4th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– Will the AttorneyGeneral inform the House how many awards have been made by the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, and whether any of them give preference to unionists?
– There have been nine awards under the Act, preference for unionists not being given on any occasion, though a common role was laid down in one case.
– I wish to know whether the statement in yesterday’s Age, that, as soon as the Trust Fund money is available, the Treasurer will pay it to the States on a population basis, is correct? It is contrary to what the honorable gentleman told the House he would do during the period that the Braddon provision has force.
– I have no concern with’ what appears in the Age. What I have already said, and repeat now, is that the States, until the expiration of the Braddon provision at the end of the present calendar year, will have to be paid the full amount due to them under it.
– On the bookkeeping basis ?
– Until the end of the year the payments must be on the bookkeeping basis.
– Will the Prime Minister consider the propriety, in connexion with amending Bills, of printing on separate pages the sections of the Acts which it is proposed to amend? This course would save honorable members the trouble of referring to the Acts themselves, and greatly facilitate their work.
– I have during the present session intimated that I have taken steps to have that done. It will mean a little expense, but not more than the convenience will be worth.
– Can the Prime Minister inform the House when he is likely to make his financial statement?
– In about a fortnight; I cannot yet fix the date.
– Can the PostmasterGeneral say what has been the cost of the inquiry of the accountants appointed to investigate the accounts of the telephone system, and whether their investigation is still proceeding?
– Their investigation is not still proceeding. If the honorable member will give notice of his first question, I shall endeavour to supply an answer to-morrow.
Linemen : Case of Mr. Guy Smith - Telephone Construction Work
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
Whether his- attention has been directed to the following procedure in connexion with the examination of linemen and their entry into the Public Service, viz. : -
That candidates are required to go up for examination, and, after passing, are eligible for probationary employment as opportunity offers?
That during their temporary employment should a permanent appointment be available they are then medically examined ?
That if found medically unfit, they are not eligible for a permanent appointment?
Whether- he will give directions that the medical examination shall take place in the first instance and prior to his entry for examination?
Whether he will inquire into the case of Mr. Guy ‘ Smith, who was employed as a lineman in Perth, and who, under the foregoing procedure, has lost his employment, after fourteen months’ satisfactory service, and after he had passed all his examinations, and had given complete satisfaction - he having been reportedon medically as having some slight defeet in one eye?
– The Public Service Commissioner states -
– Yet the man was appointed, and worked for fourteen months.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
Construction Branch of the Telephone Department in New South Wales is ina . congested condition ? 2 How long will it be before work inhand and authorized will be brought up to date? 3.What steps does he propose to take to relieve the congestion so as to enable new proposals to be put in hand?
– Inquiries are being made, and the desired information will be furnished as early as possible.
asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
In view of the fact that several vessels have lately been destroyed by striking uncharted rocks along the Australian and Tasmanian coasts, will the Government, at an early date, cause a re-survey of the Commonwealth waters to be made?
– This question has already engaged my attention, but it is not considered practicable to undertake’ the resurvey of Australian waters until the administration of the navigation laws has been transferred to the Commonwealth.
Debate resumed from 2nd August (vide page 922), on motion by Mr. Hughes -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
Upon which Mr. Greene had moved, by way of amendment -
That the word “now” be left out, and that the words “ this day fortnight “ be added to the question.
– When the Prime Minister was good enough to consent last night to the adjournment of this debate I was endeavouring to lay before honorable members what appeared to me to be some of the outlying considerations which ought to be carefully taken into . account in connexion with this Bill, having regard to the enormous area and the great variety of climates to which its provisions are intended to extend. I was endeavouring also to impress upon the party behind the Government who, if I may say so, feel themselves bound to support them in whatever proposals they bring forward, the desirableness of considering what would have been the effect upon their minds and upon those of the class they represent if, during the last session, when the Liberal party in this House had a majority of twenty, they had seized upon the opportunity to pass a measure dealing with the arbitration question in a manner so unmistakably favorable from the capitalistic point of view. I am confident that if our party, using its majority of twenty, had introduced and pushed through a Bill, the terms of which were as favorable to the capitalistic cause as this Bill is designed to be in favour of the worker’s cause, we should have been condemned from one end of Australia to another for having availed ourselves of a chance majority to pass a class measure. I have sufficient confidence in the Prime Minister to believe the statement he made on the Address-in-Reply, that he is anxious to do that which is best in the interests of the whole of the people. I am sanguine enough and, perhaps, unsophisticated enough, according to the view of some honorable members of my own party, to believe that the Prime Minister is willing, so far as he can in his position, to consider the interests of the people. I recognise, however, that he does not enjoy the power which is generally vested in a Prime Minister. A Prime Minister is captain of his ship in the ordinary constitutional sense of the term, and he will forgive me, I am sure, for saying that I never fail. to recognise that in leading this Government he is merely the Chairman of it.
– Oh !
– It is perfectly right.
– I do not intend, sir, to discuss the constitutional question. I have said that the Prime Minister recognises this fact, and I am therefore addressing myself not so much to him as to the members of his party, because I wish them to consider what is likely to be the effect upon Australian politics if from time to time, as this party or that secures a majority, the whole of the existing legislation is to be amended so as to suit the point of view of the classes of people who are sending that majority into Parliament. It means this : That instead of considering the interests of the whole people for whom we are legislating, we shall be merely dragging the law from side to side, from Parliament to Parliament, to suit those whom the majority represent. I am perfectly satisfied that the more mature members of this House, whether they have been here for a long or for only a short time - those who have given thought to public questions - recognise that one of the first considerations to have in view in this House is to bring about! steadiness and certainty in our legislation. If one party is going to utilize its majority for the purpose of reshaping existing legislation to suit the particular class, they represent, and then, when the pendulum swings the other way, the other side; are going to use their power to twist legislation again to suit the particular class which they are supposed to represent, we shall be, not benefactors, but men quite unfit for our representative positions.
– The bulk of the people thought that, and that is why they made a change at the last general election.
– The honorable member may talkglibly about what the people thought, but I am not so confident as he is in making a diagnosis of what the people, desire. It is very difficult for the peoplethemselves to know sometimes what they, as a body, want.
– They already regret what they have done.
– That is just as confident an expression of opinion as fell, from the lips of the honorable member for. Adelaide. I do not think that either remark was made in the careful spirit in which we should approach this question.
– My remark was intended to be serious.
– I am sorry that the honorable member’s intention and the effect of what he said do not harmonize.
– The honorable member is never so happy as when he is chipping at his own party.
– I do not think’ that one honorable member is more qualified than, another to say what the people think they want. They think in gusts.
– That is their business.
– It is our business. I am not dealing with the honorable member’s constituents.
– But I must defend my own constituents.
– The honorable member is not defending his own constituents, but attacking the opinions I express. It is open for him to sit here and listen to them, or else to avail himself of the freedom of this great country. We cannot generalize in one phrase as to what the people of a continent as big as Europe think. They think in sections as well as in gusts, and it is for us to try to hold the balance. That is surely the serious duty of a politician ; to first of all clear himself of any class bias, and then to try to hold the balance of judgment. A very eminent Judge in England once said that it is more important that the law should be certain than that it should be right. Although that sounds like a paradox, it is perfectly true.
– Yes; the law is always certain, but not so often right.
– I was not attacking the law. The honorable member had only one ear open.
– I hope that the honorable member will not become angry. He is very nice when he is not.
– The honorable member is in a rather jocular frame of mind. I wish he would put his humour into the letter he is writing, instead of trying to introduce it by interjections into my speech. Lord Bramwell, the eminent Judge to whom I referred, was perfectly right when he said that it was more important that the law should be certain than that it should be right. Even if the law is wrong, so long as people know what the law is, they know what to do. And it is just the same with the legislation by which we make the law. It is highly desirable that the public should know, not from day to day, or week to week, but permanently, what the law is going to be. We have to take into consideration the stupendous ramifications of the industrial work of this continent.
– What does the honorable member mean by “permanently”?
– I mean permanent so far as we can make it - until we can discover a non-class reason for amende ing the law. If we chop and change from one form of legislation to- another, according as the elections help one side or the other, we are calling on the public to adapt themselves to a sort of cinematograph view of the law that is highly undesirable.
– The other side will never come back to power again !
– That is another interesting prediction. Is that why the honorable member is on that side to-day? If the honorable member thought this side would come back to power I venture to say we should soon have him over here.
– Will the honorable member address himself to the question?
– I cannot give up my British sentiment and instinct for retaliation on these very irrelevant and, if I may say so, insincere observations. It may sound like a platitude, but I am prepared to admit the sincerity of honorable members opposite - I am not anxious to attribute what they are doing to mere party feeling. But there are two schools of thought in this House. There is the one which is sometimes equivocally crystallized under the word “individualism,” suggesting that everything is to be left to the individual, and that we are to proceed on a purely laissez faire principle, but which is more correctly stated as being in favour of the minimum of interference with human exertion. Then there is the other school, well represented on the other side, which believes in constant interference with human affairs in order to add to the welfare of the people. I recognise those two schools of thought, and f think it is quite possible for a member of this House, or for anybody, to sincerely believe in either. My experience is that the reading of history inclines one away from the interfering side, and in favour of, within certain bounds, letting private enterprise go its own way and find its own channels. At all events, I am willing to give credit to honorable members on the other side for desiring quite sincerely that for which they are asking. There is, not only in this House, but outside, a certain class of men who are anxious to legislate exclusively in favour of the worker, irrespective of the interests of the employer or of the capitalist. I am perfectly willing to admit that there are members of this House - I have seen them - who are equally strongly in favour of the capitalist and the employer, and do not know any medium course. Then there are others who are so idealistic in their views that I think they sometimes fail to appreciate the middle course. I cannot help remembering that, when the honorable member for Ballarat introduced the original Bill, upon which the present measure is intended as a series of amendments, in 1903, he, in the course of a three hours’ speech, said that it would “ usher in a new era in the history of civilization.” That struck me at the time, and it does so now, as indicating an idealistic frame of mind. The honorable member made then a very eloquent speech, and as I did not wish to be out of the chorus of praise, I told him, as I think he will remember that “ his address was so beautiful that it ought to have been set to music as a cantata, as it breathed the spirit of another world, in which life was a perpetual hay -making. “ I do not know whether the honorable member has changed his views, though I think he has, because, at that time, I was able to bring before the House strong evidence that in New Zealand, New South Wales, and Western Australia, at that very time, the workers had accepted the decisions of the Arbitration Courts whenever these met with their approval, and snapped their fingers at them when they did not. We have seen a good deal of that since ; and I never could understand how the honorable member could talk about that measure “ ushering in a new era in the history of civilization,” when he had facing him, even while he spoke, unmistakable evidence of this state of things which in New Zealand, ,New South Wales, and Western Australia, had led to that lop-sided view of what the Court in each case had declared just. That is the idealistic view, and I think it arises sometimes from a sort of idealizing of human life - a forgetting of the fact that, whatever position we may occupy in life, we are all guided more or less, consciously or unconsciously, by the self-interest, either of ourselves individually, or of the class in whose favour we are biased. I do not believe in either the capitalistic view, the workers’ view, or the idealistic view. In my opinion, it is our duty, so far as we can, subject to party pledges, to hold the balance and to try, in the spirit of the man who sits in an Arbitration Court, to lay down a body of laws and code of principles which we can honestly say is fair between man and man as employer and as employe. That seems to be the ideal, not in a poetic sense, but in the sense which recognises that it is not desirable for this House to be constantly pulling any question from side to side, according to the power we have. Honorable members opposite will, I hope, realize that when we sat over there with a majority of twenty - forty-seven to twenty-seven - it was open to the honorable member for Ballarat, as leader of that party, had he thought fit, to bring in a Bill which would have emasculated the existing law, and made it tell distinctly in favour of the capitalists.
– What would have been the result had he done so?
– That is the question I was going to ask the honorable member, who delivered one of the most thoughtful speeches on this question on the other side. The result would have been that throughout Australia the members of the Labour party would have characterized the Liberals as a gang of men who were bound up in the interests of one class of the community.
– They did that, anyhow !
– Of course we did ; and was it not true?
– I credit the honorable member for Ballarat, as Leader of the Opposition, and as Prime Minister then - notwithstanding the idealism which characterizes much that he does - with sufficient practical knowledge of life and of the affairs of this country not to injure the chances of our success, or to lead to recrimination against the class which is represented now by honorable members opposite. The Leader of the Opposition recognised that the Act which had been passed ought to be preserved as nearly as possible in its original form ; and I ask the . honorrble member for Hindmarsh, and the members of his party, whether they are not now seizing on this opportunity to turn this legislation entirely in favour of their own class ?
– Certainly not.
– Are honorable members opposite not doing the very thing which the honorable member for Hindmarsh says we would have been guilty of had we availed ourselves of a much larger majority than the Labour party have to-day, and twisted this legislation in favour of capital ?
– We are simply attempting to put into force what we promised to do before the elections.
– And what in some of the States the Labour party absolutelydenied their intention of doing.
– I am not going to fight over that matter even in words. 1 put my views forward for whatever truth there is in them. No doubt if they carry conviction they may affect men’s minds in the direction I desire. I am not fighting for the capitalist. I have said over and over again that I am not going to help legislate for him. I know the capitalist; I recognise his greediness ; I know the extremes to which he will go in the interests of his business. I know the worker also, and the extremes to which he will go in order to get as much advantage as he can in the interests of his class.
– If he gets it he does not get much.
– I see the spirit of one of the classes I have mentioned dominating certain honorable members even now. They come in here to fight for the worker; they may think that their future election depends on it.
– Are we not all workers? The honorable member is a worker.
– I hope so. I work sixteen hours, and sometimes eighteen, a day. But I am talking of workers in the narrower sense of the word, because I notice that it is not interpreted in that broad sense in which certain honorable members choose to interpret it when it suits their argument. I am speaking of the manual worker; the class who are going to be touched by this measure. The barrister, the solicitor, the bank manager, the artist, the head of a firm - these are not touched by this Bill, although they are all workers.
– They will all be benefited by it.
– The honorable member is very philosophical in his principles and far reaching in his conclusions.
– The bank manager may not be reached by it,- but the banking staff ought to be.
– The Bill, of course, is intended to reach everybody, as the honorable member will see definitely set out if he reads his Brisbane Worker. I have here the last leading article from that paper, and should like to show the honorable member, if he has not read it already, what the ablest of all the Labour papers says about this Bill. It shows clearly that it is intended to bring every conceivable industry in every conceivable aspect under the measure. . This is what it says -
And now comes an amendment of the Arbitration Act to give a preference to unionises-
– Order. The honorable member must not read a newspaper article commenting on any matter before the House.
– I think it is a very common practice to show how a subject has been spoken of, either by members -inside or people outside the House. In my many years’ experience of Parliament I have frequently known it done, but if in your view, sir, it is not desirable, I shall not read the article. This, however, will be another instance of the way in which the rules of the House, if strictly interpreted, will curtail our debates. I think it is highly desirable to show that even those journals which represent the opinions of honorable members opposite are taking certain views of a measure before the House. This article comes from a paper which has particular inspiration, because it actually published the contents of the GovernorGeneral’s Speech before the House knew it. I remember reading in its columns, not the ipsissima verba, but the summary, of the contents of that Speech before I heard it as a member of this House.
– What does the honorable and learned member deduce from that - that it was conveyed to them, or that it was a guess?
– I deduce from it that the statements of this paper are very valuable as throwing light on the intentions of the party opposite.
– The honorable member must mean that it was inspired by the Government, or he means nothing.
– The article to which I refer acknowledged that by the courtesy of a certain high official in this country-
– Does the honorable member propose to connect his remarks with the matter before the Chair ?
– I do, or I should not make them. I want to show that the source of my information is one which derives inspiration from the Ministry that has introduced the Bill, and that that was the authority for the article which I was about to quote. If, however, it conflicts with your view-
– Perhaps I had better read the standing order.
– It is not necessary. I shall simply paraphrase the article by saying that according to the principal newspaper of the Labour party this Bill is intended to deal with every conceivable industrial occupation in Australia. It opens up a tremendous field, which it is quite impossible for an honorable member to deal with in the allowable space of a speech in this House. It deals not only with every part of Australia, but with every industry in Australia, and applies to every industry certain principles which, in view of the varying climatic conditions of the Commonwealth, are likely to have very different effects. When we realize that Australia, besides being as big as Europe, extends to within 10 degrees of the Equator on the north and to within 20 degrees of the Antarctic circle on the south, we see what an enormous area of country has been put under our charge. Whilst we admit the impossibility of laying down equal conditions for all classes of people in all parts of the Commonwealth and in all kinds of industries, we are yet about to lay down, in almost microscopic form, industrial conditions which will regulate the industries of the people in all the parts of this enormous continent.
– We are not going to do it. or to try to do it.
– The honorable member must read his Queensland Worker and his own Bill.
– He could not survive both shocks.
– Probably not, but he might if he took them in instalments. It is to be regretted that the practice, which I am glad to hear the Prime Minister is about to adopt, of incorporating in amending Bills the parts of the original Act affected, has not been followed in this case. It would greatly facilitate our work in referring to the Bill. Otherwise one must have a copy of the Act in book form before one. In supplementing my expression of opinion last night, I wish to show what my view of unionism is. It is very necessary if one wants to exercise any influence over other minds to satisfy them that one is not speaking from a biased point of view. I say again that I have always favoured unionism. I wrote in favour of it thirty years ago, for this reason: I saw the banker combining with his fellow banker to keep up the rates of interest and to keep down the rates of discount. I saw the coal merchant and the general merchant combining with their fellows to keep up the price of their commodities. I saw manufacturers combining to get duties which pay them in some cases increased profits. Therefore, to my mind, there is every reason why the workers should combine to keep up the price of their labour.
– Are not the importers combining?
– I have said that they are. Combination is the order of the day. It is with me no new thought, provided for this debate, that the workers are justified in combining to keep up the price of their commodity. But the workers’ combinations for keeping up the price of their commodity should be subjected to the same restrictions as we are going to apply to other combinations which we say have an injurious effect upon the community by keeping up prices. From time to time we hear of a combination in some industry-
– The brick combination in Sydney, for example,-
– Yes. It has been said that Parliament should prevent that combination from keeping up the price of bricks. The other day the price was raised by 4s. peT 1,000; but in answer to the outcry which followed, the brickmakers pointed out that the rise in the cost of bricks was due to the rise in the wages paid to workmen of various kinds engaged in their manufacture.
– The rise in wages amounted to od. per 1,000 bricks.
– The honorable member has fallen into a mistake which others like him have made. Because it was calculated that a certain decision in one of the Courts would mean a difference of od. per 1,000 in the cost of making bricks, some people inferred that that was the sole reason for raising the price of bricks by 4s. per 1,000; but the brickmakers showed that there had been cumulative increases in the cost of machinery, horses and carts, and horse-feed, and in the wages paid, not only to brickmakers, but also to brick-carters, to the men employed in burning the bricks, and to the men engaged in digging out the clay. These increases were equivalent to more than 4s. per 1,000 bricks. We are living in a fool’s paradise in this matter. Some persons seem to imagine that there is a wall round Australia, and that the price of one commodity can be increased without affecting that of others. Undoubtedly if wages were increased in only one trade, it would benefit those in that trade. But if you take the whole category of trades, and increase the wages of the baker, the butcher, the grocer, the carpenter, the bricklayer, and the stonemason, in the end you merely lower the value of the sovereign, and thus increase the cost of living, so that those whom you desired to benefit are worse off than they were at first.
– What made the Colonial Sugar Refining Company increase the price of sugar by £2 a ton?
– Does the honorable member regard me as a sort of riddle book ? I may deal with that matter when the sugar question is before us. If wages were increased in all trades, the result would be merely to increase the price of the commodities which those engaged in such trades consume, and so lower the value of the sovereign. The sovereign has no standard value, and to-day it is worth only about 153., compared with its value ten years ago. If a sovereign could always purchase the same amount of any given commodity, the raising of wages would be effectual for the worker, but the universal raising of wages lowers the value of the sovereign. What did Mr. Ramsay Macdonald, the Leader of the Labour party in Great Britain, say when he came out here a few years ago?
– He is a Free Trader.
– He is also a Christian, and a married man, and has a moustache ; but those facts are all equally irrelevant. He is undoubtedly a man of authority, and the honorable member will perhaps admit that when he knows that he was received at the Trades Hall in Melbourne with open arms. Why ? Because he was the leader of the Labour party in Great Britain.
– He is its secretary.
– He was its leader then, and is its secretary now. I know more about the British Labour party than, apparently, does the honorable member. What Mr. Macdonald said confirms what I have said. He told a meeting at the Trades Hall in effect that he was going to New Zealand to investigate Hie working of the Arbitration Court, and had promised to report to his people at Home the result of his observations, so that they might consider whether a similar institution should be set up in England. After his visit to New Zealand he informed the Trades Hall people that he had found that the New Zealand Arbitration Court had increased wages by 8 per cent., but that it had also increased the cost of living by 18 or 20 per cent., and that, as the result, the New Zealand working man was worse off than before.
– That was an absurd statement in view of the fact that in America, where there is no arbitration court, prices are higher than in any country in the world.
– I shall come to that. Mr. Ramsay Macdonald said that he would have to report in England against the establishment of- an arbitration court there, and although it is five or six years since he returned, the British Labour party has refused to propose such an institution. The great leader of the Labour organizaton in the United States, Mr. Gompers, has not only refused to propose the establishment of an arbitration court, but has denounced the institution in the most unmeasured terms. It may seem well to look at a question through the knot-hole of one’s own point of view, and to consider only the immediate effect of what we are doing ; but the book published by that great French economist, Bastiat, called Unseen Effects, shows how completely the ultimate results of legislation are lost sight of. There is an old story about some people on ah island who agreed to live by doing one another’s washing, and found in the end that they were no better off than before. I am afraid that this legislation will leave us in that position. The butcher, the baker, and the candlestick-maker, increase the prices of their commodities by even more than the equivalent of the increase in the wages which they are forced to pay.
– We know all that.
– I am address ing the unsophisticated members of the House, who have not read as much as the honorable member has read. If he admits my case, I ask him : does not the subject need a little more consideration?
– We are going to protect the consumer.
– This is a new thought. I have not heard the consumer mentioned before in this controversy, though when the Tariff was being dealt with I suggested that he should be more carefully considered. How is the consumer to be benefited when every increase of wages by½d. means to him an increase of¾d. in the price of goods? What is the position of the unfortunate washerwoman and others, who are not benefited by the making of these laws?
– Suppose we abolish wages altogether.
– I do not suggest that. The honorable member is a very thorough Socialist, -and, no doubt, if he thought that the people were what the Labour journals call ripe for it, wouldgive them a full measure of Social ism. We appear to be legislating in a circle, and, so to speak, travelling round a legislative circus. We are lifting the cost of living to such a height that the unfortunate consumer is paying more for his goods than he gets in increases in wages.
– Living is cheaper in New South Wales than in any of the countries which have been compared with it.
– In New South Wales they got into good habits under Free Trade, and have not yet departed from them.
– There is no Free Trade there now.
– Let me mention another algebraic factor regarding wages. The honorable member for Hindmarsh the other night fell into a trap when asked if he would regulate wages according to profits. Mr. Justice Cohen, when the Arbitration Court was first established, adjudicated in a dispute between the wharf labourers and the Hunter River Steam-ship Company. At the end of the case counsel for the men pointed out that a reserve fund appeared in the company’s balance-sheet. Mr. Justice Cohen did not then know as much as I think he knows now, and replied - “ If that be so, we must reconsider the question.” It was pointed out that the company was making more profits than were shown by their dividends. That raised the question whether wages could be fixed in accordance with profits. Mr. Cann, a brother of the honorable member for Nepean, at one of the conferences of the Labour party, pointed this out to them. He said, in effect, “ Don’t you see that if we insist, or admit, that wages should be regulated by the profits of a business, we shall have to come down perhaps to zero when there is a business loss.”
– Not if we start with a minimum wage.
– The honorable member is not holding the balance fairly. If wages are to be regulated according to the profits of a business, the workmen must be held to join in the venture, and to share losses as well as profits. But the working classes could not be expected to “agree to accept less than a living wage, because a business proved to be non-paying. You cannot have an arrangement like the pawl in the windlass, by which wages are to rise, but not to fall. We must be fair, and discuss this matter’ from the practical point of view.
– There must be a living wage.
– I am coming to that. Mr. Justice Hood, of this State, was once called on to declare what is a living wage. He said, in effect, “ I may have batchelors before me, with no other responsibility in life than their own needs and pleasures, and married men with wives and large families to support. What is a living wage for the one class is not a living wage for the other. What would be necessary to keep a married man with a family of eight or nine children, and perhaps a sick wife, would allow a batchelor to be luxurious.” I wish to show the impossibility ofdealing with this matter from a purely doctrinaire stand-point. The honorable member for South Sydney has had the privilege of sitting on the Arbitration Bench of New South Wales, and has had to give the subject consideration. Mr. Justice Hood was quite right. How can you determine that a certain wage shall be paid to a man because he has a wife and family, and pay another wage to an unmarried man ? To do that honorable members opposite would carry the ramifications of their legislation into all the details of family life. These facts show that it is very difficult to know what award should be made. I do not think that a living wage - the phrase employed by the honorable member for Hindmarsh, and which is frequently used - is a final or practicable test.
– Mr. Justice Higgins did not experience the difficulty that the honorable member suggests.
– That may not be a tribute to Mr. Justice Higgins. He did not go into these side considerations at all.
– Oh !
– Will honorable members opposite tell me how Mr. Justice Higgins overcame these two difficulties? Is he going to consider the question of profits ? I think that he was rather inclined to do so, when he went into the balancesheet of the Broken Hill Company, and began to consider what it was making. He was then on an economic snag. He did not seem to know it at the time, but I think it very possible that he now recognises that we cannot take into account the balancesheets of a company, and say, “ High wages shall be paid while the company is making a profit, and low wages while it is making a loss.” If that course were followed, we should have to bring the men into the venture, and raise or lower wages from time to time, according to the fortune of the industry. There is in Australia today a big political conspiracy, certainly in regard to this question, in order practically to bring about unification. The honorable member for Cook has lately been in Sydney, trying to induce some of the railway service unions there to enter into a combination with those of other States. We know that under the original Act it was provided that the Commonwealth Court should have jurisdiction whenever an industrial dispute extended from one State to another, and that the Act itself declares that the refusal of a request for higher wages is an industrial dispute. I said, when that measure was before us, that to enable a union in one State, where there was a dispute, to combine with a union in another, and then to say that the dispute extended from one State’ to the other, was really to make Commonwealth disputes out of purely State disputes. I should like to quote from a speech that I made when the principal measure was before this House in 1903, in order to show that I thought then as I think now. I said -
We should be deliberately creating a tribunal which would come into conflict within a month with the Conciliation and Arbitration Courts of New South Wales,- South Australia, and Western Australia.
I wish to show honorable members that this question was beaten out thoroughly at the time. I went on to say -
We may depend upon it that if the Trades Unions of this country can bring into operation the adjudication of this Court merely by extending the ramifications of any particular union from one State to another and by subsequently inducing that union to make a demand upon an employer so as to constitute under the Act “ a dispute extending beyond the limits of any one State,” the business of the Court itself will speedily reach that condition of congestion into which the New South Wales Court has fallen, and into which, according to the utterances of Mr. Seddon, the New Zealand Court has also drifted.
I anticipated then that the object was to create an industrial dispute which would come within the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth Court merely by extending the ramifications of a union from one State to another. This Bill is going to carry out that to the extreme, because, in the first place, not only the existing industries, but new ones, are going to be brought within its scope. We find that the honorable member for Cook is doing his utmost in New South Wales - and, I suppose, quite rightly from the light in which he regards the questionto induce unions there to join with those of other States in order to make them one, and so to bring them under the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth Court. I wish to point out one aspect of that particular feature of the case which I think most unfair and undesirable. We have now in all the States but Tasmania either Arbitration Courts or Wages Boards, and unions have an opportunity to go before those tribunals. We tried some time ago, by a system of new .Protection, to create yet another means of raising wages, and the Government are trying here to extend the principal Act, which gives a double chance to unions to try their fortune in a second Court. A union in New South Wales may try to get what it wants in the State Court. If it fails, then it may combine with a union in another State, the members of which are peaceful and satisfied, and by that combination bring its dispute within the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth Court, and have a second try to get what it deserves. Let me show how this has worked in New South Wales by quoting from an article headed “ Labour,” “Union Controversy.” “The Move in Victoria”; “ Some more Interviews.”
Mr. Warland, general secretary of the Traffic Association, said that the Victorian Railway unions were not getting into “ closer unity “ upon the lines advocated by Mr. Catts. He had received a letter from Melbourne dealing with the matter, and the proposal there was to keep their sectional organization distinct for craft purposes and federate upon common matters only.
Honorable members will admit that that indicates that an attempt is being made to federate certain unions. The unions are not satisfied with die State Arbitration Courts and Wages Boards. Arrangements between representative men of the different unions are being entered into in order to bring about a federation which will so extend their ramifications as to enable them to bring what is really a State dispute under the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth Court, and to have it dealt with possibly by a particular Judge there, although it has been determined individually in a State Court. Do honorable members think that that is a desirable state of affairs? I have quoted the view of an eminent Judge that the law is better certain than right. Are we going to encourage by means of
State W ages Boards and Arbitration Courts, by a Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court, and a new Protection system, if it can be devised, a series of attempts to bring employers before one Court or another until the” men get what they want? Are we going to empower the unions after all this has been done, and they have failed to succeed up to the standard they desire, to snap their fingers, so to speak, at the Court, and to say, “ You shall not force us unless you do so individually.” “I intend to make a suggestion for an addition to the Bill, which will be in accordance with a proposal made in last week’s issue of the Worker, that there should be in this measure some power by which unions can be compelled to put up a common fund for the purpose of giving employers an opportunity to vindicate their rights if die workers do not abide by the decision of the Court. I do not know whether honorable members have followed the progress of arbitration in New South Wales, where the State Arbitration Bill was introduced by Mr. Wise.
– He signed the Labour platform last Monday week.
– What has that to do with the matter? I know what has happened, and it will only confirm what I am going to say. Mr. Wise informed the House in which he introduced that Bill that there would be in it the same guarantee that the men would observe the awards of the Court as there would be that the employers would observe them. At a later stage, when fears were entertained with regard to the funds of unions, he was the first to recommend the unions to put their funds into trust in order to avoid its possible liability.
– Was that not the result of the Taff-Vale decision?
– No, that is a different matter altogether. It was the result of a case in New South Wales. The very man who introduced the Arbitration Bill in the Legislative Council of New South Wales, and gave the assurance to which I have .referred, recommended the unions at a subsequent date to put their funds into trust so that they . would be beyond the powers of the Court. In the Taff-Vale case the position was slightly different. A much higher authority not only recommended the unions to do this, but enabled them to do so by legislation. Honorable members will recollect that in the Taff-Vale case the workers were made liable for penalties amounting to something like ,£150,000. The matter was compromised later for about £52,000. The workers had to pay £52,000 because of certain action on the part of their unions which they were taken by the Court to have authorized. They complained at the time that the House of Lords, Which had given the ultimate decision, was not favorably constituted from the unions’ point of view, and that it ought to be supplemented in some way so that it would be “ more sympathetic.” I am not going to deal with that phase of the argument, for we all know what it would be to make a Judge “ sympathetic “ whether he presided in an Arbitration or any other Court. Mr. Asquith, under pressure from the Labour party’ in England, actually passed a Bill to absolve the funds of a union from liability for forms of action in respect of which any corporation to-day is liable.
– Was it not after the Ta#-Vale case that Mr. Wise made the recommendation to which the honorable member has referred?
– I think not; it was shortly after the State Act had been brought into operation, and some time before that decision was given.
– In what year was the Ta#-Vale decision given?
– I cannot say.
– I think that if the honorable member looks the matter up he will find that he is in error.
– No; the circumstances were quite different and the cases were not connected. When Mr. Wise was passing this Bill, which was a copy of Mr. Reeves’ Act in New Zealand, through the Upper House, some of the members of that Chamber naturally said, “ You have every security from the employer, because there are his factory, his banking account, and his stock-in-trade, and whatever determination the Court may give may be enforced; but what security have you from the workers?” As honorable members know, it is not possible to follow up, say, 1,000 men who have struck against a determination of the Court and imprison them, because under such circumstances -there would probably be a riot. Indeed, when it has been tried to summon the men for money in police court proceedings it has been found impossible, and, therefore, the members of the Upper House naturally asked what security there was that, the union funds would be liable for any breach of the Act. It was at a subsequent date, and not in any way in connexion with the Taff-Vale case> that Mr. Wise advised that the funds should be placed beyond the reach of such action on the part of the Court. At the present moment, then, the honorable member for Cook is actually busily engaged endeavouring to bring about a federation of unions connected with State enterprises with the intention, by-and-by, of bringing them under the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth Court.;
– A good idea !
– I am very sorry to hear the honorable member say that, because I think it is a very improper object. If honorable members turn to the Bill - which is one of many facets, and one that cannot be exhaustively dealt with in a short parliamentary speech - they will see how far-reaching are its effects. Hitherto the term “ industrial disputes “ has been interpreted as being limited to a demand and a refusal. We understood, I think, that an industrial dispute was a stare of things in which a question had arisen between employers and employed in regard to wages or conditions. The Queensland Worker says that this Bill is intended to extend the operations of the Act to every conceivable branch of industry, and clause 3 shows that to be so. Do honorable members recollect the case in New South Wales where, I think, a butcher did some of his own work after hours? The Court decided that, after the men had ceased their work in the butcher’s shop, the industry was not going on; that is to say, that the master of the shop could do anything he liked after those hours. This Bill is evidently designed to meet a case of that kind, and every conceivable case, because it includes not only what was included under the original Act, but also any dispute in relation to employment in an industry carried on by or under the control of the Commonwealth or a State. One would have thought that the Bill would certainly have avoided using the word “State,” so as to suggest in such a bald, and, I might say, impudent way, an attempt to drag State enterprises into a Commonwealth Court. Does any one suppose for a moment that when power was given under the Constitution to arbitrate with regard to Commonwealth affairs, it was intended to enable this Parliament by devious ways to drag in State enterprises? I da not think that that was ever contemplated, but that the deed of partnership amongst the States was on purely economic grounds in order that we might carry on the functions of government in the most convenient way. We separated all the great functions which apply to the whole of Australia from those which apply peculiarly to the States, and we drew a line of demarcation between the functions, and set up the High Court as an umpire to see that the Commonwealth did not trespass on the State domain, and that the States did not trespass on the Commonwealth domain. But here, by a very ingenious method, an attempt is made to give power over State enterprises; and the honorable member for Cook is trying by federating the unions connected with State enterprises, to create a position in which it may be said that the union extends beyond one State, and that, therefore, a dispute, which consists of a request on the one side and a refusal on the other, is a Federal matter, and may be dragged into the Commonwealth Court. That has all been done because of the discontent with the constitutions of the Upper Houses of the different States. We are constantly having it drilled into us in this House, and outside, that, because the Upper Houses of the States will not do what is required by the workers of the different States, it isdesired to attain in a circuitous way that which cannot be directly obtained in the States through the State Parliaments-
– We are going to get what we want in a direct way - that is why it is in the Bill.
– The honorable member’s notion of directness is not mine. I am quite satisfied that if his mind and my mind were examined, we should be found to have very different ideas of what is direct. I say that the proposed method is not direct. It was never intended by those who framed the Constitution that we should drag in by this side wind adjudication on matters of purely State enterprise, by merely federating the unions of the States. Not only does the Bill say, “or any public authority constituted under the Commonwealth or a State,” but it goes on, “ any threatened or impending, or probable industrial dispute.” I suppose that if it is only necessary to make a demand and have it refused, in order to create a dispute, all that will be necessary to bring about a threatened dispute will be to write through the secretary of a union, and declare that unless something is done, there will be a strike.
– They might ask for a conference.
– But the Bill does not say so. The honorable member for Nepean is one of the unsophisticated members of the House, and I admire him for his innocence.
– Is that why the honorable member is talking to the honorable member for Nepean as he is doing?
– I am not talking to the honorable member for Nepean, but to the “older birds” like the honorable member for Gwydir.
– It is hopeless to talk to the “old birds.”
– That may fee. 1 am quite sure that, although his hands may be tied, the mind of the honorable member for Nepean is . open, and that he . will pay me the compliment of thinking over what I am saying - he is not so hidebound as the honorable . member for Gwydir. The Bill treats not only of an intending dispute, butof a “ probable “ ‘dispute ; . and I ask who is to say that an industrial dispute is “probable”? It is apsychological inquiry ; it will be necessary to bring up a number of employers, and men and ask them whether they think it is probable there will be a strike, or we could consult the wives of the men, from whom we might get the reply, “ Oh, yes, my husband has been dreaming and talking about a strike in his sleep.” If the Judge is satisfied that there is a probable dispute, he can at once come into the arena, and take the matter in hand.
– Prevention is better than cure.
– I do not know whether it always is ; it depends on whether there is a disease. We may, by attempting to cure a disease which does not exist, bring on that disease ; so that . the honorable member’s statement, like a good many others, requires to be considered carefully. This provision is spinning a cobweb of difficulties and restrictions around the very industries upon which we are living. The workers may say that it does not matter what difficulties may be given to the employer, whether individual or company., so long as they receive their Saturday night wage.
– That is what the other side has been saying !
– Neither side ought to say it. Both employer and employed should look to the industry in which they are engaged as the source of their income. If, however, the view be taken that it does not matter what happens to an industry so long as there are high wages and short hours, then God help that industry ! We ought to try to make industries successful, not by means of low wages or bigger profits than the employer deserves, but by remembering the fact that, whether we be employer or employed, the industries are practically the cow whose milk we all share. It is to our interests to look after the condition of the cow, and see that it gets good food, so that it may last as a milker.
– What is the honorable member’s remedy?
– My remedy was voluntary arbitration, the success of which I think I have demonstrated. I do not object to compulsory arbitration, so long as it is made as compulsory for the worker as for the employer. If it is possible to have a repetition of the Newcastle trouble, <?o that the men may accept an award when it suits them, and reject it when it does not, we can never have wholehearted arbitration in Australia. At the time of the coal strike there was a tribunal in existence, but the men refused to avail themselves of it.
– The men had no award.
– There could not be an award unless the men went before the Court.
– The men asked for a conference.
– They asked for something they had not got. What is the good of the Courts of the country if suitors are in a position to say, “ I do not like the Judge, and I wish for a conference with the other side?”
– But the honorable member advocates a conference - voluntary arbitration.
– We are bound by the Court if we bring a Court into existence.
– The honorable member said that he believed in voluntary arbitration, and that is what the men asked for.
– You cannot have both voluntary and compulsory arbitration.
– The honorable member does not desire compulsory arbitration.
– Does the honorable member suppose that I would advocate voluntary arbitration while there is machinery for compulsory arbitration? If I am asked what my ideal is, I say, “ Sweep away all your machinery, and give the power to strike to the men, and the power to lock-out to the owners.” My experience is that under such conditions we had less industrial trouble than at present. We now have compulsory arbitration; and I am dealing with the position as I find it. Such arbitration, I say, will never be successful unless we bind the employe1 as firmly as we bind the employer. In the case of the employer, we have security in his coal mine or manufactory, his machinery and stock-in-trade, and everything that he has.
– You cannot make him work his mines or his machines.
– You cannot, nor can you make the worker work, but that is not the question.
– Then they are both in exactly the same position.
– The honorable member has somebody to deal with now who is quite equal to him. if he will allow me to say so. It is all very well for him to say that because you cannot make the employer work his industry you must therefore have arbitration. I admit that you cannot make the employer carry on his industry, and it is quite right that you should not, and you cannot make the worker work unless he wants to work ; but if he is and has been working, then I say, with regard to what he is doing, have your arbitration. Industrial trouble cannot exist if the employer never works his industry. Lots of men in this country have been employers of labour, and have given it up, and you cannot compel them to go into business again. Honorable members will remember cases in which great works have been shut up. Take the big iron works of New South Wales, with 1,000 men in them. On one day they closed up and went out of existence, because of industrial troubles. Could the owner be. compelled to go back into business? Of course not. I am trying to be quite fair in this matter, but honoi able members opposite are fencing with me in an unfair way. If an employer likes to go out of business he should be allowed to do so, and the employe should be allowed to go out of business if he likes, but if the employer and the employe1 are at work you have the choice of voluntary or compulsory arbitration.
– That was not the question in the case of the iron works.
– It was a question with the men. What was the name of the company?
– Yes, P. N. Russell and Company.
– He was a_ millionaire when he told his men to go. I know the history of the case.
– The honorable member is an encyclopaedia on New South Wales history, and that is why I appealed to him. Now let me show the bearing of that case. The Attorney-General’s interjection had no application to my argument. I admit that you cannot make an employer carry on his industry unless he likes, and who would suggest that a law should be made to compel men to go into business? Nor can you compel the employe1 to work, but if you have an employer and employe’s engaged with one another, and you want some means of settling disputes, you have your choice between the voluntary arbitration, such as I have described as existing in Victoria for years, or compulsory arbitration. If you have compulsory arbitration, it must be compulsory. It is not compulsory when one side can snap their fingers at it, like the man in Punch, who said, “Call that arbitration? Why it has been given agin’ us.” It was not arbitration at all in his opinion, unless he got the award. In this Bill we are seeking to establish compulsory arbitration, and if it is to be compulsory do not let the adjective *be a fraud. Let the arbitration be compulsory on both sides.
– What would the honorable member suggest to make it compulsory - imprisonment ?
– It could be made compulsory as suggested by the article in the Brisbane Worker of last week, which says that if one side is bound the other ought to be bound. How can they be bound? By contributions. Is it not fair to call upon every member of the unions to contribute to a guarantee fund for the Arbitration Court, so that if the decision of the Court is ignored, if the men strike instead of going to the Court, or if they refuse to obey the award of the Court, the Court will be able to say, “ You have broken through the Act, and we award the employer so much money as the assessment of the value of your breach, and that money must come out of your funds?” Will any honorable member opposite say that that is not an honest proposal ? Does it not go to the very heart of this idea of compulsory arbitration? Why, then, is there nothing of that sort in the Bill? If the Attorney-General looks at the Brisbane Worker, which you, Mr. Speaker, think I ought not to read here, he will find it laid down in black and white that to make arbitration a complete means of settling industrial disputes the Court must have the power to fine the employe1 as well as the employer. That is what I was coming to, and the Attorney-General’s interjection did not touch it. Honorable members will see by paragraph c -of clause 2 that the province of the Court is to be extended further and further until its limits become almost invisible. It is provided that the section in the old Act shall be amended by adding to the definition of “ industrial matters “ the following words: -
And includes all questions of what is fair and right in relation to any industrial matter having regard to the interests of the persons immediately concerned and of society as a whole.
Will honorable members consider where that will end? The Judge of the Court is to be a sort of foster-mother to the community. As soon as it is made clear to him that an industrial dispute is not only imminent but even proba”ble, he must inquire into it and adjudicate as to what is fair and right, taking into consideration, not only the interests of the workmen and employers, but of “ society as a whole.” It is Arcadian to a degree ; it is idealistic, and it is absolutely impracticable. The Bill has not been conceived with a true view of the public interest, because the public interest demands that the industries of this country shall go on. We should not weave a cobweb of impossible regulations round our industrial life, so as to deter men from entering into it. This web of regulations may be made so difficult that men who have made a little money will say, “ I won’t be bothered.” It is all very well to reply that if they go out others will come in, but we do not want them to go out. We want to fill Australia. We want to induce a sufficient number of men to go into business to give employment to thousands and even millions of people, because upon that depends the safety of Australia in matters of defence. How can we hope to continue to occupy a continent as large as Europe with a population that could be put into two-thirds of London? How can we hope to build up a great country? Mr. Coghlan, the ex-Government Statist of New South Wales, said there was only one other country in the world more sparsely populated than Australia, and that was the polar regions. He pointed that out in his annual treatise on the vital statistics of Australia. How are we going to build the country up unless we facilitate industry? If we attack the question in the proper spirit, looking upon industry as an interest upon which both the workmen and employers depend for their activities, then we shall not weave such . a cobweb of regulations around it as to make it almost impossible for an employer to carry on his work satisfactorily. I wish to say a word about the question of unions. It has been made clear to the House that the unions should be open to all, if all parts of Australia are to be embraced within the jurisdiction of the Court. If preference to unionists is to be given, the doors of the unions ought to be thrown open. That may be admitted now theoretically, but will it be admitted in practice? The honorable member for Wentworth quoted yesterday a number of cases, one of which, in particular, was very interesting and very serious. It occurred in New South Wales, where a man was practically shut out of a union by being told that it would cost him £5. to enter.
– That does not exist now.
– I know that it does not. I am using it simply to illustrate human nature - the human nature of which unions are made to-day. We have before us, to illustrate the feeling that exists even to-day, the book published by the honorable member for Darling, and which is still hot from the press, for it has been- published for only six months. In it the author “gives the most humorous description of the way in which a man was ducked in a river, and practically threatened with drowning, because he would not join a union. The thing is so. ludicrous that it beggars description, and even comment.
– It was not that he would not join a union it was because he was helping the employer in the fight - a very different situation.
– Poor devil! He was helping the employer. Whom should he help ?
– His mates.
– Then his obligations are not to the man who pays him, but to> the men who are competing with him? That is a new doctrine. Any man who condones or approves, of that incident is as bad as the honorable member for Darling, who once said that a “ blackleg “ or “scab” was not entitled to Christian burial. When I reminded him of that, in a previous speech, he went one better, and said that such a man was a criminal.
– Very likely he was, too.
– There is another honorabie member ! If those are the sentiments of unionists-
– It is quite a humanitarian movement !
– It is humanitarian in a strange way. I often hear Labour members talk of Karl Marx as a great authority whom they follow, but they ignore several of his statements, particularly that there is a brotherhood among, men, irrespective of colour or creed. They do not like that, but they pick what they like out of a man’s writings, just as they pick what they like out of the Arbitration Court. It cannot be expected that fairness will be shown, or common liberty allowed, when some of the leaders of the party opposite, like the honorable member for Darling, president of one. of the biggest unions in Australia, openly say that a man is a criminal, and is not fit for Christian burial, because he does not join a union.
– I said that anti-unionists were of the criminal class.
– People who are of the criminal class are criminals, or they would not be in that class. Therefore, if those men are put by the honorable member in that class, they are criminals, out of the honorable member’s own mouth. . If those are the views, that honorable, members opposite are going to put into operation,. God help the country that is to be governed by them ! I do not believe they are. I could name many honorable members opposite with whom I have been acquainted for years, and some with whom I have been very shortly acquainted, who, I am sure, do not indorse the humanitarian views of the honorable member for Darling. What provision is there in this Bill to compel, a union to open its doors to non-unionists, and to give some sort of guarantee that when a non-unionist does enter he will be properly treated, and not have vented upon him the sort of feeling expressed in such humanitarian terms by the honorable member for Darling? There is none.
– The Judge of the Court will see that free access is given into the union, and that no injustice is done to any non-unionist.
– If I had to deal only with the honorable member, I should be prepared to leave the whole thing in his hands. He has demonstrated, particularly in New South Wales, that he is worthy to sit on the Bench and adjudicate between employers and employes. Let me ask him if he indorses the sentiments expressed by the honorable member for Darling .
– No, I do not.
– I was sure that the honorable member did not, and I am sure there are many other members in the party who would scout the idea. The honorable member for Darling ought to blush for having uttered such sentiments, if he has not got beyond that stage.
– He could not blush if he were a member of the legal profession.
– The honorable member has inflammation of the. brain on the subject of the legal profession. Honorable members speak as if the legal profession were analogous to a union. Now, in. the first place, the members of that profession have nothing to do with the exclusion from it of those who have not qualified to practice. If I had my way, I would allow any man to practice, knowing that he would succeed only if he had merit in him. I see no reason why men should not be admitted to practise law as they are admitted to practise architecture or civil engineering, unless it be the need for preventing the wasting of the time of the Courts. There is another fact which shows that there is no parallel between unions and the legal profession. The members of a trade union are bound down to a certain scale of charges. If they do not charge according to that scale, they are branded as criminals, and may be ducked in a river. Does that happen in the legal profession?
– Lawyers who do not charge the proper fees may be boycotted.
– The honorable member seems to know less about the subject than did the honorable member who made the comparison I know that there are juniors at the Bar who receive a guinea for work for which a senior may get as much as twenty guineas. But the senior bears no ill-will to the junior who takes less than he asks. He recognises that he had to act similarly when a. young man, in order to bring himself before the public.
When this junior and senior are afterwards engaged in the same case, they confer amicably regarding it, and probably dine together in order to discuss it.
– Do they discuss the case or the client?
– Probably they discuss a variety of matters. The dinner is not paid for by the client, if that is what the honorable member means. Remembering the parallel which I am refuting, he per haps thinks that every charge that can be made is dragged in.
– I have seen a bill of costs.
– The honorable member has not seen a dinner charged for in a bill of costs. Honorable members are not considering this matter as seriously as the case merits. They forget that 4.500,000 persons are awaiting the effect of this legislation ; though the Minister who has charge of it is not in the Chamber. That often happens in connexion with Government measures.
– He has been called out on important business.
– I know it. I recognise that I am only beating the wind, so far as the House is concerned, and that my speech will not have any effect upon the votes of honorable members opposite.
– Then, why not let us come to a division?
– Because I wish the community to know what is to be said against the Bill. I have the right to let the people know my views regarding it. I have given a quarter of a century to the study of these questions, and my mental attitude towards society enables me to lay down a pretty good programme of what should be done. I do not view with favour the flippant spirit in which some honorable members regard the discussion. I hope 1 have disposed of, completely and for all time, the attempted parallel between trade unions and the legal profession.
– Does not the complacency of the twenty-guinea barrister arise from the fact that he has all the work that be can do?
– No. Of course I took an extreme case. I might have given a better illustration had I fixed the amounts at one guinea and twenty guineas respectively. The exclusion of unqualified men from the legal profession is the work, not of the members of that profession, but of the Courts, which are supported in this matter by the Parliaments of the country.
There is no standard fee in the profession, and nothing of the kind mentioned by the honorable member for Darling occurs in it. Can we imagine a barrister who generally got twenty guineas for a piece of work pushing into the harbor another who had taken one guinea for similar work, or calling him a criminal, and telling him that he was not entitled to Christian burial?
– There are more severe ways of punishing a man than by throwing him into a river.
– It is worse to call a man a criminal than to duck him in a river.
– The members of the legal profession are not compelled to take the same view in politics.’
– Neither politics nor anything else is dragged into their business. The comparison was a ludicrous one. I wish now to touch on the concession which has been at last wrung from the trade unions, that a minimum wage cannot be fixed for all classes of employment. The Bill provides that, when a man has shown himself too old or incapable to earn the minimum wage, a Judge may allow him to accept less. Before there was any such thing as arbitration, employes could exercise their discretion as to what they would accept, just as employers could say what men were worth. To-day many employers pay the minimum wage to men whose superiority would enable them- to demand much more were it possible to grade the whole staff in accordance with capacity.
– An employer can always grade men up.
– The honorable member’s observations regarding employers are always one-sided. He is one of the bitterest in the House on this subject, looking upon an employer as a person out of whom something is to be got. I have never detected in him that balance of judgment which should characterize a Judge on the bench or a member of Parliament, who have to do justice to all parties.
– I am afraid that the honorable member’s powers of observation are deficient.
– The honorable member’s powers of acting are equal to what he thinks my powers of observation to be”. Before the minimum wage was provided, employers graded their men according to their view of their worth. I do not say that they always graded them fairly, though I have known of many cases in which employers have paid more than the minimum wage. But the Arbitration Court declared that all men are equal ; that is to say, that no man must be paid less than a certain rate. Now, what has been discovered ? That, because of this rule, old and incapable men have been put aside. When a minimum rate is fixed, the employer naturally says, “ I shall select only such men as will do the best work ; the slow and the old must go.” Thus you have a system, not of natural, but of legal, selection. The employer is not allowed to pay the old, the slow,- and the incapable, in accordance with what they can do.
– Is not regard paid to the quality as well as to the quantity of work done ?
– I am merely speaking of what happens to men who cannot do the quantity of work required, or turn out work of the quality necessary. When an employer recognises that the quality of a man’s work neutralizes his slowness, he acknowledges that he is fit for his position.
– Slow men are found in every industry.
– And there aremany men who never do an honest day’swork ; but these considerations do not affect the argument. The provision in the Bill isan admission of the failure of the minimumwage principle. It allows the Court tosay that men who are too old or infirm todo work worth the minimum wage may bepermitted to accept a lower wage. It is recognised that otherwise many men must starve. This is not a new admission. Many years ago, when Wages Boards were first established in Victoria, old menhad to ask for permission to accept lessthan the prescribed rates of pay. But have honorable members thought of the humiliation to a decent man of being compelled to declare to a Court or other authority that he is incapable of doing an ordinary day’s work, and, therefore, has toask for permission, in a free country, to work for something less than the minimum rate of pay prescribed for his occupation?
– Has not the fixing of minimum rates of wages improved the position of the employes?
– Were the honorable member to ask me for my views onart, the question would be no more irrelevant. We humiliate men when we compel them to inform a Court that they are unable to do the work required by an employer to earn the minimum rate prescribed for their occupation, but that they can get employment at a lower wage if they are permitted to take it. This provision requires men to advertise to all and sundry that they are old, or incapable, or infirm. In a free country they ought to be allowed to do without consulting anyone what we empower the Court to give them permission to do. I asked the Attorney-General, when he was speaking on the second reading, the meaning of the words ‘ ‘ other things being equal,” in reference to the preference to unionists clause, and he said that that was a matter for the employers. Suppose two men apply for a job - a unionist and a non-unionist - how are the words to be interpreted? The unionist may be a bright, energetic looking fellow, and the non-unionist apparently less capable; but the employer may choose the latter on the ground that he knows the unionist to be less conscientious. He may say, “ This particular unionist will not work honestly when my back, is turned.” Would he be allowed to employ the non-unionist because he felt that, although slow, he- would be a steady worker ? Or the employer might know that the non-unionist, though apparently less energetic than the unionist, was capable of doing better work, and could turn out a better result. Would he then be allowed to employ him ? Is he to have the choice in all cases, or what is to be done? I do not know what test is to be applied. No standard is mentioned in the Bill. That being so, when is he to have the right, which is apparently conferred upon him under the Bill, of making his own choice? I do not propose to go at any greater length into this matter, because I shall reserve to myself the right to deal with this and other questions in Committee. You have properly held, Mr. Speaker, that it is not desirable that honorable members should deal seriatim with the clauses, and, in view of your decision, I shall not attempt to do so. I ask honorable members opposite, however, to assist me by influencing the Government to agree to the equitable provision that unions shall be compelled in the first place, whether they wish to dip a non-unionist into a river or not, whether they think him criminal or not, whether they consider him entitled to a Christian burial or not, to admit to their ranks every applicant for admission, so long as he is prepared to pay the ordinary contributions. I should have liked to go further, and to compel unions under this Bill to desist from using union moneys for political purposes. It is obviously unfair that a man, on entering a union for industrial purposes, should be compelled to embrace the political doctrines of the other members of the union.
– What about the political funds of associations of employers?
– They determine that matter amongst themselves.
– So do the unions.
– Will the hon- 01 able member cite a single case where a union of employers has refused to admit to its ranks an employer on the ground that he does not share the political views of its members? I have never heard of a case, although I have been connected with such institutions for years; and I undertake to say that the honorable member for Fawkner has never heard of such an occurrence. But, because the bulk of the members of a union of employes are supporting a Socialistic paper, every man who enters that union, although he cannot obtain work as a non-unionist, is bound to contribute, in some cases, towards a fund for maintaining that newspaper. Is that honest? Can it be said that the balance between the classes is being held fairly? If honorable members come here in the spirit of arbitrators to decide between the employers and the employes of Australia, can they say that that is a fair thing? . They profess to hold the balance evenly, to place a- bandage over their eyes, and to do justice; but is that justice? Is it justice for the Labour party to say to a man, “ We are passing a law to compel you to join our union, which deprives you of your freedom as a workman and which compels you, as a member of a union, to support a newspaper which espouses political views that you hate”? Is that Liberalism ? Is it Radicalism ? Is it Democracy ? I hold that it is tyranny of the very worst character.
– As a matter of fact, it is mostly imagination.
– Surely the honorable gentleman will admit that what I have said is possible. Cases of the kind have occurred. If, however, there is no such possibility - if all this is mere imagination - why are the Government not prepared to compel the unions to admit men to their ranks, and to free every man who joins them from having to contribute towards anything that can be used for political purposes ?
– Can the honorable member name many cases where the members of unions have to do this sort of thing ?
– I could ; but I cannot remember specific instances at the moment. I know of cases where men have been compelled to join unions whose fees involve payments to support a newspaper.
– The Australian Workers’ Union is the only union ; I was one of the trustees of the old Worker newspaper ; and no union was compelled to contribute a penny to its support.
– The honorable member for East Sydney cites a case which I give to the honorable member for Adelaide. He has it out of the mouth of one of his fellow members.
– But the honorable member said that men were compelled to contribute to papers, the policies of which they hated.
– If honorable members desire to hold the scales fairly, they should free men as was done under the principal Act. Under that Act, a union, if it desires to come within the jurisdiction of the Court, cannot spend money for political purposes. This Bill repeals that provision. It says, in effect, that unions shall be allowed to use money for political purposes ; and it goes further, and declares that every man must join a union, since preference is to be given to unionists. That is obviously unfair. I have, after all, the consolation that, no matter what legislators may do, these things, to a large extent, right themselves ; and I am satisfied that, even although the majority of this House, sympathizing with labour may pass a measure which is unfair, it will act as a boomerang. If this Bill, when brought into operation, proves to be obviously unfair, uncharitable, and unjust, then I am perfectly certain it will go largely to work a change in the attitude of the people towards the Labour body j that a time will come when reprisals will follow, and that this party, recognising that unfairness has taken place, will have an opportunity of rectifying it. I hope that will never be necessary. That is why I make this appeal to honorable members opposite to try to bring to bear on the Prime Minister and the Attorney-General their view of what is fair and just. I appeal to them to see that the Attorney-General does not take his whole pound of flesh, or that, if he does, that he does not take any blood with it. I appeal to them to see that the scales are held evenly, and to act-on the principle that it is more important that the law should be certain than it is that it should be right. Let the people know what they are going to have, and let us have a measure which the industrial masters of this country can rely upon as a permanent enactment, under which they can conduct their enterprises.
– - I nave listened with some degree of pleasure to the honorable member for Parkes, who has given us a long dissertation upon the abstract question of arbitration. At the outset, he reminded us of a beautiful speech which he delivered on a previous occasion, and said that if it were set to music he should describe it as “ Canto No. 1.” I think we should be right in describing his latest effort as “ Canto No. 2.” Surely at this stage it is hardly necessary to make long speeches upon die abstract question of arbitration. Had the honorable member expressed at the beginning of his speech the sentiment that he uttered at the close of it - the sentiment that we ought to go into Committee without delay - I should have listened to him with a great deal more pleasure. He touched on die psychology of the movement, and I should have been glad had he discussed what is likely to be the psychological effect of a good wage upon the unborn generations of Australia.
– The honorable member for Parkes, having made a lot of charges, has left the chamber.
– No doubt it is tedious for die Opposition to listen to the views of honorable members on this side of the House.
– -No. it is a great relief to hear the dumb speak.
– Judging by the interjection, the honorable member thinks that the Labour party are kept under the whip as closely as followers of the Fusion Government were. I can assure him that we are not. Every member of our party who desires to speak is free to do so; he is not afraid of one of his own party moving That the question be now put.”
– Such a motion would be justifiable, having regard to the state of the Opposition benches.
– The question is too important to be gagged j and such a step is not likely to be taken by our party in regard to this or any other question at the present time. The unfortunate workers, however, have been gagged long enough. It is time to take the gag from them, and to give them full freedom to work in the industries of Australia, and to obtain a fair living wage. I could not help remarking a surprising element of fairness in the speech made by the honorable member for Parkes as compared with speeches that were heard in the early days of this question. It is amazing to find that men who fought us tooth and nail are acknowledging to-day that arbitration is necessary, and that we must have unions and associations of men in the different industries. They would, of course, amend the arbitration legislation that we propose, but I am thankful to see that they have advanced as far as they have. Their position to-day shows that, after all, one should never abandon hope in respect of even the hardest-hearted opponents of great reform movements ; but, unfortunately, the pioneers of these movements have to suffer the penalty of misrepresentation at the hands of interested people. I have, in my constituency, many thousands of the unfortunate farmers who it is said are going to be ruined by this legislation. I commence to feel somewhat alarmed, and to think it is time to pack up and get out of this’ cursed land, when we are told that an industry is so weak, wretched, and rotten, that it is unable to pay a decent wage. There is no country in the world, except Australia, where men would be so unpatriotic as to use such ridiculous arguments. The farming industry is in a flourishing condition, going ahead by leaps and bounds, and our goods are making a name in the markets of the world. Never before could the agricultural industries so well afford to pay a decent wage. The charge of legislating for one class of the community only cannot be made against the Labour party. In their legislative proposals, now to be placed on the statutebook, thanks to the great vote of 13th April, the unbiased will find abundance of assistance to be given to all classes of the community. The only one for whom nothing is to be done is the sweater; and, if we sum up the arguments against the Bill, we find that the specious pleas are, after all, in defence of the poor unfortunate sweater. What is to become of him? His case is really too sad ! Whether the sweater be a farmer, Joshua, the brandy man, or any other person-
– Joshua is the Labour party’s friend.
– I do nol know whether Joshua is a sweater - he may or may not be - but whatever industry a man is interested in-
– Mr. Joshua said that he made a great mistake in having anything to do with the Fusion.
– Conversions fall thick upon us - nothing succeeds like success ! We have been waiting for years for the glorious light of voluntary conciliation and arbitration, but it has not come along; in fact, we have been waiting, just as vainly, for 2,000 years, for voluntary Christianity.
– Are we to have Christianity by compulsion?
– We are going to compel the anti-Christian to show some Christianity in his dealings with his employes. Christianity, after 2,000 years, has failed on the voluntary plan, and it is about time that some were compelled to act as Christians. The honorable member for Parkes was very unfair in branding my worthy comrade in the Labour cause, the honorable member for Darling, with the charge of approving the dipping of a man in a river because be would not join a union. There is no more kindly or humane gentleman in this House than the honorable member for Darling ; there is none who is softer or kinder in his method of endeavouring to urge men to stand together in a brotherly spirit, and fight for what is right in unionism. In one of his books, which is well worth perusal, the honorable member for Darling refers to the incident, which happened many years ago, and the attempt of the honorable member for Parkes is shown to be positively absurd. In the early days, when men were struggling to get a decent wage, and there was no arbitration, unions resorted, to many devices. To-day, however, we are in- a different position; we have scaled many heights that years ago seemed impossible; and the method now is moral suasion. There is very little coercion of any kind, though the other side have the great power of coercing men who are hungry and have no money in their purses. The employer possesses a powerful weapon, and it would appear that the honorable member for Parkes desires to leave him free to use it in this year, 1910, in the Commonwealth of Australia. I have observed for several years now that one of the main causes of the farmers’ trouble has been the absence of organization amongst the men they employ. Farmers are very often obliged to take men who drift about, unprotected by any union, and who are, as a matter of fact, derelicts. Of course, amongst those employed in country pursuits are some splendid men.
– The farm labourer is just as good as any other class of unskilled labourer in Australia.
– The men to whom I refer as causing trouble are those whom it has been found impossible to organize. The better class of farm workers give no trouble, because he who is a man at all regards his employer’s rights as well as his own, as does the arbitration which this Bill seeks to establish. While we have a system of private employer and private employe, both sides must be considered; and to say that the Labour party does not give that consideration is to say what is not correct. Right through the Labour movement, as I have known it for twenty years, the aim has always been to consider the master as well as the man; and yet, time after time, we hear this ridiculous and unfounded allegation of selfishness made against the party. We should be utterly unworthy to legislate for a continent if such a charge could be sustained. Our justification is that we take things as they are, and endeavour to better them so far as we can under the present system.
– A large number of capitalists are now anxious to- be Labour candidates-
– We welcome any converted capitalist into our movement. The speech of the honorable member for Parkes has shown conclusively that it is impossible by means of- arbitration to get all that is required for the workers. If any man thinks that arbitration will bring about the millennium for wage earners he is making a great mistake. As I say, we welcome capitalists into our movement s6 that we may proceed to other reforms which will result in a more equitable distribution of the wealth of Australia.
– What other reforms ?
– If I did not know the age of the honorable member, and his experience in political wiles, I might take more notice of his interjection.
– It is time the honorable member told us what the Bill is to do !
– The Bill will not give us the millennium or reform our present industrial system ; many other measures are essential before anything like justice can be had for the wealth producers of Australia. But the Bill will give us a chance, under present conditions, to secure for every man in every industry a decent wage; it will bring those men I spoke of in the farming industry, as well as other men, into consolidated association, and give them, in their unity, a strength they could never hope for as isolated individuals. Further, the Bill will give a chance for collective bargaining on the part of the weakest classes of employes in this country. From what I know of the better class of farmers they will welcome the day when their employe’s are members of associated bodies; in fact, they freely say that they have no objection to unionism so long as all the workers are in the union - that it is when a few are in the unions, and many outside, that continual war and trouble arise. Of course, the sweater does not like the Bill - the sweater, with his tiny atom of a soul, which could not be seen on the point of a needle, and who has no feeling of brotherhood or Christianity in his bosom. He does not wish to see any power on the other side to bargain for a decent wage, but would rather go on in the old way, and, with his big banking account, fight the chap with the hungry belly. The Labour party recognise that they have to meet the people within three years ; and it is sheer humbug to say that we would propose legislation calculated to injure the community in any way. Surely we are as sensitive as honorable members opposite to the rebound of public opinion, and we may be given credit for having carefully thought these questions over. They have been debated in the House for a number of years and mouthed from every platform in the Commonwealth ; and it is absurd to contend, apparently as a means of delay, that we should now go into extreme detail on matters that are fully understood by all. The honorable member for Parkes seems to be in favour of arbitration which will cut both ways; and it surprises me to find people who desire to see big funds behind the unions, objecting to men joining those unions. If it is desired to throw responsibility on the unions, and secure that they may be punishable by fines for any infringement of the law, then surely there is no better way than to get al] the men into the union. In fighting amongst the men on the question of arbitration, we expect to find, and do find, many who have the most absurd ideas of what we can do, just the same as we do amongst the employers. Every man who has fought long in this movement realizes that, but I challenge honorable members opposite to prove wherein our proposed arbitration legislation would specially injure the employer to the benefit of the employe. That is an argument that will not hold water. There is no. provision in this Bill which will have that effect. There is nothing in it which will injure any man who is conscientious enough to admit that the man he employs has equal claims with himself to a livelihood and to citizenship. The argument that high wages create high prices in other quarters, and that if employes in Australia get higher wages the storekeeper will immediately put up his prices, has nothing to do with the question at issue, but it shows that the time has arrived to deal drastically with the middleman as well as the bad employer. People’ who are not doing a fair thing will have to be dealt with, and in our party we have men who are quite prepared to deal with them. On behalf of the farmers, I would say that the farmer’s price for his produce is just as much his wage as the money he pays to his men is their wage, and it is high time that we considered, not only the consumer, but the raw producer. The best thing we can do is to fight towards cooperation, not only between employer and employ^, ‘but between consumer and producer. In fact, co-operation seems a far better ideal to strive for than to be always putting new patches on the old garment in the shape of the existing system. What we are doing is simply one continual patchwork and readjustment, and it seems to me that we shall have to make our patches very much larger, or make up our minds to have a new garment. I promised not to delay the House by going into a long speech on the arbitration question in the abstract.
– The honorable member has not touched the Bill yet.
– I do not intend to touch it much, but I want to tell the Government that the Bill does not go far enough to suit me. Honorable members opposite have been complaining that there is too much in it. To my mind, there is not enough in it. I do riot know, or wish to know, what method the Government follow in introducing their measures. They have their ways, as I suppose all Cabinets have, and their rights as to procedure, but I feel sure, as a member of this great party, that in this Bill we have ‘not got the last word on arbitration during this Parliament. I trust that we shall get many other reforms in arbitration before the term of this Parliament expires. For instance, we hav§ advocated in this party for years that lawyers should be kept out of the Arbitration Courts.
– We are with the honorable member.
– I do not mean absolutely excluded in the sense that, perhaps, the honorable member understands, but we consider that wealth should not have in the Arbitration Court the predominating power that it has in practically all other Courts. We argue that if any union desires to have laymen representing it, it should have the right to object to a legal gentleman being employed on the other side.
– Then there will be legal secretaries of the various associations.
– Hear, hear. I would clear out the lot of the paid ‘advocates.
– The honorable member for Parramatta would allow the worker to work without wages before the Court. That is all right from the point of view of his side, which represents those who own the wealth. If a man has a few thousand pounds in the bank he can afford to have a bit of fun and relaxation by appearing before the Arbitration Court and supporting his own side of a question. But what would the other man have to say to his wife and little ones if he was involved in an Arbitration Court fight for several weeks and got no wages? I can see no objection to paying laymen. I have lived in New Zealand, where the principle that I advocate has been in force for many years, and the unions can object to legal gentlemen appearing before the Court. The result has been that cases have taken a few days or weeks to settle, where, in Australia, they take months, because of the legal gentlemen engaged in them. The reason is plain. The men in selecting a representative to go into the Court to fight their battle choose one who knows the conditions he is fighting for, who is in sympathy with them, and who wants to see the case cost them as little as possible. He does not want to see the expense run into thousands of pounds, and so he does not unnecessarily prolong the proceedings. The very fact that he is identified with the industry and understands it precludes the prolongation of the Case. It is- the same on the employers’ side. Put the average decent employer on his oath in an Arbitration Court, and you will get him to give the case for his side in one day, whereas there would be about a month’s wrangle .if there were lawyers present to draw certain points out of him or to protect him. I do not advocate this reform because I have any animus against legal gentlemen. Lawyers, as well as other men, are worth their hire when they earn their money. I do not grudge them their pay for the work they do, and I was delighted to hear the honorable member for Parkes say that he makes those who can afford it pay the big fees. If that glorious principle were followed out in the legal profession there would, perhaps, be less to grumble at. But on behalf of the men who have to fight these industrial battles on behalf of the unions, which have to face the ‘ employers in the Courts, and which can ill afford to pay large fees to their representatives, the Government ought to include in the Bill at this juncture a clause empowering either side to object to the omployment of a lawyer before the Court.
– Or the employment ot anybody else with special payment.
– I do not know about special payment. Any workman is worthy of his hire, and if a man is not paid a direct wage- he must be paid something. Surely the honorable member would not expect a man to work before the Arbitration Court for nothing.
– I am talking about special fees.
– I am against’ special fees.
– For instance, Comrade Sutch’s five guineas a da)’ - that is what I meant.
– I know nothing about Mr. Sutch. I know enough of the unions to trust them to manage their own affairs. The employers are quite capable of managing theirs also. I have nothing to say against what either side voluntarily gives to any man who represents it in the Court.
– I am with the honorable member there-
– If either side is given the right to object to the employ ment of lawyers, and if the case does not involve a lot of technicalities, no lawyer will .be employed. If it is a simple case it will be put before the Court by a layman on either side, the matter will be rapidly settled, and there will be far less expense to both sides. At present, if an employer, by reason of his wealth, chooses to engage a lawyer, the union is compelled to engage another lawyer to fight him, because the uninitiated layman gets the worst of it in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred on points of law and technicalities when pitted against a lawyer. It is high time we struck a direct .blow at the root of the ridiculous cost of getting justice in this Court.
– Does the honorable member suggest that objection by one of the parties should be fatal ?
– Yes, and T urge the ‘ Government to embody that principle in the Bill.
– Prevent the employment of any sort of specially paid specialists, whether lay or legal, and we are with you.
– I object to the employment of lawyers and to special payments, but I do not see how we can legislate against the latter. Of course, if the Government like to load up the Bill in that way I have no objection, but I specially wish to save the workers from the cost entailed on them by quibbles raised by the- legal fraternity. The -New South Wales arbitration legislation, passed by a Government somewhat hostile to it, has been a God-send to the legal fraternity, but employers and employe’s have’ both suffered. Will the Government amend the Bill in the direction I suggest?
– To take away the discretion .of the President? The section as it stands says that counsel may appear by leave of the President.
– I do not wish that to be provided for. The unions and the employers are the parties who have the battles to fight. I am opposed to putting into the Bill a provision like that in the Electoral Act, which allows counsel to appear at the discretion of the Court.
– I shall consider the matter.
– If the honorable member does what I suggest, we shall have attained something at which we have been aiming for many years. The unions, in New South Wales in particular, have been urging for years that the cost of arbitration is one of the worst features of the system. Arbitration is thrust on them, and they have to pay highly for it,- because of the intricate matters brought into disputes by the legal gentlemen who try to make as much as they can out of them.
– We should get rid of both the legal and the lay lawyers.
– Some one must appear before the Court to fight the battle for the opposing sides. No doubt the Government will be pleased to receive the honorable member’s support. Whether we represent the employers or employes, we desire that justice shall be done, and I maintain that justice cannot be done unless lawyers are kept out of the Court.
– Does the honorable member suggest that I represent the employers? I represent him for one. Is he an employer?
– Yes j and an employe^ too. I judge honorable members by the company which they keep, and the company which the honorable member kept on polling day would not lead one to believe that he was a representative of the employes. That, however, is beside the question, and I have no wish to be personal. I hope that there will be no shrieking on behalf of this or that industry, and that honorable gentlemen have sufficient faith in the great agricultural industry to believe that it can pay decent wages. I hope that members opposite will agree with those on this side that industries which cannot bear the scrutiny of an Arbitration Court, and have to sweat their employes to create profits for the employers, should not be allowed to exist. I hope that they will accept our ideal of a Commonwealth in which all men shall be able to earn at least a living wage by working for reasonable hours, and shall be able to rear families of young Australians for the future defence of this great continent.
.- Although the case against the Bill has been exhaustively and ably stated by several honorable members on this side, I wish to summarize briefly, and in less detail than has characterized some previous speeches, my objections to the proposed amendment of the arbitration law. I have never been an opponent of compulsory arbitration for the settlement of industrial disputes, and ns a member of the Federal Convention 1 helped to place in the Constitution the provision which enables this Parliament to make laws for the prevention and settle ment of industrial disputes extending beyond the borders of any one State. I am not aware that any one on the Opposition side who has adversely criticised the Bill has taken exception to the application of the principle of compulsory arbitration for the settlement of industrial disputes.
– The honorable member for Parkes did so.
– When the first Arbitration Bill was brought in, I advocated compulsory arbitration, showing that the State had the right, for the preservation of the public peace, to take what means it thought best for the settlement of industrial disputes which, unless brought to an end, might develop into civil warfare. The preservation of the public. peace is the jus,tification for legislation of this kind. The Act of 1904 fairly represents the views of the Parliament of that day, and created workable machinery for the settlement by arbitration of industrial disputes coming within the meaning of the Constitution. No doubt, there were critical divisions on some of its provision’s, many of which are compromises effected to make the measure workable and acceptable to the public. I have not heard it proved in this debate that that legislation has broken down. The sweeping changes proposed by the Bill have not been justified. The Attorney-General told us this afternoon, in reply to a question which I put to him, that the Court has already settled at least nine industrial disputes ; and it is to be inferred from that fact that our legislation is meeting the requirements of the public. I fail to see, therefore, why the Government have introduced the Bill as a matter of urgency, and appear, determined to carry their views into effect without showing the need -for amending the existing law. It does not appear that our legislation has been defective, or even that the Court is prevented from granting preference to unionists, should that relief be thought necessary. The powers of the Court have not been shown to be inadequate for the settlement of the disputes coming before it. Apparently, the Bill has been brought in, either to give effect to mere theory, or to carry out election pledges. Some of the proposed amendments enlarge and extend the powers of the President of the Arbitration Court, while others restrict them, and limit his discretion and judicial authority. This interference is not shown to be necessary in either direction. I wish it tq be distinctly understood that I was a supporter of the principal Act, and would not oppose amendments necessary for- its improvement. That is, I think, the position of all on this side. But we hold that the proposed amendments are unnecessary, and that many, if made, will tend to render our legislation less popular and less successful. I shall briefly state the grounds of my opposition to the Bill. It seems to me that the amended definition of “ industrial dispute,” which instructs the Court to have regard to the interests of society as a whole, cannot assist the President in the administration of the Act. He must be guided by. the Constitution, which allows us to legislate only for the settlement of industrial disputes extending beyond the borders of one State. We cannot extend or restrict the meaning of the term ‘ ‘ industrial disputes,” as used in the Constitution. We may restrict the jurisdiction of the Arbitration Court; but we cannot enlarge it beyond the scope allowed by the Constitution. What, then, is the use of this definition? I fail to see why the AttorneyGeneral proposes the adoption of mere empty words. Clause 7, too, appears to go dangerously near the margin of unconstitutionality, since it empowers the Court to grant relief and remedies not applied for in the plaint submitted to it. It appears to me that if effect be given to that clause it will confer upon the President of the Court a jurisdiction not authorized by the Constitution. Sub-section xxxv. of section 5 only gives the Court jurisdiction to deal with industrial disputes - matters of actual controversy that have originated prior to the parties concerned going into Court.
– Industrial matters arising out of industrial disputes. The bedrock is “industrial disputes.”
– And the word’s of the Constitution constitute the bedrock of the jurisdiction of the Court. The Court is authorized to deal only with disputes that have arisen. It is not authorized to create a new dispute which has not originated before the submission to jurisdiction.
– The Court may prevent a dispute.
– The prevention of disputes may be one thing and the settlement of disputes another, but I apprehend that the Court cannot be authorized to go out of its way and to anticipate or suggest disputes which the parties themselves have not anticipated or suggested. The AttorneyGeneral knows to what I am referring.
– Does not the reference to “prevention” in the Constitution mean the prevention of disputes from spreading ?
– The prevention of a dispute which having originated in some way, is in course of “development. I apprehend that the Constitution will not allow us to delegate to the President of the Court power to originate or to suggest a new dispute of which the parties have not thought.
– This clause will probably confer such a. power.
– The President may give relief.
– Under this clause he could suggest a new remedy which the parties themselves did not want.
– He is there to settle disputes.
– But not in a manner which the parties themselves do not want. That might involve a new dispute in which the parties would not be benefited by the award.
– That would be unfortunate, but not unconstitutional.
– Let me illustrate my contention by a reference to the Broken Hill case. 1 suppose this clause is intended to give the President of the Arbitration Court the power which Mr. Justice Higgins claimed to exercise in the Broken Hill arbitration case. In that case the learned President of the Court endeavoured to introduce into his award a provision to the effect that the. parties should not be allowed to enter into any contractual arrangement. Under the agreement made before the strike - before the case came into Court - between the miners and the Broken Hill mining companies, it was provided that -
In setting contracts for breaking ore underground the representatives of the company and: the contractors shall exercise their very best judgment so as to provide that each contractor shall earn 12s. per shift of 8 hours in lieu of us. per shift of 8 hours as heretofore.
That passage appears at p. 440 of vol. VIII. of the Commonwealth Law Reports. Mr. Justice Higgins claimed the right to exclude any arrangement for letting eontracts between the miners and the company. Although there had been no dispute between the miners and the mining companies in regard to contracts, he claimed the right to prohibit anything like an arrangement for contract or piece-work on the ground that he would thereby have a means of settling the dispute. By so doing he would have introduced a new ground of controversy. It would have introduced a matter which the parties themselves did not want.
– That would not be a dispute. The honorable member said just now that it would not be.
– It would introduce a new matter about which the parties were not in dispute.
– The President of the Court has the right to settle a dispute.
– But not in a manner to which the parties themselves object.
– He is there in the interests of the public.
– Instead of the litigation resulting in the settlement of the dispute, it would lead to a new cause of disturbance. Why should the President have the right to impose a term of settlement which might be obstructive to the Working of a mine or any industrial establishment? Why should he be authorized to go beyond the ambit of the original controversy ?
– Because he is there to do the best he can for both parties.
– But this Parliament ought not to vest the President with a power which might be exercised adversely to the interests of both parties. Why should he have the right to force upon miners and mine-owners a proviso for the prevention of contracts when the parties themselves desire to be able to arrange to do their work under contract?
– The honorable member is creating a new difficulty. All the other lawyers of the Opposition have said, ‘ Leave everything to His Honour. “
– This point has not been fully elaborated up to the present, and according to my view it would seem that if this power is granted to the President he may have authority to introduce new matters of controversy which the parties themselves never contemplated.
– The matter to which the honorable member has referred was not in the original plaint in connexion with the Broken Hill case, but it came out in evidence.
– I do not think that it did come out in evidence. If it had, and was justified by the evidence, then the Court probably would have had jurisdiction to amend the plaint.
– The Court thought it had not.
– It thought that there was no jurisdiction to deal with it, because it was not part of the original dispute. The President also made an award known as “ The six-shifts’ system” in connexion with the Port Pirie Smelting Works. That was another award which the parties did not ask him to make. There was no dispute in reference to the matter, and it was found that if the six-shifts’ system were made rigid the smelting works could not be reasonably or practically carried on. The learned President introduced that matter, although the parties themselves did not submit it to his jurisdiction.
Mr.Hughes. - The honorable member is impugning the President’s decision. He says that he did wrong.
– The High Court held that he did wrong. It quashed his award on the grounds that he had gone beyond the dispute by prohibiting the contract system, and by limiting work to six days a week. I am not impugning His Honour’s exercise of his authority; the High Court quashed the award.
– Because the learned Justice went outside the. Act.
– The company has since adopted the six days a week system.
– That may be, but the matter was not in controversy between the parties.
– It was.
– It was not submitted to the Court in the original plaint.
– It was not in the original plaint, but it was in dispute.
– At all events, I do not think that the President should be allowed to go outside the subject-matter of a dispute between two parties. If this power is carried too far, it may result in an excess of jurisdiction. The President himself may, as it were, suggest a new source of dispute which is not before the parties.
– That would be ultra vires.
– Certainly. So much for that provision, which, I think, is open to controversy. There is another clause containing a provision which, in my opinion, is of a very suspicious, if not dangerous, character. I refer to clause 9, which creates a Board of Reference to carry out awards in detail. It seems to me that this will create an entirely new industrial authority. It is to be a sort of excrescence on the original Act. Instead of the President being vested with authority to carry out his own awards, instead of it being necessary to resort to him from time to time for their interpretation, a Board is to be created, and is to exercise authority delegated by him.- Instead of being called a Board of Reference, it should be described as a “ Board of Bosses.” It will probably visit establishments, mines, and various works the subject of awards, and will exercise inquisitorial and intrusive functions, prying into work, shops, mines, and industrial establishments of all kinds, in order to ascertain how awards are being enforced, and to interpret them. Judicial functions are practically being given to this Board of Reference or “ Board of Bosses.” It will be a source of harassment, disturbance, and intrusion, and, instead of tending to smooth matters down, will mean trouble, inconvenience, expense, and conflict.
– It will be like the walking delegates in the United States.
– I was going to suggest that it will be comparable to what are known as the walking delegates in connexion with the American, trade unions, who go about like spies and stir up strife. Instead of a Board of Conciliation, it will be a Board of Strife.
– Does the honorable member think that the President would be likely to appoint such a Board?
– I do not think that he would, but the powers vested in the Board by this clause would, I believe, amount in practice to what I have described. I wish now to refer briefly to the clause which repeals the exceptions made in the principal Act in regard to domestic servants and agricultural labourers. So far as I remember the debates, the original Act was excepted from those groups of workers, not because they should not be entitled to share in the privileges of arbitration if the necessity arose, but because there is not the slightest possibility of what may be called an Inter-State dispute arising in connexion with those employed in, say, domestic service.
– Nor is there in regard to hairdressers. They are in just the same position.
– There can be no reason for including that particular group in the general provisions of this Bill. There is not the slightest possibility of any Inter- State dispute arising in domestic service.
– Why particularly exclude domestic servants?
– As a matter of fact, domestic servants, instead of having grievances, seem to be more mistresses than the victims of anything like sweating or oppression. There being such a scarcity of ladies available for this class of employment, they command almost their own terms. There is no necessity for an Arbitration Court to settle disputes between domestic servants and their employers; and, therefore, there is no necessity to extend the Act in that direction.
– Do not the employers require protection? This is a Bill for both parties.
– Of all classes in the community, domestic servants are probably the most independent and the least likely to require arbitration ; and, under the circumstances, their inclusion seems to be a mere placard, or a suggestion that they should get up a dispute and take it into Court. The same argument, to some extent, applies to agricultural and rural labourers generally. In the rural districts of most of the States the demand for labour is greater than the supply, and there is little or no possibility of an industrial strike, for the simple reason that the men can dictate their own terms. If they do not receive what they ask, they are independent and intelligent enough to go where they can get it. The strong reasons which justify the application of this law to the great centres of . population in the cities, towns, and boroughs, where there is great competition in the ranks of the working classes, owing to the larger supply of labour, do not apply to the rural districts of Victoria, or any other State, where there is less anxiety on the part of the men, owing to the smaller supply. I have no hesitation in speaking in these terms, because, during the late election at Bendigo, when I was . asked whether I was in favour of extending the Act to rural industries, I said that I was not, as I could see no necessity, pointing out that if any dispute arose it would be far better to leave the settlement to the jurisdiction of the State tribunals. In Victoria, the law provides for Wages Boards in connexion with every industry in every locality where there is sufficient local demand and necessity. The Government and
Parliament of this State have shown a very liberal spirit, and have freely granted Wages Boards in connexion with industries and trades wherever a fairly substantial case has been made out for their creation. This applies, not only to the present, but to previous Governments and Parliaments; and probably the State of Victoria has led the way in industrial legislation of this kind. There have been granted no fewer than seventy Wages Boards, as was mentioned recently by the Premier, Mr. Murray, in connexion with the Gippsland election; and, if there had been a strong case for applying the system to domestic servants or agricultural labourers, I have no doubt steps would have been taken in that direction. As a supporter of the principle of Wages Boards, I should be sorry to offer objection to the extension of the system to any industry where it was shown to be justified. It would be a mistake, and lead to an abuse of the Wages Board and the Arbitration Court systems to extend either unnecessarily, because such a policy would tend to foment, rather than to settle, disputes. On these grounds, I do not think a sufficient case has been made out for extending the provisions of the principal Act to these two groups of workers. Circumstances are practically the same now as in 1904, when domestic servants and agricultural labourers were excepted from the operation of the original Act, and I have heard of no strong agitation or movement in favour of their inclusion. In fact, during the late Federal elections in my district, the Labour candidate took pains to point out that rural industries were specially excepted from the Federal Act, in view of the Wages Board system, and that, therefore, the farmers had no need to be afraid. This revival of a proposal that was defeated in 1904 is a new development, and quite a surprise; and it can only be accounted for by the suggestion that the provision is inserted to render the Bill more glitteringly attractive to some of the friends and supporters of the Labour party in the country. I now come to what seems to be the most serious and most objectionable amendment proposed by the Bill, namely, the proposal to introduce unlimited and unqualified preference to unionists. Under the original Act, the principle of preference was inserted, surrounded by safeguards and conditions of a practical and judicious character. Parliament, at that time, while prepared to recognise the principle, regarded it as only fitting and fair that it should be so surrounded. Whether that was better than leaving the question wholly to the judgment and discretion of the Court remains open to consideration. In New Zealand, I understand, the President of the Arbitration Court has unfettered judicial discretion to grant preference in such manner, and subject to such conditions, as he thinks fit; it is not mandatory on him to grant preference, but he grants it whenever he is of opinion that the application can be justified on the grounds of reason and expediency. In New Zealand^ however, the rule has always been adopted that there must be some conditions and safeguards. In a book entitled State Regulation of Labour in New Zealand, page 113, the conditions under which preference has been granted are summarized as follows -
In seventy-six awards it was required that the rules of the union should permit any person of good character to become a member of the union, without ballot or other election, upon the payment of an entrance fee not exceeding 5s., and subsequent contributions not exceeding fid. per week; that members of the union Were to be equally qualified with non-members to perform the work required to be done and ready and willing to undertake it; that an employment book was to be kept in which the names and addresses of the members of the union were to be entered, and that failing the correct keeping of this book, employers were to employ whom they pleased.
These were some of the leading conditions enforced by the President of the Court in the exercise of his unlimited power and discretion. The Australian Act of 1904 gives limited preference subject to certain statutory rules and conditions, and I should like to place on record a brief summary of these. The first was -
– Was and is.
– The first condition was that, before preference was granted, the President must be satisfied that the majority of persons affected by the award, and having interests in common in the a,ward, approved of the preference ; secondly, that before preference was granted, the President should insert a Gazette notice giving information to the public of the application, so that those who wished to object, and those who might be affected by the granting of preference, but who were not parties to the dispute, might be allowed to come in and be heard before an award was made binding them; thirdly, that, after granting the application, the Court should reserve to itself the power to suspend or qualify the preference if, in the course of practice, it was found that it was abused, or if the rules of the organization proved to be burdensome or oppressive, or did not provide reasonable, conditions of membership ; fourthly, that no preference should be granted to any organization whose rules permitted of the application of the funds to political purposes, or required its. members to do anything of a political character. These were the safeguards approved in 1904, and they are the law of the land to-day.
– There are other restrictions in section 55.
– Section 55 makes provisions for the rules to be the rules contained in the schedule. Will the AttorneyGeneral answer this question? Why is it proposed now to grant unlimited and unqualified preference to unionists without a Gazette notice giving people outside of the Court, who may be affected by the award when made, the right to come in and be heard in opposition to it?
– We do not propose to grant unlimited and unqualified preference.
– The Bill as it stands says the Court shall grant preference to unionists.
– In certain circumstances.
– Instead of being discretionary the Bill provides in clause 8 that-
The Court by its award, or by order made on the application of any organization or person bound by the award, may prescribe a minimum rate of wages or remuneration, and in that case shall-
– But in no other case shall.
– shall, on the application of any party to the industrial dispute, or of any organization or person bound by the award .. . direct that, as between members of organizations of employers or employés and other persons offering or desiring service or employment at the same time, preference shall be given to such members, other things being equal.
That makes it mandatory on the Court to grant preference.
– Subject to discretion. If the Court does so-and-so, it “ shall “ grant preference.
– There is no discretion whatever allowed. The Bill directs that the President shall grant preference.
– If he does so-and-so.
– If he grants a minimum wage he shall also grant preference to those who apply.
– Instead of creating an Arbitration Court, it is a command by this Parliament to the Court. That is not settling a dispute by arbitration.
– The present Act also gives commands. It says the Judge “ shall not “ do this or that.
– But this is a command to the President of the Court to grant preference. He is allowed no judicial discretion.
– Is prohibition less an interference than is a mandate?
– We have only power to provide for the settlement of industrial disputes by conciliation or arbitration. This clause, instead of providing for the settlement of disputes by arbitration, appoints an arbitrator, and says he shall do a certain thing. That is not arbitration. It is legislation. It takes away the discretion from the Judge, and the award is practically given by this Parliament. Here is another point. The dispute as presented to the Court may not involve any controversy on the question of preference to unionists. There may have been a controversy with reference to wages, hours of labour, conditions of labour, contract work, piece work, or something of that kind, but none on the question of preference to unionists. The members of the trade unions may have been quite contented to jog along without raising that sleeping demon. If the question of preference is not in issue when the parties go into the . Court, why should the President be ordered to impose that condition upon the parties? Is not that calling upon the President to exercise a mandatory statutory power, and to force upon the parties a condition which they may not want?
– I do not think the clause goes far enough. I do not think it does what we want it to do.
– Apparently it does. What is the meaning of the word “shall”? No word in the English language can be stronger in terms of mandatory direction to a Judge. When you say that upon the occurrence of a ‘ certain event he “ shall “ do other things, you leave him no discretion. The AttorneyGeneral, instead of improving the Act, may find if he does this that it will be his undoing, and that the original provision, leaving it to the discretion of the President to grant preference in certain cases, was more workable than this command that he “shall” do it.
– It could not be more workable, because it has not worked at all.
– There does not appear to have been much of a demand for preference by the parties to previous disputes. I have not discovered in any case that I have been able to find that they demanded preference to unionists, because they have either had it, or been content to jog along under the old conditions, in which a certain amount of toleration has been shown by unionists. Undoubtedly, many unionists have shown a judicious desire to avoid as far as possible this burning question, and have not raised it in any of the Federal arbitration disputes up to the present.
– They have tried to get it, and never could get it.
– I ask the AttorneyGeneral, as a friend of the Act, why he wants to force on the parties, and on the Court, an obligation to include preference, when it may not be called for by the necessities of the case, or be wanted by the parties, or by the President himself.
– If that is the objection of the honorable member, it can speedily be altered
– If the President has no discretion-
– Is the honorable member in favour, of unrestricted preference without its being mandatory?
– I am in favour of the Act as it stands, with preference limited to cases where the unionists are in the majority, and leaving the matter to the discretion of the Court within , that limitation. There is no justification for this wholesale and drastic provision’. Some of my honorable friends who have taken part in the debate have pointed out in strong terms, but not too strong, in graphic terms, but not overdrawn, the effect of the operation of this compulsory preference to unionists which is now to be forced on the Federal Arbitration Court. There can be no doubt that it will result rather in creating than settling disputes. Instead of this legislation being described as legislation for promoting industrial peace and harmony, it should be described as for the promotion of “industrial injustice and inhumanity. The honorable member for Lang said the Bill -might be called “ a Bill to provide for industrial coercion.” I have been thinking over a few other titles which must accurately indicate the scope and intention of the measure. It might be called “a Bill to provide for the wholesale dismissal of men and women from their employment if :.they refuse to join trade unions.”
That will be the inevitable result of the indiscriminate application of the principle of preference.
– Such a title would make the Bill outside the order of leave.
– No ; that will be its effect, because if you grant preference to unionists, the implication and the result is that, if any of those unfortunate people who happen to be non-unionists will not join the unions, they will not be allowed to get work until the others are satisfied. If the Bill does not mean that, I do not know what it means. It practically says, “ Join the union, or you will not get your work; the unionist will get the first call and the first preference.” Another title which might be applied to it is, “ A Bill to vest in trade unions the power of life and death over two-thirds Or *the working classes of Australia.” If you deny a man the right to work because he is not a unionist, you deny him the right to live. The Bill places that power in the hands of the trade unions, because it provides for the creation of a Board of Reference, which I have called a “ Board of Bosses.” This will no doubt consist of a number of the leading members of the trade unions or organizations which present the case to the Court, and be vested with authority to decide who are, or are not,’ unionists, and whether the unionist is a better man than the nonunionist, because the clause uses the phrase, “ All things being equal.” Somebody will have to decide, and probably the authority to decide will be vested in that “ Board of Bosses.” That practically places the authority in the hands of the Trades Hall Council for the time being, which no doubt will be called upon, or will be allowed, to keep what is called an employment list - a list of those who are members of the union or organization, and who, it thinks, are qualified to do the class of work coming within the meaning of the award. That, of course, places the patronage and the power, and the say in the distribution of work, with the members of the Trades Hall Council, or the secretary of the union.
– Some unions do that now, and the employers who work with them find it to their advantage.
– Of course, in that case, if the employer wants a man, instead of having the right to choose for himself, he will have to go cap in hand to the secretary of the union.
– He does it voluntarily.
– I understand that in practice the employer in some trades in
New South Wales must go to the secretary of the union to get a man.
– He does not have to go; it pays him to go.
– He has to take the man offered to him by the union. Why should he not be allowed to advertise for a man, and let everybody who is qualified apply?
– I did not say that he has to take the man nominated by the union. He can advertise now if he so desires, but it does not pay him.
– The Bill might also be described as “ a Bill to force thousands of people to join the Political Labour Unions who do not wish to join.” That will be its effect. Many working men do not wish to join unions, not because of an objection, to unionism, but because they dislike coercion. If the Bill becomes law, thousands of these men will find that they must either join unions or starve. According to the most reliable statistics, not more than a third of the manual labourers of Australia are unionists.
– Does the honorable member say that if the Bill passes non-unionists will not get work ?
– The unionists will have the choice of the billets offering ; the non-unionists will get only what is left. If a man who is a boilermaker refuses to join the Boilermakers’ Union, he will not be able to get work at his trade until all the unionists in it have been satisfied.
– There is not a nonunion boilermaker in Australia.
– My remark still applies to other trades. Undoubtedly, there are many outside the unions who sympathize with unionism, and enjoy benefits obtained by unionism; but do not desire that their freedom shall be taken from them. Why should they be told that if they do not join unions, they will be made to suffer? In the report of the halfyearly meeting of the Bendigo Miners’ Association, which appeared in a local newspaper on 1 6th July last, it is stated that Mr. Goodge pointed out that a number of the members had refused to sign certificates of membership under the new constitution recently brought into operation. Mr. Hayhow, the president, said that “the preference clauses in the Arbitration Act would settle them.” So this Bill may be described as a measure to settle industrial disputes by settling workers who will not sign certificates of membership. Recently, steps have been taken to register the Amal gamated Miners’ Association under the Commonwealth Act, and this has made it necessary for its members to sign documents admitting their membership. About 2,000 of these documents have been circulated among the members of the Bendigo Miners’ Association; but up to the present time, not 1,000 members have signed them.
– Have the others refused to sign them?
– They have not signed them. At the meeting to which I have referred, a member asked what were the objections to signing, and Mr. Goodge replied that some of the men did not like the law, and “ could be sued in the Police Court for six months’ arrears.” Apparently, a majority of the members of the Bendigo Miners’ Association are suspicious of the step that is proposed, and do not feel safe in signing these certificates of membership. They do not wish to take a leap in the dark, and are- afraid of being drawn within the net -of the Political Labour League.
– They would appear to be men who want all the privileges of unionism without paying the fees.
– Those who join these unions cannot retire from them without contributing towards their funds for a period of six months after retirement has taken place.
– Some of them appear to be liable for six months’ arrears ; not for contributions for a period after they have left the union.
– I understand that a member cannot leave these unions without contributing as I have said. There may be a good reason for the rule. It may be necessary because of some legal obligation incurred by the union. In any case, the men are tied. Evidently verymany of them are suspicious of what is; proposed, and the president of the Bendigo - Miners’ Association hopes to use this Bill to compel them to sign. Unless they do so,, they will not obtain the advantage of preference to unionists, and will become subject to the irksome tyranny of the unions. They will not enjoy the advantages of” unionism, and will be prevented from sharing equally with unionists in the distribution of work. The statements which I- have made present a strong case against the Bill. I do not think that anyone on this side objects to the President of “ the Arbitration Court having the right to - apply the principle of preference to unionists where the majority wishes for it and i the other side has had the opportunity to be heard; but to apply it whether the parties to a dispute wish for it or not is creating what may be used as an instrument of tyranny. The Age, on the 27 th July, 1904.. published a leading article which contains one of the most powerful and scathing denunciations of compulsory preference to be found in the literature of the day. Referring to the clause in the measure of 1904, which provided for compulsory preference to unionists, the writer termed it “a proposal for the wholesale dismissal of men ‘ and women from their employment.” He said -
Preference to unionists means dismissal of non-unionists. Preference to unionists is an instrument for ejecting large numbers of persons from their billets. Preference to unionists is opposed to the common-sense of the people who retain their ordinary notions of justice and humanity.
I oppose the .removal of the reasonable safeguards inserted in the Act of 1904, and the application of preference to unionists without any provision to protect those who may, from conscientious or other reasons, object to joining unions. It is rather a melancholy confession for the Labour party to make, that it finds it impossible, without penalizing those who refuse to join unions, to ingraft on the industrial life of Australia the principle of preference to unionists for which it has fought so strongly. If their case is so strong and so well founded on reason, why are penalties required to force men to join unions? Is not the provision which I have been criticising a confession of the weakness of the Labour party’s position, and an acknowledgment that the Democracy of Australia has refused to accept preference to unionists? Why is coercion needed? Evidently a majority of the workers of Australia do not wish to be robbed of their freedom. We may not hope to successfully oppose some of the tyrannical provisions of the Bill, but we can show to our constituents, and to the people at large, what the nature of these proposals is - that they are inconsistent with liberty, with justice, and with the true instincts of humanity.
Sitting suspended from 6.25 to y.4.5 p.m.
.- As one who has taken a keen interest in the question of arbitration, I wish to congratulate the Government on having introduced this amending Bill at this early period in their existence. I know that confidence in arbitration has been greatly sapped by unsympathetic administration in
New South Wales, and also by the refusal of different State Governments to bring in necessary amendments of the law. It has been contended by some of the representatives of New South Wales that the State’ Arbitration Act has not prevented strikes and lock-outs. No one ever claimed that it would wholly do so. It was urged, however, that strikes and lock-outs would be considerably minimized by the passing of such legislation, and I am going to claim, notwithstanding what has been said by some honorable members from New South Wales, that during the first year of the existence of the operation of the State Arbitration Act not one strike occurred. Prior to that strikes took place at frequent intervals. I do not wish at this stage to go into the whole history of arbitration in New South Wales, but I thought it desirable to cite this fact. The reason why no strikes or lock-outs occurred was that at the time the workers of New South Wales, in common with workers elsewhere, were desirous of finding some other means of settling industrial troubles. That being so, they remained loyal to the Act, but like all new legislation, as soon as it was put into operation, its defects were discovered. It was soon found that it required to be amended in many directions. Some of the verymatters with which this Bill deals were brought under the notice of Mr. Wise within twelve months of the passing of bis Bill. That being so, we are not dealing with any new question. We, as a party, have received a mandate from those who have returned us to bring about these reforms. We have been fighting for them for many years. I was a member of the first deputation which waited on Mr. Wise in regard to the Arbitration Act of New South Wales, and we put before him many of the matters with which this Bill deals. What has happened in New South Wales has been due, not so much to failure of the principle of arbitration as to the unsympathetic way in which the Act has been administered, and the manner in which cases have been allowed to go unheard. In some instances cases after being listed for hearing for three years were not dealt with. Is it any wonder, therefore, that there has been dissatisfaction, and that confidence in arbitration in New South Wale? has been greatly sapped? Disputes which arose could not be heard for three years, although we were knocking at the door ali the time, and asking for additional Courts to deal with the congested business. Strong combinations, having given up their right to strike, believing that it was wrong to inflict hardship on the general community, to say nothing of the hardship which industrial disturbances occasion to the actual disputants, found that no steps were taken to enable them to bring their disputes before the Court. Let me cite as an instance the case of J. and A. Brown, which was on the file for three years. After the parties concerned had waited that time for a hearing, the point was taken before the High Court that the relationship of master and employe did not exist. The plaint having been filed in the name of the association, and not of the employes themselves, the Court ruled that they -had no standing, with the result that all cases on the file went by the board.
– I think’ that the honorable member is historically inaccurate. In Brown’s case the original dispute was always held to be before the Court, but the employes, after they had severed their employment, wished to bring a new dispute before it.
– I thank the honorable member for his correction. A strike did occur in the meantime, owing to the inability of the employes to get before .the Court. The point then taken held good, and applied to many other cases.
– Still that does not affect the honorable member’s contention.
– That is so. This was one reason why the people lost confidence in arbitration in New South Wales. As to this Bill, the amendments which it proposes to make in the principal Act are very important. The most important to my mind is that which has been the least alluded to - I refer to the provision for holding a conference. If possible, a conference should always precede litigation. When it is possible to bring the parties together it is often found that a dispute can be settled without recourse to the Courts.
– Does the honorable member for Flinders agree with the honorable member ?
– It is a very good thing.
– I thought that the honorable member would agree with me. The trouble is that once a dispute actually arises, and the parties cannot be brought together, it quickly grows until there is a complete cessation of work. Then swords are drawn ; both sides are fighting hard ; each side thinks that it is giving away something, it is impossible to bring them together, and the trouble continues to the detriment of the community. Under this Bill the President of the Court will have a right .to call together the parties to a dispute at any time, so as to obviate that difficulty. Take the Newcastle trouble,which was detrimental to the whole of the Australian community. When it had reached an acute stage, and every one desired that it should be settled, we found that the only possible way of bringing the parties together was to secure the intervention of his Honor Judge Scholes as mediator. Within two or three weeks after the learned Judge offered his services, he was able to bring about a settlement, and work was resumed. When it is possible to secure a settlement in that way, at a time when both parties are engaged in industrial warfare, what is likely to prevent the settlement of disputes as soon as the President of the Arbitration Court can bring together the parties involved? Once the parties are brought together, there is a feeling that there must be some giveandtake, and a settlement is arrived at. For these reasons, I think that the provision as to the calling of a conference is most important. It will have the effect, in very many cases, of bringing about a settlement without recourse to litigation. Some honorable members have made a good deal of capital out of the proposal to bring rural workers within the scope of the Act. I represent a very large number of rural workers. One half of my electorate is devoted to agriculture; so that if any great injury is going to be done to those engaged in agricultural pursuits by the passing of this Bill, I shall certainly suffer. I am prepared, however, to take the responsibility for supporting the clause relating to rural workers. As the honorable member for Parkes admitted to-day, this is an age of combinations. Both employers and employes must combine, and with combination, it is easy to adjust matters. In this age of evolution, it is reasonable to assume that rural workers, like all others, will organize. As a matter of fact, some of them have already done so. In New South Wales we have a Rural Workers’ Union; and if we do not pas-3 legislation bringing them within the jurisdiction of the Conciliation and Arbitration Court, we shall probably have a strike there. They might determine, at harvest time, and after a good season, to cease work unless granted an increase of wages. In that case, if this measure were not in operation, there would be no law whereby their grievances could be adjusted; and the whole community would suffer because of the inability of the farmer to get his harvest to market. Under this Bill, we shall really protect the farmer, because we shall set up a tribunal wherein any dispute between farmers and those whom they employ can be settled. The honorable member for Richmond frankly admitted that the Opposition, in dealing with the legislation of this Government, had to put up men of straw in order to knock them down again. The honorable member did so himself. He contended that in New Zealand, where there is in force an Arbitration Act applying to rural workers, the position of the men was not as good as it is here. If that be so, of what is he afraid? Surely the farmers of Australia will suffer no injury underthis measure if that is the position in New Zealand. Then, again, the honorable member suggested that it would be impossible-, to apply this Bill to some agricultural districts where only one man might be employed on a farm, as against twenty men employed in a manufacturing industry in one centre. We cannot place any reliance on such figures. In many manufacturing industries, there may be only a man and his son engaged; and on some holdings there may be ten, twenty, or thirty men employed. There is nothing in the contention of the honorable member ; who also set up another man of straw when he said, “ Suppose a farmer is employing his two sons, and a unionist, coming along, points out that they do not belong to a union, and that he must take their place.” I think that the honorable member for Flinders raised the same argument.
– I did not.
-The honorable member for Flinders did, and declared that, in such circumstances, the farmer would have to dismiss his two sons. There is nothing in this measure that suggests anything of the kind. All that it declares is that when a man requires a servant, and two are offering, one being a unionist and the other a non-unionist, the unionist shall have the preference. A non-unionist could obtain employment from a man if no unionist were offering at the same time. It does not follow that a man must dismiss those whom he has already employed because a unionist wishes to obtain work. I do not think that that interpretation can be placed on clause 8. It provides for a new section, declaring that the Court, by order made on the application of any organization bound by the award, may prescribe a minimum rate of wages or remuneration, and that it may -
First of all, there must be an award prescribing a minimum wage. In such circumstances, preference can be granted, but only when two men at the same time ask for employment. I do not hesitate to say that it will be an easy matter to evade this provision. If a man does not wish to employ a unionist, he need not do so. All that he will have to do will be to refrain from engaging any one until there is no unionist offering his services.
– Then what is the “use of the clause?
– It does not go far enough. It should go further than it does ; and I hope the Attorney-General will make this provision clearer.
– Does the honorable member know of any urgent circumstances requiring piece-meal legislation of this kind now ?
– Yes, I do. Since 1 901 I have been agitating for some such amendments as those proposed, in order to preserve arbitration, which, I am afraid, is in some danger of becoming a thing of the past, and causing us to revert to the old system.
– Is the honorable member now referring to preference?
– I am referring generally to the amendments.
– Does the honorable member suggest that the future of arbitration depends on preference?
– Yes, to a very large extent. It is quite possible for a coal mine to be closed at any time owing to an influx of water or some other cause, and, if the proprietor wishes, he may, on resumption, advertise for men, leaving the union men already in the vicinity out in the cold. With preference to unionists, however, these men would have a first claim ; and we know from experience they are always anxious to get to work again.
– That is entirely a supposititious case; it has never happened in any large colliery.
– lt is not at all a supposititious case.
– What about the rule which requires that a man shall work at the face for two years or eighteen months ?
– The honorable member is taking for granted that no nonunion miners are practical men.
– Not a great number are.
– It may be news to the honorable member that in the Newcastle district two mines are worked with nonunion labour, and one is being so worked to-day.
– How many nonunion men are employed?
– I cannot say how many exactly, but perhaps thirty or forty. The Co-operative Colliery worked with non-union labour for years, and so did the Rhonda Colliery for a considerable time. With the preference provision in the Billthese men would be safeguarded, altogether apart from any decision of the Court.
– Has the Judge never granted preference in Newcastle?
– I shall come to that question. Those in close contact with the working of arbitration should be the best judges in regard to preference ; and I say, further, that, if it were not for the organization of unions there would be no arbitration. The unions realized the necessity for some alteration in their methods, so as to prevent industrial fights and strikes, and they were glad to adopt arbitration. It will be admitted that the miners were the first to agitate for arbitration, and it was through their advocacy that it was instituted, showing that the miners are entitled to some consideration.
– I remember the time when we all set our faces like flint against compulsory arbitration.
– I may say that I prefer voluntary arbitration to compulsory arbitration, and that I have advocated it for years. Every time a dispute was pending I endeavoured to bring the parties together voluntarily; and it was only after repeated failures that the necessity was felt for compulsion. So far as the coalmining industry is concerned, if we could get a satisfactory system of voluntary arbitration we should not bother about compulsion, but, as the proprietors will not meet us, we are compelled to adopt the latter; and it is only after we have found out its defects that we, in order to obtain simple justice, ask for the preference proposed in the Bill. Once it is admitted that only through arbitration can we hope to better our condition, we see that the whole fabric is based on collective bargaining.
– I believe there have been more stoppages in the honorable member’s district since arbitration was instituted than there were before.
– Before the honorable member entered the chamber I said that for two or three years we worked without stoppages, and it was because the men could not get their cases before the tribunal that their confidence in arbitration was sapped, with the result that things have drifted into their present condition. If something is not done promptly we shall, as I say, revert to the old system.
– Does the honorable member not see that it is a matter of administration, and not legislation?
– It is both, as I pointed out in the honorable member’s absence. I am pleased that the honorable member agrees that there was unsympathetic administration, but, apart from that, I have urged that many amendments are required in the law. Mr. Joseph Cook. - I think there ought to be a Board for every colliery.
– I quite agree with the honorable member. We both seem to he of the same idea ; but I point out that we have to deal with what is before us. I wish we could, by instituting a system of the kind, prevent industrial conflict. The honorable member for Parkes claimed that there had been a stoppage in the Newcastle district owing to the men having broken an award; but, in justice to those men, who are much misunderstood throughout Australia, I say that they are not guilty of any such conduct. Under voluntary arbitration, before 1901, the late Honorable J. N. Brunker was appointed arbitrator in the case of the Wallsend collieries, and in that instance it was the employers who broke the award, and they punished the men for going to Court. I desire to refer to two awards given under the old New South Wales Arbitration Act, namely, those in the cases of the Rhonda and Northern Extended collieries. It has been said that the men broke these awards, but the fact is that, though they had a currency of two years, the proprietors within a few months ignored them, and changed the whole system of working, the men being compelled to acquiesce; and it is that sort of thing that leads to trouble. When the honorable member for Parkes was speaking, I interjected that Mr. Wise, in introducing his Arbitration Bill, sought to save trade union funds from actions at law by providing that the organizations could be registered as industrial unions, and appoint trustees, and pointed, out that that provision was due to the Taff Vale decision. This the honorable member denied, saying that that decision was given years afterwards; but I have since looked the matter up, and I find that what I said was correct. Honorable members will find, if they look at the Law Reports of the House of Lords, that the Taff Vale decision was on the 22nd July, 1901, while Mr. Wise did not move the second reading of his Industrial Arbitration Bill until 2nd October of the same year. It would take up too much time to quote the decision; but I may say, in support of my statement, that the Taff Vale case was actually referred to in the debate on the New South Wales Bill. In justice to the honorable member for Parkes, I may say that when Mr. Wise was asked by, I think, Dr. McLaurin whether his object was to safeguard union funds in view of the Taff Vale decision, he replied that he had not seen the decision, though it was pointed out to him that the mail which brought the text of it had been in the State for a fortnight. The honorable member for Parkes claimed that Mr. Wise, by his Bill, sought to save trade union funds; but, as a matter of fact, all Mr. Wise did was to prevent the funds being liable in the case of acts by members of the society for which the society was not responsible - in all other cases, the society was responsible. Under all the circumstances, I think the honorable member for Parkes will see that the Taff Vale decision had some influence on the New South Wales Act, and I mention the matter in order that the facts maybe placed on record. The honorable member for New England contended that legal men should be excluded from the Arbitration Court ; and that is a course I have agitated for ever since we have had arbitration. The presence of legal men leads to unnecessary delay; they are not conversant with the technical terms of mining, for instance, and flounder about for days when practical men would proceed straight on with the business. Instead of cases lasting a year - indeed, there have been some which lasted longer - they ought to be decided in a couple of months. In cases of appeal, however, I think legal men should be admitted, because laymen cannot be expected to grapple with law points. An Arbitration Court I regard as a Court of conciliation, equity, and good conscience; and from such a Court there is every reason for excluding lawyers. Their exclusion does not take away the rights of either party, and, in any case, there is appeal.
– It would appear that the honorable member desires to exclude laymen, and not legal men, as witness Mr. Patterson.
– I do not think we ought to refer to that matter, seeing that Mr. Patterson has enough on hand at the present time. He never was appointed by the men; and I may say that, in order to avoid any further trouble in the coal trade, he should vacate his position, in order to permit some one else to take it. I impress on the Attorney-General the desirableness of excluding the legal fraternity from the Arbitration Court. It is much better for the parties themselves to conduct the cases, and business will be more expeditiously dealt with. I hope that the clause dealing with preference will be made more rigid, if we desire, as 1 am sure we all do, industrial peace. We believe collective bargaining to be at the base of the whole question, and there is no reason why two parties, because they disagree, should be able to “hold up” the whole community. There is a third party involved who must have consideration ; and we, as ‘ a Legislature, must protect their interests by passing laws which will have the result of meting out equal justice to all. The Act as it stands does not do that. Honorable members opposite contend that we want to make this legislation so apply as to suit our own interests, but that is not so. The fundamental principle of arbitration is collective bargaining, and therefore you must acknowledge the industrial unions all the time. The argument of the honorable member for Bendigo that as only one-third of the industrial workers are unionists, the other two-thirds would get no work, is very far-fetched. If at present all those persons can be employed, no one can contend that, if preference is given to unionists, the other two-thirds who are not unionists will remain idle. The work is there for them to do, and so long as they are willing to do it, they will be all engaged. It is simply a question of protecting those in the industrial’ unions. They should be protected in order to bring about industrial peace. If they are not, we must expect a continuance of industrial disturbances, which do so much injury to the parties engaged in them, as well as to the public.
.-! am afraid that at this stage of the debate one can hardly be expected to add any new points of interest, but as the matter is of such great importance, I crave the indulgence of the House while I touch briefly upon a few of the broader issues at stake. We have in force an Act which has the desirable aim of preventing strikes, and producing industrial peace. That is an end that we should all strive to attain. We have had a large experience of strikes, and they seem to do no one good. Neither the workers nor the employers benefit by them, and the general public, who are greater in number than either of the parties concerned, although they are quite innocent, suffer severely by them. I hope there is no one in the House more ready than I am to see good wages paid. Taking it all round, Australia, can fairly claim that she does pay good wages. I do not think any party in this House has ever supported low wages, or been guilty of advocating sweating.
– Sweating is rampant in Tasmania.
– The honorable member misunderstood what I said. I think we are all at one in this Parliament in condemning sweating. When power was given by the Constitution to this ‘ Parliament to deal with industrial disputes, the Convention had in view those large disputes which may in one sense be called national - disputes that are beyond the power of a single State to cope with, such as might occur in the shearing industry or the shipping trade. “ But this Bill goes much further than that, and further than any member of the Convention ever thought the Federation was likely to attempt to proceed within a period of ten years. However, we must take the Bill as it is presented to us. I believe the AttorneyGeneral described it as introducing a few formal amendments of the principal Act. My view is that it strikes at the fundamental principles underlying the whole question. In fact, clause 2 amends section 4 of the principal Act in such a way that we get right down to bedrock. It not only widens the meaning of the term “ industrial disputes “ to such an extent as to include practically every industry in Australia, but it is calculated - to raise the question of State Rights. It refers to “ employment in an industry carried on by, or under the control of the Commonwealth or a State, or any public authority constituted under the Commonwealth ora State.” That, if passed, would go very near to infringing the Constitution, by interfering very seriously with many of the services which are now supposed to be under the control of the State Governments. Some of the awards under it might increase the salaries or wages paid by a State in its various services to such an extent that the High Court would decree it unconstitutional, as an infringement of the rights of the States. 1 do not think it can be argued that the Constitution in any way touches the State railway services, except where it specially mentions them, but by passing this measure we may make it possible for awards to be given which would seriously hamper the control of the States over their own services. In that respect, I think the AttorneyGeneral, when he considers the matter in all its bearings, will agree that the proposed law is likely to be declared unconstitutional. The same clause adds to the definition of “ industrial matters “ certain words of which I do not think the High Court, or any other Court, will be able to arrive at the true meaning. These words, which are very wide, are as follows -
And includes all questions of what is fair and right in relation to any industrial matter having regard to the interests of the persons immediately concerned and of society as a whole.
I think it would puzzle even our keenest Judges to arrive at a concrete idea of how far that phrase really extends.
– Does the honorable member really think that will puzzle a Judge?
– I do; and I think it will puzzle the honorable member if he takes the trouble to give it serious thought. Clause 2 also goes very far in another direction which this Parliament ought to avoid. It seeks to bring within the scope of the Act all people engaged in domestic service, and in agricultural, viticultural, horticultural, and dairying pursuits. We shall be attempting far too much if we try to make this legislation apply to those industries. It will be impossible for any Court to give an award that will be even fairly satisfactory to all the branches of the dairying industry of Australia. An award to suit that industry alone would need to be varied in each State, and very often in different parts of the same State, in view of the diverse conditions of climate and labour throughout the Commonwealth. To give any satisfaction to such an industry, or to give the workers in it any real assistance, it would be necessary to have several Boards or Courts in each State.
– Does not the principal Act provide for that?
– I do not think so. I admit that the Court has power to vary its awards for different parts of Australia, but unless the award when made accurately specifies the variations to be made, I take it that there will be what is called the common rule, and the award will apply in the same way from one end of Australia to the other, regardless of local conditions.
– Could they not refer the question to a local Board ? Look at section 36 of the principal Act.
– 1 do not think that section meets all the difficulties I have referred to. Under this clause a very mixed state of affairs may be brought about, and a severe blow given to the dairying industry, which has helped to raise Australia very much in the last few years, and gives promise of providing wealth and employment to hundreds of people more in the near future. The clause will have a tendency to take the control of many State services out of the hands of the State Governments, to whom the power has been given, and from whom it has not yet been taken away by the Constitution. I cannot allow the proposal relating to preference to unionists to go without mention. In the past the unions have done good work for the labourer, and for the community :in general. They have been instrumental :in securing shorter hours and better conditions, and have obtained inestimable benefits for the workers. But they have gained their ends by following the path of progress and liberal evolution. Centuries ago -the Crown and the aristocracy possessed privileges which were detrimental to the community at large; but in the striving for liberty there has come a levelling down -and a widening of privileges, until now every man in British communities is free. Having escaped from the thraldom of aristocracy, after centuries of striving for the attainment of liberal ideals, it is now proposed that we should reverse the process, and set up an aristocracy of labour. The step is said to be taken for the benefit of the worker ; but it is only the worker who happens to be a unionist who is to benefit. The great body of workers are not to get any advantage. It is argued, of course, that it is not right for men who have benefited by the efforts of the unions to meanly decline to become unionists. But in compelling non-unionists to become unionists we deprive them of one of the most prized heritages of British subjects : their liberty. Not only is it proposed to strike at the root of a sacred privilege ; it is also proposed to do what is most undemocratic, to provide for the rule of the minority. According to the statisticians, there are not more than t 53,000 unionists in Australia, and it is proposed to put them into such a position that they shall be able to skim the cream off the labour market, - leaving all others to get work as best they may. In the past, the unions have aimed at bettering labour generally, though., of course, in working to improve the conditions of the people at large, they have worked also for their own advantage. The provision in the Bill makes it mandatory on the Arbitration Court to give preference to unionists, whatever the views of the Court may be on the subject. I do not know what will be said to that. Nor do I know how the provision stands in point of validity. It transfers the making of awards from the Court to the Parliament. By passing the Bill as it stands, we shall be practically making awards in regard to disputes which will arise in “the future, about which we now know nothing. Why should we do this? I think that we have not the constitutional right to take from the Court its discretion in this matter. Even if we had, it would be farcical to say to the Court that, although it migiit.be satisfied that preference to unionists should not be granted, it must grant it. That is the proposal of the Government. The Attorney-General has told us that the employer is to be the judge of the fitness of a unionist for any position; that if a unionist and a non-unionist apply for work, the employer, knowing the unionist not to be a good worker, may employ the non-unionist. If that be so, what is to become of preference to unionists? If an employer may say, whether it be so or not, that the non-unionist is the better worker, and the unionist has to accept the employer’s word, what preference will he enjoy ? The honorable member for Darling has told us that of late a great many men have been joining the unions. If that be so, why are we asked to compel men to join unions willy nilly? Why should we pass undemocratic legislation in order to swell the ranks of the unionists ? The fact is that the unionists are fighting a battle for their own ends. They are not studying the interests of the community at large. It is the duty of Parliament to hold the scales level, so that both parties to industrial disputes may get justice. Preference to unionists is asked for so that workmen may be compelled to pay fees into political fighting funds. The high ideals of the pioneer unionists are being sadly perverted. I do not see how the general community will benefit by compulsory preference to unionists. Clause 10 proposes the amendment of section 55 of the principal Act, under which preference cannot be granted to members of organizations which use their funds for political purposes. Why should that provision be so amended ? If the object of unions is the benefiting of labour, and the improvement of conditions generally, why should their funds be used for political purposes? The provision which prevents unions from getting preference if their funds are used for political purposes, is a very salutary one. Why should men who join unions to obtain trade advantages be compelled to pay into funds for political purposes of which they may not- approve ?
– Why is the honorable member so anxious about these men?
– I desire that every man in the community shall be justly dealt with.
– God help the unionists if they have to wait for the honorable member to do justice to them !
– I shall always be ready to do justice to unionists, and to all other sections of the community. The honorable member for East Sydney is fighting a battle wholly in the interests of unionists. He is not thinking of the general body of labour. He cares nothing about the non-unionist, who may have a wife and family to provide for. The nonunionist is to be set aside because he cannot afford to pay ‘heavy fees to a union, or has sufficient independence of character to do without union help, or does not wish to intrust the guidance of his affairs to union officials, thinking that he can do better by himself. Such a man is to ‘give way in every case to the unionist, who may be a young man with money in his pocket, and no one dependent on him. Preference to unionists may become a most tyrannous instrument. Judging by what has already happened, some unionists would be prepared to enforce the measure in the most stringent and drastic manner. If we are to hold the balance fairly, it is just as well not to give to any body of men such a chance of abusing their power over a section of the community. Unfortunately, the Constitution says that there must be an industrial dispute before resort can be had to the Court. If we are to do the best we can for labour and the country, we should have, not a Federal Arbitration Court, but one central Board, to which industrial questions of moment could be referred without any cessation of work. Why should we compel people to strike before they can be heard by the Court? A strike always involves loss to the workers as well as to the community generally. It should be possible for questions at issue between employers and employed to be referred to seme central Board, having power to determine them. In such circumstances, it would be immaterial whether a ‘man was a unionist or a non-unionist. Such a Board could determine what constituted a fair and reasonable wage; and under its influence there might be more constant employment than is now possible. My suggestion could be carried out if both sides worked harmoniously for the betterment of the wageearner and of society generally. There is no doubt that social justice would be better met by some such method than under the principal Act or this amending Bill. There should be coupled with it a proposal for insurance against unemployment. We cfonot wish to draft men into unions. Our object should be to secure to the labourer (he full reward of his labour.
– That is Socialism.
– No; according to present-day Socialism, the labourer, instead* of receiving his just reward, would get the whole product. My contention is that the labourer should receive the hire of whichhe is worthy. If some such proposal as 1 have outlined were made, I should regard it as a Liberal and Democratic movement. If this Bill passes, it will be just as likely to create industrial disputes as to settlethem. If it is passed, together with otherindustrial legislation that has been foreshadowed by the Government, we shall wipe out the State Wages. Board system, which has been a much better piece of machinery than the Federal Arbitration Court has been.
– In some industries, the employers will not allow the Wages Boards to meet.
– Under the law, that difficulty could easily be overcome.
– No ; the Legislative Council will not agree to the Boards.
– Here we have the same old cry. We have reached a strange state of affairs if the whole industrial community of Australia is to be held up by Legislative Councils. I should like those who speak about our Legislative Councils to point to any which, when the Government has been in earnest, and has had a majority in the lower House, has more than twice rejected a measure sent up to it.
– In Tasmania that has been done.
– I do: not think the honorable member can cite a concrete case.
– Will the honorable member connect his remarks with the question before the Chair?
– I admit, sir, that I have been side-tracked. I repeat that if this measure, together with. other legislation foreshadowed in the Governor-General’s speech, be passed, the present Wages Board system will be swept away. Although the Prime Minister has disclaimed any intention of doing so, it may be said that, while he is not going to removethe candle that is burning, he is going to apply to it a snuffer that will put it out. That will be the effect of this Bill on the present State industrial legislation. It will drive out of the industrial field a workmanlike piece of machinery which has been far more effective in settling industrial troubles than the Commonwealth Act has ever given promise of being. If any one had said at the inception of Federation that within ten years the Federal Parliament would be passing . legislation of this character, he would have been laughed to scorn. The reply would have been, “ No, the good sense of the Parliament - the desire to maintain the spirit of the Constitution will be so strong in honorable members - that they will never attempt such a thing.” Such a proposal as this would then have been regarded as positive sacrilege. If this Bill is placed on the statute-book, and I see no chance of our averting such a calamity, it will be a big step towards unification. That is not what the people or the framers of the Constitution expected. This . Bill, together with other legislation proposed by the Government, will wipe out Federation as we now know it. I am sorry to take such a gloomy view of the situation; but, to my mind, all the portents tend in the direction I have indicated. We can achieve our great object of securing industrial peace by a more business-like procedure than the Government propose. We all desire industrial peace because it is only under such conditions that the resources of the country can be properly developed; it is only in times of industrial peace that capitalists can be induced to invest in the enterprises and industries of the Commonwealth. Without it, we shall make no progress ; but there is nothing in this Bill that will tend more to bring about industrial peace than the legislation already on the statute-book.
.- No one regrets more than I do having to address the House, because I am perfectly aware of the anxiety of the Government to push forward with the legislation that has teen proposed by our party. But an honorable member cannot be expected to remain quiet whilst those with whom he has been connected nearly the whole of” his life are abused. Honorable members opposite have had much to say about trade unions ; but,, as a matter of fact, they have no knowledge whatever of trade’ unionism. No member of the Opposition who has yet spoken on this question has. When the Attorney-General closed his speech op the motion for the second reading of the Bill, the Opposition were most anxious that the debate should be adjourned. The Leader of the Opposition is always very affable; but on that occasion, I saw him for the first time look very cross. I could not understand why the demand was made. The only conclusion to which I could come was that the Opposition were anxious, before proceeding to discuss the Bill, to see what reception it would meet with at the hands of the press. They were looking to the Sydney Morning Herald, and other newspapers, to tell them how they should deal with it. The Labour party, on the other hand, were prepared to go on with the Bill. I feel confident that the excuses offered, on the occasion to which I have referred, against the continuation of the debate, were made only to gain time so that the Opposition might receive directions as to the way in which they should criticise the measure. I was particularly struck by the fact that, whilst the Attorney-General was speaking, there were more members of the Opposition present than there had been since the opening of the session. Nearly every legal member - I shall not say “ lawyer,” because that would be a compliment - was in his place. Every one of them was anxious to speak when it was found that the Government were prepared to go on; because they wished to show their loyalty, to the people who are opposed to the Labour party. If any measure should receive the support of the Opposition it is this. Indeed, it should receive the support of every section of the House. I was surprised, on entering this august assembly, to find, amongst the representatives;, of the people, members so narrow-minded that they lcoked upon a unionist as one who should be hindered by legislation in his march of progress in the cause of humanity. If this Parliament sat for three years, and did no more than frame and pass a measure which would prevent strikes and locks-out, it would have performed one of the greatest pieces of work ever attempted by any Legislature. Parliaments all the world over “ would be anxious to copy such legislation. I think it is possible to accomplish that. The honorable member for Parkes has done more than any man in Australia, except, perhaps, Sir William McMillan, to bring the Labour party into existence and into power. When, during the strike of 1891, Sir- Henry Parkes was unfortunate enough to break his leg, the two gentlemen I have mentioned had charge of the Government of New South Wales ; and it was then that they took a drunken police magistrate to read the Riot Act on Circular Quay. We were then told that, instead of resorting to strikes, we should return representatives to Parliament, and by that means have our cases submitted to conciliation and arbitration. We took that advice, and made the attempt; and we see the results at the present day. The honorable member for Parkes has what I may call a boa-constrictor method of oratory; that reptile we know first slobbers his victim all over, and then swallows him at one gulp ; and that is the way in which the honorable member dealt with the question before us. We “know, further, that the success of conciliation and arbitration on the occasion of which the honorable member spoke was due to the fact that Mr. Sangster, secretary of the Seamen’s Union, was then in the Victorian Parliament, and that the seamen, the wharf labourers, and the coal-lumpers were all united in one strong, powerful union. In New South Wales, Sir George Dibbs introduced a Conciliation and Arbitration Act, as Sir Henry Parkes did subsequently, but the first scheme proved a failure, as also did the second, which provided a Board consisting of twelve assessors, with a chairman, but did not provide for compulsion. Let us just glance for a moment at some organizations other than trade unions. I have the names of a few here, and the first is the Architects’ Association, which has for its object the protection of the interests of the members, and then come the Builders and . Contractors’ Association - who certainly uphold their “ end of the stick “ - the Chambers of Commerce, Chambers of Manufactures, Employers’ Federation, and the Bankers’ Institute, all with secretaries and officials. Another body is the British Medical Association. The honorable member for Parkes charged the honorable member for Darling with having approved of the ducking of a man in the river, -and with saying that anti-unionists generally were not entitled to Christian burial. As to the medical profession, I may say I have some knowledge of it, seeing that I have been president and secretary of a friendly society, and chief ranger of my own order as often as I- chose to fill the office. When a medical man who is not a member of the British Medical Association requires the assistance of another medical man, no member will attend, no matter how near death the patient may be. There are members of the British Medical Association in Sydney to whom I have pleasure in raising my hat - a courtesy I do not show to everybody - and I am not here to champion- the cause of non-members. As a journeyman, I was a member of my own union, and as an employer I am a member of the Employers’ Association ; and I know that all the organizations to which I have referred are for the purpose of doing good. No honest employer fears or objects to a trade union, because, with a strong, united body, he knows what is the value of the labour, and what he has to pay. Honorable members opposite frequently refer to trade unions, though they know very little about such organizations.
– The honorable member said that we had trade unions on this side.
– The honorable member for Lang was at one time quite in a different frame of mind, and wore the doorstep out trying to get the nomination of the trade union.
– Same old gag!
– Honorable members opposite, in regard to trade unionism, are very much like temperance people in regard to the drink traffic. Temperance people will tell us all about the fair-haired barmaid and her influence over her customers ; but at the same time they have to confess that they have never tasted drink or been in an hotel. Let me read the list of objects of one trade union. They are as follow -
The objects of the Society shall be : -
To secure, promote, and advance the industrial and social interests of its members.
To uphold, protect, and defend the rights of organized labour generally, and ‘ those of our members in particular.
To secure and preserve fair and reasonable hours and conditions of work, and proper and sufficient remuneration for the same.
To secure the adoption of a proper system of apprenticeship, providing for the due instruction and proper remuneration of youths apprenticed to the trade.
To establish funds, or otherwise to make due provision for granting assistance to members in case of accident, or to their relatives, nominees, or legal representatives in the case of death.
Generally to provide for the due regulation of the trade as a whole, in accordance with the rules of the Society.
Can any one object to such objects? And I may say that at the initiation ceremony the candidate has his attention drawn to the obligations of citizenship, which are pointed out as necessary in order to obtain the respect of the circle in which he moves. The trade unions have been the pioneers of progress, and no organizations have done so much in support of the liberties of the people.
– Nobody objects to trade unions, but only to the tyranny that is sought to be practised.
– It is disorderly to take notice of interjections, and I shall only say that I suppose there are fools in Parliament as in every other body. I should like to draw attention to the number of legal members who occupy seats amongst the Opposition members, and to the anxiety they displayed when this Bill was introduced. That anxiety would seem to be shared by the Premier of New South Wales, who, according to a telegram in the Age, regards the introduction of this Bill as “red hot” - whatever that may mean - and as’ tending to unification. It would appear that Mr. Wade almost began to w eep ; and I can only come to the conclusion that he expects defeat at the forthcoming election, and is grieving in anticipation. Another gentleman, who has been making some remarks about this measure, and decrying it as most horrible legislation, is that intellectual giant, Walpole. Of course, honorable members have heard of the celebrated speech in which that gentleman said that marriage was a luxury.
– It has been denied hundreds of times.
– Of course it has. We have all denied statements when we have got into a fix. I look upon this legislation dealing with conciliation and arbitration as one of those social questions of which Parliament has not yet realized the ultimate results or possibilities. With a proper system of conciliation and arbitration, I am convinced that we can do a lot of good in the interests of those who have to toil for their living. There is a great discrepancy in many ways between the conditions of life of those who live in cities and those who live in country districts. If we could make the conditions of the residents of the country what they ought to be, we should remove one of the greatest blots on Australia. Take, for instance, the discrepancy between the numbers of the male and female population in various parts. The three electorates of North Sydney, Parkes, and Wentworth contain 11,000 more women than men, whereas the three country districts of Darling, Gwydir, and Riverina contain 21,000 odd more men than women. There must be some reason for that difference, and my view is that we have not sufficiently looked after the interests of those who work in farming and other occupations in the country. If their surroundings were such that a man could take a wife to them those men would naturally desire to marry. No man lives in a tent in a country district for pleasure. If he could get a decent habitation, he would take a wife to himself, and then we should have more of the best possible immigrant - the Australian baby. But while, through maladministration, or want of thought, or carelessness, we leave our country districts in their present condition, we offer no opportunity or inducement to those who follow country occupations to marry and rear families.
– There is no immigration in this Bill.
– I am glad of the honorable member’s interjection, because we are sending publications to England, and pasting the walls of the Old Country with pictures of pretty cows, cabbages, and strawberries
– Order !
– I was simply replying to the interjection of the honorable member for Parramatta. I am sure that all honorable members are in favour of getting more population, and, if so, how can it be better secured than by improving the conditions of country life ? Surely no honorable member objects to that. This Bill aims at improving those conditions, and if it is applied to farm labourers and those following the group of industries included under the terms “ horticultural, viticultural, and dairying,” it will do a great deal to solve the problem of increasing population in the country districts. I do not know what came over the honorable member for Parkes to-day. His new-born zeal for unionism is so much at variance with his previous career that I can only conclude that he has undergone an intellectual readjustment. Those of us who knew him in the early days, when he persisted in getting a drunken magistrate to read the Riot Act to prevent the unionists holding a meeting, must have marvelled at his attitude to-day.
– Who says he did that?
– When I was speaking previously on the Address-in-Reply, the honorable member for Parramatta interjected that the Opposition would all come over to this side of the House. I believe that if the honorable member thought there was a possibility of a portfolio, he could perform that trick better than any other member.
– Order !
– I do not know whether the honorable member has a good memory, but, unfortunately for him. I have a fair one. I remember that, in 1886, when we wanted to form a union-
– Order ! Will the honorable member confine himself to the question before the Chair?
– I draw your attention, sir, to the fact that one of the objects of the Bill is to increase unions in agricultural districts, and I was referring to the assistance which it ought to receive from the honorable member for Parramatta. That honorable member assisted me some years ago in bringing about a union at Lithgow. I admit that he was a very good trade unionist at that time.
– I did.
– We had a banquet at the Cosmopolitan Hotel.
– Order ! I must ask honorable members to try to conduct the business in the way in which it should be conducted. The honorable member is not conforming to the ordinary conduct of business in the Chamber, and I ask him to confine himself to the question before the Chair.
– I wish to point out that the Opposition ought to assist the Government to perfect this measure, because the subject is full of pitfalls, and our object . is to do good. If we,’ as a Parliament, can frame an Act that will stop strikes and locks-out, we shall perform a good work. Some years ago, the honorable member for Parramatta assisted me to form a miners’ union at Lithgow, and in those days it took him a longer time to wash his face than it does now. At that time he advised all those who were working in the collieries at Lithgow to belong to the Miners’ Union. I am sure the honorable member does not deny that. I could mention the names of those whose company he was in at that particular ceremony, but John Norton was present, for one. This Bill has several objects, every one of which ought to commend itself to all the members of this House. One of them is, as far as possible, to lay down the procedure to be followed in bringing . disputes before the Court. I think the honorable member for Flinders will agree with me that, when an association has registered, and its rules have been approved by the Registrar, the production of a certificate by the Registrar to that effect ought to be accepted by the Court as prima facie evidence of the existence of the organization, just as when a public company comes before an ordinary Court of Justice, whether as plaintiff or ‘defendant, it is only necessary to produce the certificate of its registration. A provision of that kind would do away with a lot of the delay that has hitherto taken place in the Arbitration Court, and the House ought to be ready to pass it without opposition. Another clause extends the powers of the President of the Court. I quite admit, with the honorable member for Bendigo, that what is proposed is a very large power to give. I do not think any State Parliament, or any other Parliament that I know of, has yet given to any Judge the right to interfere in a matter which has not been brought before him in accordance with the procedure or rules of the Court, but in this case we propose to give the Judge, who holds the high and honorable position of President, power to intervene if there is a dispute existing of the character of the recent Newcastle coal strike, and interfering, as that trouble did, with the whole of the machinery of our industrial life. I am sure the House will agree to that provision, especially when we have, as President of the Court, a gentleman like Mr. Justice Higgins, who has gained the respect of both sides, and, I believe, of the whole community. If such a man had been able to intervene in the late unfortunate conflict in New South Wales, it would not have been possible for the Wade Government to throw men into gaol simply because they belonged to a. trade union. Honorable members opposite have made the most of the clause in this Bill which provides for preference to unionists. Consider what the unions have achieved. There are organizations with which I have been connected all my life, which have fought for the widening of the franchise, the giving of a vote to every man and every woman, and the provision of technical education. Those are some of the reforms which have been won by trade unionism. Not one of them would now be removed from the statute-book by this or any Parliament. Why, then, should we be afraid to give preference to unionists? It must be remembered that preference cannot be given until a case has been brought before the Arbitration Court. Were the mere registration of a union to carry preference with it, there might be some justification for the alarm of honorable members opposite. Some of those whom we represent think that ‘preference should follow registration ; but I do not. I see no reason for refusing to assist the Government to provide preference to unionists. The men who direct the unions are framing rules for the improvement of the conditions under which their fellow-men labour ; and what nobler aspirations can any body of men have than the bettering of the conditions of their fellows? I have spent many a pound in assisting secretaries of unions who, because they held those positions, were compelled to walk the streets, unable to get employment. Who are the men foi whom we are asking preference? They are men who sit up, night after night, in the various lodge-rooms, solving social problems for the benefit of their fellows.
By benefiting their fellows, they benefit the country; no one can deny that. I was glad to hear the honorable member for Richmond say that he pays certain wages; we are legislating, not for him, but for those who will play the meanest tricks in order to make a few shillings. It is said that if we apply the arbitration law to the farming community the farmers will give np their land, and leave the country. I know what was done by Joseph Arch, in 1872, to remove the misery caused by the cruelty of squires, parsons, reverend gentlemen, and justices of the peace. As a lad learning my trade, I became acquainted with the conditions which existed in Dorsetshire ; they made me ashamed of my countrymen. The only way in which reforms could be obtained was by organizing the agricultural labourers. Since they joined unions their conditions have been better. I have not heard during the debate reference to menial servants or to clod-hoppers. In England, the man who ploughs is often termed a clod-hopper, and the servants of the household are termed menials. In my opinion, there is no such thing as menial service. Even the corporation labourer who sweeps the streets cannot perform his work unless he possesses intelligence, and he is as necessary for the well-being of the community as is the bishop or the honorable member for East Sydney. I appeal to honorable members to assist the Government in making this measure a success. The Attorney-General should receive assistance from both parties. We were told in the early days that conciliation and arbitration would bring about industrial salvation. But to-day we find honorable members striving to block a measure which substitutes for the barbarities of strikes the peaceful settlement of industrial disputes. Had the Act of 1904 proved a success, there would be no need for this measure. I am aware that the Bill is full of pitfalls. But this is an enlightened Democracy. Do honorable members think that a community, where almost every man can read and write, will suffer itself to be oppressed like a community in which twothirds of the people are illiterate?
– Does the honorable member think that the Bill will put an end to strikes ? I, having read it carefully, say that it will promote strikes.
– If the honorable member thinks it his duty to do nothing but fight the measure, he had better leave it alone.
– The honorable member just said that it is full of pitfalls.
– I meant that it is full of legal technicalities. An Act is believed by the Parliament that passes it to be the proper expression of its will and intentions, but constructions are sometimes put upon its provisions by legal gentlemen quite other than the meaning of its framers. Any wealthy person can pay for these misconstructions. That is the difficulty to which I was alluding. I presume that honorable members have no desire to sit here in the hot weather. My experience tells me what a strain such sittings put on members. Therefore, they should not vie with one another in blocking the measure. Its clauses can be discussed in Committee. When the honorable member foi Flinders was speaking, I made an interjection to the effect that his was an electioneering speech. Many of the speeches during the debate have sounded like electioneering speeches. I appeal, to honorable members not to block the Bill, but to assist the trade unions in getting it passed. My constituents are not interested in the proposal to bring the farming, dairying, horticultural, and viticultural industries under the arbitration law. Before you could plough an acre of land in East Sydney you would have to pull down houses, remove pavings, take away kerbing and guttering, and the wood-blocking of streets, and then you would have soil too stony for agriculture. As for horticulture, that is carried on there only to the extent of growing pot flowers on window sills. But I was elected to do what I could in the interests of the’ whole Commonwealth. I shall endeavour, therefore, to have the industries which I have named brought under the arbitration law, in order to improve their conditions, so that when immigrants arrive here from Great Britain they may find themselves so well off that they will write Home, and say, “ We have good jobs here; come out and join us.”
.- May I congratulate honorable members that the manner of the introduction of this measure has not led them astray. As printed, it appeared a skeleton ; but has proved to be very much alive. No other Bill likely to be introduced this session will take die reflective further than this so-called amending legislation. We shall require all, and more than all, the time that we can spare to discuss the intricate and technical questions here raised. I shall not do more than glance cursorily at some of the larger considerations that must weigh with us. It is now some seven years since a proposal of this kind was first launched in this Parliament, and during three or four years we have had experience of the working of an arbitration tribunal. The testimony borne by the Attorney-General, in the course of his introduction, to the number of matters upon which he would not pronounce, and of questions to which he had no answer, are sufficient to indicate, even to a layman possessing little legal knowledge, how many of those pitfalls to which the last speaker has alluded still remain in our path, when we endeavour tb ascertain the precise purport or exact reach of the existing Act. This, too, without regard to the further complications proposed to be introduced by this amending measure. We are fast finding, from the addresses of our honorable friends opposite, how very near to their hearts this measure is. I doubt if any other comes closer, or seems more valuable to them, either in the present or the future. If electorally valuable to them, it must be valuable to us, and it will be our duty to assist them in scrutinizing it in every particular. That scrutiny does not mean, and never has meant, in any sense, an antagonism to in?dustrial organization. Least of all can this be implied of those who, like myself, were intimately associated with the drafting of the first Bill by my colleague in the Barton Cabinet, the late Mr. Kingston, a name always to be honorably associated with this legislation as its pioneer in Australia. Neither those who joined with .him in the great task of framing that measure, nor those who afterwards saw it through its many vicissitudes in this House, can lie open to the suspicion that any criticisms they may offer are suggested by antagonism to unions or - unionism. That measure was drafted and launched through Parliament in order to assist unionism to attain its full legitimate aspirations, and its com’pletest industrial service. Anything that brings us into apparent or nominal antagonism on the new Bill will be due to its attempts to divert unionism from its direct and well-known channels into new indirect ways, and to. bring it under influences which, if successful, will go far to stifle the energies and ambitions that have hitherto been the force of that great .movement. I look upon the original measurefor arbitration and conciliation as constituting the necessary complement of unionism; as an endeavour to unite in harmony, and to use the whole national force to bring into harmony all the industrial powers of the community. These should make for the elevation of the nation, and minister to its growth and prosperity, instead of being consumed in sterile strife as when one selfish interest is pitted against another. Since the reference of the honorable member for Parkes to the fact that, in the absence of Mr. Kingston, who had retired from the Cabinet, it fell to my lot to introduce the first Conciliation and Arbitration Bill in this House, I have refreshed my memory from the statement I then made on behalf of the Government; and find in it exactly that spirit to which I have just referred. The Bill was framed with great expectations; but was accompanied by the necessary precautions already derived from experience, and with a reasonable expectation that in this new field we should find some surprises, and many circumstances which it would be necessary to meet by novel measures. I did not say, as the honorable member was good enough to quote me, that the passing of the first Conciliation and Arbitration Bill would introduce a new era of civilization. What I did say was that it would mark a new phase of civilization. That is the opinion which I venture to hold yet, and which I think all members of the Opposition hold. They look forward - I certainly do - to arbitration as affording us the one and only hope of settling our industrial strifes and difficulties by the peaceful, orderly means suitable to civilization. Thus alone can those struggles be lifted to a higher plane. In the principle of arbitration and the principle of unionism applied to industrial affairs, I have seen nothing to weaken my faith. Approaching the consideration of this measure, therefore, not as an Oppositionist, I see in this legislation the greatest hope we possess for the establishment of industrial justice and industrial peace, despite the admitted defects of its machinery and the unexpected obstacles that we are sure to encounter. Seeing in this class of legislation our principal hope, I criticise it from the standpoint of one who wishes its success to be assured, and that it may not be’ diverted into perilous paths leading to its shipwreck and the temporary postpone ment of our hopes. The speeches of honorable members on this side of the House have exhibited that anxiety, and have shown also a very sincere wish to avoid in discussion any repetition or undue delay. I rise within a few minutes of the usual hour of adjournment determined that nothing on my part shall prevent the speedy closing of the debate consistent with a full examination of the Bill. Nothing on my part shall delay that by a single hour. For this reason, taking advantage of the valuable information already laid before the House, I shall avoid repeating the excellent reasons already put before the Minister in charge of the Bill for the reconsideration of certain clauses. An amending Arbitration Bill is necessary. Half of this Bill at least, and rather more, is unexceptionable, save in comparatively minor points. The rest appears to need, in some respects, severe recasting and the substitution of alternatives. The purpose of my immediate remarks is that honorable members shall not hold me to have avoided certain aspects upon which I do not wish to touch, inasmuch as they have already been thoroughly and satisfactorily dealt with by some honorable members, and particularly by honorable members of the Opposition. Seven years ago, we recognised the original Bill as the most experimental piece of legislation that had ever been, or was likely to be, launched in the Commonwealth. We set out at some length the many risks and perils we might expect to encounter.
– And they were well set out.
– We have not lost heart. We are still pressing on along the same road. The principle of arbitration is unexceptionable, and will not be challenged from any quarter. It is the machinery adopted to which we require to direct our attention. That must be susceptible of improvement from time to time, and especially at the initiation of such an entirely unprecedented attempt, as the principal Act represents, to cope with the industrial trials, difficulties, and grievances of a considerable section of our citizens. That population is scattered over a whole continent, living and working often under very dissimilar climatic and other conditions, * and susceptible to wide variations in profits, owing to extraordinary changes in the seasons, and the enormous effect which years of high prosperity on the one hand, and of possible dearth on the* other, often exercise. To adapt provisions of sufficient legal breadth and definiteness, to changing conditions of that character, suggests to all the magnitude of the problem by which we are faced. We have also to take into account the characteristics of our people - high-spirited, independent, often with difficulty brought shoulder to shoulder in order to make the necessary practical sacrifices demanded by experience, and to attain a desired goal. Yet we must provide a piece of legal machinery that must work within defined limits, and upon a fixed basis. Consequently, an approximate success is all that we can expect; but great successes have already been achieved. Australasia, which in this class of legislation, stands in the forefront of all the nations, has to-day a not inconsiderable harvest to show as the result of its operation. At the same time, we have ample room and verge enough for differences during the reconsideration of the practical problems that are involved in this Bill. “The prevention and settlement of industrial disputes “ is one of the shortest and most pregnant phrases to be found on any statutebook, or in any statement of policy. It is an apt and simple assertion of the object which those who drafted the Commonwealth Constitution had in view when, after one defeat in Adelaide, we were fortunate enough to secure its insertion at a later sitting of the Convention. It is one of those few parts of the Constitution - the financial part is another - in which the strictly Federal principle is subordinated, and the national element is so potent that it must become ultimately and practically supreme. And yet it moves, as the House has been several times reminded, within a restricted orbit, since it is confined to disputes extending beyond the single State. I am somewhat at a loss to understand the introductory statement upon this measure by the Attorney-General, unless we . suppose that it is due to the fact that the measure was brought forward on some sudden pressure earlier than had been anticipated, inasmuch as his opening sketch contained merely verbal explanations of clauses, per. haps all that was necessary for members on the other side, who, I suppose, already understood the real purpose, effect, and nature of this measure. With their knowledge such a statement may have been sufficient, but it was extremely bare for the rest of us. We can hardly discover in it a hint of the momentous character of the changes really proposed to be accomplished. It is on that account, therefore, that it becomes the most pressing duty of honorable members on this side to express themselves. Ministerialists are already sufficiently instructed. There should be no mistake on this question.’ This Bill is not as other Bills are ; it is one of a very small class, electrically potent in a great variety of directions operating over the whole of this continent, and, more than that, operating in such a fashion as to imply, if not to lead to, possibly fundamental changes in the Constitution of the Government of Australia. In addition, it touches those forces which are the greatest in this or any community - the force of wealth and capital on the one side and the force of labour on the other. It is also related to that national, patriotic spirit and impulse which we must chiefly rely upon to unite these two forces, subordinating their independently disintegrating aims to the larger purpose of deepening and intensifying that union which makes us one people and one nation. Under these circumstances, the mere effects of this measure in the sphere of practical life upon wages; hours, terms and conditions of employment - which are of enormous importance to the community, and of enormous value to the bulk of our citizens - great as these are, and requiring to be closely considered, are not, perhaps, the prinicipal effects which this scheme is likely to exercise. In a recent treatise by a popular American writer, I read, with some surprise, an extremely suggestive review of the last quarter of a century of American politics, tending to show that the United States Constitution, of all Federal Constitutions the most rigid and most fixed, and its Court, perhaps, the most autocratic in any Federal country, in spite of all the obstructions afforded by a Constitution framed more than a century ago, had each of them been yielding steadily to the tide and pulse of popular feeling to such an extent that not only the Court and its readings, but also the Constitution interpretation, were being altered by the steady impact of a growing public opinion. If that be possible, and it is possible - the writer appeared to make an excellent case - in the United States of America, how much more so in Australia, with a Constitution far more flexible and far more directly under popular control. Ours is far more certain to respond promptly to any great changes in the social structure which is the habitation of the life of the nation. I find myself straying beyond the path I had set myself, because I wish to insist that before turning to the purely verbal and technical introduction of the Attorney-General, we would do well to concentrate our attention upon some of the larger effects of the series of proposals, all of which he omitted to study. Here also let me suggest by a brief reference, that, although this Parliament is the centre of Australian national life, and from it there naturally radiate influences <>n the representatives whom the people have sent here, which will potently react in every corner of the Commonwealth, -we have to remember that we are still a Federal Government, and that the true and full results of Federalism are only to be obtained and retained by the process of building upwards. We must build, not from this Parliament alone, but up to this Parliament from subsidiary local organizations, either in existence or to be called into existence, to assist us to bear what would otherwise be the intolerable burden of endeavouring to adapt for use the general principles fitting the various circumstances of the manifold trades, occupations, industries, and employments which are to be found in Australia. Simply by way of premise I again urge, as often urged before in previous Parliaments, that to Wages Boards, or kindred bodies, in which employers arid employed in each particular industry meet face to face with full and competent knowledge between them of all the details and surroundings of the industry, and a capacity for dealing in a practical fashion with practical disputes, we must look in the future for its efficient application and exercise of its functions. In this relation, as in many others, centralization and unification - that is, industrial centralization and industrial unification - would prove, if not wholly fruitless, in many cases futile, extremely costly, and always unsatisfactory. We must adapt ourselves throughout the Commonwealth to the conditions of each of its separate sections, and the circumstances of each particular trade. We shall need to come in touch, not only with one class of occupation, but with many and varied classes, and to realize their interactions amongst themselves; and these, it appears, - impossible for us to bring ourselves in touch with, except through the medium of Wages Boards or similar bodies. With their aid ve can then proceed with more confidence to lay down general principles which all must obey, and to which all must conform, leaving them, within limits, the largest reasonable sphere of liberty and selfgovernment it is possible to devise. The other side of the shield must not be forgotten. In Australia, with one Tariff at the seaboard and one control of imports, there must be, ultimately, in some form, one national control of all industries affected, or liable to be affected, by those imports. While, therefore, pressing the local view, I press with it the Federal view as its necessary complement, one aiding the other. If we seek to exclude either, nothing but disaster can attend us in many directions. We must bring them together into proper relation. What, then, in plain language, are we considering to-night? We are considering industrial conflicts, minor or major, of more classes and of more varying extents that it would be possible for me to characterize were I to attempt to define them for the next hour. We have to recognise that the new developments of industry, “extremely numerous as they are now, will not decrease, but will increase in the march of civilization. We have to prepare for further elaborations and for increasing varieties and differences, or else we shall fa 1.1 behind. The old subdivision of industries, about which we used to hear so much, is still proceeding, and will still proceed, and, with the march of invention and the advances of science, present us fresh problems, or old problems with new faces, in connexion with employment and investment in Australia. It is proposed to deal with these by a Court, in one sense a Court of law - at all events, its title inevitably suggests such a body. We know what the reputation of Courts of law is. Admirable as they are for their legal purposes - we have as yet been unable to improve on them, and possibly always shall be - we know how the current satirist or jester find’s food for mirth and a target for his wit in the delays, difficulties, technicalities, narrownesses, obscurities, and changes of the law.
– Lawyers all the time !
– Yes, and let me incidentally remark that one characteristic of advancing civilization may not only be tha multiplicity of lawyers - but is certainly a multiplication of knowledge both of the powers and limitations of law required for every elector who discharges his duty at the ballot-box. More and more is civilization, if not a creation of the law, accompanied by the enforcement of law in its uttermost recesses. More and more do all political questions in civilized communities in time of peace come to be centred on issues which have to be regarded from a legal as well as from a practical aspect. I hope, however, that honorable members will not lead me astray, even by suggestive interjections, as I do not desire to detain the House an unnecessary minute.
– Civilization is the law.
– Civilization is the law, yes, but the word ‘‘law” is used there in a sense which, while it includes the whole range of legal functions, means something more. I ask honorable members to recall for an instant - only with a lightning flash of recollection - the enormous complexity and increasing perplexities in the social and industrial life of this and every other country - in this new country with all its fresh developments - arid then I remind them that the means we are proposing to use to sweep away those difficulties, and to prevent and settle industrial disputes, is, of all things, a Court ! Not wholly a Court of law ; it remains a Court in most of its forms with a presiding Judge as President,, who is necessarily called upon to take into account at every turn both the principles and the practice of the law. We have a Court to settle our difficulties, but the name should not mislead us. So far as I am informed, there is rio other Court like it or claiming that title in the civilized world. It is the pure creation of law for the administration of law, yet is authorized to divest itself of some of the most distinctive features of every Court of law. While it is called an Arbitration Court, we have at every sta.ee to remember this important departure deliberately taken. In the existing Act stands the often referred to section 25. which says that -
In the hearing and determination of every industrial dispute the Court shall act according to equity, good conscience, and the substantial merits of the case -
Any Court that does that need not be asked to do more, but the section proceeds - without regard to technicalities or legal forms, and shall not be bound by any rules of evidence, but may inform its mind on any matter in such manner as it thinks just.
Here is a Judge of the law, presiding in a Court of law. He touches a button, and in an instant the laws of evidence, the technical forms, and the special and peculiar features of the Court of law, dis appear at once. In their stead there is left a man of experience, of ability, of rank in the law, who has been empowered to free himself from those ordinary judicial obligations, facing the problems presented to him independently of them. As the layman would be inclined to say, he proceeds practically at his own sweet will.
– That does not apply to the High Court, though.
– No. But the High Court supervises the findings of the Judge of the Arbitration Court only on questions of law and jurisdiction. Upon all questions of fact, and it is upon these that industrial disputes turn, he is supreme, and from his decisions in that regard there is no appeal. Here then is a Court, not only relieved at the pleasure of the Judge sitting in the Court of all legal forms and technicalities, but consisting at present of one man from whom, on questions of fact, there is no appeal. That, I venture to say, was one of the most courageous experiments ever undertaken, and yet it is one which I believe is justifying itself by its results.
– If the lawyers had been kept out, it would have been an absolute success.
– You would not have known where a failure might lurk until you endeavoured to give it practical effect. A Court in which legal principles and precedents obtain strictly until the President of the Court chooses to decree otherwise, and after that may be applied partially or discontinuously at his pleasure, or not be applied at all, is a novel tribunal. Now, perhaps honorable members will forgive me for that digression upon the Judge’s peculiar authority, when I add some of the perplexities which naturally surround this Court in certain circumstances. As the particular distinguishing characteristics of this Court have not been much touched upon in this debate, and in the hope of enlightening some of the many thousands of the electors of both sexes whose knowledge must be extremely cloudy from want of appreciation of the real character of the Court and of its problems, I propose to take advantage of one of the most recent judgments delivered by the able and distinguished President of that Court in regard to what is popularly known as the boot trade dispute - The Australian Boot Trade Employes Federation, claimants, against Whybrow and Company and others, respondents - a judgment delivered in November last year. This shows us the possibilities of progress under the existing Act - I am not yet touching upon the new Bill. At the very outset of the judgment we obtain some clue to the conditions necessarily surrounding at its commencement our new departure in industrial policy from the statement of His Honourthat in this particular case everything was disputed between the parties, even the fact that there was a dispute ! He went on to remind them that the precise meaning of this untechnical word “ dispute “ is left still in much obscurity, notwithstanding the dicta in previous cases. We are still liable to have everything in dispute, while the word “dispute” has. not yet been completely defined. The next statement is that resort to this Court is meant to be a substitute for strikes or violence or other extreme courses. We need not express much surprise that as yet it has not been a completely efficient substitute, since we have had sporadic strikes and violence and other extreme courses attending its earlier developments. The difficulties in this boot case were caused in part because the rules of the organization - I understand that to be the employes’ organization - had not been complied with in submitting the dispute to the Court. The President says, “ The rule is badly drawn, but I am not at all satisfied that it has the meaning for which the respondents contend.” Hence, to be efficient, this Court must be supported by organizations which have clear and proper rules. It is not within the power of the Court to have a case properly presented, and as a consequence properly decided, without the intelligent cooperation of allthe organizations and bodies concerned. That is a rudimentary matter, but surely helps to remind us of the extraneous obstacles to be surmounted and traps to be avoided. Note, too, the responsibilities that rest upon the President of this Court, when inquiring why our advance has not been the rapid triumphal progress expected by some. We are laying foundations; and the sphere of this Court’s operations is so often beyond the knowledge of the lawyer - even of the greatest lawyer - dealing as it does so constantly with practical affairs and relations, that the task imposed upon its President is often one of almost inextricable difficulty. The next passage indicates some of the principal considera tions which the President of the Court requires to bear in mind in order that he may do justicebetween man and man. Here is his statement -
So far I have looked at the matter from the point of view of the operator only. What about the conditions of the trade, the position of the manufacturers, the pressure of foreign competition, the possibility of a formidable increase in prices to the public? Foreign imports are not increasing.
Then he discusses our foreign imports. Here is a dispute in the boot trade, which necessarily takes the’ President of the Court into matters affecting the condition of the employes, the situation of the employers, the pressure of foreign competition upon manufacturers, and the possibility of an increase in prices, all matters which are apart from the question of wages to which his attention is being specially directed. In this case, how is he obliged to shape his finding so as to do justice in Australia ? He finds that there are reasons for allowing the special circumstances of Queensland to be met. He is able, by his authority, to deal with Queensland employes and employers in the boot trade differently from those in the other States. Where is there, in any country in the world, such a power vested in a single man under similar circumstances ? What did the Judge say ? -
I cannot give this bonus of 8s. per week to the Queensland manufacturers, permanently or even indefinitely. I should not thereby settle the dispute ; and besides, I should be defeating the ends of the Constitution.
Then he proceeded to order the employers in the first year to pay 44s., in the second year 48s., in the third year 52s., and in the fourth and later years 54s. No such industrial power exists, so far as I know, anywhere else. Here is the fiat of the President of a Court, who fixes the wages and hours and conditions for the whole boot trade, and differentiates to the great temporary advantage of one part of Australia against the rest, in order that justice may be done. Is not that fact a tribute to the potency of the method we have devised, and an indication of what is possible under it? Then consider the difficulties under which that gradation had to be fixed. The Judge said -
If this gradation be allowed to the Queensland manufacturers, it would not be fair to be more abrupt with the manufacturers of the other States, and to create a differentiation wider than at present. The Adelaide respondents desire gradation ; the Sydney respondents, so far as they have expressed themselves, do not; the Melbourne respondents differ among themselves. What may suit a big factory in a strong financial position and with elaborate arrangements, may not suit other factories. I regret that I cannot make an order meeting the wishes of all ; so I allow the gradation, and those who object to it are not bound to take advantage of it.
Here, again, if the public outside knew, as they ought to know, that these are the problems submitted to the President of the Court, and that it is in this - as 1 venture to say - just and wise manner that we are actually settling them, we should have a more educated condition of public opinion, appreciative of what has been done, is being done, and may be done in these ways. This eminent Judge, a great lawyer with a great deal of knowledge outside the law - then indicates what incidental problems he has to consider. They include questions relating to apprenticeship, the ages of apprentices, when apprenticeships shall begin, and when they shall end, how apprentices shall be paid-
– They are all common-sense questions.
– They are; but they are questions about which there are keen conflicts of opinion among the manufacturers in the different States, and between manufacturers and employes, which the President of the Court has authority to decide absolutely. He must decide between these conflicting views. Then, again, he has to consider boy labour. He has, too, to consider rates of payment. and conditions of industry all over Australia.
Mr.West. - That is a very rough job.
– But it has to be done as at law, not in a rough way, but with great refinement and precision. The Judge also has to balance the position of four States where there are Wages Boards in operation, whose findings he ought to take into account. He has to federalize them and govern them. There they are. The Wages Boards have looked into the questions affecting the trade from the purely local stand-point.
– He can only govern them in one way under the High Court decision.
– Exactly ; but still he has to look into all these questions. He has to make himself acquainted with them, to consider their merits and demerits, and to set one against the other. It seems to me that, when we are amending an Arbitration Act, some knowledge, not only of its legal terms, but of the actual nature and method of its working, is requisite in this
Parliament. The House should know what the Court is expected to do, and must do, and what are some of the difficulties which have had to be overcome. There are two passages in the summary with which we may conclude. One is that in which the President of this Court, clothed with this extraordinary power, describes his own attitude. He says -
I conceive it to be my duty to leave every employer free to carry on his own business on his own system, that he may make the greatest profit within his reach so long as he does not perpetuate industrial trouble, or endanger industrial peace ; and that means, so long as he satisfies the essential human needs of his employes, and does not leave them under a sense of injustice. In the strain of competition, the pressure on the employer is often very great, and he ought to be free to choose his employes on their merits and according to his own exigencies, free to make use of new machines, of improved methods, of financial advantages, of advantages of locality, of superior knowledge - free in short, to put the utmost pressure on anything and everything, except human life. Unless there is to be industrial war at every turn, human life must not be treated in the game of competition as if it were the ball to be kicked. This, the most valuable asset of the State, must be protected, whatever else suffers.
That is the broad and comprehensive manner in which he approached his great task, and this is his summary of the state of affairs he is called upon to bring into order -
At present there is chaos. _ The manufacturers are in the throes of a competitive struggle; in the struggle they strive to reduce expenses ; and to that end they strive to reduce the cost of labour. The manufacturers fight, but the employes bear the blows.
I would interject that some employers also bear the blows ; if they do not make their businesses pay they cease to be employers -
Some manufacturers even accuse others of not taking a fair share of the burden of providing for the future of the industry, of not training their fair share of lads to become competent journeymen. I have, therefore, endeavoured to draw my award in such a fashion as to assure to employers working within the bounds of the same tariff uniformity, so far as it is possible, in the main labour conditions. Uniformity of conditions will be recognised as an advantage by most ; and the more thoughtful will admit that even if the award is not all that they would desire, there is less loss by this arbitration to employers, to employes, and to the public, than if, for several months past, the factories had been laid idle by a strike, and the men had not been peacefully working for the employers with whom they are in dispute. Of the twenty-three claims made, I grant only two, and with considerable qualifications. But these two claims granted are substantial ; and I think it is fair to award no costs to either side.
It is as well to note a series of brief comments indicating the strain put upon the President - i cannot help thinking that apprenticeship, as known hitherto, will ultimately be found to be unsuitable to factory work, under modern conditions. . . . The solution of the problem is closely associating the factories with the technical schools. … i have mentioned this idea, not because 1 propose to- incorporate it in my award, but to show that in making the award which i have to make i do not regard the award as final or satisfactory. … i shall favorably consider any practical proposal made on the lines which I have stated. I should hardly venture, as one wholly inexpert, to make the suggestion, but that I find solid confirmation and guidance in the work of Mr. and Mrs. Sidney Webb. . . . If it is sound, the State which is the first to take it up and work it out boldly will produce for its manufacturers a great advantage . . . and - I hope it is not wrong to take this into consideration - in the quality of its manhood.
These remarks indicate the perplexities which must beset every conscientious man placed in the high position of President of the Arbitration Court, and having almost despotic control, within wide limits, of the industrial life of Australia. Here is another memorable obiter dictum of a practical kind occurring in this very striking judgment -
We speak of labour-saving machines; but they save no labour to the worker. For him they involve as great waste of nerve tissue as before. He gets through a single article in a much shorter time ; but he gets through many more articles.
That sums up, in practical fashion, a pregnant fact worthy of the memory of Parliament. The work of this Court, and the conditions under which it adjudicates, cannot be appreciated without a study of these documents, which bring us face to face with the facts, the conflicting interests, and the legal and other difficulties which have to be surmounted. Unfortunately, we have not yet shaken ourselves free of some old methods. Honorable members opposite contend that the unions are entitled to special consideration in the way of preference, because they have abandoned the right to strike. One answer to that contention is that the employers have abandoned the right to lock out; but a more direct reply was supplied by the Attorney-General, when quoting decisions of Mr. Justice Heydon, in New South Wales, declaring that appellants coming before the Arbitration Court were to be limited in any concessions which they might obtain to those they could have won by a strike. A higher Court, however, made it plain that, although only a portion of what was claimed could have been gained by striking, that did not limit what could be granted by the Court. A right to go to the Arbitration Court increases the possible area of concessions, and is a compensation that balances the refusal of the unions - which, I hope, will always be maintained - to strike in order to secure industrial benefits. By entering the Arbitration Court they may gain more than they could possibly obtain by a strike. Of course, any extension of the present system of arbitration is to be brought about, first, by th<= accumulation of experience and precedents with the developments which will flow from them, and, next, by the general education of public opinion. To this I have endeavoured to contribute by calling attention to the actual circumstances of a great award, illustrating what can be done to cope with the problems presented, and also conveying some idea of the many difficulties surrounding attempts to apply fixed industrial conditions over the whole Commonwealth. It seems to me, as it seemed to the last Government, that enormous assistance could be given to the Arbitration Court, to Wages Boards, and to similar bodies engaged in dealing with industrial problems, by the establishment of a body possessing some of the functions intended to be attached to an Inter-State Commission. We could thus obtain an accumulation of data in respect to all Australian industries in their every development, authenticated, carefully compiled, which might also contain confidential particulars, not for publication, but for the information of these tribunals. In addition, a knowledge of the conditions which obtain in similar industries abroad - including new countries - all in competition with our own, an acquaintance with their methods and practices would supply information of enormous value to our own producers and manufacturers. It would also equip the Court with practical remedies for many of those losses which ordinarily discourage the manufacturer, or hamper industries in Australia. It would fit our producers to retain command of their home market, and, at the same time, would give to the public the guarantee to which they are entitled, namely, that the protection granted will not be used merely to enable any to escape bringing their industry up to date in machinery and appliances. Otherwise, the public ought not to be asked to consider them. When it has been demonstrated that our manufacturers are practically abreast of their competitors in other parts of the world, they will possess an excellent title to consideration, if it can then be shown that they cannot face foreign competition. This varied information cannot be acquired by the Court in connexion with any particular case. It ought to be ready at hand in regard to every industry, so that when the Court touches any part of the industrial life of Australia, it may have a source from which it can at once supply’ itself with that general knowledge of domestic and foreign developments which will equip it for the discharge of its great task. If the one question Ministers had asked themselves when considering this . Bill had been : “ What amendments are required to meet all the discovered deficiencies in the principal Act - ail the real defects which we have at present in view “ - I venture to say that a very few amendments indeed would have effected all the alterations which appear necessary. I do not propose to refer to clauses containing these alterations. But in the remaining clauses, the Government have broken absolutely new ground, so that this Bill, although ostensibly an amending measure, is not iri fact of that character. In other words, it is not simply a means of bringing the Act up to date and assisting its working. On the contrary, the changes which it seeks to make in the principal Act are fundamental. It aims at altering every point in that Act which was in conflict when it was under consideration in 1903 and 1904. It sweeps away all limitations then imposed, and if it be adopted, implies that a new Conciliation and Arbitration Act will be enforced in this country - an Act authorizing a more serious departure from present conditions than in most of the provisions of the principal Act. Technically, therefore, although this is an amending Bill, it contains a substantial alteration of the existing law in regard to conciliation and arbitration, and, consequently, ought to receive as much discussion as did the principal Act. Up to the present point, the debate upon it has been close, and apposite ; very little repetition has been indulged in. The Attorney-General, both at the outset of his remarks, and at their close, warned this House in most emphatic and distinct terms not to suppose that this Bill included the industrial proposals of the Government. They have yet to be submitted. The proposals here are merely intended to bring the principal Act up to the full limits permitted by the Constitution. When the tether has been strained in that direction’ as far as possible, the Government intend to submit additional proposals for amending the Constitution itself - as their statements have clearly indicated - for the purpose of centralizing the whole of the industrial authority of the Commonwealth in this Parliament. From the stand-point of a member of this Parliament, I make no complaint of any increase of our powers. But I venture to think that at the present stage we enjoy all the powers that we can effectively exercise without fresh friction of a serious kind, and that by the proposed addition to them, we shall endanger the future development of the Commonwealth. We shall be attempting the impossible task of supervising from the capital of Australia the operations of the whole of the people engaged in all industries throughout this continent. That appears to me a chimerical aim with which I do not propose to deal. We are compelled by the declaration of the Attorney-General to consider this measure merely as a prelude to further departures in the same direction, but without even the safeguards which exist in the Constitution, and which are now apparently to be swept away.
– Cannot the Leader of the Opposition wait until that time arrives?
– When it does arrive, we shall have to deal with them. .
– Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.
– I am glad that the honorable member recognises them as evils. I am merely uttering this warning note, because, even in this up-to-date country, some months must elapse before its truth can be realized. This vital question is likely to be submitted to the electors soon after the close of the present session. Meanwhile the object of this Bill is to abolish all the discernible boundaries of the present Act. But there must be boundaries somewhere which will still remain, and these we are to find by the simple process of breaking our legal shins against them. Consequently the prospect before the members of my profession who still practise in this Court, ought to be extremely encouraging.
– Suppose we shut them out.
– That would, of course, be possible, but I am not sure that it would be judicious in the interests of either party.
At all events the Attorney-General, as these provisions stand, is entitled to the gratitude and affection of the members of the profession to which we both belong, for certainly no finer, larger, or more lucrative field has been open to it for many years. On the other hand, as a representative of the people, I am obliged to direct attention to, and protest against, the costly burden about to be imposed upon them by the absence of boundaries and definitions, and by the scope which is to be given in regard to industrial affairs to any who may find it in their interest to enlarge the ambit of the Commonwealth’s power. I cannot pass over some parts of the measure without expressing an opinion that the AttorneyGeneral has been guilty of some wilful trespasses in the manner of its drafting. Even the lettering is very obscure, and much more obscure than it need be. If the Attorney-General will turn to clause 2, he will find that the sub-clauses are indicated by the letters of the alphabet a, b, c, d, and that the subdivision of these sub-clauses again are also indicated by the letters of the alphabet instead of by numbers, which would have prevented a good deal of confusion.
– I see what the honorable gentleman means, and I agree with him as to the necessity of an alteration.
– The defect is perhaps trifling, but the suggested alteration would be convenient for purposes of reference. Sub-clause b in this regard is one of those instances where any dispute in relation to employment in an industry carried on by or under the control of the Commonwealth or a State is brought in. This appears to be a direct and unnecessary challenge of a principle already affirmed by the High Court. It can only awaken expectations, which, so far, there appears to be no legal ground for supposing can be satisfied. The Attorney-General took some objection to my criticism of a famous phrase of his inthe Governor-General’s Speech, for which I ventured to express respectful admiration, because of what one honorable member has described as its definite indefiniteness.
– It gets over a lot of ground.
– Here we have it again. In future, any . industrial dispute may be triable when it is threatened, or pending, or probable.
– That seems to get them all.
– The use of that last word “probable” is really a climax. Where is there an industry in this country in connexion with which there is not a probable cause of industrial dispute?
– If there is one, I say that I have left something out.
– Exactly, the honorable gentleman did not intend to leave anything out. He intends as far as possible to legally circumvent the existing interpretation of the Constitution by the High Court.
– We have a right to take all that the Constitution will allow us to have.
– The honorable gentleman’s interesting and variegated experiments are likely to be profitable to the profession, but costly to the industries concerned.
– I doubt that.
– There may, of course, be some system devised by which fees may be reduced, but we have heard no hint of that.
– God forbid !
– These are only the notes of the overture. In the next subclause, upon which I shall dwell only for a moment, there is a perfect jewel of expression. The Attorney- General in fact scatters these precious gems, but I think that this is almost the brightest in his crown. He proposes to add to the matters included in the definition of “ industrial matters “ in the existing Act “ all questions of what is fair and right.” “ Fair and right “ are not legal terms, as my honorable friend knows.
– No, but they seem to me to be good words.
– There is not extant any effective legal definition of either, and possibly there never will be.
– Every law should be designed to do what is fair and right.
– The law endeavours to secure what is fair and right by defining in legal terms what is to be held or proved to be “fair,” and what is to be held or proved to be “ right,” and in that way does give assistance. In this clause, however, the Attorney- General simply throws the door wide open, with its outlook on the universe. There is nothing to stop his progress. The plain man in the street reading that “ all questions of what is fair and right “ in regard to any industrial matter will in future be dealt with by the Court will have a golden prospect offered to his imagination, probably involving a golden prospect of another character when it is realized at his expense. The Attorney-General knows that in this beautiful phrase he is not using legal terms, and has not even a legal purpose.
– I think so clearly. The honorable gentleman himself quoted section 25 of the Act only a little while ago, which provides that the Court may inform its mind on any matter in such manner as it thinks just.
– Due emphasis was laid on that section. But the phrase to which I refer in this Bill can only be treated as a pious aspiration.
– It is equity, which always follows the law, as the honorable gentleman should know.
– If interpreted with even the limitations of equity, it would indicate some boundary.
– We can make it so.
– The attempt may only add to the honorable gentleman’s embarrassment. At the end of this sub-clause the Attorney-General with one bold swoop brings in “society as a whole.” “ Fair and right ‘ ‘ is wonderful as a beginning, but when the definition ends with the “ good’ of society as a whole,” it becomes the most remarkable thing in quasi-legal products.
– If the honorable gentleman thinks proper, he can regard it as a kind of halleluia to the first part of the clause.
– That is what it really is.
– A kind of illuminated scroll.
– Just so, but the honorable gentleman’s own definition is better. He calls it a halleluia. He leaps into the air ; there is a great crash of cymbals, with the exulting shout “ fair and right, for the good of society as a whole.” After this we come upon some comparatively prosaic and practical details, until we find in clause 7 the proposed new sections 38A and 38B. Even’ non-legal members will understand that the plaint or statement of grievances with which a case opens is now to be amendable at pleasure, either at the original or any subsequent proceedings, and on such terms as the Court thinks fit. This is an extension of the opportunities for interim applications, which should be very fruitful, very interesting, and very encouraging for legal sports. Of course, it will keep both parties in the most cheerful state of uncertainty as to what the plaint is or is to be. It may be altered at any moment; fingers will always be on the triggers, which may be pulled without an instant’s notice to the opponent. That is good for the profession. In the next provision, it is sought to endow the Court with a power, of doubtful constitutionality, to include in an award in regard to a given dispute the settlement of some other dispute which the Court itself has incidentally discovered, or had brought before it. That again offers to the profession most enchanting prospects of further proceedings. There will be no vacations in this Court; the interim opportunities are too numerous and tempting to be resisted.
– The President of the Court evidently does not agree with the honorable member, because he has made an effort, on two occasions, to do this.
– And the High Court has twice overruled his decisions in that respect.
– We have in the President of the Court a most indefatigable and able Justice.
– We are all human.
– Some will incline to say that he needs to be more than human. 1 come now to a proposal originally made in the Bill of 1904, and around which the chief contest then centred. If the numbers were more even in this House, the contest would centre round it to-day. As it is, we can only explain and justify our position. I share the view that this attempt to make the granting of preference to unionists follow as a matter of course the fixing of a minimum wage - one of the most useful and necessary declarations to be made in many cases - goes beyond the bounds of our constitutional powers. I take it that paragraph xxxv. of section 51 of the Constitution only confers upon us a judicial power, whereas this is not a judicial, but a legislative, act. We have also to notice that, under paragraph a of proposed. new section 40, the President of the Court is allowed to make provision for fixing, subject to conditions specified, a lower rate in certain cases. Under paragraph b, however, the learned Justice, despite his eminence, authority, and knowledge, has no choice. Under paragraph b, preference is to be given to unionists, and the learned Justice is left no means of evading that provision, unless it be by denying the minimum wage, even though he thinks it ought to be granted. That is an almost impossible state of affairs to contemplate. Not only has the President of the Court no authority to hear arguments, or to consider circumstances, but he can make no conditions. The preference is to be unconditional. It is free from all safeguards or qualifications.
– He may assign certain duties to the Board of Reference.
– He may ; but he cannot impose any conditions. Paragraph a, relating to the Board, says, “ subject to such conditions as are specified in the awardor order.”
– That is his order.
– Yes; no conditions can be specified in the order in relation to preference to unionists. The President in this respect is reduced to a mere dummy.
– Under this provision, he will first make his order, and he may assign certain duties to the Board of Reference. He may assign to them, for instance, everything to which paragraph b refers.
– But we have the words “ subject to such conditions as are specified,” and he may not specify any when obliged by law to grant preference.
– That is only the mode of exercising their functions.
-Quite so. He cannot specify any conditions.
– The clause does not satisfy me. ‘ I do not think it does what we desire to do ; but not for the reason that the honorable member has given.
– If we are to see this provision in a new form, that relieves me from the necessity of further criticising it.
– I shall consider carefully what the honorable member has said.
– On the question of preference to unionists, a good deal was urged when the original Bill was before the Parliament in 1904. The majority, of whom I was one, took the view that preference to unionists, great and valuable as it was to the unions, and injurious as it must prove to those who were not unionists, was a reasonable and proper provision to be able to make. Consequently, provision for preference to unionists exists to-day in the principal Act, and has never been assailed or sought to be interfered with.
– It has never been granted.
– Because the unions, in one or two cases, at all events, declined to comply with the conditions upon which it would be granted. The first of these conditions to which objection was taken requires that a union shall not be of a political character. At present, some unions created merely as industrial bodies are also in fact political bodies. If the proposal of the Government be adopted, the ultimate outcome will be most unfortunate, if not disastrous, for all unions. They will pay a very heavy price for introducing political motives, and reducing themselves to political agencies. They will find that they have no permanent gain. It may enable them to use the pressure of absolute necessity in such a way that many men will join unions who would not enlist unless coerced. But these will not be the elements that have made the strength of unionism in the past, or can make it in the future. This Bill will establish relations between the unions and political agitations which, in the long run, will prove disastrous to them. Coercive methods are not, and never have been, justified in the history of unionism. There was a time when unions had to fight against coercion exercised by those who desired to limit and defeat unionism. To prevent and punish that coercion was the proper duty of Parliament. Unions were entitled to be set free from that coercion, which was then chiefly for industrial ends. But now unions ought to be required to separate their functions as industrial organizations, from any other aims. Men should fulfil their political functions in bodies, unrelated, independent in funds, and differing in character. To these also they should belong, or not, as they think fit ; there should be no limit to their liberty. It is. not as if, under the pressure of antagonism, Government hostility, or unfair legislation, the unions were able to make themselves heard in Parliament. How many members are there now on the Ministerial side who are not members of unions?
– I belong to an employers’ union.
– What then has trade unionism to fear or to gain in a political sense, when, already, practically every member on the Ministerial side, and a certain number, I dare say, on this, are unionists, with the interests of trade unionism at heart ? The unions have this to lose - that questions, instead of being dealt with on their industrial merits, and in their industrial relations, will always be liable to be obscured and perverted for merely political ends and purposes, which afterwards the unions will pay for and regret. In any case, the Bill will assist to establish, not the healthy intimate association which ought to subsist Between our industries and those engaged in them, and the Government and Parliament, but will substitute for that other relations on another basis, confused relations on a confused basis - to the prejudice of political life, to the prejudice of the Parliament and the Government, and ultimately to the prejudice of those pressing for it to-day. In establishing this Arbitration Court we have taken an extremely bold measure. The members on this side are willing and eager to join in perfecting that measure - nothing in this bold departure has shocked them, discouraged them, or induced them to change their views. They ‘are willing to make the measure efficient for industrial purposes in all directions over the whole of Australia ; and for that purpose to strengthen the Court, as it will probably require to be strengthened, not only by Boards of Reference, but by the other means I have suggested.
– I should like to believe the honorable member !
– And the honorable member does believe me, though politically it does not suit him to say so on the present occasion. The Commonwealth has set its hand to this task, and I see no sign of any desire to draw back. But when this legislation is sought to be diverted into another track issues of a character arise to which I have already referred. The community must be given time to foresee where we are travelling, or where it is sought to compel us to travel. The country must realize, as a whole, and prevent, if it can, the establishment of a caste system in Australia which will leave only those in the unions entitled to the rights, freedoms, and opportunities of ordinary citizenship, shutting out others, as pariahs or outcasts, who, for their own reasons - I do not understand those reasons - persistently stand out of the unions which have so many advantages to offer.
– They are content to get the benefits of unionism without contributing.
– That seems to be the only plea put forward. After all, every society, civilized and uncivilized, is carried on, if not by a minority, by a very small majority, who labour, strive, and toil while the balance are content to live, whether from hand to mouth or in luxury, contributing, by comparison, little or nothing to the progress of the whole community. The heaviest burdens of civilization are shouldered by no very considerable number of people, who are often over-burdened to such a degree that much of their motive power is lost. Trade unions to-day, by coming forward with this plea for coercive powers to fill their ranks, make a confession of weakness I should never have expected from them. They have seen the striking figures in the Age challenged, 1 believe, only on the ground that they do not include miners and certain others, but, no matter what number may not be included, what an enormous disproportion they show between unionists and non-unionists in Victoria, at all events-
– The figures are not reliable.
– I think it will be found that the figures are taken from the Commonwealth statistics, and, if they are erroneous, neither the statist nor those who quote them are to blame ; and, at all events, we are bound to accept them until better are supplied. Look at the remarkable disproportion, and ask the pregnant question, why it exists? I do not pin myself to the exact figures, but we must ask ourselves why so many working men persistently resist the inducements offered by unions to unionists ? Why are the unions not stronger? Why do they not include all our population? Surely the causes are those the unions can understand and correct. So long as unions are industrial, I have always, by advice and influence, encouraged men to join them. For industrial purposes unions fulfil a great function, and nothing can take their place; 1 hope. to see them develop to the extent of absorbing the whole population engaged in our industries. But the unions will be poisoned by politics when political issues are introduced - when a man, in order to serve the necessary and natural needs of himself and his family, is obliged to disguise or alter his political faith. In fact, the whole political life of the country will be prejudiced when there is introduced between the elector and elected the direct question of immediate pecuniary gain instead of political principle. When is the future of the nation to be considered? Who will consider it? When will those without the sacred bounds of unions be considered? Shall we not have, instead of a Parliament of the country, partisan meetings consisting of sections bitterly hostile to each other, and endangering national union ?
– We have had that. for centuries !
– The effort is to overcome it by the establishment of arbitration tribunals such as that proposed, in which it must be admitted, that, in one sense, the manufacturers or employers are, financially, staking more than any others.
– A man can stake no more than his whole !
– I am not pitting them against each other. Everybody knows what the stake of the unionists is. I do not mean the prosperous unionists, but the less fortunate members, with whom it is a handtomouth struggle. So it is with those outside the unions. The reason I leave such unionists aside for a time is because I have bracketed them with the working men outside unions, whose position is even more precarious, and whose interests are being rendered more antagonistic. I was pointing out that there was a third class, mostly employers, whose losses I could not contrast, but whose losses might take all that they possess. Many are accepting the present system. Although fighting for what they believe to be their legal rights as keenly as possible, all are obliged to accept, and many cheerfully accept, the present condition, of things. That is an enormous advance. There you can have an united nation, all classes brought together, or, at least, not set at odds. This gives possibilities of future developments much . richer and more hopeful than those that can be wrung by force. Therefore, it seems to me that this introduction of the political issue will poison the fountains of unionism, and be bitterly regretted by unionists.
– We were advised to take that course when persecuted some years ago. .
– I know ; but those who have been persecuted ought to be the last to turn persecutors. The older among them, like the honorable member and others, have known the taste of bitterness, and known what it meant to be unionists. I have known such men myself, and honoured them ; some of them have been my friends. They were fighting a just battle, they deserved to win, and they have won.
– The honorable member meant that we were advised to make our fights in the political halls, and not outside.
– Certainly; make them political contests pure and simple, without any intrusion of personal profit, and, at all events, apart from industrial issues.
– And let us have a newspaper of our own.
– I know honorable members will soon have everything of their own - a newspaper of their own, unions of their own, politics of their own, and a Parliament of their own. Then I wonder what sympathy we poor, poverty-stricken outcasts, who have none of those things, will be allowed to possess?
– Just as much as you have given us.
– If they only give usa proportion of what we have given them we shall be satisfied, because the party with which 1 have been associated from the first has given to every citizen of the community absolutely equal rights with every other citizen, an open Parliament, and an united Australia. No one could give more.
– What have the unionists got from the honorable member’s party ?
– Order ! I ask the honorable member to discontinue these interjections, and I also appeal to other honorable members to assist me in maintaining order.
– Unionists have got all they have with our aid and goodwill. I intended to draw attention to some of the larger and more serious issues, rather than to undertake the mere legal discussion of particular clauses, which can take place in Committee. So far as this Bill is really a measure, to make the existing Act more complete and perfect, I am thoroughly in accord with it. The clauses to which I have not drawn attention I propose to support, subject to verbal alterations. But in regard to the several clauses to which I have taken exception, it is a very grave exception. Honorable members must recollect the character of this Court, the field in which it operates, and the difficulties it already has to overcome. Let them realize its enormous authority and the complexity of its task, and note what it has done and is doing. They must beware of overweighting it, of breaking it down under the obligations they are imposing upon it. Especially should we avoid those which carry with them any sting - in which coercive measures are employed to bring into the fold those whom, for some mysterious reasons, the unions at present do not tempt. I do not understand why. It appears to me that it ought to be within the scope of their influence and power to bring in all those outside their unions who would be any credit or strength to them. They can and ought to do that. But the introduction of the political element into these industrial issues will, I believe, impair their appeals, diminish the efficiency of the Bill, increase the difficulties of the Court, and bring into political life new elements which will not make for peace, or equity, or judgment. The resultant State so composed will be one of business interest against business interest, fighting for concession against concession. What Parliament will that give us? What policy? We shall be altogether diverted from many of the true public political ends which this Parliament was created to transact. In endeavouring to deal with industrial matters in their minutiae all over the Commonwealth, we shall do an injury to the development and future of the continent which we shall afterwards regret. At present, much of this Bill is quite uncalled for. Let us amend the Act, make it workable, and add to it on its present lines, but refrain from those departures which, I believe, will be costly, especially costly to the nation and the conduct of its public affairs.
– As a matter of personal explanation, may I say that I understand that during my absence the honorable member for East Sydney made certain statements to the House to the effect that, when a member of the Parkes Administration, I had taken an active part in having the Riot Act read in Sydney, and had actually accompanied the magistrate on that occasion. Both statements are as absolutely untrue as they can be. If the honorable member can prove them,” I will undertake to resign my seat, if he will resign his seat should he fail to prove them.
.- In view of the importance of the measure, and the fact that the Bill was only circulated on Wednesday last - I suppose the most important measure that will be submitted to this Parliament - and as there are several more speakers on this side of the House, I feel justified in asking the AttorneyGeneral to agree to adjourn the debate.
– We must get on.
– When the Bill was first introduced there was an unnecessary attempt to rush it through this Chamber without any consideration. Now we are asked to continue its discussion at this late hour of the night. If the Government want to go on, I am prepared to do so, but it is not at all fair to expect it.
– What has brought us to this hour?
– No exception can be taken to the speech just delivered by the Leader of the Opposition - one of the most instructive and informative that we have heard. The honorable member for East Sydney spoke on the Government side for considerably over an hour.
– That is so, but they have taken up a great deal of time.
– The time has been taken up by honorable members on the Government side as well as on this side. The speeches from this side had a bearing upon the Bill, whereas the speeches of honorable members opposite, as far as I have been able to follow them - and I have listened attentively - have not attempted to touch the Bill in any shape or form. Even the speech of the Attorney-General in introducing it, while it may have been sufficient for those supporters of the Government who have had the advantage of discussing the measure in caucus, contained nothing instructive to those who, like myself, have not been able to consider the Bill apart from opportunities afforded in this House.
– The honorable member has had a week now, at any rate.
– Here is the Minister of External Affairs, who claims to be a great authority on trade union matters. Why does he not try to enlighten us?
– I rise to order. The honorable member is not discussing the question before the Chair, which is that this Bill be now read a second time.
– I submit that I was quite in order, but the Attorney-General evidently does not like my allusion to the fact that he in particular brought forward no arguments worthy of the position he holds in recommending such a Bill to the country.
– The honorable member forgets to mention that when he was in office he would not allow his supporters to speak at all, and gagged the Opposition.
– Under similar circumstances I would gag them again. However, as the Government have decided to continue the proceedings, it will be my duty to place my views on record ; because [ feel that this is probably the most important matter that we shall have to discuss during the present session, or even during the present Parliament. 1 had the honour of being a member of this House when the original Act was passed. I was present during the whole consideration of it. But nothing has been put forward by the Government to show that there is any urgency for the introduction of the present Bill. According to the reply made by the Attorney-General to the honorable member for Bendigo, some nine matters have been considered concerning which awards have been given. But there is nothing to warrant ‘the haste shown by the Government. There is an unlimited field which one might traverse as to the probability of what will happen from the extension sought to be given to the term “ industrial dispute.” The honorable member for Parkes pointed out this afternoon that under this definition the Judge is to be empowered to do what is “fair and right”; and the definition winds up by using a comprehensive expression about society as a whole. The Judge will practically act as a foster mother to the State in reference to industrial matters. I do not intend to take up more time than is necessary, and with that object in view I have deliberately laid on one side a large number of notes which I had prepared dealing with points which have to some extent been referred to by other honorable members.
– We must have a quorum present. [Quorum formed.~
– It must be evident even to the least thinking member of this House, after the criticisms that have been launched against the Bill from the Opposition side, that the statement so blithely made by the Attorney-General as to the trifling character of the amendments proposed in the law -was wide of the mark, and that the Bill is indeed of a very far-reaching character. It is difficult to see what the effect of it will be. One thing is perfectly clear, to my mind, and that is that this is an attempt to drag into the unions men collected wilh industrial operations whether they like to join or not. We have heard a great deal about coercion in New South Wales during the past five or six months. If ever a Bill of a coercive character was introduced into any legislative assembly, this certainly comes within that term. An attempt is to be made to rope men into unions ; but not for the benefit of the people who will be coerced. The object is to force them in for the specific purpose of using them for political purposes.
– Bunkum !
– I am going to show why I hold this opinion.
– The honorable member Wants the “ gag.”
– I am not speaking for the purpose of obstructing the Bill, but representing, as I do, a constituency in which there are large and important industrial concerns, I am just as much entitled to speak as is any other honorable member.
– Does the honorable member think that his speech will convert anybody?
– I have not the slightest hope of converting any honorable member opposite, and- long ago came to the conclusion that all speaking to that end is useless. I understand that members of the Labour party come here, with their minds made up.
– What an admission it is to say that they are not open to reason !
– In my constituency the important industries of mining and dairying are carried on. I have never opposed the giving of preference to unionists in the mining industry, and have always been a strong believer in trade unions so long as legitimate objects were kept in view. It is reported in the Sydney newspapers that Mr. Edmunds, the chairman of a Board which has been sitting in the district for a considerable time, has awarded preference to the unionists in the mining industry there. But a strong distinction must be drawn between that industry and manufacturing industries and the rural industries of Australia. Dairying practically had its birth in the Illawarra district, and a very large number of persons are there engaged in it now. The Labour candidates at the last election put forward an attractive programme, and gained the votes of a number of small farmers by promising progressive land taxation and other reforms, votes, which they will be sorry for having given ; but no candidate stated that a measure would be introduced compelling those engaged in agriculture and dairying to join unions.
– The Opposition candidates did so.
– The question was never raised in the campaign in which I was concerned, and, although I read the newspapers very closely, I saw no reference to it in connexion with other New South Wales contests.
– It was not mentioned in South Australia.
– Had the farmers known that this would have been proposed, they would not have been gulled by the progressive land tax proposals, and a much smaller vote for the Labour party would have been obtained.
– Why should that position have been put when it is not correct?
– The honorable member for Darling tells us that it is intended to apply to those engaged in the dairying industry benefits enjoyed by those in other industries. That is what he said in 1904. But the Attorney-General then agreed with me, as a reference to the Hansard report will show, that it was very difficult to deal satisfactorily with this matter, and in many cases apparently impossible.
– We should have a quorum. [Quorum formed.]
– The honorable member for Newcastle left the chamber while the quorum bell was ringing. He should not have done so.
– I beg your pardon, Mr. Speaker.
– When Mr. Watson was Prime Minister, it was argued in support of this proposal that it would be harmless, because its result would be practically nil. It might have no effect on the industries to which it was applied, but it would compel those connected with them to join unions, and to contribute to funds to be made use of as the” union leaders desire. Mr. Watson said that his Government would oppose the proposal, which was to exempt the agricultural, horticultural, viticultural, and dairying industries, by every means in their power, and they did so. Statements were made regarding the wages paid in the dairying industry which would not bear investigation, those who made them having no knowledge of that industry. Upon that occasion, Mr. Watson told a long story about how a party, of which he was a member, in driving along a country road came across a boy who was asleep, and whom they were unable to awake. His case was cited as evidence of the ill effects of the employment of child labour in the dairying industry. Most deplorable tales were told of the hardships suffered in this connexion, and I and other honorable members who were familiar with the conditions which obtain in the industry were obliged to go to some pains to refute these slanders. Stories were related of the way in which the landlords oppressed their tenants, and statements were made condemnatory of the share system of dairy farming.
– Order. Does the honorable member intend to connect his remarks with the question which is immediately before the Chair?
– Yes; I intend to show that similar arguments have been advanced by the honorable member for Darling with a view to proving that a necessity exists for bringing the employes in the agricultural, horticultural, viticultural, and dairying industries within the scope of the principal Act. In most instances, those arguments were quite without foundation. Only the other day, the honorable member for South Sydney uttered a slander upon every person engaged in the dairying industry throughout the Illawarra district. He stated that while he was a member of the New South “Wales Arbitration Court, a. representative of that industry from the district in question came before it, whose clothes were just hanging to his back. He evidently wished it to be concluded that the man’s condition was typical of that of those who are engaged in dairying. I pass through the Illawarra district pretty frequently, and I claim to possess a close knowledge of the dairying industry, but I have never seen anything of that kind. When the principal Act was under consideration, the statement was repeatedly made that there was a strong feeling that something ought to be done to improve the conditions of farm labourers. It was said that those conditions were pitiable in the extreme. If that statement was true, is it not a remarkable circumstance that during the period which has since elapsed there has been no agitation in the press to improve those conditions ? Six years have since elapsed, and yet no complaint has been uttered by the men who are engaged in the industry. No meetings have been held at which dissatisfaction has been expressed either with their wages or with the conditions of their employment. That, in itself, is a complete answer to the extravagant statements which have been made by some honorable members in this connexion. In 1904, Mr. Watson stated that -
The dairying industry is likely, under present conditions, to leave a distinct impress of evil upon the life of Australia.
That industry is being carried on to-day under conditions exactly similar to those which then existed, and yet I venture to say that instead of leaving an impress of evil upon the life of Australia, it is leaving an impress of good. The men who are engaged in it have been amongst the sturdiest of our pioneers. In the Richmond River and the Illawarra districts of New South Wales, they have courageously undertaken all the hard pioneering work. The real trouble is that they refuse to vote for the Socialistic panaceas which are put before them in such a suave and plausible manner. The honorable member for Darling was very anxious about their welfare the other day. Need I point out that there are only about three matters in which they can possibly be concerned, namely, their housing, their hours of labour, and their wages. I have never heard any complaint from employes in the industry in my district in regard to their housing. Mr. Scullin. - Where has the honorable member been?
– The honorable member has not visited my district.
– The honorable member’s district must be a paradise.
– It is, comparatively speaking. I would remind the honorable member that there are other places in the world besides Ballarat. I have never heard any complaint from employes in the dairying industry in New South Wales in regard to their housing. Many farm hands are treated as members of the farmer’s family. They sit at the same table, and have exactly the same food as the farmer and his family. I have never heard of a farmer who would ask any of his employes to do work which he is not prepared to do himself. The AttorneyGeneral has himself recognised that it would be practically impossible to fix hours of labour for this industry. I take the Illawarra district as an illustration of the difficulty. The industry there is largely confined to the production of milk for the supply of Sydney. The milk train for Sydney runs through the lower part of the district at 7 o’clock in the morning, and the settlers must be up at 4 o’clock in order to get their milk away on the train. I am aware that this was a source of trouble at one time to the AttorneyGeneral. I do not know at what time employes upon his farm are obliged to get up in order to get their milk away by the milk train. The honorable gentleman’s farm is situated at Windsor, and it may be necessary that his employes should rise as early as those engaged upon farms in the district I have referred to.
– They have to catch a 7.20 a.m. train, and have to be up at 5 o’clock or 5.30 a.m.
– Further north people need not get up so early to catch the milk train.
– Does this Bill say that people must get up early?
– I do not say that it . does, but 1 am mentioning the difficulties which will have to be met if any attempt is made to fix hours of labour for employes in the dairying industry. It will be almost equally difficult to fix the rate of wages of different employes in this industry. Some little time ago it was not believed that employers engaged in the farming industry would be faced with the adoption of the principle of preference to unionists, but now they believe that there is a prospect of the application of that principle to rural workers, if the attempt here being made is successful. On the subject of the wages paid in the dairying industry, I may say that 1 have never heard any complaint of the rates of wages now being paid. The industry is one in which it would be very difficult to devise a common rule which would operate equitably.
– It is much more difficult to fix the hours of work than the rate of wages. In one place in the honorable member’s electorate it is necessary for the employes to rise from one and a half to two hours earlier than in another part of the same district.
– That is so, but I contend that it will be almost equally difficult to fix the rates of wages in the industry. It would be quite unjust, for instance, to fix the same rate of wages in the industry in the Camden district as in the Richmond district. The Richmond district is blessed with an abundant rainfall, and its production is probably superior to that of any . other part of Australia. But the Camden district, which was once a favored district of New South Wales, is suffering from the effects of a drought,, which has continued for from ten to twelve years. lt is really marvellous that the farmers of the district have been able to retain their farms during the trying time they have had to pass through. The difference in the returns from the industry in these two districts of the same State shows that it would be impossible to- apply a common rule as to rates of wages to this industry in one State, to say nothing of applying it throughout Australia. New Zealand has been referred to in this connexion, but it should be remembered that it is a very different country from Australia. In New Zealand there is practically a certainty of a return to the farmer, whereas in Australia he is dependent to a great extent upon the seasons. We sometimes have a drought, and sometimes an abundant season, but we have not the same certainty of production as they have in New Zealand. Although a Conciliation and Arbitration Act has been in force in New Zealand for some years, we were told during this debate that there has been only one award made in connexion with the industry to which I have specially referred.
– And that is a very partial award, applying only to permanent day labourers.
– That is what we were told by the honorable member for Richmond, who quoted figures in support of the statements he made. I understand, also, that the award made by the New Zealand Court was very limited in its operation, and applied only to one district. In so small an area it might be comparatively easy to apply an award, but in a great State like New South Wales, not to speak of the vast continent of Australia, with the varying climatic conditions under which the industry is carried on in different parts, it will be absolutely impossible for any Court to make an award fixing rates of wages which can be applied equitably in every district. I did not rise with any intention to obstruct this measure. I placed on one side all my notes concerning it, with the exception of those referring to the dairying industry. I have thought it necessary, in the interests of the people whom I have represented for a number of years, to place their position in connexion with this proposal fairly before the House. The farmers of my district have no desire whatever that their industry should be brought under the Arbitration Court, or that they should be compelled to give preference to unionists in employing the labour they require. The Attorney-General has himself admitted that he is unable to say bow the competence of applicants for employment is to be decided. If two men apply for employment, one a unionist and the other a non-unionist, under this Bill the employer is called upon, other things being equal, to employ the unionist. . The competence of applicants for employment can only be decided by a trial. It will be necessary to employ a man to discover whether he is competent to perform the duties for which he is required, and, as a result, the farmers will be placed in a very awkward position if they are obliged to comply wilh the provisions of this Bill, and they will be unable satisfactorily to carry on their industry. Any other remarks I have to make upon the measure will be made when it gets into Committee. I fail to see that the Attorney-General, who introduced the Bill, or any other honorable member on the other side, has stated any justification for the introduction of those provisions which involve so tremendous an extension of the scope of this legislation. I have shown that there has been no agitation or demand for its extension to the dairying industry,’ to which I have specially referred. I hope that in Committee the provision in this Bill which was omitted from the original Bill, when it was being discussed in this Parliament, will again be omitted. I cannot expect that it will be, because, as I stated before, I understand that honorable members opposite are here with their minds made up, although we must see . what we can do when the Bill gets into Committee. Whether we succeed in amending the Bill or not, it will be our duty to fight in accordance with our principles and in the best interests of the country. I have always advocated trade unionism, and have always believed in it in its proper sphere. As for the appearance of lawyers before the Court, may I remind honorable members that, although I am a lawyer, I have not practised for some ten or twelve years, and that when the original Bill was before, the House I voted for the exclusion of lawyers from the Conciliation and Arbitration Court, believing that their exclusion would facilitate business. I am prepared now to go further, and to vote for the exclusion, not only of lawyers, but of the specialists who receive special fees. I shall be prepared to support the amendment which has been foreshadowed by the honorable member for New England, and which the Attorney-General promised to consider, providing for the exclusion of lawyers from the Court. I hope, also, for the exclusion of paid specialists. I should not object to them appearing in Court provided that they received the ordinary daily wage to which they are accustomed ; but I certainly am opposed to their appearing in Court and receiving from five to ten guineas per day. We have seen such “fees charged in bills of costs that have been brought under the notice of the House. As long as a man is content to conduct a case in the Conciliation and Arbitration Court for the wage that he usually receives, let him do so; but he should not be allowed to charge special fees. If’ ever there was a time when a lawyer might feel inclined to return to a practice in which he did fairly well in the past it is when a Bill of this character is brought forward. If ever I was inclined to return to the practise of my profession it was when I first read this measure. If it is passed without amendment, it will give the lawyers the richest harvest they have ever reaped. That harvest, however, will be reaped at the expense of the industrial community ; trade unionists and employers will suffer alike. We shall have employers and employed, with their lawyers, wrestling in the Courts to gain an advantage. Is that a desirable state of affairs? The honorable member for Hindmarsh strongly urged that we should preserve industrial peace, and I feel just as strongly as he does that we ought to endeavour to do so, in order to secure the proper development of our resources. I do not think, however, that we are likely to bring about industrial peace by means of a Bill which will drive employers and employed into the Conciliation and Arbitration Court, and the effect of which will be inimical to the development of the great resources of Australia.
– I regret that the Ministry seem determined to force the second reading of this Bill to a division during the present sitting. It is not, as the AttorneyGeneral would have had us believe in introducing it, a simple measure providing for somewhat formal amendments of the principal Act. The amendments are rather formidable than formal, and the measure, as a whole, is the most extraordinary form of class legislation that has ever been submitted to a Parliament. Instead of bringing about peace and good-will in the industrial world, I think that lt will yield a rich harvest of political strife and Bitterness. I was pleased to hear the honorable member for South Sydney, this afternoon, express a strong preference for the voluntary principle in connexion with industrial legislation. Many years ago, the late Charles Cameron Kingston, when Premier of South Australia, introduced the first Bill of this kind to be brought before an Australian Legis lature. That law has been on the statutebook of South Australia for many years, and we have had there less political strife, relatively to the population, than in any other part of Australia.
– The Act was practically inoperative, and no one registered under it.
– If it was, “ the industries of South Australia had an infinitely better time than the industries of the other States.
– That was not due to the South Australian Act, because no one registered under it.
– If it was not due to the Act itself, then, as the honorable member knows, Mr. Russell, who had charge of its administration, exerted such an influence that he was successful, very largely, in maintaining industrial peace and good feeling between employers and employed. I do not intend to deal with the general question, because it has already been thoroughly discussed from an industrial, as well as an economic standpoint. For a few minutes I wish to devote my attention to that part of the Bill which proposes to bring within the jurisdiction of the Court the agricultural, horticultural, and viticultural industries of Australia, and to which I shall offer most strenuous opposition. The condition of agriculture in Australia is such that we cannot possibly apply general principles to the industry. It has not’ been attempted even in New Zealand, the home of advanced legislation. I propose to quote somewhat extensively from a judgment delivered byJudge Sim, in the Dominion Court, in the only case in which, so far as I can ascertain from the records, an attempt has been made to apply the general industrial law to the agricultural industry.
– Will the honorable member wake me up when he has finished reading the first chapter?
– I am not going to “ stone- wall “ or to read chapters; but I am going to quote so much of the judgment as will put more forcibly than I can do the objections that I and other members of my party entertain to that part of the Bill which is to be made applicable to the .agricultural industry in Australia.
– Take it as read.
– On thi? side of the House not a single half -hour has been wasted in this debate, and, as a reasonable request for an adjournment has been refused, I may be permitted to lay a most important judgment before the House and the people of Australia. In the Canterbury district a union was formed of agricultural labourers, and at the earliest possible moment grievances were reported, some of them imaginary, according to the remarks of the Judge, in order to secure an award fixing the hours and rates of pay. Although the Bill under consideration to-night does not say in so manywords that the eight’ hours principle shall apply to agricultural industries, and that the rates of wages shall be determined by the Court, yet that is undoubtedly the intention.
– That is not correct.
– I have heard official and responsible members of the Labour party, though not in Parliament, tell workers in industrial centres that that is the intention. That, of course, is not said in rural districts in the hearing of farmers and dairymen, but only in centres where there’ is a strong demand for such a policy.
– Every speaker on this side has suggested leaving these matters to the Judge.
– But every speaker hopes that in due course the Judge will determine in accordance with the party’s desire. So far as my information serves me, the New Zealand Judge felt that, in giving an award in the case I have mentioned, he was running a big risk of destroying the agricultural industries in New Zealand, and he said that no reasons had been advanced by the appellant union to justify interference. His Honour, further, was not sure that an award would not create greater evils than benefits; but I shall quote his own words in order that they may be placed on record for the people of Australia to read for themselves. The Judge said -
It is clear that the Court has a discretion as to whether it will or will not make an award in any particular case. The existence of an industrial dispute gives jurisdiction to make an award, and that jurisdiction is exercised in most cases ; but the Court is not bound to make an award in every case that is brought before it. In the present case the Court is asked to bring under the operation of an award all employers engaged in agricultural and pastoral pursuits in Industrial District of Canterbury. If such an award is made, the Court could not reasonably refuse to make a similar award in other industrial districts, and what the Court has really to decide on the present application is whether it is necessary that the whole farming industry of the Dominion should be regulated under the
Industrial, Conciliation, and Arbitration Acts. The union asks that the hours of work, wages, and general conditions of work of practically all the workers employed by all those engaged in the industry shall be regulated by an award. Now, it is obvious that an award dealing with these matters, and applying, as it would do, to thousands of employers scattered all over the district - and employers too, who resent very much the attempted interference with their business - would be difficult of enforcement, and that nothing less than a small army of inspectors would be required to enforce effectually the provisions of such an award.
In view of this fact, of the magnitude also of the interests involved, both directly and indirectly, in this dispute, and of the serious results to not only the farming industry, but, indirectly, to the prosperity of the whole Dominion that might follow from the exercise of its power of regulation, the Court should not interfere unless the necessity for doing so has been clearly made out, and should not attempt to make regulations for the sake, merely, of regulating. Before such interference is justified, it must be clear that there are substantial grievances or abuses, which can be redressed effectually by the Court, and that the benefits to be obtained by its interference will more than compensate for any mischief that may result from such interference.
If a Judge, after hearing argument for seven days, determined that an award would be inimical to the best interests, not only of agriculture, but of the Dominion, would the objects not have ten-fold weight in Australia, where the conditions are much more unfavorable? His Honour went on to say -
What, then, are the grievances or abuses that are relied on to justify the interference of the Court in the present case? The demands of the union were framed in igo6, when the union comprised about four hundred out of the whole body of agricultural and pastoral workers in this industrial district, who number, it is estimated, about sixteen thousand persons. The union had been established some years before, and we had in Mr, Kennedy’s evidence a statement of the reasons which led to the formation of the union. It was the wretched conditions under which he had seen boys and men working that induced him, he said, to set about the establishment of a -union. He gave in his evidence the cases of two boys to illustrate what he had seen. “ One boy where I was working,” he said, “ had to get up in the morning at the same time as we did, at 5.30. He had to feed pigs and milk cows, and then come back and attend to three young horses he was working, feed them, and go out to work. He worked in the paddock - in the same paddock I was working in. He generally did harrowing, and followed that team all day’ until 5 o’clock ; it was 5.30 in the place I worked that we men knocked off our work practically, except attending to our horses. This boy also had to attend to his horses, and then turn about and feed pigs and milk the cow, and if it was necessary run messages to Methven, which was four miles away.”
The evidence of another lad similarly employed and treated was referred to, and it appeared that in each case 10s. a week was paid as wages -
The wage paid to these boys was less than 10s. per week. These cases are certainly bad enough, but there is nothing to suggest that cases of this kind are common, or other than rare.
The honorable member for South Sydney made a remarkable statement in that regard the other day, but it has been challenged by everybody who has had experience. Even assuming that a solitary statement may be correct, it by no means shows the average condition of an industry. The Judge goes on to show that the appellant union had not, in any sense of the term, established a case. He says -
The other grievance which Mr. Kennedy desired to see redressed by the. formation of a union was the bad accommodation provided for farm workers. This, according to Mr. Kennedy’s evidence, was certainly bad in many cases. As, however, the subject has since been dealt with by the Legislature in “ The Agricultural Labourers’ Accommodation Act 1907, it is unnecessary to consider it in connexion with the present dispute. . . . The evidence shows that a large proportion of farm workers - one estimate was 90 per cent. - lived with their employers, and are provided by them with board and lodging. The question of a living wage’ therefor, does not arise in connexion with this class of workers. It arises only in connexion with day labourers with whose case we shall deal hereafter. The evidence called on behalf of the employers established that in the past many farm labourers had saved enough money out of their earnings to enable them to start farming on their own account. The figures given in the New Zealand Official year-book show that the wages paid to farm labourers in Canterbury were 15s. per week in 1894, and that in 1906 they ranged from £1 to £1 2s. 6d. per week. It is clear that the” wages of farm labourers have increased during these years without any outside interference, and it cannot be said that, while the position of other workers has been improved, that of farm labourers has remained stationary. It is clear also from the evidence that the wages paid to farm labourers in New Zealand are better than those paid to the same workers in any part of Australia…..
It appears to us, therefore, that, dealing with farm labourers generally, the union has failed to prove the existence of any substantial grievance or abuse that would justify the interference of the Court with the whole farming industry of Canterbury.
Assuming, however, for the sake of argument, that a case has been made out for the interference of the Court, and that it is desirable to bring the farming industry under the operation of an award, we proceed now to deal with the question of whether it is possible to make a workable award on the subject. By a “ workable award “ we mean an award which would fix fair and reasonable conditions with regard to hours of work and wages, and at the same time would not hamper or restrict, without any compensating advantage, the operations of farmers…..
The union asked the Court to fix the hours nf labour for general farm hands .at nine hours per day, and the Board has recommended that the hours of work for general farm hands shall not exceed eight in any one day, and that ploughmen shall not work more than eight hours in tight chains.
The Judge then pointed out the peculiar conditions applying to agriculture, and showed that what would be appropriate to concentrated industries in centres of population would be quite inappropriate to a country industry. He said -
The operations of a farm are carried on subject to the restrictions imposed by weather, and it happens that time lost by bid weather at one period may have to be made up, as far as possible, by working longer hours at another period, and that emergencies arise which make it necessary for farm-workers to work at times without any regard to hours. Any limitation of daily or weekly hours would prevent this being done, except at an increased cost by payment of overtime. Some of the witnesses who had kept exact records gave instances of the time that had been lost through wet weather. Thus, one witness said that four years ago his horse did not turn a furrow for two months through wet weather ; another witness said that he lost in connexion with ploughing work sixty days in the year 1905 and thirty days in the year 1907 ; another witness gave thirty-one as the total number of days his teams, owing to wet weather, were able to work in four months in the spring of 1905; another witness said that in four months of the spring of 1905 there were sixty-four days on which the ground was so wet that the teams could not work it, and that during a period of nine months in the same year there were thirty-three days on which the weather was so wet that the teams could not go out at all.
In Australia, it is the dry and not the wet side of the question that makes it even more imperative that this kind of legislation should not be applied to our agricultural interests. The Judge continued -
The same witness said that in three months in 1906 there were fifty-two days on which the ground was so wet that the teams could not work it. Other witnesses gave similar experiences, and from all this evidence it is clear that any attempt to impose on ploughing operations the restrictions as to hours asked for by the union would hamper and greatly increase the cost of these operations. And the same observation holds good with regard to other farming operations…..
The difficulty of fixing hours in the case of workers engaged in dairying becomes a practical impossibility in the case of workers employed in looking after sheep. This impossibility was admitted by the union’s witnesses, and yet the Court is asked to fix the daily hours of general farm labourers, many of whom must have to work among sheep at different periods of the year.
In this judgment, he dismisses the application to include the dairying industry almost with contempt, as unworthy of consideration. He said further -
It appears to us, therefore, to be quite impracticable to fix any definite hours for the daily work of a general farm hand, without altering materially the system under which farming is carried on at the present time’. . .
The conclusion we have come to on the whole matter is that it is not practicable to make an award fixing the hours of work and wages for general farm hands without altering seriously the conditions under which farming is now carried on. If a strong case had been made out for interference the Court might have felt compelled to make an award on the subject and to attempt to regulate the hours of work and wages of general farm hands. Such a case, however, has not been made out, and the Court is thus relieved from the necessity of making a perilous attempt to regulate by award the whole farming industry of the Dominion.
The consideration of the case of the day labourer was postponed, and we now proceed to deal with that subject.
The only award made in the judgment was one fixing the rate of wages at 7s. for day labourers who were married men, provided that their work was continuous throughout the year. In addition to that, an award was also made stipulating the rate of pay that, should be given at harvest time to those general hands of the farm who had been employed all the year round. That award, given by the Judge in the New Zealand Court, fixed wages very similar to those obtaining in the agricultural industry in Australia. I apologize to honorable members for reading so much of the judgment delivered in the New Zealand case; but I repeat that those words should carry infinitely more weight than anything that I could possibly say. The case put by the Dominion Judge is equally applicable to the agricultural industry in Australia. I appeal especially to those honorable members who know anything about agriculture. Any attempt of this kind to bring the agricultural industry under the Arbitration Act, and to treat it as ordinary manufacturing industries in the great centres are treated, involves taking on a very big risk, which may imperil agriculture, and destroy its effectiveness as a going concern. It has been estimated by statisticians that among the many thousands of farmers in Australia, the average number of hands employed per farm is less than four, including the families of the proprietors. I suppose that in the great majority of instances not more than one outside the farmer’s own family is employed all the year round. I ask honorable members not to cripple and damper the operations of this big industry which, in recent years, has been responsible largely for the abounding prosperity that has obtained in Australia. Such restrictions are absolutely unjustifiable at the present time, even though the most prosperous conditions that we have known may prevail. But these conditions are not going to obtain always. During recent years we have not only had bountiful seasons, but very generous prices for our wheat. But within the last few weeks there was a big drop in the’ price of wheat, from 4s. to 3s. per bushel. It is true that the price has since recovered 75 per cent, of the drop, but that rise was caused by the drought in Canada, and by unfavorable conditions in the other wheatproducing parts of the world. Had it not been for those untoward conditions, the price of Australian wheat would be something like 3s. for the incoming crop ; and 3s. per bushel, let me remind honorable members, does not give a large margin of profit, if indeed there be any margin at all. So that the conditions of the farming industry in Australia are such, that to hamper them further, will probably cripple the industry, as the New Zealand Judge said would be the case in his own Dominion. That remark particularly applies to the drier portions of Australia; and probably one half or more of the wheat-growing areas of this country are on the dry rather than on the wet side. We cannot have a better evidence of the inappropriateness of such provisions as are now proposed, than is sometimes found when enthusiastic unionists give up their trades, as many of them are doing to-day, and go upon the land. As soon as they do that, they drop the eight hours’ principle altogether. They find that it does not apply to agriculture. Agricultural conditions are nothing like what they have been represented to be during the course of this debate. Take wages, for example. During the last three or four years there has been as big, if not a bigger, advance in the wages paid to farm hands i Australia, as has been the case in New Zealand. As to hours of labour it would be absolutely ruinous to agriculture to limit them by law. Farmers might continue wheat production as extensively as they are doing it to-day if - let alone, but if the conditions laid’ down. by’ this Bill were applied, and there was a drop in prices to anything like 3s. a bushel,_ the plough would not find its way to the paddock, and wheat-growing would be given a rest. Farmers would resort to grazing, in which there is not so great a demand for labour. As an example of the good conditions prevailing on farms in Australia - and I speak particularly of South Australia, of which 1 know most - I may challenge honorable members to point to any other industry in which men are saving so much money. There are no workers who have better accounts in the savings bank. There is no other industry in which a larger proportion of employes get a start on their own account. In South Australia at the last election the farmers were not given to understand that they were going to have this dose of industrial legislation applied, with the promise of even larger doses to come. So much was suggested by the Attorney-General, when he said that this was not the real industrial policy of the Government. The real policy of the Government has yet to come, and special provision will have to be made for it by an alteration of the Constitution. Once more I enter my strongest protest against the -extension of industrial legislation as proposed by this Bill.
– Although this measure has only been before the House for a few days, I think that its importance, and the farreaching operation of the proposals embodied in it, are such that every honorable member, and especially those representing districts particularly affected by it, should give expression to their views, and let the country know the position they take up. We should not only vote against the Bill, but should give our reasons for our votes. No proposal which could come before a House representing a community with the ambitions and aspirations of the Australian people could have a more far-reaching effect than this. For some considerable time I have been of opinion that the settlement of disputes by means of conciliation and arbitration is the most humane method that can be devised, and when a member of the New South Wales Parliament I supported the Government which brought in the legislation of 1901-2. I am not a new advocate of conciliation and arbitration, and I am ready to-day to give it the support which I gave it then. The Constitution empowers this Parliament to make laws for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes extending beyond the limits of any one State. This power should be exercised with great caution. The
Act of 1904, which was passed in the exercise of this power has, I trust, been of material advantage to the community, and the Government now ask us to exercise it again by placing an amending measure on the statute-book. Industrial disputes concern, not only the parties to them, but the whole people. No in-‘ dustry can be brought to a standstill without affecting the general community, by’ decreasing production, and consequently by increasing prices ; and industrial disputes also destroy the peace and good will which should exist among our people. This being so, we are bound to give our most serious consideration to proposals for their prevention, if possible, and, at any rate, for their settlement, by the most statesmanlike method which presents itself. Industrial disputes may arise from many causes, but the most frequent is the belief of employes that they are not being sufficiently remunerated, or that they are being called upon to work too long. No man should be underpaid for what he does, or work for an unreasonable number of hours. All of us have had to work for our living, and many of us have been called upon to work for longer hours than were right. When a man has had to work for fourteen or sixteen hours a day, as I had to do for years, he feels that the hours of labour should be reduced. A reduction in the hours of labour has been brought about by early-closing legislation and other legislation of a similar character, until now, I am glad to say, something like reasonable conditions exist. Sympathy with such legislation is not confined to any political party, and the measures to which I allude we’re introduced in New South Wales by Governments whose political views were not those of this Government. The same thing may be said about the introduction of the measure, which this Bill proposes to amend. Ministers, generally, are ready to consider with the greatest liberality Bills for securing to the workers better remuneration and shorter hours of labour, where the industry with which they are connected will permit of it. But we have to consider, not only the employes, but also the employers, and the effect on the community of any change in regard to an industry. Those responsible for the framing of the Constitution recognised that disputes commencing in one State, and in their origin local, sometimes spread to other States, and therefore they empowered the Commonwealth Parliament to frame laws for settling such disputes. But I hope to be able to show that it is hardly possible for disputes in which agricultural labourers are concerned to spread beyond the limits of any one State; and to be able to show, too, that the “conditions under which agriculture is conducted vary so much in the different States, and in different parts of each State, that it is not to the interests of those connected with an industry to apply to it rules operating uniformly throughout the Commonwealth. No one denies the right of Parliament to intervene for the settlement of disputes by appointing an arbitrator to see that justice is done, instead of, as in the old days, allowing might to be right. Any person who believes that we ought not to enact legislation of this kind must hold the opinion that the old system of resort to strikes and locks-out should continue. I venture to say that it is the common wish of honorable members that the ancient doctrine that might is right shall no longer prevail, but that industrial disputes shall be settled by means of a tribunal properly constituted for that purpose. Some of the amendments which it is proposed to effect in the principal Act are designed to operate not so much for the settlement of industrial disputes as to anticipate them. I do not know that it is a good thing for us to anticipate industrial troubles. My own opinion is that it is quite enough for us to meet such troubles when they arise, because I recognise that in the early stages of industrial disputes a settlement can frequently be effected without the intervention of any Court. I regret the disappearance of one of the features of the old-time system under which, when a man was dissatisfied with the conditions of his employment, he was at liberty to meet his employer, with the result that in many instances an amicable settlement was arrived at. When that system obtained throughout this country much more cordial relations existed between masters and men. But to-day the objections of men and employers alike are stated through their respective unions. Earlier in this debate an honorable member declared that the Bill was a simple one. but his statement is scarcely borne out by what has since transpired. We find that the measure has supplied food for debate for several days, and during that period many points have been raised which incontestibly prove that it is not of the simple character which it was declared to be. There are quite a number of features in it of a much more serious import than was at first supposed, and consequently honorable members have done well to criticise it closely.
– We find that it is entirely a new measure.’
– It seeks to enlarge the principal Act in a way that was not contemplated when that Act was under consideration. In the Bill which we are now considering new definitions are given to terms which are used in the principal Act. For instance, we are told that “ an employé “ may include “ any person whose usual occupation is that of employé in any industry.” The effect of that provision will be to bring within the scope of the principal Act quite a number of persons who were not previously affected by it. For instance, in the farming industry it will make that Act applicable, not merely to persons regularly employed in that industry, but perhaps to the sons and daughters of farmers as well as to casual hands. I would remind honorable members that during certain seasons of the year young men who have embarked their capital in the agricultural industry are obliged to go out and earn money in another calling until they are in a position to make their land reproductive. Thus it is quite possible for an individual to be an employer and an employe’ at the same time. Such a man would occupy an entirely different position from that which is occupied by the ordinary employé, andyet he would be affected by the provisions of this Bill. The measure also seeks to extend a preference to unionists. That is a far-reaching proposal, and one which has been responsible for a long discussion in this chamber. When such a proposition is submitted to us it can scarcely be urged that the Bill is of the simple character that we were led to believe during the earlier portion of this debate. Some of its provisions cannot expect to gain general support. Whilst we have a right to consider the interests of men and women who have banded themselves together for their mutual benefit, we are also bound to consider the interests of others who are not banded together. Every man and woman engaged in an industry should have a right to say whether or not he or she will join any industrial organization. If we presume to interfere with that right we shall be taking up a very serious position if we do not give the fullest consideration to the question whether to do so will, or will not, be in the interests of the community as awhole. While we may find it necessary to oppose certain provisions of this Bill, it must not be inferred that such opposition indicates a desire to prevent men and women engaged in any industry from receiving reasonable remuneration for their services. I hold that the question whether they can best secure good wages and conditions by individual or by united effort is one which should be left entirely to themselves. We are justified in doing what we can to assist all workers to secure reasonable wages and good conditions of employment, but we have no right whatever to force any one to join an organization to which, for reasons satisfactory to himself, he has some aversion.
– I think, sir, that we should have a quorum present. [Quorum formed.]
– There are many things connected with the carrying on of industries which are quite as important to the workers in them as are the rates of wages and the hours of labour. We are all interested in improving the conditions of the people, but we should consider not only the rates of wages, the hours of labour, and the services rendered by workers in an industry, but the nature of the industry itself, and the rates’ of wages which those carrying it on can afford to pay. I do not intend to deal with provisions of” this Bill which some legal authorities in the House have contended go beyond our powers under the Constitution. I agree with the opinion which these honorable members have expressed, but I admit, as a layman, that if such questions cannot be settled by the legal members of this House, they must be left to another tribunal. I express the hope, however, that if the measure is passed it will not lead to futile expenditure on the part of people who may be engaged in troubles and dis.putes which will not make for industrial peace, and which may cause them to appear before an expensive tribunal without satisfactory results. While, as a layman, I do not feel at liberty to pass an opinion upon the constitutionality of some of the provisions of the Bill, I can offer an opinion upon some of the practical features of the measure. I am able, at least, to say how I think it is likely to affect some of those who will be brought under its operation. I have referred to one of the difficulties which may arise under the proposed definition of an employed I think we have a right to be very careful that in enlarging the scope of this term we shall not be injuring a class of men who are engaged in the hardest possible struggle to provide for themselves and those dependent upon them. I refer to men who, by saving a few pounds from their hard earnings, have secured for themselves a home. They have been able, perhaps, to pay the necessary deposit to secure a selection, and to carry out some slight improvements. They may find it necessary to supplement their means, and if they are men with a knowledge of a trade, it may suit them better to follow their trade and employ some one else to clear their land. Under this Bill such men, while engaged at their trades, will be classed as employes, although they may at the same time be employing labour themselves. These men have reached a very critical stage in their fortunes, and we should hesitate to pass legislation which may seriously affect their future prosperity, as I am afraid this Bill is likely to do. The opportunity is taken in this measure to enlarge the definition of the term ‘ ‘ industry ‘ ‘ as used in the existing Act, and provision is made that it shall include a branch of an industry or a group of industries. I’ fear that industries may be grouped for purposes of arbitration which, although intimately related, are carried on under quite different conditions. There is, for instance, a great variety of employes engaged in connexion with the dairying industry, although their occupations cannot be said to closely resemble each other. There are the people working on the farm, those milking the cows, those engaged in taking the cream to the factories, the comparatively skilled employes in the factories engaged in the manufacture of butter, and then those engaged in its disposal after manufacture. The grouping, of industries, or of the branches of an industry, for the purposes of an arbitration award, may lead to complications. I, personally, fear that the proposed extension of the definition of the term “ industry “ will not lead to the advantage which, perhaps, is hoped for from it in certain quarters. An industrial dispute is defined to mean any industrial dispute extending beyond the limits of any State. Under the provisions of the Bill relating more particularly to rural labourers, a common rule might be made by the Court which would affect a number of men working under totally different conditions. The references that have been made during this debate to agriculture, have referred generally, I think, to the growing of wheat. That is the only part of the farming industry in connexion with which a dispute might extend beyond the limits of one
State. It is carried on under different conditions in the several Stales, but there is a still greater diversity of conditions with respect to the growing of maize, potatoes, and lucerne. Wheat-growing is carried on largely by means of machinery. In some places even the motive power is supplied by machinery, and ploughmen there work under far more agreeable conditions than they do in the maize-growing districts. Their implements are often drawn by motive power; but in the maize-growing districts we cannot use steam or motor power for traction purposes, nor can we use a sixhorse plough. For the most part a singlefurrow plough is employed. I have never seen anything beyond a two-furrow plough used in the maize-growing districts, and a man classed as a ploughman upon a farm devoted to wheat-growing, would have to be more skilled in the use of machinery than a man engaged in working a two-horse plough in a maize-growing district. He would need to be not merely a ploughman, but” a skilled mechanic, capable of adjusting the various implements and machinery used by him. It seems to me that disputes in connexion with the farming industry could be much better settled by State Arbitration Courts and Wages Boards than under a Federal law, which can be applied only to disputes extending beyond the limits of a State. The conditions in other trades, such, for instance, as those of the bootmaker and the blacksmith, are, save for climatic differences, very much the same in every State. On the other hand, the position of the agricultural labourer differs in ‘the several States, whilst even in one State there may be found various important differences. More agricultural skill is required of the farm labourer on a mixed farm, where he must have a more general knowledge of crops, than a man employed in only one branch of cultivation would require. The application of the common rule respecting conditions of employment in the industry all over Australia would not give the beneficial results for which some honorable members hope. If rural labourers are to be brought under an industrial tribunal, I think that they can be much better dealt with, and that conditions can be made more agreeable to all parties concerned, by State Courts and Wages Boards than by a Federal Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, which is more costly and harder to approach. The fact that the legislation in force in some of the States, giving farm labourers an opportunity to appeal to local Arbitration Courts for improved conditions of labour, has not been availed of, goes to prove that the conditions under which they work are not so irksome as many honorable members would have us believe. The conditions under which they labour, and the wages they receive have not been accurately stated during this debate. Mention has been made of the wages they receive, but there has been no reference to the fact that the farm labourer also receives rations, and that in many cases services, such as washing and mending, are rendered to him, on which a value can scarcely be put, although they are a very great consideration to him. They all tend to make his conditions of labour much better than is represented by the bare figures as to the cash remuneration received. It is very hard to determine what are fair and reasonable conditions to impose in respect of agricultural labourers. It would be perhaps still more difficult for the Court to determine the hours of labour. It is hard to fix upon any standard. There are certain periods when the pressure of work on a farm is exceedingly heavy ; and when farmers have to work their men longer than would, under other conditions, be reasonable. But at other times, when the rush of work is not so great, the farmers and their men take things much easier. The men not being so pressed with work, can have an hour or two, or half-a-day, off whenever conditions permit. In districts such as that which I represent, where we have many wet days in the year, the making of rigid conditions as to the hours of labour and rates of pay might lead employers to make deductions from wages in respect of the time lost during wet weather, or by reason of other conditions over which they have no control. I am afraid that in many instances, we should not improve the condition of these men, although that might be our desire. It has been recognised that farm work is laborious, and under some conditions, heavy, but the conditions have been very considerably improved, and hours of labour have been reduced >by the introduction of machinery. Many honorable members have spoken of the long hours that dairymen are asked to work. It has been said during this debate that men have been called upon to start work at from 3 a.m. to 4 a.m. I am a resident and a representative of one of the principal dairying districts in New South Wales, and do not hesitate to say that such conditions do not prevail there. I believe that whilst honorable members, who have made these statements, have said what they believed to be true, the information upon which they have relied refers to dairies engaged in selling fresh milk in the towns and cities. As the result of the introduction of the private separator, men on dairy farms are not asked to work such long hours as they were at one time called upon to do. I think I can safely say that they are not asked to “turn to” before the bosses themselves commence the day’s operations. Since the advent of the home separator, it is possible to observe much more reasonable hours than formerly, and the objection of undue early rising does not apply generally to the dairy farmer. In the summer months, of course, they commence early for their own convenience, in order to escape the heat of the day. If cows are milked late, when the sun is up, the same satisfactory results are not obtainable ; and, in my district, when an early start is made, it is usual to have a spell of two or three hours in the course of the day. It would be impossible to apply the eight-hours’ system to this industry, for the simple reason that, though it could be observed in the case of the men, the cows have to be considered. Nature demands that there shall be a milking, at least, twice a day, and that the interval shall be as nearly divided as possible. Six o’clock in the morning is not too early; and to apply the eight-hours’ principle it would be necessary to milk again at 2 or 3 in the afternoon, which, of course, would interfere with that regularity I have pointed out as so necessary. If a cow be left too long without milking, there is not only loss to the owner, but injury to the animal itself. There are two classes of dairyman, the one who has to rise early in order to supply fresh milk for the town - though these are comparatively few in number - and the dairy farmer who is not compelled to work under such conditions. I, therefore, make a distinction between what I call the town dairyman and the country dairyman. In fixing remuneration and so forth, the Judge has a right to take into consideration the profits made in an industry, as has been shown by more than one honorable member in the course of this debate. While that principle may be admitted as quite correct in other industries, it does not apply with such force to agricultural pursuits, for the reason that in these it is not possible for the producer to fix the price of his products. If a man makes an implement or a pair of boots, he can practically settle the price, but in the case of a bag of maize or potatoes, or a box of butter, the market price, for the time being has to be accepted ; and there are severe fluctuations over which the farmer himself has no control. The seasons are a great cause of these variations, and the farmers in the more favoured districts can always obtain larger prices; and to this cause can be attributed the success of the New South Wales dairying industry during recent years. About two years ago, the dairy-farmers of that State enjoyed great prosperity at the expense of their less fortunate brethren in Victoria, which was at that time suffering from severe drought, and not producing sufficient butter for its own consumption. Thus is the success of some people founded on the misfortune of others. As to prices, the butter producers, particularly, are in the hands of people far away from Australia. Our local market may be good, and it has been more favorable of late, owing to the causes I have indicated, but, speaking generally, prices are fixed in the markets of the world, where we have to compete with people who do not work under the same conditions as we do ourselves - conditions which we have, no desire to establish here. One of our foremost competitors just now is Siberia, which, a few years ago, was not regarded seriously in this light, owing to the lack of scientific knowledge, but, since then, instruction has been received from Denmark particularly, and with much cheaper land and freight than we have, and seasons not so severe as ours, the farmers there can ‘produce at a price impossible to us. While we have had nothing to complain of as regards price during the last few years, we fear the future competition of the Argentine and Siberia ; and if we are further handicapped by impossible labour conditions and other disabilities such as are now proposed, I am afraid that the dairying industry, which has done so much to benefit agriculture generally by the opening up of large areas of land, is likely to receive a check which’ will put us considerably further back than most people imagine. While we hope and insist that the people engaged in these industries shall be treated as men and women should be, we have also to ‘consider that the price for labour must be very largely based upon the price which the product will bring in the world’s market. The agricultural labourer suffers under disabilities which a good many people are not aware of. He is, to a large extent, prevented from joining an association or trade union on account of his isolation. It has been pointed out that in some of the districts where agriculture is carried on the men so engaged are very few in number. Often there are not more than one or two men engaged on a farm outside the farmer’s own family, and on many farms not even that. The consequence is that the men are prevented by distance from joining an association. If this measure is to have the effect of giving preference of employment to men who belong to the unions, practically the whole of our men who cannot join unions, as men can do in settled districts, for their mutual benefit, will be shut out from the first choice of employment. The House is asked by this Bill to instruct the Court to say in effect that there shall be compulsory unionism. We are really trying to compel people to join the unions, a course which they have shown up to the present no inclination to take. Experience has proved that many have not felt called upon to join unions, because they have not found that they would receive the benefits that they ought to receive. Another reason is that men are not disposed to join unions which are called labour organizations, but at the same time have a political significance. Mention has already been made of certain men having been brought into competition with each other because they would not join a union which called on its members to subscribe to a certain journal, and support the political candidates that it chose. A few years ago I was a member of a Royal Commission which was charged with the responsibility of deciding between the two rival organizations, the Australian Workers’ Union and the Machine Shearers’ Union, as to whether one was bogus or not. The members of the Machine Shearers’ Union said they could not, and would not, join the Australian Workers’ Union, because it compelled its members to support political candidates chosen by it. I think that men who have conscientious reasons for not joining unions are entitled to some consideration, and we have no right to compel people to join an organization which they do not wish to join. If a man thinks it does not suit him, or does not feel disposed to join with his fellows for their mutual benefit, we are going outside our proper functions in trying to compel him to do so. For that reason, I am not in sympathy with compulsory preference. Persons engaging men should also have the right to choose out of those offering the one who they, consider will give the best service, and be most suitable for the class of work required. There is a considerable number of men engaged in these industries who have not seen fit to join unions. I have not been able to get the figures to prove the case exactly as I would desire, but in the New South Wales Year-book, published in March, 1909, the number of persons occupied in primary industries in that State is given. Those engaged in agriculture comprised 55,324 males and 5,409 females, making a total of 60,733.
– What has that to do with the Act ?
– I have a right to show the number of people engaged in the primary industries.
– And we have tlie right to a quorum to listen to the figures. [Quorum formed.]
– To be quite fair, I should mention that those figures do not represent farm labourers only, because the statistician has not separated those carrying on the industry from those employed in it. In the dairying industry there were 24,887 males and 16,908 females, or a total of 41,795 persons, engaged. In the pastoral industry, there were 39,625 persons occupied, or a total in those three primary industries of 142,153. The only organization which those people could join for their mutual benefit, and which covers the whole of those industries, is the Australian Workers’ Union, the total membership of which in 1908 was only 28,052. Consequently, less than one person in every four engaged in those three industries was a member of the union, and if we press the principle of compulsory preference to unionists, it will mean that one person out of every four will have a first call on the employment offering. I do not think any one can claim that such a minority should have preference of employment. I feel sure that honorable members opposite, who have advocated this principle, have in most instances done so with the object of bettering the condition nf employes. I also feel sure that they are satisfied that persons who have joined unions are able to secure better conditions for themselves than those who have not done so. But, if that be the case, there is no necessity to give them preference by law. They are able, to demand better terms on their own merits. If we are to encourage men to be efficient in their calling, whether as mechanics or as agriculturists, we should foster a spirit of emulation and competition, and make them more dependent on their own resources, rather than force employers to engage applicants for employment, irrespective of whether they are the best persons offering their services or not. I am, therefore, strongly of opinion that we are not acting wisely in giving the President of the. Arbitration Court power to say that one man, because he belongs to a union, shall receive employment in preference to others who do not. I am glad that I have had an opportunity of telling the House why I intend to give a vote against some of the clauses of this Bill. As I said in my introductory remarks, I believe that, in connexion with a measure of such far-reaching importance, it is only right that honorable members should not merely vote, but should give the people whom they represent their reasons for what they do. I can only hope that in this, as in all other matters which they undertake, the Government are imbued with the belief that they are acting in the best interests of the people. I trust that the results of . the Bill will be such as they expect them to be. I certainly desire that persons engaged in the industries of this country should receive adequate remuneration for their labour, and should work under such conditions, and for such hours, as are tolerable. At the same time, I want to- see those who have embarked their capital in industries secure a fair reward and well able to pay proper rates of wages. It is highly desirable that people engaged in our industries, whether they apply their capital or their labour to production, should each secure a fair proportion of the profits.
– The instalment of the Government’s industrial legislation which is now under consideration provides for such radical changes that it ought to be carefully considered from every point of view. This Bill would be correctly described as a political organization coercion Bill. It is a Bill to force people into trade unions under the pretence of getting some benefit for them, and afterwards forcing them to become members of a political organization. Personally, I do not give place to any man in my advocacy of union among people who have identical interests. It is desirable that they should unite to better their conditions. But when claims to exclusive rights are set up, the matter is carried a little too far. For the last quarter of a century efforts have been made to organize farmers into cooperative groups. But that has not been done with a view of squeezing out any man who refused to co-operate with his fellows. If this measure made for industrial peace, one would hail it with delight. But, if history repeats itself, we may look forward to having our Courts congested with appeals from awards which will not be obeyed when they are given unless they happen to be in harmony with the views of one of the parties to the cases. An arbitration award given by an impartial Judge is supposed to represent the cool, calm, collected sense of a competent authority. Let us hope that when this machinery is set in motion it will run smoothly and fulfil the objects for which it is claimed by the Government who have introduced it. It has been urged by honorable members opposite that the establishment of Arbitration Courts with power to make awards takes away from unionists the right to strike, and that it is only proper that a quid pro quo, in the shape of preference, should be given to them. But, although we may by law take from unionists the right to strike, it is not possible to force men to work if they choose to refuse to do so. No law can compel a man to work against his own will. This right to strike was enjoyed by non-unionists, as well as by unionists, and is employed by them to-day. Consequently, the non-unionist has as much right of preference on these grounds as has the unionist. But, nevertheless, preference is to be given only to unionists. In conceding this principle, I think that the Bill approaches very close to the borders of unconstitutionality. It certainly violates the spirit of the Federal Constitution if it does not violate the letter.
– Preference for unionists is provided for in the existing Act.
– But if that preference is not taken advantage of, why all this fuss about securing it? It seems to be the intention of the organizations to take the fullest advantage of preference to unionists, more perhaps for political than for industrial purposes. Apparently, under the Bill, if it becomes law, a unionist may at any time ask an employer to discharge a non-unionist, and give him the place. The Courts interpret our legislation, not in accordance with the intentions expressed here, but in accordance with tlie strict meaning to be placed on the wording we employ, and it seems to be intended that, all things being equal, preference shall always be given to unionists. The definition of “ employe “ extends the scope of this legislation. The Attorney-General says that it is intended to cover the case of unemployed persons, but the effect will be to bring every one within the operation of the law. Those employed in agriculture and dairying are specifically brought under our arbitration legislation. As the honorable member for Cowper pointed out, a manufacturer can keep his machinery running, and his hands employed, for regular periods, but the business of the agriculturists and dairymen cannot be regulated so methodically. Changes of weather and other occurrences over which the employers have no control often make it necessary for them to call upon their hands to work on the farm at unusual hours, and to bring the farmers under arbitration legislation will impose a burden on the agricultural industry which it should not be asked to bear. If the Government is determined to provide for preference to unionists in the agricultural industry, I hope that it will go further, and devise some scheme whereby preference may be given to the farmers who cooperate for the bettering of their condition. I am not a believer in government interference, but if preference is to be given to one side, it should also be given to the other. Farmers have to take what they can get for their produce, and are often at the mercy of middlemen. It has been found difficult to get them to organize properly, and I hope that the Government will encourage co-operation by giving preference to those who organize. Statements have been made by Ministerialists regarding the condition of farm labourers, butonly isolated cases of bad treatment can be discovered, and such exceptions are to be found in almost every industry. I resent the statement that farm labourers as a class are badly treated. The farm labourer is serving an apprenticeship to agriculture, and many of our most successful farmers have achieved their present position by thoroughly learning their business as employes. The honorable member for Hunter seemed to assume that, because the farm labourers of New Zealand are worse off than those of Australia, our farmers must be better off than the New Zealand farmers ; at least, that was the only inference to be drawn from his remarks. It is a pity that it should be suggested that one class can be benefited only at the expense of another. I have always attempted to foster the best of good feeling between employe’s and employers, and it generally exists where both are doing well. If our farmers” have done well, those whom they have employed have benefited. One of the effects of the measure as drafted will be to prohibit men from employing their own children, but in Committee I intend to move an amendment which will remedy that.
– I protest as strongly as I am able against the line of conduct which the Government is now pursuing, and which requires us to discuss this important proposal at half -past two in the morning.
– Does the honorable member desire to have the gag applied to him as he applied it to others ?
– Order !
– I wish that the honorable member would mind his own business. He is nothing if not impudent. If he is not impudent in the House, he is impudent to a deputation in his office. Now that he has assumed the responsibilities of a Minister of the Commonwealth he should learn to behave himself.
– Is this a lecture or a speech on the second reading of the Conciliation Bill?
– I am speaking in self-defence. If the honorable member wishes to apply the gag, why does he not do so?
– I do not desire to apply it.
– Will the honorable member proceed with his remarks.
– Will you, sir, kindly see that I am permitted to do so.
– I have called the Postmaster-General to order.
– And he has taken no notice.
– He has not opened his mouth since.
– Will the honorable member for Parramatta proceed ?
– I will as soon as there is quietness in the Chamber. I am entitled to be heard without these constant interjections. We must have order in the House ; and, to begin with, we ought to have a quorum. [Quorum formed.’] We are now discussing one of the most momentous questions that has ever been debated in this Chamber. Yet the Government exhibit an utter want of appreciation of the gravity of the situation. They compel us to consider this Bill when the House is weary, and when half of its members do not understand the arguments which are being placed before them. Several honorable members opposite have made a few remarks upon the general subject of arbitration; but the only one who dealt with it in anything like an adequate manner was the honorable member for Hunter. He, of course, spoke with a full knowledge of industrial methods. The more I look into the Bill, the more it seems to me to be designed to promote, rather than cure, industrial trouble. It is designed to promote trouble alike in the ranks of the workers and of the employers. It will act as a further wedge between those two classes, and will not tend to the establishment of amicable agreement, without which the best industrial results are impossible of achievement. Consequently, it will be a misfortune if it be placed upon our statute-book. I know that honorable members opposite will not heed what I am saying. They are content to continue tinkering with this class of legislation, just as they have been tinkering with it during the past fifteen years, without getting any nearer the peaceful solution of the problem which confronts them. Those who thrive on grievances have a happy knack of manufacturing them; and I say that this Bill will manufacture grievances rather than tend to curtail and prevent ‘them. It is a measure which purports to prevent and to settle industrial disputes. Our present machinery is declared to be inadequate -for that purpose; and the Attorney-General has told us that the Bill does not, by any means, represent the complete proposals of the Government in regard to providing arbitration machinery. His very first sentence was a declaration of the absolute inadvisability of introducing a measure of this kind. He said -
It is not intended to express the final view of the Government as to what industrial legislation by the Commonwealth should be.
That is tantamount to saying that the Bill is only a little thing which has been thrown by the Ministry to their followers, and which is not intended to represent a complete measure of conciliation and arbitration. What the complete measure is to be– what is to be its purport and intention - is not stated. We are merely told that the Bill represents a tentative proposal which is to be followed later on by some more drastic proposals. What folly it is to treat a subject of this kind in that half-hearted and piece-meal way ! What a confession of utter inability to realize the tremendous issues which are involved in legislation of this kind. Is there any urgent . necessity for the Bill, that we should receive it in small homoeopathic doses? Is there any reason why we could not have waited for it until the Government had decided the final form which their arbitration proposals will take? Why does this Bill take precedence of the measure dealing with the imposition of a land tax? There seems to be no urgency about that matter since the election. Yet the land tax was the supreme dominating issue of the recent campaign. We were told, time and again, that the Land Tax Bill would be the principal Government measure brought forward this session. The. AttorneyGeneral has told us of no urgent outstanding cases which require treatment of this kind. It is true that we were informed by the honorable member for Hindmarsh that the Bill is the outcome of the Newcastle strike. But I have looked carefully through the measure ; and I have failed to find in it anything which will settle a strike similar to that which occurred at Newcastle. Of course, I do not suggest khat we should not attempt to settle disputes of that kind. But certainly this Bill will not settle them. I know of no proposals which will compel men to say what they do not want to say before an industrial tribunal, irrespective of whether it consists of a Judge or of a number of persons. But has the Bill been introduced as the result of the Newcastle strike? Is it not a fact that, since compulsory arbitration has been applied to the Newcastle district, there have been more disputes there than there were formerly? So far, our efforts there have not altered conditions one whit, except, it seems to me, foi the worse. Nearly everything the miners of the Newcastle district have secured up to date has been gained by conference with their employers, and not by an appeal to this Court. ‘ Before the last big strike took place we heard of strikes up there almost every week. We had the spectacle of a Court endeavouring to accomplish its purpose, I freely admit ; but, still, a Court set up and approved by the members of the State Parliament, including the State Labour members, doing nothing to check the troubles of the district, and only fomenting and multiplying them. Does any one really believe that this patchwork of a Bill is going to stop the troubles in the Newcastle district? If ‘I were a member of a party like that opposite, just back from the polls with a mandate to treat these industrial questions, I should be ashamed to introduce a proposal to this House and give utterance to the expression of the Attorney-General that it was not intended to express the final views of the Ministry on this question of Commonwealth arbitration. What are to be the final views ?
– Wait and see.
– That is good advice to give the miners of Newcastle and the working men of Australia, “ Wait and see.” Did not the honorable gentleman tell them at the elections that he knew all about it ? He told them that he could find a panacea for all their ills if only they returned him and his party to power. He said that they knew how to do it, and that all they needed was the power to do it. And now that the honorable gentleman and the party of which he is a member have the power, he throws this little bone down to these men, and says, “ Gnaw that for a week or two, and wait and see what else is coming to you. Open your mouth and shut your eyes, and see what Hughes will send you.” That is the honorable gentleman’s attitude now, and it is but a poor compliment to pay the workers of the Commonwealth, and of New South Wales in’ particular.
– I have told the honorable gentleman to wait and see.
– The AttorneyGeneral cannot tell me to wait and see without telling the coal-miners and other workers outside to wait and see.
– They know perfectly well what we are going to do.
– Do they?
– Yes, and they know perfectly well what the honorable gentleman would have done if he had had the chance.
– I dare say, but that is not the point. They were not satisfied with what we were going to do.
– That accounts for the whole thing.
– They believed the honorable gentleman when he told their- what he was going to do. He has been telling them that now for about fifteen years to my knowledge, and he has not settled their disputes yet. He has not provided machinery for the settlement of dis putes which works as well as that which was in operation when he. set about this task of regulating industrial conditions fifteen years ago. The miners’ wages are no higher, and their conditions no better. I venture to say that the whole of the industrial conditions are to-day, perhaps, a little worse in the great occupations I have now in my mind than they were many years ago. I make this statement deliberately, and challenge contradiction of it, that the relations were smoother and wages and conditions better fifteen years ago in the whole of the coal-mining districts than they are to-day. And all the honorable gentleman has to offer those engaged in that industry is a little thing by the way, and they must “ wait and see” what they will get when the final form which this legislation is to take has been decided upon.
– What did the Fusion Government offer them?
– The Fusion Government offered to them, I venture to say, a working and a %’ery much more practical proposition than this Bill will prove to be.
– An Inter-State Commission.
– We shall see what this Government will offer them in a little time. Honorable members opposite are now, at any rate, in a place where they will be held to their responsibility. They have previously always been able to shuffle’ out of it, and get behind some one else. They can do so no longer, and, in a very little time, we shall see what they are able to do to cope with the ‘ tremendous industrial problems awaiting solution outside. I agree with the Attorney-General that a proposal such as that contained in this Bill will do very little for the peaceful solution of industrial troubles. If we are going further in the same way, and are to continue to entangle the workers of Australia in this network of legal technicalities, I do not know where we shall come out. I always, in this connexion, remember a statement which was made by Sir George Reid when the first Arbitration Bill was being put through in the State Parliament of New South Wales. I did not agree with the right honorable gentleman at the time. I voted against him, and spoke against him, because I was an ardent supporter of Mr. Wise’s Bill. I believed in my heart that the operation of the Compulsory Arbitration Bill would have a tendency to bring the employer and his workmen closer together, and cause the relations between the two to become more, and not less, amicable. I am sorry to have to say that the very contrary has been the case.
– Is the honorable gentleman opposed to arbitration now?
– No, I am not opposed to arbitration now. I see very little arbitration indeed in this Bill. There are provisions in it which seem to me to be as far as the heavens are from the earth from the true principle and purpose of arbitration. It is a proposal for provoking trouble, not for settling it. There are all sorts of vague expressions contained in it which will give rise to endless disputes and litigation. The honorable member for Werriwa himself will admit that, so far, our Arbitration Courts have been nothing but law Courts. There has been very little of equity and good conscience in the whole thing, so far as I have been able to see. There has been any amount of word splitting and legal sophistries, wordy warfares between well-feed counsel on either side, whilst the men whom they were established to benefit have received very little benefit from them. They have not been what they were intended to be - Courts of equity and good conscience, in which men would entirely discard legal subtleties, and confine their attention to the substantial merits and justice of a case. If I saw any possibility under this measure of setting up such a Court as that, I should certainly support it. I still favour arbitration, because I, so far, see no better way in which to accomplish the object we have in view, of doing away with strikes and enabling industrial operations to proceed peacefully, as they should in a country so spacious as Australia. Later on this measure is to be the AttorneyGeneral’s “ get out.” This is to be his “I told you so.” He will say to the people in his best rhetorical and florid style, “ We never pretended, gentlemen, that this Bill would do all that you. need to have done; we simply told you that it was a little by the way. There is a great deal more to be done, and when we have had two or three years more in office - when we have had time to look round - we shall come down with some other proposal. Meantime, it is the fellows on the other side who are stopping all your chances to obtain any good out of the little Court that we have set up.” I am sure that we shall hear that argument from honorable members of the Labour party on the platforms of this country within the next year or two. I can well understand the Attorney-General’s statement that this is not the finalized form of the views of the Government on the arbitration question, because the more I look into the matter the more it seems to me that they will need to go much further before they will do any good in the direction they are proceeding. For instance, the Government are proposing under this Bill to regulate conditions and to. force men to join unions before they can be employed. If they are going to tie down the employer to all these conditions - and I am not saying that they are wrong; I am not dealing with that point at present - then they must go further and interfere with the prices which he receives for his products. There is no provision in .this Bill to give the employer one penny more for any of his products than he obtains to-day. There is nothing which would enable, say the grower of the produce, to get a penny more for his produce in the markets of the world than he does at present. It is true that some employers could pay very much better wages, and give much better conditions of labour than they do ; but this Bill proceeds upon the hypothesis that every employer in Australia has a margin out of which he can pay something more than he is now paying. There can be no dispute as to that point. If we are going on with these proposals to still further limit the operations of the employer, so as to bring him into what is termed a reasonable condition, then the Government must at some time or other apply themselves to the product itself, without which these better conditions and wages are impossible. 1 shall look with very great interest at the proposals of the Government later on, because they are pledged, as I understand, not only to give better wages and better conditions to the workers, but to protect the public against being penalized in the shape of having to pay higher prices for their goods. How they are going to bring about these three results is a puzzle that I do not pretend to be able to unravel. It is hidden in the recesses of the brains of the Ministry. They are pledged to higher prices, higher wages, and cheaper goods to the consumer. How this is to be done by any process of legislation I fail to see.
– We shall have to nationalize to get that.
– Does ray honorable friend suggest that it can be done by nationalizing these industries?
– The. question of nationalization is not before the Chair.
– But I think, sir, that it is inevitably involved in what is before the Chair. I would suggest to the honorable member for Werriwa, who made the interjection in regard to nationalization, that he. had better look up some of the latest books that have been written by foreign Socialists, in which they have come round to the opinion that under Socialism the wages of the workers cannot be very much improved.
– The question of Socialism is not before the Chair.
– That is the latest declaration I have seen. This problem is a tremendous one, and I am pointing out these difficulties, not for the purpose of opposition to the Bill, but because I think it is time that honorable members on the other side stopped humbugging the people, and especially the workers of this country.
– The honorable member is not in order in accusing any honorable member of humbugging the people.
– It is strange that at this time of the morning we should need to be so squeamish in regard to the language we employ.
– I think, sir’, that we ought to have a quorum. [Quorum formed.]
– The class of legislation with which we are now engaged is by no means new. It is almost as old as the hills, and has been tried repeatedly during the long course of civilization in our Empire, and indeed in connexion with every other Empire under the sun. In days gone by when these matters used to be regulated strictly by law, they “ went the whole hog.” They did not merely regulate wages and the conditions of labour ; they were at least logical in what they undertook to do* and accordingly we find upon the statute-book of Great Britain to-day numberless Statutes regulating the whole industrial life of the individual, and paying some attention to the control of the product as well as the price and the control of the labour engaged in the production of that product.
We must recollect that the prices of products have to be regulated more strictly even than the price of labour, and that problem will, I presume, in the near future, bi’ tackled by honorable members opposite. In those days, Governments were very thorough. They regulated the price of wheat, and declared how, when, and where it was to be sold. They regulated the price of ale and beer, and told the fisherman where he must catch his herrings, and the price, and at what place he must sell them in the market.
– I remind the honorable member that the question before the Chair is the amendment of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act.
– I submit, very respectfully, that I am discussing that question, namely, the principle of arbitration as .applied to the regulation of industrial disputes. My point is that the arbitration proposed by the Government has to do with the regulation of prices, as well as the control of labour. That phase of the question was discussed very thoroughly on the last occasion on which a measure of the kind was discussed, and must be considered in any proposal of the kind.
– I point out that there is no proposition before the Chair to regulate prices.
– There is a proposition before the Chair which will necessarily regulate prices, because it is impossible to begin to regulate labour and labour conditions without interfering with prices. I was going to point out that, when the control of wages and labour conditions has operated before in English^ speaking countries, it has always been in association with the control and regulation of prices and profits ; and I am now merely showing that, in those days, Governments were very logical, inasmuch as they not only fixed the wages that labour should receive, and declared how, where, and what at, the labourer should be employed, but went on to fix the price at which his product should be sold. As to attorneys, an old English Statute declares that it is “a practice or contentious attorneys to stir up suits foi their private profits,” and regulates the price at which the attorneys themselves shall labour. The English law went further, and regulated the kind of clothing the man should wear, providing that hi should not have clothes of “ gold, or silk, or purple colour.”
– What Statute is that?
– It is a Statute of the thirteenth century, in the time of Henry II., or Henry III. - the heyday of arbitration, the arbitrators, of course, being the police magistrates.
– Was it compulsory?
– Of course; and its range was very different from the tender tinkering of the present proposals of the Government. In 1487, there was a Statute which declared that a man should not be allowed to sell by retail, “ a broad yard of the finest scarlet-grained or other grained cloth of the finest making,” above 16s. a yard under a penalty of 40s. Then, again, in relation to hats and caps, it was provided -
No hatter or capper shall sell any hat above the price of20d. the best, nor any cap above 2s. 8d. the best, upon pain to forfeit 40s. for every hat or cap above sold.
Further, the wages of butchers, the conditions of their work, and the prices of the meat sold were also regulated as shown by the law -
Beef, pork, and mutton shall be sold by weight called avoirdupois. No person shall take for a pound of beef or pork above a halfpenny, nor for a pound of mutton or veal above half a farthing.
The grazier had to sell his cattle to the butcher at a certain price; in short, beginning with the wages of the labourer, the whole range and scale of exchanges was logically regulated. We- hear complaints to-day that prices are being adversely affected ; and that, therefore, the living standard of the labourer is being considerably reduced by the export of grain, and so forth from Australia; and there are old Statutes, just such as are talked of now, prohibiting the sending of grain, corn, and wheat, out of England. In other words, the Governments of that day went into the business in a workmanlike way. But what was the result? For centuries we have been gradually taking down all that mass and cob-web of legal network which surrounded the workers of those days. To-day we seem to have turned our heads in that direction again. I do not say that that is wrong; only we should not imagine that we have discovered, or ever shall discover, El Dorado by Acts of Parliament, which aim at the regulation and control of the industrial enterprises of the people. One of the objects set out in the measure is that it is to deal with all matters which are fair and right. “What is truth?” said Pilate of old. The party opposite are going to discover truth and justice. They know all about it nowadays, and are going to apply it.
– I desire to call attention to the state of the House. [Quorum formed.]
– We are told by the Attorney-General that the measure is not to be exclusively judicial. It is a proposal, he says, for dealing not only with legal rights, but with social justice. That is a foolish claim to set up for any one piece of legislation. I am afraid that when we are dead and gone, people will still be wondering, hundreds of years hence, what social justice is, and trying blindly to grope their way to it. When we hear high-sounding phrases applied to a piece of legislation of this kind, it either argues gross ignorance on the part of those who propose it, or it means that they are mouthing platitudes which they, well-read as some of them are in history, ought to know are platitudes. Here is the claim of the Attorney-General -
This Court sets up a standard of social justice, and aims at securing social justice, and is not merely a Court for the settlement of disputes.
That is the claim put forward for this new legislation. The Court is not to concern itself with the mere settlement of disputes, but, for the first time, has a wider and higher range. I confess that the older I get the more I become like the Yankee who said that when he heard schemes for the reconstruction of society proposed, he always moved the previous question. That was a sensible thing to do, and when such fancy claims are set up before an intelligent Chamber, we ought to move the previous question also. My complaint against the proposal, and against the whole trend of the legislation which is proceeding, is that it has not in view the development, on sane lines, of the trades unionism of Australia. The whole aim and purpose of this legislation is to politicize the industrial organizations and deprive them of all those voluntary functions which they have hitherto possessed. Its intention is to make mere political sounding-boards of the trade unions. It aims at , saturating them with politics, and that I have always set my face against, ever since I have had anything to do with them. The more I see of what is proceeding, the more I am satisfied that ultimately the trades organizations themselves will purge their unions of the political element which is now bringing them so much trouble and so little industrial grist. I can see no other intention or purpose in the Bill. It aims at creating preferential employments, and then at enabling the union to so order its internal arrangements after this political element has been introduced, as to keep men outside who otherwise would seek to enter. The result will eventually be to set up a class with special privileges politically, industrially, and in every other way, differentiating the people inside the organization from the people outside, and so bringing about a caste, which goes right in the teeth of the Democracy, and will yet work trouble for the workers themselves. I have been asking myself ever since this matter was introduced what its purpose is, and what benefit is to be gained by it. I put to the honorable member for Hunter the question as to what preference would do for his district. In reply, he could cite only one small colliery, where he says there may be as many as forty men working who are not in the union. Are we legislating to force forty men into a union in a district which employs 10,000 or 11,000? Is that all that can be said for this Bill? It admittedly will not affect in any way the general industrial conditions of that district, and I see no reason for its introduction as benefiting any of the settled and wellordered trade unions of Australia. They can get preference at any time they like.. They- have had preference ever since I can recollect - and I am speaking of what I know. This question of preference will not make a snap of a finger’s difference to any of the districts north, south, east, or west, as far as the mining industry is concerned. Neither will it make any difference to any of the well organized trades throughout Australia. Indeed, preference has no meaning until you meet with a case where two men want work which only one can get. There is no other meaning to preference than that. It has no meaning where the union is coterminous with the field of operations. Where the whole of the men in an industry are union men it can mean nothing whatever. The miners, the shearers, and indeed any of the members of any of the strong organizations throughout Australia, have always had preference and have always controlled the operations of their industries by union methods. And quite properly so. Therefore, it is for some other purpose that this Bill is introduced. The Attorney-General went to the trouble to quote some illustrations of the reasonableness of this proposition. Amongst other things he cited a case to show that at the present time we have a preference provision, and that it is not different from the preference clause that he is proposing. He first discussed the question of whether preference is a matter of right and wrong, declaring that so far from such being the case we already have the principle established on the statute-book, and in full operation. I think he used the expression that it is being employed with a callous disregard to the rights of individuals under present conditions. He said -
The present preference clause is a recognition of the fact, that when unionism has developed its powers sufficiently we are then to bow at its shrine, that is to say that preference to unionists is a question of arithmetic. We on the contrary, hold that the question involved is not one of numbers, but of principle. It is either right or wrong, whether there are 20 or 2,000 unionists in an industry.
I do not think that it is a question of right or wrong in the abstract. It is merely a matter of what is prudent for the State to do in carrying out its purpose of settling industrial disputes amicably. No question of right or wrong is involved in the consideration of the principle already embodied in the statute-book. If we regard the matter only from the standpoint of whether it is right or wrong, it would be grossly wrong to make any discrimination at all between free men in such a community as ours. But we do not discuss the matter upon that basis at all. We adopt a rough and ready method for the application of justice to disputes that disturb the community. It is simply a question of the greatest good for the greatest number in the community. That is the principle that has actuated our legislation, and the Attorney-General argues on an entirely false basis when he contends lhat it is a matter of right or wrong as to whether we give preference or otherwise. Then he went on to cite a hypothetical case -
Ex hypothesi an industry employs 5,000 persons, 1,000 in a union and 4,000 outside the union, all employed in the industry. It is a perfectly unassailable proposition that the whole of the 5,000 get work. I want to ask how there is any injustice done to the 4,000 non-unionists by giving the 1,000 unionists preference.
I want to ask the Attorney-General where the advantage lies to the 1,000 workmen in a case like that? The whole 5,000, he says, are employed in an industry. That, he says, is an unassailable proposition. If they are all employed, what is preference wanted for? The case he puts is an absurd one. It is not ex hypothesi but ex nonsense. Preference means nothing in a case of that kind. If this is the sort of argument upon which preference is to rest, it rests upon a very unsound basis indeed. If all persons get work, where is the need in preferring one above another ? Later- on he said that, other things being equal, unionists must have preference. Replying to a question by the honorable member for Flinders, he stated that employers would have to prove that other things were equal, and that the non-unionist was a better man than the unionist. How is that to be done? Would the honorable member say that the unionist would be proved incapable if the employer merely proved him to be less capable: The explanations of the Attorney-General show that the Bill, instead of tending to settle disputes, will make matter for disputes. He has spoken of the provisions in Schedule B, which is- to be repealed, as unreasonable; but is it unreasonable to require that notice shall be published in the Gazette calling upon the parties to appear to show cause why preference should not be granted? The employers should at least be heard. The honorable member will say that the public is represented by the Judge. It was so; but the Bill peremptorily directs the Judge to give preference to unionists. The honorable member now assumes to represent the public in this matter. The giving of preference is to be no longer a judicial but a legislative matter. Another provision in the schedule declares that no preference shall be granted to unionists unless a majority of those who will be affected by an award have interests in common with the applicants, and are favorable to the appli-1 cation. I cannot see anything wrong in that. If I were a trade unionist, and there were not enough men in the organization to make a majority, I should not come ; to the Legislature for help. I should say j that it was a case for moral suasion by demonstrating the benefits of unionism, not for making the joining of unions compulsory by Act of Parliament. The proposal in the Bill destroys the voluntary character of trade unions, which has been their chief glory for many centuries, and has enabled them to achieve most of their ends. It is against; the spirit of unionism to force men by Act of 1 Parliament to join unions in order 1 to obtain employment. Trade unions should win their own triumphs, as they have done, and will do. We have many wellconducted unions in Australia, which, I believe, will not allow the politician to pass through their portals, but I think that the best unions in the world are the North of England miners’ unions.
– They are becoming political.
– If so,’ that is not necessarily right. The honorable member, like many others of his party, thinks that whatever is popular and successful must be right. I do not subscribe to that view. The North of England miners’ unions offer greater benefits to members than do any other unions in the world.
– They are political unions, and for years have sent members to the House of Commons.
– They are not political in the sense in which our unions are political. Their representatives - Mr. Thomas Burt and Mr. Charles Fenwick - have declined to sign the Labour pledge.
– Who pays them? The miners.
– Yes, but they are allowed to be Liberals, not to be pledged Labour men.
– Is it not political to pay Liberals ?
– If the unions were’ political in the sense in which our unions are so, those who decline to vote lor any one but the Labour nominees would be declared to be scabs.
– Two levies a year are made for the payment of those members.
– They are allowed perfect freedom of action, which is the essence of Liberalism. They are not sent to the House of Commons as the members of the Labour party are sent here; they subscribe to the Liberal platform, and their organizations allow them to do so, and to exercise their own opinions as representatives, and not to be mere delegates as is the case here. When, ‘a little while ago, it was attempted to treat them as honorable members opposite are treated by the unions, they respectfully declined to allow it.
– A majority of the unions say that they must take the pledge, and they will have to do so.
– I misjudge them if they are men who will do anything which they do not think right and fair. Men have retired from political life rather than do things which they felt that they should not do. Mr. Bell, who has done more for trade unionism than any member of this House, is such a man. He has probably done more for trade organization than has almost any other man in England. Rather than submit to this political element, he voluntarily retired from public life. At present, and for many years past, the’ two Labour representatives from the North of England have been allowed to be Liberal as well as Labour. That is the character in which they appear to-day on the floor of the House of Commons. I should like to know whether the AttorneyGeneral proposes that this Bill shall apply to all civil servants other than railway employes. As he does not answer, perhaps the Prime Minister will reply to my question. My reading of the measure would lead me to suppose that it will be applicable to railway employes, as well as to public servants. But, obviously, that cannot be the case, seeing that the High Court has already declared that railway employes are exempt from the operation of the principal Act. Is it the intention of the Government to establish Arbitration Courts for all the public servants of the Commonwealth? Surely that is a fair question to put to the Prime Minister. In my opinion, the Bill will provide any amount of work for the lawyers. I cannot conceive that the Attorney-General is not aware of that fact. For instance, the measure speaks of “ any threatened, or impending, or probable industrial dispute.” It would seem, therefore, that under it the Conciliation and Arbitration Court will be able to go into any State, and to take hold of any local dispute there under the plea that it desires to prevent trouble. I maintain that the Constitution confers upon it no such power. Before it can exercise any jurisdiction, there must be a dispute extending beyond the limits of any one State.
– But conciliation may refer to impending disputes which may extend beyond the limits of one State.
– Has that been held by the High Court?
– I think so. Conciliation may refer to future disputes.
– Before the Conciliation and Arbitration Court can exercise jurisdiction, there must be a dispute extending beyond the limits of any one State. I venture to say that if the Bill becomes law this matter will be fought out in the High Court at an early date. It seems to me that the measure contemplates creating the President of the Conciliation and Arbitration Court a kind of industrial Pope. He is to roam over the whole industrial world seeking out people, and compelling them to appear before the Court. But he can only compel them to give such evidence as they may care to tender. Honorable members will recollect that in the recent Newcastle trouble the parties were summoned to appear before the New South Wales Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. They were obliged to attend that tribunal, but the result of their attendance was absolutely unsatisfactory, as the AttorneyGeneral knows.
– I know nothing of the kind.
– Very little good resulted from the summoning of the parties to that dispute.
– If the President of the Court possessed the power, compulsion could be resorted to in every case. The apprenticeship question in the bootmaking trade has just been settled, although the difficulty has been in existence for months.
– I do not see how the public could obtain a settlement, save in one way. The law may compel them to go to gaol, but it cannot compel them to discuss these questions. It can only impose penalties.
– There is no reason why an industrial dispute should be treated differently from any other dispute.
– I do not suggest that there is. But I have grave doubts whether the machinery which the Government seek to set up will accomplish the object which they have in view. In the case of an ordinary dispute, the Court can only penalize a man who refuses to give evidence by committing him to gaol. In New South Wales, a little while ago, a case occurred in which a bankrupt refused to give particulars which were required by the Registrar. He was committed to gaol, and kept there for months, but he would not give the required information. Neither will the President of the Court be able to obtain the information which he desires when once the blood of the rival parties has been aroused. I wish it were otherwise. I think the idea is a good one if it could be made to work, but I do not think it will prevent disputes once they get past a certain stage.
– This contemplates checking them before they get past that stage.
– I should prefer to rely upon some general machinery for conciliation rather than trust one man with this duty of inquiring compulsorily intothe cause of a dispute. For instance, I should prefer a Court such as that which we set up originally in New South Wales. The Attorney- General will recollect the first Conciliation and Arbitration Court of a voluntary character established in New South Wales. As I have said, in those days we would not look at a compulsory proposal. Every man representing labour in the New South Wales Parliament at the time was dead against compulsory arbitration. Mr. Andrew Garran, the father, by the way, of the Secretary to the AttorneyGeneral, and a very able man, was made President of that Court. It failed because it had net the requisite authority to compel the settlement of disputes. Conciliation has been tried, and it has failed. Compulsion has been tried, and has proved to be only a partial success. I am quite willing to endeavour to perfect the machinery we have in any reasonable way, so as to make it a complete success, but I take leave to say that this question of preference is not mixed up with the peaceful settlement of these disputes at all. In my opinion, the provision with respect to preference will create more disputes than it can possibly settle. My idea of the settlement of these industrial disputes is that the trade union concerned should exhaust all its powers to that end, and only when it has failed should the Commonwealth interfere to exercise its compulsory powers. But what has preference to unionists to do with the matter? What difference will it make in the settlement of disputes in any well-organized industry? I venture to say that this question of preference has not been fully considered by the Attorney-General. I should like to know if the honorable gentleman is quite clearthat the common rule is going to be held to be constitutional. I very much doubt it. I do not see how in any Court of justice it is possible to decide against a man unless he appears before the Court.
– This Bill does not propose to do that.
– I am aware of that; but the existing machinery purports to do that.
– I am very much afraid it is going to break down.
– The honorable gentleman is talking about the Act now.
– I am; but this Bill is intended to be an amendment of the Act, and to be read in conjunction with it.
– The notification of a common rule is not affected.
– I am not on that point. Suppose the common rule is held to be unconstitutional, as I think it will be, what then will be the effect of this provision for preference? It will be impossible to get preference then, except for just such persons as those concerned in a union decide by their process of initiation to bring before the Court.
– Quite so.
– It will be impossible in such a case to extend the application of the principle of preference all round, and the proposal will consequently become tyrannical and unjust. The honorable gentleman will admit that if one-half of those engaged in an industry secure an award of preference, and the other half do not, that would be the very essence of injustice.
– That is so.
– That is what is possible under this Bill, as I read it.
– How could one-half of those engaged in an industry get preference, and not the other half ?
– Because the other half would not be cited to appear before the Court. The unions may select what employers they please to- take before the Court. They may bring one employer in and leave another out. It will be only the employer who is brought before the Court who will have the preference award enforced upon him. It cannot be enforced upon employers in the same industry who do not appear before the Court. The honorable member for Adelaide must therefore see that this provision may become an instrument of tyranny and injustice as between man and man. I say that the honorable member for Hunter was perfectly right when he said that this Bill would fail unless it were made very much more drastic than the Attorney-General proposes. The Government are going to set up injustice in the administration of this preference provision.
– I understood the honorable gentleman to say that if a preference award applied all round, it would be all right.
– I say that then it would be fair as between all those to whose industry it applied. That is all I say. It is not fair, and it is against British, justice and reason-
– That is better.
– Really, this is a serious matter, although the honorable member for Melbourne Ports does not seem to regard it in that light.
– I cannot believe that the honorable gentleman is serious.
– That is what we get when we try to discuss a question. The honorable member will find that I am serious when we pass this Bill, and the High Court gets to work upon it. He has been making appeals to honorable members on this side for help in connexion with this legislation, and this is what we get when we try to help honorable members opposite. I am pointing out what I believe to be a flaw in the Bill. It is not a Bill to make preference apply all round, but only to those unions who care to bring their employers before the Court for the purpose. If the common rule fails, the application of the minimum wage, as a common rule, will fail also. So this preference can only be partial in its application, and, therefore, unjust and unfair. I say, therefore, that the Attorney-General must either go further or retreat from the position he has taken up. I do not hesitate for a moment to say that he would get better results from the application of the principle of preference by the method already in vogue than he will under this Bill. Under the existing law, the Judge of the Arbitration Court may take all the circumstances into consideration, and give an award of preference where he thinks -it ought to be given. He has that power today, subject to certain police regulations, which Parliament has seen fit to impose, with regard to the political side of these organizations. This proposal of the Government will, in my opinion, limit, rather than extend, the powers of the Judge in that direction. I am aware, of course, that that is not intended, but in this matter I am in agreement with the honorable member for Hunter, who sees clearly that unless this Bill goes further the proposal for preference will be of very little use. With the proposal made this afternoon to keep lawyers out of the Arbitration Court, I confess some sympathy. For a long time, my opinion has been that these Courts will never do their best work unless in the way in which similar Courts were wont to do it in the olden days. Unless they discard legal forms and rules, they will be unable to do justice as between man and man. “ Equity and good conscience,” is the term used in the Bill; and I would like to see a Court of equity and good conscience set, up. I believe that it would* do the best work; and -it seems to me that a step in that direction would be perhaps to deprive legal gentlemen of the right- to appear before the Court. At the same time, we should keep out of the Court all those specialists who would grow up in their place. The people to settle a dispute are the men engaged in the industry to which it relates, and who know all its ramifications. Take the Newcastle mining district. We could not do better tomorrow than to set up a Wages Board for every colliery in that district. So far as I have been able to learn from the newspapers, the cause of the late dispute was outstanding- troubles which were not rectified as they arose. They were allowed to accumulate and fester until they became running sores. What we need is a swift and facile method of applying, the principle of arbitration to disputes as they arise. A dispute might arise in the Newcastle district, and be settled to-morrow ; and it might need to be settled again within a week, owing to “ brass “ having come into the coal, the height of the seam having varied, or something of the kind. When these troubles go on for. twelve or eighteen months, a pit cannot stand still ; work must continue, and very likely the cause of the trouble is removed. The men, however, may not have been paid that to which they were entitled, and the Court cannot inquire into the matter because all trace of it has gone. That being so, we need a Court that will inquire into a dispute as soonas it arises, and settle it on the spot. If we could settle such disputes across the table, in an amicable way, it would be the better for all concerned. That is the old idea ; and, so far as I have been able to see, it works better than all the Court business of to-day. I do not think that we are getting any more out of our legal Courts to-day. or anything like as much as we used to get by that method of roughandready justice. We are paying a lot more for the present system. There is much more heart-burning; and classfeeling was never so keen as it is to-day. So far from these Courts having brought about amicable relations between the two parties, they have driven a wedge into them; and they are further apart to-day than ever they were. Each side is fighting the other on points. Instead of seeking justice in a reasonable manner, they seek it through devious ways, and by all the legal methods known to the lawyer. That is the very last system that should be applied to a rough-and-ready business like the production of, say, coal. Until we get rid of all these technicalities in some way or other, I do not think we shall do very much good. I repeat that I would set up a Wages Board in every colliery and factory. I would appoint as assessors men who were employed in the industry, and who would therefore be able to assist the Judge by bringing to bear that intimate knowledge of the industry that is so desirable.
– We cannot do that under the Constitution.
– That is why I say that the State law is infinitely better for the purpose than the Federal law can ever be. But just because certain things have not been done perfectly in the States, some people wish to come to a Court of justice which has not nearly the power that the State Courts have, to do that which needs to be done. That is one of my complaints against this legislation. I say that it proceeds along wrong lines. We cannot get justice by buying it, and certainly we cannot get it in that swift and facile way that is necessary if we are to deal with the troubles so constantly afflicting the community. A’ Judge could very well be employed in the Newcastle district alone. He could very well overlook the Wages Boards. He could look into their work and decisions, and, as far as possible, coordinate their work. For instance, I understand that one of the troubles that has arisen - I shall not mention names, but honorable members know the trouble to which I refer - is due to a decision which the men regard as relatively unfair and unjust. They say that the Court has given them a rate for filling in one mine which is, at least, 30 or 40 per cent, below the rate being paid in another mine in the district where the conditions are equally good. We need a Judge to overlook the awards of the various Boards - to co-ordinate them, to try to bring about a just relation between them. By that machinery we should settle disputes and obtain better results, and certainly an infinitely better feeling, than we could hope for from a method of this kind. We should do so, in the first place, because our power is inadequate to deal with disputes with all the minutioe that is needed. We have only a very limited power, under the Constitution, but, by some strange inversion of reasoning, the industrial workers of Aus tralia have come to believe that a tribunal with only a tithe of the power that the State Courts have can in some mysterious way give them the justice that the State Courts do not. Because certain things in the States need to be rectified, they withdraw from the State tribunals and come to another, which has not the authority and power to treat them as they ought to be treated. This is my attitude with regard to these proposals. This is why I say we should leave the bulk of these matters to the control of the State industrial boards. They have a knowledge of local circumstances, and, as the disputes arise out of local developments, they arson the spot with the requisite knowledge to apply, and able, therefore, to bring about a peaceful settlement. There are some matters that will require to be considered in Committee, and I need not” trouble the House further with them now. I submit that this Bill will not settle these disputes. I make that very confident prediction, and we shall be able to see in time whether or not it comes true. If I thought that the Bill would lead to the peaceful settlement of these industrial problems in Australia, I should hold up both hands for it, because I believe, with all my heart, in arbitration. I see nothing else which gives anything like its promise, but my complaint is that the Government are proceeding on wrong lines; that the authority and local knowledge of the Federal Court are inadequate, and that we shall not be able in this way to grip the problem, as the State tribunals can. do.
– I presume that we shall! adjourn after this I
– The Bill will be committed pro formâ.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
In Committee :
Clause 1 agreed to.
Motion (by Mr. Fisher) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– The House as a whole deplores the causes that have kept honorable members so long beyond the ordinary hours. It will be clear to every impartial student of the debate that none but the most legitimate criticism of a very important measure has been indulged in by the members of the Opposition.
– Order !
– I do not intend to refer further to the debate, but rather to future action. It is obviously desirable in the interests of the proper despatch of business that if the Prime Minister wishes to rush through any particular business in a specified time, he should give us reasonable warning of his purpose, so that we may address ourselves to the criticism of the. measure before us with due knowledge of when that criticism has to cease. AVe all know that on occasion the public criticism of public measures may be extremely inconvenient to gentlemen who declare, with their hands on their hearts, that they have no fear of criticism. In some places we must expect to find these patriots using their powers of brute force to prevent criticism being continued when criticism is truly effective.
– To what is the honorable member so generously referring?
– The Standing Orders prevent my referring to the particular business I have in my mind. The Prime Minister would help his party as well as the House-
– By letting the honorable member have his own way.
– We have had our own way, in the sense that every man who desired to speak has spoken in the way he wished. The mere keeping of the Opposition out of bed will not prevent us doing our duty, and honorable members opposite may as well know that now as in the future. If the Prime Minister intends to apply the closure by a process of physical exhaustion let him, at any rate, give us decent warning.
– I draw attention to the state of the House. [Quorum formed.]
– In the future, the Prime Minister might well afford to observe the ordinary principle of eight hours as a good working day. It neither redounds to his credit, nor to the credit of his party, that he should have kept honorable members so long beyond the ordinary hours.
– What about day sittings?
– What does the honorable member call this but an early morning sitting? We have been here since half-past 2 o’clock yesterday doing nothing but examing minutely the provisions of a Bill which requires the most earnest and careful scrutiny. We have done our duty to the best of our ability, and when I point out to the Prime Minister his duty to the House and the country, members of the Labour party endeavour to stifle even a protest by taking advantage of the forms of the House. Can the Prime Minister give us any assurance as to his actions in the future? I think he ought to promise that he will behave in a way more befitting the power he exercises. A display of brute strength, supported by honorable members who sleep instead of thinking in their places, is hardly worthy of the “Leader of Australian Democracy.” The Government have their obligations, as well as their privileges ; and while amongst the privileges may be that of deciding how long the House is to remain thinking and acting after the power to think and act has practically gone, the obligation remains to examine all measures in the light of public criticism, in the presence of the press and of honorable members, and npt allow them to be sneaked through to the detriment of our democratic institutions. Nothing is more notorious than that the Government supporters avoid touching, or attempting to reach closely, the main issues of questions that are very intricate, and so very burning that it becomes necessary to closure them through Parliament. I hope the Prime Minister realizes that the closuring of business of very great importance imposes on him the obligation of giving those who are charged with the duty of criticising the Government measures in the interests not only of themselves, but of the country, a future opportunity of voicing their views. When we come to a further stage of the proceedings in connexion with this measure, it will be fair to give honorable members opposite a full opportunity of testing their altruism, and showing whether they really wish to help forward the great public movement of« which we have heard so much lately, or whether their main and only anxiety is to help themselves to a position of greater security at the hands of their own fellows.
– The honorable member is now discussing a question which has already been settled.
– I submit that the question will not be settled until the third reading is passed ; but I merely ask that the Prime Minister shall bear in mind my humble request. Since my honorable friends have assumed office, I have felt it necessary, not to treat them as ordinary Governments are treated, but to approach them in a very humble and contrite spirit. They represent the dignity and majesty of a great movement which, apparently, if we are to take them as its mouthpiece and reflexion, entirely disregards the rights of those who do not happen to be associated with it. I dare say it is “ right “ for the Prime Minister to try to closure his business through the House, and avoid public criticism ; but, unless he wishes to debase Parliament into a mere place for the registration of the will of persons who are not responsible to the electors, he had better not let us have a repetition of what wc have suffered this evening, in having member after member address- himself-
– The honorable member is out of order.
– I make my appeal to the Prime Minister in the most obsequious frame of mind that I can possibly assume ; and only hope that he will do his duty to the House and the country by not again having such a lengthy sitting.
– The business for later to-day will be the Committee stage of the Bill which has just passed its second reading ; and the Government hope to get it through during that sitting. 1 misunderstood one part of a question put to me by the honorable member for Parkes, without notice, earlier in the sitting, and desire to make a correction when the House meets again.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 4.9 a.m. (Thursday).
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 3 August 1910, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1910/19100803_reps_4_55/>.