibitions ?
– I have no power under the Post and Telegraph Act to take the action indicated.
Invalid and Old-age Pensions.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Is he aware that at all the recent annual gatherings of English Friendly Societies references were made to the effect of the Old-age Pensions Act in weakening the motives of selfhelp which have hitherto induced the working classes to join and continue their membership of such societies; and that it was anticipated in such references that the prospects of Invalid Pensions being paid by the State had further weakened the Friendly Societies movement in the same direction. In view of the fact that the Government intends to bring into operation the part of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act dealing with Invalid Pensions, will he direct an inquiry to he made by the Commonwealth Statistican’s Department as to whether similar effects are, and to what extent, traceable in the progress of the Australian Friendly Societies, and lay the results of the inquiry on the Table of the House as a guide in dealing with the Invalid Pensions provisions in the future?
– Having read a good deal on the subject, I am unable to agree with the contention that these pensions will injure Australian Friendly Societies.
asked the Minister of
Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
Mr. KING O’MALLEY laid upon the table the following papers : -
Public Service examination fees - Memorandum by the Commissioner.
Public Service Act - Temporary Employes - Return for year 1909-10.
In Committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s Message) :
Motion (by Mr. Tudor) proposed -
That it is expedient that an appropriationof revenues and moneys be made for the purposes of a Bill for an Act to amend the Sugar Bounty Act 1905.
Mr. Tudor. - Yes.
.- Before the message is considered, I think we are entitled to know whether, in the discussion of this Bill, and of the Excise (Sugar) Bill, honorable members will be at liberty to deal with the whole question of our sugar policy. One of these measures relates to the continuance of the sugar bounty, and the other to the retention of the present Excise duty upon sugar. Owing to the way in which the import duty, the Excise duty, and the bounty payable upon this commodity are interwoven, it is almost impossible to debate one matter unless reference be allowed to the others. Howcan we discuss the questions of the sugar Excise and the bounty without dealing with the influence of the import duty upon both? At this stage, therefore, we ought to have a declaration as to how far honorable members will be permitted to proceed in discussing the issues which are involved in these Bills. It must be obvious that if , w hen the Excise (Sugar) Bill is under consideration, we are to be ruled out of order because we desire to debate the sugar bounty, and vice versa, and if, in connexion with either of the Bills, we are not to be permitted to refer to what is fundamental to both, namely, the import duty, the discussion will be little better than a farce, and might as well be closed at once. Before we proceed further, I desire to know whether honorable members will be at liberty to refer to these matters as one concrete question? When we are discussing the Excise (Sugar) ‘ Bill, will our remarks be strictly confined to that measure, and in debating this Bill, will our observations be limited to the question of the sugar bounty ? .
– This Bill has been introduced at the present stage so that the measures to which the honorable member for Coolgardie has referred, may be simultaneously before the House. I would, however, point out to him that it does not rest with the Ministry, but with Mr. Speaker or the Chairman of Committees to determine how far any honorable member, when discussing either of these Bills, will be at liberty to deal with the questions of both Excise and bounty.
– I wish to discuss the sugar policy of Australia, and I am quite willing to acquiesce in the desire of the Government to avoid any waste of time in so doing. But I do not wish to lose my opportunity-
– The right honorable member will not lose his opportunity.
– I understand that, at the present stage, I am at liberty to deal with the general question of the sugar policy of the Government, and if I shall be prevented from doing that at a later stage, I am quite prepared to avail myself of the opportunity which is now afforded me. But I do not wish to do anything which will delay the progress of business.
.- It seems to me that if both the Sugar Bounty Bill and the Excise (Sugar) Bill come before the House at the same time, you, sir, will be bound to uphold our Standing Orders. To my mind, the present time is the most opportune one for discussing the sugar question in its broader aspects. If advantage be not taken of this opportunity, it may happen that, when honorable members subsequently endeavour upon this Bill to deal with the sugar excise, you, sir, will rule that they are transgressing our Standing Orders. It would be a most regrettable circumstance if you were to permit the discharge of the duties of your office to be regulated by the wish of the House from time to time. I think, sir, that you would be the last to do that. If honorable members allow this chance to pass, I fear that, at a later stage, they may find themselves prevented from dealing with the sugar question in its entirety.
– The previous Bill was withdrawn on account of an error in it.
– I am merely endeavouring to show that, if honorable members desire to discuss this question in its broader aspects, they ought to take advantage of the present opportunity, and not seek to throw upon the Chairman a difficult discretion which his sense of duty might prevent him from acting upon.
– It was very proper for the honorable member for Coolgardie to raise this question, because, as he remarked, the Sugar Bounty Bill and the Excise (Sugar) Bill are so dovetailed into each other that it would be better for us to have one discussion upon the whole subject. They are so interwoven that it is impossible to separate them. But I think that the debate upon the general question ought to take place in the House, and not in Committee.
– It cannot take place in the House.
– Honorable members can agree to it taking place there. They can concur in the arrangement which is now proposed. It is better that the debate should take place ‘ in the House, where each honorable member will be at liberty to make only one speech, than that it should take place in Committee, where each may make an indefinite number of speeches.
– How can the matter be arranged?
SirWILLIAMLYNE.-Honorable members can arrive at a common understanding.
– It has been done before.
– Certainly. The idea is a good one ; but the present is not an opportune time for a debate upon the general question to take place.
– There are many good reasons why the suggestion of the honorable member for Coolgardie should be carefully considered. The Minister of Trade and Customs has been good enough to intimate that the Sugar Bounty Bill and the Excise (Sugar) Bill will be brought forward together. But I would remind him that he cannot regulate the action of the Chair. Need I recall the circumstances, that only the other evening, when we were discussing the Naval Loan Repeal Bill, Mr. Speaker ruled that we were not at liberty to discuss the question of loans generally. It is a very far cry from that to what the Minister of Trade and Customs now suggests. We shall not have an opportunity, if we adopt the suggestion of the honorable member for Wentworth, of hearing the speech of the Minister of Trade and Customs on each of these Bills before we discuss the whole question in a general way. We want to hear the Minister’s statement, because I take it that he possesses a great deal of special knowledge. He has had the advantage of collecting particular information on the subject. I think that the honorable member for Coolgardie is quite right in saying that the only way in which what is desired can be done, is by having the whole subject dealt with under the one generic term - sugar - and dealing with the import duty, the bounty, and the Excise altogether. Then, as the honorable member for Hume said, we shall be able to see how these subjects are interwoven, and how one affects the other. We need to have an absolutely free hand, without any such restriction as was put upon us last week.
.- Apparently, the Minister of Trade and Customs desires to have an opportunity of covering the whole ground in connexion with the Excise and import duties affecting sugar. It has, I think, always been the practice to discuss import duties with relation to their bearing upon Excise, the Committee being the same. In this case, the bounty on sugar has relation both to the Excise and the duty, and we cannot possibly discuss the one without the other.
If I remember rightly, when Sir George Turner, then Treasurer of the Commonwealth, brought in a Bill to abolish the rebate on sugar, and to substitute a bounty, the whole question was discussed. A ruling from Mr. Speaker Holder was obtained on the point, and he declared that, as it would meet the convenience of the House to do so, the whole matter might be discussed on the motion brought forward by Sir George Turner to abolish the rebate.
– I raised this point when the original measure was before us, reminding the Minister of Trade and Customs of the previous occasion, when, as the honorable member for Angas has said, by tacit consent Mr. Speaker permitted a general discussion to take place on the subject of the sugar industry. It was realized that a general discussion would meet the convenience of the House. It is not beyond our powers on this occasion so to arrange matters as to enable a’ general debate to take place on either of the Bills in question. The Minister of Trade and Customs has already introduced one of them, making a very short speech, which, to my mind, did not do the Government justice in placing before the House their policy as to this difficult sugar question. I certainly think that we might look for a more explicit and detailed statement of the whole policy of the Government. I must confess that I should be unable to deal with the whole question at present on account of the deficiency of information regarding Use stand-point of the Government with respect to the bounty and the Excise. I consider that the House should demand to know something of the view held by the Minister of Trade and Customs - whether we are to remove restrictions-
– Order ! Thehonorable member is getting away from the point.
– I think it expedient that we should have a general discussion on the question, which would save the time of House; and we should also have from the Minister of Trade and Customs, or from the Prime Minister himself, some detailed and definite exposition of the whole policy of the Ministry on this question.
– The check administered by the Chairman to the honorable member for North Sydney showed the difficulties in which we are placed. The Chairman has ruled that we may not even discuss the advisableness of considering together the various matters relating to the sugar question. Hitherto it has always been ruled that an Excise duty, a bounty, and a Customs duty affecting a particular article might be discussed together as being related subjects. Indeed, it is impossible to deal with one without considering the others. It is impossible to make up one’s mind regarding the bounty w’ithout considering the duty and the excise. Furthermore, in a matter of this kind we ought to have a clear and explicit explanation of Ministerial policy.
– These matters have always been dealt with separately on previous occasions.
– But the Government have not been prevented from making a declaration of policy regarding the three phases of the question, which are interwoven and cannot be separated for the purposes of useful debate. I remember that when we discussed the tobacco duty, by general agreement we considered the relations of the duty and the excise. In that way we were permitted to have a very useful debate, which enabled us to settle the whole question in its due and proper relations. We did the same thing in connexion with the harvester duties. We considered the duty in relation to the excise which was afterwards imposed. Unless we do the same sort of thing now the debate cannot possibly be of a useful character. Then the question arises as to how what is desired can be done.
– The Minister cannot give an assurance.
– The Minister thinks that the debate should take place in the House and not in Committee. But what guarantee have we that Mr. Speaker would permit such a thing to be done?
– I said the matter would rest with Mr. Speaker or the Chairman.
– The honorable member for North Sydney was prevented by the Chairman from discussing the subject in general, although in Committee we are generally allowed some amount of latitude. Indeed, this Committee is constituted in order that we may be enabled to discuss details in a manner that would not be in order on the secondreading debate in the House. In the House we are confined to the discussion of principles actually embodied in Bills. In
Committee we ought to be permitted to discuss the whole surroundings of a question, together with the genesis and setting of the measure under review. That is what we want to do now. I submit very respectfully that it is in Committee that a general discussion can most conveniently take place.
.- So far as the Government can assist honorable members in securing a joint discussion of these two measures they will do so. I cannot say that the question of the import duty is involved, unless it be indirectly.
– It is directly involved; everything depends upon it.
– The honorable member will permit me to say that, whether the excise and bounty remain in force or not, I think the Customs duty would not be affected. I rose merely to say that if the Government can assist honorable members to have a general discussion of the subject dealt with in these Bills they will do so. A similar course has been followed on two occasions in this Parliament.
– When this legislation was introduced by the honorable member for Hume, as Minister of Trade and Customs, he made some arrangement, the precise terms of which I cannot charge my memory with at present, under which honorable members were permitted to discuss at the same time the duty, excise, and bounty. With all deference to the Prime Minister, I consider that the excise and bounty are based upon the Customs duty, and unless we are able to deal with all three in the one discussion we shall be unable to give one of the most important subjects dealt with in this session the careful consideration which its importance, deserves.
.- I wish to suggest to the Prime Minister a way out of the difficulty which will enable honorable members to discuss the question involved in these Bills comprehensively. I suggest that the honorable gentleman might postpone the consideration of these measures until after he has presented his Budget. In the Budget statement he can explain exactly the Ministerial policy with respect to duty, excise, and bounty, and can give the reasons- actuating the Government in dealing with the subject as they propose. After the Budget has been delivered honorable members, in dealing with these Bills separately, will understand what they are asked to do. The> will have heard the intentions of the Government expressed in the Budget statement, and will have had an opportunity to criticise them in the discussion upon the Budget. Unless we have some such general discussion of the subject we shall find our hands tied when the sugar question is reopened. It is not fair that the Government should reopen one phase of the question under circumstances which deny honorable members a free hand to express the will of the majority with regard to the whole policy involved. Unless some such suggestion as I have made is adopted, legislation approved by Ministers, but not necessarily by even the whole of the Ministerial party, may be passed without an opportunity being afforded for a full discussion of it.
.- Might I suggest that this is not the proper time for this discussion? The Chairman will have no power over the House, as he will not be in the chair. The discussion had better take place when the Speaker is in the chair. I hope to be allowed to discuss the whole question of duty, Excise, and bounty in one debate. It would be very inconvenient, and would lead to an unnecessary waste of time, if we were obliged to make separate speeches in discussing the Excise duty and the bounty. The Prime Minister might confer with the Leader of the Opposition, place before Mr. Speaker the views which have been expressed this afternoon, and request that a discussion of the whole subject might be permitted on the second reading of the Excise Bill.
– It does not rest with the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition, but with the Speaker.
– Honorable members have to-day been appealing to the Prime Minister to take certain action. As the honorable member for Parkes has said, the matter does not rest with the Prime Minister, with the Chairman of Committees, or with any one of us. The question is one which trie Speaker must decide. I have no doubt that, as other Speakers have done in similar instances, Mr. Speaker will be prepared to meet the wishes of honorable members.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
That the report be considered at once.
Motion (by Mr. Fisher) proposed-
That the resolution be adopted.
.- It may not be within your knowledge, Mr. Speaker, that when the preliminary message connected with this Bill was being dealt with in Committee, the point was raised as to whether it would be possible to discuss the two Bills dealing with the sugar question, with their relative significance, when either Bill was under consideration by the House. Honorable members were in some difficulty in the Committee stage, because they felt that the whole question rested with you, as the upholder of the Standing Orders. It was felt that you would be compelled to see that they were rigidly observed, irrespective of the wishes of this or that section, or, indeed, the desire of the House as awhole. Honorable members are particularly anxious to discuss the correlation of these two Bills, and the import duty on sugar, in order that they might deal at the same time with the whole question. The import duty is not proposed to be dealt with in any Ministerial measure that has been announced. As you, sir, will be charged with the duty of deciding whether honorable members are to have the opportunity they desire, I wish to ask you whether you will give the latitude asked for when honorable members are discussing these measures separately.
– I may inform honorable members that this matter has cropped up on several occasions. I think the honorable member for North Sydney was the first to raise the question - I happened to be in the chamber when it was raised - asio whether honorable members would be in order in discussing the Bounty Bill and the Excise Bill when either was immediately before the House. It would, of course, be distinctly out of order for honorable members to discuss the Bounty Bill when the Excise Bill was immediately before the House, or the Excise Bill when the Bounty Bill was under consideration. I understand that honorable members desire an opportunity to discuss the whole question involved in these measures, and what I would suggest is that the House should adopt the course of referring both Bills to the same Committee. If, after the second-reading debates, each of these Bills is referred to the same Committee,, honorable members will be given an opportunity to discuss the whole question. I think it is a bad practice to from time to time set aside our Standing Orders.
– Do you mean a reference to the same Committee after the second-reading debate?
– Yes. It is a common practice in the House of Commons to refer Bills dealing with cognate subjects to the same Committee. They have a standing order providing for the adoption of that course, which permits of a number of Bills dealing with the same subject to be referred to the same Committee. A general discussion of the whole subject can then take place on the consideration of the Bills by the Committee. It is a bad practice to permit irregular discussion, and one which, if honorable members will permit me to say so, the House ought not to adopt. If, however, honorable members do not desire to take that course, I shall be prepared to give them ample scope to discuss the two measures at the same time. Personally, I think it would be a wrong course to follow when there is a proper course which we might adopt. I hope that the House will follow the course I have suggested.
– Some inconvenience is likely to arise from the course you, sir, have suggested, that both of these Bills should be referred to the same Committee. When they are before the Committee, the Chairman of Committees will very properly rule that honorable members must discuss them clause by clause. He will remind us from time to time that the particular clause before the Committee is the one to which we must limit our attention. The House generally seems disposed to believe that a general discussion of the subject with which they deal should be allowed on the second readings of these Bills. I submit that if the course is followed of referring them to the same Committee, we shall find ourselves in constant difficulties with the Chairman, who will contend that the general discussion of the subject should have been taken on the second reading, and that only the details of the measure should be discussed, clause by clause, in Committee. While I admit that it is a bad practice to allow one Bill to be dragged into the discussion on another, it would be a greater inconvenience if the Chairman were required to allow second-reading speeches on every clause as we reach it in each Bill; and that, I sub mit, would be the effect of adopting the course you have indicated. My suggestion is that the feeling of the House be taken oil the matter, because, although, as a general rule, it may be undesirable to refer to one Bill in discussing another, an exception ought to* be made in the present instance. I am sure you, Mr. Speaker, will agree with me that we are not here to be made victims of the rules which are framed to improve our debates; and if you refer the question to the House, and approval is given to latitude being allowed in this case, you will be able to permit honorable members, on the second reading - when we are taking a wide view of the Bill - to refer to one or the other. That, I submit, would be infinitely better and less likely to be attended by inconvenience or breach of the rules than the course you have suggested.
.- Something more, I think, is required than has been suggested by the honorable member for Parkes, and your own views, Mr. Speaker, seem to call for some supplement. To refer the two Bills to the same Committee without also giving the Committee power to hear argument on what is fundamental to both, though it is not referred to in either - would not be effective, and would not satisfy the House. It will be necessary, in my opinion, if this matter is to be fairlyconsidered in all its bearings, for honorable members to have ample opportunity to refer to the influence and effect of the import duty on sugar, which is at the basis of all our sugar legislation. In your excellent reminder to the House, I did not hear you refer to this phase, which, as I have pointed out, is most important. If it is intended that the House should have an opportunity to consider the import duty at the same time that these two Bills are before the Committee, I have no more to say ; but unless our powers are enlarged in Committee, and we may consider what, after all, is really the most important aspect of the question, the discussion will be idle.
– I may shorten this discussion, and save time, if I say that I feel that these questions are of such vital importance, not only to the House, but to the country, that the fullest possible latitude should be given. The course I have suggested is that taken .in the House of Commons, just as we follow the rules of that Chamber when we discuss the Budget in Committee. However, as honorable members seem to feel that there should be a general discussion in the House - that the discussion will assume more importance if it takes place there - I shall take a course on this occasion which, Ihope, however, will not be made a precedent. On the first Bill, whether it be the Excise Bill or the Bounty Bill, I shall place the broadest interpretation on the rules, so as to give honorable members full opportunity to discuss the question in all its bearings. On the second Bill, however, I shall have to confine honorable members strictly to the question before the Chair.
– I am not aware, Mr. Speaker, whether your attention has been called to a reference in May,11thedition, page 315.
– Then I presume you had that reference in your mind when you spoke. It is to the effect - . . when Bills, in the charge of the Government, dealing with subjects bound together by a common principle, stand in a series upon the notice-paper, debate on the first Bill may includetherein a discussion of the Bills of a cognate character.
I think that exactly meets the case.
– I respectfully suggest that the general discussion desired take place on the Bounty Bill, which has the broader application of the two measures. However, I shall be entirely guided by the wishes of honorable members on the point.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
That Mr. Tudor and Mr. Fisher do prepare and bring in a Bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Tudor, and read a first time.
– Will the general discussion take place on the Excise Bill, or the Bounty Bill?
– I said I should allow the general discussion on the first of the Bills appearing on the notice-paper, which I presume will be that which is first presented.
Debate resumed from 29th July (vide page 874), on motion by Mr. Hughes -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
.- When on Friday, I obtained permission to renew my remarks to-day, I was dealing with the proposal of the Government to bring within the scope of this Bill a very large number of people who heretofore have not been affected. I referred particularly to persons engaged in agricultural, viticultural, and horticultural pursuits. When we are called upon to pass legislation like this, we should be given fully and concisely the reasons which have led the Government to lay the proposal before the House. Somewhere between 400,000 and 500,000 people will, for the first time, be brought within the scope of this legislation, but the Attorney-General, when moving the second reading, beyond a reference to the clause, and a wave of his hand with the remark, “Very well,” gave not a single reason, good, bad, or indifferent, for the attempt to bring within the operation of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, the large industries I have indicated. It is incumbent on the Government, in view of a sweeping change of the kind, to set clearly and fully before us the reasons for the course they suggest. We should have from them a clear statement as to the demand for the measure, the possibility of carrying it out, and how they propose to make it effective. I do not see that it should be any part of the duty of the Opposition to raise up one man of straw after another simply to knock him down again.
– That is rather a serious admission, that the Opposition are only putting up men of straw in order to knock them down.
– It is no admission, because I contend that any reasons which the Government could bring forward for introducing this class of legislation would be of that character. It is utterly impossible for them to bring forward valid reasons for including those vast industries in the scope of this measure. In New Zealand, the arbitration legislation already applies to those industries, but what has been its history in that regard? I do not think honorable members opposite can point to a single award under those laws in New Zealand which has been in any way comprehensive so far as those industries are concerned. . I think that if the whole of the awards made under the New Zealand arbitration laws are investigated, only two will be found which deal with those particular industries in any shaDe or form. I shall have occasion to refer to those two as I go on, but what the Government propose to do is very different from what has been done b. New Zealand. There, the whole of the Dominion is split up into, comparatively speaking, small areas, and the awards when made apply only to the areas concerned, and then only to the parties to the particular dispute in question. In the schedule to the award, all the parties to the dispute are set out. From the fact that only two New Zealand awards are even remotely associated with these particular industries, we can fairly assume that there is practically no demand for the application of this kind of” legislation to them. If the state of things in the agricultural and dairying industries had been what some honorable members opposite would have us believe, it is only reasonable to suppose that in a country where this legislation has been already extended to those industries there would have been a large number of disputes, a large number of applications to the Court, and a large number of awards, just as there have been in the concentrated industries of the city and the mining camps in both Australia and New Zealand. That is only what one would expect, and hence I think it will be impossible for the Government to show that there is a demand for the application of this class of legislation to those industries. On the other hand, there is the widest possible difference between the proposals of the Government in this measure and the arbitration laws as they apply to those industries in New Zealand, because there, as I have already pointed out, the awards apply only to small areas. That, in fact, is the only possible way to make an award applicable to such industries. Here, however, it is proposed to bring the whole scope of these vast industries, scattered all over this great Commonwealth, and employing very nearly half-a-million of our people, under the operation of one award and one common rule. That is the real object of this Bill, but it is utterly impracticable, and, if attempted, will break down of its own weight. In dealing with the great question of arbitration, there are three or four conditions which are absolutely indispensable to enable any Court to make an award which shall be fair, just, and reasonable to all the parties. There must be ..regular methods and conditions of working, a reasonable certainty of return, a reasonable certainty in the conditions of employment throughout the industry, and a similarity and control of economic conditions. I think it will be found that in regard to those four points there exists the greatest possible difference, comparatively speaking, between the settled industries of our great cities and centres of population and the agricultural and dairying industries. I am satisfied that every one understands how that must be so; nevertheless, I feel that I must occupy the time of the House for a little while to show that, in view of those four conditions, it is impossible to bring before any Court facts which would enable it to make an award applying throughout the length and breadth of the Commonwealth, that could in any way approach what is just and right, or that would not operate with very great injustice to a great many of our producers. One of the first reasons which 1 desire to submit is this : In the industries of the cities, towns, and mines throughout the Commonwealth there are 12,859 em”ployers, who employ the large number of 257,526 workmen, or one employer, on theaverage, to twenty workmen. But in the scattered industries of the agricultural and dairying interests throughout the Commonwealth, as nearly as I have been ableto ascertain the figures from the official records available, there are as many as 130,000 employers, who employ, in their own families and outside them, altogether 422,000 individuals. That one fact shows immediately the very great difference between the two classes of employment. There is, on the one hand, a small compact body of men dealing with a large number of employes, and, on the. other, a vast number of men, practically one-third of the total number engaged in the industries themselves, employing one here and another there from one end of the Commonwealth to the other. It will therefore readily be seen that there is at once a very great difference in the basis upon which it will be possible for the Court to make an award. What is more, we can- see instantly that it is far more difficult to make an award that will be in any way just and equitable. I do not wish to discuss all the intricacies of the subject; I place before honorable members that one phase, so that they may see how difficult it would be to bring employers and employes together, and to bring to bear facts that would in any way enable the Court to determine what is a reasonable wage to pay. In the dairying industry, of which I know more, possibly, than I do of any other industry that comes within the scope of this Bill, we have the
Widest possible set of conditions imaginable. Dairying is carried on throughout * the* length and breadth of the Commonwealth, under all sorts of conditions. -Leaving Tasmania, South Australia, and Western Australia out of the question for “the time being, let us consider the conditions in the Western District and Kyneton, Victoria ; in Bega, New England, and Richmond, New South Wales; and in Blackall, Toowoomba, and Beaudesert, Queensland - all typical dairying districts, scattered, in some instances, very widely, and in others comparatively only a few miles apart, yet presenting the widest possible differences. I have seen dairying in Tasmania, Victoria, New South Wales, and Queensland, and I can assure honorable members that it would be utterly impossible for me, with my knowledge of the industry and of the way in which it is carried out throughout the Commonwealth, to say that such and such a wage should be paid to any set of employes in it. My knowledge of the varying conditions in, and varying returns from, the industry in different parts of the Commonwealth would make it impossible for me to fix an award which would be just to employers and employes. I have been referring to the position where dairying, pure and simple, is carried on ; but when we remember that many of our farmers are engaged in mixed farming, that we have both agriculture and dairying, horticulture and dairying, horticulture and agriculture, agriculture and grazing, carried on by the same men, we must realize that the position becomes still more complicated, and that it is infinitely more difficult, in such circumstances, to make an award that will be just and equitable to all concerned. I come now to the question of certainty of returns. Here honorable members will at once grasp the difference between the city and town industries and the dairying and agricultural industries. It is possible to say, with reasonable certainty, what will be derived from a city industry; it is possible to regulate prices, and so on ; but it is utterly impossible even to speculate upon the returns that will be gathered ‘ from the land. That being so, honorable members will recognise the fundamental difference between settled industries in the city and the more uncertain industries of the rural districts. In farming we have to contend with something which no other industry has to face ; I refer to the weather. It may so happen that one shower of rain will make a difference of hundreds of pounds in the returns which a farmer will get from his land in a year. I know many cases where a farmer, after harvesting his crop, has been out of pocket, and I- know of others where a farmer, after harvesting, has obtained little more than is sufficient for a living. Do not all these considerations complicate the difficulty of making a just award?
– What about the beneficial shower which falls at the right time, and means a handsome profit to the farmer?
– Does the. honorable member think that when a shower does fall at the right time the farmer makes a fortune out of it? A good season makes up for the lean years, during which he has practically put nothing in his pocket and has had to mortgage his lands to carry on.
– We have all had to do the same in various industries.
– But no city industry is dependent upon weather conditions to the extent that the farming industry is. In the settled industries of the cities a man can make a fairly accurate calculation. He can say, “ I have so much of this and so much of that, and if I borrow a certain amount I shall be practically sure of a certain return.” In the farming industry a man cannot make such a calculation. After all, the position is that when the returns are short, and work is scarce, wages fall, for the simple reason that the farmers cannot afford to pay high wages. On the other hand, when the crops are plentiful, work must be plentiful, and the price of labour goes up. I have never known of a case where, when there was a plentiful harvest and a difficulty in gathering in the crops, farmers were not prepared to meet their hands, and to meet them handsomely, in order to get their crops placed under shelter.
– The weather conditions affect every industry.
– But they affect the farming industry more than any other. The honorable member cannot point to any other industry where the question of weather counts for so much. Another point relates to the general economic conditions: A Tariff wall may be set up to enable any settled city industry to pay an award of the Court ; but, with the large agricultural and dairying industries that is impossible., __We know that Australia is dependent upon” the markets of the world, so far as her produce is concerned, and that the world’s market-prices govern the prices of our produce. It is not our home markets that govern the prices of that which we produce; it is the markets of the world. If any honorable member studies the great variations in prices, and in the volume of our exports, he will at once understand the great and fundamental difficulties which exist, and must exist for all time, in endeavouring to settle any definite wage which shall be paid to these employes. I shall deal later with the question of wages. What I am endeavouring to point out is that with these great differences which must always exist between the settled industries of the cities and the agricultural, dairying, and horticultural industries, it is impossible to treat them with the same legislation or to look at them in the same way at all. I desire now to quote a few figures to illustrate what I mean. If honorable members care to look at the export figures for wheat during the last ten years, they will find that in the lowest year we exported 9,928,649 bushels, and that in the following year we had to import 10,675,297 bushels.
– When was that?
– In 1903.
– Order ! Is the honorable member going to connect his remarks with the question before the House?
– Yes, sir. I desire to show that the great fluctuations which exist in connexion with our produce make it practically impossible for any Court of Arbitration to say that an industry is capable of paying any particular wage.
– I am afraid that the honorable member was going into the relative position of the agricultural industry.
– No, sir. I desire to mention the fluctuations in the course of ten years, in order to show that any award dealing with that industry for ten years could not be just, inasmuch as the returns which our farmers have had throughout the Commonwealth during that period have fluctuated to such an extent that it would be easy for the House to see that the returns which they gained from year to year cannot bear the same relation to their total income, and, in that way, that it is impossible for ‘the Court to say that such and such an award is just to all parties. That is all I desire to show, sir, and I presume that I shall be in order to that extent.
– Provided that the honorable member does not go into specific details of the agricultural industry, as he was doing.
– I do not wish to do that, sir, but merely to mention a few figures. During that same period of ten years we find the highest quantity exported was 38,561,840 bushels. Those few figures show the great fluctuation in our wheatgrowing industry. It must be remembered that that great fluctuation must affect the pockets of our farmers. It must also be remembered that ‘with the great fluctuations to which the Commonwealth is constantly subject, owing to changes of weather, and so on, it is impossible for any Court of Arbitration to say that such and such a wage is absolutely fair to that industry, and will work fairly for any particular term. There is one other point which I want to mention. I pointed out just now that the price of these products is regulated by the world’s markets. One of the strangest things in connexion with the whole matter is that in the year of our lowest production the price of wheat and butter stood at the lowest level. Honorable members should bear in mind first the great fluctuations in our products, and, secondly, that the prices of the products are regulated by the markets of the world. I would further point out that in the year when wheat and butter were at their lowest ebb, the prices touched the lowest point which they touched in the ten years.
– Will the honorable member also remember that the workmen get no extra wages, no matter how high the price of products may rise ; they should not get less when the price comes down.
– I would remind the honorable member, who has had a much smaller acquaintance with these particular industries than I have had, that with a plentiful harvest wages do rise. The price of labour does rise whenwe have a large production.
– I have not met employers who paid higher wages when they got bigger profits.
– I have; and, what is more, I have done it. I can assure the honorable member that hundreds of farmers whom I know pay their labourers better when they are doing well than they otherwise do.
– Oh, yes, I believe that, but thousands would not.
– I do not want to labour this subject. I have submitted two or three points which I feel confident honorable members must recognise. They must see how difficult it is to treat particular industries, which are subject to great fluctuations, from the stand-point that we can treat the industries of the cities, which have settled conditions. I want to touch for a moment or two on the kind of labour which is available for the industries. In the settled industries of the cities the employes are nearly all tradesmen, but in the country districts all grades of workmen are to be found working in the same industry. I have met men who are worth three times as much as other men. You can set one man to work, and leave him, feeling that upon your return the job will be done as you desired. When honorable members remember that a great number of old men are employed in agricultural industries they will readily realize how difficult it would be to apply the clauses relating to incompetent workmen to men, who are scattered all over the Commonwealth. A rural industry is not like a settled industry, where the parties are in constant communication with the Registrar and the machinery of the Act in regard to all these matters is easily available, and an incompetent workman can be employed at a lower rate of wages. In the country that is not practicable. When honorable members recollect that all these different grades of workmen are employed in the agricultural industries, they will realize all the more how difficult it would be for the Court to take all these points into consideration, and lay down a particular scale of wages to be paid.
– The same old yarn ! I have heard it since I was eleven years of age.
– No matter how long the honorable member has heard the yarn, it does not interfere with the fundamental truth of -what I have been saying.
– Had these employers paid fair wages in the past, we should not be- here.
– Another consideration which I do not think the honorable member for Melbourne Ports properly appreciates is this, that a great many farmers employ the members of their own families to assist them.
– They keep their children from school.
– White slavery !
– They do not keep their children from school. When the honorable member for Flinders was discus sing the question, the honorable member for Melbourne Ports said that the sonsof the farmers should join a union.
– I say so still.
– It ‘would be impossible for many of our settlers to exist under such conditions. Those who have not been in the back country do not know the conditions under which men must work to carve out homes in our pristine forests, or to establish themselves on our plains.
– We have been there.
– The honorable member for Melbourne Ports cannot have been there, or he would not have made the remark to which I take exception. He cannot know the conditions under which those work who are laying the foundations for the future prosperity of the Commonwealth.
– I have read about all that.
– I hope that before the honorable member gets much older he will go to see for himself. He will thenrealize what is being done by our country folk, and will not suggest that the sons of the farmers should join a union. I think that I have shown the impossibility of” dealing with the rural industries in themanner proposed. It might be possible toregulate them as to both hours of labour and wages, could we follow the New Zealand example, but the Constitution does not empower us to do so. The honorable member for Darling said that in the interests of the farmers a rural union should be established, inasmuch as it would be better for them to have their disputes settled by a Court than to have their corn fall out of the ear when ripe. He meant us to believe either that the Court would settle disputes before the corn was ripe, and before it would be possible to determine the profits of the farmer, or that it would hold its inquiry between the ripening and the harvesting of the corn. Neither course is possible. A dispute could not be adjudicated upon after the corn had ripened, and it would not be possible to make a just award unless the return which the farmer would get from his crop could be determined with some certainty. In New Zealand, a small award regarding harvesting was made to apply to a district which has never known a bad season or a failure of crop; but in Australia, climatic conditions vary so much that it would be impossible to make an award which could be justly applied generally. The honorable member said that he had met a farmer who had told him that the eight hours a day principle could be applied to dairying. Having been closely engaged in the industry for a number of years, I know that it could not be so applied, and I have not met a farmer who thought that it could. My predecessor, the Hon. Sir Thomas Ewing, when speaking on the subject in this Chamber, entertained the House with a speech, whose manner I cannot imitate, which showed conclusively that it would be impossible to apply the eight hours’ principle to dairying.
-.-He subsequently changed that view.
– I have had no reason to change my view.
– I should not accept the statement that the Hon. Sir Thomas Ewing changed his.
– I doubt whether he has changed his view. Certainly, the experience which he has gained since ceasing to be a member will confirm his original opinion. I do not know that he is personally engaged in the work of dairying, but he is so closely associated with the industry that he must have daily demonstrations of the truth of his original opinion, whatever views he may have adopted temporarily.
– Does the honorable member remember that machinery is now largely used in dairying?
– That does not affect my argument. If the honorable member has had practical experience of dairying, he must be prepared to support my statement that the cream is yet to be found which, after having been carted for a long distance under the broiling sun will make good butter. It is absolutely necessary for dairying employes to rise early in the morning, to yard the cows in the cool of the day, to milk them, separate the milk, and get the cream to the factory before the clay grows hot. If a man were to bring his cows out of a paddock in the broiling afternoon sun, he would get precious little milk from them. Moreover, when he did get them into the yard at that time of day in a very hot climate, he would probably have two or three die before he got them out.
– Did the honorable mem- . ber ever hear of “ broken “ shifts being worked in an industry?
– Even by resort to broken shifts the work could not be done in the time at the dairyman’s disposal.
As one who knows, and whose opinion will be backed up by every practical dairyfarmer, I say that it is impossible to get the work done under those conditions in the time. I wish to back up what I have already said in regard to the solitary award which the New Zealand Arbitration Court has given in connexion with the dairying industry. That award ‘ operates only over a very limited area. Under it, married men are paid £1 15s. per week, with a house ; managers receive £2 per week, with a free house j married men, without a house, get £2 2s. per week ; and managers, without a house, £2 8s. per week. Single men, from twenty-one to twenty-five years of age, are paid 25s. per week with board and lodging; from twenty-five years of age, they receive £1 7s. 6d. per week, with board and lodging.
– Does the honorable member think that that is too much?
– I will comment upon the award presently. Boys, ranging from fourteen years to sixteen years of age, receive 10s. per week; lads, from sixteen to seventeen years, get 12s. per week; youths, from seventeen to twenty years, are paid 17s. 6d. per week; and those from twenty to twenty-one years of age get j£i per week. Board and lodging is included in all these cases.
– How many hours do they work per week?
– Sixty-eight hours per week. They start work at 4 a.m., and cease at 5 p.m., and they work six hours on Sundays. Upon each of the other days they work ten hours and twenty minutes. This award, I think, fully confirms what I have said in regard to the impossibility of carrying on the dairying industry under an eight-hours principle.
– Does the honorable member contend that the Bill provides that employes in that industry shall work only eight hours?
– No, but from interjections by my honorable friends, I gather that they believe that the hours of labour in the dairying industry should not exceed eight. I am perfectly confident that any competent man can go into the district which I represent and obtain better wages to-morrow than are laid down in the New Zealand award which I have just quoted. Throughout my district there are a great many farms being worked upon the share system, and if a definite scale of wages were laid down in connexion with1 the dairying industry, I venture to say that the persons who are employed on those farms would not make more than 60 per cent, of what they are now making. I have working for me a farmer who, with five girls, controls a big herd of cattle, and during the past twelve months that family has earned, upon an average, ^33 per month, lt is impossible for a man without any capital and very little experience to enter any other industry and make an income at all approaching that.
– Order ! The honorable member is now getting beyond the scope of the Bill.
– This measure has been introduced, I understand, with a view to regulating the wages to be paid in the dairying industry, and I am merely citing the wages which are being paid in that industry.
– The honorable member is really discussing the merits of the dairying industry.
– I shall content myself with saying that the wages paid in that industry are, on the whole, excellent. Scores of employes in the district from which I come are rapidly accumulating sufficient funds to enable them to commence work upon their own account. I make bold to say that there are scores of men who, under the share system, will be able to obtain a start for themselves, and who, within a comparatively few years, will acquire a competency.
– Then the dairy farmers ought to pay fair wages.
– They do. In cases oi that sort it is possible to pay a good wage ; but in cases where the expenditure is large and the profits, comparatively speaking, small, it is not possible to do so. The honorable member for South Sydney stated on Friday last that the employes in the dairying industry were so wretchedly paid that they had to go about in a filthy condition until such time as the clothes rotted off their backs.
– That was a fairy tale.
– It is a gross libel upon every person engaged in the industry. It is an absolute misrepresentation, and I challenge the honorable member to point to a single instance in the Commonwealth in which such a state of affairs exists. If there be a man engaged in the dairying industry who lives in such a state of squalid filth, I have not seen him. If honorable members will go into any of our dairying districts they will find that the employes in the industry are as clean, decent, and well dressed a set of men as any other section of the community. I do not mean to suggest that they enter the milking yards in their best clothes, but I do say that the employes in the agricultural and dairying industries will compare favorably, from the stand-point of their cleanliness, with those engaged in any other industry. The statement of the honorable member for South Sydney is a gross misrepresentation of the condition of the industry, and is absolutely without foundation.
– I still stand by it.
– Then I should like the honorable member to go into my district and repeat it. In conclusion, I would remind honorable members that if this Bill tie passed in its present form, it will work grave injustice to a large number of our settlers. It will mean laying upon their shoulders a very heavy burden - a burden which they are unable to bear. I do hope that before the House passes this Bill, it will seriously weigh the whole of the considerations which I have brought forward. To sum up, I desire to say that in none of the four matters that I have mentioned is it possible to bring such a statement of affairs before the Court as will enable it to make a fair award. There are no regular methods of working in the dairying industry, and you cannot have them, owing to our varieties of clim’ate.. the vast extent of the Commonwealth, and the great differences under which the dairying industry is carried on. Again, you cannot have any certainty of return. It is utterly impossible to rely upon such a thing. There must remain the widest possible differences in the case of employes engaged in this great industry. There is not, and there cannot be, equality of economic conditions. What is more, we cannot control those economic conditions. As far as this Bill elucidates the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, and makes more workable the general principles of conciliation and arbitration, I am in complete accord with it. But is that all that this Bill secures? I think not. I have endeavoured to point out that in attempting to extend to the widely scattered country districts that industrial panacea which applies perfectly to the concentrated industries of cities and mining camps, we are likely to do more harm than good. The measure must work grave, and possibly gross, injustice. It means that we are going to lay very heavy burdens upon the shoulders of men and women who are struggling often against fearful odds to carve out homes for themselves, and it must, in my opinion, be detrimental to the workers of Australia. It will probably tend to reduce production. I have not attempted to deal with the legal technicalities of the Bill, and to consider whether or not we have power to say, as a matter of law, that there shall be no question of dispute with regard to preference to unionists. I have said nothing as to whether we have power to lay it down as a principle that only the members of organized .unions have the right to work. These are questions which I leave to those who are better able to judge. But I do urge that in subscribing to this doctrine of preference to unionists in the form in which we find it enunciated in this measure, we are committing ourselves to a system of coercion which, to my mind, only finds its counterpart in the religious intolerance of the dark ages. Before we take this step, we ought to weigh carefully what we are doing. AVe ought to consider the whole of this great question. If we do that, I do not think that there will be any doubt as to the result. And now, several members on this side of the House having forfeited their right to speak further on the measure at the present stage, I have to conclude by moving the following amendment -
That the word “ now “ be left out and that the words “ this day fortnight,” be added to the question.
.– In reading this Bill, I have been forced to the conclusion that there has been a strange mistake in its title. It is not really a Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, but a Commonwealth Industrial and Political Coercion Bill.
– In that case we should be imitating Mr. Wade.
– I venture to say that the Premier of New South Wales never, in his wildest dreams, imagined anything so drastically coercive and tyrannical as this Bill is. I am quite certain that ultimately its worst defects will be felt by those in whose interests it has ostensibly been framed. There is not a line of it which does not aim at curtailing the liberty of the subject. There is not a line of it which is not aimed at shearing off some privileges and some liberties which the workers of this country at present enjoy. We have here a typical illustration of the latest efforts of the modern Labour party, which does not attempt to legislate in the interests of the whole community, but seeks to set up a system of class legislation of the very worst kind. According to the honorable member for Darling, the Bill is intended to be mainly in the interests of the employers. Of course, we know the honorable member for Darling very well. We know how readily he can tune his opinions to the humour and the exigencies of the moment without moving a muscle or turning a hair, arguing in one line now and a totally opposite one an hour hence. I venture to say, however, that he will not tell his own constituents that this Bill was framed in the interests of the employers. He will have a very different tune to sing to them. He will be very careful to explain to them, and to the members of labour organizations outside, that this Bill is designed as a blow to the employers. But, because there -happen to be some honorable members on this side of the Chamber who, rightly or wrongly, are credited with a leaning in the direction of the interest of employers, the honorable member plausibly tries to obtain sympathetic support from them. I do not hold, and never have held, a brief for employers. I have ever held a brief for justice. I quite agree with an interjection made by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, that if employers had, in the past, done their duty, a great many of the men now holding seats in this House would not be here to-day. I say that employers have brought a good deal of this tyrannical sort of legislation upon themselves. They are mainly responsible for the reaction which has taken place, and which has caused the pendulum to swing to the other extreme. Not all of them, of course, but too many, whose greed, selfishness and lack of consideration for employes has engendered very natural discontent and the desire for retaliation. It is these employers who are mainly responsible for legislation of this character, which endeavours, in a wrong way, to right conditions which ought never to have prevailed in Australia.
– Individual employers.
– Yes, individual employers. It has been from the greed and avarice of certain individual employers that the political labour movement has grown, and has developed on socialistic, liberty-destroying lines, such as we see embodied in this Bill. I say that I have no sympathy whatever with employers who have been guilty of practices which no fairMinded man could justify. At the same time, I contend that, in trying to rectify injustices suffered by employes, and to bring about better conditions and a reversal of the evil practices hitherto in vogue, the Labour party are proceeding to the other extreme. They are setting up for one system of class legislation that did exist in the past another system of class legislation which they desire shall prevail in the future. That, is why moderate and democratic men cannot follow the Labour party now. Equal justice is denied in their programme, and class tyranny and coercion, even of their own class, is set up in its stead. That is not the way to remedy grievances. It must ultimately bring about another reaction, and the swing of the pendulum again to the other extreme. The honorable member for Darling said that the sole object of this measure is to secure peace and prevent industrial disputes. That is exactly what was said when the original Conciliation and Arbitration Bill was introduced in the New South Wales Parliament. The same thing was said when a similar measure was introduced in the New Zealand Parliament. It was claimed that the object was primarily to secure industrial peace by preventing industrial disputes and strikes.
– Have not such measures largely achieved their object?
– Certainly not. Industrial disputes are arising every day, and they are, in fact, in some instances, apparently promoted for the purpose of bringing about litigation in the interests of certain legal Labour gentlemen who find such litigation very profitable to themselves. We were assured that this legislation would have the effect of bringing about industrial peace, and preventing recourse to the barbarous method of the strike. When it was pointed out, by members of the Liberal party in New South Wales especially, that the legislation would not achieve its declared object, would not safeguard the community against the disastrous effects of strikes, and would not bring about industrial peace, but would ultimately break down of its own weight, those who pointed out its defects were proclaimed from the housetops and from every Labour political platform as the mortal enemies of labour. The statement, of course, was not true, but, like many other statements, it was made with the desire to inflame the minds of prejudiced and self-interested men against those who desired to prevent injustice being done. Such statements were escorted to for the purpose of making political capital at the expense of the political opponents of those who made them. Experience of the working of these Conciliation and Arbitration Acts has shown their defects to be most glaring. They have not achieved the purpose for which they were intended. When awards made under them have not been of a one-sided character, and in the interests of the labour side in particular disputes, they have, in many cases, been ignored or set aside, and strikes have resulted. We have seen the continuation of strikes, notwithstanding the existence of this class of legislation. Recourse will still be had to strikes when awards are made which are unsatisfactory to employes. There seems to be no power to enforce awards against them, although there is always power to enforce awards against employers. In this respect, these Conciliation and Arbitration Acts have proved to be very one-sided. I do not think it necessary to quote from New Zealand reports on this subject. Honorable members may have read some of them, and they will admit that the effect of legislation of this kind in New Zealand has belied every claim made for it upon its introduction. Now we have the familiar statement once more that the purpose and primary object of this Bill is to secure industrial peace and prevent industrial disputes. In my opinion, its primary object is to dragoon all workers in all industries into trade unions. Its real object is more political than industrial. Its primary object is to force all workers, whether willing or unwilling, into trade unions by depriving them of the right to live if they do not join a union. Once they have been forced to join unions, the idea is that they shall become the political agents of, and shall be coerced into supporting, the political party at present claiming to represent them. No impartial man who reads this Bill in the light of recent .and current events, can come to any other conclusion than that the primary object of this measure is more political than industrial, and that it is intended to create a political oligarchy controlled from the Federal centre. It is a long step in the direction of unification which will give to the Labour party in power practical control over the whole of the industries throughout the Commonwealth, and the whole of the political organizations associated with the labour movement. That that is the design of this Bill is as plain as a pike-staff. It is as well that we should realize ‘that, and should bear the fact in mind in dealing with the Bill in Committee. So far as the settlement of industrial disputes is concerned, I should very much have preferred the adoption of a system of non-political Wages Boards. These Boards “have been proved to be very much more satisfactory agencies for the settlement of industrial disputes than the Conciliation and Arbitration Courts, and they are far less expensive. If we had Wages Boards established throughout the States, they would be able, with a complete knowledge of local conditions, to more satisfactorily, and less expensively, adjust the relations between employers and employes.
– Does the honorable member recommend Wages Board’s for the farming industry?
– Where we have any tribunal at all, I should certainly say there should be Wages Boards for farmers as well as for others. There should, in my opinion, be some tribunal for the settlement of disputes. I am not here as an advocate for the employers.
– We shall educate the honorable member in a little while !
– I could educate the honorable member in many matters of this kind; indeed, I think I went a long way towards educating him, and a number of others associated with him, long before they were in the Labour movement. J then held the views I am now expressing, and I hold them still - I continue to hold fast to the great principle of freedom which has always been my watchword and my guide in all political questions affecting the rights and privileges of the community. One of the main objections to this measure is that it takes away the freedom of individuals and undermines all the rights of private citizens. ‘ It cuts away all the liber- lies we at present enjoy, and seeks to make the workers neither more nor less than political and industrial automata, to be moved at the will of a controlling authority.
– Do Wages Boards do these things?
– Wages Boards are tribunals, which have not that political character underlying the provisions of this Bill.
– Are not the determinations of Wages Boards compulsory?
– I am not objecting to the binding nature of decisions of fairly constituted tribunals. I am- objecting to judicial tribunals being subverted to political ends. Wages Boards are admitted by a great number of the. workers themselves to have proved far preferable to any Arbitration Court of which we have had experience.
– Then it is only a matter of method?
– No ! Method and principle. And the Wages Boards are a better method, in my opinion, being less open to grave objections on a variety of grounds, and, what is more, much more expeditious. The compulsory preference to one set of workers over another is a denial of a man’s natural right to live. The .honorable member for Darling told us that the best workers are already in unions, and that that was a reason for insisting on preference ; but the weakness of that argument is patent after a moment’s superficial examination. If it be true that the best men in the various trades are already in the unions, there is no necessity for compulsory preference. Employers have to pay the standard rate of wages, and naturally desire to have the very best men, and they will not go outside the unions, because, if the honorable member be right, only inferior men tan be there obtained- if all the best men are in the unions, all the worst men must be non-unionists. So that the argument of the honorable member is extremely weak; indeed, so far from being an argument why a preference clause should be embodied in the Bill, it is the strongest argument why such a clause should be omitted. On the hustings, and on public platforms generally, many members of theLabour party, including the AttorneyGeneral himself, declared that they are for the principle of equality of opportunity for all. I believe in legitimate trade unions which do not seek to abuse the power of combination. But preference compulsory and unqualified by any conditions is a fatal blow to individual rights. It is coercion of a most pronounced type.
– In Tasmania one of the successful Labour candidates denied that the Labour party proposed, or intended to propose, preference to unionists.
– In spite of those electioneering declarations we have here a measure which gives them the absolute lie.
– The Bill gives the absolute lie - an absolute contradiction - to the declaration that the Labour party stands for equality of opportunity for all - it is a denial of the first basic principle of Democracy. This is about the most undemocratic measure ever submitted to this or any other Parliament.
– Is it as bad as all that?
– Yes, and more; it denies to every individual equality of opportunity to work and earn his own living how and on what terms he may, unrestricted except by the equal right of every other individual. This Bill provides only for the right of certain individuals to live, and demands that the rest of the community in similar industries shall, unless they belong to a certain organization, be compelled to starve. This measure is certainly a fine appeal to the humanitarian instincts of the people ! The great party, which declares that it stands for humanitarian ideals, denies to the majority of the community the right to live, the right of liberty, and the right to the pursuit of happiness - the three great essentials of Democracy embodied in the preamble to the American Constitution.
– The proposal is on our platform.
– If so, why is it not observed in the legislation of ‘ the party ? This Bill is an absolute denial of all those fundamental principles. It sets up a claim that only those who join an organization, whether willingly or not, shall be recognised by the law of the great Commonwealth of Australia as having the right to live, move, and have their being. Unless there happen to be more employment than can be undertaken by those within the organizations - unless all the members of the union have been provided for - ordinary citizens, who equally have to obey the laws and contribute their proportion of taxation, will not have the right to earn a crust for their wives and families. The preference clause is absolutely indefensible on any ground of ethics, justice, or common humanity. I do not desire to deal with the various clauses, because an opportunity will be presented in Committee, but there are two provisions to which I should like to briefly refer. One is clause 2, sub-clause b, by which it is proposed to omit the definition of “ industrial dispute “ from the original Act, and insert in its stead the following: - “ Industrial dispute “ means an industrial dispute extending beyond the limits of any one State and includes -
If honorable members refer to the Commonwealth Law Reports, page 488, they will see that a provision of this kind, so far as it applied to railway servants, was declared to be ultra vires of the Constitution. Whilst this clause does not make specific mention of railway servants, it does mention employment in an industry controlled by the Commonwealth or the State. Of course, State employes on railway trains and stations would not come under the category of persons employed in an industry, but in the State Railway Departments, as in other Departments, there are numbers of men employed in locomotive construction and repairing works, carriage-building works, painting, carpentering, fitting, upholstering, and so on. Is it intended, notwithstanding the decision of the High Court as to the unconstitutionality of the inclusion of railway servants and State employes, to embrace within the provisions of this measure all those State servants employed in connexion with the railway service in industrial work?
– That cannot be done by this Bill.
– The honorable member evidently has not studied the Bill. I do not express any opinion as to whether or not they should be included, but I want to know what is intended. I hope that, in Committee, when we deal with the clauses separately, these matters will be more fully explained than they have been so far by the Minister. Another provision to which I wish to draw attention is proposed new section 38B, in clause 7.
– Order! I must ask the honorable member not to go through the Bill clause by clause.
– I propose to refer only briefly, and not in detail, to the clause.
– The honorable member will be in order in referring to the clause, but not in going into it in detail, as he did in the case of the last clause he quoted.
– I shall not deal with the clause in detail. It provides -
In making an award or order, the Court shall not be restricted to the specific relief claimed by the parties to the industrial dispute-
– The honorable member must not read a clause and then debate it.
– It was necessary to read those words in order to explain my remarks.
-Order! The object of the debate on the second reading of a Bill is to discuss its general principles. The House goes into Committee to discuss the details. I must ask the honorable member to confine himself to general principles, and not to go into details.
– I was proposing to deal with the general principles, and not with the details, of the Bill. The general principle of this clause-
– Does the clause include a principle?
– Certainly, there is a principle embodied in the clause, and it was to that principle that I wished to direct attention. In speaking to the clause in Committee I could quote many specific instances and details explanatory of what I intended to convey to the House. I purposed reading the clause, so that honorable members might understand what I was referring to. If honorable members will read the clause themselves, and thus bring me within the purview of your ruling, Mr. Speaker, that I may not read the clause myself - and this is the first time, I think, it has ever been ruled that one may not read a clause-
– The honorable member must not reflect on the Chair.
– I do not wish to do so. I wanted merely to mention the fact that I had not known that ruling to be given before. The clause is a dangerous provision, and, if carried into law, will open the way to very grave abuses. That is all I wanted to say on the general principle of the clause, but, as I am not permitted to read it, of course I cannot explain to honorable members in what way it will lead to grave abuses. I am, therefore, unable to deal with the general principle of the Bill so far as it is covered by one of its chief clauses, and my remarks must necessarily be curtailed. I am not able to deal with the matter in a general way, because I am not permitted even to read the clause, and it is of no use to attempt to deal with the clause unless one is permitted that customary practice. I must, therefore, simply content myself with again protesting against the undemocratic character of the measure as a whole, protesting against it as being a denial of the equal right to work, and of the right to equality of opportunity which every worker in the community should enjoy. I protest against it because it is class legislation of the very worst kind, because it is based on flagrant injustice to the majority of workers, and because it undermines one of the most sacred principles of liberty, which hitherto we have prided ourselves as Australians on enjoying, and on having inherited as one of the most priceless gifts that we have received from the Mother Country.
– The Government are to be congratulated upon bringing down this measure at the earliest opportunity, in order to remedy, as far as possible, with the good-will of the House, the defects in the existing legislation on the subject. I question if there is any subject of such vital importance to the people as that of industrial peace, and it would be well if we could possibly reach a higher plane than that occupied by the honorable member who moved the amendment. This is a serious matter, and not one on which it is fitting that there should be heard in this House, a doleful complaint, which might be made at a shire council meeting, about the difficulties that we have to contend with. Only a few months ago, Australia was confronted with one of the most terrible strikes witnessed on this continent for many years past, and we all sincerely hope that we shall not see another. It may be a luxury for one State to enjoy such a strike to its heart’s content, but calamities of that character have far-reaching effects throughout the whole of Australia, and other portions of the continent that had no say in the matter suffered, and suffered bitterly, by it. In my own State, some ran short of the necessaries of life, and they had no say in the controlling or ordering of the struggle. If this Federal Parliament is worth its salt, if it is fit for anything, it ought to see what it can do to prevent the recurrence of troubles of that character. It is not necessary for honorable members on the other side to say that the task is difficult, that the road is hard to travel, and that obstacles confront us. Is it characteristic of the Australian people to be dismayed by difficulties? I quite agree with those honorable members that we are undertaking a difficult task. We may require the best endeavours of several Parliaments before we can achieve anything like industrial peace, but that should not deter us from attempting a work of this character, because it has to be done. We cannot allow industrial troubles, like the one to which I have referred, to repeatedly interfere with the peace and prosperity of this continent. What is the position so far as the worker is concerned ? Up to the present, he has had, as his only means of protection, the right to strike. That is a clumsy weapon, but, unfortunately, he has had repeatedly to resort to it. Many people think that those who are familiar with the organization of strikes enter upon the work with a light heart. As a matter of fact, they do not. No one knows more thoroughly than they do the trouble and misery that a strike occasions. No one knows better than such men the suffering which a strike occasions amongst women and children, but that has been the workers’ only protection. Now, societies with their big organizations, soberly, without passion or prejudice, are prepared to accept a system of legislation under which they will give up the right to strike, believing that in return the law will give them some protection, and few people realize how much they are giving up in parting with that power. As to the vexed question of preference to unionists, does it seem an outrageous proposition that organizations, not as they were in the time of our fathers, but organizations recognised by law, should obtain this preference? The position is altogether different from what it was in the days of our grand fathers and fathers. We know, as a matter of history, that some of the first men to be sent to Australia as convicts came out here as trade unionists. It is not difficult to be a trade unionist to-day, but in the old days a man who was guilty of organizing his fellow workers ran the risk of coming under the coercion laws, and landing himself at Botany Bay. Many men who did attempt to organize their fellow workers were actually sent out here. In modern times, however, we live under better conditions, and do not run such risks. The organizations to which this Bill refers have been built up because they are absolutely essential to the protection of the workers. They are more essential to-day than they were a generation or two ago. And why? Are not the conditions of manufacture entirely different from what they were two generations ago? What was the position in the days of our fathers ? Indeed, some of the older members of the House can recollect that in their younger days it was no uncommon occurrence for a workman to set up in business for himself, and by sobriety, industry, and the use of a limited capital, to make, not a princely fortune, but enough to provide for his wife and children, and to enable him to be a credit to the community. That was by no means an uncommon occurrence. But is it the practice to-day? What chance has a worker to-day of building up a business by his own industry? If I were to seriously suggest that a workman should do so, honorable members opposite, who are more familiar than I am with the big capitalistic organizations which rule, not only in Australia, but all over the world, would say at once that before such a man began really to crawl in his business, he would be smashed, so to speak, by the big power of concentrated capital. I do not refer to this fact in anger. I recognise that it is a matter of evolution. There is an evolutionary growth going on amongst us which honorable members opposite will not recognise, and difficult as the task may be, it is for us to collect the threads, and so weave them together, if we possibly can, as to alter the conditions under which we live in the interests, not only of the workers themselves, but of the employers and the people generally for whom we are here to legislate. Under these altered conditions, what is possible to the worker? He has now to look to his union for protection. His union is his only safeguard. The honorable member for Lang talked largely about the independent man, but evolution has killed him. This wonderful, independent man of whom the honorable member for Lang spoke - this man who does not desire to have anything to do with a union - must be either a knave or a fool. He is either a knave, because he hopes by telltale practices and the exercise of like qualities, to improve his employment at the expense of his fellow worker, or else he is a fool because he believes that he, isolated, can confront the capitalist on the one hand, and organized labour on the other. Such a position is unthinkable from the stand-point of any sane man. Honorable members talk of liberty, and the right of every individual to enjoy his freedom. We admit that; but in what society have we that liberty of which honorable members opposite speak? What liberty has a man, for instance, to make himself a nuisance in Melbourne to-day? If he does, he is soon sent where he ought to be- he is sent to gaol. There is such a thing as liberty, but honorable members opposite are advocating, not liberty, but licence. If any body of workers attempted to make their organizations a class monopoly ; if they barred their doors to men seeking admittance to their organizations, they would not be entitled to register. We are not legislating for such men, and in that fact we have an answer to some of the contentions of our opponents. I believe there is one society which used to take up that stand, but the organizations with which I am’ connected in South Australia welcome men to their ranks. We realize that it is more desirable to have . a man with us than against us, and in the very nature of things every inducement is offered to a man to join a union.
– But it is impossible for the honorable member to get into a capitalistic union.
– I have never tried to do so. The proposal to grant preference to unionists is, to my mind, reasonable. Honorable members must set aside all prejudice, and realize that the only protection which a worker enjoys is that which his union gives. His union is the Only organization through which he can treat with his employers as a bod>’. That being so, the logical sequence to my mind is that such organizations should be recognised. ‘We are leaving the track followed by our fathers; we are realizing that these troubles have to be faced, and since we are setting up a tribunal to deal with industrial disputes, it is only fair - and I am not advocating class interests - that we should empower the Court to grant preference to unionists. Wherein lies the evil? Let us consider the other side of the question. What evil will flow from the granting of preference to unionists? It will have a tendency, some honorable members say, to increase the number of unionists. If it does, what evil will follow? The honorable member for Lang said just now that we were indulging in a good deal of humbug, and that the real object of the Labour party in supporting this Bill was to build up trade unions, and to make them stronger both numerically and politically. Let me say a word or two with regard to that point. We hear a great deal about the power of the Labour organization, but I would point out that there is a power stronger than the Labour organization or the Fusion organization - stronger than any political party - and that is Australian mother wit. From the day on which the Labour organization, or the Labour party, outrages the commonsense of the Australian people, its decline will begin. I ask honorable members to look at that phase of the question. Too much talk is indulged in, both here and in other Parliaments on the Continent, about Conservative checks, and we are told to be very careful not to go too far this way or too far that way. In the Mother Country the greatest check has always been the common sense of our forefathers, and in Australia the greatest check is the mother wit which we possess equally with our British brothers. Therefore, I do not fear that a great disaster will result to the handful of persons who are outside the unions from our giving preference to unionists.
– Surely they are a good big handful !
– I am willing to assume the argument of honorable members on the other side. Their contention has been that if we pass the Bill, and give preference to unionists, we shall materially increase the numbers in the unions. Well and good. There will then be very few persons outside the unions.
– I think that honorable members on this side said that the provision, if passed, would force men into the unions against their will.
– There is no question of forcing men into the unions. We cannot force a man anywhere unless he likes to go, but there is a certain amount of moral force in the world. Is there no agreement amongst capitalists? They would not think of doing anything of that sort, but if one of their number does not altogether fall into line with them they can make it pretty hot for him, as they have done over and over again. The idea that persons are looked upon with disfavour because they are not prepared to be loyal to their mates is no novelty so far as the Labour party is concerned, because our opponents can show that they understand that doctrine when it suits them, as well as anybody else. Another chief objection which has been urged against the measure is that it would extend the jurisdiction of the Court, and that every worker would have an opportunity of gaining the advantages of the law. Why should he not? If the Act is capable of being taken advantage of by the workers in the towns, why should we go in for class legislation? We have had too much legislation of that sort. Why should not the workers on the farm, the station, and the dairy have an opportunity of experiencing the advantages which are now conferred upon the town workers ? I fail to see any reason why the proposed extension should not be made. If this legislation should not apply to the country - provided that the country worker is willing to accept it - my contention is that it ought not to apply to the cities. I am not in favour of class legislation. The Act is either good or bad. If it is good, let its application be extended; but if it is bad, the sooner it is got rid of the better it will be. My contention is that the Act is good for securing industrial peace, and that the extension of its application to the country worker will be attended with no disadvantage. What is the assumption of the honorable member for Lang and the honorable member for Richmond? It is that, in the event of an organization affecting those who are in the employment of dairymen and farmers, extraordinary claims will be made for increased wages. Is not the determination of such questions to be left to the Court? Will it not have to weigh the whole matter, and see what wages the industry can afford to pay? With the characteristic calmness and judicial dignity which a Judge always brings to the performance of his duties, will it be utterly impossible for him to form an opinion as to what is a living wage in country districts? Surely honorable mem- bers on the other side do not mean to suggest that the difficulties of agricultural life are of such a magnitude that it is impossible to fix a living wage? I do not believe that honorable members on the other side are really serious in the objections which they have urged. Is there no principle involved? I am not saying what should be done. My argument is that there is no necessity for us to run wild, and to fear that all sorts of calamities will flow from the extension of the Act to rural industries. First, organizations have to be formed, and, secondly, they have to agree, so that they can come under the provisions of the Act. And when all is said and done they will have to be subject to the decision of the Judge, who will make an award after all things have been taken into consideration. It seems to me that it will not be a difficult matter for the Court to settle. By way of illustration, let me point out that it is no difficult matter to fix the rents in country districts. In England rents have been fixed on scientific principles for 400 years. We can fix rates of wages subject to rents and to prices of commodities. That has been done in other places, and it can be done again. I know that the road is difficult, but it is not impossible. Although it may be contended that it is impossible for us to travel this very dangerous and difficult road, still we should not be dismayed by the difficulties which will have to be encountered. It is well known that elsewhere the basis for fixing rents has been the prices of products. It might be that in some parts, a decision could be come to on a basis of that character. When I remember that rents and prices are fixed by reference to the values of agricultural produce, it inspires me with the hope that, even if we should have to follow that principle, it will not be impossible to fix a living wage. I am rather inclined to think that the legislation dealing with the very difficult question of stopping strikes and bringing about a peaceful solution of industrial difficulties has not been a failure. With all due deference to the honorable member for Lang, I do not think that a Wages Board is superior to a Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. In the very nature of things a Wages Board can never be in a position to see the books of employers, and ascertain what a trade can really afford to pay.
– Does not the honorable member think that the decisions of Wages Boards are observed more carefully and more readily, too, than are those of the Arbitration Court?
– That may be so in some instances,- but the honorable member must realize this fact : that we have not yet got the best out of the Arbitration Court. There are too many technicalities to which consideration is given, and too many difficulties are piled up by the adjudicators.
– It has been found very difficult to get the men to observe the awards of the Court.
– It has been urged that arbitration has not been successful. The New South Wales law known as the “Wise Act” was in force for some years.
– It was framed on a measure originating with the Hon. Pember Reeves, of New Zealand.
– The Act expired by effluxion of time, and Wages Boards were substituted for the Arbitration Court which had been set up by it. I gather that the decisions of the Arbitration Court gave more satisfaction to the trades which came under its jurisdiction than has been given by the awards of the Wages Boards, and I am of opinion that had the Government administered the Act faithfully, and had the Parliament remedied the defects which the Supreme Court found in the Act, the measure would to-day be a land mark, so far as legislation of this character is concerned. I believe that it did its work too well, and had to be killed.
– The honorable member is wrong in attributing its failure to any Government. The Court’s awards were ignored by the men.
– I have stated what was my impression, when looking at the administration of the Act from a distance. I can understand that employers would hesitate before allowing their private concerns to be investigated by Wages Boards. A. Judge is able to make his inquiries in secrecy, and, having made them, is in a position to know what any trade can afford to pay.
– There is less publicity in connexion with the investigation of Wages Boards than there is in connexion with a Court inquiry.
– I feel that no half-dozen men would all like their trade secrets to be made known to a Wages Board. A Court would recognise the difference between trade profits and trade secrets.
– Would the honorable member regulate wages by the profits made in an industry?
– That has a good deal to do with the matter.
– Then w;ould he lower wages if losses were incurred ?
– I do not wish to discuss questions of detail. An inquiry by a Court would be concerned with the profits of a business*. It was because the New South Wales Arbitration Court got to know the profits of certain businesses that it had to be killed. Although I was living 1,000 miles from where the Court was sitting, I knew that when certain businesses were affected the Court would be wiped out of existence.
– The honorable member seems to have made up his mind regarding certain matters without the data to justify his conclusions. The President of the Court abandoned the idea that wages should be regulated by profits, because he saw that it involved the principle that losses, must bring about the reduction of wages.
– What I insist on is that we must adopt the principle of arbitration. It has been suggested that conciliation has not been successful, and I acknowledge that until now it has been largely a failure; but it will be no longer a failure when we have in existence a Court which can make awards after proper investigations. Employers and employes will say, after the Court has given half-a-dozen judgments of a certain character, “ What is the good of going to the Court, and wasting our time ? Let us form a board of conciliation, and get the Judge to certify to our arrangements.” Conciliation must follow compulsory arbitration ; it will not come first. The existence of a strong Arbitration Court, able to make binding awards after exhaustive inquiry, will bring about conciliation. I do not think that the Court needs the assistance of lawyers, or that its proceedings will benefit by the introduction of technicalities. It should be presided over by a Judge trained by years of practice to weigh evidence, and to thoroughly investigate the questions coming before him. I hope that honorable members will regard the measure as one calculated to help -in establishing industrial peace. The road may be difficult, but it is not characteristic of Australians to be afraid of difficulties. Of course, our legislation will not be perfect. In its nature it is largely experimental. Evolution in trade, commerce, and industry is rapid, and we must move with the times. Arguments which carried weight with our fathers cannot carry weight with us. We must live in the actual world, with all its great possibilities. Great patriotism, great honesty, great prejudice, and great meanness, exist side by side, and have to be counted upon as factors in the making of our history. The Australian people expect this Parliament to do something to prevent the recurrence of what happened last year at Newcastle.
.- I congratulate the honorable member for Hindmarsh upon having been able to confine his remarks to the discussion of the benefits of compulsory arbitration, without touching upon the great principles underlying the measure now before the House. His speech carried us back to the year 1903, when this House was discussing the advisability of adopting compulsory arbitration. That principle was adopted many years ago, and neither the strike at Newcastle nor the question of conciliation nor of arbitration has anything to do with this Bill. I would like to point out to honorable members what the measure really does mean. The honorable member for Hindmarsh reminded us that we are living in an age when principles of co-operation and of self-interest combine for the advancement of mankind. But I maintain that the interests of mankind can be advanced only by the intelligent activities of man himself. They will never be advanced by organizations from the management of which men divorce themselves. If this Bill becomes law, one of its first results will be to take out of the hands of the members of industrial unions the control of the rules of those unions, because their members will have less opportunity of realizing the value of those rules, since they will not be drawn up under the broad system laid down by an Act of Parliament. One of the proposals embodied in the measure is the repeal of that portion of the principal Act which prescribes certain broad lines upon which the rules of unions must be framed. One of the safeguards in that Act is a provision that every union in its rules shall arrange for the control of the committee by general or special meetings. If we wipe out that rule, we shall enable the committee to run the whole show irrespective of the members pf the particular union concerned. An organization conducted upon such lines is fore doomed to dry rot and failure. My remarks in this connexion apply to the proposed abolition of schedule b of the principal Act. Another safeguard embodied in that Statute is a provision for the manner in which the consent of an association shall be obtained to any proposal for submission to the Conciliation and Arbitration Court. In other words, the Act practically lays it down that a union must take corporate action. Its members have to support the action of their executive before any proposal can be put to the Court. But under this Bill the executive of a union will have carte blanche to commit it to anything that it may choose ! The principal Act also safeguards the manner in which an association shall be represented before the Conciliation and Arbitration Court; whereas this Bill leaves it absolutely unsafeguarded. These are a few of the points to which the speech pf the honorable member for Hindmarsh directed my attention - owing to his omission to deal with them. I do not approach the consideration of this question - as he suggested honorable members upon this side of the House do - from a prejudiced standpoint. If I were a working man, undoubtedly I should be a trade unionist. But just as undoubtedly I would take an interest in the affairs of my union, and I would not welcome a Bill of this character, which will throw the whole of the industrial affairs of great organizations into the hands of a few self-styled organizers
– The men of whom the honorable member speaks are the keenest intellects in the industrial movement.
– I should be sorry to suggest that the keenest intellects in industrial organizations are to be found in the paid secretaries of those organizations. I would remind honorable members of the very frame-work of the principal Act. It aims at securing industrial peace by setting up a Court of Conciliation and Arbitration to decide any questions of industrial dispute. In order that the time of that, tribunal may not be occupied by countless appeals on the part of individual litigants, Parliament has in that Act decided that the powers of capital and of labour should, as far as possible, be concentrated in organizations of employers upon the one hand, and organizations of employes upon the other. These organizations - not necessarily trade unions, I would remind my honorable friends - are recognised by the law in order to facilitate the working of the Statute. That was the specific object which Parliament had in view. When an organization is registered, to which every man may conveniently belong, the principal Act seeks to facilitate its working by declaring that There shall not be two organizations in the same industry. So that, first of all, Parliament granted a preference to members of industrial organizations under rules drawn up to facilitate the working of the Statute; and, secondly, a preference was granted to unions which registered in compliance with the idea underlying the Act, and in recognition of its spirit. So that if the spirit of that Act be obeyed, and if a preference be granted to unionists, the moment a man stays outside an organization his efforts to earn a livelihood will be seriously hampered. Parliament recognised that in 1904. It realized that if a man remained outside a union his livelihood might be imperilled, and, consequently, it inserted safeguards in the principal Act, under which a union is compelled to admit any competent workman to its’ ranks, and is also prevented from black-mailing or tyrannizing over those who are driven to join it by legislation which is designed purely to prevent industrial strife. All this the Bill now before us proposes to repeal. In the first place, I would ask my honorable friends, who are strong trade unionists - and I differentiate between trade unionism and industrial unionism under the terms of this Act - how they think that the recruiting of trade unionists by means of force will effect their aims? It is claimed - and I admit it is true - that the most enthusiastic workmen in Australia are to be found within trade unions.
– Not all of them.
– But some of them. Is not the enthusiasm of the workmen the result of the enthusiasm which actuates the members of the- unions ? Is it not due to the fact that every man is proud of his union, and is bent upon doing his very best for it? Do my honorable friends expect to see that same spirit exhibited by men who are compelled to join a union ? I do not ask honorable members opposite to accept my verdict upon a matter of this kind, but I do ask them to accept the verdict of one of their own colleagues - I refer to the honorable member for South Sydney, who was for a long time a member of the New South Wales Arbitration Court. He sat beside the President of that tribunal as one of its elected Judges. The first quotation to which I invite attention is one from the honorable member, who is admitted to be an authority on the trade unionist movement throughout Australia. It is taken from a report of the dispute in which the Sydney Wharf Labourers’ union had refused to allow a competent workman to join its ranks. The registration of that union was proposed for cancellation by the Registrar on that ground, and an action was brought before the President of the New South Wales Arbitration Court. On that occasion, Mr. Riley, now the honorable member for South Sydney, spoke as follows (Vol. V., p. 235, N.S.W. Arbitration Records) -
I say as a trade unionist that there is too much importance put upon this preference clause altogether - that it is far better for the union to sacrifice any preference rather than give up the vital principle of selecting a man who may come into their midst with the view to breaking the union up.
Now this is a very important point. You must, if you are going to give preference to industrial organizations, insist upon those organizations allowing into their ranks every man who is competent as a workman to be there, irrespective of whether he has in the past been a strikebreaker, and of the stand-point from which he may have viewed trade unionism.
– Whether he- is a scab or not.
– Scab or no scab, if he is a competent workman he is entitled, by every principle of public polity, to be admitted into any union that secures the privilege of preference from the Legislature.
– It has not been necessary under the present Act that a person should be admitted under such circumstances.
– I have been quoting from the arbitration reports in connexion with a case with which the AttorneyGeneral was thoroughly conversant.
– Under the State law7.
– This Bill will go infinitely further than the New South Wales Act, because there were certain vague safeguards in that legislation. If this Bill be passed as the Attorney-General requires, there will be absolutely no such safeguards in our Act. I certainly ask the earnest consideration of my honorable friends, who are keen supporters of the trade union movement, to tEese words of one of their own colleagues sitting as a judge in this case in Sydney. I think that the honorable member for South Sydney was right when he said, in effect, that it is more important to a trade union that has other purposes outside those mentioned in this legislation - such as benefit projects, an insurance fund against unemployment, and so forth - to maintain the liberty to elect or refuse to elect undesirable applicants than to be compelled to take them under the preference provisions of an arbitration measure. But we are dealing, as I cannot emphasize too strongly, with industrial organizations ; and an industrial organization that wishes for preference at the hands of the law must, in common conscience, give the law a guarantee that it will not use the instrument put into its hand to prevent an honest man from earning an honest livelihood by honest means.
– Otherwise, a union would be an instrument of the grossest tyranny.
– The Bill does not go the length of taking away the right of ballot.
– The New South Wales law did not specifically say that a man should not be balloted for.-
– Did not the New South Wales law give the Court a discretion ?
– A discretion, yes; but not in anything like such directing terms as we have in the provisions now being repealed.
– Still, it gave a discretion.
– Yes, but this amending measure will take away any discretion from the Commonwealth Court. The interjection made by the AttorneyGeneral invites me to quote from remarks used in the New South Wales Arbitration Court upon this very question of excluding men who wished to become members of an industrial body
– The New South Wales Act is quite different from this Bill.
– There is not a tittle of justification for this attempt to drag a red herring across my very pertinent criticism of this measure; and if he will read the case which I shall quote the honorable gentleman will realize that, at any rate in practice, the New South Wales Act operated as would the measure now sought to be amended by the Attorney-General.
– There is no parity at all.
– This is what the President of the New South Wales Arbitration Court had to say with regard to the attempt to exclude O’Dwyer from the Wharf Labourers’ Union in that State (N.S.W., Arbitration Records, Vol. V., p: 231) -
A man named O’Dwyer duly applied to be admitted a member of the union, but was not admitted. According to his affidavit, it would appear that the reason for his unseccess was that he had worked on some wharf during a strike during some trouble between the employers and the employes. After making several attempts to be admitted, he reported the matter to the Registrar under the Arbitration Act, and the Registrar then held an inquiry and took evidence and heard argument. On the 9th April he gave his decision, in which he stated that he had come to the conclusion that he must apply to the Court for cancellation of the registration on the ground that Rule 4 was either inadequate, or had npt been bond fide observed ; but he stated at the same time that if O’Dwyer was elected, and if the union showed a disposition to comply with its rules properly, he would report that fact to this Court, and as far as it rested with him, would not press his application. That was on the 9th April. He waited then for eight days, and the union did nothing. On the 17th he lodged the application, which was to come cn on the 23rd ; that gave the union six days more ; but when the matter came on, on the 23rd, the union had done nothing, and we were informed by Mr. Harrison, the financial secretary of the union, that O’Dwyer had not been admitted, that his name had been called at some meeting of the union (a proceeding that appears to me, I must say, to be unmeaning ; I do not understand it), and as he did not answer, he was not elected or admitted to be a member of the union.
– What was the man to do during the eight days?
– It is shown that he could not earn his livelihood.
– The employers could keep him.
– The employers did not care a “ two-penny dump “ for the nonunion workers. in this case. They only cared for their own wretched pockets. One cannot have too much contempt for the men who behaved as the employers did in this case.
– Did the honorable member say so at the time?
– I often feel, when my honorable friend interjects while I am speaking, as the poet felt in writing the familiar lines -
O, winds that blow from the West . . .
. Whisper and I shall hear ; because, when my honorable friend speaks in his ordinary voice, it is difficult to catch what he says. I would ask him to whisper, “ and then there will be a chance of my hearing him. The Judge in this case went on to say -
That really discloses to my mind a serious state of things. The union, “in order to maintain its preference, had passed the rule necessary to maintain its preference, under which rule it was obliged to admit any applicant, and the man simply had to go to the secretary of the union, make the application, tender the necessary fees, and be at once admitted. Mr. Harrison informed us that the union had instructed him to disregard that rule, and not to admit any persons unless their names were submitted to a meeting of the union to be proposed and seconded, and, if the union thought fit, rejected. It seems to me that, under those circumstances, the union was retaining its preference under false pretences.
Furthermore, he said -
So that . . . it is clear that the union, as a union, at that meeting held last night did its best to defy the Court and to disobey its own lule, to refuse to do what the Court required, and to insist upon keeping O’Dwyer out. He has been kept out for between two and three months, during which time he has been unable to earn his living at what he says is his trade of wharf-labouring.
– It is not a fact. He was kept on.
– It is a fact. I have 4>een reading the finding of the Court. The President had something further to say in regard to this. He said (Vol. V., p. *43)-
These acts speak for themselves. The conduct of the’ union in 1904 was characterized by Ihe then Court as “ autocratic and tyrannical in the extreme.” The conduct set out above is, to my mind, tricky, underhand, and dishonest in the extreme.
The Attorney-General will remember the facts of the case, as he was representing the men in it ! The circumstances connected with this particular case go to show that if we compel men to become members of unions, it is absolutely essential that we should insure their right to enter them if they see fit to make application to do so. Otherwise, we shall be invading their right to work, which is the basis of their right to live. This House must do nothing of that nature unless it wishes to hold itself up to the execration of all right-minded people throughout the world as a House in which a majority, in order to secure a paltry political advantage, will interfere with the right to labour of a class of people who deserve our sympathy and support more than any other section of the community we represent. Honorable members who represent trade unions are aware that trade unionists are, so to speak, the aristocracy of labour. They are engaged, as a rule, in some skilled occupation, and, at any rate, are men who have the advantage of more or less regular employment in the same calling. Can my honorable friends opposite say the same of some men - I am not referring only to those who are called strike-breakers - who have no settled trade or occupation, and who know not, from day to day, where they will find work? I am referring to men who cannot afford to pay five or six guineas as an entrance fee to a union, or the few shillings which are necessary in the majority of cases. I mentioned the five guineas because I believe the Wharf Labourers Union, at one time, claimed an entrance fee of five guineas. The men to whom I refer cannot afford to pay 2s. 6d. or 5s. for the right to a day’s work. Do honorable members opposite wish to deny to these members of the community, who are most deserving of our sympathy and care, the right to live, and that equality of opportunity for which they often contend ?
– The honorable member’s sympathy is like Judas’ kisses.
– The minds of some men are always running on kissing. I thought that the honorable member for East Sydney had grown out of that period of his existence. I notice that he has the courtesy to blush at this reference to, perhaps, his hidden qualifications. I hope he will not again try to divert me from solid argument by such interjections. I have given the House what the President of the Conciliation and Arbitration Court had to say on the question of the exclusion of O’Dwyer. Let me place his words on record as showing what he considers should be the public policy underlying measures of this character. He said (Vol. V., pp. 247- 248)-
When I consider the provisions of the Act, it seems to me that upon broad constitutionalprinciples of the highest importance it must be held that the right of vote possessed by trade unions has been taken away from industrial unions, and that the admission of members into the latter must be carried out on principles to be decided by the Court and not by the union. These principles may vary in different cases ; but whatever principles the Court lays down, itwill, of course, bear carefully in mind the preservation of the rights and liberties which belong to the citizens of every free country. A privateerson may refuse to deal at a particular shop becuase he does not like the colour of the shopkeeper’s hair, or because he objects to the waihe voted at the last election, or from motives of religious bigotry, or for any other reason he likes. In the same way a trade union may refuse to admit workmen to membership because those men do not see eye to eye with the members of the union on political or labour questions or upon the advantages of trade unions, or upon the manner in which the trade unions should exercise their power, or as to the ends which they should seek to attain. They can reject a man because he has made himself personally obnoxious to them ; he may have declined to go on strike, or he may have gone directly to an employer and obtained from him a letter to say that he shall be given a job; but the Legislature is not to be presumed to discriminate between citizens upon any such grounds. It can do so, of course ; but the intention must be clear. What is there in the Industrial Arbitration Act to show* any such intention? The recognition which the Act extends to trade unions was evidently because the Act could not be administered without organizations, and as trade unions were the only organizations among the men the Legislature availed itself of them. But was it the. intention of the Legislature that the trade union, when by registration it has secured to itself the great advantages conferred by the Act, should be at liberty to say who should or should not share those advantages? Reasonable facilities to persons to become members of the union cannot mean reasonable facilities to Englishmen or non-unionists, and smaller facilities to Irishmen or unionists. “ Reasonable facilities to persons “ implies the same reasonable facilities to all, and this again implies that the same test must be applied ; and this again that the test must bc a lawful one ; and this again that a man must not be rejected because he has offered his labour when and where he chose. It must be remembered, too, that before the Act a man who could not otherwise get work could offer to work at a lower wage, but now, when an award and common rule cover the industry, his offer cannot be accepted. Is it not fair to suppose that when his right as an individual to bargain for himself was taken away by the Act, it was intended that in return he should be admitted to all the industrial privileges conferred by the Act? Can the industrial union protect itself against his competition, and yet exclude him from the advantages of membership ? To my mind it cannot.
In these words we have very clearly laid down what should be the public policy in connexion with measures of this character. What I have just read to the House shows conclusively that when we give preference to an industrial union we should, in common fairness to ourselves and our reputation, as well as in common justice to the workers of this country, lay down the principle that any man who wishes to join an industrial union that has secured an award of preference shall have power to do so, no one having the right to say him nay. This Bill would absolutely deprive a man of the right to enter a trade union. It would permit trade unions, that have registered as industrial organizations, to adopt any rules they please, to decline, for instance, to admit any one who is not in a position to pay an excessive entrance fee. It might create a class of privileged workers in the country at the expense, even of starvation, to a large and deserving section of the people. The Bill goes even further than that. It goes to the extent of allowing the organizers of a union - not the body of men comprising the union - to exercise a power of control they have never been able to exercise before. It would permit the organizers to blackmail, coerce, and tyrannize over workers, and compel them, at the peril of their livelihood, to join industrial organizations that are really political organizations. We all heard the honorable member for Darling speaking about unrestricted preference to unionists and the benefit which would be conferred upon every one by the adoption of the principle. In reply to the honorable member, I should like to direct his attention to the rules of his own organization, the Australian Workers’ Union, in order to show how many men may be compelled, under the Bill, to not only support ordinary trade union objects, but to contribute to the party funds of my friends opposite, and to swear to vote for the candidate they may choose’ to suggest. If thisunion’s past record is any indication of its future practice this coercion Bill meansthat honorable members opposite hope, at the expense of the industrial liberty of the people of Australia, to obtain a few more votes and a few more pounds for their already rich coffers from people who canill afford to give. These were the rules of the Australian Workers’ Union until the Arbitration Court of New South Walescompelled their alteration - they were not altered voluntarily, but at the direction of the Court. The Registrar, as reported in Vol. I., page 21, of the same record,. said -
Rule 113 of 1901 provides for a contributionof 2S. 6d. from each member’s annual subscription to this journal.
He is there referring to the Sydney Worker, and to a large part of the funds of the union being expended for political purposes -
Rule r2o of 1902 provides for such subscription being 55., and rule 121 that each branch may expend an additional sum, not exceeding is. 6d. per financial member per year, in support of newspapers owned and controlled by the union.
Computing the membership of this unionto be 21,000, he says -
This subscription for the present year would amount to ^5,250, in addition to a possible subscription from the four branches of ^1,575.
And this to a political organ presided over by the honorable member for Darling ! Do my honorable friends say that it is fair that a man should be driven, at the peril of his livelihood - refused the right to work in order to live - to join this union, and then be compelled, whatever his political views may be, whatever ideas he may have of honest, straightforward newspaper work, to contribute to a journal that supports by devious methods my altruistic friends ,on the Treasury benches. The Registrar, on this application, w;ent on to quote Rule 54-
Branches may expend a sum not exceeding is. per financial member per year for parliamentary purposes, providing always that a two-third. majority of their members declare through a plebiscite vote in favour of such expenditure.
It will be seen that one-third of the members have to pay whether they like it or not.
– It is majority rule !
– I call it majority blackmail. The Registrar went on to quote the Rule-
Branches deciding in favour of expending is. per member for parliamentary purposes shall place same to credit of a Parliamentary Fund, which may be used in connexion with either State 01 Federal elections.
There we find an amount of more than £1,000 per annum contributed by this one union to the funds of the. Labour party! Every man is to be compelled to join this union, and, further, to pay a shilling towards keeping our altruistic friends opposite in power for the good of the country ! There is not even the safeguard of a vote in connexion with this proposal.
Any member of the union voting or working against the selected Labour candidate approved of by the union, shall be fined the sum of £3.
The members are not to have political liberty of conscience, or to be allowed to vote for whom they choose. We know for whom the union votes. It provides the honorable member for Darling with a seat here, and other opportunities for usefulness on the Worker newspaper. This union consists of the strongest supporters the Labour Government has; and such were the rules until the laws of New South Wales compelled their alteration.
– And now it is sought to revert to the old rules.
– Quite so; the whole purpose of the amending Bill is to enable the party to victimize, to completely tyrannize over, and to blackmail, every man that joins the union, into supporting the Labour
Administration which has the temporary control of the affairs of Australia. I have quoted enough, I think, from the rules of the Australian Workers’ Union alone, to show that we must be very careful in regard to giving this absolute right to exercise dictation. What does the Bill propose to do in regard to unionism? We are told that it seeks preference to unionists; but I remind the House and the country that unionists already have preference, provided that preference is not used to prevent any man earning a livelihood, or to compel him to throw over his political opinions. The original Act provides preference to unions -
Provided always that before any preference to members of organizations is directed as aforesaid, the President shall, by notification published in the Gazette and in such other publications, if any, as the Court directs, specifying the industry and the industrial matter in re.lation to which it is proposed to direct such preference, 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. . . .
In any case in which the Court directs that preference shall be given, it may subsequently suspend or qualify the direction for such time or subject to such conditions as it thinks fit, if, in the opinion of the Court, the rules of the organization are burdensome or oppressive, or do not provide reasonable conditions for admission to or continuance in membership, or that the organization has acted unfairly or unjustly to any of its members in the matter of preference.
Could anything be fairer or more equitable? That is all the original Act provides, and that is all the quarrel my honorable friends opposite have with it - that it does not give them power to control a man politically when he enters an industrial union to seek his livelihood under our Arbitration Act. Let this matter be clearly understood by the House and the country, as a whole. No more impudent pretence was ever put forward by a political party than the pretence that benefits for trade unionism are sought by this legislation. It is not benefits for trade unionism that are sought, but benefits for a political party for political purposes. That is the whole Bill, and all that the Bill can do.
Silling suspended from 6.30 to 7.45 p.m.
– Before the suspension of the sitting I was pointing out the effect which this Bill will have in giving rise to a most objectionable system, compelling men who have to join a union to earn their livelihood to pay moneys into the funds of a certain political party to which my honorable friends opposite belong, and to support them during the election campaign and at the ballot-box. I referred to the rules of the Australian Workers’ Union as they existed until compelled to be altered by the New South Wales Arbitration Court. I should like to submit to the attention of honorable members the following references to this matter by the President of that Court, to be found in Vol. i, page 33, of the Industrial Arbitration Reports and Records : -
If a person voluntarily joins an Association with a rule of this kind-
The rule making the members of the union surrender their political consciences and political liberty - which, by depriving him of important privileges, in a sense punishes him for doing that which he was quite free and entitled to do, that is his own business; but this Court should not compel a man either to join a body which has established this imperium in imperio, or to remain aloof from the benefits which the Act we are administering contemplates.
That was entirely the position taken up by this House some years ago, when we inserted in the Act, which is now sought to be repealed in these essentials, certain safeguards which would guarantee to any man who was compelled to join an industrial association brought into being under the arbitration law, liberty of conscience, liberty of thought, and industrial liberty, and not put him as a mere tool, a mere victim, into the hands of the organizations which my honorable friends opposite control.
– We have had a general election or two since then.
– What is the burden of the Minister’s interjection? Does it mean that the people of the country, as a whole, believe that preference to unionists should be given, apart from any safeguard against political oppression or political tyranny?
– Do not let him treat you like he treated Judkins to-day.
– It was, I think, professional jealousy that made the Minister annoyed with Mr. Judkins. He has no reason to be angry with me, and I am sure his interjection was intended to throw light on the debate ! There is no question that the country- has not declared in favour of such preference being given to political unions as would take away from a man his liberty of political thought and his political conscience.
– The honorable member is a lovely guardian angel of workmen’s rights !
– In spite of that torrent of sound, I was still able to stand up and let it pass by me without trembling ; but if my honorable friend would only modulate his voice, I might hear what he says, and it would be more adapted to the tone of the Chamber.
– Do not forget that he represents “ the premier constituency of Australia.”
– I do not forget it. Every time I see the honorable member the memory of it is brought vividly back to me. The Act already gives preference to unionists, subject to certain safeguards, which the Government now want to repeal. What are they ? If honorable members will look’ at section 55 of the principal Act they will see the following : -
Provided that no such organization shall be entitled to any declaration of preference by the Court when and so long as its rules or other binding decisions permit the application of its funds to political purposes, or require its members to do anything of a political character.
And further provided that no organization shall be entitled to appear before the Court to oppose an application for preference by any organization so long as its rules or other binding decisions permit the application of its funds to political purposes, or require its members to do anything of a political character.
With that safeguard in the Act it would be impossible for the Australian Workers’ Union, for instance, to fine a man ^3 for supporting any candidate other than the Labour candidate, if that union wanted preference. If the union did not want preference, the section would not operate. But the moment that it sought to drive men, at the peril of their livelihoods, to join its ranks, it would be stopped directing their politics, because this House held, some years ago, that the industrial liberty of those men should be safeguarded, by- insuring that their political liberty and consciences should not be harnessed to the cart of the organizers of the Australian Workers’ Union. That proviso in the Act was carefully limited, in order to enable unions to carry on legitimate political propaganda, aiming purely at the alleviation of the conditions obtaining in the industry, because the Act goes on to say - “ Political purposes “ in this section does not include obtaining or maintaining provisions applying to all persons in any particular industry, without discrimination as between those who are and those who are not members of an organization, with respect to the regulation of the following matters : - Preservation of life and limb ;
Compensation for injuries or death ; Sanitation ; The sex and age of employes ; The hours of labour; The remuneration of labour; Protection of salaries and wages; Other conditions similarly affecting employment.
Under the Act as it stands, therefore, it is conclusive to every fair-minded man that preference can be given at present to any union in Australia which can satisfy the Court that its rules are for legitimate industrial purposes, and not framed for party political ends such as honorable members opposite are so anxious to attain by passing the amending Bill now before the Chair. This is a very serious question for a large section of Australian workmen. At these periods honorable members opposite are very apt to rise in their places and tell us what an undying love they have for the man who has always stayed outside their unions. A few days ago a very benevolent gentleman, in the person of the honorable member for Darling, told this Chamber, with his hand on his heart, how he loved his brother non-unionist, and how happy he meant to make him when he joined his union. I always go to the writings of my honorable friends when I want to find out what their real views are. I hold in my hand a book called Australia’s Awakening, by W. G. Spence.
– A first-class publication.
– It is absolutely first-class, on very thick paper, and contains very little.
– Very much like the honorable member who is addressing the House.
– I cannot catch what my honorable frien’d is saying. This is what the honorable member for Darling, the President of the Australian Workers Union, has to say in this epoch-making book, recently published, with reference to nonunionists
– Is it published at the cost of the Australian Workers Union?
– It is sure to be. I do not know anything done by my honorable friend that is not. On page 90 - and I direct the attention of my philanthropic friends opposite to this - the following passage occurs : -
Some of the unionists were great believers in immersion as a cure for scab.
Not the immersion practised by the PostmasterGeneral, but another and more practical form -
One experienced organizer said he had only known one case which required more than one dip. That was in Western Victoria. He was on picket duty, and caught the “ scab “ creep ing across a bridge over a stream at 3 o’clock on a frosty morning. He tried moral suasion -
That is a great phrase. This is the sort of “ moral suasion “ that is exercised with a brick- without avail, and finally he dropped the “ scab” from the bridge into the cold water. The poor fellow came out still loyal to his desire to oblige the employer, so he was again pushed in. He came out the second time still a hardened sinner, and after some further parley was again dipped under the cold water. He repented this time, and came out a convert to Unionism and a monument to the efficacy of cold water in judicious quantities properly applied.
– And this was ‘ moral suasion ‘ ‘ ?
– Yes. This poor fellow was half drowned one cold, frosty morning by a man twice his size. This is the kind of love for the non-unionists that the honorable member for Darling and his colleagues really have in their hearts when dealing with a question of this kind. Knowing that the leaders of this . movement do have this view towards a large section of our fellow subjects, I think that it is the duty of this House, whatever sentiment we may have towards unionism or non-unionism - and personally I have given my sympathies in the direction of unionism-
– Who would believe that?
– I did not hear what the honorable member said. I cannot hear him when he speaks too loudly, nor can I hear him when he speaks too softly. He is one of the most difficult men in the House to understand. We may have our prejudices in favour of, or against, unionism, but when we know that the leaders of the political union movement in Australia -I do not refer to the bond fide trade union movement, which is quite another thing - have this sort of tyrannical hate of the men who will not join their unions, contribute to their funds, and support their return to Parliament, it becomes all the more incumbent upon us to see that any legislation that we pass, conferring privileges, by Statute, upon a section of the community, shall be enjoyed only so long as that section does not impair the liberty and the right to work for the right to live of other sections of the community that we represent. That is our position ; it is, indeed, the whole position put under the Act now sought to be amended. I shall be accused, of course, by the Attorney-General and a number of others of being opposed to unionism because I oppose these amendments of the principal Act ; but, Mr. Speaker, do we accuse a man who tries to scrape the barnacles off a ship’s keel of trying to drive a hole into that ship’s bottom? What I, and those who think with me, are endeavouring to do is to maintain in its purity and disinterestedness, its grandeur and simplicity, the true trade union movement of this country. We are not trying to utilize it by placing the exercise of its powers in the hands of a few persons supporting the present Government, to be used merely as an engine for bolstering up a party which evidently believes that it must take some such means to maintain itself in the control of the affairs of the Commonwealth. I think I have said enough to show the need of the safeguards of the principal Act.
– Go on.
– The honorable member for South Sydney, until recently a member of the Arbitration Court of New South Wales, asks me to continue, and I am delighted to give him one or two further references. It is rather interesting, when dealing with a measure of this kind, to consider the tricks that may be resorted to, the points that may be taken, by unions who wish not honestly to operate under any industrial legislation! but to refuse a man admission to their ranks. It will surprise some honorable members to know that a union has had to be haled before the Arbitration Court of New South Wales because a man who wanted to join it found it impossible to* find its secretary to lodge his application for membership. I shall give honorable members a reference to one or two cases heard in the Arbitration Court of New South Wales. In volume II., page 107, of the Industrial Arbitration Reports and Records of New South Wales, we find an instance of what is likely to happen if we compel men to join unions having rules that are not merely devised for the facilitation of the work of the Federal Court. Let me refer, first of all, to this case of the Professional Musicians’ Association of Australasia, and, in passing, point out that a curious feature of the organizations of my honorable friends opposite, at the present juncture, seems to be that the man who is most fitted to act as secretary of a political union is the man who does not happen to be exercising himself in the particular profession or trade to which that union relates. An erstwhile professional bicycle rider is the secretary of the Professional Musicians’ Association.
With this reference in passing I should like to say that this was a. summons under section 12 of the Industrial Arbitration Act by the secretary of the union to recover certain penalties imposed by the committee of the union against the respondent, who was a member of the union, for the infringement of two of its rules. The penalties sought to be recovered were in respect of an infringement, not of the laws of the country, but of two of the rules of the union, and the Judge, in giving his decision, said -
In this case the respondent has consented to become a member of this union -
The respondent consented in this case; he was not driven by “ preference to unionists “ to join the union - the rules of which place this unlimited power in the hands of the committee of the union. The exercise of their discretion by the committee has been a reasonable one, a fine of 5s. only having been imposed for each breach.
The breach being that he worked with a non-unionist in an orchestra ! -
For these reasons I think . the respondent is liable to pay these penalties -
– The honorable member said that the secretary of that association is a professional bicycle rider; as a matter of fact, he is a musician; he is the leader of a band.
– I do not wish to do an injustice, and I at once accept the honorable member’s statement. I knew of this man as one who was a few 5’ears ago very busy in a combine in the bicycle world. He went into a combine to obtain possession of a prize, and there was some litigation about it ! In this case, if this be a parallel, and it is, we shall have unions - because they are not restrained under schedule B, which is now being repealed–
– They are.
– Then I shall be delighted to know why the honorable gentleman is proposing to repeal the schedule.
– Schedule B has disappeared.
– Not yet.
– It is to be repealed.
– It is now proposed to repeal schedule B ; this is the first notice we have of that intention.
– Only because it is inoperative.
– Apparently the safeguards in regard to the registration of organizations which schedule B imposes - the provisions that the committee shall be controlled by general or special meetings of the union; that the manner in which the consent of the association shall be given to any submission to the Court shall be regulated by rules providing also for the representation of the association before the Court are to be abolished.
– I do not wish the honorable member to misunderstand me. Here are the rules that now govern unions.
– But those rules, which now govern the unions, are drawn up in accordance with the particular instructions given by schedule B.
– No ; if the honorable member looks at the Act he will see that they are not.
– The honorable gentleman has handed to me a copy of the regulations under the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act, and all regulations are drawn up under the powers conferred by the Act.
– Read sub-section 2 of section 55.
– Sub-section 2 now reads as follows : -
The conditions to he complied with by associations so applying for registration shall, until otherwise prescribed, be as set out in schedule b.
– It has been otherwise provided.
– It has been otherwise provided in the regulations under the existing Act. If the Attorney-General’s object in abolishing schedule B is to make conditions apply as safeguards in these cases, has he any objection to placing this proviso in the Act -
The affairs of the association shall be regulated by rules specifying the purposes for which it is formed, and providing for the following matters in relation to the association : -
Those are the rules now laid down by the Arbitration Court for the conduct of business, but the moment we take out schedule B it will be-
– No, the honorable member does not read the proposal correctly.”
– I shall read the amendment which the Attorney-General is proposing to make in sub-section 2 of section 55. His Bill proposes to take out of subsection 2 the words “until otherwise prescribed, be as set out in schedule B,” and to insert in lieu thereof the words “ be as prescribed.”
– I do not. I propose to knock out the schedule.
– Order !
– The honorable gentleman confuses us. I would like to refer honorable members to the Act itself and the amending Bill now before us. That will, I think, be more satisfactory to them than to listen to the opinion of the AttorneyGeneral or of myself on this point. He is more used than I am to the difficulties of legal diction, and has had a greater experience in these matters. I want to direct the attention of the House to the fact that the amendments proposed to be inserted in the provision are, first, the wiping out of every safeguard against political unionist tyranny; and, secondly, the alteration of sub-section 2. Next month, if the present Act is altered, my honorable friend may “prescribe” quite differently from what the Court has laid down. What I want to see done is the insertion of safeguards. If my honorable friend directs my attention to the safeguards inserted by the Court, well and good ; let us have them set out in the Act. I have not scanned them carefully, but I presume that they are all right.
– I am perfectly prepared to put them in the Act if the honorable member likes.
– Now we have got the Minister to go some distance. We are to have some safeguards as to the admission of members to unions, the only qualification being the competence of the unionist to do his work.
– Nothing of the sort.
– Oh, my honorable friend is not prepared for that. I thought he was.
– I am prepared to put the regulations in the Act.
– I have not read the regulations; I said that I presumed that they were all right. Dealing with the question of the trade union movement, I would be very happy to do anything which the House can do legitimately to help it on. If my honorable friends wish to act in this direction there are a number of things which they might do first. The predominant part of a trade union movement of a legitimate character is its benefit project. Why should not my honorable friends place at the disposal of unions Government audit? That is a matter of vast importance to the members of unions. They would then get away from one of the most objectionable features which can. ever disturb the peace of similar societies.
– The honorable member thinks that red-tape is a good thing.
– Government audit of the finances of a trade union is “ red-tape,” yet everything by Government for the transaction of every sort of business is an honest, straightforward, socialistic enterprise ! What an extraordinary thing it is when these honorable gentlemen are defending their jobs.
– Would the honorable member apply that also to the Employers’ Association ?
– I have no objection. I regard it as a privilege. I have seen complaints against the financing of certain big unions ; at any rate, of one big union in New South Wales. A short time ago there was brought to my notice a communication challenging the secretary of this great organization to test the writer’s statements as regards the union’s funds before a jury of his countrymen. The challenge did not emanate from an opponent of unionism, but from an ex-officer of the union itself. I suggest to my honorable friends that a thing of that sort is most undesirable in any movement, most of all in a movement where a majority of the persons interested, through having little or no knowledge of financial affairs and balancing of accounts, couldbest do with a little guarantee that the accounts are being run in the interests of themselves, and not in the interests of a man who wants to work his way into Parliament. Of course, that is not a usual thing, but here is one direction in which my honorable friends can help the unionist movement in Australia. Give them a Government audit, show them that they may have confidence in the financing of their affairs. Let me now take my honorable friends a stage further. One of the most deplorable things about the arbitration law is the way in which the funds of unions are being wasted in the Courts. Years ago unions, as well as the Labour party, came to the conclusion that no lawyer should be allowed in the Arbitration Court. This was undoubtedly to simplify the machinery of the Court and save legal expenses. I have great sympathy with that object. Why should any lawyer, merely because he happens to be a Labour lawyer, go into the Court and earn his union’s hard-earned savings? In these cases, a Labour lawyer is in a very difficult position. He cannot black-leg on his legal union ; he must accept from his own union the legal rates whatever they are ? If he were not a Labour lawyer, he could go into the Court, and say, “ I am representing my fellow-men; I am an altruist ; I am not, on this occasion, a lawyer. I put all my experience at the service of my union. I shall black-leg on the legal union, in order to help the union which occasionally is illegal,and see it tide over its difficulties.” But what is the position to-day? You find instance after instance of lawyers turning “Labour” in order to get advantage of the prejudice which is excited against the lawyer who is not “Labour.” Having excited that prejudice, the Labour lawyers get practically all the business which is brought before the Arbitration Courts; and, as a result, the Labour lawyer is growing rapidly rich, and the Labour union rapidly poor. If my honorable friends wish to amend the Act in a direction which will help the unions of Australia, let them wipe out lawyers of all kinds - Labour lawyers and real lawyers. Let us get rid of them all, but let us be careful not to take from any man the liberty to work.
– The honorable member would take from the lawyer his liberty to work.
– No. I would give the honorable member an additional liberty - the liberty to work for nothing, should he feel sufficiently philanthropic to do so, though I do not suggest that he personally should do anything so outrageous. In conclusion, I draw the attention of honorable members to a few instances of the ill effects of industrial legislation giving great power to union secretaries. I give the references without comment, though in Committee they may have to be spoken of again. The first case is reported on page 336 of volume II. of the Reports of theNew South Wales Industrial Arbitration Court. I have not been through the reports of the New Zealand Court; to go through the New South Wales reports was a labour of some magnitude.
– A liberal education !
– Yes. These reports would make almost any man a Liberal. Some of the things one reads there are capable of making one’s blood boil. 1 refer honorable members also to page 363 of volume III. of the Reports for 1004. In that volume is the report of a case in which a young man desiring a job as a cooper, and his employer being ready to employ him at the union rate of wages, the union, which had been awarded ‘ 1 preference,” said that he must undergo a test before he could join the union. That was a perfectly fair demand, because in every trade the union should insist upon a standard of efficiency. But this young man was examined in coopering, not of Ihe kind he was accustomed to do, but of a kind very rarely carried on in the neighbourhood of Sydney, and admission to the union was denied him ! He appealed to the Court, and induced it to get the union to alter its rules. Thus that sharp practice was thwarted, and I am sure all honorable members are glad that the evil was rectified. Then on page 29 of volume IV. we have another instance.
– Are there many such cases of refusal to elect members to unions ?
– Most of the cases have been connected with the Wharf Labourers’ Union and the Newcastle Coal Trimmers’ Union, but I have only scanned the reports. All these cases show that, without proper safeguards, the law - can be used to the disadvantage of men who honestly wish to join unions to get the opportunity to earn their livelihood. No doubt the union secretaries - not the unions - are generally to blame. But the Attorney-General proposes to abolish the safeguards we have. He proposes that men shall be compelled to join political unions, to contribute to their funds, and to support the candidature of the members of his party. I think I have said enough to show that the measure which the Attorney-General introduced as “ a mere machinery Bill,” to be forced through without discussion or deliberation, merits the close consideration and earnest scrutiny of every honorable member who puts the liberty’ of his fellows before his personal advantage.
.- I congratulate the honorable member for Wentworth on the able speech which he has made. He has dealt with the measure so fully and forcibly that it will hot be necessary for me to express my views at any great length. I had gathered from the statements of the AttorneyGeneral, which had appeared in the press, that the amendments proposed by the Bill were technical and unimportant, and was therefore surprised on reading the Bill to discover their true nature. If they are what he says they are, what is coming in the near future, when the people have given us the right to deal as we please with industrial matters? The prospect must appal even honorable members opposite. No doubt the statements to which I allude were instances of the humour for which the Attorney-General is so justly celebrated, and the Bill contains in reality the cream of his proposals for industrial reform. Our industrial legislation is intended to prevent strikes, to which every one is opposed. This being an age of law and order, we wish to settle the differences between employers and employes with the aid of machinery which will prevent our industrial concerns from being thrown out of gear. I do not agree with the honorable member for Hindmarsh that an Arbitration Court is better than Wages Boards for settling industrial disputes. He says that the enormous aggregation of capital has forced the workers into unions; that in the old days a journeyman, if of a thrifty disposition, could, after three or four years, set up for himself. There is a certain amount of truth in what he says, and I, for one, greatly deplore the passing away of the old state of affairs. But we have to deal with things as they are. I often wonder whether the workers of Australia are’ better off. by reason of our industrial legislation than the workers of Canada, where the laws of supply and demand have free play. However, it is useless to go back on the past. We must try to improve the legislation we have. In my opinion, Wages Boards are more likely than an Arbitration Court to bring about the settlement of disputes.
– You cannot ascertain by a Wages Board inquiry what wages an industry can really afford to pay.
-The honorable member argued that an Arbitration Court has greater power for ascertaining the profits of an industry than have Wages Boards. I do not think that there is much in that contention. In any case, the reasons for adopting Wages Boards outweigh those in favour of arbitration. When an investigation takes place in an Arbitration Court, witnesses have to be called. Of course, the presiding Judge is skilled” in weighing evidence, but he has no practical acquaintance with the industry in which the dispute has arisen.
– We could appoint a Judge to preside over the investigations of Wages Boards.
– Yes, but that is not contemplated by the Bill. In a Wages Board investigation under the Victorian law, the employers meet the employes face to face, and it is not necessary to call evidence. That counts greatly in favour of the Wages Board system. In an Arbitration Court the rival parties have to call their witnesses, and everybody knows what an unsatisfactory method of arriving at the truth that is. The witnesses upon both sides are biased, and, consequently, it requires a man of almost genius to ascertain where the truth actually lies. Another point which weighs in favour of the Wages Board system is that it really brings into play the essence of the system of conciliation. When the parties to a dispute drag their witnesses into Court, they practically conduct a battle, and feelings are aroused which are not easily allayed. Now, I think we all desire to see industrial peace brought about in our time. But since arbitration laws were enacted we have been very far from attaining that happy result.
– The position is better than it was previously. For instance, is there not more peace to-day in the shearing industry than there was formerly ?
– Since the big strike of 1891 there has been more peace in that industry. But in framing our legislation we ought to bear in mind that our chief object is to provide fair conditions of labour, so that a friendly feeling may exist between all classes of the community. That is the basis of this legislation. Are we more likely to create that friendly feeling by the establishment of a system of Wages Boards, under which the employers and employes meet, than by resort to an Arbitration Court, where a war is practically conducted as between the contending parties? Personally, i” have always favoured the es tablishment of a Wages Board system as the foundation of all industrial legislation. Legislation ought to be built upon that foundation, and during the last campaign the Liberal party proposed to provide for an appeal, on certain grounds, from these industrial tribunals” to the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court. In the adoption of that method lies the secret of industrial peace. But if we continue the system of having recourse to an Arbitration Court upon every conceivable occasion, we shall have anything but peace. Under this Bill it is proposed to bring all Government servants other than railway employes within the operation of- our Conciliation and Arbitration Act. The High Court has already held that railway employes -cannot be so included. I fail to see how such a provision can lead to anything but another industrial dispute, another law case, in which great costs will be incurred upon both sides, and in which it will finally be laid down that it is ultra vires of the Constitution. I feel certain that before effect can be given to any such proposal our Constitution will require to be amended. The basic principle of all industrial legislation is that the employer - having command of the purse - possesses an undue advantage over the employe, and that as he desires to make as much profit as he can out of his industry, he is naturally disposed to grind down the employe. To provide against such a tendency, this class of legislation has been introduced. But we must recollect that the relations which exist between the Government of a country and its servants are different from those which exist between an ordinary employer and his employes. The public servant has the protection of the representatives of the people, and the workers constitute the great majority of the people. Therefore, the representatives of the public servants really fix the wages and lay down the conditions to be observed by those servants. I cannot help thinking that that safeguard in itself ought to be sufficient, without bringing Government employes under the operation of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. Their interests are safeguarded by their parliamentary representatives. Every one of us is anxious to see justice meted out to Government employes, and why they should be forced to have an Arbitration Court standing between them add the representatives of the people I cannot understand. I do not think that the proposal is constitutional ; and, further, I believe that it is very ill-advised. I trust that that portion of the Bill will not be pressed. I repeat that the relationship which exists between a Government and its employes is entirely different from that which exists between the ordinary employer and his employes. The Government do not expect to make profits by sweating their servants or by treating them illiberally. I cannot help thinking that the public servants enjoy the fullest protection from their masters by reason of the fact that they have their representatives in Parliament to safeguard their interests. It is also proposed that the principal Act shall be made to apply to domestic servants. In the past I feel sure that the domestic servant has not experienced, by any means, a good time. But during rerent years conditions have altered a great deal, so .that to-day domestics hold the thick end of the stick. An enormous demand exists for their services, so that they are in a position to command their own terms. They are practically mistresses of the situation. If we really intend to make this provision efficient, we shall require an army of inspectors to insure that proper conditions are being observed in regard to the employment of domestics. We can scarcely imagine the privacy of a man in the bosom of his family being suddenly invaded by an inspector bent upon ascertaining what sort of a time the domestic was experiencing. Under such circumstances an Englishman’s house would no longer be* his castle.
– In New South Wales an inspector was sent into a trade union meeting.
– I am glad that the honorable member thinks as I do. I hopethat he will support me when I move an amendment in favour of exempting domestic servants from the operation of the Bill. I presume that the desire is to make the measure effective. Already we have far too many laws which are absolutely inoperative, and, therefore, perfectly useless. These laws simply cumber the statute-book, and nobody pays any attention to them.
– They used to gaol trade unionists under those obsolete laws in the old days
– Things have greatly changed since that state of affairs prevailed. We are now trying to prevent trade unionists from gaoling the rest of us. If this law is to be operative, it must be enforced. There must be inspectors to see that it is carried out. Consequently, the police must have access to every house in the country. Many of the “ bobbies “ are my friends, but I do not think I should like the idea of a policeman coming into my house at any hour of the day in order to see how the domestics were being treated.
– If the honorable member had a good-looking cook, he could not keep the policeman out !
– I am very glad that I am getting honorable members opposite to realize what a ludicrous farce this proposal is. It would be impossible to carry out such a law. What is the use of putting it on the statute-book if it cannot be enforced? But, of course, the intention is simply to catch votes. We quite see what it means. Honorable members opposite will be able to tell the domestic servants what fine fellows they are, how they have looked after their interests, and what a splendid time they are going to have. For my own part, I think they have a pretty good time now. Honorable members may take it from me that the domestic servants have hold of the big end of the stick. A domestic servant is practically the mistress nowadays j and perhaps it is a good job that that should be” so. Another large class of employes that 4t is desired to bring under the arbitration law consists of those engaged in agricultural, viticultural, horticultural, and dairying pursuits. The application of a law of this kind to what, we may call local industries involves making a great change in principle. It means applying the law to industries which have to compete with similar industries in the markets of the world. If, as the result of this legislation, wages are fixed at a higher scale than is paid by our competitors, shall we not imperil our rural industries or bring them down altogether? That is a point that ought to be kept seriously in mind. Are we going to unduly handicap our farmers in competing with farmers in Canada or the Argentine ? Of course, it may be urged that if this class of legislation is applied in towns and cities, there is no reason why it should not be applied in the country also. There is, I must admit, a good deal to be said from that point of view. But I do ask honorable members to bear in mind the fact that the producing industries have to fight the industries of the world in the markets where our produce is .sold. Our manufacturers do not export to any appreciable extent. They have not to face outside competition. We can, therefore, make experiments with them.
– The arbitration law already applies to the wool industry.
– But that is an industry which does not require so large an amount of labour as is necessary in the farming and dairying industries. I am aware that at present the law applies to the pastoral industry, but it does not apply to the hands who live and work on stations all the year round. It applies only to those engaged in shearing. The AttorneyGeneral stated that he is proposing to make only trifling amendments. But he will see, on further consideration, that this alteration involves a vast change of principle, and that it is a very grave matter indeed to apply it to industries that have to compete in foreign markets. Every one of us is concerned to see that the great producing industries, which are the backbone of our country, are maintained in as prosperous a state as it is possible tokeep them. Any application of industrial legislation to farming will have to be very carefully watched. Otherwise, the farming industry will be prejudiced, and instead of doing the employe a good turn we shall be inflicting injury upon him. Another most important matter which has been dealt with by the honorable member for Wentworth is that of preference to unionists. If the proposal of the Government is passed in its present shape, the consequences are likely to be embarrassing, if not serious. Suppose a number of applicants for employment come to an employer, and he asks them whether they belong to the union. If one of them says that he does, the employer will be compelled, other things being equal, to select that man. Let honorable members consider what “other things being equal” means. Suppose six applicants come to me for employment, and one says that he is a unionist. If I say that he is not “ equal “ to one of the other five, he may institute a law suit against me. An employer may have a difficulty in proving that a unionist is not equalto other applicants for employment.
– What a harvest for the lawyers !
– It willbe. Iam afraid that the chief consequences of this class of legislation will be to benefit the lawyers. I advise my honorable friend to become a lawyer as soon as he can. Law is going to be our principal or most prosper ous industry. It seems to me to be simply tyranny to tell a’ man that he must belong to a union. Most honorable members know that I am a good unionist myself. As such, I have often felt that we unionists have to bear the heat and burden of the day, and that our efforts are not properly recognised. I have often felt, when angry at seeing other people reaping advantages that I have helped to secure for them, that it would be a good thing to apply what the honorable member for Darling called “ a little moral suasion.”
– To wash them clean !
– Yes, to dip them in the creek now and again. We have often discussed that point. I do not suppose that the honorable member for Darling has ever actually recommended dipping non-unionists in the creek, though I dare sayhe thought they deserved it. My own opinion, however, is that it is not a good thing to compel a man to join a union. That is not the way to deal with people in a free country like this. We ought rather to make our unions more attractive, and induce people to come in.
– Give us preference to unionists, and that will make the unions attractive.
– I do not at alt agree with the honorable member. I think if unions were properly conducted - if they were managed in an honorable and straightforward manner as most of them, I am sure, are now - those at the head of them would get as many members as they require. They cannot expect to get thewhole population into the unions. It is not possible. What is now proposed is an interference with the liberty of the subject. Nothing will break up the unions more quickly than compelling people to come in by means of this preference principle.
– The honorable member forgets that employers used to refuse to employ unionists at all. We have a very different situation now.
– I do not recollect when that was. No union that I have been connected with has ever committed a breach of morals of that sort. To do so would be nothing better than atrocious.
– The very union to which the honorable member belongs did it.
– I join issue with the honorable member on that point. At all events, the union to which I belong has never emulated the drastic methods adopted by the honorable member’s union. I believe that if unions are moderately conducted they will gradually increase their membership, and men imbued with the proper spirit will join them in good time without the passing of a drastic measure of this kind. The idea of this legislation is, of course, to drive men into unions whether they like it or not. I know a great many men who are really against joining unions. I do not know why it is.
– They think to curryfavour by saying that kind of thing.
– As a matter of fact, I do not think they do. The honorable member must regard them as a very low class of people if he believes they are influenced by such a motive.
– The honorable member knows them as well as I do.
– I assure the honorable member that I do not know men of the class to which he refers. I believe that the proper conduct of unions will be far more likely to bring about an increase In the number of unionists than an attempt to make every worker in the community join a union. The honorable member for Wentworth made it plain that under the legislation now proposed, a man must join a union, if he is permitted to do so, or lie must cease to exist. His right to work is his right to live, and if you take away his right to work, you take away his right to live. But the Bill goes further than this, and after compelling men to join unions by enforcing the principle of preference, the funds of the unions are to be permitted to be used for political purposes. This does seem to me to be a most extraordinary proposal. Honorable members opposite desire to compel every worker in the community to join a union and contribute to its funds, and then, whether he approves or not, to permit the union to use the money he has contributed to support a particular brand of candidate. Is not that a most extraordinary interference with the liberty of the subject? We have hedged the ballot-box around with every kind of secrecy. Its secrecy is supposed to be inviolable. Every man is supposed to have the right to vote in the way in which he thinks best, and yet honorable members opposite propose to compel certain members of the community to provide funds for the support of Labour candidates. That does seem to me to be as great an outrage as any ever contemplated in a civilized community.
– That is Democracy.
-That is what honorable members opposite regard as Democracy.
– Does not the Employers’ Federation supply candidates with funds?
– I could see no objection to the members of a Labour union contributing voluntarily to the support of any candidate they please, but I see great objection to compelling a man to join a union and then using his contributions to support something of which he does not approve. I consider that nothing short of an outrage. Under this Bill the funds of a union might be devoted to promote something which many of my Labour unionist friends dislike intensely. Very many trade unionists are intensely opposed to Socialism. If the object of honorable members opposite is to make all trade unionists Socialists, I can assure them that it will take them some generations to effect their purpose, if they ever succeed in doing so.
– They are not going to try it.
– I believe that they will try it. To compel men to join unions, and then use the funds to which they are bound to contribute to assist Socialistic candidates, is about the last outrage I should have expected from a deliberative assembly of this kind.
– The genuine unionist does not mind. The other man does not matter.
– A statement of that kind staggers me. It is a most extraordinary admission for the honorable member to make. He is prepared to do an injustice to a number of men, although on his own admission it is not necessary to do anything of the kind. I cannot follow the honorable member’s reasoning at all. The sting of this measure is certainly in its tail, and that is the proposal to make the funds of unions, which will be contributed by the whole of the workers in the community, available for the purpose of keeping our friends opposite in power. I feel sure that when the Attorney-General applies his legal mind to a further consideration of this proposal, he will see that it involves an extraordinary violation of the liberty of the subject. It may be thought that the measure will assist the unions for a time, but this class of legislation will not last. We are a British people reared upon principles of liberty.
It has been our birthright, and we will not easily surrender it. It only needs the passing of a few more measures like the precious Bill before us to bring about an upheaval in this country such as we have never seen the like of. I do not say that the protest will come from the capitalistic class; it will come from the workers themselves. They are becoming tired of the continual grinding down methods of the unions. Do honorable members opposite think for a moment that they do not value freedom just as much as we do? Coming from a good old Anglo-Saxon stock they love it quite as much as we do, and will not readily surrender it. The effect of placing a few more measures like this upon the statute-book will be to put our friends opposite in a place from which they will not be likely to return for many a day.
.- The debate so far has proved conclusively that the House generally is in favour of organized unionism based on fair principles. We are indebted to the Leader of the Opposition for a statement of the importance of the amendments of the principal Act proposed by this Bill, which caused the consideration of the measure to be postponed until honorable members had a better opportunity to study it. The Bill deals with two important principles of unionism. It proposes to remove the provision of the principal Act exempting from its operation . the workers in the primary industries, and it makes provision for preference to unionists. These are provisions which caused the downfall of two Governments, and around which a great deal of discussion .took place when the Bill, now the principal Act, was before the House. The Bill before us also lays clown a new basis for arbitration. The Attorney-General, in quoting the Chief Justice of the High Court, laid down the basis of arbitration as not only the interests of unions and employers, but the interest of society in the peaceful conduct of industrial affairs. I think we are all agreed that the objects aimed at in the principal Act are such as should appeal to every honorable member who desires to see peace and progress maintained, and a continuance of good feeling between all engaged in industrial operations. The principal Act aims at preventing thi strikes by conciliation and arbitration, at extending the jurisdiction of the Court for the purposes of amicable settlement of disputes, and, in default of settlement, giving the Court power to enforce its award; at enabling disputes to be carried to the Court, and facilitating and encouraging organization and representation. It will be generally conceded that, while in some respects these objects have been attained, most of the provisions have not been operative. For instance, the Act has not succeeded in preventing disputes by means of conciliation. It is provided in the Bill that the power of the President shall be extended to conciliation that may prevent disputes before the Court is called on to exercise its jurisdiction, and that there shall be appointed a Board of Reference to settle differences before they amount to real disputes; and these, in my opinion, are objects both worthy of our consideration. What I purpose dealing with to-night are the two important amendments proposed, namely, the inclusion oi domestic servants and workers engaged in rural industries, and preference to unionists. As the representative of a district which includes agriculture, horticulture, and dairying amongst its industries, I may say that my constituents view with con:siderable apprehension the proposal to include rural workers. It was pointed out this afternoon, with considerable force and ability by the honorable member for Richmond, that this will prove very dangerous; and I, myself, believe that it will prove seriously inimical to the best interests of the agricultural and horticultural industries. There ought to be a means of dealing with disputes between employers and employed in some branches of our primary industries; but a system which proposes to deal with the employes in a uniform way over the whole of the continent, notwithstanding all the differences in climate and conditions, will, in my opinion, cause incalculable injury. At the present time the_ total annual production of Australia is valued at ^164,000,000, of which ^99,000,000 is directly derived from primary productions. Our export trade last year was ^62, 000,000, of which nearly ^40,000,000 represented products of the primary industries.
– Does the honorable member include wool ?
– There is an award in the wool trade.
– I have included about ^20,000,000 as representing the wool exported. These figures show that nearly two-thirds of the export trade of Australia is in primary productions, the prices of which are fixed in the markets of the world, and over which the local producers have, in fact, really no control. The exports of Australia are such an infinitesimal percentage of the total that they have little or no influence in fixing prices abroad. It is a pure question of supply and demand.
– There is some control in the case of wool, and that is a big item.
– Most, or a great proportion, of the wool is, I know, bought locally. In the case of our manufacturing industries we have the opportunity, through Customs duties, to give adequate protection ; we can, as it were, watch the raw material through the various stages of its manufacture until the finished article is 1 placed in the hands of the consumer or user, and can protect it at each stage ; but there is no such opportunity in connexion with the export trade. Any attempt to regulate the export trade, by means of a Court of Arbitration operating uniformly over the whole of Australia, must prove a serious drawback to the primary producing industries, on which rests the ultimate prosperity of the country.
– The middleman will have to take less.
– Where is the middleman?
– The producer knows where he is.
– Where is the middleman in the export trade? I have heard a good deal about him, but I have never had him pointed out to me, especially in the case of primary productions.
– I have some papers in my pocket I shall be very pleased to show the honorable member.
– The honorable member will have an opportunity later on, and if he can show that there is any ring or trust, or that the middleman is getting more than his legitimate share of the profits, this House will, I believe, be ready to legislate in order to prevent the primary producer being taken undue advantage of. Another important phase of the question is connected with land settlement. Encouragement of our primary production can only take place under a proper .system of settlement.
– Does the honorable member intend to connect that with the question before the Chair?
– What I wish to say is that I believe that primary production can best be promoted by a system of land settlement which encourages family effort in every possible way. I believe that stability in production and stability in our national life are based, to a large extent, on family effort, and if we are to have an arbitration system which may possibly cause certain members of the family to be brought under the clause which provides for preference to unionists, it will be a very serious handicap to the future of our agricultural, horticultural, and dairying industries. The question of bringing ‘ under the control of the Arbitration Act the employes in the primary industries cannot be dealt with in a way that will mete out even reasonable justice to those industries under our present Constitution, if it is desired that the Federal Parliament shall regulate wages and hours of labour in them. If the Government, with their present majority, are determined to regulate all the primary and secondary industries, it is only reasonable that they should wait for the verdict of the people in respect of the proposed amendments of the Constitution which they promise to submit to the electors at a very early date. The only way to deal with the primary industries is according to locality and conditions of production, and, in present circumstances, that can best be done under a system of Wages Boards, such as we have in Victoria. Any attempt to deal with them under the Arbitration Act as it now stands, or as it is sought to be amended, will be a serious blow to the foundational aspects of Australian production.
– We shall never get Wages Boards for those employes, seeing that the Legislative Councils control the legislation of the States.
– I understand that at present there is a big movement going on in the Victorian Parliament to extend the Wages Board system to a considerable number of additional industries. I have very little doubt that if the same energy were put by the Labour party and the Liberal party into an endeavour to bring about a complete system of regulation of wages and industrial conditions within the States, as is being displayed by the labour unions in their desire to bring about a system of unification, we should soon have an extension of the Wages Boards principle to nearly every important industry in the Commonwealth.
– The honorable member knows well that the Legislative Council of Victoria throws out such measures every time.
– The honorable member knows that reform by legislation applicable to any department of our trade and commerce can be brought about only by a system of evolution. The Wages Boards in Victoria are, after all, not a very old institution. They have been extended already to a great many indus-t tries, and there is a proposal on the part of the State Parliament to extend their operations to many more. If it were the real, genuine desire of the labour organiations throughout Australia to have the operations and powers of the Wages Boards extended to various other industries within the Commonwealth, I believe 1 they could accomplish that end in a very short time. There seems, however, to be a disposition on the part of the Labour party, through its unions and other organizations, to ignore the possibility of the extension of this regulating force through State instrumentalities, and to ask the Federal Parliament to appropriate the whole of those powers as soon as possible. If the Government desire to bring about such a condition of affairs as will enable them to deal adequately with every industry in the Commonwealth in accordance with the variations in our conditions of life and in our climate, it is their duty to wait until the people of the Commonwealth confer greater powers upon this Parliament in respect of industrial matters. At this stage, when the Government have already declared their intention to ask for an amendment of the Constitution in that direction, they can have no justification for asking the House to make such a sweeping alteration of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act as will bring the whole of the primary industries within its scope. The other proposal to give preference to unionists also rests on no solid foundation. At the time of the maritime strike, in 1890, there was considerable discussion on the question of freedom of contract, and of whether a union -was justified in calling out its members if an employer employed a non-unionist. That subject gave rise to the same heated and continuous discussion as took place in 1904 on the question of including the principle of preference to unionists in the principal Act. I quite understand that if the unions throughout Australia give up their right to strike, in the interests of industrial peace, and submit themselves to a compulsory Arbitration Court, they should have some . form of protection in respect of their members, or, at least, in respect of a majority of the workers, in order to compensate them for the loss of that weapon. But that compensation is already provided for in the principal Act. If the’ party now sitting on the Ministerial benches regard themselves as true Democrats and true representatives of a majority of the people, they should agree at once to maintain an Act which provides that a Judge shall have power to award preference to a union, it. that union represents a majority of the workers in the particular industry then before the Court. That is the true principle of Democracy.
– There must be a protection to the minority.
– If the President of the Court has power to direct that certain preference shall be given to unionists when it can be adequately shown that they represent the majority of the employes engaged in the particular industry concerned, the matter rests on a true democratic principle, and such a provision should be eagerly seized at once by the party opposite, who always claim to be the true Democrats of the country. I have not yet heard any reply to the trenchant article that appeared on the question of preference to unionists in the Age on Friday last, it was very ably pointed out by that journal that of 140,000 employes in Victoria only 7,000 were unionists.
– Order ! The honorable member must not quote from a newspaper commenting on this debate.
– The Commonwealth Year-Book shows that in 1909 the number of employes in Australia was as follows : - Factory employes, 250,000; miners, 108,000; domestic servants, 200,000; and rural workers, 400,000; making a total of 958,000 in all industries in Australia. The total number of unionists among them amounted to 153,000.
– Those are not the correct figures as to the unionists.
– If we are to conduct a debate. on so important and complex an industrial problem in this House, we must refer to some standard authority for our figures. The Commonwealth Statistician is the highest authority to whom I can appeal.
– The Commonwealth Statistician does not collect these statistics.
– They are collected iri connexion with the census enumeration.
– They are not.
– I have here figures supplied by the Commonwealth Statistician showing that the total number employed in rural industries according to the census of 1901 was 402,985.
– But those figures do not show the proportion of unionists.
– In another portion of the Year-Book we have the statement that* there are 153,000 members of unions.
– Those figures are wrong.
– I have taken them from the highest authority available to me. The honorable member may be justified in challenging them ; but until a better authority can be produced I shall accept them as the most accurate obtainable.
– The Age gave 7,000 as the number of unionists in Victoria, whereas there are over 11,000 members in one branch of the Australian Workers’ Union alone.
– This is the best information I can get.
– It is the best that the honorable member can do.
– We should be glad if the honorable member would supply us with a little of that superior information which he professes to possess. According to the authority I have quoted there are 958,000 persons employed in the various industries of the Commonwealth, of which 153,000, or about one-sixth, are unionists. That being so, one-sixth of the total employes of Australia will be able to dragoon the remaining five-sixths into ac;cepting whatever form of agreement they choose to bring before the Court. That is a system of coercion which is the very antithesis of Democracy. It is a form of coercion which the Government and their supporters should repudiate, because it is manifestly an attempt by legal enactment to enable the minority instead of the majority to rule. In the circumstances, therefore, it appears to me that this Bill ought not to have been introduced, but since it has been, and the position has been laid bare that under it all the employes in the various primary producing industries will be brought within the purview of the Conciliation and Arbitration Court, which is to regulate wages, and conditions of labour within those industries, and that preference is to be given to unionists, so that 150,000 will be able to subordinate to their will over 900,000 of the workers of the Commonwealth, I trust that the amendment will be carried, or, failing it, that the Bill will be modified in Committee. It is opposed to the principles of Democracy, which the Government and their supporters are constantly professing, and I trust that it will be postponed until the people of Australia have had a fair opportunity to express their opinion as to whether this Parliament should be intrusted with further power to legislate in respect to industrial matters. I wish to emphasize the point that if the second reading is carried, the Bill should be modified in Committee, in so far as its provisions relating to employes in our primary industries are concerned. It was pointed out by the honorable member for Flinders that a very large proportion of the agricultural and dairying industries is being carried on by family labour. Many farmers are assisted by their sons, who hope in the future to participate - as some are already participating - in the profits derived from their parents’ holdings. The success of the industry is largely due to family effort. In the fruit-growing portion of my constituency - in Mildura, which affords to the rest of Australia a lesson in horticulture, as well as in the north-eastern part of my electorate where dairying is carried on, success has been achieved largely owing to the assistance which the elder members of families have been able to give their parents. I trust that the Bill will not reach the Committee stage, but if it does, I hope that it will be possible to carry amendments which will obviate the serious blow which the Bill as it now stands threatens to aim at the agricultural, horticultural, and dairying industries of Australia. I sincerely trust that the Democratic principles which the Government and their supporters espouse will not allow them to pass this legislation under which 150,000 unionists will be able to coerce nearly 1,000,000 of their fellow workers in the Commonwealth.
– The chief feature of the Bill seems to me to be the provision relating to preference to unionists, and as a representative of a rural constituency, I am confident that it will oppress most largely the primary producers. It must be the desire of the Government to encourage our primary industries, yet the legislation that they propose will, to my mind, have the effect of strangling them or checking their progress. I think that it is most drastic.
It is tyrannous, because it means an endeavour to bring into the fold of unionism every person who is to-day a free man or a free woman. An honorable member has just interjected that that is what they desire. Of course, we know that. But do free men and free women desire to have shackles placed upon themselves? What does freedom mean?
– What are they free for - to take a low wage?
– The honorable member is not a free man. He cannot talk, because he signed the pledge. When the representative of a country electorate comes here with his hands tied and his legs shackled, he is no longer a free man ; he must support the measure which has been approved in caucus. Honorable members on the other side want to make every man a slave to their party. I ask the Government to agree to the suggestion of the honorable member for Richmond, as it will afford to them an opportunity to reframe the Bill. I hope that, on further consideration, the preference clause will be dropped. The honorable member for Wimmera has just stated that, according to the latest return, there are 153,000 unionists in the Commonwealth. Now, is a minority of the people to dominate the majority? Is there to be freedom in our midst, or are we to have tyrannous rule by a minority? My honorable friends on the other side have the numbers, and, therefore, they can carry this measure if they please. No doubt we are only beating the air; but I want honorable members to realize that country representatives, and people generally, do not want to be shackled, or to lose their freedom. What do we, as Britishers, pride ourselves on? We pride ourselves on our freedom. Do we want to give our freedom away? Is it to be taken from us by a minority of the people? Are my honorable friends opposite going to coerce every one to enter their unions? One of them interjected a little while ago that that was their object. We know that it is. But did the electors send them here for that purpose? So far as I know, preference to unionists was not mentioned during the elections. I, for one, did not hear a reference to it.
– It is on our manifesto.
– I know what is on the party’s manifesto. In Victoria, there was a platform published. Practically, it said that all those who would vote for labour would vote for congenial employment to the worker. My honorable friends want to provide the congenial em- ‘ployment. They want the millennium. If this measure is carried, there ought to be a provision enacted to the effect that every person who joins a union shall wear a label or a cypher on a conspicuous portion of his clothing to indicate that he has lost his freedom and is shackled. It is only right and proper that it should be done, because, otherwise, a man would be “ blacklegging.” My honorable friends opposite do not approve of “ blacklegs.” In fact, I heard an honorable member speak about scabs a while ago. My honorable friends heard what the honorable member for Wentworth said. They heard about a political labour immersion, which was quoted from a most estimable work by the honorable member for Darling. They do not want free labourers.
– I rise to order. The remarks of the honorable member may be very interesting, but I claim that the matter which he is now discussing has nothing to do with the Bill.
– -What is the honorable member’s point of order?
– I submit that the honorable member is out of order in discussing the badges which unionists should wear or the immersion of men in water.
– The honorable member is trying to show why preference should not be given to unionists. That may be good or bad, but that is purely a matter for the honorable member to decide.
– When my honorable friends opposite do not agree with mc, it shows that I am touching them on the raw. It is only right and proper that every unionist should be required by law to wear a label on a conspicuous part of his clothing, in order to show that he is a member of a union. It is only reasonable that he should show the public that he has signed away his freedom, and become a slave to a political party.
– That he is a man who is getting a living wage.
– Are not free men getting a living wage? My honorable friends talk about the primary producer. What do they know about him? What work have they ever done except with their tongues? So far as I know, they have done very little. The ideal of the Labour party is not only shorter hours of labour with higher rates of pay, but no work between meals, and that is why we find pre- ference to unionists provided for in this Bill. My honorable friends on the other side have alleged that I was a sweater, although I was a primary producer, in fact, that I was anything and everything. I am now addressing the House as a primary producer, as one who has cultivated his own land for many years. I may be told by honorable members on the other side that I know nothing about the work or about the situation and conditions of life of the farmer. By his apathy, or his neglect, or his indifference, the farmer is largely responsible for the advent of the Labour party to power, but I think that he will prove to its members a little later that he does not appreciate their work here. He is the man upon whom all consumers must depend. It is upon the success of his industry that the prosperity and development of this great country depend. Surely the Labour party will realize that he is not a man to be taxed out of existence. Even though he failed in his duty to this side of the House on election day, he is getting his gruel now, and he will pay for it a little later. I do not think that he will rejoice at first, but if he awakens to a sense of his responsibility and of the value of manhood suffrage, and learns that he must exercise his vote at the next election, the triumph of the Labour party will have done good.
– The vote at the last election was the largest ever polled.
– Only 63 or 65 per cent, of the electors of Victoria voted. That was not enough to satisfy me.
– I ask the honorable member to connect his remarks with the Bill.
– I hope that the Attorney-General will consider the amendment which has been moved, not from a party stand-point, but in the interests of the Commonwealth. The people of Australia do not desire preference to unionists ; they do not wish to sign away their freedom, and to be coerced into joining unions. The Labour party has a duty to perform, and no doubt will perform it according to its lights ; but its members should study the national, as well as their own party, interests. What they propose is to increase their political power by means of coercion. I hope that the amendment will be carried. The Attorney-General will do well if he consents to an adjournment of the debate, so that the Government may think over the proposal. It will do justice to a very large number of supporters in the country if it expunges the provision which gives preference to unionists.
– I could not help thinking, while listening to the debate this afternoon, that any wellinformed and impartial person hearing it without knowing that a proposed amendment of an Arbitration Act was being discussed, would hardly have thought that the possibility of regulating the interests of the country for the benefit of all classes was being debated from two points of view. The two sides of this question have been represented in a way which might lead one to suppose that capital and labour, in their co-operative effort at production, are absolutely inimical. I have always held the view that their proper attitude is one of compromise, and that everything should be done to promote peace and goodwill between them. In reviewing this measure, and in considering the different aspects of the larger measure which it is intended to amend, I cannot help recalling the circumstances of this State twenty-five years ago, when, in the Trades Hall of this city, I took a very prominent part in settling disputes between labour and capital. I was, at the time, managing a very large business here. The irritation caused by the trade unionists of Victoria was so great, and their interference related to matters so trifling, that the employers resolved to organize on the same lines as those adopted by trade unionists. The result was the establishment of the Employers’ Union, which was the beginning of the present Employers’ Federation. I had the honour to be its president for two years. That union became very powerful”. It represented at first £7,000,000 of capital, and afterwards£27,000,000. Its power became so impressive that the Trades Hall Council came out with the white flag, and asked for a conference, with a view to ending the constant bickering and friction between capital and labour. I was chosen a delegate by the Employers’ Union to meet delegates from the Trades Hall. In conference, we arrived at the conclusion that it was possible to establish a system of voluntary arbitration, and thus to end the constant irritation between the two necessary elements of production. For nearly three months, off and on, I sat with leading members of the Trades Hall Council engaged in framing a constitution for that Board of Conciliation. We provided not only for an Arbitration or Conciliation Board, but also for two less imposing tri- .bunals to deal with smaller matters. From that time until I left the State, two and a-half years later, there was not a dispute between employer and employe’ which was not amicably settled either in the Trades Hall, or in the hall of the Employers’ Union; both parties at the end shaking hands, and parting with the most enviable goodwill. When I left the State the Age complimented me on the splendid relations which I had established between capital and labour, and the secretary and president of the Trades Hall, by direction of the Council, wrote to me a letter, thanking me for what I had done, and wishing me God-speed in my career in another State. In doing the work to which I refer, I sat frequently at the Trades Hall, and saw that the effect of that voluntary arbitration was to teach the younger generation the lesson which I am now trying to lay down - that capital and labour are not enemies. The employ6 naturally tries to get as much money as possible for his labour, and the employer to get as much labour as possible for his money; but they can meet on common ground if methods of friendly arbitration or conciliation are adopted, and the spirit of enmity is not allowed to come in, as it is now doing more and more in Australia. If I may speak as an expert in arbitration, I would say that there the younger generation of employes grew up to see that difficulties with employers could be settled without strikes, fighting, or rioting, and employers that they could get fair and reasonable treatment from their men without locks-out or unnecessary embitterment. That experience, extending over some years, satisfied me that any system which teaches the younger generation to regard capital and labour as two forces which can go hand in hand with each other, instead of fighting one another, is infinitely superior to the system under which we are now living. I am sure that no observant person with an economic turn of mind can regard the history of compulsory arbitration iii Australia without recognising that one of its immediate effects is to imbue the younger generation with the idea that their interests are absolutely inimical to those of the employers, arid that their first duty is to consider how they can get the employer before the Arbitration Court in order to compel him to do something which otherwise he would not do. Those of us who are charged with the legislation of this country ought to view this question with sufficient impartiality to recognise that the former state of tilings’ has an enormous advantage over the latter. We want, not only young employes, but young employers, to recognise that if we are to make a success of Australian industries, so that by-and-by w;e may become a great exporting nation, sacrifices must be made upon both sides. It may be that the manufacturers and the exporters will have to be’ satisfied with less profits. It may be that the employes will have to look to some other method than that of constantly dragging employers before the Court in an effort to obtain higher wages and shorter hours. If we are going to produce articles of human consumption, which by-and-by we hope to export to other countries, we must take into serious consideration the conditions which obtain in countries which are producing those particular commodities. We have to recollect that capital is flowing fast into India from Great Britain, because of the difficulties which obtain in industries there. Look at it askance as we may, we cannot get away from the fact that in a country like India, where British capital has the most complete protection under Crown Government, there are 300,000,000 of people - not quick, not overstrong, I admit, but keen imitators in the production of goods which are being made by civilized countries - whose time can be purchased for a mere pittance. In Java, which is close at hand, there are 30,000,000 people, some engaged in a great industry like that of sugar and with other tropical industries, and we have to consider, not whether we shall lower our workmen to their level, but whether it is not highly desirable to so strengthen and moralize the relationship between capital and labour in this country that they can, hand in hand, devote themselves to the consideration of the best means of furthering our Australian industries so as to lead to large exports and an increase of the national wealth. I ask the members of the Labour party to consider this aspect of the question. In this House they have a majority of twelve or fourteen votes - the exact number being dependent upon the action taken by the two independent members. There seems to be a disposition on the part of my honorable friends opposite to consider that no argument can proceed from this side of the House which is not animated by a bias in favour of the capitalist. I wish to say that in any observations which I may offer, I am r.o more animated by a bias in favour of the capitalist than by a bias in favour of ihe employes. I endeavour to look at this question from the economic, the industrial, and the national stand-point. I should be delighted if we could hit upon some method by which the relationship between capital and labour could be put upon a basis of friendship instead of upon one of enmity. I am sure that as time goes on this desire on the part of the stronger side to impose its own terms upon the weaker will be destructive of the productive powers of the country, and will interfere largely with our opportunities of competing in the markets of the world. I regret to say that I have observed on the part of honorable members of the Labour party indications of a belief that whatever may be placed upon our statute-book is morally right. It is a tenet which seems to be held all through the country, and especially amongst the working classes. To give an extreme instance of the fallacy of this doctrine, I have only to state that if the Labour party had a sufficient majority it could legislate in favour of the complete confiscation of private property. I know that such an idea would not be entertained by the thoughtful members of that party, but nevertheless my honorable friends would be in a position to do that. If they had a majority in both Houses of this Parliament they could practically confiscate all the wealth of this country. But would they think for a moment that it would be morally right for them to do so? They might legislate to legalize even highway robbery if they thought it right.
– In this matter we think that we are right.
– My honorable friends may think so, because they have the power.
– Oh, no.
– As long as the honorable member does not consider that power is synonymous with right I am satisfied with him. But a practice is growing up in the Labour party - judging by the wild way in which some of its members talk of what should be done, and what could be done - of viewing any law which is placed upon the statute-book as if a moral justification existed for it. Is the House at the present time in a position - having regard to the party 0 ties which exist upon the other side of the
Chamber - to impartially decide what is just between employer and employe? Suppose that an honorable member opposite agreed with an idea which was put forward by a member upon this side of the House - an idea which did not entirely accord with the measure now under consideration - would he be free to take a moral view of the question?
– If he were not pledged to the Bill.
– Was there any pledge made during the recent campaign upon this Bill in its present form?
– Were the details of this measure ever put before the country? I am not a politician who boasts that he does not read the newspapers. 1 read them all, including the Labour journals.
– Does the honorable member read the Bulletin?
– Certainly. I read a great many worthless things, and among others, I read the Bulletin. I do not take it into my house, and I would not allow it in my backyard if I thought my children would see it. But I read it myself, because I consider myself sufficiently proof against its doctrines. I mention this fact with a view to showing that I am quite impartial. For some years I subscribed to the whole of the Labour journals, because I wanted to read both sides of the question. I read both daily newspapers in Sydney and Melbourne, besides other journals which give me both points of view. I do so, not from idle curiosity, but because I desire to know what the other side has to say. The assumption on the part of my honorable friends opposite that everything which proceeds from this side of the Chamber is necessarily coloured by a bias in favour of capital is an absolutely unsound one. There are honorable members on this side of the House - and I do not name them, because I do not wish to be invidious - who are just as public spirited as are honorable members opposite, and who have no desire to twist or turn any of the arguments with regard to any particular measure merely to suit the point of view of the capitalist. They want to be fair. I want to be fair. I saw fairness illustrated vividly in the three years during which I had the honour to sit on a Board of Conciliation between the employers and employed in this city. I say that that principle of conciliation would probably have been extended throughout the length and breadth of Australia except for the New Zealand example.
– Was there preference to unionists then?
– The thing was never heard of at that time.
– The honorable member was dealing with the Seamen’s Union at that time.
– Our proceedings were not confined to . the Seamen’s Union. We settled questions as affecting the ironworkers, the bootmakers, the engineers, the steam-ship owners, and manufacturers of various kinds. I can say, without doubt, that there never was a single dispute between employers and employed at that time which was not amicably settled. The machinery employed was well adapted for the purpose, because, if there were merely a single complaint by an employer against an employe, or by one employe against his employer, the two secretaries - one representing the Trades Hall and the other the Employers’ Union - met together and tried to settle it. If they did not succeed, the matter was referred to a body called the Reference Committee ; and, if they failed to effect a settlement, the Grand Council of sixteen - eight from the Trades Hall and eight from the Employers’ Union - met together, either at the Trades Hall or at the offices of the Employers’ Union, and dealt with the whole thing. I repeat that I never knew a case in the whole history of that effort in which the employers and the employes did not leave the proceedings shaking hands and expressing delight that matters had been settled so amicably.
– Did the honorable member ever meet with a case where the employers refused to meet the employes in conference ?
– Such things never occurred. We never had a dispute in which the employes persisted in an unreasonable claim against the employers. I wish to say, also, that we found it to be to our advantage to encourage unionism. I justify and encourage unionism myself. I have always done so. I can show honorable members magazine articles written by me twenty-five years ago, in which I laid it down that it was absolutely necessary that labour should be organized in unions, for the purpose of enabling them to be dealt with through their chief officers. As an honorable member said to-day, “ You cannot deal satisfactorily with individuals, either amongst employers or employed.” If, however, both sides are organized into unions, you can deal with their secretaries, or presidents, or councils. You deal with the whole body of employers or employed through their representatives. The members of the unions pledged themselves to abide by the decision of their officers as represented on the tribunal which I have described.
– What became of that body ?
– It was still in existence when I left this State.
– And after the honorable member left, it died?
– I do not say that. The honorable member’s humour apparently leads him to interpret my remark as meaning that I was the organization. I do not mean that at all. As, however, I have other things to say, and we have reached the usual hour for adjournment, I should be glad to continue my remarks to-morrow.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Bill read a third time.
In Committee of Ways and Means:
Motion (by Mr. Fisher) proposed -
That a tax at the rale of Ten pounds per centum for each year (including the year in which the Act imposing the tax commences) be imposed in respect of all bank notes issued or re-issued by any bank in the Commonwealth after the commencement of the Act and not redeemed.
.- I understand that this motion relates to a Bill to impose a tax of 10 per cent, upon notes issued by banks?
– I think the Prime, Minister mentioned the matter earlier in the sitting. I suggest to him that he might carefully consider the definition of “ bank note.” In some cases, bank notes are defined in terms which are scarcely applicable to the purposes of this Bill. A bank note may be defined in one way for the purposes of notes issued by a bank, but when you come to tax bank notes out of existence that definition may not suffice. I ask the Prime Minister to look at the definition contained in the English Stamp Act, which is more comprehensive than the one adopted by him. I think that he has taken his definition from the Queensland Act.
– I mentioned this matter to the Leader of the Opposition earlier in the sitting to-day. After consulting authorities about the matter, I am advised that this is the proper form in which the Bill in question should be introduced.
– This resolution absolutely closes the whole debate. Usually a resolution at this stage covers a Bill, but this is practically a Bill in the form of a resolution.
– The object in this case i; the imposition of a tax, which will, of course, be in its essence prohibitory. The same course was followed in Queensland. The object is clear and distinct. The two things hang together. When the Leader of the Opposition mentioned the matter to me, I took it into further consideration, and I am advised that it is absolutely necessary that the measure shall be dealt with in this way.
– Not without debate.
– I am not seeking to take advantage of the Opposition in any way. I wish merely to have the measure advanced a stage.
– We may not desire, that it should be advanced any stage at all.
– I must ask honorable members to permit me to advance the Bill this stage. We might take the debate on the motion for the adoption of the report.
– Can we not discuss the matter here?
– Yes, but there is another stage at which it can be fully discussed.
– This is more elaborate than the ordinary resolution upon which a Bill of the kind is founded.
– It is a mere statement of fact. I gave way just now to the desire expressed by the honorable member for Parkes for an adjournment of the debate on the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, because I hoped that we should be able to advance a stage of this Bill.
– The resolution need not contain a detail as to the amount of the tax.
– That is the essential part of it. If honorable members opposite will permit us to advance the measure this stage, I shall not ask to go further at present, and we can have the debate on the motion for the adoption of the report.
– I do not wish to offer the slightest objection or obstruction to this Bill, but I do desire that at some stage the Prime Minister should give the House a full statement upon the whole subject. Mr. Fisher. - I propose to do that on the second reading of the Australian Notes Bill.
– I do not care when the honorable gentleman does it, it he will only set out fully what is the object of this legislation, how far he proposes to go with it, and what are the reasons for the introduction of these currency measures. I should very much like to hear the reason for their introduction. At some stage we should have from the Prime Minister a full statement of the intentions of the Govern’ ment, and the motives and purpose ot legislation of this kind. Nothing could be more important than this proposal to interfere with the currency of the country, and though Bills have been ‘introduced, and we have now this motion before us, we have, up to date, had no statement whatever as to _ what the Government intend in this legislation.
– I should like to say, in reply to the honorable member for Parramatta, and for the information of other honorable members, that I shall be prepared to give the statement for which he asks on the second reading of the Australian Notes Bill on Thursday evening, or earlier, if honorable members so desire.
– The honorable gentleman does not propose to go further with this measure at present?
– I should like to have the resolution reported from Committee.
.- I am sure that the Prime Minister clearly realizes our difficulty. .We feel that this measure is attached to the larger measure dealing with the proposed note issue.
– Yes, that is so.
– It is hardly fair to invite the Prime Minister to state the whole of his financial policy in this regard upon so small a measure as this, when he has the larger measure immediately in hand. I understand that he wishes to have this Bill on the table, and intends, in dealing with the larger measure, to make a full disclosure of his policy in this relation before he asks honorable members to consider any later stage of this Bill.
– Yes, that is so.
– If that is the proposal, I think the rights of honorable members are sufficiently safeguarded.
– I should like to take the first reading of this Bill if honorable members will permit me.
. - I do not care to disagree with the Leader of the Opposition, but I must say that the Government proposal appears to me to be somewhat like putting the cart before the horse. The Australian Notes Bill has been introduced, and has yet to be discussed. If, after discussion, it is passed, this measure proposing a tax upon notes might follow as a corollary. But the “Prime Minister desires to have this Bill on the table before we pass the Australian Notes Bill. Of course, in explaining the proposed note issue the honorable gentleman may tell us what he proposes to do, but I do not know why there should be any hurry with this Bill. I see no reason for its introduction at all at present, or until the Australian Notes Bill has been passed. I am absolutely opposed to the action taken by the Government. I think they are dealing with the matter in an irregular way.
– I should like to point out that we are gradually, but surely, adopting a mode of procedure in this House which will make it impossible for us to discuss a subject apart from its embodiment in the terms of a BiU. Let there be no mistake about that. We shall be quite in the hands of the Speaker when we come to discuss the second reading of this Bill. The rule will be observed by Mr. Speaker, I take it, that we may not discuss any other Bill in connexion with this, unless by arrangement again such as that which was arrived at to-day with the greatest possible difficulty. The procedure adopted in the House of Commons in dealing with a matter of this kind is to discuss the subject at this preliminary stage, and afterwards to discuss the principles of the Bill intended to give effect to the policy of the Government on the subject already discussed. Honorable members will recollect that on the Coronation Oath Bill, after a long discussion of the proposal, there was actually a division on the first reading of the Bill. Here we know nothing about the Bill proposed to be introduced. The purpose and intention of the Government have never been explained in regard to this legislation, and, apparently, the intentions of the Government are not to be explained until we are tied to a discussion of the principles of the Bill on the second reading. We will not then be able to discuss the whole subject dealt with in the measure, but “only so much of it as is crystallized in the Bill which will be submitted to us. We should be careful how we give away our opportunities for discussion on these preliminary stages, as we have lately been in the habit of doing. We shall not later be able to discuss the subject dealt with in this Bill with the freedom with which we might discuss it now in Committee. We might speak more than once upon the subject at this stage, which has been instituted ‘for the purpose of permitting the discussion of every phase of a subject, certain principles of which the Bill to be introduced is supposed to embody.
. -I think that we are placed in rather a difficult position by the order in which the Government propose to take these proposals. We have had already circulated a Bill embodying the new policy with regard to the note issue. I think the Prime Minister will admit that that is the principal Bill, and that the Bill now proposed to be introduced is supplementary to it.
– Yes, that is so.
– Unless there is some insuperable objection in the forms of the House, I suggest that it would be a great deal better not to ask honorable members, even formally, to adopt a proposal for a tax upon notes until we have an opportunity to discuss the principal Bill, the second reading of which the Prime Minister proposes to move on Thursday next. I do not know of any formal requirement under the Standing Orders to prevent the House from discussing the principal Bill before this has gone into Committee at all. Is there any reason why we should not discuss, either at the second reading or the Committee stage, the Bill for the creation of Australian notes before there is any Committee of Ways and Means on the other Bill ? If we could do so, that would get rid of the whole difficulty. Every one recognises that this is the first stage of the discussion of an extremely important change proposed in the system of currency in Australia. Whether that change be good or bad, there will have to be the fullest discussion, which can only be had on the second reading of the Bill which proposes to substitute something for the present system. I agree with the Leader of the Opposition that we ought, on a matter of this sort, to endeavour to meet the views of the Government in regard to the order of business so far as we can, so long as we do not lose any substantia] rights of debate. For that reason I acceded, by interjection, to what the Leader of the Opposition said, but I suggest that we shall be nearer to the discussion of the whole matter if we deal with the principal proposition first.
– I reply, I have to say that this is undoubtedly a complementary and supplementary Bill. It is an essential part of the policy, and the two measures are so linked together that they cannot properly be discussed separately. It would have been possible to have both proposals in the same Bill, but the much more sensible and straightforward way is to have two Bills, even though that should cause the Government more trouble. I shall do nothing to embarrass discussion, but, on the contrary, do everything possible to afford the widest scope within reason. This is an important and far-reaching proposal in its character and consequence, but it is by no means new or novel. A similar measure has been introduced in a sister Parliament in Australia in practically the same way, and with no dire results. I, therefore, ask the Opposition to see the Bill, and I say again, that the Government will afford every opportunity for the examination of both measures, though the principal one is taken first. The Government feel bound, under any circumstances, to press this proposal forward, but at this early stage I have no desire to come into conflict with the Opposition in any way. My desire is to leave the matter open to fair and temperate discussion, which I hope will be productive of good, not only to the members of this House, but to the people of Australia.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported, and report, by leave, adopted.
That Mr. Fisher and Mr. Hughes do prepare and bring in a Bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Fishes, and read a first time.
House adjourned at 10.20 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 2 August 1910, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1910/19100802_reps_4_55/>.