4th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr. SPEAKER informed the House that he had issued a writ for the election of a member to serve for the electoral division of Boothby, in the place of the Honorable Egerton Lee Batchelor, deceased, and that the dates appointed in the writ were as follow: -Date of nomination, Friday, 3rd November; date of polling, Saturday,11th November ; the return of the writ to be on or before Thursday, 30th November.
– I wish to ask the Prime Minister whether it is not a fact that the late member for Boothby received as Minister of External Affairs invaluable, information regarding foreign relations through his personal intercourse with the British
Minister of State for Foreign Affairs ? If so, will the honorable gentleman take into consideration the advisability of securing the advantage thus given to the Austraiian people by sending the new Minister to England, if possible next recess, to see the British Minister for Foreign Affairs?
– The honorable member has correctly stated the position regarding my late colleague. Certain confidential information was given by British Ministers to the three Australian Ministers who attended the Coronation, of whom Mr. Batchelor was ann. The suggestion which the honorable gentleman makes will be given serious consideration. None of the Ministers who received the information referred to is at liberty to convey it to any one else.
– Has the Minister of Home Affairs had brought under his notice the following resolution passed. at a meeting of the Victorian Architectural Students Society of Melbourne -
That the members of this society refuse to have anything to do with the Federal Capital competition under the present conditions. That the attitude of the society be identical with that of the R.V.I. A., and that circulars be sent to all members to that effect.
Has his attention been drawn to a letter signed by the President of the Institute of Architects of New South Wales, in which occurs this paragraph? -
It is misleading for Mr. O’Malley to infer that the protest of the architectural world “ is simply because we will not bring out architects from England and America to judge designs instead of having Australians.” The Minister knows that the principal objections are two - namely, first, the competitors have not sufficient confidence in Mr. O’Malley to accept him as sole referee.
– The honorable member may not read from an article reflecting on an honorable member.
– I have not done so with the intention of embarrassing the Minister. I wish to know if his attention has been drawn to these statements, and if, in view of them, he will reconsider his determination ?
– No one regrets more than I do that these unions have gone on strike, but we cannot let them dictate to the Home Affairs Department.
– It is not a fact that the Minister is deciding the matter.
Report (No. 2) presented by Mr. Bamford, read by the Clerk Assistant, and adopted.
– Has the attention of the Minister of Trade and Customs been drawn to the following statement appearing in the London letter published in the Agc of the 16th instant : -
Figures just collected show that no fewer than 11,728 infants died in 77 of the principal cities of England and Wales in the 47 days from 17th July to 2nd September. In the great majority of cases the cause of this extraordinary mortality was gastroenteritis, resulting from the use of bad milk. ‘ The medical experts’ of the Local Government Board find that many infants fed on condensed skim milk are undergoing a 11 slow process of starvation,” which renders them liable to various diseases, including rickets. They state further that there are serious drawbacks to the use, except as a temporary expedient, of full-cream sweetened condensed milk as an infants’ food, the most objectionable feature being the presence of an excess of sugar in relation to other food elements. Full-cream, unsweetened condensed milk appears to be a suitable substitute for fresh cow’s milk. The doctors remark that the fact that such milk keeps less well than the sweetened variety is perhaps an additional safeguard, as it results in the milk being exposed for a shorter time to domestic contamination. As for the skimmed variety they urge that it be labelled as unfit for infant food.
As the Australian baby is the best immigrant we can have, will the Minister extend to it the protection of his Department, by providing that the milk referred to shall not be imported into this country unless labelled, “Unfit for infant food”?
– I saw the article referred to, and realize the importance of providing the best nourishment for young children who have to be fed artificially. The Commerce Act empowers the Department to compel this milk to be labelled, “ Unfit for infants’ . food,” and under the Customs Act its importation can be prohibited. Unfortunately, the people of Australia decided that we should not have power to deal with local manufactures. They preferred to leave the control of that matter to the Legislative Councils of the States.
– With reference to the reply of the Minister of Trade and Customs to the honorable member for Mel-‘ bourne, I should like to ask whether the Minister intended to. convey that, in view of the fact, that the Commonwealth does not exercise jurisdiction within States, he proposed not to act upon the jurisdiction which the Commonwealth has in its own domain, or that he proposed to take steps under the powers now vested in him to prevent the importation into Australia of foods that are dangerous for human consumption.
– I certainly am preventing the importation of such foods all the time. Plenty of harmful food has been condemned.
– Then why did the Minister give a misleading answer ?
– I did not.
– On 21st September last I asked the Prime Minister if a certain letter from a Mr. McCallum in Western Australia, warning immigrants against coming to Australia, had been brought under his notice, and whether he would inquire into the correctness of the statements which appeared in the press, and give them a public denial if he found them to be incorrect. The Prime Minister promised to cause the External Affairs Department to look into the matter as he was not aware of the facts himself. May I now ask the right honorable gentleman if he has taken any steps in the matter?
– I am sorry to say I have no recollection of having taken any steps, but now that the honorable member has brought the matter up again, I shall ask my colleague the Minister of External Affairs to look up the facts.
– Last session the Minister of Trade and Customs gave the House a distinct promise that the officer in his Department who controlled the imports and exports under the Commerce Act should consult the State authorities with a view to having established as complete a cordon of restrictive regulations and control over commerce, both coming here and going from here, as it was possible to get. I should like to know now from the Minister if he has taken those steps, and with what result?
– I do not remember giving a promise that the officer in question should consult the State authorities, but that he has consulted them is well known. He has, I believe, consulted officers in every State, and has tried to arrive at the best determination in the interests of Australia as togoods both coming in and going out.
– Will the Minister lay upon the table a statement showing what has been done as the result of the consultation referred to?
– I shall have the matter considered, and cause a statement to be prepared, if the honorable member so desires.
– Has the Minister of Trade and Customs received any report from the lighthouses expert regarding the lights on the South Australian coast?
– The officer in question has not yet inspected the lighthouses along the South Australian coast, so that I could not possibly have received a report from him upon them.
– I wish to ask the Minister representing the Minister of Defence if his attention has been drawn to a report on the first entrance examination for the Royal Military College of Australia, held in February, 1911. I may be pardoned for reading the following paragraph from it : -
The method of entry to the Military College proposed by Lord Kitchener is described in paragraph 50 of his Memorandum on the Defence of Australia, dated 12th February, 1910, which reads as follows : - “ Candidates should be selected from the most capable of the Senior Cadets, each Area Officer submitting the name of his best cadet to the major in charge of ten areas, who will then examine these ten cadets and forward five names through the District Head-quarters, who will state their recommendations, if any, to the Central Administration.”
Cannot the Minister recommend or adopt some other system of promotion than to leave it to the area officer? There are officers and officers, and could not all chance of favoritism be eliminated by some regulation made by the Department?
– I shall bring the honorable member’s remarks under the notice of the Minister of Defence, and ask him to let the honorable member have a reply.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister of Defence tell the House whether a contract has been let for military saddles for the Commonwealth light horse of an old pattern, and not of the latest pattern as approved by the War Office?
– I cannot tell the honorable member, but if he will give notice of the question I shall get the information for him.
asked the Minister of External Affairs, upon notice -
Whether he will refrain from renewing the licences for the sale of intoxicating liquor in the Northern Territory until Parliament has had an opportunity of discussing the whole subject of the control of the liquor trade in the Territory?
– I shall take into consideration as early as I can the important issues raised by this question.
Inspectors, Victoria - Wireless Telegraphy Stations, Pennant Hills and Fremantle - Canadian-Australian Mail Service - Deputy PostmasterGeneral, Western Australia - Uniform Postage Stamps.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
In connexion with the Telefunken installations of wireless telegraphy at Pennant Hills and Fremantle -
Did the Government seek and obtain from members of the original contracting syndicate an indemnity against actions for damages for infringements of patent rights in “ wireless”?
Did the Government seek and obtain from the same source any binding guarantees against actions to obtain injunctions to restrain the Commonwealth from using the. above installations when complete ?
If not, will the Minister say why it was not thought necessary to take the latter contingency into account when at tempting to guard against the former?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– I have asked my colleague, the Postmaster-General, to look into the matter, and he will, I hope, be in a position to furnish full information in a few days.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
General should have local knowledge of the State, of the officers of his Department, and of conditions and requirements of the Postal and Telegraphic Department in the State?
Claims of local officers belonging to the State are not sufficiently considered, has apparently a good foundation?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
5.The officers mentioned were transferred from other States. The claims of local officers have always received every attention, but the Commonwealth Service is not limited by State boundaries.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
When the new Commonwealth postage stamps are likely to be finally adopted by the Government and issued to the public?
– The exact date cannot yet be stated; but the matter is receiving attention.
Debate resumed from 17 th October(vide page 1443), on motion by Mr. Hughes -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
.- I beg to felicitate the Attorney- General on his return to this House in, I hope, the best of physical health. Judging from yesterday, I should say his mental health has not been impaired. There was as much slimness, if I may use a familiar phrase, in his method of introducing this particular Bill as distinguished his introduction of the former revolutionary measure bearing the same title last year. The honorable and learned gentleman is distinctly the “ mildest mannered man “ that ever tried to “scuttle” the constitutional “ship.” All these evidences of complete and obvious restoration, however their form may be in question, are, I am sure, welcomed by both sides of the House.
In relation to this measure, as to those preceding it, we all start from common ground. The principle of arbitration is now universally accepted throughout Australia. The majority which declared for it, and has supported it again and again, has steadily increased. While it must be admitted that many of the methods which we have employed in order to give effect to this most admirable principle have been sadly deficient in some respects, nothing has occurred, so far as I am aware, to shake the confidence of the people in their belief that, with time and caution, and with sufficient adaptation to our circumstances, this principle can exercise its sway in every corner of this great Commonwealth, to the especial benefit of some classes of the community, and, in a larger and more general aspect, to the distinct benefit of the whole of our people, thus assisting to further greatly our principal national aims. So far we are on common ground. It has been our hope that we should be able to evolve for ourselves so distinctly modern and practical a form of application of this principle that it would be, as some other less admirable efforts have been, associated abroad with the name of Australia. At the present time such knowledge as exists of our adventures in this direction is partial and incomplete, as the results, it must be admitted, are still partial and incomplete.
– They are verygood.
– Nevertheless they are partial and incomplete. If the Prime Minister wishes to suggest that they are already complete and no longer partial-
– I say they are very good.
– They are not partial.
– They are both partial and incomplete.
– I think we may put it that improvement is never complete.
– Improvement is always possible. We do not desire then to identify those results with all that is sought ; on the contrary, we have to recur again and again - I hope without unduly wearying the House - to principles on which the initial step was taken. These have been kept more or less steadily in view until recent Ministerial experimental departures promised to develop something which is not conciliation, and may not turn out to be arbitration. It is for us to guard ourselves against these additional growths. They do not spring from the original seed, but represent an entirely different variety of legislation, political rather than industrial in its character.
The refreshment of memory with which I am threatening honorable members need not occupy us long. The late lamented Mr. Kingston, in accordance with his habit, was careful to set out in the draft of our first and principal measure in 1904, in the second clause, what the chief objects of that Bill were. These constitute, in effect, a careful condensation of what appeared to him, and to us, to be the principal features of our conciliation and arbitration scheme. These were to prevent locks-out and strikes-, to prevent and settle industrial disputes, to encourage amicable agreement between the parties, to promote the working of the Court and of the State industrial authorities in aid of each other, to encourage the organization of both employers and employes, and to provide for the making and enforcement of industrial agreements between employers and employed. That is a list of the great purposes we had in view. Now when we come to measure it with our actual achievement in the last seven years, all will admit that many new aspects of this question have been borne in on us by the persistent experience we have enjoyed in the working of the Arbitration Court during that period. These new aspects, while they leave our principles unshaken and unshakable - that is to say, our confidence in. those principles unshaken and unshakable - lead us seriously to question some of the modes we have lately adopted. They suggest the query whether they really spring from the root of our original planting of 1904.
No one who glances around Australia today, or who recalls the newspaper records of the last few months, can affect to believe that conciliation and arbitration, so far as these are officially operative, have been effective in producing the halcyon condition of things for which we are always hoping, and must long continue to hope. Seven years is a short period in the life of a nation. It is not a long period for experimental application of legislation, particularly when, partly owing to the constitutional position, and partly also from the necessities of the case, it is undertaken in connexion with a tribunal and a jurisdiction not onlynovel as a creation, but of which experimental endeavour alone could test the applicability to particular cases. I do not point to the almost universal unrest that obtains to-day throughout the Commonwealth. We are not blind to the fact that that unrest is manifested also in many other parts of the world where there is no such legislation.
– The schoolmaster is abroad.
– The school is going on,, but the schoolmaster is very much abroadMaking all allowances for ourselves as the one community that has set itself, deliberately and thoroughly, to grapple with social problems, in the interests of peace, order, and good government, we cannot fail to see that a certain number of tares have found their way into our sowing, and must be reckoned with in the reaping.
In these circumstances, it is but reasonable that every proposal for an addition to this law should be closely scrutinized. Although this measure in form is a mere amendment of the principal Act, the alterations already made by this Parliament, and those we are now making, go far beyond a re-adjustment. They cover both destructive and partially constructive efforts to adapt the principles of arbitration to out actual situation. Naturally, those charged with this obligation have realized that there are special features of Australian life and development that require to be taken into account. While we mav hope that we are treading a path in which our progress will be of some assistance to others, we also realize that for a considerable portion of the way that path is affected by the peculiar idiosyncrasies of this continent.
Starting from our basis - the Act of 1904 - the complementary Act that experience had proved necessary continuing effectively upon the original lines was passed by us in 1909. Short and simple as it was, it met at that time all the urgencies of the situation. It was a short Bill, which, read in conjunction with the original Act, rendered the administration of the latter considerably more simple and fruitful than it otherwise would have been.
We came next to the amending Bill of last year. That represented an entirely new departure. As I said at the time, it was one of a most momentous character, involving fundamental changes in the Constitution. The majority of this Parliament then decided that it would depart from the regular process of statutory development. It would not content itself with repairing omissions as they were discovered, but struck off on a new line, at least at right angles to our former road, if not with some unintentional retrograde tendencies. The importance of last year’s Act is being very gradually borne in upon the community. If the people have not realized the transformation that it implies, I am certain that when the present amending Bill is added they will be brought face to face with a condition of things that promises to take us a good deal away, either to the one side or the other, of the goal for which we originally set out.
For the last three years, therefore, each session has had its Arbitration Bill. Judging by the character and occasion of the measure now before us, we may expect still more. So far as the Attorney-General has explained it to us, this Bill springs entirely from the judgment of the Court in a recent distinctly leading case. It arrives, so to speak, directly from that decision. Practically the whole of the Attorney-General’s speech consisted of what, from the honorable and learned member’s point of view, was a digest of that judgment. He submitted amendments following the lines of the judgment, so as to remove all the obstacles discovered in the course of that protracted case, to the recognition of scattered employes as constituting an organization. Last year we annexed a very large area of new territory, in which some, but not much, exploration has since taken place. A great deal of the authority which we then acquired remains yet unexercised. We have only had light thrown upon the particular portions of it affected by the case cited, and touched in two or three other cases dealt with in the interim. So far from having exhausted the possibilities or even the certainties of the last measure, we have not yet come to grips with most of them.
Yet we are now faced with a new measure that goes considerably further along the new road which your Act of 1910 marked out, and ventures into even more dangerous surroundings. As submitted to us here, there was nothing in it to have troubled the sleep of our lightest slumberer. Four or five of the clauses were framed in connexion with the Engine- drivers’ case, although only two or three of them arise indirectly out of that case. The remaining clauses were dismissed with a graceful wave of the hand. They were mere machinery amendments. So we were told. They may prove machine guns, but still they were machinery amendments. The Attorney-General felt that he had commended them to the House by that short, simple, and, to him, entirely satisfactory phrase, though’ 11 not only revealed nothing, but did not even promise to reveal anything. It is quite true that most of those clauses do involve alterations to our arbitration machinery, out some of these are of the first importance. Taken collectively, this series of mechanical alterations assumes a very serious aspect. We have to take them in connexion with the first Bill brought in by tnis Government last year. It is a very simple matter to recommend another measure on the ground of its relation to a law already on the statute-book. This, in itself, was a complete breakaway from our industrial policy of 1904-9.
These machinery clauses may be put forward as a natural sequence of preceding legislation, but in this case they were not contemplated or required by anything that went before 1910; they substantially alter the character and conduct of a tribunal vested with large and, in many respects, indefinite powers. It is possible by a line in a seemingly unimportant clause to revolutionize a large policy, or to make a departure of great moment. The AttorneyGeneral, no doubt, will be equal to the task of explaining the extensive range of his proposals, and their essential relation to the strategic scheme in his mind. When he does so, they will prove no simple proposals to be taken with one’s morning milk without fear of ill-effects, but as a substantial addition to the diet of strong meat upon’ which we are to subsist this session. >H.
Let us not forget that this Parliament, like every other, moves in fetters. We legislate with a view to concrete action potently affecting the existing industries and employments of our people. Another authority interprets our legislation. The constitutional limitations imposed on us are vital, and in this instance of even more consequence than usual. Our legislation is concerned with the affairs of practical men, whose businesses are making profits for themselves and assisting the country to progress. Some, of course, are incurring losses. We are, in advance, laying down conditions for their undertakings, guided only by the light of uncertain and complicated arbitration decisions, few of which have given satisfaction to both, and .several to neither, of the parties whose disputes were responsible for them. Still, that is the best we can do for them. To gather the cumulative effect of this measure and that passed last year, we must study them in their contrast and their conflict with the parent stock on which they are to be grafted, the Acts of 1904-9. If we do that, we shall find ourselves much further removed from the old path than the astute author of this measure would have us believe.
– Collins-street is a very different thoroughfare from the original bullock track.
– It is, and we hope that in process of time our legislation may permit a similar contrast. We know, too, that eggs must be broken to make omelettes.
Few as yet realize that these two measures represent enormous strides in a new direction. We shall do well to watch how we are interfering with all our various occupations. The constantly changing, the never long-settled, conditions of modern industry, perpetually introducing new methods and mechanisms, as well as alterations of trade relations, must be taken into account. In the coal trade, during the last two or three years, as well as in other’ industries, external conditions have operated most unfortunately. In brief, our difficulties increase by the fact that the fixed laws which we pass have to be applied to constantly varying conditions. Parliament can only exercise the foresight which belongs to the individuals who compose it. We must expect to be taken by surprise now and again. Unexpected developments will render futile, or partly ineffective, pro posals which, as we understood the condi-tions, reasonably promised to become fruitful. ;
Let us make all the allowances that generosity can suggest for possible means of error. I am not addressing the House from the lofty stand of the dogmatic critic. We all remember Disraeli’s definition of the critic. This Bill, and that of 19 10, display a misplaced confidence in the legislative power, and a defective knowledge of the conditions with which we are faced. There are new influences operating in Australia to-day not yet realized thoroughly, even by business men, and not at all by others. There are changes coming which we do not foresee, yet it is proposed to legislate for all industries as if everything were fixed . and known, the country mapped out, and, the roads clear before us. Our seven years’ experience should warn us. When the first Act came to be interpreted, we had the constant comments, and obiter dicta of Judges and representatives of parties before them as to its insufficiency, its errors, and want of applicability, although the law had been drafted with the best intentions, and with all the knowledge at our command. Nevertheless the Bill before us is introduced with as much confidence as if the provisions of that of last year had worked exactly as was anticipated, although they also have been chiefly fruitful in surprises, and of value when informing us what we cannot, and, in some instances, what we ought not, to do. With that measure only a year on the statute-book, we have another series of proposals of which all but four or five are irrelevant to the experience which we have gained since it was passed.
It will be easy to show that departures of great moment, for which there is nowarrant in our experience, are proposed. We have not been offered a fraction of the evidence necessary to justify these serious amendments of the law. The suggestion of the Attorney-General yesterday was that this was a little Bill. The House will find that it is not a “little” Bill, and that it will ultimately have to be met. The drawing of bills is oftenpleasant enough, but meeting them is more frequently inconvenient. This is one of the Bills which will have to be met. Some of its promises are long-dated, and some short. This and last year’smeasure will multiply precedents, and’ problems, and also costs, to an enormous;- degree. As a professional man, the AttorneyGeneral cannot be expected to be affected by that. We must deal with this question, not merely from the legal, but also from the political, side. The startled expression in the countenances of honorable members opposite indicate that they regard that as an amazing statement, but on reflection they will admit that political interests, aims, and purposes affect legislation because they affect legislators.
– It is well that that is so.
– It is both well and ill. It is well, inasmuch at it makes it to the interest of politicians to study public questions, and to devote themselves to the elucidation of practical problems, but it is ill because they often discover that they have a personal interest in giving a particular reading to these problems, and that a particular interpretation is likely to suit the constituency to which they look for their retention of office. This applies to all parties. We in Parliament look through double glasses ; first, through legal glasses, to which many of us are not accustomed ; and, secondly, through the political glasses to which we all become accustomed. This combination of lenses does not always, and of necessity, discover the best solution of a problem from the public point of view. We are members of the public in a very much less vital way than we are members of the Legislature, and our knowledge is also largely limited by our own particular personal interests. When, however, one reckons with the strong sway, the strong swing, of a direct political interest to the other difficulties of our position, one ceases to wonder any longer at the defects of our legislation when we are dealing with all the practical interests of the Commonwealth. We are not surprised that our Courtof Arbitration has had a chequered history, or that, so far as it has gone, it has been probably more occupied in discovering the difficulties of its position than it has been in finding within its powers practically working solutions of the problems presented to it. I am afraid this is rather a lengthy exordium,but have now cleared the decks by making allowances and concessions wherever possible.
The tendency to confuse party tactics with the claims of real industrial needs is not unknown even in the rarer atmosphere of Federal politics.
– We experienced that a little while ago in the referendum campaign.
– Was that issue confused by party tactics? It was not the honorable member’s fault if it was not. I am sure that any shortcoming in that regard on his part was unintentional.
The industrial situation to-day in Australia may be briefly summed up. Although we ought to be as a united people with one industrial policy in force, we have as a matter of fact two campaigns, totally dissimilar and absolutely antagonistic, being conducted side by side. In the first place we have in the difficult circumstances I have mentioned created a tribunal to grapple with our industrial problems in order to bring about industrial peace. Side by side with that lawful and law-abiding effort operating over the whole Commonwealth, and our continuous legislative endeavours to improve and adapt it, by peaceful endeavours so as to settle industrial disputes and to introduce a reign of social and industrial justice, we find a discordant, disconcerting chorus of dissension accompanying strikes and strifes from one end of Australia to the other. Sometimes it blazes out in one quarter; sometimes in another, lawless, irresponsible and destructive. Curiously enough, it may be questioned if in our past history there has been any prolonged period in which those disturbances have been as common as they have been lately. This, too, at the very moment when - and perhaps partly for that reason - while we are paying all the more attention to the pacific and legislative and judicial side of industrialism, we are at the same time exhibiting our inability to control, even with the help of the legislation we have passed, these disorderly, disloyal and disintegrating outbreaks. All this, too, in a country in which a Court exists for the very purpose of being appealed to, and through which we are gradually framing a code of industrial law from which all persons aggrieved may secure redress.
– The hospital nurses are at it now.
– Yes.just at atime when a larger number than usual may be required in some parts of the Commonwealth !It cannot be alleged that this Parliament, as a Parliament, has been in any way responsible for creating these outbreaks. Nothing that Parliament has done has either created, fostered or authorized them. Yet they exist, yet they persist, vet they multiply. They become of the most serious character. So far as we can tell, the immediate cause of these insurrections in many instances is something, if not trivial, at all events small. Such are the explosive conditions now existing that a comparatively slight matter is sufficient to create a disturbance of immense proportions. Surely this utter inconsistency between our aims, efforts or laws with these perpetual outbreaks is the conundrum of Australia to-day.
– I think the world’s history teaches that they synchronize with a country’s prosperity.
– That is’ true in a measure. No one would affect to believe that it is at all a complete explanation, although it is some explanation. At the present time disturbances are taking place in countries which are by no means in good circumstances, and, of course, in those countries the bad circumstances will be alleged as a contributory cause. I have no doubt that each condition operates in some degree, but in any case the position is very extraordinary. We do not ordinarily sit down and take account of our position. We read the foreign news, and little items about politics in the papers, but these broad, plain, and simple facts of our situation that stare everybody in the face hardly receive the consideration they deserve.
– Does the honorable member think there are really more strikes now?
– I think, if the honorable member adds together all those that have taken place in the last two or three years, he will find that the total is more serious than those which I can remember in any period of similar length in Australia.
– The shearers’ strike created more trouble in a year than these others would in ten years.
– That one strike, occurring at one time and on a large scale, although almost entirely confined to one State, was very serious. So was the railway strike in Victoria, but there were lengthy intervals before and after in which comparative peace and prosperity reigned.
– In a number of these cases the men have no redress at law.
– I am not saying that they have in every case, but under our Arbitration Acts to-day there can be very few excluded. I know none that are, except those that exclude themselves. Of course if they choose to do that, there are cases where they cannot be compelled to come before the Court. 1 do not recollect now any case which has been excluded by the want of sufficiently ample provision in our law. On the one side we have our Courts and our proceedings under the reign of law. On the other side we have all these violent proceedings under a reign of lawlessness. In some cases, at all events, those who have engaged in strife seem to have been surprised, or forced, or tricked, into the conflict without being allowed that adequate consideration and choice which was their right as members of a democratic community, and still more, I should have thought, their right as members of industrial organizations with their livelihoods at stake. However, I simply wish to deal with those as symptomatic in relation to the present situation of this Parliament.
I admit that it is very difficult for us tosee how the Court which we have established at such cost, and with so much pains, can be expected to exercise the authority that it possesses, or to enjoy the confidence that it deserves, while its jurisdiction isbeing ignored by the very men whom it wasestablished to aid and protect. We are haunted by scenes of strife and disturbance,, which every one must regret. Such a competitor with our Court, with its labours for peace and unity, could not occur more unfortunately, either as to time or place. Its existence in Australia to-day, to use a French’ phrase, must “give us furiously to think.” Then the last amending Bill was objected to at the time on the ground1 that it went far beyond the scope of the original measure in relation to the granting of that preference to unionistswhich has been discussed again inrelation to Government appointmentsduring this session. Certainly the developments which have followed from the legislation of last year, and which promise to accompany this piece of legislation which’ goes still further afield, cannot be satisfactory to any one, That preference to unionists was conceded cheerfully and’ willingly by a majority of a former House, in order to obtain industrial peace, and as one of the. guarantees of industrial” justice. Those who forbore “to strike, whoparted with their claim to cease work, were to be rewarded, at the judgment of theCourt, by the allocation of preference to« unionists. Now we find that’ this preference is offered administratively in an entirely different relation. Instead of being; the prize offered to those who conform to the law and assist in the maintenance of peace, it becomes an additional weapon of strife and source of bitterness.
Surely the part of Parliament is to firmly adjust the law with a view to the pacification of disorderly elements, to trim the ship of State, and endeavour to keep it on an even keel. Our business here is to avoid as far as possible even the suspicion of bias in any legislation in this matter. Our object must still continue as from the first, when it appeared on the face of the original Arbitration Act, and has been echoed in its successors. That object is to establish a reign of fair play under an impartial tribunal. It was recognised from the first that a tribunal alone could face those difficulties and complexities to which I have already alluded at perhaps more than sufficient length. I have done so, however, with a view of finally recalling to honorable members the state of affairs from which we started our journey in search of industrial peace, comparing it with the straits in which we now find ourselves. Had we continued to follow the path which was trodden from 1904 to 1909, had we continued to endeavour to obviate strikes and locks-out, to prevent and settle disputes, and to encourage industrial agreements, utilizing the State tribunals wherever possible, and encouraging amicable relations between the parties, nothing could have landed us in our present difficulties, and nothing should have been allowed to intervene or to aggrieve any section of the community. We should then have strengthened the claims of the tribunal on the public at large, and on those whom it specially affected, in such a way that by this time we should have had behind it a body of public opinion far more potent in reinforcing the Court than anything else can be. The Court can set out its requirements, and see that they are obeyed according to the letter of the law ; but what was needed was such a policy as would command public confidence so that behind each and every one of its findings we should have rallied an overwhelming strength of public sentiment. Those who thought of evading or escaping their responsibilities, whether employers or employes, would then be obliged to realize that, with the judgment of the community against them, they could do so only at their own risk.
To-day the Attorney-General, not satisfied with those extraordinary, and, some of them, extravagant changes made last year, now ushers others in. I do not propose to attempt an examination of them except in a very general way. Other members of the legal profession will probably criticise them in the light of experience gained in those very Courts and cases, experience such as I myself have never enjoyed. But obviously this simple-seeming measure, so innocently introduced, in what I may term its first operation promises some extraordinary results. The Attorney-General summarized the case to which reference has already been made several times, that of the enginedrivers, and has inserted four or five clauses arising directly or indirectly out of that case. He has set to work to remedy what he considers the defects discovered by inquiry, as touched on in the judgment by some or other of the learned Justices who gave the decision. But I can scarcely believe that the Attorney-General has disregarded, though he appears to have disregarded, the effect of the amendments he now proposes beyond the case in question, quite outside the scope and bearing of the problem intended to be solved.
I would not offhand attempt to pass a full opinion on the consequences of his amendments in regard- to “ Industry “ as defined in our existing arbitration legislation. But clearly “ Industry “ under the amendments of the Attorney-General is, so to speak, given the go-by both as a term with all it connotes, and in relation to the main structure of the original measure. He proposes to deal, not with industries as heretofore, but with crafts or bodies of tradesmen ; and in that way .he is dealing with a different unit. The unit of the whole of the arbitration legislation as it stands is the “ industry “ - the relations in an industry of employers and employed who, whether on opposite sides or in agreement, together constitute the “ industry.” That is the unit under all the Acts that have been passed up to now. A craft is, or can be, separated from such an “ industry.” A craft working everywhere and everywhere under many different employers and in many different classes of business - is an entirely different unit, in very complex combinations ; and one cannot be substituted for the other without revolutionizing if not wrecking the original Arbitration Act and the decisions under it. If the AttorneyGeneral really wishes to begin all over again and to rear a new industrial structure, it is perfectly open to him to do so. But to attempt by mere grafting on the existing legislation - to leave the processes, terms, procedure and character of the legislation as it was, for its old familiar purposes and some new purposes, anc yet to alter it vitally and drastically in the “unit” which is its very base and foundation - is to attempt the impossible. I venture to say that when the amendments of the Attorney-General are examined it will be realized that wittingly or unwittingly - intentional I think it must have been - he is introducing a new principle and endeavouring to graft it where it cannot live, much less grow. There is such a plain contradiction created under the one term that the amendment cannot form part of the arbitration structure as now established. Unless he builds a totally new structure, the result can only be destructive to himself and fatal to his proposal.
This is one of the very vital matters which requires to be taken into serious account. In the engine-drivers’ case it will be remembered the attempt was to allow them to constitute themselves as one body, as one “ industry,” no matter whether their members were employed in one or a hundred different “industries,” as we have usually termed them, anywhere or everywhere within the Commonwealth. Whether that can be done by law or not, it appears to me to raise a practical issue, one that can only be settled separately in regard to each calling. As an outsider T can see certain industries in which engine-drivers, quite without relation to the employment, might be grouped together, and. I can think of a number of others where, according to my small experience, it seems as if the grouping would be incongruous and dangerous, and could only be applied with great caution and discrimination in limited areas. But in any case it would be foreign to the Act, and possibly to the Constitution. The statement made yesterday by the AttorneyGeneral that, unless engine-drivers are treated as one whole, irrespective of the various kinds of industries in which they are engaged, they will be unable to obtain the benefits of the Arbitration Act is not in accord with fact.
– I agree with the AttorneyGeneral in that.
– The man who agrees with you when you are wrong may be courageous, but he is not judicious. By the confession of those who are arguing the case for the engine-drivers, the same effects as those from this grouping could be obtained in effect under the present Act. It could only be done in the several industries, and by separate applications, which would involve them in a great deal more expense. Some men would have to make more than one application, and, therefore, it appears that it is not a question of possibility or impossibility, but a question of expense - of, so to speak, dearness or cheapness.
– To use the honorable member’s own words, that was merely the obiter dictum of the lawyer engaged in the case.
– I was the lawyer, and I did not make any such confession.
– The honorable member for Werriwa says that he did not make any such confession. It is obvious that he has something to confess, but, as a professional man, I should not dream of asking him what it is. My information is derived from a rapid glance yesterday at the report of the proceedings. I saw that statement was made; and notice that it has been repeated in the press without qualification or contradiction, so that it appears to me, subject to what I may hear in the House, a reasonable alternative. I can quite understand that in biscuit making, wood carving, or any other business, conducted on a great scale, and employing engine-drivers, those drivers may have already been treated as part of the industry. If they have not, I should like to know what is the obstacle. So far as I have been able to gather there is only the question of cost. Speaking as anything but an expert; the case for the engine-drivers, who are quite subsidiary ir number in most industries, being dealt with as members of that “ industry,” and receiving the current rates which drivers would obtain, appears to present next to no difficulty, or, at all events, should present none. The object of the AttorneyGeneral, however, is, no doubt, in this, as in other instances, the linking up of larger and larger aggregations of employes. The more limited in number the” organizations are, the better he will be pleased. If all. the organizations could be concentrated in one whole, obviously the men, who, under the terms of the organization, would command them, could then control the whole of the labour of Australia. Whether ah Arbitration Act would be required under such circumstances I am not clear, but certainly the power those men would then exercise would be enormous. Outside the House, public speakers make no secret of the goal of their ambition, and they are hopeful of the day, not too remote, when they will exercise that authority.
– This amendment goes in the opposite direction.
– The amendment, so far as it distinguishes crafts, is certainly going in the opposite direction, but I am not concerned with the inconsistencies of the Attorney-General in this regard.
– I thought the honorable gentleman said that the object was larger aggregation ?
– I said that the main object of some unionists was larger and larger organization. I say quite distinctly that on this particular occasion, in building on crafts instead of on industries, there is division instead of aggregation.
– The honorable member sterns overjoyed at the idea of disintegration.
– Not in the least; I regard it as a family matter for honorable members opposite to settle amongst themselves.
The foundation of the curious position sought to be created is found in clause 2, which omits from the original Act the words “ arising between any employer or an organization of employers on the one part and an organization of employes on the other part.” That implied condition of a “dispute” and of all “disputes” is, at present, mandatory and binding ; it is the foundation of the Act and of the system. Having got rid of that requirement in clause 2, it is proposed, by clause 3, to amend section 4 of the principal Act, and to define “ industry “ as including, amongst other things, “ any calling, service, employment, handicraft, or industrial occupation, or avocation of employes.” I see that “avocation,” and not “vocation,” is used ; but propose to omit the unnecessary initial letter. I do not know why men should be ashamed of having a vocation, or insert this additional letter, and then employ the word in two senses. To return, it is proposed to get rid of the fundamental requirements of the principal and every succeeding Act, since each and all of them are built on “organizations,” and to make “industry” include groups which are craft or industrial groups, and not organizations, while still continuing “industries “ of employers and employes.
I have now finished with that particular aspect of the case. I would next call attention to paragraph c of clause 3, which provides that “ industry “ shall include a branch of an industry and a group of industries. If there was any doubt before as to what was being done by dismissing organizations and taking in crafts here we have it emphasized. An industry can first of all be divided into many branches, or you can take the industries, major or minor, in any sense, adding them together collectively to make a group consisting of any number of “branches” or “industries.”
– That is not new. It is in the existing Act.
– I know that, and am referring to it only to emphasize what I have said with regard to the crafts and other outsiders. This provision was introduced in the Act of last year, and so far as I am aware it has not been acted upon. When we read this former gift of power of subdivision to any extent, and of addition and accumulation to any extent in the other direction, we find that, with crafts as our unit, we can build or unbuild, divide or segregate, as. we please. I think that in the discussion on the Bill of last year I called attention to the extreme transformation occasioned by the introduction of that very subdividing and aggregating clause to which I have just referred. All these extravagant novelties of last year are now being linked with new proposals over which they exercise an operative influence. Taking them together the divergence from the position of 1904-9 becomes more marked at every stage.
I do not propose to detain the House any longer, although nearly every clause implies either a widening of powers or an opening of doors so far as the Conciliation and Arbitration tribunal is concerned. It is often advisable, indeed, advantageous, to widen powers and open doors ; but in creating the Arbitration Court in the first instance we had to launch the President upon an uncharted ocean. Our difficulty was to clothe him with powers and at the same time enable him to use them effectively over this immense area. Consequently, certain apparent limitations were introduced, not with a view to narrowing the scope, although in fact they did so, but because some boundaries were necessary. If this new tribunal was to act and to act effectively, it must act from a definite base, and, as far as possible, in definite ways. Our difficulty, then, was that the scope appeared to be too large. Australia as a field for the operation of any single Court, even of three, four, or. more Justices, controlling its industries in all their operations and conditions, is simply unthinkable. The limitation under the Constitution restricted the arena to disputes overflowing beyond the borders of any one State.
The idea at the root of Mr. Kingston’s proposal in sub-section 5 of section 2 of the original Act was to enable the States to refer industrial disputes to this Court, and also to permit the working of the Court and of State industrial authorities in aid of each other. The first part of that provision is important, the second is particularly important, and its presence in the Act indicates how Mr. Kingston felt our need. He felt, and indeed we all felt, that without this assistance and support, the Court must remain ineffective. Our desire was not that it should be the only Court in Australia dealing with industrial disputes, but that there should be subordinate Courts in every State. We thought that the Federal tribunal should act as a Court of Appeal. It was to act of its own jurisdiction in any dispute that overflowed from one State to another, and, in addition, it was to act as a Court of Appeal in relation to disputes that had not overflowed the boundaries of any one State. That idea has been prominent in the minds of all who have been associated with either industrial legislation or administration. Just as the High Court of Australia is in a sense a Court of Appeal from the various State Courts, if litigants choose to go to it, so in this case the Federal Court was to be in its way a Court of Appeal.
This implies and requires, therefore, a development of State tribunals such as Wages Boards and Courts of Conciliation - both or either - all operating for the same end and over similar areas within the States. Without them, without the continuous co-operation of such Courts, it is impossible to deal with the whole of the industrial affairs of Australia. No single Court, however strong, diligent, able, or numerous, could hope to cope with them. The circumstances of an area such as that which the Commonwealth controls, both by reason of its rate of settlement, its climate, its varying conditions and productions, and many other considerations present substantial differences that require to be recognised and emphasized. Indeed, a judi- cious, and at the same time equitable Australian decision, would require in certain cases a recognition of those differences and provision for meeting them by the Federal tribunal. There are contrasts in the circumstances of living in the Commonwealth, which must also be recognised if the Court is to acquire a true reflex of the needs of the people, and to cope with them in a practical fashion. I see nothing in this measure making in the least degree towards the attainment of that ideal, or any advance in that direction. But I do see in some of the powers to which I have referred, and some that are implied, an attempt to deal with what may be purely State bodies, such as crafts, and others, so that, in effect, minor areas which ought, in the first instance to be dealt with, and often can be better dealt with, close at hand by those on the spot - either by the Wages Board system, the Arbitration system, or both together - will be dealt with by this Tribunal.
One can read into these amendments a preparation for attempts to get behind the State Courts and the State organizations for dealing, as Courts of first instance, in a primary manner, with local industrial troubles. One can see in these provisions an attempt to get behind local organizations, and also in some indirect way to require or allow such questions to be dealt with by the Federal tribunal. That would not be good either for the industry or for the tribunal itself. It is impossible for the Federal Court to even hope to cope with those relatively minor issues which should be dealt with by Courts of first instance. Even if we could acquire such an- authority we ought not to admit it. On the contrary, every pressure ought to be brought to bear upon the States, in order that local tribunals should deal first with every question from its local aspect. The Federal Government should prove its Federal character by adopting in a Federal spirit, by federalizing the local findings, so that they should harmonize with each other. It used to be claimed that we must bring justice to every man’s door. We cannot hope to bring industrial justice to every man’s door if we place him in the hands of one Court, presiding over the industrial affairs of the whole Commonwealth. Even with our present population that would not be possible. Our enormous distances and scattered and varied conditions make it absolutely out of the question.
– That is public opinion at the present day.
– I hope it is. That is why I regard these departures as being absolutely contrary, if not hostile, to a Federal policy. This House should be satisfied before passing any of these amendments, that they are to form part of a truly Federal scheme, so that, instead of discouraging local administration and local development, they shall encourage it. No Court, however strong, operating from one centre, could possibly cope with all the requirements of Australia as it is to-day, to say nothing of the rapid development that we hope to see continue all over the Commonwealth. The honorable member for Darling Downs has just reminded me that in introducing the original Bill in 1903 I laid great stress on the Federal character of the Court. In Hansard, volume xv., page 2859, I am reported as having said -
II may not be out of place to remark that those who have scanned the Bill will have seen that its Federal character obtains, not only in consequence of that limitation, but by reason of the particular provisions which are made to enable the Federal tribunal here created to cooperate with local tribunals where they exist, and to be relieved by them of some of the duties cast upon it, where they are capable, to some extent, at all events, of being locally disposed of. Honorable members will find, also, the authority or privilege conferred upon States without such tribunals, or which already possess them, to utilize this Commonwealth creation. In all these aspects, therefore, the measure, drawn upon broad lines, is Federal in all its characteristics.
In addition to that, in dealing with the original Bill, or an amendment of it, I ventured to call the attention of the House to the opportunity afforded by the creation of the Inter- State Commission as a body of independent experts, who could be charged with the investigation of a series of problems, either those which could not come directly before the Court, or those general problems which would directly affect the judgment of the Court. The existence of such a tribunal would be of immense assistance, because its chief duty would be to study and define all the circumstances under which labour is carried on throughout Australia, to measure the cost of living, of production itself, of interchange of products, values of imports and exports, health statistics, trade returns and exchanges, and all those issues of interest to society, matters which nowadays are studied to the utmost by civilized nations. Such a body, formed -of men appointed for their competence to ac quire, collate, and examine the facts on which they would be called to report, would furnish the Arbitration Court with unimpeachable evidence. Industrial conditions would be a main care. Its reports would give enormous assistance, not only to the Commonwealth Court, but also to all local tribunals. One of the chief faults of this measure, which it shares with its predecessor of last year, is in emphasizing the work of the Commonwealth Court, and ignoring local boards and authorities. This is not healthy or natural. Every member on this side, and, no doubt, many another, thinks that our wisest line of action is that which springs from Federal aims and impulse. The original difficulty of the Arbitration Court was that there were too many doors open, that its jurisdiction was so wide that it was difficult to make it effective. Yet we are now opening more doors, and making the jurisdiction still wider. What must be the result?
Putting aside the clauses drawn to meet the engine-drivers’ case, clause 7 deserves attention. Section i6a of the Act passed last year authorizes the President to summon any person to attend at a time and place specified, and requires the person so summoned to attend and stay as the President may direct. He may be seen in public or private, as the President prefers. But, under the amending clause, among the persons who may be summoned are, not only those engaged in or connected with an industrial dispute, but any person engaged in or connected with any dispute relating to industrial matters, and any person, whether connected with an industrial dispute or not. This means that any person in the Commonwealth, whether connected or not connected with an industrial dispute, may be summoned. Why, then, not say so?
– No provision has proved of more value that section i6a.
– Has it not been interpreted to mean that the person summoned must have some connexion with the dispute before the Court? Otherwise what is the reason for this elaborate provision?
– The full benefits of the section were defeated by the limitation of its scope. It may be necessary to summon persons not involved in a dispute.
– Then, why not say so in plain terms ? Why say that a man may be summoned either if he is connected, or if he is connected in a remote way, or if he is not connected at all ? If you are a party to an application, there is the pleasant prospect of having to pay costs and expenses at the order of the Court. In clause 7 7, a compulsory conference is provided for, which is another extension of jurisdiction. Clause n widens the principal Act by omitting the conditioning words “ within a reasonable time, and the President so certifies.” There appears to be some desire not to allow a reasonable time, and to escape the certificate? Clause 12 widens the duties and powers of the Court, and in clause 13 a bold flight is taken. You are not to be subject to prohibtion or mandamus in any other Court on any count whatever. Does the Attorney-General think that that will be effective?
– Yes; in so far as the section of the Act does not cover prohibition or mandamus.
– Does the honorable member think that the Courts will be bound by that?
– I think that the provision will prove useful.
– If sanctioned, and nobody expects that. Clause 14 provides that wherever you can deal with matters or disputes, you can deal with parts of them. Clause 15 enlarges the opportunities for mending one’s hand in connexion with industrial disputes by adding demands made by a party in the course of the dispute. You are not, as under ordinary circumstances, to be compelled to go into Court with a definite statement. The respondent, instead of knowing what he must face, must be prepared to meet any new developments thought of during the hearing. This, from the professional point of view, will be highly profitable, but it will make the jurisdiction of the tribunal more burdensome. An applicant should know his business before going to Court, and should not be encouraged to submit careless statements of claim by the permission to alter them later.
– Only when the Court thinks proper.
– The honorable member knows that this provision is capable of great misuse, and will prove very expensive. Clause .16 gives more powers to appoint. Clause 19 is important, because you have brought within the sweep of the Act, not only associations which are not registered, but associations which cannot be registered.
– That is to meet cases in which it may be desirable to hear the claims of organizations of employes containing fewer than 100 members.
– Or any other anywhere. Clause 20’ provides an extension of jurisdiction to existing and future disputes. I have run through these as rapidly as possible in order to bring out the fact that everywhere there is the same purpose of widening the jurisdiction and opening the doors. We had a Court which started under a confessed and obvious disability, because of the indefinite nature and extent of its powers and the hugeness of the area over which its decisions were to be given force. We are asked how to assist it by multiplying its difficulties, by still morte enlarging the area, by opening more doors, by getting rid of more limitations, and embarking gaily for other unknown shores. This increases the responsibilities and the work of the Court in connexion even with applications of the old kind. Besides that, there are opportunities for applications of a new kind to be made at any time on new grounds, affording opportunities for stillmore heavily weighting this already overburdened tribunal. The complaint in industrial circles now is of the time that parties have to wait before they can get .their suit before the Court. If that has been the case under the old regime, there will be many more opportunities of still further delay under the new. There will be probably more suitors, more delay, more surprises, and no provision made to meet the situation thus created.
– No testimony could be more eloquent as to the. value of the Court than that all the unions are trying to get into it.
– I started with a declaration as to the value of the Court, and am arguing for its popularization. But to popularize it truly, justice must be speedy. It must not be unduly delayed, and my point here is that, by giving more opportunities for delay, and by still more crowding the Court, we shall be creating a still worse condition of things than exists to-day. This can be effectively met, do what you will with your own Court, only by fostering and encouraging the sub’sidiary State institutions which will be able to play towards it the part which minor Courts play now to a Supreme Court or Court of Appeal.
The question when a Court is not a Court has been partly answered in this case, inasmuch as from the very first it was given non-judicial powers. In many respects those powers might be called administrative j at all events, they are such as no Judge exercises. These are now being increased in number and importance, so that what was an Arbitration Court in name was from the first an extra legal tribunal in fact. It parted with so many of the restraints, so many of the vital conditions of a Court, that it became a tribunal. Now it is parting with the character of a tribunal, and becoming an absolutely nondescript authority, exercising great administrative powers and great personal authority, with some remote legal relations, some undefined general magisterial responsibilities. It requires from the President the constant exercise of personal judgment upon matters which are in no sense legal or connected with the law, but that are practical, industrial, relating to work and wages, to powers and methods of work, together with all those incidents of production which have nothing whatever to do with legal experience or knowledge. These require to be judged by practical experts, and in regard to them, of course, the expert evidence produced must be assessed at its true value.
– Is not the way the people accept the judgments of that Court remarkable?
– Our people have in all circumstances accepted the judgments of all our principal Courts without challenge.
– Here is a new Court which the honorable member says is not a Court in the ordinary sense of the word, and yet the people accept its decisions almost as if it were a legal Court.
– My reply to the Prime Minister was simply to safeguard myself against misapprehension, for I was about to add, when he interposed, that it is true that, going outside, not only legal procedure and methods, but outside legal knowledge into a sphere in which his judgment is only the judgment of an able, well-read, well-informed, and thoughtful man, experienced in examinations, the Arbitration Court’s decision is accepted on all kinds of expert issues without question. That is a remarkable, and, as far as it goes, a satisfactory feature, but whether it is satisfactory to the President of the Court, or whether it will be satisfactory with these enormously large and extended powers, is another matter. Whether the same undoubted and general acceptance will be found in the case of other Judges being added, or being appointed to the same position who have not had the same means of commending themselves to the popular judgment in public life, is a question which, at this stage, I do not intend to debate. The difficulties of the Court are being multiplied on every hand. The demands made on the President of the Court are increasing with every measure. It was too heavy to begin with. It is enormously too heavy now, and yet a further addition to it is being made by this measure.
– I do not think the Court objects.
– I do not hint that ; but am adding that, from the outside point of view, it is placing a most unfair burden on the shoulders of a single man or a single Court - of any man, for I speak without reference to any individual, and of any Court, no matter how many Judges it may contain.
We need not consider how far some of these proposals are within the constitutional limit, for that, after all, is a question that will have to be settled by others than ourselves. The view that I have endeavoured to place before the House is that this is no machinery measure. Far from it. It is an extension of the last measure which I then- described, and still consider, as revolutionary. Although not a tithe of its powers have yet been exercised, they are to be supplemented and extended and their area widened in this Bill. Consequently, I am now more convinced than ever that, having departed last year from the accepted principles and standing of the Court, and from the policy on which that Court was originally founded, as set out in Mr. Kingston’s programme, we are face to face, not simply with a trifling amending measure, but with part of a fundamental amendment of the whole of our law in relation to arbitration, and also with a number of incidentally attempted amendments of the Constitution added to those proposed to be resubmitted at our next election. We are not following the path that is likely to provide Australia with that essential even of political government - subsidiary local governments, State and municipal. We are providing for these in all the States but slowly, although some are fairly well ahead. In Victoria, for instance, the number of Wages Boards has been added to in the last few days, and in others good progress has been made ; but we have bv no means reached anything like the standard of State efficiency we desire.
It is only upon such a basis that it will be possible to rear a thoroughly efficient and truly Federal Tribunal. The word Court is really out of date in that regard, and the word Tribunal hardly fits it. Let me say that the President, for the time being, clothed with these extraordinary powers, is not afforded a fair field. He is not given the assistance he requires, and should receive, from bodies in the various States, which would deal with the issues from the local stand-point, while he would weigh them in the national scales and deal with them as Australian.
As the preceding Act distinctly took the wrong road, this Bill proceeds further in the same direction. Of course, for the Opposition to challenge the measure is simply to discharge their duty. There is no possibility of our votes affecting members on the other side, whose majority enables them to dispose of this and other issues as they please. Still we are doing them the service of putting before them, as forcibly as we can, the reasons that direct our judgment. It might lead to misconception of our attitude if, in the case of a measure such as this, containing some proposals which can be made acceptable, if they are not entirely so now, and others that merit examination, honorable members on this side voted against the second reading. In order, therefore, to put their position more clearly before the people, I beg, in conclusion, to move, as an amendment on the motion for the second reading, the introduction of these words -
That no measure the effect of which will be to concentrate in any one person the control of all the conditions of carrying on all the industries of this continent can be other than impracticable and fraught with danger to the whole community.
That emphasizes and insists upon our principle that, to be just or successful, industrial legislation and administration must be Federal and inclusive, not unitary and exclusive, as is here proposed. Upon that principle, and that basis alone, will the industrial classes of this community receive justice, and the community as a whole find its permanent interests safeguarded.
– I rise to order. I ask your ruling, sir, as to whether the proposed amendment is in order. An amend- ment on this motion must be, in some way., connected with the measure before the House. Amendments on second readings generally take the form’ of proposing to omit something, with the view of substituting something else ; but the amendment as read by the Leader of the Opposition is in no way connected with the business before the Chair. There is no proposal in the Bill to do what is suggested in the amendment, by vesting the whole industrial power of the country in any one individual. The amendment, as moved, is not even remotely connected with the Bill before the House; and, in the circumstances, I ask you to rule that it is not an amendment on the motion *’ That this Bill be now read a second time.”
– The amendment refers distinctly to the measure as one, the effect of which will be to concentrate the whole control of all the conditions ‘of carrying on all the industries of the continent in one person. My argument, from first to last, has consistently returned to the same point. I contend that the only possible method of dealing with these issues is a Federal one, and that this measure is not a Federal proposal ; that its effect is to concentrate in the President of the Arbitration Court for the time being the control, under new and extended conditions, of the whole of the industries of the Commonwealth. This is impracticable and fraught with danger. Nothing, I submit, could be more relevant to the measure before us.
– I had always understood that the only condition applicable to amendments of this kind is that they must be relevant to the subject-matter of the Bill. They need not, in any respect, deal with the provisions of the Bill ; in fact, if an amendment did deal with the clauses, it would be ruled out of order. Some twelve or fourteen years ago there was a case in the House of Commons, the name of which I forget, but which can be found in May. The amendment on that occasion was that a Bill, which did not make provision for a certain matter, was not satisfactory to the House.
– That is a different kind of amendment.
– Quite so; but it bears out the view I am endeavouring toimpress on Mr. Speaker, namely, that, solong as an amendment is relevant to the subject-matter of a Bill, it need not have anything to do with the particular means. proposed in the Bill to deal with the subjectmatter. In the instance to which I have referred, it was held, after debate, that the amendment was perfectly in order.
– The amendment is in order. I should like to point out that the honorable member for Ballarat evidently intended to move that all the words after “ That “ should be omitted, with a view to inserting certain words.
– I thought I had so moved.
– I take it that the House realizes that that was the intention of the honorable member, and I shall put the question in a corrected form.
– I am sure that honorable members congratulate the Leader of the Opposition on the address he has just delivered. I am positive, however, that those who understand the position, not only of the Government, but of the people outside who are affected by this legislation, will fail to appreciate the honorable member’s action in submitting this amendment. What does the amendment mean? Who proposes to give the control of all our industrial matters to one person?
– What, then,does the Bill mean?
– At present there is the right of appeal from the Arbitration Court to the High Court, as the Government and people outside know, to their cost.
– It is now proposed to limit that power of appeal by the prohibition clause.
– Undoubtedly the proposal is to vest the Arbitration Court with all the powers given to this Parliament under sub-section 35 of section 51 of the Constitution. That section gives the Commonwealth Parliament power to make laws for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes extending beyond the limits of any one State. Do honorable members of the Opposition object to this Parliament vesting in the Arbitration Court the power thus conveyed to the Commonwealth Parliament? If the proposed amendments are within the Constitution, surely it is a good thing to prevent and settle industrial disputes by means of the Arbitration Court. If that end is possible of achievement, surely it is the duty of the representatives of this Parliament to give the necessary powers to the Court. If it is held that the proposed amendments are beyond the Con stitution, that is a matter for attack in another place and in another way.
– Still the fact ought to be pointed out here.
– Quite so; and the Opposition would be quite right in attacking the proposals if these were regarded as an unworthy attempt to go beyond the constitutional powers given to this Parliament. That, however, is a matter not touched by the amendment ; it is not alleged that the powers asked for are unconstitutional, as the amendment itself shows. The complaint is that we propose to give to one person the power that we have the right to vest in him. If we do not possess that right, then this legislation can do no harm. To use a word we have heard from the Leader of the Opposition on previous important occasions, the “ pivotal “ point of the amendment is that one person is to interpret the Constitution for the whole of the Commonwealth.
– The difficulty is not in interpreting the Constitution, but in giving findings on intricate industrial questions.
– The Leader of the Opposition, with much eloquence and ability, has, in previous discussions, described this as experimental legislation. It is experimental, and, under the restricted powers conferred by the Constitution, the task will be difficult at best. Hitherto the law has been mainly concerned with the protection of the person and of property in its various forms. Now a new branch of jurisprudence has been set up in this and other Dominions, in an endeavour to provide a Court where disputes between parties who have voluntarily entered into contracts may be settled for the good of the community, and the parties themselves. That being so, we must give larger powers to some person or tribunal which is not strictly bound by legal procedure, as at present understood. The strength and power of the Arbitration Court lies in the fact that it may put aside legal technicalities. If its power were merely that of an ordinary law Court, we should have no right or need to set up a special tribunal - no right to give a Judge power to declare what is fair and reasonable remuneration, or to hear evidence unrestricted by the usual legal rules. This Parliament, with its eyes open - and no one was more eloquent on the subject than the honorable member for Ballarat - has given large powers to the Arbitration Court with the object of preventing industrial disputes, and doing justice to both employers and employed.
– That is the common purpose of all the Arbitration Courts, both State and Federal.
– That only proves my case. Why, then, should the honorable member for Ballarat take exception to the Commonwealth so legislating, and not to the States?
– He has not taken exception at all.
– The amendment takes exception to our legislating.
– Certainly not.
– I am surprised, seeing that the amendment takes exception to the large powers being given to the Arbitration Court. The amendment does nothing if it does not seek to limit the power the Bill proposes to give. It is true, as the honorable member for Ballarat has said, .that the action of the Opposition might be misunderstood if honorable members opposite voted against the second reading of the Bill. Obviously, a great injustice has been done to a section of the community, owing to the technical difficulties arising in the industrial legislation of this Parliament. The case of the engine-drivers is an exceedingly hard one. They obtained a verdict to which they were entitled, and they accepted it, but the High Court held that the legal authority conveyed by the Act was not sufficient to allow them to have the benefit of that verdict. The Bill is an attempt to remedy the defect in the law, and give those men the justice to which they are entitled ; and it also seeks to anticipate difficulties that may arise in future applications. Whilst the Leader of the Opposition was speaking, I asked whether he was not surprised and gratified, as we all are, by the way in which decisions of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court are accepted by both parties. It has been exceedingly gratifying to me to find a dispute between two parties who were, so to speak, at white heat before entering the Court, and bitterly contending that they could not come to any understanding amongst themselves, settled in this way by a judicial authority, of whose competency the Leader of the Opposition, as well as every one else, speaks most highly. The gravest industrial disputes have been prevented by the decision of a single Judge’ In the Conciliation and Arbitration Court. The Government are not going to accept an amendment of this kind. They do not fear such a statement as that now put forward, that this measure represents an attempt to unify the industrial legislation of the States. It does nothing of the sort. When the Labour party seeks to do that, it will take a very different course. It will appeal to the people of the Commonwealth to give this Parliament powers no less than those possessed by the States themselves to establish Courts to prevent and settle industrial disputes.
– Would it not be better for the right honorable member to tell us what the Bill contains instead of speaking in this large and general way?
– Far from using large and general terms, I am trying to get down to the concrete case presented by the Opposition. It is not for me to make any reference to State Wages Boards or Arbitration Courts, but the State Parliaments are in the happy position of being able to pass what legislation they please in this regard. They can clothe their Courts with any authority they consider necessary. There is no restriction upon their power as parliamentary institutions to establish Conciliation and Arbitration Courts. We, however, are in a different position.
– They must act within the limits of their Constitutions.
– I said that the State Parliaments had- unrestricted powers regarding the establishment of Conciliation and Arbitration Courts.
– Within their own boundaries.
– The States have Constitutions pf their own, setting forth their powers, and the State Parliaments can pass any law they please providing for the establishment of Conciliation and Arbitration Courts to prevent and settle industrial disputes within their own boundaries. On the other hand, the National Parliament which has control over the industrial welfare of the whole of the people, has only a restricted constitutional power; although the Court established under that restricted power has done such good work. Its bitterest enemies must make that admission. Every man who has the welfare of his country at heart will freely admit that but for that Court we should have had recently in Australia appalling industrial struggles. Yet when the Government are seeking to exercise to the full the powers we possess under the Constitution they are met bv an amendment from the Opposition declaring not that the principle is wrong, not that an injustice will be done to any, but in a vague and indeterminate way, that if the Bill be passed it will vest in one person the determination of all industrial disputes in Australia, and really unify the industrial laws of the community. No one knows better than does the Leader of the Opposition himself that this Parliament can neither add to nor take away from the powers it possesses under the Constitution. That being so, I think the amendment is untimely and unfortunate, and that it is decidedly weak, coming as it does from such a learned and able body of gentlemen as the Opposition claim to be.
.- I intend at this stage to address myself to only two or three points affecting the Bill now before us. In doing so, I hope to be able to show that the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition is not only directly relevant to the principle embodied in the Bill, but that it very fairly gives expression to the views of those who are opposed to the adoption, at this stage, of that principle, and states the reasons for their opposition. I have sometimes wished that in dealing with a subject of this kind we could for a few hours throw aside our party clothes, and endeavour in a reasonable spirit to deal with what is undoubtedly one of the most difficult problems that could come before any body of men. I know, however, that that is impossible. I know that these questions have to be threshed out in the heat of party conflict, although I feel that I cannot contribute much in the way of what is called “ a fighting speech” to a debate of this kind. One might just as well try to make a fighting speech about the equator or the rings of Saturn as upon this question. Our duty is to endeavour to arrive at some principle on which we may ultimately hope to come to some solution - a perfect solution is impossible - of a problem which is now facing the people, not only of Australia, but of many other countries, and is daily assuming proportions of greater and greater magnitude. I sometimes almost shudder when I think of what may happen when that period of prosperity which has already been mentioned either comes to an end or is greatly diminished. We shall then have to face a time of stress and strain under conditions different altogether from those which we have had to meet on former occasions. That is a point to which both employers and employés should give attention, for it will be disas trous if we cannot devise machinery as perfect as possible to prevent things being brought to something near the breaking point when that time comes.
I approach this particular question of arbitration law with a great deal of diffidence, and that feeling of diffidence is not decreased by the fact that I have been brought into contact with a good many of the difficulties surrounding the question. I should like, in the first place, to put before honorable members one or two general principles affecting this legislation which have been forcibly brought to my mind. All sections of the community are desirous, in their own way, of securing what they term industrial peace. The only difficulty is that the employers want it on their own terms, whilst the employés want it on their own terms. The trouble is to devise machinery that will reconcile them.
– Does not that apply to every dispute in a Court?
– Yes ; but we can go beyond that, and say that there are gradually coming into view certain principles which must govern any possible settlement of industrial disputes. One of these is that some more complete form of organization on both sides than that which now exists is absolutely necessary. The question is, “ What form of organization, and organization for what?” If this Parliament were at liberty, as I could wish we were, to deal with the whole matter without any constitutional restrictions, I should put before honorable members what seem to me to be two directions in which we might approach the subject of the settlement of industrial conditions. To my mind, by far the more hopeful way of approaching this difficult problem is not by the establishment of a Court for the settlement of industrial disputes, but by the creation of something in the nature of representative bodies varying in their conditions and constitutions, according to the varying conditions of the industries, the areas over which the connected industries extend, and a host of other circumstances, but all representing more or less the two parties - employers and employes. Honorable members may say that I have in mind Wages Boards. Wages Boards in some cases these tribunals would be, but they would have far wider powers than any State Wages Boards could possess. In this way, we should approach the settlement of these questions on the lines of what we may describe as subordinate representative legislative bodies. If this House had power to vest with the necessary powers bodies constituted to meet the occasions of the particular kind of businesses affected, then we should have subordinate legislative bodies - bodies possessing actual legislative control - in which the various claims of capital and labour, and all questions arising with regard to industrial disputes, would receive full and fair consideration.
– By whom would these bodies be appointed?
– They would be representative of the various interests involved.
– Would they be elected?
– By both sides. The shearers’ dispute, which was recently before the Court, was one with which no State Wages Board could deal. There must, in such a case, be some authority vested with much wider power than any Wages Board could possess. There you have one body of men, the pastoralists, and another, much larger, body, the shearers, whose interests extend over a great part of the continent. It would be infinitely more satisfactory if there were some subordinate legislative authority, a representative Board, with members elected from time to time from both sides, which could deal with difficulties as they arose. If we could create such bodies, and invest them with the power, not to settle disputes, but to regulate conditions, which involves the determining of questions of wages, hours, holidays, and the like, the organization by means of guilds or crafts would be very sensible. But the organization proposed in the Bill, although suitable for providing elective representatives on Boards, is unsuitable for giving effect to any Act based on judicial determination. The five Justices of the High Court have given their views as to the general scope and purpose of our arbitration legislation, the majority having come to the conclusion which I, for one, think the only conclusion at which they could have arrived, namely, that the basis of our legislation is purely judicial ; that the Arbitration Court is, and was intended to be, a Court, and as such must deal with disputes. The power given to us by me Constitution is a power to make laws for the settlement of industrial disputes. The Justices supported their opinions by reference to various parts of our legislation. They held that the foundation of our scheme for the settlement of industrial disputes was the establishment of Courts to determine them, and that to every dispute there must be two parties. The provision for organization they held to be necessary, not to enable a number of persons to join together to create a dispute where none existed, not to enable those who had no interest in common but the desire for higher wages to form themselves into an organization to create a dispute, but for the proper representation of both parties interested in any existing dispute. For the jurisdiction of the Court there must be a dispute to which there are two parties, who must be effectively represented. It is proposed now that organizations may be registered whose members will have no other bond of union than that they follow the same handicraft; they may all be engineers, for instance.
– That is the basis of unionism.
– Unionism is not the basis of our arbitration law.
– It will have to be the basis finally.
– It has been pointed out by a majority of the Justices of the High Court that the basis of our arbitration law is the existence of disputes extending beyond the limits of a State, to which there must be two parties, both effectively represented. The Court held that organization is necessary to enable both parties to be represented. Suppose an organization were formed by the enginedrivers employed throughout Australia. These men are employed in the saw-mills, on the railways, in the coal mines, and in all sorts of businesses which are as various as possible. They could not serve with a summons or a demand for better conditions all the persons who employ them. That would be a practical, if not a physical, impossibility. What they would do would be to make their demand on a certain proportion of those who employ them. But the employers could not be similarly organized.
– Are there not Employers Federations ?
– I do not know that such bodies are registered, or capable of being registered, under the Arbitration Act.
– The Employers Federation is registered In New South Wales.
– An organization composed of all the employers of enginedrivers in Australia would be an utterly unwieldly and improper one to represent a case before the Arbitration Court. One of the inherent difficulties of the position is that if you have widespread disputes created’ by organizations brought into existence for the purpose of creating them, you can have no effective representation of the other side. There have been instances of the kind before the Court again and again, as those who have followed its proceedings know. In many cases, the representation of the employers has been effective, but in others it has not been so. You have carpenters engaged in every conceivable business throughout Australia. Their employers are interested in a vast number of industries, and form a heterogeneous body having no connecting link, so that they cannot effectively organize.
– Are not the employers represented on the Wages Boards?
– The Wages Boards of Victoria are based on the principle of representation, which I think the proper one. If we could institute bodies of the same nature, but possessing wider powers - representative and elective bodies - crafts registration would be necessary.
– Would there not be the same difficulty about the representation of employers ?
– No. They would elect their representatives, who would be present to express their opinions.
– In the majority of cases the decisions of Wages Boards are arrived at by the chairmen.
– I am not sure that that criticism holds except in a minority of cases ; but, on the whole, the Wages Boards of Victoria have brought about industrial peace. Instead of witnesses being brow-beaten in examination and cross-examination, and a Judge giving a judicial determination about something which should not be the subject of judicial determination, the elected representatives of both sides come together, and discuss matters, in the attempt to arrive at a peaceable conclusion, and in most cases they are successful-.
– There is plenty of browbeating all the same.
– No doubt, a certain amount of heat is generated in the process of settlement. That happens with all deliberative bodies. The amendment of the honorable member for Ballarat seems to me. very much in point. Until now, we have endeavoured to preserve the judicial character of the tribunal which we have erected. Now, if this Bill is carried, you will be tearing away the last shred of its judicial character, and making it a purely legislative Court.
– What new principle has been introduced in this Bill?
– I am endeavouring to show. As the President himself said in the very first judgment of the Court, its function has not been altogether judicial. He complained that Parliament had remitted to him, as a Judge, questions which are not judicial, but which are more or less political matters. Speaking from recollection that is the substance of what he said in the Harvester case. But, although the matters were not judicial and were more or less political, we have always endeavoured to preserve, in relation to the determination or settlement of disputes, which really was the only power we possessed, the inherent character of all judicial proceedings - namely, that there should be a full and fair hearing of both sides of the dispute.
– Is the amendment directed against the whole Bill, or against some particular clause?
– It is obviously directed against the clause for crafts representation, because that is the part of the Bill which takes it completely out of the region in which all arbitration legislation has hitherto been kept. Hitherto organization has been for the purpose of enabling both sides to be represented in the determination of a judicial or quasijudicial dispute. Now we are going to say, “ Let the whole of the carpenters throughout Australia, let the whole of the plumbers throughout Australia, let the whole of any particular handicraft throughout Australia, organize themselves into so many vast unions.” I am not saying a word against their organization, hut I. am saying a great deal against the recognition of such unions in an Arbitration Bill. They have only then to go through some formality, and it is a mere formality, of appearing to make a common demand against all their various employers, to bring themselves before the Court. The various employers, however, with whom they have to deal are men who have no nexus - nothing whatever in common. They cannot join together and associate for the purpose of meeting -that particular demand, and the Court then is faced with a matter which is not a judicial determination at all.
Let me tell honorable members opposite that they may press this legislation too far. They may press it to a point at whichit will become apparent to everybody that what they call a Court is not a Court, and that what Mr. Justice Higgins said at the beginning was true, and was even less than the truth, namely, that he was called upon to exercise, not a Judge’s functions, but the functions of a Legislature. If they do this thing, they will be practically taking away all judicial character from the Court and making its function purely legislative. A good deal has been said by the Prime Minister about the great benefits derived from the Court. I am inclined to question whether the fruits of its establishment have been so great as has been said, but it would not be at all wise at this stage to say very much upon the matter. Any new institution must be. given considerable time before it is properly tried, and this is a new institution. I have no doubt it has done good in some cases, but it has done that good at the cost of such an enormous expenditure by both parties that it is questionable whether it is the best machinery that can be devised.
– Has not the cost been chiefly incurred in determining constitutional points, rather than on the facts?
– Yes, but I am very much afraid that you have a seedbed of constitutional points in this Bill. I propose, in Committee, to show honorable members one or two of them. I do not know that it is necessary for us to fight out all the constitutional points, but I can see a vista of constitutional questions arising under this legislation. I do not think honorable members opposite are going to achieve what they aim at by their proposed amendment of the definition of “ industry.” At least, it is open to very grave doubt.
– It will not be the first time we have been disappointed.
– At any rate,I conceive it to be my duty to throw upon the question any little light that I can. I propose to show that the object which the Government conceive they are carrying out by this Bill is not very likely to be carried out, even in the form in which they have put it. They have altered the definition of the word “ industry “ in two ways. Previously it included “ business, trade, manufacture, undertaking, calling, service, or employment.” To that they add “ handicraft, or industrial occupation or avocation of employes on land or water.” The other way in whichthe definition is amended is by striking out certain words which the Court in the Enginedrivers’ case thought might be taken as a limitation upon the earlier words. But the Government have left in the Act all those other provisions which were essential to the whole scheme of arbitration as originally instituted, and from which the Court primarily drew the inference that “ industry “ had the narrower meaning which they gave to it.
– With one exception do they not harmonize with the new definition?
– They harmonize with the new definition, inasmuch as the new definition would cover either view you take. But I refer honorable members in passing to two or three sections of the old Act - which, I think, is yet unamended - on which the Court relied very strongly in coming to its decision. Section 7 says -
Where persons, with a view to being associated as employers and employés respectively in any industry, or representatives of such persons, have entered into an industrial agreement with respect to employment in that industry. . . .
There clearly the meaning of the word “ industry,” both in regard to employers and employes, is a narrow one. That was admitted. The honorable member for Werriwa will probably bear me out that these were the arguments used and adopted by the majority of the Court. If now honorable members turn to section 38 they will find the provision as to the common rule which was declared to be invalid, although, of course, it is still operative to show the intention of Parliament and the meaning of “ industry “ in the Act. In that section the provision was that the Court should have power to declare, by any award or order, that “ any practice, regulation, rule, custom, term of agreement, condition of employment, or dealing whatsoever determined by an award in relation to any industrial matter shall be a common rule of any industry in connexion with which the dispute arises.” Obviously the word “industry “ there means something which includes both employers and employés.
– Having been declared invalid, would not that section be ignored in interpreting this Bill?
– The mere fact that a provision has been declared unconstitutional does not prevent it being used to enable the Court to ascertain what certain terms in the Act mean. In the same way if a man writes a letter, part of which he has no authority to write, you are at perfect liberty to use that part to find the meaning of a doubtful word in another part of the letter. We are now asked to pass a new Bill, having the decision of the High Court that industry means something very different from what the Government say it is going to mean, staring us in the face.
– We want to alter the meaning of that word.
– I am endeavouring to show that the Government are not doing so. To do it they must not only alter the definition in the way now proposed, but they must recast the Act from beginning to end. All those sections will have to be altered, because there are a number of others in which the word “ industry “ is shown merely to mean an aggregate of employers and employes having the relation of employment to one another. It may be a large aggregate, and it may cover a number of different aggregates of the same kind, such, for instance, as mineowners and their employes, but it must be an aggregate. An industry, in short, is that in which there are employers and employes, both of whom belong to the industry., That cannot be said of engineers, of carpenters, or of plumbers. The Court lias held that to be the meaning of the word “ industry,” because of a number of operative sections which the Government still leave in the Act. In the face of that decision, what conclusion do the Government expect the Court to arrive at, when the Court has said that, from the way in which the word industry is used in those sections, they believe the narrower meaning to have been intended. The attitude of the Government may be right or wrong. I am merely pointing out that this Bill does not successfully give effect to it. To do so the Government must change the whole machinery.
– If the definition of “ industry “ is made clear and unambiguous will the Court look further on in the Act to find its meaning?
– Certainly. I have the judgment of the Court, and can cite a number of particular passages which I have marked. Mr. Justice Isaacs says -
In the Jumbunna case, I expressed an opinion - though not a final one - that the parliamentary use of “ industry “ in the Commonwealth Act was narrower than the Constitution required, and I there stated that it had reference to the business in which the employer was engaged, as well as the employed
That is the point he starts with. I should be glad if honorable members would bear it in mind. It shows that in all the legislation we have hitherto passed, an “ industry “ means something in which there is an employer or employers as well as an employe or employes. It does not mean a caste or class, or aggregate of either one or the other. It assumes an aggregate relation between the two. .Mr. Justice Isaacs goes on to say -
Fuller consideration, now that the point has become essential, has confirmed me in my former opinion, and I shall more explicitly state the reasons for my conclusions. The keynote of the Act is the prevention or the quelling of industrial strife which threatens or produces an interruption of industrial operations by which the wants of the community are satisfied. The public welfare is always the end in view. If the industrial operations necessary, for instance, to produce or distribute the means of satisfying the requirements of the people of Australia, are in fact, or are likely to be, interrupted by a dispute between those who are co-operators in those industrial operations - that is, both employers and employes - then that dispute- with a certain qualification which is material-is in obedience to the Statute to be prevented or settled. These industrial operations are in common parlance called “ industries,” and each of them is an “ industry.”
So much for industrial operations. Some of the other Justices called them ‘ ‘ undertakings,” but what was meant was operations within which there are both employers and employes. Then Mr. Justice Isaacs went on to state why he came to that conclusion. He did not refer to the interpretation clause until the very end of the judgment, regarding it, apparently, as a secondary matter; he took the general scheme of the Act, and first referred to section 7, to show that where there was an agreement it was to be between employers and employes in an industry, implying necessarily that there are employers and employes in that industry. If “ industry “ had the wider meaning of craft, occupation, or vocation, it would be quite meaningless to speak of employers and employes, coming together and agreeing. Mr. Justice Isaacs went on to refer to section 40, which deals with preference to unionists, and he said -
Section 4b, dealing with “ preference,” again requires the President to specify the industry ) and this is an illuminative section, because the industry in which an employer is required to give preference must be that in which he as well as the employes is engaged - and so on. He pointed out, as the other Justices did afterwards, that this view was fortified by the interpretation clause - that the interpretation clause is not only not inconsistent with, but absolutely fortifies, that view. That fortification or assistance which the interpretation clause gives is to be wiped out by this Bill, but all the others are left with full force and effect. I shall not take up the time of the House by quoting many passages, but there is one other touching on the point, in the judgment of Mr. Justice Barton ; and he based his opinion on sections 7, 38, and 55, the latter of which is the organization section. This is a matter of plain English, and not of technical law. Section 55 of the principal Act provides -
Any of the following associations may, on compliance with the prescribed conditions, be registered in a manner prescribed as an organisation : -
Any association of employers in or in connexion with any industry.
Any association of not less than one hundred employés in or in connexion with any industry.
The Justices asked themselves how, if “ industry “ means a vocation or calling, like that of a carpenter, there could be employers in connexion with it ? There might be employes, but if an organization of employers is contemplated, the word “ industry “ must mean a common undertaking, in which employers are engaged in connexion with the employes. That is the argument used ; and all the other sections fortify it. The conclusions at which the majority of the Court arrived were based on the structure of the Act, and not on particular words - based on the structure of the Act, and drawn from all the different provisions.
– Was not the reference to section 55 made to support the contention that “industry” means an industry in which there is an employer?
– If we alter the definition, will not the dual interpretation be capable of being placed on every one of the other sections?
– I am afraid not. The Justices were not dealing with a matter of purely verbal criticism, but, as all Courts have to do when deciding what certain expressions mean, they asked themselves what was the whole scheme and intention of the legislation. Here they found a piece of machinery dealing with agreements, preference, common rule, and regis tration ; and the whole pointed to the fact that what was dealt with was what are called industries in a narrower sense. There was no verbal quibble; and the Justices arrived at a conclusion which I am inclined to think most men would have arrived at, looking at the whole scheme. The basis of the legislation was registration, association, and organization of persons related to one another in the position of employers and employed; and if the desire of the AttorneyGeneral is to alter that basis he is not doing so. I approach the subject from every point of view with a certain diffidence. I do not desire to make too bold an assertion about a question of legal interpretation, but merely point out what I conceive to be a serious danger in the AttorneyGeneral’s way.
– There may be something in the honorable member’s contention in regard to section 7, but I cannot see that there is in regard to the other sections.
– I may be entirely wrong ; but I conceive it my duty to state my difficulties, and leave the matter there. Mr. Justice Barton referred to a number of sections besides the leading ones, in order to show the general scheme, and then said -
Such expressions as those quoted from sections 7, 38, and 41 could scarcely be used in relation to a number of sections of persons performing work of only one sub-division or class in scores of hundreds of concerns, not merely widely separated, but widely differing in nature as well as in name, carried on by, many employers between whose business no identity, not any resemblance, nor indeed the slenderest tie of common interest, exist. How can a number of employers thus diverse and unlike in their aims combine to any purpose for mutual protection in the absence of the common interest which is the very motive of defence? How could conciliation or arbitration operate in the full measure contemplated by the Act under such conditions?
– What is the object of the principal Act ; is it not the maintenance of industrial peace?
– I should think so.
– The whole thing has to be looked at in that light.
– Quite so; but I do not know what that has to do with my argument. I am endeavouring to show that the Bill may be cast in two ways ; the Attorney-General may say he is going to have a measure whereby a Judge, or some other person as a tribunal, is going to legislate, and that a dispute in an industry is not a dispute between employers and employes, but simply an artificial creation by means of registration and a mere formal demand in the nature of an advertisement announcing that the carpenters throughout Australia desire their wages raised. To call that a judicial determination is a mere farce. It is using a side wind, or kind of trick, for the purpose of reading into the words of the Constitution, “ settlement of industrial disputes,” something which is not there, and intrusting legislation to one single man. If we had the power, instead of appointing one person called a Judge or President, to create a body really representative of both sides, I should not have the slightest objection; in fact, I should welcome the wider guild or craft organization, because the wider the better. With organization comes control, security, and responsibility. But if the desire is not to change the whole scheme of the Act from the foundation upwards, we ought not to pass this Bill, because the only effect of the new kind of registration of crafts will be to enable a great number of people, with no other connecting tie beyond that of being of one craft, to create a nominal, artificial, paper dispute. And for what purpose? Not because an engine-driver at Kalgoorlie has any connexion with an engine-driver at Brisbane, or Cairns, in different employment - not because of any common interest, but” simply to create a paper basis for a jurisdiction that the Constitution never intended.
– Would that not apply whatever the form of tribunal?
– I think so. The amendment might at first sight, before the connexion is fully shown, lead to the idea that the charge is directed against the singleness of the individual. This is not as I understand the amendment, which really means that, by an indirect method, we are giving control of all the industrial conditions that the Constitution endows us with no right to give.
– -lt so, how does the honorable member account for the fact that in every State arbitration law, and under the present Federal law until the recent decision, it was always assumed that “ industry “ meant what we intend in the Bill?
– In the first place, I do not admit the fact ; and, in the second place, I have no explanation to offer about a fact which I do not admit. It is a common form of argument, by way of interjection, to ask if one is aware of something that may or may not exist, and to ask an explanation.
– Something is still more common, and that is what the honorable member is doing now when he cannot answer a question.
– I admit I cannot answer the question, because I do not admit the fact, or the conclusion drawn from it. I am not on the rack at present, where answers can be extorted that are not within me.
– I understand the honor, able member to say that he would like a Court constituted of all the parties interested.
– Certainly, if we had the power.
– Sitting in the Court as judges ?
– Not as judges, for it would not be a Court. The Prime Minister was not in the chamber when I was dealing with that point.
– I was not absent willingly.
– It is impossible to repeat any considerable portion of my argument; but I said that if we had the power to proceed on broader lines, I should have strongly recommended, instead of a Court, machinery of a different character, namely, the creation of subordinate legislative bodies of various kinds, having regard to the circumstances of the trades with which they have to deal, and the area over which they are to operate. There would be representatives of employers and employes on these bodies, and they would be vested with all the necessary powers for the purpose of legislating to regulate the conditions of trade.
– That would have been possible if the referenda had been carried.
– We need not discuss that matter now; on more than one occasion in this House I have made my position clear with regard to it. The whole of the judgments in these cases are particularly interesting, from the point of view not only of lawyers, but of any one who is really concerned with the solution of this extremely difficult problem. I have endeavoured to show that by this vital amendment of the principal Act, the Government are seeking to introduce something that is totally alien to the scheme of the present legislation. T have endeavoured also to show that the Government are not succeeding in doing what they want to do. I may be totally wrong; but if the view that I have put before the Attorney-General is right, the result of the passing of this Bill will be that hundreds, and, it may be, thousands of artisans engaged in various vocations throughout Australia will be invited to go to all the expense, trouble and worry of uniting in associations and initiating disputes, only to find, after, it may be, months and months of delay and expenditure, that all their efforts have been thrown away. That is why, for the sake of ordinary common justice, the AttorneyGeneral should consider the representations that are made to him at this stage as to the effect of the Bill. I ask the Government to consider whether they will achieve what they wish to achieve, even if it be desirable, by merely altering the definitions, instead of recasting the whole machinery of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. That, to my mind, would be the only way to give effect to what honorable members opposite desire. I do not think, however, that there is power to sufficiently recast it, or, under the Constitution as it stands, to substitute for it what would be a more effective and infinitely more beneficial kind of machinery. There is very grave doubt as to whether there is power in this Parliament to do that which the Government are attempting to do.
There is only one other matter to which I desire to call attention, and that is the very remarkable provision in clause 13, purporting to amend section 31 of the principal Act, so as to do away with the power of the Court to issue writs of prohibition and mandamus. Here, again, we are dealing with a technical subject, although in one sense it is not. A prohibition is merely one means, as a mandamus is another, by which the Court exercises its jurisdiction. The question in this case is as to what its jurisdiction is. The Attorney-General is aware - and I need not refer him to the cases - that there have been many Statutes purporting to do away with writs of prohibition, but in connexion with which it has been held that the Court cannot be deprived of its power to direct the issue of such a writ. The reason may be briefly explained. The High Court, under the Constitution of Australia is merely a Court to determine the-law ; and that law is not only the law as passed by this Parliament, but the law of the Constitution itself. If we attempted to do something which was not within our limited powers, then that something would not be a law. That is the position. Any one would have a right to disobey such an enactment. It is a mistake to .suppose that the High Court of the Commonwealth, or the Supreme Court of the United States of America, is vested with some special power to override Acts of Parliament. Neither Court has such a power. The High Court has no more power to override an Act of Parliament than I have.
– It could make one unconstitutional.
– No. I could say, if I chose, that an Act or portion of an Act, of Parliament was not really an Act of Parliament; I could disobey it, and so decide the matter for myself. I might be wrong in doing so, and I should have to take the risk. Every citizen has to decide whether a law which purports to have been passed by a Legislature of limited jurisdiction, is or is not a law. The convenient method which the Constitution itself provides for determining such a question is not to allow every man to decide it at his own risk, but the appointment of the High Court to which he may ro.
– The power of interpretation is vested in the High Court, and sometimes the learned Justices differ, two being on one side and three being on the other.
– Quite true; but that is a peculiarity, I am afraid, common to all tribunals, including Parliament itself. I understand also that it is a strong democratic principle that the rule of the majority shall prevail. I should like the Attorney-General to explain what justification there is for the attempt to introduce words nominally limiting the power of the Court to issue prohibition orders. I did not hear the whole of his speech in moving the second reading of this Bill, but I do not think that he touched upon that phase of the subject.
– Section 31 of the principal Act, as it now stands, says that no award of the Court shall be challenged, appealed against, reviewed, quashed, or called in question in any other Court.
– That is fairly wide.
– We are endeavouring, as far as we are able, to make the decision of this Court final.
– Quite so.
– To what extent are we-
– Order !
– The matter has already been the subject of very considerable debate in the High Court. In the bootmakers’ case, it was argued at great length that section 31 of the principal Act prevented the issue of a writ of prohibition. The wording of that section is quite wide enough, but I should like to know what effect the Attorney-General thinks these additional words will have.
– We say in the original Act that no award of the Court shall be appealed against. We simply propose now to provide that no award of the Court shall be subject to a mandamus or a prohibition order.
– In the principal Act, there is a general provision that no award of the Court shall be quashed in any other Court. That provision is wide enough to include in its terms the High Court itself, and the point was raised that the issue of a prohibition order by the High Court was obviously an attempt to quash a decision of this Court, and that that could not be done. The High Court replied in effect, “ Of course, it is an attempt to quash, but no section of any Act of Parliament can take away from us the inherent right by prohibition to decide that something that purports to be a law of the Federal Parliament is not a law of the Federal Parliament.”
– Is that what the High Court said? It is common sense.
– Yes. We could not have a limited jurisdiction unless there was some Court to determine when the State, on the one hand, or the Commonwealth, on the other, exceeded its jurisdiction. Apart from that, we should have confusion and anarchy. I venture to submit to the Attorney-General that, although these words may be ornamental, and of considerable use on the platform, they will be found of no use whatever in the High Court.
.- I should like to express the sense of obligation that I personally feel towards the honorable member for Flinders, and which, I am sure, is shared by honorable members on all sides, for the address to which we have just listened. There is a disposition sometimes to look doubtfully upon the gifts of the Greeks, but we feel that the honorable member has not played the part of the
Greeks on this occasion, and I have no doubt that I voice the opinion of the House when I say that we are indebted to him for his criticism of this measure. We cannot speak in the same way of the far more lengthy and wordy effort of the Leader of the Opposition, to whom I listened with a degree of amazement. My recollection of his speech is that during the greater part of the time that he was addressing the House he was either saying nothing, and saying that nothing very well, or else he was uttering inaccuracies. The honorable gentleman concluded by moving an amendment which fitly summarizes his speech. It either means nothing at all, or it is a direct and deliberate mis-statement of fact. His amendment reads -
That all the words after “ That “ be left out, with a view of inserting “ no measure the effect of which will be to concentrate in any one person the control of all the conditions of carrying on all the industries of this continent can be other than impracticable and fraught with danger to the whole community.”
Either the Leader of the Opposition means that this measure is designed to do that of which he speaks in his amendment, or he means nothing at all. Turning to the Bill itself, I find in it no proposal to concentrate in any one person the control of all the conditions under which the industries of this continent shall be carried on. If this Bill is passed our Arbitration law will not only not concentrate all control in one individual, but will continuously recognise more than one individual. It will have the exactly opposite effect to that which the Leader of the Opposition suggests.
– Under this Bill the Government are attempting to remove all restrictions.
– We are accused in the amendment, not of attempting to remove all restrictions, but of seeking to concentrate in one person the right to control all the conditions of industry. We are no more attempting to do that than was the Leader of the Opposition himself when he introduced the original Conciliation and Arbitration Bill. In referring to sub-clause 5 of clause 2 of that measure, the honorable member for Ballarat pointed out that the chief objects of that measure were, among others, to enable the States to refer industrial disputes to the Court, and to permit the Commonwealth Court and the State industrial authorities to work in aid of each other. That was one of the objects of the measure introduced by the honorable gentleman, and is one of the objects of the Bill now before us. We no more propose to put on one side the industrial authorities of the States than did the honorable member when introducing the Bill of 1904. We recognise first and foremost the State industrial authorities. Under section 14 - the President may, by instrument under his hand, appoint any Justice of the High Court or Judge of a Supreme Court of a State, to be his deputy in any part of the Commonwealth, and in that capacity to exercise, during the pleasure of the President, such powers and functions of the President as he thinks fit to assign to such deputy.
Again, the power of the Court to appoint assessors under section 35 still exists, and section 36 enacts that -
The Court may refer any industrial dispute pf which it has cognisance, or any matter arising out of the dispute, to a Local Industrial Board for investigation and report, and may delegate to that Board such of its powers, including all powers of the Court in relation to conciliation and the settlement of the dispute by amicable agreement, as it deems desirable. The Local Industrial Board may be any State industrial authority willing to act, or any local Board constituted as prescribed. The scheme of the amending Bill is exactly that of the existing legislation.
– Will the powers referred to be exercised as much in the future as in the past ?
– We cannot be responsible for what may happen in the future, but those who vote for the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition, believing his statement that we are trying to vest authority in one individual, will do no under a misapprehension of the facts.
– The honorable member does not understand the amendment.
– If it does not mean what I say, 1 am incapable of understanding it. It is often difficult to know what the honorable member means.
– That need not be my fault.
– It need not, but I am not alone in making the complaint. One of the honorable member’s colleagues has expressed the same regret. A celebrated speech delivered at Ballarat was misunderstood by all Australia.
– The amendment Ls, in effect, a second notice to quit.
– The Opposition seems disposed to imitate the Opposition in a State Parliament. This is the second censure motion we have had, with but a short interval between. The Bill extends the power of the President to create Boards of Reference, and enables more to be referred to these Boards. The principle of the measure is that of the existing_legislation for which the Leader of the Opposition is largely responsible. No more than my honorable friends, can I imagine that the amendment will be carried, but, in effect, it condemns the scheme of arbitration for which its mover is largely responsible. He has told .us that, despite the efforts made to secure industrial peace, there is to-day more trouble than ever before. I doubt the accuracy of that statement, and were the discussion relevant, would feel disposed to deal with it at some length. Every one of the disputes which occurred a few years back were more serious and bitter than all those which take place now. When the men at 10,000 shearing sheds were on strike, there was in existence a dispute as serious as ten thousand of the smaller troubles which we have to-day. If the troubles of modern times have been due largely to the failure of legislation, it has been the legislation which the honorable member and his party introduced. If he tried to fasten upon the Labour party responsibility for the disputes which have recently occurred, I would remind him that the last big outbreak, the coal strike, took place while the Fusion Government was in office.
– Did the Fusion Government cause it?
– I do not suggest that, but the Leader of the Opposition seemed disposed to suggest that this Government and its legislation are responsible for the existing industrial troubles. He spoke of the Bill as an entrance upon an unknown road, and a growth which he did not think the seed of arbitration was capable of producing. He told the House that this is the first time that the idea of craft organization has been introduced into Australian industrial legislation. That is absolutely incorrect. The honorable member laboured the point that the Arbitration Court was created to enable the States* to refer disputes to it, and that we should recognise the scheme of organization adopted by the States. In providing for craft organization, we are doing exactly what the States have already done, and recognising a principle of unionism which has been followed from the earliest days.
– Another evidence that the party is going backwards instead of forwards.
– Although the Leader of the Opposition says that this is a new proposal, a slight acquaintance with the Acts of the States, or a perusal of the judgment of Mr. Justice O’Connor, would show that it is not.
– The honorable member entirely misrepresents me.
– I took down the honorable member’s words, but I confess great difficulty in understanding him. In that I am not singular; I suffer in common with other honorable members. If the honorable member did not know the late Tom Bracken, poet, of New Zealand, he should have known him, for it must have been such a case as that of the honorable member which inspired the beautiful poem “Not Understood.” The honorable member goes through life “not understood” in his addresses. I am prepared to leave it to Hansard to decide whether the honorable member did say it. I took the honorable member’s exact words in shorthand as he uttered them. I wrote them out afterwards into the notes I have here.
– The honorable member did not, perhaps, take down his qualification later on.
– No, the language which 1 took was that the Minister proposed not to deal with industry as all other Conciliation Acts had done. If the honorable member says he did not say that I am bound to accept his statement. If he will admit that the Minister now proposes to deal with industry as all other Conciliation and Arbitration Acts have done, we shall be agreed. If the honorable member did not mean that this was a new departure, what becomes of all his statements regarding our treading in foreign paths, and entering upon trackless seas? To make it clear to honorable members that it is no new idea to enable unions of this kind to organize, I shall quote one or two existing Industrial Acts. The New South Wales Industrial Disputes Amendment Act of 1908 contains in the schedule the following -
Schedule one to the Principal Act is amended by adding the following : -
Engine-driving and -firing.
Industries and Employees in Industries.
Engine-drivers, firemen, greasers, trimmers, cleaners, and pumpers employed on land.
That is the basis of organization recognised in the New South Wales Act now for practically all unions. I could refer to a number of other industries where the craft idea has been recognised. To say that this is a new departure is to misrepresent the position of the law in New South Wales and other States. In Victoria the “legal position is that Wages Boards connected with the employer’s industry fixed the wages of an individual like an enginedriver, until the engine-drivers got their own Board. In 1910 the engine-drivers obtained their own Board to fix the rates as far as its jurisdiction went in Victoria. T obtained this information from a little work printed at the Victorian Government Printing Office, revised for purposes of reference by Mjr. Murphy, Chief Inspector of Factories, and entitled, “ The Law relating to Factories, Workrooms, and Shops in Victoria.” The marginal note on page 58 relating to the provision made for a Board to govern the conditions of enginedrivers and men associated with them is as follows: “Rates fixed by Boards for engine-drivers, &c, engineering, blacksmithing, and general ironwork to supersede rates fixed by other Boards for the same classes of employes.
Sitting suspended from 6.20 to 7.45 p.m.
– So far from going off the beaten track, or embarking on what the Leader of the Opposition described as a trackless ocean, we are really following the well-known track on which the organization of workers has proceeded in the past. The Wages Board appointed in Victoria to fix the conditions for enginedrivers completed its work as late as Friday last; and I understand that on the 13th November next its determination will come into force- for all engine-drivers in the State, so far as the Board has jurisdiction, no matter in what factories they may happen to be working. The same system is recognised by the Queensland Parliament. In that State, the workers do not organize according to the industry of their employer, but according to the calling in which they happen to be engaged. Despite the expressions of surprise uttered by honorable members in this House, I venture to say that the statement of Mr. Justice O’Connor on the matter is a simple statement of well-known facts. He. points out that the system of allowing men to organize according to their craft, and not according to the industry of their employers, has been recognised in every State in the Commonwealth. That was long before there were any arbitration laws at all. I quote from his judgment at page 299 the following : -
The reports of the various State Arbitration Courts will show, indeed it is common knowledge, that in practically all State industrial disputes the employes were combined in trade unions or other forms of organization allowed by the law. Associations of workmen combined as trade unions have long been established in Australia, and for many years their existence and operation has been recognised and legalized in all the States by Statutes. Under these Statutes, of which the New South Wales Trades Union Act 1881 and the Victorian Trades Union Act 1890 are examples, the system of association of workmen then existing is adopted and recognised. Trades unions were then, as they still are, associations of workmen following the same vocation or vocations, associated on the ground of common industrial interests. There was not in force in 1904, nor is there now, any State law which would refuse registration to a trade union merely because its basis of association was the common interest of persons following the same vocation, without regard to the several branches of industrial enterprise to which their labour was applied. Carpenters and engineers, for instance, are, it is well known, employed in a vast variety of industrial operations, yet in all the States they were free under State laws to combine in such trade union.
If it be true that in every State which has Jaws on the matter a union such as the engine-drivers, or the carpenters, or that of any other craft, will be recognised as a proper subject for registration, we have no right to deny them that registration when we are legislating for them as a Commonwealth Parliament. The honorable member for Maribyrnong has put into my hands the determination of the Queensland Wages Board pursuant to the Wages Board Act 1908 and published in the Gazette. This shows that the same principle applied there, and. bears out the statement of facts as set forth by Mr. Justice O’Connor. When the Leader of the Opposition pleads that we should work in conjunction with the State industrial authorities, I reply that that is exactly what we are doing. It is to achieve that object that the Bill is brought down. From the earliest days of trade unionism the idea that has brought men together into one organization has generally been the idea of interchangeability. An enginedriver in a soap works or a jam factory seeks to associate, not with the jam boiler or soap boiler who happens to work in the same business, but with the man who is driving an engine anywhere else, and where he may hope to be employed if he leaves the particular factory in which he is engaged. The interest of the employe1 is necessarily with those whose places he would hope to fill if he happened to leave one particular line of employment. The engine-driver in a jam factory has nothing in common with other men in that factory. He has interests in common with al! the men who are driving engines. The mere fact that the ultimate product of his labour turns out to be one particular article instead of another does not alter the nature of his labour. Whatever may be the output of the factory in which he is employed, his business of engine-driving remains the same. No doubt what leads men of similar callings or crafts to unite is the fact that any other means of organization would cause them to be overlooked in the general scheme for the betterment of conditions. Assuming that this measure were not introduced, and the law were allowed to continue as declared to exist by the High Court, what would be the position of the engine-drivers of Australia? One man driving an engine would be called upon to organize with, say, 500 men employed in the same factory. Those 500 would perhaps have interests in common, but he would have no interest in common with them. They could not state the value of his work. He would be apart from them, and would be overlooked in the general rush. He, therefore, likes to combine with those whose avocation is the same as his own.
– He may be in a jam factory to-day, and a soap factory tomorrow.
– Exactly, but he does not change his industry with his factory, nor with the product which the factory happens to be turning out. A man who is carting bread to-day may be carting beef to-morrow, and his calling, which is that of looking after carts and horses, does not change. Every man’s calling takes its character from the particular thing he does, and not from the business with which he happens to be associated. That is the way in which organizations have gone in the past ; and to-day the unions of Australia are unions of men who are doing the same kind of work. The Constitution provides that Parliament shall have power to deal with disputes extending beyond the limits of a State; and what kind of disputes are likely to .arise?. They are disputes between organizations that have existed since the inception of trade unions, and not between, organizations which are created under an altogether, different scheme. Either we are going to make an alteration to enable the State Court to deal with the kind of disputes likely to arise, or allow the Act to be still more a dead letter than before; and it is dead enough now. Unless Parliament is prepared to recognise the state of affairs as disclosed by the State laws and the trade organizations as they exist, we shall take away from the Arbitration Court the power to deal with the average dispute likely to arise. I do not contend that the idea of craft unionism is the best in the world; it may not be. Perhaps it would be better if the employes adopted industrial unionism entirely. I do not deny that the ultimate outcome of a. defeat of a measure of this kind, and the forcing of the workers into large aggregations, might in the end work for their welfare. It has been asserted by the honorable member for Ballarat that the object of the Attorney-General is to get larger and larger aggregations of labour; and that may be so, but I do not know. If it is so, the Attorney-General has not set out to attain that object by this measure, which recognises disintegration rather than increased aggregation. I am prepared to admit that there may be some advantages in the new form of unionism; as no doubt there are. Probably, if we had industrial unionism, we should have fewer industrial troubles, but greater troubles when they did arise. If all were- organized into one great union on each side, it might make for industrial peace, as organization for war is said to make to that end. When war becomes so expensive that no nation can .afford to fight, there may possibly be peace; and the same applies industrially. All the Bill proposes to do, however, is to leave the organizations to evolve in their own way ; and I submit that that is the very least we ought to do in a measure of this kind. Having provided for that, we should allow the organizations to go on in that way. I leave that question, and turn to that raised in a very forcible way by the honorable member for Flinders, as to whether we have attained the end we have in view. Assuming that the majority of honorable members believe that we should recognise craft unionism as well as industrial unionism, a close examination of the measure is necessary to decide whether we have done so or not. We have the opinion of the honorable member for Flinders that this measure does not accomplish that which we set out to accomplish. Some doubts, I believe, have been thrown on the constitutionality of the measure; and I can only regret that the honorable member for Flinders did not develop his argument further. He gave us no reason, as far as I could see, to doubt the constitutionality of the measure; but he certainly did give some very cogent reasons for doubting whether we are accomplishing that which the AttorneyGeneral seeks to accomplish. I would hesitate to put my opinion against that of the honorable and learned member; but, having been privileged to conduct the argument in this case in another place, 1 can say that the one difficulty that seemed insuperable to us from beginning to end was the definition of “ industry “ as “ business, trade, manufacture, undertaking, calling, service or employment.” If it had stopped there it might have been all right. When it was submitted, that “calling” was the term appropriate to engine-driving or carpentering, the Court seemed very disposed to accept the view that it would be very proper to ask a man, “ What is your calling?” and for him to reply, for instance, “Engine-driving.” But the Court pointed out continuously that it was not “‘calling “ alone, but “ calling in which persons were employed for pay.” It was the qualifying words that altered the meaning of “ calling “ and gave the term “industry” that narrower and more limited meaning that the Arbitration Court set on it. I believe that when we have added the other words’ in the definition clause, and have struck out the qualifying words, we shall have made the definition plain and unambiguous. The business of the Courts has always been recognised to be to seek the intention of Parliament from the Act. When we have made pur definition clear and unambiguous, the Court will give it a clear and unambiguous meaning, without reference to any other part of the Act. The Court only looks to other sections when there is ambiguity, in order to see how the word is used in other connexions. When the meaning is plain, that meaning is given without reference to any other section. While holding that view, I submit that we would be foolish if we did not make assurance doubly sure by modifying any other sections of the Act in which “ industry “ appears, so that the word may have the double meaning ; otherwise we should be failing to take the ordinary precautions that reasonable, prudent business men would take. The position put forward by the honorable member for Flinders was that we have altered the definition, but have not altered the scheme of the Act to bring it into conformity with the definition. Without stopping to quote at length, I say there is no doubt that the Chief Justice, in his learned judgment, went a good deal, not merely on the words of the definition clause, but on the whole scheme. At page 289 he said -
In the second place, that is not the scheme oE the Act. The unit of aggregation for the purpose of industrial agreements and proceedings in the Court is not the handicraft but the collective enterprise in which employers and employes are associated.
He re-stated that -
It seems to me as impossible to deny that the employers and employes concerned in an industrial dispute must be engaged in the same industry, as to affirm that every person who employs a carpenter or engine-driver is, in any relevant sense, engaged in the industry of carpentry or engine-driving, or to say that there is .1 community of industrial interest between a farmer who employs an engine-driver to drive a stationary engine in Queensland, and a company which employs drivers of locomotive engines in Tasmania.
So the Chief Justice goes on continuously throughout the judgment. No doubt he, Mr. Justice Barton, and Mr. Justice Isaacs referred to the various meanings given to the term “ industry “ in the sections of the Act apart from the definition of “ industry ‘ ‘ in the definition clause ; and apparently the Bill leaves that untouched. I hope that the Attorney-General thinks sufficiently of the arguments of the honorable member for Flinders to see what modifications are necessary. I do not suggest that this means undoing the whole scheme of the Act, because it seems to me that it does not. The honorable member for Flinders has given some good ideas as to what ought to be done if we had the power. If the referendum had been carried we should not have had this Bill, but a better scheme. However, that is not the matter before us at present. Having our limited powers, how are we going to exercise them in order to give greater security to those who apply to the Court? In no clause of the Bill do we in any way amend the term “ industry.” For example, in clause 4 in the definition of “ industrial dispute “ we alter that considerably, but we leave the same meaning attached to “ industry,” and the same ap- plies to the other sections referred to by the honorable member for Flinders - section 7, which refers to industrial agreements; section 38, where the term “ industry “ is used in connexion with the common rule application. Of course the latter is to-day null and void, or declared unconstitutional, and is practically no part of the Act; and for that reason would not, 1 think, be given much weight by the Court. The same observation may be made as to sections 41 and 55 ; the latter of which provides who may be registered. In regard to this, Mr. Justice Barton pointed out that there is no context which suggests as necessary any change from the meaning clearly conveyed in paragraph a of the section. The meaning of “ industry “ is clearly conveyed in that paragraph, and the second paragraph, which refers to employes, does not alter the context. I believe it would not be beyond the skill of the draftsman to slightly amend this section and the few others referred to, without upsetting the scheme of organization and of the Act, so as to make it absolutely clear to the High Court that when we say “ industry “ has two meanings - the business or enterprise of the employer, and the calling or occupation of the employ^ - we mean exactly what we say. It would be folly on our part not to make sure of carrying out our intention now that we have the opportunity. Any effort to provide industrial legislation presents sufficient pitfalls to those who are going to take advantage of . it in the Federal Court, without adding to the difficulties of the situation. I have grave doubts as to whether any of this legislation is of very much value to the workers of Australia. The President of the Court himself has said that that tribunal has to be approached through a Serbonian bog of legal technicalities, and those who would approach it have not only to wade through a bog of technicalities, but to be armed with a very long purse. I believe that in connexion with the pastoralists and shearers’ case recently before the Court, the workmen alone had to provide some ^7,000 to cover law costs and the expense of bringing witnesses before the Court. Such a system is not calculated to do very much for the average body of workers. We have to recognise, however, that we have certain powers, whatever they are worth, and if we are going to exercise them, we should exercise them to the full. We should be very careful, however, to make clear our meaning as to what constitutes an industry I wish now very briefly to refer to one or two other clauses of the Bill, and to indicate to the Attorney-General some other amendments that I think will be necessary before this measure will be likely to accomplish the object which we have in view. In the first place, clause 4 purports to preserve the registration of all associations registered under the existing Act. It declares that -
The registration, as an organization under the Principal Act, of any association registered before the commencement of this Act, shall be deemed to be as valid to all intents and purposes, and to have constituted the association an organization as effectually as if this Act had been in force at the date of registration.
It does not purport to go further than to validate registrations before the commencement of this measure, but it seems to me to be very doubtful whether it really does do so. TheJustices of the High Court have frequently stated that “ registration “ means “ valid registration,” so that, if an association has been illegally registered, there is no registration whatever in regard to it. To merely say that those unions that were legally registered as associations under the existing law shall continue to be deemed to be registered as organizations does not push the matter much further. We should provide that any association “ purporting “ to be registered shall be deemed to be validly registered. We want to validate not only registrations properly made, but those purporting to have been made under the provisions of the Act. The clause as it stands will probably carry out our intention, but we cannot be too careful in declaring our intention, and we ought to err, if at all on the side of safety.
– A good old strike would make it clear. We should not need any lawyers then.
– The organization with which the honorable member is associated has had a good many strikes from time to time and by means of those strikes has improved the lot of its members. It is not many years since men were shearing sheep in Victoria for 9s. per 100 and their keep ; to-day they are receiving 24s. per 100. The whole of that rise, however, was not obtained by means of strikes.
– The strikes helped.
– No doubt, but the last 4s. rise was secured by means of arbitration awards.
– I think we should have got another shilling if they had kept the lawyers out of the case.
– The cost, compared with that of an ordinary suit, is very considerable, but I venture to say that the £7,000 spent by this organization in bringing its case before the Court would not have gone very far towards establishing a strike camp, and providing strike funds. I am told by the president of the union that, as the result of this litigation the members of it have received an increase of £100,000 a year. Those who have been engaged in strikes have the best idea of the value of industrial peace, and an additional £100,000 a year, as well as industrial peace, is worth paying something for. The clause to which I have referred may well receive the consideration of the Attorney-General and his advisers. I come now to clause 17, which empowers an organization to change its name. It appears to me that we require to provide not only that an organization may change its name, but to insert provisions to enable the register to be altered, and a new certificate to be issued. I do not know that that can be done by regulation. I believe it will be necessary to have in the Bill itself provision for the alteration of the register, and the issue of a fresh certificate. Then, again, clause 18 provides for application for cancellation of registration. Under section 60 of the principal Act, action can be taken by the registrar to secure cancellation of a registration; if it appears to the registrar that good reason exists, he can make an application to the Court for the cancellation of the registration. This Bill, however, proposes to omit the words “ appears to the registrar,” and to insert in their stead the words “ appears to the Court on the application of any organization or person interested.” That provision would seem to require further consideration. An association on the register might pass out of existence altogether, and no one would be interested in applying to have its registration cancelled. The registrar himself would have no power to make such an application under this Bill, so that eventually the register, instead of conveying full information as to the unions existing as registered organizations, would be quite out of date. I have no objection to the proposal to allow the Court, upon the application of one of the parties interested to de-register ; but it would be a mistake, I think, to take away from the registrar the power to apply, in cases where there was no person interested. I hope that when the Bill goes into Committee the provision will be so amended that a registration may be cancelled upon the application of one of the parties interested, or upon the application df the registrar where, in his opinion, a proper case can be made out for an application for cancellation. With these amendments, I think it should be possible for us, without running any unnecessary risk of constitutional difficulties, to so amend the existing law as to place it in the position which every one believed it actually occupied until the High Court, in the enginedrivers’ case, declared otherwise.
– I am sure that the House will be much relieved to hear that, in the opinion of the honorable member who has just resumed his seat, it is possible to resuscitate the wreck that has been produced by the criticism of the honorable member for Flinders. I have heard, the honorable member for Flinders make a good many speeches in this House, but never have I heard him make one of so completely destructive a character as that delivered by him this evening. It seems to me to have wholly destroyed the value of this Bill. ‘ I judged from the way in which the honorable member for Werriwa conducted himself during that speech that he drafted die Bill during the absence of the Attorney-General. - Mr. Hall. - The honorable member is quite mistaken.
-J am glad for the sake of the honorable member’s reputation that he is able to repudiate the drafting of the Bill, because I am now able to say that it carries upon its face strong evidence of having been drawn by some one who is perfectly innocent of the Constitution and of its legal effects upon arbitration legislation. After the speech just delivered by the honorable member for Werriwa, and that made by the honorable member for Flinders, we can leave for a time the legal aspects of this measure. I take it that on this motion, and even on the amendment, it is open to us to deal with the whole question of arbitration. I stand in a. peculiar position in this House, since, in 1903, when the first Conciliation and Arbitration Bill was brought forward by the honorable member for Ballarat, I was one of the very few who expressed grave doubts as to whether compulsory arbitration, as it had been attempted in New Zealand, New South Wales, and Western Australia,- was going to do what many of its advocates expected of it. I can well remember members of the Labour party claiming, that if we only had on the Aus tralian statute-book a measure. on- the lines of that which had been in operation in New Zealand for some years, we should have something like the millennium in a small way. ‘ I also recall the fact that the honorable member for Ballarat ventured upon a prediction that that Bill would usher in “ a new era in the history of civilization.” When a number of honorable members of the Labour party congratulated him upon his eloquence-). I said that I -did not like to be entirely’ out of the chorus ; I thought he had made a very beautiful speech - a speech so beautiful,” indeed, that I considered it ought to be.- set to music- as a cantata, because, in my opinion,’5’ it breathed the spirit of another world, 2 in which life was a perpetual haymaking. I took occasion to point out that, although’ the honorable member for Ballarat was enthusiastic about this reform, and was supported by a chorus of praise in anticipation of its beneficent results, we had had numerous proofs of the fact that, whenever the judgment of the Arbitration “Court of New Zealand was adverse to the trade unionists, they snapped their fingers at it,, and treated the law as a dead-letter. ;I pointed out, too, that the findings of the Arbitration Court of Western Australia were treated in the same discourteous manner when they did not satisfy the aspirations of the workmen who appealed to it. I wish to say - because I am one of th’ose unfortunate individuals who are often misunderstood, though not always unintentionally - that I favour any method for’.effectually settling the discord between Capital and Labour, and establishing, friendly relations between them. I had, in 1903, and have now, the recollection ,of considerable experience in this State of efforts in that direction similar to those which the honorable member for Flinders advocated this afternoon. As I have already stated in this Chamber, I was,, twenty-two years ago, one of the originatorsof the Employers Union. It became” sopowerful that the members of the Trades Hall were wise enough to approach it ! in the spirit of truce, and to ask if it was npt possible for them, as the representatives if 26,000 workers, to meet us in friendly spirit, and create an intermediate body for averting labour, troubles, and producing amicable relations. As President of ‘the Employers Union, I met Mr. Bennett, then President of the Trades Hall, the secretary being Mr. Murphy, and Mr. Trenwith being one of the members of the Council.
We resolved to hold a series of meetings to devise a means whereby constant bickerings, strikes, and locks-out might be prevented. After sitting for nearly three months, off and on, we framed the constitution of a Board of Conciliation, under which, when a dispute occurred between workmen and employers, the secretaries were to endeavour to effect a settlement. If they failed, a reference Committee was to be called together ; and if it failed, eight representatives of the TradesHall and eight representatives of the Employers Union were to meet, and thoroughly investigate the difference. I sat frequently in the Trades Hall, and during the two and a half years for which I remained in this State as a member of the Employers Union, there was not a dispute in the iron, boot, shipping, or any other industry with regard to which we did not effect an amicable settlement, the parties shaking hands and going away, not only satisfied with the decision come to, but agreeing that both sides were animated with a sincere desire to bring about peace.
– That was in the days of the old unionism.
– Yes. There was no attempt at intimidation, because the men felt that they were fully represented : an advantage to which the honorable member for Flinders has directed attention. When, some years later, I heard of Sir Pember H. Reeves’ experiment in New Zealand, I predicted - and the prediction has come true - that his arrangement for the compulsory settlement of industrial disputes Would be followed by failure. On the introduction of the Bill of 1903, which is the basis Of the present discussion, I knew that my expectation had been fulfilled, and that the experience of Western Australia and New South Wales was similar to that of New Zealand. It had become almost the practice of theworkmen, in approaching the Courts, to ask for more than, and, in some cases, twice as much as, they were willing to accept, in the hope that, on the splitting of the difference, they would get exactly what they wanted.
– The honorable member must be referring to the employers.
– The employers have been by no means as frequent in their applications to the Court as the employés. From my general reading of the reports, extending over many years, I should say that the applications of the employes have been four or five times as numerous as those of the employers.
– The man on top seldom asks to be put underneath.
– During the existence of the organization of which I have spoken, no one was on top; and in every case the decision arrived at was accepted, because both parties felt that they had had a fair opportunity to state their case.
– What has become of that ancient system?
– The compulsory system has destroyed it.
– Did it exist until the compulsory system was introduced?
– I believe so. I would ask what is the object of arbitration. We are at a stage where we must go back to first principles. It will be admitted by all thoughtful representatives of the working classes that it was never intended that the Arbitration Court should be a tribunal for giving decisions to suit them. It was established to provide a means for the amicable settlement of industrial disputes. When proposals for arbitration were first mooted in this Parliament, and in that of New South Wales, the representatives of the working classes declared that the adoption of this means for arriving at an amicable settlement would put an end to the “ brutality of strikes.” But within the last two or three weeks I have heard honorable members here say, “ We are not going to give up our right to strike.” I should like to know what they would say if the representatives of the employers were to retort, “ We are not going to give up our right to lock-out.”
– That is the position they take.
– If an employer locks out his men, that is, if he ceases to employ one set, and takes on another, he may be brought before the Court and dealt with. But if men strike, they can accept work in another factory with impunity. An employer who locks-out his men is punished.
– He can go elsewhere and start business, just as the men can.
– It is an easy thing for a man to move his family and belongings; but an employer cannot move his factory. He must sell out, and start again.
When arbitration was first spoken of, we heard nothing of the claim to retain the right to strike. The cry then was, “ Arbitration will effect the amicable settlement of disputes. All the working classes want is an impartial tribunal to deal with the merits of their case.” It was stated repeatedly that the workers would accept and abide by the judgment, finding, or award of the Court.
– The limitations of the Act prevent the deciding of cases on their merits.
– Our legislationwas framed in a sympathetic spirit, and the representatives of Labour had an opportunity to put it into whatever shape they desired.
Let me draw attention to the way in which strikes are nowadays brought about. Industries have grown in size. The amount of capital involved, the ability required to administer, and the number of men employed, have vastly increased. Yet strikes are precipitated repeatedly, not because of widespread dissatisfaction on the part of workers, but because of trivial disputes, sometimes with individuals, whole industries being brought” to a stand-still. Let me instance the case of the coal miners. There have been many occasions on which the wheelers, that is, the boys engaged in moving trucks through the mines, have stopped work, apparently without provocation, and the miners, numbering hundreds, have thrown down their tools, and determined to strike, too.
– The honorable member is quite wrong.
– I know of some cases in which the miners have disapproved of the action of the wheelers, but they have not backed up that disapproval.
– The real reason was that the lads were not drawing the trucks, and so the miners were unable to work because the coal could not be got away.
– That is a very plausible answer, but if the miners had been imbued with a desire to see the Act carried out, and to cause the public to respect it, they would at once have said, “ If the boys won’t wheel the trucks we shall do so until they come to their senses, seeing that we have no complaint to make.” Take the case of the Mount Lyell strike, which is one of the latest. Many thousands of men were engaged there evidently on terms satisfactory to themselves. One man, without any authority, entered the mine in order to watch some of the workmen, to see if they were doing more than eight hours work. That man having committed a trespass, was dismissed by the company, with the result that the whole of the workmen came out. I should not mind so much if in such a case the men deliberately entered into an investigation of the merits of the case, and decided that the man was right,’ and that a great wrong was being done in excluding him from the mine. I am going to show, however, what was really done, and to prove that it is supported and even encouraged by the Labour representatives in this House. Directly those thousands of men strike, their families are plunged into a condition of want, because one man has trespassed upon a mine and has been dismissed, and immediately collections are made all over Australia for their support;
– The honorable member will not be in order in going into the details of the Mount Lyell strike.
– I merely wish to show how ineffectual arbitration has been, because of the attitude of the working classes themselves towards the principle.
– The honorable member will be in order in doing that, but not in going into the details of an industrial dispute.
– I shall not attempt to do so. When a strike occurs, the employes in any industry do not come together and investigate the case for themselves to see whether they are justified in supporting the attitude that has been taken up. They immediately invite subscriptions from all parts of Australia, expecting alL the other unions to say “ Willy-nilly, right or wrong, we are going to support you in your strike.” Take the case of Lithgow. Let me tell the members of the Labour party that the public are watching all these cases.
– Who are the public?
– The people who sent honorable members here.
– Are not the unions part of the public?
– I am talking of the whole of the public. The honorable member could not be sent here by the unionists only, because they are not a majority. We will take the case of Lithgow.
– What started the Lithgow’ dispute ?
– The Lithgow dispute originated over the action of one man, and that one man was dismissed-
– The honorable member is now going beyond the scope of the amendment and of the Bill.
– The observa tions made on the other side, taking exception to my argument, necessarily draw me into an explanation.
– I desire to point out to honorable members that if they interject across the chamber, it has a tendency to lead the honorable member who is speaking to make remarks which are out of order, and renders it more difficult for me to control the course of debate. I now ask honorable members not to interject, and the honorable member for Parkes not to go into details of particular industrial disputes.
– I think you will credit me with not attempting or desiring in any way to transgress the rules of the House. As a general principle, whilst most of the bigger strikes arise from some small dispute with one or two men, the whole of the industry takes the matter up without taking the trouble to investigate the question in order to see where the merit lies. I have never heard of a single case in which the great body of the workers involved in a strike have met together to decide whether or not the employer was justified in what he did. Nor have I heard of a case in which the members of this House have entered upon an investigation to ascertain whether or not they were justified in interfering with a view to stopping a strike or in remaining silent and impliedly encouraging it.
– I will tell the honorable member this - I am with the striker every time.
– That is the spirit on which I am commenting, and the honorable member has supplied me with an excellent text. What he says in his outspoken, honest way really represents the feeling of most of his fellow members. I would ask honorable members to consider how it is possible for people in a community like this to continue a system of arbitration with a view to an amicable settlement of industrial disputes if that spirit pervades one side of the House.
– Can the honorable member make a Bill to suit both parties?
– I am not on the Bill at the present time. We have had five hours of the Bill, and the honorable member for Werriwa has delivered a speech which, to my mind, was simply a series of Committee speeches. I am dealing with the general principle underlying the Bill. Sometimes when we get into a tangle over a particular institution like arbitration, it is as well to go back in a friendly way to first principles and see where we are. We must remember that we are legislating for a continent as big as Europe - a continent that bids fair to become one of the greatest countries in the world. We are trusted by the people to try to disentangle these difficulties, and to bring things back, as the honorable member for Flinders pointed out, to a condition of affairs in which these measures will fulfil their original purpose. Can we possibly arrive at an amicable method of settling labour disputes unless we approach the question in that spirit? If the other side of the House is going to take up the attitude expressed by the honorable member for Maranoa - “ I am with the strikers every time “-
– Hear, hear! I am not going to run away from it, either.
– I am not afraid of the honorable member doing so. Putting bias on one side for a moment, even the sort of bias the honorable member represents, are we, in those circumstances, likely to arrive at a measure calculated to settle these disputes? Very few of us are engaged in any great industry at the present time, as we have something else to do; but it is intensely interesting to me that we should do our best to arrive at some method by which the great conflicts which are going on all over the continent could be amicably settled. Can we possibly do it when one side takes up the attitude typified by the honorable member for Maranoa? Let the House ask itself that question. Of course, if honorable members close up their minds, and refuse to listen to reason. I cannot help it. Can we possibly be successful in doing what the public sent us here to do? They sent us here to amend this measure, if possible, and to prevent the constant conflict that is going on between employer and employé. We hear from time to time how many hundreds of thousands of pounds are being lost by the workers and the employers through those conflicts. If the workers precipitate a strike whenever some small dispute takes place over one worker, or a small number of workers, without investigating it for themselves and determining it upon the merits, so that they may have some guide as to what course they should take, it is hopeless to expect that we should ever come to a determination.
One honorable member on the other side made an observation recently which seemed to imply that I was biased. I have no interest whatever in any great industry in this country, and my sympathies are just as much with the working class as they are with the employers. Some honorable members may think it very difficult for that to be so, but it is quite possible for a man so to train his mind so that he can take up a judicial attitude with regard to a great question of this kind, and endeavour to hold the scales fairly between the classes. If I heard honorable members on this side taking up the converse attitude to that expressed by the honorable member for Maranoa on the other, I should denounce them in the same way as I denounce his attitude. If any honorable member on this side said, “ I stand for the employers every time,” I should say, “ He is not a Liberal, and has no right to be in the Liberal party.” No honorable member who would utter such a sentiment, and believe it, is fit to be in that party.
– No honorable member on that side would say it, but every member on that side acts it.
– I did not limit my observation to men saying it. I said, “if they approved of the sentiment” as well. From what I have seen of the members on this side of the House, there is a widespread, genuine desire to see brought into existence some system of arbitration which can amicably and finally settle these disputes as they arise from time to time. How can it be to the interests of the employers that a state of things should continue to exist in which their capital, their investments and their activities as commercial men are from time to time practically stopped and destroyed ? It is only common sense to suppose that the great shipping, mining or manufacturing companies are just as anxious to see things go smoothly as the employés. Over and over again I have heard employers say, “ We should not blind this or that extra, if we could only be sure that we could go on. It is this constant irritation and niggling and aggravation on the part of men making claims time after time that is the burden of our life.”
– It is a sign of progress!
– That may be. When I read the utterances of the honorable member in his judicial position on the Arbitration Court of New South Wales, I had every reason to admire his judicial impartiality. The honorable member is quite capable of taking a fair view of these questions; and if he continues to do so he will continue to act in the interests of the people he represents. However biased he may feel now in favour of the side which he did not represent before, I am satisfied it is in the interests of both employers and employed, and the representatives of both, to try to perfect our Act. How is that to be done? Is this measure likely to do it?
I desire now to speak of another aspect to which honorable members would do well to give their attention, for, no doubt, it has occurred to them as to me. For the last eighteen months or two years I have been watching the effects of arbitration on export trade in the future. For a long time many of the labouring classes were under the impression that all they had to do to make themselves happier was to get their wages raised. They seemed to lose sight altogether of the fact that the constant raising of wages would have an effect on the value of the sovereign ; and one industry after another has, through the Court, had wages raised. I watched the building trade in New Zealand with some interest, and I saw that first the plasterers, then the bricklayers, slaters, and stonemasons all got higher wages. But when the man who was building discovered the total cost he at once raised the rent, in many cases in a greater ratio than the wages had been raised. When Mr. Ramsay MacDonald, then secretary of the British Labour party, came here a few years ago he told the members of the Melbourne Trades Hall that he was on a general mission, one object of which was to visit New Zealand, and ascertain the effect of arbitration there. When he returned from New Zealand he told the same body in Melbourne that the effect in New Zealand had been to raise the wages all round to the extent of 8 per cent., but that the cost of living had also been raised by 18 or 20 per cent. He added that he could not, on what he had seen, recommend arbitration to the Labour party in the House of Commons; and we know that up to this day no attempt has been made in England to introduce arbitration, notwithstanding that
Mr. MacDonald, one of the most intelligent Labour men at Home, has had an opportunity of observing its workings on the spot. The same thing is going on here as went on in New Zealand. Take any trade we like; in the brick trade, for instance, the carters, the harness makers, the people who carry the clay, and those who work the machines, have all had their wages raised. When the brickmakers put up the price, perhaps in a larger ratio than the wages, the public told them that they had no right to do so. The effect all over Australia of this general rise in wages has been not only to increase the cost of living, but generally to lower the value of the sovereign.
– It is the same all over the world.
– Not to the same extent. Any one who has lived in Australia will admit that to-day the sovereign is not of more purchasing power than 13s. or14s. was ten or fifteen years ago.
– Some of the people have the sovereign now, but a few years ago they had not the 14s.
– The honorable member always has his joke, even in the most seriousargument. When the cost of production is raised so materially all over the continent the effect must be very serious on the possibilities of the export trade. We are all the while competing with the outside world, where the purchasing power of the sovereign has not been lowered to anything like the extent operating here, and where wages have not been raised in the same ratio.
– People are starving in the outside world!
– It is all very well to say that people are starving outside Australia, but it will not add to our power of export if we raise the price of all the commodities which are the subject of export. If we do that a time must come - and I am told that it is arriving in some of the manufacturing industries - when it will be quite impossible to export and compete with the outside world. If we turn to dairy produce, we find that there is a proposal before the country at present that, instead of a man being able to employ his family in the production of milk, butter, and cheese, the family is to be disqualified. I do not say that that is the law yet, but it is proposed that until a child is eighteen years of age-
– Not at all !
– I have read that such is the proposal of the Rural Workers Union, which is now being formed. If it is not true I shall be glad to know it, but if it is true, I desire to show the effect. If we disqualify the family in this way, and we raise the cost of all the labour used in farming, it may have a very material effect on the prices of the commodities produced in such industries. If we strike at the root of such as the dairying and lamb industries, the effects will come back like a boomerang on the working classes, as it will on the employers. Some time ago, when the simple economic law was discovered, it was said - “ We will check all this because we will control prices. “ We have not heard much lately about controlling prices, though, Isuppose, if thereferenda had succeeded we should have heard a good deal more. I remember Mr. Watson, in his position as Leader of the Labour party, saying that if that party had the power they would fix the prices at which manufacturers should sell their goods-. But I pointed out to him thatwhilst prices might be fixed, manufacturers could very easily drop their profits in the wholesale business and take a wide interest- in the retail business, where it would be impossible to follow them in their profits. It will be seen that any attempt to regulate prices, as most readers and thinkers opposite will know, would be absolutely futile. That, however, is the effect that constant application to the Arbitration Court is having. I am sure that no man, either on this side or that side of the House, can review the state of things impartially without coming to the conclusion that we have not yet solved this difficulty. I do not say that we shall solve it by a broad adoption of the voluntary system, but I am satisfied that some solution will have to be found much better than the present one.
Now, take the effect of arbitration in some of its other aspects. I have pointed out that far-reaching, disputes sometimes originate in trivialities, and that we have no power, preparatory to an appeal to the Court, to have the questions investigated. What would have been the effect if members of the mining union in Tasmania had recently met together and consulted, in view of the fact that the strike was going to have a very serious effect on themselves and on the industry on which they depended ? If they had come together and determined for themselves, after investigation, whether or not the employers were right ; if they had come to the conclusion that the employers were right, and had expressed their disapproval of what was done and backed up the employers - they would have created a feeling of confidence in their own cause throughout the length and breadth of Australia that would have redounded very much to the credit of trade unionism. Another aspect is the very small part which Labour representatives in this House are prepared to take when conflicts occur. I can readily understand that, if a Labour representative were to rush to the scene of a strike and tell the men they were wrong, it would probably not do him any good politically.
– And not settle the strike either.
– I do not know that.
– I do.
– I do not think the honorable member knows better than I do. I think I am just as capable of observing things as he is.
– But not of doing them.
– If the Labour party could only counsel strikers from time to time to abide by the decision of the Court, or to wait until the Court had time to settle questions, they would be contributing towards the success of arbitration that would redound to their own credit.
– We never fail to admonish when we think the men are in the wrong.
– I have never heard the honorable member admonish anybody except honorable members on this side of the House. I cannot recall a single instance in which any honorable member opposite has had the courage to complain with regard to the precipitancy of men in entering on a strike without waiting for the Court to determine the question.
– Did the honorable member ever condemn the employers?
-I never heard of an instance.
– When I was a member of the Employers Union I again and again condemned employers for having precipitated trouble with workmen. It was my duty to do so, although I stood in a partial position as a representative of the employer.
– Did those condemnations appear in the press?
– I cannot tell the honorable member. I repeat I cannot recall a single instance - I wish some honorable member could recall one - in which any honorable member opposite has ever expressed a word of condemnation of the precipitate attitude of the trades unionists in ignoring the tribunal which this Parliament has appointed for effecting the settlement of their disputes. Would honorable members opposite approve of the attitude of any honorable member on this side if he were to refrain from condemning an employer when the latter was palpably wrong and ignored the Court? What is the use of the Court, if, when it has investigated and arrived at a conclusion, the parties on one side or the other snap their fingers at it? The Court, under such circumstances, entirely fails in its purpose, and it would be far better to abolish it and resort to the old method of settlement. If honorable members opposite are imbued with the sentiment of not giving up strikes, and the employers come to the conclusion that they are not prepared to give up the power of lock-out, what is the good of the Act? The whole purpose of the Act is to abolish both strikes and locks-out. If one side is to perpetuate the old-fashioned brutal method - the word “ brutal “ has been used by them - why should not the other side persist in the determination to lock out?
– They do.
– Then what is the use of the Act? Will the honorable member explain, when he speaks to this motion, what is the good of an Act that binds only one side or neither ? If it binds no side at all it must be perfectly useless. Is it worth while to give ourselves up to an attempt to put the principal Act into such a condition that it will effect its purpose? What is the effect when men break through the principles of such an Act and are punished for it? A few days ago, in connexion with the Lithgow strike men were convicted and sentenced to imprisonment. And what did the Attorney- General of New South Wales do? Within almost a few hours of the passing of the sentence on these men, he released them. What sort of a farce is that? If the officers of the Crown, in the exercise of their executive power, release men from the punishment that is inflicted upon them-
– The honorable member mus.t not discuss that matter.
– I desired only to point out that, unless we can prevent this sort of thing, such a measure as this must be a farce.
– The trial to which the honorable member refers was under the Masters and Servants Act.
– I do not care under what Act it took place. I am speaking of the spirit in which such actions are taken. If men are condemned for a breach of the law. and officers of the Crown take it into their own partial hands to frustrate the effect of the judicial decision, it is impossible for a measure like this ever to work in the interests of the people generally. I have already said that I do notintend to enter into the legal details of this Bill ; and I shall certainly not attempt to follow the honorable member for Werriwa in what 1 regard as a series of Committee speeches. Under this Bill an attempt is made to sweep away the restrictions placed upon the power of the President of the Arbitration Court by the existing law. The decision of the High Court in the enginedrivers’ case has shown that, in the view of the Court, a registerable association cannot be formed in the way that that union was formed. This Bill is an attempt to overcome that difficulty. It practically seeks to give the President of the Court jurisdiction over the whole of Australia in regard to breaches of the law on the part of a union that is scattered all over the Commonwealth. It is, in fact, an attempt to extend the general rule over the whole of Australia against the law as laid down by the High Court. It goes -even further. Honorable members will find that the Bill practically abolishes the necessity for organizations. It omits all the words which point to organization as a necessary qualification for registration under the Act. It also proceeds to give the Registrar power to register a body of men without any organization whatever. L agree with the honorable member for Flinders that the corner-stone of arbitration must be unionism on both sides. It is impossible to control any body of men unless you can deal with them in a corporate form. If we allow men, irrespective of organization, to be scattered over a great continent, and yet to have the benefit of the decision of the President of the Court, then I predict that we shall have such a labyrinth of appeals to the Court, quite apart from organizations, as to make it impossible to carry on industries in the interests of either employers or employe’s. I have never objected to unionism. If it were necessary, I could show honorable members writings of mme of twenty-two years ago in which I heartily approved of organization. I then pointed out that unless we had unions that could be dealt with through its officers, we should find it impossible to deal with large bodies of men. I fully agree with the honorable member for Flinders, who speaks of unionism as being practically the corner-stone of arbitration. I have here a very interesting extract from an address by ex-President Roosevelt, in which he dealt with unionism, and I should like honorable members to observe the point at which his approval of unionism stops, for I heartily indorse the views expressed. He stops short at the point at which a body of men forming a union are not satisfied to secure for their own benefit all the advantages of co-operation, but seek to restrict the liberties of others in a direction in which they refuse to be restricted themselves. He said -
I believe in corporations ; I believe in trades unions. Both have come to stay, and are necessities in our present industrial system. But where, in either the one or the other, there develops corruption, or mere brutal indifference to the rights of others, and shortsighted refusal to look beyond the moment’s gain, then the offender, whether union or corporation, must he fought ; and if the public sentiment is calloused to the iniquity of either, by just so much, the whole public is damaged.
I need not remind honorable members of what has taken place from time to time in Australia in the way of intimidation. We know what took place at Lithgow only recently. We know of the destruction of property, and the injury to the health of people who were literally chased through the streets. One knows very well, also, of the indifference shown to the safety of mining properties. Not only were the miners withdrawn, but the men who were saving the mines from being flooded were also withdrawn. They were absolutely callous as to the effect pf their action. Intimidation is practised in Australia, notwithstanding the existence of a Conciliation and Arbitration Court, and it has been practised to an extent which goes almost beyond the point of brutality. Those who come from New South Wales can recall cases in which many of the non- union wharf labourers were injured and almost stoned to death by those who were engaging in the struggle on behalf of the unions. One knows the attitude that has been taken up from time to time. Even the honorable member for Darling, on one occasion, said that nonunionists were not entitled to a Christian burial.
– The honorable member has made that statement before.
– I saw the statement in a presidential address delivered by the honorable member for Darling, and he does not deny having used it. It is, I repeat, impossible to arbitrate if such an attitude is maintained on either side. What would the Labour party think if a bank manager were to put down rates contrary to the decision of a Banking Association, of which he was not a member ; and a number of associated bank managers waited at the door of the bank concerned with a view of injuring the manager as he left the building merely because he would not adhere to the decision of the association? That is the attitude in this case. The only way in which honorable members, opposite can estimate the fairness of the attitude of the men is by picturing the converse on the part of the employers. Let us suppose that an employer had undertaken to pay wages higher than the rates fixed by some body of employers. In that case, what would the members of the Labour party say if the other employers attempted to do an injury to the man who had raised those wages. They would be the first to speak of the brutality of such men. I invite them in their own case to picture the converse in their own minds. If they do they will recognise the heinousness of the attitude taken up.
– What has that to do with arbitration?
– One or two honorable members do not seem to appreciate the application of this statement. Let me ask them how we can hope to bring about an amicable method of settling disputes whilst this sort of attitude is tolerated on one side.
– On both sides.
– I know of no intimidation on the part of a body of employers as against other employers. If such a thing existed would it be possible to bring about a method of settling disputes? It is tolerated, however, on the one side. If men are punished by a Court, ought not their punishment to be upheld in every case and thoroughly approved? In Newcastle a year or two ago a large body of men were punished for participating in a strike, and there was agitation on all sides to secure their release.
– Hear, hear !
– The honorable member admits that. We know that, in the case of the coal strike, a number of men who had been sentenced to a term df imprisonment were released long before the time for their release had expired. I wish to make one more quotation from President Roosevelt’s address. He said -
There is no worse enemy of the wage worker than the man who condones mob violence in any shape or who preaches class hatred.
I do not say that this observation on the part of Roosevelt was aimed at the Labour party in Australia, but it contains a moral for them. Roosevelt spoke of the condoning of mob violence. We have had that sort of thing at Lithgow, and also at Adelaide. What sort of arbitration existed in Adelaide when the Government of the State had practically to throw up the reins of government and recommend citizens to apply to the Trades Hall for a certificate to enable them to carry their goods along the streets?
– That is a wilful libel on the Government of South Australia.
– It is absolutely true.
– The British Government had to do the same.
– The British Government had also to do so for the reason that the unionists, not satisfied with the position they had reached on the merits of their case, chose to adopt means that practically paralyzed the Government of the country.
– There are no Arbitration Courts in. Great Britain.
– That makes the position all the worse.
– The honorable member is not seized of the facts in respect of South Australia.
– I know enough of them to satisfy me that the statement is true. I wish now to refer to the question of preference which I should have liked to discuss when it was . before the House on a previous occasion. If the Minister were in business for himself he would have a perfect right to choose what men he pleased for his own employment.
– The honorable member will not be in order in dealing with that matter. The question has been settled by the House.
– I am speaking of Government employment as bearing on arbitration.
– The honorable member said that he considered the time opportune to say a few words on the question of preference.
– If you rule that, in discussing this Bill, I shall not be in order in dealing with the subject of preference to unionists, I must bow to your decision.
– On the motion for the second reading of a Bill, honorable members may move certain amendments, but they may not anticipate motions on the business-paper, or discuss questions already settled by the House.
– On a point of order. We are dealing with a Bill to amend the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904-1910. As that Act contains provisions relating to preference, I take it that they may be referred to in the discussion of any proposal to amend it, and that, so long as the honorable member confines his remarks to preference in general, he will be in order. The subject of preference has been dealt with by the House only as it relates to the Public Service, and so far only as it deals with temporary employment. The decision of the House was in regard to a restricted application of preference.
– I rule that, as the question has been specifically dealt with, the honorable member will be out of order in referring to it.
– Do you rule that preference, as a whole, cannot be discussed, because it has been dealt with by the House ?
– I rule that the honorable member may not deal with preference to unionists.
– In any case?
– The honorable mem ber said distinctly - I do not profess to use his exact words - that he intended to take the opportunity to deal with the question of preference to unionists, as he had not dealt with it before ; meaning that he had not spoken on the occasion when it was before the House. He will not be in order in doing that. If the honorable member for Parramatta desires to take any further action, he must move to dissent from my ruling.
– May I ask you a question, sir?
– No. The only course is to move to dissent from my ruling.
– I propose to give notice of a motion of dissent.
– I presume that there is nothing to prevent me from concluding my speech.
– The notice of motion to dissent must be handed in and seconded, and will then be set down for discussion on another day. Under the circumstances, I allow the honorable member to proceed.
– I wish to say, in vindication of my position, that I am not seeking to make a party speech. This is a subject with which I have had to deal during nearly a quarter of a century. I know the position of employers and of employés, and am as much imbued as any man in this House with the desire to see adopted some method which will prevent the loss, misery, and inconvenience resulting from the constant conflict between Labour and Capital. Although honorable members opposite may think it politic to assume a partisan attitude - and I judge from their interjections that they will continue to do so -it will come back upon them. In the result of the recent referenda we had the condemnation of a large body of electors of the proposal of the Government to extend the Commonwealth interference with industries into the domain of the States.
– The Western Australian elections give a contrary indication.
– Those elections merely confirm the vote of the State in regard to the referenda. Western Australia was the only State in which a majority of the electors voted “ Yes.”
– How does the honorable member account for the result of the East Bendigo election?
– I ask the honorable member for Maranoa how he accounts for the fact that 250,000 electors negatived the proposal that the Commonwealth should be allowed to extend its powers in regard to arbitration. Mr. Page. - They were bamboozledby the party to which the honorable member belongs, and a lying press.
– I am satisfied that the persistent actionof the Laour party in allowing the law to be perverted, in condoning the resistance of the men to the decisions of the Court, and in declining to counsel them to avoid breaches of the Act, will reflect upon them. If they showed a. desire that the law should do the good work for which it was originally intended, they would win the support of the people, not by lending support to one side or another, but by insisting on the observance of the decisions of the Court. The attempt to put unrestricted power into the hands of one man to regulate the industries of all the States, as is attempted to be done in this measure, will come back upon them like a boomerang.
.- I listened to the honorable member for Parkes with a large amount of interest and wonderment. What is it that he desires? Apparently he objects to the high rates of wages, and to the existence of Courts of Arbitration. His argument was to the effect that if wages are increased, prices rise still more rapidly. If that be so, apparently the new Jerusalem is to be brought about by creating a community which will live like Chows. If it be a bad thing for the workers to increase wages from 20s. to 30s. because prices will rise still more, it would be apparently a good thing to reduce them from 20s. to 10s., and so to 5s., until finally, when the men got nothing at all, provisions would cost.nothing, and there would be a bonus thrown in. The honorable member asserted that the cost of living has risen more in Australia than in any other country. I do not intend to make any assertion on the subject, but the Argus, which supports him and his party, published an article last Saturday referring to two great conferences which have met in England, the Trades Union Conference of Newcastle-on-Tyne, and the Conference of the British Association. The London Times, on the 4th September, pointed out that there are fewer industrial contests in Australia than in countries where there are no arbitration laws. That is not a radical journal, but the literary support of the reactionary forces of the Old Land. It pointed out that where there have been contests in Australia, they have been caused mostly by the refusal of employers to be bound by the decisions of the Arbitration Courts, or by the action of the employers in taking advantage of the processes of law to prevent those decisions from having effect. That is the verdict of the leading Tory journal of the Old Land, after watching the progress of events in Australia from afar. Every one acquainted with what has occurred here knows that the great strikes of recent times have unquestionably been due to the refusal of employers to abide by the decisions of the Courts, or by their attempts to upset them. As to the cost of living, the Argus article to which I have referred quoted from English journals as to the manner in which rents have risen in the Old Land. Where there are no Arbitration Courts and no Wages Boards, rents and the prices of food and clothing have risen enormously. Where the people have no Arbitration Courts to defend them, and no Labour party to control the Government and tear the community to pieces, women maddened with hunger have been fighting in the streets for bread. The cost of provisions, rents, food, and clothing has risen enormously in the Old Land. They have risen far more than they have in Australia, but there has not been any corresponding increase in the purchasing power of the wages of the workmen of those countries. We have only to go back to the period prior to the maritime strike for a comparison with the conditions now prevailing. We saw then an enormous increase in prices in these States. Rents were as high as they aTe to-day, and food was as dear, but the purchasing power of the working classes was enormously lower. What, then, is the use of talking? These things are part of a world-wide movement, and the only thing that has been secured on this continent is that the working classes have been able, if not to realize a little of Paradise itself here, at least to suffer a little less of hell than they suffer in other countries. That is the position ; but the honorable member in his lamentations, failing anything else, went back to the same old jingle that we hear night after night, and in debate after debate, that all the members of the Labour party have been absolutely silent upon the iniquities- of Brown, or Jones, or Jenkins. One would necessarily think that if there were delinquents in our own party, we were surely not called upon to whip our own friends, considering that we have so many among the Opposition ripe, for whipping. Since this subject was last mentioned, we have read that, in Stuart Town, New South Wales, there was a gathering of gentlemen belonging to the same party as honorable members opposite. They were members of the great Liberal party, and they said that Mr. Willis should be hanged, and that they would hang him if they had the opportunity. They counselled murder; but, although I have listened expectantly for it, I have not heard any of the gentlemen opposite condemning those would-be murderers. I have read the daily press attentively in vain for a denunciation of that callous resolution.
– That is a different thing about Willis.
– Of course, it is different. It is always different when the other man does it. But, after all, what an absurdity it is, when we are discussing this or any other Bill, for any honorable member to ask why somebody does not rise and protest against this or that utterance by an individual. It is not so long ago that somebody up country said that the leaders of the party who were creating these disturbances ought to be drowned in a pool. If we ask honorable members opposite whether they have condemned a statement of that kind, they say, “ No, we have never heard of it.” It was the same with Mr. Wetherspoon, who talked about arming himself and his family in defiance of the laws of his country. When we asked them about it, they said, “ Who is he?” When we told them who he was, they denied his existence. When we explained that he belonged to their party, they tried to repudiate him. When we proved that he occupied a prominent position in their party, they said, “ We never heard of him.” Honorable members on the other side do not run up and down the country saying their prayers over the delinquencies of men in their own ranks ; and certainly, while I shall look eagerly for the faults of the Opposition, I must have a merciful eye for the delinquencies of my own friends. After all, what is the position of the honorable member for Parkes ? He said, from his place in the House to-day, that he believed in unionism. He said he was in favour of it twenty-two years ago, and has been in favour of it ever since, and, God willing, if he lives another fifty years he will still be in favour of it then. Nevertheless, there will be no occasion upon which by his voice, if not by his vote, he will fail to use his influence, whether in or out of Parliament, to make unionism as weak as possible. That we know is his policy. So, while he and those like him profess to believe in the principles of arbitration, they use every subtle means to deprive it of its power ; and in this case, being destitute of every other argument, they seek to destroy the Bill by an amendment which, if it were carried, would render null and void the whole Arbitration Act from beginning to end. They seek to do it by sly and subtle means. They affirm that the Bill places in the hands of one man supreme power over all the industries of Australia from one end of the Commonwealth to the other; but it does not give that one man one shred more power than he was assumed to possess from the very time the first Conciliation and Arbitration Act of the Commonwealth was passed. All it does is to make clear the powers which everybody thought that the President of the Court originally possessed, but which the decisions of various Courts, by whittling them away, has rendered it impossible for him to carry out. Moreover, that one man has not necessarily the whole power. He may depute his power and authority to another person in any State, or part of a State. He may appoint deputies to carry out his work ; but the Court stands there established by Parliament for certain specific purposes. Parliament intended it to be the proper tribunal to settle disputes between employers on the one hand and the workmen on the other. There stands the Judge to give his decision upon the case, just as a Judge stands to give his decision upon any question in the criminal or other law. His judgment is- operative from one end of the Commonwealth to the other, just as the decision of a Judge in another Court is operative as far as his jurisdiction extends. This law, with all its deficiencies, all its delinquencies, is infinitely better than the state of society that preceded it. Whatever may be said as to their drawbacks, the community in which arbitration laws exist is an infinitely better and more peaceful community than are those other communities where such laws are not in operation. We cannot possibly get a perfect law. We cannot deprive any section of the community of every opportunity to defy the law. We cannot prevent any section of the community from taking up an attitude hostile to an Arbitration Act any more than we can prevent certain people in a community from defying the marriage laws or the criminal laws. But we can make a law to which those who are willing to use it may appeal, and by which they can abide. The pastoral industry has gained immensely by the peaceful processes of the Arbitration Court where otherwise it would have been torn to pieces year after year by the old methods of strike and contest. I can understand men who distinctly avow their hostility to the principle of arbitration, and explain why they are hostile to it. I can understand men who stand up boldly and say - “ I object to the principle of unionism.” But I cannot understand men who, while professing to speak in the national interests, oppose, by a subterfuge, the very principles of which they proclaim their ardent support. Why do they do it ? Because the condition of public thought in Australia is such that they dare not oppose those principles by bold and open avowal as they did in years gone by, and so they seek to defeat them by underhand and subterranean methods. There is nothing whatever in the arguments of the honorable member for Parkes that could convince any one on his own side, or convince even himself, that he ought to oppose the Bill. He cannot defend his position, if he believes in the principle of arbitration and yet supports a motion calculated to defeat it.. The truth is that he is to-day as clearly and definitely opposed to it as he ever was before, and will adopt any method calculated to defeat it and those associated with it.
.- I do not think I need apologize to the House for speaking on this most important matter, because it touches the root of all industrial legislation, and bears on the problem which this community and this House have been endeavouring in one way or another to solve for some twenty years. I have always been an advocate of industrial peace, and entirely agree with the statement of the honorable member for Bourke that any country which has industrial laws, even though they are crude, is in advance of countries which have no such laws on their statute-book. I often wonder, however, whether the worker is better off in Australia than in Canada. In Canada, which has no such laws, wages are higher than they are here to-day.
– This is because they work only half the year in Canada.
– There may be something in that contention. Of course the population is fluctuating, but I think the enormous inflow of capital into the country has more effect. We are all agreed that we want to make our arbitration laws and Wages Boards as perfect as they can be. I wish to direct the attention of the House first of all to what was originally intended when the Commonwealth Constitution was formed. We had in Victoria at that time a Wages Board system of dealing with industrial troubles, which was working very well. A clause was put into the Constitution giving power to this House to deal with industrial disputes when they extended beyond one State. It was thought, that troubles such as the great maritime strike and the shearers’ strike could be far better dealt with by the National Parliament than by any local Parliament, and for that reason the people of Australia agreed to the provision in the Constitution which I have described. The outcome of that was our first Arbitration Act, which created a Court with a Judge who had to settle disputes extending outside the boundaries of one State. If we pass this measure, it seems to me that we shall go far beyond that intention. We shall apply the mandates of the Court not only to strikes extending beyond one State, but to almost every disturbance that takes place in any part of this great continent. We shall hand over to one man not only power to fix the wages and terms of work when a strike extends beyond one State, but also power to fix them in relation to the original dispute occurring in the State. In doing that we are going outside the Constitution, and the Attorney-General would save the time of this House if he withdrew the measure, especially after what we have heard from the honorable member for Flinders. It has been clearly demonstrated that the Bill is fairly sure to be held by the High Court to be ultra vires. Even the AttorneyGeneral appears to be a little shaken up about it, as he looks rather depressed. His understudy, the honorable member for Werriwa, is also looking very white, because he realizes that all the work that has been put into this measure is not likely to have any result. The honorable member for Flinders clearly indicated that this measure did not achieve what is aimed at, namely, the rectification of what is regarded as the hard case of the engine-drivers. Honorable members will recollect that the engine-drivers obtained a decision, but, in consequence of what was considered to be a flaw in the Act, it was held to be ultra vires, and the old rates of wages and conditions were reverted to. I admit that this did seem to some extent a hard proposition ; but, as the honorable member for Flinders pointed out, all matters of this kind must be dealt with absolutely fairly. On the one side, there was a combination of men engaged in a particular industry scattered all over the
Commonwealth, but, to all intents and purposes, doing the same work. Against them were arrayed persons engaged in every conceivable industry - those travelling with threshing machines, those employing enginedrivers in sugar-mills, flour-mills, and so forth. Taking a common-sense view, the Court did not deem it fair that a wellorganized body like the engine-drivers should be arrayed against such a conglomerate body on the other side ; and it was held that, in order to constitute a strike within the meaning of the Act, there had to be one registered organization against another registered organization. In every piece of legislation we pass, there must be perfect fairness on both sides ; and, in the case under review, that fairness was absent. I cannot believe that we shall achieve industrial peace by leaving all the vast and intricate industrial machinery under the control of one man. The honorable member who last spoke told us that very good work in connexion with the pastoral industry had been done by the Court presided over by Mr. Justice Higgins ; and I am in a great measure in accord with that sentiment. I think the case which came before Mr. Justice Higgins the other day was admirably conducted.
– I must ask the honorable member not to refer to that case, which is now before the Court.
– I was under the impression that the hearing terminated on Monday. I regret if I have transgressed, but I remind you, sir, that the case was referred to by the honorable member for Bourke.
– That honorable member just mentioned the case ; and I was following him very closely to see that he did not go too far.
– It is often said that the Court has settled disputes between pastoralists and their employés in an equitable way, and that can be admitted. We must remember, however, that the pastoralists are a homogeneous body. A pastoralist in North Queensland carries on his work in much the same way as the pastoralist in Tasmania. The conditions are different, however, in the case of engine-drivers who are employed by people in totally different spheres of life. At the same time, flaws have crept into the decisions even in connexion with such an easy industry as that of the pastoralist. For instance, the other day the wool pressers, who are really the hardest worked people in the shed, had their wages reduced.
– There is nothing to prevent the pastoralists paying the woolpressers more.
– But with high wages all round, the industry is not able to pay more, and the breaking point has been reached. Another anomaly is in connexion with the wages fixed for men over twenty-one years of age. Very often, the most active and useful young fellows are under twenty-one, and yet they have to accept lower wages than the older men who do much less work. These are matters, of course, in which any Judge is liable to make a mistake, but such things would not occur if these matters had been settled by Wages . Boards. If we are to have industrial peace, these cases ought to be sifted by Wages Boards before being taken on to the Arbitration Court.
– Some Boards take over twelve months to give a decision.
– Wages Boards may take a long time, but they are a much less expensive method. In the case to which I am not allowed to refer the legal expenses on one side amount to . £24,000. I do not know what the other side has to pay ; but I submit that, in the matter of expense, a Wages Board would be a vast improvement. However, so long as justice is done, I suppose a few thousand pounds is not a great consideration. To make one man the arbiter in regard to the whole of the industries carried on by the community is, in my opinion, a step in the wrong direction. I have studied these matters for many years, and have always done my best to secure industrial peace ; and I desire to impress on honorable members that the proper method is that of Wages Boards. The establishment of Federation, to some extent, dislocated the State machinery for dealing with these matters. That machinery was on its trial, and was doing remarkably well, but it was found thatthe establishment of the Arbitration Court caused great industrial unrest. The workers all appeared to desire to ignore the State Courts, and go at once to the Federal Court. As we sat rather late last night, I ask leave to continuemy remarks to-morrow.
Leavegranted; debate adjourned.
Mr. FISHER laid upon the table the following paper: -
Audit Act - Treasury Regulation Amended -
Form 5 (clause 24) - Statutory Rules1911. No. 148.
House adjourned at 10.6 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 18 October 1911, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1911/19111018_reps_4_61/>.