4th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– Is the Postmaster-General aware that the Parcels Post office at the General Post Office, Sydney, is in a very congested state ? Will he endeavour to obtain suitable accommodation elsewhere for the carrying on of the work of the branch ?
– We have known for some time that the Parcels Post office referred to is very congested, and efforts have been made to obtain temporary accommodation elsewhere. The Department has now succeeded in securing a building which will meet its needs for the next two or three years.
– Will the Postmaster-General be good enough to say what building has been obtained ?
– A building at the back of Challis House, opposite the General Post-Office, in Martin-place.
– I understand that the last Minister of Home Affairs intended to set aside an area in the Federal Capital site for a university. Is the present Minister providing for that? I wish, also, to know what reserves are being made for the purposes of education generally?
– The honorable member makes a splendid suggestion. I believe that we have reached a stage when we should have at least one university in Australia which will serve the masses as faithfully as the present universities serve the classes.
– The Sydney University, at any rate, is open to all. It is not a class institution.
– As soon as the necessary proclamation has been issued, and we have absolute possession of the Federal territory, I shall bring the whole question before the Cabinet, and there is no doubt as to what Ministers will do then.
-Cannot the Minister, even at this late stage, see his way. clear to obtain independent opinion as to the suitability or otherwise of Canberra for a Capital site?
– Parliament in its wisdom selected Yass-Canberra for the Capital Site, and as trustees for the public we are carrying out its declared wish.
– I wish to know from the Treasurer whether the banks have in any way expressed commendation or the reverse of the Australian Notes Bill? Has the Treasurer received any communication on the subject from the bank managers individually or collectively ? If so, will he place the House in possession of the information which he has obtained from them ?
– There has been, between the banks and myself as Treasurer of the Commonwealth, no communications dealing with this matter which can be placed before the House.
– Will the honorable gentleman have search made at the Treasury and at the office of the Prime Minister to ascertain whether some communication has not been received from the general manager of at least one of the large banks in Australia, who is, I think, the representative of the associated banks, criticising in some respects, or, at any rate, adverting to, the legislation proposed? If he finds such a communication, will he lay it on the table ?
– I do not remember all the correspondence that may be in the’’ Department, but I cannot recall any such document as the honorable member refers to. Even if there be such a document, I should not feel at liberty to lay it on the table. To relieve the honorable member’s mind, let me say that any of the bankers who have communicated with the Government are free to tell the public what they please.
– Will the Minister of External Affairs lay on the table a complete list of all appointments to the Papuan administrative service, from the granting of the Constitution until the present date, setting out the names of the appointees, the dates of their appointment, and the nature of the duties which each performs ?
– To obtain the information asked for would mean a great deal of work. I should, therefore, like to have a conversation with the honorable gentleman, to find out exactly what information he wants, so that he may be fully informed at the least expense to the Department.
– A few days ago I asked the Minister of Home Affairs whether he had not promulgated a regulation requiring boys, when applying for posi tions like that of messenger, to pay examination fees ranging from 5s. to 15s. The honorable member repudiated the suggestion, and said that the regulation was the work of his predecessor. I have now found among my papers the regulation to which I referred. It is dated 8th June, 1910, and is signed by “ King O’Malley, Minister of State for Home Affairs.” I ask the honorable gentleman if he is aware that he promulgated that regulation?
– The rule in question has been in existence ever since the Public Service Act was passed.
– The honorable member has renewed it.
– Of course; at the suggestion of the Public Service Commissioner.
– I wish to take the point that divisions numbered 1, 2, and 3 of question 1, appearing on the Notice-paper in the name of Sir John Forrest, are out of order, inasmuch as they are not legitimate demands for information, but are in the nature of argument. The right honorable gentleman asks, for example -
Whether it would not remove the difficulty as to expense to candidates for examinations as linemen if the examination took place before probationary employment was given.
I submit that the questions are not in order, and that the honorable member himself is in as good a position to answer them as is the Minister. The honorable member is abusing the right of honorable members to ask questions by framing these questions in such a way as to make them mere arguments.
– Sometimes arguments appear to be used in asking questions in such a form as will put the matter more clearly before the Minister from whom a reply is expected, and in such circumstances I have taken no exception to what has been done. In the case of this question, which was not brought prominently before me until the honorable member referred specially to it, it does appear that some slight argument is used, but I do not think that it was framed with the object of advancing an argument, and I therefore hold that it is in order.
Mr. Guy Smith’s Case
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
Referring to his reply to Question No.1, of the 3rd instant -
Whether it would not remove the difficulty as to expense to candidates for examination as Linemen, if the examination took place before probationary employment was given?
Does not the deferring of this examination till after the probationary employment is ended, allow a person to be employed, who may have defects which may be dangerous to himself and to his fellow workmen?
Does not the fact that the temporary employment of Mr. Guy Smith, lineman, of Perth, for so long a time as fourteen months, show that his retention was not considered to be “a menace to his own safety and that of his fellow workmen “ ?
Was not Mr. Guy Smith’s case favourably recommended for special consideration by the officers under whom he had worked, and by the Deputy Postmaster-General, Perth ?
What is the defect in his eyesight?
– In answer to the honorable member’s questions, the Public Service Commissioner states : -
asked the Minister of External Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are : -
DISMISSAL OF Mr. SPARLING.
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Whether he will order an inquiry into the case of Mr. Sparling, who was dismissed from the Customs Department?
– As a properly constituted Board, after hearing evidence, found Mr. Sparling guilty of the charges laid against him, I do not see how the case may now be legally re-opened.
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
In view of the fact that the member for Melbourne did not ask if a public entertainment was held in the Grattan-street Orderly Room, will the Minister inform the House if any concerts ordances have beep held in such Orderly Room since theBoard of Health gave its opinion re exits, &c. ; and, if so, on what dates?
– The departmental reply is as follows : -
The particular corps in charge of any orderly room is allowed the occasional use of the room for social purposes, but such privilege is strictly limited to the corps. I am not aware of the number of these entertainments, but, if desired, will make inquiry.
asked the Prime
Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are - 1 and 2. Yes. 3, 4, and 5. The Government recognise that this is a most important question, which deserves and will receive their full consideration. The matter will be materially advanced by the sanction of Parliament to the measures about to be introduced, dealing with the Northern Territory, and imposing land value taxation. When these are passed, the details as to how, best to promote the immigration of suitable classes of settlers will receive attention.
Motion (by Mr. Fisher) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act relating to the imposition, assessment, and collection of a land tax upon unimproved values.
Bill presented and read a first time.
The Order of the Day for the third read ing having been read -
.- I move -
That the Bill be now recommitted to a Committee of the whole House for the consideration of the following new clause : -
A provision shall be made for the periodical audit of the books and affairs of organizations registered under this Act by a qualified accountant, who shall report to the members of organizations and to the Minister administering the Act on the various directions of the expenditure of industrial organizations.
I desire the insertion of a new clause making provision for the auditing of the books and affairs of organizations registered under the Act by a qualified accountant, who shall report to the members of organizations and to the Minister administering the Act on the various direc tions of the expenditure of industrial organizations. Honorable members will recognise that such a provision is urgently necessary in view of our decision to amend the section in the principal Act which deals with the representation of organizations of employers or employes by paid agents before the Court. No paid agent, be he a lawyer or merely a sort of spurious advocate, is to be permitted to appear before the Court. The Court is to be free of all legal trammels.
– Order. The honorable member is now moving for the recommittal of the Bill, and must confine his remarks to that motion.
– I am giving reasons why the Bill should be recommitted.
– While the honorable member will be in order in intimating that he is moving for the recommittal of the Bill for a certain purpose, he will not be justified in discussing that purpose. He must first obtain the recommittal. The Bill having been recommitted, he will then have ample opportunity to discuss the proposal that he desires to make. The honorable member will recognise that if I were to allow him to do what he desires, other honorable members would claim the same right, with the result that the whole question might be reopened, and there would be no finality to our business. I ask him to confine his remarks entirely to the motion for the recommittal of the Bill.
– I submit, sir, that if this action had been taken on the report stage in accordance with the invariable practice of the House, I should have been permitted to give reasons why I think the action I propose to take is necessary in the public interest. ‘ I am moving for the recommittal of the Bill at this stage, instead of at the report stage, merely to facilitate the progress of public business.
– The honorable member would have been in order at the report stage in discussing his reasons for making the proposal that he desires to make, but he is not in order in doing so on the motion for the third reading of the Bill.
– The honorable member’s action does not facilitate business.
– I took this course by arrangement with the Prime Minister.
– I beg the honorable member’s pardon.
– I could have prevented the Bill passing the report stage last; night, as it was after11 o’clock when the Prime Minister moved for the adoption of the report; but, upon consultation with the honorable gentleman, I decided, as he urged upon me the necessity of sending this Bill to the Senate as soon as possible, to defer moving for the recommittal of the Bill until the third-reading stage had been reached. Under the circumstances, I ask the permission of the House to give the reasons I desire to urge for the recommittal of the Bill.
– What the honorable member has said is quite correct.
– I have to point out that an arrangement made, even with the Prime Minister, or any other member, has nothing to do with the duties of my position. I have to conduct the business of the House according to the Standing Orders, and I cannot take cognisance of any arrangement which may have been come to. I may further say that if I give the honorable member for Wentworth permission to discuss this matter, similar latitude will have to be extended to every other honorable member. It is not with my sanction that such a course will be followed, because I can see that if the practice, which is growing very frequent, of giving permission under such circumstances is persisted in, there will be no finalityto the debates, and the Standing Orders will be practically thrown aside. However, as the honorable member has asked me to put the question to the House, I shall do so. Is it the pleasure of honorable members that the honorable member have permission to proceed?
– Perhaps, Mr. Speaker, you will allow me to say that I quite admit the justice of the remarks you have made; though, perhaps, it would be fairer if the permission of the House were to be extended to me, in view of the arrangement made with the Prime Minister. I can promise to occupy only a few moments in discussing the clause if the Bill be recommitted ; and I do not think there will be any discussion of an unreasonable nature on this side. If the House will at once permit the Bill to be recommitted, the rules will have been observed, and I shall have an opportunity to say what I desire in a reasonable way.
Question - That the Bill be recommitted for the consideration of the proposed new clause - put. The House divided.
Majority … … 12
Question so resolved in the negative.
Motion (by Mr. Hughes) proposed -
That this Bill be now read a third time.
.- It appears to me that, having regard to the importance of this measure, it has scarcely received the close and full attention which was its due, either in this House, wherewe have had a very one-sided debate, or, so far as I can see, from the public outside, who, judging by their comments, are not well seized of its significance. I therefore propose to take this, the last opportunity afforded us, of directing attention to one or two points which escaped my memory during the second-reading debate. There are so many momentous issues involved in the measure when read, as it must be, in connexion with the principal Act, that one is justified in examining once more some of the positions which have been taken up, rather by implication than by express statements, by honorable members supporting it. I propose to set those aside wherever they would involve a repetition of the arguments already submitted. The whole measure fails to assist in the slightest to develop the principal Act in any constructive way. On the contrary,, its effects are almost wholly negative. They consist in the sweeping away of conditions, and an enormous widening of definitions. Consequently, instead of this measure going forth to the hundreds of thousands of people whom it must affect, when it becomes an Act, with some of the difficulties which have already been encountered in the interpretation of the principal Act, cleared away by any constructive provision, they will find themselves face to face with the old Act, with its qualifications and conditions cut out with a pair of scissors. That is practically the net result. It has very serious effects. No one can venture to predict - the AttorneyGeneral in introducing the Bill did not even endeavour to interpret it on a great number of vital points - what the law actually is now in regard to conciliation and arbitration. Since we last discussed the measure we have had a very notable utterance from the President of the Arbitration Court, which ought not to be passed by without receiving the greatest attention from every representative of the people, and from that large proportion of our population who are watching, as they ought to watch, with intense earnestness, the possibilities of the application of this new method to the settlement of industrial disputes. Constructively the Bill takes us no further. All that it displays is our immense confidence in somebody else to solve difficulties that we are not facing. Great is our faith in the future ! It is to be intrusted with the solution of all the problems by which we are now confronted. Merely the loosest provision is provided by amendments of the principal Act for qualifying the Court we have created to meet its throng of troubles as best it can. The means authorized under the amended Act, as a whole, appear to me utterly inadequate for the gigantic task of coping with all the industrial disputes of the . Commonwealth. We are offered the functioning of a single Court, not so much guided as turned loose, without any visible confines or guidance either as to its methods or its authority. Excellent work has been done under the existing Act in many directions, and, yet, we have to confess that so far it is simply pioneering. The time has been devoted to an endeavour to- discover the exact position from which we ought to start, and the conditions under which this Court ought to work in order to obtain determinate results. Some results of great value to the Commonwealth have already been registered. There have been a much larger number of indirect gains from judgments delivered by the Court. For all this now that a reconsideration of the provisions for conciliation and arbitration comes before us, we have no other remedy suggested except to cast loose in every direction anything in the nature of a condition, qualification, or restriction. I trust that this community has not been in any sense discouraged by the fact that so much preliminary work had to be done. There was a plentiful supply of warnings, when it was being launched several years ago, of the need for the establishment of some kind of legal bridge between this new addition to our Courts, extraordinary in its character and relations, and the accepted principles and practice of the law. Everybody realized that to knit those two together involved many extraordinarily complicated problems, and must occupy much time. Consequently, those of us who were associated with the passage of the present Act are by no means disheartened because there have been, from the outset, what every man of any experience foresaw from the very beginning must arise. The annexation, or attempted annexation, of a new province never previously sought to be brought within the province of the law, except in New Zealand, presented a great variety of enigmas, which it always seemed doubtful whether we should be able to meet. However, a great deal of good work has been done, and we have been fortunate in the two Presidents of the Court, who have laid the foundations of the new practice as well as could1 possibly be done in the extremely difficult circumstances of the case. So much to< prevent any misapprehension as to thestand point from which we now face theproblem when it is presented to us afresh.. There have been vexatious delays and friction, but I invite those who dwell unduly upon them to say what other road we could’ possibly have taken that would not have involved more vexation and still greater friction. What track that had to. be; blazed would have led to the obtaining of fuller results than those we have already achieved ? In meeting any of the new conditions by which we are being confronted we can gain nothing without patience, faith, and tolerance, virtues whose value is more generally admitted in theory than exhibited in everyday life, particularly when contentious elements such as those inseparable from industrial disputes are involved; I judge from comments inside and outside the chamber, that many of us are still under the domination of old names which do not fit the new things to which they are applied. For instance, it was a great solace to a large part of the public when it was proposed to intrust the administration of conciliation and arbitration legislation to a Court. We are a law-abiding race, having preserved a large number of judi-~ rial precedents. . Our trust in, and reverence for, Courts and the administration of the law is traditional. Despite its extraordinary divagations and expense, our legal system has created among all classes, not only confidence in the justice of the Courts, but with some a belief in their almost omnipotent capacity to solve problems which defy all other agencies. It was a very great satisfaction to many when it was proposed that the Conciliation and Arbitration tribunal should be, from some aspects at all events, a Court of law. We ignored the fact that it might, at the pleasure of the President, at any time cease to be a Court of law. It is not yet realized how much the extraordinary widening and loosening of the definitions which the Attorney-General is accomplishing operate further to cut away our legal foot-hold. When this Bill becomes law, the Court may almost lose the right to be termed a Court, because the President may employ legal forms and technical rules as he thinks fit. In almost everything, except name, it may at his pleasure cease to be a Court. That is a very important change, and, although we are making it with our eyes open, its possibilities do not appear to have been sufficiently weighed. If we cut ourselves free from the rules of evidence, from legal practice and precedents, we have to rely upon the judgments of a single man, which will bind his successors very little. Should those successors be men of opposite temperament and different tendencies, they will refuse to accept his determinations as precedents or practices.
– There is no appeal from the findings of the Court.
– There is no appeal on questions of fact. I mention these matters because I have gathered from conversations with fellow-members and persons outside that this remarkable revolution in the Court is passing almost unnoticed. ‘That these are novel departures is by no means sufficient to condemn the Government’s proposals, though it must provoke considerable anxiety among all who realize how enormous are the powers of this Court, and how almost unlimited is the confidence reposed in a single man when facing problems with whose complexity I dealt at some length a few days ago. I do not think that we have sufficiently considered the Court’s necessary adaptation to our general circumstances and economic conditions, and do not realize the strain upon its President. The other evening I endeavoured to bring home to honorable members, by a series of short citations from different parts of his powerful summing up in the Boot case, which bids fair to be a landmark in our political, as well as our legal, history, how trying his work is. Happily, that dispute has come to an end, but in the final stages the President of the Court felt it necessary, to use his own terms, “ to disclose to the public” the nature and condition of things under which that judgment had been given. It was in part the same task as from the political side I had anticipated a few nights before. No one is more competent than the learned President to comment upon the conditions surrounding his jurisdiction. His phrases should ring in the ears of every man in Parliament, or out of it, who takes a proper interest in public affairs, and realizes the enormous significance of these developments in the judicial settlement of industrial disputes. The learned President tells us that, by a series of decisions whose legal correctness he does not dispute, the Court is being driven into a blind alley; that there will be a gradual paralysis of its functions; that the President is being placed in an extraordinarily difficult position; and that those who approach the Court can find their way to its relief only through a veritable Serbonian bog of difficulties. No more striking passages have occurred in a judicial judgment in Australia for a very long time past. I do not, either directly or by implication, criticise the judgment, or any part of it; to do so would be an impropriety. ] look at these questions strictly from the political side, from the stand-point of honorable members who created the Court, and are now charged with the perpetuation ot this legislation, and are considering very wide alterations in procedure. I criticise it simply to discover how we ought to provide for these difficulties, or any of them, and, if not, why not.
– Would not the increasing of definitions increase the difficulties of the Court?
– If the definitions were sufficient and precise they - could enormously assist the Court ; but, as the honorable member suggests, definitions might be framed which would seriously embarrass it. No doubt the Attorney-General will propose his infallible panacea, an amendment of the Constitution. He appears inclined to apply that remedy in every case.
– I said, when introducing the Bill, that our Constitutional powers are very limited, and that it will be necessary to have them extended before we can pass legislation to deal with this subject as we desire.
– The debate on this measure has been quite one-sided ; the honorable member in charge of it made his second-reading speech on a clause in Committee, and then it was in the nature of a flirtation with the real issues rather than a responsible courtship. Whenever confronted with difficulties, he indicates that the, remedy is the alteration of the Constitution. If called in to cure a cold he would, no doubt suggest an alteration of the constitution of the patient. It seems to me that under these circumstances we are likely to approach the problem before us from a mistaken or unsafe point of departure. The law has its difficulties, but it has also behind it centuries of experience. It has compiled an almost complete terminology with clear and definite implications, by whose means we have been able to thread such intricate labyrinths as those woven round the law of real property in the Mother Country, or in our equity jurisdiction. Honorable members do not appear to realize that this experience is sacrificed when we cut ourselves loose from precedent. The freedom gained will leave us comparatively without guidance from the past. No problems such as we have to face have been dealt with under such circumstances hitherto. No doubt what is desired is the putting aside of the over-elaborate and costly procedure attendant upon legal actions. But, notwithstanding the enormous variety of human contingencies, legal decisions have attained in many cases to an exactitude which, in spite of the uncertainty of the law, gives confidence to the suitor. Suitors coming before the Arbitration Court under our new legislation must content themselves with confidence in the rectitude and capacity of the President. Both the Presidents of this Court have been men whom none would distrust, and I hope that their standard will always be maintained in Australia by our judicial tribunals. But the new Bill gravely increases our dangers, which are such as ought to be understood, not only by lawyers, but also by laymen. The community should know what risks are being run, and why we are taking them. Since we ‘ have authorized the President, under clause 25, to inform his mind, outside the rules of evidence, in any fashion, public or private, that he thinks fit, and are now rendering our definitions indefinite beyond the power of description, we are setting out on an uncharted ocean, and, as a preliminary, authorizing the skipper to throw overboard the only compass we possess. If that simple metaphor does not convey the situation to honorable members, I shall attempt in vain to elaborate it further. We are not qualified to deal with these questions, in which vague and distant ideals are set out before us by allusions to “social justice,” as a subject-matter of the law. In dealing with real property or business interests, we have something that can be carved, put into fixed shape, and practically kept there. But we are now authorizing surgical operations upon a living organism, with its actions and reactions, idiosyncracies and adaptations, which enable it to defy, and, at times, to defeat, the surgeon’s knife, or to produce most extraordinary and unexpected results. The Court dealing with enormous problems, under quasi legal conditions, seeking to alter habits, tendencies, industrial relations, privileges, and many other things, in a new country, in a society changing more rapidly than in the Old World, and creating its own precedents, surely represents one of the most courageous attempts of modern times. It requires to be met with the utmost sympathy.
– And confidence.
– Yes; but I am endeavouring to show that we are either cutting away, or enabling others to cut away, almost everything from which we have gained confidence by past experience.
– The President thinks this is necessary.
– I should certainly draw that conclusion from the last judgment, as well as from several others delivered by him. But here we have a President asked to handle and control absolutely the most inflammatory interests in this community. He must deal with industrial interests, the interests of employers and employes, political and business interests, and political party interests. All these inflammatory interests are affected by, arid affect, our Conciliation and Arbitration Court. The President is brought in, among these flaming explosives, with the object of putting them out as rapidly and as inexpensively as possible. Well might the honorable member for Angas say that he wished the President joy in the circumstances in which this Bill will place him.
– Are they not wide enough ?
– The definitions are so wide that their circumference, as I have said, is beyond the horizon, over the hills. It may be a mile, or it may be a hundred miles beyond ; no one can tell.
– The honorable gentleman said on a previous occasion that we should not make any mandatory provisions in regard to the President.
– But a mandatory provision and a definition, although they may come closely together in certain instances, are, as a rule, very far apart.
– We place great hopes in the administration of the Bill.
– The honorable member says we are relying on the captain’s knowledge of the stars instead of his use of the compass.
– I shall not say that we are relying too much upon the administration; but we are depriving the administrator of all the aids that he is accustomed to receive, as a professional man, while at the same time embarrassing him with a vague statement of the subjects with which he has to deal, and in respect of which no guidance is given.
– We shall have to await results.
– Necessarily. The constitutional amendments that have already been broadly indicated by the AttorneyGeneral or some of his colleagues, have this risk : that they appear to point not only to industrial unification, which in itself is extremely dangerous, but propose to bring about that unification in the most perilous manner possible. It appears to be their intention to start from the Commonwealth as a centre and to work outwards and downwards through all the different parts of this great continent. They propose to work outwards and downwards to the different branches of different industries in those different areas, often carried on under conditions differing widely climatically and industrially from each other. Such an attempt appears to me, if not absolutely foredoomed to failure, at all events to give promise of immense cost as well as delay, difficulty and hardship. Instead of proceeding from the centre outwards, the Government, reversing the process, should build up from industries in each locality, in every instance choosing men from those acquainted with the industry on the spot, the employers on the one side, the employes on the other. These gathered together in their Wages Boards, also gathered together as Wages Boards in the States wherever State conditions were similar, should have the Federal tribunal authority over them all, federalizing their conditions so as to prevent and remove injustice. Thus bringing into accord all branches of Australian industries as far as Australian conditions would permit, we should have a Federal method. This would attain our ends in a natural, inexpensive, practical, and regular way. We should attain them, so to speak, not so much by force of law as by bringing in the law to aid each industry locally and nationally to find its natural place in the Commonwealth.
– Why does the honorable member anticipate our policy?
– Because it is evident that so far there is no attempt either to further State organizations, where they exist, or to bring into existence organizations in the one or two States that have been backward in this matter. There is no attempt to combine and aid them, so as to rise by steady steps to that control which must attach necessarily to the Commonwealth. The Government and the Parliament that control the Tariff of Australia must control in a Federal and general way the whole industrial situation of Australia. If they attempt to control it, so to speak, from one centre, and by abstract definitions applying to concrete realities, they are bound to go wrong in directions that will cause immense expense ; whereas, if they adopted the straightforward course outlined, they would take an easy road by which this great achievement would be possible much earlier than otherwise, and much more cheaply.
– We wish to draw up new specifications, because the old ones do not apply.
– But the Government are trying, so to speak, to put on the roof before they have built the walls.
– This is only a patching up of the roof.
– The honorable member is right. My present remarks relate, not to the Bill, but to the constitutional amendments vaguely foreshadowed from the other side. Those constitutional amendments point to the central administration I have mentioned^ instead of to the Federal nationalization, which is obviously the safe road to travel.
– The honorable member knows that centuries must elapse before the Upper Houses of the States, constituted as they are at present, will pass adequate industrial legislation.
– It is often the better way to meet an honorable member’s argument, however baseless, by first of all assuming that it is absolutely correct. For the purpose of argument, I admit the honorable member’s assertion, but reply that it is still in the power of this Parliament so to shape its structure that it shall commence with the Wages Boards, with competent local industrial associations, and build up from them throughout Australia, Upper Houses or no Upper Houses. It would be much better if the State Parliaments led the way, and gave us the benefit of their experience. It would be much better if they would make their own experiments, which, although attended by the necessary number of failures, would guide 11s. But if they do not, we can still provide for what we want, keeping to the healthy and only mode of development.
– I should like to think it possible.
– Think it over. That is all I ask honorable members to do. There will be time to do so before the Government’s proposals for the amendment of the Constitution are submitted. It appears to me that before we allow this industrial question to go from us there are one or two considerations of the kind I have mentioned that we should be bearing in mind until we are asked by the Government to deal with their constitutional amendments.
– Does the honorable member say that we have the power to create Wages Boards?
– No, I did not say so. From the sound foundations of a solid structure we can well build up. If we do not, recollect that it will be the minor industries, the younger industries, appearing only in some parts of this continent, and not in our cities, that will suffer most. Industries that are well rooted in our great cities, that have strong unions and can bring powerful influences to bear, will have every chance of being well looked after; the others will run the risk of being ignored. This measure applies to country districts where the application of industrial laws is surrounded, as every one knows, by far more difficulties than in the cities, and where special treatment of a differing kind is required in almost every instance. It is the industries in the country that will suffer most of all, unless we begin from them and work upwards.
– Does not the honorable member think that the Court will be impartial?
– It will do its best; but if out of its inner consciousness, and by informing itself, so far as it can, by direct evidence, it can create one rule for all Australia, applying it variously to every kind of industry, without pinching a great number of them here and there, it will accomplish a marvellous achievement. That no one can reasonably expect.
– The Act already did that.
– I have no wish to be led astray by interjections, because that can only result in my repeating myself. I have pointed out that possibly the treatment which the Court has given to Queensland, which it was enabled to do when dealing with a whole State, may not be possible under other circumstances. How could provision be made when the difficulty arises in sundry parts of States, or when it does not affect a powerful industry like the boot industry - but covers only minor industries and applies in different degrees over the whole of Australia ? Each might require twenty different variations ; and where could we find a Court with the time, knowledge, and materials for such an intricate and technical task.
– No industry more complicated than the boot trade is likely to come before the Court.
– But the boot trade is a great town trade, concentrated in centres, in which the employers can afford to retain the best counsel, while the President of the Court is able to give months to the inquiry. We are told, in parts of his judgment, of the immense labour imposed on him.-
– And that industry goes on evenly all the year round.
– That is so; the boot trade has no seasons, whereas agricultural industries may have to cease operations for months.
– The same argument applies to the State Courts.
– In a lesser degree; that does not apply very much in Tasmania or Victoria, but it does in Western Australia and Queensland.
– Boards can be appointed to take evidence.
– Only Boards of Reference, if constitutional. But how many Boards does the honorable member imagine would have to be appointed in the various States? We should need some kind of Wages Board in connexion with every small township, if rural workers are to be included.
– Why did Lord Brougham institute County Courts in England ?
– In order that justice might be brought to every man’s door, which was not possible under previous jurisdictions.
– Then why not have, the same thing in the future?
– In the case of the English County Courts there was a gradual working down from the chief Courts to minor Courts established in the interests of the poor man ; and it is now proposed to follow the same course in democratic Aus.tralia, instead of starting Courts for the poor man and working up to others for the rich man. “’ The illustration given by the honorable member tells quite against his argument. In the case to which he refers the rich already had their courts, and the County Courts were instituted in order to bring justice to the homes of the people.
– How does the Bill prevent that being done?
– That is another question altogether. The Bill does not prevent that being done ; but, on the other hand, it makes no provision for its being done. So far as I can gather from the broad outlines of the proposed amendment of the Constitution, nothing of that kind has been hinted at. I shall be delighted if there is some provision in this connexion ; and am placing the suggestion at the disposal of Ministers and honorable members. T should have pointed out earlier, but for the interjections, a serious side to this question which, so far, I have not heard touched on by honorable members opposite. That is as to what provision is being made to consider Australian industries during the time of change in front of them. There is a larger latitude than ever given by this Bill, and we have as regards the future suggestions for a wholesale amendment of the Constitution. If under this Bill we commence to bring a much greater number of industries under the control of the Arbitration Court, with improved wages, hours, and conditions, all this, of course, will make for the interests of the employes. But what of the interests of the employers engaged in those industries in the meantime? Even members who are most eager to see advantages to the employes distributed as widely as possible do not desire to “ kill the goose with the golden egg “ - to destroy,’ or even to fetter, the industries of Australia. What, then, is proposed to be done in order that our industries may not be delivered over to awards of the Court where the only questions will be those relating to the interests of the employes, where it will not be possible for the Court to consider whether an industry with the existing Tariff duties can afford to make the concessions asked for ? By means of a Protectionist policy in this and one or two other States, and an incomplete Protectionist policy for Australia as a whole, there have been built up a great many industries, major and minor, which otherwise would not have existed, and which live today only by virtue of their protection. If the wage conditions of a great number of our trades are to be seriously altered, what is going to be the effect on Australian industries and wage-earners as a whole? When industries are crippled, it is not only the employer who suffers, or who suffers most severely, if he has other branches of business not affected. What guarantee or security is there offered when these industries are all brought under the control of the Court, with its unlimited powers in regard to hours and so forth? With the best intentions it may easily make a trade, bow profitable, unprofitable, and not worth continuing. What steps, then, are intended to be taken so that the Court may, not only in name, but in reality, have freedom to deal effectively with problems of this character? It should not feel that its hands are tied. It must not ignore the capacity of the business to bear fresh costs and conditions, with the knowledge that its concession must be an empty one, as it must if leading to a diminution of employment or a considerable alteration in the industry, extra charges are imposed when they cannot be borne. It is extraordinary that this important measure, with all these grave effects, is passing through this House, debated at the various stages, though only from this side, without any assurance as to these great problems or those guarantees which, I think, we are entitled to demand before serious and, in regard to area, unlimited experiments are made with any and every industry. In the whole course of the debate I have heard hardly a reference to this aspect of the question - in fact, I have heard none, though I dare say there have been references which I did not catch. Surely this aspect is one which the Government, at all events, will be expected to take into its most serious regard. The other important condition in this Bill, making trade unions responsible, which, unfortunately, we did not have an opportunity to consider-
– I desire to make an explanation about that later on.
– I was not present .last night, do not know the circumstances in dispute, and, therefore, make no allusion to them. We ought to have an opportunity of considering these important conditions, because really they are matters of extreme moment. There appears to be no adequate realization of the change that is being made in the position of the organizations under the Act, which for all practical purposes we may speak of as trade unions. I refer to the alteration made by removing the whole of the conditions which now attach in the principal measure to the granting of preference. These organizations, or the governing powers in them, are turned into bodies having a public function, and a public status carrying an authority of considerable weight and value to them, because enabling them to employ methods, defensible or indefensible, to extend their numbers and influence. Now these organizations are being made, in essence, associates of the Court ; they are connected with the Court, and thereby derive prestige and numerous solid advantages. Still they are left absolutely lawless and unrestricted. There is no sound guarantee, as there ought to be in every case, that the extension of power has been accompanied by an equal obligation. Honorable members opposite cannot deny the principle that in a democratic country there should be no grant of power that does not carry proportionate obligations - a guarantee to the public of a fair and honest administration of the powers given. Yet the whole of these conditions are being deliberately expunged from the statute-book - they are not being recast or readjusted, but absolutely swept away. These organizations or unions have been made annexes, so to speak, of our judiciary - attached to this very high and authoritative Court which has a jurisdiction as wide as the bounds of the Commonwealth, master of every industry and all the capital and labour in every industry through the whole of Australia. Yet the organizations of employes are not restricted in any direction. The unchartered liberty of a purely private partisan association is retained, together with grave duties and extremely responsible obligations to a Court of very high power and standing, whose influence in practical affairs bids fair to surpass that of any other Court in Australia. Surely this lop-sided, this unbalanced, this unjust, way of constructing what is practically a new organization .around the Court, and, in a sense, forming part of it-
– Has the honorable member any justification for his fear?
– Yes; if one can believe half the stories told, and I think we can.
Mr.- West. - I would not believe half th.; stories told about the honorable member.
– That depends on which half the honorable member has heard ; there is one half I should very much like the honorable member to believe, though the other half I am not anxious about.
– We cannot have shandygaff in politics.
– Even the honorable member will not try to divide the constituent elements of that beverage. As to the remark of the honorable member for East Sydney, all I shall say, without criticising recent events, is that during the last twelve months, in his own State, where, I believe, the trade unions are stronger than in any other State, and where there are Arbitration Courts for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes - Courts which are intended to suppress violence and make strikes and riots impossible - there has been an utter failure of the law in the one great instance which we all have in our minds. To enter into the merits of those disputes would be beyond our subject and our powers ; but there is staring us in the face the fact that the whole of this elaborate legal machinery for the settlement of industrial disputes was wantonly thrust aside, while utterly lawless and violent methods were employed in defiance of it.
– Had there been an effective Arbitration Court that strike would never have occurred.
– I have heard that said before without its carrying the faintest conviction to my mind, having watched every step of the dispute with the closest attention, as, probably, every Australian did.
– Awards have been flouted in every State since 1903, a.nd before that in New Zealand and Western Australia.
– By both sides.
– I shall not set out to argue these side issues, but the honorable member’s interjection, coming from a representative of that State, recalls to me that undoubted fact. I would ask the honorable member and those who sympathize with him - although we cannot imagine the employers going on strike, and can hardly imagine them locking out in any circumstances except-
– They did at Broken Hill.
– In any case, it is utterly impossible for them to employ violent measures.
– There was a lock-out in (he. honorable member’s own electorate.
– That is not the point. If the employers, having broken the law, were committed to prison, what would honorable members opposite have said if, when (hey came out of gaol, they were received with applause by their associates, the other employers, praising and honouring them for breaking the law ? One cardinal distinction from the very first in respect of this arbitration law has been that it is applicable to all employers, but only applicable to the employes of any extensive trade with the greatest difficulty. Law, however pleasing the word may sound, and however pacific in its sugges tions, is not law unless there is behind it, if ‘necessary, a sufficient force to bring it into and keep it in effect. That force can be applied to the employers without a chance of their escaping it. The law has the guarantee, not only of their own persons, but of their factories, workshops, and other possessions. The law can always put its thumb upon them without any difficulty whatever; but, on the other side, where thousands of workmen are involved - who, one often feels, are misled, who do not grasp the sense or significance of their actions, and therefore naturally arouse some sympathy - the law always operates with great difficulty upon them. There is thus a certain amount of inequity.
– Does the honorable gentleman then argue that we should dispense with arbitration ? That is the effect of his remarks.
– It is not their effect at all. If the honorable member had been good enough to listen to either of my speeches on this Bill, he would recognise that to point out a patent difference between the two parties, and therefore an inevitable inequity unless it is adjusted, is not to say that one would set aside the method of arbitration. It appears to me, as I have said, the one and only road which we can follow for the settlement of industrial disputes. But you court failure if you strike out on one side all the conditions that are intended to make the law effective, all the conditions which turn the unions into legally responsible, as well as legally powerful, bodies, and then refuse to help to redress the balance by putting the employes in the same position as the employers, by bringing them all under the Court. Without these conditions, you cannot make an award which the employes do not like binding on them, though it is binding from the start upon the employers whether they like it or not. I am arguing .for simple justice and fair play as between the parties. I want the Court and its methods so adjusted as to guarantee that its operation will not be one-sided. The point of the argument arising in this Bill is whether bodies which are associated with the Court, and endowed with legal powers, should be left absolutely free from supervision of any kind, even from the auditing of their accounts, or any control of the admission or dismissal or punishment of- their members - all of them matters which ought to be dealt with from a high judicial stand-point, now that they are becoming public bodies with public duties. I have before me the new schedule B, which has been substituted. Under it, the rules of the organization are deposited with the Registrar. This is very interesting to the Registrar, but is not a sufficient compliance with the obligations of the body to the public. Those rules ought to be public property. In the same way, there is a requirement that there shall be a yearly, or more frequent, audit of their accounts. But that, again, goes into the coffers of the Registrar, and is not made public.
– Would the honorable member make similar information in regard to the employers’ organizations public property ?
– Exactly the same.
– I am with the honorable member.
– Any association which is connected with the Court, and is given statutory privileges, must have the same necessary statutory obligations imposed on it. That applies to employers or employed.
– Hear, hear ! Apply it all round.
– The Bill does not put the two sides on anything like the same footing, and when the question is being reconsidered with a view to the amendment of the Constitution, I hope the honorable member will recollect the impression he is now under. So far, in connexion with arbitration, Australasia has led the way. I trust we shall never turn back. At the same time, we must see that it is not, as the President lately said, a blind alley.
– New Zealand has made provision for those very things, the absence of which in our legislation the honorable member is now regretting.
– I know that. I recollect that when the principal Act was before us, and since then, we continually called attention to those precedents, but they were swept aside as of no avail. I spoke of Australasia, but have hesitated, New Zealand being only as large as Victoria, to re-quote its precedents, which are really known to practically every honorable member. My own hopes in regard to the industrial development of Australia rest upon the application of arbitration methods through organized bodies, both of employers and employés, sharing, in a sense, public functions, and also public responsibilities. Local Courts can, and ought to be multiplied, as far as possible, all over the Commonwealth, representing all the people engaged in each industry, reducing all formal difficulties. These Boards should be carefully encouraged, and assisted in settling their local difficulties locally. They should be required to observe, of course, those other conditions, either of their State or of the Commonwealth as a whole, necessary to put each industry upon its most effective footing, on principles fair to the rest of the continent. Inasmuch as within Australia there is not now - and has not been for some years - any restriction upon free exchange, there must be a sufficient similarity of conditions enforced in order that in our internal competition every State and every part of every State may be assured fair play. Subject to that, I hope there will be the minimum of constraint and the maximum of opportunity, with sufficient uniformity to safeguard us against injustice. This can only be done if our industries are guaranteed against competition from countries outside, in which no such privileges as we provide are assuredto those employed in similar undertakings. Indeed in some cases, in the Mother Country herself, there is no assured help to those who conduct industries and put their capital into them. With the assistance of our local associations we should be able to see this Commonwealth law administered effectively by the Commonwealth Court, the President of which has once more indicated his present disabilities. The Court should not then be conducted, as it has been, with a great amount of delay, because by a gradual process we may hope to remove locally obstacle after obstacle and fairly establish national standards. I look forward to such an expansion of production if we make this system just to both parties concerned, as will assure us that industrial peace and prosperity which have been the object of this legislation. As a nation, I trust that we shall show a sensitive care for all our industries, coupled with an even more sensitive care for those engaged in them. That is the object of this legislation, but it will never achieve its purposes until it is lifted out of the arena, not only of industrial disputes, but of party fights in Parliament, and put under the guardianship of the community as a whole. It must be dealt with in a non-partisan fashion, and not made use of for political purposes. That cannot be accomplished until such an independent and associated organization of the industries of Australia takes place around the Court and subject to its control in every respect, as I have just been endeavouring to outline.
– I wish to make a personal explanation. Early in the sitting some little feeling was aroused regarding an incident that occurred last evening. During yesterday’s sitting I mentioned to the Leader of the Opposition that I hoped to get one stage of this Bill through before the sitting closed. The honorable member left before the House rose, and I passed a note over to the honorable member for Parramatta, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, asking whether that stage of the Bill could be taken. He returned it with a note to the effect that he understood the honorable member for Wentworth desired to move an amendment to recommit the Bill. I dropped the matter entirely at that time, but later on, when I was in conversation with the honorable member for Wentworth, the honorable member for Darling Downs joined us, and pointed out that the same thing could be accomplished on the third reading. I was very anxious to get the Bill forward a stage, and I asked the honorable member for Wentworth to make sure on the point, and consult you, Mr. Speaker, to see if he would not lose his right. This, of course, was always on the understanding that I could not support the amendment for the recommittal of the Bill, but I wanted the honorable member for Wentworth to have his opportunity, either at the report stage or afterwards.
– He does not get the same opportunity on the third reading.
– It was then in the minds of some honorable members that he did. It was in my mind also that he had the right, but I was apprehensive on the point, and desired that there should be no doubt upon it. I was exceedingly anxious that the honorable member should have the opportunity of moving when the Speaker was in the chair, but I never promised, nor had I it in my mind, to support in any way the motion for recommittal. I simply wanted the honorable member to be heard. Those are practically the whole of the facts of the case. I regret that the question has arisen, but it has not been caused by any wilful or other breach of faith on my part.
.- As a matter of personal explanation, I wish to say that last night the Deputy Leader of the Opposition told me that it was the desire of the honorable member for
Ballarat that we should, if possible, grant the report stage of the Bill last night. As I had a matter of considerable importance to urge at that stage, I went to see the Prime Minister. He recognised that as the hour was after 11, I could, under the Standing Orders, by my voice alone prevent the report stage being taken, and thus postpone it until to-day.
– That is so.
– Desiring to facilitate public business, I told the Prime Minister that I should be prepared to accept the suggestion of the honorable member for Darling Downs, and test the question by moving the recommittal of the Bill at the third-reading stage. When I was discussing the matter with the Prime Minister, I was not under the impression that he would support my proposal, but from the general tenor of the conversation I thought that he was of opinion that I should have as good an opportunity to put my views on the third reading as that afforded by the report stage. He certainly suggested that we should see you, Mr. Speaker, but the Standing Orders and another authority, less eminent perhaps than yourself, but perhaps quite as practised, expressed the opinion that I should be able to-day to do what I wished to do. I did not foresee the hitch which has occurred, and I do not think that the Prime Minister foresaw it. I have thought over the matter coolly during the last half-hour, and now consider that the Prime Minister has not been guilty of any technical breach of faith. I did not think that he would support a motion for the recommittal of the Bill, but I was justified in supposing that he would see that I got an opportunity to make myself heard on a subject that I wished to ventilate. The proper attitude for him to adopt would have been to support the motion for” recommittal, since I had promised that its discussion would not delay the passing of the Bill. However, that was a matter for himself. I have stated the facts as I know them, and make no charge of technical breach of faith against him.
– No charge of wilful breach of faith, I hope.
– That is so.
– The facts have been correctly related by the Prime Minister. It must be borne in mind that no new business could be taken after 11 o’clock.
– I admitted that by asking leave to take the Bill to the report stage.
– I told the honorable member that the Opposition would be willing to allow the report to be adopted, but that the honorable member for Wentworth wished to move the recommittal of the Bill. After consultation with me, the latter went to the Prime Minister, and on his return said that he understood that if the report were adopted he would not be prejudiced in what he wished to do. Arrangements, the subject of give and take, should not be settled by the strict application of a standing order, but by the substantial justice of the case. The honorable member for Wentworth and myself agreed to the adoption of the report on the clear and distinct understanding that he should have a subsequent opportunity to discuss one or two matters which had been overlooked. Under ordinary circumstances the Prime Minister was under a moral obligation to furnish that opportunity.
– The honorable member is now going beyond the limits of a personal explanation.
– I do not wish to do that. The question is : What was fair in the circumstances? The opportunity which we were led to believe would be given has not been furnished.
.- I was the only member of the Labour party who voted to give the honorable member for Wentworth an opportunity to ventilate the subject on which he wished to speak. I did so, not because I necessarily share his views, but because I was present last night, and know what took place then. With regard to the Bill itself, the Leader of the Opposition has spoken of the many difficulties surrounding ihe settlement of disputes by arbitration. As one who has been associated with organizations and industrial cases in Courts for some years past, 1 do not think that he understated those difficulties, although we differ as to the manner in which they may be negotiated. He objects that the Bill is not constructive; that it merely removes qualifications existing in the principal Act. I have tried to regard this subject from all points of view, and to give full weight to the objections urged against this legislation. It appears to me that the constitutional limit on our powers creates difficulties. They are inevitable. We are empowered to make laws for the peace, order, and good government of Australia with respect to conciliation and arbitration, for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes extending beyond the limits of any one State. To lay down principles for the exercise of the power of conciliation and arbitration is to fetter the person or persons intrusted with the work of adjudicating upon disputes. Objection has been taken to the directions which it has been sought to give to the Court relative to the granting of preference to unionists. That lays down a specific course for the Court to follow, and to that extent diminishes the power of the President as arbitrator. Similarly specific conditions regarding a minimum wage, or the length of a working day, would take from the powers of the President in arbitrating between the contending parties. To have fair arbitration unrestricted powers to arbitrate must be possessed by the President of the Court. By laying down a policy for him, you prevent him from freely exercising the powers which you desire him to exercise. Although I am not a constitutional authority, I think that to lay down such limitations would be unconstitutional, because inconsistent with proper arbitration.
– Hear, hear.
– It appears to the honorable gentleman, an exAttorneyGeneral of the Commonwealth, that the laying down of principles which his leader thinks to be necessary for the guidance of the President of the Arbitration Court, would be unconstitutional .
– My interjection had reference to the honorable member’s interpretation of the Constitution.
– I do not think that that explanation helps the honorable member. The Leader of the Opposition referred to some strikes which have occurred in New South Wales. These occurred primarily because the strikers had not faith in the tribunal established for the settlement of industrial disputes. All bodies of unionists in New South Wales have great faith in Mr. Justice Heydon, who is President of the Industrial Court, but they do not believe in the limitations and restrictions with which a partisan and capitalistic Government surrounded his jurisdiction.
– Has he not complained of those restrictions?
– He has called attention to the fact that he has been restricted in the exercise of his powers by the Acts which he has to administer. In a case in which I was interested a few weeks ago, affecting the railway men of New South Wales, the Railways Commissioners appealed against certain provisions in an award. The Judge said that if he could exercise his unfettered discretion he would uphold those provisions, but that, although he believed them to be fair, he was compelled by the law to strike them out, as the Wages Board had no power under the sections of the Industrial Act to award them. The unionists who have gone out on strike have not been satisfied that the machinery for the settlement of disputes works fairly and equitably. We create trouble if we restrict and direct the Industrial Courts, and, according to the Leader of the Opposition, we shall create trouble if we do not do so. The whole subject is so surrounded with difficulties that it is almost impossible to escape from them. I sympathize with the President of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. As has been pointed out by the Leader of the Opposition, his duties are not denned as are those of the Judges of our Courts of law. He has to lay down for his own guidance principles that he deems to be just, apart altogether from the lines that he has been accustomed to follow. Having read various judgments, such as those to which the Leader of the Opposition has referred, I have been in constant sympathy with the President of the Court in the immense difficulties with which he is confronted in trying to faithfully discharge the great responsibilities cast upon him by this Parliament. At the same time, I cannot see any way out of the trouble. One Act declared that he was to determine, amongst other things, what was a “ fair and reasonable “ wage. That is a very wide direction, and the learned Justice found great difficulty in interpreting it. What is “fair and reasonable”? By what standard shall these words be measured ? In endeavouring to determine what the Parliament meant by the use of those words, the President has been confronted with a problem of very great complexity.
– Those words were used in the Excise Tariff (Agricultural Machinery) Act.
– That is so. When we seek to lay down specific lines for the guidance of the President of the Court we immediately place a specific limitation upon his power as an arbitrator. On the other hand, if a specific policy is not laid down the President finds himself in another difficulty. There is another point of view that occurred to me whilst the Leader of the Opposition was referring to the maze of trouble in which the President has found himself owing to various decisions given by the High Court. It seems to me that the more definitions we provide in the Bill the more frequently will the High Court be called upon to give decisions with regard to them, and the greater will be the difficulty of the President. What he might think a fair interpretation to be placed upon certain words, the High Court might consider an excess of power. We have already had many instances of this. There are a number of instances in which Mr. Justice Higgins, as President of the Court, has determined that he has certain powers, and has proceeded to exercise them, only to be told by the High Court, sitting in judgment, as it were, upon him, that he had no right to exercise them. It seems to me that, so far from the addition of qualifications helping the President, as the Leader of the Opposition suggested, it would tend only to place him in further difficulties. The Leader of the Opposition referred to the question of Wages Boards, and to the desirableness of decentralization in connexion with the settlement of industrial disputes. I would remind the Opposition that this is really only an interim measure. That, at all events, is my opinion.’ Our party look forward early next year to an amendment of the Constitution that will enable us to review this industrial legislation in its entirety. When that has been done, I hope that we shall have an amendment of the law that will enable the central authority so to delegate its powers as to avoid giving ground for the fears which the Leader of the Opposition has, to my mind, needlessly expressed. Reference has been made by the honorable member to the obligations that will rest upon the unions registered under, the Act. There is in that respect a point that will have to be taken into consideration at an early date. The Act recognises and creates organizations that may be entirely distinct from the existing trade union organizations. It is not a condition of registration that an organization shall be a registered trade union subject to the limitations and restrictions of a Trade Union Act. It seems to me that we shall have in the near future to make provision, by a separate Bill, for the registration of organizations as business concerns, and that we shall have to place upon them some obligations in the discharge of their business as organizations. Under the Federal law at present there is very little expected of them in that regard. We should make provision for the auditing of their accounts every year, and for the furnishing of annual returns as to their membership, so that an examination could be made of their position from year to year. That would be an advantage to the organizations themselves, and would assist the public to secure some data from which to evolve a perfect system of industrial arbitration. I wish now to refer to two clauses of the Bill, the first of which deals with the granting of preference to unionists. In the Bill as originally introduced, there was a clause providing for compulsory preference to unionists. That provision was subsequently amended, and a shout immediately went up from’ some of the Opposition newspapers that this was a great back down on the part of the Federal Labour party. As a matter of fact, our constitutional power to legislate in respect to industrial matters, is limited to conciliation and arbitration for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes, and, as I have said before, if we determined, before a dispute arose, before a dispute had been arbitrated upon, before the President of the Court had sought to exercise his functions as a conciliator, or as an arbitrator, that he should be required to grant something to one side - for instance, to grant preference to unionists - we should go beyond the express power conferred upon us by the Constitution. Then, again, we have been criticised because, when this fact was pointed out, the Government saw fit to so amend their measure, as to make provision for the granting of as much preference to unionists as is constitutional. On the one hand, it is constantly urged against our party that its every act is settled in caucus. It is constantly being said that all this Parliament can do is to register the decisions of the caucus ; that it cannot alter a line or insert a comma in any Bill that is brought down. Yet when a Bill is introduced, and, as the result of thorough discussion on all sides of the House, it is I found that an amendment is necessary to bring it within the Constitution, and make it more effective, the Labour Government, because it determines to make that amendment, is held by the Opposition press all over Australia to have been guilty of a great back down. Both contentions cannot be correct.
– Did the Opposition bring about that amendment?
– I did not say that it did, but the Opposition certainly assisted the Government to determine our constitutional power in this respect. It is impossible to get the High Court to give a ruling with regard to a constitutional point until the question involved has been properly brought before it, and thoroughly argued from both points of view. Time after time, the High Court has refused to give an opinion upon certain provisions of the Constitution unless the question involved has been brought before it in a proper legal way, and it has had the assistance of arguments on both sides to enable it to come to a just conclusion. And so it is with us. We have had the constitutional lawyers of the House assisting the Labour party in arriving at what our constitutional powers are in this direction, and there has been, on our part, not a back down, but a simple recognition that the clause, as first proposed, was not likely to run the gantlet of the High Court successfully. We decided that, as amended, it would more nearly give effect to what we believed to be the platform of our party, and the desire of those who sent us here, within the limits of the Constitution.
– Then it is a good thing that the Bill was discussed.
– Certainly. It is always right that a Bill should be discussed.
– This Bill nearly passed the second-reading stage without discussion.
– Had it done so, it would have been a great reflection on ths Opposition, who are here to discuss and criticise measures, and to help the Government, by their criticism, to frame the best possible legislation. I hope that when the question of enlarging our powers of industrial legislation under the Constitution is referred to the people, in the early part of next year, we shall receive from them an authority to deal with industrial matters in a way that will enable us to make preference to unionists mandatory. At present we have not that power, and it is, therefore, not the fault of the Labour party that such a provision does not appear in the Bill. The fault lies with the constitutional power under which the Bill has been brought into existence. There is only one other point to which I desire to refer, and that is the provision relating to the exclusion from the Court of members of the legal profession, as well as of paid agents.
From my knowledge of the Labour movement, the desire for the exclusion of the legal profession from the Conciliation and Arbitration Courts is due, not to any objection to lawyers as individuals, or to the payment of fees, but to the fact that a member of the legal profession, by reason of his training, is induced to bring to bear such technical and theoretical arguments as have been found in arbitration matters to impede the course of equitable adjudication. 1 cannot see what relevancy there is in the prohibition against the appearance in the Court of what are known as paid agents. It is quite clear that the suggestion that they should be excluded was due to a desire to prevent union secretaries from conducting any case relating to their unions in the Arbitration Court. As long as a union secretary is a layman, it seems to me that the objection which is made against the appearance in Court of members of the legal profession cannot apply to him. I certainly hope that this provision as to paid agents will be so defined as to express what many people think it ought to mean, namely, that solicitors and barristers, who for some reason or other have been de- - barred, shall not have the right to conduct cases. If, on the other hand, “ paid agents “ means the exclusion of lay members - secretaries or presidents of unions or of employers’ organizations - the clause is objectionable, and I hope it will be so drafted before it leaves the Legislature in this respect as to leave no doubt as to its meaning. I regard the Bill as an interim instalment of a more complete measure which it is the desire of the Go- vernment and the Labour party to deal with next’ session. It is to be hoped that the people of Australia will assist to carry out the principles of arbitration by removing those restrictions which at present make it very difficult on the part of this Parliament to legislate satisfactorily in regard to the important relation of employers and employed.
– I am not quite sure whether there are any existing disputes before the Court; but, if there are, there ought to be a saving provision to the clause which provides for the exclusion of solicitors or paid agents. It would be rather curious if, after a case had gone a certain length, lawyers were compelled to cease to give the Court any further assistance ; and I mention the point, so that the Attorney-General may make inquiries. Clause 7 is a very far-reaching one in terms, though I doubt whether it will accomplish very much, or whether really we shall have the power to do what is proposed. It is provided that the Court may include in an award or order any matter which it may think necessary for the purpose of preventing or settling disputes. In the decision in the bootmakers’ case, the other day, the President dwelt on the limitations imposed on him by a recent decision in the High Court, in Sydney. But the law laid down by the High Court there, and previously in the Broken Hill case, was that there is power in the President to giant relief, although it is not the relief claimed by the claimant. I think the President said last week that he seemed to be limited to the particular relief claimed ; but the High Court decided that, so long as the matter had been raised in the claim, it was part of the dispute, and that the President was not limited to the particular form of relief claimed. If that be so, it simply means that the High Court decided that, when a matter is not raised in the claim, it is not part of the dispute, and, therefore, did not fall within the constitutional power. There must be a dispute, or. as was said in the Federated Sawmillers’ case, an industrial dispute involving something in the nature of industrial war, actual or threatened. That must be raised by the claim, and then there is a dispute, and, consequently, jurisdiction under the Constitution ; but, there being a dispute, and there being jurisdiction, the President is not limited to the particular form of relief suggested by the claimant.
– Without a dispute nothing can be done.
– But with a dispute it is not correct to assume that the Court is bound by the particular relief suggested by the claimant. In the Bill we seem to be giving the President carte blanche to do what he likes, although the matter may not be raised in the claim as part of the dispute - to do anything to settle industrial war or avert the possibility of industrial war - and, if that be the intention, I am afraid that the public may find themselves mistaken.
– Is the honorable member not confusing the relief and the dispute?
– I am endeavouring to distinguish between the two. I have mentioned that the High Court decided that the claim must indicate the dispute, and that, although the claim may set forth the particular class of relief sought, the Court is not bound to grant that particular relief.
The Court cannot put something into a claim so as to constitute a dispute ; and it was on that ground that part of the award in the bootmakers’ case was held to be ultra vires.
– A dispute is not confined to the claim.
– A dispute is confined to what is in issue between the parties ; and what is at issue should be set forth in the original claim, or by subsequent amendment.
– The claim is a method of settling the dispute.
– There cannot be a dispute unless something is asserted and something denied. We cannot, after the claim is lodged, improvise something that was net in issue between the parties before, and, as a matter of procedure, it has been decided that what the claim is must be set forth in the original statement or by subsequent amendment. In the Broken Hill case an amendment in respect of certain matters was refused.
– Supposing there were a dispute about wages, without any claim for overtime, could the Court grant overtime?
– I am not going to lay down distinctions; I am merely calling attention to a general proposition affirmed by the Court, in order to help the AttorneyGeneral, in view of possible legislation. I am pointing out that, though the clause is very wide according to its text, the amendment of section 38Z1 may be found rather disappointing in actual practice as regards the so-called additional powers of the President. As to the Board of Reference, the President, in his judgment, last week referred to the decision of the High Court in Sydney on the 1st or 2nd April last, and said that he could not delegate any part of his power to such a Board. The President did not speak of a “ tribunal,” but mentioned a Board of Reference.
– That is a statutory, and not a constitutional, prohibition.
– I beg the AttorneyGeneral’s pardon; the Act speaks of a “tribunal,” but it does not matter what the words are, the Court has regard to the substance, and the Court held that it could not delegate its power to such a tribunal.
– I thought the honorable member was speaking of the High Court.
– I am speaking both of the High Court and of the President of the Arbitration Court. The High Court decided, in April last, that the President could not delegate his powers to a Board of Reference.
– Because those Boards are not mentioned in the Act.
– It does not matter what the tribunal is called - the Court has regard to what the tribunal is.
– The powers are specifically limited in the Act.
– I do not think that the powers are any more limited in the Act than in the Bill, though in the latter a greater number of words are used to attain the same result. As I have said, it does not matter whether we use the word “ tribunal “ or the words “Board of Reference” - the .functions are the same, and there is only the pretence of a change.
– The High Court was alluding to something quite different.
– I heard the judgment, and the words, “Board of Reference,” were used as the synonym of “ tribunal “ ; and, if that be so, there is practically no difference between the clause and the section. If there is to be legislation this session, that matter ought to be considered. The great difficulty, of course, is the constitutional limitation, and it is wrong for honorable members to blame the High Court, which, on the whole, appears to have given a pretty wide interpretation to a narrow constitutional power. It was thought by a great many that the power was confined to such a case as through voyages of a seaman, or the work of a shearer. In the case of a voyage between Sydney and Adelaide, an award made for an InterState service could not possibly overlay the judgment of a State Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, or the determination of a Wages Board, because the two would be on quite different matters. Sailors on contract between Sydney and Adelaide are subject to the Court on quite a distinct service, and are equally subject to the determination of a State Board, as in the case of a voyage confined to State waters. Beyond this, we must necessarily interfere with some decision or determination of a State Court or other tribunal. The embarrassment that the President and the employers find themselves in at the present time is that a determination prescribing a minimum wage may be made by a State Wages Board, and yet may not settle a dispute, because there may be a dispute as to any amount over the minimum. Thus the employers, after having a big dispute which has been settled by a Wages Board, may be brought before the Arbitration
Court as to a claim for something over the minimum, which, assuming that the other conditions are present, the Court may take cognisance of as being part of an InterState dispute. That is an unfortunate position, and I hope that while the legislation which has Been promised is being considered by the Cabinet, they will attempt to introduce some method to prevent this duplication of what may practically amount to the same dispute between employers and employes.
.- It is a matter for congratulation that the Attorney-General and his colleagues and his party in their wisdom saw fit to yield to the irresistible logic of the constitutional arguments, and agree to eliminate that provision in the Bill as originally introduced, making it compulsory upon the President to grant preference to unionists in every case where he has stipulated for a minimum wage.
– The honorable member is in error in saying that I did it because of hearing the arguments with reference to the constitutional position. I explained clearly why I did it.
– I had not the opportunity of being present, but that was what I understood. At any rate, whether the honorable gentleman has yielded to the constitutional arguments, or to arguments founded on expediency, is immaterial. He has conceded the point, and to some extent has helped his own cause and removed possible grounds for litigation and of attack upon the Bill when it becomes law. To that extent the provisions relating to preference to unionists in the new Bill are not so objectionable from my stand-point as they originally were, because it is at any rate left a matter for judicial discretion, instead of being made obligatory or mandatory upon the Court to grant preference whether it thinks it necessary or prudent or not, or whether it is asked for or not. At the same time, notwithstanding this modification in which the Ministerial party have acquiesced, the Bill even as it stands is open to serious objections, to which I desire to draw attention emphatically and clearly. It removes all the original safeguards or safety conditions of the principal Act. Those were inserted in the Act to make it work more freely and fairly, and to remove grounds of objection to the operation of the principle of preference to unionists. The first condition attached to the principle in the original Act was that it should not be granted unless the Judge was satisfied that it was approved by a majority of those affected, and having, interests in common. That majority rule now disappears, and the President will be placed in the position of having no guiding rule to indicate to him under what circumstances, or in what cases, he should grant preference. He may feel that, Parliament having abolished the majority rule condition, he is bound to grant preference. He may feel constrained to give it in nearly every case, even where a small and insignificant minority in a trade make application for it. That is the unfortunate weakness of the measure as it now stands. I fail to see why the trade unionism of Australia, which is admittedly fairly strongly organized, should ask this House, through its representatives, for the removal of that principle of majority rule. We are now in the position that a minority may demand the application of preference as against the desires of a majority in a trade. I object ‘altogether to the removal of that wholesome and salutary condition - a democratic principle, to which a democratic party such as honorable members opposite represent ought not to object. However, it goes, and we have wholesale, unqualified, unmitigated, unadulterated preference to unionists to be granted in every case where the President thinks fit.
– If the majority is not organized, you cannot get its opinion.
– I do .not know how that interjection is relevant, because any small coterie or clique in a trade may come together, form an organization to include a hundred men, go to the Court, and demand preference to unionists, to that extent claiming priority and favour over the bulk of the trade outside, who do not wish to be bothered about it.
– That would be against trade unionism entirely.
– Still, it is possible, and I therefore fail to see why, if the trades interested in the Act are in the majority, they object to retaining the safeguard that preference shall be granted only when the majority are in favour of it. I have not heard of a single case or a single complaint by the President that he was in any way hampered or restricted by that condition in the Act, or that it constituted any part of the blind-alley argument to which he Gas drawn attention. There is no blind alley with regard to preference to trade unionists.
– It was a restriction on his powers.
– He has not complained, and I have not heard of the trades themselves complaining of any restriction of those powers in any concrete case which came before the Court. I deeply regret the disappearance of that condition. I had no hesitation in voting for the Bill originally with that safeguard in it. I come now to a second safeguard which I think was a necessary part of the old scheme of preference to unionists - that it was not to be granted without public notice inserted in the Gazette, giving others not a party to the suit before the Court the opportunity of attending the Court, and objecting, or, at least, being heard. Surely that was a salutary and wise provision. I cannot see how unions would be prejudiced by it remaining on the statute-book. Surely it is not proposed, even under this Bill, that those not a party to the suit, and who are not heard, should be bound by the principle of preference to- unionists? It would have been much better, in the interests of the principle itself, to have allowed that section to remain. The cause itself will suffer by eliminating the power of the Court to grant an extension of the principle of preference in cases and to parties who had the opportunity of being heard, but who “might not Be connected with the original suit. THat principle disappears. I do not see what gain it is to the cause of unionism, or of any just complaint, that it should ‘disappear. The next point to which I desire to draw attention is the condition in the original Act that if the Court granted preference it should have the opportunity of suspending or qualifying it afterwards if it were found in actual practice that the rules of the organization were oppressive or burdensome, or did not provide reasonable conditions of membership. That also was a wise and equitable condition, and a judicious power to vest in the Court; but that safeguard is also to disappear. Although it may turn out, in actual practice, that a grant of preference is used oppressively by a trade organization, or becomes burdensome, and that the rules of the organization are so constructed as to exclude membership on fair and reasonable terms and conditions, the Court is to be hampered, and will not be able to interfere to modify the terms of the grant. I do not see why any parties to litigation, who have faith in their cause, and who wish to secure concessions subject to fair and reasonable conditions, should object to the retention of that power in the Court. Yet it disappears also.
– The Court can look at the rules before it gives the preference.
– Yes; but the organization may alter its rules afterwards, and make them oppressive, unreasonable, and exclusive.
– It cannot get them registered.
– It can. It is a matter for the discretion of the Registrar as to whether the rules shall be registered and brought into operation. That has nothing to do with the power of the Court to interfere with a strong arm and withdraw the privilege where the privilege is abused. It ought to be withdrawn if it is abused, or if it is used to tyrannize over minorities or interfere with the freedom of the members of the organizations. It is a matter of great regret that such a strong party as the Australian Labour party should object to such a fair and reasonable condition remaining on the statutebook. However, it disappears. It remains to be seen whether its disappearance will be of any advantage to the cause of trade unionism. Another condition also disappears - that preventing the organizations from applying their funds to political purposes. There will be nothing now to prevent them being converted from bona f.de trade unions into rampant political organizations, organized for the purpose of conducting campaigns in the interests of political candidates, and spending the money of the trade unionists in that direction. Surely there ought to be a separation between trade unionism and political organizations. Why do the Labour party and their friends want to convert these organizations of working men, formed and justified on grounds of political expediency for their own protection and preservation in industrial matters, into roaring rampant political organizations? It is an abuse of trade unionism, and will have the effect of transforming what was originally a voluntary into a compulsory organization, turning the trade unions, which were previously industrial, peaceful, and progressive, into political organizations. I do not think that the working classes will gain much by that, while they will lose in political independence. I believe that it will. contribute to the undoing of the party instrumental in placing these drastic changes upon the statute-book. The Labour party is transforming voluntary into compulsorytrade unionism, and depriving hundreds and thousands of working men of the political freedom which they have hitherto enjoyed.
– We will take the risks.
– The honorable member is prepared to take the risks, but we on this side have a right to put in a word on behalf of the trade unionists who claim freedom of choice, discretion, and judgment. This is a Bill to compel the working classes to join political organizations - in other words, to join the Labour party - under pain of losing their employment. It is not with any hope of being able to arrest or modify this measure that I draw the attention of my constituents to the changes attempted to be brought about. The Bill will not promote the cause of political or industrial freedom, but will turn out to be an .instrument of gross tyranny.
– I should not on my own account have attempted to prolong this discussion; and I rise to speak only because of what was said at such length and with so much ability by the Leader of the Opposition. Nothing but good can result from this further protest against legislation which is likely to have so baneful an effect on the industries of the country. I thought, from the spirit in which the Prime Minister announced his intention to deal with great questions on their merits, that some of the observations which have fallen from this side of the House regarding the unfairness of the measure would have induced him to provide some guarantee to the general public that the awards of the Court of Arbitration would be obeyed by the unionists. The Leader of the Opposition referred to the late Newcastle strike, in which the implied obligation to abide by the awards of the Court was ignored, but he made no reference to the records of the past; yet I remember that, when speaking on the Bill introduced by him in 1903, which is now the principal Act, I cited cases which had occurred in Western Australia, New South Wales, and New Zealand, to show that, again and again, when awards had not met the wishes of trade unionists they had snapped their fingers at the tribunals which had made awards. It might be thought that there has been a period of loyalty to the Court between 1903 and the Newcastlestrike.
– There have been numerous breaches of awards by the employers.
– I challenge the honorable member to cite a single case in all those years in which an employer, having broken the law, hasnot paid the penalty of the breach; but I could name hundreds of cases, were I to go through the records of the press, in which unionists have broken awards and gone unpunished. I have watched with the keenest interest this attempted reversalof the laws of political economy, this attempt to turn supply and demand out of their proper channels. I could give from my note-book hundreds of instances in which Judges have been lauded by trade unionistswhen their decisions have been favorable, and condemned as unsympathetic or biased” when their decisions have been adverse. Inmany such cases the unionists have snapped! their fingers at the Courts. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports says that he is satisfied with this state of things. A comfortable individual such as he is thevery embodiment of personal satisfaction ;- but is he satisfied that his party should restunder the stigma of making laws, and extending their operation to the industries of Australia, without attempting to enact provisions which will require their peopleto observe the awards pf the Courts? Can any one name a case in which a Labour representative in a State, or in this Parliament, “ has had the common courage todenounce the action of men in ignoring the awards of the Courts? As the Leader of the Opposition has said, the Courts can levy on the property and money of the employers, and can attach them personally. On the other side, the unionists can movefrom one place to another ; and, where hundreds of men are involved, it is impossible to punish them for breaches of an award. Honorable members opposite may feel that their obligations to the men close their mouths; but it is unjust to themselves to permit their mouths to be closed unless they can close their consciences, too. They should have a better sense of what is honorable in politics than to refuse the obligation to compel both sides to observe theawards of the Courts. I am as favorable to compulsory arbitration as is anybody, if it can be made an effective means of settling industrial trouble ; but when one side is made to observe the law, and the other is allowed to snap its fingers at the Courts, as compulsory arbitration likely to be successful ? The Attorney-General knows more about this sort of thing than his speeches would lead one to suppose. When fresh difficulties occur, we shall have another amending Bill introduced ; but the public cannot understand why one side should be compelled to observe the law and the other allowed to scout it.
– This legislation cannot last, unless it be made fair.
– I closed my speech in 1903 with the remark that I should have the melancholy satisfaction of saying later, “ I told you so.” I say now, “ I told you so.” Honorable members are laying up a very bad account for themselves inthe future if the public find that by reason of the lopsided nature of this legislation it cannot do good. What would be the result if one class of persons could ; go to the ordinary Courts of Law, and, on succeeding, have their judgments enforced, but on failing could snap their fingers at the Judges ? Would the Courts then be respected, or beof any use to the community ? Is it not only by reason of the fact that whichever side loses must pay, or be punished, that the Law Courts are respected? Apparently because the Government has a majority of twelve or fourteen it is not thought necessary to answer this contention. The honorable member for Darling has interjected the tu quoque reply that the employers, as well as the unionists, have broken the law, but he cannot name a case in which an employer has not had to pay for his breach by fine, or in some other way.
– And fines have been refunded.
– I have never heard of refunds of penalties which were not in the nature of admissions by the Court that it had erred. As I said, during my second-reading speech, honorable members opposite are on top to-day, and are dragging the law over to the side of their class.
– That is right.
– That is an admission which is shameless. It shows that honorable members are passing this onesided legislation intentionally.
– It is what has been done by the other side for years past.
– The spirit which seems to animate the Labour party is that, because certain classes are supposed to have made, amended, and administered the law in their favour in years gone by, the Labour party is justified in twisting it. in their favour now.
– That is not so.
– Is not justice fair, even, and two-sided? Are we to have in the community one class which must obey the law, and another which need not do so? We may talk of Democracy and equality, but when a political party deliberately shuts its ears and its conscience to an appeal to place all classes in the same position, is it acting in accordance with the democratic spirit? What is being done may please those whom honorable members opposite represent, but I am surprised that the Prime Minister, who possesses a sense of fairness, has not induced the Attorney -General to insert in the Bill provisions which will compel unionists to observe the law.
– The unionists, like others, will have to observe the law.
– It is easy to say that they will have to observe the law. Suppose it were merely said that the employers would have to observe the law, and no provision were made for compelling them to do so, would the House be satisfied?
– What does the honorable member desire?
– One of two things : the New Zealand law, or the adoption of a suggestion which I have already made. As the honorable member knows, a New Zealand employer who has been injured by the striking of men contrary to the arbitration law may follow them from place to place, until they have paid the fine imposed on them by the Court. What I suggest is, I think, better. Had the honorable member been in his place when I spoke, he would have heard my suggestion. It is to compel the members of every union availing itself of the arbitration law to contribute to a special fund, according to the number of its members, which will stand as a guarantee of their obedience to orders of the Court. If honorable members opposite say that they desire that the arbitration legislation shall be fair to both parties to disputes, why do they not propose these provisions? Why cannot the Attorney-General frame a provision of one or two clauses, leaving the regulations to be drawn by himself, which will give the unions an opportunity to show pride in seeing that the awards of the Courts are observed, by requiring every member to contribute to a fund which the Court shall have the power to mulct to the extent of the injury done to employers by refusals to obey awards?
– The Court now has power over the funds of the unions.
– What funds are there? What guarantees are there that there are any funds? Does, not the Attorney-General recollect the advice given, at one time, to the unions that they should put their funds beyond the power of the Court? Was not that advice given by the very man who copied the New Zealand legislation, and introduced an Arbitration Bill in the New South Wales Parliament? Did he not assure the Upper House of New South Wales in the first place that there would be every guarantee that unions would have to compensate employers, for the injury resulting to them in consequence of a breach of an award ; and did he not subsequently advise the unions to put their funds beyond the reach of the Court? The Attorney-General knows that he did. Although honorable members opposite say that the Court may make an award upon the funds of a union, what guarantee is there to the employers that any union is in funds to anything like the extent necessary to compensate the employer for a breach of the Act? Are honorable members opposite afraid of the justice of these Courts ? They have expressed the utmost satisfaction with the present Federal President. That being so, what is there to be afraid of in the proposal that a fund shall be formed under the control of the Court in connexion with each union? Why should we not make it a sine qua nott that if a union wishes to avail itself of a decision of the Court, it shall establish a fund which shall be under the control of- the President?
– There are penalties for every breach of an award, and the whole of the funds of a union are liable.
– What provision is there for compelling a union to establish funds for the purpose ? Take a case where a thousand men in a particular industry go out on strike for a month, with the result that the employer suffers to the extent ‘of thousands of pounds. Let us assume that the Court makes an award granting the employer damages to the extent of the injury he has suffered, and that the funds of the union concerned are in credit to the extent of only £100. What would be the remedy in such a case?
– How would the honorable member apply the same principle to the employers? ‘
– If the honorable member thinks that the employer’s stock-in-trade, his manufacturing industry, and his profits are not sufficient, let Him provide for the creation of a fund on both sides.
– Was the stock-in-trade, and so forth, sufficient during the coal strike?
– The honorable member had better talk less about the coal strike. The country has its own opinion of him, and of that industrial dispute. I do not wish to revive old sores, but I have my own opinion of the strike, and of the honorable member’s attitude towards Courts of this character during that dispute. Was there a less loyal supporter of the Courts than the Attorney-General himself at that time? Have honorable members ever heard him, or any other member of his party in New South Wales, condemn the men for having refused to abide by the decision of the Court? That question was threshed out on the AddressinReply, when honorable members opposite said that the employers ought to have granted a conference. Why should a conference be asked for when there is a Court? Suppose the employers, when their employes wished to bring them into the Arbitration Court, said, “ I do not like your Court ; I want a conference.” What would they say ? What is the use of having a Court of this kind if we are allowed to demand an alternative tribunal to settle such difficulties? Our pleading will have no effect on the Government, but it will let the people know that the Opposition believe that this Bill will have no other effect than ;hat which I have pointed out, unless it be accompanied by some provision guaranteeing that the award of the Court will be obeyed as implicitly by the employes as by the employers. Unless that is so, the Labour party will live to curse the Bill which they are now taking so much pride in being about to pass.
.- I do not propose to follow the line of argument so ably advanced by the honorable member for Parkes; but wish to direct attention to another very serious omission from this Bill. Before doing so, perhaps I shall be justified in making the passing reference to the very cogent remarks addressed to the Chamber by the honorable member for Parkes, that I personally would be inclined to favour the New Zealand system rather than that which he has outlined. My whole purpose in dealing with legislation of this kind is to insure that the only man to bear the punishment is the man who commits the crime. If, for the sake of argument, the members of a vast association of employes had to create out of their own pockets a fund subject to the control of the Court, it would be a great pity if the consolidated fund of that union were to be penalized, because of the action, perhaps, of just a few misdemeanants in the union. That would be a false principle. It is also a false principle that, dealing with breaches of industrial’ awards, or breaches of the Act itself, we should not punish, first of all, the persons primarily responsible. I am aware that honorable members opposite do not agree with that view. I know that the principle objection to the Act passed by Mr. Wade, to put an end to the second “ Parliament” in New South Wales, which was presided over by the Attorney-General during the coal strike, was that it dealt primarily with the members of that illegal conference, and not with the men. It seemed to honorable members opposite to be a fair thing to deal with the men. We have heard a lot of lofty sentiments in advocacy of the same principle in this legislation, always, of course, without penalty provisions ; but it appears to be a crying crime against the principles of Australian democracy to lay hands upon the sacred person of a union secretary ! You may make any provisions you please against the men, and if the men violate those provisions so much the worse for them ; but if you lay hands upon the sacred person of a union secretary, you are denounced by the Labour party from one end of the Commonwealth to the other. I do not propose to touch further upon that phase of the question. I wish to draw the attention of honorable members to a very vital omission from this Bill It will be recollected that, after 4 p.m. last Friday, when some members from distant States were anxious to catch their trains, the Attorney- General moved the insertion of a new clause making a vital change in the operations of the Court called into existence by this Bill. It declared that no lawyer, and no paid agent, should be permitted to appear before the Court. I entirely agree with that principle. I believe that if we shut out the paid agents we should not hear of so many disputes, because it sometimes pays to work up a dispute in order to appear afterwards in the Court and to receive legal fees for assisting in settling it. We inserted this provision in the Bill. At the time I pointed out to the AttorneyGeneral that we ought to have a reasonable opportunity of considering the safeguards to be inserted to prevent evasion of our intention. It was pointed out, I think, by the honorable member for Balaclava, that any association of employers or employe’s could give a bonus at the end of the year to the person who represented them in the Court. It was admitted, on the other hand, that even that would be better than the present system, for the cases would not then be so strung out. I wish, however, to prevent any evasion. I desire persons to go into these Courts and to state their cases as they themselves are interested in them. I do not wish any other party to be interested monetarily in a way that will draw out the business of the Courts, and prevent the due discharge of business.
– Then the honorable member would prevent a union secretary from appearing in the Court?
– Not if he cared to appear there, as any ordinary person would for his friends and brothers, without receiving any special fees.
– Supposing he had a family ?
– He would receive his salary as secretary. Would he not be discharging his duties as secretary by appearing before the Court? Let us take as an example the case of Mr. Sutch, who was the secretary of a union.
– Take the case of Mr. Peter Bowling, for instance.
– I should hesitate to refer to him in the presence of the AttorneyGeneral, because that honorable gentleman has occasional twinges of conscience on the subject, and I do not wish to bring into the House any element of discord. Sutch, I think, was secretary of the union for which he appeared in the Conciliation and Arbitration Court, but in addition to receiving his salary as a union secretary, he claimed £5 5s. a day for every day that he appeared in Court.
– The honorable member should state the case fairly. He appeared, not for one, but for six unions, and they were charged£165 ; whereas the counsel appearing for six unions on the other side charged£1,100.
– What has that to do with the case? After all, ifI were engaged in a legal dispute, outside of a special Court of this character, I should prefer to pay a lawyer of standing hundreds of pounds to conduct my case rather than pay Mr. Sutch six pence for doing so. Mr. Sutch was the secretary of a union, and he ought to have appeared in the Court on its behalf for the pay that he received as secretary. If he charges what a thirdrate barrister would charge, and gives to his case the abilities of a fiftieth-rate barrister
– That is very cheap.
– It is at ,£5 5s. per day.
– He did splendid work.
– But the honorable member and I are not competent to judge of these questions. I am not talking of Mr. Sutch’s intellectual powers. Even if the honorable member, whom I regard as a colossal monument of intellect, were to appear suddenly in one of the Courts of his country, he would be unfit to conduct the case with which he was intrusted. I should be in the same position, for neither of us are trained in the profession that conducts such cases. The position I take up is that if special payments are made to a union secretary for representing that union in Court, then that union secretary, on the principle of human nature, will get up as many disputes as he can in order that he may receive payment for their settlement.
– The honorable member must think that the men are a lot of asses.
– I do not ; I am coming to- their position. The honorable gentleman, by voting with me, will show the men in the unions of Australia that he is not afraid to let them know how much their secretaries and paid agents are getting for appearing in Arbitration Courts. It is as clear as daylight that there may be, and will be, an “ evasion of the- principle which the House has already registered, in determining that paid agents shall not be allowed to appear in the Court. The time has gone by this afternoon for contesting in a plainly worded motion the value of the principle ; but I wish to enable the men in these organizations to ascertain’ that their funds are not being surreptitiously put to these purposes, by giving them the benefit of a Government audit of their books.
– What funny things we see when we go out without our gun.
– The honorable member immediately thinks of murder because I want a competent audit of the books of his own union and those .of other unions with which he is connected. Do my honorable friends deny that occa sionally there are heard very serious complaints from unionists themselves as to what is being done with union funds?
– It gives me great pain to. sit and hear such rubbish.
– I thought, from- his- ‘ voice, that the honorable member was m pain ; but, thank goodness, I am responsible for neither pain nor voice ! Are honorable members opposite afraid to give their unions the great benefits of a Government audit, which would cost nothing, and give them the advantage of a skilled accountant’s services?
– Does not the Registrar get the balance-sheets?
– I am not sure that, he always does so; but, in any case, there is. nothing to guarantee that the persons who. audit the accounts are competent to analyze the financial affairs of the unions.
– Then I understand that the honorable member for Wentworth seeks to help the unions?
– Exactly. I am hoping that the members of unions will have greater confidence in their own financial authorities when a Government officer substantiates the truth and fairness of the financial management.
– Of course, the honorable member’s suggestion would also apply to employers’ organizations ?
– I propose that it shall, apply just as effectively to employers.
– To their businesses also?
– To their business as ai* association. If the honorable member suggests that the Government should undertake the auditing .of general businesses in Australia, nobody would be better pleased than the business people, who have at pre- - sent to pay fees for having the work done. My contention is that all organizations called into being by this Act,, whether of employers or employed, should’ be subject, to Government audit, so’ that it: may be seen whether the provisions in regard to paid agents in the Court are beingobserved. Honorable members oppositeknow that complaints have been made in regard to the finances of one or two unions., though not, of course, of the majority.
– Would the honorable member base a general rule on the exceptions?
– Certainly not, if such a’ rule imposes any hardship on the majority,, but I am proposing to confer a benefit.. The only people who can object to my proposal are those who do not desire thefinances of the unions to be too closely scrutinized, or who themselves are, perhaps, doing the auditing for fees.
– The Australian Workers’ Union have their accounts audited by professional auditors from outside the body.
– Then I may rely on the support of the honorable member for Darling ?
– If independent audits are already made, where is the necessity for a :!aw ?
– But all the unions do not have -independent audits.
– And the balance-sheet of the Australian Workers’ Union is published every year.
– In my opinion, the independent audit should be made under the authority of the Commonwealth Government, so that it may be seen whether the law is being observed. I could have -given honorable members an opportunity to vote on this question on the report stage, had I seen fit to hold up the passage of the measure.
– The honorable member was not present at the report stage.
– I cannot be responsible for the honorable member’s lapses. For a good part of this afternoon we were discussing the arrangement made between the Prime Minister and myself on the report stage, and it is known that I gave up my chance then, in order to advance the Bill a stage. It is also known “that honorable members opposite refused on the third leading to give me an opportunity “in Committee to consider this particular proposal, in spite of the broad understanding with the Prime Minister. I intend to give honorable members opposite an opportunity now of voting directly whether or not they wish their unions to have the advantage of a Government audit. I should be out of order in moving the following proviso to the motion now before the House, but I should like to read it -
Provided provision be made for the periodical audit of the books and affairs of organizations of employers and employes registered under this Act, by a qualified accountant, who shall report to the members of organizations, and to I he Minister administering the Act, on the various directions of the expenditure of such organizations.
I may say that, in refraining from submitting that amendment, I am acting on the advice of Mr. Speaker. I can, however, with all the greater freedom under the circumstances, move the omission of the word “’ now,” as a test vote on this question, and thus leave no opportunity for escape from a direct vote on the question.
– Why will the honorable member try to frighten us?
– If there is nothing to hide, why all this talk about courage? If honorable members have anything to hide, they will, of course, vote against my proposal ; if they have nothing to hide, they will take advantage of a generous offer to have an audit made for nothing. It is thoroughly understood that the omission of the word “ now” is not proposed in order to delay the passage of the Bill, but merely to register the opinion of the House that such a provision as 1 have read should find a place in the measure. If the Government will give me an assurance that a clause to that effect will be placed in the Bill in another place, I shall offer no further remark. It is possible, in spite of the marked hostility of the honorable member for East Sydney, and one or two others, that, the Attorney-General, who has appeared largely for his union in the Arbitration Court, and is, no doubt, at the present juncture burning with anxiety not to allow any devious means to he adopted to prevent him from similarly appearing in the future will jump at the solution I offer,’ and promise that a safeguard in the interests of the unionists themselves will be provided. To test this question, I move -
That the word “ now “ be left out.
– There cannot be too much publicity to unions on either side, as a condition to their appearing in the Court and asking for special privileges under the Bill, and since both now seek to leave behind the old method’ of the strike and all that it meant. The more I look at the Bill the more I am amazed that the workers of Australia should submit themselves to a Court of this kind. I know, that, so far, they have gained some temporary advantages, though whether that is due to the Court or to the good seasons we are happily enjoying, and the booming of trade, I am not prepared to say. Whatever the cause, privileges are being granted whenever the workers appear before the Court; and the deduction is made, though, it seems to me, on insufficient premises, that this Court will prove very much superior as a tribunal to any of the industrial Courts now operating in any of the States. -The Judge of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court is taking on his shoulders difficulties which have appalled men before to-day in relation to’ a much smaller sphere. The whole industrial ramifications of the Commonwealth are being given over to the control of one man, and, as there is no perfect man, I know none equal to a task of this kind - a task ranging over the whole scale of industrial enterprises. What happens when we discuss a Tariff- in this House ? We have to “ give it up “ in disgust at our sheer inability to rightly apportion the duties to the varying conditions of our industrial life. Very lately there has been a swing round in public opinion as to the desirability of a tribunal which shall make a constant study of the Tariff alone, with a view to dealing out approximate justice to the interests concerned. Under this Bill we ask a Court to take cognisance, not only of the industries covered by the Tariff, but of all the industries, and every section of industrial life, throughout the Commonwealth. In my opinion, there is no one man with the requisite knowledge, training, and experience to deal out justice so far as individuals are concerned. As sure as fate we are destined to see a reversal of the trend of events which now seem to be popular in the community. We shall yet see this tremendous problem divided in order that it may be conquered. I am certain that we are taking an absolutely wrong step in putting all our industrial affairs under the control and decision of one individual. I have nothing to say about Judge Higgins. He is grappling ably with a tremendous task, and he will find that it is not the bog of technicalities arising out of the constitutional limitations imposed upon him that is making him his troubles. I believe if he were freed tomorrow from every constitutional limitation, given a free hand, and told to go and do justice to the workers of Australia, he would not be any nearer doing it than he is to-day. His troubles arise and will increasingly arise out of the complexity of the industrial life of the community and the impossibility of one man completely compassing all the ends we have in view. The trend of events seems to be in diametrically the opposite direction to the position of affairs only a few years ago. When the Act of 1904 was being put through the House, whatever other defects it may have had, it clearly set out its objective, which was to try to work in harmony and cordial relationship with the States with a view to settle these matters. In the introductory pages of that Act it is laid down that one of its chief objects is to enable the States to refer industrial disputes to the Court, and to permit the working of the Court and of the State industrial authorities in aid of each other. No such tendency appears in the legislation now before the House so far as I can see, nor is anything of the kind attempted. I could have understood the Bill if there had been a serious attempt by the Government to give the Court power to devolve some of its functions upon the State Courts and so help the Judge to solve the problem in the only way that he can hope to do. But the tendency is to unification, to concentration, and one Court far removed from all local circumstances, however competent and proper it may be to decide points of law, cannot have that intimate relation with the industrial concerns of the people that is so necessary to secure a decision founded upon equity and good conscience. The Bill seems to be a step in the wrong direction absolutely. In the old Act power was given to the Judge to delegate some of the preliminary stages of the investigation of the Court to State tribunals, but it only did so in the very loosest way, and only gave power to the State industrial authorities or any local Board that might be appointed to investigate and report to the Court. It gave them no plenary power, any more than this Bill does. The fatal defect in all these measures is that they reserve to the central Court the final and plenary power in every industrial dispute over the whole Commonwealth. That Court cannot and will not do it. The problem is one of such magnitude that only by breaking it up and bringing to bear the local consideration of local disputes shall we ever be able to arrive at that rough justice that we seek. Of all sections of the community, Labour has least to gain from legal technicalities. Above all things Labour should seek to disengage itself from the web of legalities in which it has so often found itself. Labour can never get anything out of them, and all we can hope to do in connexionwith labour disputes is to bring that common sense and local knowledge to bear which will enable us to arrive at a rough; approximation to justice, without involving ourselves in legal technicalities and constitutional limitations. As sure as we are standing here this Bill will fail. I make that prediction confidently. The Attorney-General himself admits that this legislation will’ not compass the ends’ that he and his companions have in view. He is already apologizing for the Bill and its failure beforehand, and he is wise in his generation to do so. He sees as clearly as anybody else that it is destined to fail, and so he says that the remedy is more concentration, and more instead of less unification of industrial affairs. The experience of the world shows that you are more likely to get justice when you study these questions as they arise in their local colour and local circumstances, than by handing them over to a tribunal thousands of miles away. I say that the more confidently because it has been demonstrated in other countries than this. Remember always that this is not the only country where disputes are being settled by arbitration. They are being settled by that method now all over the Old Country, except that the system is applied voluntarily instead of compulsorily, as in Australia. None the less, they are being settled satisfactorily on the whole. In nearly all the settled industries at Home they have sliding scales of wages - a method which is the very essence of fairness and justice, as applied to conditions of trade which are constantly changing, and as to which the local market cannot be controlled. I refer to iron, coal, and such things as that. There have been Arbitration Courts there for the last forty years, and there have grown up in those Courts trained specialists, who have made it a life’s business to study one particular kind of industry only. In that way they are giving rough justice to the workers in the Old Country in a way that leaves nothing like a sting behind it. That being the experience of others of our race, we are going right in the teeth of it in tying our people up in an impossible set of conditions. As surely as we are here, those conditions will be taken down again, because they will be found to be unworkable. The problem is too vast and complicated ever to be dealt with satisfactorily by one man, no matter how heroically he may try, or how wise he may be in the effort. The last Government set but to try to cure the defects in the original Act. This Bill, like the present Act, makes the Federal Court the original, as well as the final, point of proceedings in connexion with all these disputes. That is to say, it permits the Court to delegate powers of investigation and report, but it does nothing more. It can give no plenary power to any local tribunal, but only asks it to assist the Court in its final determination. To say nothing of the tediousness and complexity of a process like that, disputes may arise to-day and the very cause of them may be hidden in mystery before this pro cess has time to be brought to bear upon it. On the coal-fields, tor instance, trouble arises from day to day. vhat is called “ brass” may come into the coal, leading to an entirely different set of conditions. If, before you can get those troubles settled, a Federal Judge must begin here in the centre of Australia, delegating to some local authority his power of inquiry and report, and then coming back to the centre again to give the final touch to the position, the whole cause of the dispute will have been entirely obliterated before that long and tedious process can be completed. That is the way not to do it, and so we sought to make the initial point the local industry and the local board - where the trouble developed - and to give plenary powers to the State authorities there to determine the dispute, leaving to the Federal Court only such power as would prevent those local disputes from becoming un-Federal in their character, and having an unfair incidence as viewed from a national stand-point. We believed that the State tribunals, with their local knowledge, could do this work better than the Federal tribunal could, but that there were occasions when the co-ordinating influence of a Federal Court was necessary in order that those disputes should net put the employers in an industry at a disadvantage in any State. All that has been set aside. So far as I can ascertain the aim and intentions of honorable members opposite, they are going to strip off every limitation under which the Court has done its work, and even to ask the community for a further grant of power, so that they may be able to say to one man, without let or hindrance, “ Work your own sweet will, so far as the industrial relations of the community are concerned, from end to end of the Continent. You are to have the sole decision of all matters relating to our industrial life, and are to take into consideration such things as the Tariff, climate, the inequalities of men, their various abilities, and so on.” That is a task that no one man will ever be able even to approach properly, let alone satisfactorily discharge. I suppose that it is of no use talking. The numbers are against us in this matter, but, as one who believes firmly in the benefits of arbitration, and who feels that a wrong step has been, taken to get the best out of these efforts at industrial peace, I feel that I ought to make my protest against the trend of events as I see them. The Government are beginning at the wrong end. They are simply making the process longer by the methods adopted in this Bill. It seems to me that they will not be satisfied until they have all the industries of Australia owning one common Arbitration Court, which will have the final determination of the conditions of the industrial life of the community, and hold within its grip even greater powers than ‘the High Court itself possesses. Let that be distinctly understood. There is to be no appeal from the Court on questions of fact. The High Court is only to interpret the powers of a Court which is to be almost absolute. It is proposed to say to one man, who has probably had no practical relations with industries, “ Give us, not law, which your training and experience qualifies you to administer, but justice, as it appears to you to apply in the disputes which from time to time arise in connexion with the various commercial, manufacturing, and producing activities of Australia.” This is a risky thing to do, and the workers will live to regret that it has been done.
– I wish to say, by way of reply to the Leader of the Opposition, that there is nothing in the Bill, by way of amendment of the principal Act, which is unnecessary. Our proposals have ample justification, which is set forth authoritatively in the judgment in the boot trade case delivered by the President of the Arbitration Court last Friday. The Leader of the Opposition quoted part of that judgment, but the whole of it needs to be looked at. The honorable gentleman was right in saying that it should make every citizen pause and consider the conditions which invoked it. But how, in the face of this judgment, he can say that the Bill is not required. I am at a loss to understand, I shall read one of the concluding passages in the judgment, leaving it to the House and the country to decide between us. Having spoken of provisions which are paralyzing the efforts of the Court, the learned President went on to say -
I have given merely one instance out 1 f many that could be adduced to show the in creasing difficulties of this Court. At present the approach to the Court is through a veritable Serbonian bog of technicalities, and the bog is extending. After full consideration, I must state it as my opinion’ that these decisions as to the limits of the Court’s power, with all the corollaries which they involve, will make it impracticable to frame awards that will work - will entail, indeed, a gradual paralysis of the functions of the Court. Yet this Court, if it bc trusted- - and unless it can be trusted it ought not to exist - shows magnificent promise of usefulness to the public. It is in a position to solve problems which cannot be solved, to settle disputes which cannot be settled, by any tribunal except one that has authority in all parts of Australia.
Those words convey a full and complete answer to the objections against the measure before the House so far as it seeks to extend the jurisdiction of the Court foi the settlement of disputes all over Australia. And it effectively refutes the statement of the Opposition that it is impossible that disputes can be settled all over Australia by one Court. For the President declares that this Court alone can settle disputes, but that it is now, by the decisions of the High Court, being gradually, but surely, rendered impotent. His judgment asks us, as plainly as any direct petition to Parliament could do, to come to the aid of the Arbitration Court with legislation which will remove these fetters around the Court’s jurisdiction. Now, for one other matter. Honorable members opposite have spoken a great deal about the political reasons responsible for the introduction of the Bill ; but a remark made by the honorable member for Parramatta last Thursday unwittingly revealed the cause of these diatribes which have been hurled against the Labour party in this connexion. We are told that the Bill is an attempt to buy the support of the unionists, and that it is an immoral thing to allow union money to be used for political purposes. The ‘honorable member for Parramatta, on Wednesday last, said that we are seeking to make the unions political, and that in the Old Country they are not political. To that statement the honorable members for Maribyrnong and Nepean took exception. Let me quote from the Hansard report to show what then occurred - ‘
– 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.
This is indeed a revelation of the motives underlying the opposition by the honorable member and his friends to this Bill ! It would appear that the honorable member thinks that so long as a union supports men because they are Liberals it is doing what is right, but if it supports Labour members it is doing what is immoral.
– That is a twisting of what I said.
– The Attorney-General has quoted from Hansard.
– The Hansard report is correct, but the interpretation put upon it is unfair.
.- It is hard to discover whether the criticisms of the Attorney-General are due to what he has failed to hear or to what he has imagined. At any rate, he has entirely misconstrued my attitude towards the Bill.
– Is the honorable member addressing himself tq the amendment ?
– Yes.’ I have spoken on the main question, and wish now to reply to the remarks made by the AttorneyGeneral just now about my attitude towards the Bill. Reference to Hansard will show that I said when I first spoke that quite half, or more than half, the provisions of the Bill are useful and unobjectionable, and that, therefore, I would nol say anything about them, but would direct my criticism to that portion to which I took objection. The Attorney-General next quoted part of the judgment of the President of the Arbitration Court as finally disposing of the contentions of the Opposition, ignoring the fact that the greater part of this debate and of the second-reading debate related to the proposal to grant preference to unionists, which is neither directly nor indirectly touched by the President’s remarks. This omission on the part of the’ Attorney-General to note what has been said may be unintentional, but it should be pointed out. He further distinctly implied that the Commonwealth Arbitration Court is the only Australian Arbitration Court. It is the only Arbitration Court with Australian jurisdiction, and the whole of my argument to-day was directed to show how this jurisdiction could be buttressed, supported, and assisted. I said nothing even indicating a desire to limit its jurisdiction. . On the question of audit, it seems obvious that no body of men conducting its business in the ordinary way. and not possessing trade secrets of which it could be deprived, can have anything to fear from an audit. There onn be no trade secrets affected by the financial or other standing of unions. These have nothing to lose by making public their rules and an auditing of their accounts free of charge. No attempt has been made by any honorable member to show that there is anything in the aims, methods, or membership of the unions which calls for concealment. What objection, then, can there be to the publication of the rules of the unions, and to the auditing of their accounts, which the honorable member for Wentworth proposes? I see no possible, objection. I hear none. The same rule should be applied to organizations of employers. As all industrial organizations are being made public bodies, whose chief purpose is to assist the Arbitration Court, and as they are being clothed with legal standing and authority, it is desirable that they should be required to show to the public what they are doing, and with what funds they are doing it-
– I should not have addressed myself to the third reading had it not been for the reference of the Attorney-General to the recent judgment of the President of the Arbitration Court in the Boot trade case.
– It had already been referred to by myself.
– I recognise in the President’s utterance, which I read carefully, the statements of an earnest and able man charged with a duty which, under the circumstances, he feels almost too heavy to be borne ; but it is also one of the effects to be anticipated from drawing the members of our judicial Bench into positions of party conflict. I remember the President, when a member of the local Legislature, foretelling the difficulties that might arise if the course then proposed in connexion with certain Boards, over which it was intended that a Supreme Court Judge should preside, were adopted. Without criticising the judgment of the President, or his criticism of the judgment of the High Court and its effects on the work of the Arbitration Court, 1 say that the utterance comes perilously near the region of political discussion. We must admit that, whether we agree or disagree with the conclusions therein arrived at. I should like to remind my honorable friends of the Labour party that one of the greatest and most important features of the judiciary of all the British dominions - one of the most useful, and not the less useful because we so seldom notice its enormous advantages - is its absolute severance from the ordinary conflicts of parties. That is a matter which we cannot leave out of account. In addition to the other arguments that have been used in connexion with this legislation, we may invest a Court with quasi- judicial powers, and impose upon it the obligation of dealing, not with the determination of legal rights or wrongs, but with matters which are in essence of more or less political moment.
– There are wrongs in connexion with industrial life.
– There are rights and wrongs in connexion with every kind of life, but hitherto in British communities we have always considered that the functions of the Judges should be separated, as far as possible, from matters that are usually determined in the arena of politics. We have had recently this new form of discussion as to the determination of industrial matters. I admit that the proposal partakes more or less of the character of a judicial tribunal. We must have a Wages Board, or some tribunal, to come to a determination of matters where people dispute together, but these disputes are upon subjects which turn, not upon questions of legal right, not upon.questions which can become matters of real evidence, but upon matters which have to be decided according to what in the circumstances people think fair. If we have a Judge of high standing, like the present President of the Conciliation and Arbitration Court, we get a man whose training pre-eminently fits him, I admit, for this important function. But we carry with that the very serious disability that we draw members of the judicial bench into matters that are still in the very heat of political controversy. I wish that I could couch in the same eloquent language that the President of the Court, in years gone by, used in my hearing, the difficulties that are likely to arise. They relate, not only to the President - not only to the Justice whom we tear away from the true judicial functions for which he was appointed, to deal with matters which necessarily create a great deal of feeling and heat, and always partake more or less of political considerations - but also to the High Court, which is drawn more or less into the same controversy. The High Court has had imposed upon it the very responsible duty of determining whether the Conciliation and Arbitration Court has, or has not, exceeded its jurisdiction in any case. That is a purely judicial function, yet we have seen in the newspapers criticisms from more than one source which have thrown some doubt upon the absolute impartiality of the gentlemen who are exercising that function.
– The honorable member for Wentworth has suggested an amendment that should receive the serious consideration of the AttorneyGeneral. The organizations formed under this Bill will possess large funds, and it is only right that they should be required to produce duly audited balancesheets, like those of public companies, so that the public may know the true state of their finances. I am sorry that the Bill was rushed rather hurriedly through Committee, and it seems to me that the clause excluding lawyers and paid agents from the Court is not likely to be productive of much good to those concerned. If lawyers are excluded, a good deal more time will be occupied by the Court in arriving at a decision than has hitherto been the case. The parties concerned will miss the trained legal mind in the taking and sifting of evidence. I do not know that it is necessary to discuss this question at length, because we have dealt with it on prior occasions, but I am convinced that the more we amend legislation of this kind, the more we are likely to have industrial disputes. Our object is not to create, but to prevent and settle, industrial disputes; yet under this Bill, although it has been modified by the omission of an important provision, which in my opinion was unconstitutional, we shall have many questions submitted for the consideration, not only of the Conciliation and Arbitration Court, but of the High Court itself. We want to secure to the workers of Australia good wages, and, if possible, constant employment. This Bill, however, will not go one jot further than the principal Act does. Indeed, it seems to me to narrow down the sphere of the principal Act, and to make an effort to deal with subjects which could, with greater advantage, be left to the States to deal with” by means of local Boards. I am sorry that the Bill did not receive a little more attention in Committee, because there are one or two provisions which might well have been inserted. It is now too late to think of securing their inclusion, but I am satisfied that not long after the passing of this measure the people of Australia will arrive at the conclusion that it is one thing to try to legislate to secure industrial peace, and quite another thing to attain that very desirable object.
.- I cannot help thinking that this measure, introduced with a desire to assist the workers, will really do them more harm shan good. I fail to see how all the workers in the country can be dealt with under it. It is almost impossible, for instance, to fix the working hours of men employed on stations and farms. A man on a station may be sent out in the morning to muster sheep, and on the weather becoming very hot, may decide to rest. Under existing circumstances, he would probably follow the advice of a Scotchman whom 1 know, by resting himself, letting the sheep camp till evening, and then bringing them home. If this Bill be extended to station hands, however, a man in such circumstances will have either to push on and get the sheep home in the heat, or remain till evening in camp, and charge overtime. Men so situated would have to be their own timekeepers, and it would be an easy matter for them to make a little overtime. 1 do not say that any of them would think of doing so unfairly, but there might be a tendency in that direction. It is impossible to regulate the hours of employment on a farm as we can do in connexion with manufacturing industries. We are all agreed that the hours of labour in our factories should be regulated. The honorable member for Darling is very proud of the Shearers’ Union, but I would remind him that the position of the shearers is very different from that of the bushworkers Shearers work regular hours, and are paid piece-work rates, so that the best man gets the best pay. But under this Bill we shall probably find a lot of small unions springing up. The exclusion of lawyers and paid agents from the Court will result in the smaller and poorer unions being unable to be represented by thoroughly trained secretaries. The larger unions, on the other hand, will have as their secretaries lawyers, who will be able to bring before the Court every point material to their cases. The same remark will apply to large employers of labour. They will have, as secretaries of their organizations, thoroughly trained lawyers, who will be able to present their cases in a proper manner. In trying, in this way, to assist the small men, we shall really do them great injury. 1 was glad to hear the Prime Minister say to-day that we are a lawabiding people. We undoubtedly are. If we were not, we should not get on half as we as we do. I often wonder that men who are locked-out are as law-abiding as they are, when, in such circumstances, they see their families practically starving. If anything can be done to bring capital and labour together, by all means let us do it, for it will be advantageous to Australia, lt is sinful that valuable works should be stopped, and people thrown’ out of employment; and it is strange that the parties to disputes cannot more frequently meet and devise some plan of agreement. I agree with the honorable member for Parkes that the people generally in Australia abide by the decisions of the Courts, and it is only right that it should be so, because otherwise the laws become not worth the paper on which they are .printed. Personally, I do not know how to get over the difficulties that have been suggested, but we can all agree that awards once given ought to be loyally observed. I am very proud to say that the outside workers in the rural industries, about which I know most, are better treated here than in any place on the face of the earth. That has been my experience in South Australia, and I was very sorry to hear the honorable member for South Sydney say that in a dairying district in New South Wales he knew employes who lived under miserable conditions, compelled to work long hours, and reduced to wearing clothing that was nearly falling off their backs. Certainly that sort of thing is not allowed in South Australia, where there are inspectors, with the result that the dairies are- a credit to the country. I scarcely think that the honorable member should have given such an instance without mentioning the particular dairy. I further agree with the honorable member for Parkes that there ought to be some fund to insure the observance of the awards of the Court, and I can only say that I shall be glad to co-operate in any effort to assist the small workers. I have my doubts whether this Bill will have the effects its promoters hope from it, because I incline to the opinion that it will prove more hampering than beneficial. I would not be surprised to hear a great hue and cry all over Australia in opposition to it when the measure is put into force.
.- It was not my intention to speak, because I have been away, and have not followed the debate, but some of the statements made have been so “ wide of the mark,” that I feel it imperative to attempt to put the House right on certain points. If a Bill could be passed which would insure industrial peace, both employers and employes should welcome it; at any rate, I Know I should. When it is stated, however, that employes abide by the awards of the Court, 1 must offer a contradiction. I nave just returned from Western Australia, where, owing to a strike, all the trams are stopped in the city of Perth, the men “having disobeyed the award of the Arbitration Court j and if that can happen in the case of a State Court, it may also occur in the case of the Commonwealth Court. It is not the first time that this has happened in Australia. There is another case in Western Australia that has not been made public, and which 1 think rather strengthens the contention of the honorable member for Wentworth. No honest union or honest employers’ association should object to a free audit by a Government official. On two on three occasions, in the West, secretaries of unions have taken the shortest road to becoming capitalists - that is, they have “ skipped “ with the funds - and those facts, I think, ought to induce honorable members to support the proposal for an official audit.
– Would an official audit prevent a union secretary from running away with the funds?
– It would prevent the secretary from manipulating the funds for over three years before being found out Many secretaries of unions and kindred societies seem to regard the funds as “..fair game.” They forget that the money belongs to those who have paid it in. None of us like to invest, or pay money, if we think that an unauthorized use may be made of it. I dare say we all of us have been “had” more or less at different times, and we know how sore it makes us feel when we find that even a small amount has not been applied in the manner expected. The proposal of the honorable member for Wentworth is a step in the right direction, especially as it is not a one-sided arrangement, but insures that the accounts of the employers’ associations shall also be audited.
– The employers do not register, and, therefore, will not come under the Bill : that is the move !
– The honorable member knows that that is not correct.
– This Bill, I am afraid, will not do all that is expected. The man has not been born with the required knowledge to administer all the industries of Australia. It is hard to find a man conversant with every branch of every particular trade or calling ; and to expect a Judge to be able to appreciate all the facts in connexion with mining, shearing, tailoring, bootmaking, and so forth, is expecting the impossible. I quite agree with the Leader of the Opposition that we should commence with the State Wages Boards^, and if disputes cannot be settled by these,, the cases could be taken to the higher tribunals, and ultimately to the Federal Arbitration Court.
– How long does the honorable member think it would take theStates to establish Wages Boards?
– I have no more idea than I have as to how long a strike will last when the award of the Court is disobeyed. An award can be given, but I know of nomeans, nor do I think any one does, by which men can be induced to obey it. I look on honorable members opposite as quite- honest in their convictions, and I admire what they are doing in the interests of industrial peace. While we have prosperity in .Australia, and some one at the head of the Arbitration Court who can give what isasked, that peace will continue ; but should the time arrive when we have bad seasons, and industries are unable to pay the increased rates expected from time to time, I feel certain that the arbitration laws will become mere waste paper, and there will be nothing but strife and revolution. I hope ourpresent prosperity will continue, at least during our time, and that we shall not find” it necessary to reduce the present rates of wages ; but I prophesy that, if it ever should become necessary to do so, therewill be trouble. It is only human nature that we should be quite content so long aswe get what we want; but a mob of determined men, who are dissatisfied, is veryhard to govern, so hard that sometimes? their own leaders cannot do so.
– What does the honorable member propose - reverting to the lash?
– I suggest a little common sense and quiet on the part of the honorable member. I have been a large employer for many years, and am thankful to say 1 have never sought to reduce wages. There have been times when I would have welcomed a measure of this kind to settle disputes, but I have also had experience of men refusing to refer cases to arbitration. On one occasion the employers went sr> far, when the men asked for a certain increase, as to offer to guarantee no reductions on the prevailing rate, while referring theamount in dispute to arbitration, but thisoffer the men refused. We have all heard; of the timber strike in Western Australia, in which the men absolutely declined toeither obey the award or refer the matter tr> arbitration, and in that industry peace has only been attained by an amicable agreement between the parties. At Kalgoorlie, which is a big labour centre, there has never been a strike, for the reason that there have been moderate men at the head of both sides, who have met together, and, thoroughly’ understanding the matter, Aave arrived at a friendly conclusion. The unions choose the best “representatives, and the mine-owners do the same; and I may say that from first to last, at Kalgoorlie, there has never been a reduction in wages, because of the amicable terms on which the men and the mine-owners are. That, in my opinion, is the best way to settle all industrial troubles. The representatives, appointed by either side must know what they are talking about, and they are more likely to bring about a lasting agreement than would a Judge by any award. There is none of us who have ever been mixed up with work but would welcome any Act which would do what is claimed for this Bill. I hope that honorable members will consider seriously the amendment of the honorable member for Wentworth and -embody it in the Bill before it is too late.
– In this and other debates it has “become very apparent, on listening to members of the Opposition, notably the honorable member for Parkes, that they have -great objection to those who are behind the “Ministry, now that they have the power to pass Acts of Parliament, having the audacity to take it upon themselves to do so. We are told that we are doing things that are detrimental to the Commonwealth. Those who wielded the power previously brought into operation Acts which suited themselves, but when we who now have the power wish to bring into operation Acts which will suit those who sent us here, we are told that we are making reprisals. We “have been fighting for the power for years, but now that we have it we are expected to “lie down quietly and follow the old course of procedure. Honorable’ members on this side are not built that way. They were sent here for a specific purpose, and will endeavour to bring about legislation that will suit the people who sent them here, and not those who for centuries have made laws against the people.
– Not for the community, but for your own crowd.
– We can safely say that the great bulk of us were returned in our own electorates by thumping majorities, and that those who sent us here, as well as the ill-advised individuals who voted against us, will benefit from any legislation that we bring about. How very considerate members of the Opposition are towards legislation which it is suggested may be brought into effect from a Labour stand-point by the different State Parliaments; but they know well enough that the dear old gentlemen in the Upper Houses of many of the States let nothing go that they think will benefit the working section of the community. Most of the State Parliaments have attempted to pass some legislation on these questions, but none of it has been the success that it ought to have been. As a matter of fact, the State Parliaments, whenever they get the opportunity, are doing exactly -what the Opposition wish us not to do - that is, they are siding with those who sent them there. Let me point out to the honorable member for Parkes that Mr. Wade and those who are behind him allowed the coal mine owners of New South Wales to defeat the workers in their attempt to get their rights, by not enforcing the labour conditions. They had no right to take that attitude, but they took it upon themselves, and yet we are asked to lie down and let* the old order of things go on. At the same time, neither the honorable member for Parkes nor any other honorable member really thinks that we will do so. The honorable member is quite satisfied that we will adopt the course that we think proper, of course, within constitutional limits.
– I know the honorable member will do what he thinks will suit his own class.
– The honorable member has always represented one class - and that the smallest section of the community. I have known him in politics since I was a boy. I suppose I remember him in the political arena before any one else in this House. I remember him thirty years ago at South Melbourne, and even then he represented the class to which I refer. I will say this for him, that he has always been fair, and that I never heard him on the platform in New South Wales or Victoria, or in fEe House, making any pretence to wheedle the workers into the belief that he was wedded to their interests. I believe he is always sincere when he speaks, but he has always been the representative of a class, and that class those who can best look after themselves - the moneyed people of Australia.
– Ask the Trades Hall people of .twenty-five years ago what they thought.
– I remember it quite well. Of course, the Opposition are very sore, and naturally we all feel sore at the increase of power by a determined majority. During the last Parliament I used to sit and try to smile at the power exercised by honorable members opposite, but I admit that the smile was rather ghastly. I can imagine the smile of the honorable member for Wentworth now. We intend, if possible, within the limitations of the Constitution, to bring about labour legislation, and no accusation of being class legislators will frighten us. It is evident that no legislation that we can bring about will so banefully affect those whom the Opposition are supposed to represent as the legislation passed by that party previously has affected those whom we represent.
– Is the honorable member’s platform labour legislation, and no audit?
– The honorable member is very sweet on an audit now, but I wonder if he has always been so on all occasions in regard to all the bodies with which he has been associated . I never heard him so eager on the subject as he has been for the last day or two. We know how keen the honorable member is in keeping the employing section of the community up to the scratch ! As a matter of fact, he is inclined to be inquisitive, and wants to know how much of the union funds are spent in political action.
– Does the honorable member want to stop my finding out?
– I care very little whether the honorable member finds out or not, but I can assure him that very little of the funds of the trade unions of Victoria is spent in political action. We have, therefore, no fear on that ground of exposing any of the accounts of our unions. I am certain that it is our duty to legislate somewhat differently from the lines followed in the past, and that the measures that we pass will be better for those we represent, who are about 90 per cent, of the community.
– I do not know whether I should have spoken in this debate, but for the fact that on the second reading, when I suggested that the Government should postpone the consideration of the measure, seeing that it had only been brought in a few hours before, and that I and many others had not had an opportunity of ascertaining its bearing, the Government thought it right, in the interests of pushing on with the business, 10 refuse my request, and’ continued the debate, with the result that on that occasion I lost the opportunity of speaking. Since then I have gone through the Bill, and compared it with the existinglegislation, including the original and the amending Acts, and have also heard the very able debate on the measure, and the singularly able criticism directed to it bysome honorable members on this side. I have come to the conclusion that, althoughthere are some clauses in the Bill which I can heartily approve of, although other honorable members on my own side do not approve of all of them, on the whole it is an absolutely lamentable failure. It will not only fail to advance the cause of conciliation and arbitration throughout the Commonwealth, but it will not in any respect realize the hopes entertained of it by honorable members on the other side. I wish to refer to the short title of the Bill - “Conciliation and Arbitration.” As I have said of every measure of this kind proposed in this House, and in the State Legislature, what right have we to put theword “conciliation” in a Bill that has not one atom or grain of conciliation in the whole of its construction? Not one clause of this measure provides for effective conciliation. The whole trend and object of the Bill, as of the other measures which have preceded it, is to enforce arbitration for the settlement of industrial disputes. When the honorable member for Ballarat sat on the Government bench in this Chamber some eight years ago, and proposed a measure for the settlement of industrial disputes, and the preservation of industrial peace, I did not require to be moved by his eloquence to support any measure that could make for such desirable ends.’ From the dawn of the controversy on this subject I have held that it is the first duty of members of Parliament to do all that can be done to facilitate the settlement of industrial disputes and the bringing about of industrial peace. I voted for the original measure introduced into this Chamber, and supported amendments proposed1 by members of the Labour party, to make it as effective as possible. I wished to bring within the scope of the legislation all-, that could be brought within it for the securing of industrial peace, and, although doubting whether we had the constitutional right, I voted for the application of the measure to the employes of the States.
On that occasion the present AttorneyGeneral, speaking in reference to preference to unionists, so misrepresented me that I have felt it keenly ever since. I held the view that, in legislating for the settlement of industrial disputes, we should not recognise the old political unions, but only the new organizations which we were calling into being. The old unions were political. We have a right to be proud of the advances in’ civilization which have been brought about by the action of unions, but I held that, in the settlement of disputes, the only litigants should be the new organizations which the law would create. I held that these new organizations should include all persons who were employed, or had a right to be employed, in an industry by reason of their experience and capacity, and . therefore, I voted against preference being granted to unionists. Thereupon the Attorney-General, nourishing a paper, asked how I could vote in that way after signing a promise to vote for preference to unionists. What reason he had for asking that question I do not know. I had never signed such a document, or given such a promise. The method adopted by him on that occasion to make his views prevail has been too frequently adopted by honorable members opposite in their efforts to pass legislation which they conceive to be in their own interests. The Bill is not in their interests, because it must fail lamentably. I have privately advised members of the Opposition not to waste time in opposing it, but to let the Labour party get what it wants, - and wait to see what comes of it. I hold that this legislation will be a failure. It is impossible to effect, under the Constitution, what honorable members desire to do. To come back to what I was saying about conciliation, there is not a clause in the Bill which provides for conciliation. It is, therefore, a misnomer to call the measure “ The Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Bill.” To deal with industrial disputes the Commonwealth must have the fullest powers. These we can get only by cooperation with the States. What is needed is a measure which, in the first stage, will provide for conciliation, and the settlement of local disputes, allowing actual contests to be referred to the Federal Court. The effort of honorable members opposite has been to assume a control of social operations which the Constitution does not give us, and it must, therefore, fail. They would have done better to adopt the course advocated during the electoral campaign, and to appeal to the people to alter the Constitution, so that they might have full power to deal generally with this matter. By bringing forward this measure they have left untouched many points which require settlement, and can be settled only after the amendment of the Constitution, and they have introduced new provisions which further complicate the serious problems which confront the High Court in determining the powers of this Legislature. I do not desire the amendment of the Constitution in this regard, being satisfied with it as it stands. I think that the initial settlement of industrial disputes should be left to State legislation, and that we should co’-operate with the State authorities. Hitherto there has been no attempt to provide for conciliation. Many honorable members have had large experience of the operation of industrial legislation in Australia, and are aware of what has happened in other countries which have been engaged, for a longer time than we have been, in endeavouring to provide laws for the settlement of industrial disputes. I ask them if it is not correct that these disputes have been made keener and the parties more antagonistic by the Acts which have been passed? The fights have been fought in the Arbitration Court, without any attempt at conciliation. In nine cases out of ten, too, settlements have been arrived at by the simple process of splitting the difference. When men have demanded 13s. per day, and masters who have been paying 12s. say that they can no longer pay that amount, but will, give ns., the Court has generally decided, after hearing all that can be said on both sides, to do justice by splitting the difference. The same thing has happened when the matter at issue has affected hours of labour, the number of apprentices to be employed, and similar questions. I ask honorable members to divest themselves of pre-conceived political opinions, and to consider the effect of legislation which produces this kind of determination. Must it not compel the men to make their claims as high as theycan, and the masters to make their offers as low as they can ? Both sides knowing from past experience that the Court may be depended upon to split the difference, the men make their claims higher than they expect to get, and the masters make their offers lower than they are willing to give. The Legislature should firmly and determinedly say that it will not allow the splitting of differences to be the policy of the Court. If I have a dispute with a man as to whether, under a contract for the supply of goods, he owes me .£50, and on the matter coming into Court, he declares that he owes me only £30, no Judge after hearing the pros and cons would give a verdict of ,-£40, splitting the difference. The Judge would find either that the defendant owed me so much, or that he owed me nothing. So, in industrial disputes the men are entitled to what they claim, or they are not entitled to it. Our present system protracts differences _ and increases disputes. My idea is that we should commence with conciliation; that an officer should be appointed - it might be the Registrar - to act as a Conciliation Court. This would not occupy the time of the Arbitration Court. We should place upon this subordinate officer of the Court the duty of ascertaining the facts, and he, as a trained officer of the Court, ought to record those facts in such a way as would present the case clearly and definitely to the President, if It had subsequently to go .into the Court itself. Such an officer as the Registrar would preside over three or more representatives of the masters on the one side, and three or more representatives of the men on the other, and those parties should endeavour, under the supervision of the Registrar, representing the Court, to settle their differences by conciliation. The Registrar’s sole province should be to do all that in him lay to settle the dispute amicably, so as to leave no sting, friction, or trouble behind. With such a system many disputes would be settled at that stage. Under my proposal, if the Registrar, notwithstanding his experience in hundreds of similar disputes, failed to induce the two parties to reconcile their differences, or to effect a compromise between them, his sole duty would be to put on record the facts as brought out in evidence. Further, he would put on record the last and lowest demand of the men, and the last and highest offer of the masters. He would then submit these documents to the Court itself to determine whether the masters’ or the men’s claims should be allowed. The Court would thus have put before it a case requiring no further evidence - a case requiring only a judicial mind to examine the evidence, and to determine whether the offer of the men or that of the masters should prevail. “The effect of this would be that masters and men in any dispute that might arise, instead of being forced wider apart as at present - instead of generating heat and anger - would be brought, as these proceedings went on, nearer and nearer together, and, from our own knowledge of human nature, we must recognise that, in many instances, they would be able to agree without sending the case on to the Court. If they were unable to agree the differences between them would be reduced to a minimum, and the Court would only have to decide that either one or the other of the final offers should be adopted, and recorded as its decision. I am willing to acknowledge that, although I have been sadly disappointed with the measure of success that has attended legislation of this kind, the congestion of business in the Arbitration Courts has had much to do with the want of success and the dissatisfaction that has arisen. The Courts have had so many cases awaiting a hearing that they have been unable to keep pace with their work. If, when the Newcastle strike occurred, we had had a Court not otherwise employed, but ready to immediately deal with it, there would have been some hope of its being settled before the heat and friction engendered by protracted antagonism between the two parties had brought them into that fever of excitement in which it was impossible to induce them to agree to anything. Under my system we should have a Court so far free from a congestion of work that a dispute of that gravity, if it arose on a Wednesday, would be dealt with in its conciliation stages on the next day, and, probably by the following Thursday the matter would be before the Court itself for final decision. That carries me a point further. There is a great deal in the criticism of honorable members on this side, and notably in that of the honorable member for Parkes, regarding the way in which awards have been disregarded. I am not always able to see eye to eye with the honorable member for Parkes in his outlook upon such social legislation as we have been considering, but the facts and the deductions from those facts that he has put before the House this afternoon regarding the operation of Arbitration Acts in the past are incontestable. It is incontestable that awards have been given, and that, where they have been favorable to the employes, they have been accepted and acted upon in good faith by both sides; but in a number of instances the employes have refused to recognise the decisions of the Courts, and to obey their mandates. In some cases the men have had reason to complain of delay on the part of the Court, and in others there have been minor excuses for their action. The leaders of the unions in the Legislature of New ‘South Wales, when the State Arbitration Act assumed its final form, assured us that they could answer for it that the wage-earning bodies would be loyal to the principle of the Act. _ They said that the wage-earners would adopt it, and would be the first to assist the Government to put down any independent resolution that might be made by wage-earners to act in their . own way in the future. But setting aside the numberless disputes of a smaller character, and coming straight to” the Newcastle trouble itself, what do we find ? Whether the men were justified morally or not by reason of the delay on the part of the Court, they set themselves up in defiance of the law, and their representatives in Parliament, who had struggled hard to secure this legislation - who had said that with the passing of such legislation they could answer for the preservation of the industrial peace of the community - skulked behind walls while the dispute took place. Not one of them raised a voice in protest or against the action of the men in flouting the judgment of the Court, and the will of the Legislature as expressed in the Act, the provisions of which they were breaking. That is sufficient in itself to make any man, who like myself is an independent advocate of legislation for the settlement of disputes, halt. I am not, however, going to pause. I acknowledge that all this legislation is tentative ; that the world is not reformed in a clay ; that much smaller reforms than that which we are now attempting to initiate have taken centuries to achieve, and I am not going to pause in my advocacy of a measure to achieve industrial peace merely because our efforts have broken down here and there. But I do ask honorable members of the Labour party, in passing legislation such as we have now before us, to seriously consider whether they are assisting the desire that they have in common with the majority, if not the whole, of the Opposition to insure industrial peace. This legislation will give rise to further disputes before the High Court, and lead to further reflections on the Legislature, showing that we have trespassed beyond the ambit of the Constitution in assuming some of these functions. If I had been voting on the question independently of other considerations I would have been free to vote for any legislation that the Federal Parliament saw fit to put into force throughout the whole ranks of industry. I should have been free to include everyone - farmers, horticulturists, viticulturists. and those engaged in every other industry, because I hold that the legislation that we pass should be so just, so equitable, so reasonable, that we might safely apply it to every branch of industry. I fail to see, however, that we are obtaining an. operative Act. The operative Act that we might obtain can be secured only by an amendment of the Constitution, which I do not wish to see, or by ihe co-operation of the States in securing a local settlement of all disputes by means of the simple process that I have outlined. Larger disputes involving the relations between masters and men in two or more States^ too complex for simple local tribunal.?, should be referred to the Federal tribunal! for settlement and decision. I hope that the wit of man will not be frustrated inendeavouring to find some means of achieving so desirable an object as industrial peace, but I do hold that this Bill - and it is for this reason that I am going to vote against it - will not assist in any degree towards that end.
.- This is the second occasion, since I have been a member of this House, on which we have had a debate on a motion for the third’s reading of a Bill, and I am glad that the Government are allowing the Opposition! every opportunity of discussing this measure as long as they think fit to do so.. Their attitude is in very marked distinction to the treatment which the Oppositionwhile in power meted out to us when we endeavoured to discuss a far more important measure on the motion that it beread a third time. On that occasion the discussion was “gagged” after it had1 proceeded for only three and a half hours. I am glad that the Opposition are being allowed to discuss this measure, as a deliberative assembly should be permitted to. do, without fear of such a procedure being, applied to them.
– It took us longer to pass measures last session than it has. taken the Government this session to get Bills through the House.
– The “gag” was applied? on the occasion to which I refer, after at discussion extending over only three and a half hours. Even some of the supporters of the then Government walked out of the House rather than vote for its application. The honorable member for Wentworth was one of those who did so. I do not wish to blame all the members of the then Government party for the action that was taken, for I know that some of them were ashamed of the course followed by the majority. Judging by the views expressed by some honorable members of the Opposition during this debate, I think that they ought to have voted aganst the motion for the second reading of this Bill, because they do not appear to believe in its principles. This is an amending Bill, and the Leader of the Opposition has told us that, even from his point of view, a great part of it contains proposals and amendments calculated to do good. It appears to me simply a question now of whether the other parts are so bad that we should reject the whole measure. There were only two provisions in it to which I objected. One was the extension of the principles of the Arbitration law to employes in domestic service, agricultural and similar pursuits. I objected to that, because I felt that in view of the contemplated reference to the people for larger industrial powers, the present amendments should be confined simply to those found necessary from practical experience of the working of the original Act in the Courts ; but I failed in my endeavour to have the provision in this connexion struck out. The other objection I had was to the mandatory “preference to unionists, but that has been cured by an amendment introduced by the Government themselves. The part of the Bill to which I object, and which remains, I do not regard as sufficient to justify me in voting for the rejection of the measure as a whole. With the Attorney-General, I am of the opinion that it is hardly possible to conceive of any dispute under this Bill affecting those employed in domestic service, or agricultural, viticultural, horticultural and dairying pursuits ; but even admitting that, it would be wrong to reject the other amending clauses. I remember also that the honorable member for Angas said that it appeared to him that the draftsman had gone through all the decisions of- the High Court, and endeavoured to meet by the amendments the difficulties met with in construing the principal Act. If that be so, and the draftsman has been successful, we have a reason for passing the Bill.
Some honorable members talk about preferring a system of Wages Boards ; and, as a Victorian, I cannot help smiling when 1 hear those Boards applauded by members of a Conservative turn of mind on the other side, remembering as I do how strongly these honorable members denounced the system when it was first introduced by Sir Alexander Peacock. I hope to live to see those honorable members prepared to support the present legislation years after this, because my experience is that the whole trend of the Conservative mind lies in’ the dread of change. Such a mind does not seem to grasp the idea that any good can come out of a change; and only practical experience makes, it realize that, after all, there has been nothing to. fear. There is another fact in connexion with Wages Boards that honorable members appear to forget. However desirable that system of settlement may be, we have no power in this Parliament to prescribe such a procedure. We have an Arbitration Act to which the Commonwealth is committed ; and I listened with a good deal of pleasure the other evening to the eulogistic reference which the honorable member for Ballarat made to the passing of that measure, which he described as a daring experiment. We remember well, however, that some of the bitterest opponents the Leader of the Opposition had when the Act was passed were the men with whom he is now sitting ; and that no doubt accounts for the fact that his eulogistic reference was received so coldly by his present supporters. I myself thoroughly indorsed what the Leader of the Opposition said, because, not having changed my opinion, I still hold that it was a good measure, and contained great possibilities for good. The honorable member also reminded us that, notwithstanding failures, the measure had done good in many respects in settling large industrial disputes. Now that we have this measure in. hand, it should either be perfected by us or wiped off the statute-book. No honorable members appear prepared to repeal the Act altogether, but they propose to leave it without amendment. It is our duty, however, to remedy all the defects, and make the measure as perfect as possible, although we may wish for larger industrial powers or for Wages Boards or other local tribunals. It is significant that honorable members opposite, when they refer to Wages Boards, suggest asking the State Parliaments to co-operate with “us in introducing some sort of legislation that will enable these Ideal tribunals to act, with the right of appeal in some way to a central authority. But we cannot pass such legislation as that to be effective unless there be an amendment of the Constitution. I know it was part of the policy of the late Government to appeal to the States; but what is the use of such appeals? The honorable member for Ballarat in one of his last speeches before he joined the Fusion, when he was referring to the new Protection, which is practically the same subject, said -
The Opposition … in the matter of the New Protection, appears to offer us nothing, but to promise inquiry and persuasion to be exercised by the Commonwealth upon the States. Judging by the results of persuasion in the past in that direction, the prospects were not extremely hopeful.
It is very significant that although this appeal to the States was part of the Government policy last year, only the State of Tasmania attempted to perform its share, when the Legislative Council of that State promptly rejected the measure. So that the statement of the honorable member for Ballarat that, judging by experience, the idea of persuading the States was not hopeful, was borne out. Whether the States co-operate with us or not, we have our own duty to perform; and in the memorandum on the new Protection which the honorable member for Ballarat, with his colleague, the honorable member for Darling Downs, and others, laid on the table in 1907, appear these words -
The co-operation of the States Governments is most desirable in every respect; but the. Commonwealth cannot ignore its obligations, so far as the Constitution allows, to secure equitable and uniform industrial conditions.
That appears to put the position clearly. Although the co-operation of the States is most desirable, we cannot ignore our obligation to do as much as we can within the Constitution to secure that condition. I was not in the chamber when the honorable member for Wentworth moved his amendment, but I had been told what it was, and, therefore, I was surprised when I heard the honorable member for Fremantle say that members should vote for it in order that there might be a free audit. The honorable member’s remark did not seem to agree with what I had heard, and I made it my business to inquire from the Clerk what the amendment was, and I found that, so far from having any reference to a free audit, it was a straight-out motion to defeat the measure.
– There is not the slightest justification for that statement. I am taking the opportunity to test a proposal which the honorable member assisted to refuse by the divison to allow me this afternoon.
– The honorable member is making a mistake, because, not knowing what was proposed this afternoon, I declined to vote, and along with the honorable member for Mernda, who was in the same position, walked out of the House. All I can say is that I was told by the proper authority that the motion was that the Bill be read a third time this day six months.
– Nothing of the kind; the honorable member will have to walk out of the House this tune also.
– I can only express my regret that I was misled by one of the authorities ; but I was told that the motion was to strike out the word “ now “ with a view to adding the words “ this day six months.”
– I informed the Minister that if I got an assurance . that the provision I desired would be inserted by the Senate, I should be prepared to drop the amendment.
– I have nothing to do with bargains with Ministers, about which there always seems to be some misunderstanding
– This took place in the House.
– I am now dealing with the actual amendment before the Chair, and I know that if it is carried, the Bill will be defeated.
– The honorable member is on the fence again !
– The honorable member knows that, if there is ohe person in the House who does not sit on the fence, it is myself. I am not prepared at this stage to defeat the measure, because, as I have said before, it is our duty to make thu present Act as perfect as possible. Many of the amendments proposed are excellent, and will tend to cure defects in the working of the Act. The one part of the Bill to which I object is perfectly harmless for reasons I have already given; and, under the circumstances, 1 shall vote for the third reading.
Original question resolved in th* affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
The Bill I have the honour to submit is one of considerable importance, dealing very briefly with a matter of taxation. The object of the Bill is to impose a tax of 10 per cent, on bank notes belonging to any person or company carrying on the business of banking ; and it is, of course, associated with the Australian Notes Bill already submitted to the House. The present Bill is to come into operation by proclamation, but obviously that cannot be done until the Commonwealth is able to issue sufficient Australian notes to meet the requirements of the trading community. I anticipate that in all probability the taxation, which may be described as penal, in order to drive other bank notes out of circulation, will not come into operation earlier than the 1st March next year, though I hope there will be a tentative circulation of Australian notes at least three months prior to that date.
– The Bill comes into operation by proclamation?
– Both Bills are to come into operation by proclamation. In the case of the present Bill it is not the intention of the Government to proclaim it until they are ready with their own issue, and able to supply banks and other persons in every part of the Commonwealth. It is not the intention of the Government to embarrass any banks or other persons by hurrying this legislation.
– Is not the Prime Minister going to tell us what it is for ?
– I have tried to tell the honorable member. It is a proposal to impose a tax of 10 per cent, on bank notes.
– With what object?
– To give the Government a monopoly of the Australian note issue.
– And to force the existing bank notes out of use ?
– Practically. It is exactly the same proposition as was adopted by the Queensland Parliament, when the Treasury note issue was initiated in that State.
– Why not directly prohibit the bank notes from circulation?
– This is a much better and simpler way.
– The Government prohibit the State notes ; why not prohibit tHe bank notes?
– The honorable member is not exactly accurate in saying that we prohibit the State notes. We simply prohibit the banking institutions from re-issuing them except at a penalty of £500.
– The honorable member does not call that prohibition !
– If honorable members quibble as to terms, I must tell them the actual facts.. The object and aim of the Bill is to impose a sufficient tax on bank notes to make it absolutely unprofitable for any banking company or person to issue them.
– Why not prohibit them altogether?
– Because this is the easiest and simplest way to do it. With this tax imposed on them they will automatically go out of existence.- If we did prohibit them, should we accomplish our object in any better way? If any person desires to issue notes and pay 10 per cent, on them, why should we interfere with the liberty of the subject by preventing him? Honorable members opposite have been spending days and days in efforts professedly on behalf of the liberty of the subject, yet now they object to what we propose because we are giving the subject greater liberty.
– We merely want to know the reason why.
– I have told the honorable member several times in the plainest possible language that no well-governed institution will seek to issue bank notes when this measure is brought into operation. It is not to be put into force until a sufficient quantity of Australian notes are available for all requirements. There is nothing other than that in the Bill. A definition of “ bank note “ is included whicli I am advised is correct, but the Government are not wedded to the words wherever they can be improved. The drafting, in my view, meets every necessity, and will not be in any way embarrassing. I have brought this Bill in at the present time, in order that it may be discussed in conjunction with the Australian Notes Bill.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Joseph Cook) adjourned.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
Questions were recently asked in the House as to whether it would not be desirable that the second reading of this Bill should be moved before the Sugar Excise Bill was further proceeded with, so that honorable members would have an opportunity of discussing both the Excise and bounty proposals of the Government together, seeing that they are inter- related. In fact, some honorable members desired that the import duty should also be discussed. There is no intention on the part of the Government now to propose any alteration in the present import duty of£6 per ton on cane sugar, and, I think,£10 per ton on other sugar, which is practically beet sugar. So far as regards the Excise, when the sugar legislation was originally introduced in 1902, it was proposed that until the 1st January, 1907, both the Excise andrebate should run side by side. In 1903 it was found that the rebate proposal would have to be abandoned, and that it would have to be called a bounty. In 1905 it was proposed in the measure dealing with the bounty that only two-thirds of the £4 per ton should be payable in 1911, and one-third in 191 2, and that in 1913 the bounty should cease altogether. That is the Act which this Bill amends by removing those limitations. I have caused to be circulated for the benefit of honorable members, figures dealing with the sugar industry and showing how the white labour has increased and the black labour decreased, while the number of tons of sugar produced by white labour to-day is greater than the amount produced by black and white labour together before this legislation was brought in. The term “bounty” is a misnomer. It is not a bounty in the sense in which we ordinarily understand the word. The position is that before any sugar-grower in Australia can receive a bounty, he -must have paid £4 per ton Excise. As I said in 1905, if any of us had to give £4 away and received only£3 back, he would not consider that he was receiving a bounty of £3, but would rather think that he was losing£1 over the transaction.
– It is a rebate under the name of a bounty.
– That is so. The growers are getting back £3 out of the £4 which they pay in, provided that they comply with certain stipulations as to the employment of white labour, and as to labour conditions. When the 1905 Act was before another place an honorable senator moved that, before the grower of sugar could claim the bounty, he must give his employes fair labour conditions, paying not less than the standard rate ruling in the district. In this Bill the labour conditions have been amplified. Those included here are practically the same as were inserted in the Manufacturers Encouragement Act of 1908, and are as follow : -
Every grower of white-grown sugar who claims the bounty payable under this Act shall, in making his claim, certify to the Minister the rates of wages paid to any labour employed by him, other than the labour of members of his family.
If the Minister finds that the rates of wages, or any of them -
are below the standard rates prescribed by any Commonwealth or State Industrial authority ; or
in the absence of any such standard applicable to the case, are below the standard rates payable in the locality in which the sugar is grown ; or
in the absence of any such standard rates respectively, are, on application by the Minister to the President of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, declared not to be fair and reasonable by him or by a Judge of the Supreme Court of a State or any person or persons who compose a State Industrial authority to whom he may refer the matter, the Minister may withhold the whole or any part of the bounty payable.
I understand that some of the growers of cane in Queensland have been advised by the press to take a case to the High Court and show once and for all that this Parliament has no power to interfere with industrial conditions. The Brisbane Telegraph wrote on the subject as follows : -
Suppose then, that because of the particular scale of wages paid by a given producer, the Minister withholds that£3 bounty, to that extent he imposes an Excise duty on that particular producer’s sugar. That 13 as clear as daylight ; and it is what the High Court emphatically declared is unconstitutional. Here, then, is the chance for our sugar-growers to emancipate themselves from the shackles of this unconstitutional regulation of their business. They should take this measure to the High Court, which would be bound to indorse its previous judgment, as given in the harvester cases. It is. essential that these shackles should be removed, because the State Government very properly declines to do anything further to assist the industry, seeing that the Commonwealth has taken on itself the absolute control of all conditions regulating it.
I desire to say that if the sugar-growers of Queensland or any manufacturers in Australia expect to receive the full amount of protection for their industry without giving protection to their workers, they will find that there is a majority not only on this side, but in the whole House, that will not tolerate that state of affairs. We are not going to give Protection to the manufacturer or the grower of sugar only.
– None of the growers have ever taken up the attitude that they are not prepared to pay fair and reasonable rates of wages.
– I am not so sure of that.
– The sugar-growers asked for a Wages Board to be made applicable to them.
– The honorable member will see that in this Bill we provide that the Minister may recognise the standard rates prescribed by any State industrial authority.
– I did not want the honorable member to do an injustice to the growers.
– I would not knowingly do so. I suppose that, in this as In other industries, mere are good employers and some who may be described as not so good. We have been told that this industry occupies a different position from that occupied by any other, inasmuch as there is no guarantee that the protection now afforded to it will remain. The Premier of Queensland says that if it is placed in the same position as the piano-making and boot-making industries, he will consider a proposal to advance money for the construction of a mill. My reply is that there is as much guarantee that the duties on sugar will be continued as there is that the duties on pianos and boots will be continued. The sugar industry, when the limitation regarding the bounty has been removed, will be in the same position as any other. Of course, in the other protected industries there is no payment of bounty by way of rebate. The original purpose of the Excise on sugar was to enable a rebate to be given, so that growers who were employing black labour might be induced to employ white labour. The figures which I have had circulated show how efficacious this ararrangement has proved.
– The growers have cooperated very loyally with the Parliament.
– Yes. We made it to their advantage to do so. It has been suggested that the Excise on sugar should be abolished. Every miller has now to pay£4aton Excise on production, and, of course, passes it on to the growers, who would otherwise receive more for their cane. This arrangement enables the Customs Department to require the employment of white labour under fair conditions, and, personally, I should not be averse to adopting a similar arrangement in regard to other industries.
– But it must not be forgotten that part of the Excise on sugar is levied for the sake of obtaining revenue.
– The Excise and bounty system might be adopted in regard to the pearl-shelling and furniture industries, to encourage the employment of white men. Does the honorable member propose that the whole of the Excise should be returned to the growers?
– That would place the sugar industry on the same footing as the other protected industries.
– It was found impossible to return any part of the Excise by way of rebate, and, therefore, the bounty system was provided for. While the wages paid in the industry are low for the off season, they are not generally so low as would appear from the records of the Department and the statements in the press.
– Some of the men who have gone from Tasmania have been paid really well.
– They deserve all that they get.
– I am sure of it.
– The honorable member for Eden-Monaro, when Minister of Trade and Customs, fixed the rate for field work at from 22s. 6d. to 25s. a week and found, and for harvesting at 25s. a week and found, or an allowance without rations of 4s., 5s., and 6s. a ton, according to the crop. 1 think the weekly wages too low, and an alternative has been adopted, so that the people of Queensland may have the industry dealt with by a State industrial authority, or subject to our direction.
– The sugar-growers went to Mr. Barnes, and asked for a Wages Board.
– I am pleased that that is so. I trust that a Board will be granted, so that the Minister of Trade and Customs may not have the responsibility of fixing wages for an industry about which he cannot know so much as can be known by a Board having the opportunity to visit the districts in which sugar is grown, and to examine those connected with the industry. The Government is not altering the import duty, which is unaffected by this legisla tion. The limitation in the Act of 1905 was adopted against my vote, and has not proved satisfactory. We propose to abolish it. The sugar industry is to be put in the same position as that of every other industry. It will not be possible for any person engaged in it to say that he expected that the present conditions would last until 1911, 1913, or any other date; in this, as in all other industries, it must be known that Parliament may legislate when and how it thinks best.
– Has the Government any intention of further action?
– When we have obtained from the people full power to legislate regarding industrial conditions, and the Tariff can be re-opened under those conditions, the circumstances of this and every other industry may be reviewed.
– Has the Government a scheme for dealing with the sugar industry now ?
– It is not likely that the industry will be legislated for again until the referendum of which I speak is taken.
– Is the rectification of the 144 anomalies which have been brought forward by the honorable member for Hume to be delayed until then?
– I do not say that.
– Or that there will be no change of any description?
– I do not say that there will be no inquiry into this or any other industry. What the Government at present proposes is to strike out the limitations in the Act of 1905, so as to put the sugar industry in the same position as that of other protected industries.
– On the motion for leave to introduce this and the Sugar Excise Bill it was stated that considerable latitude would be allowed in regard to their discussion, inasmuch as the provisions of one Bill depend so much on those of the other. I understand that it is the general desire to take the debate on the whole subject on the second reading of this Bill. Therefore I shall allow during this discussion reference to both measures, but when the Excise Bill is before us I shall confine honorable members strictly to its provisions.
– We all agree that the sugar question is one of the most important with which the House can deal. The production of sugar affords a more interesting study than, perhaps, any other primary industry. There has certainly been more literature published on the subject, more legislation passed to regulate it, and more conventions held to discuss it than have been needed in regard to any other. I see no objection to the Bill as a temporary measure. This is not the time to alter our policy regarding the industry. That can be done only after full and complete inquiry, such as I hope will be arranged for before the session ends. The growing of sugar in Australia was first undertaken in 1827, and the industry has flourished chiefly in Queensland. Prior to Federation the Queensland duties protected the growers only until they began to export, in the other States Queensland sugar being treated in the same way as foreign sugar. It was then being sold in the State at about £13 a ton, and there has been little progress in the industry since, notwithstanding the assistance that has been given to it. Fairly early in the history of sugar-growing the people of Queensland were faced with the colouredlabour difficulty. I intend to deal with this subject from the stand-point of a White Australia. No matter what opinions may have been held before the deportation of the kanakas, that event began a new era, and it will be many generations before the Parliament will consent, if it ever consents at all, to the importation of coloured aliens to work in the sugar-fields, or for any other purpose. Whatever our differences of opinion may be, honorable members of the Labour party will do me the credit of admitting that I have never differed from them as to the desirableness of a White Australia. I do not wish to traverse the whole question at this stage, but I hold that we cannot afford for the sake of any industry that may be created here to introduce coloured aliens who will prove a curse to Australia just as they have proved a curse to the United States of America. I invite honorable members to examine the figures relating to the number of kanakas employed in the industry. In 1885 there were 10,755 Pacific Islanders engaged in it, and in 1900 that number had been reduced to 8,795. With Federation the Commonwealth Parliament did for Queensland what she had never done for herself, by putting a stop to the introduction of Pacific Islanders and of coloured labour generally. My object will be to try to show that the sugar industry has not succeeded, however, to the extent that we anticipated when the extraordinary fostering care of the Federation was first bestowed upon it. Prior to Federation
Queensland sugar was worth £13 per ton, and in 1900, when the union was accomplished, there were 110,000 acres under sugar for milling purposes in that State. The actual value of the land so cultivated was a little over £4 per acre, or a total value of , £442,628, whilst the crop itself was worth£500,000. A comparison of those figures with the figures relating to the present year will show that there has been a very slight increase indeed in the area under sugar cane.
– In 1902 there were only 95,000 acres under cultivation.
– Quite so; but the honorable member will find that the figures I have quoted in respect of the year 1900 are correct. I have obtained them from the Y ear-Book. The present condition of the industry shows that it has failed in three essentials. In the first place, it has failed to produce sufficient sugar for the requirements of Australia; secondly, it has failed to produce sugar at a cost that will not inflict an injustice upon manufacturers and consumers generally ; and, thirdly, it has failed to people tropical Queensland as we anticipated it would. The imports of foreign sugar this year, notwithstanding the heavy duty we have imposed - a duty equal to 50 per cent. - are larger than they have been since 1903-4, and sugar is steadily becoming dearer. In New South Wales the production of sugar has declined from 23,418 tons in 1906, and 20,960 tons in 1902, to 14,513 tons in 1910, whilst the acreage has fallen from 24,057 acres in 1902 to 13,364 acres in 1910. In other words, the production of sugar in New South Wales is only about one-third what it formerly was, although the sugar yield in that State is considerably greater per acre than it is in Queensland. I suppose the truth is that the farmers in New South Wales have found that dairying pays better than sugar-cane cultivation. We may generally allow the much-abused agriculturist to know the industry that pays him best. The sugar industry in New South Wales is declining every year.
– This is on account of the bad treatment of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company.
– I am quoting from figures supplied by the Minister in a very valuable memorandum, and which may be taken as correct.
– They are the departmental figures.
– I accept them as absolutely correct in every respect save as to the number of hands employed, andin thatcase the fault does not lie with the Department.
– We distinctly state in the memorandum that the figures as to the hands employed are only approximate.
– Quite so; I accept the figures, and have to thank the Minister for presenting the House with a valuable and interesting return.
– It is the usual return brought up to date.
– No; there are rather more figures than usual given in this return.
– It was to Queensland that we all looked as the real home of the sugar industry, and when this legislation was passed in 1900 it was thought that that State would have supplied Australia long before now with all the sugar she required. But the figures relating to sugar production in Queensland are even more disappointing than those relating to New South Wales. The production has declined in the northern State from 185,063 tons in 1907 to 132,816 tons in 1909.
– That reduction is owing to climatic conditions.
– I am going to show that that is not so. I admit that yields must be affected by climatic conditions, but I would point out that there is practically the same decline with respect to the area under sugar cultivation. The acreagehas fallen from 134,134 acres in 1906 to 125,023 acres in 1909. So that there is a decline in both cases.
– There is a falling-off of about 6 per cent. in the acreage under cultivation, but the percentage of the fallingoff of the yield is much larger.
– Both the Minister and the honorable member for Darling Downs have said that this decline is due to climatic conditions.
– It is due to the fact that much of the southern part of Queensland has been subject to frosts.
– But that fact will not account for the decline in the acreage of sugar under cultivation. I admit that all the primary industries are subject very considerably- to climatic conditions.
– I think I explained that in 1905 the returns allowed for a really greater acreage than was under sugar cultivation, and that since then there has been an adjustment.
– But taking the figures since 1900, we find that there has not been, in either acreage or production, the increase which we were led to believe would result from the passing of this legislation. I have here figures taken from the Minister’s memorandum setting forth that in 1902 the number of farmers growing sugar by white labour in Queensland was 1,521, and the number employing black labour was 975, or a total of 2,496. The sugar produced was 77,835 tons, and the -area under cultivation was 95,697 acres. I wish at this stage to draw attention to a serious discrepancy in regard to the number of hands employed. The number is given as 36,197’ white and 5,079 black, or -a total of 41,276 employed in the industry. Those figures are simply absurd. In 1906 “the number of sugar-cane farmers employing white labour in Queensland had increased to 3,182, and the number ‘employing black labour had decreased to 553 ; while the output of sugar there had inCreased to 182,158 tons, and the area under cultivation had increased to 134,134 acres. The number of hands employed remained about the same as before.
– Where has the honorable member obtained his figures as to the hands -employed ?
– From another -source. In 1909 the number of white growers had increased to 4,577, and the number of growers of sugar by black labour had decreased to 320, vhilst the output of sugar had decreased to 132,816 tons, and the acreage to 125,023 acres. The number of hands had also decreased from 45,868 in 1907 to 38,944.
– The honorable member is including factory hands in those figures.
– Yes. I draw -special attention to the figures as to the number of hands employed, because it is often declared that the industry is finding work for a very large number of men, and that is one of the important factors in connexion with our legislation. Honorable members will see how absurdly wrong these figures as to the number of hands employed must be. If they work them out for themselves they will find that the total value of the sugar produced in Queensland this year is hardly equal to three-fourths of the wages which would be paid to the number of hands set down as being employed in the industry.
– Is the honorable member assuming that these hands are employed all the year round?
– No; that is an important point. This, to some extent, is a casual industry. For the purposes of calculation, I think we may say that the average number of men regularly working is not more than 10,000 hands; and if that number were exceeded, the whole industry would be run at a loss- In other words, the 40,000 employes enumerated in the statistics would average only three months work each.
– Is that for a period of three months only ?
– If we take the total value of the sugar produced, it will be seen that this could not be a remunerative industry, if more than 10,000 hands were employed all the year round.
– What is the value of the sugar per ton?
– The value is about ,£14, which, with the duty, brings it up to £20 or .£21. If we take it that 10,000 hands are employed all the year round, the people of Australia are paying in the increased cost of sugar, about ^177 per annum for every man in the industry; in other words, we are paying 6s. 6d. per head per annum by the increased price of sugar, owing to the system of Excise, Customs, and bounty. In 1909-10 there was grown in Australia 137,231 tons of sugar, and we imported 78,957 tons, or a total of 216,188 tons.
– Where was it chiefly imported from?
– From Java and Fiji. The increased cost caused by the duty of £6 is ,£1,297, 128 - that is what is paid by the people of Australia for the sugar industry this year, and which would not be paid if we had not grown a pound of sugar in all Australia. These are very serious figures. I am speaking in no spirit of antagonism to the sugar producer of Australia ; and I hope before I sit down, to say something with a view to placing him in a much better position. Candidly, I believe that the whole cause of the trouble to-day is a huge monopoly, which is grinding the grower on the one side and the consumer on the other.
– In those figures the honorable member is assuming that the duty is £6 on all sugar, whereas it is only £2 in some cases and £5 in others.
– The import duty is£6 on sugar right through. The point I desire to impress on the House is that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company takes full advantage of the duty, and, no matter what the crop may be, the price of Australian sugar is always that of the world’s market, plus £6 duty and minus 5s. rebate. From 1902-3 to 1909-10, a period of seven years, we imported 334,733 tons of sugar, and we have grown 1,547,706 tons, a total of 1,882,439 tons. The duty of£6 amounted in that period to £11,294,634; and that is the increased cost to the people of Australia in connexion with the sugar industry.
– But the bulk of Australia paid those heavy duties before Federation.
– Not above 50 per cent. of them.
– It will not help us whether States, prior to Federation, did or did not impose sugar duties. We have to recognise that the sugar industry is in our charge, and we, as a Federal Parliament, cannot shirk our duty. Every man, woman, and child in Australia during the last seven years has paid £2 13s. per head in this way, and we are now paying, as I say, 6s. 6d. per head per annum. I have taken an interest in the sugar industry for some years, and I know that we are face to face with the fact that sugar is produced in other countries by black and cheap labour. What we have to do is to find out the difference in the cost between black and white labour ; and my own opinion is that it does not come to anything like£6 per ton. The calculation that was accepted during the first session of this Parliament was that the difference meant about £2 per ton. It is unfortunate that this industry is dealt with by a cumbersome and harassing system, which combines bounty, excise, and duty - a system which has been a veritable curse in other countries. My desire is to deal with this as an industry, and to hold the balance fairly as between the sugar producer, the general consumer, and the man who is engaged in other in dustries, the whole success of which depends entirely on the market price of sugar. I have found it most difficult, and, indeed, almost impossible, to get at the real difference between the cost of black production and white production in Queensland, but the figure accepted, as I say, during the first session of this Parliament, was about £2 per ton.
– Can the honorable member state what wage that calculation allowed to the white man?
– I think it was 22s. 6d., and everything found for casual labour in the off season, and 25s. and everything found during the harvesting.
– Or else a rate per ton.
– From what I know, and have heard from some who have been in Queensland, the rate allowance results in a pretty good wage.
– It is safe to say that 99 per cent. of the cutting is on contract rates.
– Yes; and I think the men do better under that system. I have met Queensland people who put the difference as between black and white as 5 is to 2. Mr. Hume Black estimated the cost of the kanaka in his time at 15s. per week, and the white at £80 5s. per annum and rations, but it is practically impossible to get a ‘fair calculation. In the early days a kanaka could be recruited for £6, and his annual wage was £6, but towards the end of the recruiting period, when the natives were becoming scarcer, and the Government supervision more severe, it cost as much as £18 to £20 to recruit. I think we may accept the difference as being in the ratio of 5 to 2, or a general difference of £2 per ton. In a very old report which I obtained the other day - and this represents another difficulty showing how impossible it is to generalize - it is stated that when a man was working his own plantation of 100 acres or under, one kanaka for every 10 acres was ample, but where a company was working a large area of 1,000 acres or over, one kanaka was required for every five acres; and the explanation is the usual one - the difference between working under the eye of the small proprietor himself, and working under a paid overseer. We have not only to face the competition of cheap labour elsewhere, but also conditions which give a return in sugar very nearly double what it is in Queensland, owing largely to a different system of cropping. For instance, in Fiji, they have no rattoon crop, but all plant crop ; that is, they grow the cane every year. A report recently to hand from one of the British Commissioners gives the yield at Fiji at 4 tons of sugar per acre. So that it is not only the cheaper labour of Fiji, but their system of working and cropping which enables them to obtain nearly double the yield per acre that we obtain in Australia. To show that the sugar industry in other countries is progressing at a very much more rapid rate than ours, although their growers have not nearly the same assistance as we give ours, in Fiji, when the islands came under the British flag in 1875, only 153 tons of sugar was exported. In 1885 the amount had increased to 10,685tons,andin1903. The latest figures available, it had increased to 46,430tons.The export from Fiji thus increased fourfold from 1885 to 1903, but it is Java that is the real rival of the Australian sugar production. Although we are giving the sugar-growers of Australia a protection of £6 per ton, the industry is not progressing as it ought, whereas in other countries, right at our very doors, the production is increasing at an extraordinary rate. In 1880 the total production of Java was218,000 tons, in 1900 it was 710,000 tons, and in 1905 it had increased to 975,000 tons, or an increase of over 400 per cent. in twenty-five years, whereas from 1900 to date there has been a very small increase in the Australian production.
– What is the explanation?
– One explanation is that the return in Java is about 3¼ tons per acre, whereas in Queensland, I find, it is about 2¼. There alone is a difference of 1 ton per acre in favour of Java.
– Is that due to irrigation ?
– Not so much to that as to the system of rotation of crops. In Queensland they generally grow one plant and two rattoons. In Java they grow one plant each year, and never have a rattoon crop at all, so that they are getting a first and heavy crop every year. I have figures showing the enormous increase in beet-sugar production. In1860
Germany produced 100,000 tons of beet sugar, and last year over 2,000,000 tons. England imported 77 per cent. of cane sugar in 1870, but only 9 per cent. last year. It is, therefore, beet-sugar production which is regulating the markets of the world. The cost of producing beet sugar in Germany is put down by Martineau at about£10 per ton. The really important part of this question to me is the effect of the high price of sugar on the fruit and kindred industries of the southern States. I shall be glad to obtain leave to continue my speech to-morrow.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Bill returned from the Senate, without request.
Export Duty on Hides - Press Cable Service.
Motion (by Mr. Fisher) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I do not want to unduly press the Minister of Trade and Customs with regard to the suggested export tax on hides. The honorable member is perfectly correct in stating that it is not usual to announce beforehand that a tax is about to be imposed, but if he has made up his mind not to impose a tax in this case, he could give that information at any time. When the deputation waited on him four or . five weeks ago, he said he would obtain the decision of the Cabinet on the question as expeditiously as possible. Has he yet bad an opportunity of putting the matter before the Cabinet?
– The honorable member for Lang yesterday asked a question regarding a paragraph appearing in the Standard of Empire, tothe effect that a Mr. Temperley had sent a cable to that paper, alleging that it was the policy of the Government to subsidize the press cable service of Labour papers. Mr. Temperley has sent me to-day the following telegram, which I think I ought to read, in justice to. that gentleman-
Accept ray assurance I have not at any time sent a cablegram to London containing the erroneous and misleading statements referredto by Mr. Johnson.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at10.20 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 10 August 1910, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1910/19100810_reps_4_55/>.